Folks who attended  last night's police accountability forum in Southeast Seattle noticed something odd about candidate questionnaires filled out by city council challengers Bobby Forch (running against incumbent Jean Godden) and Brad Meacham (running against incumbent Bruce Harrell): Their answers to several questions on the 11-page document were virtually (or completely) identical.

The two candidates share a consultant, John Wyble.

For example, in response to a question about how racial justice initiatives could be made more effective, Forch wrote the following (similar sections bolded):
It is imperative that we ensure equity for everyone in our community. We have to make every necessary effort to provide for equal opportunity and access to opportunity and representation for traditionally underrepresented and disenfranchised members of our community. History and data have shown that unless we make direct and focused efforts to specifically target, engage and include underrepresented populations, that the forces and circumstances that have enabled their disenfranchisement will continue. In times of historic educational achievement and opportunity gaps and record unemployment for communities of color, it is critical that we focus on improving educational and employment opportunities in these populations.

And Meacham wrote:
We must ensure equity in our city and work toward a society where an individual's character, ideas and actions are what matters. This requires every effort to provide equal access to opportunity and representation for traditionally underrepresented and disenfranchised members of our community. We must focus on improving educational and employment opportunities in order to bridge educational achievement, employment and opportunity gaps and then follow up to ensure that these initiatives are making concrete progress.

Another question asked how they would improve the effectiveness of race and social justice initiatives. Forch's response:
I believe employee, public and stakeholder surveys are most effective.

And Meacham's:
Effectiveness can be measured through constant contact with the community, employees and stakeholders of the programs. Reports from people working to implement the programs are an essential component.

Even more blatantly similar were the two candidates' answers to a question about how they would improve racial disparity work at the city.

Forch:
We should expand the Race and Social Justice initiative, as well as implement best practices and successes within departments and similar cities.

And Meacham:
We should expand the RSJI, as well as implement best practices and successes within departments and similar cities.

And in response to a question about racial bias in the criminal justice system, Forch responded:
Racial bias is clearly manifested in our criminal justice system. There is a tremendous amount of subjectivity and discretion involved in decisions to arrest, charge, and sentence. In each of those areas, people of color receive 2011 Seattle Candidates Survey on Police Accountability & Public Safety harsher outcomes in like situations than whites. In Seattle, people of color are more likely than whites to be arrested for the same infraction. People of color are more likely than whites to be charged more severely for the same crime, and are also more likely to be convicted of that crime. People of color are more likely to be held pre-trial for the same offense, and people of color receive longer average sentences than whites for the same offense.

And Meacham:
Racial bias is clearly manifest in our criminal justice system. In Seattle, people of color are much more likely to be arrested and then subsequently convicted of a crime. Minorities are far more likely to be arrested for drug activity and to be subjected to searches by police. Additionally, minorities are less likely to be released pre-trial and are generally given longer sentences than their white counterparts for the same offenses. White criminal offenders are given community supervision sentences at a much greater rate than minority offenders, who are more likely to be sentenced to a period of incarceration. Similarly, minority youth who break the law have a much higher chance of being referred to Juvenile Court than white youth.

Those are only a few of the many examples of similar or identical language in the 11-page survey.

Wyble said the two candidates' campaign managers—Crystal Fincher for Forch and Brianna Thomas for Meacham— probably did sit down in his office and shared answers on some questions. "I think once [the questionnaire] got to 11 pages, they probably did need a little help," he says. "That's how campaigns work: It's a team effort and they're trying to get it all done with a small staff. ... We don't usually have 12-page questionnaires."

However, the other three candidates who share a consultant---incumbents Tim Burgess, Sally Clark, and Tom Rasmussen---all gave different answers to every question on the survey.
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