REAL PROBLEMS CONFRONT our city. Influence-peddling scandals simmer at City Hall, huge debt burdens Seattle City Light, accounting fiascos dog the Seattle School District, and an enormous revenue shortfall might derail the monorail. The solution for voters is not simple. We cant just throw all the bums out, because some incumbents have performed well and others have not attracted better opponents. There are a lot of challengers running this year, but once you eliminate the cranks and the risk-averse, the pickings are slim. So work your way through the ballot carefully, and be realistic voting is necessary but not sufficient to solve Seattles ongoing challenges. The public needs to be engaged with our political institutions all year long, not just on Election Day.
In making the following endorsements, we reserve the right to change our minds. As we write this, the Seattle City Council again is taking up the zoning changes at a Lake City strip club. While we dont think involvement in Strippergate is a litmus test, it might become one if more-damaging revelations emerge from City Council deliberations or from investigations by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission or the FBI. At the moment, we regard the imbroglio as only one strike against certain incumbents, not an automatic disqualifier.
If you find there are places on your ballot where we have not made recommendations, thats because we only endorse in contested races.
Seattle City Council
Judy Nicastro isnt perfect, but a G-string-thin majority of our board feels shes good enough to return to office. Nicastro has many political assets: She cares about tenants in a city government that is too oriented to homeowners and landlords; she is a staunch defender of civil liberties at a time when our constitutional rights are under attack; and she defends the role of the legislative branch of government from the overzealous reach of our current mayor. Her flaws are not lost on usshe still has not fully leveled with the public about Strippergate, she can be mercurial, and she indulges in the occasional flaky idea. Nevertheless, we think her strengths, on balance, outweigh her weaknesses.
We also like Art Skolnik a lot. He has a great r鳵m頡s an advocate of historic preservation and a strong sense of the citys culture and heritage. He articulates a dynamite platform of neighborhood rights, respect for the physical environment, and City Council authority. His campaign strategyaccepting no donations and entering latehas marginalized him, however.
The other candidates in the race are former Seattle Times gossip columnist Jean Godden, environmentalist Kollin Min, Realtor Darryl Smith, socialist David Ferguson, and real-estate broker Robert Rosencrantz.
Mike Thompsons fight to defend our quality of life is worthy of voter support. Thompson is a veteran of the community-council movement, served on Mayor Greg Nickels transition team, and has worked as a health and safety specialist at Seattle City Light for 22 years. Now he is sounding the alarm about Nickels effort to bowl over the neighborhoods in favor of big kahunas like the University of Washington, Paul Allens Vulcan company, and Northgate Mall. Thompson would bring a much-needed perspective to the Seattle City Council.
Twelve-year incumbent Margaret Pageler is known as a brainy workhorse who cares about utility issues. Pageler, however, was unable to assert council leadership during the energy crisis, when Seattle City Light needed her the most. We also take issue with her law-and-order conservatism, her enthusiasm for big business, and her inaccessibility.
Other candidates in the race include city bureaucrat Tom Rasmussen, monorail fan Dick Falkenbury, bus-driving activist Linda Averill, and mystery man Thomas Wade.
David Dellas longtime commitment to social justice has earned our endorsement in this race, especially in light of the incumbents weaknesses. Della began his political life fighting corruption and exploitation in the cannery industry. Since, he has worked for former Mayor Norm Rice and the state Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, and now is in charge of community relations for United Way. He promises to fight for human services and to overturn the citys draconian civility laws that target the homeless. Della also articulates ratepayer outrage over the skyrocketing costs at Seattle City Light.
Heidi Wills, who was first elected four years ago, is a sincere, ardent environmentalist but performed badly as chief City Light watchdog in the chair of the councils Energy Committee. The utilitys troubles during her tenure would be enough to compel us to recommend a changewhats good enough for former City Light chief Gary Zarker should be good enough for Willsbut she also gives too much ground to the bullying of Mayor Nickels. And the fact that shes never fully explained her odd pattern of behavior in Strippergate is a fourth strike.
Retired City Light engineer Bob Hegamin and social-justice advocate Christal Wood round out the field.
