The mayor of Capitol Hill: For those unhappy with Seattle’s ‘status quo,’ Jessyn Farrell says she’s the candidate for you

(Image: Jessyn for Mayor)

When Jessyn Farrell first ran for mayor in 2017, Seattle was facing many of the core issues it struggles with today: homelessness and housing affordability, public safety and policing.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these problems since Farrell, a former state lawmaker and public transit champion, finished a distant fourth in the mayoral primary four years ago. With that in mind, Farrell is making another run for the office.

“People are really suffering in so many different ways, whether it is economic hardship, racial injustice, isolation, the challenges of remote learning,” Farrell told CHS Thursday afternoon, citing her own experience as a parent. “Times are really, really hard and city leadership has really lacked the creativity and the scale around responding to these multiple crises.”

She breaks all of this down to two questions: “Is this going to be a city that people want and can afford to live in?”

Farrell, 47, represented the U-District and North Seattle in the state House from 2013 until 2017, when she resigned to focus on her first mayoral run. In high school, she was voted most likely to become a politician and went on to graduate from the University of Washington and Boston College Law School.

She was the executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, leading charges to fund an expanded light rail system. Since her previous run, she’s worked at Civic Ventures, the think tank headed by progressive taxation advocate Nick Hanauer.

Jenny Durkan’s announcement that she will not seek reelection after finishing her first — and only — term this year has led to a surge of candidates making moves to win the office.

The primary is still five months away and more than a dozen candidates have already filed to run for mayor, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, including Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk, who would be the city’s first Native mayor, city council president Lorena González, former council president Bruce Harrell, and Capitol Hill architect Andrew Grant Houston.

SEED Seattle’s interim director Lance Randall also announced his candidacy last year.

Another factor helping to power the 2021 race is the Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program which, for the first time, has been extended to include mayoral candidates. Farrell said Thursday that she is participating in the “innovative policy to keep big money out of our politics.”

In trying to delineate herself among the other candidates vying for the job, Farrell not only separated her opponents between progressive and moderate, but between insider and relative outsider, tacitly calling out González and Harrell, the early frontrunners in the race.

“There is a real hunger for problem solving and someone who has a track record of problem solving and I think that I fit that bill,” she said. “If you’re happy with the status quo, there are candidates who are currently and have been before in city government, then those are your candidates. I think though that most people are not satisfied with how things are going.”

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Seattle political veteran Harrell to make 2021 run for mayor

(Image: Bruce for Seattle)

With incumbent Jenny Durkan opting to step aside and not seek reelection, a Seattle political veteran is now the most downtown chamber-tolerable frontrunner in the 2021 Seattle mayor’s race.

Former city councilmember — and one-time five-day Seattle mayor — Bruce Harrell is announcing his candidacy for the mayor’s office Tuesday in a press conference with “a small number of family and supporters” outside the Central District’s Garfield High School, the political veteran’s alma mater and part of the old school Seattle base on which his personality and career as an elected in the progressive city has been built.

“Seattle needs a mayor committed to a real recovery, rooted in uniting everyone around our progressive values,” Harrell says in a video introducing his campaign.

“Committed to building equity and opportunity for every family, I was elected to the city council where we accomplished big things, raised the minimum wage, invested in transit and affordable housing,” the candidate says. “Now after divisive politics, a racial reckoning and a terrible pandemic, I’m running for mayor to help lead Seattle forward, to come together and work together. I know we can and will fix our city.”

UPDATE: We have added Harrell’s “open letter” announcing his candidacy and early platform proposals to the end of the post.

Included in the letter is a swipe from the council veteran at #defundSPD efforts. “We need to move beyond arbitrary and divisive public safety budget debates and align the needs of our entire community with the mandate of ending bias, improving response times, and reducing crime,” Harrell’s letter states. “We need the right kind of personnel to respond—like social workers and addiction specialists when an armed officer isn’t needed or appropriate. Accountability and training—and appropriate staffing for our growing city—require resources and reforms. We can do both.”

