This year’s council races include an unusually high number of open seats, an unprecedented amount of outside spending, and eight first-time candidates. To help voters keep track, I’m sitting down with this year’s city council contenders to talk about their records, their priorities, and what they hope to accomplish on the council.
Today: District 7 candidate Andrew Lewis. Lewis, who got his political start as campaign manager for former city council member Nick Licata’s reelection bid in 2009, now works as an assistant Seattle city attorney.
The C Is for Crank (ECB): What is a recent vote where you disagreed with the current District 7 representative, Sally Bagshaw?
Andrew Lewis (AL): This isn’t a vote, but I do think the lack of attentiveness to a replacement for the Magnolia Bridge is one where I disagreed with council member Bagshaw. I went to the town hall in March of 2018 on the Magnolia Bridge, at the church over there near Magnolia Village, and there was not a single city council member there. Council member Bagshaw should’ve been there.
There was a room full of angry people who wanted to hear a plan. You know, they understand that the bridge is falling apart, and they understand that the bridge is going to have to be decommissioned. What they wanted was, you know, what’s the action plan, where are we going to do? And what I hear from a lot of the folks that I’ve talked to out in Magnolia is there has not been strong leadership from our district council member on that issue.
ECB: You’ve talked about a “one for one replacement” of the Magnolia Bridge. What do you mean by “one for one replacement,” and is there a breaking point for you in terms of cost?
AL: I do support a one for one replacement to the bridge that will meet the same level of service that the bridge currently provides to the city. For me, it’s about the impact that [tearing down the bridge] would have on public transportation—the 265 buses use that bridge on a daily basis. As I’ve gotten out to Magnolia and talked to folks who are in some of the more renter-dominated quadrants of Magnolia, I’ve actually been very surprised that there are corners of Magnolia that have a pretty high amount of housing density, and all of those communities are extremely dependent on bus service that goes between Magnolia and downtown. It would be extremely difficult to reroute those buses onto Dravus, onto Emerson, due to a lot of limitations of those entryways to Magnolia. So that’s what builds my sense of urgency for it.
Even though I say one for one, I do think that the new bridge should have some multimodal kind of components to it. I think we should have protected bike lanes or even grade-separated bike lanes on a new Magnolia bridge. I think that we could incorporate that into a new design of the bridge.
In terms of cost, I think that a lot of districts are going to have a similar conversation. As a region, what we’re increasingly seeing is a lot of our deferred infrastructure challenges are going to cost money and we’re going to have to figure out a way to meet those obligations through some kind of long-term bonding strategy.
ECB: The National Guard is getting ready to move out of its armory property in Interbay, freeing up land there for potential development. One idea that’s being discussed is a hybrid industrial-residential model that would include housing mixed with light industrial uses. What do you think of that proposal?
AL: Preserving industrial lands within the Ballard Interbay industrial area is super important to me. I don’t want us to lose industrial land to gentrification that we’ll never get back, especially not industrial land that abuts the water. So whenever I look at a plan to redevelop or do something to property within the [Ballard-Interbay Manufacturing and Industrial Center], I always take a really careful look at it. I would be more hesitant to encroach on land that has historically been used for some kind of maritime industrial purpose.
However, while the armory is in the BINMIC, I don’t consider it historic industrial land. It’s been an armory for decades. It’s not like we’re displacing Ballard Oil or something. This is a publicly owned armory that happens to be in an industrial area. It is also really rare that we acquire plots of land that are this large that we can play with to get some kind of public housing. I think one thing we should be looking at doing is replicating the formula that we have nailed down with Fort Lawton, which I think is excellent project. There are some people who are saying that Interbay is the next South Lake Union. My preferred vision is that it be more like Georgetown where you have areas that are carved out for housing, and that housing be workforce housing.
“I think that what often happens is there’s at least a perception that the city comes into these conversations with a proposed route already in mind, and I think that contributes to a sense of polarization and to a sense of concern amongst business owners that they weren’t consulted, that they didn’t have a hand in shaping the route.”
