Transcript: Seattle mayoral debate
Below is the transcript for the July 17 Seattle mayoral debate, hosted by KING 5 News, KUOW, Seattle CityClub and Geekwire.
[TV VOICE OVER] This is a Decision 2017 special. From KING 5 News and KUOW Public Radio.
Three months ago, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray looked like a shoo in for re-election.
Then, this: The lawsuit has been filed against Mayor Ed Murray accusing him of child sex abuse.
"The allegations against me are not true. The scandal surrounding them and me is hurting this city. I am withdrawing as a candidate for mayor."
Tonight, the six leading candidates to replace Murray meet in their only televised debate.
Former Mayor Mike McGinn. "I've worked to balance budgets. I've dealt with garbage strikes. I've made sure the streets are proud. I want to put that experience to work for you."
Jenny Durkan, a former U.S. attorney. "We need a mayor who shares Seattle's progressive values and can provide steady full leadership."
Bob Hasegawa, a state senator from Beacon Hill. "The one percent are dictating how decisions are being made. And as your mayor, we will put the people over profits."
Nikkita Oliver, representing the so-called People's Party of Seattle. "To be a welcoming city. We must ensure that the most vulnerable can afford to stay here. Now is the time to vote for change."
Jessyn Farrell, who resigned from the state legislature to run for mayor. "I'll fight to make child care more affordable, address the homelessness crisis, and ensure we aren't being priced out of the neighborhoods we call home."
And urban planner, Cary Moon. "Seattle needs someone from outside the system to make big changes to ensure our city is a place everyone can afford and call home."
It's the Seattle mayoral debate. Presented by KING 5, KUOW Public Radio, Seattle CityClub, and GeekWire. Now live from the Impact Hub in Pioneer Square, here are your moderators. Natalie Rand of KING 5 News. And Ross Reynolds of KUOW Radio.
[NATALIE BRAND] Good evening. The primary election just about two weeks away. Coming up on August 1st and voting in Seattle is already underway.
[ROSS REYNOLDS] There's a crowded field of 21 candidates. Way too many for one stage. These six candidates qualified for the debate based on a combination of polling endorsements and fundraising. And their positions on the stage has been determined by a random draw. Welcome to all of you.
[BRAND] The audience includes members of the public who registered for this event in advance and representatives from Seattle Foundation's Vibrant Democracy Initiative. Audience members are here to observe and ask questions of the candidates but they will not participate in any other way and have agreed to hold their applause until the end of the debate. We are using the hashtag SEAMayor, if you want to join the discussion on social media.
[REYNOLDS] Now, we are going to spend most of the debate discussing the issues that are facing the city. We had not intended to talk about the allegations against Mayor Murray. However, Sunday's revelations and also Councilmember Lorena Gonzales's call on the mayor to resign leads us to ask this question of all of you and you'll have 20 seconds to respond. Do you think that Mayor Murray should resign? We'll begin with you, Jenny Durkan.
[JENNY DURKAN] I talked to the mayor last night and I encouraged him to think deeply about whether he can continue to lead this city. I represented both victims of sexual assault and people who were wrongly accused of crimes. I know it tears at them, their families, and the like. That's why I believe so deeply in due process and the courts for resolving differences. So I know Mayor Murphy will look at the issues and make sure he can lead Seattle or, or not remain.
[REYNOLDS] Mike McGinn, should the mayor resign? 20 seconds please.
[MIKE MCGINN] Yes, and I called on him to resign yesterday in fact. And I was deeply disturbed by the way in which his behavior is silencing victims of abuse. And I want everyone to consider what it means when a person in a position of power acts in this way. And what that means to victims of abuse. I also want to share this. This is what the Oregon Department of Human Services said when they why they release documents. It was in the public interest to protect other children and prevent anyone else from being put in a similar situation. The person in a position of power and authority could use that authority to coerce or otherwise force people into a vulnerable position.
[REYNOLDS] Let's go to Cary Moon. Your response to this question, Cary.
[CARY MOON] Yes, he should resign. I'll say what I said in May when this came up earlier. I believe it's in the best interest of everyone, especially survivors of sexual abuse who are re-experiencing their own traumas for the mayor to step down and let City Hall get back to work.
[REYNOLDS] Nikita Oliver, should Mayor Murray resign?
[NIKKITA OLIVER] Yes, I think we also have to acknowledge the systemic failures here to hold him accountable but also his unwillingness to account but more importantly is the public rehashing. The continuous rehashing of sexual violence and trauma re traumatizes survivors and victims of sexual assault. And it's pertinent to ensure that for the health of our city, we are driven to look for human resources and services to support those people who are suffering in this time.
[REYNOLDS] Bob Hasegawa, what do you say about this?
[BOB HASEGAWA] We need to let the process play itself out. There is a process for adjudicating this. The history of my community has been that they were incarcerated without due process. And the lesson learned was that we have to protect due process and that's what I'm all about. And that's why I so strongly believe that we should let the process play itself out.
[REYNOLDS] Jessyn Farrell, should the mayor resign?
[JESSYN FARRELL] I think that the mayor should resign. Initially there was a private lawsuit brought by a law firm that I was deeply concerned about who has attacked politicians particularly on gay rights on women's issues. But this is new information by a state agency that has had findings and in light of this new information, Mayor Murray needs to resign.
[REYNOLDS] Thank you.
[BRAND] Before we get into the big issues we have a leadership question that will serve in the place of an opening statement. Each candidate will have 30 seconds to answer and we will start on the left with Nikkita Oliver and then move right across the stage. Nikkita Oliver, what character trait do you possess that best qualifies you to serve as Seattle mayor and sets you apart from the other candidates?
[OLIVER] I believe it's my authenticity and my ability to use that authenticity to build coalition. No one has to guess where I stand on an issue. There is no question about my politics or where I'm coming from or what stories I tell. And so I think that authenticity and that honesty allows us to come to the table and truly build policies and implement them that serve the whole of Seattle. I believe that if we pull from the margins and lift from the bottom we'll see the whole of our city become much healthier.
[BRAND] Bob Hasegawa.
[HASEGAWA: So I believe, similar to Nikkita, that I have what you see is what you get pretty much. I have a lifetime of fighting for social justice. I've been unafraid to speak out and take tough positions when it's necessary and with my experience in transformational organizational change, I believe that I have the deepest resume to do this.
[BRAND] Jessyn Farrell, character traits.
[FARRELL] I bring a deep perseverance to the issues that we face as a city. I have been working on transit and land use and environmental issues for my career. I worked as a volunteer on that first Sound Move campaign in 1996. I ran Transportation Choices Coalition when we passed Sound Transit Two. And as a legislator I helped author Sound Transit Three. It takes sometimes decades to get the things done that we care about. But I've been there and I will keep being there. Perseverance matters.
[BRAND] Jenny Durkan.
[DURKAN] I'm proud to have a record of bringing people together tackling tough issues and getting things done. I've been walking all neighborhoods in the city and talking to people all over. And one message I've heard loud and clear is the people are tired of the divisiveness and politics in Washington D.C. They expect us to do better and I think we can. I'm proud that we have built a unifying coalition of business, labor, environmentalists, and other community leaders. And that's the kind of mayor I will be.
[BRAND] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] Well you know you know I say what I believe and you know where I stand on issues. I'll never cut a deal with the powerful just "˜cause it's politically expedient. But I also have the experience of being mayor. Of doing the 100 plus town halls, holding myself accountable to the public. Having the experience of trying to pass legislation, and we did pass a lot of legislation through the City Council, but that experience also I would say there's a little humility around that as well. Learning about every community in town, learning about the challenges facing our diverse communities and really putting myself in a position to try to translate their needs into real policy changes at the city. And that was a learning lesson for me in which I deeply appreciate.
[BRAND] Cary Moon.
[MOON] Vision. In this time of tremendous transformation and flux in our city, we're all wondering what's happening to my place? Who's in charge? Where are we headed? What are we trying to accomplish here? And I believe we need a leader who has the ability to set a positive constructive future vision and use the tremendous potential of Seattle. Our wealth, our spirit of innovation, our creativity, and our shared progressive values to lead everyone together towards a shared future vision.
[BRAND] Thank you candidates.
[REYNOLDS] Now let's get to some of the specific issues and here's the format we'll be following. We'll be asking a question about an issue the city is facing and each of you will get 45 seconds to answer that question. Then Natalie or I will follow up with a short discussion with you about that issue. A recent Seattle Times report said the city's spending has increased by more than $2000 per resident over the past four years. So our first question comes from the audience Husto Gonzalez has a question about spending and taxes.
