Homelessness is the most urgent and emotionally-charged issue facing the Seattle City Council. I believe that the City’s policies need to change for the good of all, including the homeless themselves, impacted communities, and taxpayers. Due to my extensive experience on this issue, I believe I am the candidate for District 5 who can help lead that change. The current Council has proven that it cannot.
In thinking about homelessness, it’s important to remember that, while urgent, it is not a new issue. Tragically, it’s been with us since the 1980s. Before then, there never had been large numbers of homeless families in every major American city, or large numbers of homeless who were mentally ill, teens or young adults, drug addicts, or simply poor people evicted who had nowhere else to go.
I know, because I worked on homelessness in the 1980s. I was the liaison for homeless services to the mayor of St. Louis, where I went to college after growing up in Seattle. In the late 1980s, I was responsible for the launch and initial operations of Hope House, a large transitional housing program for homeless families. I also volunteered there as a tutor, and additionally volunteered for a regular overnight shift at a homeless men’s winter shelter. St. Louis in the 1980s was a very different place from Seattle in 2019, but many of the challenges in addressing homelessness are the same.
It’s crucial to be realistic about what can be done about homelessness at the local level. There was a committee to “end homelessness” in St. Louis in the 1980s, just as there is one in King County today. None have succeeded, anywhere in the country. That is not because the people involved are not trying very, very hard. But homelessness arose as a major societal problem when it did, and has remained a major societal problem ever since, because of a mix of causes at the national and even global level. Instead of alleviating these contributing causes, for most of the last 30+ years the federal government has chosen to aggravate them.
Housing affordability is the issue before the City Council that most profoundly affects Seattle residents as a whole. If elected, I am committed to pursuing City action to address it—going well beyond the two proposals that have dominated public debate for years now: Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) and expansion of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).
Any additional major actions that I would support, though, should follow a public dialog about alternatives involving City neighborhoods and the City residents most affected by the affordability crisis: people of color, renters, young families, and the elderly and other homeowners burdened by rising property taxes. If the “Grand Bargain” negotiated by Mayor Murray had not excluded so many of these parties, the City Council might have enacted MHA and ADU (or better versions of them) by now.
Our City Council has shown that they cannot lead or foster public dialog with their constituents on any controversial issue, such as homelessness, public safety and affordable housing. I am not afraid of conflict or public debate. I would look forward to leading a dialog in District 5 about additional actions that the City can take to help increase future options for affordable housing in Seattle—and to championing the best ideas that come out of it.
Fighting for Our Neighborhoods
Aurora Avenue North is the most neglected place in the City of Seattle. It will not remain so if I am elected to the City Council.
More than ten years ago, the City and the State of Washington partnered to plan a major renovation of north Aurora. But they abandoned it. In 2012, the City updated its community plan for Broadview, Bitter Lake, and Haller Lake. One of the top priorities was the development of “an Aurora Avenue North Corridor Plan…to include sidewalks and transit facilities that support RapidRide, access to business and drainage.” But it never moved forward. In 2015, the City advertised an upgrade to Aurora as part of the Move Seattle levy. It disappeared from the implementation plan. In 2018, when the State planned to repave north Aurora, it offered to partner with the City so that sidewalk and other improvements could be made at the same time. The City declined.
All of this blatantly contradicts City policy. In Seattle’s “2035 Growth and Equity Analysis,” the City identifies the Bitter Lake Urban Village (centered on Aurora) as one of its top five priority places for investment citywide. Given Bitter Lake’s high risk of displacement from growth and low access to opportunity, official City policy is to “advance economic mobility and opportunity,…promote transportation mobility and connectivity, and develop healthy and safe neighborhoods” there.
Lake City is a vital, vibrant, and diverse community, with a strikingly engaged group of leaders. They have a plan for their neighborhood’s future, developed with input from hundreds of Lake City residents. The plan envisions an “ever safer, more beautiful, healthy, and connected” community, even as the core of Lake City’s urban village and the entire Lake City Way corridor grow more dense. City of Seattle data, however, documents that some of the City’s most vulnerable populations live in Lake City, facing some of the highest risk of displacement found anywhere in Seattle, because of that same growing density.
The Lake City community needs a partner in its District 5 representative, one who will listen closely to the entire community’s concerns and aspirations, who will help leverage and guide City investments sensitive to those aspirations, and who will be accessible to everyone as Lake City undergoes what is likely to be profound change. Through my long history with the D5 Community Network, Thornton Creek Alliance, and the North District Council, I have shown I can be that sort of partner.
Northgate is at the geographic and economic center of District 5. Huge public and private investments are currently underway or contemplated there. The current council has done nothing to involve residents in shaping Northgate’s future—despite gaping needs for pedestrian improvements, huge concerns over traffic and parking, increasing public safety concerns, and major displacement threats for low-income renters. Working together with residents to ensure action on these issues would be a top priority for me as District 5’s representative on the City Council.