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For more than 30 years, I have worked as an attorney and advocate, including as a criminal defense attorney and the country’s first-openly gay U.S. Attorney. I worked to reform the Seattle Police Dept, created a civil rights unit, and championed sentencing reforms and alternatives to incarceration.
I am running for mayor because our city is at a crossroads. In too many ways, for too many people, our economic success is creating two Seattles. Many are succeeding, but too many people are being locked out and cannot keep up with rising costs. The price of that first home keeps climbing and rents aren’t any better. The costs of living and raising a family here dwarf the rise in most wages. And too many people are living in tents, doorways, and cars.
Three top priorities are homelessness, affordability and police reform, and, at the same time, these big challenges will not divert us from sweating the “little things”. As mayor, I will be relentlessly focused on the basics to make sure taxpayers get what they pay for.
Housing in Seattle has become too expensive. Too many people just cannot afford to live here. Those who do own homes have seen their property taxes increasing to amounts that are not affordable. People are getting locked out and pushed out of Seattle.
We need to create more housing options in this city and also must stop the huge displacement of people that growth and increased prices are causing. I strongly believe that means both low income and middle class options. This problem will only grow as our population grows and scarce housing makes things much worse. While we need to do more as a City, we cannot come close to solving this problem without the private market and developers stepping up.
Below is a summary of my More Housing Now agenda to address our affordability crisis, and you can find more details on my website:
1. Ensure effective implementation of the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirement
The MHA is the cornerstone of HALA that will create 6,000 new units of affordable housing by requiring developers to either build affordable units into their designs or pay into a special fund that supports construction of lower-income units by city or non-profit agencies. As Mayor, I will make sure we use that money wisely. And while we may need to adjust impacts, I will fight any attempt to go backward.
2. Rent Vouchers: Keeping Families in Their Homes
Affordable housing below these rates is increasingly rare. That’s why if I am elected mayor, I will implement a City-run rent voucher program to assist severely rent-burdened lower income families pay for their housing.
3. Advocate for key property tax reforms
I will explore ways to go to Olympia and reduce the property tax burden for older homeowners, lower income owners and landlords providing affordable housing.
4. Support transit-oriented development
We need to make sure that a mix of all housing, including affordable housing continues to be close to transit hubs and services.
5. Diversify and expand housing options
We should always be looking at innovative ways to expand our housing options in the city. We need to explore more permitted mother-in-laws and accessory dwelling units. Housing options such as duplexes, townhouses, or courtyard communities can help grow a vibrant and robust community. I am interested in exploring ways to make these additional types of housing more feasible in our city.
As U.S. Attorney, I was a driving force behind the historic consent decree that required major reforms in the Seattle Police Department to protect the civil rights of all our citizens. The reforms created a foundation for an accountable police department that serves the public and enhances public safety in a way that is consistent with our community values and the Constitution. I am proud of our progress on this; but the job is not finished. We must keep pushing and evaluating if policies, training, and oversight are working in practice and to make sure the community has a voice in that process. We need to:
1. Bring the consent decree and Court oversight to a successful close and transition the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to the new civilian-led accountability system with ongoing community oversight, transparency, and embedded processes for continual improvement.
2. Focus explicitly on the disparate impacts of policing on people of color, LGBTQ, and marginalized communities, and ensure progress by dedicating resources and responsibility for this mission in the new Office of Inspector General.
3. Continue and enhance anti-bias training developed in partnership with community members.
4. Expand officer training on how to respond to situations involving individuals with mental health issues, substance-induced crises, or developmental disabilities.
5. Include Community Police Commission members on the Crisis Intervention Committee (CIC), as a vital link back to the community around these efforts.
6. Ensure community organizations can place issues of concern with respect to policing of people with behavioral health issues onto the agenda of the CIC.
7. Increase and improve connections between SPD and communities in Seattle, including revitalizing community foot and bike patrols, safety officers and crime prevention specialists.
