Questions for City Council candidates from the audience – Candidate Forum September 12, 2017
Responses from candidate Jon Grant:
With police reform and equitable justice being such timely issues and the homelessness, addiction and mental health crises playing out so publicly) how can city council help re-establish civic norms of public safety and individual responsibility (not just individual rights)? How can we make up for lost time in rebuilding a right-sized police force with officers who are connected to the communities they serve? Better protect our parks and public spaces from mis-use?
Police reform and addressing our homelessness crisis are two central issues to our campaign.
We should invest in rebuilding the Community Service Officer (CSO) program, which places unarmed Seattle Police Department employees in communities to respond to low-level calls like property crimes and landlord-tenant disputes. The CSO program was dismantled in 2004; it’s time to bring it back. CSOs could play an important role in working with houseless people and individuals dealing with drug addiction by connecting people to services instead of routing them into the criminal justice system.
We must also bring bold solutions to our homelessness crisis. My campaign is the only campaign to have put forward a funded proposal to build 5,000 units of low-income and homeless housing to ensure that people get off the streets and into permanent housing.
City Council is passing an unprecedented level of experimental legislation at the same time that our city budget and bureaucracy is very bloated, with little direct accountability for outcomes. How can you bring pragmatism and follow-through on impacts to communities affected? (e.g. small landlords, small businesses, neighborhoods).
Many in our communities agree that our city government is unaccountable to the communities it serves. I am running to be a community advocate on city council, who will be responsive to concerns from regular constituents. My campaign does not accept any donations from corporations, CEOs or downtown developers. Instead, 90% of our funding comes from publicly financed Democracy Vouchers, which means I will always be accountable to you, not special interests and not big money.
The opiod epidemic is playing out painfully in our neighborhoods (like Ballard). No one on city council seems to recognize the impacts to business costs, home safety, devastation to parks and green spaces and urban disorder. How can we make better progress helping individuals in need and also mitigating the wide abuses to communities (not NIMBY, not hysterical)?
I support expanding the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program citywide. This program can help address our opioid crisis by getting people into treatment. The LEAD program provides caseworkers to chronically homeless individuals, low-level drug dealers and users, instead of pushing those people into the criminal justice system. The LEAD program has reduced criminal recidivism rates by up to 60% among the population it serves. We should expand the LEAD program citywide to better serve our communities. In 2018, we can challenge the County to match $1 million in city funding and we should set a goal to reach $5 million in yearly funding long-term to bring LEAD citywide.
What are your thoughts on the issue of AirBnB/HomeAway rentals and reduction in long term rental apartments? Where are the appropriate? How can city manage?
Like many in our city, I am concerned about the impact of AirBnB on our stock of long-term rental apartments. We should guard against entire homes or apartments becoming permanent short-term rentals when we are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.
Would you hire your staff based the first qualified applicant. No need for interview, obviously not, so what is your position on requiring landlords to rent to the first in line?
The first in time requirement is an important tool in protecting against housing discrimination in our rental market. It also important to point out that the legislation does not require you to accept the first applicant; it requires you to accept the first qualified applicant. That means landlords can still set screening criteria when making a rental decision. In fact, this requirement is already a recommended best practice by the Rental Housing Association of Washington and the new legislation just codifies this best practice. When landlords pick one renter among multiple qualified applicants, their own biases, whether conscious or unconscious, may come into play. Landlords are still able to set their minimum screening criteria to determine qualifications.
I no longer feel safe in Magnolia on the bus to my downtown office or walking around the city – day or night because of the homeless issues. How do you plan to address these? How much do you think this homeless problem stems from drug abuse?
We are seeing a crisis of leadership with regards to our homelessness crisis. We had a ten year plan to end homeless that came and went. But in 2017, over 8,500 people were homeless in Seattle, including nearly 4,000 people sleeping unsheltered. Our city administration has doubled down on ineffective policies that further destabilize our houseless neighbors and do not effectively transition people into stable housing. It’s clear we need a new path forward.
It is time for the belief that housing is a human right to no longer be a noble catchphrase, but a funded policy that can be put into practice. Our campaign proposes building 5,000 homes in five years, which will effectively end unsheltered homelessness in Seattle.
To fund this proposal to build 5,000 homes in five years, we must increase the city’s corporate tax rate by 31 cents per $100 of revenue on the service sector and 16 cents per $100 of revenue on retail businesses. At the same time, we must raise the Business and Occupation tax exemption from $100,000 to $1 million dollars of yearly revenue.
This proposal provides needed tax relief to two-thirds of Seattle small businesses, while raising enough revenue to build 5,000 units of deeply affordable housing for the homeless in five years.
Seattleites have been more than generous with taxing themselves with levy after levy. But property taxes can be regressive, and low income and fixed income homeowners are feeling squeezed. This proposal ensures big business will pay its fair share.
There have been advocates to rezone single family housing zones to multi family and to relax the rules for parking and requiring a property owner to live on the property. Do you support these initiatives? Why? There are serious issues with too much garbage and noise and not enough parking.
I believe it is critical that we take an affordable housing and anti-displacement lens to our zoning policies. With 100,000 people moving to Seattle in the next ten years, we will need to expand our housing stock to accommodate them. However, I do not support a one-size-fits-all upzone policy and I support ensuring that neighborhoods have a say in how they grow. It is critical that we protect against displacement of existing low-income residents and ensure that new development includes housing that is affordable to working people. The city’s current policy, developed in concert with our biggest developers, is not a policy that serves our community.
I can no longer afford to live in my own city. Seattle rents have experienced the highest increase of any major city in the country. What is your specific plan to create affordable housing?
Across the country the cities with the worst housing affordability crises have already imposed a 25% affordability requirement on all new development. Seattle must do this too. Given the tremendous job growth in our city we must require developers to share the cost of mitigating the demand on our affordable housing stock.
Given the incredible and increasing demand for housing, the city has a tremendous bargaining position with private developers. The city has so far asked for very little; currently our affordability requirements are as low as 2% in some parts of the city. It’s time for us to demand more.
What do you plan to to to address the traffic situation in the city? There are some easy ways to address these without just spending more money –
Seattle is experiencing unprecedented traffic gridlock. What specifically will you do to was traffic congestion?
Our region is growing rapidly, with thousands of people moving each week. At the same time, we have seen traffic gridlock get worse and worse. We cannot address our traffic crisis without investing in public transportation alternatives that get cars off our roads. We should explore local funding options and permitting processes to speed up construction of light rail and we should bring back the employee hours tax to fund local bus service.
Question for City Council candidates received via email [Shortened version]:
Currently, under the “green house” regulations, there is a minimum number of trees that need to be put on a construction site. Unfortunately, there are no regulations about the appropriateness of the species of trees that are planted on each lot where the construction of the “green house” is. There is no protection for the neighbors, as large trees are planted close the houses possibly undermining foundations or allowing rodent access to roofs. The people at DPD were very clear that the situation is very bad. The bottom line is that the responsibility for the current rules regarding the “green houses” belongs to City Council. Are you willing to address this issue?
Yes, definitely. The real issue here is our city government not standing up to developers in advocating for the community’s interests. Unlike my opponent, I do not accept donations from big developers. You can be confident I will be a voice for community members who raise concerns about unaccountable developers.