As PubliCola prepares to endorse candidates in the August 3 mayoral and council primary elections, we reached out to the leading candidates for mayor and City Council Position 9 with questions about homelessness, housing, police accountability, and economic recovery.
Their answers to these questions, which we’ll be sharing over the next several days, will help inform our endorsements, coming out next week. Endorsements will be based on each candidate’s record of action, public statements, interviews with PubliCola and other media outlets, and responses at the many candidate forums that have taken place over the summer.
Former state legislator Jessyn Farrell has spent the last few years working to promote taxing the rich and other progressive issues as a fellow at Civic Ventures, billionaire lefty Nick Hanauer’s public policy shop. It’s her second run for mayor (she ran against a crowded field in 2017 after ex-mayor Ed Murray’s term erupted in scandal) and the issues, and political landscape, have shifted. Farrell’s platform this time around include universal birth-to-5 child care, building 70,000 units of affordable housing in eight years, and adding miles of new sidewalks, bike lanes, and pedestrian-first streets.
She also supports the “Compassion Seattle” charter amendment, which would require the city to divert funds from other purposes to pay for 2,000 new shelter beds.
Here’s what Farrell had to say in response to the eight questions PubliCola posed to every mayoral candidate.
PubliCola: Assuming Charter Amendment 29 becomes law in Seattle, what city programs would you cut or deprioritize in order to dedicate 12 percent of the city’s general-fund budget to human services, and how would you go about adding 2,000 new shelter or housing spots by the end of next year?re?
Jessyn Farrell: I was in the state legislature when McCleary constrained our budget, and it’s absolutely unacceptable to force essential services like parks and libraries to compete with the funding we need to solve the homelessness crisis. I’d leverage the popularity of those programs to both work with the City Council to make sure that all city services have the funding they need and also go to the people and get their support at the ballot box for additional progressive revenue that ensures the wealthiest pay their fair share.
Local elected officials and candidates have often emphasized the need to revitalize downtown Seattle as the primary focus of post-COVID recovery. What is one specific action you would take in Seattle’s non-downtown neighborhoods to promote economic recovery and neighborhood vitality?
When I led the Governor’s COVID economic recovery task force, we heard from many small businesses owned by BIPOC Washingtonians that the disproportionate lack of prior banking relationships kept them from accessing PPP funds they qualified for. We secured $50 million in relief for those businesses, but it wasn’t enough. As Mayor, I’d convene small business leaders in non-downtown neighborhoods to determine what additional relief they need to get back on their feet, then provide technical support and connections to capital in addition to supplementary financial resources so they are better equipped to weather our next unexpected crisis.
“Those vehicular residents who desire safe and supportive housing deserve it just as much as anyone else experiencing homelessness and my administration will work to connect them to services and housing in the same way we’ll provide help to people living in our parks or on our sidewalks.”
There is general consensus around the need to replace some functions of the police department with non-policing alternatives, such as civilian crisis responders. What gaps in Seattle’s non-police public safety network can be filled on the shortest timeline, and which are the most pressing priorities?
We’ve already seen Seattle’s Health One program show results in its first two years of operation, but it doesn’t have the staffing or funding to operate 24/7 city-wide as a true alternative to a traditional policing response to someone in crisis. Charleena Lyles’ tragic experience with SPD in a moment of crisis demonstrates that scaling that program up to be able to truly serve the entire city is an extremely pressing priority, and the City should be able to hire additional staff to scale that program on a quick timeline.
According to the latest Point in Time Count of the county’s homeless population, about half the unsheltered people in King County live in their vehicles. Yet there are very few programs or resources available to vehicular residents, and little public awareness of the size and circumstances of this population. Name one action you would take to specifically address the needs of vehicular residents in Seattle.
I’ve committed to investing in 350 additional caseworkers to help people experiencing homelessness who will be tasked with developing relationships with each person living outside and who can connect them to needed services and housing. That program is not exclusively living in parks or on the street; everyone deserves a safe place to call home. Those vehicular residents who desire safe and supportive housing deserve it just as much as anyone else experiencing homelessness and my administration will work to connect them to services and housing in the same way we’ll provide help to people living in our parks or on our sidewalks.
Nearly every mayoral candidate this year says they support allowing more types of housing in Seattle’s exclusionary single-family areas. As mayor, what’s the first piece of legislation you would send to the council to move toward the goal of eliminating or modifying single-family zoning?
I would work with Councilmember [Dan] Strauss, chair of the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee who has endorsed my campaign, to build on his legislation released this week to eliminate the use of “single-family zoning” in our zoning code. As a part of building on his legislation, I’d seek to specifically designate the Talaris property as a site for dense, affordable housing construction. That site is close to a major employer, high-quality schools, and should serve as an example for every neighborhood of the benefit of encouraging affordable housing construction.
Congratulations, you’ve been elected mayor! Your first meeting is with Jeff Bezos. What do you say to him?
“Can I get MacKenzie’s number? I owe her a thank-you on behalf of the entire city for proving that it is in fact possible to force a billionaire to accurately document all his assets. She’s made enacting a local wealth tax much, much easier.”
What’s your top priority for Sound Transit realignment? Make your best case for this project to a fellow Sound Transit board member who wants to prioritize getting light rail to Everett.
We cannot continue making mistakes of the past, we need to double down and get this built faster than ever before. We need to scrub the revenue projections and the cost projections, then head to Olympia and Washington, D.C. to get the resources we need to deliver this ahead of schedule. We also need to make sure that each city is streamlining permitting to save time in project delivery and therefore money. Together, we can accomplish expanding light rail to West Seattle, Ballard, and Everett by presenting a united front to the state legislature and Congress in advocating for the funding we need.
When responding to people living outdoors, the city has historically focused on large or highly visible encampments, and reserved resources and enhanced shelter or hotel beds for people at encampments removed by the city. This focus on large, visible encampments tends to exclude many unhoused people of color, such as Native Americans, from access to the most desirable services. What would you do to improve equity in access to services for unsheltered people of color, particularly the Black and Native homeless populations?
The most effective way to ensure equitable access to services for Black and Native homeless populations is to secure enough funding so that no resident faces a scarcity of services when they need them most. While we work to build out the additional capacity I call for in my plan to end homelessness, I’ll work with each City department and non-profit partner involved in service delivery for people experiencing homelessness to ensure they’re collecting information on who they’re serving through an equity lens. Using that information, my administration will set specific targets to ensure equitable access to services for unsheltered people of color and withdraw funding from partners or programs who fail to meet those targets, reallocating that funding to scale up programs delivering services equitably.