Egan Orion

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?

Consistently on the doors, I hear that voters are concerned with the city’s lack of effective response to the homelessness crisis.     Homelessness is perhaps the greatest single challenge facing our city because it is actually an amalgamation of several, very difficult challenges, including a lack of affordable housing and insufficient addiction and mental health care. No two unsheltered individuals are the same, so when we address the homelessness crisis, we need to be thoughtful and empathetic—and we also need a revised approach.     Those who are chronically homeless—around 2000 of our neighbors—are our most vulnerable residents. We are already paying to assist them but in temporary ways that contribute to their suffering and increases our long-term investment, rather than getting them the support they need. Let’s work with King County to create a bond for 500 million dollars and create supportive housing for all of our chronically homeless with wraparound services—including mental health and addiction recovery services—and provide the stability and support these residents need for a better future. We can repay that bond with general fund dollars, offsetting what we are already paying to serve these residents. This focus on permanent supportive housing will result in less suffering and better long-term outcomes.     We also need to address affordable housing—upzone more neighborhoods, create “light density” options to fill the missing middle, and incentivize filling currently empty units. Keeping people in their housing goes a long way to preventing homelessness. We need to protect renters by requiring a three-month notice on any rent increases and provide financial assistance for renters to help bridge an emergency and offer robust legal support so they can compete on an even playing field with landlords, especially in Seattle’s expensive and volatile housing market.     Lastly, and most importantly—we must work together and collaborate at the city level and regionally. Let’s do a better job coordinating our resources and develop a truly comprehensive plan to make an impact and help those in need.

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?

As a whole, the current council is failing the public in more ways than one: communicating with constituents; effectively analyzing, improving, and demonstrating the success of ongoing efforts; and thinking ahead to better embrace our city’s innovative spirit.     Take my opponent, she might as well have a sign on her door at the City Council that says “DO NOT ENTER.” Many current councilmembers say that over the last three and a half years or more, they’ve met with her only two to three times—no more than once a year! In the district, community groups like the ones I lead and represent have tried reaching out to her to work on efforts that have a significant impact on our neighborhoods, only to receive zero response or interest in listening and problem solving—let alone securing resources or assistance. Similarly, invitations to our councilmember to engage with citizen groups, non-profits, or small businesses all go unanswered. We’ve all read the reports that say she serves and reports to a small group of unaccountable Socialist Alternative leaders, yet feels no responsibility to meet with or represent the constituents of her district. This must change; it isn’t the way our democracy was designed to work.      It’s time we had a councilmember who will listen to us when the cameras aren’t rolling and work to enact policies that benefit all of us in District 3. We know she fights against Amazon and other employers, but our communities need someone who will fight for the residents, working people, and families of District 3—one of the most diverse districts in the city.

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, I don’t believe the city council is on the right track for many of the reasons listed in the previous question. There is no accountability, a severe lack of transparency, and a level of insularity that hinders collaboration and progress on the issues at hand.     There’s a lot I would change. Starting by actually listening to my neighbors and constituents, and then actually reviewing the progress of our ongoing projects and working alongside others—even those who may not see eye to eye with me.     In my work, I’m on the ground every day creating healthy, safe neighborhoods and working across organizations to support residents and small businesses alike. I will work with my fellow councilmembers, with citizen groups, non-profits, businesses small and large—whatever it takes to move our city forward and solve or mitigate the many problems we face and the opportunities we’ve failed to take.

Q4. Please comment on the city’s approach to unsanctioned encampments.  Would you change anything about the current policy?

I do not support unsanctioned encampments, but I also believe the city is not yet prepared to get people where they need to go.     We must get people off the street but need to have shelter or housing available for them first, otherwise we’re just sending them down the road or to another community in our city. It’s a bandage that doesn’t solve the core problem. Creating a revolving door of jail and housing insecurity does not ultimately help this effort and in many cases can make it worse.     I do not support no-notice sweeps of encampments. It’s a waste of tax-payer money because a few days later, the encampment returns to the same exact spot. I do support advance notice sweeps with robust social worker assistance to connect with shelter and services, especially in circumstances where the camper’s health and safety and that of the general public is at risk. San Diego learned the hard way with a $20 million dollar “medieval” disease outbreak that killed many and cost the city $20 million dollars. Public health for all, including those who are camping, should be our biggest priority.      But we need to move quickly—and we need a councilmember actively working toward a solution, not just complaining and creating more division. I think we can all agree there should be no one sleeping on our city streets, but the current council has not done enough to provide shelter and housing for everyone. This will be of the highest priority for me at council.