8. Pass De-Escalate Washington’s Initiative 940 to change the impossible legal barrier for charging police officers who wrongfully shoot people.
9. Revamp the North Precinct project and explore a solution of multiple, smaller north end precincts as well as better community relations.
10. Increase diversity within the Police Department by enacting SPD recruitment recommendations from the Community Police Commission.
11. Challenge the barriers created by Initiative 200, passed in 1998, by moving immediately to correct the disparity that has led to hiring inequities and lack of diversity at SPD.
The exclusion of people of color from economic opportunity and ongoing displacement caused by increased housing prices have deep and historic roots in discriminatory policies, race- and class-based segregation, lending laws and credit-based disparities, and our own lack of urgency in addressing our affordability crisis.
We need to create more housing options in this city and also must address housing discrimination (which I fought as U.S. Attorney), prevent displacement, reduce the property tax burden for older homeowners, lower income owners and landlords providing affordable housing, and support minority-owned businesses and stopping the erosion of contracting opportunities for those businesses. We must acknowledge racial disparities and work to eliminate them in all of our systems.
As mayor, I will defend and expand the rights of workers in Seattle. We need to fully fund the Office of Labor Standards, enforce the prevailing wage, and find new ways to protect workers - including those in the gig economy and domestic work - and their futures. I have proposed a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights to advocate for and protect those workers who are too often exploited.
We must support and protect our small businesses. Small businesses are the key to economic opportunity for many of our immigrant and refugee communities. I will create a Small Business Advisory Council, to craft policies that will support our small businesses. I will also address commercial affordability, to make sure our small and unique businesses can stay in Seattle.
As mayor, I would expand priority hire, which has created over 237,000 hours of work for residents living in economically distressed neighborhoods of the city. I would also commit to increasing opportunities for residents in these communities, Women and Minority Business Enterprises, and women working in non-traditional fields.
We must provide more educational opportunities for our young people, especially young people of color. That’s why I’ve proposed the Seattle Promise plan to provide up to two years of free college tuition for Seattle public high school graduates to attend a public community or technical college of their choice in Washington State.
Lastly, I will deepen our focus on apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship training. Together, we can create pathways for Seattle’s young people, women, people of color, veterans, and disadvantaged workers, diversifying our skilled workforce.
The city must vigorously pursue the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) plan that’s part of HALA, to increase the supply of affordable housing. There must be tight, careful oversight to deliver the maximum possible number of affordable units. We will encourage developers to build affordable units on their building sites rather than paying into the city’s fund. If elected mayor, I will direct departments to design a process to speed the development of affordable housing projects by cutting permitting and review time in half. For those who are already struggling to stay in their homes, we must provide immediate and urgent assistance. I will implement a City-run rent voucher program to assist severely rent-burdened lower income families pay for their housing. If elected mayor, I also will go to Olympia and ask for a reduced property tax burden for older homeowners, lower income owners and landlords providing affordable housing.
I supported the statewide income tax when it was on the ballot, and will continue to push state lawmakers to adopt a more progressive tax system. As is all too clear, we need comprehensive tax reform and our taxation system hamstrings our ability to fund our priorities. If I am elected mayor, I will fight for tax reform. But today, revenue sources available to the City of Seattle, and all local governments in the state, are limited. We keep going to the same well and regressive taxes are increasing our affordability problem, which is why I support pushing for the city income tax as we also push for systemic reforms.
While I support the health goals of the tax on sugary drinks, I did not support the tax because of concerns about the regressive nature of the tax. I do recognize the importance of providing better, healthier, more affordable food and drink options, especially to low-income families and communities of color. It is unacceptable that the obesity and diabetes epidemics disproportionately affect low-income individuals and communities of color, and as a city we need to take steps to ensure that all families have access to the healthy food and care they need.
If elected, I will engage in a thorough review of spending, to ensure our tax dollars are making the most impact. I will be relentlessly focused on the basics and spending your tax dollars efficiently and prudently. I will partner regionally with other municipalities and jurisdictions to optimize planning, funding, and implementation.
