Seattle is in the middle of BOTH a drug crisis and a housing crisis. The two crises overlap, but it is misleading to lump them together in discussions of “the homeless.” They need to be kept distinct in our minds, because they require very different sets of actions to address. In emotionally charged debates over what to do about “the homeless,” many of those who emphasize one of these crises tend to deny or minimize the other. But both are real and very serious.
It is the drug crisis, not the housing crisis, that is primarily responsible for the increases in property crime and public disorder that have raised public ire across Seattle. Yet so far, most of the City’s attention has focused on the housing crisis. Neglect of the drug crisis and its effects on communities has further inflamed the public, making it that much more difficult to address the housing crisis.
Both crises are the source of a great deal of human misery and suffering. Both are complex. And both require our urgent attention.
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.
Public safety is the core responsibility of our government. And it is not faring well in Seattle. Particularly regarding property crime, where Seattle recently, ranked second among the 20 largest cities in the country for its rate of reported property crimes, adjusted for population size.
This brief paper can only touch on some of the most important ways in which the City Council can help the City meet its public safety obligations, including:
- Ensuring that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) meets its constitutional obligations to avoid excessive force and racially biased policing;
- Planning for the future of the North Precinct;
- Staffing SPD adequately during a time when retaining and recruiting officers has been a serious challenge;
- Supporting additional human services (such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or “LEAD”) to supplement law enforcement in ways that can reduce crime over the long-term; and
- Advocating for changes in the criminal justice system that effectively address the challenges of repeat offenders, who are responsible for a vastly disproportionate amount of crime.
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.