MyNorthwest reached out to every Seattle mayoral candidate with five issues: traffic, homelessness, crime, Seattle growth, social issues. They were asked to respond to any two issues with 100 words each. Homelessness and growth dominated the list.
Seattle mayoral elevator pitches
Homelessness: More people are on the streets in Seattle than ever before despite millions of taxpayer dollars wasted. It’s time we stop talking about how we help people and get back to basics by implementing programs that are proven to be effective. A patch-work of half-baked programs scattered throughout our city means that Seattle is enabling homelessness instead of engaging a comprehensive individualized approach to getting people off the streets. A coordinated approach born of a partnership with employers to increase access to entry-level jobs, mental health services, addiction treatment, and temporary housing will be the focus of my administration.
Traffic: The city’s inability to address our traffic crisis not only hurts commuters but also strangles our small businesses and chokes opportunities for living-wage jobs to be brought to Seattle. City hall’s war on cars not only shows a lack of concern for the everyday problems of its constituency but also showcases a reliance on 19th Century technology to solve a 21st Century problem. Low-cost solutions can get our city moving again including pedestrian routing, traffic signal syncing, and increased use of temporary one-way vehicle flow. The Brose administration will focus on moving cars and trucks rather than fighting them.
Traffic: Like most problems, city hall is exacerbating traffic. Because the city chooses which neighborhoods are worthy of economic development, we end up with “business” neighborhoods and “sleeper” neighborhoods. Instead of trying to control growth, we need to get rid of zoning and allow growth to happen where it “wants” to happen. Long-term solution: if all neighborhoods were allowed the opportunity for economic development, we’d have more downtowns, more mixed-use buildings, and less of a reliance on commuting via car. Also, the city needs to end its scheme of forcing ridesharing companies to unionize, since it only incentivizes personal car use.
Growth: Because city hall has delusions of controlling growth, the cost of living is much higher than it otherwise would be. When the city forces developers to provide below-market-rate apartments, the city seems to think that developers will be glad to eat that cost. Whether it’s 1 percent or 11 percent, the remaining units will be priced at above-market rates. Long-term solution: respect property rights and reform the way property is taxed. If only the land is taxed (not what is on it), and if the city stops adding costs to developers, denser (greener) growth will be incentivized, and housing will be cheaper.
Social/Economic Inequality: I believe that our incredible success is creating two Seattles. Too many people are being locked out and cannot keep up with rising costs. We must address long term impacts related to housing, education, transportation, jobs and infrastructure, and we must focus on racial and economic equity in these areas while protecting immigrant, LGBT, and civil rights under attack by Trump and his administration.
As U.S. Attorney, I worked closely on police reform efforts and created a civil rights unit within the U.S. Attorney’s Office to focus on housing and job discrimination. I would continue this work as mayor.
Homelessness: Homelessness is one of the most significant issues facing our city. We need to get people in housing and not living in tents, under bridges and in their cars.
There is not a “one-size-fits all” solution to this complex problem. We should seek innovative solutions and do so in better collaboration and coordination with the county and other partners while making sure we are using our existing resources wisely and effectively. Given the growth of the problem, additional resources will be needed for increased mental health and addiction services as well as permanent housing.
Homelessness: We must invest resources where they are most effective. That requires us to get homeless residents into safe, stable, and affordable housing now and connect them with community-based services and support.
I would take three emergency measures immediately. First, allow sanctioned encampments where services are available. Second, use secure short-term housing, or tiny homes. Third, inventory buildings on surplus city and county property that could serve as shelters.
Ultimately, the greatest impact will come through ample long-term affordable housing. In 2016, I secured landmark requirements for affordable housing near light rail. I am fully committed to tackling homelessness through this holistic approach.
Growth: We need growth with equity to provide shared prosperity. That means building a green, forward-looking transportation system that integrates walking and biking with built-out light rail and increased bus service.
It means expanding affordable housing with a flexible plan that allows communities to choose how they accommodate growth without letting any neighborhood off the hook.
It means reforming our tax system so the wealthiest few and out-of-state corporations pay their fair share.
And it means becoming a more welcoming place for new and existing residents by keeping Seattle a sanctuary city, addressing systemic racial bias, preventing hate crimes, and advancing gender equity.
