By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
8 of the 15 candidates for Seattle mayor participated today in the campaign season’s first forum presented by a West Seattle-based organization.
The 34th District Democrats‘ forum happened online four days before our area’s biggest political organization meets Wednesday to decide who it’s endorsing in this and other key local races.
The 34th DDs’ chair Carla Rogers hosted; moderators were Rachel Glass and Chris Porter; timer was Ann Martin. Rogers said all 15 candidates were invited; 9 accepted, 8 showed up – Colleen Echohawk, Jessyn Farrell, Lorena González, Bruce Harrell, Andrew Grant Houston, Lance Randall, Don Rivers, and Casey Sixkiller. (If you’re just catching up, there’s no incumbent in the race – Jenny Durkan decided one term was enough.)
The questions and answers did not at any point get deeply West Seattle-specific. There were a few mentions of the closed bridge – Harrell scored local points there by briefly noting that the issue of accountability for its damage has yet to be settled – and González noted that she was the only West Seattleite there; Sixkiller said he had recently visited the West Seattle Farmers’ Market and local businesses. Answers to most of the questions by most of the candidates leaned more heavily on self-descriptive information – their background, their family status and/or history – than on concrete policy plans, with a few notable exceptions.
If you’re interested in the race, we highly recommend watching the video. If you don’t have the time, below are our notes – brief paraphrases or select quotes from each answer, following a transcription of each question as posted in the on-screen chat window by Rogers. First, each candidate got up to a minute and a half for an opening statement:
They opened with 90-second opening statements and then were given 1 minute for each answer. The highlights below are in the exact order of questions, answers, and statements as they happened during the forum. Quotation marks denote an exact quote; otherwise, it’s our paraphrasing/summary. One more note – each name below is linked to the candidate’s website:
JESSYN FARRELL: “I am running because we need a problem-solver in office.” She noted West Seattle’s “infrastructure issues,” specifically the bridge and Sound Transit light rail. “We need to stop infighting and start building bridges.”
LORENA GONZALEZ: She noted she’s lived in the 34th District (which includes areas outside Seattle city limits such as White Center, Vashon, and Burien) since 2006. “I am running for mayor to be the progressive choice in this race.” For West Seattle-specific issues, she also mentioned the bridge and road safety.
LANCE RANDALL: He said he’s running because “we have to get new leadership in place to bring forth new solutions.” He said he has a “comprehensive platform” to “be the change that Seattle needs at this moment.”
CASEY SIXKILLER: He touted a history with West Seattle going back to childhood, learning to play flag football at WS Stadium. He said he’s running “because I want every family to see a future in Seattle.” He said “divisions” are keeping the city from finding solutions, and touted that he’s “never been an elected official” (deputy mayor, a position he recently held, is an appointed role).
COLLEEN ECHOHAWK: “I love this city, I love the people here, I love the bridges here” … but she is “frustrated.” Dealing with the city as a services provider, she said the homelessness crisis had been treated “like pulling the fire alarm but we didn’t send the fire trucks.”
BRUCE HARRELL: He said the city is “starved for decisive leadership.” He touted specific achievements in which he said he’d been involved with, including the $15 minimum wage and “ban the box.” He said he has a “clear” and “measurable” plan but promised to “talk with communities first.”
ANDREW GRANT HOUSTON: He said he’s running because it’s time for “true structural change,” particularly in these two areas: Investing in infrastructure, and addressing “systems that are not in place.” He says he can “make the city be what we always say we are.”
Rivers joined the forum late so missed a few questions but was given time for his opening statement upon arrival.
DON RIVERS: “I will be a mayor to lead from the three L’s – listening, learning, and leading.” He said Seattle can’t “take welfare and think it’s going to help us fare well.” He said he could save $50 million of the $100 million spent on homelessness.
On to the questions.
QUESTION #1: “Seattle, and King County more broadly, is lucky to be in and around a beautiful natural environment. How have you, and how will you, work to protect the environment as our city continues to grow? Will you commit to promoting aggressive climate justice policy if elected? If so, what specific actions will you take to demonstrate that commitment?”
Farrell: She said the city is failing to make progress on the climate crisis. She would appoint a chief climate officer at deputy mayor level. She would change housing policy with “ST3 for Housing,” which she said would result in 70,000 affordable units around the city.
González: She promised to focus on environmental justice. “There are many policies we can change,” such as “building affordable, dense, green housing throughout the city,” bringing unions along, implementing the Green New Deal.
