An academic approach to politics

Listening to Alfred Runte speak about his campaign for Seattle mayor against incumbent Greg Nickels, one can't help but notice the decades of academic experience and environmental activism behind his words.

Leaving academia behind, Runte says he sees his call now is to be an active executive for the city.

"What else has Mr. Nickels done but be a politician?" Runte asked.

With that question ringing in his mind, the Wedgwood resident filed his candidacy in mid-July, deciding it was time to put his own hat in the ring instead of complaining.

"We appreciate our opposition's comments and their criticisms, but they need to do their homework," said Viet Shelton, Nickels' campaign manager for his 2005 re-election.

Shelton stated that the mayor has done many things over the last four years that have taken the city back to its basic principles of building strong families and healthy communities, including renewing the Families and Education Levy, which provided $116 million to Seattle Public Schools.

Meeting the people

The mayor is taking his campaign seriously, keeping his re-election strategy "simple," Shelton said. Nickels will attend community meetings and events and host neighborhood block parties throughout the fall.

Using a different campaign strategy, Runte is combining his love of education with his activism. His campaign strategy focuses on seeking out influential individuals, community activists, business leaders and ordinary citizens to gain insight into the leadership they want.

"You have to have a confidence in yourself, and you have to have the humility to admit that these people may be right" about the issues surrounding their own communities, Runte said.

Taking the stands

One of Runte's campaign platforms is having development work hand-in-hand with environmental responsibility.

"I am against rampant development, with no parks or amenities.... It is just concrete and steel [now] - that is what the mayor is doing by pandering to developers," Runte charged.

To this claim, Shelton cited the city's purchase of 40 acres of open space, the mayor's push to fight global warming and the many business grants and community matching funds awarded during his first term.

Despite these claims, however, Runte insists that building the city beyond its capacity and destroying views and parks to create new jobs is not the answer. He said he will work with developers and the communities to fix city streets and update neighborhoods long in need of repair.

Additionally, Runte argued that the lack of progress on traffic congestion and construction on the monorail and light rail are due to too many separate boards controlling the projects and little communication between them.

"When I am mayor, [the boards are] going to connect," Runte said. "They are going to talk to one another, and they are going to coordinate."

Runte also said that by laying new track on old rail paths throughout the city, Seattle can begin to take advantage of mass-transit opportunities in the near future while easing the expense of costly consulting plans.

Another campaign issue Runte hopes to tackle is the crisis in the public-school district, by pushing for teachers' pay increases, which will ultimately bring more talented and motivated teachers into the district.

Runte also wants to create new affordable housing opportunities to keep the working and middle classes in Seattle and ensure that work on the $500 million in backlogged city street repairs gets started.

No endorsements

Though the primary elections are coming up quickly, several districts have yet to endorse candidates. The 36th, 43rd and 46th District Democrats all chose to not endorse a mayoral candidate.

Instead, the 46th District Democrats will host a meet-and-greet for candidates at Olympic View Elementary School, 504 N.E. 95th St., on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. The group will then decide on whom to endorse for the general election.

Talking Politics: This is the fifth part of Chantelle Lusebrink's continuing series in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook that introduces the North End candidates in this year's elections.[[In-content Ad]]