Association CEO: The fate of downtown Seattle is on the ballot

Nov 1, 2023, 7:35 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2023, 9:31 am

downtown seattle...

Third Ave in Seattle's downtown district. (Photo courtesy of the Downtown Seattle Association)

(Photo courtesy of the Downtown Seattle Association)

This year’s election will decide the future of Seattle’s downtown, according to the Downtown Seattle Association‘s president and CEO Jon Scholes, and he wants residents to use their vote to have their voices heard.

“I think there’s a lot at stake in this election, and it’s an election about whether we accelerate that progress or we turned backwards,” Scholes said on The Gee and Ursula Show this week. “I think voters clearly want to see a downtown that’s healthy and revitalized. They get the connection between that and a healthy neighborhood they may live in and a healthy city overall. So, I encourage voters to carefully review and mark their ballots and vote.”

More from DSA: Mayor Harrell renews Downtown Seattle ambassador program

District 7, which contains downtown, is represented by Seattle City Council incumbent Andrew Lewis, with Navy veteran Bob Kettle vying for his seat.

The DSA sent a questionnaire to all of the candidates, not just those running for District 7’s seat, on where they stand on certain topics and issues prior to the August primary. Most of them returned the form, with a few exceptions. The candidates’ answers can be viewed here.

“The incumbent Tammy Morales in District 2 and (candidate) Maren Costa in District 1 in West Seattle, both of them failed to return a questionnaire,” Scholes stated. “And that was disappointing. They were given the opportunity to provide their thinking and ideas on how they would support the revitalization of downtown.”

Last month, King County reported more people have died from overdoses — with the vast majority of those involving the opioid fentanyl — this year than all of 2022 with two more months to go.

More on drug fatalities: King County overdose deaths surpass 2022 levels; experts worry new laws won’t help

Speaking on the increased level of crime and drug use within downtown, Scholes referenced the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) handling of a drug bust Friday where, in cooperation with the city attorney and the service providers, officers began implementing the city’s new law against public drug use. More than a dozen people, whose only offense was using drugs in public, were diverted to treatment while a dozen others were booked into King County Jail because they had felonies or warrants against them.

“This is working,” Scholes said. “And, as a city, we can distinguish between those that are out hurting others that need to be held accountable, and those that are simply hurting on the street and need some services and support. But there are candidates in this race that don’t support that policy. They don’t support what the council and the mayor adopted about a month ago.

Scholes cited District 4 candidate Ron Davis as one of those candidates who has “an incoherent idea and set of strategies” on what to do about drugs in Seattle.

“Because you mentioned Ron Davis, I want to mention two specific candidates — Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis,” co-host Ursula Reutin said. “Andrew Lewis, who represents downtown, I’m going to just say he flip-flopped on the drug thing. He also was initially a proponent of defunding police by 50%, as was Tammy Morales, as was Dan Strauss. But I looked at your ratings and both Straus and Lewis are strongly aligned with the Downtown Seattle Association.”

More on Andrew Lewis’ decision: Seattle city council fails to approve new city drug possession law

“I was certainly disappointed in Councilmember Lewis’ vote in June to go against the public drug use ordinance. I think it was the wrong vote and I said as much publicly to him. I’m glad he’s come around, along with Councilmember Strauss, who voted for it both times,” Scholes responded. “They both certainly had, I think, the wrong position on defunding, and they’ve said as much as well. I think in those races, we’ve rated the candidates in the Ballard district and the downtown district, comparatively, I think there are good options for voters. And I think the candidates are talking about and committing themselves to the right issues to make our city safer to address the drug crisis to address homelessness.”

Despite past ineffectiveness, Scholes still believes the Seattle City Council can influence positive change within the city.

“I think they can do a lot. I think they can encourage city employees to return to their offices. The city is one of the largest employers in downtown Seattle, 10,000 or so folks, and a lot of those offices are still largely empty. And those are customers for sandwich shops and coffee shops and florists. They can help with the overall level of activity and vibrancy downtown.

“That’s one way, but I think most importantly, we have to be serious about taking on this drug crisis,” Scholes continued. “We’ve got to bring people off the streets. We’ve got to continue to hire more police officers so our response times to Priority 1 or 2 calls can meet the city’s established goals. Those ought to be our priorities.”

More from Gee and Ursula: Lakewood’s ‘lewd’ Halloween skeleton display has been stolen

Election Day in Seattle is Tuesday.

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

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Association CEO: The fate of downtown Seattle is on the ballot