Ballots for Seattle’s contentious mayoral race are out and the Aug. 1 primary is less than two weeks away. Despite the approaching deadline, many voters are still undecided among the 21 candidates — some of whom are quite ideologically similar.
To help our readers identify the candidate who best represents their vision for Seattle, GeekWire partnered with KING 5, KUOW, and CityClub for Monday’s mayoral debate and after-show. We also asked each of the candidates six questions from the tech community, drafted with help from GeekWire readers.
We’ve included answers from participating candidates below, in alphabetical order. Watch the video of the debate below, and continue reading to see where the mayoral candidates stand on tech-related issues.
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “Urban core access is a high priority for me. We cannot continue to experience gridlock for three hours every workday evening. My concern is for all Seattleites, not just one segment of the community but improving it for all will also benefit the tech and business community since so much of it is based downtown.
I would do all in my power to ease traffic flow. It would start by dismissing the current transportation director and replacing him with someone who has experience with resolving problems for four-wheeled vehicles rather than bicycles. I would spend dollars on synchronizing lights, re-evaluating the ‘Mercer mess,’ consider different routes for bikes to free up lanes on arterials, put a halt to trolley expansion, and utilize more 21st-century technology to address the issue. I believe we need to add pedestrian overpasses in key areas to minimize traffic delays and also employ different tactics such as using more traffic cops at pivotal intersections and/or holding back all pedestrian traffic until all lights are red for 30 seconds so pedestrians can crisscross the intersection. There are many other Traffic 101 proven strategies that are not being employed because City Hall doesn’t have the interest. Although restructuring the finances of the city is my first priority, I would act in the greatest haste and with a profound sense of urgency to attack this problem immediately. Seattle can’t grow if we can’t get it moving again.
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “Yes, I believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice. But as with everything, there is a balancing act. The focus of the mayor needs to be on safety for our citizens, quality education for the children, and allowing the freedom needed for businesses (and people) to grow and flourish. Everyone pays a fair share for that. However, at this point in time, I believe that Seattle is pulling in enough tax and fee revenue to do all it needs to do without adding more to the current tax burden that citizens and businesses already carry. Instead, we need to decrease costs for those services or products the city offers that are not returning full value and redirect the funds to deal with higher priority issues such as infrastructure, traffic, and the homeless.
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “Driving innovation is business’s job. As mayor, my job is to be reasonable and stay out of the way. We need to create a more business-friendly atmosphere and make it more attractive for tech companies (or any kind of company) to come into the city. I would want to decrease select B&O taxes with a special focus on zoning for industrial in non-downtown areas (to avoid sending more traffic into the core) and make it more attractive for manufacturing companies to locate or expand here. Not everyone can work a tech job – we need well-paying jobs outside of tech to offer to blue-collar workers. Emerging tech businesses will need help too and I’d like to see a lower set of taxes on new companies or on those that are adding employees. I am opposed to any kind of head tax. Penalizing companies for growth does not strike me as contributing to a ‘business-friendly environment.’
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “I’d like to see the City of Seattle provide partial funding to the Seattle School District for ‘life skills and employment skills’ training in all the high schools. I’d also approve of plans to restructure math training in grade schools. Students today are not graduating with high math skills and I believe that is a must for the tech industry and others as well. While I have confidence that foreign investment will be drawn to quality companies in our region, I would do all I could to reduce barriers and paperwork in that arena. Providing an attractive business climate with a skilled workforce will attract foreign companies to locate or expand portions of their company to our city.
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “I do not support municipal broadband. I do not see that as the role of government. I believe market forces and individual company innovation in providing low-cost service will be far better than the city trying to control or compete with private enterprise. The city needs to stick to its core competencies and I don’t think running that service is one of them.
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “I’ve already been a tech CEO and, frankly, I have no interest in going there again.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “Roads, including sidewalks, are one of the four basic functions with which City Hall should be concerned; however, I have no plans that will solely support the tech and business communities. As mayor, I will not favor certain industries and businesses over others, so the plans I have will benefit everyone. Ending the city’s war on ridesharing companies will improve accessibility to all parts of the city, and replacing unused bike lanes with vehicle lanes will also help accessibility throughout the city. Seattle is a tech hub, but our traffic lights are not indicative of the tech community’s prowess. Synchronizing traffic lights and outfitting them with vehicle sensors will help alleviate traffic throughout the city.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “The mayor should not be pro-business or pro-social justice. We cannot legislate morality, and a mayor that props up certain businesses over others epitomizes cronyism. That’s not my style; I want to make government boring again. The mayor should focus on public safety, water, electricity, and roads. Leave the business to businesses and the justice to activists. If businesses make unsound decisions, they’ll suffer the consequences, and if people want to be bigots, they, too, will suffer the consequences. No need to get the government involved; Seattleites will ‘make Seattle a more just and equitable city,’ not City Hall.
Regarding ‘guiding principles,’ the following questions would guide me. Is the purpose of the legislation to serve a special interest at the expense of the rest of society? Is the purpose of the legislation to increase the power of government at the expense of society’s liberty? Is the purpose of the legislation for immediate, political expediency at the expense of long-term, effective change? Does the legislation require the ‘best’ politicians for its functioning, or can it still be effective with the ‘worst’ politicians in power? Government will never be able to please everyone, so the city should enact only legislation that affects everyone equally. Legislation should not be regressive, and legislation should not be progressive. Legislation is needed only if it serves the public’s interest, not because someone took the pessimistic, lazy, and pretentious approach of getting government to do their bidding.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “The best method to ensure that innovation flourishes is to leave innovators alone. Again, it is not for the mayor or for any other politician or bureaucrat to protect incumbent industries.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “My answer to both questions is, ‘nothing.’ People need to be able to make their own decisions and to deal with the consequences. It is not for City Hall to give Seattleites’ money to businesses, both foreign and domestic.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “I do not support municipal broadband. A right is not something you want the government to acquire on your behalf. Internet service is not a right; nice to have, but not a right. We have multiple internet service providers (ISPs) in Seattle. Why do you think the city would do a better job than ISPs at providing internet service? Even if the city could do a comparable job, why do you think the city would be able to provide service at a reduced price? The vast majority of Seattleites are already paying for internet service, whether it is on our phone and/or on our home computer. How is it fair to pay for service twice? Those with personal internet service already do just that, considering how we also pay for libraries to provide internet service. If we – as individuals – want to pay for someone’s personal internet service, we’re free to do so, but how is it just to force others to join a philanthropic pursuit? Philanthropy is the work of generous individuals and organizations, not of government.
