PubliQuestion and Answer: Sally Bagshaw

By Erica C. Barnett July 6, 2009

The fourth in a series of Q&As with the candidates for Seattle City Council. (Previously, we talked to Position 2 challenger David Ginsberg and Position 8 candidates David Miller and Jordan Royer).

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Today we talk with Sally Bagshaw, a former head of the civil division at the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, onetime chair of Allied Arts' Waterfront for All committee (which supported a cut-and-cover tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct), and a small-plane pilot and flight instructor. Bagshaw is running to replace Position 4 incumbent Jan Drago, who's running for mayor; her main opponent (in a field of four) is David Bloom, longtime deputy director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle and co-founder of the Seattle Displacement Coalition. Bloom has been raking in endorsements from the district Democratic organizations—a fact Bagshaw supporters attribute to her support of Republican candidates over the years, including King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

PubliCola: In your race, David Bloom is running on an old-school, Nick Licata-like agenda: More low-income housing, a living wage, and ditching the $200 million Mercer fix. In contrast, I don't really know what you stand for. What will your top priorities be if you're elected?

Sally Bagshaw: Four things, maybe five. The first is the economy of Seattle. People want jobs, they're afraid of losing what they've got, and they're not seeing a future. ... It's creating an environment of supporting businesses and saying, "We want you to come here." Education. Even if you don't have kids in school, it matters. Our public school system should be the envy of the nation. Zoning—how can we support neighborhoods? What I want to see is more flexibility within each neighborhood as to what designs people are willing to accept within their neighborhoods. People don't want the government to tell them what they have to have... [The neighborhoods are] saying, "We will take on our share [of new development], we just want a say in the design. And transportation. I don't see intelligent, integrated transportation planning being done between Metro and SDOT. With the snow, for example, SDOT should have been telling Metro which streets were being plowed and Metro should have been telling SDOT which buses were running. There was no excuse the lack of comunication between SDOT and Metro and the public.

PubliCola: I think of you and your opponent David Bloom as very different. What, in your mind, distinguishes you most from David?

Bagshaw: David is a gentleman and he is a man of very good intentions and he's done a tremendous amount of good for the affordable housing and human services communities. The difference, for me, is breadth and depth of experience. I was Ron Sims' legal advisor for 13 years. I have 31 years of experience as a lawyer. I've dealt with virtually every issue you can imagine ... [including] housing and human services. ... I was Metro's primary lawyer negotiating with Sound Transit. I've worked on housing, transportation, and economic development.

PubliCola: You often tout your legal experience in the King County prosecutor's office. Do you consider yourself the conservative candidate in this race?

Bagshaw: I wouldn't say I'm conservative at all. I would call myself progressive. And if somebody had asked me before i got into the race with David I would have said I'm one of the most liberal candidates in any race.

PubliCola: But you do support repealing the "head tax" (a $25-per-employee tax that pays for transportation improvements like sidewalks and exempts employees who don't drive to work alone).

Bagshaw: It's a novel idea to try to raise some money for sidewalks, which all people want. But nobody wants to raise taxes. ... It's not so much an impact as it is an insult. When I talk to employers there really is a sense that they're doing their best and that this was just another burden.

PubliCola: You haven't been getting many endorsements from the Democratic organizations, because you supported Republicans in the past. Some of your supporters have suggested to me that those endorsements don't really matter. What do you think?

Bagshaw: I think they do matter. I've worked for Democratic candidates since I was 17—my first Democratic campaign was for Frank Church, and I worked hard to get Obama elected—but I supported a couple of Republicans over the years and I'm being shunned. The irony kills me because we say we love Obama because he has reached across the aisle and yet I worked for Norm Maleng, and I worked very hard for my good friend Dan Satterberg, and when Rob McKenna asked me to be his transition leader he asked me because I was a Democrat and I could reach across the aisle.

PubliCola: Tell me about becoming a pilot.

Bagshaw: It had been my lifelong dream to fly. When I was 47 years old, I got $5000 handed to me as a bonus that I didn't expect. My kids were in college, and I had 90 days where I didn't have a lawsuit or anything to take up all my time. So I asked them, "how long does it take?" and they said, "it depends on how much you're willing to put into it. And after about the third lesson I would have given a major organ to be able to fly. Within 90 days, I got my flight certification, then I got my float certification, then I got my instrument rating, and then I decided I wanted to become a flight instructor. ... It was just a skill I needed to learn. Being a flight instructor is great, I'm very happy doing it, but it's not enough.

PubliCola: You're one of two women running for city council (out of 15 candidates for four positions). Why do you think there aren't more women running?

Bagshaw: I don't know, because there's some very qualified people out there right now. I look at Kathy Nyland (Bagshaw's campaign manager and the head of the City Neighborhood Council) and I think she'd make a great candidate. I just can't tell you why there aren't more women running.

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