The first job of the new council must be restoring trust. There is declining faith in democracy as an institution, generally, and at all levels of government. This is an existential threat that we must address head on. It starts at the local level – with neighbors.
Restoring trust will require:
- Making the core of government whole and healthy through efficient and effective delivery of basic services across transportation, parks, libraries, fire and police.
- Making meaningful progress on pressing issues of the day, including homelessness, affordability, traffic, public health and safety and crime.
- Good governance; we need city leaders who…
- Show up, listen, and prioritize issues that are important to Seattle residents as a whole
- Partner with all sectors of society – business, government, nonprofit – to solicit ideas and move our city forward
- Apply analytical rigor to define problems, create solutions and test and learn
- Commit to transparency and accountability
Government leaders must be good stewards of public trust and taxpayer dollars.
Below I provide ideas for addressing some of our most pressing challenges. I don’t pretend to have all of the answers now but am committed to a policymaking process that is transparent, rigorous, solutions-focused and employs an equity lens.
We have a crisis and homeless are dying from exposure and poor public health. This is not okay. We are better as a city when we treat our most vulnerable with the dignity they deserve.
King County is exiting people from homelessness at a faster rate than ever before. The problem is that the rate of inflow exceeds the rate of outflow. That’s why any homelessness strategy needs to start with prevention. We need to keep folks in their homes, and we do that by increasing the share of spending on homeless prevention. We should increase the financial resilience of at-risk households and use schools, community centers and nonprofit partners as platforms to deliver services.
For those already unsheltered, we need to rapidly help them into stable, secure housing. Research suggests that wraparound services are more effective when folks have a safe place to sleep. This may require a greater supply of permanent supportive housing.
Any progress on this issue will require help from the entire region. I laud recent efforts by the city and county to increase coordination. I would like to see other cities step up as well.
To make the biggest impact possible, we do need to funnel limited funds to those things that work. In 2018, 15 of 25 enhanced emergency shelters were underperforming. We need to improve the performance of our programs and hold agency partners accountable for results.
We all benefit when there is diversity in class and backgrounds in our neighborhoods. That’s why we need to make it possible for all people to live, work and play in the same community.
Affordability is a function of income and expenses. Housing is often a household’s largest expense. That’s why we need to provide a greater array of housing options, including single room occupancy units, fourplexes and more. We should start around urban villages and along major transit corridors. I am in favor of tying affordable housing to new development. However, I am concerned that the in-lieu fee option in the recently passed MHA legislation may further segregate our neighborhoods. I am willing to wait and see.
To make living in the city tenable for all, we need housing options at the $750-900/mo range.
We cannot stop with housing. The difference between paying rent or not is also influenced by the cost of utilities, transit, childcare and more. We should look for ways to defray costs for those on the margins.
Public Health & Safety
All citizens deserve the right to health and safety. In emergency situations, our first responders are literally a lifeline for those who need help. We should ensure that the fire and police departments are well staffed and have the resources necessary to do their jobs.
Public safety requires trust. The burden lies with the city to forge meaningful and enduring relationships with the communities it serves. We need to employ an equity lens to this work.
Nearly 400 people died from a drug overdose in Seattle in 2018. That is not okay. While we are in the throes of a national epidemic, we should provide safe spaces where those with substance use disorder can access medication and services without fear of retribution. We need to do our part to reverse the national epidemic by helping users reduce consumption. While I am hesitant to criminalize drug use, since it is an addiction, I am inclined to prohibit drug use in open spaces. Also, many link drug use with a recent rise in property crime. Whether or not this is the case, we need to be clear that theft, generally, is a crime and we must give victims recourse.
Creating our Future
Inspired by local indigenous leaders, longtime stewards of this land who remind us of the importance of seven-generation thinking, I have been asking neighbors what vision they have for Seattle in the year 2100. After asking thousands of people this question, a few common themes have emerged: our neighbors desire a city that is celebrated for its natural beauty, robust and equitable economy and vibrant culture.
Infrastructure & Transportation
We need to invest in infrastructure so our city can maintain its rapid growth.
