Category: Elections

How Seattle’s Mayoral Candidates Rank Green New Deal Priorities

Photo by Atomic Taco; Creative Commons license

By Maryam Noor

In 2019, the city of Seattle joined a growing list of US cities by passing a local Green New Deal resolution that would mobilize all city departments to reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuels and invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution. The resolution calls for new public investments to increase access to healthy foods, transition homes from natural gas to electric power, and strengthen green building standards.

In September 2019, just months after passing the Green New Deal resolution, the city council passed an ordinance requiring the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment to establish a 19-member Green New Deal oversight board, including eight members of communities directly impacted by racial, economic, and environmental injustices.

But in the years since the two bills passed, the city still hasn’t implemented many of the policies it recommends.

As PubliCola’s new intern, my first assignment was reaching out to Seattle’s mayoral candidates to ask them what they think of the policies outlined in the Green New Deal, and which ones they’d prioritize if elected. We also asked them to rank four policies in order of importance: Appointing a Green New Deal oversight board [Editor’s note: See correction below]; ensuring free public transit for all Seattle residents; decreasing the use of fossil fuels in Seattle homes; and exploring alternative housing models that aim to increase equity and affordability, such as community land trusts and limited-equity coops.

“
We’ve taken steps forward in banning reliance on fossil fuels in new construction of commercial buildings. I think we need to use the focus on that to make sure that we are not continuing to build infrastructure that delivers one of the most harmful emitters and products out here.”—Mayoral candidate Lorena González

Of the six candidates who responded to our questions––Colleen Echohawk, Jessyn Farrell, Lorena González, Bruce Harrell, Andrew Grant Houston, and Lance Randall–– Houston, Farrell, and Randall all said that alternative housing options would be their first concern. Farrell said she considered free public transit equally important, and Randall questioned the validity of free public transit in general.

“I would say in terms of importance, the alternative housing models would be my first priority,” Houston said. “In order to build new housing, it’s going to take at least three to five years, and so that’s something we should start off immediately.”

Farrell said affordable housing and transportation have to work together; you can’t have one without the other. “You gotta do housing and transportation together.”

Randall doesn’t want free public transit, at least not for everyone, because he believes it wouldn’t be practical or affordable.

“I believe more in subsidies for low-income people who need help, but there are a lot of people who can afford to pay for transit and they should pay for it because we have to pay the drivers,” Randall said. “We have to do bus maintenance. We have to purchase new buses.”

One of the most ambitious goals of Seattle’s Green New Deal is achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. In order for Seattle to do so, the amount of greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere need to be equal to the amount taken out in the city. Hitting this goal would mean implementing incentives to reduce carbon emissions, such as carbon taxes and electrification of industries and transportation, and long-term investments in clean energy sources like renewable diesel or biogas.

Only one candidate, Lorena González, put reducing carbon emissions in Seattle homes at the top of her priority list. To some extent, this is already happening. In February, the city banned the use of natural gas for space heating in new commercial and apartment buildings larger than three stories and for new heating systems in older buildings that match these qualifications. The ordinance also bans the use of natural gas to heat water in larger hotels and apartment complexes.

González doesn’t think it’s enough. “Fossil fuels are the largest producer of carbon emissions. 
We’ve taken steps forward in banning reliance on fossil fuels in new construction of commercial buildings,” González said. “And so I think we need to use the focus on that to make sure that we are not continuing to build infrastructure that delivers one of the most harmful emitters and products out here.”

Find out how the six candidates ranked the four issues we asked about below.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that the mayor and council had not yet appointed the members of a new Green New Deal Oversight Board. The board has been appointed and will convene later this year. We have edited the story to remove quotes about the board, but have left the rankings below in their original order.

Continue reading “How Seattle’s Mayoral Candidates Rank Green New Deal Priorities”

PubliCola Picks: Lorena González for Mayor

In this critical, post-COVID election year, Seattle needs a mayor who understands the job, has a plan to translate their progressive values into policy, and can jump into the job with both feet on day 1. City Council president Lorena González will come to the mayor’s office with a well-defined agenda, a solid track record, and a set of achievable plans for addressing the city’s thorniest issues..

González has set a standard for not just talking a good game—but getting things done. In her two terms as a council member, she has pushed for—and passed—protections for hourly workers, such as the secure scheduling bill; established a permanent legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation; and passed a number of underreported but important election reforms, including a ban on some corporate contributions, new transparency requirements, and restrictions on indirect lobbying, in which lobbyists seek to influence the public without revealing who’s paying them. She has also been a pragmatic and savvy advocate for police accountability, spearheading a police accountability ordinance in 2017 that advocates hailed as a groundbreaking step for reform.

And, in a lone dissent that got little coverage at the time but telegraphed her understanding of the challenges inherent to a “regional approach to homelessness,” she voted against a plan for the new regional homelessness authority that handed significant power over to suburban jurisdictions that pay nothing to support the authority, but wield outsize influence over its policies.

A lot has happened since 2018, including a nationwide movement to hold bad cops accountable and demilitarize and defund police departments across the country. González recently told PubliCola that if she was voting on the same contract today, “I’d vote very different[ly].”

