A candidate who would be the city’s first Native mayor, Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk is joining the race to head Seattle City Hall.
UPDATE 11:48 AM: This report has been updated throughout with information from CHS’s Monday morning interview with Echohawk.
The advocate for affordability and for the city’s unsheltered populations made her announcement on her 2021 bid for the mayor’s office Monday saying she would put forward a platform focused on “solutions which co-create equitable development and rapid rehousing with community members” and policies “which share the prosperity of the city more equitably, particularly with people of color.”
“I can see the good in this city,” Echohawk told CHS Monday.
She is also responding to calls to defund the Seattle Police Department with a proposal to create a new Public Safety Department, “with community-based mental health workers and neighborhood liaisons.”
“I’m running for Mayor of Seattle because I love this city, and we have a once-in-a-generation chance to rethink how it works, and who it works for,” Echohawk said in the announcement. “Our common purpose may be frayed but it isn’t broken, and if we take a people-first approach to renewal then we can become as transformative as our communities demand us to be. We can become a city where essential workers can afford to live. But to do that, we have to acknowledge that the path we’re on isn’t working. The people of our city demand more from City Hall.”
Echohawk said Monday in an interview with CHS that her ideas and initiatives including the Public Safety Department proposal will start with collaboration and consensus between the mayor’s office, the city council, and communities. And she said any formation of the new department would come in collaboration with SPD.
“We have to understand a responsibility to our community,” Echohawk said. “There are things that are part of the Seattle Police Department right now that I think our officers would agree they shouldn’t have to deal with.”
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s announcement that she will not seek reelection after finishing her single term this year has thrown the 2021 race wide open.
Last week, CHS spoke with Capitol Hill architect and urbanist Andrew Grant Houston about the first-time candidate’s plans to be part of the race to the summer primaries and on to the November General Election. SEED Seattle’s interim director Lance Randall also announced his candidacy last year. William Kopatich, described as a “Top Salesman at Carter Subaru” in his Linkedin profile, has also filed to enter the race. More candidates are coming but announcements — including a possible second run from activist and lawyer Nikkita Oliver — could stretch out until the filing deadline in May.
The 2021 campaign will also be the first time the city’s Democracy Voucher program — hoped to empower a greater diversity of candidates to keep up in expensive campaigns — will be extended to include the city council races and the run for the mayor’s office. Echohawk’s campaign is planning to participate in the program.
Echohawk said Monday she understands concerns about multiple strong progressive candidates splitting the city’s allegiances and paving the way for another moderate victory like Durkan’s win in 2017. She said her place in her Native community and her connections to communities across the city will help her bring together the support she needs.
“One thing that I have a proven record again is being that bridge builder,” Echohawk said.
The 44-year-old North Seattle resident is an enrolled member of the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and a member of the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake. Her work with the Chief Seattle Club has put her on the frontlines of Seattle’s efforts to develop affordable housing and address its ongoing homelessness crisis.
Monday, Echohawk said support here in District 3 from outgoing school board director Zachary DeWolf, another Native leader in the city, has also boosted her early campaign efforts.
Echohawk has also been an advocate for women’s rights including kicking off the 2019 Women’s March in Cal Anderson Park and has played a major role in the city’s policing decisions. In 2017, CHS reported Echohawk was part of a four-person search committee to find replacement candidates for outgoing SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole.
Monday, CHS asked Echohawk about the decision to hire Chief Carmen Best and the SPD veteran’s decision to step down this summer in the wake of CHOP.
Citing the confidentiality agreement from her role on the search committee, Echohawk declined to comment on Best’s tenure only to say she was sad to see how her time as chief ended.
“I love Carmen Best,” Echohawk said “I look forward to hearing more from her.”
The ongoing protests Best left behind and Seattle’s challenges in balancing the police response to property damage against free speech and advocacy for civil rights will be a major question for Echohawk and each of Seattle’s mayoral candidates.
