Dear readers, there is an election going on — and I’m not talking about the 2020 presidential race.
Sure, it’s hard to resist the nonstop coverage of heartbreaking federal issues and the Democratic contest to replace President Donald Trump. Last week, the news-media landscape was dominated by coverage of the Democratic presidential primary debates held over two nights. Though 20 candidates were included, coverage was as nuanced as the Superbowl with pregame analysis, game time tweets and postgame pronouncements.
Who had the best line? Who extracted the most blood? For the former, I’d argue, our own Gov. Jay Inslee is a contender with his answer to what was the biggest geopolitical threat: Donald Trump. For the latter, Sen. Kamala Harris, who confronted former Vice President Joe Biden with an emotional challenge to the hurt she felt over his words about working with segregationists decades ago.
See? I was just caught up in it.
But, dear voters, let’s simmer down and make time for the duty that is directly in front of us. In less than three weeks, ballots for the Aug. 6 primary will land in mailboxes. During these odd years, ballots are filled with questions about local governance — who should make decisions about your city, your school district, your port, water, hospital and fire districts. These elections help decide policy that most directly affects you and your family: How much will your rent or mortgage payment go up because of locally imposed taxes? What curriculum decisions will be the best for your child?
Typically, these odd-year municipal elections are ignored by many voters. In the 2015 primary, the last time the Seattle City Council district elections were held, only one in four King County voters participated. In the general, voter participation was only about 43 percent.
Contrast that to last year, when congressional and state races buoyed by a strong blue-wave response attracted 43.3 percent of King County voters. In the general election, a remarkable 76 percent of county voters cast ballots.
But, this just isn’t any odd-year election, particularly in Seattle. The ground seems to be shifting with citizen angst over City Council decisions ranging from policies hostile to business to aggressive neighborhood upzoning without neighborhood involvement to indolence about keeping citizens safe from frequently arrested criminals.
Seven Seattle City Council positions are up for district elections, but only three incumbents are running. Every race has attracted credible, qualified candidates, many of them provoked by council stumbles. Often cited is the council’s head-tax proposal on large employers (Read: Amazon), which touched off such a backlash that most of the council voted to repeal it. Also mentioned is the city’s handling of the homelessness crisis, including a resistance to hold vendors accountable to performance standards.
The Seattle Times editorial board has been interviewing and researching candidates in those races, and in Bellevue City Council and Port of Seattle races, and are making recommendations for the primary election. We also have endorsed Seattle’s library levy and are vetting the King County parks levy. Read our endorsements as we publish them at: seattletimes.com/opinion
Today, we publish our first endorsement for the City Council’s District 1 race, recommending against incumbent Lisa Herbold in favor of challenger Phillip Tavel.
These local races, no matter where you live, are important. Those elected will help keep your water supply and streets safe and ensure your firefighters have the equipment they need to do their jobs. Don’t trust your neighbors to make these decisions for you.
Do your homework. Tear yourself away, if only briefly, from the important federal issues that dominate national news and our social-media feeds. Tuck your voters’ pamphlet in your beach bag or backpack. Peruse candidate websites, and check out our endorsements. Agree or disagree, please don’t forget to vote.