González noted before her prescient vote that “politics have already taken hold in this structure.” She was right. We’re already seeing the ramifications today, with suburban cities adopting anti-homeless policies and insisting on their own, locally unique “sub-regional” plans. The former co-chair of the city’s Progressive Revenue Task Force is also right about how to tackle homelessness in the future; she’s committed to adopting new progressive revenues to fund the billions of dollars the city will need to truly address homelessness instead of passing a ballot initiative that she has called an “unfunded mandate” designed to cement the “status quo.”

González has caught some flak from the left for voting, along with seven of her eight council colleagues, to approve a 2018 police contract that nullified some elements a historic 2017 police accountability ordinance. But activists who want to castigate her for this vote should consider a bit of context. At the time, the police union had been without a new contract since 2014, after members rejected a negotiated contract in 2016. Meanwhile, Mayor Jenny Durkan was working overtime to convince the public and the council that police would quit en masse if they didn’t get the raises promised in the contract. Most council members, including dogged police accountability advocate, council member Lisa Herbold, agreed that the new contract, though inadequate, was an improvement on the existing 2014 contract, keeping parts of the accountability law intact and preserving a law requiring cops to wear body cameras on duty.

Finally, a lot has happened since 2018, including a nationwide movement to hold bad cops accountable and demilitarize and defund police departments across the country. González—a former civil rights attorney who secured a $150,000 settlement for a Latino man who sued the city after a Seattle police officer threatened to “beat the fucking Mexican piss out of” him—has expressed support for this core agenda. She recently told PubliCola that if she was voting on the same contract today, “I’d vote very different[ly].”

González has a real vision for Seattle’s recovery—one that doesn’t rely on clichés or empty promises (how exactly will philanthropic giving fund the $450 million to $1 billion the region needs to spend every year to address homelessness, Bruce?) For starters, she wants to make it easier for renters to stay in their homes, providing rental assistance as well as caps on move-in costs that can add thousands of dollars to the price of an apartment. Continue reading “PubliCola Picks: Lorena González for Mayor”

Fact-Checking Pro-Harrell Mail, Poll Tests Arboreal Opinions, Union’s Role at Homeless Authority Still Unclear

1. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s governing board approved a bare-bones initial staffing plan for the agency on Thursday, but not before a lengthy conversation about the future of labor unions at the new agency—and the future of city employees who currently do the work that’s supposed to move over to the authority next year.

The city’s Homeless Strategy and Investment division, which is part of the Human Services Department, is currently represented by the PROTEC17 union, which also represents county human services workers. KCRHA director Marc Dones has said that they want to hire a whole new team for the agency, and that anyone at the city who wants to keep doing their current work will need to apply for the open positions just like everyone else. Dones has also said that although they support unions in general—saying on Thursday, for example, that “we would be delighted to have one or more unions represent our staff”—union reps and at least one city council member want more reassurances.

On Thursday, Seattle City Council president Lorena González told Dones that the law the city passed agreeing to join the new authority requires “a plan for transitioning staff positions to the new authority.” 

Shaun Van Eyk, the labor representative for PROTEC17, told PubliCola that the union wants any succession plan (an agreement that gives the union the right to represent anyone at the new authority who job falls within the “body of work” that existing union-repped employees are already doing) to include a right of first refusal for employees who remained at their city jobs even as the city repeatedly pushed their layoff dates forward. Although permanent HSI employees have been assured jobs elsewhere in the city, many of the jobs in the division are currently filled by long-term temporary workers, who have no job guarantee once the division shuts down.

“Marc has the ability to not only acknowledge PROTEC17 as the exclusive bargaining representative for those bodies of work, but to offer a right of first refusal for those folks doing that work currently,” Van Eyk said. “Part of my duty in this role is to advocate for our members [who have been] keeping the work going, especially with the delays.” The authority is currently about seven months behind schedule, and it’s far from clear that it will be prepared to take over hundreds of contracts from the city’s homelessness division in January as planned.

The larger question is how the new authority, and Dones in particular, will work with organized labor. King County Executive Dow Constantine appeared unnerved enough by the conversation about succession to add, “If I could just be completely frank, it is unlikely, approaching a zero likelihood, that the county or the city would fund a non-union successor to its union operations. That seems inconceivable.”

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2.  A flyer promoting mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell that arrived in voters’ mailboxes last week included what looked like an unusual disclaimer: “No corporate money paid for this mail piece. Hundreds of local residents gave their own personal money to send you this message.” The mailer, produced by an independent expenditure group called Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future, says Harrell, who played for the Huskies, will “go on the offensive to move Seattle forward.”

The claim is a stretch. While Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future is funded by individual donors, the top donors to the IE are employed by, or in charge of, corporations with billions in assets and a huge vested interest in pro-business policies. Among the biggest contributors: Goodman Real Estate CEO George Petrie and his wife, Alyssa ($100,000); Hunters Capital owner Michael Malone and his wife, Barbara ($25,000); and retired seventh-generation banker Joshua Green III ($10,000).

In fact, the top seven employers of people who contributed to Bruce Harrell for Seattle’s Future (after “not employed”—people who listed their occupation as “retired” or “homemaker,” many of them formerly in real estate or married to real estate bigwigs, made up $98,000 of the group’s approximately $300,000 in contributions) were real estate firms, accounting for $117,750 of the group’s total contributions. So while it’s true that the people who gave money to the pro-Harrell group are “individuals,” their interests could hardly be more corporate if they were writing checks from their company accounts.

