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Primary ballots are in the mail! Here’s what candidates say about safe streets

UPDATE 7/20: You can now read candidate questionnaire responses from Feet First and Cascade Bicycle Club.

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Click to embiggen.

Approximately half the city’s population is running for City Council right now. Lucky for you, the new district elections system means you only have to know about three of the races (two city-wide and one where you live).

There are a lot of great people running. Unlike so many elections where you have to choose between two awful turds, you may very well find yourself trying to pick the best of several people you actually like. How cool is that?

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Overall, the biggest mission for this primary should be to knock out the NIMBY candidates who fear change and want to put the brakes on our growing city and the multimodal streets we need to keep it moving. Only two people in each race will go on, and the best case would be for each race to have only genuinely good people running against each other to the November vote.

You can find Cascade Bicycle Club’s endorsements here. The Stranger — which loves bikes and curses at people who don’t — also has their regular fuck-word-filled endorsements here (the cursing really does help you plow through the boring-but-important stuff).

Below is a brief look at some candidates in each race and where they stand on safe streets and bicycling. Many include quotes from candidates in response to a short and to-the-point Seattle Neighborhood Greenways questionnaire. (SNG is a 501(c)3, so they can’t endorse candidates. But they can ask candidates questions and publish their answers.)

I’ll go in reverse order so the city-wide races are first:

Position 9: City-wide

There is no incumbent in this race. Both Cascade and the Stranger endorsed Lorena González. She did not respond to Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ questionnaire, but she was profiled by the Urbanist and spoke with them about Vision Zero:

González said there can be an “appreciable impact on preventing otherwise preventable deaths and serious injuries”. We need to aspire to the goal of Vision Zero. As an attorney, she represented people who were injured by negligent people on the road. But she recognized a limit to our ability to control other’s behavior. What the City can focus on is the design of roadways, bike infrastructure, and pedestrian infrastructure to increase safety.

Alon Bassok tells SNG that he wants to see the 20-year Bicycle Master Plan completed in the next ten years (woohoo!) and that he wants to “see the missing link completed now. Not another study. No further delay. We know how to fix it and it is deplorable that it is not done yet.” He wouldn’t blink at a road safety project that might displace parking.

Bill Bradburd, who I personally know to be a big bike supporter, was more wishy-washy about a hypothetical safety project that might displace parking. He was supportive of the safety project, but he also outlined the need for extensive public meetings, parking impact studies and such to make sure everyone is involved. Basically, the Seattle Process™.

Position 8: City-wide

Incumbent Tim Burgess received Cascade’s endorsement. The Stranger has basically been emphatically unendorsing Burgess for years. Cascade gives him credit for basically not going out of his way to stop safety stuff in the Council, which is really the least possible he could do without doing harm. More recently, he did add some strong Safe Routes to School support into the Move Seattle levy. But he hasn’t exactly been an inspiring leader on street safety.

There are two exciting Jo(h)ns in this race: Jon Grant and John Roderick. If will be interesting to see how their votes split in the final count.

Grant, who got the Stranger’s endorsement, is running heavily on affordable housing and his previous work for the Tenant’s Union. He did not respond to the SNG survey, but he told the Urbanist he supports the Bike Master Plan and that Vision Zero is achievable “if people fight for it.”

John Roderick, who got former Mayor Mike McGinn’s endorsement, once tweeted this at us:

But he did say he supports bike licenses during a forum, which is rather troubling. He later told Erica Barnett that he “didn’t know a lot about the issue.” Chalk that up as a learning experience? Bike licenses are an awful idea that have never worked, but talk radio shock jocks love to keep talking about them.

John Persak was very wishy-washy in his answers to SNG, basically avoiding the question about a safety project that might remove some car parking. That’s a red flag for us, since that question should be a softball (duh people’s safety is more important than car parking).

District 7: Downtown, First Hill, Queen Anne, Magnolia

Incumbent Sally Bagshaw received endorsements from both Cascade and the Stranger, and she was the only candidate to respond to the SNG questionnaire. She’s become a big booster of safe streets, neighborhood greenways and open streets events during her time on the Council. And she’s pretty much unchallenged in this race.

Opponent Gus Hartmann seems pretty out of touch (though if he’d actually put in the work to find middle-finger-shaped cookies to send to the Stranger’s office, I might have a bit more respect).

Bagshaw’s other opponent Deborah Zech Artis wants to replace the Magnolia Bridge “immediately.” Yikes! We don’t need to rebuild a freeway-style viaduct that only reaches a fairly small number of homes at a cost of $262 million. If we need to tear it down for safety, then let’s start talking about more affordable options. But replace it? No way!

