Tag: election 2015

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Deborah Zech-Artis

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.

If you want to help me continue to do interviews like this one, plus on-the-ground reporting, deep dives on issues like affordability and transportation, breaking news, and incisive analysis, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter by pledging a few bucks at Patreon. This work costs money and (lots of) time, so I really appreciate every bit of support I receive from my readers.

Today’s interview is with Deborah Zech-Artis, the long-shot (very long-shot) opponent to council incumbent Sally Bagshaw for District 7. Zech-Artis—who this week declared at a Downtown Seattle Association forum that “dieting the roads” had created insufferable traffic congestions on streets like Nickerson and Stone Way—lives on Queen Anne; we met at Cherry Street Coffee in Pioneer Square.

The C Is for Crank [ECB]: As someone who had never heard of you before you decided to run against Sally Bagshaw, I’m curious to find out what your background is and why you’re running for city council now.

Deborah Zech-Artis [DZA]: When I was a little kid, we’d drive up Queen Anne Hill, and I would look up at the top of the hill and ask my dad what kind of people lived up there, and my dad said, “nice people,” and I decided that I wanted to live up there. I got married when I was 21, and we moved to Queen Anne in 1975, and I’ve been there ever since.

When you’re newly married, you get involved in your husband’s stuff, so I got involved in sports. Of course, I’m just a girl, so I didn’t know anything about softball or what the rules were, but I ended up coaching my son’s Little League because none of the men wanted to do it. I became head of Seattle Little League and I was 34 when i finally graduated. I was in the Navy reserves, and I worked as a buyer for the state of Washington, and I got a job as a buyer with Boeing.

I’ve always been in male-dominated industries. When I see a problem, I get involved, and I’m really irritated with what’s going on in the city right now. I’m fed up with traffic, with the city council and mayor not being responsive to people. I have lots of friends who have brought stuff to the mayor and the city council for years, and they never receive a response.

ECB: Can you give me an example?

DZA: Density is one issue. Not being able to know who the homeless are and where they come from—not looking at why they’re here. The city council and mayor don’t look at root causes. There’s a lot of roadblocks, or they just don’t care. I’m tired of the city being run by developers. Developers are setting policy for the planning and permitting departments. If you own a home and you want to build a  mother-in-law unit and you have an appointment at the permitting office, if a developer comes in, you get shunted to the back. Even if you wanted to build a duplex, you would get shunted to the bottom of the pile. In my mind, it should not matter how much money you have. You should get the same service.

ECB: Why are you running in District 7 against Sally rather than running citywide?

DZA: Sally’s a nice person, but Sally is backed by developers. You can see it in her donations. She doesn’t listen to regular people. I have tried to get a hold of Sally for years about parks issues and I never get a call back. Everybody on the council has something they’re responsible for. That’s the way it’s set up right now—you have to go to that person. We’re still going to be on those committees, but [districts] gives you a voice, which you didn’t have before. It gives everyone in the city a voice. So many people in the city who have ideas, who have thoughts, they’re not being heard. There are so many ideas sitting out there that it’s not even funny.

Seattle is a small town. I don’t care if it has one million people or ten million people in it, this city has a small-town mentality, and there’s nothing wrong with that. One of the things I love about Seattle is that we care about each other. That’s who we are. My district’s really getting hit bad [by density]. All the low-cost housing that used to be around that area isn’t there any more. The city outlawed [single-room occupancy rooming houses, or] SROs. Nobody’s doing it. There’s no money in it. So in lieu of that, I’ve talked about having a certain percentage of apartments set aside for low-income housing, and put that money into a principal fund for subsidies for housing or for property taxes, which are skyrocketing. Lots of seniors  can’t afford their property taxes anymore.

ECB: Given your opposition to density, is there anything you like about the mayor’s HALA proposals?

DZA: There are good things and bad things. I’m talking about the [commericial] linkage fee, mother-in-laws, and backyard cottages. I’m totally in favor of that. But we’re not going to be able to build our way out of the housing shortage. Developers are not going to build until we have a shortage. That’s when they do that. The rents are going to be high.

The thing that was really bad in HALA was upzoning. When you do that, the land value goes up, your house value goes down, and property taxes go up. That’s going to cause land inflation.

ECB: What do you think of the mayor’s Move Seattle plan [the $930 million property tax levy on the ballot in November]?

DZA: We’re trying to get people out of their cars. So what do they do? They get rid of one of the two Magnolia routes. King County has taken away a lot of bus routes. If they want people to get out of their cars, they have to stop taking away routes. In Tokyo, you have one big route running around the city, and you can get on and off the routes like spokes. Why should I have to commute into downtown just to go from Queen Anne to University Village? Why do you have to go to downtown and transfer? It’s ridiculous. It would be nice to have a bus that just runs around the top of Queen Anne so you don’t have to get in your car. Same thing with Magnolia. Up on Aurora, the E [RapidRide] line starts at 200th, so the money we voted in can’t be used on the E Line because of where it starts. Why don’t we have a short bus that goes from where people are to downtown? I’ve never seen a survey on buses about where the people are going. On Emerson, the city was doing some work and they had people standing under the Magnolia Bridge writing down people’s license plates. Why can’t they do that with bus riders?

ECB: There is no homeless encampment proposed in your district yet, but how do you feel about encampments in the city in general?

DZA: Homeless camps. in my opinion–they have to go away. It’s not mentally healthy, it’s not emotionally healthy, it’s not physically health or spiritually healthy for people to live there. When city leaders say this camp is going to be here, you don’t have a say in it. In Ballard, most people are not opposed to camp, they’re just want to have a better place for it to go. The city has said, “you’re not allowed to know where these people are from or why they’re here, what their issues are, why they’re homeless.” If we’re going to give them money, we should at least know why we’re doing it. How do you help somebody if you don’t know where they’re from?

I went to a women’s shelter on Third and I chatted for two hours with all these ladies there. These women don’t have families, or are estranged from their families, or they can’t get a job because of their age. That puts them in a situation where they’re dependent on services. We need to get them into proper housing or short-term housing that’s not in a tent. The city owns a lot of properties with buildings on them. Why aren’t they doing something to retrofit those building?


Bruce Harrell, District 2

Tammy Morales, District 2

Michael Maddux, District 4

Rob Johnson, District 4

Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

Lorena Gonzalez, Position 9

Bill Bradburd, Position 9

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Bruce Harrell

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.

If you want to help me continue to do interviews like this one, plus on-the-ground reporting, deep dives on issues like affordability and transportation, breaking news, and incisive analysis, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter by pledging a few bucks at Patreon. This work costs money and (lots of) time, so I really appreciate every bit of support I receive from my readers.

Today’s interview: District 2 candidate Bruce Harrell. I met up with Harrell at the Starbucks at 23rd and Jackson.

Bruce-HarrellThe C Is for Crank [ECB]: I wanted to talk to you about encampments, and this location is very appropriate for that conversation, because Central District neighbors were very accommodating about not one but three separate tent cities that located within a few blocks of here. Yet up in Ballard, people are threatening a revolt around the prospect of even one tent encampment in their neighborhood. Meanwhile, one of the finalists for a future encampment is in your district, near Othello Park, which already has problems with criminal activity. How do you think the South End community will react to a new tent city in their area–will they be more like Ballard, or more like the neighborhood we’re in right now?Image result for bruce harrell

Bruce Harrell [BH]: I’m on record saying that I want to be open, I want to find a location somewhere. We all feel comfortable saying we don’t want people living in tents, we all say, “Housing first,” but until we get housing for everyone, [a tent city is] a practical alternative. I want to support an alternative, even if it’s in my district, although that is not ideal. Ideally, we want strong services to get people off the street. We don’t want our city to be a place where, because of our tolerance, we just have tent encampments forever.

ECB: When you say an encampment in your district is “not ideal,” it sounds like you are saying that tent encampments are inherently a bad thing, something that gets “dumped” on neighborhoods. Is that what you’re saying?

BH: I don’t care how good-hearted people are—even the most liberal-minded people I know are not excited about having encampments close to their homes. They say, “I support it, just not close to me. I think we have a tendency to demonize that kind of person and to worry about crime and safety. That’s a reasonable position, but to some extent an undeserved position. In the North End, they were very safe, very well organized. It can be done where it doesn’t jeopardize public safety.

At 22nd and Cherry, I had mixed feelings. I get concerned when I see people living in tents, but I’m glad to see them living somewhere where they were dry and safe. They did not see a huge number of impacts. When we temporarily house someone in tents in the city, it’s not ideal. That’s why I’ve been progressive about exploring residential neighborhoods. [Currently, tent encampments are allowed on city-owned land only in nonresidential areas.] We have to acknowledge that we’re short of space and tents are what we have right now.

