Candidate Scorecard

Downtown’s success depends on effective partnerships with elected leaders. This is particularly important as we recover from the impacts of the pandemic. DSA scores and ranks contenders in certain races based on their responses to a questionnaire rather than endorsing candidates. This year, mayoral and city council candidates were asked one question and rated on how closely their responses align with DSA’s mission to create a healthy vibrant downtown. Considerations for candidate scores includes knowledge, experience, qualifications, their plan for downtown’s recovery and how they intend to achieve it. Our ratings were developed by a panel of DSA members and are based on written responses to the questionnaire below, in addition to their performance in our recent council and mayoral forums.

As candidates move forward in the general election campaign, we encourage you to read their responses and learn how they would support downtown and the many people who live, work and visit here. You can also find a printable summary of the candidate profiles by clicking here.

Issue

Downtown Seattle is the largest employment center in the Pacific Northwest, generating approximately 52% of the business tax revenue in the city of Seattle. Downtown is also home to the region’s major cultural and tourism attractions. In the past year-plus, downtown has been severely impacted by the pandemic, which required employees to work remotely and which likely played a part in the closure of more than 200 downtown storefronts that depended on workers and visitors as customers. In addition, downtown businesses and residents have suffered millions of dollars in property damage from the demonstrations and protests. Concurrently, downtown is experiencing a growing homelessness crisis and seeing more people in need of mental health and substance abuse services amid continued public safety concerns on the streets.

Question

Now, with the general population being vaccinated and a gradual return of workers and visitors, how will the city of Seattle support downtown’s economic recovery? As someone who seeks public office with the city of Seattle, please briefly describe your background in business or business-related issues. Then in detail, please describe the city’s role in helping downtown recover. What is your recovery plan for downtown, and how would you propose to implement it?

Mayoral Candidates

Lorena González / Not Aligned

lorenaforseattle.com

Dear President Scholes,

We appreciate the invitation to participate in the candidate evaluation process and respectfully have chosen to decline. As you know, Seattle is an integrated web of communities and neighborhoods, and while each business district has its own unique needs, singling one out for attention is not conducive to pulling the city together to tackle its very real challenges. The issues you raise in your question, such as homelessness and COVID-19 recovery, are not unique to the downtown area. Downtown is a vital part of Seattle and the region’s economy, but it is not the only part of Seattle’s vibrant local economy.

Such a narrow geographic focus misses the larger challenge of addressing systemic inequalities across the city, and helping small businesses recover from the pandemic and thrive in every neighborhood, not just one. As Mayor, Lorena will bring people together to help all parts of our city succeed and will continue her work toward this shared and important goal. We look forward to continuing to engage with you and your members on these citywide issues and to crafting solutions that will promote a just and fair recovery.

Respectfully,
Alex Koren
Campaign Manager Lorena for Seattle

Bruce Harrell / Outstanding Alignment

bruceforseattle.com

Downtown Seattle was the most impacted neighborhood throughout the pandemic. The loss of office commuters, retail destination commerce, service sector jobs, and tourism hurt not only our city – but impacted the entire economy and well-being of our region. As Mayor, I will take on three interrelated priorities of importance to downtown residents, businesses, and cultural institutions:

First, we must unite our city around an economic recovery that starts with our small businesses, and is rooted in values of equity and opportunity. It means putting an end to divisive rhetoric and bringing all to the table around shared goals. It means rebuilding trust. I kicked off a citywide small business listening tour in downtown Seattle and have had direct conversations with hundreds of local business owners and employees. I hear the same pleas for leadership and action.

I’ll also prioritize help for our restaurants, bars and nightlife, museums and other destinations. Part of what makes Seattle a draw for young people, visitors, and companies looking to create jobs and attract talent is the diversity of our civic, hospitality, and cultural communities.

Second, we must immediately address the homelessness crisis. Current city leadership made a terrible mistake not devoting more ARPA relief funds to immediate housing and services. I’ll fix that and leverage other existing state and local resources to this crisis.

