PubliCola Candidate Ratings: Seattle City Council Position 1

By PublicolaPicks October 26, 2011

Sticking with our commitment to be a more objective and balanced source of news, we’re doing things differently this year than we have in the past.

Inspired by the even-keeled Seattle/King County Municipal League’s approach to candidates (rather than endorsing, the Muni League rates based on skill, experience, and policy acumen as opposed to ideology), we’ve been talking to candidates and interviewing folks on both sides of the ballot measures and coming up with our own ratings.

Here’s our take on I-1125, the tolling initiative, our take on I-1183, the liquor privatization measure, and I-1163, the health care worker training initiative. And here’s our rating of King County Council Position 6 incumbent Jane Hague and her challenger, Richard Mitchell, and our take on the candidates for Seattle City Council Position 3, Seattle City Council Position 5Seattle Port Commission Position 5., the Seattle School Board.)

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.

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 the council member, who just turned 80, has slowed down in recent years. As head of the budget committee, she often drifts off mid-sentence, interrupt staffers as they try to answer questions from other council members, or forgets which council member is in line to speak next. After two terms on budget, if Godden's reelected, she's likely to take a demotion next year to the much lower-profile Seattle Public Utilities committee.

Asked if her age has affected her performance, 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. She's also made some bizarre statements---claiming, for example, that the state should cut funding for the UW instead of cutting human services, and accusing the city's transportation department, falsely, of failing to let contracts to women- and minority-owned businesses.

To-Do List & ability to get it doneSo-so
Traditionally, the SPU committee has gone to the newest member of the council, both because most council members consider water and sewer issues "boring" and because it's one of the council's lowest-profile committees. (The "sexy" committees? Land use and transportation.) So the fact that Godden, a two-term council veteran, is in line to head up SPU is a pretty clear indication of her status on the council; after two terms heading up the important budget committee, she's queued up for a rookie assignment. That's not the sign of an energetic council member with an ambitious agenda to accomplish. (As for Godden's stated priorities, she wants to beautify the waterfront and make Seattle Center a great place in time for its 50th anniversary---again, hardly the most pressing issues during the ongoing economic downturn).

Bonus points
Godden is passionate about  women’s issues, favoring Tim Burgess’ controversial aggressive panhandling law out of concern for women’s safety, adding language to a resolution supporting Occupy Wall Street to note that the recession has disproportionately impacted women, 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. That could be one reason the Sierra Club endorsed her opponent, Bobby Forch.

Newspaper endorsements to check out: The Seattle Times.

Notable contributions: The Seattle Mariners, SEIU 775.

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 (at a time when other city departments were struggling to find eligible WMBE contractors), and is active in the 37th District Democrats.

Knowledge of the Issues: Above Average
Although we dinged Forch during the primary election for failing to offer specifics, talking generally about "social justice,"  “promoting economic development,” and “building a consensus to get things done," he's done his homework since August. Forch now talks in much more concrete terms about everything from parking meter rates (he wants to lower them downtown and keep parking free on Sundays) to city-owned parking lots like Pacific Place (he thinks the city should get out of the commercial parking business) to 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).

To-Do List and Ability to Get It Done: Acceptable
Forch ran in 2009 (for the seat Mike O'Brien ultimately won) as the business candidate. This time, he's running as "the progressive in the race," with backing from both O'Brien and the council's lefty stalwart, Nick Licata. Ideologically and in terms of the policies he'll actually pursue if he's elected, that makes Forch a bit of a mystery. 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.

Newspaper endorsements to check out: The Stranger.

Notable contributions: Former SDOT director Grace Crunican, former city council member Judy Nicastro.
Show Comments