The face of homelessness has changed. It’s not what we used to call hobos and people drinking and moving from place to place with a long beard. It’s people who are down on their luck and out of work. It’s people with drug and alcohol problems, children, single parents. We have to be more willing to house them, perhaps even in tents. One of the problems we hear about in Seattle is that we’re enablers and we invited these people here, where they don’t have to work and can just get handouts. I’ve never met a child who says, “I can’t wait to grow up and be homeless.”

But that misses the point. the fact is that if we’re going to have a humane society, we have to commit to housing people. I don’t think Othello is an ideal location. It has an opportunity to be a thriving economic center, with jobs and training centers and apprenticeships. It could be a gateway to a better South End. So is that the ideal location? No. But to have it there as a temporary solution? I’m willing to consider it.

I already hear people saying the South End is the dumping ground for the city. [An Othello encampment] would play into this narrative. And, yes, there would be vehement opposition. It would perpetuate the narrative that we’re the dumping ground for social services agencies. And it would impact neighborhood policing and community-based organizations in a negative way.

ECB: You were standing behind Mayor Murray when he announced his crackdown [on which he has since backtracked] on hookah lounges, which are owned primarily by African immigrants. But I heard you were resistant to doing the press conference, and particularly to doing it in Hing Hay Park, near where [International District leader] Donnie Chin was killed. What do you think of targeting hookah lounges as a source of crime, and the specific way the mayor announced it? Do you think they’re really linked with crime, or are they a convenient scapegoat?

BH: It’s public safety. We need to know what the plans are, as well as actually plan for enforcement. I’m not going on the record saying I oppose what [Murray’s] trying to do. But I met with 10 of the 11 owners and had a robust meeting with them. In that meeting they did each seem to have valid concerns. They’re saying that if the city tells them what the rules, are they will comply. Right now, you can apply for a membership for five bucks a day. The department has ruled that that is not a proper  membership, and they’re saying, then tell us what proper membership would look like.

They’re also saying that no marijuana is smoked in the place. I don’t know if that’s true or not. That was not the issue for me, but I want to know what occurred in those lounges. I believe they were not forthcoming, because we’ve talked to folks who say they’ve smoked weed in these lounges. The issue is if they’re not being honest. Every one of them said that no illicit activity takes place.

ECB: Have you ever been inside a hookah lounge?

BH: No, but I’ve talked to people in the East African community who’ve said most of them want those places shut down. [City attorney] Pete [Holmes’] letter says, you are not acting legally, however, we will work with you to be a law-abiding private club if you want. We owe it to them to have a clear set of guidelines.

The biggest travesty out of all of this is that none of us decision-markers has even been in a hookah lounge. I’m trying to better understand this culture. From our police department and law department, they are saying that illicit drug activities were going on. What they are saying is that they’re seeing rowdy behavior, some gunfire, weed in the parking lot . I’ve yet to see any data saying there is any link to violence.

ECB: Do you think the hookah lounges had any link to Donnie Chin’s murder?

That’s a legitimate question. I’m asking that myself. I have yet to see that linkage. The reason it didn’t occur to anybody is because all the information being thrust upon us is weed is being smoked and that there’s guns at night after hours. This is an after-hours spot, after they’re tanked up on alcohol—and then you go smoke weed… Sally Bagshaw and I have talked about going to one of these places some night soon to see for ourselves what goes on there, and I think we should do that.

ECB:  I was surprised that, when he announced he was shutting down all the city’s hookah lounges, the mayor didn’t seem to notice he was targeting black businesses exclusively. Did you have any reaction to that fact at the time?

BH: I would have thought I would be the first to see the race issue. I saw a constituency that’s not valued as a constituency. Compared to taxi drivers, who are a vocal constituency of political players in town. I saw them as not politically astute, not politically connected or connected to politics in any respect. As a group, I don’t even know if they vote. I saw a group that needed to be somewhat organized and relevant.


Michael Maddux, District 4

Rob Johnson, District 4

Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

Lorena Gonzalez, Position 9

Bill Bradburd, Position 9

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Bill Bradburd

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.

If you want to help me continue to do interviews like this one, plus on-the-ground reporting, deep dives on issues like affordability and transportation, breaking news, and incisive analysis, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter by pledging a few bucks at Patreon. This work costs money and (lots of) time, so I really appreciate every bit of support I receive from my readers.

Today’s interview: Citywide Position 9 candidate Bill Bradburd, a neighborhood activist in the Central District. I sat down with Bradburd at Lottie’s in Columbia City.

[Note to readers: Bradburd doesn’t leave a lot of room for questions. He talks pretty much nonstop, bouncing from idea to idea and grabbing pieces of paper to illustrate what he’s talking about. By the end of our interview, I think he had sketched out an entire neighborhood, his vision for Seattle.]


The C Is for Crank [ECB]: You came through the primary with just 15 percent to Lorena Gonzalez’s 65 percent. What’s your goal for the rest of the campaign, assuming you don’t have a realistic shot of winning? Are there issues you especially want to get Lorena on the record about?

Bill Bradburd [BB]: The way I look at it is, I am 50 points behind. Obviously, we like to think we could rise to the challenge, but it’s a stretch. If we were able to execute a traditional campaign, we would be able to do mail, but because we’re  so far behind, it’s going to be difficult to raise the kind of money we want to raise. We’re going to be talking about messaging. We still have the opportunity to do that. We have a Seattle Channel interview with Lorena coming up tomorrow. We still have the ability to express opinions and ideas. We still have alternative methods of reaching people, through social media, for example. I’m still reaching out to neighbors at neighborhood meet and greets. We still can differentiate ourselves from Lorena. She hasn’t come up with any strong policy positions. She’s the mayor’s candidate, so her policy positions are pretty cookie-cutter and aligned with the mayor.  I talk about a different vision for the city. Healthy communities are important to a good urban environment, everything from supporting local businesses and the local economy, to restorative justice, which requires a very strong community.

Seattle is in a way nationally unique, in the sense that the neighborhoods were very powerful groups in the 1990s. They coalesced under the Community Council Federation. The Community Council Federation has withered and gone away, but 25 years ago, they elected a mayor, Norm Rice, and everything you see today, the urban village strategy, the neighborhood plans, came out of the neighborhood movement. How do we grow in a way that respects neighborhoods? The urban village choices weren’t made up. Since the Rice administration, since the creation of the community council system, the neighborhoods have become disempowered.

A lot of this stuff that happened with microhousing, for example—nobody gets told about this stuff, it just happens. A lot of it now is, you let the community come in and look at the maps and put up stickers saying what they want, but it’s already done. A lot of that happens behind the scenes. Part of the  problem is that we don’t engage citizens in an open way. Twenty-some years ago, they went to the neighborhoods and said, “How do you want to change?” The neighborhoods talked about what they wanted, and the city listened and made all these neighborhood plans. We don’t do that anymore, and that’s part of the problem. We go through a veneer of public engagement. This happened when they were doing planning for the south end light rail station areas. They did all these public meetings that were all just for show. They took a lot of photos of ethnic minorities sitting in circles around tables playing with blocks, when they already knew what they were going to do.

When you look at the constituents in the neighborhood, they are: People who live there, businesses that are there, families, kids, and property owners. Developers have an inherently different interest. Developers and property owners have an interest in making money off the land. They don’t think of the interests of the people in the community. They don’t think of neighborhoods in terms of the things that most people think of. They think of it as an investment.

In single-family areas with a broad base of constituents, there’s not a lot of economic activity generated by that single-family home, but there is  a lot of non-monetary value that’s good to the whole neighborhood in a single-family house. You have people who are friends with their neighbors, their kids play with the kids down the block, they’re part of the community. If you take that down and build four townhomes, you have a bank, a developer, a contractor, and the building trades [union]. That’s the economic activity. The downside is that these people lost their neighbors. We need to be helping neighborhoods do community building. We need to invest in block watches and restorative justice so that we have common idea of how we build.

This is all skewed by this definition of density. We’ve taken it and used it to say it means the number of people in a building. You can put in 20 microhousing units on one square block on Capitol Hill and you’re not going to affect the overall density of the neighborhood more than a tiny bit . The question should have been what the community wants to see in 20 to 50 years. Then the question becomes, if this is what 4,000 units per square mile looks like, which is a single-family neighborhood, what does 8,000 units look like? Then you can look at building forms and say, these are the building forms we support at this density, and wouldn’t it be great if in 50 years our neighborhood could look like Barcelona?

When you have a hodgepodge [of building forms], it’s a fucking disaster. If you want row houses, you can create a new zone called row house, where the only thing you can build is a row house and you can do Row House 1, 2, 3, or even 4 and 5 like New York. We can tell developers, “This is what you have to build. We want  great neighborhoods for kids. We would like to see more families here.”

