At-large City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda won a second term on Seattle City Council in 2021, with a resounding 59% of the vote. (Courtesy of Team Teresa)

Teresa Mosqueda is seeking a second term on Seattle City Council. She burst onto the scene in 2017, earning The Urbanist’s Primary endorsement (as well as many others) on the way to a decisive 60% win in the General. She was a key vote and champion for Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones. In 2020, Mosqueda took over as Budget Chair and deftly guided the Jumpstart Seattle plan to passage, which will fund social housing, Covid recovery, and Green New Deal programs via a $214 million per year progressive payroll tax on corporations. She has also passed a first-in-the-nation Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, hazard pay for essential grocery workers, and a protections for app-based drivers. Before joining the Council, Mosqueda worked for the Washington State Labor Council as an organizer. Check out her campaign website for more information.

The Urbanist Election Committee wrote and distributed questionnaires to the candidates and followed up with Zoom interviews this month. In late June, the Election Committee released our Primary Endorsements and endorsed Mosqueda. The Primary voting period starts July 16th; ballots must be postmarked by 8pm August 3rd. For voter information or to register to vote, visit the State election website.

Below are Teresa Mosqueda’s questionnaire responses. 

Do you support the charter amendment proposed by Compassion Seattle? Why or why not?

As a City Councilmember who has prioritized housing and housing funding, and led the passage of JumpStart Seattle that allocates ⅔ of the funding toward Housing and Homelessness – I know these investments take money. While it is good to see the language has been changed to stop reinforcing inhumane sweeps (especially during a deadly pandemic), there is no revenue attached for critical investments in housing, shelter and behavioral/mental health services. Some who have long opposed additional revenue that would have gone into the very investments that some of the proponents now want to pass on the ballot, perhaps it’s a good sign to see larger swaths recognizing the need of units of emergency housing, PSH and health services. Unfortunately, the policy still lacks funding that must be coupled with additional strategies to meet the housing, shelter and health service goals – and that must be in addition to the already dedicated Jumpstart funding.

Goldilocks question: The Seattle Police Department’s budget is too big, too small, or just right. Explain your answer and the trajectory you’d like to see.

The police budget has grown by almost 45% in the last decade. No other department has seen that level of increase. Last year, when I chaired the budget committee in the wake of the uprising for Black Lives, it was the first year the police budget didn’t grow, and in fact shrunk. I am committed to downsizing SPD and investing in alternatives that emphasize community health and safety so fewer folks ever have to interact with armed officers. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Seattle, like many cities across the country, rose up and demanded better to ensure that EVERY member of our community is safe. Our overinvestment into the criminal legal system has resulted in less investments into what keeps Black and Brown communities safe: housing, childcare, good living wage jobs, and access to healthy foods. We must pursue a holistic approach to re-envisioning our communities’ safety while reducing the police budget so that violence against marginalized populations does not continue. I will continue to work towards scoping the SPD budget to reduce their responsibilities where an armed officer isn’t needed, and redistribute essential revenue toward improving the safety, prosperity, and well-being of our Seattle community.

The 2018 police contract repealed accountability measures, gave officers a big raise plus backpay, and eight of nine City Councilmembers voted for it. What does the next police contract need to have in order to earn your vote of approval?

It was the wrong vote.  Accountability is not a working condition, it shouldn’t be negotiated. This time, we will not bargain away accountability in the contract. The Seattle Police Department is still under Federal consent decree, there still haven’t been proven changes to address the over use of overtime, and there are a number of lawsuits alleging excessive force. The contract could be a tool which we use to reign in the repeated overuse of overtime for SPD officers to double dip and receive more pay. Residents of Seattle were gassed in their homes, SPD bikes were rammed into bodies, reporters hit by projectiles, and legal observers and medics targeted. That was all in just the last year. As part of the management side, in the next contract we will have the ability to have accountability partners providing technical feedback, which means that there will be additional oversight about the components of the contract that affect everyday people. Outside of the contract, through our work to divest from policing last year, many of the provisos we put into place to reign in SPD funding were ignored. Those actions cannot be given a pass in the budget or the contract.

