On The Issues

HOMELESSNESS

Homelessness in Seattle has reached crisis proportions. There are many wonderful programs and examples of community outreach that are doing great things to help, however there is still a shortfall. What is required is a more comprehensive look at the problem, and solutions that move in a definitive direction to give the homeless a path toward life success, not just another hand out.

There are upwards of 5000 individuals in the Seattle area that have no permanent housing. The reasons for this are varied; drug addiction, mental illness, and unemployment are high on the list. The obstacles in the path of such people are profound. I propose is a system of rehabilitation and empowerment to provide a toehold on the climb toward success.

 

Replace the Jungle

If you live in Seattle, you know what “The Jungle” is. There are approximately 200 to 250 tents at any given time. The lawlessness, sanitation, and general sprawl of the place is an obvious detriment to the residents of The Jungle as well as the citizens of Seattle. No one questions that it’s bad, only what to replace it with. There are four sanctioned tent cities existing under loosely organized conditions around the city. I propose taking the existing model of “camps” to the next level and creating a more organized and connected program.

 

  • Contact will be made with leaders within the homeless community. Their voices will be heard and they will be empowered in the process of making decisions. There is much talk about the homeless, and yet very little talk with them.

 

  • The process of rehabilitation and integrating with society starts with stability. One can hardly hope to find a job if he or she is living in a tent, moving from spot to spot under the freeway. I suggest supplementing the tents with “tiny houses” in agreed upon areas. These new camps will have garbage and sanitation service as well as showering and kitchen facilities. Drugs, alcohol, and firearms will be strictly forbidden in these camps. They will also be family and pet friendly. In addition to the basic amenities, the camp will be assigned social workers to facilitate with job searching, drug counselling, and finding permanent housing.

 

  • Drug and alcohol addiction is one of the largest hurdles to overcome. The heroin epidemic is a real and terrifying thing. Rehab facilities will be made available to everyone, free of charge. Residents of the camp must be drug and alcohol free.

 

  • Job training and placement assistance is key to success here. Partnering with local groups like Farestart and other businesses will create a path forward. The object is to create a network of businesses and volunteers, to provide life skills that empower individuals to escape homelessness and the desperation that goes with it.

 

  • Permanent housing is the next step on the path forward and out of the camp. Even though there is a shortage of low income housing in Seattle and rents are at an all-time high, there are still options. As Mayor, I will strive to make more housing available. The current inventory will be continuously monitored and listed at the camps, along with job opportunities

 

This may not solve all of our problems concerning homelessness in Seattle, but it provides an option for those who want to get off the streets and make a better life for themselves. Not everyone will be willing or capable to take this path. For those who can’t because of mental or physical limitations, we shall not let them fall through the cracks. Those who do not wish to participate will not be forced. However, camping under overpasses and on unsanctioned city properties will end.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING, HALA, and RE-ZONING

Housing is sure to be at the forefront of our topics this election cycle. Many of you have asked me what I intend to do about the lack of affordable housing in Seattle. I think it prudent to begin with what is currently happening. Mayor Murray has created the HALA program, that stands for Housing and Affordability Living Agenda. It is a very ambitious and multi-faceted approach at creating new and affordable housing in the Seattle area. You can learn more about HALA here. http://www.seattle.gov/hala/faq

 

It is important for myself, or any Mayoral candidate to address the subject of HALA and MHA (Mandatory Housing Affordability) because the process has already begun. I am not a supporter of HALA or the MHA as it currently exists. I believe the damage that it will cause to Seattle neighborhoods will be irreversible. If Mayor Murray is reelected, this may be very difficult to stop.

 

The principal idea in play is called the “Grand Bargain”, in which many Seattle neighborhoods would be rezoned to allow higher buildings to be built by developers. In exchange for this, the developers of these new buildings need to provide a certain amount of “affordable” housing. The determining factor in pricing housing is based on about 30% of whatever the area median income is, which for Seattle would be 80k. That works out to be about $2,000 per month rent, which is on par with what many 1 bedroom apartments are priced at in Seattle. Under HALA and MHA new buildings would have to offer about 7 to 10 percent of their units at 60 to 80 percent of the AMI or pay a fee to be excluded. At 60% of the AMI, monthly rent would be about $1200. To put it in perspective, if you make $15 per hour and work full time you make about $28,800 per year. 30% of this (housing allocation) is $8,640 or $720 a month. So, affordability is relative.

 

To summarize my stance on HALA and MHA I say it does nothing to help make housing affordable and only paves the way for developers to displace entire communities. The packaging is rather eloquent, but at its core, it is destructive and insidious. Who is HALA helping? It’s certainly not the people of Seattle.

 

My Recommendations

The root problem of affordable housing is wage disparity. While the annual median income may be $80,000, the majority are earning well under this number. Inventory is also of paramount concern, as Seattle’s population is growing at unprecedented levels, driving the costs up by simple supply and demand.