Finally: The IE campaign doesn’t have contributions from “hundreds of local residents”; it doesn’t even have 100 contributions, much less 100 from Seattle. About a third of the 79 donors listed at the Public Disclosure Commission live outside city limits, mostly in Eastside suburbs.

3.  An odd new online poll goes far beyond election questions, asking respondents about everything from their support for a future Seattle-only light rail measure to earthquake safety along I-5 to detailed questions about the city’s tree canopy. It’s unclear who’s behind the poll, but the specific issues it highlights dovetail with priorities articulated by council members Lisa Herbold (using bonds to fund bridge maintenance over bike lanes and sidewalks) and Alex Pedersen (bridge money, plus restricting development by preventing tree removal on private property.) Continue reading “Fact-Checking Pro-Harrell Mail, Poll Tests Arboreal Opinions, Union’s Role at Homeless Authority Still Unclear”

PubliCola Questions: Nikkita Oliver

Image via nikkitafornine.com

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 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.

Today, we’re highlighting Nikkita Oliver and Brianna Thomas, two of the leading candidates for Seattle City Council Position 9, the seat currently held by council president Lorena González, who’s running for mayor.

A third candidate for this position, Sara Nelson, is the only candidate in any race who did not respond to our questions.

Nikkita Oliver, an attorney, organizer, and performer who rose to prominence during their unsuccessful but well-publicized run for mayor in 2017, runs a nonprofit, Creative Justice, that offers arts programming as an alternative to jail for young people. As an activist, they helped lead efforts to stop King County from building a new youth jail, and were deeply involved in last year’s Black Lives Matter protests as an advocate for divesting from the police department and investing in community safety, including housing, child care, and intervention programs. They also support ending exclusionary zoning, investing in municipal broadband (one way of enabling more people to work from home), and scaling up participatory budgeting, a way of allowing people to vote on what gets funded in the city budget.

Here’s what Oliver had to say in response to the eight questions PubliCola posed to the Position 9 candidates.

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?

We need to be creating radical accessibility throughout the city for our unhoused residents. We propose ending sweeps and utilizing those dollars for garbage pick-up, mobile hygiene stations (including showers and clothes washing), accessibility of public restrooms and water stations, and mobile clinics and supports that include dental and physical health. Where possible, we would like to see mobile units that provide haircuts, undergarments, and other hygiene needs.

More of the services we utilize need to be led by communities of color, especially Black and Native communities, so that they are culturally responsive and representative of the communities with the least accessibility to services. These services and supports, including the above radical accessibility plan, need to be low-barrier. Black and Native communities experience the highest rates of criminalization and have historically (and presently) been brutalized by the government; therein having a rightful distrust of government supports and services. When people access city-based or city-funded services, they should not fear being further criminalized or brutalized while accessing those supports or being forced to commit to things like religious services, addiction services, or other types of services while receiving basic needs supports.

Meeting the basic needs of our unhoused residents cannot be dependent upon compliance with receiving other types of services. Such requirements make it hard to build trust and rapport, especially in Black and Native communities, and often “turn people off” to receiving such support later, if needed. Having mobile units also allows the City to respond to different needs throughout the city and target our supports towards those most marginalized and vulnerable community members, such as the Black and Native communities. It also allows us to be flexible about how and where we show up, as many residents without homes may not always remain in the same place. Having the ability to be flexible and evolve with the needs of community members without homes is key to meeting these initial basic needs.

“More dollars to the Seattle Police Department will not make Seattle safer. It will only further entrench a violent and reactionary response to harm. It is also fiscally irresponsible, as increased investments in SPD continuously fail to deliver on the false promise of public safety through policing and punitive systems.”

It cannot stop there though. The racial wealth gap, exclusionary zoning and red lining, the lack of affordable housing and low-barrier shelters and supportive transitional housing, the continued rising cost of living in our region, and the lack of access to high-wage employment are all largely to blame for why so many of our unhoused resident are Black and Native. We need low-barrier permanent and transitional supportive housing that is, again, led by Black and Native communities because we are able to respond to the cultural and spiritual needs of our community members. The expertise to run these facilities well and sustainability may not exist throughout all Black and Native communities and so the City must commit to providing the technical support needed to build and sustain these spaces. For example, we could start by working with the Africatown Community Land Trust regarding the Keiro Building so that [the Africatown Land Trust] can launch culturally rooted supportive housing in the Central District.

Lastly, the Race and Social Justice Initiative requires the RSJI toolkit be employed in assessing our work and implementation as a City. We must take seriously utilizing all tools at our reach to ensure our work is actually aligning with our vision for the City as it pertains to RSJI. In this regard, we should employ full-time staff in each applicable department whose only role is to ensure that we are to our very best aligning with the principle and values outlined by RSJI.

In 2020, a majority of the city council said they supported defunding the police by at least 50 percent. Was it a mistake for them to make this commitment? What gaps in Seattle’s non-police public safety network can be filled on the shortest timeline, and which are the most pressing priorities?

