Mark Solomon and Tammy Morales have very different ideas on how to move District 2 — which encompasses the south end and Chinatown International District — forward. But both come from a similar place. The most diverse district in the city has long been overlooked for funding and investment, resulting in disparities in education, affordable housing provision and infrastructure that hurt the people who live there.
Solomon, a longtime crime prevention coordinator with the Seattle Police Department, has a more conservative approach. He recognizes the needs in his district and has a sincere desire to put a stop to the displacement that is transforming his neighborhood and kicking out his longtime friends.
Morales, a community organizer and urban planner who narrowly lost the seat to Councilmember Bruce Harrell in 2015, wants a radical shift in power towards the people of the south end to fight the impacts of systemic racism and change the perspective of the city from the inside.
Real Change chatted with both candidates about the district, the issues they’ve identified there and how they want to solve them.
RC: Why do you want to be the city council member for District 2?
Tammy Morales: I am running to build power for the people in District 2. We have some really creative, very smart people in the district, lots of important organizations doing important work, and when they have tried to bring their ideas to City Hall, very often nobody’s listening. I’ve been organizing in the district for almost 20 years and have deep relationships with lots of different ethnic groups, different community organizations. And so, I want them to know that they have a real advocate in City Hall, and I’m hoping to get there and bring their voices with me.
RC: Why do you think the people haven’t been listening in City Hall?
TM: District 2 is lots of different neighborhoods, lots of different communities and typically folks who have been marginalized, who it’s easy to ignore because they’re very busy doing other things besides going to City Hall at 2 o’clock on a Monday for a meeting.
RC: Would you have gotten into this race if Bruce Harrell hadn’t announced that he was not going to run?
TM: Yes, in fact, I announced the day before he announced he wasn’t running again. I ran four years ago. I got really close — 344 votes, but who’s counting?
RC: The narrative around this election has been “progressive candidate” versus “business-backed candidate,” at least that’s how it’s been advanced in the media. How do you frame this election, and what are people choosing between when they choose between you and your opponent?
TM: I think to a certain degree that is true. This is about the soul of the city.
The reason I got into this race, the reason I’m running, is because I want to build community wealth for our low-income communities, for our Black and Brown communities, and that means that we really have to shift the priorities in the city.
I feel like the focus needs to move away from “whoever has power in the free market gets first dibs on everything” and really move toward “this city, this economy, working for our neighbors, for the people who live here.”
It’s really about making sure that we’re shifting power, that we’re shifting access to resources and that we are creating an economy that creates good lives and good livelihood for our neighbors. So, that’s the framing that I think about. The principles that are guiding our campaign are to repair the harm done to Black and Brown communities, to make sure that we’re democratizing access to power and resources in the city and that we are planning for the seventh generation and really thinking about what kind of city do we want to be in 50 years, in 100 years.
Do we want to make sure that our low-income neighbors, our communities of color, are still here and are able to thrive?
RC: What will be different if you are in this seat versus not necessarily your opponent, but perhaps Bruce Harrell? What votes of his, if you can think of any, did you agree or disagree?
TM: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the youth jail. The thing that facilitated that was a city land-use decision. And he was one of the council members who voted to allow for a zoning change that eventually led to the construction of the new youth jail.
RC: How do you feel about outside money in this race, and do you support Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez’ proposal to cap the amount that people can contribute to these independent expenditures?
TM: I am deeply grateful to the Democracy Voucher program, and that is how we’re funding our campaign. And so that element of it, in terms of really catalyzing people’s civic engagement, has been huge.
But you’re right, it hasn’t served the purpose of keeping corporate money out of the races. And so, I do think that the legislation that Councilmember Gonzalez is pushing is really important. She’s trying to limit the ability of corporations to donate to PACs, particularly those corporations that have foreign investors. So, I think it’s important. I’m hoping that it passes, and definitely in support of that, if it’s a resolution or an ordinance.
RC: What issues do you see as unique to District 2?
TM: The housing crisis is an obvious one. The folks in my district are at greater risk for being displaced, and so I think we need to think about that, in all of our policy making.
District 2 has a lot of challenges when it comes to our education system. The schools that are in our district are often crossed off the list for capital improvements. We finally are getting a new high school and a new middle school. So, part of what I’m interested in doing is working on the Families and Education Levy to make sure that that money is distributed equitably so that we can really try to intervene in the school-to-prison pipeline and support our young people.
We also have a real shortage of affordable childcare. I’ve had several people tell me, “I was offered a job, but I can’t find childcare, and so I can’t take that particular job,” which is not what you want to hear. We’re hoping to boost people’s income and we need to address the barriers that are keeping them from getting there.
RC: What do you want to prioritize first? How would you want to sell that to what’s going to be a very new City Council, no matter what happens, and the mayor who’s, so far, her track record has been more conservative?
TM: I’m trained as a planner, and so land use is huge for me. I think that there is a lot we can do to stem the displacement that’s happening, to support small businesses that are also getting pushed out of the city.