Incumbent Jim Compton doesnt get itand for that reason he needs to get gone. He doesnt get that, as Public Safety chair, when activists push hard for greater civilian oversight of police, he should deliver. He doesnt get that, as a City Council member, he needs to ask tough questions about the huge public investment wanted by Paul Allens Vulcan in South Lake Unionand that it is inappropriate for public officials to hop on a Vulcan jet for a basketball junket. He doesnt get that when he accepts thousands in campaign donations from an ex-felon and his cronies, he needs to answer media inquiries, not dodge them.
Unfortunately, were not enthusiastic about Comptons opponents, either. Grassroots guy Angel Bola�and West Seattle neighborhood scrapper Susan Harmon are not ready for prime time. Former City Council member John Mannings historyhe resigned from office and pleaded guilty to domestic assaulthas disqualified him in our eyes. That leaves us with no choice but to recommend no one, unless you want to cut out the middleman and just write in Paul Allens name.
Seattle School Board
District 1 (Broadview, Northgate, Wedgwood)
Incumbent Barbara Peterson is more credible than her opponents. She knows the school board must make changes to rectify not just the districts financial mismanagement but also widespread disgruntlement among constituents who feel ignored. Peterson promises to provide more feedback to constituents about how their concerns are addressed and become more active in setting policy. While we hope shell go even farther down the reform path, we urge a vote for Peterson.
Alternative-school parent Theresa Cardamone and free-trade activist Sally Soriano also are in the race.
District 2 (Green Lake, Phinney, Roosevelt)
Darlene Flynn can help the board and its critics communicate. She has a background uniquely suited to diffusing the destructive hostility that has turned school board meetings into a joke. As a city employee, she works as one of a cadre of facilitators that the city calls in to preside over meetings too hot for others to handle. We also admire Flynns sense of urgency about the racial achievement gap. Cast your ballot for Flynn.
Of all the incumbents, Steve Brown has the biggest credibility problem because he has chaired the boards Audit and Finance Committee during the districts fiscal meltdown. While he certainly doesnt deserve all the blame, its vital that the public see new faces on the board.
Browns other challengers are attorney Jan Morris and efficiency consultant Lisa Stuebing.
District 3 (University District, Eastlake)
We support Brita Butler-Wall because she will help the board conduct tougher oversight of district affairs. Shes shown her fortitude as a nationally known activist against commercialism in the schools. But shes not an ideologue. Shes willing to look into facts that dont support her case, and shes known for building coalitions. She also comes from an education backgroundshe used to train teachers at Seattle University.
While board President Nancy Waldman has endured a Job-like year with unfailing grace, she seems genuinely puzzled by the many teachers, principals, parent groups, and business leaders who have lost confidence in district leadership. The fact is, they have, and new blood is needed.
Former teacher David Blomstrom is also running.
District 6 (West Seattle)
Irene Stewart is a dynamic woman with the will and clout to get things done. With a background in Democratic politics that has given her connections with top officials across town, she serves as the director of the citys Office for Education. She is also a parent who has been frustrated by the boards reticence to engage the public and to ask tough questions of staff. Her combination of skills deserves support.
The other candidates are PTSA veteran Betty Hoagland and health care executive Adrian Moroles.
Seattle Popular Monorail Authority Board
Cindi Laws of West Seattle is the standout in this race, though it would be nice if there were an opponent of similar caliber who was not already on the board. Laws has been involved since the monorails grassroots infancy and has proved to be a relatively independent thinker. She is a former U.S. Senate aide who worked on transportation issues and has the formal support of the Democratic Party and unions. Also running: West Seattle homeowner Craig Bush, attorney James Egan, safety officer Chad Mishra, and lawyer Stan Lippmann.
Of several qualified candidates, Brent McMillan is our top choice because of his dogged activism since the monorail measure passed last yearshadowing the board, scrutinizing its policies, and encouraging more city oversight. McMillan is an architect and environmental designer who co-founded the Green Party of Washington. Also highly qualified is Tim Kerr, former deputy state treasurer for bond management, who also would lend an outsiders perspective, as well as wisdom about financing big projects. If McMillan and Kerr advance to the general election, Seattleites will be well served no matter who wins. Attorney Cleve Stockmeyer, the former monorail lawyer who resigned over a proposal to appoint all board members, is the candidate who enjoys the most support from the Democratic Party and unions. We think his status as a former monorail insider weakens his candidacy. Also running: architect Joel Egan, retired accountant Edwin Hayes, Qwest consultant Jim Miller, and former monorail outreach assistant Michael Taylor.
