Seattle City Council candidates Alex Pedersen and Shaun Scott were asked during their District 4 debate Saturday to express admiration for each other on at least one point. It didn’t work out very well.
Pedersen touted his own history interacting with neighborhood groups and paid his opponent a backhanded compliment, telling voters at University Lutheran Church that Scott delivers consistent answers to such groups despite perhaps lacking knowledge about hyperlocal issues.
Scott countered, praising Pedersen for being able to “learn on the fly” about climate change, saying he believed his opponent had come to appreciate the gravity of the crisis “sometime during the primary.”
“That’s not true,” Pedersen interjected, sparking more disagreement and highlighting the contrasts between candidates losing patience with one another a month before the Nov. 5 election.
All seven of the nonpartisan council’s district seats are up for grabs this year, and the two candidates in each district who won the most votes in August’s primary election advanced to this second round.
To begin the sixth in a series of council debates hosted by Seattle CityClub, with The Seattle Times, Seattle Channel, KUOW, KCTS/Crosscut, KING-TV and KOMO-TV as media partners, Pedersen pointed to his own résumé as the key difference in the race.
“Experience is needed to get things done and get the progressive results we want,” he said, citing work at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as a Seattle council aide and in the private sector on low-income housing loans.
A writer and political organizer, Scott called for a local Green New Deal to address climate change and social inequities, saying many environmental groups endorse him because his campaign has the “most robust climate strategy.”
Those were themes the candidates returned to repeatedly. Pedersen promised to help City Hall reduce homelessness by investing only in data-proven programs, such as diverting people from shelters with quick cash or other help. Scott linked what he described as noncompassionate approaches to homelessness in Seattle with the Trump administration on the national level.
“Just as we see immigrant populations demonized and stigmatized nationally” to push back against progressive politics, Scott said, “we also see area conservatives leaning in on the issue of homelessness.”
Asked about an independent analysis last year that said King County must double spending on homelessness, Pedersen suggested dollars could be saved by auditing Seattle departments and said the state Legislature must adopt a less regressive tax system. Waiting on the state to act is “passing the buck,” Scott replied, arguing the city should consider options such as taxes on mansions and real-estate speculation.
The candidates leapt at chances to draw distinctions, taking opposite positions on several other key issues, including removals of unauthorized tent camps, drug use at city-sanctioned camps, Seattle’s new police-union contracts and the 35th Avenue Northeast bike lanes that the city planned, then scrapped in response to opposition by vocal neighbors and business owners.
Pedersen supports continued removals of unauthorized camps, thinks drug use should only be allowed at some special indoor shelters, would have voted for the police contract to address low officer morale and blames inadequate City Hall outreach for the recent battle over 35th, he said.
“I support an interconnected bike network but I think sometimes greenways on side streets are better,” he said.
Scott contends the city is wasting money on homeless-camp sweeps that lack empathy, supports all options that help homeless people seek drug treatment, would have opposed the union contract based on police-accountability concerns raised by community groups and believes bike lanes on arterials calm traffic, he said.
“If we’re serious about pedestrian safety … we have to get real about putting bike lanes on arterial roads,” he said. “Lives are at stake.”
Pedersen said mitigation measures related to the replacement of Highway 520 at Montlake should be driven by community voices, and he said Seattle must convert more quickly to city vehicles that use electricity.
Scott told the audience he’d like to see Seattle make University Way Northeast (known as the Ave) a pedestrian-only street and said the city could help make District 4 more affordable with zoning changes to allow child-care centers in single-family neighborhoods such as Wallingford and Bryant.
Both candidates said Seattle should grow the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program.
Pedersen is endorsed by former council members Tim Burgess and Nick Licata and The Seattle Times editorial board, while Scott is endorsed by current Councilmember Mike O’Brien and The Stranger.
Independent political-action committees (PACs) associated with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and with more moderate or conservative voters spent more than $55,000 to support Pedersen before the primary, and the union that represents Seattle firefighters has spent more than $14,000 since then. No PACs have spent significantly to back Scott.
The last debate in the CityClub series, between District 1 candidates Lisa Herbold and Phil Tavel, will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way S.W.