Tag: Debora Juarez

Morning Crank: A Professional Disagreement

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1. Extra Crank: 

2. A large and vocal but mostly civil crowd gathered last night at North Seattle Community College to ask officials from city departments—including the Seattle Police Department, Parks, and the mayor and city council—pointed questions about the city-sanctioned low-barrier encampment scheduled to open in March just off Aurora Ave. N in Licton Springs. Mayor Ed Murray announced that the city would be opening four new sanctioned encampments (including one low-barrier encampment that would not require its residents to be clean and sober) last fall; since then, that number has been reduced to three because the city has had trouble finding suitable sites that neighbors will accept.

Unlike meetings for previous encampments—I’m thinking particularly of Nickelsville in Ballard, where neighbors showed up to scream and berate District 6 city council member Mike O’Brien—last night’s comments were a mixture of the usual concerns about public safety, garbage, and that perennial favorite, “lack of public process”—and supportive remarks from neighbors who said they welcomed the site, including several who encouraged opponents to actually go out and meet some of the homeless people they were vilifying. For those who weren’t following along on Twitter, I’ve Storified my tweets here.

3. District 5 council member Debora Juarez stole Mayor Murray’s thunder last night when she announced, almost offhand, that the mayor’s State of the City speech would be held at the Idriss Mosque near Northgate—a symbolically powerful gesture intended to signify that Seattle is serious about its status as a sanctuary city. (Previously, Murray has said that he is “willing to lose every penny” the city receives from the federal government in order to protect immigrants and refugees here). “I don’t think this is even public yet,” Juarez said. Nope.

4. I grabbed homelessness director George Scarola briefly before the meeting to ask him about a tension I noticed during last week’s panel on homelessness.  Barb Poppe, the city consultant who published a plan called Pathways Home that emphasizes short-term rental vouchers as a solution to homelessness, seemed to push back on Scarola’s insistence that Seattle was experiencing a “perfect storm” that includes an affordable-housing shortage, the opioid addiction epidemic, and a huge number of people who became homeless after growing up in foster care. “There does seem to weirdly be this acceptance that it’s actually okay for people to be on the streets,” Poppe said. “You’ve had very low accountability for results and that low accountability for results, I would find to be a mystery.” The solution, Poppe suggested, was not short-term shelter like tent cities or tiny houses, but housing, and the city’s resources should go toward providing rental vouchers for people to move off the streets instead of those short-term solutions. At the time, Scarola pushed back, noting that with more than 3,000 people living unsheltered in Seattle (and more than 80,000 very low-income people in line for just 32,000 affordable apartments), immediate housing for every homeless person was an unrealistic short-term goal.

Last night, Scarola told me he and Poppe had a “professional disagreement” about the right short-term solutions. “Her overall view is absolutely right—she wants stable housing,” he said. “I just don’t know how you get there without going through steps A, B, C, and D”—where at least the first few of those steps involve getting people out of doorways and into demonstrably better shelter like tent cities.

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Council Bans Preferred Employer Rent Discounts

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This afternoon, with surprisingly little pushback, the city council adopted a bill sponsored by freshman council member Lisa Herbold banning source-of-income discrimination (in brief, barring landlords from discriminating against potential tenants whose income comes from government-funded assistance programs such as Social Security) that also included a provision banning “preferred employer” discounts, like free rent or no-deposit move-in specials, to renters who work at certain companies (typically large tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft).

Is Herbold—former aide to Nick Licata, ex-Tenants Union advocate, go-to encyclopedia of landlord-tenant law—poised to rewrite city rental regulations in a way that her former boss neither did nor could?

Herbold, an iconoclastic city hall veteran (17 years at Licata’s office) who toes the John Fox anti-displacement line on some issues but is far less doctrinaire than her detractors insist, has seen pushback when she’s tried to tinker too much with city dollars (her proposal to set aside a percentage of the city’s general fund for affordable housing bonds ran into skepticism from the council’s fiscal conservatives) or zoning laws (a recent anti-displacement amendment to the mayor’s HALA plan was changed to be less punitive for housing developers). But her proposals to change landlord-tenant law are well-reasoned and hard to challenge (landlords’ main criticism was the one Johnson and Juarez raised), and her early successes suggest that now that she’s actually in charge, instead of behind the scenes as Licata’s right-hand woman, Herbold may be the most effective renters’ advocate on the council since Judy Nicastro.

