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.

I-1631 could also be used to subsidize construction of modular, energy-efficient homes that would provide affordable housing and lower energy costs. Through these and other projects, I-1631 will help communities most impacted by pollution, which tend to be areas of lower income people and communities of color.

The initiative will support development of other renewable energy sources, including wind and possibly tidal energy, both vast potential resources in Washington. We encourage to vote yes on I -1631.

Vote Yes on Initiative 1639: Gun Safety

Our country has some crazy gun laws, and I-1639 would help rectify that in Washington state. The initiative would raise the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21, create an enhanced system of background checks, require completion of a firearm safety course, and create a standard for safe storage to prevent guns falling in dangerous hands.

Gun deaths are prevalent in America–more than 33,000 every year–vastly outstripping most other industrialized countries in per capita rate. I-1639 would help reduce some of the most preventable variety of gun deaths, such as when a gun falls in the hands of a toddler via unsafe storage or when people with a violent background easily get guns because of weak background checks.

Vote yes on I-1639 to increase gun responsibility.

Vote Yes on Initiative 940: Police Accountability

Initiative 940 is the result of years of effort by a broad coalition of activists, including the families of those killed by police in some of the most high-profile shootings in recent years. It would make a handful of changes to state laws around law-enforcement officers’ use of deadly force. We wholeheartedly endorse the measure.

First, it repairs a huge flaw in state law: while it is technically possible to convict a law enforcement officer of misusing deadly force, they cannot be held criminally liable for using deadly force unless it is proven they acted with “malice,” defined legally as “evil intent.” Washington is the only state in the country with a so-called malice clause, and it has proven to be an insurmountable barrier to prosecuting deadly force cases. I-940 would remove the malice requirement, instead defining more clearly what it means for law-enforcement officers to act in “good faith” in these situations.

I-940 also requires that all police officers in Washington State receive trainings in de-escalation, mental health, and first aid, and adds language clarifying that law enforcement personnel have a duty to provide or facilitate first aid. In addition, it requires independent investigations of use-of-force incidents that cause death or serious harm and involves tribal governments in appropriate investigations.

We love cities. We want cities to be even better. And cities are obviously better when our law-enforcement officers do not have carte blanche from the state government to execute people in the streets whenever they see fit. Adequate training is vital, and communities would have a role in setting these new training standards and potentially participating in these investigations. King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg have come out in favor of I-940.

And in an unexpected twist, when this initiative qualified for the state legislature, it brought law enforcement to the table to work out a compromise bill with legislators and initiative backers. The state supreme court has said the legislature cannot enact their compromise measure, since voters approved the original text to go to the ballot, but the legislature may well amend the original version if it passes. If voters do not pass I-940, we don’t know what will happen, but we don’t want to bank on law enforcement coming back to the table later without the leverage of an initiative hanging over them. Vote yes on I-940.

9th Congressional District: Adam Smith

Enter Adam Smith. Let me tell you, he has got a presence. Maybe he is angry? Maybe he is tired? Maybe he is pissed that Kavanaugh just got confirmed? Maybe he is annoyed to face a challenge from the Left? Sarah Smith has been running on a platform of a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage, abolishing the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and passing universal Medicare. Unfortunately, she didn’t complete our questionnaire.

After 30 minutes of some solid answers but a little too much bashing of Sarah Smith about some text message she sent, we were all left with one conclusion: Adam Smith CANNOT read a room.

So why are we endorsing Adam Smith?

While his emotional intelligence ain’t great, he’s got some damn good ideas. Rep. Smith spoke in depth about a federal approach to preventing sprawl and making sure our communities are connected through robust transportation. He supports a higher capital gains tax on all real estate, nationwide inclusionary zoning, and phasing out the home mortgage interest deduction. If the D’s control the house in 2018, Smith says a top priority is to fix the Affordable Care Act by introducing a universal access to healthcare bill. On climate change, Smith emphasized the importance of rejoining the the Paris Climate Agreement and his support of I-1631. Overall, he is a strong representative of urbanist values in Congress.

Finally, shout out to his lovely assistant who admitted to filling out his questionnaire. You rock.

King County Prosecutor: No Endorsement

The Urbanist is not endorsing in the race for King County Prosecutor. Our non-endorsement is mostly irrelevant, since Dan Satterberg is effectively running unopposed after his opponent, Daron Morris, dropped out for health reasons. However, it’s worth explaining why we didn’t endorse him.