No, this was not a mistake. I do not believe that we would have won the 18 percent defund without the movement pressure for 50 percent and the commitment of council to at least try. Additionally, Seattle Police Department’s budget has doubled since 2010 when John T. Williams was murdered. In the last 10 years we have seen a DOJ investigation, a consent decree (which we are still under), the murders of many more residents, the development of three offices related to the accountability legislation, the 2017 accountability legislation passing unanimously, the 2018 CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement], which prevented the accountability legislation from being fully implemented, multiple uprisings in defense of Black lives, and the 2020/21 protests where thousands of protestors were brutalized.

Some would say 50 percent was not a well thought out number. I would say, considering the above, the continued outsized growth of SPD’s budget, and the lack of true public safety for all, 50 percent is well thought out and reflective of the lack of change we have seen in SPD and public safety generally since 2010 despite much investment in SPD. More dollars to the Seattle Police Department will not make Seattle safer. It will only further entrench a violent and reactionary response to harm. It is also fiscally irresponsible, as increased investments in SPD continuously fail to deliver on the false promise of public safety through policing and punitive systems.

Big picture: The City should see as many functions as possible moved out of the hands of armed officers or from being supervised and overseen by SPD officers. With some retraining away from the culture of SPD, the parking enforcement officer (PEO) workforce could take some of these tasks as outlined below. This will likely have to be tackled in the new CBA because it would be taking aways tasks currently assigned to officers.

Defund and remove all military equipment designed for crowd control and remove SPD’s responsibility for crowd control. Crowd control is a broad category which does not just include protests. There are other groups that could be accessed to do this work. When it comes to sporting events, we could work with our partners in organized labor to have trained flaggers help people and cars move effectively around the stadiums, partner with the community safety hubs (funding in the 2020 rebalance package with $4 million), bike brigade, and trained de-escalators and peacekeepers for rallies.

Lastly, to ensure some brevity in my answer, Decriminalize Seattle, who I’ve been organizing with since 2019, in our 2020 blueprint presented to the Council a blueprint for police divestment and community investment that I think is still useful as a guiding document for this work. I will still outline a few things below that I believe can happen quickly.

“As officers continue to leave the department, new hiring should be frozen, all salary savings should be recaptured and moved into funding and scaling up non-police responses to harm and meeting basic needs.”

Civilianized 911: As of June 1, 911 was no longer housed with SPD. It is now a part of the Community Safety and Communication Center—a new, independent city department. This department should house other civilian crisis response and program safety programs. We can quickly make sure the new dispatch has new training and operating instructions so that they are sending calls to non-police responders when possible. We need to expand HealthOne so that it can receive a larger volume of calls. The city is investing $10 million in an 18-month expansion of community-based responses. We need to assess those who received funding, what kinds of calls or referrals can they receive, what is the connection between other HSD programs and supports and our new civilianized 911, and what other programs or infrastructure needs to be built (based on types of calls 911 typically receives) to provide the best supports when residents are in need or crisis. As officers continue to leave the department, new hiring should be frozen, all salary savings should be recaptured and moved into funding and scaling up non-police responses to harm and meeting basic needs.

Parking Enforcement Officers (also supposed to be transferred): PEOs were supposed to be transferred on June 1st, but there is a debate about whether they should go to CSCC (the new department) or to SDOT. The PEOs want to go to CSCC, their supervisors (and the mayor) want them to go to SDOT. This move will not happen until September while the City figures out where PEOs should go. The PEOs want to take on more work that police currently do, and they think moving to CSCC will make that possible: “SPEOG union president Nanette Toyoshima, on the other hand, wrote in a letter to council last year that parking enforcement officers could take over some duties usually handled by sworn police officers, like responding to minor car crashes and enforcing red light violations, if they were in the new CSCC, according to PubliCola.”

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?

The Seattle City Council has already passed legislation for commercial rent control for small businesses in Seattle affected by COVID-19. This ordinance provides protections for Seattle small businesses in the form of rent control, repayment plan requirements, and prohibition on late fees, interest, and other charges. One issue with the legislation is that prohibitions outlined in the legislation only remain in effect until the civil emergency proclaimed by Mayor Jenny Durkan on March 3, 2020 is terminated. Commercial rent control in a city as expensive as Seattle is generally a good thing for small businesses; I recommend we keep this ordinance in place even after the emergency proclamation has been terminated.

Continue reading “PubliCola Questions: Nikkita Oliver”

The C Is for Crank: Correcting the Record on Compassion Seattle

Image via seattle.gov

By Erica C. Barnett

In November, Seattle voters will (almost certainly) vote on whether to adopt Charter Amendment 29, an initiative that would require the city to divert public funds to add 2,000 new shelter beds while keeping parks and streets “clear of encampments,” according to the text of the amendment. The campaign is called Compassion Seattle, a name that suggests that by passing the initiative, voters will be supporting a compassionate approach to the crisis of unsheltered homelessness across the city.

In reality, the measure is an unfunded mandate that would force the city to create 2,000 new shelter “units” (beds) at the lowest possible cost, by diverting money from other city functions into a new fund aimed at moving unsheltered people out of places where they are visible and into places where they can’t be seen—”clearing” parks for housed people to use while spending the usual pittance to house, treat, and serve people with complicated needs.