Randall: He noted having made a key hire in this area while working in economic development for the city. He would continue the Duwamish Valley Action Plan, for one, and update stormwater management.
Sixkiller: “The climate crisis is here” and he said he’s been “on the front lines of environmental justice my whole life.” Expanding transit would be important and “transitioning the entire transportation infrastructure to a green infrastructure.”
Echohawk: She noted that the city has had “all kinds of incredible policy” dating back to 2008 but is “not even close to meeting the goal” because of a lack of “courage.” She promised an Office of Indigenous Affairs as part of reaching environmental justice solutions.
Harrell: The city has been an environmental leader, he contended. “Yes, we can do more .. but we should be proud” of what’s been done so far. What can be done better, he said, includes solar, jobs, education on environmental values, and air quality.
Houston: He said he’s running now because this is the time to cut emissions. He agreed that “we have really good policy but not the steps of how to get there.”
QUESTION #2: “The closing of the West Seattle Bridge, the construction along Delridge, and the idea of lane reduction on West Marginal Way have highlighted the importance of accessible, multimodal transportation for many in our district. Variety in choice promotes equity, enhances public health, reduces environmental impacts, and improves quality of life for all. How will you advocate for equity and access in our city’s transportation infrastructure?”
González: “Making sure we are focused on how these projects negatively impact BIPOC communities. …. We have to acknowledge that we want infrastructure projects” but have to ensure they’re not creating “disproportionately negative impacts.”
Randall: He said “we need to prioritize the communities that need improvements the most.” He would review the Levy to Move Seattle and reprioritize what’s being done with the funding. He also promised a “benefit vs. cost analysis” regarding neighborhoods.
Sixkiller: He said he’s been “working my entire career” on funding for multimodal transportation.
Echohawk: She promised a “people-first transportation system.” She cited being asked to support the downtown streetcar and talking to people in the area to determine whether to support it.
Harrell: He said a problem with the West Seattle Bridge is that “we don’t know what happened. … (so far) nobody’s lost their job.” So he promised to “open up our data” to see “the chokepoints in the city” and “why we’re making the decisions.”
Houston: He noted he has never learned to drive. He has proposed a “multimodal transportation plan” prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle safety and promises to build double the sidewalks the city’s under orders to build.
Farrell: She said transportation equity is important not just for delivering services but also for avoiding displacement, and she said the latter goes for “West Seattle light rail.”
QUESTION #3: “Democrats and the business community have a complicated relationship. We’ve recognized significant wealth gaps that have left people of color and women worse off. If elected, how do you plan to use your position to improve work conditions for people of color and women in the workplace, and promote entrepreneurship, to close the wealth gap? ”
Randall: He mentioned making zoning policies “more inclusive” and opening commercial ownership via “commercial condominiums.” He would expand Seattle Promise to 4-year colleges and specialty vocational schools as well as 2-year colleges.
Sixkiller: He says he’s promised the largest Guaranteed Basic Income program in the nation, which he says would help 16,000 families. $500 a month “in supplemental income for working families.”
Echohawk: People of color experience homelessness at much higher rates and this is “not new.” “We know that housing is part of the solution.” That’s needed before even offering supplemental income.
Harrell: He says solving the gap goes all the way back to early childhood. He says his “Jobs Center” proposal is key.
Houston: He is proposing “progressive taxation.” The wealth gap, he says, are the fault of racist policies like redlining, so he wants to eliminate single-family zoning citywide.
Farrell: She notes that there’s a huge valuation gap between white-owned small businesses and BIPOC-owned small businesses. The grants offered during the pandemic were too small. Direct financial support, access to capital, “trusted messengers” to communicate availability are important.
González: She also promised “progressive taxation” and creating “union jobs.”
QUESTION #4: “The regional homeless system self-reports its performance using five metrics, four of which apply to permanent supportive housing. Of the 133 facilities tracked by the regional homeless system — 12 (9%) meet the system-wide performance targets, another 10 (17% total) meet the minimum standards. Also notable, are the 13 programs who only meet 1 of the four minimum standards and the 2 programs that meet none of the minimum standards. Is this what we should expect from our regional homeless system? How would you work within the regional network to improve system performance and outcomes for our homeless population?”
Sixkiller: He notes “we’ve been trying to solve homelessness for two decades. … We’re not investing enough in the things that work,” such as permanent supportive housing, 3,000 units of which he says he has a proposal to fund.