 

I would begin by addressing wage disparity. There is a plethora of well-paying jobs in Seattle and the number is growing every year. Many of these jobs are in the tech industry with companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. These jobs are drawing thousands of new people to the region every year, contributing to our growth. Rather than investing in developers to make more room for new workers, I say let’s invest in our work force to make them applicable to these new jobs!

 

I would support programs that educate and train local workers in basic coding and other related skills to entry level tech positions. Rather than incentivize developers, I would partner with tech companies to create the work force they need from the existing population, rather than importing them from out of state or country. Seattle is a welcoming city and I would never discourage anyone from seeking their fortunes here, but I would love to give a hand up to our local worker as well.

 

Development may be an inevitability, but it is not something we need to rush into with a wrecking ball. If a program like HALA or MHA is to exist, the housing created must be truly affordable. If the city is to subsidize new housing or allow it by rezoning, it should be entirely affordable, not just a fraction of it. Seattle can have growth without displacing its lifelong residents. Neighborhoods and culture matter. Our history matters. The beauty and livability of Seattle matters and I will defend that.

 

DRUG and ALCOHOL REFORM

Drug and alcohol addiction is a topic that touches me on a very personal level. I lost my little brother to a heroin overdose last year. In February, my mother passed; her liver failed after a lifetime of alcohol and opiate abuse. I know the struggle that families face when the ones they love are held under the powerful sway of addiction. I know the helplessness that families feel when their loved ones turn their back on every offer of help. At my brother’s service, I said, “If one good thing can come of this, let others hear your story so that maybe their lives can be changed.” I’m here to keep that promise.

 

High levels of drug offenses are clogging up our justice system. The amount of money to incarcerate an individual for a year in Washington is around $46,000, not to mention the costs of the court system to process them. It’s little wonder that our police force in Seattle has turned a blind eye to the junkies huddled in doorways or the crack addicts hanging out by the bus tunnel downtown. Arresting them is viewed as a waste of time and resources toward an end that does no one any good.

 

Meanwhile, local businesses suffer break ins, cars prowled by the hundreds, and muggings and purse-snatchings go unsolved or even investigated by the police. Are drug addicts responsible for all petty crime? Of course not, but they certainly are heavy contributors. This problem has been ignored for far too long. Seattle needs to act and it must act soon. My blueprint would require some bold steps forward.

 

Drug laws must be enforced. The policy of turning a blind eye will end. Instead of prosecution, I suggest specialized drug rehabilitation programs tailored to the unique needs common to habitual drug offenders. The objective is not to round up or arrest all the drug users; but rather to engage them and get them help. Pathological offenders will still be arrested but given the option to commute any jail time with the completion of a drug rehabilitation program. With the deployment of specialized police units in areas of high drug use, this kind of system can be eased in. Incarcerating drug users is cost prohibitive and ultimately futile.

 

Drug rehabilitation needs to be available to everyone, free of charge if necessary. This may be a bitter pill for taxpayers to swallow but it is essential in reaching everyone. Many addicts don’t have enough money for their next fix, let alone rehab. Current programs must be expanded and new ones created. I believe creating mandatory, secure facilities is an option that should be explored. Addiction should not be treated as a crime, nor can it be ignored and left untreated. Funding will come from diverting and assimilating current programs before levying new taxes. This will not be an overnight solution, but a process on the path forward.

A SPECIALIZED POLICE FORCE

Living and Working in the Downtown Seattle area most of my life, I’ve worked closely with the police, the fire department, and many other city employees. I have the greatest respect for those who serve our city and feel that they do an outstanding job. I would like to devote more resources to our police force in general. Specifically, I would like to create a specialized unit focused on areas that often fall through the cracks, but have wide spread consequences and pose real threats to the public.

 

The creation of this unit, in addition to the reformation of city wide drug and alcohol protocols, will go a long way toward the reduction of so-called petty crimes such as car prowling, mugging, breaking and entry, and purse snatching. It will also bring the level of open drug use, public inebriation, and aggressive panhandling to an absolute minimum. This will be funded by diverting budget resources from parking enforcement.

 

These officers will be embedded in neighborhoods in addition to existing patrols, and will function in all the same ways as standard police units. They will, however, have a distinct focus and set of responsibilities. In addition to standard police training, specialized sensitivity training will be required to facilitate the extensive public interaction they will have. General duties will include the following:

 

  • Act as neighborhood ambassadors, working with the public and with business owners to solve everyday issues. They will be assigned in semi-permanent sectors where they can cultivate relationships and understandings unique to the neighborhood.

 

  • They will enforce new drug and alcohol regulations focused on rehabilitating rather than incarcerating. Eliminating drug problems will reduce other low level crimes.