Satterberg has done a lot of good during his time as the King County Prosecutor. He’ll tell you as much. He’s been there long enough–in the office since 1985 and leading this office since 2007–that he can claim responsibility for many of the positive reform efforts.

Satterberg deserves a lot of credit for King County’s expansion of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion or LEAD, a program that diverts eligible people from booking and sentencing, to social services. This program has proven to be effective. In our interview, Satterberg also touted his choice to not pursue criminal charges against people who drive with a suspended license because they failed to pay tickets. That amounts to about 3,000 people a year who avoid a potentially debilitating criminal record. It’s also clear that criminal justice reform is seeing progress. Despite a growing population, incarceration is down since 2004, although mostly flat since 2012.

Yet with all that, we remained unconvinced he’s earned an endorsement. There are two big things we think he must address, if he were to face a real electoral challenger–he still hasn’t in 11 years.

First, Satterberg doesn’t appear to have reservations about the number of beds being constructed in the new youth jail. Yes, we understand the courthouse needs investment. Yes, we understand the new facility will offer services not found elsewhere, progressive services that will help youth avoid the jail. We agree those are strong arguments for some investment. However, they don’t address a fundamental contradiction. We can’t believe in a future with zero youth detention and spend millions to double the number of jail beds compared to the number of children we currently jail. Does Satterberg foresee a future with no youth detention? If so, we need a much better explanation of how this investment helps us get there, more than literally anything else.

Second, the King County Prosecutor’s office does not have a strong record on prosecuting bad cops. Understandably, state law has made this much more difficult and hopefully that will change. However, we remain unconvinced that Satterberg will vigorously pursue prosecution against police officers that unnecessarily kill civilians. We’d like to at least hear some regret about the outcomes in a number of high profile police killings that were never prosecuted.

These two issues strike home at what it means to be leading progressive criminal justice reform today. They are divisive, hot button issues that force politicians to make difficult decisions and choose sides. We look forward to having an elected prosecutor that is willing to vocally side with justice and lead on criminal justice reform. For now, we can’t endorse in the King County Prosecutor’s race.

LD21-A: No Endorsement

Strom Peterson is seeking his third term in the state House, and by George he’s probably going to get it. Peterson voted the wrong way on stripping a portion of Sound Transit funding via a car tab valuation adjustment that would not have backfilled the cuts. Luckily, that effort crashed and burned last session. He didn’t seem repentant in his questionnaire, maintaining he’s still open to lowering car tab fees without a backfill plan and arguing that he’s taking the long view by appeasing car activists now. We don’t see long-term value on backsliding on Sound Transit finances.

Peterson faces a terrible opponent (who wants to slash car tabs even deeper) in Republican Amy Schaper. We can’t endorse her. We hope Peterson does not continue to support cuts to Sound Transit’s budget, because he may not be so lucky to face a right-wing extremist next time rather than someone who will stand up for transit.

That said, he does appear poised to represent some urbanist values. Peterson backed Governor Jay Inslee’s carbon tax bill and I-1631, and he voiced support for introducing some camera enforcement of transit lanes and doing a progressive overhaul of our state tax code relying less on the sales tax and introducing a capital gains tax (and he’s not ruling out an income tax).

Even with his car tab chicanery, urbanists probably will end up holding their noses and voting for Strom Peterson in Legislative District 21A. But we’re not telling you to be excited about it.

LD29-A: Melanie Morgan

Melanie Morgan is running in the 29th District, representing South Tacoma and parts of Lakewood, Spanaway, and Parkland. She’s the kind of candidate whose homepage includes a photo of her leaning against a Pierce Transit schedule and a mention that she’s experienced homelessness. She said in her questionnaire that she considers herself an urbanist and talked a lot about supporting progressive taxes.

So, even though we get that her district includes a big chunk of suburban voters, we’re pretty bummed that she’s trying to walk a careful I’m-progressive-but-I-won’t-raise-your-taxes line. She said an income tax is potentially too regressive. An income tax! (And ditto for car tabs.)

We’re endorsing her anyway. Here’s why: not only is her opponent a cookie-cutter anti-tax Republican who calls Rudy Giuliani a role model, but Morgan is genuinely excited about and committed to expanding transit in this region. She supports reforming eviction rules to give tenants more protection and increasing the Housing Trust Fund. She also wants to see improvements to the pedestrian infrastructure that’s basically missing in parts of her district, and she supports a capital gains tax.

