By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The 34th District Democrats‘ forum for Seattle City Council Position 8 had a winner – but did not result in an endorsement, for now.
The forum, billed as a “showdown,” was the almost-three-hour meeting’s main event, though U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal‘s appearance – which punctuated the candidates’ forum, because of her time constraints – brought down the house. So we’ll start with her – here’s our video:
Rep. Jayapal said the Democrats are not a “minority party” but rather an “opposition party” right now. She explained that the transition into her new role has been easier than she expected because the focus has been on immigration and health care, two issues she has long worked on. She also talked about the health-care bill that was scrapped, calling it really “a tax bill” with tax breaks for the richest Americans that at one point carried a “trillion dollars” in breaks. “It was really hard to sit there in committee and hear about all these people who ‘didn’t deserve to have health care’.” While she hailed the victory in getting the bill pulled, “don’t think that it’s over,” she warned, and said that goes for other issues, such as privatizing Social Security. She said she’s signed onto the “Medicare for All” bill. And she said that it’s important to “fix what needs to be fixed.” Overall, our area is “the moral conscience of the country,” she declared. But she also said there are some Republicans “who want to work on immigration reform” so there is some hope on that issue, “working on a proactive solution as well as all the things that we are fighting against.”
Regarding the Syrian situation, “it was unconstitutional for the president to do what he did with that strike … You cannot bomb your way to peace; that is my belief. … We were all devastated by the images we saw, but if you care about those kids,” let refugees in, she said. She also criticized the proposed budget for “cut(ting) everything that you care about.” She said an “educational campaign” is planned to explain to people what’s in the budget. “It’s a horrible horrible budget for all of us, for the entire United States.” Overall, she urged people, “stay engaged … As a longtime organizer, I believe that strength emerges in times of crisis … We are in a fight for the soul of this country.” It was noted that she has a Town Hall on Vashon Island tomorrow night (“and we already have an overflow room!” someone pointed out).
Last but not least, Rep. Jayapal delighted the locals by saying she is hoping to move to West Seattle within the next six months – which means, she pointed out, she will officially live in the 7th District. (She currently lives just outside its boundaries, in Columbia City.)
Now, to the forum for Seattle City Council Position 8, the at-large position that has no incumbent because Councilmember Tim Burgess is not running for re-election.
Because of the format, the forum video is in four segments, which we’ll place close to the toplines of what the candidates said. Each candidate got a two-minute introduction, then a chance to answer one question, and then members voted on which six candidates they wanted to hear more from, with more questioning ensuing.
Jon Grant was first: He said he wants to get corporate money out of politics and make Seattle “affordable for everyone.” His was the first campaign to opt into the Democracy Vouchers program. “We’re accountable to you,” he said. He listed other issues but first, “how we get elected matters.”
He then answered a question about “what more can be done to protect (people) in our downtown?” He began, “We have to invest in the Bicycle Master Plan and the Center City Initiative,” citing a bicyclist’s death. And he noted that in West Seattle and elsewhere, “there’s not enough sidewalks in our neighborhoods.” Also he said, “Seattle is one of the few areas in our region that does not have impact fees, and that needs to change.”
Teresa Mosqueda was second: “I’ve been here with you as you’ve pulled together to fight back on the Trump attacks,” she began. She said that she has the endorsements of various elected officials from West Seattle, including all three state legislators. She spoke about having worked with people at Sea-Mar who had so many needs but not enough community support. Health care is a “human right,” Mosqueda declared.
She then answered a question about whether homeless-encampment sweeps are OK. It’s a “public-health crisis” for people to be sleeping outside, she said: “We ought to be doing better for our community.” Many unsheltered people are in their straits because of system failures, from mental health to domestic violence “economic civility.” She said she wants to get people into housing and services, “but in a respectful way,” and to “recognize that (they have) been through trauma.”
After a break for Rep. Jayapal’s appearance (see above), the forum resumed with the other six candidates:
James Passey said that while he knows it’s a nonpartisan position, he wants people to know he’s a Libertarian, and he’s concerned about the many “tax proposals” out there. He also said his upcoming campaign appearances will include an AMA on Reddit on May 1st.
His question – how would he suggest Seattle Public Schools address the achievement gap? He didn’t have an answer. “I’m not sure – I don’t have enough time to look up the answers,” he eventually said, drawing audience laughter. “The first thing of course is education – it’s definitely important; when it comes to wages for teachers, and the right to organizer for public employees, I think they should be able to … We’ve got to start with the adults who are teaching the kids.”