At a recent homelessness forum I was the ONLY major candidate to endorse and support the Compassion Seattle Charter Amendment. While no proposal is perfect, I applaud this effort as both a value statement on the urgency of this crisis, and as a positive step forward – finding common ground between downtown businesses, service providers, unions, and advocates for compassionate action. A humane and innovative city should never allow people to live outside without sanitation and mental health support. My administration will own this crisis, without excuses.

The third issue is public safety. I’m the only major candidate for Mayor committed to top-down culture change and reform at SPD without threat of arbitrary defunding. ALL neighborhoods – and all the people of Seattle – deserve response from skilled law enforcement in times of crisis or concern, with additional personnel to serve those in crisis where a uniformed officer is not needed or appropriate.

A strong commitment to public safety is not just a priority for downtown businesses and employers – it is essential for the thousands of people who call downtown home. Safe downtown streets are vibrant, lively places with people from all walks of life. We must also do everything we can to make sure those who live downtown feel secure and supported.

I understand the issues facing downtown employers and workers, having served as Chief Counsel for US WEST, and managing partner of a downtown law firm on 4th and Union representing businesses, working people, and nonprofits. The skills I obtained in these roles and while on Council – strategic thinking, collaboration, and intentional listening – I’ll bring to service as Mayor. My leadership will change the narrative on downtown – and our city – with positivity, direct action and measurable outcomes.

A Downtown Seattle that is thriving, welcoming, and safe is a Downtown that once again will serve as a focal point of our region’s prosperity and growth. My administration will not lose focus on these priorities. Let’s work together to get it done.

City Council Candidates

Teresa Mosqueda / Some Alignment

Position 8
teamteresa.org

COVID-19 impacted all people and communities within Seattle, including our City’s economic hubs, the small business owners in those hubs, the workers who relied on jobs within those hubs, and the people who continued to live and work in those hubs. As we celebrate vaccination rates and low case-loads, we can turn our focus to equitable recovery. I am looking forward to working together with DSA on critical priorities; getting Seattle back on a path to prosperity for all who live and work here.
Politics in this city have been divisive, and while healthy debate is good, focusing on fighting to win a narrative as opposed to centering those who live, work and visit our city is not. I intend to continue bringing folks who disagree with me to the table to build strong policies, and focus on common ground so we can direct revenue toward restarting our local economy, supporting our smallest businesses, providing childcare to more workers, and housing those who are living in the doorways of businesses across our city. That is how we can collectively create a downtown Seattle that is thriving, healthy, and activated.

Last year, I showcased it’s possible to come together to build policies that support our urgent needs. Following discussion and input from small and large business owners, unions, and other stakeholders representing our downtown core, I passed JumpStart Seattle. While some businesses remain opposed to the progressive revenue I championed, all were welcomed to the table to help envision a stronger recovery. The data shows our economy would have been worse off, and slower to recover, without the tens of millions that went directly to small businesses— keeping struggling storefronts open,and people employed — childcare support for working parents, and funding to keep vulnerable families housed and supported during a time of need. These funds helped mitigate the surge in homelessness no city was prepared for when congregate sheltering was no longer an option, but the needs still far outweigh the resources.

Since COVID began, I have been vocal in my support for housing those unsheltered in hotels and tiny homes, something I have heard directly is a top priority from DSA and downtown businesses. In one DSA meeting, a representative told me “the previous navigation team model wasn’t working and we had to do something different.” That’s what I’ve fought for – policies to provide a foundation to make immediate improvements downtown and assist the workers who power our economy. I have championed legislation for servers in restaurants/bars, retail staff, and hotel workers welcoming tourists back to the tens of thousands of office commuters who bring energy to our city center.
Last week I announced $128 million in the Seattle Rescue Plan that will provide direct assistance to downtown businesses, help workers transition back to offices by supporting childcare/workforce development, and dedicate nearly $50 million in direct funding for the homelessness crisis— a citywide priority disproportionately felt by those who live and work downtown.

There is common ground. When we work together, we have a stronger Seattle. We must redouble efforts to house the unsheltered, get people back to work by providing the support and training needed, and provide flexible funding that trusts small business owners as best equipped to determine how those dollars should be deployed. I look forward to four more years of healthy debate, collaboration, and rebuilding.