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “I would be Amazon’s director of worldwide sustainability. I once thought that environmental sustainability was the undisputed territory of the political Left; however, after reading Roger Scruton’s Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the Planet, Scruton challenged my thinking. He did not, however, change my mind entirely, because how could environmental sustainability be the domain of a partisan ideology, whether Left or Right? I believe the Left has an abysmal track record when it comes to furthering environmental sustainability, but I don’t think that the Right would do much better. Issues pertaining to environmental sustainability seem best handled by objective, nonpartisan leaders, and the opportunity for efficiency gains at Amazon seems endless.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “We need to encourage downtown to grow both commercially and residentially, to continue to invest in streets, transit, buses, and sidewalks, and to protect the cultural and historic characters of each neighborhood. One-tenth of residents live in downtown and the downtown job center is the largest in the state and home to thousands of businesses of all sizes. Our region thrives – when our civic center is vital.
Accessibility downtown rests on a fundamental challenge of Seattle’s recent growth but also the 55,000 jobs expected downtown in the next 20 years. We will need to improve and expand options for people to walk and bike, use transit, and take advantage of car sharing and expanded ride-hailing services and prepare ourselves for future innovations – like driverless cars. We also need to expand telecommuting options.
We are not going to get any more roads – so we need to ask: ‘what is the most effective way to move people and goods to and through downtown?’ Making transit more reliable and frequent is critical – both for transportation and our climate goals. Having Sound Transit services up and running as quickly as possible is fundamental. Using ‘smart’ technology — like digital ‘real-time’ information for transit users, delivery and freight trucks and ride-sharing — will help drivers and riders make better choices.
I look forward to learning more about the recommendations out of the One City One Center City, the joint planning effort between SDOT, King County Metro, Sound Transit and the downtown business community. The recommendations will be for a medium-term (10-year) and long-term (20-year) plan for the downtown transportation system. Although there are a lot investments coming on line (e.g. Center City Connector Streetcar, waterfront Tunnel, ST3, etc.) there will need to be additional investments to keep the center city moving.
We need to maintain our busiest streets, encourage businesses to improve employee access to transit passes, bike and car share memberships, and complete the rapid rise plus system. SDOT should first focus on reducing bottlenecks in key locations, optimize traffic signals and pedestrian flow (so, for example, more than one car can get through a light), and work collaboratively with other agencies to accelerate improvements.
But we need immediate relief, as traffic is only going to get worse. There are other changes we could implement quickly including:
1. Make 3rd Ave transit spine more efficient, safer and more attractive to transit riders
a. All transit riders on 3rd Ave should pay their fare before they get on the bus
b. Treat 3rd Ave like the transit tunnel and create fare-paid areas that are monitored by security to make it safer for waiting for the bus and address the chronic public safety issues along the corridor
c. Improve the look and feel of the street, through better amenities and by activating the blocks like we have some parks (e.g., Westlake and Occidental).
d. Have dynamic bus bay real-time signage so riders know where exactly to expect their bus and can queue accordingly
2. Move buses off 4th and 2nd in downtown that are being replaced by other transit.
a. New Husky Stadium light rail station should be used as a reliable and fast transfer point. We also need to explore more ways to deliver people to this hub.
b. Buses from the south and Bellevue to the east can transfer at light rail stations
3. Work closely with WSDOT on mitigation to provide additional signage, funds for more bus service, traffic management and control
4. Increase driver and rider awareness of traffic impact and construction to encourage different travel patterns (modes) and options for times.
5. Encourage telecommuting, and support additional carpooling, biking and transit use particularly during difficult projects/traffic events
6. Continue to find new ways of increasing downtown buses’ speed and reliability through improved traffic signals and targeting key bottlenecks with transit-only lanes.
a. Consider increasing on-demand micro-transit (shuttle vans) to quickly and easily fill the gaps in our bus and light rail networks
b. Possibly use micro-transit, shuttles or others to provide much needed first and last mile connections to RapidRide corridors and light rail”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “A mayor must be pro-business and pro-social justice. Economic empowerment is critical to any social justice agenda. Right now too many people are being left behind, and are being locked out or displaced from our city. We should be proud of our economic dynamism. But it must be intentionally inclusive. Our prosperity must be shared prosperity. I have spent decades working for social justice in this city and will continue to do so as mayor.
We are facing tough challenges — housing affordability, homelessness, and transportation. But we also are presented with tremendous opportunity. We can solve the problems, and seize the opportunities if we join together as a community. If we are to build the just, equitable and dynamic Seattle of the future, we need all hands on deck.
I’m proud that we’re the only campaign that is unifying our city with a coalition that includes labor unions such as SEIU and firefighters, environmental leaders, and the business community. If we’re going to address the challenges of homelessness, housing, and transportation, we will need all hands-on-deck and bring people together to get things done for our city.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “Seattle is the city that innovates and invents the future. We must foster a climate here that both nurtures the vibrant economic base we have and fosters the businesses of the future.
A healthy business climate can be measured by standard indicators – unemployment rates, job growth, business starts, tax revenue, reduced inequality, and more. But a healthy business climate also means a civically engaged business community. Seattle is the land of innovation, where amazing global companies are launched and headquartered. It is also the home to many smaller, critical businesses that often provide the backbone of so many neighborhood gathering spots. I will engage our local businesses – large and small – to build a healthy business climate in our city.
We as a region need to be better at ‘growing’ the workforce and talent for our economy. The city needs to partner with the Seattle Public schools and with businesses to increase opportunities for students to be trained for and have apprenticeships in the strong family wage jobs of the new economy. Such programs should build synergies between community, schools, and business – so we are not only preparing students for the new economy – we are shaping it. From building the new towers, to running and working for the companies that fill them – we have to do a better job of developing the talent here.
Schools are critical to this. Because the city does not oversee the K-12 or post-secondary systems, its role is mainly to help facilitate discussion, engage the tech community and other employers, coordinate with the educational systems, work with private philanthropy and others who are collectively focused on improving the pipelines for talent and pathways for opportunity. We should explore opportunities to build partnerships between the public and private sectors around programs like apprenticeships – to support historically disadvantaged communities entering the workforce.
In addition, the city can help create an operating environment in which venture capital can help reach to new and diverse communities of entrepreneurs and in which those with a vision and energy can deploy solutions to common problems.
Ensuring our city has clear rules and regulations for business to follow is key to allowing businesses and key industries to have predictability. In the past, the city has played a role in preserving and growing economic clusters, including around high-tech, aerospace, manufacturing, life sciences, high-tech startups, maritime and tourism. That must continue. Together, we have significant opportunities to build upon our existing strengths and draw new talent and ideas to our region.
