The Seattle Globalist asks the Seattle Mayoral Candidates: Jenny Durkan

jenny durkan
Jenny Durkan (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?

Public safety is one of the highest priorities for city government and I will work to keep all parts of our city safe for all residents. My top three priorities would be:

  • Continue with police reform and ensure continual improvements, particularly in the areas of de-escalation and crisis intervention. As US Attorney, I led efforts to begin police reform in Seattle and I am committed to ensuring that we continue implementing reforms. The consent decree between the Department of Justice and Seattle required real reforms to be enacted — new use of force policies and training that emphasize de-escalation, a new approach to how officers interact with people in mental crisis, robust supervision and oversight with meaningful community input.

Under these reforms, real progress has been made. But we also know that community trust can be earned or lost with every officer interaction. We must keep pushing and evaluating if policies, training and oversight are working in practice and to make sure the community has a voice in that process. The recent shooting of Charleena Lyles is a tragic reminder that police reform is never done; progress requires constant and urgent evaluation of what we can do better.

  • Continue building connections between the department and all communities in our city, and particularly with communities of color.  We must continue efforts regarding biased policing outlined in the consent decree.

  • In this time of unprecedented growth, we must ensure that public safety keeps pace with increasing needs.  We must ensure that we have the right chief and keep and recruit the best officers, who have sufficient resources to keep our community safe. We must continue efforts to prevent violent crimes, reduce property crimes, and stop the flow of opioids that are harming so many.  We must develop better strategies to divert youth from the criminal justice system.  We must strengthen relationships between police and neighborhoods because that makes us all safer.  

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

Seattle has become too expensive for renting or buying a house. In too many ways our incredible success is creating two Seattles. Too many people are being locked out, and too many cannot keep up with rising costs. The costs of living and raising a family here dwarf the rise in most wages. We need to create more affordable housing options, while also providing support for those who are at risk of displacement.

The HALA committee’s recommendations will help leverage our growth to create many more affordable units and millions of dollars targeted for affordable housing options. As mayor, I will make sure we use that money wisely. While I will not “start over” with HALA, I will continue to monitor it to ensure that it is bringing the anticipated public benefits, that developers are being held accountable, and that the impacts on neighborhoods are being mitigated.

I will also work with lawmakers here and in Olympia to explore ways to reduce the property tax burden for older homeowners, lower income homeowners, and landlords providing affordable housing.  I believe that the people who provide the critical services in our city—such as teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers— ought to be able to afford to live in our city.

Finally, we also have to explore both public housing investments and greater public-private partnerships to address the critical need for both low income housing and the “missing middle”.  We want to ensure that the Seattle of the future is a rich tapestry of people, small businesses, and housing options in every corner of the city.  

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.

We cannot have effective or equitable policies without broad, meaningful and sustained community input. How we make decisions is very important, and often can be the difference between a policy that is accepted and becomes part of the fabric of our city – or one that is rejected. We know that to address our housing and affordability concerns in this city that we must add housing and increase density. Upzoning is a significant piece of the HALA recommendations, but I am also interested in exploring ways to we can add additional types of housing options in this city. This requires significant stakeholder input. Not every neighborhood is the same, and not every neighborhood will add density the same way. When planning the future of neighborhoods, those most impacted in our communities should have the ability to ask questions, voice their concerns, and share their wisdom.

I want to see the City better use social media and other technology tools to ensure that we incorporate a broader and more diverse array of voices into our civic conversation about questions of growth and affordability. As mayor, my staff and I will work with both long-standing and emerging community leaders to engage the community in culturally appropriate spaces and ensure their voices are heard by city government. I will direct my staff and departments to conduct regular outreach meetings with the impact communities, including walking tours in neighborhoods especially when there are proposed changes to zoning. I will also work to provide sufficient translation and interpretation services at City meetings and city publications like newsletters and flyers.

Ultimately, I will govern with the guiding principle that city government should be going to the neighborhoods and communities, not the other way around.

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?

First, if elected, I will work to increase outreach to Seattle’s communities of color and immigrant communities overall through a variety of methods, including inclusive hiring for key positions, sustained outreach, language accessible programs and publications, supporting WMBE and immigrant-owned businesses, and engaging community members wary of government officials and workers in safe spaces.

Second, my staff and I will work with community leaders and initiate regular meetings with members of immigrant communities and communities of color in culturally appropriate spaces to ensure their voices are heard by city government. This will help us understand the impact of initiatives such as the navigation center.

Third, partnerships with community-based organizations, such as the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority and InterIm CDA, show outreach and collaboration work. As mayor, I will work to forge stronger relationships between the City and community-based organizations.

