Michael George

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?

I’ve knocked on thousands of doors and the top issue by a large margin is homelessness, and the lack of progress being made on addressing it. We must change our approach to homelessness and make sure our regional partners do their fair share. We must build more low-income housing, commit to proven cost-effective homeless prevention programs, treat the subset of homeless people with mental illness and addiction, and bring those who prey on the homeless and the rest of us to justice.

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 think the current council has done a good job of talking to people that they agree with, and excluding those that they don’t. The council’s job is to hear from all constituents, even those they might disagree with. If the council doesn’t hear all perspectives on an issue, it is nearly impossible to make well informed policy decisions. The head tax debacle is a prime example of this, and the fact that the council was blindsided by the intense backlash from business and the public shows that they didn't do their due diligence in reaching out to the public and those who would have been directly impacted by the tax.   

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?

The current council is making progress on education with the passage of the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Plan. They also seem willing to reconsider some of the overly burdensome regulations that daycares face, and hint of a closer partnership with Seattle Public Schools.     Council has not been effective at solving the housing affordability crisis. One particular issue is the broken permitting system. I would focus on fixing and upgrading the Accela permitting system, process improvements, and hiring more experienced staff to reduce permitting timelines. Council has also been unwilling to consider the need for all of us to have public spaces that are safe, clean, and free of needles.

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

If elected I will approach the issue of unauthorized encampments from a place of compassion. These are people, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I believe the city should be empowering the Navigation Teams in an effort to connect the people in these camps to services and help get them into permanent housing and expanding services aimed at getting our unsheltered neighbors into stable housing and treatment if needed.     I don’t believe in criminalizing poverty and we need to support viable locations for people facing homelessness to live and/or be treated for mental health and drug addictions issues. At the same time, unauthorized encampments can be a public health and safety issue. It is unhealthy to live in an environment where there are rats and untreated waste, and we should be doing everything we can to get our unsheltered neighbors into better living situations. There is also sa criminal eleThere are countless ideas on how to solve the homeless crisis, yet one of the biggest obstacles in implementing these ideas is a lack of space for the services we need. I would use my expertise in affordable housing and real estate to work with service providers to find more space for treatment facilities and housing to help our unsheltered neighbors.   

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?

Our street crisis needs a response that combines compassion and common sense. Allowing open air drug use in our public spaces defies common sense and emboldens criminals. Here are some other ways that I think the city could curb property crime and violent assaults: 

-Those who prey on homeless people and the rest of us must be brought to justice. There’s no excuse for allowing violent criminals or chronic repeat offenders to remain on the streets. 

-Prioritize bike and foot patrols in hot spots, and as resources allow, replicate parts of the 9 ½ Block strategy. 

-Continue supporting and expand Seattle’s commitment to Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) to reducing crime through urban and environmental design and management. 

-Invest in shelter space that is safe, secure, and free of bed bugs. The goal of the shelter system should be to connect people to the services they need to reach self-sufficiency, or in some cases, help those unable to take care of themselves get into assisted care. For some this means treatment services, for others job training, debt counseling, or housing assistance.  

-There should be more support for inmates in jail and pathways to housing and career support upon release to break the cycle of recidivism

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?

The continuing tax increases and regulations hurt Seattle’s small business community, and drive jobs out of our region. As a council member I will bring business into conversations early on in any regulatory process. I will also do a better job communicating just how devastating the onslaught of new seattle-only tax proposals, like the head tax, are for businesses. I would also work toward a more predictable tax environment. The fear of new taxes being proposed every year creates an unstable environment and makes it difficult for businesses to plan for the future.   Another issue is the poor communication from SDOT during major construction projects that impact small retailers. Businesses need to know when there will be street closures and other disruptions so they can prepare. I would also ensure that businesses physical needs are considered, like having adequate loading zones.

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?

We must work within the reality of available funding to solve this issue. I firmly believe that we can house everyone, but not necessarily within the boundaries of Seattle, which faces a severe lack of land and high construction costs. Below is a partial summary of what I believe needs to be done, broken down by household Area Median Income (AMI) level. This is my current thinking, but I’m always open to criticism and fine-tuning as I learn more.   

