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”