Elections
Tammy Morales, left, and Mark Solomon, are the two finalist candidates for Seattle City Council seat in south Seattle.
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Tammy Morales, left, and Mark Solomon, are the two finalist candidates for Seattle City Council seat in south Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott; Courtesy of Mark Solomon

5 questions: City council candidates in south Seattle

We asked Seattle residents: what do you want the candidates for city council to talk about as they campaign for votes?

We received over 650 responses. Analyzing the data, it was clear that homelessness, housing affordability, and roads and transit were the biggest concerns.

Using these responses, we wrote up five questions for the candidates. Below are the unedited answers from District 2.

No incumbent. Candidates are Mark Solomon and Tammy Morales.

Want to hear what the candidates sound like? Listen to this short clip.

District 2: Mark Solomon vs. Tammy Morales

Mark Solomon

Homelessness and visibility: How will you address the unsanctioned encampments on city streets, underneath highways, and other public spaces?

Unauthorized encampments are a huge concern for my District. I see daily the conditions in which our unsheltered neighbors live.

There are health and safety hazards that no one should be forced to endure; leaving anyone in such circumstances is inhumane. I support continued outreach to connect our unhoused neighbors to shelter and services, would work to increase our low-to-moderate barrier shelter and enhanced shelter capacity to provide more options for those living unhoused.

I would further seek increased investment in long-term supportive housing, and funding for effective case management and wrap-around services needed to help navigate to more stable housing Yet, the City can’t do it alone; we need partners - other cities, the County, the State and the Feds to partner with us. Faith-based communities, nonprofits and corporate partners must participate.

Sheltered neighbors must come to the table to work with the unsheltered. We must work to reduce the number of unsheltered neighbors by addressing underlying needs and moving them towards stable, safe and supportive housing.

Homelessness and housing: What is your plan to find permanent homes for the homeless?

As a city and a region needs more affordable housing and permanent supportive housing.

In addition to increased investment in temporary and long-term supportive housing, we need to increase our stock of affordable housing in general. Tangible ways to do so include requiring developers to include a higher percentage of affordable units in new buildings as well as streamlining permitting to shorten the timeline for affordable development.

I would further pursue public/private partnerships to fund permanent supportive housing projects, bonding against our sales tax revenue to fund housing development, using underutilized city land upon which to build, as well as instituting a Public Bank so the city can borrow against its own assets to fund development of permanent supportive housing.

Homelessness and drugs/mental health: How do you plan on addressing drug use and mental health treatment options for the homeless population?

The city needs to partner with organizations already working to support these vulnerable populations. In my experience on the board of YouthCare, I have seen great success when we meet homeless youth where they are, get them safe, and provide them with the wraparound services and long-term shelter they need.

I would focus my efforts on fully funding organizations already doing this work well, as well as investing in effective case management in order to connect individuals to the treatment they need for mental health and substance use disorders.

Further, I would expand funding for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program to connect low level criminal offenders with service and treatment options versus incarceration.

I would fully fund Seattle Fire Department’s Health One program and would support bringing the Safe Station program to Seattle, as Tacoma has recently done, as a means of harm reduction and providing treatment on demand.

Housing and growth: What is your plan to make Seattle more affordable and livable for low- to middle-income residents?

I am fortunate enough to live in the house my grandparents built on Beacon Hill. If this home had not stayed in my family, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live here.

The current housing market puts home ownership out of reach for many of our working families. Rental costs in some neighborhoods have become so high that some neighbors are forced to move out of the city altogether.

We must build more workforce and low-income housing, and ensure displacement or long-term neighbors doesn’t occur as a result. We must invest in mechanisms to keep people in their current homes and build enough affordable housing units to allow people to be able to live in this city without exceeding 35% of gross annual income.

Using existing mechanisms, such as the Multifamily Tax Exemption and the Real Estate Excise Tax, we can provide incentives to property owners to keep rent rates low.

I support housing and homeownership assistance programs through the City’s Office of Housing and community-based efforts through organizations such as Southeast Effective Development (SEED) and HomeSight.

I would prioritize an evaluation of the Mandatory Housing Affordability Plan to see how MHA has impacted our residents and push for identified adjustments. I would also seek to increase the affordable unit set-aside in new construction.

Further, I will work to require that any opt-out fees paid by developers are invested in adding affordable housing in the same district where the development was originally planned.

Transit and Traffic: Out of all the transportation options, which one is a priority for improvement?

Seattle’s public transportation needs to increase in frequency as well as add additional routes.

I believe we need more transit routes, especially more connectors in a spoke and hub system that connects neighborhoods to additional transit routes in order to increase the mobility of our city, reduce traffic congestion, and increase our city’s transportation sustainability.

Furthermore, we could encourage more people to use public transportation by raising awareness of and enhancing current programs including free Orca for students, reduced transit fares for seniors, and transit subsidies for low-income earners.

Tammy Morales

Homelessness and visibility: How will you address the unsanctioned encampments on city streets, underneath highways, and other public spaces?