Harrell’s political career and long ties to the city and its Black community vault the candidate into a neck and a neck race with Lorena González, the current council president and biggest name so far in the run to replace Durkan after leading the city’s legislative body through the tumultuous 2020 political battles over COVID-19 crisis and recovery and the fight to reduce spending on the Seattle Police Department. In anticipation of Harrell’s run, González’s campaign is issuing “a public call for other candidates in the race to reject corporate PAC money and corporate independent expenditure assistance.”

Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk has also joined the race while Capitol Hill architect Andrew Grant Houston has made waves among progressives with an urbanist and social justice focused campaign. Meanwhile, Nikkita Oliver, another community leader many hoped would consider a run for mayor, instead is making a push to join the city council.

Harrell is cut from different cloth entirely. A standout high school athlete who grew up in 1970s-era Seattle, Harrell seems to approach his take on politics with a jock’s swagger and a habit for quips and jokey asides. Continue reading

Seattle City Council earmarks $10.4M for ‘Community Safety Capacity Building’ — without police

The Seattle City Council Monday unanimously approved a $10.4 million Community Safety Capacity Building spending plan that officials hope will help fund organizations “building community safety from the ground up to end violence and reduce crime in Seattle neighborhoods.”

“Time and again, we’ve heard from our constituents that the response to poverty, behavioral health crisis, and homelessness shouldn’t be an armed police officer, but instead better resources and community-led programs that address these core needs. The fourteen members of the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, including interim SPD Chief Diaz, recommend exactly this kind of investment in anti-violence strategies to combat increased violence and property offenses in cities across the country, including in Seattle,” Lisa Herbold, chair of the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee, said about the approved bill. Continue reading

‘The most precarious situation that we’ve ever seen’ — Seattle considers right to counsel and extending COVID-19 crisis eviction moratorium through 2021 — UPDATE

Items left outside after a past Capitol Hill eviction (Image: CHS)

The Seattle City Council is set to vote Monday on “right to counsel” legislation that would entitle anyone facing eviction to an attorney at no cost.

Under the bill, sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections would contract with a group of local attorneys and would be required to educate tenants about the new right to counsel in various languages. Similarly, landlords would be required to let their tenants know in eviction notices that they have this right.

Tenants would not have to accept counsel, but the measure would require that they be offered an attorney at no cost.

The councilmember and others are also calling for extension of the city’s eviction moratorium through 2021.

UPDATE 2:55 PM: Monday brought a mixed bag for Seattle tenants rights advocates with Mayor Jenny Durkan announcing the city’s ban on evictions will be extended through June while the City Council opted to hold off on Sawant’s “right to counsel” bill citing concerns about legal issues around the proposal. The council voted 6 to 3 to move a vote on the bill to the March 29th session. Teresa Mosqueda and Tammy Morales joined Sawant in opposing the delay. Sawant was vocal in her frustration, accusing council president Lorena González and opponents of trying to weaken the bill.

Meanwhile, Durkan said “while there is hope on the horizon, the work of recovery is just beginning,” in extending the moratorium. “Seattle residents and businesses continue to feel the economic impact of this pandemic, and we will not successfully recover if we do not include the recovery needs of low-income communities and small businesses,” Durkan said. “Extending the eviction moratorium provides housing stability for our neighbors as new federal funding arrives.”

Original report: Sawant, “eviction defense experts,” and renter advocates were part of a Monday morning press conference where the District 3 rep’s office says they will explain “why the Seattle City Council should strike a double blow at evictions today, and vote for the Right to Counsel legislation without loopholes” and the moratorium extension resolution.

With Seattle and the state’s moratorium on all evictions during the COVID-19 crisis slated to end this month, Sawant is championing a resolution calling on the city to extend the prohibition through the end of the year. 50 community groups and tenants rights organizations have also called on Durkan to extend the restrictions. In February, a King County Superior Court judge upheld the city’s ban.

To provide eviction defense services, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections has contracted with the King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project since 2019. Edmund Witter, the project’s senior managing attorney, said they handle about 2,500 eviction cases per year across King County and the legal assistance usually costs between $300 and $500. Continue reading

Nikkita4Nine: A leading voice from Seattle’s Black Lives Matter and #defundSPD protests, Nikkita Oliver will run for Seattle City Council

Nikkita Oliver is making a 2021 run for Seattle’s City Hall but this time the target isn’t the mayor’s office.

