It’s hard to describe Seattle’s District 7, an area that runs from the “quasi suburban” Magnolia to the industrial Interbay, through gentrifying Belltown and even one block into historic Pioneer Square. But two men — Andrew Lewis and Jim Pugel — feel that they’re the ones to lead it. The two candidates themselves are at the same time cut from the same cloth and a study in contrast. Lewis is a young prosecutor with the City Attorney’s office. Pugel is a grandfather and 30-year law enforcement veteran. Both were born and raised in Seattle and both have focused their campaigns on compassionate solutions to the homelessness crisis while restoring what they see as order and rule of law. What follows is part of a series of questions and answers Real Change conducted in person with each candidate. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Real Change: Why are you running for District 7?
Andrew Lewis: I grew up in Ballard in northwest Seattle, lived in Seattle my entire life. I served two terms in the Seattle Human Rights Commission, I currently serve the people of Seattle as an assistant city attorney. I’ve decided to run for City Council because I’ve got a deep and demonstrated passion for public service. There was an open seat, there’s a lot of issues that I feel like I can make a big contribution toward in the city particularly around affordable housing.
I grew up in a working class family and it’s getting increasingly difficult for a lot of the folks in the city that work in working class jobs or even trades jobs to make it in the city of Seattle and that’s something we need to be making a big generational investment and to make sure we’re not a city of the extremely rich and extremely poor but one where everybody has a place everyone can afford to live here.
RC: Would you have run if Councilmember Sally Bagshaw had stayed in the race?
AL: I don’t know if I would or wouldn’t have. I’ve got a lot of respect, obviously, for her, for Sally Bagshaw. I do think that as we saw in the results of the election that the city wants a change in leadership, that new and younger candidates did very well in the city of Seattle and I think people want they want a new direction.
RC: There’s a narrative building in this election cycle of “progressive versus business candidate.” How do you frame this election, and what are people choosing between when they vote for you or Jim Pugel?
AL: What we keep hearing is that people want a responsive City Council. They want a City Council that’s focused on the essential charter services of the government, on parks, on community centers, on library hours, on public safety and police protection. These are the issues that the voters really care about and having a City Council that is going to be responsive and responsive to constituent concerns.
You know, I don’t want to speak disparagingly of Jim in this race. I think I’ll just answer the question by talking about how I’m approaching it. I can promise the people of District 7 resolute attention to district details.
RC: What would be different if you replaced Bagshaw? Are there votes that you agreed or disagreed with?
AL: I didn’t agree early in her career with her vote for the aggressive solicitation ordinance. I think that something where I disagree with Councilmember Bagshaw on. Any situation that involves aggressive solicitation is probably going to be chargeable under some other offense if it’s serious enough to be considered a crime. It’ll be assault, it’ll be harassment. I do not think a separate criminal statute vaguely criminalizing aggressive solicitation would have made a considerable difference or a public safety impact to the people of Seattle.
Going forward, what we need to be doing is not so much looking at how can we expand the scope of some of these laws but how can we be more deliberate and more effective in our enforcement. You know I do support the emphasis patrols that the Mayor and City Council put out in the certain neighborhoods over the course of the summer. I think it had an effect, a deterrent effect on crimes of opportunity like car prowling or other like vehicle theft or package theft off of porches.
RC: There has been a lot of outside money coming in during this election cycle from political action committees (PAC). How do you feel about outside money in these races and do you support limits?
AL: Fortunately, we have the Democracy Voucher program in Seattle. I’m a very proud participant in raising the most vouchers of anyone in my race for the City Council in terms of going out there and collecting vouchers. I think that that’s going to be the future political campaigns in this country.
I think one of the most appalling Supreme Court decisions that we’ve seen in the last 30 years is the Citizens United decision. The amount of outside influence that that opinion has given to anyone that wants to come in and drop a colossal amount of money for whatever purpose.
I would like to see it diminished. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position where I can do much about it except continue to not take corporate contributions. I haven’t accepted a single corporate contribution as a candidate, and I will not accept corporate contributions and to continue to opt into the Democracy Voucher program and encourage other people to do the same thing, to get their money from their neighbors, to get their money from a broad base of donors. I mean I have very nearly 1,000 unique individual donors that have donated to my campaign.
And that is a much better way to run a campaign than to rely on massive corporate and independent expenditures.
