Mayor Mike McGinn and Sen. Ed Murray are fighting for the top executive position in Seattle this November, and swung by the West Seattle Senior Center for a forum on Sept. 17.
Mayoral contenders battle it out in West Seattle
The political melee between incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn and challenger Sen. Ed Murray (43rd District) was in full swing on Sept. 17 as the two faced off at the West Seattle Senior Center in front of a packed house.
The Q & A debate ran for an hour and heated up at times, with both candidates challenging each other’s management skills and priorities heading into a November election to decide Seattle’s next executive.
With five minute opening remarks, McGinn focused on his accomplishments in the past four years.
“When I took office we were in the middle of the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression,” he said. “It was hard on our people; it was hard on the city budget too. That’s when we went out there and started looking at what was important. You told us jobs were important and we worked with our traditional industries, our new industries and I can report to you that we have been growing jobs in Seattle at a faster rate than the region, than the state, than the nation.”
He went on to tout accomplishments in doubling the Family and Education Levy, balancing the budget and working to rebuild the rainy day fund, protecting human services in the face of budget cuts and properly funding road budgets and other infrastructure projects.
Murray took a different approach, touting first his connections to West Seattle as his childhood home where he attended Holy Rosary.
“West Seattle is a special place to me and I can assure you if I am elected mayor it will not be an afterthought,” he said.
Taking the crowd of mostly West Seattle elders into account, he launched into recent legislation he helped pass that raised the wage of home health care workers, increased their training funding and increased background checks before they enter a home.
“I’m running for Mayor because … I’ve found a way to bring people together, republicans as well as democrats, … and actually fund programs, and I think Seattle is craving leadership that is willing to sit people around a table and come up with common sense solutions,” he said.
Murray went on to call public safety and transportation “significant” problems in Seattle that cannot be blamed on the work being done in Olympia.
An early dispute between the two arose as Murray suggested McGinn stood in the way of funding a traffic light at 47th and Admiral, where city council aide Matthew “Tatsuo” Nakata was killed after being hit by a car while using the crosswalk in 2006. McGinn instantly shot back “Not true.” Earlier this year McGinn called for a flashing beacon at the intersection and a study to be done on a signal. In June, the City Council bypassed the study and approved funding for a signal at the intersection.
With tensions properly peaked for your standard political debate, moderator Lucy Gaskill-Gaddis presented the candidates with a handful of questions collated from the audience.
How will you address transportation issues, from looming Metro reductions to SR 99 Tunnel construction delays?
Regarding transportation, Murray said we need to create a “high tech war room” of local, regional and statewide decision makers to work through budget and infrastructure issues. He said Olympia is working hard to get a transportation package together before the end of the year to avoid Metro cuts (they’ve said reductions of 17 percent are possible in 2014).
McGinn went back to his record, citing savings from the Spokane St. project that will be used for the Admiral/47th signal and improvements currently being made to Delridge Way S.W. as work being done today. He said work will undoubtedly continue as the SR 99 Tunnel tolls will keep people out and looking towards other routes downtown.
“As we grow, really the only thing that is going to solve this is more transit,” he said. “(Metro) needs more money … we are prepared to start talking about what are we going to do locally to fund this. We can’t wait forever on Olympia.”
In rebuttals, Murray said “you can bash Olympia or you can choose to work with Olympia … What we are missing is a partnership with the city of Seattle and what we need is a mayor who can actually go down there and work with Olympia …”
McGinn said he’s not bashing Olympia, “but the fact of the matter is Olympia has underfunded education, it has underfunded health services, it has underfunded a lot of things. They have challenges there.”
Density and development in West Seattle: What role does the community have in land use decisions and what role do social issues play?
McGinn said if the city is going to allow growth, the builders should take affordable housing into account. “I want us to look at whether (developers) should be required to build affordable housing units within their development, and not just pay a fee,” he said.
He then went into his highly publicized opposition to the massive Whole Foods/apartment complex planned for the Fauntleroy Triangle. “Should we sell our city property … to a company that could drive down benefits and wages of workers? Given the issue around rising income inequality in this nation and in this city, I decided to make a recommendation to the city council that they not sell the property.” Specifically, the project calls for the city to give up a rarely used alley on the property for it to move forward. City council has yet to vote on the alley vacation.
McGinn speared Murray for “criticizing what I did was wrong only a month or so after standing in front of grocery store workers to say he supported the idea.”
“So the attacks go on,” Murray responded. “Actually I do support the idea, what I did not support was the Mayor’s approach to it.”
Murray went on to say he would revamp the “underlying ordinances” relating to land use “to establish a policy of social benefit across the board.”
Ultimately, neither candidate addressed the concern voiced by so many West Seattleites in the past several years: That further density is forever changing the character of their hometown, and whether or not they have a say in the peninsula’s development future.
Public safety – what can be done to reduce crime and improve the police department?
Murray went back to the Justice Department investigation of Seattle police, and said “we ended up with years of a police department in turmoil … that remains in turmoil.” He said his first order of business would be to hire a new chief of police and that “we have to admit that we have a problem. Not all crime is down in all sections of the city and not all violence can be blamed simply on the Washington State Legislature, as you will soon here.”
McGinn fired back: “Let’s talk about crime. When I took office we did, in fact, have a police department that wasn’t trusted by the community.” He said he developed a reform plan to address that issue, added police officers, and directed patrols based on crime spikes. Further, McGinn questioned Murray’s role in passing Senate Bill 5891 that he claimed reduced supervision of released felons and reduce funding to mental health services.
Murray said the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid (which he supported)will “mean we have mental health funding for people on the streets who have never had funding before.”
Murray referenced his endorsements from the 34th District Democrats and locally elected representatives before stating, “You know, I was a fairly poor kid when I grew up in West Seattle and it’s just an incredible honor that I made it through the primary and it would be an incredible honor for that kid from 61st St. to be the next mayor of the city of Seattle.”
“I’m proud to be called the most progressive mayor in America by the hardest working people in this town – the hotel and restaurant employees – and I’m proud to come out to your community and get your support and I would love to continue to be your mayor,” McGinn said. “I’ve learned a lot on this job and I’m as passionate as I’ve ever been about building a future for everybody.”
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