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Seattle Council Position 8 candidate Kenneth Wilson takes aim at incumbent Mosqueda

Oct 7, 2021, 7:13 AM | Updated: 9:45 am
Kenneth Wilson...
(via Seattle Channel)
(via Seattle Channel)

Seattle City Council’s 8th District position is one that was — and still is — largely taken for granted: Incumbent Teresa Mosqueda won the seat’s primary with 59% of the vote among 10 other candidates. However, her opponent this year, Kenneth Wilson, is giving Seattle reason to believe he might make it close.

Wilson received a seemingly paltry 16.2% of the vote in the primary, yet recent polling data conducted by Crosscut and Elway, and reported by Crosscut, suggests roughly 40% of voters remain undecided as for whom they will cast their 8th District vote, indicating that the margins might be tighter than they seem at first glance.

Wilson’s perspective on those current issues most important to Seattle voters — homelessness, policing, crime — isn’t sophistic or reactionary against Mosqueda’s politics: her calls for defunding police, raising taxes on big business, and laying the groundwork for expanded affordable housing. Wilson has a background in civil engineering, and is looking to address Seattle’s problems with an eye for the structural issues that manifest into the like of increased crime and homelessness.

Wilson appeared on KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show to pitch Seattle voters on his campaign. Much of the conversation was within the context of how to best leverage federal infrastructure spending.

“For me, this is really about running a major city” Wilson said. “You have this extremely complicated billion dollar IKEA box set in front of you. Do you want to hand it to the civil engineer, or do you want to hand it to the union organizer to run?”

He broke down the different projects he has worked on throughout his career, and how that would inform his approach to Seattle City Council.

Narratives for pair of Seattle council races paint dramatically different pictures

“I have been working for 28 years on all the civil projects around your area,” Wilson continued. “Everything from bridges like ship canal bridge, that brand new, beautiful … Northgate bridge and the transit center there, Magnolia Bridge, and the Spokane street widening.”

He spoke to how that background would inform his approach to addressing homelessness.

“We’ve been piling lots of money, assets, and time into outreach and small, tiny homes and things that really aren’t a transition to real life,” Wilson added. “What I’m trying to do is actually build facilities. We’ve just come out of really a boom time, and now we’ve suddenly got this windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal level.”

“We should be building assets such as at the King County metro station next to that Northgate area where the transit has now moved to the station. We should be using that to build a vertical system that would include social services, … training for people that are in challenging situations. There’s a college right across the bridge. They could be taking classes. We need to get people and get their value back. These are real people. They’re not just a homeless person that we need to give a home.”

He addressed Seattle’s housing problem with a transportation metaphor to make the point that, while affordable housing in the form of tiny houses and upzoning might seem like a good idea, the city has to build out the capacity to facilitate that expansion. He feels he is in a position to make the functionality of new systems, like housing, happen.

“Owning is about function,” Wilson clarified. “If you have an 11 lane road that has to go both ways, and you suddenly triple the capacity, nothing works. Those 1920 sewer systems with all those new bathrooms on there don’t work. You’re actually incurring so many more costs to all the neighbors that you didn’t anticipate. [Mosqueda’s] idea of changing zoning is very detrimental, but there are ways to focus what our plan is on these arterials, and [with respect to] accessory dwelling units, we can actually make real differences that are giving people opportunities to buy, and that’s where we really make real value to our community.”

In the interview, Wilson often referenced what could seem like a pet project of his: improving the city’s tree canopy (the issue refers to designing neighborhoods with more trees to mitigate higher temperatures brought on by climate change). However, he sees that one issue as emblematic of the city’s lack of vision with respect to its long-term infrastructure.

“We need to actually act on some of the critical tree canopy,” Wilson declared. “We’ve been talking about how critical it is for the world, but we’re not acting locally, and this is really a local race. It’s not about politics, we need to stay here in the middle and just get things done and back to working.”

“[I am] someone that can ask questions and help guide others on the valuable, technical things [that are] really valuable. I see myself as a huge asset for this city: to be one of nine,” he said. “It’s still value and good sense to have someone with the technical capabilities available right in front of your own council.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Seattle Council Position 8 candidate Kenneth Wilson takes aim at incumbent Mosqueda