Portrait of Shukri Olow. (Shukri Olow Campaign)

Shukri Olow is running for King County Council District 5 against longtime incumbent Dave Upthegrove. She is a community organizer and doctoral scholar. “As an immigrant, refugee, and product of the Kent public housing system, Dr. Olow has seen and lived the challenges that so many members of our community face,” her website states. Check out Olow’s campaign website for more info.

The Urbanist Election Committee has followed up on our questionnaires with Zoom interviews to fill in the gaps. We released our Primary Endorsements in late June and endorsed Olow. We will release the rest of the questionnaires ahead of the primary voting period opening on July 16th. Primary ballots are due August 3rd. For voter information or to register to vote, visit the State election website. King County Council District 5 covers southeast King County including much of Kent, Renton, Tukwila, SeaTac, Normandy Park, and Des Moines.

Below are Shukri Olow’s questionnaire responses. 

Which unincorporated areas do you believe have the greatest needs for additional service in King County? What can the King County Council do to better support these areas with the greatest needs?

White Center and Skyway have the greatest needs at the moment. Constant discussion of annexation cannot replace the need for King County to step up the services offered in these areas. As areas of the county tucked between cities, and with small populations of 15 to 20 thousand, these communities are often overlooked when it comes to services yet exploited for their affordability, proximity to Seattle, and are in constant danger of displacement and gentrification.

Skyway, for example, has the highest Black population in the state and continues to be an under-resourced community. We support the work of CM Zahilay and the work of local community-based organizations to move increased funding to this much needed area of the County regarding affordable housing, a community center, and the participatory budgeting.

King County needs to expand these types of investments in the Department Community and Human Services, the Department of Local Services, participatory budgeting processes, and the Community Investment Committee – but aim to understand each unincorporated area for their distinct communities and needs and not as a monolith. The County can and should do more to give each of these communities both greater capital and services funding.

Do you support incorporating or annexing unincorporated areas into cities? Why or why not? If so, how would you propose to solve key challenges, such as city resistance without identified revenue?

I believe it is up to local communities to determine whether or not incorporation or annexation is appropriate for them or not. Especially for communities such as White Center and Skyway – they are caught between Seattle and Burien or Renton, respectively and the prospect of whether any of those cities’ services will meet them better than the County is truly for them to evaluate.

As for revenue, we live in the wealthiest county in the state – and until these communities decide to either incorporate or annex, we must find a way to meet the needs of these communities more quickly. 

King County is located on Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Snoqualmie, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, and Yakama land. Do you support the Land Back movement? What steps should King County be taking to support indigenous lands?

Yes, our campaign supports the Land Back movement and other forms of Indigenous reclamation and sovereignty – such as recognizing the Duwamish as a federal tribe. King County, again as the wealthiest county in the state, needs to form better partnerships with our local tribal leadership to identify ways that we can invest in tribal needs and priorities based on the historical inequities experienced by our displaced indigenous population. We also recognize and support reallocation of publicly owned lands and our campaign commits to working with community stakeholders, including tribal leaders, to create greater partnerships and transparency to ensure land use policies benefit our most historically disenfranchised communities.

According to the 2019-2020 King County General Fund Budget “About three-quarters of the General Fund is spent on criminal justice and public safety.” Do you support increased or decreased spending on criminal justice and public safety? Why?

We must recognize that our historic and current investments in the criminal justice system are deeply racist and structurally inequitable. Our campaign aims to reimagine public safety with a public health lens – leading with restorative models grounded in comprehensive wrap-around services, increased investments in our existing alternatives to incarceration, and creating priority wage, preferred investments for “By-Us/For-Us” in community jobs. When we treat all social determinants contributing to incarceration, we can sustainably dismantle the underlying root causes to legal involvement and intergenerational incarceration, rather than making surface level changes that do not lead to long-term reduction in disparities and race-based inequities.

We have to demonstrate that our commitment to alternative investments means that our standards for policing and safety are increasing commensurately with our investments – and that community-based organizations with historic, direct experience in restorative justice will lead the conversation in determining what safety looks like in their communities.

What steps would you take to prevent evictions and displacement in unincorporated areas within King County?

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a number of gaps when it comes to tenant protections in King County. We need to be providing increased and immediate funding to tenants for rental assistance, homeowners for mortgage assistance, providing small business resources to landlords, eviction prevention for renters.

We need to figure out how to expand capacity at the Housing Justice Project and fast – with the state’s eviction moratorium set to end June 30th. The County could also expand on the state’s recently passed “right to counsel” legislation and investment in community-based organizations to educate tenants about King County’s participation in the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program.

As unincorporated King County has large populations of immigrants and communities with multiple languages spoken – our biggest hurdle will be to ensure that the millions of dollars in resources are reaching those historically disenfranchised and most impacted by our current crisis in a timely fashion.

King County Metro has ambitious plans to electrify its bus fleet and to blanket the county in RapidRide lines. Would you vote to fund these plans? How would you balance the goals of electrifying transit, boosting transit frequency, expanding coverage, and equity in access? 

Yes, our campaign is supportive of Metro’s plans to electrify and expand the RapidRide program and would vote to fund these plans. Our campaign understand that environmentally and mobility just transit expansion is the key to sustainable growth in our communities.  Beyond investing in the expansion and electrification of RapidRide we need to keep community at the table with roundtable discussions on additional needs in community targeted for increased service – including affordable housing, access to childcare, and safe streets to ensure equitable access to our system for all transit riders. We could also look at the utilization rates of the ORCA pass program and target expansion and/or outreach based on a combination of those factors – making sure to include language access as a top priority.

Traditional King County has invested in regional trails and their direct connections, but not bike facilities that could directly connect underserved communities to bike facilities on local roads. Do you think this should be an area of focus for the King County Council? Would you support a ballot measure for county wide multi-modal funding?

Our campaign is interested in exploring a county-wide ballot measure for funding for multi-modal and other transportation needs. With climate change, a growing population, and increased displacement and gentrification – we need to ensure that we continue exploring all revenue options for environmentally and mobility just infrastructure investments.

Fill in the blank: Growth management has been __________ for King County, but it _____________. 

Growth management has been successful for King County, but it could use more focus on preventing gentrification and displacement. 

Fill in the blank: Densifying around transit is good, but __________________. 

Densifying around transit is good, but needs to be accompanied by increasing stock of affordable housing.

Fill in the blank: The thing about self-managed housing for the homeless is _______________. 

The thing about self-managed housing for the homeless is that it is one tool in the toolbox of strategies to combat homelessness and can be a good place for those in need that may not be ready for housing-first solutions.

Fill in the blank: King County is doing  ______________ very well, but has dropped the ball on ______________.

King County is doing elections and voter engagement very well, but has dropped the ball on addressing the “state of emergency” on homelessness.

Fill in the blank: The thing about the interplay of County, Seattle, and the Sound Cities Association is ____________________.

The thing about the interplay of County, Seattle, and the Sound Cities Association is SCA tends to have a different agenda when looking at regional problems, such as affordable housing and homelessness. I’m excited about the election of Ed Prince as President and him forming the Equity and Inclusion Cabinet.

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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.