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Co-founder of Fremont Brewing Sara Nelson running for Seattle City Council

Sara Nelson, co-founder of Fremont Brewing, is running for Seattle City Council Position 9. (Photo courtesy of saraforcitycouncil.com)

Local politics is heating up as Mayor Jenny Durkan is not going to run for reelection, Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez is going to run for mayor, and now Sara Nelson, co-founder of Fremont Brewing, will be running for Lorena Gonzalez’ vacant seat.

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Nelson is running for Seattle City Council Position 9, an at-large district covering all of Seattle.

When she decided to run, Nelson didn’t know Gonzalez was going to run for mayor. In the last election, Gonzalez won with about 70% of the vote, so as Dave Ross said to Nelson, “this is a big deal for you.”

“Yes, it is, and I am ready to work on my priorities of economic recovery and holding Seattle City Council accountable for its actions, and surviving and overcoming the ravages of this pandemic,” she said.

Dave says when he’s watched Seattle City Council meetings where public testimony is involved, there are a lot of activists and a few small businesses present. Then there’s the private programs or nonprofits who say they have the solution.

“It sounds like the the approach has been to sort of let 1,000 flowers bloom and hand out grants to various groups and hope that they work,” he said.

Does Nelson have any new ideas that will work?

“On homelessness, … first of all, we have to stop talking about ‘the homeless’ because these are individuals here, they may have fled abusive partners, they might have lost their job and can’t afford rent. They’re dealing with mental health or addiction,” she said. “And so we really do have to meet people where they are, and then make sure that we understand what services are needed and how are we going to provide them.”

“And that gets to your point. Clearly, we’re doing something wrong because we keep spending more and more millions of dollars on a problem that’s only getting worse,” Nelson continued. “And that’s partly because council is not held accountable for its spending decisions. How do we measure the success of the service providers with whom the city contracts? Who defines the benchmarks of their performance, and who evaluates their performance once those contracts are due? I don’t want to get down a policy rabbit hole — I love me a policy rabbit hole, though — but the point is that I don’t see the very simple steps of explaining the rationale behind spending decisions and then making sure that they work.”

Nelson does believe the city should stop what it’s doing now because “it is clearly not working.”

“And there are a lot of other people, nonprofits and municipalities, that have suggestions and track records of dealing better with homelessness than we do,” she said.

One thing Nelson is looking forward to is getting the regional body running, as there are “critical things” the Seattle City Council does not control, including dollars for mental health and substance abuse.

“That’s in the hands of the county, and we have got to make sure that those resources are getting to the people that are living on the streets and in Seattle’s parks,” Nelson said.

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Seattle City Council elections are non-partisan, but Dave points out that it’s generally understood that it’s different shades of Democrats.

“I call it 50 shades of blue,” Nelson replied.

But with Nelson’s announcement that she’s running for a seat, Dave notes that some would say there’s a Republican in the race, though he gave her the chance to define herself.

“I’m a pragmatic moderate who is committed to social justice and also recognizes that we need to bring people together to put forward effective policies,” she said. “That’s how I would define myself. There are a lot of people that just want city government to work. They want city councilmembers to get out of their ideological silos and keep the street lights on, fill the potholes, fix the bridges, clean the parks, ensure that communities feel safe. That is the work of city government. Might not be sexy, does not grab headlines, but it’s what makes a difference in people’s daily lives.”

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