The politics of the future

Your vote will determine your destiny! (Or maybe not.)

WE'RE already into that new millennium everyone was talking about, but Seattle seems stuck on the 20th century side of the bridge. Paul Schell, our would-be mayor for this century, couldn't plan for the future and kept being surprised by events like WTO and Mardi Gras that you didn't need to be Cassandra to see coming. The voters dumped him in September's primary.

Sound Transit's light-rail project, our transportation system of the future, gets smaller with each successive plan and is imperiled by a mayoral candidate who wants to take it back to the drawing board. And the Seattle monorail (a.k.a. George Jetson's second car), that imperative transit link between the Westlake Mall bus-tunnel station and the Fun Forest, now boasts a passel of supporters who want to replicate it on a larger scale as our own space-age version of Chicago's El.

Yes, this election is all about Seattle's future. Should we turn Schell's office over to snarly tough guy Mark Sidran or amiable career politician Greg Nickels? Should we stand pat with our current City Council lineup (Richard Conlin, Nick Licata, Jan Drago, and Richard McIver) or beam up new leaders?

This week, we make our endorsements for candidates to local offices and feature in-depth reporting on the Seattle mayor's race. Next week, we'll endorse initiatives and ballot measures.

So prepare for the ride of your life, readers, as Seattle Weekly takes you into the future. Please remain seated until the newspaper comes to a complete stop. . . .

Seattle Mayor

Back to the future with Greg Nickels? Perhaps. This is, after all, a guy who has devoted his life to bringing streetcars back to the Rainier Valley and keeping kids from taking up cigarette smoking. But Nickels is also the best choice between two candidates, neither of whom has excited the electorate.

Opponent Mark Sidran has run a relentlessly negative campaign around derailing Sound Transit and touting his "my way or the highway" approach to decision making. Mark, old boy, demagoguery is just so 1999. Sidran has energized the Rainier Club crowd, who enjoys his relentless legislative pounding of the city's unwanted poor people and his numerous efforts to overturn our constitutional rights. Sidran has no real platform, and nothing he has done as city attorney shows that he deserves higher office.

Unfortunately, Greg Nickels has not run a great campaign either. He has relied too heavily on his bland image instead of talking about substantive issues. Most importantly, his unwillingness to re-examine light rail has made him vulnerable to Sidran's attacks. But in these final weeks, Nickels is showing himself to be seriously grappling with how to reconnect city government to its citizens after four years of the distant Schell. His ideas focus quite rightly on neighborhood empowerment: Electing council members in neighborhood districts instead of citywide, holding regular neighborhood town-hall meetings, and getting the city's neighborhood service center to have evening and weekend hours are among his best ideas. In addition, with two decades of experience in government, Nickels would bring a deft touch to building relationships with the City Council and Seattle's regional partners. He has also pledged to provide a much-needed housecleaning for our sadly stagnant City Hall.

A few quick questions: Which mayoral candidate can better patch up racial relations within Seattle? Which candidate is more likely to address the issue of Seattle's income stratification as moderate-income people get priced out of the city? Who will more zealously protect services for Seattle's neediest residents as budgets shrink? Which candidate has any degree of experience on transportation issues? The answer to all these questions is Greg Nickels. This city's future is too important to risk on people's flavor-of-the-month desire for a tough guy. We need a smart guy, a caring guy, an experienced guy. We need Greg Nickels.

Seattle City Attorney

Now that we've gotten on board the monorail, there's no reason to stop. Tom Carr, already a Seattle political figure as the former chair of the monorail-studying Elevated Transportation Company, is the best choice to speed the city attorney's office into the new millennium.

The other candidate, Edsonya Charles, a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office, has an interesting r鳵m頷ith a successful career in social services. She also, however, has just six-years experience as a lawyer, making her a questionable pick for this key city post.

Carr, by contrast, has 17 years of legal experience and is a partner in an 80-member downtown law firm. A civil litigator specializing in commercial and environmental law, Carr's legal career includes a stint pursuing civil racketeering cases against organized crime figures. He has also been the most forthcoming candidate when it comes to criticizing predecessor Mark Sidran's agenda.

Carr has the experience, the stature in city government, and the engaging personality to smooth the transfer of power from Sidran's fiefdom to a more open, responsive city attorney's office. He's one Carr who will thrive in the monorail age.

Seattle City Council, Position 2

Richard Conlin has had a hit-and-miss first term but faces a weak opponent, Michael Preston.

