Seattle District 6 City Council Candidate Forum Summary – July 10, 2019

Intro and overview of Democracy Vouchers

Question: Who is accepting democracy vouchers?
Answer: Everyone except John Peeples

Seattle City Council District 6 Candidate Forum

Candidate Intros

Terry Rice
Got into race to solve homelessness and keep housing affordable for families who live here – teachers and nurses. Also wants to expedite transportation growth.

Also need to address climate change. Lives in Ballard today, and grew up in the PNW.

Kate Martin
Has lived in the neighborhood since 1986. Degrees in environmental science and architecture. Has been involved in the community for a number of years. Has been working on many issues, but riled up over the past few years – crime, homelessness, addiction. Seem to be getting worse, but the folks down at city hall say it’s getting better.

Is concerned that the city and county has said they’ve come up with a grand scheme, but isn’t seeing it happening. Is trying to work on a bottom-up approach, rather than top-down.

Jeremy Cook
Has lived in North Ballard since 2003. Feels the city council is not doing a good job representing the people they are supposed to be serving. Wants to do a better job serving the people. Is worried about the crime and drug problems plaguing the city. Would like to spend taxpayer money more wisely, rather than taking more money.

John Peeples
Came to Seattle in 2009. Is running to return dignity to those who need it. Is hoping to get a 100% voter registration rate and voting rate. Cannot, in good conscience, in using the democracy voucher system because of how it’s pitched to the people and using the people’s money to represent people who do not share our values.

Heidi Wills (represented by Alex)
Was a city council member 20 years ago. Long history of collaborative engagement and solving issues. Has served on the 43rd Dist. Democrat Exec board for over 12 years. Concerned about affordable housing, making sure we get housing of all shapes and sizes.

Question 1: Green Lake Community Center and Evans Pool – how would you replace it?

Kate – Supports rebuilding the center and pool. It acts as a regional park, listed as a city park. Possibly need to look to the county for funds. Also plans to look more into the metro park plan. No matter what, you can be that i’m behind you getting things up to snuff.

Jeremy – Supports rebuilding. Would like to evaluate all city funding and find waste. We’ve had a lot of debacles, and need to take a look at our house and make sure it’s in order before taking more taxpayer money.

John – 100% supports replacing the community center and pool. Convinced it needs to be larger. It is the job of the parks district. Need an audit, top-down, of the entire city, we’ll find money.

Heidi – Yes, 100%. Our greenspaces are our inheritance and need to make sure that gets taken care of. Can look at audits and the metro parks to find money.

Terry – Fundamentally support the center and the pool. Important to youth, important to families. Look at how we’re spending money and look at the parks funding. One pot, a lot of priorities. It would be disingenuous to say there’s a clear funding source. There’s a lot of places in need and we’ll need hard choices.

Question 2: ADUs & DADUs – do you support what the city council did last week? Where do you see single family neighborhoods fit into the growth plan for the city?

Jeremy – no problems with ADUs and DADUs. We need to increase density. Great way for people with fixed incomes to stay in their houses. The city paints too broad of brush when they paint large swaths without getting community input.

John – Does support, with the caveat of allowance of non-owner occupied. It needs to be owner occupied in order to solve the problems at hand (people can’t stay in their houses.) Single family housing is critical for large American city such as ours. Want to make sure that new houses fit in with the aesthetics of the neighborhoods.

Heidi – Yes, does support legislation. It’s a very gentle way of adding density. Need to see if it’s creating the intended purposes of bringing housing prices down.

Terry – Supports the legislation. Homelessness root cause is a loss of affordable housing. This is what we need to solve this problem. This is about climate change as well. When we add density, it’s good for climate change. It means we’re able to lower the carbon emissions. We have to make space for people coming to Seattle. Really likes that it makes housing affordable.

Kate – In my work, I design backyard cottages and basements. Was the biggest proponent 12 years ago. What I’m really worried about is, what is the real intent. They were so intent on eliminating the owner occupied requirement. Looking into it, they’re opening us up to be better for developers and global investment companies. On my website, there are six ideas that would make a big difference. What I advocated for, when someone is going to tear down a garage, was rebuilding the garage with a carriage house above it.