[HUSTO GONZALEZ] What do you plan to do to reduce the size and expense of Seattle city government to preclude any need for new or higher taxes? And we'll begin with you, Bob Hasegawa.
[HASEGAWA] So I've been calling for a freeze on regressive taxes all along, you know. That's one of the main drivers for the displacement of gentrification that's happening in our city. People just can't afford to keep up, especially if you're on fixed income or lower middle income. That coupled with the complexity of the escalating values of the properties and we're seeing our city lose its core which is the diversity that we pride ourselves on. The neighborhood that I grew up in is changing. Every day you see it. The community leader just said she can't even count how many families have been displaced up there lately. So we just have to get a grip on the money that we're collecting and how it's being spent, transparency and accountability in that process.
[REYNOLDS] Jessyn Farrell, what would you do to reduce the size of government in order to preclude a tax increase or tax increases?
[FARRELL] Let's start by stating that any tax policy is really a statement about our values. And I think in this city we all agree that that people are being left behind and that our tax system reflects that. That we have the poorest among us shouldering an unfair burden on the sales tax and the property tax. I have worked at the state legislature as a legislator. I have worked at the executive level in government at a time when we had to cut service and so there are ways where we can deliver more service by being more efficient. But we also have to make sure that we're scaling our services in a growing city. So I would very much support asking developers, asking corporations to pay their fair share as we are growing and trying to meet growing needs.
[REYNOLDS] Jenny Durkan, do we need to cut the size of government to eliminate the need for taxes?
[DURKAN] The first thing we need to do is keep our promises to taxpayers, businesses, and the residents of Seattle that when they pay taxes they will actually be used wisely for the things they're paying for. If I'm mayor, I will go in and scrub every budget to make sure that all of the lines of the budget are actually producing the results people want. For example, in the area where we're spending for homelessness we have two reports that show us that we can do better there. I also will look for targeted tax breaks for those things that matter so people can build more affordable housing. So landlords can provide affordable housing and so that we keep our small businesses. Our tax policy must reflect our values.
[REYNOLDS] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] Yeah, our general fund budget has grown by 250 million dollars over the last three years so it's a 25 percent increase. I believe we need to go in there, cut unneeded spending, redirect it towards neighborhood priorities and towards those most in need. You know in the Great Recession and the recession of 2010, I had to cut sixty seven million dollars from a much smaller budget and I did so while protecting essential services. So I'm committed to doing that again in this budget. You know, for example, the mayor's office budget alone has increased 80 percent in the last three years. I'm going to hold the line on property taxes and sales taxes and regressive taxes to the extent we need new funds. We have tax mechanisms at our disposal to tax the big corporations. They're enjoying such success in our city and to the extent we need to fund new initiatives we should ask them to pay instead of continually piling taxes on the middle class and lower income people.
[REYNOLDS] How about you, Cary Moon?
[MOON] So yes, I'll agree that the 25 percent increase in our budget, we need to see results for that. I have a friend who runs the Mayors Innovation Project, a national organization, and he jokes that Seattle is the land of 10000 pilot projects. We start things, we innovate, but then we forget to get disciplined and scale up the ones that worked and shut down the ones that didn't work. So I think this is largely a question of discipline and leadership and management of city staff. We have brilliant people working for the city who are committed to public service who want to build the best possible city we can. And we need to work on getting the most effective programs, the best bang for the buck out of the money that we do have.
[REYNOLDS] And Nikkita Oliver. Do we need to preclude the need for new taxes by reducing the size and expense of Seattle government?
[OLIVER] Well, it has already been said we have an incredibly regressive taxation structure. We have a $5.6 billion budget with a $1.2 billion general fund. And really where we spend our money shows our priorities. I think what's incredibly important is to look at the money we're currently spending and consider whether or not those things should be prioritized over addressing the affordability crisis and the state of emergency around homelessness. I think as our city continues to grow it's also incredibly important to understand that infrastructure is going to require investment. And we need to ask developers to invest more in that. That requires asking for impact fees. It requires asking our corporations through corporate head tax to invest more so we can have a robust transportation system that moves in lockstep with our density and development.
[REYNOLDS] Let's go to our discussion portion right now. And Mike McGinn, you've said that we have a bloated city budget. You've said you could find $30 million to redirect homeless issues and housing issues. You said already the mayor's office is already one place where the cuts could be. Where else? Where would you find those millions of dollars besides the mayor's office?
[MCGINN] Yeah. And what you find in this experience is you really have to look across the board. What we did in 2010 was we asked every department to send us back a range of proposed cuts and then we prioritized within them. There was one example we managed to not have to fund a city jail at that time, a new city jail which saved us money. Now we're looking at 160 million dollar North Precinct as one example. We also have other expensive capital projects across the city budget. Now with these flush times what we ought to be doing is using the real estate excise taxes and variable taxes to paying down our maintenance backlog instead of building new things that we've done and will have to find money to maintain in the future. So again it's going to be every budget. And if you ask me in 2010 how we got to 67 million it was across the entire budget. And sooner or later it starts adding up to real money. And that takes a lot of work and focus but I have the experience of knowing our budget already, of working with department heads, and knowing when the budget cuts are proposing are real or fake.
[REYNOLDS] For the rest of you who say that we really do need to take a closer look at the budget, scrub the budget, could you give us some specifics on where you would look to cut the budget to reduce the need for taxes? Any specific ideas on that.
[OLIVER] I think one place we can look at is our criminal legal system. Currently we criminalize people for being poor. In fact we prosecute certain crimes such as when someone fails to pay on the light rail. And if you didn't have the money to pay for the light rail you then get a ticket that's around $124. If you get another ticket you might actually get a warrant for theft and maybe have to defend that in court. That's an incredible waste of fiscal resources when really what we're doing is criminalizing poverty and a lack of access to a public good by decreasing the number of folks we criminalized in that area and actually moving those funds towards maybe getting young people under the age of 18 free ORCA cards, we could actually start to get to the root causes of poverty and see our spending decrease over time "˜cause we've invested in addressing the real issue.
[REYNOLDS] Bob Hasegawa and then Jenny Durkan. How would you what would you"¦
[HASEGAWA] Yeah. Well scrubbing the budget is one thing but if you look at the bureaucracy and the layers that have been building up in the middle sections where it instantly has the effect of insulating the top from the people and there is more and more process being developed, I think that we need to flatten out the government in the middle and get the people more involved. But a lot of it is about what you're getting for the dollars too. And when we have needs for new revenue we need to not only look at a progressive way of implementing revenue reform but considering other things like I have a proposal to create a publicly owned municipal bank which will actually generate revenue for the people of the city without raising taxes.
[REYNOLDS] And Jenny Durkan, you mentioned scrubbing the budget. Where would you apply that scrubbing?
[DURKAN] I think first what you don't talk about is what you cut. I think what you say is what do you need? You prioritize what the priorities of government are and then you build the budget accordingly. Government has this propensity to try to start with the budget that it is and say do we need to increase it some for this? Do we need to decrease it? I think you start almost zero based budgeting and say what are the priorities in need of this city and how do we need them? There can be no sacred cows.
[REYNOLDS] If the Seattle higher earner income tax clears court challenges, can any of you tell me where you would apply that money? It says statutorily it is to make our taxes a lot more less regressive. Where would you put the money? There's a certain amount of flexibility here. Cary Moon?
[MOON] So I would first look at how can we reduce the regressive sales and property taxes. People are overburdened with taxes at this time, so we need to look at how do we reduce that? And then we need to look at how do we invest in education? Because giving kids a fair start in life is absolutely the most essential thing if we want to tackle the racial wealth gap and all sorts of income inequality in our city.
[REYNOLDS] Other comments on that? Nikkita.
[OLIVER] I would move it towards public housing. When we look at our current ways in which we're addressing say the state of emergency around homelessness. While the navigation center could be incredibly effective without having enough affordable units to actually move people into, what we'll see is people who have been sheltered or actually returned to sleeping outside. So, if we're really going to dig our way out of this state of emergency we have to commit a substantial amount of public dollars to public housing that is affordable.
[REYNOLDS] Jessyn Farrell, have you thought about where you would put that money?