Without question, Echohawk says she would have been part of the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests if it wasn’t for her worries about COVID-19 and her work with the city’s vulnerable unsheltered populations. But she also thinks that people in the city — especially in the city’s densest neighborhoods — need clean and open parks, she said, calling the situation a “moral crisis.”
Her solutions, she says, will put dignity first.
“We can move forward,” Echohawk said. “What people are crying out for is dignity.”
“You have dignity,” she said. “We’re going to treat you with respect.”
Echohawk’s full announcement is below.
Colleen Echohawk announces her campaign for Mayor of Seattle today, running on a people-first platform to achieve an equitable renewal from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m running for Mayor of Seattle because I love this city, and we have a once-in-a-generation chance to rethink how it works, and who it works for,” says Echohawk on her decision to run. “Our common purpose may be frayed but it isn’t broken, and if we take a people-first approach to renewal then we can become as transformative as our communities demand us to be. We can become a city where essential workers can afford to live. But to do that, we have to acknowledge that the path we’re on isn’t working. The people of our city demand more from City Hall.”
Echohawk is committed to solutions which co-create equitable development and rapid rehousing with community members, and which share the prosperity of the city more equitably, particularly with people of color. Central to her people-first platform is an investment in community-based organizations and businesses. “Many of the most promising solutions to displacement and economic injustice are already taking place within Seattle neighborhoods, Echohawk said. “These community-assets deserve support from City Hall, not an obstruction to progress. One example is in our city procurement practices: Seattle has $1.11 Billion right now in current capital projects, but those contracts and profit aren’t going to people of color led businesses.”
Echohawk will also address policing, and proposes the establishment of a Public Safety Department, with community-based mental health workers and neighborhood liaisons. “We need people to help us care for our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness, and folks that have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19,” Echohawk said. “Those jobs should be filled by people from the neighborhoods they’re serving.”
“Colleen has vision, leadership experience, and an inherent ability to build successful coalitions powered by love and tradition,” said Zachary DeWolf (Chippewa Cree), Seattle School Board Director. “I’ve worked alongside her as she has championed change in housing, homelessness, racial justice, a sustainable environment, just policing, and a more livable city for Seattle’s families and neighbors. Restoring Indigenous leadership to our region is a fitting antidote to 2020 — she is the perfect candidate for this moment.”
Over the past two decades, Echohawk has served the most marginalized living in the Greater Seattle community. As the head of Chief Seattle Club, a non-profit dedicated to the rapid re-housing of urban Natives, Colleen has successfully fought to create nearly $100 million in new affordable housing in Seattle, growing their budget from $450,000 to $11 million. Under Colleen’s leadership, Chief Seattle Club has received recognition from the Puget Sound Sage Visionary for Justice Award (2019), Seattle Community Law Center’s Equity Award (2018), the Neighborhood Builder Award (2017), and Municipal League of King County’s Organization of the Year (2016).
“Colleen Echohawk will be a Mayor who positively transforms Seattle,” says Sally Bagshaw, Former City of Seattle Councilmember. “She combines her deep love for people with her executive expertise. She is gifted in bringing the best out in people. I have seen her in action: she is passionate about service to this city and encourages those who have been left out while listening to those who have been all-in. She is a respected leader who will help us solve critical issues including homelessness while rebuilding safe and healthy neighborhoods. She will align broad interests to recreate our post-COVID-19 economy while creating new sustainable jobs. Colleen has the vision to reimagine the city we want: a city that is inclusive, vibrant, and respectful of all.”
Echohawk has been recognized by numerous organizations, including the 21 Leaders to watch in 2021 by Seattle Magazine, the King County Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Distinguished Service (2020), Seattle’s most influential people by Seattle Magazine (November 2019), one of Seattle Met Magazine’s 50 most influential women (2018), the Adeline Garcia Community Service Award (2018), Antioch University’s Public Service Award (2018), and Crosscut Media’s Courage Award for Public Service (2016).
Echohawk is an enrolled member of the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and a member of the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake. Colleen and her family have been proud to call Seattle home for over two decades. In her spare time, she loves to read, sing karaoke, take her dog Rizzo for a walk, listen to National Public Radio, and cook delicious food for her friends and family.
