In her bid for a second term on the Seattle City Council, incumbent M. Lorena González faces six challengers, including a QFC cashier, a homeless man, a South Seattle neighborhood activist, and a quixotic blogger who calls City Hall “a unicorn ranch.”
In her bid for a second-term, Seattle City Council Position 9 incumbent M. Lorena González faces a cast of six challengers in the Aug. 1 primary. They include a supermarket cashier, a homeless person, a South Seattle neighborhood activist and a quixotic blogger who has called City Hall a “unicorn ranch.”
A civil-rights attorney and former legal counsel to Mayor Ed Murray, González first won her citywide seat in 2015 with 78 percent of the vote against neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd. Seattle’s voter-approved change to a hybrid of district and citywide council seats called for elections in the two at-large positions again in 2017, so they will be on the same ballot going forward as the mayor and city attorney, the other officials elected citywide.
González called Monday for Murray to consider resigning in the wake of new information about sexual-abuse allegations against him. She became the first council member to do so, and the first Position 9 candidate to issue such a statement.
González holds a dramatic advantage over her opponents in campaign contributions and endorsements. Her backers include the King County Labor Council, King County Democrats, the political arm of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.
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As for her top accomplishments, González, who’s been in office 19 months, points to creating a $1 million legal-defense fund for immigrants facing deportation, her advocacy for a recently passed statewide family and medical-leave law, and her role as chair of the council’s public-safety committee as the city nears a milestone: federal-court approval of its policing reforms after the U.S. Department of Justice found a pattern of excessive force by Seattle officers.
González, who lives in West Seattle, is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who settled in the Yakima Valley. She said she considers herself a pro-density urbanist. To those who pine for the days when Seattle didn’t lead the country in construction cranes, she said, “I don’t think that’s the city we are anymore.”
She said negative impacts of growth, such as soaring housing costs, should be alleviated by requiring developers to provide affordable housing and other recommendations in the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). She said her resounding 2015 election over Bradburd’s “Take Back Seattle” platform was, in part, an endorsement of HALA’s 65 recommendations, which range from upzones and more density to giving developers tax breaks for controlling rents in some apartments.
González said she is not happy with the city’s response to homelessness. But she sees hope in a consultant’s report on city deficiencies and movement toward more low-barrier shelters. The council’s recent vote for a tax on incomes above $250,000 also could help provide more shelter and housing and soften the blow of regressive sales and property taxes in the city (although the tax can be spent on things such as green energy). “One thing that doesn’t work is criminalizing the homeless,” she said.
The top-two candidates in the primary advance to the Nov. 7 general election.
Some of her primary opponents won’t criticize González’s record but Pat Murakami is not one of them. In terms of civic credentials, Murakami can claim a deeper résumé than the other Position 9 challengers. She has been president of the Mount Baker Community Club, the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council, and the Cleveland High School PTSA. She also has raised more in contributions, $12,315, than the other challengers combined. But she still lags far behind González, who raised $53,971, according to reports though July 18.
The owner of an information-technology company that serves small businesses, Murakami faults González for not pushing to hire more police officers and for not requiring that all officers wear body cameras.
Murakami opposes the city’s income tax, calling it “half-baked” and arguing it will lead to court challenges and prove unproductive. She instead favors a statewide income tax as a way to reduce sales and property taxes.
She said she opposes “sweeps” of encampments and wants the city to build an “indoor-living campus” where people could find shelter, counseling and more services.
Like other nearby cities, Murakami argues, Seattle should charge developers impact fees to help offset the strain they put on roads, schools and city services. (González said she isn’t now in favor of impact fees, noting they weren’t recommended by HALA.)
Murakami said she would give neighborhoods more say in determining whether they want taller buildings and more density. “I don’t think people are taking Position 9 seriously enough. I hope they will scratch the surface a bit and be critical thinkers,” said Murakami, a Mount Baker resident.
Eric Smiley knows something about homelessness. For the past three years, he’s slept in a bunk bed at the Bread of Life Mission shelter downtown — which presents some challenges for a candidate. He has to be in the shelter by 8:15 p.m. or get locked out for the night.
“I don’t have all the answers” for solving homelessness, Smiley said. There needs to be more city outreach to the homeless, he said. He also supports a tax on foreign investors buying property in Seattle, more contributions from developers for affordable housing, and more “micro-housing.”
To make a city income tax more palatable, it should be tied to a 1-percent reduction in sales tax, he said. He would tithe his salary to the city, he said, if elected. He also called for free citywide preschool and a role for citizens in hiring police officers.
Smiley said he has held jobs in restaurants, manual labor, theater, health-insurance analysis and telephone marketing. He said he could no longer afford his Capitol Hill apartment and became homeless. Now, he said, he won’t just take any job because he doesn’t want to find himself trapped in it.
Smiley has raised $2,012 in contributions. He said he’s spoken to thousands of voters on the streets, often at bus shelters.
David Preston is a self-described “hobby journalist” and author of The Blog Quixotic. Preston said his campaign is focused on improving City Hall through transparency, accountability and balance. He’s raised $2,197 in contributions.
The council is not responsive to residents, he said, pointing to dozens of messages he said he has sent to council members without getting a reply.
An academic editor by profession, Preston said he is opposed to the council-approved income tax for the same reasons as Murakami. He sees it as another impractical policy by the council. He vows to bring pragmatism to City Hall.
His Voters’ Pamphlet statement says the council has been misguided in its attention to issues like climate change, safe injection sites for heroin users, and public bathrooms for transgender people. “When their absurd schemes fail, they blame Donald Trump or rich people,” he wrote. “This isn’t a government. It’s a unicorn ranch.”
Preston, a West Seattle resident, is the only Position 9 candidate who stated support for city “sweeps” to shut down homeless encampments, saying the camps don’t help people get into permanent housing.
At 26, Ian Affleck-Asch is the youngest candidate in the race. As a cashier at the Wallingford QFC, he’s also the only candidate who regularly takes the political pulse of supermarket customers. Affleck-Asch said he hears one sentiment above all. “People want to know how they can help,” he said, particularly with homelessness.
Tiny houses such as those at the new Licton Springs Village, not far from where he lives in Northgate, are one solution, he said. “If you have a lock and key it says ‘I belong in this community and I don’t want people in my stuff.’”
He also calls for a change in people’s hearts. “I’m running because we can prioritize human lives over human comfort,” he said. Seattle should become a champion, a national leader in how it treats its “unhoused and unloved,” he said. A city income tax should be even steeper than proposed, he said, with a rate of 10 percent on income over $1 million.
Affleck-Asch is not asking for campaign contributions. He’s hoping voters will learn about his campaign through a series of videos he’s posted on YouTube.