[FARRELL] I think that it is key that we really work on making our tax system more fair. And as people are really feeling the burden of sales tax and property tax we need to make sure that if as you know of course if it is found that an income tax is legal, we need to be buying down property tax and sales tax. And if there is money leftover, we need to focus on affordability. There is an affordability crisis in this city and we need to make sure that people aren't left behind.
[REYNOLDS] Jenny Durkan.
[DURKAN] The whole reason we say we need an income tax is because of the regressive system. I agree we must pay down those unfair taxes: sales taxes, property taxes. And we also have to target B&O, particularly for our small businesses. Our small businesses are struggling and I believe they are one of the backbones for the fabric of our city. So if we have money we need to make sure we lessen the burden on them.
[REYNOLDS] Jenny Durkan. Oh quick question. I noticed that the Seattle Times endorsement of your candidacy you said you felt a court fight over a higher earner income tax would be a costly waste of time but you support that tax?
[DURKAN] That was their phrase. It's not mine. I think that I have doubts as whether it will be upheld. But I think that having an income tax statewide would be critical. If we have it locally, we have to extend it regionally because I think that right now our tax system is unfair. People who have less are paid more and that's not right.
[REYNOLDS] Thank you.
[BRAND] Moving on to our next topic the hot button issue of housing affordability. Let's go back to the audience here at the Impact Hub. Jonathan Cunningham has a question.
[JONATHAN CUNNINGHAM] Jonathan Cunningham, Seattle Foundation. Our Vibrant Democracy Initiative is working to increase voter participation amongst low voter turnout communities and interim city executive director isn't here this evening. So, I'm going to ask her question. She wants to know how do you hope to address the threats of displacement and gentrification in the International District?
[BRAND] You each have 45 seconds for the initial answer starting with Jessyn Farrell.
[FARRELL] Thank you for that question. We face a huge crisis around affordability and I think that the way we address this is by having a citywide plan that leaves no neighborhood out. Every single neighborhood in our city has an obligation to take on affordable housing. And at the same time it also means that we can't take a cookie cutter approach to growth. It means that every single neighborhood has cultural assets, like Little Saigon in the International District, may have environmental assets. And we need to use all of the tools and strategies, public and private strategies, and engage in a deep and robust dialogue with people in their communities. People know their communities best. And if we want to be bold on affordability, and I think we do, then we need to make sure that we have a robust discussion with how we are going to truly accommodate all the people that want to live here.
[BRAND] Jenny Durkan. Affordability in the International District.
[DURKAN] Housing has become too expensive and rents for businesses are becoming too expensive. Seattle is on the verge of perhaps becoming two Seattles where only some can afford to stay here. We need to use all tools but there is not a one size fits all. We need to make sure that every neighborhood grows and is dense in a way that is in character of their neighborhood. Particularly in places like the International District which have a proud heritage in our city. First thing we need to do is talk to the people that live there and work there, who have a history there. And work with them to determine what is the best way to grow that area while preserving its rich culture. Then we need to use all tools including funding for housing affordability, providing tax breaks for those who are providing affordable housing already, and keeping those small business which are vibrant everywhere but particularly so in the International District.
[BRAND] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] Yeah it's critical that we create new housing throughout the city whether that's the private marketplace or public housing and I strongly support vastly expanding our public housing by taxing the corporations that are bringing in the employers and driving the demand. I've been really concerned about the International District, the Chinatown International District with what's gone on there. You know, they've dealt with so many impacts over the years whether the freeway slicing through the neighborhood, the stadiums nearby which they felt had impacts on them, and now they see upzones occurring in their neighborhood and they never really were given a chance to talk about it. And I think that's unnecessarily divisive. What we need more housing I think we also need to talk to neighborhoods in advance about what are the assets that they care about. What are the needs they care about and have a dialogue with all neighborhoods in the city about how we accomplish that. And I think in neighborhoods like Chinatown ID I'd say that's particularly important.
[BRAND] Cary Moon.
[MOON] I'll show an example in Pioneer Square, five six years ago, there was an upzone that went on and it was carefully balanced. How do we make sure we're maintaining the historic character, protecting the people who live and work here, and allowing development on the sites that need to be redeveloped. At the eleventh hour developers made an end run around the process and tried to get higher heights because they wanted more profit. And the city and community activists like me stood up and said, "˜No we did the right thing. We had the right balance and now look at Pioneer Square it's a great success.' So, I think the city has to stand with communities with neighborhoods to make sure that we are devising a system that works for the kind of growth that works with the community. I have a lot more to say about housing affordability I hope I get a chance to come back to it because we really have to tax speculation. That's a big part of driving up all the costs of housing in our city.
[BRAND] Nikkita Oliver, addressing affordability and low income community members in the International District.
[OLIVER] So we have to remember this isn't just about preserving the character of an area. That's what happened in the Central District where now it's a museum of contributions black people gave to the city but black folks can't live in this Central District. So it's really about investing in community development strategies that are anti displacement which actually means we can't rely on the private market. It means that the city has to get involved in community land trusts and investing in public housing that we control what the definition of affordable is. But a part of this is also preserving the local businesses. And so we haven't talked too much about it but we really should be talking about affordable commercial units and in order for that to happen we can't just allow private luxury units to go up in areas. The city has to invest in affordable, more commercial units "˜cause and preserving the local businesses is also about preserving the local space in the International District.
[BRAND] Bob Hasegawa.
[HASEGAWA] So the gentrification and the displacement is happening because the rent is just too damn high. And so how do you keep that down? Well, there's a couple of causes for that. Number one is that the taxes are being pyramided on top of each other and on top of the increasing values, it's pricing people out and they can't stay in the neighborhoods. On top of that though what is causing the inflationary pressures on the housing itself? It's because there are way more many people that want to live in the city than there are available units. So the only way we're going to be able to address that is, we're not going to address it in this HALA plan, which is asking developers to do something that's not in their own self-interest. It's by getting deeply involved in building public housing so that we could drastically increase the number of available units to lower that imbalance between supply and demand.
[BRAND] This is an issue citywide. So we're going to broaden the discussion and I'll start with Cary Moon. Cary Moon, you've called for quadrupling the supply of affordable housing in the city. How do you achieve that goal and then also incentivize developers to build more workforce housing?
[MOON] So I think we have to tackle this problem from three different directions. First, we have got to stop the speculation that's a big part of driving up escalating housing prices. We've seen this in Vancouver, it's happening in London, it's happening in Sydney. Every world class city when you have a hot housing market the whole world piles on and they're investing in housing as if it's a commodity and that's driving up prices. So we have to put a tax on speculation, corporate and nonresident ownership of our housing. We have to put a tax on unoccupied housing, vacant housing places, that are sitting empty not being used and use that revenue to plow back into production of affordable housing into the nonprofit system. And also the public housing system where the city owns the housing itself. And I think we can look at the surplus public land. We have a hundred sites of surplus land where we could be transferring that to development of affordable housing. And then in the missing middle I think there's a lot of solutions that are on the table of how do we do appropriate low rise multifamily infill development in the neighborhoods. And we just need to have a more constructive conversation with neighborhoods about how to achieve that.
[BRAND] To all candidates: show of hands, who is in favor of rental regulation or rent control? We have all candidates raising their hands. Rent stabilization, I'd call it. Regulation or you said, right? Yes, but more specifically rent control. Rent stabilization. *laughs*
[BRAND] Just briefly, I'm going to go down the line and have you explain in maybe 10 seconds what exactly you support.
[OLIVER] I support rent stabilization in particular with those units that we're able to build as affordable in conjunction with nonprofits or when we're able to convince homeowners to build detached and attached units. There are some pretty intense regulations around that. And in exchange for bringing those permitting regulations down, we could ask them to rent stabilize or ensure that it's affordable at a level that we determine at this city which is an opportunity to use rent stabilization without having it be a blanket response across the entire city.
[BRAND] Jenny Durkan.
[DURKAN] I agree, rent stabilization and using other tools is important. Not only can we build houses with the expectation long term houses and apartments. But we can look at subsidies, we can look at targeted tax breaks for those people who are providing affordable housing. Those would be the preferred alternative.
[BRAND] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] Well obviously things that we put money into or that we don't and we get to have a say in what the rent is. I think we're talking about in the private marketplace and there's a prohibition at the state level against rent control. There's a lawsuit challenging some new regulations the city has put out. I think that state law should be removed or give us more flexibility so we can prevent, you know, excessive rent increases or have reasonable regulations to protect tenants.