 

  • They will be knowledgeable in all public services and help direct civilians to shelters, soup kitchens, drug rehab info, etc.

 

  • These units will also be responsible for enforcing parking violations. This will be low on their priority list, and no “ticket quotas” will exist.

 

PARKING ENFORCEMENT

The city behaves as if it is at war with car owners. It’s no secret that Seattle leans heavily on the revenue derived from its aggressive collection of parking violations and delinquency fees. City officials offer a multitude of reasons why parking enforcement is so critical. I could go point by point debunking them, but let’s cut to the chase: it’s about money. I consider it an unfair and parasitic way to generate income that often affects those who can least afford to pay. I suggest a radical change to the procedure to maximize city resources and fairly enforce parking laws. Specifically:

 

  • A 90 percent reduction in parking enforcement officers and reclassification of job duties. In short, Parking Enforcement Officers will only respond to civilian complaints, SPD requests, and abandoned vehicles.

 

  • All meter rates will remain the same, as will the penalty fees, with the exception that fees will not rise exponentially for failure to pay on time.

 

  • Special parking permits will be available for residents and employees of highly regulated areas that allow 8 hour periods of parking. Meter rates still apply.

 

  • The budget reduction in parking enforcement will be redirected to SPD to form a new comprehensive unit. This unit will focus primarily on downtown and densely populated neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Belltown, Lower Queen Anne, and Pioneer Square. This department will be responsible for parking enforcement; however, it will be low on their list of priorities.

 

SMALL BUSINESS

Big business is alive and well in Seattle! Just look across the downtown landscape and count the cranes – the city is growing, and fast. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have all brought jobs and money to the Seattle area. However, all great things come with a price. You may have noticed skyrocketing rents, unreal traffic, and the population is booming.

 

In the shadow of this success, I hear the voices of small business owners who feel left behind, unwanted, and unfairly treated. Recent changes to the minimum wage have been a great step forward to the worker, but less than advantageous to the employer. Personally, I agree with the $15 minimum wage; wage disparity in this city and the general cost of living have made such an increase necessary. Unfortunately, this has placed the burden square upon the shoulders of the small business owner who is seeing slim profit margins get even smaller. Many businesses have shuttered entirely while others never get off the ground. Over regulation and excessive taxes and fees are among the most common complaints. The city would appear to be decidedly anti small business.

 

I propose a package to help stimulate small business and preserve the balance of taxation. I would reduce the red tape involved in developing businesses in Seattle. I have heard countless horror stories of various city departments creating unnecessary delays and obstacles when a business is trying to open or expand. My office will always be available to intercede and directly provide solutions.

 

The service industry has been the hardest hit by the minimum wage increase while having the smallest profitability margins of all small business in Seattle. Our restaurants, cafes, and bars are one of the fundamental cornerstones in Seattle’s culture. They also are one of the most regulated and taxed groups in the city.

 

Many of the problems facing small business exist at the county and state levels, but there is much to do at the local level. Over the course of my campaign I will be visiting with small businesses of all types to find ways to make the system work better for them. To begin with I suggest:

 

  • Eliminate ridiculous fee’s and streamline permitting

 

  • Institute a tax break for new small businesses

 

  • My office will be solutions-focused and strive to eliminate bureaucracy for small business owners.

 

As business is constantly evolving, the city should adapt. We can’t let our small businesses wither in the shadows of skyscrapers and office buildings. As Mayor, I will do everything in my power to encourage small business and provide a path forward to the next generation of business owners.

GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY and FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

I am a firm believer that when a governmental agency levies new taxes to fund projects or initiatives, there needs to be a good reason and a clear plan in place to use that money. In Seattle that has not always been the case of late. For example, Mayor Murray wants to end the homeless crisis that we are experiencing in Seattle. He is currently proposing a 5 year, $275,000,000 plan funded by property tax levies and other new taxes to get the job done. While the idea is certainly noble, the proposal is reckless and wasteful. This proposal would double the already $50,000,000 that we are spending on homelessness already. There are roughly 5,000 homeless (numbers vary) in the Seattle area. On any given night, upwards of 3,000 are sleeping on the street. If the Mayor’s plan is approved, we will be spending approximately $100,000,000 a year to solve a homeless problem that affects approximately 5,000 people. That’s roughly $20,000 per person per year or about $1,600 a month. Now ask yourself what your monthly rent or mortgage is. I know rents are high in Seattle, but $1,600 a month will still get you a roof.

 

The way to solve a problem is not to throw money at it. You must get involved, understand the problem and engage with the people relevant to the situation. In the above example concerning homelessness, there is a lot of talk about the homeless problem but not a lot of talk with the homeless themselves. If there are 5,000 homeless in Seattle, there are 5,000 reasons why. Everyone has a story, everyone has a voice. Once you know what you need, and you have a path forward; only then you act and apply the resources to the maximum effect.