I support a 1:1 replacement of the Magnolia Bridge. Magnolia is an island with only three points of entry. Maintaining the bridge will ensure access to emergency services, maintain viability of local businesses, and improve access to public transportation. What’s more, with 1000 people moving to Seattle every week, we need the bridge if we are to increase density in Magnolia over the coming decades. I welcome ideas for improving upon the existing design, e.g., eastbound exit to Smith Cove park, dedicated bike lane.
I support dramatically improving access, reliability, and frequency of mass transit. Many neighbors say they want to use alternative forms of transportation, but the current options are insufficient. We need to make it easier for residents in neighborhoods to travel by bus. As such, I am open to municipal shuttle services — or partnerships with rideshare companies — that connect people deep in neighborhoods to major transit corridors.
We need to prioritize safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Any break in a network renders the entire network unsafe. That’s why we need to complete the bike master plan.
While we build the urban city of tomorrow, replete with multiple forms of sustainable transit options, we need to recognize that many commuters will travel by car.
Seattle is regularly ranked among the most educated cities in the U.S. Our major employers recruit top talent – highly skilled employees – from all around the world. That is a good thing: we should be welcoming and inclusive of everyone, and we should be a magnet for the world’s best talent.
I also believe that we can grow the world’s best talent. We can do a better job to help local people get local living wage jobs.
Every child deserves a fair chance in life. Research suggests that ages 0-5 are formative years to ensure that a child arrives to Kindergarten ready to learn. That’s why I would prioritize universal access to affordable, high-quality early learning. I would fully fund the Seattle Preschool Program and supplement it with critical parent and community support services.
I will work collaboratively with local employers, schools, and workforce systems to: (i) ensure that our schools are teaching children and parent learners the competencies employers actually require; and, (ii) create next-gen apprenticeship programs that give locals entrée into local jobs. We should help parent learners help themselves and their families by defraying costs of childcare.
Creating a more equitable economy will also require greater protections and benefits for contract / gig workers, who make up a growing share of our workforce. Our city can pioneer a whole host of portable benefits that meet their needs for economic security.
Finally, we should employ an equity lens to all this work. When you look at outcomes in educational achievement, income, wealth and more, the disparity is most stark along racial lines. That is not okay.
Conservation & Climate
When I ask people about their vision for Seattle in the year 2100, well over 85% mention something about to parks, natural beauty, or climate change. As one neighbor put it, “hunny, if we don’t fix climate, nothing else matters.”
As our city grows and becomes more dense, I think we have to preserve and enhance our open spaces – like Discovery Park, Rodgers Park, and the Waterfront – that make Seattle special. These spaces provide respite from an otherwise urban life. What’s more, I believe that connection with green space can inspire action on conservation and climate change. While I share the value to rapidly address our city’s affordability crisis, I believe recent calls to pave over green space are misguided. I am open to a discussion as to whether some of our municipal golf course space could be converted to other kinds of green space. I also think we can do better as a city to make our spaces more accessible to everyone. Finally, I am interested in entertaining ways to tie new development to the creation of more parks and open space.
We must do our part to address the climate crisis. One of the best ways we can do that is to ensure that everyone can live, work and play in the same community. Right now passenger vehicles alone contribute over 50% of all emissions in the city. We should electrify the city’s fleet and work with King County Metro to do the same. We can also create incentives to electrify vehicles owned by households. We should also make it easier to use green building materials, like cross laminated timber.
As we think about the future, we need to make sure Seattle is a place worth living in. Part of that is preserving things that reflect our past and present culture. I imagine the city leading an exercise where we proactively identify a select number of places and communities that make Seattle special. Something akin to a World Heritage registry, but at the local level. Then we pivot to the future. In the future, we need to do a better job to give people of all backgrounds and identities the chance to shape our culture. That’s why I would invest in arts education for our city’s youth and tie development to funding for arts and culture more generally.
Yes, I do support saving The Showbox.
When neighbors talk about vibrant culture, there is also something about civility and neighborly connection. People are hungry for connection and collection action on the local issues they care about most. That’s why I would prioritize funding and capacity building for communities – giving them the power and resources they need to create vibrancy and address concerns at the local level.