Homelessness: We propose a very direct approach to curbing this epidemic in Seattle. As mayor I’ll meet weekly on this issue, not in boardrooms but on the streets and in the encampments – as I just did recently, shadowing Union Gospel Mission on one of their late-night “Search & Rescues.” No “czars.” I’ll be the czar. Several ideas: We’ll better engage our corporate residents on creating temporary, safe “tiny houses” from recycled shipping containers, and replicating effective, cost-efficient programs in Denver and Albuquerque, training homeless people on city work – first on litter pickup, then on pothole crews/infrastructure. Eliminate wasteful programs, redirect resources.
Social: Let’s talk about SPD since so many now are. I love our cops. Seattle has the best and most progressive police department of any major American city. In 15 years for ABC News I’ve covered 13 mass shootings in just the last three years alone – including at Seattle Pacific University in 2014. I’ve seen first-hand how heroic our officers are and the risks they face every day. None of my opponents have that experience, and it shows. Institutional racism exists and mistakes happen, but Seattle’s now a beacon for other communities in police reform. Let’s keep it on that course.
Homelessness: We need to fully implement the recommendations of the Poppe and Focus Strategies report. We must follow the models Boston, Houston, and Salt Lake City implemented to drastically reduce homelessness for a fraction of the cost Seattle is currently paying. We must capture data, measure our strategies, measure our contractor performance, and only invest in solutions and contractors proven to work. We must eliminate the cronyism cited by our homeless experts and invest in a coordinated care system where housing, mental health, addiction, and job development services share data and work strategically to help our homeless neighbors back into society.
Seattle Growth: Seattle will never solve the housing affordability issue alone. We must work regionally. I will bring all mayors from Olympia to Everett, all developers, large corporations, ST3 planners, and the citizens of Puget Sound together to develop a strategic long-term growth plan. We must understand the growth goals of the corporations who thrive here and match their goals with infrastructure, housing development, and educational systems required to build a foundation of prosperity for all. HALA no longer addresses many realities we face, especially foreign investment from China. It must be reworked and fixed or abandoned.
Budget and taxes: Rents and home prices are skyrocketing, and city hall keeps hitting us with new regressive taxes. If you wanted design a system to drive out working and middle class residents, this is what it would look like. Growth that benefits the wealthy, with the impacts paid for by the rest of us.
I would cut unneeded spending and redirect it to our priorities. And I would hold the line on regressive property and sales taxes. If we need new revenue, let’s look at an income tax on wealthy individuals, or taxing the big companies benefiting the most from our city. *”Budget and taxes” was not an issue presented by MyNorthwest.
Growth: Seattle’s population growth means we need more housing. I would launch inclusive neighborhood planning to build the housing we need and fund local priorities. The future of our neighborhoods must be determined by renters, homeowners, and small business people — not just dictated by city hall and big developers.
Every neighborhood should receive equitable funding for streets, transit, parks, community centers, and public safety. And our social safety net is failing homeless individuals and our neighborhoods. We need to ensure a safe place for every person to sleep at night that is not on the streets or in our parks.
Homelessness: We need a collaborative effort across agencies and service providers to zero in on the most effective solutions that help people back into secure housing. I will work with shelter providers to identify how to help long-term residents transition to more permanent housing, and address the immediate need for emergency shelter with temporary solutions like more self-governed tiny house villages hosted by churches and neighborhoods as we get more lasting solutions in motion. We need to provide more low-barrier shelters that allow the right mix of options to match needs, such as allowing pets and enabling couples to stay together.
Growth: I support taxing speculation in the housing market to slow cost escalation, identifying solutions to build four times the amount of affordable and public housing, and more flexible land use codes in single-family zones. We must revise zoning to allow different types of low rise multifamily housing, and alter permitting / entitlement / SEPA processes to make a broader range of housing viable. Townhouses, congregate housing, rowhouses, duplexes, and cottages are good housing models that can be built at lower cost than single family houses. Opening up a broader mix of solutions will increase the range of options available for neighborhoods.
Homelessness: Housing is a human right. There is no one size fits all response to homelessness. We need a multifaceted system to meet people where they are. We must re-evaluate coordinated care to decrease bottlenecking and provide access to a variety of housing options and wrap around services. We must stop sweeps and instead support encampments with basic utilities and on-site case management to promote self-empowerment and community based accountability. We need 24/7 storage and additional emergency shelters including low-barrier shelters, shelters for families, transgender and intersex residents, and minors. We need an array of transitional, permanent supportive, and affordable housing.