RC: What are key issues that you see as unique to District 7?
AL: Yeah well some of the issues are hyper unique to District 7 and I think when you take a step back even the most specific-seeming issue isn’t quite as specific as you would initially think.
The Magnolia Bridge is a good example of that which has been pegged as a very district-specific issue and an even more neighborhood-specific issue. You know I’ve posited from early in the campaign and argued that I don’t think the Magnolia Bridge is solely a District 7 issue by virtue of where it’s located. It’s located on a critical freight corridor, one of the most critical freight corridors in the entire country let alone in the state of Washington that serves an extremely important industrial area, the Ballard Interbay Industrial area. That has an ecosystem and economy based around Salmon Bay and generates billions of dollars of economic activity that supports thousands of family wage jobs.
I’m committed to being a leader on that issue to get that bridge replaced and to get it replaced on a regional basis with buy in from a lot of regional stakeholders from the Port [of Seattle], from the state, from the federal government.
Broader than that, I think what’s actually been interesting about this campaign is there’s a lot of pan-district issues that are really dominating the debate. Public safety has been a really big issue. That affects District 7 just like it affects every other district in the city. We have a police force suited for a city the size of Portland and we’re increasingly becoming the size of San Francisco. We’re going to really need to look at making sure that the number one charter duty of the city public safety is something that we’re implementing effectively and constitutionally.
Another really big, important issue that we’re facing is affordable housing and that’s a you know as a region not just as a city but as I’ve been saying every district needs to do its part.
It can’t just be something we expect to put in other districts. We have to carve out space for new neighbors too.
RC: What would you prioritize if you become a councilmember, and how would you get a new City Council and Mayor Jenny Durkan on board?
AL: I talked extensively during the campaign about us trying to make a big generational investment in affordable housing by dipping into our bonding capacity more to build more affordable housing faster and then pay the bonds off using their rents.
As I’ve gone around and talked to folks and people I grew up with here who are working, they’re making money, they have a job but they’re not making enough to keep up with the massively inflating rents based on the high demand that is being driven by the tech economy here.
But they can pay rent. So if we had some kind of public housing situation that was sort of a public option for housing where those folks that are working could pay off those public bonds through some kind of at-cost rent without a profit motive, that could be a really good way to carve out some more space for people in the city who are working more traditional working class jobs or even increasingly trades jobs like union trades jobs like carpenters and plumbers and pipefitters that are struggling as well to be able to not be rent burdened in this economy.
RC: What is your policy on homeless sweeps?
AL: I think one of the big issues with the encampment sweeps is we’re not making commensurate investments in places that we can house people or send folks to when there are encampments being swept. And this is one of my big critiques about our broader reaction to homelessness in the city. I think we over-rely on night shelters. We don’t have enough day centers. We don’t have enough opportunities to transition into permanent supportive housing.
I think that we need to have more 24-hour enhanced shelters where people can have an address, where people can have a lockable door, where they can leave things.
I think that there’s certain parts of the city where the sweeping policy is related the very real public safety risks of the people living in the encampments if you if they continue to camp in that location.
But I do think that more broadly you know if we’re not providing viable alternatives someone to go live, they’re just going to set up a camp somewhere else.
RC: The Seattle Police Department is under a consent decree from the federal government, and Mayor Jenny Durkan has said that she does not want to add police accountability measures until the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild comes up for negotiation. How do you feel about that, and what would you do as a councilmember?
AL: Until we completely comply with the consent decree and get out from under its supervision I think it’s going to be really hard to start implementing a lot of the long term changes that we’re in need to see in terms of increased staffing. A lot of officers don’t want to come working here until the consent decree has been resolved so they know what they’re getting into.
I work in the City Attorney’s office. I share Pete [Holmes’] sentiments that we need to have high, constitutional standards of policing that has been outlined in the consent decree and outlined by Judge [James] Robart.
The City Council doesn’t have any role in the collective bargaining process, absent the final ratification of the contract. I do not think it’s the City Council’s role to vote down a collective bargaining agreement negotiated in good faith.
RC: What’s your favorite place in your district?
AL: I really like Seattle Center. I just love having the cultural center of the city in terms of the arts community the Seattle Center in the middle of District 7.
Vying for Your Votes: City Council District 7 candidate Jim Pugel
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Lisa on Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge
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