<30% AMI Units: Better regional coordination is needed to produce Extremely Low-Income Housing (ELI) units. Seattle needs to continue funding these units and coordinated services, but we can’t do it alone. While I’m excited that King County is stepping up, other cities and counties need to commit more funding and make room for more shelters and ELI units in their communities too. A good place to start would be work toward fair share commitments for cities across the region targeted at ELI units and shelters. I’m optimistic about the passage of state legislation that allows public entities to consider discounting land for affordable housing; however, this is only the first step in producing affordable housing at scale on these properties. Since this legislation passed, I have worked with multiple public entities that are hesitant to actually discount land for affordable housing. As a council member I will work with other public entities across the region to come up with a strategy to strategically leverage these surplus properties for affordable housing in a geographically and socially equitable manner. Without this coordination and commitment at the city/county/public-entity level the state legislation won’t produce the opportunity that we all hope it will. I worked on Sound Transit’s 80/80/80 legislation, which in some ways was the precursor to the state legislation. Although ST’s legislation isn’t perfect, it is producing results and there are transferable lessons for the city from this experience. Another angle I’d like to consider is prioritizing a portion of these units for front-line outreach workers, on-site health care workers and others that make this city work, but are not earning an adequate wage to afford our region’s high cost of living.   

40 to 60% AMI Units: Seattle needs to step up efforts to produce units at this income level. These units are critical to retaining Seattle’s middle class. More could be done to incentivize on-site performance through MHA for these types of units. I would also like to look into targeting a portion of these units to specific groups like police, fire, teachers and other groups that the communities benefit from. For example, I would like to see more police live in the communities they work in and this could allow that to happen.   

60% to 150% AMI - There is tremendous opportunity to work with the private sector to subsidize this type of housing. A lack of housing at this AMI level hurts tech and other professional employers that compete with lower cost areas for employees. I hope we see more announcements like the recent Microsoft affordable housing revolving loan program for this reason. This is also the AMI level that many mid-to late career police, fire, and teachers make. The City can do more with the MFTE program to incentivize housing at these levels too, particularly family-sized housing,  by extending the abatement period to 24 years and looking at using AMI levels based on City not county averages - something I’d like to dig into as a council member. Overall, we need to be smarter with the fees we impose so it doesn’t make it infeasible to deliver housing, particularly for small builders that are targeting housing-within-reach for middle class families.    There are a number of other things that need to be done to solve the affordable housing crisis including fixing the permitting process and working with neighborhoods on other common sense zoning reforms. While many of the solutions are focused on housing targeting households at specific income levels, it is also important to incentivize a greater diversity of housing types including family-sized and senior housing units. Seattle also needs to think more holistically about how development and other neighborhood infrastructure like public transit and schools are coordinated, so that development doesn’t overburden neighborhood infrastructure. Other items worth considering are; pushing for a right-to-cure allowance to the proposed condo amendments; using deed restrictions on small public properties to simplify the disposition process for affordable housing where practical; an, extending MFTE term for 24 years, particularly for 3+ bedroom units.    I want to convene these efforts and push other jurisdictions into joining us for the herculean efforts that will be necessary to continue to make a dent in this region’s biggest issue, housing affordability.   

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.

My life’s work has been focused on making cities function more efficiently. I have been involved with many large-scale public works projects in the Seattle area, including Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail, Bus Rapid Transit Lines, and many major housing projects. I am committed to making cities more environmentally friendly through green technologies and efficient use of space, expanding housing at all income levels, ensuring that we have a robust public transportation system that is reliable and effective, and ensuring that we our economy prospers.   

My additional experience is as follows: 

-Co-lead Parents For a Better Downtown Seattle. 

-Member of the Seattle Public Schools’ Capacity Task Force and Facilities Master Plan Committees.  

-Chaired the DSA’s Family Friendly Downtown Subcommittee. 

-Drafted proposed family-sized housing legislation. 

-Have organized and served on a number of committees and task forces to create a more livable and sustainable Seattle. 

-Work on public transit and affordable housing projects 

-Led retail studies to determine how to keep small businesses thriving. For example, I led the Broadway retail study.