Sheley Secrest spoke fourth. She said she’s “dipped her toe in politics” with this run. She said that people might know her from many things she’s done, “but what you may not know is about my community” which, she said, has fought for wage equity, for children’s education, and more. She said it’s not true that all boats float on the rising tide, “when some are stuck on the Titanic,” and with that image, she invited people to join her and “bring a life jacket – if you don’t have a life jacket, bring a boat.”
The question she drew: “Do you support annexation of White Center and why?” Always a hot issue – somebody yelled, “Don’t answer!” She said, “My suspicion would be that a lot of White Center areas are feeling like they are on an island … they have the needs and they don’t know where to go to (get them met).” But if the area doesn’t want to be annexed, or if Seattle doesn’t want to annex them, there has to be “a clear plan” for their future – she expressed familiarity with the similar situation in unincorporated Skyway.
Ryan Asbert spoke fifth. “My platform is a little bit unique – what do we do when our government fails to represent us fairly?” He wants to “develop a new form of representation – The X Party (with a) collaborative democracy platform … to create a more accessible process.” Transparency, accountability, and accessibility comprise the tenets of the proposal, he said.
The question he drew: Would he support looking at non-regressive taxes/funding to cover needs? “I’m pretty much open to anything,” he said.
Charlene Strong was sixth. She said she had moved here from New Orleans as a child. She’s running because “I love this city … as a mother, it pains me deeply to see anyone that’s suffering … it’s unconscionable that in this day and age we have people who are suffering.” The rising costs further jeopardize those who are already suffering and she wants to be sure “everyone has a voice.”
Her question: “Do you support a progressive local income tax – for example, taxing households with an income of (more than) $250,000?” She said, “Change might be the thing we need to look at right now. … 10 percent would be ideal,” but she thinks that statewide might be a better way to go than local.
Mac McGregor was the seventh candidate to speak. “If elected, I’ll be the city’s first transgender elected official. You might ask why that’s important? We need more diverse voices and perspectives at the table.” Of the 500 City Councilmembers the city has said, 2 have been gay/lesbian, 20+ have been women, only a handful have been people of color …” McGregor said he was the highest-ranking female martial artist in the world before transitioning. He also said he would be a small-business advocate, “which I don’t feel we have on the council right now.”
His question: Should Seattle’s Catholic-owned hospitals have to disclose their policies regarding (various women’s health care procedures and matters)? McGregor said he comes from the Bible Belt and “yes,” he feels they should have to show how, if, they are holding women back from reproductive health care, if they get federal money, “yes, we should require that.”
Hisam Goueli was the final candidate to speak. He said he is a doctor and sees many homeless patients daily. “It inspired me to run for city council and to fight for the vulnerable.” He is Muslim and Arab-American; his partner is Peruvian and was undocumented when they fell in love. They came here to “live the American dream. … The presidential election scared us … I’m sure it scared you.” He says he wants to fight for Seattle to be an affordable city “for everyone,” and to “fight and solve Seattle’s biggest problems – housing and affordability, health care, and access to cultural services.”
His question: Will you support installing metered parking in West Seattle? “This is obviously important,” he smiled. Attendees laughed. “This is obviously about transportation. People would not be complaining about parking meters if they had access to reliable … transportation.” And that’s a commitment of his, he said, including sidewalks, bike paths, increasing density in urban villages.
Then attendees voted on who they would like to hear more from. Five candidates made that cut:
Second round: Grant, Mosqueda, Secrest, Strong, Goueli.
Goueli was asked, “The NW has one of the highest rates of sex trafficking – what will you do about that?” He said he’s worked at violence and trauma clinics and was a resident at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and that as a city, there should be “zero tolerance for this behavior.”
Strong was asked whether she supports “a sports-entertainment complex in SODO.” Her reply: “Actually, I don’t. … the last thing we need to do is make it more difficult to move stuff around,” especially maritime cargo.
Secrest was asked about transportation to West Seattle, given how many years away light rail is. “How do we build transportation creatively for West Seattle?” She said there’s a wide variety of ways to do that, addressing multiple modes. “I agree this area has been ignored.”