District 6: Ballard, Fremont, Green Lake, Phinney

Incumbent Mike O’Brien is the shit. He bikes everywhere, totally gets what Seattle needs to do for biking and has a clear history of working to further the cause of safe streets. He got endorsements from both Cascade and the Stranger. I’m not gonna bother writing about his opponents. What’s the point? I’m just sad I don’t like in District 6, so I don’t get to vote for O’Brien.

OK, fine, I’ll say something about his opponents. Look, even if they are great, they don’t have a chance in dislodging O’Brien from the bike vote. John Lisbin even has a photo of himself sitting on the Cycle Saloon on the front page of this campaign website. That might go far in any other race, but not here. Sorry!

Catherine Weatbrook told the Stranger she’s upset the city didn’t actually make Holman Road a complete street (she’s totally right). And she’s concerned about bike theft. But she was little wishy-washy on Vision Zero when talking to the Urbanist. But even if she was spot on, it doesn’t matter because she’s running against Mike O’Brien.

District 5: North end

There is no incumbent in this race, and there are several people running who seem pretty cool. Cascade endorsed Halei Watkins, the Stranger endorsed Deborah Juarez.

How would Juarez respond to a safe streets project in her district that would displace parking? She tells SNG: “I would work to engage the business owners who are concerned by the project, and let them know about the research that has shown that efforts to enhance walkability and bikeability are tremendously beneficial to businesses, which receive much more foot traffic into their establishments.”

Cascade says Watkins “demonstrated through the endorsement process a clear commitment to Vision Zero and making North Seattle streets safer.”

Mercedes Elizalde tells SNG she would “like to see more development along Roosevelt for a protected bike lane to connect the neighborhoods along Roosevelt.” She also supports “projects that prioritizes the least resourced and most vulnerable people living in our communities (not just in regards to traffic and roads, but always) and that means that some things will be less convenient for those with the most resources and the greatest ability, but that is the trade-off we make to have a community that is safe and healthy for everyone.”

Sandy Brown told SNG the area is “blessed” to have Lake City Greenways organizing for safer streets, and is upset that Move Seattle doesn’t go far enough for pedestrian safety “on all North Seattle arterials, many of which lack any form of sidewalks.”

Kris Lethin doesn’t seem to support bike lanes on busy streets, according to the SNG questionnaire. And while we agree that poor bike lanes like many around Seattle don’t go nearly far enough, don’t write off all bike lanes on busy streets. Especially in North Seattle, busy streets are often the only streets that go all the way through. Neighborhood greenways are good for their own reasons, but on-street bike lanes are not replaceable in a functional bike network.

Debadutta Dash told SNG that he supports safe streets, especially in business districts “where people need the ability to safely wander, window shop, stop at cafes, and enjoy themselves as they peruse the stores.” Right on! Dash is also told SNG he’d all about building out a bike network: “The eastern portion of our district is privileged to be connected to the Burke Gilman Trail. According to a survey by the Shenadoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, the price of 1 mile of a 4 lane urban highway can build hundreds of bike lane miles and pedestrian infrastructure. Our district can take the lead and become the first district to connect all our neighborhoods through safe bike routes. This will promote healthy lifestyles for all residents, saving us millions of health care dollars.”

I’m sorry, District 5 readers. You have a really hard choice this election, but for all the best reasons.

District 4: NE Seattle, Wallingford

Incumbent Jean Godden did not get endorsements from either Cascade or the Stranger. She stepped up in the recent Move Seattle debate to add I-5 crossing improvements between Wallingford and Brooklyn Station, and she’s been vocally supportive of Safe Routes to School and Burke-Gilman Trail maintenance recently. But in her time on the Council, she hasn’t exactly wowed anyone with strong safe streets leadership.

Cascade endorsed Rob Johnson, whose experience as the current Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition puts him solidly in line with biking, walking and transit needs. In fact, he’s already working on that stuff, as he told SNG: “I’ve been a strong advocate behind the scenes with SDOT on extending the protected bike lane on Roosevelt from 45th all the way to 65th and believe that project is critical to complete this year.” He also supports protected bike lanes on NE 65th Street without hesitation. Oh, and he also wrote this gem: “I’d like to see us be more bold about our bike infrastructure. I’m a firm believer in the Enrique Penalosa strategy that a bike lane isn’t a bike lane if an 8 year old can’t ride in it.”

