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?
Jim Pugel: I love public service. I was a police officer from 1982 until 2018, 31 years of that with the Seattle Police Department and then four years with the King County Sheriff’s Office. I’ve been a lifelong resident of Seattle. My parents, with my eight brothers and sisters, they always instructed us to take care of your community. So that’s one reason why I got into police work. I love taking care of communities.
Homelessness, reliable transportation, schools, affordability, police services, opioid overdoses, displacement, gentrification — you name it, every area of the city and the county are experiencing the same things.
So, when Sally Bagshaw indicated that she was going to leave, several people approached me because for four years I was the captain of the Seattle West Precinct, which is … the same geographic footprint that the seventh district is. So, they said, “Jim, you’ve worked with the service providers, you’ve worked with the businesses, the community groups, would you consider doing this?”
I thought about it and I had just survived cancer and my doctor said I had plenty of gas in the tank, so I decided to do it. And here we are just past the primary.
RC: Would you have run if Councilmember Sally Bagshaw had stayed in the race?
JP: Probably not. No, I would have probably waited and maybe done a citywide run.
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 Andrew Lewis?
JP: Well I can’t really speak to what each individual voter is thinking. I would say that I am framing my candidacy as “maturity and experience.” Someone who was involved in a traditional career of policing and that is viewed by some as conservative. But I also would emphasize all the initiatives that I got involved in while I was a police officer.
Twenty years ago, the Pioneer Square downtown area had about 60, 65 people who we referred to as “chronic public inebriates.” They were mostly men — all homeless, all mentally ill or some degree of mental illness — cycling through crisis and they were all alcoholics. We tried to work with the merchants and the community here in Pioneer Square downtown to manage it. Nothing worked. Finally, we worked with the private sector and the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) and they created 1811 Eastlake, which was the first pre-recovery treatment housing in the United States.
Another non-traditional challenge that I was fortunate enough to be involved in was Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion lead which we worked with the Public Defender Association and the Downtown Seattle Association and the ACLU the prosecutor’s office. We created an initiative where at point of arrest an individual who we had arrested over and over and over and prosecuted and jailed over and over for years that person would have an option to meet immediately with intensive case manager from the REACH program at Evergreen Treatment Services and they would be able to develop a management plan for them to re-enter society.
RC: What would be different if you replaced Bagshaw? Are there votes that you agreed or disagreed with?
JP: It’s really important that people listen in this job. In fact, that’s one of the most constant themes that I’m hearing from people as I listen to them while knocking on doors and while going attending community meetings is we want a council that listens even if you don’t agree with us. We want you to listen and consider our thoughts consider our words.
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?
JP: Money has to be watched. I think we always need to know who the source is. I don’t think it should ever be anonymous so that you can gauge whether that PAC, that group that’s donating, has an unhealthy hook on the candidate that they’re trying to support.
RC: What are key issues that you see as unique to District 7?
JP: I go back to the opening paragraph in the Seattle City Charter, which is our constitution for the city, and it’s providing — and this is paraphrasing — a safe and healthy environment to all who are here.
I think we have to be good stewards of the money that we’re spending. I think we have to recognize — whether we like it or not — that the downtown, District 7 area is an economic engine for not only the city but the county and, to a degree, the state.
Another thing that I think is very important is that the seventh district is a tourism district. There are millions of people who visit here every year. We have to make sure that it’s a welcoming environment for them but then also at the same time we can’t just be spending our money on the visitors. We have to make sure the money we’re receiving from those visitors goes to help those who are in need or to deliver our essential services.
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?
JP: Public safety is very important a portion of that public safety and I say this from working with the human service providers and the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program. We need more case managers. We need a case manager that doesn’t sit in her or his office and expect the client who’s struggling, who cycles in and out of crisis or addiction, to be able to keep a calendar and come to their office to meet between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during weekdays only.
We need that case manager and these are the type of case managers that Plymouth Housing has at DESC has good gold standard permit supportive housing groups.
I would like to do is create a loan repayment program where we pay if it’s a city funded service provider first we make sure that they’re getting the prevailing living wage but then we also pay extra if that person has school debt a lot of these social service providers case managers they have advanced degrees and they’re in debt they have loans.
I would like to see a way that we can legally help that person repay that loan in a way that doesn’t come out of their base pay.
Another thing I would like to do is get more robust 24-hour service. We have workers now that are keeping the city going, whether they’re security guards or janitors. It’s all important. And a lot of them cannot afford to live here in Seattle.
RC: What is your policy on homeless sweeps?
JP: Let me qualify my answer before I give it. I think homeless encampments are unhealthy.
They’re not healthy, number one, for the inhabitants.
They’re not healthy for the community especially the more that they are on park land that should be enjoyed and used by all and on sidewalks.
We need to get all these people rehoused as soon as possible. I think since the current political establishment has said that it’s a homeless crisis it’s a national emergency. Then we treat it like a national emergency like we would after a major earthquake. Knock on wood that it doesn’t happen in this building right now. But if you’re after a major earthquake we would put up Federal Emergency Management Administration tents and we would have water and hygiene. And I think we should do that and get people in there if we don’t have enough permanent temporary shelters.
I believe the city through the navigation team through the administrative rules that surround that navigation team property is safeguarded. The people are given their constitutional due process but we have to strike a balance.
RC: So, yes, you support the sweeps.
RC: This is a bit of a throwback, but in 1986, you participated in a video called “Under the Viaduct” (note: this is a parody of the 1964 classic “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters where police dressed up as homeless people). How do you make people in the advocacy community feel comfortable with your approach to homelessness given that? How would you explain your evolution since 1986?
JP: Completely fair question. I was 25 years old. It was a sanctioned video by the police department. We were asked to do something funny. In hindsight, it was not funny. We did not do it to harm or hurt but it was incredibly insensitive.
How would the homeless services community, or any other community, judge me now? Look at my record. I had been a police officer for four years. I have 30 years of experience after that. I would ask anyone to go to a person who’s employed by the ACLU, in fact and current high-ranking employee there has endorsed my candidacy. They head the Defender Association has endorsed my candidacy. Scott Morrow, who is not necessarily liked by a lot of people, he’s endorsed me.
I would just say look at Jim’s record since that time.
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 contract comes up for negotiation. How do you feel about that, and what would you do as a councilmember?
JP: We have to respect state law. Public employees deserve the right to bargain. And it’s an unfair labor practice if you reopen bargaining and force a union to do that regardless of whether you’re Seattle City Light, city parks or police or fire.
Having said that, being a police officer and the powers that we have is a very unique type of job. I would hope that the leadership in the Seattle Police Officers Guild — while maintaining their legal right to bargain in good faith — I would hope that the see that their relationship with the communities that they serve and work in, and some of them live in, that it would be very good if they reopen those.
But we cannot force them. That’s an unfair labor practice and I respect the rights of labor.
RC: What’s your favorite place in your district?
JP: My house. It’s where my wife and I and my stepson and stepdaughter live. It’s peace.
Vying for Your Votes: City Council District 7 candidate Andrew Lewis
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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