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 Cary Moon, running for Mayor of Seattle.
Do you consider yourself an urbanist? Why/Why not?
Yes, because cities are my professional focus and personal passion. I switched careers in the mid-nineties to devote myself to urbanism, starting with a post-graduate degree in Landscape Architecture (focusing on planning) and a certificate in urban design. I believe cities are where societies define themselves: how we live in relation to one another, how we share the public realm together, how we inspire and learn from our mutual creativity, and how we structure and manage our economic system, and how our built environment, ecosystems, and social systems interact together. The right to shape our cities is one of the most fundamental human rights. Leading Seattle to be the place that reflects our progressive values and establishes a vision for healthy inclusive society is my central purpose.
I’ve spent these past 20 years focusing on solutions to some of Seattle’s biggest challenges. I have developed an analysis and solutions to housing affordability; advocated compact growth and expansion of walking, transit, and biking modes; planned and built public will for civic space and parks; developed processes for high involvement, vision-based planning; helped launch projects to get money out of politics so democracy can work in the public interest.
What is your strategy for making housing more affordable both for very low income and middle-class workers?
First, we need to expand affordable housing from only 6% of Seattle’s housing supply toward a goal of four times that. I would pursue new progressive taxes to fund affordable housing, perhaps using our bonding capacity to speed delivery; work with Olympia to increase the housing trust fund; encourage more philanthropists to contribute to non-profit housing providers, community land trusts; and more aggressively pursue using surplus public land for non-profit housing.
Second, we need to adjust the land use code and the permitting/SEPA/entitlement process to facilitate viable housing options for working people in the “missing middle” like duplexes, rowhouses, ADUs, congregate housing, and co-ops. The Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) inclusionary zoning and targeted upzones of HALA are a solid part of the solution, and should be continued.
Third, increase tenants’ rights and legal resources, and develop legislation that stabilizes rent increases.
Fourth, we need to understand how speculation in our housing market is escalating housing prices, and implement target taxes to deter this activity like a tax on non-resident and corporate ownership of housing, a vacant homes tax, and an additional REET on luxury properties.
What strategies would you adopt to address the homelessness crisis?
We need to address the root causes of our city’s surge in homelessness to truly get ahead of the problem. Our housing affordability crisis, the defunding of mental and behavioral health and addiction services, and the difficulty securing stable employment at a living wage are all contributing to this crisis. For long term and lasting solutions, these are the essential roots to strike.
We need to prioritize four things immediately:
- Develop a shared strategy, and a collaborative effort across agencies and service providers, to streamline and coordinate the process. We must focus our resources and efforts efficiently on solutions we know can work.
- Implement more pro-active solutions to preventing evictions, especially for families and households headed by women.
- Focus resources on increasing long-term supportive housing options.
- Aggressively expand housing first approaches like low barrier shelters and more self-governed Tiny House Villages hosted by churches and neighborhoods.
I will work with shelter providers to identify how to help long-term residents transition to more permanent housing. And I will ensure the budget adequately funds outreach and caseworkers; they are essential to helping folks choose more stable, more secure housing and the treatment they need.
What is your strategy for equitable development in Seattle?
We’ve become one of the most expensive cities in the country. More than half of renters pay more than they can reasonably afford, and home-ownership is out of reach for more and more of us. If we don’t solve this problem with bold solutions now, in just a few years the majority of Seattle’s workforce will leave to chase affordable housing outside the city, cut off rom community and from services–and forced to drive.
We need to look carefully with a racial equity lens at how upzones and infill development can be pursued in neighborhoods with significant immigrant and POC communities to ensure we are identifying the right approaches to help communities thrive together, not be displaced or dispersed. Our healthiest communities have a diverse mix of folks at all ages, stages of their career, and depth of connections to community. The cultural life of historically oppressed communities is essential to honor and protect against thoughtless gentrification. I would establish a process for planners, advocacy groups, and neighbors to identify community priorities in advance of new developments and develop community development agreements that establish priority access to new spaces and housing. The Liberty Bank project is a great model.
