VIDEO: 13 City Council candidates @ West Seattle’s final pre-primary forum

Thirteen of the 15 people running for the two at-large City Council positions on next week’s ballot were at Highland Park Improvement Club tonight for the last West Seattle forum of the primary-election campaign, presented by the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, and moderated by its chair, Mat McBride.

Rather than a Q&A format, the forum began with each candidate getting 5 minutes to make a statement, followed by time for mingling and one-on-one conversation. Here’s our video of the presentations, in two parts:

In the first part above, McBride’s introduction is followed by Position 9 candidate Eric Smiley, allowed to go first so he wouldn’t miss curfew at the shelter where he lives, and then Position 8 candidates in their ballot order – Charlene Strong, Rudy Pantoja, Sheley Secrest, Jon Grant, Teresa Mosqueda, Hisam Goueli, Mac McGregor. The next video includes the other five participating Position 9 candidates:

In order, the candidates in that video are Ty Pethe, Ian Affleck-Asch, David Preston, Lorena González, Pat Murakami. Ahead, we have photos and summaries of key points made by each candidate:

Please note that our summaries below are not transcriptions – you’ll want to watch/listen to the videos to hear everything the candidates said. But if time and/or technology makes that tough, this will at least give you the flavor of what they said. This is the order in which they spoke:

Position 9

ERIC SMILEY spoke first because, McBride explained, he is staying tonight at the Bread of Life Mission downtown and needed to get there before its doors closed. He’s a Position 9 candidate. He listed his civic involvement including reading tutoring for kids. He listed the major issues concerning him as: Affordable housing and the impact of growth; preschool and investment in education; fair and balanced public safety; homeless population; farther-reaching mass transit; reducing sales and property taxes. Regarding public safety, he contends there’s a “lack of understanding” about what that means. Could police be renamed “public safety” officers, with use of force as a “last resort”? he asked. Regarding homelessness, he said that “more than half” the people with whom he lives have jobs, but don’t have housing options.

Position 8

CHARLENE STRONG told about surviving trauma, when her wife Kate Fleming drowned in their basement. She was told she had no rights, though they had been together for 10 years. “I’ve been on a bit of a crusade, if you will,” since then. “What I am now is commissioner of civil rights for the state of Washington – for every single citizen in the state.” She is also a small-business owner, and she talked about health care and talking for years with people about their insurance. She promises to fight for constituents’ agenda, not her own. “The number one thing I will do every morning when I come into my office is say, who called .. and what work do we need to get to first?” She says, “It’s time to do things differently.”

RUDY PANTOJA: He talks about fighting to get his daughter off the street while she was dealing with addiction. “I tell you this, it’s a dangerous, dangerous thing we have in the city – we need to go after the supply and the dealer.” He says some people don’t want to hear what he wants to say because of “how he behaved at City Hall” – referring to a confrontation with an activist last year. He said that the candidates he likes besides himself are Sara Nelson and Mac McGregor. Citing a West Seattle legend, he says “Charlie Chong has got to be rolling over in his grave right now” because of the way things are going.

SHELEY SECREST said she recently “dipped my toes in politics” to learn what it takes to be a candidate. “There are rules to this, and a lot of those rules aren’t written.” She described herself as a business owner, a NAACP leader, an activist, a valedictorian, and more. “But what you may not know is how I did it” – it was because of a community coming together to help her. She says she will “fight like hell to protect our community,” and she is concerned ‘about the divide between the haves and have-nots.” The top 10 percent are making the decisions for the rest of us, under the theory that a rising tide floats all boats – but, she said, we’re on the Titanic, and she’s bringing lifejackets. “If you don’t have a lifejacket, bring a bowl and help me scoop water,” she exhorted. She says she recognizes the power of people like those in attendance here. “My niche is being able to get voices to the table” – saying that for example, it was important to get business owners to the table as well as employees during the minimum-wage fight. Electing her means election yourself – “we” – she said. “We can grow Seattle forward without leaving anyone behind.”