You can learn more at echohawkforseattle.com.
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Yeah, I don’t trust anyone who markets themselves as an “advocate for our houseless neighbors” to be mayor. The mayor’s #1 job is going to be fixing our homelessness crisis. That will not happen if he/she continues the current strategy of indulging every demand the homeless have and protecting them from the justice system.
As a side note, I am so tired of the “houseless neighbors” doublespeak. These people aren’t my neighbors. They weren’t living in my neighborhood, and then they lost their houses, as the term implies. Investigation after investigation, we’ve consistently seen that these people aren’t from Seattle, or even Washington state.
They’re lifelong homeless, career drifters, who come to Seattle because we’ve made this city the best place in the world to be homeless. No-limits camping on nice public parks, tons of free services, a bustling underground economy in drugs and stolen property, you don’t have to follow any laws, and activists will defend you to the death… what’s not to love?
So no. Some junkie drifter from Colorado who makes his way up to Seattle and lives in a tent in Mercer Park selling stolen packages for drugs is not my neighbor. And I want him gone.
You’re a terrible neighbor to me. Please move.
Well you are always nasty in the comments so this is not a surprise.
This is a weird response. Many houseless people have been here longer than you champ.
I have lived in this city for quite a long time and I remember when most of these people live under the I-5 overpass in “The Jungle.” Yes we have allowed them to live in tents, sell drugs, and commit crime without any consequences for years.
In case it wasn’t clear after more than a decade, indulging this lifestyle only attracts more vagrants and makes the problem worse.
Where does it end? How many tents and needles will we allow before we say “alright this clearly is not working”? Is there any line at all?
I can’t believe I’m posting this but I have to partially disagree. Many of these people are your neighbors. It’s a very small minority that set up disgusting encampments in the parks and terrorize the surrounding neighborhoods.
The vast majority of homeless people are invisible and many need just a little help to get back on their feet. We shouldn’t demonize these people. But we absolutely need to stop enabling criminals who also just happen to be homeless.
This is the exact problem. There are two distinct groups of homeless in Seattle. First, those who are truly down on their luck, likely sleeping in their cars or couchsurfing with friends. Then there are the drifters and druggies who take advantage of our city’s liberal policies to cause chaos in our public spaces. Until we deal with the latter, by enforcing laws, there will be little sympathy among the public for the people who we really could help.
We don’t live in that world anymore (if we ever did) where platitudes about two different types of homeless people make any sense. Capitalism has broken this country wide open. When Reagen got rid of all social services for vulnerable people it was inevitable that a couple generations out we’d have desperate people wallowing in the streets. This is a broken system and dog eat dog to the extreme.
If you can find a single vagrant in Miller Park who was once a neighbor to me, you, or anyone in this city, I will eat my hat!
As so many have said, there are separate groups of homeless in this city. The ones who are “down on their luck” and “houseless neighbors” — our neighbors who lost their shelter and are seeking refuge and aid — we already do quite a good job of helping. They are not the crisis. I am proud of the way this city treats them.
The ones who are “lifestyle homeless” and live in Miller Park and have no interest in improving their lives or escaping the drug/crime spiral, they have been this way for a long time and I highly doubt any of them ever had stable, functional lives in Seattle.
Great post, and I agree.
For certain their are people down on their luck and they need help. And frankly I think that help largely exists.
I honestly believe MOST of the Seattle homeless look like the drifter/vagrants you’re calling out here. MOST of those people don’t want help and will reject it.
But it’s like the groups among the “peaceful protesters” who are terrorizing and damaging property… and just like the people who stormed our nations capitol building. If you’re committing crimes I’m not concerned about your reasons “why”… you should be held accountable.
This isn’t the Vietnam War. We have rules.
Loving the pool already. Lightyears better than Durkan.
Nice person, not a solid candidate or someone you’d want running a large city. Great start, though. Can’t wait to see some bigger name people with a more experience and a better approach to cleaning up the city and strengthening our public safety laws.