ECB: You don’t support the HALA plan, and you signed off on [Position 8 candidate] Jon Grant’s proposal to charge a maximum linkage fee on new residential development and to move toward rent control. What’s your issue with HALA?

BB: HALA doesn’t do a goddamn thing to solve our crisis. If 10 percent of the houses put in mother-in-law apartments or build cottages, that’s 16,000 units of housing, and it’s definitely affordable housing.  We’re giving away all this development capacity and not getting anything in return. We’re building these huge luxury apartments downtown and they’re not contributing to the city with linkage fees. Amazon just bought 1.8 million square feet of office space at $650 a foot, and Vulcan says it cost them $450 a square foot to build. So they’re making $200 a square foot in profit, and none of that comes back to community. That’s absurd.

What about, if you’re building affordable housing, you’re exempted form the linkage fee, or it’s a sliding scale? The whole point of this thing is, we have a housing crisis. It’s not going to be a permanent thing, but we need affordable housing now. I think we should have community-based solutions. In HALA, they came up with those recommendations that do nothing.

ECB: What’s your response to people who say the growth targets established in the neighborhood planning process aren’t caps, they’re just targets?

Richard Conlin used to say that. Well, we are on a shooting range, and there’s the target, and we’re just, Pop! Pop! Pop! shooting all over everywehre. If population is growing more than the expectations, if you blow through the roof, you have to figure out how to grow at a more modest level.

[The Department of Planning and Development] can’t plan their way out of a paper bag. I do have a problem with the idea that everybody has a right to live on Capitol Hill. No, they don’t. If people who have only been living here for five years are saying they no longer recognize their neighborhood, you ought to look at that as a barometer. It’s not that people don’t like change—they don’t like no longer recognizing their neighborhood.

We do have growth targets. That means we should aim for it. But at the same time, we want to be cautious. We don’t want to gentrify Rainier Beach. We want a community that’s going to be responsible about growth. Gentrification is like photosynthesis. It happens all the time. The problem is that it used to happen over a 20-year period. Now it happens over a five-year period.  Gentrification is an economic phenomenon that happens to have racial overtones because people of color tend to be lower-income.

The question is not, how do you stop it, but how do you not have it be invasive, and how do you have it happen over a period of time so that people get their bearings back? The community in the Central Area was shellshocked by the pace of the changes.

ECB: How do you respond to charges that neighbors who oppose people who aren’t like them coming into their neighborhoods are being racist or classist? I’m thinking of the Ballard encampment and the out-of-nowhere crackdown on hookah lounges.

BB: With the hookah lounges, no one talked to the community. The city should have done community outreach [before shutting them down]. Donnie Chin was killed two hours after that hookah lounge closed. Hookah lounges had nothing to do with his death. There’s a concern about the changing face of the ID. Certainly there are racial aspects as well. When Casa Latina wanted to come into our community in the CD, the Japanese community didn’t want the Latinos there, but we talked about it and had a process, and that, to me, is community building.

I’m not denying that there are some white people who don’t want to live next door to black people. But with Casa Latina, their greatest concern was, what’s it going to do to the character of our neighborhood? Their concern was, we don’t want to look like the outside of Lowe’s, where men in backpacks are just lined up along the sidewalk. Casa Latina came in and reassured the neighborhood, they made changes, they volunteered to have people walk the block.

A statement was made that there is racism in the development codes and that’s just not true. There were community covenants. To say this neighborhood is zoned by racism is absurd. The city was platted when the houses were built, and the neighborhoods put in covenants on top of that zoning. If you’re going to look at zoning in a certain way, you could say that downtown zoning is racist. There aren’t a lot of black people living there. People live the community they’re in based on their quality of life. Part of that is perception.

When they tried to put a mental health crisis center on my block, that had people protesting who live a mile away. The problem was that people thought this was going to be a negative thing in the neighborhood. Some might have said that their property values were going to decline, but it was mostly about place value and quality of life. What people were saying was that we’ll have hookers and drugged-out people in the streets. Is that racist or classist? Maybe. I think it’s not driven by racism or classism. It was driven by what the neighborhood thought would happen in their neighborhood.


Michael Maddux, District 4

Rob Johnson, District 4

Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

Lorena Gonzalez, Position 9

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Lorena González

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.

If you want to help me continue to do interviews like this one, plus on-the-ground reporting, deep dives on issues like affordability and transportation, breaking news, and incisive analysis, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter by pledging a few bucks at Patreon. This work costs money and (lots of) time, so I really appreciate every bit of support I receive from my readers.

Today’s interview is with Lorena González, a civil-rights attorney and former counsel to Mayor Ed Murray, who’s running for citywide Position 9.

imgresThe C Is for Crank [ECB]
: Your race has ended up focusing on land use and development even more than other races, because your opponent, Bill Bradburd, is such an outspoken critic of HALA and many forms of density in neighborhoods. Now that it’s just the two of you in the race, what would you like to focus on?

Lorena González [LG]: Affordability, transportation, labor standards, police accountability, and issues around pay equity.

ECB: Pay equity is something council member Jean Godden [who lost her bid for District 4 in the primary] brings up a lot, but I’m not sure it’s really being addressed at the city. What’s your take?

LG: I tend to look at those issues in the context of intersectionality. What we’re missing is a stronger focus on women, and women of color in particular, and how pay equity plays out in terms of women of color, how the gender pay gap plays out, and how to bring down the disparity for both white women and women of color. How do we increase the pipeline to careers that pay better, including for women of color?

And then really digging into other issues, like how are we making decisions around merit pay [at the city], and are there any discrepancies around how those things above and beyond salary get decided? There’s merit pay and how many days you get off. That’s based on your performance. And there are pay bands within the city, but your starting pay within that band is up to your employer. The way I looked at it was really talking through what different strategies we could use in fire, in police, in the Department of Information Technology.

ECB: In a study of the gender pay gap that concluded there isn’t much of a pay equity in city employment, those very departments, plus City Light, were separated from the rest of the city, because they’re overwhelmingly male-dominated, allowing the city to That strikes me as a sneaky out that absolves the city of the responsibility for recruiting more women and minorities to those higher-paying jobs. What did you think of that when you saw the report?

LG: Those are different in a lot of ways than other job classifications that are available at the city.  You can’t eliminate the fact that there is a pay gap in the other job classifications, it just happens that the gap in those positions isn’t as severe. And, to a certain extent, it might be useful to look at those positions separately. The pipeline issue is real. We need to create some creative public-private partnerships and have a conversation about how we place young girls in STEM fields—and not only that, but also feeling that this is a field that they could do: Getting them internships, getting them into the right college classes that are going to position them to land jobs at the city.

ECB: The city recently added four weeks of paid parental leave to its benefits package. At the same time, the county decided to provide twelve weeks of paid parental leave. Do you think the city is doing enough for new parents, especially mothers?

LG: There’s room for improvement, but that was a huge deal for us to get four weeks of paid leave. Four weeks is better than nothing. We have to make sure that it’s being complemented with other types of paid leave. All together, the paid leave plus parental leave adds up to about 12 weeks, so I do think the paid leave that the city provides already is generous. I’m hopeful that now that we have paid leave, we’ll be able to see more women staying at the city.

As a city council member, you want to make sure city employees are taken care of, but there are also 600,000 employees in the city that need to have paid parental policies too. We might want to pursue paid parental leave outside of the City of Seattle too. We would need to take to stakeholders and make sure they understand what the need is.

ECB: What was your response to the Amazon story in the New York Times, which basically said that Amazon pushes women out for getting pregnant or taking time off to care for family members?

LG: I come with some background in worker rights and making sure that working conditions are fair to workers. And yes, these are higher-paid workers. I’ve known for a long time that there are concerns about how it treats its workers. I’ve talked to workers in the warehouse who have similar concerns. Unfortunately, it took professional workers to highlight the problems. We have to really talk about whether or not it’s appropriate for the companies in our city to be heartless in terms of how they treat their workers.

ECB: If you and Debora Juarez are elected, the council will have three women of color (along with Kshama Sawant or her somewhat long-shot opponent Pam Banks), and four people of color. Do you think that shift will make the council focus more on racial, social, and economic justice?

LG: My hope is that change will come from outside—that by having a city council that looks more like more communities, we’ll have more representation in the community. With districts, I have concerns about how the lines were drawn. Any time we’re looking at districting issues, we need to make sure we’re not gerrymandering and creating communities that are diluted. I don’t think equity was taken into account when these lines were being drawn, or that it was taken into account and that’s why those lines were drawn the way they were.

[A district system] does  make it more manageable for people of color and women to consider running. It’s possible for a person to put some shoe leather into it.

ECB: Are you all in on HALA?