Seattle Growth: We require a vision for equitable sustainable development promoting access to housing, education and transportation for all. Our transportation must move in lock-step with strategic development requiring all areas of Seattle bear the weight of density in order to prevent the continued displacement of people color and low-income families. We must ask developers to invest more in the city through HALA/MHA (25 percent) as well as impact fees to support the growing need for more infrastructure. We cannot ignore the housing crisis. We must leverage our city resources to invest in public housing for our middle income and modest income residents.
Homeless: As a police officer this is my most common call. Our current city government wants to buy more housing and I disagree. First the city needs to understand, “homeless” is actually primarily divided into 3 groups, the true homeless, substance abusers and the mentally ill. Identifying each person and determining the group they most represent is the first step. Follow this with the appropriate assistance, whether it be medical, possible housing (not all homeless want to be housed), or even possibly be enrolled into a treatment program or some even want to have some sort of educational/job training.
Crime: Our city just does not have enough police officers to work our fast growing city. As mayor I would make it a priority to get more officers back in patrol. I would make hiring city police officers imperative. Having enough officers on the streets makes it safer for the people, businesses, communities and just as importantly the officers. Having ample officers ties directly into the social aspect of police/community relations. Making it possible to have officers be part of the district they patrol and part of the community. I believe this would make a community feel more at ease if they had a “relationship” with their local officers.
Homelessness: The homeless crisis in Seattle is multifaceted, a single approach solution will not work. I identify three major contributors to the problem; affordable housing, addiction, and inadequate mental health services. Creating more affordable and public housing is a critical first step. Creating low barrier sliding scale or free detox centers is another essential move. There are none in Seattle and it is currently cheaper to maintain a habit than get treatment. Improve the resources for diagnosing and treating mental health; currently we are not prepared. Organizing and maintaining sanctioned camps and centralizing services will help expedite people into homes and direct them to needed services.
Growth: Growth has provided great economic opportunities but also created a great rift in our society by driving up housing costs, increased traffic, and creating massive wage disparity. We need to ensure that corporations and developers pay their fair share. I recommend assessing impact fees to help pay for the increased needs of infrastructure, public schools, and emergency services. Up-zoning neighborhoods under the MHA must require more than 7 percent affordable housing. I recommend 30 percent. I would also like to partner with our tech industry leaders to create training programs to retool our workforce and hire more locally.
Homelessness: We need to reevaluate the way we perceive the homelessness problem in Seattle. We need to admit that, it to is also a factory of the skyrocketing costs and housing in Seattle. I propose to re-implement the Employee Head Tax on large employers. This income will then be used for housing vouchers which all landlords would have to accept, as well as providing incentives for small, local developers and landlords to build affordable housing. I also wish to establish many city run, family and partner friendly shelters, with mailing addresses for homeless as well.
Social: Human rights are undeniable and any attempt to block those should be loudly and swiftly rejected. I stand with all immigrants and refugees and will protect their rights and liberties. Indigenous tribes will have more of a voice in our government. I will fully support indigenous culture, people, rights and property. I support all sexual orientations and genders, binary and non-binary. No longer will we tolerate bigotry and racism. No longer can we sit idle with social and false historical justifications of bigotry. We need to ban the Confederate flag from being flown in Seattle, except in approved situations, such as museums. Black Lives Matter.
Candidate Thom Gunn didn’t entirely keep within our elevator speech parameters (two topics). But he did opt to write a poem based on them. So MyNorthwest decided to include that below.
It’s the growth, stupid.
It affects everything and makes it almost impossible to fix anything
100,000 new people have come to Seattle every year for four years.
We’re the last place in the lower 48 to be used up.
American capitalism has gone through cod, hardwood forests, iron ore, oil, gold and silver.
And our trees and salmon.
Now they want to sell off our livability.
One step for resources and another for real estate, from east to west.
So now the Seattle of my youth, a terrific city is some Kitty Genovese victim being turned into Frankencity.
Where transportation is stuck, prices sky high, civility long forgotten.
And none of the other candidates are even addressing the problem, because they have no idea of how to solve it.
Take our foot off the accelerator. Stop handing out permits. Tax growth to pay for impacts.
Subways, bullet trains, gondolas, bikes — that’s the future.
But above all, we must protect our green ecotopia, because when people don’t want to live here, we are as dead as Flint, once also the destination of choice.
*MyNorthwest reached out to every candidate running for Seattle mayor. The candidates listed here are the ones who opted to respond.
**Candidate Alex Tsimerman responded by saying people should visit his website.