Seattle is growing at an incredible rate. Unfortunately, the bus and car-oriented transportation systems built over the last century no longer work for a city our size. The head of our Department of Transportation has declared that Seattle’s streets can’t handle any more cars. Buses are stuck in the same traffic, pedestrians and cyclists lack safe passage, and our saturated streets are unacceptably dangerous: 200 people are seriously injured or killed on our roadways each year.
I will make road safety a priority for our city. As a volunteer with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, I have spent much of the past five years advocating for safer streets. We have had much success, including convincing the city to adopt a goal of zero serious injuries and fatalities on our roadways and to lower speed limits. But we’ve also mourned too many losses and struggled to make the city government follow through on promises to fix to even the most dangerous streets. Changing this will be my highest priority. We must stop using outdated transportation metrics like Level Of Service to justify building dangerous streets.
I will ensure that the most vulnerable users on our streets can travel with dignity and comfort. We are failing people with disabilities by not following state and federal requirements, for example, failing to add curb ramps even when sidewalks are being re-done. We are failing our children by building parks and schools that are not safely accessible by foot or bike. We are failing our seniors by not maintaining sidewalks. As Mayor, I will re-organize transportation planning around a mode-hierarchy pyramid (see below). No more repaving projects that spend millions on smoothing out the roadway but do nothing to improve safety for anyone. No more closing sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails for construction without providing safe, comfortable alternatives. No more delays to our downtown bicycle network. Walking is our fastest growing form of transportation, and we need to build our streets accordingly.
I will bring our transportation costs under control. I’ve been awarded numerous transportation grants. It has made me realize that Seattle’s capital project costs are ridiculous. For example, a 2013 report shows nation-wide costs for curb ramps range from $1,000 to $3,600. Seattle’s own estimates for curb ramp cost was $10,000. However, the curb ramps that were installed on the 39th Ave Greenway cost the city $17,000 each. Because of the high cost of Seattle’s ramps, we were forced to halve the number of street corners which were to get ramps. That same national report shows a median cost of $15,000 for Rapid-Flash Beacons (RRFB), with a maximum cost of $52,000. The RRFB at the NE Branch of the Seattle Public Library cost $79,000 in 2014. Seattle has slashed its Bike Master Plan because our bike lane costs per-mile have exceeded expectations. To the frustration of grassroots advocates like me, the city has never provided clear answers to queries about why our capital costs are so high. I will implement cost transparency so that we finally get answers as to where our tax dollars are going. I will rein in costs by tackling the root causes, for example, addressing the cost of re-work through demonstration projects and a try-before-you-buy Tactical Urbanism-style approach.
I will emphasize fast, smart, and low-cost transportation projects instead of mega-projects. Our current pace for street improvements is glacial. It does nothing but frustrate the citizens who are begging for improvements. The city’s current approach is to work at a top-down level, leaving little room for grassroots input and spending way too much money on unnecessary mega-projects like the waterfront tunnel, the Mercer project, and streetcars that get stuck in traffic. Much of what we need to do to fix our transportation network can be done at very low cost. Enormous costs and painful mistakes can be avoided with demonstration projects and by taking the time to listen to neighborhood residents and businesses who know their roadway problems better than anyone. As Mayor, I will put serious funding into Tactical Urbanism-style projects (including transit improvements) to quickly fix problems, save money on expensive re-work, and redirect money away from wasteful mega-projects.
I will implement development impact fees to finally bring sidewalks to North and South Seattle. At current funding levels, it will take hundreds of years to build all of the missing sidewalks in our Pedestrian Master Plan. If we can bring project costs under control and implement development impact fees during the current construction boom, we can finally build those miles of missing sidewalks. Impact fees would also be used to maintain and improve Seattle’s existing sidewalks, many of which are in very rough shape.