Yes.  There are 65 recommendations, and I think I’m on board with the vast majority of them. The linkage fee on the commercial side, mandatory inclusionary zoning on the residential side. I think we need to confer a bit more on some preservation aspects, and figuring out how we manage to keep the existing stock of affordable housing. We need to figure out, how do we provide relief to renters and provide tenant protections? It’s a very solid place to start. What I’m hoping to see is more time spent on those particular strategies.

For me, as a policy maker and an advocate, I always ask myself : How does this policy impact the most underrepresented folks in our community? It will be unfortunate if people sacrifice reasonable tools to create affordable housing for political reasons.


Rob Johnson, District 4

Michael Maddux, District 4

Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Rob Johnson

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.

If you want to help me continue to do interviews like this one, plus on-the-ground reporting, deep dives on issues like affordability and transportation, breaking news, and incisive analysis, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter by pledging a few bucks at Patreon. This work costs money and (lots of) time, so I really appreciate every bit of support I receive from my readers.

Today’s conversation: Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson, who’s running against Michael Maddux to represent Northeast Seattle’s District 4. I sat down with Johnson at Cherry Street Coffee in Pioneer Square.

The C Is for Crank [ECB]: Business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Restaurant Association, and the Rental Housing Association have spent more than $80,000 on independent expenditures to help your campaign.  Why do you think they’re supporting you, and does their support help cement the idea, which your opponent is almost certainly going to bring up on the campaign trail, that you’re the candidate of Seattle’s business establishment?

Rob Johnson [RJ]: It’s an interesting narrative that I think Michael’s going to play up moving forward, but I don’t think it’s actually going to be much of a narrative. We had endorsements from the Sierra Club, the King County Labor Council, and the Chamber within a 24-hour period in April. A lot of us were surprised at the amount of spending there was on IEs. I expected some, but not nearly that amount. And I expected them more throughout the city, not just concentrated in a couple of races.

 ECB: Why do you think all those groups are supporting you? What are you telling them?

RJ: I think that the reason I’ve gotten a lot of endorsements is because people know me as a collaborator—as someone who has strong progressive values but can bring people along. Folks in the downtown community support me because I think they see me as someone who has worked with them on social justice issues,  like expanding the low-income ORCA card. And I think a lot of it has to do with experience. I’ve got experience working with these groups. They know my working style. They understand where I am. I’m a collaborator. I’m like Richard Conlin in that way. I can work with different sides.

ECB: Richard Conlin lost in 2013 to someone who no one thought would win. Are there ways in which you are not like Richard Conlin?

RS: Parking is one of the ways I’m different from Richard Conlin. One of the conversations we always had was around parking minimums and maximums, and whether we should allow the market to determine how much parking we needed in new buildings. He came to the council with more of a land use background than I have. I have more of a transportation background than he had.  Conlin came out of the neighborhood planning process, but I think there wasn’t the kind of growth conversation back then that we’re having now. I think that has really put a big spotlight on some of big challenges we have as a city. It challenges people’s comfort zone. I went to school for public planning at UCLA, and in D.C. for two years. I’ve got a unique set of skills.

ECB: What did you think of the mayor’s decision to abandon the HALA committee’s proposed changes to single-family zoning as soon as the report leaked and a group of vocal property owners complained?

RJ: I think he was responding to that very vocal, knee- jerk reaction from a lot of people. I would have liked to see us have a conversation with some of the neighborss before pulling back. I knocked on a lot of doors in Windermere and heard a lot about the changes in single-family zoning. People in Windermere all said they were worried about changing the character of their neighborhood. I think few of them realize that there are several duplexes and triplexes in Windermere. So I would have liked to go on a walking tour with those neighbors and show them what a duplex or triplex actually looks like. It would have been really interesting. We need a more nuanced discussion. If your interest is protecting your single-family neighborhood, we’re going to have a conversation about targeting more growth. If we’re going to choose to build lower in the University District, we’re going to need more duplexes and triplexes.

As a candidate, I was getting five to six emails a day about a variety of different topics [before HALA]. After the HALA report came out, I got about a dozen emails a day, and they were all focused on land use, about where a specific boundary line is, about the Roosevelt Urban Village moving forward. We’re going to continue to have a really big dialogue about land use. I heard from a healthy number of people who said, “I see a lot of old homes in my neighborhood being torn down and large mansion-style buildings being torn down. I would love to be able to see more of those mansions be turned into duplexes. I would love to turn mine into a duplex for my aging parents or my kids at home.” Many neighbors are rallying in support [of HALA]. I heard from a lot of folks who are supporting our campaign that they want [the HALA recommendations].

ECB: You’re fighting against the impression that you’re the conservative in the race, and against the fact that you look like the more conservative candidate. Are you running into people at the door thinking you’re too conservative based on how you look and dress? And if so, how do you counter that impression?

RJ: We did something that not a lot of campaigns do, where we did targeted our field efforts using a trusted advisor model. We did our targeting in such a way that the person that showed up at your doorstep looked like you, talked like you, and was validating me as a candidate. I think that really made a difference.

I had plenty of people at the doors say to me, “I’m not voting for you because you’re a bike Nazi,” or, “Because the Sierra Club’s endorsed you, I’m not voting for you.” So while I may visually look like the most conservative one in the race, I had plenty of people go beyond looks and say, “You’re too liberal for me.”

ECB: Now that Jean Godden is no longer in the race, you and Michael will have to differentiate yourselves from each other. What do you consider the main differences between the two of you?

RJ: Part of it’s going to be about  background. Michael’s going to talk a lot about how he’s the LGBT candidate and about how he supports progressive taxation, and I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about my experience and the diversity of my supporters and my technical proficiency in actually being able to accomplish a lot of this stuff. I think Michael’s got a good civic background with the parks levy stuff, but I’ve got a much deeper history in working with others.

ECB: You obviously know a lot about transportation, but one criticism is that that’s all you know about. Do you think that’s a fair criticism, and what issues are you interested in other than transportation?

RJ: I would say that one of the benefits of running for city council is that you have to learn about a lot of things you don’t have a lot of background on.  City Light is a great example. We’re going to have a new City Light CEO. We need to work proactively between City Light, [Seattle Public Utilities] and SDOT to do a better job of integration on constuction management and greening our portfolios. We need to reform those agencies to compete with each other to be greenest they can be.

The drought makes me really concerned about our overreliance on hydropower. We need to do more on greening the utility—more solarization and more wind energy. We need to invest a lot more in clean energy solutions. It’s not just good for our energy portfolio, it’s also good for local green jobs.

ECB: Your opponent has talked a lot about the need to achieve gender pay equity in city employment and the city as a whole. A recent report by a city consultant found that women are more likely to be in part-time jobs at the city and are underrepresented in the highest-paying, largest departments, like police, technology, and fire. What are you plans to close the gender pay gap at the city?

RJ: As a small employer [at Transportation Choices Coalition], one of first things I did was to do an analysis of people’s pay, and we’ve subsequently made a very strong commitment to hiring women and, in particular, women of color and putting them into positions where they’re in leadership. We’re a majority female office. All the people in leadership are women. As a boss, I’m really focused on that. Fifty percent of our paid staffers are people of color.

We need to do a better job of recruiting women and people of color into leadership positions in the [city] and doing targeted hires. Having SPD do a targeted hire program for more female officers and people of color builds leadership capacity in the organization. We also have to promote those folks, so that people who are starting out see a path forward in the organization. That would be a priority of mine. I think we need to do more than just have studies. We need to spend lot of time on implementation. 


Michael Maddux, District 4

Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Michael Maddux

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.

If you want to help me continue to do interviews like this one, plus on-the-ground reporting, deep dives on issues like affordability and transportation, breaking news, and incisive analysis, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter by pledging a few bucks at Patreon. This work costs money and (lots of) time, so I really appreciate every bit of support I receive from my readers.

Today’s interview: District 4 (Northeast Seattle) candidate Michael Maddux. I sat down with Maddux at the Inn Keeper in Belltown.

Mag-3-Lili-Peek-300x222The C Is for Crank [ECB]: You and your opponent [Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson] have made a point of talking all the time about how well you get along, how much you like each other, and how you wish you were running in different races. Now that it’s just the two of you, you’re going to have to do something to distinguish yourself and make up the points he has on you. [Johnson finished with 32.84 percent to Maddux’s 24.64 percent.] What are you going to do to distinguish yourself? Or more to the point, when is this race going to turn ugly?

Michael Maddux [MM]: I don’t believe in going ugly. It’s not necessary in this race. I have no plan to talk about Rob, because that’s his job. I think voters are smart enough to get the distinctions between the candidates. I don’t really see the need to go negative. Jean [Godden] and Tony [Provine] ran negative campaigns. We were positive and we got through.

