Zara Kulish, Staff Writer
Seattle is preparing for its upcoming mayoral election. The candidates for the election are former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and urban planner and activist Cary Moon, both Democrats. While both candidates received advanced degrees from top universities, some have disputed Moon’s qualifications, saying she doesn’t have enough concrete achievements in her career to be mayor. On the other side of the coin, Durkan’s affluence and connections to power-brokers cause some to speculate that she doesn’t have enough hands-on experience with the community to be effective on local issues.
Some of the main issues in this race include what to do about the homeless population, police reform, taxes and infrastructure. The number of homeless in Seattle grew to 11,643 from 10,688 last year. A whopping 47 percent of those are unsheltered, meaning they live on the streets, in cars, or tents. Seattle has numerous unauthorized homeless encampments and several that are government-sanctioned. Durkan believes that most of the unsanctioned encampments are dangerous, and people should be moved out of them. Before they are shut down, however, Durkan believes the city should build more shelters and give people better places to go. She also supports short-term rental vouchers, but thinks there should be other methods to combat homelessness. Moon thinks evictions from unauthorized encampments should be stopped, because people’s lives are disrupted, but the city should build more shelters, and if an encampment is truly unsafe, help them relocate. She believes short-term rental vouchers are more of a band-aid than a solution.
As far as police reform goes, Durkan thinks the federal consent decree is working to decrease force and increase transparency, so reform should continue in the same vein, and she supports keeping Kathleen O’Toole as police chief. Moon is unsure about O’Toole and believes that more progress would occur if power were to give the Citizen Community Police Commission direct oversight, rather than by issuing top-down decrees.
Infrastructure-wise, Moon is in favor of a public broadband network, and putting city money toward a new Sound Transit light rail, but against a campaign for Amazon’s second headquarters. Durkan supports a campaign for the new headquarters, is unsure about the public broadband network, and against giving money to the light rail, because she believes it’s red tape, not funding, that is holding the project back.
Both of the candidates are in favor of new, more progressive taxes. Moon is willing to raise property taxes, but thinks they should be a last resort to progressive taxes. Durkan wants to lower property taxes for elderly and low-income homeowners, but admits there may need to be a levy to pay for addiction and behavioral services.
In this election, the circumstances are just as interesting as the issues. Not only will this be the first time that Seattle has had a female mayor since 1926, but it is the first time that a woman has been in the general election for mayor since then. The last one was Mayor Bertha Knight Landes, who was the first woman to lead a major city in the United States. She ran on a platform of “municipal housecleaning.” There had been growing veins of corruption in the government at the time, and Landes had a scandal-free, honest tenure in the mayor’s office. She also did a lot for the infrastructure of the city, advocating municipal utilities and public transportation. She dedicated the building now known as the Seattle Opera House when it was originally built as the Civic Auditorium. She served only one two-year term, being defeated for re-election because of the popular belief that Seattle should have a man in charge, which seems to have held strong until the present.
Now, with a woman poised to take the executive office for the second time in history, Seattle might get some of the “municipal housecleaning” it so badly needs. The city’s last elected mayor, Ed Murray, dropped his campaign for reelection in May, after he was accused of sexually abusing minors. There were four allegations of sexual abuse against teenage boys dating back to the 1970s. In his statement dropping out of the race, he claimed he was innocent, but “didn’t want the scandal to overtake the election.” Mayor Murray resisted calls to resign until September, when another alleged victim came forward. Despite leaving office because of the scandal, Murray maintains that the allegations are false. The interim mayor appointed by the Seattle City Council, Tim Burgess, will step down on Jan. 1, 2018, when the new mayor-elect is sworn in.