I will prioritize smart transit investments, and stop pitting walk and bike projects against transit. Seattle has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on streetcars that suffer from low ridership, and injure and kill people on bicycles. We instead need to fund proper light rail (which last year’s ST3 vote paves the way for), Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated right-of-way, increased frequency of bus service, and late-night transit service. In order to get the highest return from our transit dollar investments, we need to ensure that people can easily and safely get to transit stations. Where other cities offer late night and free transit service on holidays, Seattle encourages driving. I will prioritize funding transit improvements, and work to make sure our transit systems make sense within the larger transportation network.
Together, we will fight for equity by bringing street improvements to under-served neighborhoods. Rainier Ave S is a perfect example of everything that is wrong with our current transportation priorities. Rainier Ave is the most dangerous street in Seattle. Despite knowing this, Seattle spent only $200,000 to “fix” the street in 2008. We tried again in 2011 as part of a repaving project, adding some crossing improvements but keeping the street unsafe. After tireless advocating from Rainier Valley Greenways and others in the community, the city finally agreed to fund and pilot a road diet on a 1-mile stretch of Rainier Ave. It was an overwhelming success, and we’re only now considering extending it. We have known for decades that road diets are a proven way to make our roads safe, and yet we continue to look the other way while marginalized communities in Seattle suffer the effects of traffic violence. I will proactively engage communities all over Seattle to ensure that they are not only heard, but we take action to fund effective street improvements.
As one of America’s fastest growing cities, Seattle is in the midst of a housing crisis. Even though we are building additional housing, it is simply not enough. Zoning laws are creating a housing shortage that have sent prices skyrocketing. Working families, artists, and seniors are being priced out of the city. Although Seattle declared our homeless crisis to be a state of emergency in 2015, little action has been taken to help the 3,000 people in our city sleeping outside in the cold. It’s time to learn from other world-class cities and chart a growth plan to become the vibrant, affordable, livable city Seattleites deserve.
I will work with City Council to modernize our zoning laws. Outdated zoning laws have created a “Missing Middle” in housing by restricting housing choices. Arbitrary parking requirements raise the cost of construction and rent, endanger sidewalk users, and in single-family neighborhoods reduce the number of shared on-street parking spots. Restrictive backyard cottage regulations stand in the way of multi-generational families and aging in place. Once a fixture of American life and a huge boon to walk scores, zoning has outlawed corner stores. Skyrocketing rent and housing costs are already pricing our own children children out of the city. Zoning laws should exist to protect us and boost livability, not restrict how people work and live. Much like Buffalo is doing, it’s time to modernize and upgrade Seattle’s zoning for a healthier, greener, more walkable, and more affordable Seattle. We have examples from other world-class cities that building enough housing will stabilize rents. Fixing our zoning code is a requirement to Seattle remaining a welcoming, inclusive sanctuary city.
I will modernize multi-unit building code to take costs off the backs of renters and condo owners. We must not let our housing boom become a missed opportunity. By building to high-quality Passive House standards, Seattle can become a leader in fighting climate change. Reducing heating and cooling costs by 90% will make housing more affordable and will not hinder development, since in many cases Passive House buildings can be built at similar costs as conventional buildings. The ventilation requirements in Passive House buildings will improve indoor air quality, reducing health issues related to mold and other contaminants.
I will work to ensure that everyone in Seattle has a warm and safe place to sleep. We must immediately stop “sweeps” of homeless encampments. The current practice of displacing vulnerable people, destroying their shelter, and disposing of their belongings is inhumane and unacceptable. Studies have shown that it’s also more cost-effective to use our tax dollars to give people housing, rather than to pay for our law enforcement and other agencies to deal with the cost of thousands sleeping in the streets. Various countries have had much success with models that use multiple approaches to help people without shelter to get back onto their feet. We need to tie our efforts to shelter people into social services that assist with job placement, substance abuse recovery (including safe consumption sites), low-cost transportation options, and mental health services.
Municipal Internet and Open Data
I believe Internet access is an essential human right, and should be considered a utility just like water and electricity. Increasingly, children rely on Internet access to complete homework assignments. On public transit, free wifi on buses and light rail could help us make productive use of our commutes. Seattle is home to world-class technology companies. I myself have been CTO of an Internet company. As Mayor, I will bring the expertise and momentum needed to get the job done. I am also frustrated with Seattle’s reliance on non-free software and lack of open data and transparency. We must change this, both because it is wasteful of tax dollars and because it threatens government transparency as well as your privacy. It’s particularly troubling to see our police department’s use of NextDoor, a system that pits police transparency against citizens’ privacy through a User Agreement that does not allow sharing of comments.
