Pat Murakami

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 intersection of the drug, mental health and homelessness crisis that we are witnessing on Seattle streets, and the resulting public health risks to Seattle residents. Voters are frustrated by our high property taxes, and resulting high rents, while not seeing any progress in getting people housed.     The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (LEAD) is a good step in the right direction. I’m proud of the work the Seattle Police Department is doing to help us navigate these problems, given the restrictions placed on SPD by city leadership.    Overall, I believe the city and county have failed to take appropriate action. Barbara Poppe's report on our inadequate response to addressing the homelessness crisis does not include the word 'drug' or 'addict'.  Without admitting we have an illicit drug epidemic in Seattle, we will never completely solve the homelessness crisis. I will support tailored solutions that address two specific populations appropriately: 1. the economically homeless and 2. those who are homeless because of drug addiction and/or mental health issues.     During the 2019-2020 City Council public budget meetings it was clear there was no unified plan. The Council was still funding disjointed programs rather than funding a coordinated strategy to resolve our homeless emergency. I will only fund programs/agencies that follow best practices and produce measurable results. I will support programs that rapidly rehouse the economically homeless, focus on housing vouchers, job counselors and caseworkers.    I will hold King County accountable for their Public Health responsibility to provide treatment. I will work with the County to ensure we have on-demand, residential treatment programs available to anyone needing such assistance. I will create a volunteer mentor program to guide and assist individuals who suffer from mental health issues, assign a payee to anyone receiving financial assistance that is not housed (as allowed by state law) to ensure their rent and utilities are paid first rather than spent on drugs, and enforce our laws that pertain to illicit drug sales and consumption, diverting users to treatment.    Finally, I will support programs that lead both populations to permanent housing and economic self-sufficiency. I also have specific solutions for additional populations that are homeless and/or in need of specialized services, including:  LGBTQIA individuals seeking safe harbor in our progressive city, veterans suffering from PTSD, undocumented individuals that are un- or under-employed, non-compliant sex offenders and individuals who were previously incarcerated.

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 current City Council appears to have great disdain for the residents of Seattle, particularly as it pertains to public comment. They should end the public comment process if they aren't going to listen to those who take the time to testify, or if they continue to cut people off when they are making valid comments. Here is a sad example, which you have likely already seen, that exemplifies how the Council ignores their constituents:  https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2129019624024496    I will listen to all public testimony, even from those I don’t agree with or who don’t speak to an agenda item. I will be in my District, and maintain an office there, so residents have easy access to me, enabling them to share their concerns, so I can better address their issues.     The job of a Councilmember is to serve the public. The residents and businesses of District 3 and people of Seattle give me my marching orders. It isn't a popularity contest, where I get to do what I want and ignore everyone but the special interests.    I will fully research an issue and bring people representing differing views to the table before proposing or voting on legislation, such as business owners and labor, or landlords and tenants, to ensure legislation that best serves the broadest possible segments of my District and 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.  Currently the City Council seems more interested in political grandstanding and forwarding their own personal political agendas than concentrating on the business of city hall. The City Council operates in a reactionary and adversarial way that is not productive. When in office, I will maintain a focus on the business of running Seattle and serving Seattle residents, not political ambitions.      Our current Council reactively addresses Seattle’s problems.  We are a complaint-driven city.  I want Seattle employees out in city vehicles with a city logo on display to act as a deterrent to crime and to identify problems, such as potholes, street light outages, sign violations, etc. I want Seattle to proactively serve our residents and local businesses.    As mentioned in a previous question, I will do the research and talk to affected parties before proposing or voting on new legislation. I recognize we can maximize the amount of good we can do by working cooperatively across the broad spectrum of stakeholders in our city. Rather than city hall mandating what everyone must do for the city, the business community, labor, environmental activists, non-profits, civil-rights groups, educators; everyone must be given the opportunity to be heard and to contribute to our shared prosperity.    Our current Council lacks a vision and long-range plan for Seattle. I would operate from a shared vision of what we, as a city, want Seattle to look like and become in 5, 10 and 50 years from now.    

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

The City Council’s approach lacks cohesion, is wasting city resources, with sluggish responses to residents’ requests for help to restore order to their neighborhoods and our parks.    We have a responsibility to provide compassionate care, but we also have a responsibility to protect all residents of Seattle from physical harm and exposure to public health risks. There is nothing progressive or compassionate about allowing people to live in conditions that I would be arrested for should I allow my dogs to live in the same conditions. We cannot continue to allow unsanctioned encampments to exist because of the potential public health risk that they pose to all residents of Seattle, the criminal activity taking place in many encampments, and the potential criminal-related risks they pose.     We must get people in encampments into the right housing and the right programs to address their needs. I would do a better job of providing zero-barrier services and supportive housing programs for those living on the streets. People need more than just a space to suffer in. I would require shelters to provide hygiene services, such as bathrooms, showers and laundry services to everyone seeking such services, not just their residents. I want people out of tents and RVs and into proper housing. I would support building SROs on city surplus land, which could later be converted to Youth Hostels once our housing crisis is averted.    We cannot arrest or just sweep this problem away. I will face this very difficult task by ensuring we provide the best compassionate solutions by investing in results-oriented programs that prioritize the dignity of those in need. I support an audit of every program the city funds to verify we are obtaining the results promised by the agencies/providers.

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?

