VIDEO: City Council Candidate Chat, with Maren Costa

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

So far three candidates have formally announced campaigns for the Seattle City Council District 1 seat, which Lisa Herbold is leaving after two terms, one of four district-elected councilmembers not running for re-election. We’re sitting down with all announced D-1 candidates for early “get to know you” video-recorded conversations that we’re publishing on Sunday nights. We began with Rob Saka last weekend and continue tonight with Maren Costa.

We sat down with Costa, a former Amazon and Microsoft employee who’s lived in West Seattle for 20 years, this morning at her home north of The Junction. Here’s our unedited half-hour conversation:

If you don’t want to, or don’t have the time to, watch/listen, here’s our summary:

We have been starting these conversations by asking why the candidate wants this job. Costa’s reply included her backstory – she says she’s “always ben fueled by the desire to create positive change.” She got into tech in the early 2000s, discovering the “user experience” field. When she joined Amazon, the company was much smaller than it is now, and she “felt like I was doing good things … helping tech remember its conscience.” She says she was Amazon’s first “principal designer.” Her main interests came into sharper focus after she became a parent – she focused on two big things she saw shaping the future, artificial intelligence and the climate crisis. The latter took precedence as she came to realize that AI “wouldn’t matter much if we didn’t have a planet.”

On her career path, she said, she was someone who “could make big ideas happen.” She felt her employer was “doing a bad job on climate,” so she pitched ideas. Eventually she realized she either “needed to walk away from Amazon or make change … I didn’t want to walk away.”

That’s what led her into Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. She says 8,600 employees signed on with it, and 3,000 participated in a youth-led worldwide walkout. She “spoke on the steps of City Hall.” She recounts the group’s achievements as including “being widely credited with bringing about the Climate Pledge.”

Then, she says, Amazon warehouse workers asked the Climate Justice group for help. That, Costa says, led to her firing. She says the company wasn’t happy about the tech workers helping the warehouse workers. According to national-media reports, Amazon was found to have illegally fired Costa and another woman, and settled the matter out of court.

Her then-tween-age son asked her if she had any regrets, Costa recalls, and she said no – “I’m doing this for you.” And that’s what brings her to why she is running for City Council; she declares, “I know how to fight and how to win … I learned a ton … and would love to take what I’ve learned in all my experiences” and bring that to city government. She insists she can build coalitions and “create monumental change.”

Some critics of the current council are skeptical of “activists,” we observe. She shrugs at the label. “The choices I made were, for me, about doing the right thing. I didn’t see another way to do it … we all need to do what we can do. There’s so much work that needs to be done … My vision for Seattle is to lead the way into a new green economy, attract industries and companies that want to be good neighbors, jobs that can build our middle class.” She says those interests she mentioned earlier, artificial intelligence and the climate crisis, will lead to the creation of millions of jobs. She would like to see Seattle create “feeder schools” to prepare people for those jobs – and, bringing District 1 into it, South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) could be one of those schools.

Costa gives a nod to other big issues facing the city – homelessness, crime, housing – and vows to address them in “ways that build resiliency.” She sees that also applying to creating and sustaining “walkable, livable” neighborhoods. She spoke of “initiatives” to address city challenges. We ask for specifics, and she acknowledges she needs to “learn a lot more about” what those could be, but promises to seek out and listen to people – from everyday constituents to “experts” – as she shapes those plans and proposals. She describes herself as a “perpetual learner,” and says that to prepare for the possibility of joining the council, she is “reading everything I can read” and meeting with a variety of people.

Bringing it back to District 1, she says a “big dose of big thinking” is needed – she feels the area is overdue for a “major investment.” (No, the money spent fixing the West Seattle Bridge doesn’t count, though she says she’s glad it was repaired.) She mentions SSC again. Maybe “greening” the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. Or building, say, a spraypark at Alki. Or a driving range at the West Seattle Golf Course (it’s been 12 years since a proposal for one was scrapped). Or an “indoor sports center.”

She enthuses about Seattle as a city where you can “think big.” That reminds us of Mayor Bruce Harrell‘s State of the City speech last Tuesday, so we asked Costa if she watched it. She read it, she replies. Any points that resonated with her? “We’re starting to talk about climate in regular discourse.”

So we conclude our conversation by asking what it’s like to talk with people who aren’t ready to do that; she acknowledges it can be frustrating. But she remains optimistic of progress: “Seattle is perfectly positioned to lead the world – pro-planet, pro-human, pro-business.”