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?

In the case of frequent repeat offenders, quite frankly, we need to act and we have to hold these people accountable. I strongly believe in getting people the help they need to improve their lives, but people need to be willing to accept that help. I’ll work with the City Attorney and County Prosecutor to ensure we’re protecting public safety, and offer ample opportunities to help get these offenders on the right track. I don’t think that jail or prison should be the first option; there are many great diversion programs like LEAD that cost more up front and save money down the road with better outcomes for participants.     Improving public safety is a key tenet of my campaign. This isn’t just a box to check for me, it’s about actually improving the lives of neighbors, workers, and first responders in our District and across the city.     In District 3, we deal with a variety of public safety concerns. Just a couple of weeks ago, in a highly publicized event, a nineteen-year-old lost his life and two others were injured in shootings a block away from my house in the Central District. As director of the Broadway Business Improvement Area, I frequently work to clean our streets of needles, clean up graffiti, and address other potential threats to public safety.      District 3’s neighborhoods are vibrant and dynamic, but to keep them that way, we must reduce crime, find a path to rehabilitation for frequent offenders that actually works, and make sure people feel safe and protected.

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?

To put it simply: I would listen, I would collaborate, and I would be a strong partner with all relevant stakeholders.     Seattle needs to do a better job working with business as we grow, and building mutual trust and dialogue even in tense situations where do may not agree. Both businesses and workers are part of our community—whether they’re fresh faces or old neighbors—and we need to treat them as such.      There are areas—MHA, transportation and transit, density and upzones to name a few—where there has been good collaboration and partnership between Council, labor, businesses, and others. We know we can tackle tough, often divisive issues when we work toward common goals with an open mind.      Where these relationships have historically broken down is around issues where Seattle may have an important role to play in showing leadership for the region or state, and business feels singled out or targeted. Regardless of future Council makeup, Seattle is a progressive, forward-thinking city and I believe we will continue looking for ways to express our values and commitment to equity, tax reform, and leveling the playing field for working and low-income people. As a council member, I will pledge to always be collaborative and inclusive in these conversations, lead the honest conversations necessary to find shared incentives and meet common goals.      I know that businesses around Seattle are willing to work with the City Council, so long as there are councilmembers who are collaborative partners, engaged representatives, and good-faith negotiators. I’m willing to bridge the gap—not burn the bridge—so we can more effectively respond to growth and build a better city in the process.

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 hope to implement two key strategies: filling the “missing middle” and reopening empty living spaces that aren’t currently being used.      The MHA Upzone promises to produce much-needed affordable housing, but we need to be doing more. Currently, in areas not zoned for single-family houses, only townhouses and large apartment or condo buildings are being built, but we also need “light density” options to fill the missing middle of housing, like duplexes, triplexes, and small multi-family buildings with single floor living for ADA accessibility and for seniors to age in place. We must incentivize ADUs and DADUs so that we can further build out density, especially in single-family neighborhoods. We must all share in solving this intractable problem of housing affordability, and the solution is density in all of Seattle’s neighborhoods.      We also need to take empty apartments and hotels—which exist throughout the city—and incentivize property owners through programs like Economic Opportunity Zone tax deferral so that those empty units can be occupied again.

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’m in District 3 doing work every day to make the lives of neighbors and our small businesses better.     My work with PrideFest over the last twelve years has put me at the forefront of Seattle civic life, with the biggest public-facing events anywhere in the city and having given me the chance to develop long-term strategies to build civic engagement.      In my work with the Broadway Business Improvement Area (BIA) and Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, I’ve built strong commercial corridors and connected customers, small businesses, non-profits, and government together to create one of the most vibrant and diverse communities in the city.      I have brought together stakeholders from across our region to collaborate on these projects and create programs for all to enjoy and outcomes whole neighborhoods can be proud of. Last year, after Capitol Hill lost our homeless outreach workers funded through the city, I reached out to First Hill and Chinatown ID so that we could come together in coalition to petition both the Mayor’s office and Council to bring that work back to our neighborhoods, but not just for one neighborhood, but for all three of our neighborhoods.      I’ve proven that together we are stronger and we can accomplish the big tasks we confront. As a City Councilmember, I would bring my experience working with others and meeting the needs of my community to District 3.