Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon respond to $100 business tax proposal and other key issues

By: Casey McNerthney

Updated:

Seattle mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon traded answers in a Monday night conversation at Seattle University.

It wasn’t an official debate, though at times it seemed like one on major issues. 

The full video is below along with brief notes on answers to key topics and where to watch the full answers.

What in your background would give voters confidence that you can manage more than 11,000 city employees?

Moon said she’s worked in the private sector, the public sector and non-profit arena, “so I understand how all three of those sectors have to come together to build a great city.”

Durkan talked about her experience as U.S. Attorney, managing offices in Seattle and Tacoma, and the jurisdiction that spanned Western Washington from the Canadian border to Oregon border. "Her experience is one of a planner," Durkan said. "My experience is not just one of plans, but getting them done.”

See the context and full answers at starting at the 9-minute mark.

Durkan: “Seattle is long on process, long on talking. We need action.” (Expanded answer at the 12:45 mark.)  

To Durkan: Do you deny or embrace being perceived by some as the establishment candidate?

Durkan: “I do neither.” She said more than 3,000 individuals have supported her, and said the number for Moon is in the hundreds – and said the biggest contributor to Moon’s campaign is herself, from her own personal wealth. Durkan said he support ranges from small to large businesses and several labor organizations.

See expanded answer at the 20-minute mark. 

Scroll down to continue reading.


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To Moon: Many perceive you as the anti-establishment candidate, and you celebrated not getting an endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce. How will that work for the city?

Moon: Too few people have power and influence at City Hall, and that needs to change. Power needs to be shared across race and class and gender. “I think people are ready for change, and yes I am the candidate for change. But it’s 100% constructive.” 

Moon said she’s creating a coalition across a variety of folks for a different kind of leadership in Seattle. 

See expanded answer at the 22-minute mark. 

Durkan challenged the answer. 

“I’ve listened to this same talk over and over again … Part of my wants to say, ‘When did you get woke? Because I’ve been working on these issues for 20 and 30 years in this city, as have many people in this room,” Durkan said. “I was walking the halls of Olympia and pushing as hard as I can to get LGBTQ rights, non-discriminate rights, marriage equality. You were never there. 

When we were fighting to get treatment alternatives instead of incarceration in the 90s in the war on drugs, we had hearings, we were pushing for it, it was affecting communities of color. You lived here, but you weren’t there either. 

Durkan said Moon also wasn’t at meetings where Durkan worked for police reform. “If those issues were so important, why weren’t you there then? Why does it start now?”

See the expanded challenge at the 24-minute mark. 

Moon responded that she has been doing a lot of work with communities, most recently through coalitions around how we build an economy that has prosperity for everybody. She said she’s worked on issues around housing affordability, has worked on getting money out of politics locally and statewide. Moon said she’s worked on investing in transit instead of a bypass highway. She said she worked on great parks that are inclusive. 

“I’ve been working on constructive issues in this city for 20 years,” Moon said, adding that her endorsements show her deep relationships. She said she has trust and support from the social justice community, and she’s proud of her work and relationships.

See Moon’s expanded response at the 25:30 mark. 

Both of you are doing quite well financially. How do you assure people who are struggling, specifically renters, that you have their back?

See Moon’s answer at the 27-minute mark. 

See Durkan’s answer at the 29-minute mark. 

Is the proposed $100-per-employee tax for big businesses the right way to speak to Amazon?  

Durkan said she and Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who was one of the two who proposed the tax, agree on policies. But how to pay for those is another question. Durkan said we need to be careful for small businesses. She also noted that the state business and operations tax is collected based on gross income [so a business that has $1 million in gross revenue is taxed on that, even if the profit is much less]. 

“I think we have to look more deeply at it and look at whether you can do an approach that gets at what you want …” But Durkan clarified that she doesn’t think what O’Brien proposed gets us there.   

See Durkan’s full answer starting at the 31:20 mark. 

Both Durkan and Moon said taxes here are regressive. 

Moon said she applauds O’Brien and Councilmember Kirsten Harris-Talley for proposing a “bold new tax that generates revenue to fund the services we know we need to fund.”

“It’s a starting point,” Moon said. “I don’t think the math is quite right yet because we have to make sure that we are only capturing large businesses, and the small retailers who have high sales volume but low profit margins are going to get caught in this trap – so I don’t think we have the numbers just right.”

“But we absolutely have to start developing more progressive taxes so that the wealthy are paying their fair share for the infrastructure and the services we all need to thrive.” 

See Moon’s full answer at the 33:45 mark.

Do you think a federal judge should find the Seattle Police Department in full compliance with the Department of Justice consent decree? 

Skip to 36:45 for Moon’s response. 

See Durkan’s response at the 39:10 mark 

Do you have someone in mind if Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole leaves?

Moon said no, she has not started a search. “If she leaves, I would make that a top priority.” See her full response in the 38-minute mark.

Durkan said she hopes O’Toole stays. She didn’t name a replacement she had in mind. If O’Toole leaves, Durkan said she’d do a national search and look at internal candidates as well. 

To Durkan: Should you have called for Mayor Ed Murray to step down sooner? 

See Durkan’s full answer starting at the 42:15 mark. 

See Moon’s answer at the 44:35 mark. 

Durkan responded at the 46-minute mark.

Moon responded at the 47:36 mark

What about the Sonics? Would a team be better in Sodo or KeyArena?

Moon said she supports using KeyArena if we can get the transportation to work around it and we’re supporting nearby local businesses. Moon said we need to upgrade the Monorail and have transit options for the KeyArena option to work well. 

“We have to keep industrial land,” she said. “It’s a precious resource. Family-wage jobs happen there. One it’s gone, it’s gone forever. So we need to try to make Seattle Center work.”

Durkan said the Sodo arena supporters are mad because she’s been aggressively neutral. There are factors to consider for each site. 

No. 1, she said, a new sports stadium can’t cost the public money. Transportation is important to look at for each, and each location has challenges. 

Durkan said we should wait and see how the public would benefit most from options before making a final decision. She also said we should upgrade Seattle Center – ideally with someone else’s money. 


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