Is Herbold—former aide to Nick Licata, ex-Tenants Union advocate, go-to encyclopedia of landlord-tenant law—poised to rewrite city rental regulations in a way that her former boss neither did nor could?

Even if that proves optimistic, renters can certainly cheer the legislation the council passed unanimously today, which eliminates several avenues for landlords to discriminate.

The preferred employer discounts were particularly insidious, because they didn’t look like discrimination. But even if they didn’t explicitly say “young, unattached, high-income white men wanted,” the ads were widely viewed as discriminatory because they gave preferential treatment to people who fit that demographic. In essence, preferred employer discounts serve as a dog whistle for a certain type of renter, telling those potential renters that their money is better than others’.

Council members did raise a few alarms today, and the whole program will be subject to an audit in 18 months. In the morning council briefing, council member Debora Juarez expressed concern that the proposal might contradict the city’s efforts to encourage people to live near transit, wondering if it might send a message to landlords not to build “transit-oriented housing.” In the afternoon’s full council meeting, Juarez and her fellow council freshman Rob Johnson raised concerns about another provision of the bill, known as the “first-in-time” amendment, which would require landlords to rent to the first person who qualifies, rather than deciding based on other, potentially discriminatory, criteria; they worried that the provision might have the unintended consequence of privileging people with Internet access and cars, who could get their applications in faster than other potential tenants. (Juarez said that a “lottery” for available apartments might be more fair.)

The bill also requires landlords to accept payment vouchers from community-based organizations instead of evicting tenants who fall a few days behind on their rent, as long as the groups pay the rent in cash within five days.

Last year, when I interviewed her before the general election, Herbold told me eliminating preferred employer provisions was one of her top priorities, because she believed that “preferential practices for some result in discriminatory outcomes for others.” Less than eight months into her term, she can check that one off her list.

The C Is for Crank Interviews: Debora Juarez

Now that the primary-election field of 47 has been narrowed to a comparatively manageable 18, I’m sitting down with all the council candidates to talk about what they’ve learned so far, their campaign plans going forward, and their views on the issues that will shape the election, including density, “neighborhood character,” crime, parking, police accountability, and diversity. I’ll be rolling out all 17 of my interviews (Kshama Sawant was the only candidate who declined to sit down with me) over the next few weeks.

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Today’s interview is with Deborah Juarez, a lawyer, member of the Blackfeet tribe, and former King County Superior Court judge who’s running in North Seattle’s District 5.

debora_juarez-1The C Is for Crank [ECB]: You’re not someone I’ve seen around much in local politics before this election. Did the new district elections system make a difference in your decision to run?

Debora Juarez [DJ]: Because we now have a district elections system, two things are happening. People are feeling in the mix because we’re a district. Having a district system is getting people motivated and activated and getting more people involved in the process. And it isn’t just any particular interest group that wants a bike lane or to save the [Lake City] beach. What we’re actually talking about is, what is District Five going to look like in four years? I want to represent and advocate for the district and honor them while also serve the greater Seattle area.

When you run in a district, you live with the people who elected you, which is great. What I like about it is, because I’ve lived here for 25 years in five different neighborhoods, as a homeowner and a renter, people aren’t worried about me going on and on about Shell. They care about affordable housing, getting a transit center, connecting Thornton Creek and the North Seattle Community College, building a real community center with real services. A community center is almost like a neighborhood tribal center. Everything’s there: Social services, evening classes,  open space. A real community center doesn’t mean a couple of rooms and a kitchen.

The other exciting part is economic vitality. Lake City is one the 18 urban centers targeted for development, and the question is, what does that look like? You know you want to be an economic anchor and engine and become a destination for the city. There needs to be equity and safety.  When I say “equity,” I mean, you can’t just serve rich neighborhoods on Lake Washington but not the places that surround them. There are some neighborhoods that need sidewalks more than others. I live on the bottom of a hill, and up the hill, they’ve all got sidewalks and they’re all brand new because when they built, they had [erosion problems], and so they needed them. I hope it goes beyond the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In Indian country, you would call that nation building.

ECB: Would you have considered running for city council if we did not have a district system?

