On Tuesday night ten of the twelve confirmed candidates for Seattle’s District 6 City Council race attended a two-hour-long debate focused on transportation, housing, and sustainability sponsored by the MASS coalition. (The Urbanist is a member of the MASS coalition.) Candidates John Lisbin, a vocal opponent of the Mandatory Housing Affordability program, and Jeremy Cooke, a North Ballard resident, did not attend.
Setting the stage for evening, moderator Heidi Groover asked the candidates to describe how they got there, a question that was meant to be literal, not figurative, although some candidates were eager to share their personal journey to running for office.
A few of the candidates who lived nearby walked. Others bussed, biked, or carpooled. John Peeples, an engineer who has presented himself as the City Hall opposition candidate in the race, proudly declared he had driven to the debate in Phinney Ridge from downtown in sixteen minutes. Another admitted solo driver was former Seattle City Councilmember Heidi Wills. In a remark that felt a bit behind the times, Wills bragged that she was the second person in Washington State to buy a hybrid vehicle and that she had driven that same vehicle to the event. That statement might have sounded a lot more revolutionary back in 2003 when Wills was voted off the the council.
With such a crowded race, the onus was on the candidates to distinguish themselves and their platforms. However, it was difficult at times to parse out differences. With few exceptions, most candidates positioned themselves as pro-transit, pro-density, and eager to address urgent issues like climate change and housing affordability. Even Peeples, who sprinkled right-wing radio styled asides throughout his responses, praised Metro transit and voiced support for some efforts to increase urban density.
Automated Camera Enforcement
On the question of automated camera enforcement for traffic, most of the candidates came out in support of using automated cameras to ensure that vehicles do not block intersections and pedestrian crossings. Police officer Sergio Garcia was opposed to using automated cameras, as was Peeples, who was also only candidate to oppose reducing speed limits in areas where it would increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
Melissa Hall, an attorney with a background in land use policy, emerged as a standout in topic by first acknowledging how state law continues to prohibit the use of automated cameras for enforcement, and then by promoting how changes to the location of traffic signals has successfully been used to prevent drivers from blocking intersections in Europe. At the end of the debate, Hall also used her final statement to share her vision for keeping transit lanes moving by implementing dual transit only and tolling lanes, with the idea that the toll charged to the driver should reflect “the cost of the person being in the transit lane.”