[BRAND] Jessyn Farrell.
[FARRELL] I would like to also add that of course it is illegal at the state level and so it is not a tool that we can use right now. If it is available to us, I think it is a part of a broader solution where we are looking at more private sector housing, where we are looking at a renewed investment in public housing through the use of surplus lands. Working with entities like the University of Washington that wants to expand into its north lot. We should be asking them to be providing workforce housing so that adjunct professors and others who are delivering services at the hospitals, for example, who can't afford to live in the city have options. So, it is potentially a piece of the pie. But right now it is illegal.
[BRAND] Bob Hasegawa.
[HASEGAWA] So rent control or rent stabilization should be just a very last resort. I think that there's other ways to control the escalating costs if we drastically increase the number of available public housing units that we have out there. We control the cost of the rents and we can make sure that even small businesses and small storefronts cannot be priced out of the marketplace.
[BRAND] Bob Hasegawa, Mike McGinn, and Nikkita Oliver have all brought up the idea of public housing options as has Cary Moon. So, where is this working currently? Which cities across the country are you looking at to model your plan?
[HASEGAWA] So Seattle had the first, one of the first public housing units anywhere. It was at Yesler Terrace right up the way here. It was working fabulously. The problem is that we chose to privatize 90 percent of it in order to subsidize the rebuilding of 500 units. We sold the land to Vulcan who is developing another total of 5000 units, I think versus the 500 that is actually going to be affordable. So we could have instead had we chose to develop Yesler Terrace with our resources and keep it in the public domain, we would retain control of those properties and be able to set what the rent rates are.
[BRAND] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] Yeah. I never thought I'd say this but actually it's European cities. What you see is that the cities often times own really substantial percentages of housing and that's not something we're going to do overnight. But when they do that because those are publicly owned and you set the rents on those it does affect the broader marketplace and you don't have to rely on the on the private marketplace. So we can do that. We do need a funding source for it and this is why I put out my tax fairness plan which is holding the line on regressive taxes you know cutting money from the budget but also showing we have tools at our disposal right now to tax big corporations while exempting small corporations that we can bond against and start building a lot more affordable housing. So, we can do this just like other cities do.
[BRAND] Before we wrap up this segment, briefly do any candidates onstage disagree with this idea of public housing options?
[OLIVER] I would like to add that I think public housing options have to be done strategically it's about where we put them and how we build them we're going to have a significant amount of infill stations as a part of the light rail and our transportation system is going to have an expansive substantially ensuring that we put affordable housing right on those and infill stations. Right on those places where transportation is most robust is going to ensure that we don't just build projects but that we actually build places where people in public housing get access to resources.
[BRAND] Jenny Durkan, you had something to say.
[DURKAN] Yeah, I was going to agree much along with what Nikkita said but also point out we have tens of millions of dollars that have been collected for housing through development already and we'll have tens of millions and hundreds of millions to spend. We have to make sure that that housing is being built economically and efficiently but also that an every part of this city so people can live in every part of this city and it can be interesting architecturally. So I think there's a lot of work that can be done in public housing.
[MOON] And I'll add quickly that I think we've been all sold a bunch of propaganda around the failure of public housing. Private developers put that information out there they made it fail on purpose. We have a city government that runs one of the best utilities in Seattle City Light and in SPU, our city knows how to run things. If we decide to do public housing we're going to do it well.
[BRAND] Thank you candidates. We're going to take a short break and come back with more questions including two hot button issues for the city.
Welcome back to the Seattle mayoral debate presented by KING 5, KUOW, Seattle CityClub and GeekWire. We're coming to you live from the Impact Hub in Pioneer Square. We're going to turn next to homelessness and we're going to start with a question from Laura Sapulvata. Laura, what's your question?
[LAURA SAPULVATA] What will your policy be on unauthorized homeless camps that are popping up all over the city?
[REYNOLDS] And we have 45 seconds for the answer beginning with you, Jenny Durkan.
[DURKAN] We are a generous city and I think it's very important that we deal with the question of homelessness with deep compassion and respect. The people living on the street need to be moved out of tents, doorways, cars into homes. Our first priority has to be to be moving people into homes. The questions of illegal encampments is a very difficult one. When we first relocated people from those camps, it was not done humanely. The property that people have on the street is sometimes their last possession. I spent about four hours one night last week just driving with the Union Gospel Mission going from encampment to encampment and spent the end of the evening talking to people at Camp Second Chance and what this showed me was that the camps themselves, the illegal encampments, I think are inhumane. They are filled with garbage, dirty needles, human trafficking, violence. And we should not let people live there. I do not believe it's compassionate.
[REYNOLDS] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] Again I think that question starts at the wrong end of the problem and the issue is we need to provide shelter and we need to do it fast. This is indeed an emergency and that's why I talk so much about getting into the budget and finding more dollars. I mean in this time of extraordinary growth we're continually told we don't have enough money and we're spending this money on sweeps, we're spending this money on debate, when really we should be spending money on shelter. So what I would do is immediately look at how do we establish more all day shelters, overnight shelters, you know, more regulated encampments. Whatever it takes to treat this like the crisis it is so that everybody has a place to sleep at night with a roof over their head that's not in our streets or in our parks. That's a mobilization of our resources and budget and people that are prepared to undertake from the first day I enter office.
[REYNOLDS] Cary Moon, if you were mayor what would your policy be on unauthorized homeless camps?
[MOON] So first let's remember that 90 percent of the people sleeping outside would come inside if we offered them a place to be. So we absolutely have to prioritize low barrier shelters where you can come with a partner, you can come even if you're still addicted to drugs or alcohol. You can come with pets whatever people need. We have to provide that kind of shelter. This also means more sanctioned encampments and tiny house villages. Getting people inside of the safe place is the first thing, before we ask them to leave that unsanctioned encampments where they are now. I think though long term we've got to look at root causes of homelessness. We are pushing more people into homelessness every year than we are helping back out. And we have got to go upstream and solve this problem where it's being caused or we're never going to get ahead.
[REYNOLDS] Nikita Oliver.
[OLIVER] As someone who has spent a short bit of my life homeless in college I know how incredibly traumatizing that experience is. I didn't have a home so I moved from place to place. And what I really think about is what do people do who do not have somewhere to come inside to especially given the fact that 90 percent of people would go inside sweeps and building fences are an incredible waste of fiscal resources when we could be building low barrier shelters, more housing, and developing navigation teams that can build rapport with communities and help them move into spaces where they can be self-determined and self-empowered which is really getting at the root causes of poverty.
[REYNOLDS] Bob Hasegawa. What would you do about unauthorized homeless camps?
[HASEGAWA] So well so many people are just one check away from homelessness themselves and it could be caused by anything by an emergency medical bill or it could be caused by just unforeseen layoff in this contingent work society that we have right now. So we need to treat the people in these camps with respect, they're human beings you know housing is a human right if we believe that you know there are 4000 homeless students in the Seattle School District here in the wealthiest city in one of the wealthiest countries in the history of the world. We have the resources to house people, we just need to have the courage to go and take that step and do it.
[REYNOLDS] And Jessyn Farrell, what do you say?
[FARRELL] Housing is a fundamental human need and we need to bring a great deal of urgency to this issue. And right now it's happening right now with the city is you have a parks department worker and a cop going into a park say and giving people a little notice and then moving them on. And that costs a million dollars a month. And that is money that I don't think is being spent well. We talked about that issue earlier. We need to have more supports. We need to better understand why people are homeless, people suffering from mental illness or addiction. Those treatments are different than people who may be aging out of the foster care system or victims of domestic violence and so we need to spend the time up front building the relationships with people who are living outside so that we can then better use our resources and get people into low barrier shelters. Work regionally. This is a regional crisis that we face we need to make sure that we're working with other mayors around the region to address this crisis.
[REYNOLDS] Let's turn to the discussion portion. And my question for you is Seattle has spent a lot of money and tried a lot of different things on homelessness and yet it's worse than it was. Why?
[HASEGAWA] Income inequality is growing even as we speak. The top 1 percent is assembling, amassing all the wealth. The top 5 billionaires has the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the entire world. That is unconscionable. I mean we and it's all exacerbated by the breakdowns in ability for workers to organize to win back our fair share of the wealth that we're creating in this society.
[REYNOLDS] Thank you, Bob Hasegawa. Let's go to Cary Moon.
