In the citywide election for Seattle City Council Position 9, Sara Nelson has the best expertise and experience to craft policies that will more thoroughly address the city’s broad spectrum of needs with compassion, practicality and business acumen. Nelson would be the only small business owner on a council that has shown an imbalanced approach to the city’s business climate and job creators.
Minimum-wage hikes, sick and family leave and other worker-first policies have topped the progressive agenda, but these causes cannot advance without a vibrant business base, especially small enterprises that employ people. The council should help workers find good jobs, particularly in the post-pandemic recovery, and live in well-functioning neighborhoods. And that means helping Seattle’s small businesses get back to their feet.
In the first six months after COVID-19 struck, 624 Seattle restaurants shuttered permanently. More than 450 downtown business locations ended operations from January 2020 through June. That’s a sobering reality, not fat-cat corporations writing off unprofitable outposts. The figures represent lost livelihoods for storekeepers, wait staff, cooks and clerks — 14,000 jobs in downtown alone, gone within a year. Here is where local government must act with urgency and sensitivity to restore an ecosystem in which entrepreneurs and the workforce can thrive.
In the field of seven candidates for the open council seat being vacated by M. Lorena González, Nelson is clearly the best positioned, in experience and approach, to restore Seattle’s prosperity — and to make sure the rebuild happens equitably, with effective governance. She knows how to craft municipal policy from nearly a decade working on the staff of former city Councilmember Richard Conlin. And she proved during the pandemic how strongly she values workers at her business, Fremont Brewing.
Founded by Nelson and her husband, Fremont employs more than 100 people, many at a taproom temporarily shut down as COVID-19 surged. Nelson did not lay off staff and instead bumped up wages to make up for lost tips. Fremont was a lucky business during the pandemic. Consumers could still buy its beer, so the company remained viable. The choice to use that good fortune to save staffers from financial hardship revealed character the city can benefit from. If downtown is restored as a safe destination and regional economic engine, its large tax yields fund services citywide.
Nelson, a Green Lake resident with a doctorate in anthropology, is both progressive and pragmatic. Good policy is her guidestar. She is the only qualified candidate for this seat who supports Compassion Seattle, a badly needed ballot opportunity for voters to nudge the current council to better prioritize resources for homeless funding with a strong plan. But she agreed, rightly, that the council’s June 28 approval of a density bonus for affordable housing on sites owned by religious organizations is a positive step forward to improve housing policy.
Among the other six candidates for this open seat, González’s Chief of Staff Brianna Thomas also showed a keen policy acumen and has potential to emerge as a talented elected leader. But Thomas has spent years an insider with a council that has put Seattle on the wrong path. The system needs reform.
Nelson is an even stronger candidate today than in her council campaign for an at-large seat four years ago. Voters should cast their Aug. 3 primary votes for Nelson.