Highland Park Action Cmte. forum: 9 candidates, no incumbents

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Why take on a 3-term incumbent City Councilmember who also happens to be the council’s current president? Our first video clip (above) includes High Point resident David Ginsberg‘s explanation of why he’s running against Richard Conlin; Ginsberg was one of nine candidates for Council, Mayor and Port Commission who appeared at the Highland Park Action Committee‘s candidates’ forum last night at HP Improvement Club.

Also notable in Ginsberg’s speech: He went into more detail about development/land use than other candidates, suggesting the entire land-use code should be thrown out, possibly replaced by a “smart code.”

The lineup ultimately featured no incumbents – Conlin hadn’t been on the RSVP list, but Councilmember Nick Licata had – he canceled at the very last minute (first sending a text message saying he was running late, then that he couldn’t make it; his opponent Jessie Israel hadn’t planned to attend). Another notable no-show: mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan, whose campaign spokesperson told us via Twitter that he had another commitment in Southeast Seattle.

Mallahan’s opponent, Mike McGinn, was also headed last night to a SE Seattle event — inbetween the Highland Park forum and his earlier “town hall” gathering at High Point Library (WSB coverage here). In our clip from his speech, he talks a bit about one of his highest-profile positions – opposition to the deep-bored tunnel replacement plan for the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s Central Waterfront section:

Another tunnel-skeptic Mike was on hand: City Council candidate Mike O’Brien. While he cautioned that he had not made up his mind what he would do about the tunnel proposal if/when elected, he spoke disparagingly of the amount of money it would take to build, saying that he and his son had done a bit of a comparison:

O’Brien sounded an oft-repeated theme of the night – budgetary priorities – and what could be done with the hundreds of millions the city has committed to the tunnel project, not to mention the money other agencies plan to spend: Saving a senior center that’s facing closure (O’Brien said the city’s total budget to keep six senior centers open is $450,000); replacing the South Park Bridge (currently a county facility). He also stressed his experience as a financial expert: “We should have one person on the council, directly reportable to you, that understands finance and numbers.” But it’s also a matter of what you want to do with those numbers, he reiterated: “When they want to build the tunnel, they get amazingly creative … where was that creativity when we were laying off teachers?”

O’Brien’s opponent is Robert Rosencrantz, who stressed past West Seattle ties, saying that among other things he had done volunteer work for Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association. One of the issues on which he differs with O’Brien: He is not against the tunnel. He discussed his thoughts on where the city’s contribution will come from:

Housing is a big issue for Rosencrantz, who has worked in that field, and mentioned having been part of the project to create Greenbridge in White Center just over the county/city line from Highland Park. While his position on the tunnel kept him from lashing into the amount of money that’s projected to be spent on it, he spent some time criticizing the “Mercer Mess” transformation plan, saying that the money earmarked for those improvements should go to existing neighborhoods instead.

Both candidates for another open City Council seat were on hand as well: Sally Bagshaw and David Bloom. Bagshaw explained why she supports the tunnel, starting with some historical perspective gleaned from a former governor:

Bagshaw, with a background as a prosecutor, was the only candidate to bring up crime/public safety, calling for police to be “fully funded.” But in addressing an issue near and dear to HPAC hearts, the question of whether the city should be building a new misdemeanor jail (currently a Highland Park site remains on the list of potential locations for a jail to be built by cities including Seattle), she said no – “the city should not be in the jail business” – she says, for example, the county has expansion room at its Kent jail site.

Bloom focused on his social-justice background interests, including this discussion of how to make sure more people can find more affordable places to live, followed by his support for a “Living Wage Initiative”:

He also noted that a year ago, he had helped set up the original “Nickelsville” homeless encampment in West Seattle (at a different site from the one where the current encampment is facing eviction, though both are in proximity to Highland Park), and offered words of praise for his former primary opponent Dorsol Plants (former HPAC chair), saying Plants clearly “has a bright future in Seattle politics.”

Three Port Commission candidates were part of the forum too: Rob Holland – whose theme was, the port’s assets belong to you, so you should have a say in how they’re used. He said his priorities begin with jobs, and include environmental responsibility:

Holland also stressed “accountability” and protecting industrial land from being redeveloped for non-industrial purposes, which drew applause (Highland Park is just uphill from the industrial Duwamish waterfront). His opponent, David Doud, wasn’t at the forum, but both candidates for Port Commission Position 4 were. Max Vekich is a High Point resident, former state legislator, and 37-year Port employee (a longshore worker) who contended, “I think we need people on the Port Commission who have a clue about how the port should function operationally.” He also suggested current commissioners tend to rubber-stamp what port staffers tell them to do:

Vekich’s opponent Tom Albro also mentioned the report that Port CEO Tay Yoshitani is in line for a 10 percent raise, after echoing Rob Holland in voicing concern about the future of industrial land:

Albro fielded a non-port question because of his main job – running the private company that operates the Seattle Monorail downtown. “What would it take you to extend that monorail?” he was asked. Albro’s answer: It’s not that it can’t be done, but politics did and would get in the way; he said he’d supported the monorail proposal that was finally killed several years ago until the plan changed “from dual guideway to single guideway – that’s where they lost me.” On another transportation issue, he acknowledged that the port’s projected $300 million investment in the viaduct-replacing tunnel is “not cheap” but, “If we go from two north-south corridors to one, I think it will be the beginning of the end of the working waterfront, not just north of downtown, but south of downtown.”

(Photo by Dina Johnson)
Emceeing the forum in HPAC chair Dan Mullins‘ absence, former vice chair Rory Denovan kept it moving on time – 15 minutes per candidate, no matter whether they chose to speak for all 15 or spend part of it on Q/A – and the event ended after two and a quarter hours. Next candidates’ forum scheduled in West Seattle: October 15th at Youngtown Arts Center, co-sponsored by the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council and the Southwest District Council.

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1 Reply to "Highland Park Action Cmte. forum: 9 candidates, no incumbents"

  • lazybeard September 24, 2009 (8:40 am)

    I was in attendance last night and I was enjoyed the atmosphere. I’ve never been one to take part in local politics but I found this to be incredibly helpful in my decision making process.

    I plan on attending the 10/15 event at Youngstown Arts Center to get more information.

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