[MOON] I think we know we created these conditions that are causing homelessness and we have to go upstream and address them at their root cause. We have an economy where it's incredibly hard for young people to afford college and get into the economy to get a good job. We defunded mental health and behavioral health and addiction services to such a degree that folks have nowhere to go and nowhere to turn to. We have a housing affordability crisis. These things are all contributing to the homelessness crisis and if we don't go upstream and solve these problems with the right investments to help folks who are aging out of the foster system, who are coming back from incarceration with transitional housing and with real solutions to the housing affordability crisis and real solutions to get young people into college and off on it on a good start in their life. We will never get ahead of this.
[REYNOLDS] Jessyn Farrell, are we doing something wrong with the way we're approaching homelessness? Why does it keep getting worse?
[FARRELL] There are strategies that work. We also know though that we have an economy where some people have been deeply left behind. The affordability crisis has greatly exacerbated the homelessness crisis, the opioid epidemic, issues around domestic violence incarceration. Those are all things that contribute to the homelessness crisis and we need to be number one, giving people short term options in the very near term to come to safe places to sleep so that means sanctioned encampments where there are services. Tacoma has taken a public health approach where they are bringing services, safety, mental health, public safety services. We need to look to that as an option for our homelessness crisis. We also need to deeply invest in affordable housing. We have embraced a strategy around rapid re housing and that is an admirable goal. We do want people in stable housing situations so that they can address addiction and other issues that they may face. But if we don't have affordable housing options in our community that strategy isn't going to be successful.
[REYNOLDS] Jenny Durkan and then we'll hear from Nikkita Oliver.
[DURKAN] I agree with my colleagues up here that we have to address the things that lead to homelessness, wage disparity and the like, but for the people who are on the streets right now again from the from the work I have done in the last four weeks meeting with homeless people working with providers we have to fundamentally change how our services are provided to the homeless. We were built for a Seattle in the 70s 80s and 90s and we're right in the midst of retooling how we provide the homeless things. The other thing is if we don't provide more mental health counseling and addiction services we will never move the people off the street into homes successfully. Getting the home is critical but having those services and support is also critical. When I talked to the folks at Union Gospel Mission and others providing it that they think that probably close to 70 80 percent of the people still on the streets, not in shelters but on the streets, have an addiction problem. We really have to fix that.
[REYNOLDS] Nikita Oliver, as you mentioned spent some time being homeless. So when you look at our policies why are they not successful at solving this problem? Why is it getting worse?
[OLIVER] Well one thing I hear right now is we're using a lot of coded language. We're not talking about how income inequality in this city is highly racialized and that when we look at the numbers of who are living outside there are a substantial amount of black and Native people and we are in Duwamish land that are living outside. And so we have to be willing to start addressing the historical and present day ramifications of living in a society that's been racialized. And what that's done to prevent families of color from developing the sort of wealth and an economic viability that actually gets at the root causes of poverty. In addition to that we're using a rapid re housing strategy from Houston and Salt Lake City. Cities that have drastically different housing markets than the one that we have. As a result when we move people into the navigation system navigation center we simply just don't have enough affordable housing to move people into when their subsidy ends. What happens to them. They usually end up back outside. And so it brings us back to looking at a racialized income inequality but also accepting we just simply have not built enough affordable housing.
[REYNOLDS] Mike McGinn, you've been mayor. What are we not doing right?
[MCGINN] Well we have to understand that there are people being moved out of homelessness everyday by existing programs. It's just so many more people are entering homelessness. And when those navigation teams and street teams go out and meet with people, discover their needs, there isn't a housing opportunity for them. There isn't drug treatment for them that's available. We have not scaled up our response to the problem while also being really serious about managing which strategies work and which don't. So I think it's easy to say, "˜Oh it's broken. Change all the money around.' I think we need to go in there and find what's working and invest more in what's working. And that's a prioritization issue and again that's what you'll hear from all of us. Everything's a priority issue. Some things actually are. You know and when I cut 67 million in the budget in 2010 I didn't touch Human Services because it's a priority. Let's make it a priority now.
[BRAND] Turning now to traffic transportation and gridlock in this rapidly growing region. That's our next topic. And we have a question we received through social media from Nancy Lee. She asks, What are your top three priority strategies for reducing traffic congestion in the Seattle Metro area? Again you have 45 seconds to answer and we will begin with Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] Oh my goodness. Well you know the problem is with the job growth we've had in the city and our primary reliance on automobiles. We just can't fit any more cars on the street. So we have to use our streets more efficiently and that means giving more priority to buses. In fact right now in the peak hour more people come in by bus than any other mode. And so we need to look at bus priority, bus only lanes, and maybe reprioritize some of the streets right away. I've also put out a plan to speed up light rail. Right now we have funding for light rail we got it on the ballot by 2016. I worked to help make that happen but we're not going to see light rail to Ballard to West Seattle 'til the 2030 some time. If we get serious about planning and coordinating with Sound Transit and finding new sources of funding we can get that done faster. And in the meantime let's make our buses work more efficiently.
[BRAND] Cary Moon, reducing traffic congestion.
[MOON] So long term we have to do better planning. We have every planner knows you need to invest in the jobs and housing balance so you grow jobs and you grow new housing at the same time and then you invest in transit to serve that neighborhood. Somehow we lost track of that in our growth in the past 20 years. We've got to get back to that basic principle. Second we've got to look at transit, biking, and pedestrian improvements because those are the most space efficient modes. That is how we're going to continue to grow by increasing how many people use those modes of travel. That means we've got to look with a racial equity lens at how we're investing our transportation dollars and make sure that the communities most transit dependent have the best investment and resources from here forward because we have decades of injustice that we need to be correcting and focus on ORCA-LIFT and youth ORCA because those folks need transit more than anyone.
[BRAND] Nikita Oliver.
[OLIVER] So I think the first thing we can do is begin to look at our connections. We need to expand our East-West connections and then renew the bus route infrastructure to neighborhoods that have lost it as we become light rail centric. Acknowledging as our city grows and as families are pushed out, urban sprawl means that we need to actually make our transportation system more robust. We need to request impact fees because that's going to require infrastructure development. I also think we need to begin the planning process for the infill stations and the other light rail stations that we'll have in the future because if we start that now we can actually shave off two to five years in that process. The last thing I would say is we need to instill in our young people a culture of using public transportation. And one way to do that is to invest and giving an ORCA a pass to every young person under the age of 18 with and Seattle city limits.
[BRAND] Bob Hasegawa, top three priorities for reducing traffic.
[HASEGAWA] So, reducing traffic obviously means getting people off the highways. We can do that by supporting strategies like unrelated strategies even like building municipal broadband so that people can telecommute from homes and they won't even need to get into town. But transit is the other obvious choice. You know there was a study done so not too long ago by a former SDOT director who said that if we provided free transit it would be a four and a half billion dollar cost over 10 years. But it would move three times more people than Sound Transit Three would on full build out. So, we need to find better ways to use the money and we can advance Sound Transit Three which should be the artery that the transit connects to using a hub and spoke system. It could be more efficient.
[BRAND] Jessyn Farrell.
[FARRELL] I am the self-described transit nerd in this race. I have worked on transportation and transit issues as a vice chair of the Transportation Committee in the legislature as an executive director, as a nonprofit activist, and we have moved forward we are building light rail. We are doing things like implementing subsidized bus passes. We are completing the west side of the 520 bridge. I have also been a champion for the taxpayer. We have discovered that people are paying inflated car tabs on their cars to the new Sound Transit taxes and I have sponsored and voted on legislation to make sure that the car tabs you're paying aren't a fair valuation. You can champion transit. You can champion public infrastructure but you better champion the taxpayer.
[BRAND] Jenny Durkan on traffic congestion.
[DURKAN] You know, the bad news is the traffic is horrible and it's only going to get worse and it's simple math. We have too many cars in two narrow of streets. And as more people move here and there's more single occupancy vehicles our immediate strategy has to be to get people out of the single occupancy vehicles and onto buses and into transit. It's a hard cultural shift but we have to do it both to meet our transportation goals and to meet our climate goals. Big cars are the number one contributor to our carbon load. The other thing we have to realize is people come into the city in cars or they are we have to make it safer for pedestrians and for bikes because in order for people to switch to different modes of transportation there has to be safety. So the priority has to be get people out of the single occupancy vehicles and into transit make the roads safer for bikes and pedestrians. And then long term we have to make sure that the billions, yes billions of dollars that we are going to spend on Sound Transit Three is spent right. And in the right places it actually moves people from the places they want to go to the places they want to get.