Morgan’s background is in the Franklin-Pierce School Board and the Pierce County Housing Authority. She’s not as well-versed in our favorite urbanist issues as we would like, and she may end up on the other side of some votes we care about if she makes it to the legislature. But her personal experience and perspective is that of someone who values affordable housing, public transit, and equity in education. We look forward to holding her accountable to those values as a legislator.

The Urbanist endorses Melanie Morgan for Legislative District 29-A.

LD31-A: Victoria Mena

Victoria Mena absolutely nailed our questionnaire. She opposes cuts to Sound Transit 3 budget and supports “massively” increasing the funding for the state Housing Trust Fund, I-1631 (and further climate action), and safe bicycling infrastructure.

Voters in the 31st District are lucky to have an energetic progressive in Mena running against Republican golden boy Drew Stokesbary, who has already climbed into Republican leadership as Minority Floor Leader after four years in office.

Mena promises to fight for better transit. She is open to camera enforcement of transit lanes to help turn the tide in favor of hundreds of transit riders rather than the handful of impatient motorists who are blocking transit lanes. She also backs redesigning streets so they are safer for people walking and biking.

Meanwhile, Rep. Stokesbary is itching to slash Sound Transit’s budget and treats the right to endanger and delay folks with your personal vehicle as sacrosanct. He voted against banning texting while driving. How’s our state’s Vision Zero goal of no traffic deaths by 2030? Oh that’s right, not well; fatal collisions are on the rise. We need leaders who will help out rather than grasping to enshrine vehicular manslaughter.

Mena was been an activist and organizer for ten years, focusing on immigrant rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ equality, homelessness, and climate change. She is the Policy Director for Colectiva Legal del Pueblo and has co-founded four immigrant rights organizations across the country.

Meanwhile, Stokesbary was outing himself as an anti-immigrant white supremacist with a loose grasp of ethics before it was cool. A real proto-Trumpian!

Mena is ready to lead on immigrant rights, housing, transportation, and climate action. The Urbanist endorses Victoria Mena for Legislative District 31A.

LD37: Rebecca Saldaña

The Urbanist is excited to endorse Rebecca Saldaña in her race for State Senate in the 37th district. Saldaña has been a champion for issues we care about, such as affordable housing and transportation. Prior to her first election, she led Puget Sound Sage and pushed Seattle to pursue land value capture via a linkage fee. Over time and through negotiation, that effort morphed into inclusionary zoning and the Seattle for Everyone coalition. Without Puget Sound Sage’s political organizing, none of that would’ve happened and she deserves an immense amount of credit.

Saldaña hasn’t been in the state Senate for long but has a commendable record. She’s been the sponsor on bills that are great for labor and social justice, including the bill that prohibits most employers from considering criminal records of job applicants before considering if the applicant is qualified.

Perhaps most importantly to The Urbanist readers, Saldaña has now publicly come out against cutting Sound Transit funding, despite voting to pass cuts during the last session. The Senate bill she voted for replaced most of the funding cuts by cutting local education funding. This was preferable to the House bill but still a disaster. Saldaña indicated she will not support any bills that reduce Sound Transit funding. We commend Saldaña’s change of heart and will give her the benefit of the doubt. We expect we won’t see her vote again to undermine public trust by overturning a voter-approved levy, in service of right-wing, anti-tax efforts.

Lastly, we think she’ll move the Democratic caucus further to the left. She supports a variety of critical progressive issues, such as a statewide income tax. State Democrats will need to support additional revenue options in order for Seattle to ever get out of the housing crisis. The Urbanist endorses Rebecca Saldaña in the 37th Legislative District.

LD43-A: Nicole Macri

The Urbanist is endorsing Nicole Macri and asking you to give her your vote in the general election. Macri has been in the legislature for one term, has been an urbanist champion, and her questionnaire showed an expertise on and passion for our core issues.

In the midst of a housing and homelessness crisis in communities across Washington with people struggling to pay their rents or mortgages, Macri was at the forefront of legislative efforts that yielded the most resources to address these problems in over ten years. As prime sponsor of a bill that included the biggest increase in funding for homeless and housing assistance providing $27 million in new resources annually, Macri intends to further her efforts in the 2019 session. She intends to sponsor a number of bills and budget actions to increase the much needed funding to ensure its commensurate to the scope of the housing problem.

