Cola Candidate Ratings: City Council Position 5

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 member Tom Rasmussen

City Council Position 5

Tom Rasmussen (incumbent)

Resume: Above Average

Although he isn't the flashiest council member, Rasmussen has spent the past four years quietly getting things done---from the transportation benefit district that will fund transit, bike, and road improvements throughout the city, to helping repeal the unfair 40/40/20 Metro funding plan as a member of the regional transit task force, to creating a special district that promotes conservation in the Pike/Pine corridor, to promoting road diets over (unfounded) neighborhood objections, to creating a fund to help people unable to pay their water bills.

Knowledge of the Issues: Exceptional
Agree with him on the tunnel or not (he's for it), as transportation chair, Rasmussen has made himself the city's expert on every issue related to the city's transportation system. The fact that Gov. Gregoire chose Rasmussen (and not Mayor McGinn) to represent the city on the group that's planning next year's state transportation package is a testament to his superior knowledge on the subject---not to mention land use, parks, human services, and housing.

To-Do List & ability to get it done: Exceptional
In our interview, Rasmussen rattled off a list of legislation he'd like to pass, include creating a system where developers can sell off their rights to build taller in exchange for agreeing to preserve historic buildings; cracking down on aggressive nonprofit solicitors; fully funding and implementing the pedestrian and bike master plans; and crafting a transportation benefit district that restores the city's commitment to transit, bike infrastructure, sidewalks, and basic road maintenance. Based on his record, we have confidence in his ability to get his ambitious to-do list done.

Bonus Points
Rasmussen is better able to articulate his reasons for supporting the tunnel than any candidate we've seen.

In our interview, Rasmussen made a very dated argument against too much density at light rail stations (even citing the Seattle Displacement Coalition's John Fox)---namely, that density will push families out of neighborhoods and destroy the character of single-family areas. This is 2011, not 1999.

Dale Pusey

Resume: Unimpressive
Pusey is an accountant who moved to Seattle from Florida five years ago. As his main qualification for city council, he cites the fact that he rode his bike across the country and "encountered a wide variety of dangerous challenges ... including wildlife" and met a variety of different types of people.

Knowledge of the Issues: So-so
Other than vague statements about "reducing taxes and fees" during the recession and "improving transportation," Pusey's knowledge of the issues he'd face on the council is limited; indeed, he answered many of our questions with a long pause followed by some version of "I don't have a specific opinion on that."

To-do List & Ability to Get it Done: Unimpressive
Pusey appears to have two or three specific agenda items: keep the viaduct up and turn it into a two-level, elevated public park; roll back downtown parking rates; and relocate bike lanes to non-arterial streets. None of those ideas currently has any support on the council, and Pusey lacks the knowledge and political acumen to rally council members around his agenda.

Bonus Points
He bikes to work in Bellevue from his home in Delridge, and back, every day---a 26-mile round trip. That's dedication!

A park on the viaduct? Really?
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