ELECTION 2019: Jesse Greene joins West Seattle/South Park City Council District 1 race

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

He’s an entrepreneur, a graduate student, and now a candidate for the Seattle City Council District 1 seat: Jesse Greene plans to file paperwork today, with a public candidacy-announcement event on Monday.

The proprietor of Uncle Woody’s Popcorn is the first of this year’s D-1 candidates to contact WSB before turning up on the city/state websites showing campaign filings. We sat down for a coffeehouse chat on Thursday.

Greene is a West Seattle resident whose popcorn business is headquartered in South Park; he also owns a construction firm based in Sumner, where he grew up (though there are other local roots in his family – he mentions a grandparent who is a West Seattle High School alum). He says his entry into politics is inspired by time he has spent serving on the State Advisory Council on Homelessness – the issue that is motivating his run.

It’s a very personal issue, too – Greene says he has been homeless, as a child, when his family fled domestic violence. His mother set an example for him by later entering politics herself, serving on the Bonney Lake City Council. “She wanted to make a positive impact in the community; I grew up with those ideals.”

Politicians were later further humanized for him when he met Gov. Jay Inslee on a plane – Greene was invited to join a trade delegation visiting Japan and South Korea in 2015 – and found out the governor draws books for his grandchildren. Ultimately, Greene says, he realized “you can be a really effective politician and a caring human.”

He has run the popcorn company for five years. He says he met its founders while working as a small-business banker in West Seattle; his resumé also includes time as a “food broker” at Costco’s corporate headquarters. He expresses admiration for that past employer as an example of capitalism with a conscience.

But back to who Greene is and why he’s running. He thinks the city can do better on homelessness, and he thinks it’s important to recognize that many people who are living unsheltered come from circumstances like the ones he lived through. He recalls his family needing and using public assistance, and says there should be no shame in that: “You can use services and become a productive member of society.” Besides running businesss, he’s studying for a MBA, and says his siblings include a nurse and a U.S. Marine aspiring to become a Navy officer.

Though on one hand he says he doesn’t want to bash the current City Council, and he doesn’t mention D-1 incumbent Lisa Herbold by name – only to say that he doesn’t think public service should be a lifelong career, even if it’s part elected and part otherwise (which describes her) – he decries what he sees as the council’s “inability … to address” the homelessness crisis.

He’s also mad that the city is “vilifying businesses.” He cites the briefly approved, then rescinded, “head tax” as an example, saying that city leaders seem to be blaming businesses for the homelessness crisis. He is aghast at the council having originally passed the tax without specifying exactly how the money would be spent, and at the council changing its mind based on polling, after, he alleges, they ignored polling that would have told them not to go down that road in the first place. “They don’t want to hear dissent,” he observes. “You can’t run a business without listening … you can’t run a city without listening to voters.”

As he sees it, a big cause of homelessness is simply “there’s too little housing for the population.” He won’t commit to supporting or opposing the HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability that the current council will be voting on in a few months, but he says he does support some increased density, particularly in the form of Accessory Dwelling Units (another housing issue with a pending city-policy change). He thinks that the city needs to “incentivize building the right kind of housing” to help – property and permitting “cost a lot … the system is set up to incentivize million-dollar houses,” and, he says later, to take way too much time for permitting other types of work.

He wants to see more city transparency regarding spending on homelessness. He acknowledges that it’s gotten a bit better lately, but not clear enough – “people in the community don’t understand where their money is going.” (That goes for the budget overall, he notes, saying the budget has doubled in recent years but that he hasn’t met anyone who feels as if the service they receive from the city has doubled as a result.)

Greene also wants people to understand that homelessness happens for many reasons, and to stop stereotyping homeless people as “rundown” or “drug users.” He adds, “We need to have real conversations about integrating (homeless) people into our community.”

He also wants to talk about gentrification, more than just paying it lip service. “South Park … is on the chopping block for gentrification,” he believes.