Cities experiencing the type of growth Seattle is must have additional revenue tools to deal with the impacts and we need to have a more equitable system so we can lower regressive taxes. If the income tax is upheld, this situation will improve and we will be able to fund priorities and lower regressive taxes. But to improve affordability, cities also need more flexibility to reduce taxes on seniors, to target property tax incentives to preserve affordable housing, to have growth pay for growth (and the resulting lack of affordability) and to generate revenues tied to specific impacts. We need comprehensive tax reform.
The causes of homelessness are complex and include a growing problem of drug addiction and other behavioral health issues. But the inability to move people to homes is rooted in the city’s unaffordable housing market. There are 46,000 people in Seattle spending more than half their incomes on rent. Our community’s safety net is failing too many, especially people of color and immigrants. We must ensure that vulnerable tenants have support to stay in their homes without sacrificing their basic needs.
As Mayor, I will:
1. Provide up to 700 additional beds in emergency shelters.
2. Expand and improve interventions with families living in cars and RVs.
3. Build micro-housing as a safer, healthier alternative to encampments.
4. Propose a Seattle-King County regional consolidation of homelessness services.
Livability encapsulates a variety of aspects that make up the quality of life for a community including built and natural environments (from sidewalks to tree canopies), economic prosperity, social stability and equity, educational opportunity, and vibrant arts, cultural, entertainment and recreation options.
We should absolutely look at measurable standards for livability. Goals can motivate action. We need to provide access to quality education opportunities and childcare, increase the number of parks and green spaces in Seattle, ensure the public safety of all, give more support to artists, and mitigate congestion on our streets. All of these objectives need to be tied to our growth and development as a city.
Neighborhoods and urban villages must have affordable housing, excellent public schools, and thriving small businesses all within easy walking distance to transit. Public and green spaces are an essential component to livability and must be an integral part of the planning process and should take into account the needs and desires of the communities they will serve. Planning also must take into account racial and economic equity to ensure access to green spaces in underserved areas of the city. In my administration, the Department of Planning and Development and the Seattle Parks Department would collaborate closely with community leaders to enact this vision.
We need to take a public health and harm reduction approach to the opioid crisis. I support safe consumption sites. They are proven to save lives. We need to work with King County to open a safe consumption site in the city, and each should be paired with accessible addiction treatment services. Each site needs to be set up with health care and monitoring services, as well as accessible addiction services.
We need to provide holistic support services, including meaningful mental health and addiction treatment. The current fragmented system—with King County providing the bulk of mental health services—must be streamlined if we are going to make headway on solving the crisis.
We need to focus on treatment, not incarceration. As a community, we have committed to providing alternatives to prosecution and incarceration through drug and mental health courts, and by piloting efforts to keep low-level offenders, often with addictions and untreated mental health issues, out of jail and in treatment. To that end, I support expanding diversion programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), the pre-booking diversion program developed with the community that gives officers the ability to redirect certain low-level offenders to community-based services, instead of jail and prosecution.
As things stand today, we simply do not have enough resources to deal with the raging opioid crisis on our streets. I will not talk about any new taxes until I have the chance to look at and scrub the budget, to make sure that we are both collecting the monies we need to and spending it wisely. The one exception to this rule is in the area of addiction services and mental health treatment, particularly for people experiencing homelessness. I would consider a dedicated tax to fund better addiction treatment and mental health services -- that is how urgent this problem is in our city.
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I’m an award winning civic leader, engineer, urban planner, and policy expert with decades of experience working on systemic solutions to urban problems and I have developed substantive policy solutions to some of Seattle’s biggest challenges with tenacity, innovation, and inclusive leadership.
Tackling the housing affordability crisis with bold solutions. Building an economy that works for everyone by focusing on expanding small and local businesses, increasing the number of living wage jobs, and pursuing a proactive industrial and green energy strategy. Getting ahead of surging homelessness with smarter and better coordinated operation of the initiatives and assets we already have and increasing our shared commitment to doing better together.
