Seattle City Council District 6: Dan Strauss and Heidi Wills

L-R, Dan Strauss and Heidi Wills are vying for the Seattle City Council District 6 seat, being vacated by Councilmember Mike O’Brien. (Photo courtesy campaigns)

Dan Strauss and Heidi Wills are vying for the seat being vacated by Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien. District 6 covers Northwest Seattle including Ballard, Crown Hill and Green Lake.

Dan Strauss

Seattle’s lower- and middle-income residents and small businesses feel that they are being left behind or pushed out by the city’s growing economy. What three concrete actions will you take to address those concerns?

As a councilmember, I will work with colleagues and community groups which lead on these issues to build on the groundwork which has been laid through Community Preference policies incorporated in the Housing Levy A&F Plan and the surplus land disposition policies. I will also continue efforts to ensure these enacted policies actually lead to community-driven and centered investments.

I also support efforts to fully fund the Office of Civil Rights, and work to ensure major land use legislation leads with racial equity, rather than tagging a Racial Equity Toolkit at the end of already defined decisions. By leading with equity, I know we will craft better policies.

I would also want to explore ways to prohibit repeated and harassing, cold-calling, and doorbelling of residents by speculators trying to pressure households to sell to out-of-state investors rather than keeping housing and small business ownership in the community.

Finally, I will prioritize affirmative outreach to communities most at risk of displacement to ensure residents are aware of and signed up for the programs designed to support them, such as property tax exemptions, heating and weatherization assistance, and utility discounts. I believe outreach like this will be especially helpful to seniors, particularly in communities most impacted by displacement, giving them more of an opportunity to age in place.

What is your stance on the city of Seattle’s “welcoming city” policies on residents’ immigrant statuses? Should any of these policies be changed, and how?

I strongly support Seattle as a welcoming city and will protect undocumented immigrants from federal law enforcement. One element which we can improve upon is helping inform undocumented immigrants of their rights in Seattle and who they can call for help. I would also support expansion of the Seattle-King County Immigrant Legal Defense Fund (ELDF) to make sure everyone who needs legal services can get them.

Reports of hate crimes have been on the rise in Seattle. How will you make sure people of all backgrounds feel safe from perpetrators of hate crimes and also feel safe reporting the crimes?

This is an important issue to me – I was the recipient of antisemitism in middle school and I was exposed to it frequently working in Olympia. As a councilmember, I will work with communities seeing spikes in bias crimes. I will follow their lead to identify measures to improve safety, and ensure SPD takes hate crimes seriously. And I will lead by example, speaking out against hate in our city and country. I will make it clear the Seattle I am fighting for celebrates and values all people equally.

I also strongly support HB 1732, the new hate crimes law which recently passed at the state level. If elected, I will bring Seattle’s malicious harassment statute into alignment with the standards set forth in HB 1732. In addition to these steps, I will work to make Seattle a more inclusive, safe, and welcoming community for all. Creating this kind of community is everyone’s responsibility, and I will lead the efforts on Council.

Finally, we must ensure communities most at risk of experiencing hate crimes feel safe reaching out to law enforcement. I will continue efforts to reform our police department and incorporate ways to build a more diverse department which is more reflective of communities in our city. This is vital to ensuring people who have been victimized as a result of their immutable characteristics are not re-victimized when they call 911.

What letter grade would you give the city on reforming race and ethnicity-based bias in law enforcement and why did you give that grade? What would you do differently, if anything?

C-. As the fact that they are under a federal consent decree illustrates, SPD has a history of racial bias and discrimination which continues to this day. SPD has taken strides towards addressing these issues by improving training procedures to include racial bias and increasing use of community policing. More work remains to be done. I will support efforts to ensure training for officers improves to include more robust de-escalation techniques and anti-racism trainings, with regular refresher courses. I also support updating criteria to give additional points to police candidates who speak different languages which are relevant to communities in Seattle, as well as candidates with a history of service in Peace Corps, Americorps, and other non-violent services.

What is your track record on addressing the needs of immigrants and communities of color in your district?

I have dedicated my life to public service because too many times throughout history policies have been made by people like me – white, heterosexual, male, cis-gender – for the benefit of people like me. I want to change this. My specific experience has been serving in the Lower 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina to rebuild the community with the highest percentage of black homeowners in the nation, to serving community members daily at the soup hour all four years of college, to supporting co-workers experiencing racism, sexism, and overt discrimination the Washington State Legislature.

I will ask with every policy we consider on Council, “does this get us closer to a city in which everyone, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or income, has the opportunity to live affordably and access the opportunities which Seattle provides?” This is and has always been my guiding principle for policymaking, and it will continue to be so on the Council.

Dan Strauss’ website: https://www.seattlefordanstrauss.org/

*Editor’s note: Dan Strauss’ campaign submitted answers on Oct. 28.

Heidi Wills

Seattle’s lower- and middle-income residents and small businesses feel that they are being left behind or pushed out by the city’s growing economy. What three concrete actions will you take to address those concerns?

1) We need to ensure that youth succeed in school and find good-paying jobs. I support the City’s Seattle Promise Scholarships, but college isn’t for everyone. I’d work with the School District to expose youth to career paths in pre-apprenticeship programs with building trades, maritime and aerospace industries. I’d work with the UW’s Medical Center’s new Chair of Radiology, Dushyant Sahini, to create a program for youth to become lab technicians.