A mayor’s role is to both support existing industries that create jobs while also encouraging new economic growth and emerging industries. For example, Seattle can support both a thriving maritime and industrial community as well as technology and biotech industries. Our plans for growth — through zoning and transportation planning — must recognize both.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “Encouraging innovation while supporting traditional employment structures at the same time is complicated, but it is a challenge that our city has and must continue to step up to. We need to create an environment where organized labor, immigrant communities, social service organizations, employers, educators, and families can work on these nuanced issues. We need to approach these changes as we have so many others in our past: with a commitment to our progressive values, with creativity and ingenuity and with a firm belief that anything is possible in Seattle. I am committed to working together to explore, design and implement pilot programs for new forms of worker power and support here in Seattle.
We must [create] a place that encourages experimentation in new modes of working together while ensuring everyone has access to quality and affordable health care, sick time to take care of themselves and their loved ones, quality time to spend with a newborn or adopted child and an opportunity to save for a retirement with dignity.
Regardless of how any worker earns their income, their work has value beyond their paycheck and the benefits that allow that worker to live healthy, secure, and productive lives should be available. Seattle will remain a place that encourages innovations in this area, while remaining true to our values as a community.
We must also have affordable housing, strong infrastructure (roads, transit, broadband), a strong education system (K-12, higher education, apprenticeship programs, career training), smart land-use and taxation policies, and a laser-like focus on the basics necessary for a well-run and highly-functioning city.
As mayor, I will work with key state and regional elected, business and academic leaders to attract new investments in our region — both foreign and domestic — especially in the areas of technology, biotech, and manufacturing. As one of the most trade dependent areas in the nation and our geographic location make us an attractive place for direct foreign investment. But we must actively work to attract this investment in ways that help our local economy and our workers.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “I support the concept but have concerns about the cost of this, especially as it relates to other priorities such as homelessness and affordable housing.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “Trish Millines Dziko, co-founder and ‘head’ of the Technology Access Foundation.
She is wicked smart, deeply committed to ensuring equitable access to the tech future, and has figured out the ‘secret sauce’ on how to do it. She could have stayed at Microsoft or done any type of startup. But she saw 20 years ago how critical it was to improve access to STEM and technology fields for students of color and underrepresented communities. We need to infuse this ethos into our approach.
I am also a believer in Bill Gates quote, ‘Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.’ I think this is important. To make progress we must try new things, find new ways of doing things and we cannot be afraid to fail.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “We have to recognize that the vehicle capacity of the roads downtown is already stretching its limits, and over the coming two decades, we’re going to have 25,000 more units of housing in the city center and 60,000 more workers commuting downtown each day. The more people who bike, walk, and take transit, the fewer who are adding to traffic. As mayor, I will coordinate the Bicycle Master Plan and Pedestrian Master Plan better with the comprehensive One Center City Plan to allow people to get around on foot, by bike, and by public transit. There are several things we can do to make the necessary changes happen quicker, including increasing the number of projects that are ready to go at any one time, so that if one project is delayed, workers can be redeployed to another. In addition, I will work with downtown groups to significantly expand the work that, for example, the Challenge Seattle initiative is already taking to encourage employers to provide incentives to their employees for commuting by transit. We can build on models like the multifaceted incentive plan that the Gates Foundation has used to decrease solo car commuting among its employees from 88 percent in 2009 to 34 percent in 2016.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “Yes. The interests of the business community — especially the tech sector in Seattle — can, in fact, often be allied with those advocating social justice causes. There are many instances of collaboration, including the marriage equality movement, and the Trump travel ban, in particular. The tech sector in Seattle has long recognized that the industry’s strength relies upon its ability to innovate, and that takes a creative workforce that represents diverse interests and experiences. In either case, I was grateful and highly encouraged by Seattle’s tech sector and their general support for marriage equality, as well as its opposition to Trump’s travel ban, to ensure we continue attracting and keeping the best and brightest living and working here in Seattle, which only adds to the richness of our city’s diversity.
Above all, my guiding principle will be community input. I have built a long-standing reputation as a legislator and community activist who strives to work collaboratively rather than at odds with disparate interests to find common ground. I don’t make decisions unilaterally; I bring voices to the table and keep the channels of communication open. I will be a partner to downtown businesses in addressing their concerns, from regulation and taxes to homelessness and the affordability of the city for their customers, proprietors, and workers. Together, we can make Seattle a place where everyone can live, work, play, get around, and shop.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “One of the most important jobs of the mayor is to provide the infrastructure and environment for a dynamic and innovative economy. That means investing in the transit and affordable housing that will make Seattle the kind of place where people can live near work. It means investing in municipal broadband to set the stage for new and innovative homegrown businesses. It means fully funding equitable education to provide pathways out of poverty. At the same time, we have to recognize and support the good jobs that already exist in Seattle. We should reward companies when they create jobs rather than when they move jobs outside Seattle or cut back. I am uniquely qualified to hammer out the compromises we need in order to balance these two goals. I’ve been a leader in the nonprofit sector, county government, and statewide on smart growth that provides the conditions for innovation while supporting workers.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “Global competition in the tech industry will only continue to grow. Therefore, in order to stay competitive, we will need to continue to be a leader in innovation. We cannot remain a hub of innovation without attracting and without fostering the next generation of great thinkers, and that means educational innovation. I am convinced that there is no greater hope for our city and our country than the partnership we can develop between our greatest entrepreneurial spirits in the tech industry and our education system. I’ve seen firsthand the light bulbs turn on in young minds when classrooms team up with high-tech workspaces, offering them new curricula and tools in STEM learning that inspire new engineers, developers, and astronauts. As mayor, I will seek out new partnerships, new collaborative efforts, and new investments for our K-12 and higher education institutions to ensure that pipeline for the high-demand clusters in our region.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “Yes, I’m a strong supporter of municipal broadband. In today’s economy, the internet has become a utility as necessary as electricity and water. It’s time we treated it that way. Fifteen percent of Seattle, mostly low-income residents, do not have access to home internet, and those who do are subject to monopoly pricing. The city must make equitable access to internet a priority so that a fast, affordable, modern connection is available to every child with a homework assignment, every worker looking for a job, and every entrepreneur starting a small business.
That’s why I support providing broadband as a public utility. A 2014 study has shown that a city-built, city-operated network could provide gigabit speeds at a cost that is one-third as much as private internet service providers charge for the same service. With local control over our internet infrastructure, we can work together to keep your data private, avoid arbitrary rate hikes, and make the benefits of the internet available to low-income communities and communities of color that are too often left behind by private providers.
Most importantly, an investment by the City in building out a modern, fiber-optic network is an investment in Seattle’s future competitiveness on the world stage. Not only would it set the stage for innovative businesses, but by providing access to high-quality technological infrastructure to all, we would help level the playing field and provide pathways to good jobs for our kids right here in Seattle.