ECB: Was the mayor right to postpone the Fourth Avenue bike lane, and would you push for completion of that bike lane?
AL: I’m not completely familiar with what the controversies are, if the businesses and neighbors have concerns specifically about the proposed route. One thing that I think we should be doing more of is having a process about protected bike lanes where we start with a Point A and point B without a proposed route in the middle. And then we start a process with the neighborhood, with the business owners, with the community, with stakeholders, in the biking activism community and environmental groups. And we sit down and say, we got a Point A, we got a Point B, how are we going to connect them? I think that what often happens is there’s at least a perception that the city comes into these conversations with a proposed route already in mind, and I think that contributes to a sense of polarization and to a sense of concern amongst business owners that they weren’t consulted, that they didn’t have a hand in shaping the route.
ECB: This route was in the Bike Master Plan. Is that what you mean—that businesses and residents weren’t consulted in picking the Fourth Avenue bike plan as part of the BMP?
AL: I’m thinking of specific conversations that have been in the news in other districts, like the Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail and 35th Ave. NE up in Wedgwood. I think that part of the concern in those discussions was that there is broad-based support for connections, but the route that was picked by the city was controversial. I would want to step back and have a little bit more of a process with all the stakeholders and then, at the end, have a recommendation. And it might sometimes lead to a route where I, as a biker, might not find it to be the most convenient route. But if it’s safe, I’ll use it and I’ll be thrilled, and if I have to dogleg over a block, go up, and then rejoin whatever the route is, I’m fine with that.
Safety is my first concern. And sometimes, in a democracy, when we’re making decisions as a community, people have to make compromises. Like, to get my protected bike lane, I’m willing to do a slightly less convenient route if that means that we get one that’ll last, that will be seen as legitimate, and where the stakeholders will feel like they were heard.
ECB: What do you think of the mayor’s proposals to increase the criminal justice response to so-called prolific offenders without expanding capacity for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program to do its work?
AL: I’m a huge supporter of [Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion] and I’ve worked on a lot of cases with people that are enrolled in LEAD. I think LEAD and other harm reduction strategies are really effective for most people. I think the problem that we’re seeing is there are a lot of people in the municipal court who have not responded well to harm reduction-based interventions. People who’ve been enrolled in LEAD for one or two years, but they just keep re-offending, and they are not accepting access to housing and services.
“We have a lot of folks that are in need of some kind of opportunity to access services that otherwise just kind of wander around Third Avenue during the day, and in some cases commit crimes or become victims of crimes.”
In a lot of cases, we’ll have someone on probation who just chronically reoffends. They’re an alcoholic and they chronically drive drunk they just won’t stop driving. And it’s a terrible situation that every time they drive, they could potentially kill somebody. So we’ll put out a warrant and we’ll mandate that you’ve got to show up every week. You gotta produce a clean [urinalysis test]. If they’re using again, we bring them in and have some kind of accountability around that. And sometimes it involves more jail time. Undoubtably, our probation department has saved people’s lives by doing that. Those interventions have prevented people from driving a car and hitting somebody. So the impact on public safety is important as well, even if it might in some cases not lead to the best outcome for that particular defendant.
ECB: People talk about feeling unsafe in front of the King County Courthouse, which is in District 7. How do you respond to those complaints, and is this an issue of actual public safety or the perception of disorder? And, moving down Third Avenue to Third and Pike, what would you do to improve public safety in an area where a lot of retail theft and other crimes are occurring?
AL: A lot of it is crimes of opportunity, or in some cases crimes that can be prevented with a couple of interventions. One thing that I would say is, you I think [the Downtown Emergency Service Center, which operates a shelter at Third and James] is a great organization, but I think we over-rely, as a city, on night shelters where everyone gets kicked out in the morning and lines up at seven in the evening to get back inside. If you have a lot of people in front of the DESC shelter during the day that are waiting to get back in, arguments start and fights break out. I get these referrals all the time as a prosecutor, where someone, like, steals someone’s hat, someone punches someone in the face, someone pulls a knife on somebody. I think part of it is that we have this whole population of people in the city that, we’re like, you know what, we’ll take care of you from 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM but then you’re on your own.