Housing affordability is the most critical issue facing our city. Seattle has become one of the most expensive cities in the country. Over half of renters pay more than they can reasonably afford. Our housing costs are spiraling out of reach, destabilizing our communities with people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks and other marginalized communities hit hardest and worst. Too many of us are living on the edge, just one unexpected bill away from not making rent and facing eviction. People who work in Seattle should be able to afford to live in Seattle. We have the tools to start fixing this problem; we just need the collective courage to stop favoring the interests of speculators and put people and families first.
My solutions are to:
Increase tenants’ rights to provide more protections to renters, and examine best practices for rent stabilization strategies that could work here.
Pro-actively prevent evictions of families with children and safeguard transitional housing for victims of domestic violence.
Implement targeted taxes to deter corporate and non-resident real estate speculation, commercial Airbnb operators, and vacant properties. Targeted taxes can dampen predatory price escalation while providing revenue for the affordable housing we need.
Exponentially expand affordable housing from only 6% of Seattle’s housing market toward a goal of four times this share. To do this, let’s aggressively free up surplus public land for affordable housing, work with Olympia to increase the housing trust fund, organize philanthropy to increase funding to non-profit housing developers, and allocate new progressive taxes (see above) toward public/ non-profit housing.
Pursue viable multifamily low-rise housing options for working people in the “missing middle” like duplexes, rowhouses, backyard cottages, congregate housing, community land trusts, co-ops and co-housing. We need to adjust both the Single Family zoning and the permitting/ SEPA/design review processes so infill developers can pursue a broader range of solutions while working to maintain the cultural character of Seattle’s neighborhoods.
A. Ramp up training in de-escalation techniques, strengthen the force’s commitment to avoid use of force by establishing stronger protocols and expectations, and expand and deepen training in racial equity and anti-bias training. Lasting change comes from changing how we think, how we perceive one another, what we do when we feel threatened, and the culture of the department.
B. Finalize the details, fully fund, and implement the vision for community oversight of police via the Community Police Commission. This process will provide a long-term venue for transparency, constructive dialog, trust building, and developing effective innovations like our LEAD program. It is essential for the cultural change we need.
C. Finalize the contract, and replace retiring officers with new hires with multi-lingual skills, four-year degrees, and broader cultural competencies. Establish adequate staffing levels for the future which allow more time to be spent on pro-active neighborhood patrols, community policing, training in alternatives to use of force, and anti-racist training. I would be proud to lead us toward becoming the most educated, most skillful, least bigoted police force with the lowest use of force in the nation.
We need to address this challenge on two fronts: guiding the housing market with assertive housing policies, and implementing a robust economic development strategy targeted at expanding family wage jobs and locally owned small businesses.
Housing: We’ve become one of the most expensive cities in the country. If we don’t solve this problem with bold solutions now, in just a few years the majority of Seattle’s workforce will leave to chase affordable housing outside the city, cut off from community and from services-- and forced to drive.
The key change we need to implement is this: the city should play a strong role in guiding the housing market and using ALL the tools available to ensure we are prioritizing the well-being of our communities and protecting their rights to thrive in place. This means we need an assertive housing policy, not just land use policies that don’t go far enough in guiding housing production.
We need to look carefully with a racial equity lens at how upzones and infill development can be pursued in neighborhoods with significant immigrant and POC communities to ensure we are identifying the right approaches to help communities thrive together, not be displaced or dispersed. Our healthiest communities have a diverse mix of folks.. We need to develop and enforce community benefit agreements with new development projects. We need to craft targeted upzones to balance adding enough new density without incentivizing the wholesale erasure of historic fabric in culturally significant neighborhoods. We need to secure the authority to create a rent stabilization policy,. We need to expand the use of property tax relief for low income people.
