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Kate Martin’s mayor run: Viaduct Park, ORCAs for all and a cadre of mentors

Kate Martin Credit: Berit Anderson

Every owner of a Seattle motor vehicle should pay $100 for an ORCA card to help pay the city's share of the King County Metro transit system. And a reinforced upper deck of the Alaskan Way Viaduct would be a good open space for the public to enjoy the waterfront.

Those are two proposals that Seattle mayor candidate Kate Martin discussed Monday with Crosscut editors and reporters. The talk was one of a series of meetings Crosscut is holding with all the candidates.

Martin proposes that each car owner pay $100 for an ORCA card to raise money for Seattle's portion of the transit system, while encouraging more people to use it. Martin said she has floated the concept — which is a tax — at campaign gatherings, and most people approved of it. Metro faces a potential fiscal cliff that could force a 17 percent cut in service next year. 

Martin says there is an overlooked potential to help the waterfront by connecting the Pike Place Market to a park-like area along the Alaskan Way Viaduct's upper deck when traffic carried by the structure is shifted to a waterfront tunnel. She contended that while the upper deck's earthquake-related structural strength is suspect as a vehicular street, people and a park weigh much less and could be put safely on a reinforced structure.

Martin says there is a need to make bold choices in order to significantly boost its economy and quality of life. "We're almost a victim of disjointed incrementalism," she said.

Martin is best known as a neighborhood and education activist in the Greenwood area, where she routinely crossed paths with neighborhood resident Mike McGinn before he became mayor. "He couldn't remember people's names. He couldn't get to meetings on time," she recalled. She is a former president of the Greenwood Community Council, and ran unsuccessfully for the Seattle School Board in 2011. She captured roughly 70,000 votes in that race with little financial backing, which encouraged her to run for mayor.

"When it comes to youth, I describe myself as a radical. When it comes to health care, I'm a socialist. When it comes to the environment, I'm a progressive. When it comes to civil rights, I'm a liberal," said Martin, 55, who owns a landscape design business. She and her husband have three children.

She also described herself as conservative on finances. She credited McGinn with balancing city budgets but said there are longer-range fiscal issues to address. She said she would like to have city employees, particularly those with the highest salaries, pay a larger share of their health care costs. 

"I'm a policy wonk. I'm a business wonk. But again, I'm not mired in that," Martin said

Martin's chief focus and claims to fame are in education. She gained attention in 2009 when she went to Roosevelt High School to protest the competence of her son's math teacher, and police escorted her from the school because of her angry behavior. She threatened to protest outside the school until the math teacher was removed. He eventually left. "I got the job done that day. … I'm proud about it," Martin said.

"I pick and choose when I'm 'Direct Kate,' and when I'm 'Tactful Kate,' " she said.

The greatest number of issues on Martin's campaign Web site tackle education. And she stressed educational matters in the Monday meeting with Crosscut.

One proposal is to create a Seattle Youth Boosters Association, which would be a group of trained volunteers to help kids and their families with schools and to create their own "personal development plans."

If she survives August's eight-way primary and November's two-way main election, Martin has other plans, which include:

  • Putting a sales tax on the work of service firms such as lawyers, architects and so on as a way to boost the city's of Seattle's revenue. However, service firms are facing the strong possibility of the state Legislature extending an existing business-and-occupation tax on service firms. "I know there will be push-back on (a tax on) the sales of services,” Martin said. Her firm would be subject to the proposed sales tax.
  • Overhauling the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods to improve staff numbers, staff expertise and the department's technology.
  • Replacing Holly Miller, who is director of the city's Office for Education and an architect of 2011's Family and Education Levy. Martin supported that levy. However, she did not elaborate on why Miller should be replaced.
  • A cautious approach to Chris Hansen's basketball arena project because the SoDo site was pick prior to city-based analyses being done on the location. 
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