We’ll talk with Costa again; our second round of candidate chats will get into more specifics as the primary campaign ramps up. Next, we’re hoping to bring you an introductory chat with Preston Anderson, and then whoever else jumps in; it’s still early, and the lineup for the August 1st primary won’t be final until after the official “filing week” in mid-May.

39 Replies to "VIDEO: City Council Candidate Chat, with Maren Costa"

  • Adam February 27, 2023 (1:36 am)

    When asked for specifics, she had none. Speaks volumes. Sounds like she’ll make a great politician, just not the kind I want leading us. I feel like when they’ve come this far, they need to come with tangible, feasible ideas.  It sounds to me as if she wants to be on the council, just doesn’t know what she’ll do when she gets there. I guess being there is her real goal? Maybe there’s more substance to her campaign, I’m just not seeing it yet. 

    • Flivver February 27, 2023 (11:23 am)

      Adam. Name all the local politicians that when elected did EXACTLY what they promised before being elected. I’ve tried but couldn’t come up with any names.

  • James February 27, 2023 (5:54 am)

    Bringing it back to District 1, she says a “big dose of big thinking” is needed – she feels the area is overdue for a “major investment.” (No, the money spent fixing the West Seattle Bridge doesn’t count, though she says she’s glad it was repaired.) She mentions SSC again. Maybe “greening” the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. Or building, say, a spraypark at Alki. Or a driving range at the West Seattle Golf Course (it’s been 12 years since a proposal for one was scrapped). Or an “indoor sports center.”

    This answer from Ms. Costa is disappointing. As someone who was looking forward to her campaign, I had hoped her answers would have been better practiced by involving conversations with local communities and organizations. These ideas read as shortsighted, at best. “I will work with, or seek to create, community-centered solutions for public health. I will champion policies that send mental health professionals instead of police in response to mental health crisis calls.” This example is the kind of big picture thinking I’m looking for in someone who talks about equity and intersectionality. Adding a “driving range” to a golf course is, to put it bluntly, Baby Boomer b.s.

    • WSB February 27, 2023 (9:37 am)

      The driving-range mention is actually in relation to a teenager, not a boomer. I don’t transcribe the entire interviews, but we include the full recording, and if you watch it, you’ll hear that the driving-range idea was inspired by Costa’s teenage son, who she said travels to a golf course outside West Seattle to use its driving range. – TR

      • James February 27, 2023 (11:52 am)

        Thank you for clarifying. Now I’m even less hopeful for Ms. Costa as a candidate.

  • LivesInWS February 27, 2023 (6:57 am)

    “She spoke of “initiatives” to address city challenges. We ask for specifics, and she acknowledges she needs to ‘learn a lot more about’ what those could be”So, no specific plans. (eyeroll)

    If you don’t have at least some specifics of what you want to do in a job, you’re probably not the right candidate.

  • Johnny Stulic February 27, 2023 (8:23 am)

    At best, a big yawn. A lot of this is nothing but pipe dreams about some glorious future, akin to Nero’s instrument playing while the Rome burns. What Seattle needs is a city council of people grounded in reality, with concrete solutions for problems that have turned the city we all love and enjoy into a glimpse of the 1970’s New York desolation.
    We all want green economy based on renewable energy where people walk all over the place, but here’s a newsflash: one city in one country will not change the world, no matter how much money we throw at it, and in the meantime we have rampant crime, shootings, and semi-legalized lawlessness we have to deal with. In normal times, al lot us would be behind these nice sounding slogans, but here in the 2023 Seattle, people’s priorities are finding money to replace their stolen catalytic converter for the third time in a year while all effort is spent to make sure those who stole it have their freedoms protected to come back and steal it for the fourth time.

  • anonyme February 27, 2023 (9:45 am)

    So, she’s “reading some books”.  Great; more pie-in-the-sky.  I actually wouldn’t mind a climate-change activist if that were actually true.  ‘Resonating’ with having climate discussed in “regular discourse” is not activism; it’s the same tired pretense we’ve heard for decades with COP & Paris.   All talk, no action.  There is nothing of substance here. 

  • Milo February 27, 2023 (9:47 am)

    Seems like she is another activist. No plan just enthusiasm. We need someone who is down to earth, moderate politically, and has specific projects and tactics to solve the issues listed by others above. 

    • EJ West Seattle March 9, 2023 (2:21 pm)

      Not just an activist, but one who has made her wealth at Amazon. (Not that I fault her for creating wealth for herself.) Her type is all too common in Seattle. That is, middle/upper-class ideologues who will never suffer the consequences of her tax and spend policies.

  • Jeff February 27, 2023 (9:53 am)

    A big no thanks on this one.  I don’t want a “pro business” candidate. I want a candidate who puts people before profit.

    • WW Resident February 27, 2023 (11:25 am)

      You tell em Jeff!!! Screw that nice immigrant family who owned the Lucky 7, who was finally ran out because of all the crime and getting robbed at gunpoint one too many times!! Screw them!!! People over profit!!! 

      • Jeff February 27, 2023 (12:19 pm)

        You concern trolling one incident and making it completely different than what I said, congrats to you!!! I do believe compassionate and free housing is much more important than yelling about petty property crime (lower than most cities of this size). 

        • wscommuter February 28, 2023 (11:38 am)

          There is no such thing as “free housing”.  Someone pays for it.  Unless you’re uninformed enough to think that a unicorn will create free housing at the end of the rainbow …  I also enjoy the false narrative that only people who think like you do are compassionate.  It takes tax revenue to pay for your “free housing” … tax revenue requires, you know, tax payers.  Such as business owners whom you seem to hold in contempt as “yelling about petty property crime”.  It isn’t petty if it happens to you.  It isn’t petty if it prevents your business from surviving.  Your glib dismissal of this part of the problem pretty much tell the whole story of why you don’t know what you’re talking about or how much weight should be given to your opinions

  • StuckInWestSeattle February 27, 2023 (10:23 am)

    If her biggest interest is a driving range at the golf course then she already is a huge no. I would rather see the golf course shut down and converted to a park with strict no camping rules for the vagrants. She could speak about making west seattle safer, running the RVs out of our neighborhoods, crime etc but she pretty much said nothing. I dont think she will go far. I am not sure what a spray park in Alki would be but i am pretty certain we dont need that.  When a candidate comes out that says they will change the zoning and parking to make it impossible for the RVs to stick around then they will get my vote. I actually would not mind if West Seattle separated from the rest of Seattle into our own municipality so we could actually deal with the issues we face today without being undermined by the Seattle council and other politicians. 

  • Seattlite February 27, 2023 (11:29 am)

    A big NO THANKS.  All city council candidates should be required to write a statement and verbalize it on how they will resolve Seattle’s numerous problems:  1.  State the problems; 2. State specific resolutions; 3. State a timeline to expect improvements on each stated problem; 4. State that the candidates job is to WORK for Seattle’s voters.  

    • anonyme February 27, 2023 (11:57 am)

      Seattleite, you got it right.  These candidates count on being so vague that they can’t be held accountable for anything. That has to end. I want to hear a plan, and merely claiming “big picture thinking” is not it. 

  • Flivver February 27, 2023 (11:30 am)

    Jeff. So, we’ll be better off with an “anti-business” candidate?? Elaborate.

    • Jeff February 27, 2023 (12:21 pm)

      Yes. Businesses’ bottom line is always profit. I don’t think businesses should be ignored but they should not be the forefront of any candidate. We need housing and we need the big corporations like Amazon and Starbucks taxed at the top and not the workers’ and their personal property at the bottom to pay for the housing. Defund unneeded design reviews and pay police lower salaries. Pay city workers who make 250k closer to 180-200k instead. Lots of creative ways to get housing cheaper and fix a crisis in this city.

      • Flivver February 27, 2023 (2:31 pm)

        Jeff. Yes. EVERYBODY-corporate, individual should pay their fair share of taxes. Full agreement there. Cutting police salaries to solve housing problem??? Doubt many people will get behind the defund idea as a way to solve anything. But, it would increase criminals activity. Who benefits from that??

      • Johnny Stulic February 27, 2023 (7:52 pm)

        Oh, noes, not the profit! We have to immediately put a stop to it and tax Amazon and Starbucks as much as we want because we definitely live in a country where they are unable to simply pack up and leave like Boeing did.
        Next on my calendar: put myself down for that sweet sweet free housing that will surely trickle down from this workers’ paradise where the workers’ salaries have been… cut? No, that can’t be right?

  • Darryll February 27, 2023 (11:54 am)

    Nope. Nothing but vague good intentions with no data driven policy conversation. We need solutions that work to address crime, homelessness, and infrastructure. I heard nothing that wasn’t more of the same no-consequences magical thinking that’s been ruining Seattle for the past 10 years. 

  • Del February 27, 2023 (12:17 pm)

    An activist brings to mind someone who’s all hype and hot air but without real action that would solve anything substantial. My fear is she will be all talk at getting anything done and then assigning her name on other peoples work so she gets credit.Verifying Maren Costa’s patents she’a listed as a contributor on 17; all 17 were a collaborative effort with a team of people however  none were directly hers.

