12 questions for Seattle mayoral candidate Cary Moon
Seattle will have to decide in November’s election between mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon. KIRO Radio sat down with Moon to find out how she’s different from her opponent and what she thinks of major issues the city faces.
Is there any subject where your views don’t align with former opponent, Nikkita Oliver?
I think our values are very similar, but I have different kind of experience working with city government and working with the various departments in the city and I approach things systemically as an engineer.
How do you start to ease racial tensions where communities of color are feeling marginalized?
I think we have to acknowledge that the housing affordability crisis is hitting low-income communities and people of color worst and the displacement is real as housing prices escalate and housing becomes more and more unaffordable, it’s folks that have the least wealth, which is typically communities of color.
Cary Moon: Seattle growth
Why are housing prices rising so quickly in Seattle?
If you look at housing markets around the world, what’s happening is there are a lot of excess capital and hot housing markets in world class cities, like Seattle, like Sydney, like Manhattan, like Vancouver, like Miami are experiencing this phenomenon where money from all over the world — Wall Street and other places — comes to that housing market just for the escalation in prices. So they’re part of driving up prices on purpose because they’re in it for the investment. They’re not here because they want to live and work in our city.
What’s the incentive to stop it?
First, we have to understand the dynamic and understand Wall Street. Is it second, third, and fourth homes? So understand the dynamic and then put in the right disincentive, which might be a real estate excise tax. It might be a capital gains tax on the sale of a non-primary residence.
Do you support upzoning that’s going on across the city?
Well, people are moving here, so we have to make room. Some amount of upzoning is part of the solution, but we also have to look at all of the other tools. We have to be looking at public and nonprofit affordable housing because as prices escalate, more and more people are being left out of the private market.
Is housing your top priority as mayor?
Yeah. I think that the housing escalation is what the crisis that is changing our city so dramatically, pushing out low-income people, putting people into homelessness, causing insecurity for … You know, more than half the people in this city who pay rent are rent burdened, meaning they pay more than they can afford in rent.
With so many people moving to Seattle, do you have any plans for the strain on traffic?
With a city growing as quickly a ours, we have to help people use other modes than driving. The more we all drive, the more we create traffic – we are traffic. We need to provide excellent transit service and we need to build a complete bike network.
For folks who can’t take mass transit, or can’t ride their bike or it’s too far to walk, we need to create space on the roads for those folks. For those who can, we need to make transit safe, cheap, reliable and fast … I’ve talked to hundreds of people in West Seattle who are so frustrated; they want to be on transit. They don’t want to drive, but there’s simply not enough service in West Seattle.
College and taxes
How does a city support two years of free college to all graduates, like your opponent just proposed?
I think the program to fund two years of technical or community college is great. That’s fine. We already actually have that program and scaling it up would be a fine solution. But I wanted to make the point that it’s not actually striking this problem at its root. We have a racial achievement gap in our schools. We have wealth inequality that is growing between people of color and white people in our city. We have a lot of problems with underfunding our education from preschool through 12th grade. We’ve got to look at the bigger picture and understand where is the right place to invest money. The specific plan that she proposed — she didn’t identify a funding source, so does that mean we’re going to take from other programs to pay for this?
How do you jump that hurdle?
I want to make the point — and I think everybody is ready for this discussion — that we, in Washington state, have the most regressive tax system in the U.S. We need to unify with Olympia and other regional cities to talk about more progressive taxation.
What other progressive taxes are you proposing, besides an income tax?
Capital gains tax. You know, we have 13 billionaires in our state and they pay zero beyond sales tax that everybody pays. I think anybody could look at that and say it’s unfair. We have to look at a more steeply progressive B&O tax where larger corporations pay a bigger share and smaller, family-owned businesses pay a smaller share.
What makes you think you can make this happen?
I think politics are changing in our state. I think we all recognize that this trickle down economy that we have is not working. A very few number of people are gaining wealth every day just because they have assets and the rest of us fall farther and farther behind. With student debt, medical debt, credit card debt, we see it’s not working. We’re ready for someone to purpose a different system and have that discussion.
Do you support safe injection sites in Seattle?
I believe we need to test this idea. It has worked in other cities that have tried it. Safe consumption sites where folks have access to medical services and a safe clean place to use; I think it has reduced deaths and reduced infections in the places that have tried it. So yeah, let’s try it and see if it works. If it works, let’s scale it up.
We need to spend more money (on the opioid crisis). We have got to find the resources to invest in addiction services for folks who want to get out of addiction. I think there are folks who have a habit they hate, but they don’t have money to go to treatment. We need to invest public resources helping people get through treatment and back on their feet … we have got to look at the whole budget, understand where there are some places we can tighten our belts, work with the state and the county and figure out places we can collaborate and find sources (of funding).
Cary Moon’s questions and answers edited for clarity and brevity.