As part of our endorsement process at The Urbanist, we ask candidates to complete a standard questionnaire to better understand and evaluate their positions on housing, land use, transportation, and other important issues. We then share this information with our readers to help inform their own voting decisions.
This year we are considering 19 candidates running for Seattle City Council positions 8 and 9, Seattle Mayor, and Port of Seattle Commission positions 1 and 4. We are publishing the questionnaires in full this week, concluding with our official primary election endorsements in mid-July.
The following questionnaire was submitted by Bob Hasegawa, running for Mayor of Seattle.
Do you consider yourself an urbanist? Why/Why not?
Yes, I consider myself an urbanist. I have lived in my urban south Seattle community for 60+ years and reflect the values, concerns and ideals of my community.
What is your strategy for making housing more affordable both for very low income and middle-class workers?
Seattle needs more housing for low and moderate income residents and for middle-class workers who are now considered low income. We must increase the supply of housing including diverse housing types if we are to control the increasing demand that is driving the value of existing homes beyond the level of affordability for the people who live here.
It is my understanding that local property tax exemptions actually total higher than state property tax exemptions. If you are given a property tax exemption, your tax responsibility is shifted to other people. Then we also have the special excess property tax levies for special purpose districts.
So the first rule of addressing displacement is to stop the bleeding, i.e. stop piling on more excess property taxes, with added to the increasing valuations is pricing low, middle and fixed income folk out of their homes. Over half of the homeless over age 55 were displaced by increased costs of living in their homes.
We can also work to solve the housing shortage by building socially-owned housing, financed by the municipal bank. We can invest in local housing rather than the Wall Street Banks. Berlin, Germany, does it and rents the housing to around 50% of their residents. About 80% of Berlin’s residents are renters. Public housing can come in many forms and don’t necessarily need to emulate the public housing of days past. [Editor’s note: Berlin’s municipal government and state-owned companies accounted for about 405,000 of Berlin’s 1.9 million housing units in 2015, This indicates the number of Berliners who rent from the government is less than 25% rather than “around 50%.”]
Singapore builds housing and sells the housing (which they finance with pension fund investments) but not the land under the structure for a 99 year title. This leads to Public and Community Land Trusts as another strategy to control rising costs by separating the titles of land and structure.
Financing is the key to providing enough housing capacity to meet demand and control escalating costs, and the publicly owned municipal bank is the solution.
What strategies would you adopt to address the homelessness crisis?
- Establish the publicly owned municipal bank
- Finance public housing using the municipal bank’s leverage capacity
- Build socially-owned (publicly owned) housing for vulnerable populations
- Streamlined ADU/MIL permitting process, work with King County Assessor for property tax breaks for affordable rent to non-family member
- Mental health and other support
- Prevent displacement and evictions, use a social equity lens for all development Also, STOP THE SWEEPS!
What is your strategy for equitable development in Seattle?
Stop the displacement of current residents to the street when we know there is no place for them to go. Housing development projects must be a priority for any foundation for other commercial development.
I am not opposed to development but I do not support development that leaves current residents with no place to live. In the 1960s this was called “Urban Removal” not “Urban Renewal.” A catchy phrase that masked the destruction of neighborhoods. The city needs a non-displacement public policy that prevents people from being turned out to the street or displaced out of our city, as it is now. Build housing first.
What tax policies would you advocate for in Seattle?
A combination of progressive income tax, elimination of the B&O tax in favor of a net income tax, perhaps luxury taxes; commercial property taxes which included both tangible and intangible. The State Constitution requires that all property, tangible and intangible, should be taxed at a uniform rate. The Constitution also permits the State Legislature to exempt some property from taxation. Currently exempts all intangible property from the property tax base, and exempts the personal income from that intangible property (stocks and bonds, etc) from taxes. Wealthy people pay no income tax and no property tax on the fastest increasing component of personal income. That is not fair. We can do better. The bottom line is I don’t support further regressive taxation and do support progressive taxation.
We should also be charging impact fees on development projects so we can afford to mitigate the impacts development has on existing infrastructure.
What are your preferred policies to improve access to public transportation?
We need to increase bus transit service so that it goes where people need to go in a timely manner with minimal logistical hassles, is reliable, and affordable. And, the municipal bank can provide a means of restructuring the financing plan for Sound Transit or additional financing capacity to advance project delivery dates if the Council so chooses.
How will you balance community input with effective and equitable policy-making?
Transparency and accountability are the balancing principles of effective and equitable policy-making. No hidden agendas can provide justice for the people. Only by measuring the impact of a proposed public policy on everyone concerned can we achieve justice and fairness. It requires compromise and respect for all at the table –and everyone should be at the table. We are all reasonable people and usually when we know in our hearts that we are heard and understood, we can lower the public disputes by inclusion. I know it works, I have practiced these principles my entire life with fairness, and success.
People feel City government has become a top-down enterprise and their opinions are not given any credence in the decision making process. I have successfully managed transformational organizational change within a multi-million dollar organization and intend to use those same skills and philosophy in restructuring City government to make it more inclusive and responsive to the people.
Seattle’s Vision Zero plan aims to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. What policies do you support to work towards this goal?
Vision Zero seems like a good plan, but the data looks like fatalities are up slightly since implementation. VZ appears to need more time to do a better assessment of impacts. I’m curious as to whether local neighborhoods were consulted before the decision to implement VZ in their neighborhoods. I am a 34 year member of the Teamsters and understand the perils of driving in overcrowded streets and distracted pedestrians and bike riders. I do like lowering the speed limit to 25. I think it would be smart to look at more separation between bicycles and motorized vehicles. I also would like to see the issue of safety addressed with Sound Transit at grade in the south end. While still in the planning stages, engineers predicted 20+ deaths from light rail accidents, yet it was still decided to build at grade. Just a few months ago, firefighters had to jack a light rail car off the tracks in order to recover a body from underneath. It would be nice if VZ would also address this issue.
Do you support the HALA Grand Bargain?
Do you support allowing missing middle housing like rowhouses in existing single-family zones so all neighborhoods contribute to growth?
Do you support increasing progressive taxes (B&O, income or capital gains) to pay for affordable housing?
Do you support construction of the Children and Family Justice Center (“youth jail”)?
Do you support construction of the new North Precinct station?
Do you support inclusion of the Community Package associated with Washington State Convention Center Addition’s street and alleyway vacation public benefits?
Will you push to make municipal broadband a reality in Seattle?
Do you support establishing a municipal bank?
Will you work to ensure the state and its contractors, not the City of Seattle, is responsible for all cost overruns for the Highway 99 waterfront tunnel?
Photo courtesy of Bob Hasegawa campaign.