ECB: DESC doesn’t actually do that, though. They allow people to be inside the shelter during the day.
AL: No, sure. But I’m saying more broadly that we need more day centers. I think we need more enhanced shelters that are 24 hours where you have a locker, where you can leave your stuff. We need places where you can go and do intake with service providers during the day. And I do think that we have a lot of folks that are in need of some kind of opportunity to access services that otherwise just kind of wander around Third Avenue during the day, and in some cases commit crimes or become victims of crimes.
“A lot of the crimes that I see throughout District Seven, like car prowling, residential burglaries, burglaries of garages, those are usually crimes of opportunity. It’s usually someone that has staked out a neighborhood. They know there’s no cops around.”
The other thing that we need to do is build proactive cases on a lot of the people that produce demand for criminal activity in the Pike-Pine corridor. From my experience prosecuting retail theft cases, the people that are committing these retail thefts, they’re not stealing the thing and then going and finding someone to sell it to, getting the money and getting drugs. They’re taking the stolen merchandise and giving it to a professional fence who traffics in stolen property that either gives them drugs directly or gives them the money to go buy drugs. I want us to be doing more work to build strong cases on these people that are trafficking in the stolen property so that we can cut off the demand. Most of it is through these rings, with people who are enforcing it with violence, and that’s where a lot of the violence comes from too.
I think that another thing is, a lot of it is crime of opportunity that is permitted when we don’t have a strong emphasis patrol presence. We should have permanent emphasis patrols in the Pike-Pine corridor that are building rapport with business owners, that are building rapport with community members, that are developing relationships with potential informants. I’m very fond of having pairs of patrol officers that work a beat. You just get a different perspective on your beat when you’re walking it. I think it also builds confidence and security for a lot of the business owners.
ECB: Do you think that the emphasis patrols that went on earlier this year in Ballard, Fremont, Georgetown and other areas were a good use of limited police resources?
AL: A lot of the crimes that I see throughout District Seven, like car prowling, residential burglaries, burglaries of garages, those are usually crimes of opportunity. It’s usually someone that has staked out a neighborhood. They know there’s no cops around. I mean, Magnolia, for example, has like one patrol vehicle every night, and there’s a lot of car prowls that happen in Magnolia. It’s dark. There’s no police there. People can prowl a vehicle and get away with it. So I think the emphasis patrols are a good tactic to make it clear to people that are committing property crime, that are professional property thieves, that if they do it, there’s a good chance they’re going to get caught.
ECB: You told the Seattle Times that you were a ‘maybe‘ on whether the city needs more funding for homelessness and whether big businesses were paying their fair share. Can you explain that answer and how you think the city can address homelessness without additional revenue?
AL: I think we need to be part of a regional response to a regional problem. So it’s not just whether Seattle’s supplying enough, it’s whether the county is too. Let’s hook up our efforts through a regional authority with the county, with the state, with some of our neighbors, and let’s come up with the extra money that we need.
The second thing I would say is that we need a renewed effort in performance auditing. I’m not trying to imply that the city has a profound amount of money around that will meet all of our needs through performance auditing. But we can shave some of the cost off. We’ve got a great auditor at the city of Seattle and we’ve produced a lot of good and impactful audits. But our auditing mechanism and our office is considerably smaller than King County, which has a similar budget. The way that King County does it is, every year in the fall, after they do their budget, they do their annual auditing plan and then the next year, as a feedback loop, they put the reforms in the new budget, and then they repeat it, so the auditing function and the budgeting function are hooked up together.
The last thing that I would say is, you know, I’ve been a consistent leader of a municipal income tax. But I don’t want to propose to municipal income tax without considerably reducing regressive taxes.