Macri helped defeat efforts to strip the voter-approved Sound Transit 3 package of hundreds of millions of dollars, ensuring vital transit projects may continue on schedule. She is committed to work towards a sustainable and equitable transportation system that expands infrastructure for transit, bikes, sidewalks, and other options that connect people to opportunity. This includes doing thoughtful multimodal transportation planning that considers both commuter and commercial needs.

She supports policies that promote equity in our tax structure, including state income tax. In the short-term, she supports the implementation of a capital gains tax and the strategic elimination of corporate tax breaks and loopholes.

Overall, we believe Macri will be able to use her professional experience of 20 years championing progressive causes on issues around affordable housing, homelessness, human services, and mental health to push for effective legislation that is responsive to the actual housing and homelessness and transportation needs. Macri is an exceptional candidate and The Urbanist strongly encourages you to vote for her. Vote Macri.

Vote Yes on Shoreline Prop 1 to Fund Sidewalks

Shoreline frequently doesn’t have consistent sidewalk connections, but 2018 Proposition 1 is seeking to change that with a dedicated funding stream. It doesn’t get much more urbanist than sidewalks.

Shoreline’s dearth of sidewalks mirror’s North Seattle’s–both mid-20th century suburban sprawl built around the automobile. Seattle annexed modern North Seattle in the 1950s. Shoreline was incorporated in 1995, its considerable sidewalk shortage still lingering.

The funding stream is a 0.2% increase in the city’s sales tax for a period of 20 years. The use of the sales tax (which falls harder upon low-income residents) isn’t ideal. But building sidewalks is a worthy goal, making this 20-year investment worth it. North Seattle’s example shows that building sidewalks is no sure thing without a dedicated funding stream–even 60+ years after annexation. The Urbanist endorses Shoreline Proposition 1: Sales and Use Tax.

Vote Yes on Intercity Transit Prop 1 in Thurston County

The state legislature passed a bill lasts session to allow Intercity Transit in Olympia to go to the ballot to increase its taxing authority. Well, Intercity decided to pull a quick turnaround and head to the ballot this November to improve and expand its transportation service.

Let’s continue to build a thriving regional transportation system and let our state capital lead by expanding bus routes into new areas of Thurston County, increasing frequency and operating hours of bus services, enhancing bus stops, investing in Bus Rapid Transit, creating a Night Owl Service, making capital improvements, and expanding services for seniors and those living with disabilities. Thurston County has the ability to connect more people to better opportunities.

While the federal administration continues to slash transportation funding, it is up to local districts to step up and support their communities. If rejected, 15% of Intercity Transit’s existing service will be cut, and vital connections will disappear for residents throughout the county.

The funding stream is a 0.4% increase in sales and use tax, which is 4 cents on every $10 taxable purchase and will generate $16 million to $20 million a year in additional revenue. A sales tax isn’t ideal due to its regressive nature, but until we get an income tax, it will suffice. The cost will pay off in creating an expanded and connected transportation system. If you live in Thurston County, vote yes for Intercity Transit Proposition 1.

Vote Yes on Lewis County’s Twin Transit Expansion Package

Twin Transit is hoping to expand its bus system to cover the entirety of Lewis County. This meets an urgent need as the nonprofit Lewis Mountain Highway Transit, which had covered eastern Lewis County is going to fold in 2019. This transit service helped Lewis County residents reach Centralia College and their health care provider.

Proposed 0.2% sales tax to fund the expansion. Minus Chehalis, Centralia, and Napavine, all other areas of Lewis County will have the option to vote to expand bus service. Two pennies on a $10 taxable purchase.

The initiative would create a region system–connecting Twin Cities (of Chehalis and Centralia) with Toledo, Winlock, and Vader–and also connecting Lewis County to Olympia and Longview.

This might not be the most fertile ground for transit support, but passing Twin Transit’s expansion package could win some new converts and provide a needed option for people who can’t drive or prefer not to. Vote yes on expanding Twin Transit service.

The Urbanist Election Board is composed of Scott Bonjukian, Keiko Budech, Lizzy Jessup, Patience Malaba, Anna Minard, Owen Pickford, and Doug Trumm.

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Elections Committee

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.