2) Small business owners in D6 are adversely affected by property crime by repeat offenders as demonstrated by the “System Failure” report: “a substantial portion of the criminal activity that has the greatest impact on Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods is committed by prolific offenders who are well known to Seattle police officers and have a large number of criminal cases in Seattle and King County courts.” The City needs to prioritize these cases and address vacancies that stretch the police department too thin. I’d prioritize public safety.

3) We must integrate more affordable housing into all parts of our City. I support ADUs, extending the Multi-Family Tax Exemption Credit to existing buildings so we don’t lose thousands of affordable units, and converting surplus public property to affordable housing. I support bringing back neighborhood planning to add housing in our urban centers with increased transit service and more parks.

What is your stance on the city of Seattle’s “welcoming city” policies on residents’ immigrant statuses? Should any of these policies be changed, and how?

The numbers speak for themselves: There are over 244 million migrants in the world today, contributing 9.4 percent of global GDP. Seattle is no different, in fact, quoting from our Welcoming Cities Resolution, “nearly one in five Seattle residents is foreign born and 129 languages are spoken in our public schools.”

Just like addressing homelessness, Seattle should engage regional partners and not be a welcoming city in a silo. We must work with the other 38 cities that comprise the Sound Cities Coalition to ensure that our entire region has “Welcoming Cities Resolution” equivalents.

I believe in continuing to improve policies over time. I would like to hear from you on what is working and what is not. Also, what other cities are doing on this issue? What best practices can we adopt for Seattle? For example, why did Seattle not petition for formal inclusion in the U.N. global compact on migration like other cities did? Are we doing enough at the state level to pass laws such as offering driver’s licenses or in-state-tuition to undocumented immigrants? Can we follow Illinois’ lead and have a Trust Act? As the current federal administration walks back the ideal that our nation is a beacon for the huddled masses, as a City, we need to do that much more to step up as a community that prioritizes inclusivity.

Reports of hate crimes have been on the rise in Seattle. How will you make sure people of all backgrounds feel safe from perpetrators of hate crimes and also feel safe reporting the crimes?

Hate crimes have surged in Seattle according to the Crosscut article in May: “Reports of hate crimes and bias have surged in Seattle since 2012.” We need to continue to emphasize tolerance, acceptance and valuing diversity in all facets of our society, especially in schools.

We need to build trust between our police department and the community. The Police Department is stretched too thin adding stress to police officers serving the public. To improve morale, we need City leaders who will prioritize police accountability as well as support current police officers. Community policing to build relationships between police officers and the community would help. And attracting a more diverse police force, focusing on recruiting women, people of color and people who speak multiple languages would help.

We need to proactively communicate a commitment to civil rights and immigrant rights to ensure that individuals of all backgrounds feel safe about reporting crimes. We need appropriate trainings, role playing and community meetings with our police officers and neighborhoods, recognizing that training programs may not be enough to make people feel safe in interactions with law enforcement. It’s important that 911 calls are inclusive to our entire community. One idea is to establish a 911-type number staffed by people who can speak multiple languages or be able to connect quickly with a translator who can.

What letter grade would you give the city on reforming race and ethnicity-based bias in law enforcement and why did you give that grade? What would you do differently, if anything?

Our law enforcement personnel are making improvements and we can always do more to reform race-based and ethnicity-based biases.

I believe that for the most part, police officers are conducting their jobs with an effort to demonstrate respect to the people they serve. There are going to be exceptions as with any large institution. We need to better track how our police are interacting with community members. We need to ensure that the SPD Bias Crime Data is not collecting dust but rather continues to inform the City Council and the Mayor about the progress of reform at the police department.

I would like to know about the outreach the department is doing and how it is integrated into a cycle of outreach. Is SPD taking what it hears from the public and weaving those ideas, concerns and feedback back into their culture? When we find bias, how are we holding our officials accountable to a higher standard? Is our anti-bias work with SPD complementing the important work of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights?

New York City’s police department is addressing implicit bias. It would be smart for Seattle to look at their curriculum and consider tailoring it for Seattle. I would welcome and encourage work groups on this subject, which could include discussions of books like “Producing Bias-Free Policing: A Science Based Approach.”

I would be interested to know how The Globalist would grade Seattle.

What is your track record on addressing the needs of immigrants and communities of color in your district?

I married a person of color. My father-in-law grew up in a Japanese incarceration camp. His family lost their hotel, house and possessions. I’m a mother of two children who are attuned to being minorities in their school. Their viewpoints are sought by teachers and administrators interested in their diverse perspectives based on their family history and race. My husband and I participate in school conversations dealing with race and inclusion.

A 85% majority of people in District 6 are Caucasian. Having worked with youth and families in South Seattle for 13 years, I’m accustomed to interfacing with people reflecting much more diversity, in fact, over half of the youth involved with my non-profit were kids of color. Any representative of District 6 must be mindful of the needs of people of color and immigrants in all parts of our City.

I’d seek out community voices who aren’t otherwise coming forward to express their needs and concerns. My campaign has doorbelled over 21,000 houses so far. I’m meeting people that I would otherwise never meet. Recently, I met a woman who moved here from Ethiopia. Her top issue is the lack of childcare. As a working mom, I know firsthand the importance of childcare. Other needs I have heard at the doors for people of color and immigrants are affordable housing, public transportation, and after-school programs. These are important issues for our City leaders to address and a big part of the reason I am running.

Heidi Wills’ website: https://heidiwills.com/

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