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Replay and recap: City Council Position 8 transportation and housing forum

From left: Jon Grant, Mac McGregor, Teresa Mosqueda, Hisam Goueli, Sarah Nelson, Sheley Secrest and moderator Erica C Barnett.

Your ballot will arrive in your mailbox within a week or so, and you only have until August 1 to figure out who you’re going to vote for.

Online registration and address changing already ended, but you have until July 24 to register in person at the downtown King County Administration building. For those already registered, ballots will be mailed July 14.

And don’t forget that, unlike the mayoral race, you can use your democracy vouchers to help fund these candidates.

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Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and a long list of partners hosted a candidate forum focused on transportation and housing in June. Erica C. Barnett of The C Is for Crank moderated. The full video and a recap of the City Council Position 8 forum is below. You can find the recap of the mayoral forum here.

Seattle Bike Blog has not yet endorsed in this race.

As a general note, Seattle has a serious embarrassment of riches when it comes to quality candidates for this City Council position. In many ways, the candidates in this race are more exciting than the candidates for mayor. Their positions are passionate and nuanced. All the candidates at the forum spoke strongly in favor of safe streets, road diets and transit-oriented development. There was a round where each candidate was basically trying to love road diets more than the others, which is amazing considering how wildly controversial such project were just a few years ago. Our city’s movement for safe streets is working.

But there can only be one.

We’ll go in the order they were on stage during the forum.

Jon Grant

As the former Executive Director of the Tenants Union, Jon Grant has made affordable housing and tenants’ rights the centerpiece of his campaign. So he was very comfortable talking about the specifics of the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability and how he would change that policy.

For example, he said the city is starting as low as three percent for an affordability requirement on developments in newly upzoned areas, requiring affordable housing advocates to work hard to get the affordability requirement higher.

“I would have much rather started at 25 percent and negotiated down,” he said.

When Grant ran for this seat against Tim Burgess in 2015, Seattle Bike Blog did not endorse in the race because nether candidate made much effort to make safe streets a serious part of their campaigns.

This time, Grant has made a much better attempt to bolster his safe streets platform. At the forum, he spoke about living near Rainier Ave and watching the success of the road diet the city implemented there.

“There were cars literally careening through buildings left and right,” he said of the street before the changes. And he’s right. He went further to say that he would support such a project even if there is serious pushback.

“We absolutely need to have community input in that process, but at the end of the day, road diets save lives,” he said. Even before being asked about road diets, Grant said he would “encourage road diets throughout the city.”

Grant also talked about the need to fully fund the Bike Master Plan, “which we have not seen to date.”

He said he supports development impact fees and an employee hours tax to help fund transit and other transportation and public investments.

Mac McGregor

“I like collaborating,” said Mac McGregor during his first answer of the evening. And this statement ran through a lot of his answers during the evening.

He pointed to Challenge Seattle, a private sector collaboration led by former Governor Christine Gregoire and talked about collaborating with major corporations in the city to help solve some of the city’s most pressing issues.

On transportation, McGregor was focused on how to help more people get around without a car.

“Many of the people in our area don’t own cars or have one car for the whole family,” he said of his Mount Baker neighborhood. He also spoke in favor of better park and rides near transit stations.

“Our nunber one job is safety,” he said, in support of more road diets.

Teresa Mosqueda

Every one of Teresa Mosqueda’s answers was packed with energy. She sort of made everyone else (except maybe Sheley Secrest) look like they were standing still, especially McGregor and Hisam Goueli who had the misfortune of going before and after her.

Right out the door, she framed transportation and housing as public health issues.

“My life’s work has been in public health,” she said, and that means “more walkable, bikeable neighborhoods.”

Mosqueda linked safe streets both to the global and national movement to fight climate change and to local environmental justice issues.

“There are communities throughout our city who are dying at higher rates becuse of their zip codes and their race,” she said.

While she wasn’t equivocating on the need for safer streets, she said the city can do more to get community buy-in.

“I want to see us have super blocks like they have in Barcelona,” she added, basically a little red meat for urban planner nerds (in another part of the forum she mentioned the need for cross-laminated timber construction and Passivhaus, clearly going for the coveted green architecture geek vote).

She also praised SDOT’s pavement to parks program, talking about a project near her house where the city “turned a few parking spaces to create a little park where seniors can sit,” she said. “That creates social cohesion.”

She also talked about the need to build a city that is safe and affordable for people to age in place.

She supports allowing backyard cottages, duplexes and triplexes in single-family zones. She also talked about the need for more two and three-bedroom units so more families can live in the city.

She also called for an “immediate conveyance of all developable land in our city” — city, county, Sound Transit and State — “to be moved into affordable housing now.”

“So those who stock our grocery shelves, those who teach our kiddos and those who write the code in our city can all afford to live here,” she said.

Dr. Hisam Goueli

Hisam Goueli is a doctor working in Gerontology and Geriatric Psychiatry, and his most powerful moment in the debate came when talking about working with homeless patients who are dying.

“I dress their wounds, I hold their hands when they are dying,” he said. “Every life has dignity and has value.

“Everyone deserves a home … Help Seattle be the place where every life means something.”

On road diets, Goueli used his lens as a doctor to arrive at a clear answer: “As a doctor, you save lives.”