Because initiative supporters are claiming that the measure will finally fix homelessness in Seattle, it’s extremely important to distinguish between what the charter amendment actually says and what supporters claim it would do. Here’s a cheat sheet to help inform your vote this fall.

Claim 1: Charter Amendment 29 will require the city to build housing and provide needed services, including addiction treatment and mental health care, for thousands of unsheltered Seattle residents.

Compassion Seattle leader Jon Scholes, director of the Downtown Seattle Association, said during a recent forum that the amendment “mandates…  that we invest in treatment, mental health and emergency housing and the set of services that we know are important to bringing people inside.”

This claim is simply false.

In fact, Charter Amendment 29 does not mandate any city spending on treatment, mental health care, or any specific “set of services.” Instead, it says the city “shall help fund low-barrier, rapid-access, mental health and substance use disorder treatment and services” in conjunction with King County—something the city already does through its annual budget and will continue to do as a major funder of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.

Claim 2: We don’t need additional funding to fix homelessness; it’s just a matter of priorities.

Not only does Charter Amendment 29 fail to prescribe any specific solutions, it provides no new funding to address homelessness. Instead, it requires the city to set aside 12 percent of its existing general fund, which works out to a reallocation of about $18 million a year based on recent budgets, to support “the human services and homeless programs and services of the City.”

That’s right—all of the human services programs the city runs, which include youth and community safety programs, programs to combat domestic violence, services for elderly and disabled people, child care programs, funding for the Nurse Family Partnership, and, starting this year, a new division that will take over some functions of the police department. So if you hear an initiative supporter saying it will add another $18 million to homelessness programs, tell them it doesn’t—it creates a generic “human services” fund that can be spent for any human services purpose.

And even if every penny of the reallocated $18 million went to homelessness, it would barely scratch the surface of the problem. Nonetheless, initiative proponents continue to claim that $18 million would be enough to pay for comprehensive care, including individual housing and shelter.

DSA director Jon Scholes has even claimed the amendment would enable the city to expand JustCARE, a gold-standard program that provides hotel rooms and intensive case management to unsheltered people who are having a negative impact on neighborhoods, to every part of the city. That’s an empty promise.

Claim 3: Compassion Seattle will fund hotels and evidence-based, high-quality services throughout the city.

DSA director Scholes has even claimed the amendment would enable the city to expand JustCARE, a gold-standard program that provides hotel rooms and intensive case management to unsheltered people who are having a negative impact on neighborhoods, to every part of the city. That’s an empty promise, because JustCARE isn’t cheap—certainly not cheap enough to provide hotel rooms, case management, and comprehensive wraparound services on a budget of $18 million a year.

Do the math: At $50,000 a person (the amount JustCARE supporters say the program would cost “at scale“), annual funding of $18 million would be enough to serve an additional 360 people. The initiative claims it will get 2,000 people off the streets in the first year alone. There’s simply no way supporters can justify the promises they’re making about the quality of care their budget-adjusting measure will pay for.

Claim 4: Charter Amendment 29 will require the city to finally invest in real housing solutions for unsheltered people.

Supporters, including several mayoral candidates, have said they’re backing the initiative because it represents a new commitment to housing, forcing the city to provide individual shelter rooms and permanent supportive housing to people living outdoors. Mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell, for example, told the Seattle Times she considers the measure “the consensus path of what we need to do around homelessness,” because it would require “interim housing, more services, more permanent supportive housing.”

Looking just at the prescriptive language of the measure, it’s clear that what it actually requires is new shelter—which the measure euphemistically describes as “emergency housing”—not housing.

This is a common misinterpretation of what Charter Amendment 29 would do. The amendment includes a lot of words about providing appropriate services and permanent, individualized housing options, but that language is aspirational (“it is City policy to…”); it doesn’t implement any actual policy. In fact, much of what’s in the amendment is already city policy, including a section stipulating that the city supports housing and services that are “tailored to individual needs and cultural differences.” (For example, HSD already has policies in place committing the department to provide culturally responsive services to diverse populations.) Saying that something is city policy and mandating spending on specific solutions are very different things.

Looking just at the prescriptive language of the measure, it’s clear that what it actually requires is new shelter—which the measure euphemistically describes as “emergency housing”—not housing.

Thousands of shelter beds might put homelessness out of sight for groups like the DSA that are concerned about the impacts of tents on businesses, but it doesn’t solve the problem, which is that thousands of people in our region lack a permanent place to live. City and regional leaders have known for many years that the old shelter-first model is an ineffective way to get people housed, which is why “housing first” is now considered a best practice. And the proposal doesn’t mandate spending on services beyond what the city is already doing. Continue reading “The C Is for Crank: Correcting the Record on Compassion Seattle”

PubliCola Questions: Colleen Echohawk

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.

Colleen Echohawk has said she decided to run for mayor to address the “humanitarian crisis” of homelessness. As director of the Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit organization that works to address and prevent homelessness among Seattle’s Native community, she has tried to navigate between advocating for Native people living outdoors while working within systems that often fail people experiencing homelessness. After Mayor Jenny Durkan’s election in 2017, for example, Echohawk served on Durkan’s transition team and received a mayoral appointment to the Community Police Commission, one of the city’s three police-accountability bodies; she also served for many years as a board member for the Downtown Seattle Association, which has proposed a charter amendment that would require the city to redirect existing funds to pay for 2,000 new shelter beds. After initially supporting the amendment, Echohawk came out against it, saying it isn’t “grounded in the lived experience of people who’ve been experiencing homelessness.”