JON GRANT, who also ran for council two years ago, described himself first as former executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington state. He said he’s dedicated his life to housing-policy work, and also talked about renters being pushed out by huge rent hikes, saying that “economic eviction” must be challenged. He said that setting aside 2 percent for affordable housing (as is the case in some of the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability plans) is not enough. “We’re seeing upzone after upzone while homelessness grows in our city … and it’s the city’s role to be the countervailing force” to the market’s inequities. And yet, he said, the city has “been aiding and abetting … economic displacement” by making deals with developers. “I’m asking for your vote because we have to organize, we have to build power in the community” to fight economic displacement. He said he has knocked on 20,000 doors.

TERESA MOSQUEDA said she worked “just down the hill from here” at Sea-Mar in South Park in her first job out of college. She said her parents are teachers and activists. “They taught me what it meant to be an activist and advocate and take to the streets … me and my little sister would come to meetings like this … and be in the corner drawing signs.” She talked about helping seniors get “plastic health insurance cards” but realizing “what they really needed to be healthy” was a roof over their head, healthy food on the table, transportation to be able to be part of their communities. You can’t just tell people “go for a walk” when they don’t have sidewalks or streetlights, or “eat something healthy” if they live in a food desert or don’t have a P-Patch. “Health care is a human right,” she said, and also, the council needs to invest in working families. She said she’s “fighting for a Seattle with an economy that works for all,” including affordable child care – she has a proposal to make sure no one pays more than 10 percent of their income for it. The lack of affordable housing is also “a public health crisis,” she declared. She says she and her husband-to-be, who are “middle income,” can’t find a place.

DR. HISAM GOUELI said he wanted to start with his name. “My mom named me Hisam for a reason – in Arabic, it means ‘young hawk’ – and his mom said that like a hawk, he would protect people.” He is a doctor and chose family medicine and psychiatry “because I wanted to take care of everybody, no matter what their age is, or where I met them.” He said he went to Guatemala and developed a program helping indigenous women become leaders in their communities, and also worked in rural areas in Egypt and Nepal. “I do this work because I care about people .. what happens to the most vulnerable.” Once he came here with his partner, he experienced frustration in finding so many people homeless in such a prosperous place. He joined the race because he wants to “change the rules” to make things better. His platform is “home” – medical, physical, cultural “home” is deserved by all, including ensuring that everyone has health insurance and also affordable housing “(beyond) slogans.” About culture, it’s “what makes Seattle special and how you preserve it” – tree canopies, sidewalks, open space, community. “I care very much about what happens to people.” He hopes elected office will help him “make bigger changes” beyond what he can do as a doctor.

MAC McGREGOR says he’s “honored to run” with his fellow candidates because “this is not an easy thing to do” and all have “stepped forward because they care.” He says he “survived the Bible Belt and (has) mostly recovered.” He is “the first transgender person on the ballot ever in the state of Washington.” He said he moved here because he felt it was a safe place to transition – “we don’t just tolerate diversity (here) … we actually celebrate diversity here … and yet there are still so many things we need to work on” and that’s why he is running. He served on the city’s LGBTQ commission. He says he and his wife are renters, and have a teenager, and have a relatively humble net worth in comparison to those currently serving on the City Council. His background is in safety and self-defense and he has traveled the world teaching it. He says “citizen-run oversight” is needed for the police – having them “investigate themselves … never works.” He also sees the need for “more transparency” in the city.

Position 9:

TY PETHE says he’s been trying to make the world a better place. He protested the WTO “and the rules they were created.” He protested the Iraq war. He is president of a state employees’ union. “I really think education, affordable housing, workers’ rights are key issues for all of us.” For the first, he said the 13th Year Promise free-college program should be expanded citywide. “I know that we can put together an open-source textbook program that would save … millions of dollars” and save students hundreds of dollars each quarter. Affordable transit for students would be big, too. Regarding affordable housing, he voiced concern about institutional investors driving up prices. He advocated for measures including a “vacancy tax” that would ensure homes “would go to someone who needs them because they want to live there.” He also advocated “Housing First” for people experiencing homelessness.

