In forum on the state of Seattle’s human services, candidates sidestep specifics
A forum organized by the Seattle Human Services Coalition provided candidates for Seattle City Council and the mayor’s office a rare opportunity to focus on the state of human services in the city.
Instead, most echoed the same stump speeches they’ve used throughout the election season.
Incumbents touted a slate of programs created during their tenure, while political newcomers argued that current politicians are culpable for the sad state of affairs in Seattle.
The coalition organized the event as a time to talk about racial disparities, emergency shelter and funding for food banks — issues that don’t often make the program at general forums and debates.
“I think that this election is going to be a watershed for human services in many respects,” said Steve Daschle, co-chair of the Human Services Coalition.
The economy is rebounding, Daschle said, so the mayor and city council have an opportunity to bolster human services.
Each candidate answered three questions about human services, but most spoke in broad brushstrokes, arguing that each was the candidate with the best record or opinion on city programs.
After the forum, Daschle said, “What I’m still unsure [about] is how each of these candidates would address this challenge.”
The crowd seemed to favor anti-establishment candidates, especially with dozens of volunteers and supporters who came to hear Kshama Sawant, the Socialist Alternative candidate running for city council against 16-year incumbent Richard Conlin.
Sawant argued that the Seattle City Council and Mayor Mike McGinn have offered miniscule improvements to social inequity and touted her plan to create a $15-an-hour minimum wage in Seattle.
“I’m not here to tweak some program here or some program there,” Sawant said.
Conlin defended the city’s accomplishments, which he said are remarkable considering the poor economy.
“In the face of the recession, we maintained every single human services program intact. But not only that, we added money,” Conlin said.
Perennial city council antagonist Sam Bellomio, running against Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, argued that the sitting councilmembers are inaccessible to the public, and he continued to call for open meetings that allow members of the public to comment on any topic.
Bellomio is a fixture at Seattle City Council and King County Council meetings, where he calls politicians criminals who shut the public out by holding daytime meetings with fixed agendas.
“How are we supposed to fix things if we keep electing criminals in office?” Bellomio said.
Bagshaw shared her usual message of unity, arguing that there’s little difference between rich and poor people and calling for everyone to work together.
“It doesn’t matter whether we’re making no money or whether we’re making a ton of dollars, we can all figure this out together,” Bagshaw said.
Mayor Mike McGinn argued that he has already spent the last four years aggressively pushing human services programs, citing legislation that would allow homeless encampments on private property.
McGinn said he would spend a second term doing “the same thing I have been doing from the start.”
McGinn’s opponent, Sen. Ed Murray, said little about specific answers for Seattle and focused instead on statewide politics. He argued that the rest of Washington is conservative and needs to be convinced to support new streams of revenue for human services.
“We have a real challenge to reach out to the rest of the state,” he said.
City Councilmember Nick Licata and his opponent, Socialist Alternative candidate Edwin Fruit, were the only candidates to debate specific proposals for human services in the city.
Fruit is one of several Occupy Wall Street-inspired candidates trying to push the seemingly progressive city council farther to the left. He filed to run against Licata, who is on the farthest left on the city council.
Human services suffer, Fruit said, because Seattle is controlled by private business.
“It’s the fault of a society that doesn’t put human beings before profits,” he said.
Licata agreed but said his past efforts to push rent control or luxury taxes have failed.
It was difficult to read the major differences between opponents Mike O’Brien and Albert Shen.
The two jokingly shook fists at each other, highlighting the lack of disagreement.
They agreed that human services need greater support and vowed to fight for them in office.
CommentsClarification--Edwin Fruit is a Socialist Worker's Party candidate, NOT a Socialist Alternative candidate. Kshama Sawant is the Socialist Alternative candidate. September 28, 2013 Dear Mr. Burkhalter, I just want to correct your identification of me in the article above. I am the Socialist Workers candidate for City Council. Mary Martin was our candidate in the mayoral primary and John Naubert, who is also on the ballot is the candidate for Port Commissioner, Position 2. Hopefully, in my scheduled interview with Rosette Royal, we can clarify our differences with the capitalist candidates as well as with Socialist Alternative. Thank you. Edwin Fruit Socialist Workers candidate for City Council, Position 2 Steve Daschle lives in Redmond. Why is he even allowed to be part of a discussion of 'bolstering human services in Seattle' which are property tax issues that will not affect him, but will affect Seattle home and property owners, and by default will also affect RENTERS in the City of Seattle. Keep pushing for more and more services to be funded and shouldered by Seattle property owners via property taxes and you will shove more and more people to the brink. Take a look at the foreclosure and short sale numbers in the Rainier Valley and Delridge and you will see how low-income home owners are getting hammered on all fronts, including property taxes. At least Murray is willing to say that the human services are to be addressed at the State level instead of Seattle trying to be a lifeboat, which it cannot be. Plum Branch, SC, USA Brookfield, WI, USA
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.