But like McGregor, Goueli had trouble standing out on the stage packed with such strong candidates.

Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson really bombed at the forum. Like, painfully bombed. She seemed very flustered and unprepared, and she had trouble putting together cohesive answers to many questions that she should have been expecting. She’s supposed to be a frontrunner in this race — the Seattle Times endorsed her — but she easily delivered the worst performance of anyone on stage.

That should put things in perspective, though. The least impressive candidate at the forum is the owner of Fremont Brewing, essentially a bicycle magnet located off the Burke-Gilman Trail in Fremont that has been wildly successful, especially since they turned their parking lot into a seating area and installed a long row of bike parking out front. I even caught her opponent Jon Grant drinking a Fremont beer recently :-)

Nelson previously worked in former Councilmember Richard Conlin’s office, so she knows what the job entails. Unfortunately, she didn’t bring many new or exciting ideas to the table at the forum. If anything, she seemed to keep throwing water on everyone else’s ideas.

She argued against “just plunking housing along transit lines,” saying that transit oriented development needs lots of community buy-in.

She also pushed back on some of Grant’s housing policies.

“When you hear people say, ‘Make the developers pay,’ think about that. We don’t want to lose out on the housing development we need,” she said. That might be true, but she didn’t then give her own plan for Mandatory Housing Affordability, saying, “I don’t have the expertise to quibble about the exact percentages.” You can’t attack one person’s stance, then cop out when it comes to taking your own.

That said, she had some good things to say about safe streets. She talked about Nickerson Street and praised the city’s controversial 2010 road diet there.

“I say, ‘Bring it on’” she said of road diets. Before the safety changes, “there was a lot of hemming and hawing, but traffic didn’t get backed up,” she said. “I was able to get in and out and across the street and make turns much faster and easier in my car, and I felt better  when my kids were with me walking across the street. It’s safer and I think that it’s a method that we need to continue to expand. When people experience it, it’s not that bad.”

“It’s not that bad” isn’t the most rousing way to put it, but I’ll take it.

She also talked about the need to explore less costly ways to improve streets that don’t have sidewalks, perhaps by installing rainwater improvements with them.

“We need to think of creative ways to make our streets safe that don’t necessariy require sidewalks,” she said. She also said the city should explore mid-block crosswalks, which could be safer than crossing at intersections, and banning right turns on red.

So, again, she had a bad showing compared to the other candidates. Maybe she was having a bad day. But even if Nelson is the worst candidate on stage and she’s saying all these good things, then wow. I feel very good about City Council Position 8.

Sheley Secrest

Sheley Secrest was very strong at the forum, and she’s trying to be a leader on safe streets even though it’s not an issue she’s already an expert on.

But I don’t need a candidate to already know all the answers to wonky minutia of city-building and transportation planning. I need a candidate who is willing to put in the work to seek out answers they don’t know. So Sheley Secrest gets lots of points for mentioning during the forum that she asked former mayoral candidate and Northeast Seattle Greenways leader Andres Salomon for a meeting and a crash course in the state of safe streets in Seattle.

“We need to stop talking about how we’re going to make the investments to do it, but actually get it done,” she said about investing in safe streets. She said the city should partner with community-based organizations that are already leading on safe streets issues in their neighborhoods.

“You all have been telling leaders what it takes to share the road,” she said. “It’s time we get it done.”

She even called out the community members who installed the Rainier Ave pop-up bike lane during Park(ing) Day 2015.

“They said, ‘You know what, we’re not going to wait for you all day Scott Kubly, we’re gonna do it ourselves,’” she said. “That is the type of leadership from the community that we need to apply to City Council.”

Secrest grew up in the Central District, and she said she has seen first hand how inequitable city investments in safe streets can be.

“I can tell you, historically, in the Central District at 22nd and Yesler, you’re talking about a community that has been historically disinvested by Seattle,” she said. And she gave a heartbreaking example.

“On 23rd and Jackson, where the NAACP’s office is … there was not even a traffic light, so a mother had a tragedy where she had her child, who was riding a bicycle, got killed right in front of our office. We were asking for traffic lights. It took for the area to become gentrified before we started seeing and were even able to be heard for our needs.”

As an attorney, Secrest talked about her experience negotiating public benefits from developments on behalf of the community. And community was a theme that came up over and over again in her answers.

“We can get people out of their cars if we can make sure in their community they are able to have their needs meet,” she said. “They can work right there inside of their community so they don’t need a long commute.” She also talked about how communities need more of the things that people might otherwise drive all over to seek out, like food, entertainment and events.

She is in favor of bringing duplexes and triplexes in single family zones back into the housing discussion.

“We shut that door too soon” in the Housing, Affordability and Livability Agenda rollout, she said. And like ban the box rules try to help formerly incarcerated people get a fair shot at employment, Secrest said the city should also ban the box for housing applications.

“There are people who are looking for second chances, and they are being denied housing because of it,” she said. She was the only candidate who made this an issue during the forum.

Your thoughts?

Do you disagree with something I wrote or have something to add that I missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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One response to “Replay and recap: City Council Position 8 transportation and housing forum”

  1. […] Seattle Bike Blog gives a recap of the recent candidate transportation and housing forum. […]

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