By Cary Moon
Next year we are going to elect a new mayor. What should we be thinking about as candidates start to emerge?
It’s disheartening to witness how grim our city feels right now. Between the Seattle Police Department’s violent reaction against the Black-led uprising and refusal to hear the protesters’ calls for justice, the despair of so many friends and neighbors slipping into poverty and homelessness, local businesses boarded up and failing left and right, and the hazardous levels of smoke making clear the climate crisis is upon us, it’s obvious that we are living a catastrophe.
I don’t use that word as political rhetoric; I am asking us all to be clear-eyed about the reality that we need to survive together.
In this next election, we desperately need both a north star vision to inspire us and a robust city-wide dialogue about new approaches and potential solutions. Here are seven qualities I propose we seek in candidates:
• Vision. We need a strategy for recovery from the depression caused by the pandemic, based in a compelling vision for Seattle’s future.
• Analysis. No one can lead us out of this mess without an understanding of the complicated dynamics causing these intersecting crises, and the clarity to call for deep structural change.
• A progressive economic agenda. We need someone with deep skill in building the path to a new economic system that centers thriving communities and healthy ecosystems—like a city-scaled Green New Deal. This system must include, at a minimum, local ownership of business, securing new good jobs, a strong social safety net, worker protections, ample affordable housing, reparations, progressive taxes, and strategies for circulating wealth in communities instead of extracting it for the lucky few.
• Inside/outside collaboration. Incremental tweaks are not enough to pull us out of this; we need the bold policy and movement energy that comes from collaboration between city departments and advocacy coalitions. For example, dozens of organizations worked with council member Teresa Mosqueda on JumpStart Seattle. The MASS Coalition is ready with green, equitable solutions for transportation. Decriminalize Seattle, a coalition with hundreds of organizational members, offers a clear path to community-based safety. An incredible number of mutual aid networks reminds us Seattle is rich with energy for caring for our shared well-being.
• Working toward antiracism. The next mayor must hold the trust of and be ready to work with BIPOC communities calling to defund the police and invest in holistic community-based safety, and commit to undoing systems of racial oppression in all our public institutions.
• Unapologetically aligned with working-class and young people. Reject the corporatist agenda, ignore the Seattle Times editorial board’s ideological nonsense, and proudly carry a 21st century progressive populist flag.
• Courage. Fearlessness to lead transformative change and dismantle the classist, racist and patriarchal hierarchies and habits of domination in local politics.
I believe we lost a lot of ground under Durkan in these past three years. At the most basic level, she has been slow to grasp how cities work and has an ostrich-like blindness to the dynamics that are causing harm. She has never laid out a vision for the future of our city nor had the capacity to invite us in to rally together toward that vision. She hasn’t built esprit de corps or a culture of creativity and appreciation among city departments, and takes sole credit much too often, which is really disheartening for staff. Her inner circle is oriented to her elite constituencies and more interested in PR plays to grandstand against Trump than building solutions with the City Council to address the crises at home. The effort to recall her for excessive force in response to the protests and unwillingness to listen to the protesters’ solutions show that many in the community and the local Democratic party have lost trust.
She seems exhausted by this job, and it’s no wonder. In an unguarded moment in 2017, she admitted, “Everyone keeps calling me a neoliberal. I don’t even know what that means.” It’s almost like she’s Herbert Hoover, the last one clinging to failed approaches of a rejected ideology, desperate to protect an untenable status quo.
Whoever emerges to run, let’s all agree now: we can’t afford another politician who doesn’t have an analysis of the need for transformative change, or familiarity with the dozens of solutions that are already working in other places—solutions to reducing car dependence, to building affordable housing, to transitioning to alternatives for restorative justice and community safety, to bringing people experiencing homelessness inside, to cleaning up toxic ecosystems, to fostering new jobs for local kids emerging from high schools.
Instead of a mayor who dog-whistles to wealthy property owners with calls for a return to the good old days and promises a law-and-order assault on those struggling with poverty, we need someone excited to construct bold solutions and committed to working with people-powered movements for a future where young people can thrive.
This is a tough job, perhaps tougher now than ever, and the expectation for a single heroic individual capable of everything required is likely unrealistic. Solving complex problems at this scale is never really the work of one individual. What if a pair or even a trio of people ran together, and we got the benefit of their combined skill set?
