Seattle mayoral finalists Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon shared their ideas about homelessness, affordable housing, and policing in Seattle, among other topics during a forum moderated by KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross.
RELATED: Criticism of Seattle’s RV proposal
While the two candidates agreed that the city needs to explore options to find solutions to homelessness, they differed on their approach to hosting major sporting events, policing, and the city’s controversial RV ordinance.
Seattle’s RV ordinance
A recent, controversial proposal would allow people living in their RVs to be exempt from parking laws. Both candidates agree illegal homeless encampments are a problem, but they differ in their support for this proposal.
Cary Moon says it’s a work in progress, but it’s the right thing to do.
Forty percent of homeless folks are living in a vehicle, so this is their last chance at shelter before they’re out on the street. Asking folks to join a program where they agree to follow certain rules, they’ll still say in the same commercial and industrial zone land that they’re allowed to stay in now, and if they do anything illegal they’ll still be allowed to be given a ticket or towed. But for folks who are following the rules and their only crime is that they can’t afford to move their RV, I think that we should provide them a chance to stay where they are and try out the program.
Jenny Durkan, on the other hand, is not a fan of the proposal.
We don’t want to criminalize being homeless, nor do we want people to lose their last possession — the cars and vehicles that they have — but it is the wrong direction in my view to simply say, ‘well then let’s just let them park anywhere for as long as they want.’
Nearly 12,000 people are currently experiencing homelessness in Seattle, up 900 from 2016. Approximately 3,000 of those people are living without shelter on the street. The number of illegal encampments has increased dramatically over the last few years. The city’s attempts to clear the camps was eventually met with a lawsuit. Current Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposed a new plan to address the crisis, Bridging the Gap to Pathways Home; however, Moon believes the plan misses the point.
In that report, it said the housing affordability crisis and the homelessness crisis are completely separate and should be dealt with separately, and I think that’s just foolish. I think the number one reason people are homeless is because our housing isn’t affordable.
One of the things in the Pathways Home report is that we should use housing vouchers for rapid re-housing. That might work for a few people, like people at a temporary set back and just need a few months to get back on their feet, get a new job, get back on track. But for most people, six months of housing voucher is not enough to get them back on their feet.
Moon advocates for more creative approaches to combating homelessness, including examining unused or vacant city-owned or public land to develop community-based emergency housing. She agrees people living on the streets in unsafe places can be a risk to themselves and to the public, but adds, “we’ve got to provide them a place to go before we sweep them.”
Jenny Durkan agrees the unauthorized encampments need to go.
In the first six months of this year, the city spent over $6 million, a little over a million dollars a month, hauling garbage out of encampments. I continue to believe that we need to humanely continue to relocate people from illegal encampments to other solutions.
Durkan, a former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington state during the Obama administration, said reform needs to work for both the public and the police.
Mayors come and go, police chiefs come and go. We needed durable reform. And we needed reform that would last beyond any mayor, which is why I insisted on us getting a federal judge consent decree in place. At the same time, in building those reforms we have to make sure it really works for the police officers to be able to do their job.
Moon would like to see more community involvement in the police reform process, and additional efforts to keep young people out of prison.
The police officers have an idea about what they think is fair and what they think is right and what they think is appropriate for what they do when they feel afraid, but we need our citizen oversight to make sure we are kind of watching over the police and we are pointing out ‘Hey, that didn’t go so well, let’s fix that.’ Because it’s not going to be a problem that’s solved just inside the police department. We need community oversight with expertise and some ability to help keep moving the process forward.
Seattle as a future host of major sporting events
A former high school basketball player and later a high school basketball coach, Durkan is in favor of Seattle playing host to major sporting events.
Seattle is a world-class city and we can host world-class events. I think we have to be careful of costs and look at the transportation challenges and we have to make sure that the business community and those that would profit by those games are bearing their fair share. But for example, we’re going to have the Special Olympics here; that’s fantastic. I want to have a World Series All-Star game here. When we get the Sonics back, I want to have that All-Star game and the playoffs here.
Moon, however, offered a more tepid response.
They cost a lot. They put a lot of burden on the city. And with the traffic problems we have now, with the lack of affordable housing we have now, with the very low vacancy rates in our hotels we have now, we’re losing apartments to Airbnb every day, I think we have to really be careful about inviting that kind of event to our city.