Now that the primary-election field of 47 has been narrowed to a comparatively manageable 18, I’m sitting down with all the council candidates to talk about what they’ve learned so far, their campaign plans going forward, and their views on the issues that will shape the election, including density, “neighborhood character,” crime, parking, police accountability, and diversity. I’ll be rolling out all 17 of my interviews (Kshama Sawant was the only candidate who declined to sit down with me) over the next few weeks.
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Full disclosure: Braddock’s opponent, Lisa Herbold, is a longtime personal friend from way, way back and I’m supporting her campaign. In spite of our friendship, I tend to personally disagree with Lisa (and her boss of 17 years, Nick Licata) on a lot of issues, such as the proposed residential linkage fee for affordable housing and one-for-one replacement of existing affordable units. Overall, I think those two factors balance out. In any case, I made every effort not to allow personal friendship to influence the questions I asked either Braddock or Herbold. Braddock and I spoke in person; in the interest of keeping my interview with Herbold as impersonal as possible, I submitted questions by email to her campaign, and will run her answers, edited for length, on Friday.
The C Is for Crank [ECB]: You were the beneficiary of a pretty significant amount of independent spending [nearly $75,000] from the Chamber of Commerce, developer lobbyists, and the landlords’ association. Even with all that, you came in second. Were you disappointed in the results, and how much influence do you think the outside spending had, positive or negative?
Shannon Braddock [SB]: I was disappointed, but the turnout was so low that I should have felt good about the results. Those last few days of doing a lot of field work helped. I did well. Personally, I was happy. My strategy to get through worked. My time was very focused on three-of-four Democrats [voters who identified as Democrats and voted in three of the past four elections].
I, honest to god, have no idea how much influence [the IEs had.] I’m going to guess not much, given the number of people in the race [nine]. I think i would have done well anyway. I never saw the ads on TV. My 15-year-old son found it online. I was glad it was a positive piece that said, basically, “She’ll be smart about transportation and growth and she’s a progressive candidate.” Even when you know it’s your supporters [doing an ad], it’s stomach-turning to know that somebody is campaigning on your behalf.
ECB: Why do you think the Chamber and other business groups are supporting you?
SB: I don’t know exactly, except that I don’t see business as the bad guy. We’re all working together to get stuff done and we all have to be partners.
I support the $15 minimum wage. That was one of the things the Chamber didn’t support. I have a reputation for working well with people, and I don’t come to the table saying I think I have the best answers.
ECB: West Seattle is such a close-knit community, that can seem, to outsiders, very separate from the rest of the city. What specific work have you done in West Seattle to prepare you for representing this district, and what’s your history with West Seattle?
SB: I grew up in Bellingham, and when I first moved here, West Seattle reminded me of Bellingham. It has great walkability to school, great walkability to grocery stores, great walkability to the old movie theater. I didn’t think I’d ever want to live there because it seemed so far away, but when I got there, I felt right at home.
When I first got there, my involvement was with Lafayette Elementary PTA stuff. I did little things, like litter pickups with the neighborhood association, and I was involved with the West Seattle Food Bank, which is facing a higher number of clients coming in. We were trying to change the number of things we were doing and expand services. It really opened up my world. I’m on the board of WestSide Baby. I’m also involved with the 34th District Democrats. That got me more engaged in the political world.
ECB: Early on in your campaign, I remember that some opponents were questioning whether being a single mom disqualified you for this job because you wouldn’t have enough time to make it to night meeting and other obligations of being a council member. Were you expecting that kind of retro criticism?
SB: I did not realize that could happen. We live in such a progressive bubble that sexism still surprises me. There was a whole discussion on the District 1 Facebook page about whether it was a legitimate question to ask whether I could be a mother and serve on the council at the same time, especially a single mother. Now, I don’t really consider myself a single mother because my children’s father is very much involved in their lives. But I am a single mother, and to have people suggest that in 2015 is outrageous. The tenor of the conversation was, “Is she progressive enough?”, and then it would devolved into the equivalent, in my opinion, of misogynistic sexist attacks on me. It was jarring to me and frustrating to think that here we are, in a city where we’re progressive, and people are asking whether I can be on the city council because I’m a mother. It’s stuff men do not think about.
