Notes from the NE Mayoral Candidate Forum

If you were unable to attend last week’s mayoral forum here are the notes:

 

 

NE Seattle Mayoral Candidate forum

 

1) A big issue, many questions on this topic, is affordable housing. Senior housing, ADUs, parents wondering children can buy houses in the future. Tell us how you would address this issue.

JENNY DURKAN:

This question is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Seattle is at a crossroads. People can’t afford to live here anymore. Throughout the city, people who have lived here for generations can’t afford to stay in their homes.If I’m elected mayor, I want to raise the amount of the exemption for seniors, the $40,000 rate is too low to be meaningful for seniors on fixed incomes. Raise the exception so people can stay in their home. And work with city attorney to take on predatory lenders.The second thing is to preserve the affordable housing we have. Work to keep rents low and affordable. And be able to go to landlords and say if you keep rents low we’ll keep property taxes low. We have to build build build more affordable housing.

CARY MOON:

We have a right to shape the future. Housing affordability is why I got into this race. Housing is supposed to be local. Our housing market doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to because of outside investment, using housing as a commodity and not a home. We need housing for people as homes, not as a place to park money for Wall Street.The second part of the solution is to build a lot more low-income and affordable housing. We have to look at all surplus public owned land. We need to work with Olympia [for state legislative assistance].We have to work with neighborhoods on how to add affordable housing in our neighborhoods. Not a top down approach but a collaborative approach. Add backyard cottages, mother-in-law unites, look at all the tools, find housing that’s naturally affordable to middle incomes. Build the missing middle.

2) Homelessness. Can you address solutions and how it will be paid for? 

CARY MOON:

We all are heartbroken about homelessness. We are a city that’s generous, but we are pushing people to homelessness faster than we can help them out. Housing affordability is pushing people into homelessness. We have to work with Olympia for more funding for mental health services. We are 50th out of 50 states for providing mental health services. 90 percent of people sleeping outside would come indoors if they had a place that met their need. We need a housing first approach, offer a place to stay, provide services.I propose building more tiny house villages, where people can live in a community with social services and have a roof over their head. Improve our shelters. We need 3,000 more spaces where people can come inside.

JENNY DURKAN:

This is one of the most heartbreaking parts of our growth right now. We are one of the most prosperous cities but we pushing people out on the street. My belief is, we can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution to homelessness. These people have different stories and we need strategies that reflect these stories. The high population of mom’s living in cars have different needs from a heroin addict under the freeway.Our shelter system needs updating, doesn’t fits current circumstances. Illegal encampments are not the way. These encampments are places where no human should be allowed to live. I will site and build 1,000 tiny homes within my first year. Not housing, but better than a tent. And I’ll call on every council district to be part of the solution. And everyone is willing to be part of the solution. If we do these things we can create 2,000 units in a short period of time.

3) SDOT’s plan for 35th Avenue. They made a determination, then announced it to the community. What would you do as mayor to get community input and buy-in from the people who know their neighborhoods?

JENNY DURKAN:

If I had a quarrel with the last two administrations it would be that they were too top down. An idea would be passed down to neighborhoods with little consultation from the community. What I will do is reengage with communities in meaningful ways as to what they want in their communities. We have to reconnect. We will have a vital Department of Neighborhoods.My answer is don’t shut people down, but opens the door further. Our government has become more and more disconnected with the people it serves. As mayor, I will be engaged with getting more solutions from the community. 

CARY MOON:

People are frustrated throughout the city. I think we invented the problem. We had a strong Department of Neighborhoods under Jim Diers. It worked, it was the right model, and now we have no communication between City Hall and neighborhoods. We need to bring the department neighborhoods to the 21st century.We need to go back to neighborhood planning from late ‘90s. Yes, neighborhood councils had their problems, but we shouldn’t have shut them down but found a way to reinvent them, and I will do that as mayor. Bring people to the table, address the challenges, find solutions. You know how your neighborhood works and the city needs to bring resources and listed to the people who know most about where they live.

4) Regarding the opioid crises, which contributes to the homeless problem. What would you do, and where would the funding come from?