Sara Nelson / Outstanding Alignment

Position 9
saraforcitycouncil.com

I’m running for City Council because Seattle is going in the wrong direction and I’ll bring the experienced, practical leadership so urgently needed right now. I served as a Legislative Aide for Councilmember Richard Conlin for almost ten years so I know how local government should function. ¶I’m also co-owner of Fremont Brewing and I’ll bring the missing voice of small business.

I’m proud that Fremont Brewing gives back to our community, leads the craft beer industry in sustainability, and provides extensive employee benefits. We were hit hard by COVID but we managed to retain all our employees and increase their hourly wage to make up for lost tips.

My top priority is economic recovery because we’ve got a lot of work to do to achieve a long-term, equitable economic recovery. Tragically, Council is not acting with any urgency to help small businesses and simply hoping downtown will bounce back is not a plan.

As I read DSA’s 2016 – 2020 Strategic Plan with close attention, I kept asking myself, why isn’t City Hall taking leadership on the elements of your three areas of focus? Instead of reinventing the wheel of downtown’s economic recovery, your strategic plan’s policy objectives should serve as the blueprint and when elected, I’ll partner with DSA to develop a package of priority legislation and allocate funding for its implementation.

I will also seek DSA’s input on some of my own ideas including: 1)Land use changes to allow flexibility for street level residential on some downtown streets: The stoop approach would add life and eyes to downtown streets as well as units that could be more affordable for families and young people than tower units. 2) Proactive, targeted business recruitment: The City lacks the capacity and expertise to do this work internally so we must invest significant resources tor targeted business recruitment to develop and implement recruitment programs for various business sectors. Businesses won’t come by themselves – especially not in this climate — so we’ll need to court and incentivize them to do so. 3) Fix our broken entitlement/permitting system! The difficulty getting permits for everything from simple home renovations to MUPs slows economic growth all over the city and especially downtown because time is the biggest driver of cost increases.

All of these plans will be for naught until the City removes encampments from our streets and open spaces and gets serious about reducing crime. To say that Council has abnegated its responsibility for ensuring public safety and addressing encampments is an understatement. Council has left businesses and residents to fend for themselves and people simply don’t feel safe walking around downtown, especially with our stores and restaurants boarded up.

These are tough times but with crisis comes opportunity. We have the chance for a major reset in this town and it starts with electing candidates for City Council who can be held accountable for delivering measurable results instead of ideological rhetoric. I’m the only candidate in this race with experience in both the public and private sectors and I’ve received the endorsements of the Seattle Firefighters, Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Ironworkers. I’ve also been endorsed by many former electeds (such as Gael Tarleton) and environmental leaders (such as Denis Hayes and Ken Lederman). DSA will have an ally and partner with me on City Council and I ask for your support.

Nikkita Oliver (they/them) / Not Aligned

Position 9
nikkitafornine.com

As we re-open we must: prioritize workers; address the housing crisis; make downtown an arts & culture destination; & establish a safety net for workers that includes prevailing wages, healthcare, hazard pay, & dignified working conditions. The health of our most vulnerable workers & residents dictates how we recover.

During the pandemic, according to LinkedIn data, for every tech worker who left, the industry pulled in 2.2 workers. Continuing to pursue progressive taxation is necessary to fund social, affordable, green housing for all. Affordable housing near downtown means workers can live close to work; increasing daytime & nighttime presence. It will also decrease commute times, support the hospitality industry, and help us achieve our climate goals.

Commercial rent control in Seattle is good for small businesses. The City Council did already pass relevant legislation. Unfortunately, prohibitions in the legislation only remain in effect until the civil emergency is terminated. This ordinance provides protections in the form of rent control, repayment plan requirements, & prohibition on late fees, interest, & other charges. We must make this permanent.

During the COVID-19 crisis public transportation was made free. We have heard from workers that, in the least, maintaining a ride free zone will contribute to making downtown more accessible. But, of course, simply making transportation free would benefit us all.

Reactivating downtown means supporting arts, culture, & hospitality. The City of Seattle can provide funding to support revitalization through RFP that small businesses, venues, and community organizations can apply for to bring arts & culture back to downtown attracting visitors & encouraging workers to spend more time downtown outside of work hours.

