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?
The issues I hear about the most from my constituents are homelessness and a lack of transportation infrastructure. The City is having success in moving people from the streets and shelters into housing, but we are still working to address the sheer number of people who are homeless. According to King County’s annual homelessness census, this year we had a 38% drop in chronically homeless individuals- a sign of great improvement. We need to provide more services for our neighbors without homes and the City of Seattle works every day to help our neighbors in need. We need to significantly increase our stock of affordable housing and expand services (like mental health and substance abuse treatment) and outreach, including the Navigation team and funding for enhanced food bank centers. We need to address inefficiencies in how current funds are spent, but ultimately we don’t have nearly enough housing supply, and solving that challenge will take additional funds. With regards to transportation infrastructure, the North End of Seattle was neglected for decades and we are now trying to catch up. As the first elected representative for District 5, what I have done differently is that I have fought and delivered for voters in my district. I have funded dozens of new sidewalk projects, finished securing money for our pedestrian bike bridge that will connect North Seattle College to Northgate Mall, and convinced Sound Transit to add the 130th St. Station to their last ballot measure. I was recently appointed to the Sound Transit board, where I will be able to do more to help Seattle, especially for neglected areas of the City and for people who have disabilities that need accommodations for transit.
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 listen first and then find ways to deliver what my constituents need. North Seattle was ignored and did not have representation on the City Council before we went to a district system. Because residents of north Seattle had a history of not being heard, I hired a District Director and opened a District Office at North Seattle College. In addition, we created the D5 Community Network and the D5 Business Coalition. These were created as direct responses to the questions and needs posed by the neighbors in D5. Also, I host two annual events attended by hundreds of people- Live in D5 in the summer and Dive in D5 in the winter- that created the opportunity for me to bring City Hall up to my neighbors and make sure that everyone can meet me and be heard. Trust must be earned. We must do better and lead with humility, accountability, and honesty. It’s not an easy task, but certainly the standards all elected officials should adhere to in leadership. We need to better communicate a vision for our city’s future that is grounded in hopes that we all share: better transportation, safer neighborhoods, a cleaner environment, and a thriving economy. We need to be transparent about how we get there, the metrics we use for decision-making, and ensure that Seattle residents can easily access information for the work that is in progress.
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?
I support more accountability with our spending that measures whether or not we have met key targets including: budget (are there more efficient ways to spend? Have we remained within budget?), timeline (are we delivering what we promised when we promised it?), and reach (are we making the most impact possible with each dollar we spend?) of our spending priorities. I think it is critical to ensure public support for our spending.
Q4. Please comment on the city’s approach to unsanctioned encampments. Would you change anything about the current policy?
Our unsheltered residents are “camping” because they have no home. Seattle needs to be more aggressive in moving people off of the street and into services and housing that will help stabilize them and prevent returning to the street. This requires more active outreach and adequate shelter, housing, and addiction and mental health services at the scale of the number of people in need. It is unacceptable to allow people to live in the streets for public safety and health reasons, but we need have to someplace for them to go. I am pleased that the county and city will create a Regional Governance Authority, set to be in place in August 2019. The RGA will be in the form of a Public Development Authority (PDA.) King County will propose a charter to create the RGA and the city and county will negotiate an interlocal agreement to determine Seattle’s participation. I currently serve on the City’s Select Committee on Homelessness and the King County Regional Policy Committee where this is being developed.
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?
We need to break the cycle and revolving door of offenders with targeted intervention. We need to direct offenders to more services, and treat the underlying issues that lead to criminal behavior. We need to attract, hire, and retain more mental health providers, Community Service Officers, Navigation Team members, and specially-trained police officers. Dealing with unsheltered people who are struggling with addiction and mental health issues requires skilled and compassionate staff that work with (or are embedded with) the Seattle Police Department. Currently, with defunded mental and behavioral health programs, the opioid epidemic, and homelessness crisis and an uptick in violent crimes, our police department is stretched thin. SPD and the Seattle Fire Department are responding to riskier situations, without adequate time to develop new skills and training to address our city’s growing challenges. The North Precinct is a failing facility that must be replaced. The North precinct was built in 1984 to house about 100 staff. It is now home to more than 200 staff. North Seattle compromises 40% of the population and this station serves approx. 38% of Seattle’s total area (Districts 4, 5, & 6.) Property crime remains high in the north end and residents continually ask for shorter response times to their 911 calls and finding ways to reduce crime in their neighborhood. Protecting public safety is one of the pillars of good governance and one of my top priorities at City Hall.
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?
I have strong relationships with Seattle’s business community, and I view them as partners to making our city a better place to live, work, and play. I created the D5 Business Coalition so that I could hear directly from small, medium, and large-sized businesses. I host meetings for the D5 Business Coalition every quarter to share ideas and resources. Additionally, I have an open-door policy and will meet with anyone who requests a meeting. Over the last three years, I have met with a range of businesses on many issues to listen. I will continue to do this. Lastly, I have voted for more funding for the Office of Economic Development to support business and also for the Office of Labor Standards to help businesses stay in compliance with the law.
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 voted for the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) and supported HALA because they were steps in the right direction to expand our housing stock and increase our supply of affordable housing. Density is key to having a housing stock that meets the demand of our growing city as is transit oriented development. I support increasing density and expanding upon the programs that the Office of Housing is working on- Incentive Zoning, Home Repair Program, Low-income Weatherization, and Multifamily Tax Exemption Program. We are delivering on the Housing Levy and in the last month, we have opened three buildings of low income housing that will house more than 200 families. In February 2019, I met with our congressional delegation to urge the passage of the Affordable Housing and Credit Improvement Act (2019). This new law will expand the low income housing tax credit to provide more than 10,000 units statewide with the focus on veterans, low income families, and Indian County. I partnered with, and will continue to partner with, the state legislature, city departments, businesses, neighbors, and organizations like LIHI and Compass. We also need to look into solutions that involve rent stabilization and preventions for rental price gouging. Private companies and developers benefit from our growing economy. They have a role in ensuring new development provides additional affordable housing units so we are not displacing low income people in Seattle. Such entities should participate in the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program; I prefer performance rather than payment.
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 ran for City Council because as a resident of D5 for more than 30 years, I saw that the north end felt ignored and that they had no voice at City Hall. I brought my experience as a public defender, union member, King County Superior Court Judge, advisor to two Governors, mom, and lawyer of 33 years to fight for District 5. Since I came into office, I have delivered more than $2.4 billion of brick and mortar to Seattle including District 5, helped create thousands of new jobs, built dozens of new sidewalks, and secured millions of dollars for local nonprofits to help our homeless neighbors. I was proud to help usher the 2019 Library Levy through the process to be placed on the August 2019 ballot as well as renovating the Lake City Branch Library. I’m currently working on getting the 130th Street light rail station built 7 years ahead of schedule. Here are some of the civic development and public projects I am proud of and continue to work on: Renovation of the Seattle Center: $1.6 billion Waterfront Local Improvement District: $712 million NHL Headquarters at Northgate: $80 million Lake City Community Center: Approx. $18 million Pedestrian Bike Bridge: Approx. $36 million I’m fiercely optimistic about the next four years and making things even better for my constituents.