 CARY MOON:

This is one of the most heartbreaking problems of our time. Caused by the pharmaceutical industry, in every part of the country we are facing this challenge. We need to look at safe consumption sites, we can’t use a punitive approach, but we can keep people safe and provide access to rehab. I think we agree that this is necessary. I point to needle exchange programs, where they figured how to keep people safe and their so well run you barely know where they are. They would be in more urban areas, near medical facilities, and make sure the sites are safe. The funding will have to come from a collaboration with the county and the state. We all need to work together for a solution.

JENNY DURKAN:

The scope of this problem can’t be overstated. You cannot go into a city park without seeing needles on the sidewalk. It is in every part of our city and we have to deal with this urgently. We need to provide services and treatment.Funding must come from the state, county, and I think federal funding. If there is federal funding I want to make sure Seattle is ready for it.We need a different enforcement response, not to criminalize addicts but to address access of drugs into the city. We need a new enforcement strategy to address the opioid situation.

5) Regarding the Seattle Police Department. It’s undermanned, and the respect for the department is waning in parts of the city. What will you do as mayor to improve the staffing of the police department as well how the police control their own activities?

JENNY DURKAN:

This is one issue I’ve been working on for decades. As a U.S. attorney, I saw video after video of police misconduct, mostly against people of color. Use of force is actually down about 60 percent in Seattle. Based on the consent decree, such force is down.It takes a lot of redoing of police culture. Whoever the mayor is needs to understand how the police work. In addition to reform efforts, we need to hire more police officers. We have to reconnect police with the communities they serve. We’ve made great strides, and changing culture takes time.

CARY MOON:

So this challenge is frustrating for everyone. I think we have to acknowledge that the police department still needs a lot of reform. There’s only one police precinct north of the ship canal, four south. Culture change takes time. I will fully fund and empower the community police commission, fund the offices who do police oversight, and work with the police department on alternatives to use of force, de-escalation approaches, crises intervention. Transformative changes will take time, but we need leadership at all levels be excited about positive change.

6) Traffic. How did you get here tonight? And what is your plan for solving the traffic mess that Seattleites endure each day.

CARY MOON:

I came in a carpool. Yes, traffic is one of the most frustrating things. As an urban planner, as an engineer, I’ve worked on real transformative solutions, where its much easier to take the bus, bike or walk. We know how to do this, but it takes political will. I have deep knowledge with the transportation system and agencies. Seattle needs the political will to work on transit solutions. Invest in sidewalk improvements so transit users get  home safely. We must invest with a system that’s more efficient. Work with Sound Transit, Metro, SDOT, and others.

JENNY DURKAN:

Traffic is terrible and it will get worse. We have huge mega projects coming up, such as the convention center expansion. We have to do little and big things. We need to invest in better signaling, make it easier to get through downtown. We need flow charts to see where construction is. We have more cars than streets. We need to find ways to get people out of single occupancy vehicles. We need to find a way to add more bus service, particularly east-west service.We need to get back to creating park and rides. And I want to work with employers like Amazon to find ways to stagger work hours and let more people work at home.

CARY MOON:

My opponent says we differ on this issue, and we do. I am a transportation planner and I know how things work. I’m not just pulling things out of thin air. I have received many endorsements from transportation planners.

7) Regarding diversity, equal opportunity, and immigrants. What would you propose to do to implement diversity in a greater manner?

JENNY DURKAN:

This is one of the area where Seattle can lead the nation. We as a city have always been willing to take these issues on, and I am willing to take them on. As mayor, I will stand firm to make us a city that protects people. Not just protecting where people are, we need churches and schools and police to protect sensitive places and vulnerable people.We also have to work deeply on issues related to race. It really is like are two different cities, our economic prosperity has not been shared equally. Schools south are not as good, we have a greater opportunity gap depending on where you live. At the end of the day we want every kid in the city to be able to build a new building or own the company that builds it.

CARY MOON:

This is an issue that’s been heard on the campaign trail everywhere. We are in a crisis about racial equity. I think Seattle has given itself a pass because we are all nice and liberal. We used to have the highest rate of African American homeownership in the country, now it’s the fifth worst.I have committed to sharing power across the mayor’s office, boards and commissions. And we have to look at every allocation of resources through a racial justice lens. With race and social justice initiatives, we need to double down on what they do, we need to focus on this. Also, wealth inequality, we need to focus on local ownership of small businesses. And we need to look at the family education levy dollars to close the education gap,  use city resources to give people of color better access to education.