Would you vote to increase social housing funding and what is your preferred funding mechanism? 

Yes. I have voted to increase social housing funding – Jumpstart seattle dedicates around $135 million a year for the next twenty years for housing – permanent housing and emergency housing. This alone is not enough. We need on the scale of around 400,000 new affordable units in our region to address the housing crisis. I support progrssive revenue streams like Jumpstart, and expanding capital gains, CEO ratio tax, and a graduated income tax as long as the lowest income don’t get harmed (must include tax rebate for lower income families and individuals). We need to build more housing of all types, especially low income and Permanent Supportive Housing, as well as build strategies to mitigate and address displacement at the same time.

Seattle has about 30 square miles dedicated to single family homes versus just 10 square miles for apartments. Those 10 square miles have absorbed more than 85% of Seattle’s growth. Would you vote to repeal apartment bans? What is the right balance? Where do you believe density is needed most?

Yes, I will be working on legislation to start the process to repeal the apartment bans by converting the current SFZ to Residential Zoning. The right balance to start would be to have Residential Zoning across the city in the over ¾ of land that is currently SFZ. Seattle’s current zoning codes prevent dense, multi-unit, multi-family housing options that allow for more families, elders, workers and small business owners from being able to live in Seattle. This exclusionary zoning is rooted in redlining and racist policies that – to this day – exclude people from being able to afford to live in the city. The average cost of a home in Seattle is now over $800,000, and the lack of affordable housing is pushing people to live further and further away from the city, and it’s also pushing people into the street. This is a public health issue, a gender and racial justice issue, and a policy that supports workers and small businesses. I sponsored the Racial Equity Toolkit to ask for the data and analysis to prove that the current SFZ policy is harming working families of color, it’s counter to our inclusive Seattle commitments, and it is displacing elders, workers, artists and students. That report has yet again been delayed – and it is expected in the summer of 2021. I hope this will be a launching point for the Residential Zoning legislation that will then lead into the Comprehensive Plan update policy changes in 2023/2024.

What do you see as key priorities for the 2024 update to Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan? What do you see as limitations to the process, and what were notable successes or failures from the last Comp Plan update?

Priorities: Ending the apartment ban, passing Residential Zoning name change and policies to spread growth across the city. Creating a more inclusive, less English centric and less exclusionary language/process. Anti-displacement strategies must be coupled with zoning changes, like investments in homeownership for communities that have been pushed out, supporting longtime homeowners at risk of displacement build density on their properties for multigenerational housing, climate resilience strategies for frontline communities. 

Challenges: The length of the process. In the 4 years I have been on council we haven’t had the chance for Major updates yet. 

Failures: The housing crisis has gotten worse in the time since the SFZ changes weren’t included in HALA, the crisis of homelessness, global warming due to longer commutes and gentrification has only worsened. We need to use Minor updates as a way to make inroads in the meantime.

Successes: TOD, we just need to build higher recognizing that we want buildings to last a long time. Capitol Hill station is nice but it could easily be twice as high and no one would really register that because the street is well designed – it also should have been simultaneously to the creation of the light rail station. 

How should we increase transit usage? How should we pay for upgrades and how does the Move Seattle Levy expiring in 2024 play into your plans?

