Seattle council candidates get chance to question each other in Wednesday debate

Oct 21, 2021, 9:07 AM | Updated: 11:08 am
Seattle council debate...
Sara Nelson (left) and Nikkita Oliver (right). (Campaign photos)
(Campaign photos)

Candidates for Seattle’s Position 9 City Council seat squared off in a debate hosted by Converge Media, Rainier Avenue Radio, and the South Seattle Emerald on Wednesday night, with Nikkita Oliver and Sara Nelson discussing topics ranging from public safety to rent control.

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Nelson and Oliver both made their cases for why their previous experience makes them qualified to sit on city council, with the former touting her experience as a business owner.

“My husband and I started Fremont Brewing in 2009 and I’ve taken some heat for being the small business owner in this race,” she said. “But I think that’s important, because small businesses are the job creators and the nodes of our communities, and they’re really struggling right now.”

She outlined a goal to provide “access to opportunity to build generational wealth,” which she said is “a key to transformation change.”

“That means jobs, job training, foreclosure prevention, access to capital, and just help navigating the maze of bureaucracy, and I can do that because I’ve got that lived experience,” she added.

Oliver pointed to their own experience as an attorney and activist who’s worked with a variety of city departments in the past.

“I actively supported families in navigating the housing crisis and homelessness, supported tenants in fighting evictions, and handled employment discrimination cases,” they said. “I’ve worked alongside our Office of Civil Rights and our Human Services Department to ensure that the policies are really meeting the needs of our communities.”

One point Oliver and Nelson were aligned on regarded the need for rent control measures, with a few caveats.

For Nelson, while she supports state-level legislation, she’s “concerned about Seattle-only taxes, because it creates a patchwork of legislation that is difficult to administer and has different impacts on Seattle.”

Oliver detailed how they “don’t think rent control is the only answer,” although it is “one of the answers.”

Where they agreed most, though, was on the need to give renters direct financial assistance.

“I really think that a part of this is going to be utilizing things like the American Rescue Plan dollars, dollars from Jump Start, and other areas of our budget to continue to increase the amount of money that we can get to direct cash assistance, and keep people in their homes until we do that very important work of ensuring rent control is an option that we have in our suite of protections for tenants,” Oliver laid out.

“I think that a better way of helping renters is right now in this crisis is direct cash payments to renters — that will help them stay in their homes and also help our small landlords,” Nelson agreed.

At one point, debate moderators allowed Oliver and Nelson to ask each other a question, allowing them each 30 seconds to respond.

Nelson’s question for Oliver related to how they plan to ensure public safety while also proposing to defund the Seattle Police Department by 50%.

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“In 2021, we found out three years of 911 data from Seattle Police Department said that 49% of calls that come into 911 could receive a non-sworn police officer response,” Oliver answered. “And so based on the data that 50% of calls coming into 911 actually need to receive something like a mental health provider or a de-escalator or a community-based response, it’s actually data-based and data driven to move 50% of our public safety budget into those alternative responses.”

Oliver’s question for Nelson surrounded the perception of her status as “the law and order candidate” who has “called for those who have maybe stolen food or clothes because they’re trying to survive to be prosecuted for misdemeanors.” They also pointed out that despite that perception, Nelson’s brewery installed illegal cement “ecology blocks” around the business to prevent RVs from parking in front of it.

“I would not phrase myself as ‘law and order’ — I’m a public safety person,” Nelson answered. “And when I talk about misdemeanors, those misdemeanors are not small crimes, especially when they are repeated over and over again.”

You can watch the full debate at this link.

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Seattle council candidates get chance to question each other in Wednesday debate