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Community members ask the candidates

October 6th, 2009 by Thea

Last night was the Mayoral and City Council Candidate Forum, held in the Ballard High School auditorium. Put on by the Magnolia/Queen Anne and Ballard district councils, community members were invited to ask the candidates questions about their policies and future plans. Moderated by Seattle Channel‘s C.R. Douglas, the forum was comprised of questions submitted beforehand by the communities, audience queries and a series of “lightening rounds,” where candidates held up one of three cards: “Yes,” “No,” and “Waffle” (Literally. The card showed a picture of waffles).

First up were the eight City Council candidates. Beginning promptly at 6:30 p.m., each candidate was given one minute to summarize why they wanted the position. Some topics of particular interest included the Viaduct construction, the proposed tunnel, and whether or not these projects should come before or after critical and much-needed maintenance of other citywide infrastructure, such as the Magnolia Bridge.

The candidates also discussed a recent statistic stating that violent crime in Seattle went up 22 percent in the first six months of the year, debating over how the city should expand it’s law enforcement programs – if and how the numbers should be increased, if the city should revamp the way it utilizing its officers, and whether money should be taken from other programs to fund an increase in law enforcement.

The candidates also discussed the proposed Mercer Street Corridor, budget prioritizing, public transportation and district representation. In the lightening rounds, all favored expanding the park ranger program in the city, and Mayor Nickels’ gun ban in Seattle owned properties such as parks, city run buildings and the Seattle Center. They all agreed that developers should be required to provide public open space, and that foot and bike patrols should be expanded in neighborhood business districts. None of them believes that human services should be cut in order to balance the budget.

Next up were mayoral candidates Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn, who took that stage for the second half of the forum, demonstrating, along with Douglas, that they could have a little fun amidst a serious discussion. During one of the the lightening rounds, McGinn held up the back-side of his waffle card, to show a blank white page. After a few moments, Douglas poked a bit of fun at the candidate, asking him what the blank page meant, to which McGinn responded “I don’t know what it means. I think we have to look at it. Some questions actually require answers.” Rather than moving on to the next lightening question, on several occasions each candidate began to explain their reasoning to the room, at which point Douglas had to intercede jokingly, “No talking,” and “Soon we’ll have questions that actually allow answers.”

This showed an eagerness on the part of the candidates, who expanded on key issues like the transportation, education, jobs, citywide environmentalism, low income housing and crime (to name just a few) when the floor was opened up to community questions. And, of course, one of the biggest topics was the Viaduct, its optioned plans, and other proposals to better public transportation and ease congestion. This also happened to be where the two candidates disagreed the most. Mallahan is in support of the expansion of current highway systems and the Viaduct tunnel plans, while McGinn is against the tunnel, saying it’s too expensive, instead opting for the development of a comprehensive network of strong mass transit systems, including the expansion of Light Rail across the 520 bridge.

Both candidates concluded with strong words against the others’ transportation position.

“He’s not thinking about people,” Mallahan said of McGinn’s stance on the proposed Viaduct tunnel, and his plans for the future of public transport. “His vision is impractical, and it’s the worst thing we could do in this economy.”

McGinn emphasized the need for a new system. “We haven’t learned from 50 years of experience from highways,” he said. “High capacity transit is where the future is.” Though, he emphasized that his work would be reflective of the peoples’ opinions. “I think we should listen to the people, and if elected as mayor my goal is to work with the people just like I’ve been working for the last 20 years, to try to create the kind of communities we both know and love.”

A video of the candidate forum will be available in its entirety on Seattle Channel’s website.

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