For the past two years, The Urbanist has strived to inform and enlighten our readers with coverage and endorsements of important local races. Beginning in 2015 with coverage of nine open seat on the Seattle City Council, we have expanded our efforts to include the Seattle Mayor and Port of Seattle Commission races.
A foundational commitment throughout this process is transparency. We aim to share information with our readers so they understand and trust our process and so they can make an informed decision for themselves. To that end, we hope to share with our readers the process behind our 2017 primary election endorsements, already underway.
The Elections Board
Comprised of eight volunteer community members, the Elections Board is charged with executing endorsements on behalf of The Urbanist. Throughout the year, the Executive Board appoints a diverse set of urbanist voices representing the political values of the organization. Below is a list of our current members with a brief biographical description:
Scott Bonjukian: Scott is a practicing urban designer and Seattle area native. As Education and Programming Director for The Urbanist he manages the organization’s regular and special events. With degrees in architecture and urban planning, his many interests include local politics, neighborhood planning, multi-modal transportation design, and natural resource protection. Scott cross-posts from his personal blog The Northwest Urbanist and leads the Lid I-5 movement. Follow him @nwurbanist or send him an e-mail.
Kate Brunette: Kate is a PNW native who returned after stints in Washington, DC and Bogotá, Colombia. She previously researched the relationship between bus rapid transit and gentrification and her lifelong dream is to bring Bogotaás famed Ciclovia to Seattle. Kate is passionate about maps, public space and radical community-based development. You can follow her @brunettenbogota or send her an e-mail.
Ben Crowther: Ben is a Seattle area native, living downtown with his husband since 2013. As the Policy and Legislative Affairs Director for The Urbanist since 2015, Ben leads the endorsement process year-round. When he’s not reading news articles, he can be found excitedly pointing out new buses or prime plots for redevelopment to his uninterested friends who really just want to get to dinner. Follow him @BenCrowther or send him an e-mail.
Aleksandra Culver: Aleksandra (Aleks) is a software engineer who moonlights as a writer and copy editor. Aleks’s love of cities started as a child, when she would ride the commuter rail into Boston with her family for day trips. Her mission is to share that love with the world, by ensuring that our cities have a place for everyone. Aleks primarily writes about transportation and land use. She is also the webmaster. Follow her @schala09.
Alex Hudson: Alex hails from rural east King County but traded being a country mouse for the bright lights of the big city the first chance she got. Alex has lived in First Hill since 2009, and is active in issues of neighborhood planning, equitable development, and creative placemaking. A passionate flaneuse, Alex is usually out exploring the hidden corners of Seattle on foot, always on the lookout for a great new view, beautiful tree in bloom, or a glimpse into the lives of urban wildlife. If you’re into that sort of thing, follow her on Instagram at @blacksandpaper.
Ryan Packer: Ryan has been a Senior Editor at the Urbanist since 2016. His beats are Vision Zero, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, bikeshare, and public space. He lives in a 1907 apartment in the Summit Slope neighborhood of Capitol Hill, and is currently serving as the co-chair of South Lake Union Greenways. He’s on Twitter at @typewriteralley. Ideas for stories always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owen Pickford: Owen is the Executive Director of The Urbanist and helped found the organization in 2014. He doesn’t have professional training but spends a majority of his free time learning and writing about urban policy. Owen has experience doing grassroots advocacy for presidential campaigns, cycling, and transit groups. Owen primarily follows and writes about housing issues.
Doug Trumm: Doug is a Senior Editor at The Urbanist who lives in Fremont/Wallingford. He joined the exodus to Seattle in 2014, leaving behind his home state of Minnesota. Volunteering with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and serving as an alternate on his local neighborhood association ignited his interest in urbanism. Reading urban planning greats like Jane Jacobs stoked that fledgling fire to an inferno. He’s due to be enrolled at the Evans School of Public Policy of Governance in the fall.
The endorsement process begins in April, four months before the primary election in August. The first step is to select races for endorsement. This is done by the Executive Board at the recommendation of the Elections Board. Races are selected which are local and relevant to the policy areas of the organization (e.g., housing, transportation, and land use).
The Elections Board is then charged with selecting candidates to pursue for an interview using criteria such as: general viability, having a reasonable platform, community presence, relevant experience, web presence, endorsements, and affiliation with underrepresented communities.
In late May, selected candidates are provided with a required and standardized questionnaire and an invitation for an optional, in-person interview with the Elections Board in June. The standard nature allows a fair comparison on equal footing for all candidates. Candidates who do not complete their questionnaire are ineligible for endorsement. Questionnaires are published verbatim for our readers and assessed by the Elections Board.
The optional interview is held in mid-June, allowing the Elections Board to engage directly with the candidates for follow-up questions. Each year we consider the question of whether to release a record of these interviews. This year we decided not to release a record in the interest of fostering a more intimate dialogue with candidates to better and more deeply assess their positions without the filter that public-facing forums may impose.
After interviewing each candidate, the Elections Board meets to vote on endorsements. Our process allows for the endorsement of no, one, or multiple candidates in each race, though we prefer to select a single candidate.
Members of the Elections Board collaboratively summarize our reasoning in an article published before ballots are mailed out.
Conflict of Interest
The Urbanist does not solicit nor accept donations from candidates. We do not, as an organization, campaign for candidates, such as hosting fundraising parties or recruiting volunteers. Our members are often politically engaged and thus may be involved in either a volunteer or professional capacity with campaigns. We have a strict conflict of interest policy and expect any member to recuse themselves when a conflict of interest is present (e.g., when a member is a paid staff member of a campaign).
This year, Kate Brunette is serving as the campaign manager for Jon Grant, running for Seattle City Council Position 8. For that reason, she has recused herself from participating in the endorsement process for that race.
We evaluate our endorsement process each cycle to improve the experience for candidates, volunteers, and most importantly our readers. For feedback or questions about our endorsement process, please feel free to contact Ben Crowther via e-mail.
The Urbanist was founded in 2014 to examine and influence urban policies. We believe cities provide unique opportunities for addressing many of the most challenging social, environmental, and economic problems. We serve as a resource for promoting urbanism, increasing political participation, and improving the places we live. The Elections Committee consists of community volunteers and staff members of The Urbanist and is a standing body representing the political values of our organization.