President Barack Obama recently spoke about our “woke” culture and the purity litmus test we place on our politics today. I couldn’t help but think of Seattle and our most recent election. Our city overwhelmingly votes the same in national elections, on statewide and regional issues, yet when it comes to city politics, we often look to the differences in our shades of blue to divide us. As I reflect on my time serving the people of District 4, in northeast Seattle, I’m proud of the decisions I made — and I see areas where we must learn to work together.
Seattle is changing. The city of yesterday will not be the Seattle of tomorrow; we are victims of our success. The culture and economic prosperity created in this region, not to mention its natural beauty, is drawing people from around the world. An estimated 1.2 million new jobs and 1.8 million new residents (that’s almost three Seattles!) are expected to join the central Puget Sound area in the next 30 years. That’s a good thing — new residents add to the vibrancy, depth and potential of our local culture. I’m one of those additions, having grown up in Los Angeles as a child of immigrant parents before moving to Seattle for graduate school.
We can either fight this growth and each other or work with our diverse group of stakeholders across labor, business and our neighborhoods to be a model for how cities grow in an equitable and sustainable way.
To incorporate all these new residents, we must change zoning in key areas to allow for transit-oriented density, making it easier for people to move about our city and alleviating gridlock while combating climate change.
Washington state also has the most regressive tax system in the country, and we need to work with leaders in Olympia to change that. Cities need more tools — otherwise, we’re forced to continue to turn to regressive taxes that are unsustainable and not reflective of our progressive ideals. The passage of Initiative 976 and the crater it creates in the state’s transportation budget signals that it is past time we make changes to our tax system. We need a progressive income tax and capital gains tax on top earners.
None of this will be easy. The other Washington has devolved into a game of football with two teams and no teamwork. We’re in danger of going the same way. When we fail to work together constructively and instead paint targets on each other’s backs, we are failing our city. The problems facing us are not easy to solve, but they can be solved if we work together, and treat our neighbors as just that — neighbors.
When I first met Mayor Jenny Durkan, she and I talked about what I’d like to accomplish during my time on the council and areas where we could work together. I knew her prior positions on micromobility, scooters and the most recent fight that divided District 4 — the 35th Avenue Northeast bike lane. While she and I had our disagreements on policy and politics, I often shared them with her privately rather than reaching for a microphone.
Because of this, we were able to work together. Additional improvements are being made along 35th, a higher bar has been set for when we choose not to build a bike lane, and I am excited to see our city moving forward with a project on rentable scooters.
We can be the city of the future by embracing the technology and innovation that has made our city what it is while maintaining an inclusive and equitable lens. Seattle is a special place shaped by progressive values that constantly challenge us to do better from one generation to the next, and we must acknowledge that there will be growing pains. We should embrace the challenges that our prosperous and growing region has created and seize the chance to lead.
When President Obama spoke about wokeness, he alluded to a belief that things can be better and that each of us can bring about change by working together. I look back on my experience as a council member, ever grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to serve our city. I tried to serve in a manner that was reflective of our progressive and collaborative ideals and hope that we can find the common ground to move our city forward.