The Seattle Globalist asks the Seattle Mayoral Candidates: Nikkita Oliver

Nikkita Oliver (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. Move the legislation, which the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to pass, through the approval process. There are two key steps 1) Federal Judge (Robart) approval and 2) negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers Guild. We need to move the legislation through the approval process and the SPOG negotiations fully intact with the intentions of expanding and increasing at a later date. It is also very important to acknowledge that part of this includes a fully funded Community Police Commission with 21 members and the hiring of an Inspector General who is highly qualified and empowered to perform well as the IG.

2. A Civilian Oversight Board to provide a clear mechanism for community members, in particular civilians, to have meaningful and effective voice in the investigations and outcomes as it pertains possible misconduct by officers.

3. A comprehensive review of the current police Chief (O’Toole and the head of the Office Police Accountability, Pierce Murphy). Depending on the outcomes of that review process we may enter into a national for a new Chief and head of the OPA.

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

We need a multi-faceted strategy that feeds into a vision of an affordable, accessible and equitable Seattle for all. We cannot depend solely on the private market to solve this issue.

Nikkita and the Peoples Party are for pro-strategic and equitable density policies and support policies that prevent displacement. We also strive to create opportunity for those who have already been “pushed out” of Seattle to return home.

This includes:

1) partnerships with the private market (developers) and non-profits to build housing;

2) market intervention strategies such as rent stabilization and speculative capital/speculator taxes;

3)  reworking HALA and MHA to include 25% affordable units or payment into the “fee in lieu of” AND a redefining of what “affordable” means in a market where the “average median income” increases each year but not across all populations;

4) leveraging public lands and city properties to build public housing, 24/7 storage, and temporary housing;

5) building public housing that is exclusively for workforce housing and the lowest income residents of our city;

6) re-zoning for in-laws and attached and detached units AND incentivizing property owners who rent stabalize those units;

7) incentivizing landlords to rent to residents with section 8 vouchers;

8) ordinances to prevent housing discrimination for old foreclosures and evictions;

9) ordinances to prevent housing discrimination for older criminal records.

We have to strengthen HALA. Funding has to be increased for our low-income and affordable housing development. 20-25% must be the on-site affordable housing inclusionary requirement for all apartment and condo developments over 10 units. We should also explore a similar affordability inclusion for multi-dwelling townhome developments – the city can provide subsidies to make the numbers work. This would actually cut costs when compared to having to build entire developments from scratch.

While rent stabilization would bring some legal challenges, it is worth the work. We need to find ways to ensure that residents are not pushed from their homes by skyrocketing rents. (We must pair rent stabilization with other market intervention strategies and thoughtfulness about how rent stabilization is constructed in order to insure that small landlords are able to remain functional and profit at the level they require to effectively manage their properties).

Additionally, we should explore, as other cities are beginning to, the expansion of community land trusts where residents, tenants, and communities can be self-determined in owning property to maintain affordability. Community Land trust ownership programs keep families in their affordable housing and create paths to equitable/co-operative ownership, which successfully curbs gentrification.

Lastly, “affordability” and the housing crisis is a regional issue. As the region becomes less affordable and families are pushed to other cities, it is of the utmost importance the City of Seattle align with King County and partner with other cities to address both the housing crisis and the need for increased and improved transportation infrastructure and access. These are major equity and accessibility issue facing our city and region as a whole.

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.

Of course there is a way to balance the two. Balance will require setting certain hard requirements and re-aligning the City’s priorities to consider renters and affordable housing qualitatively as much, if not more, than big business concerns.  That has not been the case as big business has been largely been given the red carpet treatment at the expense of existing residents.  Some ways to begin that realigning:

We have to strengthen HALA. As mentioned above, funding has to be increased for our low-income and affordable housing development. Again, 20-25% must be the on-site affordable housing inclusionary requirement for all apartment and condo developments over 10 units. Also, we should also explore a similar affordability inclusion for multi-dwelling townhome developments – the city can provide subsidies to make the numbers work.

We must make sure that these corporate neighbors are mitigating the impacts that they create within the neighborhoods, schools, parks, streets and environment; which includes asking for impact fees and additional investments from developers (such as revamping HALA/MHA to ask for more when it comes to affordable housing).  Ultimately, there must be a balancing of the equities to see what they owe for developing in such a rich City.  Equity means that if one has more, one contributes more. Otherwise, the growing income inequality chasm in this city will continue to widen.

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?

We cannot have effective and equitable policy-making in a democratic society without community input. Additionally, in a city with one of the highest (and most racialized) income inequality gaps in the country making the two mutually exclusive will effectively exclude those who lack power and privilege in Seattle currently.

Grassroots democracy is what has proven to be the most true and effective form of democracy. A democracy of direct input and consensus. A democracy of accountability, humility, and transparency. With this campaign and the Peoples Party, Grassroots Democracy is the underpinnings of what we stand for. We do not make decisions without the collective. We hold each other accountable, while still uplifting the power of our autonomy and individual cultures.

THREE SPECIFIC STRATEGIES:

1. As it regards the NAVIGATION CENTER, meet with community members and stakeholder before the final decisions are made.  Mayor Ed Murray decided to have a two-month pause after the City’s final decisions were made. That is insulting, patronizing and arguably a deprivation of substantive due process. As Mayor I will meet with communities where initiatives may occur and have an effective and meaningful process with those communities. That does not, of course, always mean that we will agree or that the community will even always find satisfaction. It does mean that I will 100% weigh and value community input before making final decisions and have a transparent process well before that final decision. The above said, I firmly believe that the most impact hold the information necessary to build the best possible solutions to social ills. Listening first and taking action within accountable relationships is not always the most time efficient process, but it is the most effective community building process which ultimately leads to healthier, self-determined, self-empowered communities.

