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. I think the City has been correct to increase the size of the Navigation Team, to take a Housing First approach, to emphasize integrating services with housing, to work with the County towards a coordinated regional response, and to build measures of accountability into contracts with service providers. We should expand current efforts to prevent homelessness. But Seattle is experiencing a drug crisis as well as a housing crisis. It is the drug crisis that is causing the biggest impacts on neighborhoods, and the City has not developed an effective response. The most heavily impacted neighborhoods tend to be less affluent—in District 5, think Lake City or areas near Aurora, not Inverness or west Broadview. The City needs to be compassionate to these neighborhoods, as well as to the homeless. The strategy for this must include multiple components: clearly and publicly communicated rules as to where camping is allowed and where it is not, and under what conditions; additional authorized encampments, where services can be provided, to allow for substantial reductions in unauthorized encampments; reforms in the criminal justice system to deal more effectively with prolific offenders; and expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program and potentially other programs that offer intensive case management that can more effectively link addicts to treatment.
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?
The Council has frequently allowed large partisan crowds at Council meetings to intimidate citizens with opposing views. The Council needs to enforce basic rules of civility, requiring the removal of members of the crowd who choose not to comply. Individual council members also need to demonstrate respect for the public by not getting distracted with their phones or other electronic devices during public testimony. Councilmembers also need to meet regularly with constituents in their districts, by attending community meetings, holding open public meetings in the district, and offering more informal opportunities to talk at convenient times and places for constituents. The incumbent in District 5 does not do this.
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?
See my answer to #1 above.
Q4. Please comment on the city’s approach to unsanctioned encampments. Would you change anything about the current policy?
Again, see #1 above. Parks, natural areas, sidewalks and parking strips should all be “no camping” areas. If we are going to substantially reduce unsanctioned encampments, though, we are going to need to increase sanctioned encampments, where basic services like sanitation, hygiene, and case management can be provided.
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?
The report itself acknowledged that there was no simple solution. The criminal justice system involves multiple players with independent legal authority, including the courts, the Prosecuting Attorney, the City Attorney, the corrections system, the police, and others. Out of these, the City Council has policy authority over just the police. But the Council has budget authority that extends further, and it also has the potential to provide the strongest voice on behalf of constituents, so that their concerns are heard to the greatest extent possible by the other parties in the criminal justice system. All of the parties together need to address this problem.
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?
In my conversations with small businesses in District 5, their most common concerns have been property crime; the cost and time required for permits; taxes and fees; potential displacement from redevelopment; and responsiveness. Responsiveness is the most fundamental test for a councilmember, and ultimately relates to action on all four of the other issues. It would not be hard to provide a higher standard of responsiveness to local businesses than the incumbent.
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 generally support recommendations in the Seattle Planning Commission’s report, “Neighborhoods for All,” including: permitting duplexes, triplexes, and cottage housing in a wide variety of places (but not everywhere) in the single family residential zone; reducing minimum lot sizes (the largest in the City are currently in District 5, so this would have the greatest effect there); and approving “urban hamlets” as smaller-scale urban villages in areas with frequent transit or small existing commercial areas.
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’ve been a community leader in District 5 for 17 years. I helped organize and then led the D5 Community Network, the only association of community groups across an entire City Council district in Seattle. Professionally, I also have worked for or with elected officials for much of my career, including more than five years as an assistant to the Mayor of St. Louis, nearly four years on the central staff of the King County Council, and 15 years as an environmental consultant, frequently handling issues that required final approval by local legislative bodies.