[BRAND] The next mayor will sit on a Sound Transit Board. Jessyn Farrell, you've said that you can speed delivery of light rail in Ballard and West Seattle by streamlining permitting and trying to fast track the alignment process so how do you go about doing that with specifics and how much time do you think it should, could shave off the process?
[FARRELL] So we absolutely have to fight to get light rail built faster. We see the benefits in the parts of the city that have light rail, the mobility benefits. And so we need to go to the state level and as we did with highway projects we need to streamline permitting with state agencies and with local agencies. We need to work as a community to get our station options set so that when we go into the EIS process, we can move that along faster. That can shave four or five years off. We also need to advocate for more money. We need to go back to the state and make sure that Sound Transit is able to access funding at the state level, we should consider additional bonding measures. But we should be working very aggressively to get light rail built to Ballard and West Seattle to accommodate the intense growth that those communities are facing.
[BRAND] I believe all candidates on stage have talked about boosting basic bus service, so how would you go about doing that? And then how do you incentivize people to leave their cars behind and take public transit instead? Jessyn?
[FARRELL] We could look at the University of Washington which has been the gold standard for how you get people to move from going by car to going by other modes. In the early 90s, they implemented a program where you have very subsidized bus passes, great transit service, walking and biking infrastructure, and you pay for parking. And they went from 70 percent of their trips being by single occupancy vehicle to 30 percent being by set by a single occupancy vehicle and if you can implement those strategies and communities across the city, people will make other choices and they'll do it happily.
[BRAND] Cary Moon.
[MOON] Yeah, I'll add that the number of people who drive to work downtown has dropped significantly in the past 10 years because we've invested in great bus service. If buses are reliable and fast, people will use them. So we have to keep doing that across the city. We also have to look at a complete network of protected bike lanes and we have to look at investments in pedestrian safety crosswalks and the pedestrian experience because those are the modes where we have room to grow. And we as we grow as a city we have got to make sure all of our trips are in those three modes: walking, biking, and transit.
[BRAND] Mike McGinn, how do you get cars off the road?
[MCGINN] I think you have to give people fast reliable options. And what we know is that is if you know the bus is going to come along you get the frequency of the buses up, which we've done with a lot of the Rapid Ride lines. So you don't have to look at a schedule you know one will be along in another four or five minutes if you know it's going to get priority in its own lanes or its signals. So if you can get through traffic and not get stuck in traffic, a lot of people will make the switch. That's why we've seen such an increase in transit use the downtown. It's challenging politically, let's not sugarcoat this because driving is hard and people want to park on the street so it really ultimately involves prioritization in the roadway itself and making those hard choices.
[BRAND] Jenny Durkan, you've mentioned free bus passes for minors.
[DURKAN] I think we absolutely have to provide kids under 18 free bus passes. One, it'll get them on the buses moving around the city. Two, it creates a culture of taking transit. I think we also have to look at you know we fund we tax ourselves for buses. That's going to expire. So we have to make sure when if we have to reauthorize that that we're going for the buses in the right place. We also need better nighttime service. Our population is changing and people go to get a bus and it doesn't work in the nighttime. People work at night. So we have to make sure that the buses and the bus routes reflect the society and population that we are.
[BRAND] Nikita Oliver, you've mentioned better connecting neighborhoods and the need for that.
[OLIVER] I also mentioned the 18 and under ORCA passes but yes I think bus efficiency matters. But I also think the culture and education we instill in our young people as we develop a robust transportation system really matters. It's not just about getting them bus passes it's also about teaching them about ride shares and bike culture. I know that living in the south end and in working with young people in the south end, riding a bike is not second nature. And yet we're investing in a robust cycling infrastructure. How do we ensure that all communities who maybe haven't had access that culture get to learn about it? I think about how when I was in high school I had to take a driving course. How do we maybe put cycling as a part of our culture in our high schools, actually teach young people how to ride bikes safely and give them ORCA give passes that they can begin to learn the myriad of transportation options that exist in our cities, so when we get to 2040 they're also teaching their children, and their children how to use the various public transportation options that we've invested in.
[BRAND] And Bob Hasegawa. Final word on transportation.
[HASEGAWA] Wow, I'm honored. Getting people out of their cars is a humongous task if we don't have options for them that are reliable and affordable. So price is always a barrier. And you look at some models, like even on Whidbey Island, they provide free transit transportation along the bus. You can get anywhere for free. We could transport a lot of people. There's there's a side benefit to that is that youth who ride the buses. That's one of the largest contributor to youth involvement with the law enforcement agencies. We could avoid all of that stuff if we just provided free transit and it moves tons or three times more people at one tenth the cost potentially of the light rail system once it's finally build out. Just as a matter of comparison.
[BRAND] Thank you candidates we're going to take another very short break and up next we're going to be discussing criminal justice, police reform, and a controversial proposal to create safe drug injection site. You're watching the Seattle mayoral debate.
[REYNOLDS] Welcome back to the Seattle mayoral debate presented by KING 5, KUOW, Seattle CityClub and GeekWire. Coming to you live from the Impact Hub in Pionner Square. We're going to turn now to the criminal justice question and police reform. Now as you all know Seattle is operating under a 2012 federal consent decree requiring the city to reform police policies and training. And I'd like you each to take 45 seconds to answer our next suite of questions around that that comes from Elizabeth Benko who asked on Facebook, first, do you feel that the Seattle police consent decree was effective? Is there more that can or should be done to effectively train our police force and hold them accountable? Should officers be expected to be managing mental health crisis incidents? And we'll begin with Cary Moon this time.
[MOON] So I think the consent decree was effective in that it called everybody's attention to this issue, brought it into focus and made the city and the police department commit to a whole program of change. But we're just starting that change. Changing racial inequity in our society is not a five year plan. It took centuries to build. It's going to take more than a few years to undo. So we have a lot more work to do. I think we have to continue the training and de-escalation. We have to look at alternatives to use of force and how do we build the right procedures and protocols and disciplinary actions around that? We have to empower the community police commission and listen to them because that is the place where we're going to learn what's working and what's not working and build trust long term for the long term change. And we think we really have to finalize the contract. And when we hire new officers, we've got to make sure we're hiring folks who have cultural competence and multilingual and a commitment to racial justice.
[REYNOLDS] Nikkita Oliver, do you think that consent decree was effective? Do you think more needs to be done to train our police? Do you think officers should be expected to manage mental health crisis?
[OLIVER] So the consent decree was pursued because of the police killing of John T. Williams and in those five years we've seen the killing of Che Taylor and Charleena Lyles all because of failures of officers to follow police policies that have been put in place because of the consent decree. We're reaching the end of five years and the legislation still is not fully in place so I would say no we have not yet been effective in regards that consent decree. We do need more training on implicit bias, on how to deal with mental health issues, and yes officers are going to have to deal with people who are struggling with mental health issues. And it's we already have teams in place and when you look at the incident with Charleena Lyles, those officers knew her history and yet still did not call for the support that they should've known they needed.
[REYNOLDS] Bob Hasegawa.
[HASEGAWA] So yes, training is absolutely fundamental to making progress on this issue. The Charleena Lyles thing. There was just there was no cause for it to have happened the way it did. We need to give police the tools they need to successfully intervene in these kinds of cases. Otherwise we're just going to see a continuation if if we don't put our resources into that training which we haven't so far. In de-escalation trainings, crisis intervention training, mental health and require that actually first aid be administered if force is used. Some of these lives that have happened though that have been lost could have been saved had they had even implemented first stage training.
[REYNOLDS] Jessyn Farrell.
[FARRELL] Charleena Lyles was our neighbor and I think really the shooting death really draws into focus where the consent decree has not gone far enough and where we need to go much deeper in terms of reforms. You shouldn't call the cops 23 times and still not get the help you need. You know the cop shouldn't show up and not have non-lethal force options on them. And so clearly we may have policies in place but we need to make sure that those policies are being followed that the training that is necessary is actually being in place. We need to make sure that cops in the field have mental health training available that there are community service officers who have training who are available for those moments. And we also need to change the malice standard. As a legislator, I co-sponsored legislation to do that but to really change our culture I think we need to change that standard as well.
[REYNOLDS] Jenny Durkan, please.
