Opposing Joy Hollingsworth on the District 3 ticket is former blogger and current transit policy wonk Alex Hudson. Hudson comes to politics after a long career of participating from behind the scenes. As one third of the pioneering city politics blog Seattlish (alongside — full disclosure — our opinion columnist Hanna Brooks Olsen, featured on page 9), she covered it. As the director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, she crafted and promoted legislation to expand transit access. She knows exactly how the sausage gets made and has come up with plenty of her own recipes.
To beat Hollingsworth, she's banking on her left credibility, cemented by receiving the endorsement of the Stranger during the primary, in a historically left-leaning district. However, it won't be a cakewalk for her. Sawant barely squeaked by in her last few races, including when she faced a recall vote. And Hollingsworth isn't terribly far apart from her, as far as progressivism goes. Read on, and try to spot the differences.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Real Change: What motivated you to run for city council?
Alex Hudson: I love the city of Seattle and I want it to be the best place in the world. I've dedicated my life to public service, I ran a neighborhood organization for five years, I ran a public transit advocacy organization for five years, I have been spending my personal and professional life making Seattle a better place for people now and in the future. In the summer of 2020, I became the legal guardian to a young person and I sort of decided then and there that I wanted to figure out ways that I could really step it up so that she could have a chance at making a good life of her choosing in the city of Seattle.
What makes you better qualified for the job than your opponent, Joy Hollingsworth?
I'm a true progressive who has [been] really bringing a kind of an approach to public policy that centers the inherent worth and dignity of every living person and I have a decade of experience doing exactly that. So I feel that I am bringing strong progressive values to the approach of these big questions and that I have the skills, vision and experience to actually deliver.
What are the biggest issues Seattle is facing right now?
Housing affordability and homelessness. I'm a renter, I have to rent in the actual open market. And so I, like the vast majority of people in our city, know that I'm one bad lease increase away from having to make really hard decisions for me and my family. I also know that homelessness is a housing problem. The problem with housing is that it's too expensive. It's too expensive, because there isn't enough of it. There isn't enough of it, because the government has made it very difficult and slow and expensive to deliver housing.
I think it's also really important to acknowledge our public transit system, which a vast majority of people rely on in one way or in a direct or indirect way, including in my district which has some of the lowest rates of car ownership anywhere in the city, is at a crisis point. Public transit is an economic, social and environmental justice issue and if we allow for our public transit system to wither on the vine, we are gonna sink our society and make it very difficult for people to seek the opportunities of their own choosing.
And we need to get really serious around some of these big issues, like our untreated mental health issues and behavioral health crises, the fact that we are not getting very serious about the medical issues that people are facing around substance use disorder, that is destroying people's lives and killing people on our streets, and the gun violence epidemic that's costing young people their lives.
Do you want to stop the sweeps? If so, how would you do that? If not, why do you support them? Do you think sweeps work?
Sweeps don't work. Well, I mean work for what work, for [whom]? Like, what does that even mean? Sweeps destabilize people. They cost people their lives, they push problems around, they further re-traumatize people. And it’s not producing any viable outcomes for anyone. It doesn't solve anything in a real sense.
How would you make stopping the sweeps happen?
There’s the winter eviction or the winter sweeps moratorium which I'm in support of. It’s [also] an investment in programs that work like CoLEAD... We need to super scale up our ability to create on-demand shelter services that work for people that isn't just congregate shelter, right? That's like actual humane, safe, secure places for people to be. The release of [people] from the hospital onto the streets is [one] of the most shameful things that happens in our society.
Mayor Bruce Harrell has made it clear that any alternative crisis response to 911 calls would have to follow a co-responder model and involve police officers. Do you agree with the mayor about this co-responder model? And if so, why? And if not, how will you convince him to get on board with a fully non-police crisis team to respond to 911 calls?
I believe that not every response requires a police officer. And that some do. When I talk to the people who do that work, talk to EMTs, talk to others, there are folks who will say, 'Hey, there are some situations that I'm going into where I feel like as a worker, as an employee, I want to have a little bit of backup here.' And I'm not in a position to tell people that, like, 'No, you don't.' Mandating a police officer in every situation is not the correct answer. And there are some that may need that. So we need true alternatives that include the ability for there to be co-responders. I think what we need to do is scale up programs like Health One.
