March 13, 2015 The evening had all the ingredients necessary for a knock-down, drag-out night of bare knuckle debate; a Lawyer, a (former) Pastor, and a Mayoral Legacy sharing the same stage? Hold on to your hats!!!
Well, that’s what one might expect. Sadly, neither the fire and brimstone of a two-fisted Sam Childers, nor the earth shaking revelations of a Annalise Keating were present at the Broadview forum… and for those hoping to see the rise of the next great political prodigy? The night may have come up a little short.
The District 5 candidates for the most part stuck to their scripts (which some candidates had literally printed out and read from each time they answered a question). The evening seemed to be more about meeting the candidates and seeing which one had the friendliest demeanor, with the only real passion or deviation from script coming during the discussion on infrastructure.
Still the evening was impressive in that the event went off without a hitch, great sound system, comfortable seating, good lighting, and a program that started and ended on time. The evening began with a very informative lesson on District 5 from Campaign Consultant Ben Anderstone. The event was moderated by Broadview Community Council Chair Jim Jensen who did a great job of being seen without taking over the show. The introduction period then gave some insight into who was running and why; ranging from our newest neighbor Sandy Brown to David Toledo’s near lifetime as a north Seattle resident.
Our New Neighbors:
Sandy Brown is a former Minister who moved to District 5 when he saw that there was a need for leadership on the issues important to him. Recently Brown advocated for Initiative 594 which required criminal background checks for those purchasing firearms online and at gun shows.
Mercedes Elizalde says she was also drawn to run in District 5 after seeing the need for more social services and housing. Elizalde is one of the only union members currently running for office (David Toledo is the other).
Halei Watkins moved to the north Seattle about 2 years ago and states that her experience as a community organizer for Planned Parenthood gives her the tools she needs to get things done.
The Old Guard:
Debora Juarez bought her home in Lake City 12 years ago. Juarez, who is a lawyer, says her experience building relationships with Washington State’s Indian tribes demonstrates her ability to work with large scale contracts and budgets.
Mian Rice recently bought a home in Maple Leaf after living in Licton Springs for the past 12 years. The son of former Mayor Norm Rice; Mian believes his experience with government agencies and history working at the Small Business and Policy Department of the Port of Seattle makes him an excellent candidate for City Council.
David Toledo is a 40-year resident (and renter) in North Seattle who believes that candidates should know the neighborhoods that they seek to represent. David’s introduction fondly recalled childhood memories of time spent with his mother at the Bitter Lake playground; and made mention of several community icons of the past including Cinema 1-2-3 and the Kiddyland at Woodland Park Zoo.
All candidates agreed that transportation is a major issue in District 5. All candidates were in agreement that we needed to find funding sources for our bus lines, move forward with the light rail station at 130th, and provide protected bike-lanes throughout the district. There was no visible stand-out in the idea department, and no one offered ideas on funding, but Mian Rice noted that his Master’s Degree in Transportation Planning from the school of Civil Engineering would give him an advantage in tackling problem areas.
Once again the candidates all seemed to be in agreement regarding a need for affordable housing in District 5. Mercedes Elizalde pointed out that in her position at LIHI she works regularly with seniors that can’t keep up with the ever climbing rent in the Seattle area. Sandy Brown stated that we must be patient and give Mayor Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee time to work. Halei Watkins stated she is a renter and knows how hard it is to make ends meet. David Toledo had perhaps the best statement when he said that the term affordable housing is very broad and could include rent control, mixed income housing, and various subsidy programs. Toledo encouraged the audience to google David Toledo where they will find his recently published article on understanding the affordable housing conversation. (https://wevotetoledo.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/the-affordable-housing-conversation-everyone-can-understand/)
Surprisingly, none of the candidates touched on upzoning, mirco housing, or tent cities.
Public Safety and improving the Aurora Corridor
The candidates were in agreement that there needed to be increased funding for the police in District 5. Sandy Brown stated that he would like to see police expand their role to patrolling neighborhoods as opposed to simply responding. Mercedes Elizalde cited public safety during bus rides as a major concern. Mian Rice stated focusing on infrastructure and improving the signage at the city limits would help cut down on crime and prostitution. David Toledo stated that in order to reduce crime on Aurora we need to focus on bringing in and supporting new types of businesses that discourage the criminal element from prospering; briefly touching on regulatory reform for small businesses. Halei Watkins stated that she applauded the Mayor’s plan to add 50 new police to the department but stated she would like to see that doubled.
Experience Managing a Billion Dollar Budget
When asked who had experience managing a budget the size of our city, the candidates all took turns looking at the floor and began grasping for branches in hopes of finding something in their portfolio that would prove they are ready to engage such a beast. Halei Watkins stated she doesn’t have experience in the financial field, but that she’s good at math and not afraid of a challenge. Debora Juarez cited her work with the tribal community and stated that she had often been involved with contracts and negotiations that included the exchange of billions of dollars. David Toledo pointed out that he would assemble the best team possible when dealing with city budget issues, but also cited his previous experience as an area manager for Kodak during their heyday. Mian Rice cited his experience negotiating contracts for the Port and working directly with the City of Seattle. Sandy Brown stated that budgets are very similar when it comes to the nuts and bolts and that in his previous role as Pastor he was responsible for large scale church operations.
Infrastructure (Sidewalks and Sewage)
All candidates agreed that the lack of sidewalks is a major concern. However, only David Toledo was willing to tackle the issue of sewage in District 5. Toledo discussed the need for upgrading the Sewage Pumps in the area, and stated that when the Midvale Pump fails the sewage is redirected into Green Lake. He further stated the station had 3 pump failures in 2013. Toledo went on to say that during a single failure in 2008 over 95,000 gallons of sewage was dumped into Green Lake.
Oil and Coal Transportation
All candidates agreed that their needed to be strong over-site and regulation of oil and coal transportation through District 5. Sandy Brown pointed out that the train tracks run very close to the shores of Golden Gardens and that a spill could have tragic results. Halei Watkins backed Sandy’s statement by pointing out areas on the map that are at risk if a spill should occur. Debora Juarez stated that because of her background and her heavy involvement with Native American’s that the environment is very important to her.
The remainder of the evening was filled with items such as favorite restaurants and places to site-see in Seattle. As this was the first forum of the campaign season I think that a soft-ball style approach was acceptable. However, voters will undoubtedly require answers on program funding and a much more defined stance on hot top issues as the campaigns move forward. Cheers to the Broadview Community Council for putting on a very welcoming, professional forum that was enjoyable from start to finish.
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