Seattle Bike Blog has not yet endorsed in the mayoral race. See our coverage of the June mayoral forum on transportation and housing here. The August 1 primary ballots are in the mail.
When I received Nikkita Oliver’s answers to a couple key follow-up questions recently, my heart broke.
Oliver and the People’s Party campaign supporting her are doing something truly amazing right now. If you can’t see that because you’re too focused on that one time months ago she sure seemed to say she’d pause all development (she took that back) or because you’re tallying how many times she has voted in the past decade, you’re missing the forest for the trees.
The Oliver campaign is forging a new path to power in Seattle, based on people power and centering the experiences of people of color and people from other marginalized communities. She is running on a message of addressing the core problems in our city, not just treating symptoms. And people are loving it. I am loving it, too.
Cary Moon has a very strong and deep understanding of biking, walking and transit issues. Jessyn Farrell has been a champion for biking, walking and transit in Olympia and has a lot of experience to bring with her to this race. And we strongly backed Mike McGinn in the primary and general elections back in 2013. But none of them have built engaged movements even comparable to Oliver.
So when I reached out to Oliver and her campaign (along with the other top mayoral candidates) to ask how they plan to handle a set of specific biking and safe streets projects that will come up during the next mayoral term, I was really hoping she would see efforts to redesign our streets to prevent serious injury and death on our streets as one of those solutions to a core public health problem (traffic danger). Or at the very least, I was hoping she would support continuing these hard-fought, long-planned and long-awaited safety projects that are set to break ground next year, like the downtown bike lane network and completing the Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail.
“I have to stress that our city is currently in a state of emergency around homelessness,” she said in a written response. “I believe it is the duty of our city leaders to prioritize addressing these exigent human service needs first. This may require us to put some projects, like construction of bike lanes on hold in order to ensure that we have the financial resources to address the state of emergency around homelessness in our city.”
But the real tough line that got me came when she called the Ballard Missing Link a “beautification project” that is “not an immediate need” during Candidate Survivor this week (17:25 in this video).
These are major priorities this blog has been writing about consistently since it launched in 2010, and that neighbors and safe streets advocates have been working on for much, much longer than that. Oliver saying she may pause these projects right as they are finally about to happen is just heartbreaking. I don’t really have a choice. Seattle Bike Blog cannot endorse her if she says she may stop or pause the core projects this blog has spent the past seven years writing about and advocating for.
That said, she did have other good things to say about some of these projects. And even more, if she changes her mind as she learns more about the projects, the injuries and deaths they will prevent and all the years of hard work neighbors and city staff have put into them, project staff and advocates could learn a lot from her leadership.
So this is a bit odd, because Seattle Bike Blog wants Oliver to make it through the primary and to give her time to keep working on her stances on these safe streets projects, but we also can’t endorse her because of those stances. And since you can’t vote for multiple people, that’s puts our primary endorsement in a tough spot.
That might make this very long post among the most unhelpful things you’ll read about this primary election. But it’s my honest take on the mayoral race at this moment, and the best I can do is lay it all out for you to pick through. If you have thoughts to add, share them in the comments.
Don’t give up on Oliver, join her
I’m not shutting this door, and I hope people reading this don’t, either. This is clearly not an area where her campaign is focused or has lots of specific expertise. And that is OK. I don’t think a candidate needs to already be an “expert” in transportation planning, so long as they are willing to hire good people, seek answers and make the right calls when the time comes. And having a leader who approaches transportation leadership from outside the typically white male dominated transportation planning world could be a huge asset. Continue reading