Cola Candidate Ratings: City Council Position 1

By Erica C. Barnett August 9, 2011

Sticking with our commitment to be a more objective and balanced source of news (yep, this “liberal” site is the site that broke the story about the trickery of Democratic consulting firm, Moxie Media), we’re doing things differently this year than we have in the past. This year, we’re not going to tell you how to vote. Exactly.

Inspired by the even-keeled Seattle/King CountyMunicipal League, which ranks candidates based on skill, experience, and policy acumen rather than on ideology, we’ve been digging in to candidate resumes and doing interviews to come up with our own ratings.

In other words: We don't really care where a candidate stands on the tunnel. (OK, Erica does, but that didn't factor in to our ratings.) Instead, we’re grading the candidates on: Resume; Knowledge of the Issues; and Their To-Do List & Ability to Get it Done. We’ll also be issuing Bonus Points and Demerits.

Our scale: Exceptional; Above Average; Acceptable; So-so; Unimpressive; Unacceptable.

As for non-candidate election season stuff, including Ref. 1, we’re going to cut through the campaign rhetoric on both sides to tell you what this vote is actually about (and we don’t mean the arcane language on the ballot), and then we’ll break down the best and worst arguments on each side.

Our first batch: Seattle City Council.

City council incumbent Jean Godden.

City Council Position 1

Jean Godden (incumbent)

Resume: Acceptable
Godden headed up the city's budget committee during the worst economic downturn in recent memory---not an easy assignment. But she also tends to take sole credit for achievements the whole council worked on (like getting Russell Investments to relocate to Seattle from Tacoma). And many insiders at City Hall believe she's slowed down in recent years. Asked if that has been the case, Godden reverted to campaign speaking points about "getting up early in the morning and doing my aerobics." That's great, but has nothing to do with Godden's dedication to the tough job of being a council member.

Knowledge of the Issues: Acceptable
Godden is well-versed on some specific issues, like funding of libraries and community centers, but vague on others, like the purpose of road diets, the details of the latest paid sick leave proposal, and child sex trafficking through the pages of local alt-weeklies.

To-Do List & ability to get it doneSo-so
Godden told PubliCola she wants to take over the parks committee next year so she can help plan for Seattle Center's 50th anniversary and says she wants to "loosen regulations" to make the city more business-friendly but offered no specific proposals to do so. That's not the kind of urgency the city needs in a council member during tough economic times.

Bonus points
Godden is passionate about  women's issues, favoring Tim Burgess' controversial aggressive panhandling law out of concern for women's safety, and opposing restrictions on strip clubs on the grounds that the government shouldn't tell women "what kind of work they can do."

In our interview, Godden accused her opponents of playing "the age card," but turned around and played the victim card, accusing her challengers of outspending her and the media of portraying her as more vulnerable than she is.

And---taking off our objectivity hat briefly here---she's also squishy on an issue near and dear to PubliCola's green urbanist heart, telling the 36th District Democrats she believes McGinn is "too pro-bike" and expressing strong reservations about bike lanes.

Maurice Classen

Resume: Exceptional
Classen, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney at King County, has run businesses (a dental practice he took over after losing both of his parents and, currently, two Seattle bars), headed up a burglary-reduction team at the county, raised money for groups serving immigrants and the disabled, and advocated for domestic-violence victims.

Knowledge of the Issues: Exceptional
Classen, a first-time candidate, has done his research. His platform is wonky (and wide-ranging) to a fault, and includes things like: Licensing and zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries, change the way police inquests are performed so that SPD isn't investigating its own officers, implementing mandatory drug testing after police shootings, reprioritizing domestic violence services in the city's human services department, open-source coding (!) for city ordinances, and giving city employees more of a hand in crafting the city budget.

To-do list & ability to get it done: Above Average
Classen's to-do list is impressive (see above). And although he certainly disagrees with some council members on a variety of issue, we think he'd play well with the rest of the council and be effective on any committee he was assigned to.

Bonus Points
Classen calls Godden's use of the gender card (she says the council needs her because she's a woman) "ridiculous," adding, "I was raised by an incredibly strong feminist woman who inculcated those same values in me."

We're not sure if Classen's running for Godden's seat because he really opposes her, or because Godden's was the only race in which Classen's consultant, Christian Sinderman, didn't already have a candidate.

Bobby Forch
Resume: Above Average
Forch has worked at the Seattle Department of Transportation under numerous transportation directors and mayors and is clearly familiar with how the city works. A career city employee, he increased city funding to minority- and women-owned businesses at SDOT, and is active in the 37th District Democrats.

Knowledge of the Issues: Acceptable
Forch is extremely specific on the issue that's clearly closest to his heart---police accountability (he wants to recruit more officers from inside the city's neighborhoods, put a civilian on the city's firearms review panel, and subject the police chief to reconfirmation)---but vague on other issues, talking in general terms about "social justice," "promoting economic development," and "building a consensus to get things done."

To-Do List and Ability to Get It Done: Acceptable
Forch's vagueness on his goals (and the fact that he says his main council allies will likely be Nick Licata and Mike O'Brien, two council members who frequently find themselves on the losing end of 8-1 votes) makes us skeptical of his ability to come up with an agenda and get it done. That said, he does have a specific plan to promote police accountability and a proposal to put a citywide transportation package on the ballot.

Bonus Points
Forch's insider status will make him ready to hit the ground running.

We're not sure being a city insider for two decades lines up with Forch's vow to shake up the council with a new progressive agenda.

Michael Taylor-Judd

Resume: Acceptable
A longtime manager at a nonprofit health care company who has worked in the Democratic Party, advocated for marriage equality with several local gay-rights groups, and worked on all four monorail campaigns, Taylor-Judd has the kind of activist background that's currently lacking on the council.

Knowledge of the Issues: Above Average
Although his main issue is opposition to the tunnel, Taylor-Judd has also done his homework on the city neighborhoods department (he says it's become too centralized), transportation funding (he's concerned about the need to rebuild I-5), and transit funding (he wants the city to lobby in Olympia for a local sales tax on gas).

To-Do List and Ability to Get it Done: So-so
Taylor-Judd, who's running primarily to promote the surface/transit option, is fundamentally a single-issue candidate with little money, a small support base, and little chance of winning.

Bonus Points
We're impressed by Taylor-Judd's commitment to his West Seattle community and his activism not just in partisan politics but for worthy causes like marriage equality.

Taylor-Judd is markedly less dynamic on the stump than either of his fellow challengers, who both happen to also be better-funded.
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