While nearly everyone in Seattle feels the effects of the rapidly increasing cost of living, no one feels the pinch quite like working families. The lack of affordable housing pushes families further away from economic centers causing longer commutes and less time with family. The cost of childcare is like renting a 2nd home, and the availability of quality childcare facilities is woefully inadequate. Parents find themselves working longer and longer hours to provide for their kids, but have less and less disposable income at the end of the day. As a father of 3, I know first-hand that raising a family is a full time job. Every parent wants to provide the best for their children and many often make difficult sacrifices to do so. I am committed to building a city government that does whatever is possible to give you more time with your family and make it just a little easier give your kids everything they need. Here are some of my ideas to support the families of Seattle:
- Provide incentives to companies to offer on-site childcare for their employees
- Prioritize and expedite the construction of new childcare facilities in the permitting process
- Offer tax incentives and subsidies to companies that provide more opportunities for telecommuting
- Offer free portable cribs and educational materials on infant sleep safety to Seattle’s parents
- Partner with bike share companies to offer free service to minors with offsets from operating permit fees
- Develop and expand city subsidized after-school and summer activities programs
- Partner with local grocers to offer free delivery to working parents
- Partner with WSDOT & surrounding municipal/county governments to offer permits to working parents to use HOV and toll lanes at lower or no cost
As the home of most of Seattle’s industrial areas, district 2 has unique transportation and infrastructure challenges. It is of the utmost importance that our planning reflects the need in our district to accommodate the movement of freight alongside commuters as our city grows. What might be ideal for Wallingford or Freemont isn’t necessarily the best option for SODO or Georgetown. As your city councilman, I will be sensitive to the individual needs of Seattle’s diverse neighborhoods and make sure that our transportation and infrastructure planning serves all Seattle’s residents, not just those that have the resources to lobby for their interests. Here are some of my transportation/infrastructure priorities for district 2:
- Find ways to create bike boulevards and walking paths separate from main arteries to increase safety an open up space for large trucks and buses.
- Work with the Port of Seattle to use currently underutilized space to provide more parking options for the many large trucks that travel through our district and open up more street parking for patrons of local businesses.
- Increase access to public transportation in South Seattle and site density around transit hubs.
- Lobby the State Legislature to end the practice of taking funds from the Public Works Trust Fund which is an essential source of funds for local transportation and infrastructure projects.
- Fight for more equity in funding of infrastructure repairs and ensure that the crumbling sidewalks of South Seattle are tended to and accessible to people of all abilities.
- Ensure that Seattle is utilizing the latest in “smart-city” technology to time lights in such a way that traffic is reduced and commute times are lowered.
- Increase Practical Mass Transit Options – Currently Seattle’s new Transit projects have run or are projected to run over budget and have not solved transportation issues. The costs need to be audited to ensure fiscal accountability. The routing needs to be examined so as not to negatively affect businesses or make traffic worse. Practical mass transit options need to be explored and implemented.
- Seek Out New Revenue Sources – Citizens are tired of paying up to $500 per vehicle in car tabs, while many ride the light rail for free. Other revenue sources, such as advertising on city transportation, have been under-utilized. At the same time we should not be seeking new tolls on our roads.
- Moratorium on all Bike Lane Projects – This is to allow time for an audit to be performed on construction spending so there can be full transparency of expenses. The routing of the lanes needs to be evaluated, with community input and discussion, to ensure full transparency and to reduce the impact on parking and local businesses.
- Find New Solutions to Old Problems – Commission a study to find practical common sense solutions to ease congestion with community input as a major component.
- Remove Burdensome Restrictions on Ride Share Companies – By allowing innovative transportation options to operate in the free market we can ease congestion while allowing for affordable transportation options for all.
Seattle has seen unprecedented growth in recent years and that growth has brought major challenges in making sure that Seattlites of all economic standing can afford a decent place to live. The average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in our city is $2,789; this means that your children’s teachers, police officers, firefighters, and nurses are just some of the professions that are being priced out of our city. The average salary for an EMT in Seattle would require an individual to spend 85% of income on housing at the current average rate for a 2-bedroom unit! We need to promote economic diversity in our communities and ensure that Seattle is not just a city for the wealthy few. As your representative on the city council, I will fight to ensure that Seattle is a city for all of us. Here are some of the things I will do to help ease the burden of housing costs on Seattle families:
- Protect long-standing residents and small businesses of our neighborhoods by grandfathering them into lower property tax rates when up-zoning causes an increase in local property values.
- Expand on the mandatory housing affordability passed by the council by working with developers to further incentivize the construction of mixed income communities.
- Use the city’s borrowing capacity to borrow against future in-lieu fees and impact fees to construct city owned units now that can be sold for a profit to the city later.
- Offer incentives to open up the many luxury apartments that sit empty to lower income renters or implement penalties for letting units sit empty to keep rates high.
