Five candidates vying for three positions on the Seattle City Council had a chance to weight in on key local issues in an Oct. 15 debate co-hosted by Magnolia Community Council, Magnolia/Queen Anne District Council, Queen Anne Community Council and Uptown Alliance, hoping to sway some additional votes their way before the Nov. 3 General Election.
Sally Bagshaw and Deborah Zech Artis, who are going head-to-head to represent Seattle’s District 7, joined Tim Burgess and Jon Grant, who are running against each other for at-large (citywide representation) Position 8, and Position 9 candidate Bill Bradburd to speak before a large audience at Whole Foods (2001 15th Ave. W.) in Interbay.
The five candidates shared their thoughts on some of the biggest issues surrounding the city, including housing, the development of the Uptown neighborhood and public education.
Lorena González, who is running for at-large Position 9 against Bradburd, did not make the scheduled debate appearance. Her campaign team did not return a phone call to clarify on the reasons why she chose not to attend.
The need to provide affordable housing was one of the key issues going into the debate. Bagshaw, the six-year incumbent, said her preferred strategy to promote this is to have the city build transit-oriented developments.
“If we grow the density on those locations, we can increase the number of houses,” Bagshaw said. “If we can have dense, affordable housing along light rail lines and rapid-ride lines, we can make housing more affordable for people that are living along those corridors.”
Bagshaw’s opponent Zech Artis said that while she supports promoting density in the city, she said she sees major issues with some of the wording and the areas of accommodation provided by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA).
“The HALA [recommendations] defined an urban center as a place where you have to have sidewalks,” Zech Artis said. “That eliminates Greenwood. Greenwood doesn’t have sidewalks in most of the areas.... I think we’re putting too much ‘business as usual’ approach with downtown.”
Zech Artis also suggested the city adopt Utah’s “Housing First” initiative, which used federal and state funds to provide shelter and resources to decrease homelessness in the area.
Bradburd was also against HALA’s recommendations, explaining that HALA aims to reserve about 5 percent of the units to be sold at affordable prices, while other big cities usually ask for 20 percent of all units in similar affordable housing initiatives.
“The deals are made beneficial to the developers,” Bradburd said. “HALA calls for building more housing without parking…. Is that even a good idea?”
On the other hand, City Council’s seven-year incumbent Tim Burgess looks to move forward with implementing the HALA recommendations. He said the linkage fee (or mandatory commercial affordable housing fee) will get every commercial building to pay for part of affordable housing.
“Every time you build a residential building, you have to set aside a certain number for affordable housing,” Burgess said.
His opponent and challenger Jon Grant wants the linkage fees to be tweaked where the fee is imposed on both commercial and residential development.
“If we were to fully implement this fee, it could bring in $1.2 billion over the next 10 years,” Grant said. “The mayor’s [current] proposal will generate about $640 million.”
Incumbents Burgess and Bagshaw both talked about how pleased they were to see art zones being developed along Mercer Street.
Both went on to add that they hope to see Sound Transit’s ST3 plan consider proposing its new light rail route and stations run through Seattle Center to get to downtown.
Zech Artis, however, was more concerned with residents being displaced from Uptown due to the higher costs of living. She also added that Uptown’s growth brings major concerns to small businesses.
“Seattle is not very business-friendly, so we have to be careful about the taxes we put on them and the ability for people to find parking in those places,” Zech Artis said.
Grant, took a different path in commenting on the development of Uptown neighborhoods. He brought up the experience he had in volunteering with The Vera Project.
“I just saw so many young kids of every walk of life [there] with some of these amazing works of art,” Grant said. “That was 10 years ago for me, and I saw a lot of those kids grow up. A lot of them are involved in politics, and now they are the movers and shakers.”
He went on to add that his vision for developing Uptown is figuring out ways that the city can create those kinds of collaborations with the Seattle Center and get the younger generations to be more involved in civic life.
Grant also agreed with his opponent that ST3 is a welcome addition for Uptown, as he said the neighborhood needs to have more reliable connections to downtown.
The last part of the discussion asked the candidates on how the city could improve the school district without intruding on the school board.
Zech Artis said communication is key in improving the relationship between the Seattle City Council and the local school district.
“We’ve got some serious work to do in opening up lines of communication if we want anything [positive] to happen in the school district,” she said.
Bradburd agreed with Zech Artis, as he was critical of the collaboration and communication between the city and Seattle Public Schools.
Bagshaw stressed the importance of pre-kindergarten programs, saying a successful start in a child’s education often leads to students growing up to stay away from gangs and going on to be successful in pursuing jobs that require technical skills.
Burgess said he believes the city has two roles when it comes to education: strategic partner and chief cheerleader for public education.
“We spend about $45 million a year in [the] Families and Education Levy and Seattle Preschool programs,” Burgess said. “Those funds are used to fund in and around our schools for kids who are struggling academically.”
Grant’s suggestion for improving education was finding ways to subsidize for transporting students to schools.
“There was a study that when kids receive free transportation passes for buses to take them to school, their grade performance skyrockets,” Grant said “Free bus fare will help these students get to school on time.”
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