IAN AFFLECK-ASCH pointed out that he’s 26 and a union-protected cashier at a supermarket in Wallingford. “I’m hoping we can do better.” Looking into the future, he expressed hope for 100 percent housing, crime-less streets, satisfied citizens doing what they love … communication by people to their governance and honest and prompt responses. “I see businesses innovating … law enforcement who do no harm … the best education available … for all who want to learn. He said he is an idealist and an enemy of complacency. He is tired of the profit being the point, tired of investing money in entertainment and not into needs. He promised to “bear a torch” – “when we must build, I will hold a hammer … I will serve my city, elected or not.” He said he is a former sloth and implores the city: “Please, Seattle, we must rise, we must answer this call, we must house and love our homeless, we must move an immovable nation by setting an example … speak to those who have not listened … stop bickering over frivolities …”

DAVID PRESTON described himself as a writer, editor, and former state employee, and Highland Park resident. “If you see me around the neighborhood, stop and talk to me.” He has a website through which he does “investigative journalism” and also writes for the Facebook page Safe Seattle, which is what he said led him into the campaign. “I hear from neighbors every day who have some kind of issue with City Hall … they contact their councilmember, don’t get an answer.” He says government should not be doing some of what local government is doing – “telling people how to run their lives, (how to) run their businesses, (getting involved) in national and international issues.” The homelessness crisis has been building for years, “and the obvious solution is to get people indoors, but that … is being ignored.” Instead, he said the city is supporting getting more people into camps. He spoke of seeing someone camping on a traffic island today. Another important solution would be to get people off drugs, but instead, he said, local leaders are pursuing “safe injection sites.” He said that if elected he’s not going to get involved with big transit projects, sports arena, but will instead go into neighborhoods and talk to people “about what their issues are.”

COUNCILMEMBER LORENA GONZALEZ said she was late because she is a bus commuter and Junction resident. She noted that she’s the incumbent and it’s been her “absolute privilege” to represent the whole city for the past two years. She has lived in this area, South Park and White Center and West Seattle, since 2006. She says her parents were undocumented immigrants when they arrived in the U.S. “before adjusting their status,” and appreciates the sacrifices they made by leaving “the only family (and) community they knew” to try to provide opportunities for their future children. As for what she’s been doing by taking office, “we have been working on a tremendous amount of issues,” leading the committee that deals with public safety, gender equity, and immigrants. She talked about police accountability and “we have been able to move our model of accountability to increased civilianization.” She also has been working on family and medical leave – with the new policy taking effect in 2019 – and talked about women who had to go back to work within two weeks of a “near-death birthing experience.” She also said she was proud to find $1 million to protect refugee and immigrant communities over the next 2 years, which affects many people in Highland Park and elsewhere in east West Seattle. And specific to HP, she said she is going to organize a City Council letter of support for the roundabout grant application – “a major public-safety issue in this community.”

PAT MURAKAMI spoke last. She said she owns a “successful IT company” and for 30 years has been able to work with a lot of small businesses – “I really understand the needs of small businesses in Seattle.” She wants to “preserve single-family housing stock,” for families “who don’t own a home yet but would like to,” including up-and-coming millennials. “One of the things we can do to make that happen is to rezone properties to their current usage.” She also says she cares about public safety as president of her neighborhood crime-prevention council for seven years. She said she knows there are officers who need to be off the force and worked to get a racist police leader out of her neighborhood. But she also said, we need more police officers, we’re only at about 60 percent of the officers we need. She also says a campus needs to be created for homeless people so they have all the services and counseling they need in one place. And she says she cares about economic diversity and need to go beyond paying attention to “Amazon retail.” She also supports impact fees for developers.

Again, there were no questions in front of the audience – just the speeches – and after each candidate got their up-to-five-minute speaking period, the candidates stayed for mingling with attendees.

WHAT’S NEXT: Voting ends and vote-counting begins in exactly one week, on Tuesday, August 1st. If you’re mailing your ballot, be sure it’s postmarked by that date; if you’re taking it to a dropbox (here’s the list, including nearby ones in High Point and White Center), get it there by 8 pm that night.

3 Replies to "VIDEO: 13 City Council candidates @ West Seattle's final pre-primary forum"

  • Out for a Walk July 26, 2017 (8:58 am)

    Thanks, Tracy for the recap. That is very helpful. 

  • David Toledo July 26, 2017 (4:20 pm)


  • Melissa July 26, 2017 (8:46 pm)

    Thanks WSB for the coverage 

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