Jon Grant has been on the front lines of advocacy around homelessness and housing affordability for most of his career. His brand is “boots on the ground,” appearing at homeless encampment sweeps to support houseless neighbors and getting arrested at a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline earlier this year. Grant said he was inspired by former Councilmember Nick Licata to take his advocacy inside City Hall. He ran for Licata’s seat in 2015 but lost to now-Mayor Tim Burgess, who outspent him eight-to-one. If elected, he plans to push for more affordable housing and fight for new, creative forms of taxation to extract public benefits from large corporations and organize tenants to fight for their rights through collective bargaining with landlords. Despite an endorsement from The Seattle Times editorial board, Grant, a socialist, is seen as further left than his opponent.
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On the relative flavors of “progressive”: Both Grant and Mosqueda are closely linked to labor and other progressive causes. RC asked what differentiated them.
“I didn’t have the most powerful labor unions backing me when I was doing that work. What I had was low-income tenants who were fighting to save their homes because that was the only option. And to me, that perspective matters so much because it teaches you the importance of knowing when and when not to compromise. And when it’s your home, you can’t compromise on that. I was accountable to my members of the Tenants Union. These are folks who are largely in public housing or in slum housing or had some reason to call the Tenants Union. It makes you radically accountable to those folks. It’s that kind of radical accountability that I think that voters can expect from me.”
If necessary, what would you cut from the city budget?: “In terms of what to cut, I’m very frustrated by the city’s investments in streetcars that are not grade separated. They are very expensive, they get stuck in traffic, they don’t hold that many more people than buses, and they are underutilized. And I get the concept that if you build it they will come but I think that if we look at, you know, the environmental impacts they have, the kind of carbon that’s produced in installing rail, and if we talk about not just the environmental impacts but the budget impacts, per-mile rail is the most expensive way to get people around town. And I think that we need to be making investments in light rail, which is a much more effective way to get people from point A to point B and expanding existing bus services.”
On police contract negotiations: “My belief is that police officers are employees and they are different than all other employees in that they have a license to kill, and we have to hold them to a much higher bar for that reason. And I think that the city should have a transparent negotiating process for issues of discipline because, right now, if you’re an officer and you don’t follow policy, you can feel pretty safely assured that you’re going to get let off the hook, right? That creates a culture of impunity, and if we have a culture of impunity in our police department, we can’t reasonably expect that training alone is going to be enough to solve the problem.”
On electing another cis, White male on the City Council: “When I sat down with my opponent very early on and I put it out there on the table that I could drop out of this race. If we were going to be the exact same on issues I care most about, in particular housing and police accountability, I don’t have a reason to be here. What became clear through the course of those conversations and through the course of the ensuing debates prior to the filing deadline was that my opponent was not willing to adopt strong positions on housing and a lot of it has to do with her connections to a lot of these powerful players. So I don’t think we need another lobbyist on City Council.”
On working on politics from the inside: “It would be my hope that this City Council seat become a platform for all of the different community initiatives going on right now, whether it’s fighting for the municipal income tax, whether it’s fighting for rent control, whether it’s both making sure that neighborhood voices are being heard.
I think those are all things that can happen but we need a community voice at City Council to make it happen.”
RC: “Goodman Real Estate in five words.”
JG: “Great guy. No. I’m joking. Goodman Real Estate in five words or less. You know, I can’t do it in five words or less. Just Google my name and Triad Capital.”
Teresa Mosqueda has been working the levers of policy lobbying for workers’ rights and social safety net causes in the halls of Olympia and beyond for most of her career, and she thinks that kind of negotiating experience would make a difference at City Hall. Because of her position as a lobbyist and ties to big labor unions, Mosqueda has been cast as the pragmatic centrist in the race. Mosqueda sees solutions to many of Seattle’s problems — be it homelessness or development — in a public health approach, and has plans to push for more, cheaper child care facilities in Seattle. Mosqueda sees her election as adding diversity to the council as a renter; she would be the only councilmember to rent rather than own her home.
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On the relative flavors of “progressive”: “I have organized my whole life to make sure that people are actually having their voices heard in the halls where policy changes are being made. But I’ve also been on the streets from WTO in ’99 to — as I mentioned throughout the years — can you even count how many rallies we’ve been to this year? I can’t. But I know the importance of both being in the street and being in the halls where policy decisions are being made. I am an organizer at my core. I’m also proud to say that I will work with anyone that I’ve met with. I will meet with anybody, but the question is, how do we hold people accountable? How do we make sure that policy is based on our terms? And how do we make sure that policy is rooted in community needs? And you do that by organizing.”
If necessary, what would you cut from the city budget?: “I don’t think that there’s a lot that I would cut. I think that we need to do more to get more revenue into the city.”
On police contract negotiations: “So what I’d like to see, and I mentioned this to The Stranger and I said it in public forums, is in addition to the [Community Policy Commission] recommendations that have been passed, which call for the CPC individuals to be there, an inspector general to be there, the Office of Police Accountability to be there in the room during negotiations. I would like us to see community members at the table, being part of the negotiation process.”
On electing another cis, white male on the City Council: “I don’t think I’m in a position to tell anybody to step back, and I’ve said to him and others who’ve asked, that that’s his decision to think of. What I’d like to see is more folks who have lived experience in our community sitting in positions to make the ultimate vote, because for so long I’ve been an advocate on the outside, lobbying city hall, lobbying in the halls of Olympia, making sure people with lived experiences are represented as we testify, as we ask people to vote the right way, and I think that it’s important that more of the folks who are making the ask see themselves on council.”
On working on politics from the inside: “So I’m there to make sure that after the cameras are gone, after the ink is dry, that policies work. So I think that helps me on City Council. Knowing what it’s like to craft the policy rooted in community needs, know how to navigate the system to get it passed, so that you get a majority that votes, and to make sure that it actually works and that we’re fulfilling our promises. A lot of people are distrustful of government for good reasons. People tell them that they’re gonna do something, they pass it, and then it doesn’t actually work. Look at what’s going on with health care right now.
“And so to try to make sure that we’re actually filling our promises is what I’ve done after passing good policy in the past.”
Best quote: “I looked to try to buy three years ago and I was like, eh, I can’t do this, I’m gonna have to save some money. And two years ago we started looking again, and I’m like, there’s no way.
“A year ago we were like, we lost our opportunity. And your ability to own in this city should not be left up to luck: luck of the market, or the harshness of capitalism, and the ebb and flow of housing prices.
“Your ability to own a house or own your first place in the city should be based on whether or not the city is building enough housing, and right now we’re not.”
Election 2017: Seattle Mayor
Election 2017: City Attorney
Editor's Corner: Covering the 2017 election
Wait, there's more. Check out articles in the full October 25 issue.