School Board member Preston has been in hot water with the state's Gambling Commission and Public Disclosure Commission, which regulates campaigns, and he was chased out of his former job with the Central Area Youth Association. His listless performance in recent years on the School Board also doesn't recommend him for a promotion to the City Council.

It's true that Conlin consistently voted for Sidran's "civility" laws and often seemed more bureaucratic than innovative. That said, his hard work and persistence carried the 38 neighborhood plans through the legislative process, and his leadership on the issue of youth activities almost vanquished the hated Teen Dance Ordinance. He also just brokered an important deal between environmentalists and City Hall on the subject of water conservation.

Conlin deserves another term.

Seattle City Council, Position 4

Progressive fireball Curt Firestone is seeking to displace one of the council's more conservative members, two-term veteran Jan Drago. Firestone may come off as a '60s-style lefty, but Chamber of Commerce booster Drago is a throwback to the 1920s: She never met a corporate-welfare project she didn't like. She's ended up on the wrong side of many key issues, including opposing the monorail and supporting the Olympics.

Firestone wants to expand renters' rights, forge exciting environmental and public-transit initiatives, heal the problems between communities of color and police, and make City Hall more accountable. His primary numbers were low, but he's hoping for an upset. We're riding with Firestone.

Seattle City Council, Position 6

Nick Licata is the best member of the Seattle City Council. He has drawn only a token opponent, Peter Olive, who is not actively campaigning. On the council, Licata has impressed both his allies and critics with his straight talk, principled stands, and genial behavior. He's known as a guy who keeps his promises and who never unnecessarily embarrasses a colleague. He's also been the council's most dependable progressive vote on a range of issues, from chipping at the downtown trophy projects to protecting the rights of all citizens.

We say four more years for Licata—he's earned it.

Seattle City Council, Position 8

Grant Cogswell backed the monorail before the monorail was cool. He's also stewed on the sidelines as various City Council members have tried to squash the monorail effort—most notably City Council Transportation Committee Chair Richard McIver, Cogswell's final election opponent.

McIver has done a fine job fighting for civil rights and civil liberties in office, but his unwillingness to posit creative solutions on transportation has left him with an unsatisfying term of office.

Granted, our endorsement of Cogswell is a pick based on potential. We hope he'll mature in office and realize the monorail isn't a panacea but simply a solid transit alternative. We like his political instincts—he opposed public funding of sports stadiums, worked to elect City Council members Nick Licata and Judy Nicastro to their seats, and made a successful stand in court against a silly Seattle rule banning criticism of opponents in the voters' pamphlet.

Help longshot Cogswell ride the monorail to victory.

Seattle School Board, Director District 4

Dick Lilly has seen the future of education, and it is small schools. He's convinced that big junior high and high schools have contributed to student alienation and lower achievement levels. By cutting the size of student populations, kids would benefit from smaller classes and more individualized attention.

His opponent, Pat Griffith, has a good record of school involvement, but her tight relations with the education establishment make it seem likely that she will too readily say, "Yes, Mr. Olchefske," when the superintendent wants her vote.

Lilly, a former schools beat reporter for The Seattle Times, has nurtured a strong independent streak. Give Lilly a chance to put his observations to work.

Seattle School Board, Director District 5

Mary Bass knows the Seattle schools. Her father was a principal, her mother a teacher, and she herself graduated from Garfield High School and eventually returned to her alma mater as a tutor.

Opponent Juan Cotto is a strong campaigner, but his energy doesn't hide the fact that schools are not central to his political aspirations.

Bass is running on a platform that includes nuts-and-bolts issues (shrinking the academic achievement gap between African-American and white students) and academic innovations (switching to a more flexible school day). She wants Seattle to aggressively pursue excellent teachers in other districts and make our existing teachers better through additional training and preparation time. Bass is our best choice.

Seattle School Board, Director District 7

We're voting for Garry "Mr. B" Breitstein over barely there incumbent Jan Kumasaka because his former teacher's perspective could add something to the board. Unfortunately, he's not taking the race seriously, so Kumasaka is a shoo-in.

King County Executive

Ron Sims will win this race in a rout. Let's hope he doesn't take the job for granted: He still needs to fix muddles, such as the county's defective computer system and Sound Transit's stumbling light-rail plan.

His opponent, Santos Contreras, is a helluva nice guy but just doesn't demonstrate strong knowledge of county government. Besides, we like Sims' hard work to preserve urban public transit, his strong efforts to trim administrative fat from the county budget, and his frankness. Sims is a proven leader facing a barely qualified challenger.

King County Council, District 1

Simply put, Republican Ed Sterner is about as nonpartisan an officeholder of either party as we've ever run across.