The Stranger endorsed Michael Maddux, who is also very strong on bike support, as he told SNG: “Broader picture, I believe that our transportation priorities must start with safety for all users. While there are concerns that I have heard from folks that we spend too much on bike lanes, I just don’t agree. And, frankly, getting cyclists like myself into protected bike lanes not only makes us safer (as well as the added benefit for pedestrian safety), but improves mobility for all users.”

I’d love to see a Maddux/Johnson race going into November.

Abel Pacheco is also strong on safe streets, arguing to SNG that Move Seattle doesn’t have enough safety funding. He also wants to build a lid over I-5. Hey, that might sound crazy expensive (it would be), but it would also be crazy awesome. But he was pretty wishy-washy on his answer to SNG about a safety project that would remove parking.

As for Tony Provine? Hell no.

District 3: Capitol Hill, Central District, Montlake, Madison Park

Incumbent Kshama Sawant may not put safe streets at the top of her priority list, but she clearly gets the issue and has always supported efforts when they came to the Council. But perhaps more importantly, she’s by far the Councilmember least afraid of change, working as hard as she can to push conversations as far as they can go.

But the issues Sawant has focused on do intersect with the bigger picture of safe streets: A just city where everyone can afford to live. Safe streets and better transit make life more affordable, and Sawant gets that. And I am certainly not spending my energy working for safe streets that only the rich can enjoy.

This is the only race where Cascade did not endorse. The Stranger obviously endorsed Sawant.

Pamela Banks, Sawant’s best-funded opponent, hasn’t really said much about bikes. But what she has said isn’t inspiring. In response to a very open-ended question from the DSA about protected bike lanes, she said, “BALANCE!! Not all roads can handle all modes of transportation.” Zzzzz.

Rod Hearne is all about protected bike lanes and achieving Vision Zero, as he told the DSA in response to the same question: “I support protected bikeways. Protecting human life should always be at the top of any policy, and that should be true for transportation policy as well. I support the goals of Vision Zero to protect life, and we should implement it in a way that provides a safe network of bikeways throughout the city.”

Morgan Beach took the Seattle Process™ route for how to handle SNG’s hypothetical safety project that would displace car parking.

District 2: SE Seattle, Sodo

Incumbent Bruce Harrell turned on the afterburners in support of a safer Rainier Ave recently. He has been lukewarm on safe streets in previous campaigns, including his unsuccessful mayoral race to unseat Mike McGinn (he pushed back on the cost of protected bike lanes and the price of school zone speed camera tickets). But this time around, he is on board and has been endorsed by both Cascade and the Stranger.

Tammy Morales also voiced general support for safe streets to SNG and to the Urbanist. “She also emphasized that the Seattle Police Department needs to step up speed limit enforcement on Rainier Avenue, saying that the only thing that stops speeding drivers is running into buildings,” writes the Urbanist. That’s sadly true.

District 1: West Seattle

This race is crazy. The de facto incumbent Tom Rasmussen isn’t running, which blew this seat wide open.

Cascade endorsed Shannon Braddock, writing, “With transportation as a top priority, Shannon is supports reducing traffic fatalities in Seattle by reducing speed limits, building out key bike projects and expanding Pronto Cycle Share to West Seattle.”

The Stranger endorsed Lisa Herbold, though they noted that she “needs sharper transit ideas.” And though she basically supports “safety,” she somehow manages to write a whole page about transportation on her campaign website without even mentioning bikes. Hmm… She did have a solid answer to the DSA’s question about protected bike lanes, though: “Safety for all commuters is important. More commuters are using bicycles to travel and their safety is important and should be addressed in our infrastructure planning. Protected bike lanes may also add to the economic vitality because of how the ease of bike travel can facilitate short trips to local retail in our business districts.”

Brianna Thomas is a serious ass kicker. If there’s an opposite of Seattle Nice™, she’s it. She helped lead the ground effort to pass $15 minimum wage in SeaTac, which didn’t happen because people held years of community open houses or conducted long, expensive and unnecessary studies. So when a needed safety project might displace some car parking, so what? As she told SNG: “I believe there are clear cases where its more important to make our streets safer than it is to preserve on-street parking. When there are clear cases, our goal shouldn’t be to mediate conflicting project outcomes at the expense of our primary obligation to ensure public safety. Rather, our goal should be to quickly and effectively do what’s right, even though some residents may disagree. Sometimes, some residents are simply wrong about what needs to be done. I’m tired of seeing good public policy watered down by a small but extremely vocal minority of Seattle residents.”