It is shockingly tone deaf to come onto the Capitol Hill Seattle blog as a candidate for mayor and say that you love Carmen Best and can’t wait to hear more from her. WTF? Immediately disqualifying. Carmen Best is responsible for stepping on the 1st Amendment rights of BLM protestors. Carmen Best is directly responsible for her officers gassing thousands of Capitol Hill residents in their homes. Carmen Best is responsible for the gang of cops that came to violently arrest my neighbor down the street this summer and pepper sprayed her in front of her kid in her own driveway. SPD has shown literally no remorse nor inclination to hold itself accountable. We can no longer hide this city’s problems behind Seattle Nice. Very hard pass.
I agree completely. Anybody who supports Carmen Best will never get my vote.
Yeah, I don’t get all of those, including many POC, who defend Carmen Best and even put her on a pedestal. Just because Ms. Best is black doesn’t make her more qualified to lead SPD through the massive transition it must make to be more equitable, fair and respectful. Indeed, she seemed incapable of making that happen. We must demand more of our leaders, expect better of them. Carmen Best, want to lead? Then LEAD! Ditto to all elected who defend her.
I’m pretty pessimistic about Democrats or Republicans really solving issues. If they actually solved any of these issues they have been running on for generations they would have nothing to run on.
I’m sick of politics period. :(
I won’t vote for anyone who uses the “defund the police” verbiage. Those of us who live in the occupied area known as CHOP got to experience first-hand life without police. No thanks.
Yeah, in the past I may have been one to vote for Sawant types, but this summer taught me I’m definitely not as left as I thought I was.
Yeah, last summer (and subsequent neighborhood events) taught me that the far-left (which I used to support) is as dangerous, extreme and irrational as the far-right.
I too remember when the far-left invaded the Capitol with goals of killing the vice president and members of congress in an attempt to overturn the results of a democratic election and insert their leader that they consider godlike…
Me too. CHOP and 8 months of anarchist and drug addicts destroying the city with support from our elected officials changed my world view. I am still a progressive, just not a f**king idiot. This city is out of control because of rudderless leadership by the leftist activists and zealots we elected. They are the equivalent of Trump supporters. Anyone not blinded by ideology can see their grand experiment is not working.
Then move? Some of us like CHOP.
Including the murders?
Yeah I also appreciated the CHOP activities like get harassed if you can’t answer BLM trivia questions like Breonna Taylor’s birthday (true story) but seriously that place devolved into an oppressive fiefdom complete with multiple murders pretty quick.
James, do you even realize what a tiny minority you represent?
Is this the armature list of people running for mayor, or the entire list?
Nailed it! Seattle is bigger than Boston and DC, yet we treat government here like a variety show. I’d be happy with a competent manager…
This is yet another person who thinks the cost of housing is the reason we have drug addicted and mentally unhealthy people living on our streets and in our parks. Breaking into our cars and homes every night to steal shit so they can feed their habit. Check out the human waste trough they recently dug at Miller Playfield. Its disgusting.
You can look this up yourselves, but high level, Seattle + King County spends almost $20,000/yr per homeless person. Compared to $15,000 in San Francisco, less than $5,000 in Austin, and $2,000 in Denver. How is this? Does anyone question anything anymore? Why are we so dumb?
All of these Cities have homeless problems yet the median cost of housing in SF is $1,350,000. Seattle $725,000. Denver $477,000. Austin $475,000.
Can someone explain why we continue to elect candidates who produce such terrible results?
Will the citizens of Seattle ever hold our elected officials accountable for this pathetic performance?
If you don’t have FEDERAL infrastructure in place to keep people safe and healthy (for the most part) no amount of money a city throws at the problem will help. Look at Canada and the UK for example, they do not leave it up to municipalities to solve these problems. Because of this, they largely do not have these problems and they just feel sorry for us, the Americans.