With all of these strategies, our outreach and listening has to be proactive, not reactive. When I was US Attorney, my office and I did extensive outreach to communities of color, primarily around the issues of police reform. The outreach was intentional and ongoing, and the input was directly incorporated into our investigation and our report.  Then when we went to craft the consent decree, we sought additional input and incorporated it into the decree itself – including the creation of the Community Police Commission. As mayor, I will hold my staff and departments accountable to anticipating all impacts, especially unintended impacts, of our initiatives and policies. We will build relationships to foster ongoing engagement and outreach, so we don’t have to start from scratch with each new policy proposal. And, most importantly, we will use that input to make the policies work better.

By taking these steps, I will develop and implement policy that reflects the needs of these important communities.

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

Gentrification is not the caused by a single action, but the result of many different factors. However it is most commonly understood as the displacement of lower income, historically marginalized communities from urban districts by increased growth and development.  First a neighborhood becomes “affordable” – then eventually those people and small businesses that have called it home are pushed out by rising costs.

As a city experiencing unprecedented economic growth, we must collectively make a commitment to invest in communities of different races, ethnic backgrounds, and incomes. Public and private partnerships in neighborhoods are a way to create vibrant, healthy communities where the private market alone has not done enough. From transportation infrastructure to investments in affordable housing, as mayor I would work diligently to achieve equitable outcomes for all as our city continues to grow and thrive.

Community benefit agreements are one tool that can be used to mitigate the effects of new development or infrastructure projects. Our next mayor will oversee billions of dollars in new infrastructure projects; if elected, I will work for those communities most impacted to make sure they have a voice and their needs are protected. Similarly, the Mandatory Housing Affordability requirement, one of the HALA recommendations, will yield thousands of new affordable housing units throughout the city by providing incentives to developers. The City must ensure that we obtain the promised benefits and that real housing options are delivered throughout the city. Fair growth requires an investment back in those same communities and neighborhoods where development occurs. This must be part of any strategy to mitigate the impacts of displacement caused by increased density and growth.  

Finally, we must develop, cultivate and protect strong family wage jobs, so people can afford to remain in the city. This requires a robust combination of apprenticeship programs, enforcing labor laws and workforce agreements and keeping/attracting a range of employment opportunities. We also have to expand opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses. The training, education and development of our local workforce is critical. We want to fill the growing number of jobs – from building trades to tech workers – from right here in Seattle.

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?

First and foremost, we must focus on preventing the need for juvenile detention. Breaking the school-to-prison pipeline requires a holistic approach. We must ensure families have access to quality and affordable childcare, good jobs, and a strong social safety net.  We must ensure that every kid is given the full opportunity to learn and thrive. We must give kids increased pre-school options, after-school programs, mentoring, and employment opportunities.  We also need to expand apprenticeship programs, so students have a range of training and employment opportunities.  

Making progress requires acknowledging that people of color, and particularly young black boys and men, have been incarcerated at much higher rates than their white peers. These trends start early in school, where black boys are sometimes expelled or referred to law enforcement as disciplinary action. We must work with schools, families, child welfare advocates, and law enforcement on breaking this reality. We also must support and develop more programs for intervention and reconciliation for juveniles, with sufficient wraparound services like counseling, addiction and mental health treatment and adequate health care – for them and their families.

I care very deeply about criminal justice reform, and have worked on these issues throughout my career. In law school, I volunteered as a counselor in the Prisoners’ Counselling Project. I also worked as a criminal defense lawyer for years. I have been inside many of the state’s prisons and jails. Prison is not an abstraction; I know the reality of these places and their impacts on everyone involved. To direct people to treatment instead of incarceration, I worked to help create the first drug court in King county, and one of the first in the nation in federal court.

The current detention center does not provide the services that are desperately needed. It is a substandard facility that is much too focused on detention and punishment. I represented juveniles there years ago and it was appalling then. While the City and the County have articulated a goal of reaching zero youth detentions, currently, it is an unfortunate reality that some youth detentions, including violent assaults and homicides, must still occur. In 1996, the average detention population at the detention center was 190.  In 2016, it was approximately 51 (a 73% reduction).  We won’t drive this number down further unless we take a holistic approach that includes better educational and employment opportunities, healthcare options, and family services. To do this, we need to work with the County to continue and create dedicated child welfare and restorative justice programs. These programs need to define the space.

More information:


Gary E. Brose | Casey Carlisle | Tiniell Cato | Jenny Durkan | Jessyn Farrell | Thom Gunn | Greg Hamilton | Michael Harris | Bob Hasegawa | Lewis A. Jones | Dave Kane | Harley Lever | Mary J. Martin | Mike McGinn | Cary Moon | James W. Norton, Jr.Larry Oberto | Nikkita Oliver | Jason Roberts | Alex Tsimerman | Keith J. Whiteman