Carolyn Edmonds, a Democrat favored to win the post, is also a strong candidate, but she is playing that front-runner game of leaving her positions too vague to satisfy us.

On the key issues facing the county, Sterner's stands would make Seattle residents smile: He backs the move to alternative sentencing for juvenile offenders, he pledges to support urban-transit funding, and he calls on the council to protect social services in the coming budget cuts. Sterner is a Republican for the 21st century: fiscally prudent and focused on solutions, not petty partisan bickering. Sterner's our choice.

King County Council, District 3

OK, we remember Republican state Rep. Kathy Lambert's ridiculous 1997 bill aimed at letting the Legislature nullify Washington Supreme Court decisions by a majority vote of both houses. But Lambert seems to have resigned herself to the concept of judicial review and has since displayed a wicked populist streak—pushing measures to break up the state's liquor monopoly, set definite procedures for the creation of new counties, and stop banks from selling your personal financial information. Heck, Lambert even got a law passed mandating that doctors write legible prescriptions. Democrat Kristy Sullivan, who trailed badly in the primary, seems to be running as a pseudo-Republican. As a representative for this solidly Republican district, Kathy's the real deal.

King County Council, District 13

Democrat Julia Patterson is the Republican Party's worst election-season nightmare. Raised in SeaTac when the area was certifiably rural, she talks about fighting crime, building roads, and standing up for South King County.

Her opponent, Republican Pam Roach, is typical of the officeholders the GOP has favored in recent years: colorful and outspoken, yet unable to get much accomplished. Her record as a bloodthirsty, partisan state senator makes her a poor candidate for County Council.

Patterson, in contrast, can at times seem too cautious in her statements. But her moderate politics and temperament have led to fine achievements in the state Senate. We believe she will get things done for her constituents. Pick Patterson.

Port of Seattle, District 1

This port needs a storm, and Lawrence Molloy is just the guy to bring it on.

It's well past time for the 27-year incumbent, Jack Block, to go back to stevedoring full time. The genial Block, who still expresses enthusiasm for the job, hasn't performed the independent watchdog function we want from the Port Commission.

Molloy will. Despite building a formidable environmental-labor coalition, Molloy remains a plainspoken, thoughtful critic of all players at the Port: the bureaucracy, the workers, and the commission itself. He has ambitious plans to push the Port to become an environmental leader, a contributor to a sustainable economy and affordable housing, and a more open and responsive government. Give Molloy your vote to get the job started!

Port of Seattle, District 3

Paige Miller hasn't been the reformer some expected when she joined the Port Commission 14 years ago, but she's been a conscientious, hardworking officeholder. Besides, she's running against goofy perennial candidate Richard Pope, who's always seeking to add to his r鳵m頯f unsuccessful political runs. Miller is the only credible choice in this race.

Port of Seattle, District 4

Here's the sort of decision editorial boards just love. Newcomer Christopher Cain has a troubled past, and incumbent Pat Davis is just plain trouble.

Davis is a onetime Port Watch activist who got into office and became part of the free-spending, junket-loving Port power structure. She also helped bring the WTO to town and stuck city taxpayers with the $7 million bill when the protests sparked major security costs.

Eleven years ago, Cain was convicted on a felony theft charge at age 19. It seems young Chris, who also had a long juvenile record, was caught attempting a strong-arm robbery of another teen at the Bellevue Square Mall.

Cain has grown up since then, however. He impresses us as a man who turned his life around many years ago. Now he is a productive citizen, a political activist, and a well-prepared challenger. We like his educated opposition to the third runway, his critique of Port pork, and his understanding that Port trade must be linked to environmental protection and human rights. We say Cain is able.

Short Sheet

The Cliffs Notes guide to our political wisdom.

King County Executive: Ron Sims (D)

King County Council, District 1: Ed Sterner (R)

King County Council, District 3: Kathy Lambert (R)

King County Council, District 13: Julia Patterson (D)

Port of Seattle, District 1: Lawrence Molloy

Port of Seattle, District 3: Paige Miller

Port of Seattle, District 4: Christopher Cain

Seattle Mayor: Greg Nickels

Seattle City Attorney: Tom Carr

Seattle City Council, Position 2: Richard Conlin

Seattle City Council, Position 4: Curt Firestone

Seattle City Council, Position 6: Nick Licata

Seattle City Council, Position 8: Grant Cogswell

Seattle School Board, District 4: Dick Lilly

Seattle School Board, District 5: Mary Bass

Seattle School Board, District 7: Garry Breitstein

Races are nonpartisan except where otherwise indicated.

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