Sergio Garcia

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?

In my view, very little that the city is currently doing with respect to this issue is working.    Since declaring a homelessness state of emergency the City of Seattle and the Seattle City Council have failed to make meaningful headway in addressing the underlying issues causing this crises and the impacts this epidemic is having on the rest of our community. If elected, I will do three things: first, I will push to change the command-and-control infrastructure that oversees all publicly-funded services and programs. Second, I will ask that all service providers make staff available for immediate assistance at one or two centralized service hubs so that those in need do not have to spend day after day crossing the city in order to get the basics they need or the bigger things like access to Mental Health Services, temporary housing and drug addiction treatment & consultation. Third, I will request a full audit of all homelessness services contracts so that we can begin to better understand where our dollars are going and how they might be better spent.  The city council must be able to show real progress in its ability to help the homeless while also showing the greater public that it is willing to work hard to mitigate the impacts this issue and its mismanagement is having on public safety and livability. Once this is done I believe we can begin to rebuild trust with the public and begin to work in earnest on the broader conversation of funding and building long-term low income housing and a more Equitable Society.

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 believe that in Seattle we are experiencing a period of major distrust and frustration in the political process. This is primarily due to a lack of willingness on the part of the current City Council to listen to constituents, behave like grown-ups and take action on the most basic public needs. It has been obvious for the past few years that the priorities of the greater public have been set aside to serve the will of powerful special interest groups who have their own agendas and priorities.    When elected, I will make restoring the respect and professionalism of the City Council my primary goal: without these things we cannot provide legitimate leadership and representation. I believe the best way to de-escalate the conflicts we are seeing play out in our political discourse is to spend more time listening to the public and addressing those issues head on. I think that if we can have honest conversations at City Hall that are not dominated by screaming ideologues, paid activists and angry sign toting residents we can actually get to the heart of the issues impacting our community and start to build consensus toward productive and meaningful action. This will require all members of the Council to spend more time listening to residents, small businesses owners and each other.   

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 city council is a far off track as it can be. Their approach has been one of agendas, instead of pragmatic solutions.   We must include more stake holders in the decision making process. The people of Seattle need to be listened to and brought into the decision making process, not dictated to.   I detail more specific solutions in in my answers to questions 3 -4 and 6 -  10.  We need people in office that care more about the community than their ideologies.  I will be that council member.    

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

When elected I will make addressing the issue of unsanctioned encampments a primary goal. As a police officer and a resident I have seen first-hand the impacts that unsanctioned encampments have on the residents living in them and the residents and businesses in adjacent impacted neighborhoods and commercial zones. We cannot continue to allow our parks, green spaces and public right of ways to be used as a housing solution for the homeless, mentally ill and/or drug addicted.    In order to change the existing policy we must begin by asking why this issue even exists in the first place, why services are not being accepted and why so many choose or are forced to live in squalid conditions rather than in a shelter or transitional housing. There are many ways to answer this question but I believe at the most basic level it comes down to incentives and disincentives. Do we need more low income housing? Yes. Do we need more shelter beds that serve a more diverse set of needs than we currently have? Absolutely. Do we need service providers that can afford to do more than pay lip service to the needs of those suffering a mental health or addiction crises? Of course we do. These are all things that I plan to address but these things will take time and funding.    However, in the meantime, by explicitly allowing those in need of housing to pitch a tent almost anywhere they want to, we have made it unlikely that those individuals will opt for something that may be less palatable like living in a shelter and receiving assistance for substance abuse or mental health issues.    I believe that we can dramatically improve the effectiveness of outreach and the services currently available by disallowing camping in public spaces such as parks, sidewalks and under bridges. This practice, which has been given the green light by our current Council represents a failure of leadership which has diminished the quality of life for all Seattle residents and placed the homeless community at even greater risk than they would otherwise be.    

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?

As a public servant and active duty Police officer this is one of the most frustrating issues currently facing our city and it needs to be fixed immediately. When I am elected I will use my position to not only pass ordinances to improve public safety, I will also use my position to publicly point out those in power who are actively working to undermine the public good in order to advance their personal and ideological agendas.    First, we must demand that Pete Holmes start doing his job and prosecuting these individuals. Not all of these individuals need to be locked up but letting someone off the hook a day or two after committing an assault is not okay and law abiding citizens are suffering as a result. How can we protect the most vulnerable members of our community (seniors, refugees, women of color) when we allow violent repeat offenders to walk free time after time and to live in parks and under bridges?  Diversion programs have proved successful in other cities, especially when the real threat of incarceration is applied as incentive.  In Seattle, we offer Diversion without the threat of penalty and it doesn't work.  Pete Holmes and his office must be held accountable for failing to do their jobs to protect the public from violent repeat offenders, sexual predators, chronic DUI offenders and thieves.  One only need to take a walk around the area outside King County Court House to see what a failed system looks like.     

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 would establish a D-6 Business advisory committee out of my office to ensure continual outreach, assistance and engagement. I would listen when businesses call and prioritize their needs rather than ignore them until I need their help to get re-elected. Small businesses are the driving force in any thriving community and they provide the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit needed to forge ahead into the future. They put food on the table, they provide the basis for public revenues and they can create positive social change rapidly. I would like to do more to empower small businesses so they can operate at their best and help this city grow up and out of the major issues we are struggling with today.  I would also push to get more small and micro-business owners on to the Labor Standards Advisory Committee. Based on my conversations and interactions with small business owners I believe that we are passing too many new obscure labor regulations and doing a poor job of communicating with the small business community to encourage compliance. We have some of the best labor protections and enforcement in the nation and I am proud of that, but we need to do a better job of working with Small Business instead of working against them. Treating the small business community like the enemy does nothing more than fuel resentment and encourage them to leave our city for more friendly economic environments just miles away.   

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?

The past 10 years the city of Seattle has seen the largest population increase in its history displacing thousands of local residents and businesses. Our former mayor and existing city council have given developers a free pass to build high-cost Apartments, townhouses, and row houses but paid little attention paid to the needs of existing neighborhoods, business and the most vulnerable members of our community.    I believe that the solution to increasing density is not one-size-fits-all; high-end apartments will not prevent the Working Poor from becoming homeless or provide a healthy environment for growing families. We must do more to require new construction projects to accommodate local residents and businesses who are being displaced by providing affordable housing and commercial leases on site or in the immediate vicinity.    We need to increase density where it makes the most sense while also making sure we are preserving the charm and livability of historic neighborhoods and town centers like Ballard, Fremont, Phinney and Greenwood. We also need to be doing more for seniors so that they can age in place with dignity and to ensure Seattle does not become a monoculture of young tech workers and wealth tech execs. I believe the key to developing a city as beautiful and livable as the Seattle of our past is to engage with residents and neighborhoods in a respectful and collaborative way and make sure that no one in our community feels unheard or steamrolled.

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.

As a police officer, I have years of experience listening to people in need of services and protection. Addressing these needs has taught me what District 6 needs from city hall.  There is no job that prepares you to deal with conflict resolution more than that of a police officer in a major city. I believe in hearing people out and taking the time necessary to make the right decision. I believe that everyone’s opinions are important, even if I disagree with them, and when I am elected to represent District 6, I will make it my personal mission to restore civility and respect to our public discourse and public spaces so that everyone feels included, only then can we start to take better care of each other and our community as a whole.