As noted in our previous posts, Seattle Bike Blog is not doing official endorsements this primary. Instead, I’ll be going district-by-district, posting videos from the MASS Coalition’s transportation forums along with a roundup of transportation-related endorsements and other notable news items and thoughts.
Oh, Mike O’Brien. Please don’t leave us.
District 6 has drawn the biggest field of candidates, and the race is also among the least clear for biking and safe streets. On one hand, there are a lot of candidates who told Lester Black at the Stranger (be sure to check out the spreadsheet of responses) that they ride bikes (Terry Rice, Jon Lisbin, Dan Strauss, Heidi Wills, Jay Fathi, Joey Massa and Ed Pottharst) and think the city should invest more money to build bike lanes (Rice, Strauss, Fathi, Massa, Pottharst). So that’s good.
But no single candidate has yet emerged as the favorite among transportation-focused organizations, which is disappointing.
Melissa Hall has a good social media presence, sharing quality takes on transportation issues. For example, she supports completing the Missing Link which is somehow not a unanimous opinion among candidates this year. Her campaign got off to a late start and has been building. The question is whether she has a big enough campaign operation to get enough votes out. As we saw with the last mayoral race, being right about stuff is not enough to win an election.
The only candidate to get multiple endorsements from the orgs we’ve been tracking is Dan Strauss, who is currently a staffer for Sally Bagshaw. Strauss says a lot of the right things except for one big one: He is against completing the Missing Link. That’s a huge red flag. The city has already studied this section of trail far beyond the point of absurdity, and they found no evidence that the trail would harm jobs or any of the other arguments opponents have used in fighting for the past couple decades. I also worry about what opposing the trail says about who has his ear. The overwhelming majority of people (over 80 percent) who responded to the city’s multiple public outreach efforts about the trail support completing it as designed. Only 5 percent wanted Leary, Strauss’s stated preference. So who is he listening to?
UPDATE: Strauss commented below, and then he and I talked on the phone to somewhat clarify his Missing Link position. He wouldn’t budge from saying that he prefers Leary. But his position isn’t because of the business appellants, it’s because of the MLK Labor Council (I previously interviewed Nicole Grant about the council’s opposition).
“I know that a lot of people in the past have used Leary as a false alternative,” he said. “I want to get it done.” He also described himself as “very pro-bike.”
“I want a connected network of protected bike lanes,” he said. “I’m gonna go to the mat on the whole bike network.”
Work is scheduled to begin this fall, though schedule relies on a court ruling. I asked him if he would try to stop trail construction when/if work begins.
“My preference would still be Leary. But for me, we need to get it done now,” he said. So what does that mean? I dunno.
This is an issue that came up for Jay Fathi, too. The Urbanist had good things to say about him, but then noted, “in conversation about the Burke-Gilman Trail’s Missing Link…he explicitly said that his campaign advisers had recommended that he not take a position on the issue, and so he would not. Candidly uncandid–a novel approach!” Yeah, you don’t get points for that, and I wonder about your advisors.
Look, candidates, if you can’t defend what the people want because some big businesses oppose it, then I worry about your dedication to this job. The Missing Link is beyond debate. Every argument has been studied extensively, and the decisions have been made. Opposing the trail at this point is inexcusable and, I promise you, unpopular. People just want the city to finish the damn trail and move on. Nobody wants someone walking in at this late point and trying to reopen all the arguments again. Luckily, though, it should not require further Council action because city decisions about design and funding have all been made. And if things somehow stay on schedule, construction will be underway before these candidates even take office. But you never know with this project. There always seems to be another way to delay it.
Heidi Wills has gone a totally different direction with her Missing Link opposition, promoting the idea of an elevated trail. While obviously the views from an elevated trail would be cool and all, it’s a terrible idea. The city owns the right of way on the ground for this trail. It is shovel-ready and vetted more thoroughly than any other trail maybe in the nation’s history. And we’ve already spent far, far more money on litigation and studies for this short section of trail than ever have been required. The idea that we would scratch all of that to design and build an elevated structure costing tens of millions of dollars more is beyond absurd. That kind of structure only makes sense for crossing over real barriers, like freeways or waterways, not for crossing over political barriers. If Seattle had tens of millions of dollars to spend on biking and walking, there are far more significant challenges to invest in other parts of town (like, you know, any I-5 crossing in the south end). In reality, the elevated “option” is an underhanded way to kill the project because it would never be built.
When asked about the Missing Link during the MASS forum, here’s how candidates responded:
- Hall, Joey Massa and Terry Rice said yes.
- Fathi and Wills were iffy.
- Sergio Garcia, Strauss, Kate Martin and John Peeples said no.
Here’s a look at some endorsements:
- Transit Riders Union:
No endorsementDan Strauss (this recent endorsement is not yet listed online, but I confirmed it with TRU)
- The Stranger: Dan Strauss
- The Urbanist: No endorsement
- Seattle Transit Blog:
No endorsement yetUPDATE: Dan Strauss and Melissa Hall rated excellent
- Seattle Subway (PDF): Melissa Hall and Dan Strauss
Below is the video from the Move All Seattle Sustainably coalition’s transportation and housing forum for District 6. Rooted In Rights not only produced the video, they also created this handy transcript (.txt)
But you can hear each candidate give general statements in this cool Seattle Channel online voter’s guide.
This post is also a chance for you all to share your thoughts and promote your favorite D6 candidates in the comments below. Did I totally gloss over or miss something important? Let me know in the comments below. If you work for a campaign, you are welcome to participate, as well. Just please disclose which campaign you work for.