Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

King County Municipal League's 2009 candidate ratings greeted with surprise

The King County Municipal League, the county's best known "good government" group, today released its candidate ratings in select races for the 2009 primary election, surprising a number of political observers with what several readers of The Advocate have privately characterized to NPI as blatant favoritism towards developer-friendly candidates with a background in business.

Perhaps most surprising is that in the county's two marquee races (King County Executive and Mayor of Seattle) only one candidate received the Municipal League's top honors of "Outstanding": Joe Mallahan.

The Municipal League defines their "Outstanding" rating in these words:
Outstanding – Has made numerous outstanding contributions requiring skills related to the office, is a path-finding and respected leader, brings knowledge and creativity to issues facing the office.
That sentence seems like it might well apply to any of the elected Democrats running for County Executive, particularly Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine, who have fought uphill battles against powerful interests (in Dow's case, Glacier Northwest), perservered for years to expand mass transit, and repeatedly strived to protect county residents' quality of life.

And in fact, Dow Constantine and Fred Jarrett did receive "Outstanding" ratings from the League in their last campaigns (for County Council, District 8, and State Senate, 41st Legislative District). But not this year.

Like their Democratic competiton, they were only rated as "Very Good". (Susan Hutchison and Alan Lobdell were rated "Good", while Stan Lippman and Goodspaceguy Nelson were predictably rated "Not Qualified". )

Mallahan's chief competiton for Mayor of Seattle - Greg Nickels and Jan Drago - were likewise rated "Very Good" and "Good" respectively, one level below what each were rated in 2005. Nickels was "Outstanding" then, while Drago was "Very Good"; they apparently aren't any more.

Nickels' contributions to the City have also seemingly diminished in the League's eyes. The lower rating for Nickels is especially ironic considering it was released less than a week after one of the opening of Central Link, which ranks perhaps as Nickels' biggest lifetime accomplishment in office.

(Believe it or not, the Muncipal League even presented Nickels with the James R. Ellis Regional Leadership Award for his championing of Central Link at their fiftieth annual civic awards a few months ago).

Meanwhile, Mallahan, a first time office-seeker, got an "Outstanding" rating. We can't help but ask, what's up with these ratings? Has experience in government suddenly become less valuable or something?

There's something to be said for bringing in new blood into the political arena. But to suggest that the "knowledge, involvement, effectiveness and character" of so many incumbents has lessened over the last two to four years - which is the message the lower ratings convey - is very, very strange.

(Those quoted traits are the four criteria the Municipal League uses to determine its ratings, according to its news release).

A complete listing of the Municipal League's ratings for this election cycle are available at their website (PDF) complete with an introduction.


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