Let’s bring municipal wifi and broadband to Seattle. Many homes in Seattle have no choice of broadband providers, and suffer with residential Internet offerings that are slow and overpriced. In the Trump era, the freedom of the Internet may come under threat with renewed attacks on net neutrality — so municipal broadband becomes even more important. We know how much it will cost for Seattle to create a municipal broadband utility, we just need the political leadership to do it. Having worked in technology for over a decade, including being CTO of an Internet company, I will bring the will and expertise to get the job done. I will also blanket high-density parts of our city with free wifi, including on transit and in business districts.
I will replace our FindItFixIt system with one that is open. Potholes and other issues are reported using the FindItFixIt app or online website. The data that is submitted is not open, you rarely get a response to a request, and the way that city departments use the data is inconsistent. In my years of advocacy, the city has often denied me access to FindItFixIt data, claiming that the city itself does not have full access. How can the city and its citizens know how well we are doing, when we can’t see the complaints being made? As Mayor, I will replace FindItFixIt with an open system. Citizens will finally be able to see whether a problem has been submitted, how many others have complained, and what actions the city has taken to address the issue.The replacement system will have expanded capabilities, bringing relief to citizens who now have to wait on hold for half an hour or more to report time-sensitive issues (such as parking violations that are obstructing traffic and causing imminent safety issues).
I will make Free and Open Source software and data part of our city’s policy. In 2016, Seattle replaced the billing software that is used by Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities. The project was 2 years late and $43mil over budget. It was riddled with security holes. Mismanaging software is not unique to Seattle, but it’s ridiculous to think that we couldn’t have used off-the-shelf software instead of writing our own from scratch, for something as common as billing of utilities. If we absolutely need customizations, we should build off existing Free Software wherever possible, and make the resulting software open to be shared and improved with other cities. I will make a policy of using open source software, ensuring open data, and publicly communicating with citizens over open channels.
I was deeply disturbed to see the Seattle Police Department assisting the Port Of Seattle Police Department in pepper spraying and arresting peaceful protesters at Sea-Tac Airport. These people were peacefully expressing their compassion for detained immigrants. It’s time to stop pitting law enforcement against peaceful protesters, now more than ever in the era of the Trump administration. As Mayor, I want our law enforcement officials to stand with us to facilitate peaceful expression of free speech and our core values.
I will ensure that our police force is used to support and protect peaceful protests. Under my direction, we will not allow our police to assist other police forces in suppressing peaceful dissent. I will work to implement a “secret shopper” system to safeguard against police abuses, and citizen oversight of our police department. As Mayor, I will expediently implement promising new legislation on the issue of citizen oversight.
I will scrap plans for the new North Precinct facility. I am opposed to the proposed $149mil North Precinct police station. The project is a slap in the face to those who have been fighting for police reform. The 149mil (originally $160mil) price tag is the highest in the country — this is irresponsible to taxpayers and offensive to those who have been struggling to cobble together a few thousand dollars for the most basic civilian safety, like making intersections safe for people crossing the street. This is yet another example of Seattle’s absurd capital project costs, as well as a larger issue of mismanagement. I applaud the #BlockTheBunker activists who packed City Council to delay this project.
I will work with King County to modify the proposed King County youth jail to support youth. If we build a large youth jail, we will look for excuses to put children in jail — especially at-risk children such as low-income, minority, and LGBT youth. At-risk youth need support, not jail. The project includes a court house and other facilities, but also much more incarceration space than necessary. I will work to drastically shrink the incarceration space to house only the small proportion who absolutely need to be separated for safety reasons, and build a spectrum of additional facilities such as youth halfway homes and community centers to service those who need services but don’t need to be behind bars. Where we build these must have close access to city services and transit, which are essential for youth and their families.