- Act now to further ease regulatory restrictions on accessory dwelling units (mother-in law apartments) if the unit will be offered at rates deemed affordable for a full time minimum wage worker.
- Re-evaluate Permit Process and Zone – Look to expedite backlogged permit applications so construction can begin. The majority of Seattle is zoned single family, prohibiting the construction of apartment buildings and mixed use buildings. Zoning and code regulations need to be re-evaluated, in consultation with community groups and neighborhood residents, so more homes and apartments can be built and the city can grow. With increased supply, competitive pricing will lower rents and home ownership costs. Rather than displacing existing neighborhoods, the zoning changes should be examined near transportation hubs, undeveloped commercial areas and major arterial roadways so as not to displace existing residents and communities.
- Roll Back Unnecessary Taxes – Levies and other taxes target landlords and are rolled over onto tenants, causing rental rates to rise. If we reduce our spending on unneeded projects we can cut the taxes used to support them.
- Increase Housing Options – By increasing the available housing options and looking for practical solutions to our city’s problems, without merely adding another tax to increase the cost of living, we can make housing more affordable in Seattle. Let’s give incentives to developers and property owners with tax credits for providing increased affordable housing solutions.
According to this year’s One Night Count, there are over 12,000 people living on the streets of Seattle. Tents and broken RVs fill our streets and sidewalks, all while shelter beds are available. Meanwhile, organizations like SHARE and WHEEL operate low-barrier tiny home villages, where drugs are allowed and crime runs rampant. Every time a sweep is done by the Navigation Team, they find children in the squalor, sometimes even victims of child trafficking. They also find weapons and dangerous animals.
Estimates are that between 55% and 85% of the total population of these encampments and RVs arrived to the city already homeless.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s homeless are not able to get the services they need. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, homelessness has cost the Seattle area over one billion dollars per year which equals over $100,000 for every homeless man, woman, and child in Seattle.
So what can we do?
- Cutting of Funds from Ineffective Organizations – Audit every homeless assistance group. Those that do not meet the basic qualifications for successfully provided services must have their funding eliminated immediately.
- Support Effective Organizations – Non-profits such as Mary’s Place, The Millionaire’s Club, and Union Gospel Mission, with a proven track record, need to be supported, celebrated and publicized to the community as a whole.
- Declare Homelessness a Public Health Disaster – Follow the lead of the King County Health doctors who are demanding all un-sheltered people be immediately triaged and sheltered in FEMA-style shelters. A warm bed and immediate medical attention are necessary as the weather changes. End the low barrier encampments and increase transitional housing to get people out of homelessness. Anyone requesting city services must be background checked and verified before receiving those services so the city is not enabling repeat offenders like they are today.
- Reduce cost of rent and home ownership – by increasing the supply through tax breaks and re-zoning (see links for more about fixing Zoning Laws and Tax Policy).
- Differentiate – between those looking to get help and those who have no interest in helping themselves. (See more about addressing the Opioid Crisis here and Safety here.)
- Reallocate funding towards mental health treatment and care. Work with the State and County to provide excellent mental health care and treatment by bringing our mental health facilities and hospitals up to code and create a safe environment for staff and patients.
Homelessness is an issue that impacts so many. The above options are just that: options. What we truly need is to perform an actual, statistically accurate, homeless head count to find out who is homeless, why are they homeless, where they are from, what services are required, and what practical and customized solutions can be implemented. Only then can we truly take meaningful steps forward.
As a father of three, nothing is more important to me than the safety of my family. The role of police and other first responders is to keep our communities safe; so it is only logical that as society changes, so must our approach to public safety. We need to provide our emergency services professionals with the latest tools and strategies to better do their job. I am a firm believer that if we want the best out of our law enforcement officers, then we need to put our money where our mouth is and provide them with every resource available to keep themselves and those they serve safe. First responders put themselves in harm’s way for our benefit and they deserve substantially higher salaries than the current average, but we must also maintain the highest expectation of equity and de-escalation from law enforcement. Here are some of the things I will do to improve public safety in our city:
- Fight for more funding for our police department and higher salaries for our first responders so that we can attract and maintain the highest caliber of personnel.
- Work to diversify our police department so that it better represents the city we live in.
- Embrace innovative technologies like smart sensors and augmented reality glasses for police, and drones for firefighters that can sense dangerous gasses and scout burning buildings.
- Pair first responders with academic researchers and tech industry leaders to develop evidence based response strategies that maximize positive outcomes.
- Hire more social workers to operate in the field and take pressure off police so that they can focus on serious crimes.
- Allow police officers to enforce the law and end the city’s pattern of ignoring and encouraging destructive behavior.
