As summer turns to fall, we notice the proliferation of yard signs heralding the upcoming election. By now, we have all been inundated with information about our City Council District Elections. There are actually other races appearing on this November’s ballot. In the spirit of examining some lesser publicized campaigns, we are reviving our format of “speed dating” the candidates. We’ll hear from folks running for some less covered races such as Elections Director, Assessor, and Seattle School Board.
The county offices of Election Director and of Assessor should perhaps be appointive rather than elective in that they deal with technical matters. Since we are being asked to hire these individuals, we should hear how they approach the job. If one disagrees with the work of the Assessor, one can file an appeal of the value to a local board. When an Elections Director screws up, what is the recourse? Access to the ballot box is an issue across the country as some jurisdictions adopt ID requirements, while others, such as Oregon, are moving to universal registration. How widespread is voter fraud, and should we be concerned about the 30,000 ballots that were rejected by King County last year?
Another hot topic is that of our public schools. A strong school system is part of a healthy community. Our State Supreme Court just threw out the Charter School Initiative, while holding the state in contempt for the Legislature’s failure to adequately fund basic education. Most of the decisions affecting our schools are made at the local level. Is a part time school board capable of providing adequate oversight of an entrenched bureaucracy? Would we get better results by folding the school district into city government? A bill was introduced this year to split the Seattle district in two. Would this help narrow the achievement gap between the rich and the poor, or would it enshrine inequality?
As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” Let’s explore how these campaigns will impact our neighborhoods. Our Saturday meeting should answer a few of the questions.