Seattle Mayor's Race 2013
A Preview of Wednesday's City Neighborhood Council Debate
A preview of next week's mayoral debate, sponsored by the frequently anti-development City Neighborhood Council.
Well, pro-development, urbanist Mayor Mike McGinn isn't likely to fare well at next week's City Neighborhood Council mayoral forum, if a list of sample questions obtained by PubliCola for that event is any indication.
The group has opposed increasing density around light rail stations, an upzone in the Roosevelt neighborhood, and microhousing. (They've also advocated for more neighborhood amenities, such as sidewalks, street repairs, and park improvements.)
The questions are beyond leading: Each one starts with a lengthy lecture about a problem facing (or supposedly facing) neighborhoods—"sweetheart deals" for developers, inadequate parks, and overstressed transit, to name just a few—followed by a question that no pro-development or pro-density candidate could possibly answer to the CNC's satisfaction.
These are, of course, just potential questions, not an official list. And the last CNC forum I attended was informative and fast-paced—"anything but a parochial whinefest," as I wrote at the time. So while I'm reserving judgment, here are the sample questions, verbatim except where an ellipsis indicates a cut for length.
"The Growth Management Paradigm"
Q: Seattle is in a funding crisis – we have over $2 billion in deferred roads infrastructure improvements, we need a $200 million substation for South Lake Union ... mass transit systems proposed always require additional funding because fare box revenues come nowhere close to paying for them, etc. Do you support developer impact fees – something that every surrounding municipality uses? Do you believe that the growth management paradigm that growth pays for growth is working in Seattle? What will you do to keep our infrastructure and public asset base, which has been on a downward spiral, from continuing on this trajectory?
Q: Sweetheart deals for developers continue unabated in Seattle. Unaccounted city hours and dollars we[re] spent on the Sonics arena deal which would channel hundreds of millions of tax revenues into that project. The build out of South Lake Union for the benefit of Vulcan and institutions and non-profits (that do not contribute to our tax base) was at the expense of other areas in the city that are already planned for additional growth and jobs, such as the south end station areas. A public toilet is being proposed in Pioneer Square in exchange for 3 additional stories on a project in this historic district. ... What will you do to ensure that better oversight of our public resources and fair use of our limited public funds to ensure equitable development throughout the City?
Q: The South Lake Union plan now adds thousands of more jobs than housing units to that area. This imbalance will result in more demands on our transit systems and roads, it will increase congestion, and place housing cost pressures on surrounding neighborhoods to house all these additional workers. What will you do as mayor to ensure better planning for growth in our neighborhoods so that these negative consequences are avoided?
"Limited Citizen Engagement"
Q: Neighborhood planning has arguably diminished in the last decade such that planning is now largely controlled by the city with limited citizen engagement in the process which is mostly confined to a few public meetings with citizen input captured on post-it notes. Do you believe that this change has been effective, and what will you do to improve the citizen planning process so that our Comprehensive Plan to the people?
"Tied to the Development Industry"
Q: Citizen commissions and advisory groups are now largely staffed by people tied to the development industry. The Planning Commission, by our Charter and legislatively, is to be staffed with citizens of varying viewpoints. This is not the case. Design Review Boards no longer have a real community voice and instead represent developer interests that just live in the neighborhood. Will you reverse this trend for appointments to people favorable to interests that may not be aligned with the citizens of Seattle nor meet the intent of these bodies?
The CNC forum is next Wednesday, June 26, in the Bertha Knight Landes Room at City Hall, 600 4th Ave.
...And some Extra Afternoon Fizz:
• Gov. Jay Inslee held a press conference this afternoon where he said he was "confident" that a budget deal would be reached over the weekend. He also continued to stump for a transportation package, saying, "[This package] is probably the number one issue related to job creation."
• Aaron Pickus, the main spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn, will be taking a seven-week leave of absence, starting next Monday, to work on the mayor's campaign. The election is August 6.