[DURKAN] Accountability is something that I fought for for decades. And when I was U.S. attorney I was proud to lead the effort with the civil rights groups in the community for police reform and to make sure that we had a federal judge overseeing it. So it would not be just a checkbox issue but something that we would continually improve. We have seen some improvement. We saw that 70 percent of the time police officers using force they were using against someone in mental health crisis. The last monitor report shows that the the worst uses of force have dropped 60 percent. But the death of Charleena Lyles shows we have to do more. We have to do more in training police officers but we also have to do more is supporting people in the community. Charleena Lyles was failed by our society in so many ways. She was moved from homelessness to a home but she still needed mental health counseling and other support services.
[REYNOLDS] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] It was how police in particular how police deal with those in mental health crisis that spurred the consent decree. And I just was deeply concerned after the shooting of Charleena Lyles in that from the very top to the officers themselves, there appeared to be great confusion about what the policies were. What the appropriate response was, what the training should have been. And yet at the same time we've seen report after report from those overseeing it that everything's going great and I'm not buying it. I think that the time for self-congratulation on the DOJ consent decree is over. I think it's time for a full independent assessment overseen by the community police commission in collaboration with the mayor and the City Council because again I think the public has lost trust that we're making progress. And I just don't think further reports of checking the boxes is going to resolve that trust.
[REYNOLDS] Question for all of you: do any of you think that we need stronger civilian control over the police department than we have now?
[OLIVER] Absolutely. Because I believe there are two issues at hand here. The first, or three actually, the community police commission is really about structural and systemic changes. Their job is to make recommendations and then be able to force the policy shifts that need to happen and work to ensure that our police have the right training and have the right policies to do their job better. The second is about renewing community trust. We have not seen any outcomes in any police shooting in the past five years that has resulted in the death of an unarmed person of color that has actually resulted to an officer being removed from the force. And there are numerous factors that play into that. But as a result those communities that are most over policed in our city simply do not trust the institution and do not trust the bureaucracy. The third point is communities of color and low income communities who have the highest levels of negative interactions with police have an incredible amount of insight to know what are you looking for to know whether or not misconduct has occurred? And our voices have routinely been kept from the table.
[REYNOLDS] Does anyone agree with Nikkita Oliver that we need stronger civilian oversight of police?
[HASEGAWA] The community police commission or some third party has to have the ability to call for an investigation. The police need to work with the community not like as if it's an ever adversarial situation which it seems to get to sometimes. So I have seen actually how the machine locks arms to defend each other. I had to pass a bill last year that required both the county council in Franklin County and the superior court over there to provide support to the coroner's office because they just flat out refused to support the coroner in doing an independent investigation of this shooting of Antonio Zambrano over there. So without any kind of trust between the powers that be and the people, we're not going to make much progress in working together.
[REYNOLDS] Mike McGinn. You agree we need more civilian oversight of police. What specifically do you mean by that?
[MCGINN] I advocated to get a community police commission in that DOJ consent decree because you need that type of community accountability on elected officials and the departments themselves. I would like and I appointed some of the most severe critics of the police department to that community police commission. I'd like to have them independent budget authority, the ability to have you know investigative authority and the ability to potentially even look at discipline as well. Again it's a trust issue. And you know this issue of management of the police department is is a really serious one. It takes a tremendous amount of focus and I'm personally very disturbed to learn that you know in the midst of this crisis, Chief O'Toole is in Ireland for two weeks right now. We need a focus on these issues and we need hands on management from the from the chief and the mayor with independent community oversight.
[REYNOLDS] Jenny Durkan, do you think we mean more civilian oversight of Seattle police?
[DURKAN] We need more civilian oversight. We need it baked in hard. But I have to disagree with a little bit about what Mike McGinn has been saying about the consent decree is is not working. I think it is working whether it's working well enough yet, we don't know it's in the process. There's a hearing tomorrow before Judge Robart on the legislation that's been passed that will create more civilian oversight both at this CPC and the OPA and have an inspector general. Those are all very important steps. We fought hard to get the consent decree with the judge so that nobody could walk away from the table before it was done. Reform doesn't happen overnight. It is a process of continual self-improvement. And one of the great things that's come out of the reforms is more transparency. We know what happened with Charleena Lyles because of the reform. Police reports are being released because of the reform. Different people are investigating that because of the reforms. Reform is not a destination. It is a process and an urgent process of continuing to improve because that trust between police and community, it's just not a matter of public safety it's a matter of social justice. And without it, our neighborhoods will not be the same.
[MCGINN] Yeah at some point this consent decree will end. But I don't think the mistrust between police department and the community will end. I don't think the underlying issues that drive that mistrust are going to end. I mean issues around bias and policing and and it's implicit in our culture as well. You need an independent community police commission moving forward to all dishonest. Certainly some progress has been made but I think what we're seeing is that we've lost trust in that, whether that process progress has been sufficient.
[REYNOLDS] How about you, Jessyn Farrell? Do you think we need more civilian oversight of police?
[FARRELL] I think that we do and I was going to make that same point that the consent decree is going to end and the question then becomes what is the commitment from leadership both the chief of the police and the mayor to push and further transparency? And I think fundamental to that is just being available to talk to the public. I'm deeply concerned again that as we're in the midst of this crisis that Chief O'Toole hasn't been able to sit down and really meet with folks and I think that just that being able to sit down and listen is part of that transparency and accountability that elected officials and appointees must take to this issue.
[REYNOLDS] And Cary Moon, you get the last word on this.
[MOON] Absolutely I think the community police commission needs to be fully funded and fully empowered and do a robust job because that is the venue for long term building of trust for transparency and for accountability of our police department. And I just want to remind everybody that your long term change is going to come from changing how we think, changing how we perceive one another, changing how what we do when we feel threatened. Those changes are deep and internal changes and we need to keep the racial justice training, the racial bias training going in the police department and every single department in the city because this is a universal problem across Seattle. It's not just the police.
[BRAND] We're going to turn now to the final discussion: area drug addiction. Because we're nearing the end of this debate, we're going to start right with the discussion. So first question for all candidates on the stage: show of hands, do you support or oppose the proposal to create a safe injection site in Seattle? Raise your hands if you support this idea. All candidates have raised their hands. None opposed. Any concerns? What would you say to those residents who are concerned about their neighborhood and the location of a proposed injection site? Jessyn Farrell.
[FARRELL] I, as a state representative, represented the Lake City community which is where one of these proposed safe injection sites has been proposed. And so I have had a number of meetings with lots of people who are very very concerned and I do not approach my support of this without really hearing and understanding those concerns but what really moved me on this issue is that drug addiction is happening in our communities right now. In our alleyways, in our yards, on our streets. And we need to provide people with services, with mental health supports, with public safety so that they can address their addiction. So I support a safe injection site with those supports. Moreover we need a robust dialogue with the community and a commitment around safety around those concerns that people have. Because it really does matter how we are treating both our neighbors but also the people among us who are suffering from addiction.
[BRAND] Jenny Durkan, you've said in a past interview with me that addiction treatment and mental health counseling is one area where we may need to increase resources and spending. So how would you allocate those resources? What isn't working in the system currently?
[DURKAN] I think a number of things aren't working. The first is homelessness which we've talked about. There are such a large amount of the population of the homeless are dealing with either mental health issues, addiction issues, or both. And until we know how much money we can squeeze out of the other service provider budgets, we won't know exactly but we know right now that the treatment dollars flow down through the county. While the shelter dollars are down to the city, we need to have a holistic approach to how we treat opiate addiction. We're in the middle of an opiate addiction right now and the safe consumption sites in my view are one way we treat this as a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue. We really missed the mark in my in my view in the 90s when I was a criminal defense lawyer and fought to have more drug treatment instead of drug prosecutions. We can't make that same mistake now. We need to make sure that we're approaching these people with compassion giving the resources and treating this as a holistic public health issue.
[BRAND] Any other candidates. What specific new ideas do you have to fight the heroin epidemic? Cary Moon.
[MOON] I think we need to also ramp up funding for treatment services especially for low income people because treatment is expensive and we have to offer them a place to get treatment and we have to do that in conjunction with safe consumption sites.
[BRAND] Nikkita Oliver.
