Rep. Adam Smith. (Courtesy of Adam Smith)

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. Starting this week, we are publishing the questionnaires in full, concluding with our official general election endorsements in mid-October.

The following questionnaire was submitted by Adam Smith, running for Congressional District 9. He’s served since 1997, making this his eleventh going on twelfth term. Seattle Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Sarah Smith is also running in the ninth, but did not submit a questionnaire.


Rapid Fire

Do you consider yourself an urbanist?


Would you support a higher capital gains tax on all real estate?


Would you support nationwide inclusionary zoning?


Would you support phasing out the home mortgage interest deduction?


Short Answer

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?

Congress has an important role to play in ensuring that urban areas are afforded fairer representation at all levels of government. The House and Senate must demand more vigorous enforcement of the one-person, one-vote principle and properly fund the federal agencies responsible for its enforcement. Legislation is needed to make voting easier nationwide—and especially in dense, highly-populated urban areas, and voter disenfranchisement must be aggressively combated. Furthermore, legislation to more accurately and justly reapportion federal representatives and potential constitutional change to reform or eliminate the electoral challenge are also significant steps Congress can take to achieve greater equity in representation.

Does the federal government have a responsibility to prevent sprawl? If no, why? If yes, why and what are the most impactful actions you would support?

Yes, the federal government has a responsibility to prevent sprawl because it has a negative, and often segregating, impact on our communities. While local and state governments have more tools at their disposal and greater direct authority to combat sprawl, the federal government should also play an important role in combating sprawl and poor development choices.

Transportation is a key part of sound urbanist policy, and the federal government is responsible for the distribution of considerable sums of money for a wide range of transportation projects. I believe we must increase infrastructure investments of all sorts; and particularly in public transit and smart transportation solutions that do not perpetuate and begin to fix the problems of traffic, sprawl, economic disparities, community detachment, and a myriad of other problems. Additionally, the federal government can improve transportation spending criteria to disincentivize sprawl-inducing development and support responsible multi-use, accessible, and equitable urban development.

Through the tax code, the federal government creates a range of incentives for investment in housing, infrastructure, and economic development patterns, in addition to influencing individuals’ choices about where to live. Sound tax policy should encourage smart development and not promote sprawl, while increasing transportation, housing, and economic equity.

What would you do to prevent cities from a race to the bottom poaching businesses through economic incentives?

When cities and regions poach business through the use of economic incentives, it harms communities in a myriad of ways. Although competition for business between regions on factors such as workforce, quality of life, access to markets, and a range of other criteria–on many of which our city and region will earn high marks–will always take place, local governments and regions should avoid the use of artificial economic incentives, wherever possible. In order to prevent this race to the bottom, we must encourage cities and local governments to work better together and discourage economic incentive “bidding wars” between regions and states. The federal government can play an important role by modifying the federal tax code’s treatment of these incentives and corporate behavior, and by making proper investments in broad-based goods that help to make cities, regions, and the national business climate more attractive. By focusing on growing economies and new innovative businesses, rather than allowing inter-city/regional fights over what we already have, we can create more prosperous and attractive places throughout the country.

Do you believe federal law enforcement should take a stronger hand in local law enforcement policies? If no, why? If yes, why and how?

The federal government must take a stronger stand in making sure that local law enforcement policies are uniform throughout the country, particularly policies that impact the policing of people and communities of color. Far too often we see city-specific policies that target people of color, and this must change. Stop and frisk policies, and other initiatives like it, are discriminatory in nature, and are areas where the federal government must step in and take action. The federal government plays an important role in the enforcement of civil rights laws as well as supporting, training, and where necessary, helping to improve the practices and cultures of local law enforcement agencies. I believe strongly that all federal tools should be used to address local problems with law enforcement and vigorously protect the rights of all.

What is your preferred legislative solution to address climate change?

It’s critical that we address climate change quickly and decisively. I have a strong record of supporting progressive climate policy, including working through the committee on which I serve and with the Department of Defense to establish climate change as a threat to our national security. We must approach combating climate change from a multi-faceted approach, including supporting the production and use of green, renewable energy, and the moving away from fossil fuels. Additionally, I have consistently supported environmental justice measures in the 9th District, and I believe that we must do all we can to protect urban communities, who are particularly impacted by the effects of climate change. Finally, we must work with the international community, and re-join the Paris Climate Agreement.

What can the federal government do to stem the increasingly segregated nature of our communities?

The federal government can do much more to stem the increasingly segregated nature of our communities. First, we must work to prevent further outward sprawl to ensure that our communities are as integrated as possible. We then need to promote community engagement and involvement among all community members. The federal government can assist in promoting community engagement through allocating funding to assist in the creation and preservation of community centers and other spaces for engagement. Furthermore, federal investments should prioritize and enhance public transportation which can better tie communities together and provide greater economic opportunity and equity. Federal transportation funding must also prioritize infrastructure and development that works against segregating forces in our regions.

What book has been most influential on your views of how cities work, their strengths, and strategies for addressing their problems? What lesson(s) did you take away?

Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking. This book demonstrates the range of unintended negative consequences and multiple-order ripple effects stemming from a transportation system that was largely built for/around cars, to the exclusion of other potentially more appropriate, efficient, and optimal modes of transport.

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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.