We will draw out our distinctions. There are significant distinctions on police reform and tax reform. I’ve worked at places where I’ve had to deal with clients getting arrested and supposedly resisting arrest, I’ve worked with homelessness and with housing low-income individuals. Rob knows a lot about transportaiotn.

I’m definitely the underdog. I don’t have a bunch of big corporate money backing my campaign, or a bunch of anti-worker organizations backing my campaign. [Johnson has received support from the Chamber, the Rental Housing Association, and the Washington Restaurant Association.] If [the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, the Chamber PAC] and the Rental Housing Association and the Associated General Contractors end up giving him money, it’s for a reason. I think they feel like ‘d be a little bit more antagonistic against them for a council member.

With the AGC, early on, I said that for city contracts, there should be minimum apprenticeship requirements, including benefits, and more funding for apprenticeship opportunities. Their response was 10 to 15 minutes of telling me how wrong I was because it’s going to cost so much money, and I said we should be paying for that in the city.

ECB: You signed on to an alternative proposed by Position 8 candidate Jon Grant that would ditch the Grand Bargain by mandating a linkage fee on residential development, move toward rent control, and impose new anti-displacement provisions that aren’t in the proposed plan. How would you distinguish your views on density from your opponent’s?

MM:  Something we see more and more among urbanists is social justice urbanism, as opposed to free market urbanism. Social justice urbanism basically means that you want more housing and all of that other stuff, but you also want things like linkage fees. Social justice urbanists say you need to look at other things to make sure that low-income people don’t get priced out of the city. With free market urbanism, it’s, “Lift the height restrictions and let the market take care of itself.”

Clearly, we need more housing. But most of the [HALA] recommendations are further down the road. Ten years from now, once those units start filling up, they will start to lower rents. The question is, what do we do in those ten years?

[Grant’s plan represents] a bold move toward more housing. It would spur some housing for the most low-income individuals. If we have additional height, which we should, we need to make sure people have a place to live at the same time. I look at inclusionary zoning and one-for-one replacement as part of the same thing. When we’re doing a significant zoning change like at Yesler Terrace, it’s important we’re making sure those units that are torn down are replaced. I don’t know what the right number is. That’s where groups like the Housing Resource Group and others come in. I envision it as based on the particular people currently living in there. I don’t want to see a single person priced out of a neighborhood now for improvements that will come in 10 years.

There has to be a nexus. With a linkage fee, the nexus is displacement. If you tear down a four-story building with affordable housing units, we’re proposing that either you pay a fee or you build [affordable housing] onsite. I would want to see it phased out as mandatory inclusionary zoning is phased in. I think you can do a linkage fee with a sunset date, then you renew it or don’t depending on whether mandatory inclusionary zoning is providing enough affordable housing.

ECB: But Grant’s plan doesn’t propose a sunset date, it proposes a permanent linkage fee on all new residential development in the city. Developers who were involved in negotiating HALA have made it clear that they will sue if the council puts that linkage fee back on the table. Are you prepared to defend a policy that will lead to a lawsuit and potentially blow up the HALA deal?

MM: If it’s a permanent linkage fee, I can see why [developers] would [sue]. If not, I would hope that as the select committee on housing continues its work, they could find some common ground. If there was a way to revisit that part, the council should be willing to take a look at it.

ECB: Your opponent is obviously an expert on transportation. As more of a generalist, do you have any particular transportation concerns in your district?

MM: There are concerns about light rail coming through Wallingford. I think [the Sound Transit 3 proposal] should have included Ballard to the U District. I came out early for the Ballard Spur. My understanding is that the travel time between Ballard and downtown is only a minute or two longer if you go from Ballard  to the U District to downtown, and you avoid Interbay, which is probably a good idea. If we lose fishing jobs in Interbay, they’ll be gone forever. Expedia [which is locating a new corporate campus in Interbay] further raises my concern about residential encorachment on industrial lands. We do need to be flexible, but if the only way to build more housing in Seattle is to encroach on industrial lands, then I believe we should protect industrial lands and bring them into the 21st century. We need more manufacturing jobs for the 21st century. We’re right next to a seaport. Let’s turn Terminal 5 into a 21st century terminal.

ECB: One thing Jean Godden did make an issue of during an otherwise issue-lite campaign was pay equity between men and women at the city and in Seattle as a whole. You have said you’re passionate about this issue. What do you plan to do to close the pay gap?

MM: I’m hopeful that Council Member Godden, before she leaves, is going to push on more proposals like what’s been done in Boston, where businesses can opt into disclosing what they pay across all types of employees. It would be less secret and eventually more information could lead to mandatory reporting, so you can see what salaries are paid to men and women doing the same work.

Where does the pay gap come from? In the city of Seattle, it’s a lack of women in certain categories [specifically, fire, technology, police, and City Light-ECB]. What are we doing to change that to get more women in those positions, while ensuring that they have opportunities to be hired in other areas? My daughter’s dream job would be a game developer or an architect—something that involves drawing. What are we doing to support that dream? What are we doing to supplement the work kids do at school through the Families and Education Levy? The argument we hear is, “We want [women] but they don’t show up.” So what are we doing? We should be saying, “Guess what, 14-year-old girls, you can be whatever the fuck you want to be.” And it needs to change from being solely about how to get kids to go to college to getting kids into opportunities, whatever their abilities.


Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Catherine Weatbrook

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.

Today’s candidate: Ballard neighborhood activist Catherine Weatbrook, who’s running against council incumbent Mike O’Brien in Northwest Seattle’s District 6.

The C Is for Crank [ECB]: I know that you’re a longtime neighborhood activist, and I know that you oppose changes to single-family zoning, and I know that you spoke out against the Market Street encampment site in Ballard. What I don’t know is why you’re running, and why against Mike O’Brien, one of the most popular council incumbents.

Catherine Weatbrook [CW]: Since I participated in the comprehensive planning that went on in the ’90s, I’ve seen a gradual shift away from the grand bargain of the ’90s that had to do with the urban village strategy. I felt that there were definitely voices that were not being heard and conversations that should be happening in 2015 that were not happening.

There’s a continual challenge bringing people to the table. We have what I’m going to call a meeting culture. There’s a good part of the world that cannot attend a 7pm meeting. That can be socioeconomic, that can be cultural. So how do you include the single parent with a young child who clearly cannot attend a 7pm meeting without incurring additional childcare costs? That’s a barrier. We still have about 40 percent of folks in the city who are not comfortable taking an online survey. They either have accessibility issues, or they’re intimidated by it, or they don’t trust it. There’s a whole host of reasons. So those are voices that I just don’t see represented. What I hear consistently from the departments on outreach is, if they can’t come to a meeting, and they can’t fill out a survey, we don’t know what to do. And I’m like, let’s figure out how to solve this, whether it’s racial equity, or gender equity, or speaking for the homeless.

ECB: How do you think council member O’Brien has failed to stand up for gender equity?

This is public record. Mike O’Brien has flat-out said that he is not comfortable speaking out about gender equity. He implied in a public statement that he wanted to get to a time where women didn’t have to work and they could raise their families. [You can read what O’Brien said here.] He was asked by a reporter about this and he flat-out said that was an unfortunate choice of words, but he again circled around to this time when both parents didn’t have to work. It’s a fundamental lack of understanding the context of women’s contributions to society and completely not understanding what his own biases are. What can I say? I can’t let that go unchallenged.

I’ve always coached, I’ve always nurtured, I’ve always pushed. My father had a wonderful woman working for him. She was labeled as his secretary, but she did so much more than that. I encouraged her to go get her technical writing certificate, and I gave my father the look that said, she’s going to get a half hour off to get to class on time, and ultimately I hired her. I feel it’s at that micro level where I’ve always worked to nurture people along, to give women, particularly, that nudge. In my most recent job, I again took a single woman who had been. quote, simply a janitor in her job title. I coached and taught her and ultimately got her to a job as a facilities manager. That kind of fundamental dedication to bringing folks along gives me a perspective where it’s just so ingrained [to ask], who are we shutting out? What barriers are we putting up?

This hookah lounge debacle is an example. [Last month, Mayor Ed Murray announced that he would shut down 11 immigrant-owned hookah lounges because, he said, they were associated with gun violence and were breaking a state law against indoor smoking at businesses. Murray has since walked back that hardline position.]

ECB: Why do you call it a debacle?

CW: I cannot find a single example where we have vilified an entire business sector because of the supposed bad actions of one, whether it was nightclubs or bars or noisy car repair shops. We haven’t closed every car repair shop in seattle because somebody was grinding off an axle at 11:20 at night.