[OLIVER] I think it's important to acknowledge safe injection sites are about saving lives and in particular the people most likely to use a safe injection site are long term users. I think it's also important to acknowledge that we just simply don't have enough wrap around treatment options available within our city to serve people who are struggling with addiction. There's also an incredibly big stigma around admitting that you're struggling with addiction. So in addition to the safe injection sites we need to do cultural education to eliminate the stigma. We need to provide more treatment facilities and beds and we need a regional approach. This is not just an issue in Seattle. And that's true when it comes affordable housing in the state of emergency around homelessness and the opioid addiction struggle that we're seeing the epidemic. It's regional, so we need to have a partnership both with King County and with the cities around us.
[BRAND] Bob Hasegawa.
[HASEGAWA] Yeah so it's interesting to notice that this has less of a detrimental racial imbalance to it because the origins of this opioid addiction epidemic came from the over subscription of prescription drugs and a lot of that is taking effect now so a lot of this has started booming after 2009 10 when they converted the ability for people to use that specific type. So, one of the things we don't do is this is a public health crisis but we do not have a single public health detox center in King County right now. And there are private ones but that's because Medicaid will pay for a lot of this so those people are being exploited in a way that in a treatment center that's not exactly solving their problems. So we need to get involved with giving people the opportunities to come and detox and get off of this stuff. You know, I had a conversation or a heart wrenching conversation last night with somebody just trying to get briefed on this issue. oh, I'm sorry. I'm going over time.
[BRAND] Final word, Mike McGinn. Again, I apologize we're running tight on time.
[MCGINN] So ultimately this is about saving lives. That's what we know about safe injection sites. You know in addition to having stationary sites we can look at mobile safe injection sites as well. Under my administration previously we launched on the called law enforcement assisted diversion and allowed police officers to send low level offenders to get treatment for addiction rather than sending them to jail because in both cases you hope that there's, in that moment of clarity, perhaps when they're at the injection center perhaps when a police officer refers them to treatment, they can they can succeed in getting off drugs. LEAD has never been expanded. We've had it downtown. We've had three years of such wealth, we've never extended it beyond that. I think we need to do better at harm reduction strategies, not criminalization of these issues.
[BRAND] Thank you candidates.
[REYNOLDS] We've only got time for a couple of more questions. There won't be discussion in your answer to these questions but you'll have 45 seconds to answer. Let's go back to the audience. I'd like you to meet Ki Lee. Ki, would you tell them which organization you're with?
[KI LEE] I'm a self-advocate from Open Doors for Multicultural Families. My question is, what is your plan to provide equitable resources to help sustain a meaningful life or for culturally and linguistically diverse individuals with developmental disabilities? Thank you.
[REYNOLDS] And we'll begin with Nikkita Oliver. 45 seconds.
[OLIVER] So I think it's very important to listen to people hear their needs and understand what policies are most impacting them. Part of our our strategy as a campaign is we're hosting community listening posts. We'll be hosting one focused primarily on the disability community. One of the things I've heard from that community is there's not enough language resources provided at community meetings, at city meetings or opportunities for people within the disability community to get involved in policy making processes. The other thing is our city is participating in sub minimum wage which means we allow folks within the disability community to receive less than a living wage simply because they identify as a part of the disability community. And so part of ensuring that our disability community has a robust opportunity for economic viability is getting rid of that and saying that that's unacceptable that having a living wage is a human right.
[REYNOLDS] Bob Hasegawa.
[HASEGAWA] So at the state level we've put a lot of effort into funding to make sure that the disability community has equity of access, not just equal access so that there are additional resources put forward to them. As far as a linguistics issue, there's limited English proficiency budget money that goes to support that. We try to support work, hiring job skills training. So as far as the city goes, what the city should be doing with the education system is providing the wraparound supports to make sure that the needs of the disability community are fully met.
[REYNOLDS] Jessyn Farrell.
[FARRELL] So I think one of the values that we hold as a city is that we should be a place that is welcoming and inclusive of everyone. And as a state legislator, I have fought for funding to make sure that people have access to education to transit to housing. And as we're facing these multiple crises we need to make sure that the disability community in our city has a seat at the policymaking table and that we are using the various languages that people speak. That we're doing outreach and provide services in a multiple of languages. Also I agree that we need to make sure that people who are working hard no matter where they are from or what their ability is that we are paying them a living wage. And I also think that that is just fundamental to our values and the fact that we allow for less than a living wage or less than a minimum wage is something that we need to change. So this is an issue that I think the next mayor should stand up in and and address.
[REYNOLDS] And let's go to Jenny Durkhan.
[DURKAN] Our diversity is really one of the strengths of our city and something that we have taken pride in for many years. And I thank you for that question. It's not only the right thing to do but fortunately in Seattle and in America it's the legal thing that's required. When I was U.S. attorney I set up a civil rights division in our office the first time we ever had it. And one of the things we focused on was Disability Rights and the other was language access. We worked with the court system here because they were not providing sufficient language access for people in city of Seattle they had not kept up. So we we entered an agreement with them that they required to do it. We also enforce disability rights. It's a matter of equity and access. It's also a matter of having a basic fundamental human rights and having a life that is meaningful as you say. So I think as mayor your obligation is to make sure that not just the letter of the laws are enforced but what people need.
[REYNOLDS] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] So my dad was a director of Community Services and parents of developmentally disabled kids came into him and said, "˜What's the program for our kids?' And he said, "˜What do you need?' So I would invite all of you into my office and have a dialogue. What is it that you need? And I would really enjoy that conversation. We in the city hired developmentally disabled individuals to work in the city. And I actually would have regular meetings with them about every month or so a cohort would come in and meet with me. Again that was another thing that people proposed cutting in the recession. I wouldn't cut it. And what I discovered was that those jobs and those experiences were so meaningful. They love the city. They worked so hard. So let's figure out how what we can do better. And you can guarantee I'll be a partner in that.
[REYNOLDS] And Cary Moon.
[MOON] I really appreciate this question because it really kind of raises the issue we have in Seattle that wealth, power, and privilege is very concentrated and held by very few people in our city and in my platform from the beginning of my campaign, I have made a commitment to sharing authority. Sharing decision authority across race, class, and gender in the mayor's office and I apologize because I did not think about disability as part of that so I will add that to my list because I think it's essential to have all our voices at the table and make sure we're understanding different perspectives and balancing across all the issues. And again I would look at every single investment of city dollars and make sure that we are using an equity lens for every single investment because that's where this systemic oppression exists and that's where we have to tackle it is how we use our resources.
[BRAND] Thank you all. And now to our very final question, a new sports arena. Do you support plans for SoDo, KeyArena, or neither? Your answers in 15 seconds and we will start with Bob Hasegawa.
[HASEGAWA] I support the Longacres site in Renton, *laughter* on the record as doing that I think it makes perfect sense. You know it's got access from all directions and it doesn't come with all the baggage that the other two locations have.
[BRAND] Jessyn Farrell.
[FARRELL] I support the SoDo site and I've come to this really through a transportation lens. I think that when you look at the KeyArena, we can't build transit fast enough to get people in and out of that part of town. We should be doing that. But in the very near term SoDo really does have the transportation infrastructure. We need to be doing more to protect our industrial lands and make sure that freight mobility is working there. But there is infrastructure there to get people in and out of that part of town.
[BRAND] Jenny Durkan.
[DURKAN] I grew up a Sonics fan. I'm still Gaga over Lenny Wilkens. I want whichever place is going to get the Sonics back and protects taxpayers. I will say though we have a really terrific professional basketball team already. Go Storm!
[BRAND] Mike McGinn.
[MCGINN] I support SoDo and I've always supported it. I helped get the legislation through the city council and through the county council as well. I'm glad we're looking at KeyArena but I think there's a lot of questions about the revenue streams, the parking revenue they're trying to grab in the neighborhood impacts as well. And yes, I also support the Storm.
[BRAND] Cary Moon.
[MOON] I believe industrial land is not a renewable resource. We have got to protect the industrial land we have now because once we let it go it never comes back. So I support the KeyArena site knowing that there are some serious challenges there. We've got to do a lot with transit. We've got to do a lot to provide access to the facility without adding to the Mercer Island mess. But I think we can do it.
[BRAND] Nikkita Oliver.
[OLIVER] I also believe that we have to protect our industrial lands and for that reason I do support KeyArena with understanding we have to have a very well thought out transportation plan and justifications for the use of public monies for that development. With that though comes the opportunity to leverage those public monies to ensure that there are robust union negotiations that protect our workers who will be in that facility.
[BRAND] Thank you candidates.