Seattle Council candidate regrets not voting in past 10 elections

Jul 25, 2023, 1:24 PM | Updated: 1:54 pm

The Gee & Ursula Show is doing a series of interviews with Seattle City Council candidates who represent downtown. Today’s interview is with challenger Olga Sagan, owner of Piroshky Piroshky (7th District) who is running against incumbent Andrew Lewis; challengers Isabelle Kerner, business owner; Robert Kettle, retired U.S. Navy; Aaron Marshall, Seattle Police Officer; and Wade Sowders, software engineer at Amazon. The 7th District represents downtown, Queen Anne, and Interbay. 

Olga Sagan said she “made a mistake” by not voting in the past 10 municipal elections.

“I’m an example of ‘it’s never too late.’ I was a happy business owner doing my thing,” the candidate for the 7th District of the Seattle City Council said on The Gee & Ursula Show. “And [voting] did not affect me in any way, shape, or form. I was focusing on the business. And I realized the mistake I have made by not voting. And now I’m just not voting, I’m running for a seat.”

Gee & Ursula 7th District candidate interviews: Incumbent Andrew Lewis

“In your campaign literature, you say that if people are happy with the current state of downtown, they should vote for the incumbent,” Ursula Reutin said. “But if they want to see change, they should vote for you. What specifically, would you do differently from what Councilman Andrew Lewis has done in these past four years?”

“A little over a month ago, people were using drugs outside my store, which is inappropriate and unacceptable for our downtown,” Sagan responded. “I have a very different perspective than Andrew or some other people who are running for this position.”

Sagan said being a woman in downtown is still not safe.

“I’m not sure how are we living in the greatest country in the world, and I’m afraid to go out in the evening with my daughter,” Sagan said. “So that’s No. 1 priority for me is making sure it is safe for everyone in downtown Seattle. And you know, I come from a business background. So I don’t mind paying taxes. I don’t mind investing in the community, but I just don’t see the rate of return on my investment as a resident and as a business owner. So I’m not sure where the money is going.”

Ursula asked what Sagan thinks the city council should be doing to address the homelessness crisis.

“I think we should start by not calling it the ‘homelessness crisis,’ but calling it ‘mental illness and drug addiction’ because I believe that a lot of homelessness is caused by mental illness and drug addiction,” Sagan continued. “Our homelessness budget went from $100 million to $200 million to $380 million this year. And we [are] still not seeing the results.”

Sagan believes Seattle needs to re-assess all the programs funded by tax dollars.

“We can look into unified care programs and really see the result of those programs. Because our homelessness problem is up by 6% in the last three years. But our budget went up by 400%. I just don’t see the logic behind that.”

Gee Scott challenged Sagan on the premise that all homelessness is related to mental health and drug problems.

“I myself was homeless in 2009. And I didn’t have a mental health problem. And I didn’t have a drug problem. What do you say to those out here who just can’t flat-out afford to live because of the cost of living?”

“You are one of many people I have met who are not the majority, but the minority of people who are struggling on the street,” explained Sagan.

More Gee & Ursula: Mayor Bruce Harrell hints at possible drug ordinance

Sagan used the example of a homeless person she knows who can not find a job.

“The reason she cannot find a job is because the shelters and facilities that we have available are very, very restrictive. For example, she needs to be checked in by 7 p.m. She works in the restaurant industry and works until 7 p.m. Some restaurants cannot hire a cook that needs to be at home by 7 p.m. The shelters that are available are just not in touch with the reality of things.”

Sagan agreed with Gee that affordability is a problem.

“But we also have to look at we have 30,000 available homes right now in Seattle. So how do we take that 30,000 available apartments or condos? And how do we incentivize landlords to create some sort of — we talked about vacancy tax or something similar to that — to bring the prices down so people can afford living in downtown?”

As for downtown revitalization, Sagan does not believe the city needs to provide $500,000 in investments in improvements.

“But as you know, there are still many empty storefronts in downtown Seattle,” Ursula stated. “As a council member, if you are elected, what would you be advocating to make downtown Seattle more attractive to new businesses?”

“It’s very important to look at hard data,” Sagan said. “So we really need to go beyond what politicians are saying and look up at the numbers ourselves and look for the facts.”

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

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Seattle Council candidate regrets not voting in past 10 elections