2. I will actually affirmatively seek out stakeholders who may or may not already participate in the process. The Peoples Party and my campaign have modeled that by having dozens of “community listening posts” in many communities, from the Somali community to the API community to the tech community to Fremont.  We affirmatively go to their communities and find those stakeholders instead of expecting them to be already engaged or come to us. We must make city processes more accessible, understandable, and equitable (which includes providing child care, translation services, food, etc.)

3. The Peoples Party is comprised of organizers. This is what we do. Just last night we held a community gathering at the LEMS Life Enrichment Bookstore on Rainier in Columbia City.  We will continue to do outreach to the most marginalized in our city and communities of color in the same way we have for years.

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

“Gentrification” can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people because we do not all experience the outcomes of “gentrification” in the same way. Depending on one’s economic, racial/ethnic background and the geographic location of one’s birth and upbringing one’s experience of “gentrification” or relationship to can be either positive or negative. Some of the precursors of “gentrification” may include new local investments, an increase in incomes, rising home prices and property taxes, controversial government programs like “weed and seed,” higher educational mixes, occupational changes, and new racial and/or ethnic group changes in a neighborhood, etc.

I use “gentrification” to refer to a process by which a neighborhood or district, often a previously undervalued and/or under-resourced neighborhood or district, is renovated and/or improved for middle-income and high-income earners to move in at the expense (“push out”), oftentimes, of lower-income communities and/or communities of color and/or other pre-existing residents. “Gentrification” routinely leads to a sharp increase in rents and home values in lower-income (typically urban) neighborhoods resulting in displacement of pre-existing residents.

Too often does “gentrification” get discussed as “urban renewal”, “revitalization”, “reinvestment” and/or treated as neighborhood improvement. While neighborhoods or districts may “look better” they often look very different both as it pertains to physicality and population. These improvements are usually completely inaccessible to the original members of the community and maybe even accessible to the communities that made formally under-resourced areas thrive culturally and sometimes economically. The sorts of forceful (and arguably structurally violent) changes which occur during gentrification tend to lead to detrimental outcomes for the original residents including increased negative contacts with police, destabilization of families and pertinent resource networks, and broken relationships/broken trust in communities and between communities and the government. Additionally, “gentrification” also tends to lead to increases in property values which increases the amount pre-existing residents pay in property taxes. While increased property values is a good thing, the increase in property taxes can lead to the “push out” of pre-existing residents (especially senior and/or vets and/or people on disability) who are likely living on fixed incomes.

How can Seattle combat gentrification? We must invest in community development strategies which 1) lead to healthier better resourced and more connected neighborhoods and districts; 2) improve the physical infrastructure of these spaces to increase the livability of the neighborhood district for pre-existing residents; and 3) protect the right of residents to stay in their neighborhoods/districts by providing effective meaningful responses when increased property values and increased property taxes threaten pre-existing residents with “push-out”.

Some policy suggestions include:

  • Aggressively build public housing and/or public land trusts for lower-income and middle-income residents in those neighborhoods.
  • Rent and property tax stabilization.
    • Reducing or freezing property taxes in isolated zones or areas of a city for long-term residents can be a way to combat “push out”.
  • Rent and property taxes subsidies and voucher programs.
    • Create a stabilization voucher.
  • Prohibit large-scale luxury developments in neighborhoods at-risk of the negative impacts of “gentrification”.
  • Review our “Fair Housing” policies and consider changing them to ensure that we are affirmatively promoting equitable investment in neighborhoods/districts which encourage opportunity in communities at-risk of gentrification.

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?

We should handle juvenile justice with an eye toward our goal of zero detention, while understanding that we are not there yet. Until we build a new system and infrastructure, we will be stuck with the one we have. We must figure out how to continue to decrease disproportionality and make strides towards “zero detention”.

The above said, we must take seriously the “Zero Detention” Resolution by making significant investment (alongside King County) in building a new system and infrastructure for truly restorative justice processes that not only address harm when it occurs but, more importantly, acts preventatively to address social concerns and societal downfalls which force young people and their families to make hard, and sometimes illegal decisions, to survive.

Moving forward, the City should recognize that placing a huge investment into a youth jail is is a public safety issue for Seattle and also doubling down on an antiquated model that has been shown not to work.  As a matter of empirical data across the Nation, incarcerating non-violent juvenile offenders (the vast majority of the juvenile offenders in the KCJDC) exponentially increases their likelihood of becoming violent adult offenders. That puts the City of Seattle at greater risk. Obviously, there are also other areas where this problematic when we discuss the School To Prison Pipeline in relationship to black and brown young folks who are charged differently (more severely) for the same actions and will populate that new and shiny KCJDC. A City or County shows its priorities by where it spends its money–here on a model that is dead and disproportionately affects black and brown youth and puts those black and brown youth on the fast train to prison. When I become Mayor, I will unabashedly defer to social science which says that we should not be investing in a new and shiny youth prison and instead we should fight this antiquated and racist model.

More information: seattlepeoplesparty.com

Candidates

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

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