Tammy Morales has connected with young people through the Corner Greeters program, which posts teenagers at troubled intersections to keep eyes on the street, survey and share information to community members and distribute snacks.
Mark Solomon has visited school classrooms as a Police Department representative to discuss how students can safely interact with each other, neighbors and law enforcement.
Those experiences have shaped how the District 2 Seattle City Council candidates think and may underscore, ahead of the Nov. 5 election, how they would represent an area including the Chinatown International District, Georgetown and Southeast Seattle.
Morales, a 50-year-old Lakewood homeowner who nearly unseated incumbent Bruce Harrell in 2015 and won District 2’s seven-candidate primary with 50% of the vote, has worked as a community organizer with the Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC) and believes Seattle should consider alternatives to adding cops.
Though the police call certain intersections hot spots, “Our young people don’t like that term. They call them pearls because they live in a beautiful neighborhood,” Morales said, contending the Greeters have reduced crime through their positive presence.
Solomon, a 59-year-old who lives in the Beacon Hill house that his grandparents built and earned 25% in the primary, is a crime-prevention coordinator. He wants to bridge divides between city and community as more officers are hired.
When he visits schools, he hears questions about a police organization “historically hostile” to people of color. Solomon tells students, “Work from the inside … That’s what I’ve been able to do.”
Vying for a seat that opened when Harrell decided he wouldn’t run again, Morales and Solomon hold some deeply divergent views.
To an extent, their race is similar to others in Seattle’s recent past. Yet Morales and Solomon would bring unique backgrounds to a diverse, changing district where some longtime residents are struggling to stay.
Endorsed by 2017 mayoral candidates Cary Moon and Nikkita Oliver, Morales wants to tax large businesses, curtail removals of homeless camps and allow duplexes and triplexes on more blocks. She believes Seattle should revisit the city’s new union contract with police officers to ensure misconduct is dealt with.
Solomon harbored concerns about last year’s short-lived “head tax” on large businesses, supports removing unsafe camps and would move cautiously on zoning changes. He thinks the city should stick to the police contract and is backed by Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The judge overseeing Seattle’s police-reform pact with the U.S. Department of Justice has ruled the city partly out of compliance, citing problems with the union contract.
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has spent more than $120,000 independently to back Solomon, while PACs with ties to service-worker union have spent much less on Morales.
Sherrill Jackson Vaughan got to know Morales selling local produce with RBAC. The Rainier Beach parent appreciates seeing Morales do community work and said youngsters are drawn to the almost blunt way she talks.
“They love that, because she doesn’t sugarcoat it,” Vaughan said.
Raised by a single mother who worked two jobs, Morales served as legislative director for a Texas state representative and analyst for New York City’s independent budget office.
Now an organizer, Morales is also a policy wonk and helped squeeze a progressive bill through a Republican government, she noted. “I learned that legislation is iterative,” she said. “You get a chunk of what you want and try to get the rest later.”
Morales moved to Seattle in 2000, working initially for a nonprofit that helped community organizations with housing loans. She later entered public health, consulting on local projects from 2010 to 2015.
The candidate worked with the union that represents Seattle supermarket workers and has contributed to RBAC since 2014 on issues including land use.
Though Solomon has lived in District 2 longer, Vaughan said she hasn’t seen him much in Rainier Beach. She compared him to Harrell: “I grew up with Bruce but we haven’t seen him down here.”
Vaughan predicted Morales would direct dollars to community programs. “She has children growing up in this area. I think that matters.”
Jeremy Wood, who co-chaired the Seattle Human Rights Commission with Morales, said she relayed racial-equity issues when Seattle exempted diet drinks from its soda tax and embedded a meeting in the Chinatown International District when a new shelter was sited suddenly.
“Tammy thinks the answers to issues are in the community,” Wood said.
Solomon served in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2012, working as an intelligence analyst and then splitting time between military work, the police and his own security business.
“My grandfather told me he worked two jobs to make what his white counterparts did,” he said. “That stuck with me.”
State Rep. Gael Tarleton supervised Solomon in Washington, D.C., as he briefed authorities about Soviet nuclear activities.
The candidate is a somewhat tentative retail politician. But he held strong during a high-stakes period, Tarleton said. “He’s a hell of a writer and can handle pressure,” she said.
As a crime-prevention coordinator, Solomon helps set up block-watch groups and delivers public-safety presentations. He’s managed the Police Department’s youth programs and carried out cultural-diversity training.
He recalled working to halt robberies between Columbia City light rail and Rainier Avenue South by installing new lights and trimming vegetation.
“We got together with the neighborhood and city departments. We walked the area to look at the environmental conditions,” he added.
John Hayes understands the candidate better than most, having encountered similar tensions as a black man in the Seattle police.
“When you’re criticized by the community, some people throw their hands up and walk away,” said Hayes, an ex-South Precinct captain. “Not Mark.”
He believes Solomon would seek “balance” — between business and labor, District 2 and the rest of Seattle. “We basically have enough laws already,” Hayes said. “Mark would tune up the laws we have.”
He said he recently told Solomon, who’s served on YouthCare’s board for 25 years, “There are people who’ve been in the community for a short time who may not relate to you, Mark. Don’t worry, because more people can relate.”
Morales says she wants to democratize resources by adopting measures such as mansion or second-home taxes, or by again imposing a head tax. The candidate also would like the city to stabilize small businesses with long-term leases on surplus public land.
Her run “has always been about building community wealth,” she said in her campaign office across from the Rainier Valley Food Bank. “It’s about taking economic control back from corporations.”
Powering her run are aides like Cleveland High senior Andrew Hong, who thinks Morales has smart ideas, like anti-displacement rent vouchers. Friends Hong went to elementary school with “don’t live in the area any more. They live in Tukwila and Auburn,” he said.
The issues voters ask about differ based on address, with gun violence on minds in NewHolly, Hong said.
Few bring up climate change immediately, he added. But Morales led with her support for a Green New Deal while canvassing on Beacon Hill, arguing clean energy can produce union jobs.
She doesn’t spend much time winning over likely Solomon voters because “our base is here and we just need to see them turn out,” said campaign manager Tai Yang-Abreu.
Having spent decades mediating discussions, Solomon now wants to “step up” and help make decisions. He doesn’t have as many policy prescriptions, saying constituents should lead.
District 2 voters want to be consulted by City Hall, Solomon said, mentioning a tense meeting about a plan to site homeless-vehicle parking at Genesee Park.
“The question in my mind was, ‘Where’s the community engagement?’ ” Solomon said in a booth at Third Place Books.
Lillian Hill liked what she heard when Solomon knocked on her Lakewood door.
Hill, 50, who runs a Central District baking company, brought up gentrification concerns. “More community involvement [is needed],” she said, dismissing backyard cottages as the answer and mentioning property-tax hikes. “Black and brown people can’t afford to build them.”