Nothing is ever simple… this started decades ago when we, rightly, examined the existing mental health structure and found it to often be shockingly neglectful and at times outright abusive… BUT – instead of building a system that would replace it and work better, the offending institutions were simply shut down and people put out on the streets, without the vital services that they need to keep their lives on track being built….
Few people are physically violent and so intractably ill that they cannot be treated. Many people with mental illnesses can live in the community, even when their untreated illness is severe, BUT they need close supervision to make absolutely sure that they are maintaining their treatments and are able to properly care for themselves. This may mean that they are not capable of living a fully independent life and at this time we have too few options for them or even systems to keep track of them.
The other side of the coin is addiction… I don’t know about other countries, but here again, this didn’t spring out of nowhere…. It was not all that long ago that drugs like Oxycontyn were released (1995)… at the time they were thought to be miracles, and marketed as such – pain relief without addiction (turned out to be a lie didn’t it…). Doctors that I work with remember a time when hospitals were really stressing that patients should not feel pain and they could be disciplined for *under* prescribing pain medications….. It was a decade or more before we realized the enormity of the situation and the damage was done…
I’m starting to think we are at a strange and rare point in history where irony is the paradigm. It’s begining to seem more reasonable to throw off whatever bits of stability and security we grab at and go live in the park. The park people’s ranks are only growing. It’s easy to be dismissive of and/or angry at the unhoused but they are simply an honest reflection of what the foundation looks like under our fortress. Are we going to cling to this fortress as is and go down with the ship or are we going to consider the irony of our time? The neighbor we fear may be our true hope.
…and by our true hope I mean that they are holding up a mirror in front of us. If we don’t like what we see, who we are as a society, this is our chance to change in a meaningful way.
The question is not whether we are able to change but whether we are changing fast enough.
I’m not sure agree with the sentiment of this or not… It’s poetic, but your meanings are not particularly clear. Yes, the park ranks are growing because we’ve (and by we, I mean our local government) has chosen to ignore the long standing underlying causes of the situation….
But the people who are gravitating there are not a reflection of the average citizen – even the average struggling citizen, they are it’s most extreme edge, drawn here and to other western coast metropolitan area in particular, because we have weather that allows year round outdoor life, whereas in many places attempting this could be fatal, we offer a wide range of services that support the lifestyle and we have a permissive attitude.
It may be hard for some to believe, but it really is not like this everywhere… I do believe that these people need help – but I tend to diverge from some about how that help should be provided and what behaviors are tolerable in a civil society.
I’m not truly advocating joining the campers at the park, just mulling some thoughts. It’s a tremendously complex problem and I am just trying to remind myself as much as anybody else that rather than to pity or loathe the apparent criminals it might help to view the broader context and acknowledge their humanity. Personally, I struggle with this myself as a long long time resident of the Hill. I’m outraged and scared by all the behavior that has been reported or just merely observed everyday. The problem is, it’s been heading this direction a very long time and now it feels like there isn’t a realistic path back to normalcy. There is a sense that we aren’t going back but rather that we must find a new way forward. If that is true, now is the time to question everything that has brought us to this place, including ourselves and our own biases and yes also our privilege being on this side of the conversation.
It may be hard for some to believe, but it really is not like this everywhere…
Did you mean it’s not like this everywhere in the US? It’s true that it is not like this everywhere in the US or even in this region. But it is a sign of the times, and many cities echo these struggles in their own ways. Small town America is also in the death throes most places, ghost towns and food desserts having replaced viable and thriving communities. Seattle is attractive to vagrants because it may be one of the last places to go in this country if you have nothing and no one. All of this does not condone reckless, dangerous behavior in my eyes but it does render it somewhat logical in the greater scheme. Desperate people do desperate things. How do we create a society where desperation is not so normal? It’s possible and happening in all other wealthy nations. I guess to me the logic points to system failure not personal failure.
At some point this country just decided to fund prisons and military and drop all other federal responsibilities to it’s citizens. The result is that we live in a sewer with a handful of people (the financially stable) pretending its fine because they can just afford to rise a bit above the fray. We need to take our country back and demand a better quality of life for all and the ability to feel actual pride in our democracy and compassion for our vulnerable.
