It's raining candidates in Seattle
By Jean Godden
More than 50 candidates are competing for the Seattle City Council's seven district seats. Meanwhile there are 10 candidates competing for two positions on the Port of Seattle Commission, another 10 are running in four King County Council districts and dozens more are seeking seats on suburban city councils and school boards.
It's a wide-open election and ballots are out and must be returned by Tuesday, August 6.
This year your vote matters -- perhaps more than ever. You will be choosing finalists for local government positions that will oversee the future of this city and region during angst-ridden times.
With a mid-summer primary and the distractions of national politics, some fear a light turnout. If that happens, it would be a sorry outcome. There are dozens of issues that require the attention of city, county and regional leaders. The Aug. 6 election is critical; it will narrow the field and shape choices.
With so many candidates on the ballot (627 filed -- second highest number in King County), it will be difficult to sort through and select the best individuals for jobs. How will one decide? Best, of course, is if you can talk one-on-one to candidates, watch them speak at a forum or at least study Voters Pamphlet statements and check out newspaper and online interviews.
One thing that helps separate serious candidates from lightweights is to look carefully at a candidate's choice of words. I'm always leery of people who spout generalities that don't mean much but sound good. It makes my head hurt to read phrases like "evidence-based priorities," "bold leadership on big questions," "take decisive action," and "solution-driven progressive leadership."
When picking candidates in the seven Seattle City Council races -- four of them without an incumbent -- it helps to resort to the old kindergarten credo: Does he/she/they work well with others? One of the problems with the present Seattle Council has been a curious lack of camaraderie. Individual councilmembers seem more intent on solving global problems or racing after unicorns while failing to focus on basics.
One hears complaints that some councilmembers devote little time visiting their districts or meeting with constituents. Last March there was a big flap over treatment of a white-bearded gentleman who had the audacity to ask Seattle councilmembers to look up and pay attention while he was speaking. Nevermind that the man, Richard Schwartz, comments frequently, ignoring rules. He was brusquely told his two minutes were almost up.
The incident was reported by Q13's Brandi Kruse who slammed councilmembers for inattention. Video of the episode does show councilmembers Mike O'Brien (who isn't running) and Kshama Sawant (who is) fingering their cell phones. The video went viral, unfortunately unleashing a torrent of ugly abuse directed mainly at female councilmembers. Apologies from councilmembers Deborah Juarez and Lorena Gonzalez barely registered.
The issue of inattention (however justifiable) is a valid consideration. Score high for candidates who say they will listen; score far higher if they can demonstrate an ability to do so. Be sure to look at a candidate's relevant experiences and I'm not referring just to candidates who claim they can "build coalitions." Better to show positive examples.
Informed voting is vital in this watershed primary election. Don't let others choose who will be standing for election in November. It's always important to vote, but this year, with at least four incumbents not running, Seattle voters will be selecting an almost new City Council. It's a rare opportunity to determine this city's future. Just do the right thing: Vote.