I’ve been told by men who are my supporters that I look tired in my pictures, or that I should smile more, or “Don’t talk so much about being a mom.” Thanks for reminding me why we need more women in government in general, and young women with kids at home in particular. We need that perspective. I look up to people like [District 3 primary candidate] Morgan [Beach] and [District 1 primary candidate] Brianna [Thomas], and I think we need women to keep doing that it until no longer seems surprising.
ECB: Do you think district elections made it easier for people like you and Brianna and Morgan to run?
SB: I was a supporter of districts, and I wouldn’t have run [without them]. Realistically, to do that as a mom with three kids still at home would have been much bigger challenge for me, and to have the time and space to go all over the city would be challenging. It would have been easier for me to talk myself out of it. This opportunity made me pause long and hard and think about it. While I support districts, I’m also a big believer in regional government. and I don’t want to be represented by someone who doesn’t have that perspective.
ECB: Your opponent, Lisa Herbold, thinks the city needs to go beyond the HALA recommendations by charging a linkage fee on all new residential development, among other measures the HALA committee did not recommend. Are you all in on the committee’s affordable-housing recommendations?
SB: I can’t say I support every single recommendation in HALA. I’ve read the report, but not with a fine-tooth comb. I do find it a little bit grandstanding [of Position 8 candidate and dissenting HALA member Jon Grant] to step in on it after they had agreement with 27 members. [Grant, along with Herbold, proposed an alternative to HALA that HALA backers say would scuttle the grand bargain]. It’s disrespectful. They did good work. I respect that they spent a lot of time on that. You can work around the edges during the hearings.
If you could have gotten 14 other people to agree with your HALA amendments, you wouldn’t have had an alternative plan in the first place. It’s a recommendation. I think there’s plenty of opportunity for political pressure for him and his agenda. If he wants to blow it up, go for it, but I’m very comfortable with where they are right now. I wasn’t in those meetings, I don’t know how they came to this grand bargain, but if Council Member [Mike] O’Brien came to a spot where he felt that he had reached an agreement on the linkage fee that he could live with, then I’m good with that. If there are many things we could get to sooner rather than later, I’d vote for that.
ECB: Your opponent has seemed more open to the idea of rent control, or rent stabilization, than you have. What are your views on rent control?
SB: I opposed traditional rent control. If it was just a matter of allowing Seattle to discuss it, yes, I would absolutely support the state lifting the restriction. I support more options. A lot of what’s in HALA is rent control. Mandatory inclusionary zoning is an option to have lower rents.
ECB: People in West Seattle seem to have the sense that they’re constantly being asked to accept more density without more funding for infrastructure, like road improvements and bus service, to support that density. The counterargument would be that you can’t add bus service to areas where the population density doesn’t currently support it. What do you think of those complaints?
SB: I can appreciate that people are saying that, because we don’t have enough buses in West Seattle. I think there is not enough bus service in most places. I don’t think that’s District 1-specific. I support more transit and I support [the upcoming Sound Transit 3 ballot measure], but I want it to include West Seattle and Ballard. At this time, I would not support it if it did not include West Seattle. As a District 1 council member, I would have to fall on a lot of swords for light rail if it did not include rail to West Seattle.
If I see a plan in place, an actual plan in place, for infrastructure, I’m a lot more omfotable building a little bit ahead of time. Right now we’re building based on a 20-year development plan that had a monorail in it. It’s completely out of date. I want people to feel that they are watching a robust transit system grow. Right now, we’re at the spot when people in District 1 are saying, “When are we going to be getting it?” They’re not seeing any of that being done with bus service. Metro did split the C and D routes, which helped.
SDOT needs to improve their outreach to communities. We’ve had isssues in District 1. The rollout of the 35th Ave. Southwest road diet–SDOT was a little behind the 8 ball on that one. I do feel that sometimes they’re like, “Here’s what we’re going to do, you’re welcome.” Sometimes communities need more time to find out what they’re getting. That means we have to do a better job as government at involving the communities earlier.
ECB: Do you think having district council members will help with that kind of community outreach?
SB: Yes. I do think there are always going to be people that it’s never going to be enough for. I do hold out hope that having people like Kathy Nyland in Neighborhoods and the new department [the Office of Planning and Community Development] is very valuable. I’ve got some hope.