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Charlene Strong
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Charlene Strong on Seattle taxes, business and homelessness

Charlene Strong stops by the Ron and Don Show. (Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)
LISTEN: Charlene Strong on Seattle taxes, business and homelessness

After suffering an extreme loss, Charlene Strong became one of Washington’s most prominent figures fighting for marriage equality and civil rights in recent years.

RELATED: Will former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan run for Seattle mayor?

Today, she aims to put that passion into her hometown of Seattle as she runs for city council.

“People have always called me an activist,” Strong said. “I’m an advocate. I’m an advocate because I believe in the term, that it means ‘come along with me and let’s get this resolved.’ That’s what people want their city council to be doing – to come along, be present and listen to what people’s concerns are. You got people all over the map, frustrated. How can we best come to a resolution? How can we best find some sort of peace in the situation.”

Charlene Strong and the issues

Strong is running for position 8 on the council. It’s a citywide seat that is currently held by Tim Burgess who is stepping down after this term. She spoke with KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don about issues facing the city. What does Strong say about homelessness, taxes, and business in Seattle? And does she own a megaphone?


The first tent that went up, should have been the last tent that went up. We should have been prepared. We should have had services that were adequate to provide for people who were suffering. The thought that anyone that is living in a tent, in this city — as prosperous and compassionate as we are – it is unconscionable to me to think that people are living in such squalor. I don’t think anybody in their right mind thinks that a tent is a proper shelter.

We need to amplify what we are doing right – what agencies are hitting it spot on and getting people into proper shelter and say we can’t have this. We have to find proper shelter. We have to be creative with low-barrier shelters.

There is one organization that is getting it right in Seattle, according to Strong.

“And that’s Mary’s Place,” she said. “Those people get it right.”

“Why are they so successful?” Strong said. “Well, one of the things I was told is that everyone is a snowflake and the uniqueness of that individual is actually going to be the hardest thing to figure out how to manage. People who are homeless don’t necessarily want to be there, but there are other components to homelessness – there’s drug addiction, there are mental health issues.”

Does she have a megaphone?

Don pointed out that there are those on the council who make regular use of megaphones and even encourage people to shut down freeways and airports.

Cooler heads prevail. I don’t own a megaphone. I do have a ‘Frozen’ microphone I sing into for my kids.

One of the things I think is most important is tamping down the extremes – how do we best work together? That’s the vital part people really want in this city. How do we get people back to a table and sit down and say ‘you and I have a disagreement, we may want to go after this differently. But where is the middle ground and what is the most reasonable way we can come to a resolution on this issue?’”

I don’t need a megaphone to scream at people.


One of the things I hear over, and over, and over again is the crippling costs that are hurting families. The taxes keep rising. We have one of the most regressive taxation systems in the nation. And just a state away, they are getting it right. And we continue to tax, and tax, and tax. You would think in a city as prosperous as we are — are we using our money wisely? Let’s get in there and let’s look and see ways to be more efficient … we’re facing a shortfall in our budget next year. How is that possible? Because people are feeling the squeeze and they are feeling like they can’t stay in Seattle.


We need to look at how we can keep local businesses local. There’s a lot of grumbling about that. My wife and I own a small practice … it’s physical therapy. One of the things that isn’t happening is the rate of reimbursement, but all of the expenses around running that business are going up. We need to be mindful of the fact that people aren’t afraid to pay a living wage in this city, and that’s the right thing to do. But we got to look at all those taxes that continue to rise, and rise, and rise. We need a leader that is going to look at small businesses and say, ‘You’re a vital part of our city. You are the eyes and ears of our community.’ We need to make sure we are protecting these businesses.

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