We need a council that actually understands homelessness. While some politicians will tell you there are easy “silver bullet” solutions and come up with great sounding one or two sentence solutions to campaign on, there are clear misunderstandings of the causes of homelessness. Having experienced homelessness and housing instability in my youth, I understand the multifaceted nature of this problem, and strongly believe in evidence-based approaches. We need real solutions to combat this epidemic.
1) Address the root causes, not just the symptoms
Seattle’s homelessness services are vastly underfunded, but the City needs to do better in using the money it has and focusing on the root causes of homelessness. The #1 cause of homelessness is insufficient income and lack of affordable housing, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
I share our community’s frustration with the City Council’s misplaced priorities. An example of this is the City Council’s “head tax”, which would have only built 600 units over ten years, with no sizable impact on homelessness in the city. It would have solved less than 0.05% of the needed housing in the area and put thousands of local jobs at risk. Roundly opposed by voters, the “head tax” is an example of City Council’s misguided approach.
Even without this insufficient, ill-advised policy, Seattle’s annual budget increased by nearly $2 billion over the last four years, while our homeless population has increased by more than 40%. We can and must do better. I will work to address the root causes and ensure social service spending is geared toward proven, effective solutions and agencies.
2) Housing affordability
We can actually pinpoint what is driving the homelessness crisis in our City. Studies show that for every $100 increase in rent, there is an associated 6% increase in homelessness in metropolitan areas. The City must do more to tackle affordability and reduce displacement.
Washington’s apartment vacancy rate hit a record low of 3.0% in 2016. This record-low vacancy rate, coupled with a 6.6% increase in rent for a one-bedroom apartments between 2015 to 2016, has caused housing to become increasingly out of reach for many families.
3) Getting help for those who need it
We can’t dehumanize our homeless neighbors. Homeless people are not exclusively drug addicts who refuse treatment or help to get off the street, as there are many types of people suffering from homelessness today. Every homeless person has a different, often traumatic journey. There are at least 12,000 homeless people in Seattle and King County. They include:
- Families escaping domestic violence
- LGBTQ youth
- Economically disadvantaged seniors
- Under-employed families
- People with intellectual and physical disabilities
- Teens aged out of the foster care system
I will work to ensure our City takes a strategic approach, protecting the vulnerable and focusing on accountability for social services.
Accountability and Transparency
Seattle’s budget has grown from $2.8 billion to $5.8 billion in the last nine years. Do you know where that money is going?
Our City Council needs to start taking proactive measures to re-earn the trust of Seattle residents. People shouldn’t have to comb through the City’s budget just to find out how much money is really being dedicated to a single issue. We need leaders on City Council who will deliver measurable, time-driven results instead of grandstanding and finger-pointing.
Please ask yourself: Have your city services doubled in the last nine years like the City’s budget has? Do the problems in the city seem to be getting better or worse? Do you trust that the same city council members will now steer us in the right direction?
As your Councilmember, I promise that I’ll ask the hard questions. The “business-as-usual” approach to the City Council – which ignores neighborhood-level concerns and doesn’t focus on providing effective, cost-efficient services – needs to change. That’s exactly what I will fight for as your City Councilmember.
Seattle offers a truly multi-modal transportation network. However, we also face increasing commute times and congestion. We deserve a City that prioritizes transportation policies based on what reduces commute times and improves quality-of-life.
The reality is that different parts of the city have different commuting needs. Topography and existing commute patterns should inform the City’s priorities. This is especially true in District 1, which has experienced more new commuting challenges than any other part of Seattle. Unfortunately, City Council too often focuses on less urgent products with less impact on commute times, or benefits to fewer people. I will work to ensure the City prioritizes the most impactful projects.
I am also a strong believer in transportation equity. District 1 includes many neighborhoods that have been historically underserved. Efficient public transportation corridors in underserved areas like Delridge, High Point, and South Park are essential. I also support focusing service corridors in areas with many fixed-income senior residents.
Public Safety & First Responders
One of the City’s most fundamental duties is protecting the vulnerable – and that means ensuring an effective system for our first responders.
The Seattle Fire Department is experiencing an incredible increase in demand for its services, without commensurate funding to ensure it can meet those obligations. One of the biggest reasons for this is because the city has failed to adequately respond to the increasing challenges it faces around homelessness, opioid addiction and housing affordability.
Working as a first responders is extremely demanding both mentally and physically. We need to provide more support to first responders suffering from PTSD and require medical support for first responders. Last year was the first year in which more firefighters died as a result of suicide than line of duty deaths. This is unacceptable and hits home with me, as I have multiple family members that are first responders. It’s also a big part of why I support improving programs like the Navigation Team, which pairs public safety officers with outreach workers.
As your Councilmember, I will work to ensure that our first responders have adequate support, in terms of funding, medical care, and social support. I will work to reduce the root causes of homelessness, so our first responders are not put in the position of being social workers. So many of our City’s challenges tie together – and an effective first-response system is critical to addressing them.
As a young man, I fell in love with West Seattle for one big reason: a community that deeply values inclusiveness. Even as our community has changed over the years, that value has remained the same. I will work to ensure that District 1 is a wonderful, safe place for people regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and socioeconomic status. As your Councilmember, I will work will groups across our neighborhoods to ensure that District 1 remains a truly welcoming community.