The District 4 candidates’ forum at Roosevelt High School last night was a bit of a palate cleanser after a week full of acrimony over the choice of one potential temporary council member (John Okamoto) over another (Sharon Maeda or Sharon Lee).
In contrast to the Kshama Show, whose ratings are still through the roof, Wednesday’s debate was collegial and muted. Although privately, not all the candidates in this race are fond of each other, they were on their best behavior, which is good because no one wants to see Jean Godden or Rob Johnson get all righteous.
There’s no way to put this gently: Godden really was not tracking. After missing her cues more than once (as in, “Ms. Godden?” “Oh, is it my time to speak now?”), Godden answered a question about committee preferences with an extended riff on her challenger, Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson’s, answer (transportation), and flatly refused to answer several yes/no questions, including whether she supports building a park on the abandoned Hugh Sisley properties in her district (a debate has surfaced over whether the properties, repossessed by the city, should be apartments or a park), whether she will vote for election-reform Initiative 122, and whether she supports changing state law to allow cities to pass rent control.
The moderator, Seattlish co-editor Sarah Anne Lloyd, let Godden hang on those refusals, but could have stretched the stunned silence even longer.
When she did answer questions directly, Godden drifted toward vague platitudes (“Why wouldn’t you want a job where you get to make people’s lives better every day?”, feminist rallying cries (paid parental leave, the gender wage gap), high-fives to Mayor Ed Murray on housing and transportation, and irrelevant anecdotes like the one about the time when she was an editor at the University Herald “many years ago” (in response to a question about the controversial U District Business Improvement [taxing] Area, which Godden did mention she supported.)
Godden was even less specific on questions about transportation (she said she liked Murray’s Move Seattle plan, and thought there were too many cracks and potholes on our bike trails) and neighborhoods (she said she hoped to keep neighborhoods “as lively as they can be”). She also deflected a question about gender-neutral restrooms, an issue I’ve covered on this site before, by saying they seemed like a good idea but adding, “More dialogue, of course, is always a good idea, to ask people how they feel about these things, and to have a frank discussion of course is excellent and I certainly promote that.”
(If you think I’m being harsh on Godden, check out Joel Connelly’s coverage, where he catalogs the council members “Ums” and “Uhs” in a vague response about housing affordability and suggests that it may be the 83-year-old incumbent’s “last hurrah.”)
While Godden foundered, Maddux and Johnson flourished, thoughtfully answering questions about transportation (Maddux would pay for in-city rail with a Seattle-specific tax, Johnson criticized Sound Transit’s Husky Stadium station planning), parks funding (Maddux said he doesn’t want to see the parks district money turn into a “slush fund for other projects”), and housing affordability (Johnson was hot on the idea of giving landlords money to weatherize their buildings in exchange for voluntary rent stabilization.)
If you’ve noticed that I’m not mentioning Provine much, you’re correct. Provine—an earnest-seeming neighborhood activist whose main issues appear to be the BIA, rent control, and linkage fees—read most of his answers from a sheet of paper. Those who want more details on his positions can ask him for that paper.
And if last night’s forum was your only impression of the 4th District council race, you’d come away thinking this was a race between two extremely capable, but ideologically distinct, young guys and an older lady who wasn’t very interested in the job.
Next up: The District 3 candidate forum, which I’ll be moderating along with Josh Feit, at Mount Zion Baptist Church, 1634 19th Ave., on Tuesday, May 12 at 6:00pm.