By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Still deciding who to support for Seattle Mayor? Here’s another chance to compare the candidates – some of them, anyway.
This past Wednesday, five of the 15 candidates participated in a forum focused on transportation, equity, and environmental issues, sponsored by the MASS Coalition (Move All Seattle Sustainably). The five candidates were Lance Randall, Andrew Grant Houston, Bruce Harrell, Lorena González, and Jessyn Farrell; organizers said Casey Sixkiller and Colleen Echohawk also had been invited, but were unable to participate (a surrogate for Echohawk presented an opening statement). The forum was moderated by Erica C. Barnett, editor/publisher of Publicola.
As transportation is a perennially hot topic here – and with an eye ahead to the forum we’re moderating in three weeks – we watched this event. You can see the coalition’s video recording for yourself above. Our notes don’t cover all the questions asked, but you can read the coalition’s transcript here. In addition to opening statements and standard Q&A, the candidates were also asked to give quick yes/no answers to several questions. We’ll start with those:
One question of particular interest here on the peninsula: Would they move to make the no-through-vehicle-traffic Stay Healthy Streets permanent, plus the sections called Keep Moving Streets because of their adjacency to parks, including the stretch around Alki Point? Farrell, González, Harrell, and Houston all said yes; only Randall said no.
Will you commit to requiring SDOT to increase bridge/road maintenance? All five said yes.
What’s each candidate’s primary mode of transportation? Randall: Light rail. Farrell: Walking. González: Bus. Harrell: Electric car. Houston: Light rail and walking (he noted that he does not know how to drive).
Do they support road pricing? No agreement on this. Houston and Randall said no, González and Harrell said yes, Farrell said maybe.
Would they finish the downtown streetcar (which outgoing Mayor Jenny Durkan has put on hold)? All said yes except Randall.
Would they support creating new bus-only lanes, and would they do it via removing parking or removing travel lanes? All five said they support new transit lanes and would consider both options.
Should Metro use smaller “feeder” buses? All said yes.
Should police officers be involved in traffic enforcement? González and Houston said no. Randall said yes. Harrell and Farrell said, in some cases.
Some of the questions veered out of the transportation lane. In the fast-answer round, asked if they’d change zoning to “legalize apartments” in all neighborhoods, all five said yes.
They also were asked if they support ranked-choice voting (which New York is using in its mayoral primary). Houston, González, and Farrell said yes; Harrell and Randall hadn’t decided.
Bridging both the quick-answer section and the longer-answer section was the issue of transit fares. Should nonpayment be decriminalized? González, Farrell, Harrell, and Houston said yes; Randall said no. Same split when the five were asked if transit should be free – Randall said it’s an “interesting idea” but “somebody has to pay the bills” so he would instead support continuing to subsidize those who need help paying. The other four said they would support it, though Harrell had the qualifier that “incremental steps” would be needed “to get there.”
Other long-answer questions included making streets safer. Harrell voiced support for more automated-enforcement cameras and the ongoing Vision Zero program. Houston declared, “We need to make it harder to drive in this city,” and advocated for more Protected Bike Lanes. Randall suggested upgrading the technology for traffic signals an crossings; Farrell said she’s for Vision Zero and 100 miles of Stay Healthy Streets; González also supports those but said they need to be made entirely car-free.
Asked about the Sound Transit realignment discussions and their “priorities” for it, the only one who directly addressed what’s happening in those discussions was González, who noted that it’s a “personal issue” for her as a West Seattle resident and she feels the ST board is making “a mistake” to make decisions “on a 100-year project” when the underlying information – revenue and costs – is continuing to evolve.
Another question was about pedestrian infrastructure and the city’s “missing sidewalks,” with the goals of the Levy to Move Seattle not being met. Randall said the levy’s priorities should be adjusted to focus on neighborhoods that most need the improvements. Farrell said the city needs to “go big” on new sidewalks. González said once the city figures out how to deliver on as much as it can, anything left unfinished should be rolled into the next levy. Harrell said his data initiative could illuminate where the money’s going, but other sources should be considered – he mentioned large employers and philanthropism. Houston wondered if sidewalk construction could be sped up by, for example, synergizing it with utility work.
All five supported expanding use of automated enforcement cameras
Asked about how they will include youth in their decisionmaking, the plans varied. Houston said he already has his own “youth team,” including “paid fellowships.” Harrell said he’s always included youth, and mentioned “team-building, forums, meetings” and other discussion options. Farrell said she talks with her kids. González mentioned existing city programs such as Get Engaged. Randall promised to involve youth in planning.
Again, for everything that was asked, see the video or the transcript above.
WHAT’S NEXT: More forums ahead, including another transportation-themed event at 7 pm Monday (June 21st), presented by Seattle Subway, to be streamed via Seattle Transit Blog. The mayoral forum we’re moderating and co-sponsoring with the West Seattle Junction Association is at noon Saturday, July 10th, streamed as well as having a limited live audience. That’s just four days before King County Elections mails ballots for the August 3rd primary, which will narrow the field of 15 mayoral candidates to two.