Enforce Existing Laws – Once the laws are enforced, people who came to Seattle to break the law will eventually leave to find an easier target. Even “basic” laws need to be enforced including: parking, vagrancy, and panhandling. Substance abusers will be given the option of treatment or jail. Anyone requesting city services must be background-checked and verified before receiving those services so the city is not enabling repeat offenders like they are currently.
- Reject the failed Safe Injection Sites Approach
Our city has given tacit consent to illegal drug dealers and users. Dealers operate on the streets in broad daylight, taking advantage of our most vulnerable. Needles and other drug paraphernalia are found in the parks where our children play. There is no enforcement, not because of our police, but because of the enabling of these crimes and activities by our current City Council.
So what do we do?
- Reallocate Funding Set Aside for SCS (code for safe injection sites) Towards Treatment On Demand – Safe consumption sites are the highest liability and least scaled concept for Seattle’s opioid/meth crisis. Given Seattle’s degraded public safety and urban disorder, enabling more consumption at the expense of providing widely accessible treatment on demand is not sustainable at this juncture. Seattle does not have the policing or criminal justice grounding in place to safely support SCS. We need to properly staff outreach and MAT access at low-barrier clinics and ERs.
- Help Those Who Need and Want It – Provide additional funding for support and treatment facilities and community-based service centers for those with substance abuse problems as well as the mentally ill. Any repeat criminal offenders will be incarcerated as defined by law.
I have heard the frustration from my neighbors with a city hall that seems to operate from behind tinted windows; and I say enough is enough. I intend to help usher in an era of good governance for the city of Seattle. Transparency, inclusion, and attention to my constituents will be the hallmarks of my office if you choose me to be your representative on the city council. Join me today in creating a city government that we can trust; a city government which holds at its core an unwavering integrity and responsibility to the people of Seattle. Here are a few of the things I intend to address in order to create a more responsive and transparent city government:
- I will hold regular town hall meetings in the various neighborhoods of my district to make it easier for you to access what is happening in your city hall and to comment on policy decisions before the council.
- I will work to ensure that we have performance audits of all city programs that will be made available to the public so that you know you are getting the most out of your tax dollars.
- When we give city funds to private non-profits, I will make sure that money only goes to organizations that meet the highest expectations of transparency and make detailed explanations of how funds are spent and results from that spending available to the public.
- I will work to institute sunset clauses into city programs, tax breaks, tax & fee increases, and other policies so that we are continually reviewing the effectiveness of our programs and allowing them to sunset if no longer delivering the desired results.
- I will work to ensure there is always an adequate public comment period for new city policies and that the information and ability to comment is easier to access for the residents of Seattle.
Most people agree that education is one of if not the most important factors in creating upward mobility and a healthy diverse community. Yet, despite all our talk of equity in Seattle, we see dramatically different realities for one school versus another in our city. A recent episode of ‘Problem Areas with Wyatt Cenac’ on HBO gave national attention to the fact that while Roosevelt High’s PTA has $3.5 million in its coffers, the Rainier Beach High PTA has $2,000. This is the kind of difference that allows wealthier schools to weather budget cuts and economic downturns by supplementing their schools base funding. This simply isn’t an option for schools in poorer neighborhoods.
We as a city absolutely must do more to address this problem. When you elect me to the city council I will fight for equity in how our schools are funded and work to expand educational opportunities to under-served communities that will lead to higher-paying careers. Here are a few of the things I will work on for our students:
- Offer tax incentives to companies in wealthier neighborhoods in exchange for paying into a fund to assist schools in poorer neighborhoods.
- Work with the Seattle School Board to develop a plan where the city can offer additional resources to the school district in exchange for taking PTA funds into account when making decisions on where funds are to be allocated.
- Use city resources to create offices in under-served communities that will provide information and resources to help residents take advantage of higher education, apprenticeship, and training programs made available by higher ed bill recently passed in state legislature.
- Expand after-school programs and programs for at-risk youth.
- Bring our labor and business communities together to expand apprenticeship and training opportunities.
The cost of living in Seattle is rising, and while part of that can be attributed to living in a growing city, a significant portion of that is the increasing tax burden being placed on our residents and businesses. We need to learn to live within our means, find creative solutions to problems, and support non-profit organizations without merely looking for excuses to tax.
So what can we do?
- Stop Pushing Business Out of Seattle – By levying taxes on businesses (like the failed Head Tax) and individuals (like the Soda Tax) we are merely pushing businesses and individuals to spend their money elsewhere. We need to stop taxing to punish business and allow our businesses to succeed so they can employ those who truly need the work.
- Increase Support for Non-Profit Organizations – Make it easier for non-profits to do their jobs, and make sure government money is only being spent on those that are truly effective and careful with tax money.
- Seek Out Innovative Solutions – Seattle is a place of huge innovation, and we should be running our city the same way. By tapping into local businesses, small and large, we can learn more about what works for them and what may work for some of our city’s problems. Creative solutions should be considered.