City leadership has a responsibility to promote the health and safety of Seattle’s residents. Allowing repeat offenders to re-offend without taking action to redirect or change their behavior is a dereliction of duty. It is time we hold everyone in Seattle to a single standard. If an employer failed to pay his/her employees we wouldn’t give that employer unlimited re-dos; they would be required to pay the employees immediately or face consequences. We can’t have a different set of standards for shoplifters than we do for business owners.    I will respond by having a new policy of giving offenders limited options for diversion programs, offering services and treatment first, with violation of the diversion agreement resulting in facing our criminal justice system. If an offender has agreed to diversion over jail time, there must be a community service component to the agreement. Violent crime should be handled with a zero-tolerance policy. All violent offenders should serve time and be required to attend an appropriate program to address their specific type of violent crime. Those who refuse all help and those who are repeat offenders must also face our criminal justice system.     We do need to enforce our laws. However, I would move away from financially punitive measures, such as tickets or fines for those who are trying to get their lives back on track; instead focus on rehabilitation and community service as restitution.      

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 am very interested in protecting our small businesses and helping them thrive. As a small business owner myself, I provide IT support to many businesses of varying sizes and across many industries, so I am all too aware of the economic pressures businesses are facing in Seattle. I understand how having the most regressive tax system in the nation affects small businesses as much as it does those with low or modest incomes.     Several of my clients have chosen to leave or are in the process of moving out of Seattle because of the cost of doing business here. One client is leaving after a California equity firm purchased the building he has been based out of for decades, because they increased his rent by $250,000.00 per year with no leasehold improvements. He is taking his 30+ living wage jobs and relocating outside Seattle city limits.     In the Central District, we have seen many legacy businesses struggle with increasing property taxes as the city has up-zoned properties in the area. I would provide support and possibly a property tax freeze for legacy tenants. I want rent protections for legacy businesses, with the right to return at the same rent when redevelopment occurs. I would like to see the creation of a state or municipal bank which could help fund and promote business ownership by women, minorities and immigrants in historically underrepresented communities.     When we make transit decisions, such as road diets, we must talk to the businesses impacted to ensure they are able to retain their customer base. I would implement a buy-local incentive program to benefit businesses and consumers. I will support a vacancy tax on empty commercial and residential units, which would help reduce rents and increase opportunities for local, small businesses.

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?

City leadership has completed missed the mark on housing affordability. They have squandered many opportunities to adequately fund affordable housing through bad legislation, while at the same time making it increasingly costly to live in Seattle.    I believe implementing the following four policies would make measurable progress toward providing adequate affordable and reasonably priced housing:   

1. Charge developers impact fees so residents aren’t taxed for infrastructure. Bellevue charges impact fees, which hasn’t slowed down development there.   

2. Levy a foreign investment tax on all out-of-state real estate purchases, just as they do in Vancouver, B.C. Such a tax would benefit local firms, making them more competitive in the acquisition process. A single recent sale to a European firm would have resulted in enough funds for the construction of 370 affordable units if the transaction had been taxed.    

3. Charge a vacancy fee on all residential and commercial units that are vacant more than a specified period of time. Such a fee would either generate revenue for housing vouchers or drive down the rental rates on our many vacant apartments and commercial units. (A January 3, 2019 story in the Seattle Times revealed 1 in 10 Seattle apartments are empty.)   

4. Eliminate the inadequate in-lieu fees, and instead require inclusionary affordable units in every new development, for the life of the building. I believe healthy communities are diverse communities. In-lieu fees promote class segregation.

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 lived in District 3, in several different neighborhoods, for over 40 years. I remember and mourn the loss of diversity in the Central District. I remember and miss the unique character and flavor of Seattle neighborhoods, as they have become increasingly monochromatic. I have the history and knowledge of the sidelined Neighborhood Plans which had community buy-in with thoughtful growth and development in proposed urban centers. The plans would have reduced the need for mass transit infrastructure because they encouraged more people to work and shop near their homes.    My 30+ years experience as a business owner, working with clients daily (some stressed out due to a hardware or software failure), while juggling competing priorities, has provided excellent preparation for the demanding job of being a Councilmember. Because of my work, I know the struggles of business owners, the pressures faced by different industries in the area, and the perspectives of Seattle employees.     I have two Bachelor’s degrees, one in Sociology and one in Business Administration (from the University of Washington), and a Master’s in Business Administration (from the University of Puget Sound). I know what make a healthy society while having a practical perspective in how to achieve that goal. I know how to read financial statements, conduct forensic audits and how to reduce waste while achieving even better results.    My civic/community engagement includes:   

President of the Mt. Baker Community Club, 5 years   

President of South Seattle Crime Prevention Council, 10 years   

Board Member SE District Council   

Vice Chair, City Neighborhood Council   

President and Founder of MCOM – Many Cultures, One Message, which successfully stopped then Mayor Nickels from declaring all of SE Seattle blighted and kept him from forcing immigrant property owners to sell their real estate holdings at discounted rates through the use of eminent domain.   

A few of my volunteer activities:   

Fundraiser for Treehouse (benefitting foster children)   

Board Member XBot Robotics, 5 years (benefitting low-income students of color, most of whom go on to 4-year colleges – the first in their families to do so)   

President of Cleveland High School PTSA, 2 years – started the first school-sponsored auction which raised $50,000 the first year, providing much needed support to our students and teachers in a school with a 75% free and reduced-lunch student body.   

I’m able to build consensus among individuals with disparate views. I always seek the best solutions to any problem or issue and will incorporate ideas and suggestions from people I don’t necessarily always agree with. I always put the greater good first, even when it isn’t in my own best interest.