Candidate Deborah Zech Artis (left) and incumbent Sally Bagshaw listen to a question from the audience during a City Council District 7 debate at the Queen Anne Library on Thursday evening. Photo by Joe Veyera
Candidate Deborah Zech Artis (left) and incumbent Sally Bagshaw listen to a question from the audience during a City Council District 7 debate at the Queen Anne Library on Thursday evening. Photo by Joe Veyera
The Queen Anne Library (400 W. Garfield St.) hosted one of the most intimate debates of the 2015 election season on Thursday night (Oct. 15).

Though the dialogue between District 7 candidates Sally Bagshaw and Deborah Zech Artis was short on attendees — with only about 10 on hand, including City Librarian Marcellus Turner — it did provide a sizeable amount of policy discussion. 

With Election Day looming in less than three weeks, the two talked housing, transportation and municipal broadband, among other hot topics in the hour-long session.

“I believe districts are important,” Bagshaw said of the new system of electing Seattle City Councilmembers. “So is regional cooperation.”

 

Housing

Bagshaw, the six-year incumbent, said she supports the recommendations from the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) report and was happy with Mayor Ed Murray’s efforts to bring together stakeholders from various communities to the discussion.

She also said she supports incentive zoning, which would allow for a greater floor-area ratio or more height in exchange for a greater number of affordable units being built and also wants to see more transit-oriented housing development with greater density near those main corridors.

Meanwhile, Zech Artis, the former president of the Queen Anne Recreation Advisory Council and a 40-year resident of the neighborhood, said she supports linkage fees, along with the construction of mother-in-law apartments and backyard cottages with appropriate parking.

She also stressed the need for immediate one-for-one replacement of affordable housing units.

“We’ve lost a lot housing, affordable housing, and it hasn’t been replaced,” Zech Artis said.

Regarding how they would address homelessness in the city, Zech Artis voiced her support for “housing first” policies: “People don’t get better if they’re on the street. They get better if they have a safe place to be.”

Bagshaw said, while the city has made gains in the fight against homelessness — noting the construction of 12,000 units built for those with very low incomes, funded through the most recent housing levy — the efforts haven’t been anywhere near enough.

The idea of rent control also drew nuanced responses from both candidates.

While both said they were opposed, Bagshaw said she was in favor of rent restrictions and the use of multifamily tax exemptions (MTFEs), in which developers can include low-income units in developments to get a property tax break.

For Zech Artis, the devil is in the details.

“It’s a nice idea to have rent control, and it sounds great…but there are a lot of little details that need to be worked out,” Zech Artis said.

 

Transportation, other issues

One of the biggest points of contention of the evening came on the topic of this November’s Move Seattle levy.

Because the proposal doesn’t strictly earmark funding, Zech Artis said she’s against the measure, while Bagshaw expressed her support because she feels the funds will help every single neighborhood.

The incumbent council member said the levy focuses on reducing traffic congestion, maximizing safety and caring for the infrastructure already in place. That includes funding for RapidRide+ Corridors and the completion of Safe Routes to School projects.

“We’ve got to give people alternatives than driving their cars by themselves,” she said.

On the topic of municipal broadband, Bagshaw said the mayor made the right decision to scrap the plan and that the city should work with the private sector to form mutually beneficial partnerships.

“I would love to do it,” Bagshaw said, “but it had a $700 million price tag.”

Zech Artis said she was also initially against it because of the cost, but she’s “not ready to take it completely off the table.”

The two were also asked on how best to increase the civic engagement among the 20 percent of the population who are refugees or immigrants.

Bagshaw said that many members of those communities are already educated but end up taking jobs well below their skill level. To alleviate that, she’d like to work with local colleges to allow immigrants to test to their existing skill level in a given field, an idea forwarded to her in a meeting with One America.

Zech Artis mentioned a recent conversation she had with a person who immigrated from Vietnam in the 1970s, who said many women who came to the United States at that time remain illiterate, both in English and their native language. This, she said, leaves an entire group disenfranchised because they’re not citizens and have no means of becoming citizens. To that end, she’d like to support those people by either helping them learn English or find a way that lets them take the citizenship test orally.

 

Importance of libraries

The debate was one of six happening simultaneously at library branches across the city on Thursday night. Both candidates stressed the importance of the institution they were in.

Bagshaw said she wants to foster more coordination between the Seattle Public Library and Seattle Public Schools and emphasized the importance of libraries as a resource for those who don’t have Internet access and for the homeless.

Zech Artis reflected on her childhood, saying she used to walk from Lacey to Olympia just to access the nearest library. Without libraries, she said, it’s not possible to have a healthy community.

“It’s part of who I am,” Zech Artis said, “and what I’ve done all my life.”

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