I think the first and most pressing priority needs to be finishing all the projects that were approved in the existing Move Seattle Levy so we can successfully advocate for another even more robust levy next time. We are going to lose trust with voters if we keep delaying and not funding projects. When we go back to voters, that will make it even more possible for us to renew the levy and make it even bigger. Public transit in the Seattle region needs to be increased not only to cut down on severe traffic but also to help meet our climate goals and spread equitable accessibility to all.  To make the system more convenient and accessible, we must continue to invest in transit improvements and affordability starting with the new RapidRide line in West Seattle and Link stations opening this fall in the U District and Roosevelt. Finally, we must continue to build and develop our city in a way that makes transit the most obvious– if not the only practical– way to get around. Housing at or near transit stations, less parking and more pedestrian infrastructure, and other planning and development tools will increase transit usage. By expanding access to public transit, we can divorce Seattleites from our reliance on cars. The next iteration of the Move Seattle Levy must be fully integrated in our Climate Action Plan, and geared toward reducing carbon pollution in our transportation system– from vehicle miles travelled to the types of vehicles on our roadways. It will be an opportunity to partner with Metro on a full conversion to electric buses operating in Seattle (and ideally countywide through their own programs), a greater emphasis on street vacations for pedestrian, bike, and non motorized mobility, and to double down on infrastructure and safety improvements that move more people out of cars and into transit and alternative, cleaner modes of transportation. As such, some “upgrades” to our transit and transportation infrastructure can be paid for through the levy, but the SDoT budget itself can also be better aligned with climate targets and the urgency of building a resilient, sustainable, and carbon neutral city.

Do you support pedestrianizing key streets to make the city more walkable and accessible? What is your preferred approach to rededicating street space and how does the existing network of “Stay Healthy” streets rolled out during Covid fit into it?

Yes. I want superblocks in pockets around our city. At the very least, I want that superblock on Capitol Hill that could increase foot traffic, drive patronage at small businesses, and reduce risk of cars harming pedestrians in a very crowded area. We should be closing off traffic to Pike Place Market and allowing only pedestrians and delivery. We need to make permanent the network of safe streets – and these should be made permanent with permanent structures to prevent signs from just being moved or knocked down. I will be sponsoring this funding in the American Rescue Plan Act as well.  I am committed to making Seattle a more walkable and accessible city, as traffic in our region has steadily increased, creating disparities in our zip codes that dictate our mobility throughout the city. In order to accommodate our increasing population and promote equity, pedestrianizing streets and improving accessibility is a key issue – and that means making it accessible and inviting to all ages, languages, ethnicities, genders, race and abilities. 

Seattle is woefully short of meeting its climate goals. Seattle will have to reduce its climate emissions 17 times faster than it is currently to meet its 2030 goal from its 2013 Climate Action Plan and 30 times faster to meet its 2019 Green New Deal climate targets. What should the City be doing differently?

We are failing to meet the Seattle’s Climate Action Plan goals, and thus failing our community. To counter this slow-down in progression, I have championed new efforts for new building efficiency standards for city buildings, including more labor and environmental requirements in housing development, MEETS for more energy efficient city buildings, GND in Jumpstart, and pushed for more housing in Seattle. I have supported efforts to move away from fossil fuel reliance in buildings and homes in a way that ensures a just transition for workers as well. And moving forward, I will push the City Council in the direction of investing in green jobs that are sustainable, prioritizing climate and infrastructure needs in the budget such as sidewalk and bike lane improvements, transit investments, electrification retrofits, and with all the funding coming from the federal government and local dollars I’d like to see where larger infrastructure projects can include multi-modal build-outs as well as infrastructure upgrades to help move us away from reliance on single use occupancy vehicles. In the meantime, it’s communities of color who are being harmed the most from carbon emissions as they are more likely to be in frontline work and fenceline communities.

Fill in the blank: What the current City Council is doing best is ___________; what it needs more of is _______________________________.

We are doing our best to push back against an administration who delays implementation of housing and shelter services, handwashing and hygiene trailers, hotel rooms and tiny houses that Council funded. We are under a consent decree for failure to build enough sidewalks, for failure to hold our police department accountable, in the 5th year of the housing and homelessness state of emergency – all during a global pandemic. We need a partner in the Executive and more progressive revenue to invest at the scale of need in housing, shelter, health, transit, infrastructure investments and bike/ped paths and networks.

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Elections Committee

The Urbanist was founded in 2014 to examine and influence urban policies. We believe cities provide unique opportunities for addressing many of the most challenging social, environmental, and economic problems. We serve as a resource for promoting urbanism, increasing political participation, and improving the places we live. The Elections Committee consists of community volunteers and staff members of The Urbanist and is a standing body representing the political values of our organization.