The Seattle Globalist asks the Seattle Mayoral Candidates: Larry Oberto

Larry Oberto (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?

1) Build repour with department to be certain our priorities are in line and if not get them in line with one another.

2) Reduce overtime by hiring additional officers and thus reduce added stress of the job.

3) Work to modify systems that will free up officers to protect and serve while rebuilding a broken trust with parts of the city.

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

We must work to honestly find a common understanding of Affordable and what is realistic to achieve. Is affordable my son and his girlfriend who choose to work several jobs to live in a studio in older building downtown and forgoing a bigger place for the money in Rainier Beach? Is affordable a right to live in a one bedroom or studio as a sole tenant? …

Affordability starts by not driving up the costs of doing business or living in the city. Affordability starts when time is not wasted in transit to move about. Affordability is having a city that spends tax revenues effectively producing value returns for time and money spent. What is accomplished by this is that residence living in the city have more money to spend on rents. Landlords do not need to jack up rents to cover their margins. It is a continuing cycle that government can lead or just drive up costs.

I would review with existing housing departments and programs to focus on methods to get more usable square footage for housing. Next we can look into what programs are wholly dependent on governmental assistance. After this we look to see how we can do a pilot program using builders outside the system to increase housing that is within an agreed cost structure.

There must be a combination of public and private housing.

And last but not least is a focus on two ends of the spectrum…Elderly and young families, in that order. It is not that simple but the framework to work with.

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.

Chinatown/Little Saigon are prime examples. Not that I am omitting the other neighborhoods but wish to use area as example.

This area is prime for development and thus gentrification. It has a long cultural history that has been influential in the building of Seattle. Many of the buildings are old and minimally maintained. They are at risk when a large earthquake hits. This area has diversity of culture and ages of residence. The locals feel that they have no voice in how there home/neighborhood will look like or feel like. They don’t get involved because they have been ignored so often.

The solution is to understand and respect what the area is and who it serves. It has many non English speaking elderly. The International District and Rainer Valley have been the welcoming communities for immigrants for generations.

To rezone and develop must be a balance and their choice. It has been the elderly who built it and lived it. But, it will be the youth who will take it over to make it their own. Working with the young to build the future while involving the elderly to be certain to provide accessible living is the goal. Businesses do it and Uwagimaya is a prime example of a transition from young to old. Yes its business but the same principals apply.

These neighborhoods are already diverse. We must accept the change to come and empower the uniqueness of the citizens of these areas. This method gives a much greater ability to keeping the areas special to what they are while allowing growth. To do blanket programs risks further alienating people and their area while creating a cookie cutter city.

This is a philosophy that applies to all neighborhoods.

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?

1) Be welcoming to all and take the time to know the communities and their people and culture. Building trust is paramount and people will not participate if they are dismissed by planning and processes. I believe this is the first item that needs addressing and that the Compass Center and soon to be Injection Sites are prime examples. These types of things get dumped in the most overlooked communities. Stopping these actions will be the first start to build trust.

2) Have quality translators and assist to help people learn English. It sounds small and not important but it isn’t. Much confusion can happen when lingual nuances are missed.

3) Work with these communities to keep them safe and feel an ownership for what they have. It is basic human and civic needs to feel safe and secure. When we allow for undeserved areas to be camping areas for homeless people give up.

Growing up in Rainier Valley, Franklin, and S.U. exposed me the uniqueness of what I feel has been the ultimate melting pot. People disagree yet most always got along and figured out how to solve the problem.

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

Gentrification is the economic growth that capitalizes on less expensive properties that inevitably pushes existing residence out. It is unavoidable and thus can only be managed or blocked unless locals can grow with change. Without the ability to grow and bring in fresh dollars neighborhoods tend to stagnate and decay. Look at the history of many of the cities in the mid west or even D.C. There are examples on all ends of the spectrum.

Opportunities and Education is paramount especially for youth. The ability for locals to grow with the economic pressures. We must not drive elderly from their homes by taxing them out of what is theirs.

Too many times I hear younger residence say they cannot afford the old homestead. I hear residence say they fear fixing up their home because their property tax will go up. This pressures property and neighborhoods to look run down, be less safe, and less desirable to locals and more desirable to developers.

The city should not be a driving force in driving others out.

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?

I support replacement of the center. How we utilize it going forward becomes an important mission for our new mayor. We need leadership who can be effective to work with both the justice system, police, and parts of society that are high risk. It is an emotional issue and we need to arrive at a balance to help keep youth out of it.


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 ObertoNikkita Oliver | Jason Roberts | Alex Tsimerman | Keith J. Whiteman