The first instinct that some would have is to simply sweep the camps or arrest our way out of this problem. The visibility of homelessness is uncomfortable- and it should be.

It represents a glaring example of how our runaway housing crisis and lack of needed mental health treatment, addiction treatment, and support resources have been underfunded and under-delivering.

For encampments that present a danger to people experiencing homelessness, we will have to direct them to a safer location.

For example, when encampments are right next to a highway or blocking critical areas. But we cannot continue sweeping the problem away- this a human rights issue and a waste of city funds when they return to the original location anyway.

The short term solution is to create safe lots with hygiene and waste disposal services, and I will work with colleagues on the council to site these lots appropriately.

We should also be investing in safe consumption sites, an evidence-based and proven solution for harm reduction. The mid-term solution is to work to enter them into low-barrier shelters, temporary modular shelters, or even tiny homes while we build more permanent supportive housing.

The long-term and ultimate solution is to invest and build the public housing, permanent supportive housing, and mental health/addiction treatment facilities needed to stabilize individuals and help them manage their lives in a more sustainable, dignified way.

Homelessness and housing: What is your plan to find permanent homes for the homeless?

Prevent homelessness by reducing evictions – provide flexible, shallow subsidies to families at risk of homelessness Reform the intake process – to relax the rules for shelters and allow pets, families, support low-barrier entry.

Support investment in real-time data to streamline intake and eliminate duplicative questions; share data in a coordinated, dynamic way across the system to determine service eligibility and availability and connect people directly to resources faster.

Housing First – for those who are chronically homeless, offer housing first to stabilize their situations, then pair it with robust supportive services to help rebuild their lives Increase funding for permanent supportive housing and the services provided, especially supportive physical and behavioral health services.

Increase funding for services offered to people living outside – trash pick-up at encampments, bathrooms Reinvest in public housing to create options for our very low-income neighbors

Homelessness and drugs/mental health: How do you plan on addressing drug use and mental health treatment options for the homeless population?

There are two levels to this.

The first is that addiction is a crushing, desperate way of life that results in impaired and impulsive decision-making and is not sustainable for maintaining housing or employment.

Often, drug use is self-justified as a way of coping with mental health problems or as a distraction from living on the streets. We have to invest in programs like LEAD, which divert folks at the point of contact from police into support services and care.

At the same time, we have to take a housing first approach to stabilize their situation and pair it with robust physical and behavioral services in-building that will offer immediate crisis intervention and management.

We’re not going to find the funds for this by tightening operational efficiencies in the budget; part of that will happen, of course, but ultimately, we’re in need of hundreds of millions of dollars to properly address this crisis.

We have to ask the wealthiest amongst us to pony up their fair share and stop relying on regressive measures that hurt our low-income and working families. The second factor is a more national problem, and that has to do with the opioid crisis and pharmaceutical companies lobbying a government vulnerable to corruption to avoid industry regulation.

We know that our current healthcare and mental health system is failing to adequately treat this growing problem, creating desperate circumstances and roiling cities (which have beared the brunt of this problem so far) with increasing costs. It also doesn’t help that other cities and counties keep pushing the problems away from their jurisdictions rather than confront the root causes.

Housing and growth: What is your plan to make Seattle more affordable and livable for low- to middle-income residents?

The housing crisis is the greatest challenge that our city faces. Obtaining homeownership or even sufficient and safe rental housing has become a daunting challenge for many in our city – especially in neighborhoods at high risk for displacement.

Seattle has a responsibility to protect its renters, to stem displacement of our communities and their support structures, and end the homelessness of people.

I want to support and zone for increased development of backyard or garage apartments and small apartment buildings (~20 units) in capable neighborhoods so there are more kinds of units available, including units targeted for lower income people.

We should also zone for ‘missing middle’ housing, such as triplexes and duplexes, which provide an affordable option for middle class home ownership.

I will also lead on developing a Comprehensive Anti-Displacement Strategy that includes community ownership, EDI investments, and strategic landbanking around future growth areas. The Rainier Beach Action Coalition developed such a proposal and is actively working on getting it implemented.

Finally, we should be providing resources and protections to renters, such as an online rent portal that that allows prospective tenants to conduct a tenant protection check of properties.

The portal would provide background history on complaints, evictions, and average rent increases on record for those who own rental property. I applaud the recent renter protection and eviction reform that was just passed by the state legislature, but we have to go further to ensure housing security is available for all.

Transit and Traffic: Out of all the transportation options, which one is a priority for improvement?

We have to invest in green transit and transportation infrastructure, but it must start by making public transit free, reliable, and widely accessible.

I will work to expand transportation options including connected infrastructure for biking, walking and rolling to provide viable alternatives to driving. My main priority is to ease traffic congestion and pollution by working with county partners to expand bus service and frequency, especially in areas like Georgetown, to ensure folks aren’t stranded after 7pm and that they can rely on our public transit system.

We should also be supporting light rail construction throughout the city and green modes of transit, like commuter paths (for the future scooter aficionados) and bike lanes.