Workers should have every protection possible. We should maintain free covid testing sites for workers until we know the crisis is over. We should put in place a citywide mask mandate in all indoor businesses. It should not be the responsibility of workers to ask for vaccination cards which may cause hostility. The safest way to proceed is to require everyone wear masks inside businesses until it is safe.

There are a myriad of reasons why people are without homes that do not include drugs or mental health. Thousands of Seattlites are facing the possibility of homelessness if we do not address the eviction crisis. We must defund ineffective public safety systems & invest in humane, dignified solutions. Sweeping people and criminalizing poverty, mental health, and drug use is not preventative. In fact it forces people into a detrimental cycle of instability worsening the crisis.

We must provide radical accessibility for residents without homes by prioritizing services and housing. There are hotels in downtown Seattle that are closing. Seattle can work with King County to purchase these hotels as a mid-term solution to the crisis. We must also invest more public safety dollars in a diversity of supports such as city-wide mental health teams, substance use support centers, de-escalation teams (not connected to police), safe lot programs, and tiny house villages.

COVID-19 exacerbated pre-existing crises and inequalities. There is no substitute for building housing, developing pipelines into prevailing wage jobs, and generating revenue through progressive taxation to address these crises.

City Attorney Candidates

Ann Davison / Outstanding Alignment

neighborsforann.com

Thank you for taking the time to hear from me. As an attorney and arbitrator for the last 16 years, I have not only handled civil disputes and contracts pertaining to businesses but have built my practice around providing advice to individuals and entities in regards to their business needs. I have also been teaching international business law at UW’s Continuum College. My most important job, however, is as a mom; a mom who wants a city where our kids can grow and learn without having to worry about their safety or ability to prosper. I think these are similar concerns for many of the downtown businesses.

A lot has changed since Seattle was primarily driven by Boeing factories. It is now a tech and commercial hub that makes its downtown even more important to the local economy than many other large cities. The city cannot survive without a healthy downtown, but that is not something we should take for granted. The pandemic shut down a lot of the core retail and restaurant businesses during the strictest parts of the lockdown, but even when things eased, many of the office workers that supported them stayed home making it hard for businesses to recover. Those same companies that had once sought out office space downtown have now realized that they don’t need to be in Seattle so that many have been looking to move business to other locations.

Beyond the economic and health issues that the pandemic brought to downtown, public safety has become a significant source of strain on downtown businesses and residents. The London Plane restaurant fought to stay open during the pandemic, but it is on the brink of closing down because of aggressive harassment of its employees and patrons. Bartels, a Seattle staple, had to close its downtown store, while others like Target are the victim of rampant theft turned into a business. Sections of downtown streets have turned into fencing markets for stolen goods. Moreover, downtown is our largest residential neighborhood. Many residents can’t walk their dogs without fear of attack. Even the King County Sheriff sent workers home because of an attempted rape in our courthouse.

Seattle needs downtown businesses that create jobs and generate tax revenue, but downtown businesses need Seattle to be safe in order to prosper. It is a core duty of any city to protect its people and its businesses. To help downtown Seattle recover, the city has a lot of roles. It needs to partner with businesses and chambers to create a favorable taxing and regulatory structure that accomplishes the needs of the city while allowing struggling businesses to rebuild. The city must ensure that people feel safe living, working, and traveling downtown. This should be a combined effort from all relevant agencies. Furthermore, the city is also one of the major employers downtown and it has as much stake in the health of downtown as any employer.

The City Attorney and the Law Department have a much more specific role in the recovery of downtown. Immediately, I will work with other public safety agencies to make downtown a safer place to live, work, and visit. We need to get help to people in need and make smart use of diversion programs, but we also must center victims in our balanced approach to prosecution. On the civil side, I want to make sure that policy and lawmakers have the best legal advice possible. Great ideas can lose their effectiveness when they are bogged down by legal challenges. I want to avoid lawsuits like the one over the Waterfront LID tax that cost both sides in money and time.

Let us work together to create a safer, more prosperous downtown!

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy / Not Aligned (declined to answer)

ntk4justice.com