District 1 City Council candidates offer contrasting views
Westside Seattle reached out to the District 1 candidates for Seattle City Council and those we could reach were asked to prepare one minute answers to four questions and send their responses back on video. The goal was to allow voters to quickly be able to contrast and compare the candidates on important issues. By no means is this set of comparisons a full picture of who the candidates are or an example of how they might perform in the role. They are presented here and in the video below in alphabetical order.
NOTE: At the time this set of questions and answers were solicited and given, candidate Stephen A. Brown had not entered the race.
The issue of homelessness is especially acute in Seattle. In June 2021, the City Council approved a plan to use $49 million of the $128 million from federal COVID-19 relief funds to support the city's homeless population. In fact Seattle tripled its spending on homelessness over the past eight years, yet tents still line our freeways, and the population remains stubbornly high.
What concrete measures will you advocate for and what if any legislation will you work to pass to reduce the number of homeless, remedy the urban blight and demonstrate humanity in the process?
I worked with the VA healthcare system and have worked extensively in the homes programs over the course of my 12 year career as a clinical social worker housing veterans, the VA has cut veteran homelessness by over 50% over the last 10 years. They achieved this not just by funding homeless programs. But by also implementing programmatic standards that are guided by evidence based practices and are clinically appropriate for the population, the VA homeless programs are held to these standards by an outside accrediting agency, ensuring that our work is done efficiently and effectively, and ultimately introducing an element of accountability. This ensures that people do not continue to cycle in and out of homelessness. I currently manage transitional housing programs for homeless veterans. This represents just one piece of the suite of housing options available for our homeless. It's important that we build out transitional housing programs quickly and throughout the region to supplement our efforts at building out permanent supportive housing, reducing veteran homelessness and homelessness in general is a priority of mine on the Council.
Our leadership has known for 10 plus years that Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. But our housing policy has looked like it's from the 1970s. We may have tripled spending on homelessness over the past eight years, but much of that money was used for sweeps, which are consistently proven to be ineffective. In 2022, the city spent $5.8 million on permanent housing, but $15 million on sweeps. Those numbers should at the very least, be reversed. It's observed that we continue these failed policies year after year and continue to criminalize homelessness instead of bringing people inside, which has been most evidenced effective and practical solution, the unsheltered population isn't stubbornly high. Rather, the failings of our Band-Aid policies are stubbornly ineffective. I propose a vacancy tax. We have 30,000 vacant units in this city. With our crisis, we can't afford to allow these units to remain vacant. Unless the funds raised through that tax would directly contribute to permanent housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness.
Jean Ianelli Craciun
As a council member, I will work tirelessly to make government accountable, transparent and efficient. This is what I have done in a 30 year owner of a market research company. What have we done with this homeless problem and how can it be a more humane process? I understand we've spent a billion dollars on this problem and I'm wondering on what exactly, and doing what I supported the five crisis centers. And I would continue to grow the mental health workforce, including support for the mental health technology transfer center network and all their training. I think we need to calculate mandatory wage increases for workers and contracts offered through the Seattle Human Services Department for the homeless service providers. The people on the ground that are solving the homeless should not be a step away from homelessness themselves, and I support the frontline DCR's designated crisis responders. Who know first hand and lived experiences of those currently on the streets of Seattle.
The homelessness crisis in our city has devolved into a homelessness catastrophe of epic humanitarian proportions. People are demanding better accountability for outcomes. As a former foster kid, I know what it's like to feel uprooted and swept away. I also know we must do better for our unhoused neighbors. That's why I plan to strengthen clean up and removal of unauthorized encampments that connect people with services and shelter. We also need to expand and invest in our mental health resources and capacity. 3rd I plan to increase the supply of affordable housing at all levels, particularly for low and middle income folks. And finally, we need to partner with local, state and federal governments to figure out the best funding solutions for all this. We need to not only address the root causes, but also the symptoms.
