The Seattle Globalist asks the Seattle Mayoral Candidates: Jason Roberts

jason roberts
Jason Roberts (Courtesy photo.)

The Seattle Globalist asked all the Seattle Mayoral Candidates six questions that are important to the city’s communities of color and immigrant communities. Get all the submitted answers here.

What would be the top three priorities of the Seattle Police Department during your administration?

I would like the SPD to integrate body cams into their standard equipment. I would also like officers to undergo additional training in areas of racial sensitivity, identifying and interacting with the mentally ill, and on-going education in our cities social services to help those in need navigate to them. I have a plan to put additional, specialized police patrols into neighborhoods with high volumes of crime, drug use, and homelessness. In addition to crime prevention, these units would act as neighborhood ambassadors and develop relationships with businesses and residents. They would also be knowledgeable in social services like drug treatment programs, shelters, navigation centers, and meal programs. Let me be clear that I don’t consider homelessness or addiction crimes, the directive of these units would be to facilitate help and mitigate negative impacts in neighborhoods.

What should Seattle’s strategy be in addressing housing affordability?

Redefining what affordable is would be the ideal solution. Rental costs are based on the area median income, which is factored by HUD and based of census data. Our AMI in Seattle is about 80k, a number inflated by massive wage disparity largely influenced by our growing tech industry. I believe AMI should reflect what the average worker earns, opposed to the sum average of all worker’s wages. Realistically this number would be closer to 40 to 50k. This however would be an issue to be decided at the state and national level. Another way to approach it would be rent control or stabilization; which is currently prohibited by state law.

More realistically working within the framework of existing programs may be the path of least resistance. I suggest changing the requirements of HALA and MHA from providing only 7% affordable housing to at least 25%. Creating more public housing is a viable option and would leave the cost control to the city and or county. Allowing the use of “mother in law” units and changing zoning to allow town houses and smaller multi-family dwellings could also help.

Is there a way for Seattle to balance upzoning and retaining affordability for existing residents and businesses, particularly in the University, Central and Chinatown/International districts? Please describe your approach.

Under the “grand bargain” affordability is a myth. Currently only 7% of the new housing under the MHA needs to be “affordable”, which in this case means a household income of roughly 50k a year. This up-zoning has already displaced thousands in Capital Hill and the Central District through gentrification. I believe neighborhoods and communities should have a vote in up-zoning and a voice in their future. In the case of Yesler Terrace, massive amounts of low income housing were sold to Vulcan, who is replacing them with high end apartments with wonderful views of downtown. With up-zoning and gentrification, low income families will certainly be priced out.

Discuss three specific strategies for increasing the participation of immigrant communities/communities of color in the planning of initiatives such as the proposed Navigation Center and large-scale marches that affect neighborhoods?

I believe ALL communities should have a vote in proposed changes to their neighborhoods. This is true for navigation centers, shelters, homeless camps, safe injection sites, and up-zoning. I believe in empowering communities to have a choice in their destiny. Neighborhood councils are integral to city politics.

How should Seattle address “gentrification?” How do you define that concept?

Our city leaders are responsible for and enthusiastic supporters of gentrification. The urgency of the housing crisis has green lighted a program of increased urban density. In the name of creating affordable housing, Mayor Murray created HALA and the MHA. A “grand bargain” that up-zones entire neighborhoods, providing that developers create a token amount of affordable housing. Neighborhoods like Capital Hill, the CD, SLU, and now the CID are in prime proximity to downtown and coincidentally the first to go. Entire communities have been priced out of these neighborhoods replaced with people that can afford $2,000 a month, one bedroom apartments. This is what gentrification looks like.

What should the city of Seattle’s stance be — if any — on handling juvenile justice and the proposed replacement of the King County Juvenile Detention Center?

King county and Seattle have made great strides already to keep non-violent youth offenders from being incarcerated. I think globally from the police, community, families, and the youth themselves; no one believes incarceration is a viable solution. Most agree the emphasis should be on progressive and rehabilitative programs.

That said there are still decisions to be made. First, what to do with youth that commit violent crimes like murder, rape, and assault. Should they be incarcerated with adults? Or should there be a youth facility to house them? Secondly, most would agree that some form of facility needs to be built. The current facility is becoming dilapidated and its design no longer adequately reflects its use.

I believe the new facility should not be used to incarcerate youth; instead focusing on courts, counseling, education, and rehabilitative programs. A smaller facility may be needed to house violent offenders as I do not believe they should be kept in adult facilities.

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