Pay homage to the Duwamish, Suquamish, and the tribes upon whose lands and waterways we traverse. I cannot claim this land, but here I find home. So I pay real rent. The rising tide may lift all boats, but we ain’t all got boats to catch the ride. So we fight not to get swept away by the riptides. We’ve been repairing reparations, native sovereignty and black liberation together, all the oppressed peoples, we change the situation. Letting go of all that weighs us down that we might fly beyond prisons and police. No more loved ones living on the streets, stopping all the sweeps. People over profit becomes our beliefs. Everyone’s essential, good food, clean water is always in reach. Health is wealth and everyone deserves it. When we sow better then better is what we reap. And we will write the story, how the I became we, we became free, and how it came to be this Emerald City by the sea.

(Image: Nikkita4Nine)

In a spoken word announcement, the poet, teacher, lawyer, and community activist added their voice Wednesday morning to the race for the Seattle City Council opting to do battle for the Position 9 citywide seat.

The “Nikkita4Nine” campaign is launching “with a mutual aid event in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, involving the coordinated delivery of sleeping bags, food, and other essential supplies to residents most impacted by the overlapping crises facing Seattle,” the Seattle Medium reports.

The Oliver campaign will focus on police divestment, investments in youth and families, and expanding racial and economic justice and is planning community listening posts “to come together to develop an evolving community platform that identifies the priorities and solutions of communities living and/or working in Seattle.” Continue reading

Pony’s patio getting slimmed down makeover to make room for E Madison RapidRide bus project

Relax. When this is all over, Pony and its E Madison patio — slimmed down just a little — will still be there.

Owner Mark Stoner confirms that the work underway on the famous street sign wall of Pony’s patio is part of changes being made to make way for E Madison’s coming “bus rapid transit” line.

“We will reopen,” Stoner says, “but with a slightly shrunken patio.” Continue reading

City has few answers in neighborhood meeting over Miller Playfield encampments

(Image: CHS)

When an encampment at Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park was swept in December, nearby parks saw a growth in tents as some unsheltered people looked for new places to go. One of those growing campsites is 19th Ave’s Miller Playfield.

Now with the district making plans for students to return to the adjacent Meany Middle School and the kids at nearby St. Joseph’s School already back in the classroom, neighbors met virtually Wednesday night with Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller and other city officials. The meeting organized by the Jesuit parish was set ostensibly, organizers said, to hear the city’s plans for interacting with the encampments over the next couple weeks and implore the city to prioritize removing individuals from Miller and find housing options for them.

“We invite you to join us, but want to make clear this will not be an open forum where anyone can speak,” the invite read. “We want to be very focused on getting concrete responses from the Deputy Mayor.”

“It’s an emergency, so if the city isn’t up to it, we need to know that,” one attendee said, summing up the tone of the night’s conversation.

The meeting came amid growing complaints about trash and disorder blamed on the encampments even as the COVID-19 crisis continues and limits safe options for shelter during the pandemic. It also fell only hours after Seattle Police officers and parks employees cleared about 20 people from Denny Park earlier Wednesday. Public health guidelines advise against sweeps during the COVID-19 crisis if there are no safe shelter alternatives available.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration has taken to touting the pounds of trash collected under a “Clean City” surge program set to end in April that has been focused on “removing trash to begin to set Seattle up for clear road to recovery—for our businesses, schools, neighborhoods, and residents.”

“Our challenges here at the city are not just about CDC guidance,” Sixkiller told the attendees of St. Joseph’s online session Wednesday night. “It is about access to services, it’s access to housing… We don’t have places for people to go and so as a result folks have found other ways to survive through the past year.” Continue reading

‘You go in when it’s rough’ — With González aiming for mayor’s office, staffer Brianna Thomas makes bid for boss’s seat on City Council

Brianna Thomas has been steeped in the idea of service for much of her life. Her father served in the military and the family volunteered at food banks on Saturdays.

But when Thomas told her family she was planning to run for Seattle City Council to replace Councilmember Lorena González, whose mayoral candidacy opens up this citywide seat, they were a bit hesitant.