Look, Seattle has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to tackle our homelessness crisis, and it just keeps getting worse. What that tells me is that there are two things. That we seriously need to do right away, and this is where I'm going to start. One, we need to put into place clear metrics. What that means is if you're a homeless service provider you are going to state what you intend to accomplish, when, and how much money it will take, and if you're not getting people off the street into housing if you're not getting people tied to wrap around services to deal with mental health issues and substance abuse issues then that's going to be an issue and that's going to lead to the second part, which is accountability and what that means is for those providers that are failing to accomplish their goals based on the metrics we're going to set, you stop getting money from the city. We are only going to put money into programs that prove they can work. We've been throwing money down this pit for long enough. And we have to stop it if we want to truly help people, we need to put money where it works.
Crime rates are up with 5,784 property crimes per 100,000 people and violent crimes sharply higher at 736 per 100,000 in 2022. Yet there’s something more, and it’s obvious to even the casual observer. People driving wildly, more brazen break ins and disregard for others. Beyond measures to improve police recruiting, and retention what can you do as a City Council person to advocate for and change the atmosphere of anarchy and lawlessness across the city?
For the second question, it is important that we adequately staff our Police Department. Having an adequately staffed Police Department ensures that the officers on the beat are able to do their job safely and effectively. I also believe that we need to invest more in crisis responders who can, if this seems safe to do so, respond to those in crises and triage that person's needs. I don't view policing and the deployment of social service providers and crisis responders as an either/or equation, but rather a both/and solution. It is also critically important that we build out and staff substances disorder, treatment centers that are able to provide clinical stability to many who have turned to crime to fund their substance use or may be causing disorder and criminal activity due to them being under the influence of illicit substances.
To improve safey In our city, first and foremost, we must drive a better bargain with Spog to provide alternative response models. The SPOG (Seattle Police Officers Guild) contract shouldn't be a barrier for allowing police to respond to dangerous, violent situations, while a third public safety department handles calls where traditional police officers aren't needed. Additionally, we have to address root causes of criminal behavior. We have $30,000 hiring bonuses for new officers, yet we're netting 30 new officers per year and we want 500. We simply can't put public safety on hold while we continue. On recruit work on recruiting police, we need alternative solutions to address root causes. Now, data backed prevention strategies like Community Court with 80% of people who enter who don't reoffend, and familial counseling programs should be fully funded because they actually reduce recidivism. Unlike the traditional carceral system.
Jean Ianelli Craciun
As a sociologist with a focus in criminology, I would ask that we accurately look at some of these crime statistics. I know that we're feeling unsafe. I had my bike stolen last weekend and I do see road rage, but these also are reactions to having lived through a pandemic. And we feel honest fear. Statistically speaking, overall crime decreased in the fourth quarter of 2022. Chief Diaz reported that so far in 2023, we are still in a downward trajectory. Something that is of concern is a report today. It's May 30th before the judge on the consent decree adds information that Seattle police killings rose under the federal oversight before 20/12/12. People had been shot by police between 2013. In 2019, 21 people were killed. This is something we need to understand.
As an appointed member on the mayor's police chief search committee, I've fought hard to make sure we have safer streets. Everyone has a right to feel safe in their own neighborhoods and communities, and we need better response times for more police. To get there, we're going to have to hire more police. We can also fully empower our police and our first responders to effectively carry out their public safety mandate and enforce existing laws on the books. We also need to invest in non armed responses to police for certain crisis and behavioral health situations, crisis responses that are led by mental and behavioral health specialists rather than someone showing up with the badge and a gun. Through this multi layered approach we can make sure that Seattle is truly a safe, welcoming and thriving community for all.