We should start with a focused pilot project that demonstrates the value of accessible, high-speed internet and builds public support. The city has already studied the feasibility of a pilot project and identified several possible sites. At the same time, we should set up an application demonstration center where other Seattle residents can experience the benefits that a municipal broadband network would bring.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “Jessica Matthews. She invented a soccer ball that can store renewable energy when kids play with it, and now she’s using the company she started (Uncharted Play) to make clean energy more accessible to people in impoverished areas of the word. She’s a young woman of color who’s showing the rest of us of how the transition to a clean power economy is the greatest opportunity for equitable growth in the 21st century.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “We are fighting decades of bad decisions and delayed decisions, so nothing we do will have significant immediate results.
I believe we need a more robust bus system and I think we should be leading the way with implementation of driverless vehicles and we should be using our bus lanes for theses vehicles. I see a future not far away where driverless, probably even ownerless link and delink as required and pick up passengers by phone app providing possibly even private compartments. By using existing and new bus lanes these vehicles could communicate with each other and navigate the city quickly and efficiently.
I believe we should reframe some of our thoughts concerning buses and even trains and realize we are building routes. What specific technology we put on those routes is yet to be seen.
I’d like to see a greater engagement of our tech community to help solve our common problems. Something as simple as re-engineering bus routes for efficiency could have a significant impact on transportation.
And I initially mentioned buses only because they are the superior stopgap measure. They aren’t that expensive and their service life will probably match the rate that we are able to deploy new technology.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “Honestly, I believe ‘social justice’ and ‘equitable’ have been so overused and over applied that they are meaningless terms. The mayor’s job by City Charter is to ensure enforcement of law, contracts, and the maintenance of order. Social justice isn’t part of the mayor’s job description.
I’ve lived and worked all over the world and all over the country. Of all the problems Seattle has, the problem of businesses abusing employees, as a standard practice is not a crisis I’m seeing.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “The city should be forward looking. We should be asking ourselves ‘where do we need to be five, 10, 20 years from now? What infrastructure will we need?’
Change is the only constant in the world. We must protect viable industries and jobs from displacement while accepting that some jobs will disappear.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “Part of looking forward would be looking forward at what education we need to be providing our people, and I think we need to fundamentally transform education. I believe we could have dozens of private-public partnerships for education that would cost the city nothing or nearly nothing. The Raisbeck Aviation High School being a perfect example. At the most, the city could provide facilities (we have numerous empty schools) and some administrative staff, and I’m betting we could get private industry to provide true experts on sabbatical who could be providing today’s knowledge to our kids, while allowing relationships to be built with industry insiders. Relationships that will pay off for the rest of their lives.
I also believe these schools should be used to retrain our displaced workers and used as reintegration training for people returning to society after prison. The cost of retraining our people and giving them a hand up is nothing compared to the cost of them being unemployed, underemployed, or being drawn back to crime.
I’m unsure why attracting foreign investment would be a goal. We are not short of local innovators or local money. A good part of our cost of living issues are being exasperated by foreign capital already.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “I personally don’t see the need for the government to be involved in providing internet. It’s already available for free at libraries and thousands of other locations.
I don’t see how involving the city in providing broadband will provide any benefit.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “First off, I wouldn’t want to be anyone other than who I am already. That said, if I was going to be someone in the tech world I guess it would be Elon Musk. The idea of building physical things that can have a high impact on people’s everyday life is highly appealing.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “First and foremost we have to make it so that people can easily get to and from the city core, and that means expanding non-car methods of transit. Whether that’s light rail, busses, or the SLU trolley, we need to ensure that we’re able to quickly and efficiently get people where they need to go. One method could be utilizing a spoke and hub model for transit, where we expand light rail and have more buses take people directly to the light rail stations so that people can get to the city’s urban core without having to crowd too many vehicles on the streets.
In terms of infrastructure plans, I have to support the tech and business community, I think we have a real opportunity to get free municipal broadband in Seattle. We’re the home of Amazon, Google has their Fremont office, Expedia is moving to the old Amgen facility, Tableau has their Fremont location, and so many other leading tech companies are centered here in Seattle. It doesn’t make sense that we haven’t been able to implement it here yet. Plus, I see it as a social justice issue. The internet is the single largest collection of data and knowledge in human history, and it should be available to all regardless of social or economic status.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “I don’t think it’s necessarily pro-business or pro-social justice, I think it boils down to fair or unfair. I don’t think its unfair to require our largest corporation to help support our city’s infrastructure needs and transit expansion. Especially when they are the ones who are by and large the main source of new arrivals to our city which is further putting strain on our housing and transit situations. I don’t want to demonize companies for being successful businesses, I only want to make sure that they accept their fair share of the responsibility in our efforts to make Seattle a more equitable city. I also want to make sure that we acknowledge when these companies go out and do great philanthropic things for our city, like Amazon and Mary’s place. My main guiding principle in all decisions, not just in regards to businesses, is this: ‘will this be equitable?’ I am all about equity and that means making sure we have all voices at the table.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “Seattle is without a doubt one of the most innovative cities in the world. We have had so many startups go on to be Fortune 500 companies, and that’s because we have never truly lost that pioneer spirit. I think there are a few things we can do to drive innovation in our city. One, make it so that people can afford to live here. If people can’t afford to live in Seattle, they’ll take their possibly next billion dollar idea somewhere else. This means drastically increasing the housing supply to address the supply and demand conflicts and utilizing my idea of a public bank to finance this construction without having to increase sales or property taxes which disproportionately affect middle and low-income families. Second, we need to expand transit ASAP. The current ST3 timelines show that West Seattle won’t be ready until 2030 and Ballard until 2035. That is simply too far down the road to keep up to date with the current rate at which people are moving to this city. We need to find ways to refinance ST3 so that we can move up the timeline, which is where I think my idea for a public bank will really be able to help the people of Seattle. Third, I think we need to look at how we can lower taxes on small businesses so that startups can have an increased capacity to grow and expand.
I believe the mayor has to be someone who can see when change is coming and guide it in such a way that it has the most positive net income. The world is constantly changing, and I’ll reiterate that I believe the mayor’s job is not to stand in the way of innovation but provide a guiding hand so that the change doesn’t end up leaving people behind.”
Secondly, the mayor needs to make Seattle a more affordable city. So many of our residents are just one paycheck away from being homeless, and that is unacceptable in a city as wealthy as ours. It is incredibly difficult to find time to get new training or education when you’re working three to four jobs just to get by. The mayor needs to find ways in which to lessen the financial burden on our residents so that they have the ability to expand their learning opportunities.