The centerpiece of Echohawk’s agenda is a 22-point plan to reduce homelessness by, among other actions, hiring 100 outreach workers with lived experience of homelessness and ending the 72-hour parking rule that allows the city to impound vehicles, including cars and RVs where people are living, if they stay in one place for more than three days.

Here’s what Echohawk had to say in response to the eight questions PubliCola posed to every mayoral candidate.

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?

First, I would not cut programs. We would prioritize funding from the JumpStart tax to fund additional shelter as well as a capital campaign I will initiate as soon as the election results are certified. I just want to also emphasize that bringing people living outside inside is not just a matter of finding shelter or housing spots. I will also immediately begin hiring 100 outreach workers needed to do the outreach work necessary to work with our homeless relatives while securing additional housing, which will require an “all of the above approach” meaning: tiny homes, hoteling, pallet homes, safe lots for RV camping, modular housing, etc.

“Activation is also critically important in our neighborhood business districts for recovery and revitalization which is why as mayor I will invest in artists and cultural activity, and in particular in BIPOC artists and previously underinvested and marginalized cultural communities, to lay the foundation for a more equitable and inclusive creative recovery.”

I have years of experience of working with the homeless provider network, the Office of Housing, builders of low-income housing as well as the leaders in the Regional Homelessness Authority. I will work with these leaders to identify the real estate that is necessary to get emergency housing up and running in 14 months. Here is my plan to bring the roughly 5,000 people living outside inside in the first 15 months.

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?

Every neighborhood in Seattle is unique, including downtown Seattle. The City of Seattle can play a key role in supporting the recovery of our diverse neighborhoods, but needs to look to the expertise already in place to help lead neighborhood appropriate efforts. Just as I am committed to listening to community and lifting up the expertise of those closest to our biggest problems and challenges, I am committed to the leadership of those organizations charged with the care and trajectory of our most valuable assets.

As Mayor I will encourage investments in programs that are led by the neighborhoods they serve with the city providing for events and programs. I will also seek to significantly expand the impact of Small Business support efforts currently housed in the Office of Economic Development. This will include increasing capacity for Small Business Advocates and empowering lead staff in the areas of business development and construction impacts to take action to address issues quickly and respond with the agility Seattle’s dynamic economy demands.

Multiple neighborhoods in Seattle don’t currently benefit from the strong, dedicated organizations like the DSA. With Downtown Seattle as a standard bearer, I will seek to forge partnerships between downtown and our most underrepresented neighborhoods to build strength in organizational and neighborhood governance. This could take the form of new [business improvement districts], new neighborhood associations or new Public/Private stewardship of vital assets like the Pike Place Market [public development authority] and [Community Roots] Housing.

Activation is also critically important in our neighborhood business districts for recovery and revitalization which is why as mayor I will invest in artists and cultural activity, and in particular in BIPOC artists and previously underinvested and marginalized cultural communities, to lay the foundation for a more equitable and inclusive creative recovery. In Seattle I have seen our arts and cultural communities taking this year’s existential issues head-on. The centering of BIPOC creatives in the programming and leadership of many Seattle arts organizations this year has been a welcome, if long overdue, shift.

“Much like how the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 demonstrated why a public water supply should not be left up to private industries who exist to make a profit, internet access and online connectivity should be no different.”

The degree to which arts and cultural organizations have invested in the economic survival of their staff and artists this year has been inspiring. Brand-new modes of distanced, safe arts presentation were invented almost immediately and refined into a new form overnight. In the arts, as in all things, we need to take with us the best of what we’ve built in this past year, these tools we’ve used to transcend the solitude and distance, as we reimagine our new Seattle.

And finally, I will work with the City Council to create a new utility on municipal broadband. An estimated 250 public employees will be needed to run and manage this utility, creating positive jobs for the City. Much like how the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 demonstrated why a public water supply should not be left up to private industries who exist to make a profit, internet access and online connectivity should be no different. Just like how electric power, water, drainage & wastewater, and garbage utilities are created, run, and used by the residents of Seattle, broadband can and should be a basic public utility.

More than 750 cities across the country have already invested in municipal broadband services. It is time Seattle does too. Stable and reliable broadband offered and significantly lower prices than current for profit providers will be a significant help to small businesses across the city.

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 must devote resources that actually address the need for public safety across our City. Innovative programs like the Fire Department’s Mobile Integrated Mental Health response unit Health One pilot program and the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) [now known as Let Everyone Advance with Dignity] take public health approaches to violence prevention by strengthening evidence-based strategies at the local level.

