The ideas are multiplying as Seattle mayoral candidates Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan propose free transit for public-school students and rent vouchers for thousands of households.
Cary Moon traveled to South Lake Union on Wednesday to take on traffic congestion, while Jenny Durkan climbed Capitol Hill to signal her support for small businesses.
The dueling appearances by the Seattle mayoral candidates were the latest in a series of policy proclamations, including proposals by Durkan this past week that Seattle launch its own rent-voucher program and build 1,000 tiny houses for homeless people.
The rivals are gearing up for a grueling stretch of the campaign season packed with public forums and debates that kicks off Thursday night at St. James Cathedral on First Hill.
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While Moon and Durkan will talk homelessness and housing at the cathedral forum, other issues shared center stage Wednesday as the candidates each sought the spotlight.
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Moon appeared with supporters at Lake Union Park, near the Mercer Street traffic mess, and promised to speed up light-rail construction, make transit free for all public-school students (something former candidate Nikkita Oliver proposed and something Durkan has said she would explore) and build more bus and bike lanes.
The urban-planning consultant has lived “mostly car free since 1994, when I made a conscious choice to do so,” she said in a statement.
“While some of us need to drive and cannot use alternatives, as a city we must optimize our system to provide viable transportation choices to as many users as possible,” Moon said. “Frankly, our city spends too much on car convenience.”
The candidate said she would have the city lend money to help Sound Transit expand light rail to Ballard and West Seattle more quickly. Both she and Durkan have vowed to speed up light-rail construction with streamlined planning and permitting processes.
The Seattle mayor usually serves on the Sound Transit board. Moon’s husband, Mark Reddington, is a partner at an architecture firm doing design work on multiple light-rail stations. She would need to forgo the board-member role or recuse herself on certain matters, said her campaign spokeswoman, Heather Weiner.
The Transit Riders Union, Washington Bikes, the Sierra Club’s Seattle chapter and the Washington Conservation Voters have endorsed Moon.
So has Mike McGinn, the bike-loving former mayor who placed sixth in last month’s primary election. McGinn isn’t listed among Moon’s endorsers on her website, though.
Durkan is also endorsed by the Washington Conservation Voters and by Transportation for Washington, the political arm of the Transportation Choices Coalition. The organization, which once was led by City Councilmember Rob Johnson, is a major player in transit advocacy.
The former U.S. attorney chose Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream as her backdrop in unveiling a plan to help small businesses. Molly Moon (no relation to Cary Moon) and Rachel’s Ginger Beer owner Rachel Marshall endorsed Durkan.
One idea: Requiring developers to provide low rents to small businesses on blocks where the city allows taller buildings.
Another idea: Give small-business startups a three-year break on the city’s business-and-occupation tax. Moon has previously called for making the tax more progressive, so that small businesses pay a lower rate than large ones.
Durkan stirred interest this past week by proposing rent vouchers for households making 30 to 50 percent of the area’s median income — $28,800 to $48,000 for a family of four.
The voucher program would start small in its first year, providing about 350 households with vouchers at a cost of $2.2 million, including administration. The next step, at a time not identified by Durkan, would help 8,400 households for $15 million per year.
Durkan says she would save money by collaborating with the Seattle Housing Authority, which already administers the federal government’s Section 8 rent-voucher program.
But the final step would help 23,000 households for $60 million per year. Where would all that money come from?
Durkan would raise some through a new landlord-license fee and a higher developer fee when the city sells public property, she says. And some revenue from Seattle’s new income tax, if it survives lawsuits, could help.
But she also would lobby the state Legislature for new taxing authority and would explore taxing real-estate speculation by targeting second homes and vacant homes.
Both are similar to strategies that Durkan has previously criticized her opponent for relying on, saying some of Moon’s ideas are unlikely to win swift approval in Olympia and linking Moon’s interest in a “nonresident owners” tax to anti-Chinese discrimination because Moon had written about speculation by Chinese investors.