What are the specific changes you want to make to public safety in the city?
Scaling up the programs that give people the health-based resources and the care that they need. We have almost no residential mental health care facilities left in our city.
We need to see investments in community violence prevention and community violence intervention. But I also want to be really clear that it is not enough. It is an unacceptable solution that the city of Seattle just writes checks with the nonprofit sector and asks them to solve gun violence.
What connection do you see between gun violence and poverty?
Poverty and economic inequality is the real scourge in our society that is creating all of these issues. And that goes back to having an economy that is fair, that's not rigged against all of us, rigged against our planet.
We need to be really real about the fact that the people who are the most victimized through violent crime are the people who are also struggling the most in our economy
How do you promote safety for homeless folks?
Everybody deserves a safe place where they can go and sleep every night and a door that can lock behind them. Especially young people who are homeless, women who are homeless — the reality is that the fastest growing population of homeless people are seniors — are very likely to be victimized, frankly, by people who have homes. And so that's unacceptable.
Do you support superblocks and pedestrianizing main streets in every urban village? And if elected, would you prioritize private vehicles or pedestrians, cyclists and transit?
I've dedicated my life to creating an urban environment that prioritizes people who are walking, biking and cycling and coming on transit. It is well past time that we have pedestrianized streets, that we have things like superblocks everywhere in our city. The city needs a process to be able to figure out how to do that. Because right now, like too many things in our city, it's about discretion, which means that it's about power. And so we need to take these decisions about our urban environment and make them actually be performance-based and goals-based, as opposed to just loud voices-based.
What are the three things you would do to immediately improve the lives of Real Change vendors?
Create shelter space, get shelter stood up. The second one is like, and I was just listening to one of your vendors talking to your front desk person about this, we force people to go through these degradation rituals to get the social benefits programs that they need, deserve and are entitled to. It's ridiculous. I want to see automatic enrollment and social benefits programs so that we make it easy for people to get the money that we've already allocated to them so we can put money back in people's pockets. Give them, more importantly, time back so they can focus on whatever it is that they want to be doing with their time besides sitting at the DSHS office. And I want to see better public transit.
Do you know how many public 24-hour restrooms there are in Seattle?
I gotta imagine that number is like zero.
Well, according to the Seattle Parks and Recreation website, there are about 65 24-hour public toilets 11 of which are not porta-potties. If elected, how would you change that?
I think one of the ways that we can do that is also by creating jobs, by basically having bathroom stewards. Where people are the stewards to make sure that they're clean and safe for everyone. I believe that we all deserve to live in a society where we've invested in our public infrastructure.
Do you support or oppose the Seattle City Attorney's efforts to prosecute drug possession and public use at the municipal court level? If you oppose it, what is your alternative plan?
Yeah, I oppose it. Jail doesn't solve the medical issue of drug addiction any more than it solves cancer. I'm not interested in continuing to perpetuate harm and violence against people, in expensive and ineffective government policies that we've been trying for a very long time and that aren't working. I'm very supportive of overdose recovery centers, like the one they're trying to start at DESC in partnership with the University of Washington and the city of Seattle. If you are overdosing in public, which is a near-death experience, I believe that you deserve to be able to go somewhere and get a shower and a meal, and a chance to just have any level of respect and decency for the very serious issue that you just had.
If elected, how would you work to repair the worst damages of gentrification in the Central Area? And do you support a reparation scheme for residents who have been impacted by residential discrimination?
The Black homeownership gap, the racial wealth gap, the racial homeownership gap is something that we need to address like for real. There's things like Community Priority, the Liberty Bank project is a really good example of putting multifamily housing in the Central District, and then making sure that the people who have the first opportunity to live there are people who had been displaced previously. I also think we need to be investing in folks like Africatown and others, people like Jaebadiah Gardner who are Black developers.
Racism is stolen wages at the level of multiple generations. It is not fair or reasonable to expect that Black people in our city — in America — are going to be able to just catch up in a broken system.
Tobias Coughlin-Bogue is associate editor of Real Change. Guy Oron is a staff reporter.
Read more of the Sept. 6-12, 2023 issue.