For example, I think we need to move surplus city land into community land trusts, public development authorities, some sort of mechanism to allow for permanently affordable homeownership and rental opportunities as well as permanently affordable commercial rent so that our businesses stop getting pushed out of the city. So, land use is important. Childcare, as I said, is also very important. I’m eager to look at the childcare subsidy that the city offers. It is under-utilized, and we’ve got tens of thousands of children under five years old who need childcare.
RC: The economy is shaky. We have problems on the international economy, largely because of our trade war and other factors. How do you want to protect Seattleites and District 2 if we hit another recession?
TM: What we need to revamp is our Office of Economic Development. We don’t do enough to support our small businesses. We don’t do enough to support entrepreneurs. And while some small businesses may not employ a lot of people, it is also an opportunity for people to own something. We have to really start looking at how to build a local economy, how to build a resilient economy and make our local businesses thrive and create better opportunities that way. We also can be providing better opportunities for apprenticeship programs, for job training, shifting a lot of the jobs that we have now toward green jobs.
RC: Displacement and housing affordability is a huge issue in the second district. How do you want to address that?
TM: I’m part of a coalition of organizations in the south end called South CORE — communities organizing for racial and regional equity. We have been talking a lot at City Council, actually for the last several years, about having a comprehensive anti-displacement strategy. That means preserving existing affordable housing or making sure that there is a one-to-one replacement for units that are torn down.
That also means making sure that folks are provided with relocation assistance if they are getting pushed out. I was talking earlier about community land trusts, making sure that we have opportunities for permanently affordable housing, and that the kinds of projects that are approved include affordable units in them so that it’s not all market rate housing, especially in the south end.
Do you think [area median income] is a good way to peg affordable housing [rents]?
TM: No. No, it’s not, because everything else doesn’t keep up with it. So, we have the Lake Washington apartments, for example, in the Rainier Beach neighborhood. That is subsidized housing, but the rents still get pegged, and so the rents are still increasing to a rate that the people who live there can’t afford it, because their salary is not going up to keep pace with that. So, I don’t think that’s a good way to do it. Tying it to any sort of federal standard is not a good idea when our particular community is so far outside of that standard.
I don’t know what a better way would be.
RC: The south end has been starved of resources for a long time now. We see disparities in education and transportation. Why is that, and how do you want to solve it?
TM: The fundamental issue is racism. When you get down to it, that’s what this is about. This is about Black and Brown communities regularly being under-resourced, about our schools being under-resourced, our transportation options, options for economic development, for jobs, for small business creation, lack of access to capital for small businesses, lack of homeownership opportunities for Black and Brown folks.
You know, there are many layers of systems of oppression in how our governments operate. This happens in every city.
Black and Brown communities are under-resourced, which is why we’re centering racial equity in this race, because we have to dismantle the structural racism that is embedded in all of our city departments.
And for people to start to understand that just because you’re working there doesn’t mean we are saying that you are a white supremacist. But what it does mean is that we are all operating in these systems. We’re all embedded in these structures, and we have to be very intentional about acknowledging that, understanding what that means and understanding what we need to do to undo that.
RC: What is your policy on homeless encampments sweeps? And if you’re familiar with the multi-departmental administration rules, is the current policy living up to the spirit of those rules?
TM: I am against the homeless sweeps.
I was on the Seattle Human Rights Commission for four years — I just rolled off — and we were pretty vocal about saying that that is not a good use of public resources.
It’s inhumane. It does not protect people’s dignity. And while we understand that if somebody is really posing a problem of obstructing a pathway, that’s one thing, but to merely come in and push people from one side of the street to the other is ineffective and inhumane. So that’s where I stand on that.
RC: The police contract — the consent decree is still there. Judge Robart has not exactly signed off. The mayor has decided that it would be best to hold off on police accountability until the next contract. How do you feel about that, and how would you approach this as a council member?
TM: We have a federal judge saying that we are out of compliance with our consent decree until we address accountability.
I think we need to address accountability and get out from under the consent decree.
I find it really surprising that a mayor would feel that they don’t have to comply with what a federal judge is asking.
So my hope would be that if I’m not on that particular committee that at the very least the council members who are willing to call bullshit, you know, willing to call it out if the contract doesn’t look like it’s going in the right direction for the community. I am 100 percent on board with collective bargaining, with protecting rank-and-file’s ability to bargain in good faith for what they need for worker protections. But worker protections, bargaining for worker protections and bargaining for civil rights should not be mutually exclusive.
RC: What is your favorite place in your district?
TM: Oh boy. OK.
OK. I’m gonna say Jefferson Park. It’s a great park. It’s beautiful — you have beautiful views from it. And we will — at least when my kids were smaller — we had their birthday parties there. So I just have great memories of flying kites and eating cake and getting melty ice cream everywhere and splashing around in the water.
RELATED ARTICLE: City Council District 2 candidate Mark Solomon
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
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