Question 3 – People are concerned that illegal activity is not being managed. Drug use, homeless encampments, but there doesn’t seem to be any effort being made by the police or city attorney for these issues. What would you do immediately?

John – Untie the hands of our police force. Allow them to arrest violent criminals and ensure the city prosecutes for those violent crimes. The city attorney is being disingenuous when saying the bottleneck is too small.

Heidi – Yes, we need to enforce the laws. Before that, the police force is spread too thin. We have half the police officers per capita as NYC. After that, need to look at the people who are in tents and sleeping on sidewalks, and not accepting services. Those are the people that are, more often than not, committing those crimes. And we need housing for those who accept housing.

Terry – Fundamentally not true that anyone is directing the police to not enforce laws. What is happening is the descent decree, and I fully support this. There is not a case where the city is not arresting those who commit violent acts. We need to add officers, do do the work we ask them to do – community policing. Need a second station or better facilities for the north precinct. Need to make sure they have the resources.

Kate – City of Boston is the same size as Seattle. Their budget is half the size. Boston has 600 more police officers than Seattle. Boston has the second lowest crime in the nation, and Seattle has the highest. What I’ve learned from doing the research is the state prison system restores the life of the people who were there. That same thing needs to happen in King County. We have shorter stays, but it’s a revolving door. We need to invest in the restoration of their lives. I want to see a lot of prevention on the youth side. Once someone is in the system, I don’t want them thrown in an empty cell and released. I want to restore their lives.

Jeremy – I agree with Kate. We need to do away with the 3 gram rule. If they’re committing a felony, they should be arrested. We need to make sure they’re being prosecuted. But it’s not just to punish them, but work with them so they have work release, probation. We need a system in place similar to what Rhode Island is doing. We need to follow through and give them an avenue to become productive members of society.

Question 4 – We passed a levy to improve bus service. Many feel bus service has become worse. Metro’s answer is wait for light rail. What would you do to ensure we get what we’re paying for?

Heidi – Yes, we need to get more busses going from here downtown. In terms of funding, Heidi supports congestion pricing for toll roads, on a sliding scale. 

Terry – Really likes better bus service. If we can keep service where we’re at, it’s a net win. We need to get cars off the road – climate change. We need to move busses into dedicated bike lanes.

Note about last question: The notion that we criminalize sex work is fundamentally wrong. We can’t arrest our way out of the problem. This is a public health crisis.

Kate – I’ll stick to the question. There’s no seats on the bus (where I live) going into downtown. I totally agree with more bus lanes. Then we need to get more capacity for the busses. How can it be that a city this big can have this lowest quality bus service? One argument is not enough drivers. Has been a proponent of part-time drivers, but Metro is against that. To relieve congestion, getting the Sounder and Amtrak to stop in Ballard.

Jeremy – Would like to make the Rapid Ride free. It’s currently not rapid. I would increase the number of people who qualify for reduced cost Orca cards. Would like to get rid of fare enforcement on Rapid Rides. Mainly they enforce elderly or people with children. We should use smart transit signals to get the busses moving.

John – Would increase the number of busses – reliable and safe. Encourage people who drive because there’s not reliable bus. I refuse to discourage the use of cars – it’s not “us vs them”. That means adding bus service. Would also require emphasis patrols to stamp out bad behavior. People are not safe, and we need to make sure they are safe. Encourage fare enforcement. Require all municipal employees to take transit, carpool or vanpool to and from work. Never will there be congestion pricing. The tracking needed is fundamentally not American. We can make smart sensors, lights and signals to give preference to the lights. Would support having the Sounder stop in Ballard. Need to encourage transit use. Not discourage – there will be no “war on cars” as long as I can help it.

Questions from the Audience

Q: What are your ideas for solving climate change?

Terry – Very important question. We’re not doing enough to treat it like the crisis that it is. I look to other cities, like Portland who has a 174 point plan which has worked really well. One example is an energy score for every home sold in Seattle

Kate – Agree with following Portland’s lead. There are so many things we can take directly from their ideas. Also concerned about what the city does about carbon. We can still fit in the trees, plans and natural drainage which help nature’s way of dealing with carbon. Starting to question intent. We can’t build property line to property line and then talk about how we need trees.

Jeremy – By reducing the fares that working class people pay, we would encourage bus ridership. We can also look into where the city buys energy. Buy more renewable energy vs petroleum.