I think we're all getting pretty frustrated and pretty fed up with the rise in property crimes and violent crimes, and especially the rise in gun violence around Seattle is utterly unacceptable. One of the things we need to do is we need to change the narrative. The narrative right now is that we don't have enough police. They don't make arrests, they don't investigate it, and that to criminals, it says you can get away with this. So go out and be brazen. Well, we need to change that. That's going to start with the Seattle City Council standing with the mayor, with the police, with the city attorney and on a frequent basis, we need to highlight the successes when the Police Department does the right things and we either stop crime or solve crime. We need to show that's happening because right now it sounds like everybody can be lawless and nothing happens. So we need to deal with the staffing issue because we need to get police walking beats in neighborhoods and being a visible presence. That's a deterrent, but the thing that's going to do the most right now is a unified front among the leadership in this city, saying no more and we're not going to take it.
Visitors spent $7.4 billion in the city and county in 2022 (up 37.8% from 2021) and paid $689.1 million in state and local taxes in 2021, an increase of 34.4% from the previous year. Nearly 24 million people visited Seattle and King County in 2022. San Francisco more than doubled its spending on tourism last year. Yet Seattle, San Francisco and Portland all face a decaying downtown. What would you advocate for regarding tourism spending and the revitalization of downtown Seattle?
For the third question, part of District one includes Pioneer Square, part of downtown. It is important that we make the streets of downtown more accessible to pedestrian traffic and more appealing. We can achieve this by enhancing the cleaning crews and Park Rangers that are already deployed downtown. Further, we can ensure that public drug use and retail theft and property destruction are addressed with the right policies. There are options between prosecution, particularly for those that have the mental capacity to understand what they're doing is a crime. And for those that lack mental capacity, Community Court with wrap around. But most importantly, we will not normalize what has become of certain areas in the city where you find places. plastered with graffiti and where businesses are now surrounded by fences with razor wire and windows with iron bars.
Revitalizing our downtown goes back to fixing homelessness. We have to be spending every dollar we can on bringing people inside Iimmediately. A decaying downtown is one that feels dirty, has crime happening, and has human feces on the sidewalk. We have to get back to the basics and stop putting the cart before the horse. We can aggressively increase emergency permanent housing with micro housing, apartments and sanitation statement stations for safe lots. This will immediately help our businesses. I am also proposing ways, for example, partnering with Seattle. Colleges to attract the industries that will define the next decade, specifically those that will help us respond to the climate crisis as well as rapid advancements in artificial intelligence. I will be a strong advocate for sustainable tourism and local culture and arts, all things that make our beautiful city unique.
Jean Ianelli Craciun
People love to come to Seattle and it is a multi billion dollar industry and we cannot disappoint. I did a project through the Diversity Center of Seattle, WA with Visit Seattle and I know that they are hard at work to make our tourists happy and I would say that the Metropolitan Improvement District, (MID) this is the right way to go right now. I will be meeting with Pioneer Square businesses to talk about how District 1 now includes Pioneer Square. The MID goes clearly to the stadiums, so we are already starting to work together on how to explain, demonstrate, show our city off. We have to stay up later and so in order to do that, we will need to work together on cleaning up our entire downtown corridor into Pioneer Square. We want to show off our multicultural communities, and so we're going to try and bring people into some of our beautiful neighborhoods.
Seattle has a vibrant arts and cultural scene. But sadly, downtown is known more recently for fentanyl overdoses than it's thriving retail and shopping corridors. We must revitalize downtown. To do that, we must make sure people actually feel safe to come downtown. That's why I plan to hire more police and empower them to effectively carry out their public safety mandate. We also must end the open air drug market in downtown. I also need to fund and implement the mayor's downtown activation plan. 4th and finally p lan to incentivize small businesses to open up the many vacant storefronts that we have downtown. Through these measures, we can ensure that downtown is a truly safe, clean, and welcoming place for all.
Obviously tourism and the revenue that comes from that is vital to our success as a city and as a. region in order to be inviting to tourists to generate more revenue, we have to be safe and clean and welcoming. And those are things we absolutely need to work on. Now in the wake of the last few years in COVID and all the things that have happened, we have lost a lot of our iconic businesses, but you know what? Times change and so we need to provide funds from the city and support from the city to allow the businesses to get back on their feet that we haven't lost to maybe try to lure some of those people back who had to close their doors and stop their businesses to give them an opportunity to come back and be part of a regrowth and a revitalization. But if we don't fully fund our Police Department, and if we don't work on homeless services to help people in crisis, we're not going to be the safe, healthy, clean, inviting city we want to be. So I believe it is important to spend money on those things that generate more money so that we can build the programs we want.