This is simply untrue… There are many social safety net programs still operating, but our biggest local failing is that we expect people that all people are capable of navigating the system and/or will take part voluntarily…
When we talk about homelessness here in Seattle, we are in general, not talking about the large portion of people who are homeless for a short period of time, we are talking about the chronically affected people who are on the streets for reasons that usually cannot/will not be changed by money alone…
Okay, but if we had, say, facilities like adult group homes–I am going to use UK as an example here because I lived there for 8 years of my adult life–where mentally ill but stable on medication folks could live in a partially supervised capacity, places where they were actually happy..in the UK these people are taken to the pub a couple times a week and actually given money for pints/ fish and chips. They have a lot of fun and their carers are paid well.It’s the attitude of compassion we just dont really have here. So when people are offered that type of life vs winging it on the streets, it’s not hard to see why they dont have a major homelessness issue. Also, the unemployed are housed there, as in given a flat or house to use indefinitely. The local authority always (almost always with a few notable exceptions) keeps these homes in good repair.
This is something we do not really disagree about at all – we failed to develop facilities like this when we had the opportunity and yes, it contributes a great deal to the numbers of people who area out on the streets.
We also have some cultural quirks that don’t help the system to work too – we have a highly libertarian streak in the states and even more so in the western US. People are expected to seek out help on their own and be fully consenting (whether or not they may have a condition that impairs their ability to make decisions) before it is given. Autonomy is valued more highly than anything and too often treatment [of mental illnesses or substance abuse issues] is disparaged as violating people’s rights…..
There is no question that we (as a country – not just here… no one place should be expected to solve the problem) don’t have enough programs that can help these people, but without the authority to use them, it still won’t work.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing… there is a middle ground between locked up and killing oneself in public. I don’t believe that you have to allow someone hit rock bottom and before you help them…
Absolutely. And I’ll use myself as an example as someone diagnosed as an adult with ADHD. I’ve never been homeless or even jobless in my life but I have to assume my race plays in there. Regardless I actually really did need help and was always functioning at a minimum level prior to treatment. Mental health is a huge issue in this country and affects so so so many of us. If we are interested in being a productive, sensible nation we really have to deal with mental health. For many people treatment is not so simple but for many many more it is quite simple. I guarantee that were they treated, a vast majority of the campers would choose a different life and work towards it. Addiction is very often just a symptom of untreated mental illness.
some stats about homelessness in UK vs US
You will often see the English media freak out about their expanding homeless pop but it is a speck of sand to our mega dunes. With an overall population of 66.65 million people, they have most recent numbers at 250,000 generally homeless citizens. At first glance its not so different proportionally to the US; 328 or so million Americans and 567,000 homeless. We look okay thus far. But Homelessness here is defined by living in some form of temporary housing…shelters, doubling up with family, etc. You have to look at “rough sleepers” people just literally on the streets. In the US…over 200,000 sleep rough. In England, that number in most recent statistics from Shelter was 3,569. We have more rough sleepers in Seattle than they do in all of England. And that’s because they are somewhere down the addiction/mental illness rabbit hole and we do not have comprehensive services for them like they do in the UK
I’m glad to see an array of interesting candidates and perspectives in this race.
So far the race seems to be attracting fringe, leftist candidates. We need a strong, progressive moderate for our next Mayor. Are you listening, Tim Burgess?
Cannot imagine anyone in their right mind wanting this job at the moment
Echohawk is his surrogate. He and Sally Bagshaw are organizing and funding her campaign. The fact that she loves Carmen Best totally disqualifies her in my view.
Really, Susan? That’s hard to believe, because Tim Burgess is a solid moderate, and it’s unlikely he would support a leftist.
Once she takes their money, she will have to do their bidding.
She didn’t really discuss how she is qualified to manage an organization with 10,000 employees and a six billion dollar budget? I want someone with a solid plan to improve Seattle and the experience to carry it through, not an activist with an agenda.