Key issues confronting the next mayor
Whoever is elected mayor in November will face big challenges that will shape the city and its quality of life. We ask some experts to give their advice on five key issues facing Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Click the image to learn more about the candidates and the issues in the 2013 Seattle mayoral race.
Whoever is elected mayor in November will face big challenges that will shape the city and its quality of life. New projects, such as the billion-dollar waterfront makeover, as well as new light rail and streetcar lines, will require public support and financing.
Several major levy and bond measures will come up for renewal in the next four years, including for parks and transportation. Seattle faces a $1.8 billion backlog in roads and bridge maintenance. Parks faces a $270 million maintenance backlog.
The Police Department faces the work of reform under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that will shape public safety downtown, in neighborhoods and with communities of color.
We asked some civic leaders and advocates to share their thoughts on key issues facing the next Seattle mayor.
Jenny Durkan, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington
For the Department of Justice consent decree with the city and the Seattle Police Department to be successful, all of the legal requirements (use of force, bias-free policing, stops and detention, training and supervision and the Community Police Commission) have to become part of the culture of the department moving forward.
The selection of a new chief is critical. Whoever is chosen will significantly determine the chances for success. The culture shift will depend on clear direction from the chief and department leadership for both the influx of new officers and many existing officers.
There also needs to be better unity between the department and the downtown corridor — the people who live, work and run businesses there. Do you want cops out of their cars and walking around knowing people? Do you want them moving people along, writing citations and making arrests? You have to have a very clear philosophy and it’s got to be carried out.
All of us have to continue to bridge the gap between the Police Department and communities of color. No question there was a disconnect there and the federal monitor’s recent polling confirms that the gap continues. That connection has to be woven into the fabric of the department. It’s all about leadership and leadership comes from the top.
Peter Steinbrueck, urban planner, former city councilmember and former mayoral candidate
The rezoning of major areas of the city is occurring without the investment in public infrastructure called for in the neighborhood plans. The next mayor should use the city’s regulatory authority to require parks, schools, pedestrian improvements and transit service with new growth. He should strengthen design review so that new construction blends better with the existing neighborhoods.
City planners are currently working on a major update to our Comprehensive Plan that will guide growth for an estimated 100,000 new residents and 115,000 more jobs through 2035.
Our comp plan is a vision for how we grow. It sets policies and goals for a full range of community needs including affordable housing, transportation choices and environmental stewardship. Before we launch the next 20-year plan in 2015, we should look back at the past 20 years and see where we’ve succeeded and where we’ve failed.
Under the plan, growth is supposed to be directed equitably to urban centers and villages, but that’s not exactly what’s happened. Some neighborhoods like Ballard, with poor transit service, are getting a disproportionate share of growth. Others like Southeast Seattle haven’t attracted the kind of private development underserved neighborhoods could benefit from.
Currently two-thirds of the city’s workers live outside Seattle. The mayor should lead the city’s efforts to provide more affordable-housing choices near to jobs.
Carrie Dolwick, policy director, Transportation Choices
Even if the state passes a revenue package that includes a local option tax to fund Metro transit, Seattle will still have a maintenance backlog of $1.8 billion for roads and bridges.
The Bridging the Gap levy expires in 2015 and will have to be renewed to fill many of the city’s transportation needs. There are so many competing projects — roads, maintenance, transit, light rail, streetcars, sidewalks, bikes. Everybody assumes Bridging the Gap will be renewed, but there could be consecutive ballot measures for Metro funding in 2014, Seattle’s Bridging the Gap in 2015 and Sound Transit expansion in 2016. Will voters’ support for transit be enough to approve all three?
If the state doesn’t pass the local option, Seattle may want to fill in some of the projected 17 percent cut in Metro service. King County doesn’t want to see a Balkanization of funding for transit services, but Seattle would take the biggest hit and Seattle may have to get creative.
It keeps me up at night. It’s going to be a challenge to fund all the competing needs, especially with state and federal funding uncertain. We have to make sure the planning is coordinated, very thoughtful and delivers what people need to get around the city.
Thatcher Bailey, executive director, Seattle Parks Foundation
A $270 million major maintenance backlog is the highest profile and most urgent parks issue, but the public-space challenge facing the next mayor is bigger than that.
The recession kept city leadership focused on the costs of maintaining and enhancing public space. The new mayor has the opportunity to lead a new conversation about the value of these assets.
The spine of Seattle’s park system — the envy of cities around the country — reflects the Olmstead brothers’ 1903 plan for parks, boulevards and open space. We need to build on that vision to create an integrated, interconnected and financially sustainable system for all our public space — parks, schoolyards, trails, streets and sidewalks, shorelines, natural areas and community centers.
Given the passion, new thinking and money that so many neighborhood groups, nonprofits and other private sector leaders are investing in our public space, and given that cities around the world tout their public spaces as marquis investments, the new mayor has an extraordinary opportunity to unite and excite Seattleites around a bold vision for the future of our public space and public life.
Bob Davidson, CEO, Seattle Aquarium
The scale of what will be going on the waterfront between now and 2020, not even counting the tunnel, is in excess of $1 billion. That includes everything from moving Alaskan Way three times, the reconstruction of the seawall and the construction of elements in the new waterfront.
It includes the overlook walk tying Pike Place Market to the Seattle Aquarium, rebuilding the public piers (58, 62-63), expanding the aquarium and creating new public spaces along the waterfront. It also includes the redevelopment of the state ferry terminal and the area around Pier 48.
Any one of them is a big project, but all of them together are huge. It’s a massive public-works project with lots of partners and the complexities of trying to do this while keeping the city running — and that’s just the building- and construction-management part.
A significant chunk of these projects aren’t yet funded. In order for them to be funded, it’s going to require that the property owners and voters understand and are enthusiastically supportive of the new waterfront. Secondly, the private-donor community is going to have to be excited and feel that its support is both needed and can make a big difference.
The next mayor has to inspire and lead a unified community effort.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @lthompsontimes