Thursday, October 18, 2018

2018 General Election Endorsements

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Photo by Brittalisa Gess

Voters have big decisions before them in the November 6th general election. Control of the US House of Representatives is at stake, and Washington State Democrats are banking on a blue wave to strengthen their hold on Olympia. The Evergreen State could also become the first to institute a carbon fee and prove we’re serious about climate change mitigation.

The Urbanist Elections Board evaluated two Congressional candidates, nine state legislative candidates, two Prosecuting Attorney candidates, and six initiatives. From this pool, we have endorsed six leaders who both share our urbanist values and seem poised to implement them. We are proud to present our 2018 general election endorsements. Get those ballots in everyone!

Vote Yes on Initiative 1631: Carbon Pollution Fee

Washington has an enormous opportunity to do something to address climate change by voting yes to the ballot initiative I-1631. It’s our job as stewards of the planet for future generations not just to reduce climate pollution, but to prepare our state for climate change. That means protecting our communities from increasing wildfires, ensuring access to clean water, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and investing in infrastructure to deal with storms and rising sea levels.

Initiative 1631 begins to make investments in future generations by placing a fee on large polluters, such as oil companies: $15 for every ton of carbon they release into the atmosphere. The funds, that will amount to about $1 billion a year, will be used to reduce emissions, help cities and towns transition from fossil-fuel industries, and support projects that counter the impacts of climate change across the state.

The carbon fee could be used to invest in cleaner transportation options, like phasing city bus fleets from carbon-intense diesel to clean electric, and helping rural communities replace aging, high-emission school buses.

Of Libraries, Parks, Book Stores, and Cinemas: Tacoma’s Social Infrastructre

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King's Books in Tacoma.

In a previous installment, I wrote about the strain put on sidewalks when cities privatize, sell off, fail to maintain, or don’t care to provide proper public spaces in the first place. I argued that the reductions in public space we observe in cities across the U.S. undermines democracy because it reduces the opportunities we have to meet others so as to debate, define, and take up the projects resulting in a good life. Simply, without public space we can’t have a functioning democracy.

Sidewalks comprise part of the physical infrastructure that brings about the relationality among neighbors on which democracy depends. This relationality isn’t merely the result of spaces and places, however—rather, it depends on the sponsorship of institutions and organizations which organize and create opportunities for neighbors to meet and be together.

Building on the existing knowledge we have regarding the importance of physical infrastructure to the democratic project, Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, has recently made a case for recognizing the value of “social infrastructure” in civil society. Klinenberg defines “social infrastructure” as “the physical spaces and organizations that shape the way people interact.” In a sense, it’s not enough to have physical spaces in which to, potentially, meet our neighbors, it’s also important to have institutions offering and organizing opportunities for people to come together.

Study Reveals Wealthy White Homeowners Benefit Most from Backyard Cottages

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Photo Credit: Brewbooks

So why have affluent neighborhood groups like the Queen Anne Community Council resisted proposed policy changes?

Last week, the City of Seattle released a Racial Equity Toolkit on Policies for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). This Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) was completed to assess if proposed ADU policies would impact some communities differently and included a special focus on race-based disparities. The RET was published in addition to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on ADUs. 

The RET found changes to ADU policy would result in race-based disparities, notably that wealthy white homeowners would benefit the most from the proposed policy changes. This comes at a time when an increasing number of homeowners across the US are attracted to the flexibility and income generating potential of ADUs.

Disparities cited in the RET result from longstanding race-based differences in homeownership rates and household incomes in Seattle. Simply put, White households are significantly more likely to own a single-family home and also have the financial resources needed to add an ADU to their property. 

Because the City has identified ADUs as a potential tool for both increasing affordable housing stock and curbing displacement of low-income homeowners, it has committed to addressing these racial disparities so that communities of color across the city benefit from new ADU opportunities.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien, whose office sponsored the RET, addressed this challenge at a recent Sustainability and Transportation Council Committee meeting: 

“This [ADU] policy has been driven by trying to address broad city goals about trying to create more housing opportunities, and at least for me… it’s not to say, should we do this or not, but instead, what are the impacts? What we learned–and this is not surprising– is that it will benefit wealthier, whiter households. How do we make some changes so that the benefits are shared more broadly? Not if we do this program or not, because it does have broad goals we trying to achieve, but rather what are specific things we can do to tailor it to certain communities so they have as much benefit as other people. That’s going to be tricky.”

2018 Endorsement Questionnaire: Dan Harder

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Dan Harder (Courtesy of campaign)

As part of our endorsement process at The Urbanist, we ask candidates to complete a standard questionnaire to better understand and evaluate their positions on housing, land use, transportation, and other important issues. We then share this information with our readers to help inform their own voting decisions.

This year we are considering selected candidates running for US Congress, Washington State Legislature, and King County Prosecuting Attorney. We are publishing the questionnaires in full, concluding with our official general election endorsements in mid-October.

The following questionnaire was submitted by Dan Harder (R) running for State Senate in Legislative District 43. Harder’s opponent, incumbent Jamie Pedersen (D), did not submit a questionnaire .

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Rapid Fire

Do you consider yourself an urbanist?

Yes.

Do you support an income tax?

No.

Short Answer

How do we keep Sound Transit 3 (ST3) timelines on track given that the Trump administration is slow-walking or eliminating grants for transit projects and construction costs are skyrocketing?

Cancel ST3 projects that are less than 50% complete as of today, and allow private financing of the remaining projects, require rapid completion of projects.

What is your position on the Sound Transit car-tab tax? Would you support a plan that cuts Sound Transit’s budget?

Absolutely. Sound Transit is out of control and unresponsive to taxpayers.

2018 Endorsement Questionnaire: Joseph Brumbles

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Joseph Brumbles (Courtesy of campaign)

As part of our endorsement process at The Urbanist, we ask candidates to complete a standard questionnaire to better understand and evaluate their positions on housing, land use, transportation, and other important issues. We then share this information with our readers to help inform their own voting decisions.

This year we are considering selected candidates running for US Congress, Washington State Legislature, and King County Prosecuting Attorney. We are publishing the questionnaires in full, concluding with our official general election endorsements in mid-October.

The following questionnaire was submitted by Joseph Brumbles (R-Yelm) running for Congressional District 10. Brumble’s opponent, incumbent Denny Heck (D-Olympia), did not submit a questionnaire .

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Do you consider yourself an urbanist?

No.

What can Congress do so that the ratio of representatives to people is less skewed towards rural areas and urban areas get a fairer person-to-representative ratio?

The number of Representatives determined by area mass, instead of population density. Put in place an electoral college at the state level.

Apply to Work at The Urbanist

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Last year we conducted our first fundraising drive and saw a tremendous amount of support. We are incredibly grateful for everyone who has made donations! And we hope readers continue to donate. These donations, coupled with advertising revenue and walking tour revenue, has made it possible to hire our first paid staff member.

To make The Urbanist sustainable long-term, we’ve realized that we need paid staff and the most critical role is organizational development. To that end, we’re opening up a part-time position for an Operations and Development Manager. Read on for the job advertisement. If you’re not hunting yourself, please pass this on to folks who might be interested.

2018 Endorsement Questionnaire: Strom Peterson

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Strom Peterson (Courtesy of campaign)

As part of our endorsement process at The Urbanist, we ask candidates to complete a standard questionnaire to better understand and evaluate their positions on housing, land use, transportation, and other important issues. We share this information with our readers to help inform their own voting decisions.

This year we are considering selected candidates running for US Congress, Washington State Legislature, and King County Prosecuting Attorney. We are publishing the questionnaires in full, concluding with our official general election endorsements in mid-October.

The following questionnaire was submitted by Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) running for Legislative District 21A, which covers Edmonds, Lynnwood, and Mulkiteo. Peterson’s opponent, Amy Schaper (R) did not submit a questionnaire.

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Rapid Fire

Do you consider yourself an urbanist?

Yes.

Do you support an income tax?

Yes.

Short Answer

How do we keep Sound Transit 3 (ST3) timelines on track given that the Trump administration is slow-walking or eliminating grants for transit projects and construction costs are skyrocketing?

I will continue to work with our federal delegation to ensure that the promised federal funding remains in tact. Meanwhile, we must continue to work with Sound Transit and all of our local communities to make sure we extend light rail to the outlying areas as promised when we voted on ST3.

What is your position on the Sound Transit car-tab tax? Would you support a plan that cuts Sound Transit’s budget?

I believe we need to readjust the car-tabs to more current valuations. While this might have budget implications to Sound Transit, we also need to take the long view and ensure the public will support transit opportunities well into the future.

New Hugo House Strives for Community and Memory

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The New Hugo House. Photo by author.

But can the soul of the old Victorian house live on in a new mixed-used building?

According to modernist architect and urban planner Le Corbusier, “A house is a machine for living in.” This philosophy unpinned his collection of essays, “Towards an Architecture,” in which he put forth an impassioned call for viewing homes (and cities) as “tools of life,” demanding a “rebirth of architecture based on function.”

As an idiosyncratic Victorian grand dame, there was probably nothing Le Corbusier would have admired about the old house that served as home to writing nonprofit Hugo House for more than twenty years.

But with its odd angles and embellishments, the building did project an aura of mystery over the east end of Cal Anderson Park, and while the cramped rooms may not have been optimal for living, the Victorian design offered diversity in shape, size, and use that was perfect for finding space to dream.