And he wants to “change the narrative about small business” too. “We need to incubate it,” so that small businesses survive. He says the cost of doing business in Seattle is “high” but also believes that “big businesses” have a big voice at City Hall.

So he wants to see what he can do to improve things, though a friend “told me I was crazy” for wanting to run.

Maybe that’s another perception he can change.

You are invited to Greene’s candidacy announcement – first such event any of this year’s filed candidates (which so far also include Phillip Tavel [October coverage], Isaiah Willoughby [December coverage], and Brendan Kolding [January coverage]) has held – 4 pm Monday (January 28th) at Talarico’s in The Junction (4718 California SW).

18 Replies to "ELECTION 2019: Jesse Greene joins West Seattle/South Park City Council District 1 race"

  • Diane January 25, 2019 (4:03 pm)

    his 1st event is Monday, 4pm when most folks are at work?

    • shauna levine January 25, 2019 (4:42 pm)

      I agree with Diane- so how late will the event go?

    • tm7302 January 25, 2019 (4:55 pm)

      Maybe  changing the timing of his event will be his first attempt at listening to the voters…

  • Jesse Greene January 25, 2019 (5:09 pm)

    Thank you all for your comments.  We are inviting the community to start coming by at 4 PM; so that I can have an opportunity to meet those who are not able to stay until we start the program of speakers at 5:30 PM.  We should be running to no more than 6:30 PM for formal discussions and then I am planning on sticking around until around 7:15 PM so I can tuck in the kiddos for their 7:30 PM bed time.  Feel free to stop by at anytime!  

    • shauna levine January 26, 2019 (11:41 pm)

      Jesse- that is helpful to know. Thanks for the schedule details- makes sense. Looking forward to meeting you and getting to hear more details about your visions to help this city and our district. We certainly need a change.

  • Westsideleite January 25, 2019 (6:33 pm)

    You already have my vote. As a small business owner myself, I know what it takes to keep a business afloat in this city. So if you can do all that and still want to be a part of the city council, my hats off to you. Please make this city as good as we all know it can be, and not this cesspool of too many overpaid public employees mismanaging our money and paying their friends to run ineffective agencies while letting the homeless continue to be overlooked and not dealt with in a responsible, sustainable way.

  • M January 25, 2019 (7:10 pm)

    When can a candidate or Seattle politician admit that we have a homeless crisis created by heroin addiction. Can we talk about addressing that problem? 

    • D January 26, 2019 (1:14 am)

      Wouldn’t we first need to address our military being in Afghanistan “Guarding” the opiates? I mean, don’t put a bandaid on it, stop our country from bringing it here.

  • Sam January 25, 2019 (7:59 pm)

    This is awesome to hear I am very disappointed in how the council has conducted itself over the last four years.  We need new blood and I can’t wait to hear more from this candidate. 

  • CAM January 25, 2019 (11:30 pm)

    I was enthusiastic when I first started reading this and was very interested in hearing more of what Mr. Greene had to say. That changed though when I got to the part about how he believes that ADUs are going to solve the homelessness and housing crisis. Unless your neighbors are willing to charge rents equivalent to section 8 housing to individuals likely to have a history of substance use, criminal activity, or mental health treatment in their own backyard than ADUs or DADUs aren’t going to solve anything. This just reads to me like a person who wants to espouse really liberal and compassionate philosophies but then objects when it comes down to having programs based on those philosophies implemented in their own neighborhood. That is very typical of politics as usual in my opinion. Maybe I’m wrong and I’ll listen to hear more but off the bat I’m not impressed. 

    • Ben January 26, 2019 (10:31 am)

      Try to remember that less than half of the people living on our streets are there because of drug addiction. We obviously have to work to address issues like drug addiction and mental health, but that doesn’t change the fact that the biggest driver of homelessness and housing insecurities is cost of living. We have to do better at creating affordable housing if we want things to get better.