“My family was like ‘Really? Right now? It’s real bad right now,’” said Thomas, who has worked in González’s council office since 2015. “And I’m like ‘Yeah, I think that’s the foundational definition of leadership, guys, you go in when it’s rough.’”

“I’ve just seen this city go through a lot in the last five years and I am called to step in and do the good work of holding us all together during some really unprecedented times.”

Before working as a council staffer, Thomas worked as a legislative aide in Olympia and managed the 2014 campaign to bring the $15 minimum wage to SeaTac, registering 1,000 voters there in the process: “If that’s not a story about people power, then I don’t know what is.” Continue reading

Seattle forgoes federal homelessness funding in smaller than planned hotel ‘shelter surge’

The Executive Hotel Pacific at 4th and Spring (Image: Executive Hotel Pacific)

As evidence builds that hotel shelters can help and increased funding becomes available to create new shelter opportunities in the city, there is a crisis within a crisis for Seattle’s mission to help the thousands of homeless and underhoused people who live here.

The Seattle Times reports that Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan to secure apartment units for 24-hour shelter and provide more rental assistance is coming in with fewer spaces and help for fewer people than expected.

The crux, the Times reports, is how the city decides to divide its millions of dollars in potential resources earmarked for the problem as it splits its effort across people who cost less to support and have lower needs around issues like addiction and mental health and people with the most challenging, expensive support needs who are regularly entangled with the city’s law enforcement resources.

Seattle’s “shelter surge” will now launch months late and will not be using as much federal funding as first expected to create the 125 units and provide rental assistance.

The smaller approach is especially frustrating for advocates after revelations Durkan’s office has decided to forgo available FEMA funding. Continue reading

After a year of protest, Seattle ready for next steps as Black Brilliance Research Project report sets path for new participatory budget effort

A scene from the third day of Seattle’s 2020 BLM protests

From the Black Brilliance Research Project report

Months of Black Lives Matter rallies, marches, protests, and the occupied takeover of the blocks around Cal Anderson and Capitol Hill’s East Precinct have pushed Seattle to shift 20% of its police budget into a $30 million participatory budgeting process hoped to spur new spending on social programs, community health, and economic investment.

Friday, a team of more than 100 researchers, community organizers, and activists will deliver their findings to the Seattle City Council that will underpin the effort. The Black Brilliance Research Project’s 1,045-page report is only the start of what officials hope will be a new way of making decisions for the city’s communities.

“One of the things that I know from working in health and human services and and the needs of our community over these past 20 some odd years is that folks will come into our community they will have focus groups,” Latanya Horace of the Silent Task Force that contributed to the report said in a preview of the group’s findings earlier this week. “They will ask us what we — what they want to know about our communities. And they’ll take that information, go back and package it up and come out with a plan that does not include black folks doing the work for their own community.”

Tammy Morales, chair of the Community Economic Development Committee receiving the report, and the council’s representative for South Seattle, says the hope is for the city to scale up its early steps in participatory budgeting used on decisions around streets and parks and find a way to apply a similar approach to the bigger challenges — and opportunities — of social justice.

“This is a shift away from the city driving so much of this and letting the community do that,” Morales said. “These are communities that are typically left out. People who are disproportionately impacted should have a say. This is about shifting access to power and resources. The community is saying, ‘Let us decide the strategies.'”

For the researchers who worked on the massive, painstaking report and overcame a mid-stream reorganization of how the project was managed, Friday’s presentation is, alone, worthy of celebration given the months behind them and the challenges ahead.

“That research project ended up becoming the world’s largest black and brown community-led research in the world in the world,” Shaun Glaze said during the preview presentation this week. “That happened during a pandemic,” Glaze said with amazement. “Here. In Seattle.”

The report submitted Friday will set the framework for how the shift to helping communities “decide the strategies” happens in Seattle. Based on hundreds of hours of research and community surveys, the report provides outlines for the types of issues Seattle’s communities want to have more control over — and how that control needs to be shaped to make sure it works and fully includes Black, Indigenous and People of Color participants. Continue reading