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seattle candidates for mayor share their views at ywca opportunity place

The YWCA hosted Seattle mayoral candidates Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn in a question-and-answer forum at YWCA Opportunity Place on October 16, giving the prospective city leaders the chance to address critical issues facing women and families.

Watch a video of the complete forum

“It takes more than money, it takes wise public policy” to create a community where all women and families can thrive, YWCA Board member and forum moderator Sandra Madrid told the candidates. “By investing in programs and policies that help women and girls thrive, we are investing in the well-being of our families, communities and society as a whole.”

Mallahan, an executive with T-Mobile, opened the hour-long gathering by outlining his business management qualifications and background, saying he came from a family of strong women including a mother who “preached to us an ethic of social justice.”

McGinn, an attorney and civic activist, said his upbringing in a family of educators and service providers taught him “about who had power and who didn’t.” He said his long history of organizing and activism made him the best choice to move Seattle forward.

Question: What role does the Mayor play in helping to ensure that family-friendly policies exist in business to accommodate working parents?

Mallahan touted his two dozen endorsements from labor groups and said creating living wage jobs would be a priority.

McGinn said he would explore incentives for business to initiate such policies.

Question: Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole – women and men alike – than the one which involves women as central players.” What do you propose to do as Mayor to ensure that women are “central players” in the economic development of Seattle?

McGinn said affordable housing and access to good jobs would be the key to advancing women’s economic strength. “Good affordable transit, more housing closer to (employment) centers, child care, family leave, sick leave – all are essential to recognizing that we need to be supportive of families in the city,” he said.

Mallahan said his first step would be to hire women for top city government positions, noting that there are currently no women in upper management in the Seattle Police Department. He promised to be “intentional and principled in development women in the workforce.”

Leaders in our nonprofit community have tremendous expertise and insights on a wide range of civic issues ranging from housing to education to transportation to safety and everything in between. What are your plans to include nonprofit leaders in your decision-making processes; for example, would you routinely include them on commissions, search committees, advisory committees, etc.?

Mallahan pointed to his track record of “bringing together and hiring people who are way smarter than I am… finding diverse teams… and open and collaborative leadership.”

McGinn said he would “not only get input but work to strengthen nonprofits… which often have the best ideas for what we can do to improve the community.”

Question: You both support renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy on the November 3rd ballot. Beyond ensuring the continuation of this levy, what specifically will you do to increase the number of affordable housing units in Seattle?

McGinn said he would lobby and work toward increasing state and federal dollars for affordable housing; seek changes in zoning laws and remove certain building restrictions that would act as incentives for developers to build low-income housing; and explore partnerships that would use city property for affordable housing.

Mallahan said he would ensure that existing dollars are spent effectively; seek “pathways to prosperity” for working families; maximize housing stock; and examine zoning regulations that sometimes worked to drive prices up.

Question: This building houses the busiest WorkSource Center in King County. And it’s gotten increasingly busier during the last 12 months of the recession – a 163% increase. Give us an example of a policy change or shift that you will implement as Mayor to increase the number of living wage jobs in our city.

Mallahan explained that “the fastest way we can grow our economy is to enable small business to succeed.” He said Seattle sends the wrong signal to small business through policies such as a tax on hiring new employees. He promised to “work toward progressive values” in creating a more positive city business climate.

McGinn pointed to city contracting practices as an issue, suggesting that contracts for public building projects should mandate living wage jobs. He also said he would seek grants to jump start green building in Seattle.

Question: According to the Seattle/King County Coalition for the Homeless, the YWCA and 28 other organizations participated in a “one day turn away” survey that indicated at least 283 children and 176 adults with families who were seeking emergency shelter were turned away. Also, in a total state one-night count, 22,827 people were counted as homeless and of those 10,696 were part of families. The most disturbing statistic was that 6,251 were children under 18. With the number of women and children who are homeless in Seattle steadily increasing and City of Seattle funding to address the issue of family homelessness decreasing, what specific policy steps would you take to find a permanent solution to this issue?

McGinn said he supports the long-term goals of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, but said the city should put more emphasis on emergency shelter to meet immediate needs and provide more permanence for tent encampments.

Mallahan also endorsed the 10-Year Plan, promised to protect the city’s human services budget and said he would “call on the private sector in a bigger way.”

Question: The City of Seattle began a Race and Social Justice Initiative in 2005 to eliminate racial injustices and promote racial equity. First, tell us what you believe the city’s stake is in ensuring racial equity and social justice – why this initiative should continue – and then tell us what experience and perspectives you would bring to the office of Mayor that can ensure continued progress in the Initiative.

Mallahan stated that “race and gender matter because of our history of oppression… (it is) our morale imperative to hold ourselves accountable.” He pointed to his experience as a community organizer in Chicago, bringing together people from across religious and racial lines, to effect changes such as creating a domestic violence shelter. He said he would improve funding for Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods to better allow people to organize “and put pressure on city hall.”

McGinn noted that almost 20 percent of the city will be foreign born in a few years and said “huge disparities” still exist. He said he would “reach out and include all communities” in decision-making and lauded his experience as co-founder and executive director of a community-organizing nonprofit called Great City.

Question: Only 63 percent of Seattle Public School students graduated on time with their class in 2008. For African-American students, that number fell to 49 percent. What role can the City play in providing support for all students at risk of dropping out, and particularly for at-risk students of color?

McGinn said the city should sustain its commitment to youth violence prevention programs and promised to coordinate and work with nonprofits that dealt with truant and at-risk youth. He said he would work with the school district to find other ways to help keep kids in school, such as providing summer jobs in city government.

Mallahan said the role of the next mayor would be to work toward renewing the school support levy, manage effectively, partner with the school district to focus help on neighborhood schools that need it the most, and hold the School Board and superintendent accountable for addressing graduation issues.

In their concluding remarks, the candidates focused attention on their opposing views of the Alaska Way viaduct and reiterated their qualifications. For more information on each candidate, go to and