Frustrated at watching Seattle flail to cope with crime and homelessness? Grab your August primary ballot and get to work.
City voters must send candidates to the November general election who can help the city emerge from a pandemic, meet a righteous demand for racial equity and implement landmark reforms to how the city handles policing and houses homeless people. The ineffective policies and players who got this major American city into a lurch won’t get it out. It’s time to send candidates through who stand for change.
Mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell, city council candidate Sara Nelson and city attorney candidate Ann Davison all display deep understanding of the scale of change needed. Their separate messages call for what has been lacking far too long in Seattle: a willingness to acknowledge the city’s shortcomings for what they are and fix them, rather than talking up gauzy platitudes and shrugging at the hard decisions and investments that need to be made. No such transformative candidate is running for the other city council seat on this election’s ballot. The Times is not recommending anyone for that race.
A rash of Seattle shootings one week ago left four people dead and seven wounded. Harrell and Nelson spoke out boldly, saying the city’s escalating gun violence requires direct, city-led action, starting with a well-staffed and transparently-run police department. Each faces competitors who propose “defunding” or “abolishing” police without a clear plan for keeping the city safe, even in the face of urgent needs. And Davison is challenging three-term city attorney Pete Holmes, whose tenure has been marked by a willingness to release scores of frequent low-level offenders dozens of times each without pursuing stronger interventions. Without intervention, that’s not compassion. That is gambling with public safety.
The city needs strong policy shifts, not resources spread into the same services and hoping for different outcomes. Voters should hold elected officials accountable for the problems Seattle faces today. Mayor Jenny Durkan is stepping down. Both Holmes and City Council President M. Lorena González, who is seeking the mayor job, should be returned to civilian life for falling so short in their current roles.
Seattle voters are demonstrating they want change. On Wednesday, King County elections officials confirmed the Compassion Seattle charter amendment has enough valid signatures to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. This citizens’ response to city leaders’ hapless actions on the homeless crisis would mandate 2,000 new places to live within a year for people experiencing homelessness, behavioral and substance-use services and homelessness spending of at least 12% of the city’s budget.
But voters can take action now by ensuring that general election ballot contains a slate of citywide officials willing to put strong policy behind Compassion Seattle. The city needs candidates who will revive the vision of Seattle as an equitable, safe and prosperous city.
Harrell, Nelson and Davison have each shown a courageous willingness to call for a new direction for city policy. All three deserve votes in the primary and in November.