An armed response is almost never required for mental health crises. I want to go one step further than the City’s current crisis response team by creating a 24/7 mobile team of community paramedics and trained crisis workers. The gaps in Seattle’s non-police public safety network will be addressed by our plan for a crisis response team. Mental health response has been inadequate for years in Seattle but post-pandemic it is reaching a breaking point. An Echohawk administration will prioritize funding for mental health and work with our local experts and community leaders to find real solutions that meet the needs of the community. Continue reading “PubliCola Questions: Colleen Echohawk”

PubliCola Questions: Bruce Harrell

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 Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell, who left office 2019, is a consummate insider who’s running as an outsider. In 12 years on the council, he didn’t pass much landmark legislation—his sponsorship of “ban the box” legislation to bar employers from asking about job applicants’ criminal history was a notable exception, as was his early advocacy for police body cameras—but he did often use his position to speak out against police brutality, including a tense exchange after a melee sparked by what he called an “idiotic arrest” during May Day protests in 2017. Harrell’s off-the-cuff approach to lawmaking sometimes frustrated colleagues, although former coworkers have noted recently that he was easy to get along with and never let political differences harm working relationships.

On the campaign trail, Harrell has promised to create open data portals to improve the transparency of city spending, expand participatory budgeting on a geographic basis, and solicit corporate and charitable donations to solve problems like the homelessness crisis. He is often vague on details: At a recent event near an encampment on Seattle School District property in North Seattle, for example, he said his administration would help unsheltered people by providing them with “housing and services,” which isn’t far from saying you’ll end homelessness by ending homelessness.

Here’s what Harrell had to say in response to the eight questions PubliCola posed to every mayoral candidate.

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?

We will look comprehensively at our current spending and budget to determine how we should best allocate our resources and where we can make improvements and increase efficiency. I do not believe in blindly cutting public services, and I’ve been a strong advocate for a thorough review of our budgeting process to ensure increased community involvement and input.

Homelessness is the major challenge of the day, and regardless of whether Compassion Seattle passes, I know we must urgently invest in thousands of new units of supportive housing and shelter. Hotels, tiny homes, and other stable suitable housing options are the best way to ensure unhoused neighbors actually get the care and support they need to thrive.

“I’ll also expand participatory budgeting, and propose allocating each of the seven council districts $10 million for projects specifically in those neighborhoods. This will require council members to work alongside their communities, investing in localized priorities.”

I am calling for the majority of funds from the second round of American Rescue Plan Act distributions next year—at least $70 million—to go toward homelessness services and support. Those additional dollars—in contrast to the approach taken by the current council—would make an immediate impact when coupled with my new approach and plan. I’ve also called for improved regional solutions, philanthropic and community support, and, most importantly, a clearly defined and accessible plan, available to all, so we can unite our city and rebuild trust that the City of Seattle is headed in the right direction on this issue.

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?

I’m proud to be the only candidate for mayor visiting neighborhood business districts, and meeting with voters citywide—more than 100 small businesses so far and more to come—to listen, learn, and begin the process of collaboration and rebuilding trust with city hall. I have a long history of assisting small, local, and BIPOC-owned businesses get off the ground and turned into thriving job creators and community pillars because I show up and help out. This is the same attentive approach I will bring as mayor and in our Office of Economic Development. Small businesses deserve a champion and a seat at the table.

I’ll also expand participatory budgeting, and propose allocating each of the seven council districts $10 million for projects specifically in those neighborhoods. This will require council members to work alongside their communities, investing in localized priorities: small business recovery, homelessness solutions, parks and open space, pedestrian and public safety strategies, and other projects that create jobs and better our city.

“One thing is for sure in the immediate—we need to stand up and provide more equitable, public, 24-7 access to bathrooms, showers, water fountains, and other critical personal hygiene resources, for all unhoused residents.”

I’m also proposing a Seattle Jobs Center that will connect businesses and job seekers with the opportunities they need: positions and careers, training and workforce education, and more. This will be especially important for small businesses staffing up as recovery ramps up.

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?

I strongly support rethinking our approach to public safety and critically reviewing every scenario that involves a gun and badge.  We saw how the mad dash to defund the police failed—it wasn’t approached thoughtfully or with a plan, especially given the majority of current funding for public safety are in people related costs. Continue reading “PubliCola Questions: Bruce Harrell”

PubliCola Questions: Casey Sixkiller

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.

Casey Sixkiller, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee nation, became deputy mayor for Mayor Jenny Durkan just before the pandemic hit Seattle, and was her point person on homelessness—a decidedly mixed blessing. Not surprisingly, he touts the administration’s efforts to house and shelter homeless residents during the pandemic—including his own work securing two downtown Seattle hotels for temporary shelter, a project that has had mixed results so far. Also like Durkan, he argues that homelessness is a “regional problem,” citing data showing that 40 percent of Seattle’s homeless population became homeless somewhere else.

His platform calls for a bond measure that would fund 3,000 new units of permanent housing; affordable, city-funded child care; and “the largest guaranteed basic income program in the nation.”

Here’s what Sixkiller 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?

Creating additional temporary shelter units and permanent housing options, each with the wraparound services folks need, is an essential element of my proposal to addressing the homelessness crisis on our streets and in our parks. The charter amendment takes a similar approach but I have proposed a $1 billion property tax levy to build 3,000 new permanent places for folks to call home. This generational investment will more than triple the number of permanent supportive housing units coming online each year, and be in addition to units already funded by the current housing levy and other units being funded by the state and county. Every dollar we spend on shelter is a dollar we are not spending on permanent housing.

