We all know that Seattle is a progressive city, a compassionate city.
But it’s not progressive, compassionate, or even morally defensible, to allow our displaced neighbors to live unhoused, in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, in public spaces meant for the enjoyment of all, or to allow young women to be sex-trafficked in public, at all hours, in all seasons, amid what is still - for many- a public health crisis.
We cannot continue to simply tolerate a city-wide opioid epidemic, with open-air drug markets and drug use fueling theft, vandalism, home invasion and other crimes, while businesses are shuttered or driven out of our city on the heels of renters and homeowners fleeing unaffordable rents and astronomical property taxes.
It’s a failure of public policy to allow enforcement of the laws-on-our-books to fall by the wayside, effectively throwing our hands in the air and giving up, decriminalizing whichever behaviors we don’t seem to have the temporary ability to control.
As a just and kind Seattle, we know that we are better than this. So let's do something about it!
We must confront the root causes of crime that we've seen since the pandemic, pressuring the city council to follow Mayor Harrell's executive order addressing the opioid and synthetic drug crisis in Seattle.
Public drug abuse, not just drug trafficking, must once again be subject to arrest and prosecution (with prosecution deferred for those offenders who are willing to seek treatment). The city budget must include and prioritize new treatment and recovery programs that are incentivized and made accessible to all.
Businesses downtown and across the city should be assured of police protection, and offered tax incentives to remain open and in place.
In District 5, in downtown and throughout our neighborhoods, we need a visible and responsive around-the-clock police presence, a separate but adjunct emergency medical/behavioral health response presence, and an appropriately trained, community-led public safety ambassador presence.
I do not support "defunding the police", although I understand and sympathize with the anger and frustration felt by proponents of that legitimate and symbolic argument. What I do support is proven strategies like community-based policing, community-trained public ambassadors, expanded use of body cameras, and increased civilian oversight of police authority and behavior. We must recruit and appropriately train new police officers to pre-pandemic numbers, thereby increasing response-times to urgent and emergent situations.
While Mayor Harrell, a family friend and the best mayor we've had in at least a generation, is not endorsing any city council candidates in the primary, foremost among my endorsements relevant to public safety are those of WA State Attorney-General Bob Ferguson, King County Executive Dow Constantine, former Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and Rev. Harriet Walden of Mothers for Police Accountabilty, an organization which has stood up for the rights of all residents and demanded fairness from law enforcement in Seattle for more than 30 years.
As a former president of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, I oversaw direct service programs dedicated to homelessness and transitional housing. I have a comprehensive understanding of the challenges involved, and this is a national problem as much as it is regional and local.
A year ago, my wife and I were renting a condo at Bitter Lake, next door to the homeless encampment directly beneath and in view of the playground of Broadview-Thompson K-8, my son's elementary school. On a daily basis, we encountered theft, vandalism, defecation and prostitution at the condo, people shooting up and howling or passed out in our parking space, gun shots and screams of "I'll kill you" within twenty feet of our bedroom window and our son's bedroom window, once with empty shells found on the ground nearby. There were evening bonfires directly under the tree-line, and fire trucks and aid cars called out constantly, with sirens blaring throughout the night. We were not able to use Bitter Lake Playfield, the park where I played growing up, or swim in the lake itself, due to bio-hazardous conditions created by the campers.
I worked with neighbors, the school board, the city council and mayor to help find nearby housing options for the campers. It took time, but when alternatives to living out of doors were finally presented, most if not all the campers were grateful to accept them, and we were able to start cleaning up the park and the lake again for use by all.
Long-term solutions to homelessness will require cooperation between government and business, social service agencies, faith communities and academia, and relentless advocates and innovators who can bring all partners to the table and go after money and housing space wherever we can find it. I will never abandon my commitment to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, because that is the way I was raised and it's what I believe in, and I will work with diverse communities across a broad spectrum and at every level to make sure that all our neighbors are safe and cared for.
