Much of the 85-minute forum featured artistically hued versions of the candidates’ positions on downtown/Seattle Center issues: Re-purposing Key Arena, the future of SODO, visions for the new waterfront – but perhaps not as much about the day-to-day issues of culture and arts playing out on Capitol Hill.
KUOW’s Steve Scher moderated the event, billed the Seattle Cultural Community 2013 Mayoral Forum.
While the forum featured seven of the eight candidates (latecomer Joey Gray was absent), most recent polls suggest it is now a four-way race into the August 6 primary between incumbent Mike McGinn, Peter Steinbrueck, Sen. Ed Murray and City Council member Bruce Harrell.
You can view CHS’s most recent Election 2013 coverage here.
During the forum, McGinn spent time touting his achievements in office like spearheading the voter-approved Families and Education Levy — though the levy has received some criticism for not actually granting enough money to arts organizations.
McGinn also touted $500,000 in additional arts investments stemming from greater than expected returns on the city’s 5 percent admission tax, 75% of which goes towards arts funding in the city.
Murray, Steinbrueck, and Charlie Staadecker all vowed to boost the percentage of the admission tax that goes towards the arts to 100% and make up the difference in budget cuts. The mayor and Harrell said they were open to increasing the percentage.
When asked about their favorite public arts projects in the city, Socialist Worker’s Party candidate Mary Martin said “The totems, which make it impossible for us to forget John T Williams, murdered by the Seattle Police.”
Scher began one question by stating the Chihuly Garden had taken away the public land for a playground. “False assumption!” McGinn shouted, then went on to reassure the audience that a children’s play area would be included in future development of the area.
The candidates did pitch some new arts-related proposals. Kate Martin floated the idea of renaming Key Arena “The Queen Anne” to be “one of the best places to do an acoustic gig in the country.”
Steinbrueck, a former City Council member, said he wanted legislature to move forward on proposals for a cultural access fund, which would allow local governments to dedicate a special funding source for arts and culture.
Staadecker said he wanted to re-purpose Key Arena to be one of the top 10 tech high schools in the nation.
Harrell lamented the disparity of arts funding in Seattle schools, saying the private Bishop Blanchet High School was able to put on a $90,000 production of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” while Rainier Beach High had only $1,000 for a production of “The Wiz.”
Harrell also said filmmakers needed to know that Seattle isn’t a one trick pony when it comes to film backdrops. “They always want to film rainy movies here. We need to market our great weather a little more than we do,” he said.
Meanwhile, plans to create the first cultural overlay district in the city on Capitol Hill didn’t get much air time. We’ll have to drill in on what the candidates think about the proposed district later this summer.