8) Good organizational leadership is crucial to run the mayor’s office. How do you propose to manage the city? And how will you deal with the adversarial situation between mayor’s office and city council?

CARY MOON:

My favorite question, I see this all the time. I’ve already been working on this because of the short time between the election and taking office. I’m working on collaboration and communication now. And as mayor I plan to hire expert staff to deliver services. I’ll bring people in who know what their doing. A big problem is we don’t have a goal. My goal is to layout a vision and build public will toward that vision. Especially in the time of Trump. We need to be for something, we have to be locked together toward a positive future in Seattle. I already have the team assembled.I won’t get stuck in Seattle process and business as usual. I’m not taking corporate contributions so I won’t be influenced by them.

JENNY DURKAN:

I think there’s no issue that’s a bigger contrast between my opponent and I. As for this experience, I’ve had to do it. When I was appointed as U.S. attorney I had to manage the Seattle and Tacoma office and a range of federal agencies I was responsible for. I had to work with all kinds of elected officials in many cities and counties, including former Attorney General Eric Holder. You hire really good people, you set the mission and vision, and you hold people accountable. Our issues are so pressing in Seattle, we can’t afford to have just more plans, need to take action immediately.

9) Regarding Seattle Public Schools. You are aware the Seattle School District is in some disarray now. What would you do to influence the school board?

JENNY DURKAN:

We talk about regional partnerships, but with Seattle Schools it’s the most important one we have. There’s not enough connection. We’re growing, but what are we doing about increasing impact fees for schools? I will work with Seattle Public Schools, because next year the education levy expires and I am committed to renewing that levy. I want to close the opportunity gap, I want strong apprentice programs in the schools, draw on the many companies in Seattle.I have also said that if I am mayor, that every high school graduate will get two free years at community college.

CARY MOON:

I just want to acknowledge Jenny’s career as a corporate attorney, but this has nothing to do with education.The mayor’s office does not have much influence over schools, apart from the family and education levy. We need to focus the funding on closing the opportunity gap. We need to direct resources towards what will work. I’m proud of my endorsement from the Seattle Education Association.I think we need to look at impact fees, we haven’t used impact fees for safe routes to school, parks, new school buildings. Our teachers do heroic work, they deserve fair pay, support and everything we can do to get them fully funded in this state.

10) Regarding the environment. Coal trains coming through the area. What would you do to protect our environment?

CARY MOON:

I’m working on helping Seattle become a more sustainable city. I worked with Mayor Greg Nickles on this issue. I’ve put forward an action agenda as to what I will do. Because most of our emissions come from transportation we need to make public transit a big part of it. Then, our built environment, increase building environmental standards. Look at district energy systems, rooftop solar for public buildings.What we need to understand is that this is not a wealthy white people problem, but understand that people of color are mostly affected by environmental issues, and that communities of color need to take part in the jobs.

JENNY DURKAN:

I sat down with Seattle environmental leaders and asked them what we can do. Seattle is posed to lead. We have some of the best green technology and we need to increase it. We need to be cohesive as a city and activate the mayor’s climate initiative.Look at our own city, we have to lead by example. I have proposed an agenda how we lower auto emissions, electrify the city vehicle fleet, so we have no carbon based vehicles. We have to work with cabs, Uber, Lyft, rideshare programs, to electrify their fleet. And we have to get people out of single occupancy vehicles. More buses, more light rail trains. We have to get out of the way we’re doing it now.

CLOSING REMARKS

CARY MOON:

Thank you for coming. It’s inspiring and energizing to see so many people here. We know Seattle can be the greatest city in the country. We have a creative soul and are progressive. But people of color are falling further behind, we see the housing price crisis. I come to the race with a vision and a set of solutions. We all need to own the commitment of bringing the city together. I know in the time of Trump, the way through it is not through a top-down approach, but a unified vision that we can achieve together.  That’s a city I know we can be.

JENNY DURKAN:

I’d also like to thank you for coming, and the best part of the campaign is being in rooms like this. You’re here because you care. I grew up in Seattle, and this city has changed almost overnight. My son told me, “Mom, things are messed up and I’m not sure things will get better until your generation dies.” And I’m going to be danged if I’m going to let that be true.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.