Karl Wirsing has taken this campaign as a chance to give biking from West Seattle to his work at UW a try. That’s pretty cool! He’s also adorably optimistic about the ability to find common ground when a safe streets project displaces parking, as he told SNG: “Right now, I hear from so many people in West Seattle who perceive a tension and antagonism between drivers and cyclists and pedestrians. But the good news is that we all share the same essential interests on our roads—from safety to mobility to having choices of transportation—and I strongly believe with honest outreach and conversation, we will always find more common ground than enmity when it comes to planning street improvements.”

Chas Redmond wants to review bike lanes to make sure they haven’t “degraded” corridors. Um… From his campaign website: “Issues arising from implementation of bike lanes, sharrows, bus bulbs, channelization of existing roadways, and other recent transportation flow changes needs to be reviewed against empirical access and traffic flow data so we can determine if these changes have reduced mobility, created new or unintended hazards, or otherwise degraded a transportation corridor.”

Final thoughts

Whew! There you have it. Don’t let the hard choices delay your vote. The most important thing is that you vote for at least one of the good choices, even if you aren’t sure it’s the absolute BEST choice. The worst case is you delay and don’t vote. Just mark a box you feel good about and get that sucker back in the mail or take it to a ballot drop box right away!

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12 responses to “Primary ballots are in the mail! Here’s what candidates say about safe streets”

  1. Andres Salomon

    Every candidate in that D8/D9 forum that said they want bike licenses has stepped back from that position.

    Here’s González: https://twitter.com/MLorenaGonzalez/status/620364333831172096

    Here’s Roderick: https://twitter.com/johnroderick/status/620326842830970880
    Sadly, he hasn’t responded to our offer of a bike ride.. :)

    And here’s Bradburd: https://twitter.com/BradburdSeattle/status/619788060205563904
    Basically, it sounds like he’s describing a stolen bike registry. Still kind of waffle-y, given that the original question specified having a license on display at all times on the bike..

    Oh, and a protip for Chas Redmond: curb bulbs, speed limits, safety features, etc do not degrade transportation corridors. Cars and trucks degrade transportation corridors, both in the literal sense (destruction of the asphalt), and in terms of delays. It’s those 20 people in front of you who decided to drive their car alone, rather than walking, biking, or taking a bus that slow you down.

  2. Alkibkr

    I’m a bit concerned that I am seeing signs for the anti-SDOT safety project “Make No Changes to Admiral Way but keep Alki (parking) Safe” campaign and Shannon Braddock in the same yards. Makes me want to lean toward Brianna Thomas.

    1. Alkigirl

      One of the biggest opponents of the sdot plan has a Lisa Herold sign, and she and Brianna are virtually the same.

  3. daihard

    Small correction. You spelt the last name of one of the District 5 candidates incorrectly. It is Kris Lethin, with an ‘i’.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Thanks. Fixed it.

  4. Harrison Davignon

    Sounds like there is still a imbalance are far as private vehicles and everyone else. Can’t we find a middle ground on transportation? Some people have to drive, some people can’t or don’t want to drive, like me. So lets find a way were we all can get along and have infrastructure that works for everyone best we can.

    1. Breadbaker

      The difficulty is “car culture”, which you can define as the claimed inherent right to go about 15 mph above the speed limit under any conditions in order to get somewhere when you are in a hurry, regardless of the consequences. If you think of the issues involved in the 65th street configurations, the problems all proceed from the notion that somehow this small urban agglomeration around 65th and Roosevelt, soon to be the locus of a light rail station, should also be a throughway for cars heading to the entrance to I-5 just to the west. There are just some places where you should expect never to exceed 20 mph. This is one of them.

  5. Lisa

    Alon (position 9) definitely has bikey cred. When I was a student at the UW, he was the advisor for most of the bike-related studios and got some good things accomplished. I worked with him on a bike plan for Sea-Tac International Airport, which they’re actually implementing some of our recommendations


    and I know he did some other stuff, like freight/bike conflict issues


    I don't know much about the other candidates, but as far as safe streets and bikes go, I think he's got the most experience and dedication to make it happen.

  6. […] – Oh hey, your primary ballots are here. If you care about safe streets, here’s some info on the City Council candidates. […]

  7. […] Bassok teamed up with Grant to rollout the trolley proposal and recently told the Seattle Bike Blog he would push for the city’s 20-year Bike Master Plan to be completed in 10 years. […]

  8. […] a reminder, here’s our safe streets primer on the primary. You can also read candidate questionnaire responses from Feet First, Seattle Neighborhood […]

  9. […] Before the City Council primary this year, we wrote: […]

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