DJ: I  would not be running for Seattle City Council if we hadn’t moved to a district system, because I don’t think one person can be accountable to a city as large and diverse as ours. [Under the current system], you have a council handwringing, and pandering, and not paying attention to their neighborhoods, because the downtown core and other certain groups had all the influence. This is my neighborhood. I have raised my kids here, despite the fact that I couldn’t have owned a house under the racial covenants that are mentioned in the HALA report. I’ve always been a renter. I didn’t know what a mortgage was until I went to law school. I was born in 1959 and my mom, in my neighborhood, could not have bought a house at that time.

ECB: Your opponent, Sandy Brown, has criticized you from taking a lot of money from out of town, much of it from members of Native American tribes outside the city. How do you respond?

DJThere are no borders when it comes to Indian country and how this area was established. They have sovereignty. When you question that, you’re basically saying that the tribes are outsiders and their money is somehow from outsiders. These are tribes. This is their land. And if people want to label them as outsiders or say it’s money from outside city limits, that it’s “outside money,” I’ll bite. Yes, the tribes want to do business with the city of Seattle. But the tribes have been in this area long before the city sf Seattle and this is their land. The tribes are supporting me because I’m one of them. I was raised with them.

ECB: You’re running for a districted seat, with boundaries, to represent a city that also has boundaries. Why is it not legitimate to ask what interests the tribes might have in giving you money?

DJ: It’s the Snoqualmie and Muckleshoot who are in King County. If you people want to draw lines like you do, fine. You ask what is their interest. You have the Muckleshoot and Snoqualmie tribes, who make up less than 3 percent of the King County population, and they’re the fourth largest employer in King County. Their workers live here. Who represents their interests? You have two sovereign nations within King County. Seattle is the biggest city in the state. The city of Seattle does rely on and seek the opinion of the Duwamish and the recognized Snoqualmie and Muckleshoot tribes. Everett worked really closely with the Tulalip. When you bring more people to the table, you have less lawsuits. The tribes diversify the economy. They diversify where they spend their money. They want to invest in Seattle.

When you say, “outsider,” [Ed. note: I said money from outside Seattle, not “outsider”], I find it offensive. I find it offensive that people would call the tribes outsiders. How are the tribes different from the people at Gates or Weyerhauser? The whole reason why the tribes support me is I’m one of them, and they care about me, and I came from the reservation. I’m a success story. They don’t want anything from me. I worked for the governor [as an attorney] and I negotiated on the other side, but they were glad I was there. It’s more philosophical. They’re proud for me and they love me.

ECB: Talking about some of the recommendations from the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda task force, your opponent has said that he thinks developers shouldn’t be allowed to build until neighborhoods have the amenities they need, including bus lines. Do you agree, and what did you think of the HALA recommendations?

DJ: I’m impressed that it was consensus-based and that there were only nine areas out of 65 recommendations where they didn’t agree. I don’t think you should wait [for density], because I don’t think anyone should have to sleep outside. It’s a red herring when people say we should wait until we have all the information before we can build affordable housing. As a person who’s built housing, golf courses, and casinos, I know the brick and mortar system and what happens when you want to build. There’s layers of decisions. It’s naive to think you have to build [infrastructure] before you can actually build housing. The tribes say, we’re going to put a casino here and a convention center there, and the way it gets built and how it gets planned happens the same way when you’re using debt financing and you have a public function. It’s still discussed the same way and the horse trading, as my people call, still happens. That’s how you build stuff.

[This debate] underscores why it’s good that we’re in a district system. We don’t have everyone to say, “This is how we did it before.” I know my neighborhood and I can say what we need. 

The city is very clear that we have quite a way to go [on outreach] on the north end. In [HALA] public comment, they only had, like, 100 responses from people. Some of them said they would rather have a dream neighborhood than a dream house. That was encouraging. What people really want is a neighborhood. A ZIP code is so key. Where your born shouldn’t determine the whole course of your life. HALA is what we need. It’s kind of like what happened when Al Gore did “An Inconvenient Truth.” It shook people’s consciences and made people uncomfortable, and when people get uncomfortable and caught off-guard, people get nervous.

ECB: It seems to me that after the HALA recommendations came out, the mayor and other supporters backtracked on some of the report’s language about how racist zoning covenants led to our current land use map and made certain parts of the city enclaves for wealthy white homeowners. Were you disappointed to see that happen?

DJ: I was disappointed. I think the white community is starting to realize this system and this constitution and this democracy were made for them. The constitution was written for white male property owners. It wasn’t until the 13th Amendment that black men could vote, and it still wasn’t allowed for women. Our people didn’t get to vote until 1932. HALA pushed back against that system.