Mosqueda was asked about her “recommendation to builders/developers to address the affordable-housing crisis.” She noted that she is a renter, and that no current councilmembers are renters. “We need to have a voice up there on the council … lack of affordable housing is a public-health crisis.” She said she wants to move forward with “the affordable-housing requirements.”
Grant was asked “What will you do to get Seattle on track to address the homeless fiasco?” He listed his credentials on housing advocacy: “There are some really great candidates in front of you tonight … this is a campaign of vagueness vs. specifics. I’m calling for a mandate of 25% of every new building to be affordable to working-class people … and (creating) an office of tenant advocate.” He is advocating for a corporate tax to build affordable housing.
The third round was down to Grant and Mosqueda:
“How would you address the lack of grocery stores in (eastern West Seattle)?” was the first question. Grant said he was familiar with the situation, having lived in “a food desert” while a Georgetown resident. He said the city should incentivize small markets with tax credits. And he thinks new buildings should have smaller spaces, and “commercial rent control,” which is not illegal in the state.
Mosqueda answered the same question – first time in the forum that multiple candidates were asked the same question. “Right now we have corridors where our health and how long we live is determined by our race and our zip codes.” She mostly answered by listing her credentials and advocating for “good local food” and “good union grocery stores.”
Grant was given a rebuttal chance and said that he had hoped to hear specifics.
They then were asked about what advice they have for the mayor regarding mentorship for young black men. Mosqueda said that creating “actual economic opportunities for everyone” would “break the school-to-prison pipeline. … One of the most important things we can do would be making sure” that many voices are at the table. Grant said he was distressed by “disproportionate impact (on how youth of color) are disciplined.” He voiced support for restorative-justice programs. “And that’s not enough, right,” he said, suggesting post-school job programs would be important, including job programs in disadvantaged zip codes.
Mosqueda then said it’s “heartbreaking” that our city’s prosperity is not shared equally.
Grant said “we have a city that is absolutely unresponsive to your demands … we could have had an impact fee to build schools … but instead kids are being squeezed into portables.”
They each got one minute for a closing statement. (See our video for that.)
Then attendees voted on who won what had been billed as a “showdown” – which is why the prize was a Western hat – here’s our tweet about the results of that:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) April 13, 2017
Then came an endorsement vote – but in the end, no decision was made, because an attendee stood up to ask if Grant were eligible under the 34th DDs’ bylaws, which say – as read at the meeting – that the group can endorse “a Democrat.” Though the position is nonpartisan, Grant describes himself as a Democratic Socialist. A motion was passed to table the endorsement until next month, so that eligibility could be researched further. However, the result of the vote taken pre-challenge was read anyway:
The vote that didn't count was read anyway:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) April 13, 2017
At the meeting’s start and end, some other business:
COUNCILMEMBER GONZALEZ: West Seattle resident and Position 9 (citywide) Councilmember Lorena González spoke briefly about her re-election campaign. She said she’s been “prioritizing three important things – achieving sustainable police reform. “That guy who calls himself an Attorney General, Jeff Sessions? He’s got it wrong. Consent decrees work.” Second, advocating for a “statewide paid family/medical leave program.” And, she said, her committee passed the $1 million city legal-defense fund for immigrants and refugees “who are going to be caught up in Trump’s mass deportations.”
COUNCILMEMBER McDERMOTT: King County Council Chair Joe McDermott said the council’s Budget Committee also had “voted out” a fund to help immigrants and refugees today. “We recognize that one in four King County residents is foreign-born – this isn’t about somebody else, this is us.” He mentioned the detained DREAMer, and the detained people who are on a hunger strike.
JUDGE MANN: David Mann, appointed last July as a state Appeals Court justice, told the group that he is running this fall to keep the seat, but noted he has no opponent “and I want to keep it that way.” He said he had worked for many years as a lawyer “to represent the underdog.”
ORGANIZATIONAL NEEDS: The 34th DDs are looking for a fundraising co-chair and also looking for theme ideas for this year’s Garden Party fundraiser.
MEMBERSHIP: It’s up this year. Now 406 people.
NEW PCO’S: Among those who became new precinct committee officers last night was a former elected official, Irene Stewart, who said the last time she spoke to the 34th was when they gave her a unanimous endorsement for the Seattle School Board 14 years ago.
The 34th District Democrats meet second Wednesdays most months, 6:30 mingling/7 pm program, at The Hall at Fauntleroy (9131 California SW). Watch 34dems.org for updates between meetings.