The Downtown Seattle Association, the nonprofit umbrella group for downtown businesses, issued candidate ratings in the mayor's race today.
Their top overall ratings, based on how the candidates aligned with a long list of DSA policies (broadly defined: "urban environment," "transportation," "economic competitiveness," and a catchall "overall rating" that includes things like prior record and previous experience) went to Mayor Mike McGinn and state Sen. Ed Murray; Murray, however, scored slightly higher than McGinn on economic competitiveness, which includes job growth, economic development, and small business support.
The rest of the candidates, in order of rank, were: Peter Steinbrueck, Bruce Harrell, and Kate Martin/Charlie Staadecker (who tied for last).
The ratings were based on questionnaires asking about downtown issues, including police accountability, street disorder, concentration of human services providers, parking prices, and bringing jobs to downtown.
You can read all the questionnaires on DSA's web site, but here are some highlights.
In response to a question about whether parking rates downtown are too high (the city raised rates and extended hours in parts of downtown), Bruce Harrell said parking rates should be lower or "even free," and said that he, unlike the other candidates, would abandon the city’s "historical approach of simply raising rates to increase city revenue" and "lower downtown parking rates to better align with bringing more customers to our Downtown businesses."
(Fact check: The city changed parking rates and hours downtown, and throughout the city, after a study that concluded doing so would produce an ideal one to two open spaces per block.)
Harrell also said he would consider expanding the number of businesses that don't have to pay their employees for sick time if "the impacts [of the city's mandatory paid sick-leave law] prove to be too burdensome."
In his questionnaire, which answered most questions (which focused on what the candidates would do in the future to improve downtown) Mayor Mike McGinn mostly looked back on his accomplishments in office (negotiating a settlement agreement with the DOJ, preserving human service funding, setting up a new play area in Westlake Park.)
But he did use a question about how to secure more Metro funding and create circulator transit service downtown to once again flog his proposal to extend light rail to Ballard and West Seattle, saying, "I will continue to plan new rail lines from downtown to other neighborhoods, including Ballard, the University District, and West Seattle, partnering with Sound Transit and other agencies where appropriate."
Ed Murray, meanwhile, started his response by taking a hard swing at McGinn, in response to a question about police accountability. "That a progressive city like Seattle has a police force operating under a Department of Justice consent decree is an absolute embarrassment. It is due to a failure of leadership at the top, and fixing the problem will require more than a new chief. It will require a new mayor, one who is focused on and committed to reforming the culture of the department and rebuilding trust between SPD and the public. ... Our current mayor and Council were largely disengaged from police oversight as problems festered and the Justice department intervened. I won’t let that happen again."
Kate Martin took a hard line on aggressive panhandling, drunkenness, and drug dealing downtown, saying that addicts should not be "allowed" to panhandle downtown, that "chronic addicts that can’t be rehabilitated [should be] housed away from tourists and kids because they scare people," and suggesting that the "bars that cause trouble" should have to close early "to hit their bottom line."
Finally, Peter Steinbrueck jumped on the parking-is-too-damn-high bandwagon, arguing that evening rates should be rolled back and that parking should be free after 6 pm (as opposed to 8 pm, as it is in parts of downtown).
"In the denser business districts, I favor lower parking rates and a return to the 6 p.m. cutoff for collecting fees, rather than the 8 p.m. extension of recent years. This would include normalizing the fee structure between areas of the city, so we don’t have very high rates in some and “too low” rates in others. It’s clear that “too high” rates, particularly in the evening, are a disincentive many people to dine, shop, or enjoy evening events downtown. The city has a legitimate advantage in promoting those businesses and activities, even if it foregoes the maximum amount of achievable revenue by so doing."