Nine candidates are vying to be Seattle mayor. Times City Hall reporter Lynn Thompson sat down recently with architect Peter Steinbrueck to let him introduce himself and tell voters what’s important to him. The answers have been edited for length.
Mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck pushes livability
Seattle mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck answers a few questions about his background and plans for the city
Education: B.A. government & U.S. history, cum laude, Bowdoin College, 1979; master’s in architecture, University of Washington, 1988
Home neighborhood: Ravenna
Family: Divorced, two children
Hobbies: Hiking, vegetable gardening, antiquities
Q: You served 10 years on the City Council. What other experience would you bring to the job of mayor?
A: I have a lifetime of instruction in urbanism beginning with my father (Victor Steinbrueck). I spent a year at Harvard (on a Loeb Fellowship in 2010) studying urbanism in U.S. cities. How do cities deal with decline? How do they deal with growth? Poverty? Injustice?
My professional work with Steinbrueck Urban Strategies (including representing the Port of Seattle’s interest in preserving its operations in Sodo) has mostly involved representing public agencies working to solve problems and advance missions.
The past is predictive of the future. I think I have an outstanding record of accomplishment.
Q: How would you balance growth with quality of life?
A: The crux of my campaign and my mission is to improve that equation. There are principles of livability that I know and understand well. We can’t simply pave over everything and lose sun and light and our green spaces.
South Lake Union, for example, could be a model of ecological development, but we’re fast losing that opportunity. The trajectory it’s on is to become one massive office park. Commercial growth has far outstripped residential. The housing is not affordable to the workforce there.
The best development principle we have is living close to work. It reduces transportation costs, congestion, pollution. Other things South Lake Union should have: a fire station, a school, a community center. Where’s the community center? It’s the Vulcan real estate office. I’m serious.
Q: What would you do to ensure the Seattle Police Department has strong leadership and undertakes the work of reform?
A: We need transformational change that is long-term and cultural throughout the department. It needs to be at the top and it has to be more than moving seats around. I’m talking about real, institutional change, not simply responding to the (Department of Justice) in a pro forma way with new use-of-force practices.
The next chief has to be able to inspire and motivate the rank and file. And she or he has to be someone who is very comfortable communicating with, listening to and working with communities of color because Seattle is becoming increasingly diverse and we have to embrace that change.
There’s competition in this country for the best candidate and there aren’t very many. We have to get our house in order at City Hall with the quarreling between branches of government and show that this is a place where the best leader wants to be.
Q: Seattle has a $1.8 billion backlog in deferred maintenance for transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges. That’s despite voters approving a $365 million levy in 2006 that was meant to catch us up. How would you address that?
A: I would not be fearful of proposing something big and bold. Perhaps what we need is a mega bond measure to bring the costs down and spread it out over a longer period of time. We cannot continue down this path of ignoring huge, monumental challenges of infrastructure.
The current mayor is talking about an almost three-quarter-billion-dollar bridge over the ship canal — new infrastructure — to serve light rail that we have no funding for. I think basic infrastructure has to come first.
The most striking advances globally have not been subways or rail systems but bus rapid transit, rubber-tired rail. It’s much less expensive. It’s faster to implement. It has dedicated lanes so it’s not stalled in traffic. It’s been transformative in places like Mexico City and Brazil.
Q: What’s your strategy for getting through a crowded primary?
A: I can’t think of a time when we’ve had this many high-profile candidates. My challenge is I’m not in office and I don’t have some of the advantages of fundraising. But I don’t have to raise $150,000 for people to know who I am and what I stand for.
Q: My colleague Danny Westneat said you looked irked throughout most of a recent candidate forum. Do you dislike campaigning?
A: I think he misread me. Sometimes when I’m thinking in an intense way I may have a frown. I love these forums. I love talking about the issues. I’m a policy wonk. If anything, I know too much and have too many opinions.
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes