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.
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.