      • CAM January 26, 2019 (12:27 pm)

        My work involves contact with a high percentage of people who are chronically homeless and some who are more temporarily homeless. Making a plan that only addresses the needs of some percentage of 50% of the homeless population is a place to start but more drastic actions are needed to actually deal with the crisis. You can’t only help warm, fuzzy, and sympathetic homeless people. Or I guess you can but that isn’t really a very progressive stance. So again, my general impression remains that Mr. Greene is interested in dealing with the issue but not in a way that would get at all messy or difficult or require sacrifices from those in our city who have so much more than others. 

  • The truth January 26, 2019 (12:02 am)

    As someone heavily involved in multiple small business groups in West Seattle I can appreciate the sentiment expressed about the relationship with small business and the city.  That said, I have never heard of you or seen you at any function advocating for small business.  While just talking to 10 owners of some of the most recognized businesses in West Seattle, nobody knows you or stated that you just popped up a week or two ago.  Concerning to say the least.  Also not sure Inslee’s homelessness panel is something to hang your hat on.  Hopefully there is more background to come that will impress us business owners but lack of displayed leadership in the district isn’t a strong start.

  • Gina January 26, 2019 (10:54 am)

    I am in graduate school with Jesse and was absolutely thrilled to find out he is going to throw his hat in the ring.  Jesse is a thoughtful, intelligent, innovative, business and family man.  He walks his talk and would never espouse to having all the answers.  From what I have learned about Jesse is that he is open to exploring all the facts and then collaboratively making decisions.  That is the evidence of a good leader.  Our city would be fortunate to have Jesse on the City Council.

  • Peter S. January 26, 2019 (12:16 pm)

    Props to CAM for inspiring me to go back and read the whole article, not just the comments :)  Although only one facet of the problem, CAM’s point about ADUs is spot on.   Annual double digit percentage property tax increases are a big  contributor to affordability, which you pay regardless if you have a mortgage or are a renter.  Another factor, is the ridiculous restrictions placed on residential landlords, either through requirements on who they must rent to, or through RRIO, which among other things is starting to require landlords to upgrade to current code standards, even if their units are completely safe and adequate, albeit a bit dated.  I’m all for giving folks a fair chance if they fell on hard times in the past (and I have), and I’m all for getting rid of slumlords and unsafe housing, but the prospect of perhaps having to update an older apartment building’s electrical systems simply because it doesn’t meet current construction standards is downright scary from a cost perspective.  Admittedly anecdotal, but a fellow residential landlord told me that a realtor he works with told him of the 26 deals he completed in 2018, 22 of them were former rentals.  The  owners had sold out because the ROE (Return on Equity) simply wasn’t there for those trying to provide reasonable rental housing at an affordable cost, and due to all the hassles involved with ownership. While I also have some questions about Jesse Greene’s true positions, I’m certainly willing to keep an open mind and at this point appears to be a big step up from current leadership in the way he approaches things.    

  • Mj January 26, 2019 (12:26 pm)

    A good spirated debate is needed amongst the candidates.  Lisa needs to be shown the door.  As a small business owner, taxes and bureaucracy impead many small businesses from succeeding.  Small landlords not being allowed to vet prospective tenants leaves them more vulnerable to a bad tenant that drives up costs and rents.

  • James January 26, 2019 (1:21 pm)

    I think this is great.  I first met Jesse probably years back when he was a small business guy at US Bank in the junction.  What a great guy!!!  He helped me by coaching me through finance even though we were small and really didn’t have a lot back then.  I know he worked with a lot of other businesses in the community through BNI (Business Networking International).  Also how do some of you NOT know what Uncle Woody’s is?  I swear it is sold everywhere in West Seattle other than Safeway.  Bomb. Anyways, he has my vote.  The current council is full of BS.  

  • The truth January 27, 2019 (9:30 pm)

    I find it funny he is holding his event at a business that has already donated it’s maximum amount allowed to another candidate, Phil Tavel.  A friend who works there said the restaurant  didn’t even know this was happening :-). That is too funny!  If you can’t make a reservation right, you can’t run the city! LOL

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