A 2020 audit of Seattle's 77 bridges revealed that many of them are in fair or poor condition. According to SDOT’s Capital Projects and Roadway Structures 2018 Annual Report, the total replacement value for all bridges over 60 years old serviced by Roadway Structures is $3.4 billion. What approach would you pursue to solve this problem and fund these infrastructure repairs?
The 4th question is on the aging infrastructure throughout the city and I'm glad that you asked this question. We have neglected our aging infrastructure for far too long and I intend to prioritize the replacement. Or the rehabilitation of our infrastructure, especially our agent bridges. We are pushing. The limits of safety for a lot of our projects and I think it's irresponsible to have some bridges in the city that run the risk of failing. Soon and West Seattle residents know all too well how structural failures impact local communities and the economy. I'll ensure that these projects are funded with the levy to Move Seattle.
To solve our bridge and road infrastructure problems, we will have to revise the Move Seattle levy. The original nine year Levy passed in 2015 will take care of 350 bridge spot repairs and the seismic improvements for one bridge. But we will need to continue these improvements. Our city is still mostly. Dependent on bridges and streets for mobility. And it is. Critical that we coordinate with our regional partners to continue this necessary repair. Their work, ideally the move Seattle levy, will be placed on the wealthiest 1% and used in tandem with other progressive revenue streams that have been stood up by the city and specifically targeted towards improving roads and bridges. There hasn't been a significant push to raise progressive revenue for transportation infrastructure in many years. And we need to do that promptly.
Jean Ianelli Craciun
In April 2023, the Biden Harris administration announced nearly $300,000,000 for a nine bridge project. It comes on the top of billions of dollars in other bridges and Highway funding already flowing to every US state and territory that is helping communities rebuild, repair and replace tens of thousands of bridges across the nation and restoring connections that are vital to commuters, emergency responders, truck drivers, public transit riders and more. We are in on the public transportation section of this. We received $368,000,000 to improve our transit, clean public transit and school buses. But we have to get in on the Federal Bridge project. West Seattle Bridge is a crisis. We must have a way to get to work, we do not want to be an island off the shores of Seattle and we want to keep our communities engaged in public transportation. I wish all of you a joyful Juneteenth happy pride. I would love your vote.
I'm passionate about these issues, but I'm also passionate about the potholes and our infrastructure situation. That's why I want to focus on the basics of what I think a well functioning city government can and should be doing for folks. We must employ a multifaceted approach to solve our infrastructure challenges. First we need to create a prioritized list of projects that need repairs based on need. To do that, we'll want to collaborate closely with transportation agencies and community stakeholders. The work product of which should be a comprehensive plan to figure out which one of these projects we're going to attack first. Now with respect to funding, we obviously will want to prioritize maintenance and repairs with their own city budget. That doesn't mean we shouldn't also seek strong federal and state grants as well to supplement our own funds. Third and finally, we should explore innovative financing mechanisms like public private partnerships as well.
As those of us in District 1 are keenly aware Seattle is not doing a particularly good job maintaining and keeping up its bridges. We've got billions of dollars worth of bridge infrastructure in this city, and we spend less than $20 million a year on upkeep and maintenance. Now it is an expensive thing and sometimes we don't want to spend that money ahead of time, but we have to spend the money in a preventative way so that we know which bridges are aging, which bridges may have a problem, and which bridges need money. Now, luckily, the US Department of Transportation has set aside three separate funds that total $460 million that we can tap into to help maintain our bridges. So we need to prioritize it properly. We need to work on a proper budget within SDOT on maintenance and being able to catch these problems before they become even bigger. But we can tap into the federal money to help us maintain these bridges and get them back up to where they should be.