 

Another noteworthy example is the Seattle school budget, which is currently facing a $74 million short fall. I am a supporter of public schools. I believe an overhaul in the entire system is overdue, but I believe public schools are a still an integral piece in our society. That said, the current budget for Seattle Public Schools is about $780 million. With roughly 52,000 students expected that just about $15,000 per student. Conversely, instate tuition for the University of Washington is about $10,000. These comparisons are not new, but it begs the question: What is being done about it? We need to be spending our money wisely. We need to look at reforming the infrastructure, finding solutions to hard expenses such as digitizing text books and analyzing the administration budget. For the 2017-2018 school year, there certainly will be some hard questions asked.

 

I will not promise to never raise taxes or levy funds. I will promise to fully explain myself and show you where I’m spending your money. I also intend to make available more concise records of current departments and projects that illustrate where your money is being spent. It is my opinion that billion dollar mistakes and massive budget overruns are unacceptable and your publicly elected officials should be held accountable for the decisions they make in your name. You should expect, and will receive, no less from me.

EMBRACING THE FUTURE

Seattle has become a technological mecca in the 21st century. Tech industry jobs are growing by the year as people from all over the nation and world migrate to Seattle for jobs at Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. The future has arrived and I believe it’s time that our city government embraced it and began to move toward solutions that are both environmentally sound and relevant to the changing infrastructure. While we are still not getting our flying cars anytime soon, I would like to see Seattle invest in some pilot programs to test the feasibility of certain technologies that are here now and make sense.

 

Solar powered roofing tiles, roadways, and BIPV’s (building integrated photovoltaics) are becoming more available and practical for new construction. I think a sensible look at these technologies and their practical application into new city engineering should be explored. While we are still a long way off from solar powered roadways, a parking lot is not an unreasonable place to start. Or, think if a new city building, like the proposed North Precinct, had a glass exterior made of BIPV. Such technology could power over 100 percent of its electrical needs with a lifespan that would likely outlive the building itself. Seattle has already taken some good steps forward, like Drive Clean Seattle, and electrifying Seattle’s fleet cars. Change is good – embrace it!

 

Another way Seattle can get ahead of the curve involves digital media. There are children in Seattle schools right now that can’t remember a world without an iPhone. Tablets, smartphones, and readers are as common as rain. I would like to pilot a program in Seattle to digitize curriculum, replacing text books with tablets. Hundreds of textbooks can be stored on a device that weighs about a pound. Apps like dictionaries, calculators, encyclopedias, etc., are all at the student’s fingertips. The cost of the device is significantly less than that of textbooks and easier to update then a textbook that would have to be reprinted. Interfacing with this technology is also a life skill that anyone entering the modern world is going to need. I’m certainly not suggesting that you reduce the education process to that of an online course; the teachers’ role will not be diminished. Teachers too will benefit from such a system. Creating lesson plans and worksheets in a digital environment has limitless possibilities and at the least saves on paper and printer toner! There are already examples of schools that have adopted this technology and surely more will follow.

MISCELLANEOUS POSITIONS and TALKING POINTS

New Arena

I support the current plan to build a new arena in the Sodo area, which uses no public money and leases land from the city. I believe the effect on the port will be negligible and is overstated by detractors.

 

Sanctuary City Status

If elected, I fully intend to protect Seattle’s status as a “Sanctuary City.” Regardless of any possible actions taken by POTUS I stand behind this decision. I further more applaud Mayor Murray for his decision to do the same.

 

New North Precinct

I believe $160 million is too much for the current project. I would like to see other bids and possible designs. I agree that a new facility should be built, but more along the lines of the original estimates of around $89 million.

 

Light Rail Expansion

Seattle has had a sordid history with mass transit. We really should have picked a direction and gone with it 30 years ago. Now we have light rail and Sound Transit is expanding it. I begrudgingly support the project, though its history of cost overruns makes me nervous. I would like to see more of an emphasis on the park and ride philosophy to make it more convenient for commuters and make it more practical to get into the city.

 

$15 Minimum Wage

I agree with the minimum wage raising to $15 an hour. It’s not phased in perfectly, but I won’t split hairs. I do not fully agree with the Secured Scheduling act. It lacks the flexibility needed to work practically in the real world.

 

Rent Control

Typically, I would not be an advocate of regulating what any business or private owner could charge for their services. In the case of rental properties in Seattle I break from the norm. Enough is enough: the price of rent for a single bedroom apartment is pushing $2000 on average. Seattle has cracked the top 10 most expensive cities to rent and continues to climb. RCW 35.21.830, a state law enacted in 1981 prevents cities from enacting any kind of rent control. The City Council has endorsed legislation to repeal that law and I would support such a measure. Unfortunately, that would be a matter decided in Olympia. Until that time I will seek solutions that create more low income housing and encourage building owners to keep costs down.

 

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