Mayoral Candidates Talk Biz at Chamber-Sponsored Forum
Challengers to Mayor Mike McGinn used a business-community-sponsored forum yesterday to challenge his policies on downtown disorder, although most of them (with the exception of socialist Mary Martin, who said the main problem in the city is the capitalist system) fundamentally agreed that the main problem was the lack of spending on law enforcement. (Similarly, at a forum earlier this week that focused on arts and culture, they all agreed that the city should spend more money on ... arts and culture.)
Bowtied businessman Charlie Staadecker told the downtown-centric crowd of about 100 that he would work to make downtown safer, with fewer aggressive panhandlers and more jobs. "If you currently feel safe and happy in the city and feel it’s going in the right direction, then by all means vote for one of the career polticians that’s running right now," he said.
Another challenger, Kate Martin, said that "as a woman, a mother, and a business owner"—Martin is a landscape designer—"I'd like to see us create a much more safe, healthy, and welcoming downtown. ... I realize that we need social services and places for people to live, of course, but now we're at, like 65 percent poverty downtown ... public drunkenness, public drugging, people pissing on our streets and are buildings is completely unacceptable to me."
Meanwhile, former city council member Peter Steinbrueck reminded audience members about his push for 250 more police officers over a five-year period, and current city council member Bruce Harrell mentioned his call for body cameras on all police officers, to document any potential police misconduct.
Mayor Mike McGinn countered by pointing out that when he took office, the unemployment rate in the Seattle metropolitan area was above nine percent; currently, it's just over five percent.
In a statement clearly aimed at the conservative business audience (and echoed by Staadecker), Steinbrueck said he disagreed with the mayor's decision to raise parking rates (and extend paid-parking hours) downtown, adding, "Many of us still have to drive ... and I don't think the city should be in denial about that."
Finally, after Kate Martin argued for her proposed Alaskan Way Viaduct park (which would involve retaining the existing viaduct and turning it into a Highline-style green space), McGinn argued that the next parks levy should consist primarily of funding for parks operations and maintenance—an interesting position, given that the mayor campaigned heavily for the last parks levy, which included only money for new facilities, and no operations or maintenance dollars.