Echohawk: She said experience is vital in working on this, which she has. But she said the lengthy question included some inaccurate data.
Harrell: “This regional approach didn’t magically appear.” He promised “we will open all the data up” to reassure people that their money “is spent wisely.”
Houston: He says there needs to be more focus on keeping people from becoming homeless in the first place. It’s a regional crisis because the city “has said ‘yes’ to more jobs and ‘no, no, no’ to more housing.” He has proposed 2,500 more “tiny homes.”
Farrell: She says there’s “actually a lot of consensus on what needs to be done” so the problem is “about implementation.”
González: It’s too soon to judge whether the regional approach “is a failure or a success.” She’s on its governing committee so can keep the work going without “skip(ping) a beat.” She originally voted against establishing the regional authority, she said, because the original plan did not have enough “teeth” to hold suburban communities accountable too.
Randall: Solidifying relationships with other cities is important. “Reduc(ing) the burden” on individual cities is important too – Seattle is shouldering most of it currently.
QUESTION #5: “By the end of April, more than 200 officers had quit the city’s police force since the events of last summer. Recent reports show that number has increased to nearly 300 officers, bringing the number of deployable officers to under 1,000. Seattle Police Chief, Adrian Diaz, has said that the ideal number of officers to patrol the city is about 1,400. It’s been said by many that greater numbers of police does not lower crime; but how does having significantly fewer police officers affect crime and general public safety when there is no substantial, comprehensive alternative in place?”
Echohawk: She says it’s indeed frustrating when you need a police officer and one doesn’t show up. She says more police need to live in the city and more in-neighborhood recruiting is important. She promises that if she wins, there will be a police response when there’s a violent crime.
Harrell: He starts by wondering rhetorically “what’s a bad officer?” He says he talks a lot about “culture change.” He agrees recruiting is important, a different skill set is needed for policing now. “We’re going to look everywhere a police officer goes to see if a badge and a gun are really necessary.”
Houston: He addresses the second half of the question and says there’s no alternative in place because the mayor hasn’t allowed alternatives to be funded.
Rivers: SPD is “no better than its leaders.” Law enforcement is “about criminal justice, not social justice.” So he’ll have a separate department for the latter.
Farrell: City leadership needs to “articulate a clear vision” of what public safety means. She advocates funding things that work – mentioning as an example a regional domestic-violence program – and divesting from things that don’t.
González: “We are in the process of developing many alternatives to a law-enforcement-first approach.” She mentions the Health One expansion and $12 million violence-prevention funding “going out the door in August.” While crime is on the rise in cities including Seattle, according to a report, she said the problem is that incidents in which police kill someone mostly “start with a 911 call.”
Randall: “The system has to function properly” – the system that police, fire, and more are part of. He promises that he will keep the system fully funded and supported. But he also promises to work with the community on “alternatives.”
Sixkiller: He says increasing response times “is not a way to (be safe)” and says he agrees that shifting away “from an armed police response” is important but full staffing is too – “we can’t have SPD running around with 300 less cops.”
QUESTION #6: “Which examples of systemic and institutional racism do you feel have the most significant impact on communities of color? How would you address those issues if elected to office?”
Harrell: He cites his “Race and Data Initiative.” He promises it will look at the “continuum” starting in childhood.
Houston: Despite being taught “work hard and you’ll be successful,” systems such as housing don’t work that way. He mentions a tax plan to focus on green apprenticeships, equitable development, B&O tax relief, green and social housing.
Rivers: He cites homelessness, hate crimes, racial profiling, and promises to work on cultural competency.
Farrell: “An unjust allocation of money and power in our community” is at the root of the problem. Particularly, she says, housing. “New pathways to home ownership” need to be promoted.
González: She says there’s no “one issue” that’s most impactful. But “categorical lack of prioritization and investment in BIPOC communities” is one overarching problem. She says participatory budgeting is one way to address that.
Randall: He lists disparity in lending, in educational and political institutions (voting rights), and the justice system, and says the city can address them all in a variety of ways.
Sixkiller: He says the income gap would be helped by his Basic Income program. Expanding child care would too. And he cites neighborhood investment.
Echohawk: BIPOC communities experience problems including infant and maternal mortality; we have to “look at data and respond to it,” but she won’t rely on a “Race and Social Justice toolkit that is too often used as a hoop to jump through.”