John – Look at the pollution and energy we use – and use less. The idea is to share ideas that work, that use less energy. A big fan of planting more trees. Do these things on a friendly competition scale. Bring an engineering and scientific view to it.

Heidi – Deeply important issue. As a country we’ve been doing very poor. Seattle is a city that can do something about this. Endorsed by the Sierra Club. We really need to get cars off the road – getting more busses and making sure their busses are carbon neutral. After that, looking at the building codes.

Q: ADU – Would any of you work to repeal what the lame-duck council adopted? (not the McMansions portion)

Kate – Has proposed plans on website. Has never seen a city council so controlled by special interests and is one of the reasons I’m running.

Jeremy – No problem with ADUs/DADUs, but it should have an owner-occupied requirement.

John – The only real heartache was the non-owner-occupied. Makes sense to require the owner. 

Heidi – Does support it, but believe we should take a closer look at the owner occupied requirement. Should not be used for AirBNBs

Terry – No, I do support this legislation. We need this because people need a way to stay in their homes and bring on a supply of low and middle income housing.

Q: Safe injection sites – would like each of you to our philosophy on safe injection sites.

Jeremy – very opposed. It’s not possible to safely inject heroin into your body. Does support treatments.

John – Completely oppose the notion of injection site. Injecting heroin and other drugs not prescribed to you is a gamble on your life. Would take every opportunity to block this. These are our neighbors who have fallen on their face. It is our job to help them get back on their feet.

Heidi – Does not support these sites. Saw the impact in Vancouver. Does not mean that we’re not compassionate. We need to invest a lot of money in getting them the treatment they need. Injection sites is not a valid way of solving the national crisis we have.

Terry – Drug addiction is a public health issue. I look to the public health community. The experts in that space it’s unanimous. It saves money and it saves peoples lives. The experts tell us this. I’m going to default to the experts that work in this space.

Kate – I oppose safe injection sites. I followed the whole process of how the board decided how to deal with this. When I looked at the study, it was predetermined they were going to create the injection sites. I’m a planner. When I do a cost-benefit analysis, I’m not swayed. That’s what I expected from my government on it. There’s no data to show that this helps people get off drugs. In Vancouver nobody gets off it. Our biggest problem is meth, and it’s smoked. Absolutely opposed.

Q: Quite a few of us in this room are likely living on fixed incomes. How do we pay for all these things [more police, treating mental health, rehabilitation, community center…] and keep us from being forced out of our homes?

John – We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We need a top to bottom audit. From there, we can cut programs that aren’t working. And then we can relieve the burden on taxpayers. I have a vision of Seattle where these problems are fixed, and we can reduce taxes. I look forward to the day when our $6B budget is back down to $4B.

Heidi – Does not believe taxes should go up. We do have one of the most regressive tax systems in the country. Will lobby to get a statewide capital gains and income tax.

Terry – Really like the idea of income tax, if it means we can lower sales and property taxes. In the meantime, we have to offer immediate relief. Lyft and Uber are prime for a usage tax. High end vacant rental tax. Tax the developers or lower the rates to make them more affordable. A transportation use tax.

Kate – Not in favor for an income tax. Our state laws don’t allow for it. Interested, the mayor said she was going to do zero balance budgeting, but didn’t. In favor for doing that. We went form $4B to $6B. The city is addicted to growth. And then they hit us with levy after levy. Half of the students who graduate from our schools can’t read, write or do math. We need a better education system.

Jermey – Would like to repeal regressive taxes like the sugar tax. Would also do an audit. Reward city employees for finding and reducing waste. Go from there. As far as property taxes, would like to allow people who are on fixed incomes to apply for waivers when they can’t pay their property tax.

Q: Did you support the head tax? Why or why not?

Heidi – Did not support. We have regressive taxes. We need to see what the biggest companies are doing to our affordability.

Terry – Did not support. The tax was crafted so that high gross businesses that are in low profit businesses (Dick’s Burgers) would feel that impact. Does feel there’s a role that large companies have an obligation to support the communities that allow their businesses to thrive.