Third, the city could provide the school district with grants to partner with some of our local tech non-profits so children can have access to professionals who can give them hands on training with coding.”
What will you do to attract foreign investment? “It depends on the type of foreign investment. For one, I don’t believe in selling off public lands/property to private entities as our public goods are one of our city’s greatest resources and need to remain in the hands of the public. I also don’t want to encourage foreign investment in housing unless the buyer will actually occupy the building (whether personally or tenants) as this is already a massive problem and why we need a speculation tax.
Seattle is one of the hottest areas to invest in right now. I believe for the eighth year and a row we were named the number one real estate market in the country, and one simply has to look out the window and see all of the cranes to know that Seattle is a hotbed of investment. We need to encourage investment in our city, but we have to structure the growth in such a way that it doesn’t continue to displace people or small businesses.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “I absolutely support municipal broadband and have been pushing it for quite some time. I am so excited we have groups like Upgrade Seattle pushing for it and I look forward to working with them to finally get it implemented. It is high time to make the internet a city-owned and operated utility. This may come as a shock to some people, but about 20 percent of Seattle residents don’t have any internet access, and that is unacceptable given on how reliant we have all become on the internet. This is yet another area in which I see the public bank playing a role in financing the infrastructure cost of providing broadband to the whole city. We could also pay for it by charging developers impact fees and by implementing a speculation tax.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “If I were a tech CEO I would probably have to go with Eric Lefkosky (I know he’s stepped down as CEO of Groupon and is now the Chairman but bear with me). As a father of two amazing daughters, I think it is fantastic that through he and his wife’s foundation, they have given considerable amounts of money towards funding women-owned startups. I think it is vital to the health of our city and society that we build up and encourage women to start their own businesses, especially in the tech industry where they are drastically underrepresented. I want to be a mayor that focuses on building up everyone in our city, and make Seattle a world class city of equity.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “We need to have ‘smart traffic lights’ throughout the city that adapt to real-time traffic patterns. Mercer street should have pedestrian bridges so that traffic does not have to wait for pedestrians. We should also work with tech companies to emulate the Microsoft Connector and have them participate in the transportation of their employees. We can also promote telecommuting through tax incentives.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “Absolutely. Technology and social justice go hand-in-hand. Technology is used every day to even the playing field. We see this in social media by giving a voice the mass media often ignore. We see this in entrepreneurship as technology drastically reduces the cost of starting a company and giving people the ability to sell their service globally. We see this in the energy sector as places like India and Africa can build out energy infrastructure at a fraction the cost by using distributed solar, wind energy, and battery backups. We see this in finance as micro-financing software has allowed the poor to access loans that would not be available to them. I see technology as the backbone of social justice. We need a mayor who knows how to leverage technology. I am that candidate.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “I believe strongly in the power of business incubators and business accelerators. We have some of the best schools in the country, some of the best technology businesses in the world, and some of the best entrepreneurs in the world. We have all the ingredients we need to build a foundation of prosperity in Seattle for both technology companies and our citizens. I will develop a coalition of business people, research personnel in our colleges, NGOs, and capitalists to form a public-private partnership to promote technology incubators and accelerators. It is my job to make sure our region is prosperous and protect Seattle from economic downturns as much as possible. Building a technology prosperity infrastructure is the single best way to insulate Seattleites from economic downturns while building a foundation for future prosperity.
Automation is one of the biggest threats to jobs right now. We need to develop an education strategy that identifies future job opportunities and make sure we have the education infrastructure in place. However, this might not be enough. There is some talk of a basic minimum income, especially from technology CEOs. I think they see the writing on the wall and how automation is rapidly positioned to take away jobs. Now is time for honest conversations regarding automation. Sadly, there are few politicians that have this reality on their radar. I do, and I will be having these conversations and developing strategies to mitigate the effects of automation.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “Aligning our education system with the needs of today’s economy and our future economy must happen immediately. Seattle is already seeing the effects of this misalignment. We have an abundance of high-paying jobs in technology and vocational industries, but our citizens cannot participate in them. I will form public-private partnerships with our technology and our trade unions to develop skill-development centers that teach the skills our economy needs so our citizens can thrive in place and not be gentrified. We need to be teaching these skills to our children early on in their education. Perhaps as early as 6th grade. We can develop these programs within our current education system or as part of an after school program. In addition, we need a tech and vocational mentorship programs so we can help high school students become exposed to the numerous job opportunities to help them better navigate a career path. Finally, we need a robust post high school education system for technology and vocational skills development. We need to work hand-in-hand with our tech companies and unions to create these skills development centers and make sure we are teaching the skills as they change in the future.
I think the best way to attract foreign investment is to radically change our immigration system. We teach the world’s brightest minds and force them to leave our country and open up businesses that compete against us. I will use my position to champion changes to our immigration system and make citizens of the people we teach. In addition, we will make sure Seattle is always a welcoming and innovative city. The citizens have already done the heavy lifting here. They celebrate diversity and welcome cultures from throughout the world. As mayor, my job is to build upon this foundation and find win-win opportunities for foreign investment.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “I do! Honestly, Seattle cannot run a bike share program, so I fear they would not be able to successfully run a publicly-owned internet. I think the best solution would be to partner with an NGO or a civic-minded communications company to develop this. We could consider accepting tax breaks or subsidies to develop a win-win publicly-owned internet service.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “Elon Musk. He has many interests and thinks innovatively. He does not simply think of competing, but rather completely disrupting industries. This is especially true for entrenched industries who leverage lobbying and cronyisms to stifle competition and keeping customers beholden to their products or services. I too share the same vision for government. It is time we leverage technology to break up the entrenched power and give citizens the highest return on investment through innovation.
I consider myself a progressive. However, the progressive movement has forgotten to leverage technology to yield better results and drive down costs. Almost every department in Seattle is run off of 1980s telephone technology and paper filing systems to run our government. It is time we transform Seattle and upgrade every aspect of the city to leverage today’s technology. There is not one challenge in Seattle that cannot be greatly helped by leveraging technology and innovation. This is true for homelessness, our opioid crisis, traffic, or affordable housing. We need a CEO of the city who thinks like Elon Musk and will disrupt it through technology to dramatically change us for the better. I hope to be that person.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “In my platform, I have committed to expediting light rail. I would also invest in prioritizing other transit into and out of downtown core by separating it from other traffic. As Mayor, I also heard from downtown employers that they supported good bicycle access. The Bicycle Master Plan I developed called for a downtown bike network, which unfortunately has been delayed. We also planned and funded Westlake bike trail, and required Amazon to build the 7th Avenue protected bike lane as part of their new development. Finally, given the amount of housing built downtown and nearby, walking must be treated as an important way to get around. That means safe routes, but it also means a street environment that is pleasant — wider sidewalks, street trees, parklets, and insisting on walkways and plazas to break up large building sites.