What if, instead of orienting the election coverage to a political horse race, we centered our civic dialogue on the candidates’ analyses of what isn’t working, their vision and agenda of solutions, and their willingness to work with community and City Council to solve our deep problems? I’m ready for our next mayor(s) to have the clarity of vision to understand that the shared root cause of our societal problems resides in bell hooks’ phrase ‘imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ – and from there, get started on solutions.
Our next mayor(s) need to build a vision for what a multi-cultural, antiracist, inclusive Seattle can be and organize a work plan—with the council—to get there. They need to unite the willing, to invite us to be part of something beyond our own individual interests, and figure out what we can become, together.
10 thoughts on “Cary Moon: Here’s What We Need In Our Next Mayor”
I’m going to admit, I’d love to see you run again for mayor!
Our next mayor needs to support a 100% carbon-free electricity target. That means supporting Columbia Generating Station. Anything less is climate denial.
Good thoughts except I’d be very cautious about aligning yourself with Critical Race Theory (the bell-hooks quote). Robin DiAngelo’s “white fragility” trainings have been a disaster according to several studies (see the recent Jacobin article). And “cancel culture” attacks are another CRT-related disaster, often resembling classical witch hunts. The worst is that all the anti-white rhetoric is throwing gasoline on the fires of the cultural wars, reinforcing the national political gridlock and playing right into Trump’s hands.
Hindsight is 20-20 is all I can say to your article. Mayor Durkan has not been as fast to make changes as Ed Murray was. But this isn’t because of lack of vision – its because making fast changes like Mayor Murray did – leads to having programs that don’t have a continuing funding source and therefore will have to be cut due to lack of funding. I’m glad Mayor Durkan is careful to ensure that programs that are implemented have adequate funding. And I’m glad that Mayor Durkan did not cave to protesters demands of 50% cuts to Police right away, after just 2 months before, signing into law a hiring bonus and increased funding to hire more police with the blessing of 8 out of the 9 Council Members.
Defunding Police will not cure systemic racism. And our police did undergo 8 years of reforms to reduce excessive force under the consent decree which did produce results shown by data of 60% reduction in use of force.
If we are losing ground it is largely because of the City Council and its governing style of make sudden polar swings in legislation that can happen within one month with very little to no thought given as to the effects of that legislation on the City.
Change zoning, ban overnight on-street parking.
To me the linchpin is the lack of affordable housing, which is listed as just one of several items in the article. Many of the other problems would go a long ways towards being solved if housing prices returned to what they were 5-10 years ago. The reason for the high prices is lack of supply. US Census website shows Seattle with a net gain of about 140,000 people from 2010 to 2018. During about the same period Seattle only added 46,000 housing units. You simply cannot add almost 100,000 more people than housing units and not have rent and housing prices skyrocket. You cannot build this much housing with subsidies as progressives would have you believe. With 70% of the land zoned single family only, there isn’t enough space nor enough money. The key is to change zoning as Oregon and Minneapolis have done.
I don’t know where you got your numbers, but this Seattle Times Article says that Seattle built 104,018 units between 2010 and 2018: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/seattle-rents-growing-at-among-slowest-rates-in-country-as-apartment-boom-reaches-record/. At the time of its writing in 2019 the article states another 9,000 units were about ready to open bringing the total to 113,018. Assuming that some of the 140,000 people who moved here were couples, that amount of housing would likely be enough to house them. This doesn’t even include all the townhomes that were built during that time of which there are thousands.
Plus Jenny Durkan just fast tracked 500 units of permanent supportive housing and there are many thousands of affordable housing units already in use and thousands more in various stages of completion.
I assume you added up the numbers in the chart in the article you reference. That is for “Seattle-area”, elsewhere referred to as “the Seattle metro area”, not just Seattle.
Regarding a subset of the Seattle metro area, the King County Regional Affordable Housing Task Force report https://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/initiatives/affordablehousing/documents/report/RAH-Report-Print-File-7-17-19.ashx?la=en states that from 2013-2017 King County (not Seattle) added an average of 31,800 people per year. They make the assumption of 2.45 people per household (I did not see where they justify that assumption, which I question since my understanding is that the increase in population has largely been young tech people, who seem to be mostly single), for 13,000 new households moving here per year vs. 10,100 new housing units added per year. So 31,800 people/13,000 households (assumption: 2.45 ppl/household) added per year vs 10,100 new housing units per year.
Nowhere near building enough housing for the population growth.
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