Kate – Definitely opposed. In my business, when I make a plan, when it’s accepted, we move forward. With that head tax, there was no plan. To your point, Terry, the types of businesses that were going to get walloped, it made no sense. This era needs to end. They still act like the old system. They’re not working on logical plans to end homelessness. I have plans on how to help people and get them back into the fabric of our city.

Jeremy – I agree with Kate. Sometimes our city council comes up with ideas to see if the’ll stick, that basically just take more of our money. Did not support the head tax. Tacoma had an interesting response – a tax break for creating jobs. That’s more of a positive way to handle it. If you’re going to take someone’s money, you should tell them what it’s going to be used for.

John  – Completely opposed. It was vindictive and had no plan. It punished good behavior. Having a job is good for the employee, good for the community and good for the company. Could have been solved by applying performance metrics on orgs that use public money but aren’t performing.

Q: A few of you have mentioned “audit” – as far as I’m concerned, that’s a total dodge. You should know something about how Seattle spends it money. My question: Where would you cut half a billion out of the Seattle budget?

Terry – I do not think there’s a half a billion dollars to cut out of the budget. Have not been an advocate of a top-down audit. The idea of an audit is expensive and will distract. There are areas we do need to have targeted audits. Not parks, not fire department. A lot of departments are already doing very good work.

Kate – The budget is what the council is for and the mayor signs off on. There’s lots of room to improve in the budget. If you look at the Ed Murray budget compared to what was before and after, then you can find areas to cut. I comb through the budget pretty much every cycle. Working with him, we could reduce. (But where?) Transportation – I would start there.

Jeremy – Scrap the streetcar project. It’s already a losing proposition. Have blown through our budget for bike lanes at $12M per mile in some cases. Our previous mayor did a lot of hiring and there are a lot of highly paid executives there.

John – I would start with the streetcar. Put those employees to work on other projects, that do not include segregating bikes from cars, or those expensive curbs. Expects a lot of people who aren’t doing a lot. Combining departments and reducing labor costs.

Heidi – Has not said anything to him about making drastic cuts. Has talked about catastrophes on other things like the missing link.

Q: Lived here for 20 years. Swim in Green Lake year around. It’s a very important part of our lives. I’ve watched green buffer grow smaller every year. Our fire departments, and they fight to get funding to increase our water rescue programs. We don’t have any water based rescue. This a budget issue that gets pushed out. We witnessed a drowning on memorial day that had a slower response because of lack of watercraft. We are a water based city.

You have said we need an audit. Who decides what gets cut and do we get a vote on that?

Kate – Water rescue comments are duly noted. Auditing is really small down at the City of Seattle. Would love to see citizen requests for audit be fulfilled. The mayor crafts the budget, the city council chips away, makes changes, and then the council signs it. You wouldn’t get to vote on it.

Jeremy – Yes on water safety. It’s the city council who decides where the money is spent.

John – Yes on improving water safety. It’s up to the city council. We have to exercise restraint.

Heidi – Doesn’t talk to Hedi much about audits. Does have conversations about the neighborhoods having input. This is why we have districting.

Terry – This is why I said I don’t think there’s half a billion dollars to cut. I think there are departments were we should do an audit and make improvements. I do think water safety improvements are important. My first job was in the maritime industry in the ship canal. As a port city, that’s a really critical investment and one we need to prioritize.

1 Minute closing

Heidi – Would really appreciate your support. All of her issues are listed on her website and spoken more eloquently than I’ve spoken tonight.

John – Would very much appreciate your support. I bring an engineering perspective without restricting people’s liberties and overburdening them. It is a team effort. And there are things individuals in society can do. It’s not all government.

Jeremey – Seattle has many opportunities, but it also faces many challenges. We need to represent the people. We need people who can work within our budget, without adding additional taxes. Please visit my website, or contact me. I realize you will have many options, which is why I humbly and respectfully ask for your vote

Kate – Thank you for coming down. I really appreciate it. I have been spending about 20 years on these issues. I would love to represent you. I’m a small d democrat. I solve problems for a living. I do it efficiency, and cost effectively. I look forward to doing that for you.

Terry – Thank you for coming and your very thoughtful questions. I got into this because Seattle is a city that is at a crossroads. We are in a moment where if we act decisively, we can carry these actions into the future that more affordable, more accessible, more equitable. Where everyone has a space. Were people can raise their kids and afford to stay in their home.