  • Scarlett February 27, 2023 (1:01 pm)

    A lot of people take potshots from the peanut gallery.  I wonder how many of these people would have the courage to put their own diehard convictions on the line, even if mean being socially osctracized or being professionally penalized.  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  

    • Flivver February 27, 2023 (2:20 pm)

      Scarlett. So, are you going to run for office?

      • Scarlett February 27, 2023 (3:25 pm)

        Wow, so unexpectedly original! 

    • Skeptic February 27, 2023 (2:39 pm)

      Well Scarlett, when a grownup runs for public office they usually give opinions or answer questions about issues of concern for the office they seek.  If their constituents don’t like these opinions or answers then they usually discuss them in a public forum like the WSB so all the grownups can decide if we should vote for this person or not.  No one is ostracizing or penalizing Ms. Costa.  This is just how elections work.

      • Scarlett February 27, 2023 (3:44 pm)

        I’m making a tangential,  but important, observation.  I think we all know politicians will be discussed on this thread like any other topic.  If we could transplant this “fearlessness” on an anonymous thread to the public arena, we’d have a better society and better politicians.   

    • Barton February 27, 2023 (2:51 pm)

      This person voluntarily threw her hat in the ring to run for political office to represent District 1 and to have her goals and priorities evaluated by the people she proposes to represent.  Just because someone points out that Ms. Costa’s proposals lacks substance , or disagrees with her actual proposals does not constitute a pot shot.   You are likewise free to voice your support of Ms. Costa’s proposals.  

      • Scarlett February 28, 2023 (1:49 pm)

        At least she has the guts to go public with her opinions.  I know too many internet “warriors” who turn into meek creatures  in public.  A country of people living double lives. 

        • Skeptic March 1, 2023 (12:59 am)

          What??!?  Ms. Costa wants to be elected.  She has to share her opinions with voters.  That is not “guts” or courage.  I spoke to your 3rd period civics teacher Mr. Sanders. He said all of this was covered in chapter 2.  He also said you probably should not post any more comments until you bring your grade up.

          • Scarlett March 1, 2023 (6:59 am)

            Methinks thou doth protest too much. 

  • Eric1 February 27, 2023 (2:21 pm)

    LOL.  I don’t know why people in West Seattle even think that someone who is actually qualified to run a city would apply for a $150K/year job.  If you had that kind of experience and those kinds of skills, why would you settle for a thankless job that pays less yearly than you could probably make monthly?  Given the pathetic job qualifications of living in the district and having a pulse, you are almost guaranteed to attract mostly unqualified people or those with an agenda (usually both).  You would have to pay a lot more than $150K/year for competent people to take the abuse that comes with the job: Think about how many stupid people you would have to interact with on a daily basis that you would have to be cordial to. 

    • Barton February 27, 2023 (2:52 pm)

      Such an excellent point.  

  • bradley February 27, 2023 (5:56 pm)

    Super glad to hear Jeff’s not running for Council.    Where were all those people when Amazon was losing bajillions of dollars, yet if they went bankrupt,  how would it affect our economy.

  • RJ February 27, 2023 (6:11 pm)

    Let’s give her a chance. It’s still early in the campaign. Maybe she’ll learn from some of the reaction and valid comments here. We’re her community- let’s at least not be quick to bash.

  • Seek_Peace February 28, 2023 (8:14 am)

    To date 5 Candidates are running for District One, Seattle City council.  LaFayette, Anderseon, Costa, Saka, Tavel.  – Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.  A formal announcement, with out the Legal Paperwork, will not place a name on the ballot.   5 Candidates have done the formal paperwork with the City, three have had the formal dance party, or what ever “Formal” means.

    • WSB February 28, 2023 (2:10 pm)

      Perhaps I should clarify: We are doing early reporting on candidacies of people who have announced AND are registered with the SEEC and PDC. I check those sites every day. No, we’re not just going to publish a press release sent by somebody who hasn’t registered. But we learned our lesson in past years regarding early registration of people who don’t actually campaign for the office. (For example, we had a forum in 2015 so early that four people participated, only two of whom wound up on the ballot, and even the eventual winner hadn’t announced by the forum date.) As we note, the official filing week is not until May. If anyone who has registered but not announced by then still goes ahead with the process to actually get on the ballot, then we’ll consider them an active candidate – everyone who is actually on the ballot after filing week will be invited to our forum and in our pre-primary interviews. -TR

  • EJ West Seattle March 9, 2023 (2:32 pm)

    On her Facebook profile, she proclaims: “Trying to save the world”

    “Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”– Thomas Sowell

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