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Mayoral candidates address Murray, homelessness, growth

Seattle mayoral finalists Cary Moon, left, and Jenny Durkan, right. (KIRO 7 file images)

In a debate on Tuesday evening, Seattle mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon focused on homelessness and affordable housing, but not without first addressing a fifth sexual abuse allegation against Mayor Ed Murray.

RELATED: ‘I’m resigning, says Seattle mayor

“I called for Mayor Murray to resign back in May because I believe sexual abuse and the triggering effect that the conversations around the abuse have on survivors is too harmful to our citizens and our residents for Mayor Murray to stay in office,” Moon stated. “I asked him to resign in May. I’m sorry it took so long. I’m glad he did today.”

“I made very clear, before the primary, that I had a conversation with the mayor and told him he needed to look very carefully at whether he could continue to lead this great city of ours and, if he couldn’t, he should step down,” Durkan responded. “[Tuesday] morning, it was clear to me that he could no longer lead as mayor and I called on him to resign. He chose to do so and I think that was the right decision because I think this city needs to focus on some very important, critical issues.”

Murray has endorsed Durkan for Seattle mayor.

The audience at Seattle University seemed less than thrilled with both statements. Durkan moved on to a question about how to make the city of Seattle more dense. Essentially, does she prefer equal development across the city, or does it make more sense to build for each neighborhood’s needs?

Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Environmental Impact Statement

“There is no one size fits all,” Durkan said, after a long intro about affordable housing as a citywide goal. “We have to look at, for example, historical areas, protecting industrial lands, and we also have to look at what will the character of this city be for the next generation. That has to be the driving vision.”

Moon also said a plan tailored to each neighborhood is most appropriate for growth.

“We are losing low-income and communities of color so quickly in this city because of displacement and we have to work together with those communities to understand how to stop the gentrification and displacement until we get a handle on how they want to grow in a way that’s equitable and affordable and in the vision of what the community members themselves want.”

Moon added that she met with the Centro de la Raza on Tuesday to discuss development in a way that works for communities of color.

Both candidates were also asked whether they support Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s car camping plan, essentially allowing people living in their cars to avoid towing and fines for a year. More safe lots would open to people living in their vehicles.

Moon supports the policies, but she said the city needs to find a way to help people living in their vehicles succeed. She’d like to see safe lots with amenities and outreach to get people support services they need.

“I think this got ruled out in a way that was unfair. He was putting out a test case to say, Hey, this is a way to approach a solution on how can we work together and find an answer. And it got immediately attacked and vilified. I think we need to start that conversation up again.”

Mike O’Brien’s proposal to help people living in vehicles

Durkan responded: “Housing is a human right.”

She said the city needs more accessible, short-term shelters, but ultimately more affordable housing.

“We’re not talking about vehicles and cars, we’re talking about people who live there,” Durkan said. “And we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to connect those people with the services they need and with the homes that they need. That should be our priority in all of these discussions. We should not criminalize homelessness.”

Moon pressed for a “yes” or “no” answer on O’Brien’s proposal. Durkan pointed out that it hasn’t been finalized and said it’s not about one proposal or another.

“What we need to do is have a very vibrant discussion in our city about the people experiencing homelessness and focus our energies not on the fights, not on words, not on semantics, but on how are we going to get them the place that they deserve to live.”

Durkan said the city’s shelter system is not good enough. Moon said she agrees that affordable housing is the long-term goal, but there needs to be immediate interim solutions.

Watch the full debate here.

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