By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
As a sign of the friendly nature of this race, lunch started with a game of rock-paper-scissors to decide which candidate would respond to questions first.
Mayoral candidates Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn participated in a lunchtime forum debate at the Sun Ya Restaurant in Chinatown on Oct. 9.
The forum was organized by the Northwest Asian Weekly (NWAW) and covered by four newspapers. Moderated by KING 5 anchor Lori Matsukawa, the candidates fielded questions from various leaders of the Asian American community such as Shoreline Mayor Cindy Ryu and former King County Council Member Dolores Sibonga. There were more than 50 people in the audience, including Seattle Port Commissioner Lloyd Hara.
The candidates exchanged a few contentious points in the 90-minute discussion. More than a dozen questions were asked.
Joe Mallahan, a T-Mobile executive, cites his management experience and ability to collaborate with others as traits that will make him the best choice for mayor. He pledged to keep Seattle moving forward. He indicated that as mayor, he would add more police officers, reestablish the gang unit, promote smart transportation solutions, create jobs, and lower the tax burden.
Mike McGinn, a lawyer until he left to start his own nonprofit organization, believes his experience working with city and state governments and his proven leadership will make him the best fit for mayor.
As mayor, he promises to reach out and engage people in helping him guide his decisions. He stated that he will work with others, but when he believes something is wrong, he will voice his opposition. McGinn cites his opposition to the city tunnel project to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct as an example of his willingness to stand up to something he believes is wrong.
The candidates recognized the need for diversity and Asian American contribution for the city. If elected, each candidate promised to remain in touch with the Asian American community to ensure that their needs are addressed. Here are some of the questions posed by the audience at the forum:
What is your view on the city of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative?
McGinn: McGinn recognizes the need to address the issue of race and racism. One of the few compliments made by either candidate of Mayor Nickels, McGinn commended the mayor on his work on this city initiative. He believes it is critical to work internally and work with communities on issues of race. He also supports government contracting that will actively seek opportunities for minorities and women to obtain government contracts.
Mallahan: Mallahan views the initiative as a way to address institutional racism. “Race matters because of history,” Mallahan said. He envisions city government that is reflective of its citizens.
What is your view on education in Seattle Public Schools?
McGinn: McGinn believes in early childhood education. He has been a supporter of the Seattle Team for Youth — a community-based group focusing on helping at-risk youth involved in gangs. As mayor, he will look to reach out to immigrant communities and figure out how to involve youth and keep them in schools.
Mallahan: In one of the few jabs during the luncheon, Mallahan pointed out how he would work with the City of Seattle School Board to address issues. Mallahan highlighted McGinn’s plan to take over the school board within two years if it did not meet expectations. “We should learn how to plow our streets before we take over city schools,” added Mallahan, making a reference to Mayor Nickels’ failure to plow city streets during last winter’s snowstorms.
How will you work with the City of Seattle School Board?
McGinn: In response to Mallahan’s attack about his support to take over the Seattle School Board if it is ineffective, McGinn stated that he would “partner with the school board but hold them accountable.” As an alternative, he believes the city should look at governance reform with direct mayoral responsibility, which would have the mayor in charge of the school board. McGinn believes that this will let voters know who will be held accountable.
Mallahan: Mallahan indicated that he knows how to champion collaboration through his time at T-Mobile and believes that he can work with the school board. He cites the issue with the school board as one of governance. He will look at what other cities have done in coming up with ideas on how to address issues with public schools. This includes exploring community-based schooling. This idea involves city government partnering with the school district, where city services will be in the school. Mallahan believes that, based on models in other cities, it will connect schools with neighborhoods.
As mayor, what would you do to help small businesses in Chinatown with public safety problems?
McGinn: McGinn acknowledged the need for small business and is in favor of more police officers as a way to address public safety. Unlike his opponent, he is skeptical of a potential panhandling law in Seattle.
Mallahan: Mallahan thinks that people need to feel comfortable when they come to an unfamiliar community. He supports a panhandling law, which he believes should address some issues with patrons feeling intimidated by aggressive panhandlers as they may deter customers from businesses.
What is your plan to promote minority and female-owned businesses?
McGinn: McGinn stated that while I-200 is a barrier, he will work to find ways to promote minority and female-owned businesses for contracts with the city.
Mallahan: Although he told the attendees that I-200 created certain barriers for the city from creating specific opportunities based upon race, he said that as mayor, he would make a commitment and plan to target minority/female businesses for contracting opportunities.
Mallahan would seek to break up big contracts so small businesses will have an opportunity to bid for work. He also stated that he would encourage businesses to partner with minority and female-owned businesses.
How will you stay engaged with the Asian American community?
McGinn: McGinn cites his record of attending 18 town halls and listening sessions with community members as ways he has made himself accessible to the public. He will remain engaged with all communities with the city of Seattle as mayor.
Mallahan: Similarly, Mallahan stated that he will be physically present in all communities, including the Asian American community, to address any issues and concerns.
A humorous question, asked by Northwest Asian Weekly Publisher Assunta Ng during the lunch, was whether either candidate could name three businesses in Chinatown that isn’t Uwajimaya or Sun Ya, the restaurant where the lunch forum was held.
McGinn was able to name three after some difficulty, while Mallahan could not. Taking the embarrassing setback in stride, Mallahan asked if Ng could name three businesses in his neighborhood of Wallingford.
The response: “I’m not running for mayor of Seattle.” ♦
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.