I would also work to roll out municipal broadband as an option for offices and residences. Faster and more affordable connectivity will support employees who work from home or are looking for jobs, and students who are working to gain the skills for hold those jobs. It’s time to modernize our city and treat Internet connectivity as a basic necessity, like water and electricity.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “Absolutely. Many live or work in Seattle for the social and economic opportunities our city provides. When I took office in 2010, the city was reeling from the Great Recession. Unemployment was over 9 percent, large and small businesses were failing, and people were unable to pay their mortgages and rent. The recession led to a steep drop in tax revenues that made it difficult to support basic city services and to help those most in need. I made jobs and a healthy business climate a priority by launching the Seattle Jobs Plan in 2010. When I left office, Seattle was one of the fastest growing cities in the nation — a testament to the innovation and resiliency of our people and businesses.
The challenge that has not been met is to ensure that growth works for everyone and does not squeeze out the people who made this city what it is. We also want to continue welcoming people here to continue our heritage of diversity, innovation, and growth.
My taxation platform is an example how better governance and economic success should be re-structured to be more fair and work better for all of us. In a nutshell, I believe Seattle should:
● Review the entire budget for reductions, as I did when I had to cut $67 million in my first year in office.
● Hold the line on regressive taxes. Regular Seattle taxpayers repeatedly have had to pay the bill for our City’s growth. We should look to new revenue streams, like an income tax on wealthy individuals, or new business taxes on big companies who are benefiting the most. We should also exempt more small businesses from B&O taxes.
● Identify new progressive revenue sources and test their legality. Examples include: income tax, tax on speculators, tax on vacant properties, tax on wealth or capital gains, municipal bank.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “To ensure our residents have access to good and stable jobs, we must stay at the leading edge of innovation. That includes incubating the companies that will bring about transformative innovation and bring us great jobs — both through our policies toward businesses, and by creating an urban environment that is livable, affordable, and attractive to innovators. For example, in office I launched a Startup Initiative to support new companies. We also must invest in public education and training — more on that below in the question about job training. My experience is that incumbent industries have to continually innovate to remain competitive, and most do so. I believe the shift to a service economy means the city must play a more active role in setting baseline wage and working conditions. It is for those reasons I have supported increases in the minimum wage, secure scheduling, paid family and medical leave and other protections for workers.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “As mayor, I brought together our employers, educator, unions, and community representatives to tackle this problem of connecting our people to local jobs. One outcome was a dramatically expanded Families and Education Levy. Another was the first study of how to implement universal pre-kindergarten.
We also launched Pathways to Careers in partnership with the community college system. Our goal was to work with different industries to identify their needs, structure certificate programs to train workers, and connect with communities groups to fill the programs. We also launched Career Bridge, a program for the most difficult to place, which included felons returning from prison. Our goal was to look at people at every stage in their life, from birth through post-secondary education, to identify how the city, working in partnership with others, could assist people in participating in the economy and sharing in the wealth our city creates. With regard to foreign investment, I participated in trade organization outreach, including a trip to China.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “Yes, I was a proponent of municipal broadband during my first term in office and made a first attempt at implementing it through a public-private partnership, which ultimately was not funded. The next step is toward a fully-public model, and I am committed to moving forward with this if elected. Please see my detailed platform on municipal broadband here.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “I don’t know. I have never really aspired to be tech CEO, nor have I studied them enough to answer such a question with confidence. I like working with people on local political issues that can have an impact beyond Seattle. I am guessing that there are some tech CEO’s who approach their business with similar values, and would love to meet them. I also like how Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia trusted regular people to make an online reference source. Now if you asked me what kind of tree I wanted to be …”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “I am the only candidate in this race with experience working in the private sector and with Seattle city government to find solutions to our city’s problems. As mayor, my top three priorities would be:
1. Tackle the affordable housing crisis with bold solutions. First, we need to expand affordable housing from roughly six percent 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 and community land trusts; and aggressively pursue using surplus public land for non-profit housing. Second, we also 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, row houses, ADUs, congregate housing, and co-ops. Too much of our land is zoned for single family homes, blocking new housing we need. Finally, we need to understand how speculation in our housing market is escalating housing prices and implement target taxes to deter this activity.
2. Invest in transit to match growth: Our transit system must keep up with our population growth. Regional and local jurisdictions need the authority to decide how to allocate investments by mode. When gas tax money is siloed for highways, and transit must be funded with only local limited sources, it starves Seattle of the transit funding we need. Cities must be empowered to determine most efficient and cost effective investments according to local goals and conditions. When transit is fast, reliable, and convenient, people will use it. We also need to shift the culture of SDOT more quickly toward pedestrian safety, expanding bike facilities, transit reliability and convenience, and ensuring we have adequate drop-off and delivery zones throughout commercial areas. 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.
3. Establish a 21st century economic development strategy: A robust and diverse business base, with employers across several industries and businesses of all sizes, is essential to the economic well-being and resilience of a city. The mayor must work with employers across all industries to set the vision and then lead the action agenda to guide our thriving economy so that it creates broad prosperity and access to opportunity for everyone. Let’s build a proactive strategic plan: where we’re headed, how we can ensure the prosperity our businesses create recirculates back into the community, how infrastructure and housing can grow in parallel, and how can we improve access to family wage jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities so that our city moves closer to racial and social equity.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “Yes. Seattle must stand for racial equity and the liberation of all people. Our city must step up its accountability to communities of color and disenfranchised communities, including transgender and gender diverse people, to build an inclusive and just city that reflects our progressive values. At the same time, we must nurture, expand and sustain our locally owned small businesses. Our city is fortunate to have such a strong base of employers and innovators in our city. The challenge for us is not to attract jobs or more outside investment, but to make sure the wealth we are generating is reinvested locally, building strong base of locally owned community-based businesses, and to make sure we are providing access to the abundance of good tech jobs for our young people with training and education.
I believe that business can be a good partner for a better city in several ways:
- Participate in crafting an economic development strategy for Seattle in the 21st century. We need to envision, together, how can we expand family wage jobs, increase access to entrepreneurship for low-income communities, keep a stable and diverse base across many sectors, and support small and local community-based businesses as we grow. This strategy must be proactive, constructive, and forward thinking, and bold about facing the challenges of inequitable growth. How can we establish leadership via innovation in clean energy and climate solution technologies? How can Seattle reclaim and protect leadership in producing and making things, because these activities are where wealth is generated? How can we look with a racial and socioeconomic equity lens at who has access to tech jobs and entrepreneurship, and what do we need to change so communities of color can also benefit?