These [hookah lounges] are a cultural component for residents of our city, and as such, I think we have to make sure that we show great discretion. If there are incidents that can be tied specifically to a specific bad actor or the carelessness of a particular club or business, then I think you have to have that conversation with that club or business. But to close clubs [without] any actual evidence or legal conclusion that a bad act outside or in the club led to this violence—it would be like taking my house away because some drunk crashed his car into my rockery. I didn’t give him the alcohol. I didn’t invite him over. I don’t see what responsibility it is of mine. Are there legal grounds? Is there actual evidence? Have we had a conversation with these folks? Do they understand that there’s a serous problem? We went from, “There’s a problem” to “Let’s shut them down citywide” in, as far as I can tell 1.3 seconds, I’m much more deliberative, process-based and fact-based than that.

ECB: You said at the Ballard encampment meeting that you had taken a homeless person into your home until he could get back on his feet. Can you tell me about that experience and how it came about?

CW: It was someone who had come to Seattle chasing the tech dream, slept in his car, lost his car, and basically had worn out his couch-surfing welcome. It was not that I went under a bridge and took somebody in. I had a minor child at home. I’ve gotta draw the line somewhere.

It was really an eye-opening experience from the standpoint of how quickly it could have gone far much worse without someone stepping up. [Having an address gave him] some stability where he could apply for jobs. We made sure he had wheels, made sure that the car got fixed up so he could get extra shifts and move up at work, and within three or four months he had an apartment.

It made me think a lot about, how do we catch people before they’re in the depths of homelessness? Looking at the whole spectrum of homelessness, there’s folks we catch and there’s folks we don’t catch who are just on our streets.

ECB: Knowing that, why are you opposed to the Ballard encampment?

CW: I am so disappointed that that is the best we can get. I was told that in their last encampment, the city of Seattle’s human services director had failed to release the funds that they needed to pay for garbage, and [my Tent City tour guide] showed me the pile of garbage they were waiting to collect and take to the dump. My criteria for “well-run” would include a Dumpster and regular garbage service.  No one deserves to live next to a pile of garbage. There’s got to be a bathroom facility. What I worry about with tent cities is, I’m not seeing the city’s commitment to making sure that they are well-run. I am concerned about the people in the tent city being safe. We have a few folks in Ballard who are homeless who would be a threat to those in tent city, and there’s no way to keep them out of the area.

ECB: Wouldn’t the alternative, letting them sleep in parks and on benches on the street, be far worse than letting them set up a temporary encampment?

CW: Yes, but when you have 50 people in a vulnerable spot, that, in my mind, has the potential to be a more likely target.

I think we’re going to have to have tent cities in the short term. However, I really want to hold the city accountable to making sure we do them right. If we do it right, I think it could set the precedent, going forward, to lower the resistance and help get the funding we need for housing, mental health services, and other things.

ECB: A lot of people who objected to the encampment at the meeting claimed that the city hasn’t let them know what’s going on. Is that their real objection, or are they just opposed to having homeless people in their neighborhood?

CW: Some  people have life experiences where it’s not going to change their minds. [But] the way that the city rolled out this information, and failed to respond to the voices of concern in the community in a timely way, said to me that they had lost control of that meeting before they ever stepped in the doors. A lot of misinformation was allowed to circulate and it built momentum. I think what you saw in that meeting was a lot of frustration boiling over, and it reflects, in my mind, far more than the frustration around the homeless encampments.

There’s a deep, deep frustration in the Ballard area about the lack of services that have been provided to our existing homeless population. Tent City is not going to accept those who are self-medicating, and we have a lot of them [already]. That is some people’s vision [of the homeless]. You say, we’re going to bring 50 more homeless people to Ballard, that’s the vision.

And I think there is a group of folks who are not only concerned about the process, they’re concerned about the impacts of a lack of process going forward on actually getting the housing levy doubled in the next two years. There’s this fear that we’ve now made it harder to find long-term solutions.

ECB: What are your objections to the HALA plan?

CW: I think we missed the opportunity to empower individual homeowners to add detached accessory dwelling units and accessory dwelling units, because there was never a conversation about what are the barriers to getting homeowners to build those. It’s a way of empowering the middle class to be part of the solution.

I think HALA missed the entire conversation about complete communities. It’s great to have frequent transit service, but part of a massive reduction in car use is having things like a corner grocery store, healthy food, restaurants. Suggesting an increase in simply residential [capacity] without taking into consideration anything that supports that kind of density was an oversight. We could do far better to encourage [supportive infrastructure] to happen in a much more concurrent manner. I think we need some creative ways to kick-start development around places where we have existing capacity and really fast transit, like down at Othello [in the Rainier Valley. They have transit capacity and our E line is leaving people behind. I’m not trying to shift the development somewhere else, but we’ve got an infrastructure capacity problem.


Mike O’Brien, Position 6

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

If you want to help me continue to do interviews like this one, plus on-the-ground reporting, deep dives on issues like affordability and transportation, breaking news, and incisive analysis, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter by pledging a few bucks at Patreon. This work costs money and (lots of) time, so I really appreciate every bit of support I receive from my readers.

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Jon Grant

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. Today’s interview: Former Tenants Union director Jon Grant, who’s running against council incumbent Tim Burgess for citywide Position 8.

Jon-GrantThe C Is for Crank [ECB]: In the primary, you were running against a well-known incumbent and a prominent musician with strong name recognition [Long Winters singer John Roderick]. Were you surprised that you made it through?

Jon Grant [JG]: I felt fairly confident we would. We were obviously pleased that  things came out the way they did. I think there was a real question about money between me and my two opponents [Burgess and Roderick]. They spent, like, $275,000 to my $40,000. [Combined, Roderick and Burgess spent about $265,000 to Grant’s $37,000.] I think it speaks to whether this is going to be a campaign about money or message. The choice is between a candidate representing the Chamber of Commerce and a candidate representing the community. That was what made the difference. I think the Stranger endorsement helped,  but it wasn’t the deciding factor.

ECB: You say that Burgess is backed by the Chamber of Commerce, but it’s worth noting that their PAC, Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, didn’t spend any money supporting him in the primary. Why, specifically, do you call him the Chamber’s candidate?

JG: Follow the money. There’s lots of examples. Look at South Lake Union and the incentive zoning proposal. The city hired a consultant to figure out what kind of fee South Lake Union could support and they figured out that it was around $85 a square foot. And the proposal that was put forward by Tim Burgess was closer to $22 a square foot. It was a real clear example of deferring to developers on what they were willing to pay they. He left tens of millions of dollars for workforce housing on the table. There is a direct line from downtown developers to his policy decisions.

Another example is the anti-panhandling ordinance. That was a clear nod to the Chamber of Commerce ‘s interest in clearing out homeless folks downtown. It was found to be in violation of human rights standards by the Seattle Human Rights Commission and it was eventually [vetoed]. That was his initiative.

He also repealed the employee hours tax, which is one of the only progressive taxes available to the city council.

ECB: Minutes after Mayor Murray announced that his 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee had reached a “Grand Bargain” that would not only mandate new affordable housing in exchange for upzones but avoid a lawsuit developers had promised to file if the deal included residential linkage fees, you announced an alternative plan that not only included a maximum residential linkage fee but called for rent control, which was never realistically on the table for HALA. Why did you do that, knowing that your plan would incite a lawsuit and blow up the Grand Bargain?

JG: The only time the city has ever tried to push for progressive legislation, it’s been greeted by a lawsuit. If we decided whether to move forward based on that threat, we would end up with no progressive laws. We don’t win for not trying. We’re going to have a totally new city council that’s going to make some hard decisions about how we’re going to provide more affordable housing.

If you zoom out to the bigger picture, the question is, what is the best way to provide affordable housing? The goal [of providing 20,000 new affordable units in the next ten years) is good, but the financing mechanisms in HALA wouldn’t direct enough money toward the lowest end, [people making] zero to 30 [percent of area median income.] What I would like to see considered is, what do we do to address those folks? We just ended the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness with more homelessness than ever. When are we going to get our act together? What can we do to be bold as a city, to bring in as much revenue as possible to help the folks who need it most?

What I would do is build 5,000 housing units for the homeless in five years. That is ambitious, but if we don’t set high goals, we’ll never achieve them. I think it’s reasonable to ask the private sector to do more for affordable housing, That’s why I’m in favor of having a linkage fee both on commercial and residential and in working with [the Seattle Housing Authority].

ECB: What are some of the ideas you think the council could consider independent of HALA, and why do you think you’ll have more luck getting consensus around those ideas given that  the HALA committee rejected them?

JG: It was easier for something to get killed in HALA than it is on the council. We’ve got a kind of moderate council right now, but it is very hard for council members to side with the minority property owners who are also landlords.

ECB: How do you respond to the argument that taxing all new development discourages developers from building here? A linkage fee won’t bring in much money for affordable housing if it deters new development.