Seattle Ballot Measures
Initiative 75 (Changes in the enforcement of marijuana laws)
Marijuana laws are dumb, and heres your chance to make them a little bit smarter. This initiative, which would have the force of law, directs both the city attorney and Seattle police to make marijuana intended for adult personal use their lowest enforcement priority. The initiative does not decriminalize potit simply directs the city to do what has been done in cities like Ann Arbor, Mich., and Berkeley, Calif., and officially take a hands-off approach to casual marijuana use and medical marijuana patients. The approach works in those cities, and it can work hereand perhaps send a signal to the drug warriors in Washington, D.C., that its time to end the war on pot. Vote YES.
Initiative 77 (A tax on espresso drinks for early childhood education)
We urge a NO vote, not because early childhood education isnt a worthy cause, but because this is a bad way to fund that or any other public program. The claim by opponents that a 10-cent tax on espresso drinks would adversely affect sales seems preposterous. Yet this measure is arbitrary to the point of whimsy. Regular coffee is exempted, which imposes an odd demarcation between luxury (latte) and necessity (drip). (Is everyone presumed to be addicted to caffeine?) And while were at it, why not tax French fries and ice-cream cones? Those, too, are discretionary consumables. Meanwhile, the measure earmarks the revenue in overly specific ways. Instead of giving up on the lawmakers responsible for finding ways to finance programs like early childhood education, proponents should redouble their efforts to influence them.
Metropolitan King County Council
District 2 (Northeast Seattle)
We recommend longtime incumbent Cynthia Sullivan. As chair of the sometimes-fractious County Council, Sullivan managed to get a budget passed during a time of dramatic cuts without completely gutting social services. Shes also done solid work on affordable housing and the environment. Her demerits come from sitting on the Sound Transit board, an agency thats largely failed to deliver on its promises but seems to finally be moving in an acceptable direction.
Her opponent, Bob Ferguson, could only muster two arguments for his candidacy: reducing the County Council from 13 members to nine, and taking Sound Transit back to the voters. The latter would probably lead to the feds taking money away from the long-delayed project. Ferguson is energetic, and his issues appeal to some of our mossier editorial board members, but not to most of us.
District 9 (Enumclaw, Auburn, Kent)
Recently appointed Steve Hammond is the tepid best of the three conservative Republicans running for this seat. The inexperienced Hammond is politically similar to his opponents, but his more genial personality means he would not be a polarizing force on an already fractious council.
The sole Democrat in the race, Barbara Heavey, is far superior. Unopposed, she will automatically advance to Novembers general election.
Volatile state Sen. Pam Roach and feisty former state Rep. Phil Fortunato also are seeking the Republican nomination.
Port of Seattle Commission
Incumbent Bob Edwards is a stockbroker and former Renton City Council member seeking his second term. He got our vote when he opposed fellow commissioners last year on a hefty 37 percent tax increase to fund a cruise-ship terminal and airport noise mitigation.
His opponents, lawyer Jim Baker and joker Clarke Fletcher, are not actively campaigning.
Alec Fisken brings a great mix of skills for a port commissioner. He is a wonk with a background in marine and financial business who works in the citys Office of Policy and Management. Fisken will promote much-needed change at the Port, getting the commission to focus on marine jobs and lowering the taxpayer burden.
The current officeholder, Clare Norquist, is a venture capitalist whose junkets have set recordseven for the high-flying Port commissioners. He is raising tons of dough from Port customers, has been inaccessible to the public at times, and has not provided the tough, skeptical oversight we think the Port needs.
Other candidates seeking this office are civil engineer Claudia Hirschey and airport-expansion opponent Chris Cain.
Seattle Weekly Editorial Board members are Editor in Chief Knute Berger, Managing Editor Chuck Taylor, Political Editor George Howland Jr., Senior Editor Nina Shapiro, staff writers Rick Anderson and Philip Dawdy, and columnist Geov Parrish.