- Help plan urban growth. The tech industry must be at the table planning for future growth to ensure we are expanding schools, transit and housing to keep up with our rapidly changing economy. The city needs to include the long-range planning of the tech industry in its planning.
- Play a strong constructive role in the housing affordability challenge. Our housing prices are escalating beyond the reach of middle income folks and increasingly tech folks too. What can the tech industry do to help advocate for best solutions, and contribute resources to ensure our growing workforce can afford to live in the city?
- Be ready to help find and support revenue solutions so we have sufficient funding for public investment in education, in transit, in public safety, and parks and other infrastructure. We are falling behind, and need more progressive revenue sources to keep up with growth and ensure we are investing in giving future generations the education, training, infrastructure, and support they need to thrive.
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “I would work closely with the national ‘Mayor’s Innovation Project’ from day one of my administration to stay current on ideas and best practices in our own methods of governance, and build a team of innovators in my staff. It is essential to stay at the forefront of new ideas, and learn from other cities all the best practices for economic growth and broadening prosperity. As a leader, my approach is to set big goals for our future city, and invite departmental staff, community leaders, advocacy groups, businesses and citizens to be part of figuring out how to get there collaboratively.
I believe diversity in a city’s economy is healthy and essential, so as mayor I will work to sustain a balance of historic and new industries. A complex economy is resilient and can evolve and innovate, given the right conditions for collaboration and cross-pollination. I would devise a 21st century economic development strategy focused on the future: green energy technology, small and local business, tech, aerospace, health sciences, food production, maritime, manufacturing, research, and trade.
There are several projects underway in other cities that seem worth exploring here in Seattle:
- Cleveland, with its large institutions, has developed unique programs for local procurement and local hire. This has helped boost small and local businesses and helped keep the wealth generated by the big institutions circulating locally in communities. They also have established a creative and forward-looking strategic plan to retool their industrial sector for the green economy, preparing the infrastructure and talent base they already have to attract and secure opportunities coming as we shift to the next economy.
- Minneapolis has a few model programs or practices that have helped them keep a stable and prosperous economy going for decades. The city has been mindful to sustain a wide breadth of businesses of all sizes and across several industries in their city. Because of this, skilled talent stays in the region, moving from job to job across industries and strengthening knowledge/ skill/ expertise for employers to draw from. Their growth has been stable, sustainable, and inclusive largely due to the city’s strategic leadership and partnerships with business.
- PlaNYC developed under Mayor Bloomberg is a great model for transparent, accountable leadership: setting a future vision, defining specific objectives, laying out an action plan with specific metrics, inviting broad collaboration, and reporting back to citizens on progress. I would adapt this model for leadership to clarify direction and ensure we are pulling in the same direction.
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “I am excited for the opportunity to help shape our city’s future by establishing the vision and a collaborative action plan to get there. It is essential that we understand the dynamics that contribute to wealth inequality, and pro-actively plan for the economy that will build broad prosperity instead.
Our city must step up to lead the nation in establishing a progressive and inclusive economy, and actively guide the economy toward the well being of everyone. Success in this will depend on several things: a robust economic development strategy, that focuses on the wealth generation nexus of innovation and production; a strong voice for workers and collaboration between labor/businesses/the city in defining the vision; a well resourced and effective small business economic development agency within the city to help small and local businesses thrive as our city grows; developing pragmatic solutions for portable benefits in the gig economy; a specific strategy to build pathways to tech jobs and entrepreneurship for low income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color so we make big gains in equity.
With my leadership, and with a bold economic development strategy, future Seattle will be known for these successes:
- Ongoing tech leadership, especially in cloud computing, retail, and gaming. Our tech sector will continue to grow for the same reasons that it is robust now; concentration of talent and skilled employees across many employers, and high quality of life in a livable city.
- A balanced and diversified economy. Beyond the ongoing growth of tech, our economy will also grow in other sectors that broaden our base and offer a broader range of family wage jobs in locally owned businesses: green manufacturing, food production and local agriculture, clean energy technology design and production, life sciences, aerospace, global trade and maritime.
- A city that sets the standard for climate leadership at the municipal level and is showing the nation how to reduce emissions, grow compactly, build resilience in communities, lead innovation in retrofitting the built environment, and shift to district energy systems and efficient energy distribution — all during a period of high growth.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “Yes, I am a strong supporter of municipal broadband. Chattanooga has established municipal broadband as a public utility, and offers one model to examine. We need to build a socially just universal broadband system that guarantees access to everyone; we need a lower cost system to ensure equitable access; and we need to confront the privacy risks that come with using commercial operators seriously. Running broadband from the public sector as a utility is a prime way to achieve all three. We need a mayor with the resolve to see this through and implementing municipal broadband would be a top priority for me and my administration.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “I am very interested in worker co-ops and employer ownership. Companies like Sassafras Tech Collective and GAIA Host Collective look like great models for power sharing and finding solutions that benefit the employees, customers, community, and the long-term sustainability of the enterprise.”
James Norton, Jr.
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “I plan on taking out the bike lanes that aren’t used and giving them back to vehicles. That way we can make the bike lanes used more frequently much safer. I believe our city is supporting the tech industry in a very positive way currently. I want to start focusing on the local businesses that provide for the tech industry by making it possible for them to stay a strong part of our community and continue to have a voice in the growth of our city.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “I believe, as mayor, I can strive to compromise to make sure both sides are equally considered when a decision needs to be made that affects both. I don’t think you need to always draw a line in the sand. That is not how progress is made. I think the businesses need to understand the impact their growth has on the rest of the city. Socially, infrastructure, and financially. This starts with the developing of new buildings and their ability to completely change the city’s neighborhood landscape. Once understood I believe a viable agreement can be made.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “I want to include more people in the decisions that affect our city. We have a city full of incredibly smart and innovative people. I don’t want to always copy other cities ‘answers’ to our issues. I believe by really understanding that our city needs to provide opportunities for all businesses, large, small and in-between. The fact that Amazon employees refer tot the area of downtown as, ‘campus’ is a bit concerning. That said I am happy they are here but we have to work together as it’s everyone’s city, not just one particular business. If Amazon decided to leave the downtown area our city would have a huge void from business to culture.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “I think we need to really focus on getting the people who live here educated and informed. We can do this by continuing to work with businesses to provide opportunities for everyone through outreach and just being part of the community (not just donating money). There is foreign investment in our city. Most of it is in the housing/property area.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “I am very interested in it. From what I have read, I think it’s a great concept. Implementing it would require a lot more research. I believe it is something that needs some sort of proposal and then a vote from the public. Something this significant needs to be decided by everyone.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “Well, I don’t think I would ever want to be a CEO of a company. I know many of the local companies but went to your website and saw the top 200. I am more of a service type person who wants to serve the community. This is the reason I am a police officer. I am not a person who is motivated by profit and my share holders. I am not saying all tech companies are but I know it is a common goal.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “Our public transit system is struggling to keep up with our massive growth. Relieving pressure from mass transit while continuing to make improvements is the path forward. Much of our low wage-earning workforce have been priced out of their homes and are now forced to commute longer distances, this exacerbates the problem. We need to make it possible for people to live closer to their job sites, which dovetails into affordable housing. I would also reinstate the ride free zone in downtown Seattle and expand it to include SLU.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “The two terms are not mutually exclusive. A mayor can be both. I would like to put an emphasis on small business. I want to empower communities to invest in themselves through small business and become inclusive in Seattle’s growth. In terms of Seattle’s exploding tech community, I would like to partner with local companies to create more training programs to help qualify more of our local workforce for jobs in the industry. Relying less on out-of-region talent can be a win-win for the tech sector and our local workers.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “There are some great examples of this in Seattle. Consider our fishing industry. Seattle has a rich history of supporting our fishing fleets, though now many factors are working to detriment their operation. Environmental forces, fuel and freight infrastructure issues, residential encroachment, and a general switch in the socio-political climate are putting a billion dollar a year industry in danger. In one instance, a fuel provider has been fighting the construction of a bike lane that would go right through the driveway of his business, which largely depends on his ability to ship freight. Despite the fact that there are better options for the lane, it has become a 10-year political battle. One can certainly argue the evils of fossil fuels, however in this case it is a necessary cog in the industry.