My approach—and the one outlined in the charter amendment—is to address both ends of the street-to-housing pipeline by ensuring there are safe spaces for folks living outside to come into and permanent places for folks in our shelter system to transition to so we create throughput and improve overall system performance.

“I want to be clear: we need to hire more police officers (to replace the nearly 300 who have left the department) and hire more firefighters (hiring has not kept pace with the city’s growing population).”

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?

The path to economic recovery and a stronger, more inclusive Seattle begins and ends with our neighborhoods. Clean streets, sidewalks, thriving small businesses, parks and open space for community gatherings, child care, grocery stores, access to reliable and affordable transportation, and other amenities are the hallmarks of a resilient neighborhood. But we know that not every neighborhood is benefiting from investments by the City. As Mayor, I will work in partnership with communities to support community-driven solutions that meet their needs while protecting what makes each neighborhood uniquely Seattle. I also will realign and streamline city departments and improve the customer service experience so “process” doesn’t get in the way of progress in meeting the specific priorities in each of our neighborhoods.

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?

Every person in Seattle should be able to walk down the street and feel safe. Period. Today that is not the case. Going forward we need to be grounded in this basic value statement and make decisions—about both budget and function—that reflect it.

I want to be clear: we need to hire more police officers (to replace the nearly 300 who have left the department) and hire more firefighters (hiring has not kept pace with the city’s growing population). The truth is SPD officers and Seattle Firefighters have been filling the gaps in a broken and underfunded crisis response system for years. As Mayor I will scale solutions, near and long-term, so we can truly move away from relying on police officers and firefighters to fill these critical needs, including: hiring more community service officers; continuing to expand dedicated, crisis response teams, like Health One; investing in community organizations that can both help disrupt criminal activity and advancing harm reduction strategies in community; and building on efforts currently underway (and soon-to-be-funded by the City) to deploy non-SPD solutions and promoting public safety in community; and completing the transition of functions like event management and traffic enforcement away from sworn officers.

“Seattle needs more housing choices, including Missing Middle Housing, but I do not support replacing a one-size-fits-all land use policy with one that could accelerate the displacement and gentrification we have seen over the past decade, particularly in our historically BIPOC neighborhoods.”

Specific to the hiring of police officers, we need to refocus our efforts to improve recruitment and retention of officers that reflect our values. We need to steer away from relying on military experience as a qualifier for being a police officer, and create new pathways to hire police officers from the communities that they serve, which is why I have proposed developing a new [affirmative action]program in partnership with the Seattle Colleges, similar to the one that exists with the Seattle Fire Department for a pipeline for future firefighters, we should create an equivalent feeder program for local, homegrown talent for policing. Continue reading “PubliCola Questions: Casey Sixkiller”

PubliCola Questions: Jessyn Farrell

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. Continue reading “PubliCola Questions: Jessyn Farrell”

PubliCola Questions: Andrew Grant Houston

Photo via agh4sea.com

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.

First up: Newcomer Andrew Grant Houston, an architect, housing advocate, and impressive fundraiser whose future-oriented platform would bring transformative change. Houston wants to increase the minimum wage to $23 an hour, build 2,500 tiny homes for people living unsheltered, use neighborhood planning to develop Barcelona-style “car-light” superblocks, and cut the Seattle Police Department’s budget in half, redirecting the $138 million in savings to other purposes.

Here’s what Houston, who is currently outpacing longtime council members Bruce Harrell and Lorena González on both overall fundraising and number of contributors, 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?

Andrew Grant Houston: The money to fulfill the 12% will come from SPD, though based on interpretation of the current budget, that would only be a reallocation of 1% of the General Fund. I already have a plan for 2,500 tiny homes, recognizing that in Seattle there are close to 3,300 unsheltered individuals by an undercount. These homes plus CM Lewis’ “It Takes a Village” plan should be enough to ensure that, at the very least, we make sure everyone is inside by the end of next year.

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?

We need economic recovery no matter where people live or where a business is located. The answer is ultimately short and long-term action that gives people financial stability when it comes to wages, rent, childcare, and housing affordability/availability in our city. We must do what is just and effective to continue financial protections for individuals.

“I remain the only candidate for Mayor with a plan to expand public restrooms, recognizing that when people have places to go (whether housed or unhoused) as well as specific places to dispose of sharps and trash, we reduce the number of biohazards in our public realm.”

That said, we can promote economic and neighborhood vitality by improving the public realm and making it such that people want to spend time on our streets frequenting local businesses. This is what my “Retake the Right of Way” policy proposal is all about: when we replace space for cars with space for bikes, walking/rolling, and even street cafes, people want to spend more time in our neighborhood centers. Plenty of data and studies show that protected bike lanes actually increase the amount of customers a business sees, so let’s do everything we can to encourage sustainability—environmentally and economically.

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?

I would normally start with the transfer of Parking Enforcement to SDOT, however that is already happening and being worked on by Council. The next step, then, is to expand the Public Safety Coordinator from a singular position in South Park to creating no less than seven in each council district. This is a version of public safety that has seen success and is enjoyed by the residents of the neighborhood, so let’s expand this visible network of resources to other parts of Seattle. Continue reading “PubliCola Questions: Andrew Grant Houston”