QUESTION #7: “Over the last year, our city’s businesses, especially restaurants, have had change a lot about how they do business. Shelters have been constructed on sidewalks, businesses are becoming increasingly responsible for how we mask, and physical distancing with lower capacity limits has become standard practice. As Mayor, what aspects of this”new normal” would you look to continue? What is your vision for a post-pandemic Seattle?”
Houston: He cites inspiration from other cities like a car-free space. He also says most don’t know Seattle is part of the C40 alliance.
Rivers: He says “working effectively with small businesses” needs to continue.
Farrell: “A renewed commitment to connection” – “vastly increasing our Stay Healthy Streets network” to connect people to businesses and parks. She also vows to be “getting out in front of” the way that staging of infrastructure projects affects businesses.
González: “Café Streets have been phenomenal” so she cosponsored legislation to extend the free permits. She also voices support for Stay Healthy Streets and allowing more home-based businesses.
Randall: Outside seating should continue and be expanded. “Human-less” delivery systems too. Increasing local marketing of neighborhood business districts, not just downtown. Prepare protocol in case something like this happens again.
Sixkiller: He says he visited the West Seattle Farmers’ Market and local businesses recently. He mentions supporting businesses by evangelizing buying local and by preventing encampments from getting in the way of businesses’ reopening.
Echohawk: “This is a generational opportunity.” She also mentions Stay Healthy Streets and preparedness – readiness for natural disasters too.
Harrell: E-commerce’s effects on local businesses is here to stay and needs to be “aggressively” addressed with policies. He also mentions loosening regulations with things such as allowing more outdoor seating; “recycling more government dollars into communities” also matters.
QUESTION #8: “In the Seattle area, there are currently only half the available child care slots necessary to accomodate the population of children younger than five years. Expanding public preschool to cover this gap in service would take years, if not decades. Would you consider public-private partnerships to bring child care provision up to meet demand? How would you carry out this work as Mayor?”
Rivers: Both in-person learning and online learning are important. “Every entity possible” needs to open up to help ensure children aren’t left behind. Faith partnership is important.
Farrell: She advocates a free universal 0-5 child-care system and proposes a $600 stipend per child as well as portable benefits for child-care workers. Seattle needs to be “a leader in child care.”
González: “Child care is infrastructure” and it’s “too expensive.” The preschool program is only focused on 3- to 4-year-olds and that needs to change.
Randall: He would provide subsidies to accomplish a public-private partnership, including subsidizing child-care workers’ wages. and subsidizing property owners who allow child-care facilities in their buildings.
Sixkiller: He would “align existing programs,” including county and state as well as cities. He also would cap costs and increase subsidies, and incentivize employers offering child-care benefits.
Echohawk: She wants to see funding for community-based programs, and make culturally appropriate/relevant programming more widely available. More vouchers need to be provided to more families. Seattle Promise needs to be better sold to young people as a pathway to good jobs.
Harrell: He notes that the pandemic hit women harder with job loss. “We’ll get as creative as possible to establish these partnerships for day-care facilities” that are “affordable for all families.”
Houston: He would look at the entire system and would invest more in the Equitable Development Initiative. Public-private partnerships are great but focusing on housing matters a lot.
CLOSING STATEMENTS – our one-line takeaways:
Farrell: She repeated that it’s a time for “less in-fighting and more bridge building … a time to turn words into action.”
González: “I have been a steadfast progressive champion for things I am really proud of … and I want to build on that record.”
Randall: “I am a problem-solver and I get straight to the point … with new solutions.”
Sixkiller: “I want every family to have a future here … the greatest thing about the future is our opportunity to shape it.”
Echohawk: “I believe the city is ready for transformational change … solving (the homelessness) crisis will be my top priority as mayor.”
Harrell: “You’re going to see a whole new conversation” on major issues if he’s elected.
Houston: “We are out of time. We have talked about (problems) for so long … if we want to be the city we always say we are … it’s not time for another career politician or lawyer.”
Rivers: “Time out for … recycling elected officials that haven’t been effective. …. I clean problems up.”
WHAT’S NEXT: 34th DD members make their endorsement decisions Wednesday, online, at 6:30 pm (after a special Juneteenth program at 6 pm) – more info here. Meantime, many other organizations have forums still to come; we are co-sponsoring one with the West Seattle Junction Association at noon July 10th, in person with a limited audience, streamed too – watch for more details later this month.
P.S. The primary election, narrowing the field to two, is August 3rd. Voting will start about three weeks before then, when King County Elections mails the ballots.