We must keep the balance. There has to be an understanding of the interconnectedness of industry, society, and our environment. A good mayor will understand this and make equitable decisions for the city and its future. Regarding innovation, there are immense opportunities for that in Seattle. I would like to initiate a systematic conversion to solar power for general household electrical needs and incorporate it into the everyday infrastructure of our city. The potential is limitless, the benefits profound, and the technology is within grasp. Such an investment would not only create legions of jobs but be a bold step forward in sustainability.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? As I mentioned, I would like to partner with local tech leaders and create a coalition. Seattle has become a tech hub, but it has left many Seattleites on the outside looking in. I suggest creating training programs that cultivate the highly specific skills needed in the industry. Investing in the local workforce will help create more invested employees and help alleviate some of the transient nature in the field.
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “I do support the concept. I feel that we have long been at the mercy of service providers. However, we have zero infrastructure in place. We are literally starting from scratch. There is also the paradox between wanting it to be a public service that is cheaper and more equitable than the corporations yet actually providing it with the cost efficiency of a major provider. I believe it can be done, but the cost is going to be a major hurdle.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “Elon Musk. Nikola Tesla is one of my personal heroes. I think Elon Musk embodies the spirt of Tesla more than anyone in the corporate world.”
How will you improve accessibility to the city’s urban core? What infrastructure plans do you have that would support the tech and business community? “I support citywide and municipal-supported broadband. It is time we caught up with the rest of the developing tech world. I support an employee head tax on large business (over 1,500 employees) for employees making over $82,000. This would be a sliding scale income tax paid by the employer (1-3 percent) which would go to helping small, local, and POC-owned businesses as well as offsetting the housing crisis we are currently embroiled in. We need to figure out how to make a city that everyone can live and thrive in.
If by access you mean more parking in the hornet’s nest, than please see the planned EHT to offset density issues created and ignored by the tech industry. There is much more information on this in my platform on my website.”
Do you believe a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice? What guiding principles will you use when deciding whether to create more burden and expense for businesses in order to make Seattle a more just and equitable city? “Of course a mayor can be pro-business and pro-social justice. But, the people do not need business. The businesses need the people. This is very important to realize. We should make sure that we create a city and a society that the community wants and needs. Not, a society that business wants to create. I know plenty of just and benevolent business owners, we need more of them. We need more business owners to speak out for the community, for social justice, for what is right. I don’t want to have to believe that business only cares for itself. That is a sad reality. But if so, I’m prepared to treat business in kind. The community is stronger. As mayor I will make sure the community stands stronger and more important then the business. No one needs to make as much money as possible, that is a flawed thought.”
What will you do to drive innovation in our region? When and how should the mayor protect incumbent industries that provide jobs, versus paving the way for new models and technologies that will result in a loss of jobs? “This is the wrong question to be asking. You should be asking why we cave and value jobs that create nothing other than wealth and less jobs? I get it. Automation is king and inevitable, but why do none of these new models seem to create a community?
I want to protect jobs and people that make a community thrive. A bunch of people typing in glass skyscrapers does not make a community. They are part of a community, but we have to make sure people of all opportunities and employment can live and thrive in our city or it’s just going to become very bleak, very quick.”
What can you do to prepare Seattleites for the jobs of the future and prevent people from being left behind? What will you do to attract foreign investment? “Gross. Jobs of the future? All jobs are of the present. I hope more to concentrate on making Seattle more affordable for all, especially those who are ‘in the future.’ I can’t believe you are asking a question about people being left behind in the future when we have so many people being left behind in the present. How about Amazon and the City of Seattle figure out how to give the homeless population of Seattle mailing addresses if they want. That would help with people in need being left behind. As for the children in school currently, there are plenty of programs that can be implemented to help develop education in our city. We should develop these programs to help bridge the widening education and pay gap between the varying populations of Seattle. I think as a whole we can improve the public education in this city, especially in a lot of locales that are under-served. Naturally, I think that schools will begin to develop programs for kids that are interested in ‘the future.’ We just need to be sure that the support and programs as there for them to be able to capitalize on programs. Getting them coding and developing early. The jobs of the present in the tech industry are one of the biggest factories of pay and social disparity in our city right now. I would address fixing this by my Employee Head Tax, which you can find more about on my platform.”
Do you support municipal broadband? If so, how would you implement publicly-owned internet, which has been talked about and studied for years without real action? “Yes. The infrastructure is obviously the easiest part (I support daily hardships for progress). The hardest part is ripping the city away from the comforts and trappings of giant communication companies. Obviously, it has been discussed here in Seattle, but without the political wherewithal to ditch Comcast it can’t be done. Many cities across the world have implemented municipal broadband very easily, effectively and are well beyond us in capabilities. The idea that we are discussing it as ‘hard’ is part of the problem.”
If you were a tech CEO, which one would you be? Why? “As the mayor is basically the CEO of Seattle, I’d be the CEO of Municipal City of Seattle. Other than that I would have zero interest in being a CEO of any other ‘tech’ company.”
Editor’s note: The candidates included in this story answered GeekWire’s questions by our deadline. We will update this story if additional candidates submit their responses.