JG: You don’t just pick [the fee] out of the air. You need to hire a consultant to do the economic analysis to see what’s the tipping point where you start to discourage development. What else would you do–take developers at their word? I think that is a meme that is put out there by developers to deter debate about government intervention, or regulation, or any type of effort to direct the market to be more affordable. “I don’t support linkage fees because they deter development.”  They don’t deter development. I think a linkage fee will work, and it will actually create affordable housing. It’s the difference between social justice urbanism vs. libertarian urbanism that just says, let the free market decide what happens. I would go the route of taking the advice of an economist to advise me when that tipping point is, rather than relying on popular opinion. I think we need to have density. I think we need height. But it’s an opportunity cost [to do nothing].

ECB: You’ve talked a lot about the need to reduce displacement of low-income tenants, preserve existing affordable housing stock, and require one for one replacement of affordable housing torn down for development. The HALA plan already includes a lot of proposals that get at those same goals. Why do you support these more aggressive interventions?

JG: I’ve seen it firsthand at the Tenants Union. Developers will choose the most affordable building, because it’s the most affordable land, and buy it, demolish it, and develop there.

There are two markets: New construction with premium rents, and older housing stock with more affordable rents. The question is, which drives the other? High-cost housing creates an incentive for developers to go after the second-tier housing stock so they can redevelop it. If you have a vacant lot and you build $3,000-a-month apartments, does that lower the cost of rent for the premium rent apartments elsewhere? If you build more, will other rents go down? Time will tell, but over ten years, it’s a drop in the bucket.

ECB: The major cities that have rent control, including New York, LA, and San Francisco, are also the most expensive cities in the US. That says to me that rent control doesn’t work, and it’s not just me—virtually all economists agree with that assessment. Why do you support rent control?

JG: The question we need to ask ourselves is, are rents affordable compared to people’s wages? In order to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Seattle, you need to earn $27 an hour. If you compare rents to inflation, rents increased at four times the rate of inflation in the last five years. That is an astronomical amount. [Average rents in King and Snohomish Counties increased by 8 percent between 2013 and 2014, which was four times the inflation rate, but rent increases were lower in previous years]. I would tie rents to inflation and if there were operating costs above or beyond that, the owner would be able to get approval to take those on.

ECB: Given the extremely critical tone you’ve taken in your race against both Roderick and Burgess, if you win, should your new colleagues expect to have a hard time working with you?

JG: I don’t think people understand to what extent I am able to work collaboratively with other people. At Solid Ground and at the Tenants Union, I worked with landlords and tenants on state legislation. I’ve pushed a lot of pieces of state legislation that have become law. I worked on the [Seattle] rental inspection ordinance. That was a fight to get that done, but I participated in a two-year stakeholder process and we got where we needed to collaboratively.

It’s been my experience that advocates don’t think of everything, and [the industry will] find legitimate flaws, and we’ll have to correct them, but there is a line where you ask, does that input detract from the original goal of the legislation? Can I work with other folks? I’ve demonstrated time and time again that I can. But other times, I put my foot in the ground.

Previously: Tim Burgess, Position 8

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Tim Burgess

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, after repeated requests, to speak with me) over the next few weeks, starting today with incumbent city council member Tim Burgess, running for citywide Position 8 against former Tenants Union director Jon Grant.

I sat down with Burgess at Pegasus Coffee near City Hall earlier this month.

The C Is For Crank [ECB]: Now that the results are pretty final, it’s clear that you’re ending up the primary election well under 50 percent. [From an election-night high of 48.34 percent, Burgess slipped by the time results were certified to 45.74 percent. Grant ended up with 30.85 percent of the total].

Tim Burgess [TB]: I don’t know if I was surprised. I think he has been tapped in, both with the Stranger endorsement and some of the [independent expenditures] he got [from groups like SEIU 925],  to the whole equity issue. He has played on that effectively with his rent control approach and his anti-[Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda] approach. We’ll see if that can be more broadly based. We have to work hard. We wanted to have 48 to 52 percent on election night and we got 48. That’s gone down to 45 or 46 since.

He did well. The race is going to be much more difficult than what we expected.

ECB: What do you think the race will look like between now and November?

TB: He’ll do in the general what he’s done in the primary—all kind of accusatory, outlandish stunts. The classic so far is to point over to me and say, “Tim burgess is the biggest obstacle to police reform we’ve had in ten years.” He never gets specific. He makes the point that John T. Williams [the Native woodcarver who was shot in a crosswalk by a rookie SPD officer] was killed while [I] was chair of the public safety committee, as if I was complicit in that horrible murder. He points to 200-plus cases of excessive force and says I did nothing. Well, I was only public safety committee chair during my first term. I’m not even on the committee. I don’t even know where he got that number. For all I know, he’s just making it up.

I talk back when he says that and say, “Here’s what I’ve done.” At the downtown Seattle library forum, he made some comment that no police officer has been fired for excessive force under Tim’s watch, and I just pointed out that if he gets on the council, he’ll realize that the council has no power to do that. I think that will continue. That will be his MO—very accusatory.

ECB: The “council’s most conservative member” tag has dogged you since you were elected. It seems to me that on a liberal council, there’s some legitimacy to that label. [Burgess infamously sponsored a bill that would have cracked down on aggressive panhandlers, for example].

TB: People like to label people. I get that. But if you actually look at my record on the city council, it’s a progressive agenda. In fact, it’s a very liberal agenda. Just this week we passed the firearm tax [now being challenged by the NRA]. That’s a very progressive law.

I don’t like the label. I don’t think it’s accurate. I don’t have a need to label people or put them in boxes.

ECB: As we’re talking, Mayor Murray just backed down on a symbolically important part of the HALA plan—the recommendation to allow more housing types, including triplexes and row houses, in single-family areas. Do you think that, by doing so, he hurt the HALA cause?

TB: What people miss is that, for the first time in Seattle, we have an effective coalition of leaders of labor unions, environmentalists, housing advocates, and social justice advocates all on the same page and pulling in the same direction. That is huge. If you look back in the last eight years, during the battles around incentive zoning and height, those groups were all battling with each other. The mayor has created a coalition that’s really strong and committed to pulling things through. That is huge, and that is a game changer.

Jon opposed all that. He was the one negative vote against HALA, and his subsequent actions have been to pursue a set of policies that would break that coalition.

ECB: You announced that you were no longer supporting that portion of the recommendations before the mayor made his announcement. I heard he was really pissed at you about that. Did you try to tell him before you made your announcement backing off the single-family changes?

TB: I certainly had communicated with his staff for two and a half weeks. That’s when Ed was over in Rome, so he and I were not communicating directly on that. We probably could have done a better job. We had not communicated [that I was going to disavow the single-family changes] to him directly, but I told his staff Sunday night, and then Monday morning, I made the announcement.

ECB: Why did you decide to pull support for the most controversial part of HALA? Doesn’t that send a message that you’ll cave on other controversial recommendations, like citywide height increases in multi-family zones?

TB: That issue is too fractious. Single family was so volatile and toxic in the neighborhoods that it could have bogged down the whole process.

It’s really important to understand what we took off the table. We took off the table duplexes, triplexes, and stacked flats in all single-family zones. What we did not take off the table were [detached accessory dwelling units] and [attached accessory dwelling units] because we want to do that. I think there is a very broad acceptance that those are changes that will produce immediate affordable housing. There will likely be some opposition, but nothing like what we got with single-family.

I’m neutral in District 4,  but I was very disappointed when Michael Maddux went with the Jon Grant approach to HALA [by signing off on Grant’s HALA alternative].

ECB: But now that you’ve changed your mind on single-family, what’s to say you won’t change your mind on other aspects of the plan?

TB: I think you’re not going to see me cave. During the Roosevelt upzone [a density increase for transit-oriented development near light rail], the neighbors were furious. I pushed it through. In Pioneer Square, I tried to get one more story. I had the votes and in the last week, the historic preservationists turned some of my colleagues against it, but I tried.

ECB: Right after doing a 180 on single-family in HALA, the mayor made what many consider another political misstep, when he announced city plans to shut down all 11 of Seattle’s hookah lounges because, he said, they were linked to violent crime and possibly the death of International District community leader Donnie Chin. You backed the mayor up on that. Why?

TB (putting head in hands): All of those hookah lounges have been cited for illegal behavior, including smoking indoors. I get the legal basis of his decision. I’m very conscious of the use of the city’s police power in situations like this. I think the mayor will [back off on shutting down] hookah lounges that don’t have certain activities associated with them. I have not heard any  indication that [Chin’s] death was connected with hookah lounges. I don’t know. Some of them do have problems. We’ve had mismanagement, and I know some of them don’t pay the city taxes. In its enforcement of tax laws, the city is very focused on education and compliance, and we don’t shut businesses down for a minor offense.