ECB: What, if anything, did you learn from your DUI three years ago that was uncovered by the Seattle Times earlier this year?

DJ: The past is always with you, no matter how hard you try to look away. I’ve always said this and what I said about the DUI is that when you have pain and healing, it doesn’t mean damage doesn’t happen, but from the damage you heal. The Creator will teach you this lesson. It will come over and over and over again until you get it. It will come in different ways, that lesson, until you get it. I made the mistake. The difference is that it doesn’t mean that that’s the only thing I’ll ever do. I am flawed and I’m very vulnerable. I went through that pain with my mother and my daughters at my side. You can’t learn values unless you have had obstacles, unless you have had pain. You need those character-building experiences in your life, and that was one of them for me.

Previously:

Shannon Braddock, District 1

Lisa Herbold, District 1

Bruce Harrell, District 2

Tammy Morales, District 2

Michael Maddux, District 4

Rob Johnson, District 4

Sandy Brown, District 5

Mike O’Brien, District 6

Catherine Weatbrook, District 6

Deborah Zech-Artis, District 7

Sally Bagshaw, District 7

Tim Burgess, Position 8

Jon Grant, Position 8

Lorena Gonzalez, Position 9

Bill Bradburd, Position 9

A Last-Minute Challenge to Banks Endorsement in the 37th

The upheaval in the 37th District Democrats about the group’s endorsement process, which led to a narrow vote to endorse District 3 candidate Pamela Banks over council incumbent Kshama Sawant, in part, because Sawant is not a Democrat, continues to reverberate.

Late last week, Erin Schultz, who works for Banks’ consultant Christian Sinderman, sent out an “open letter from members of the 37th District Democrats” expressing concern about some members’ efforts “to disqualify the endorsement votes of some of our East African members based on who they supported for City Council. As Democrats, we are passionate about the right to vote, and we condemn any move to silence our members.”

Currently, the district’s rules say that a member must live in the district and must have been a dues-paying member for 25 days prior to a vote. Due to confusion over some new members, a few members may have voted who weren’t eligible, according to a statement district chair Rory O’Sullivan posted to the group’s website. According to two 37th District Democrats members, Banks needed at least 73 votes to win the endorsement, and received exactly that number.

Without the ineligible members, it’s possible that Banks wouldn’t have received the Dems’ nod. (The win would have then gone to “no endorsement,” the de facto Sawant endorsement). Banks finished far behind Sawant in the September primary, and has raised far less than the Socialist going into the general, making endorsements from groups like the Democrats more important than they might be for a candidate with a comfortable lead.

Commenting on my original Facebook post about this, a Democrat who was present at the meeting said she couldn’t remember any instance in this past where members sought to challenge people’s eligibility to vote on endorsements after the fact.

A couple of other random election-related notes:

District 5 candidate Sandy Brown, who came in far behind Debora Juarez in the primary election, is accusing Juarez of avoiding campaign forums where she’d have to appear with him. Late last month, Brown posted a series of tweets with hashtags like #whereisjuarez and #emptychair (sorry, Sandy, that one’s kinda already taken), such as this one, on September 23: “How do we debate N Seattle issues if 1/2 candidates won’t appear?” 

Asked about her absences (apparently, Juarez missed three appearances in September, but her campaign said she had attended “at least 23” by the time Brown wrote his tweets), Juarez’s campaign manager Tyler Emsky said, “Debora was out of town (on a short family trip) for the Sept. 3rd Haller Lake Community Club forum.  She also was not able to attend a small neighborhood block party on September 13th due to an unavoidable last minute personal situation. …We have also declined the invitation of the group putting on the Oct. 1st candidate forum at Ingraham High School. This was very tough for us to do, but we had little choice. We received information from multiple sources that a few members of the group had succeeded in setting up the debate to be highly impartial.” Three of people reportedly organizing that forum are Brown contributors.

The meeting Emsky was referring to was ultimately turned into a meet-and-greet for Brown’s campaign.

Speaking of campaign contributions, Vulcan, along with the SEIU 775 health care workers’ union, is holding a fundraiser on October 12 for Position 8 candidate Tim Burgess and Position 9 candidate Lorena Gonzalez, at SEIU headquarters downtown.