But we need to put a stop to policies that enable displaced individuals to subsist in situations that leave them and the greater community at risk. No one should have to live in a tent or a camper for extended periods of time. All residents should have equal access to our public parks and sidewalks. If that means moving people and vehicles along when they become a public safety hazard to themselves or others, then I support that, done at appropriate times of year by appropriate officials and public safety and health professionals, with alternative options offered, and with kindness, humanity, respect for human rights, civil rights and civil liberties.
I believe that if you call Seattle your home, you have a right to live affordably here.
If you are a homeowner or renter, especially if you live on a fixed income, I believe you have a right to stay in your home, and not be forced out of your home or your city by unaffordable property taxes or rents.
I promise to make sure we enact policies to protect and support these rights.
I am grateful for the endorsement of King County Assessor John Wilson, our superb, self-described "activist assessor", who wants to work with city leaders and others to help revitalize downtown Seattle, identify new public spaces usable for emergency, transitional and affordable housing, and reduce the burden on taxpayers.
As we try to find ways to house our houseless and displaced neighbors , we must be careful to not enact policies that discriminate against existing businesses and residents, including renters, seniors and others who live on fixed incomes.
This issue hits close to home for me. As an Ingraham High School alum, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the recent fatal shootings at my alma mater. I am proud to have the endorsement of Ingraham's Head Counselor Leanne Hust, who bravely endured a trauma that no educator should ever be expected to endure, along with so many of her colleagues and students, on that horrific day.
I personally dislike guns, because they do in fact kill people, almost always in cases which are either accidental or driven by reflex, rage or mental illness, and which might have been avoided if access to guns were not so easy to obtain.
I do not believe that we should blanketly outlaw all firearms, or unreasonably obstruct the permitting process for hunting rifles used for legitimate, authorized hunting. Hunting is a rural activity that occurs outside the city limits, so that's not what I'm suggesting here.
But weapons like assault rifles have no place in a civil society, and handguns must be made more difficult to obtain. The abuse of these kinds of weapons is increasing nationally, and appears to reflect the most reprehensible cultural abbhorations afflicting us: racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of ignorance, entitlement, prejudice, fear and hate, and in most or many cases is rooted in mental illness. Put simply, the harder we can make it for impaired individuals to access guns, the more lives will be spared. I don't believe that the Second Amendment is properly interpreted as allowing any and all citizens to own any and all types of guns, and - especially with the safety of our children and teachers at stake - I will do all that I can to limit the number of guns in our city, increase licensing requirements and waiting periods in order to buy a gun, and require gun owners to purchase liability insurance, just as they would be required to purchase the same to own and operate a motor vehicle or any other potentially deadly weapon.
Seattle is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and we have an obligation to protect it. If you've ever flown in from the sky or sailed in from the Sound, or stood on Alki and marveled eastward at our skyline, you know the breathtaking excitement of entering a cosmopolitan wonderland surrounded by green trees, blue waters and white mountains.
My honorary campaign chair, former Seattle City Councilmember and Seattle Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck, whose father designed the Space Needle and saved the Pike Place Market, is a dear friend who frequently reminds me that even as we build more affordable housing, we must bear in mind that obligation to protect our precious and potentially unrecoverable natural surroundings.
I support urban planning and development done responsibly, building affordable housing first along dedicated transportation corridors, then equally and equitably dispersed and shared among all neighborhoods.
But Seattle was not meant to become another Manhattan. That's neither necessary nor desirable.
We don't need more high concrete towers that remove our green canopy and block the picturesque views of our lakes, the Salish Sea, the Olympics, the Cascades, or Mt. Rainier.
We don't need more cell-block-like boxes that we've seen go up in places where re-zoning was done in brutish fashion, without discernible respect for either environment or people.
We don't want to wake up one day and find that Lake City looks exactly like Broadview, or Northgate looks just like Ballard, or Laurelhurst is the same as the U. District, and that each of these could double for downtown.
We remain, for the most part, an Emerald City, with a view of the sky above. But these things are precarious blessings, not to be taken for granted. There are those who would sacrifice such treasures. I cherish the Seattle I knew growing up, and I will fight for the renewed promise of Seattle for my son to enjoy as he grows, as I impart to him my love for the city that belongs to him as much as it belongs to each and every one of us.