And Then There Were 18


It’s been a little quiet around here at C is for Crank HQ the last couple weeks, but for good reason: I’ve been sitting down with all the city council candidates* who made it through this month’s primary election to talk about what they’ve learned from their campaigns so far, what their plans are for the November general election, their (sometimes evolving) views on issues like density, transportation, crime, and diversity. I’ll start rolling those interviews out next week..

In the meantime, here’s a belated wrap-up of the (underwhelming) First Forum of the General Election Season, held by the Metropolitan Democratic Club in the Bertha Knight Landes room at City Hall last week in front of a crowd of several dozen MDC members, some city staffers, and me.

Despite the fact that fully a third of the candidates declined to attend a forum that was, in some cases, literally downstairs from their offices, the MDC forum did give a glimpse into what the nine council races could look like in a field just culled from 47 candidates to 18.

Of the nine races, four are basically noncompetitive. Of those four, two–Deborah Zech-Artis vs. incumbent council member Sally Bagshaw in the 7th and Catherine Weatbrook vs. incumbent council member Mike O’Brien in the 6th–have been that way from the start.  Zech-Artis, who garnered 13 percent of the vote in a race where no credible candidate emerged to take on Bagshaw, betrayed how ill-suited she is for the job of candidate by calling Seattle’s transportation planning “lazy and retarded,” then backpedaling (at embarrassing length) by explaining, over polite shouts of “stop talking!”), “Sorry, I’m getting tired.” Later, Zech-Artis said she couldn’t “tell you all the times I’ve been hit by bikes” and said she opposed upzones because they were bad for the elderly, like “a lot of people here who probably are on Social Security.” (In fairness, the crowd was overwhelmingly gray-haired.) Bagshaw, not surprisingly, did not attend.

Weatbrook, a neighborhood activist running on an anti-development platform, railed against Move Seattle and the HALA plan, respectively, because the former did not “force developers to pay linkage fees to help maintain our roads” and the latter “completely dismissed the value of open space in single-family zones,” which she sees as the best way to combat global warming.

O’Brien used his one-minute intro to talk up Initiative 122, the public campaign finance measure, and also defended his controversial proposal to impose a linkage fee on all new residential development. However, he added, “It’s because I believe that we have a better program that I’m willing to hold back on the linkage fee and move forward with” the HALA recommendations.

The other two essentially noncompetitive races, in District 2 and Position 9, will still showcase plenty of contrasts between the frontrunners and the also-rans, if almost-certain losers Tammy Morales and Bill Bradburd choose to run spirited campaigns despite their quixotic status.

Bradburd, running against Lorena Gonzalez for Position 9, had the stage at the MDC forum, since frontrunner Gonzalez was a no-show. He used his time to decry the “gentrification” of the city’s single-family areas and call for major new taxes on development, plus anti-displacement laws that would preserve old rental units that serve as de facto affordable housing. His issue with HALA, Bradburd  said, is that it centered “largely around market solutions. The problem is that the market will never produce affordable housing for us. We need alternative funding mechanisms, [like using] the city’s bonding capacity.” Bradburd, like many others who adamantly oppose even modest “upzones” that would allow duplexes and triplexes in single-family areas, touted mother-in-law apartments and backyard cottages as an acceptable way for single-family areas to “accommodate” more density. Mother-in-laws and cottages, of course, are already allowed, but the HALA changes would make them somewhat easier to build.

Morales was the no-show in her race, giving Harrell the opportunity to vamp, perhaps his favorite campaign activity.  Here’s how Harrell introduced himself: “I have an empty chair on my right, so I can say whatever I want with impunity.” According to my notes, though, he didn’t say much, and spent much of his time cracking jokes to District 1 candidate Lisa Herbold, who was seated to his left. (He did say he thought Amazon should be more accountable for its impacts on the city, and that Move Seattle could have included more progressive taxes so a person who drives a Yugo wouldn’t have to pay as much as a guy who drives a Maserati).

The five remaining races, in increasing order of competitiveness based on primary-election results, are: District  1, where Nick Licata aide Lisa Herbold and King County Council member Joe McDermott chief of staff Shannon Braddock are vying to represent West Seattle; District 4, where 43rd District Democrat and parks activist Michael Maddux and Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson collectively ousted longtime incumbent council member Jean Godden; Position 8, where scrappy ex-Tenants Union director Jon Grant is giving incumbent council member Tim Burgess a run; District 3, where Urban League president Pamela Banks is taking on popular incumbent council member Kshama Sawant; and District 5, where former Church Council leader Sandy Brown finished surprisingly far behind attorney Deborah Juarez in North Seattle.

Herbold (who, full disclosure, is a  close friend) went deep on both Move Seattle and HALA, noting her support for Licata’s unsuccessful alternative to the transportation levy, which would have offset some of the $930 million proposal’s property taxes with a tax on commercial parking and an employee hours tax on businesses. “One thing people don’t understand is why we’re doing this again. They thought the [2006] Bridging the Gap Levy was supposed to fix everything,” Herbold said. “We need to start educating our voters about the fact that we don’t get to end these levies unless we deal with the regressive tax structure that’s simply unsustainable to meet our needs for city services.” Herbold also supported a proposal by Position 8 candidate Grant to scrap the HALA deal and replace it with a plan that would include an immediate maximum linkage fee on residential development and the option of rent control.

Herbold’s opponent, second-place finisher Shannon Braddock, was a no-show.

In District 4, so far one of the most collegial competitive council races in recent memory, the main difference between the candidates this forum drew out was their approach to taxing Seattle residents for housing and transportation. (Well, that and the fact that Maddux is, as he put it, “the last gay candidate standing in the Hunger Games that has been this election,” after District 3 candidate Rod Hearne got knocked out in the primary.) Both say they support HALA, although Maddux, like Herbold, signed on to the Grant alternative, and both like Move Seattle, although Maddux thinks the Licata alternative would have been more progressive. It’ll be interesting to see whether these two turn on each other as election day draws closer; so far, they’ve acted like BFFs,  texting each other and sharing meals and rides between events.

You won’t see that happen in Position 8, where Grant has already shown that he’ll do whatever it takes to take down his opponent Burgess. In the primary, Grant’s mission was to take down John Roderick, who succumbed to Grant’s relentless attacks in editorial board meetings and public forums and came in third. Now Tim Burgess is the only thing that stands between Grant and a seat on the council dais, and Grant is taking him on with charges of ignoring police misconduct, being “too comfortable with developers,” and opposing progressive taxation to pay for city services.

“My opponent repealed the employee hours tax, which was a progressive taxation source that we tried to reinstate to actually bring down the property tax ,” Grant said. “My opponent led the charge to repeal that progressive tax.” Grant also decried HALA, of which he was a member, for “representing the interests of private developers. … We left hundreds of millions on the table because our city council is just too comfortable with developers, including Mr. Burgess.” In response, as he has throughout the campaign so far, Burgess adopted the role of seasoned elder statesman, touting accomplishments such as universal preschool and mostly ignoring Grant’s charges. Sample stump speech line: “This campaign is about experience, leadership, and the ability to get things done.” If Grant has its way, it’ll be about much more than that.

In District 3, both Banks and Sawant were no-shows.

Finally, in District 5, where Brown (widely considered a frontrunner in the early days of the campaign) finished 20 points behind Juarez, the candidates offered a preview of what their campaign will look like going forward. Although (unlike the Grant-Burgess matchup) neither candidate has an unkind word to say publicly about the other, it’s clear there’s no love lost between the two. In general, Juarez is more of a fan of HALA and Move Seattle than Brown, who expressed skepticism during the forum about the housing recommendations and said he would vote for Move Seattle, but only reluctantly.

“There are some things missing from HALA that should be added, [such as] rent stabilization,” Brown said. “Another big problem is that we … still don’t really have a plan for people making between zero and 30 percent of [area median income],” AKA the poorest of the poor. As for Move Seattle, Brown said, he would vote for it because “I’m from Seattle and I always vote for whatever levy there is,” but that “I grieved about it. I looked  to see what’s going to be done in District 5 and nothing’s going to be done on Aurora, nothing’s going to be done on Lake City Way.” And, he said, the city has been promising North Seattle sidewalks since it was annexed in  the 1950s. “We’ve got huge needs in North Seattle. We should have provided in this levy for sidewalks along all arterials in Seattle. We have waited many, many years in North Seattle,  since annexation, for the city to provide this infrastructure.”

Juarez, a member of the Blackfeet Nation (her Indian name, she said, means Holy Mountain Woman and is “a true Indian name; it didn’t come off the Internet”),  emphasized her experience as a tribal attorney helping to build “golf courses, hotels, houses, community centers, elder centers, bridges, and roads” and praised the HALA committee for a “consensus based” set of recommendations. “That made me proud of the city,” Juarez said.

Keep an eye out this week for the launch of my council interview series.

*  One, and only one, council candidate refused to meet with me. Can you guess which one?