Economic Development Strategy: Our state’s trickle-down approach to economic growth benefits the super wealthy and large corporations at the expense of the rest of us. Seattle has one of the most regressive tax structures in the country, where those at the top pay a much smaller share of their income in taxes than those at the very bottom.
As Seattle becomes more expensive, access to entrepreneurship is more and more out of reach. Small, locally owned businesses are the engine of an economy that builds local prosperity, access to opportunity and resilient communities. We need to protect and nurture and grow small businesses, and ensure a level playing field.
While the affordable non-profit housing industry uses distinct definitions to identify what people every housing project is aiming to serve, it feels important to NOT focus on only one or two categories as rigidly defined because we clearly need housing affordable to folks at all levels of income ranging from zero income to 120% AMI. Let’s acknowledge that the new market-rate housing being developed by for-profit developers, financed by for-profit banks, is only targeting the high end because that is where the biggest profit margins are, and the affordability requirements as set in MHA are only one tool in the toolbox. We need to look at the housing gap for all income levels that are NOT being served, understand how the unserved populations intersect with the racial wealth and income gap, and expand solutions that will comprehensively increase housing across the spectrum.
Please see my solutions laid out in previous responses.
I strongly support a progressive higher-earners’ income tax, especially if it is coupled with a decrease in regressive sales taxes. The soda/pop tax is another regressive tax and isn’t logical, given the tremendous wealth in our city and other opportunities for more progressive taxes where the wealthy pay their fair share. We need to go further, and also implement taxes on unearned wealth, like gains on selling stocks. I am proposing practical, immediate solutions to providing resources for affordable housing, transit, and homelessness crises including:
Implement targeted taxes to deter corporate and nonresident real estate speculation and slow runaway price escalation.
Institute an additional REET on luxury real estate.
Implement a statewide capital gains tax on households earning more than $250,000.
Close the most egregious tax loopholes for big corporations that provide zero public benefit.
Make our B&O taxes more steeply progressive, where larger corporations pay higher rates than small local businesses.
Increase estate and inheritance taxes for the wealthy elite.
I am continuing to reach out to other experts in our community with a range of perspectives on how we can work together to correct our regressive tax system and make sure we have sufficient money for schools, affordable housing, transit and other essentials. Seattle’s economy can and should work for everyone, and it can — if we all pay our fair share, and we tax unearned wealth, not just wages.
Our housing affordability crisis, the defunding of mental and behavioral health and addiction services, and the difficulty securing stable employment at a living wage are all contributing to this crisis. We need to prioritize four things immediately:
Develop a shared strategy, and a collaborative effort across agencies and service providers, to streamline and coordinate the process. We must focus our resources and efforts efficiently on solutions we know can work.
Implement more pro-active solutions to preventing evictions, especially for families and households headed by women.
Focus resources on increasing long-term supportive housing options.
Aggressively expand housing first approaches like low barrier shelters and more self-governed Tiny House Villages hosted by churches and neighborhoods.
I will work with shelter providers to identify how to help long-term residents transition to more permanent housing. And I will ensure the budget adequately funds outreach and caseworkers.
Compact growth, transit service and reliability, access to parks, walkability, mobility, economic activity, jobs/housing balance, affordability, food access, sustainability, and resilience are all part of the larger urban planning equation. The HALA proposal, for example, primarily aimed at increasing housing supply and the conversation and strategy need to be expanded beyond this one facet. So, yes I would support a citywide conversation on what standards for livability mean for people. They’re all layers of what makes a neighborhood or a city work, all important to optimize together.
I support this initiative. Supervised safe consumption sites are an important part of a comprehensive solution to addressing the opioid epidemic. Studies of this model in other cities show that they can be effective in reducing overdose deaths, infections, and help connect folks to services. Drug addiction has become a serious issue in our region and we must take steps to address it. We also need to prioritize funding for treatment for drug addiction. Once we have developed a shared vision for action we can work to address concerns from local residents, provide opportunities to hear feedback and suggestions, but we must move forward to curb this growing epidemic.