What tax policies would you advocate for in Seattle?
I strongly support a progressive higher earners income tax, especially if it is coupled with a decrease in regressive sales taxes. We need to go further, and also implement taxes on unearned wealth, like gains on selling stocks. I am proposing practical, immediate solutions to providing resources for affordable housing, transit, and homelessness crises including:
- Implement targeted taxes to deter corporate and nonresident real estate speculation and slow runaway price escalation.
- Institute an additional REET on luxury real estate.
- Implement a statewide capital gains tax on households earning more than $250,000.
- Close the most egregious tax loopholes for big corporations that provide zero public benefit.
- Increase estate and inheritance taxes for the wealthy elite.
I am continuing to reach out to other experts in our community with a range of perspectives on how we can work together to correct our regressive tax system and make sure we have sufficient money for schools, affordable housing, transit and other essentials. Seattle’s economy can and should work for everyone, and it can–if we all pay our fair share, and we tax unearned wealth, not just wages.
What are your preferred policies to improve access to public transportation?
I support a funding model that helps Washington build a transit/transportation system that can keep up with our population growth, and allows regional and local jurisdictions to decide how to allocate investments by mode. When gas tax money is siloed for highways, and transit must be funded with only limited sources, it directs too much funding for travel by car. In the ideal scenario, funding sources should be more fungible and cities empowered to determine most efficient and cost effective investments according to local goals and conditions.
In Seattle, we need to shift the culture of SDOT more quickly toward pedestrian safety, expanding bike facilities, transit reliability and convenience, and freight mobility–and away from Level of Service metrics for cars. When transit is fast, reliable, and convenient, people will use it. We need to expand funding for Youth Orca and Orca Lift, to increase access. And we need to speed up delivery of Sound Transit 3 by optimizing design and planning process, and using our bonding capacity to help fund Seattle projects sooner. I am ready to guide Seattle to be a national leader in shifting to a 21st century sustainable, efficient transportation system.
How will you balance community input with effective and equitable policy-making?
As Mayor, I will uphold these principles:
- Inclusive Leadership: I believe in an inclusive and welcoming Seattle, and I am committed to justice, equity and sharing power across race and class and gender. As Mayor, my leadership team will be at least half women, LGBTQ and people of color.
- Accountability: I will spend the first six months working in coalition with leaders inside and outside city government to develop a shared vision and action agenda and commit to reporting back to citizens on ongoing progress.
- Balanced Access: Only one day a week on my calendar will be available to big businesses. The others will be reserved for citizens, small businesses, and community groups.
In this time of transformation, Seattle needs a strong vision defining where we are headed, and a call to action across the city to work together toward a common goal. I am not accepting money from special interests, and as such, my administration will not be beholden. I believe Seattle is hungry for courageous leadership willing to do the right thing and not succumb to pressure from self-interested stakeholders. City leadership must be accountable to future generations and the public good.
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?
We need our streets to be safe for pedestrians, our neighborhoods walkable, and our bike network to be complete. Move Seattle was a great win, and we need to continue to invest this funding assertively toward the Pedestrian and Bike Master Plans and Vision Zero priorities. I plan to focus on making walking and biking more viable options with a complete network of protected bike lanes and safe sidewalks.
The culture of SDOT needs to shift faster toward the Vision Zero priorities. SDOT’s capital budget needs to prioritize safe visible crosswalks; adding sidewalks on priority streets that provide access to transit and safe routes to school; buildout of the complete bike network; slower speeds; narrow lanes and road diets on arterials that run through communities. Especially in the south end, where Rainier Ave and MLK are particularly dangerous. Vision Zero is about the physical design of our streets and transportation facilities to encourage slower speeds, greater awareness of other road users, and increased visibility and greater safety for pedestrians.
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 Cary Moon campaign.