In March, Columbia City residents heard pre-dawn gunfire — confusing and scaring them for a long time.
They didn't know that a Bellevue police SWAT team had tracked a robbery suspect to their neighborhood, and that he tried to escape in a car, striking a pickup truck and appearing ready to drive over some officers. The SWAT team shot and killed him. "The pain of that is still here," said Seattle mayoral candidate Charlie Staadecker, reflecting on neighbors' need to know something while being asked to stay in their houses for safety.
To Staadecker, that would have been a good time to have some Seattle police officers in the neighborhood — not to capture the robbery suspect, but to knock on nearby doors to tell residents what was going on while standing ready to protect civilians.
"We had a rare opportunity to say; 'I am here to guard your house. I am here to guard your children,' " Staadecker, 70, told a group of Crosscut editors and writers Tuesday. Staadecker is one of seven Democrats along with Socialist candidate Mary Martin who are running for mayor, with an August primary to trim the November field to two.
Staadecker believes the number of Seattle police officers should be increased with the extra people going to patrols in neighborhoods. That extra patrol work would include knocking on doors and building better personal relationships with the residents and businesses. "They need to increase the sense that we're here to protect and serve," he said. He added that the actual number of extra officers needs to be studied with a consensus reached on that figure.
A fourth-generation Seattleite, the bow-tie-loving U.S. Army veteran earned degrees at the Wharton School of Finance and from Cornell University to work in the hotel industry and in commercial real estate development. He used to live on Vashon Island, where he served on the school board.
Staadecker stressed collaboration Tuesday, criticizing incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn for being the opposite. "Words that I'd use (for McGinn) — divisive, combative, lack of collaboration," he said. Staadecker cited McGinn fighting the downtown tunnel project as mayor after he promised in the campaign to end that opposition. Also, Staadecker cited McGinn opposing the city providing $7 million to the Museum of History and Industry to help it move out of the State Route 520 bridge's new pathway. The city council overruled McGinn on that issue.
In an earlier interview with Crosscut's editors, McGinn contended he took policy stances on issues without personal rancor -- and said he has learned to become more of a team player as his term unfolded. He has consistently said his opposition to the tunnel did not violate the wording of what he said during the campaign.
Staadecker said, "To me, the next mayor has to have the ability to collaborate with several groups. ... Collaboration has been the key to my success." It is possible to pigeonhole Staadecker in the same business-oriented political niche as T-Mobile executive Joe Mallahan, who lost to McGinn 51 percent to 48 percent with write-ins getting the remaining votes in 2009. Staadecker said Mallahan told him; "I underestimated Mike McGinn. Don't underestimate Mike McGinn."
On Tuesday, Staadecker talked about:
- Changing how downtown parking is tackled. He proposed charging a small parking fee for the first hour that a vehicle is parked on a street, a larger fee for the second hour, and a significant fee for the third and later hours. That would encourage people to go downtown for shorter trips, while also discouraging someone from hogging a spot for an entire day, he said. He also wants to eliminate parking fees after 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, Staadecker believes the city should invest in parking garages, and install cheaper rates to park in those, which would force private parking garages to shrink their rates in order to be competitive. He argued that electric and hybrid cars should be encouraged by reserving bottom levels of parking garages for them, and by installing charging equipment in those garages. He'd also institute holiday rates to encourage downtown shopping in November and December.
- Changing how downtown parking is tackled. He proposed charging a small parking fee for the first hour that a vehicle is parked on a street, a larger fee for the second hour, and a significant fee for the third and later hours. That would encourage people to go downtown for shorter shopping trips, while also discouraging someone from hogging a spot for an entire day, he said. He also wants to eliminate parking fees after 6 p.m.
- Getting bicyclists, transit riders and drivers to peaceably co-exist. He speculated that downtown parking lanes will have to eventually disappear to allow more car and bike travel lanes.
- Conducting a study of all of Seattle's infrastructure needs — roads, sidewalks, broadband, electric water, sewer and so on — and determine what will be needed 20 years from now. Then a path to those needs can be mapped out, he said.
- The city working more closely with the Seattle school district — a theme echoed by most mayoral candidates. Staadecker floated trial balloon Tuesday to have the city donate a chunk of land to the school district, and then join the district to hit up corporate donors to create the best Science, Technology, Engineering and Math school in the state, including luring Washington's best teachers and outside speakers to it.
- Surveying neighborhoods to find out what services and facilities are needed in each.
- Identifying underused buildings in Seattle, and exploring ways to bring their leasing costs-per-square-foot down to encourage fledgling companies to set up in those structures.
- Trying to help the arts and entertainment communities boost themselves without extra city money. "Would I like to fund the arts? Yes. But health and safety come first," he said.
Staadecker said the arts and entertainment communities should be encouraged to do more street performances as advertising — suggesting that music combos and acting troupes could travel the city in vans, stopping and then giving brief performances in public spots before moving on. "I think it would increase ticket sales," he said.