The Seattle City Council unanimously approved Zachary Pullin and Jermaine Smiley on Feb. 23 to join the Seattle Housing Authority’s (SHA) Board of Commissioners.
Smiley is an assistant business manager at Laborers’ District Council, and Pullin is a communications project lead for SEIU Healthcare NW.
The two were popular with residents at a recent public hearing to discuss their nomination to the board. In particular, residents appreciated Pullin and Smiley’s commitment to reject anything like SHA’s Stepping Forward program, which was introduced in 2014 but shelved at least temporarily for the year.
Stepping Forward would have set flat rents based on the size of an apartment, and the rents would have increased incrementally over the course of six years. SHA also had planned to provide workforce development training to help people get better paying jobs to afford the higher rents.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant, an outspoken critic of Stepping Forward, was impressed with Pullin and Smiley’s personal experience with public housing and poverty.
“They’ve also been very willing to meet with the tenants and answer their questions,” Sawant said. “I hope these two nominations will influence future nominations for the board and will go through as robust a process as we did this time.”
Councilmember Nick Licata praised their values, but cautioned Pullin and Smiley to be particularly studious in their role on the S board. Licata implied that the information they receive from the agency may not constitute the full picture.
“I want to offer you perhaps a word of caution: There have been other individuals with great values who have joined the Seattle Housing Authority Board,” Licata said. “It really is difficult to maintain those values, because the stream of information that you will receive, you have to make sure it’s coming from more than one source.”
He said Pullin and Smiley would need to continue meeting with SHA residents and city councilmembers as they make their decisions.
Mayor Ed Murray nominated Smiley and Pullin in November. They are replacing outgoing SHA commissioners John Littel and Juan Martinez.