Q1. What are you hearing from voters as the most important issue facing Seattle? In your view of that issue, what is working and what would you do differently?
Homelessness, which is a massive crisis. We know that permanent supportive housing, and low-barrier to access housing, works to stabilize people and get them the help they need. I support working regionally with coalitions of business, labor, King County, and suburban partners to build more permanent supportive housing to meet the needs of the current crisis. We cannot continue to rely on street camping as a mechanism to cope with the thousands of our neighbors living in a state of homelessness.
Q2. Please provide your perspective on how the current city council conducts its business with the public. How would you conduct yourself as a council member?
I will be a responsive and accessible councilmember. As I doorbell every corner of my district I hear the same comeback over and over again, "I send emails downtown, I make calls, nobody ever responds." This is unacceptable and a repudiation of the very foundation of representative government. I am proud to be endorsed by neighborhood, labor, and business leaders who know that I will listen, be accessible, and build coalitions to get things done. We need to get away from the us versus them model of municipal government which has divided us and led to inertia in our politics.
Q3. In your view is the current City Council mostly on the right track in addressing Seattle’s problems.? If yes, what do you like about the current Council’s approach? If no, what would you do differently?
No, the current City Council is not on the right track. The focus of the current Council is too insular, looking to a small segment of interest groups and constituencies entirely within the City to solve the most demanding challenges we face. The Council needs to reach beyond the scope of just City government to form regional partnerships capable of grappling with the regional nature of the problems we face. Business, with its expertise and resources, should be included as a partner as well as labor and non-profits. That is how we will get ahead of the problems we face. Additionally, the City Council needs to take criticism constructively, instead of getting defensive when suggestions are offered. In the fall, I wrote an editorial for Crosscut on performance auditing. The response from a number of City Councilmember was not "thank you, this is a good idea" it was open hostility to the mere suggestion that they could be doing more to be accountable with the resources we already have. We need to move away from that model and have a Council inclusive of the opinions of its critics.
Q4. Please comment on the city’s approach to unsanctioned encampments. Would you change anything about the current policy?
Yes, we need to rely more on first-responders, like EMTs, rather than a largely law enforcement driven strategy. A City audit from a few years ago (which I highly doubt the current Council has read) praised novel approaches by San Francisco and Austin relying on EMTs to do outreach to encampments which significantly increased the rate at which people transitioned from unsanctioned encampments into services. The rapport and focus on in-field triage from an EMT-based strategy can elevate our encampment strategy beyond a criminal justice approach to a public health approach. Otherwise, we are just moving people from one camping spot to another, and nothing is ever accomplished.
Q5. A recent study found a that a group of offenders with dozens of arrests, who regularly cycle through the courts and back onto the streets account for a significant amount of the property and violent crime in downtown and the neighborhood business districts. How should city government respond to these findings?
I see the failures of our criminal justice system on a daily basis as a prosecutor, and we need to change up our strategy. I was recently in Vancouver BC and had a great conversation with a pair of police officers walking a beat. They told me that 32 officers patrolled that particular neighborhood 24 hours a day, divided into three watches, on foot. I walked with them for a few blocks and was struck by how these officers knew every businesses owner, knew the street regulars on a first name basis, and had a rapport with the operator of a community center. If needed, the officers could call in back-up from officers on bikes or in patrol cars stationed nearby. Seattle has 19.8 officers per-10,000 residents, well below peer cities. We need to increase our patrol force with an eye toward implementing that kind of personal on the ground model of policing. It provides protection to business districts, it helps officers build rapport and trust with the community they serve, and it has a deterrent effect on crimes of opportunity. The City Council needs to make hiring more officers a budget priority.
Q6. Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities with small businesses as the backbone of our local economy. However, as the city grows the cost of doing business has also increased. As a council member what is something you would do to help businesses survive and prosper in Seattle?
First, paying into the social contract requires effective and reliable delivery of services. If businesses are expected to comply with increased regulations and higher taxes, they need to also receive the benefit of police protection and due process. Second, I miss Bakeman's on a daily basis, and no amount of wishing will bring it back. We need to adopt a legacy business registry similar to San Francisco. Where small businesses that have risen to the level of a civic institution critical to neighborhood character receive certain benefits. Paying taxes based on profitability rather than property value, for example. These are things we need to look at as our small businesses increasingly face pressure to move out of neighborhoods as land values skyrocket and rents accordingly increase.
Q7. As the city has grown so has the cost of housing making Seattle unaffordable for many people in the workforce. What strategies do you support to increase the supply of affordable housing in Seattle?
I am a big proponent of siting more affordable housing on public land in District 7. I am a proud supporter of building affordable housing at Fort Lawton, and the only problem with the project is that we aren't building MORE housing there. I support incorporating housing into the National Guard Armory project in Interbay, as well as King County's efforts to build a modular shelter on Elliott Avenue. Every district needs to do its part, including District 7. More broadly, I am a big supporter of the Enterprise Foundation's Home and Hope plan, which seeks to build 5,000 units of affordable housing at various AMIs within 3 years at sites all over Seattle. The plan seeks to do this through cooperation and partnership with business, labor, and government on a regional level, the way we should be planning.
Q8. Being on the City Council is a challenging job. Please describe your specific experience or skills that qualifies you to serve as the representative of your district.
I have been involved in public service for many years and have a demonstrated track record of building coalitions across Seattle's political spectrum. I interned for Seattle City Councilmember Sally J. Clark, served two terms as a Seattle Human Rights Commissioner, managed the re-election of Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, served as a member of the Rental Housing Inspection Stakeholder Committee, and I currently represent the people of Seattle in court as an assistant city attorney. The Seattle City Council isn't a retirement job, and I can't wait to bring energy, creativity, and team work to the Council dais.