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caption: Candidates for Seattle City Council in District 7, Jim Pugel, left, and Andrew Lewis debate at Town Hall Seattle. Lewis is getting more backing from labor, and Pugel is getting more backing from business.
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Candidates for Seattle City Council in District 7, Jim Pugel, left, and Andrew Lewis debate at Town Hall Seattle. Lewis is getting more backing from labor, and Pugel is getting more backing from business.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

5 questions: City council candidates in downtown, Queen Anne and Chinatown-ID

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 7.

No incumbent. Candidates are Jim Pugel and Andrew Lewis.

Jim Pugel

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

I support our Navigation Teams and believe that kind of partnership between law enforcement and social services is exactly the type of program we need to effectively and better manage the homelessness crisis.

The response to homelessness has so far fallen primarily to police officers, and that has led to ‘mixed’ results. Police represent a specific aim — public safety, which is critical to our response to this crisis, but homelessness is also a wage disparity crisis, a human crisis, a public health crisis, and a mental health crisis. And that means we need a more holistic approach to ‘sweeps’ and more shared responsibility.

We need to clarify and streamline the expectations for law enforcement officers and ensure that they continue to receive the best training possible, including de-escalation and crisis intervention training, so our officers can keep us safe and respond in a constitutional manner (This means a continued emphasis on ‘constitutional policing,’ a practice that impacts everything from use-of-force to interacting with mentally ill individuals, and trains officers to protect people’s constitutional rights and civil liberties in every interaction.).

My core values on the issue of addressing homelessness are as follows – I refer to them as the ‘four pillars’ approach: The first step is prevention, both long term and immediate, so that we can limit and reduce the amount of people becoming homeless in the first place. The second step is harm reduction for those currently experiencing homelessness as substance abuse and addiction is a major co-occurring condition and exacerbates homelessness.

Instead of ignoring and condemning this aspect, we need to work to minimize its harmful effects with diversion programs and care. The third step is housing (rapid re-housing, transitional housing, supportive housing and permanent housing) so that we can transition people out of temporary encampments and into more livable and permanent housing solutions.

The last step is enforcement in that we should not criminalize the status of homelessness but must hold offenders responsible regardless of homeless status.

With a comprehensive plan that is supported and fueled by statistics and data, we can put an end to homelessness in our city. The city currently provides only reactionary policies that do not work towards long-term solutions and only exacerbate a broken status quo.

We need to prioritize a regional approach for this regional crisis and leverage city, county, state, and federal resources to adequately manage our homelessness crisis.

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

I’ve lived in District 7 since 1991. I was the precinct commander for the West precinct which has the same geographic footprint as the district.

I’ve raised my family here. I’ve seen our community change and grow and I’ve seen the rising homeless population. I’ve seen unbelievable generosity from neighbors, public servants and community members, and also seen fear and anxiety over rising rates of property crime and addiction.

This is the issue that EVERYONE tells me about at the doors, and everyone wants a solution today. I have always been a strong supporter of preventing homelessness, rapid re-housing and the philosophy of ‘housing first.’ I’m a supporter of low-barrier housing, and supportive housing with on-site addiction and mental health services.

Downtown Emergency Service Center and Plymouth Housing are two local examples of this gold standard. Much evidence shows that a small amount of money will prevent a large portion of people from becoming homeless.

These are overwhelmingly people who want to work, want to send their kids to college, and want help — it’s a matter of connecting folks to the resources they need and providing a place to recuperate and live.

Beyond supportive housing, we need to ensure that greatly expanding affordable workforce housing is a critical aspect of any effective, comprehensive plan to tackle long-term homelessness.

People are getting priced out of their homes and students, nurses, janitors, and families increasingly cannot afford to live in the city where they work, learn, and play. We can do better.

If elected I will work toward developing surplus government land within the city and build affordable and mixed-use housing, as well as services to make these new developments equitable for all involved.

These services would include childcare, community centers, permanent supportive housing and mental health care, assisted living for seniors and disabled Seattleites, and parks and green spaces. All at a cost that won’t break the bank or misuse taxpayer dollars.

King County Assessor John Wilson has already identified many publicly owned, surplus property in the city that can be converted to public housing at little or no cost. This would be a huge step forward and one we cannot afford to ignore.

The city has got to stop selling public land to developers for an amount that rarely ever gets translated into affordable housing. We need this land to build the Seattle of tomorrow that will need to house thousands and thousands of more workers and families, and those workers need to be able to live here.

We all want more affordable housing, the key is working with all stakeholders to find practical mechanisms of getting to where we need to be.

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

This will be my first priority once elected: addressing homelessness, addiction and public safety in the first two proposals I will introduce.

The first would be to work with the rest of the council to develop a school loan repayment program to attract more case managers to work with the numerous human service provider agencies that contract with the city.

Certain amounts of student loans would be paid for based on the commitment the case manager makes toward working with our vulnerable populations. This kind of incentive has been effective with limited teaching programs throughout the country, and shows that we will put our money where our mouth is regarding our homelessness crisis.

If we are serious about actually solving this challenge, and providing the necessary services to help people out of the cycle of addiction and homelessness, then we need the staff and capacity to bring those services to the folks who need them where they need them.

The second piece of concurrent legislation I will introduce is to expand the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) initiative throughout the city and county to help reduce crime and incarceration.

As an Assistant Chief of Police, I was SPD’s Executive Sponsor founding LEAD in Belltown.

The program focused predominantly on people who were homeless, addicted, had co-occurring physical and mental disabilities and were mostly unemployed. The scientific based study showed a recidivism reduction of 61%, a significant increase in housing, significantly improved psycho/social qualities and no increase in cost compared to the ‘trail, nail and jail’ approach used for the previous 3 decades.

We need to bring LEAD to scale, right now.

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

Affordability is a significant issue that needs our immediate attention. People are getting priced out of their homes and students, families, and other low- to middle- income residents increasingly cannot afford to live in the city where they work, learn, and play. We can do better.

As mentioned previously, if elected I will work toward developing surplus government land within the city and build affordable and mixed-use housing, as well as services to make these new developments equitable for all involved. We also need to do a better job of ensuring Seattleites living on fixed incomes can afford to retire here.

People who work here, go to school here, and raise their family here, should not be forced to leave when they retire. We need options available, like relief from regressive taxes, rental assistance when necessary, protections for pensions, and affordable senior living facilities throughout our city. And beyond the short term, we need to make sure workers today can retire here by demanding high labor standards, raising the minimum wage, and fight for pensions and retirement savings that actually provide enough to live in Seattle and won’t dry up or change.

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

I believe the top transit priority for our city needs to be integrating transit into our comprehensive response to increasing affordability throughout Seattle.

This means transit-oriented development that will help reduce congestion, and increase affordable options, while allowing workers to live in the city where they work.

I will immediately push for measures that work toward these goals. It is critical that new development is built along transit hubs of affordable and mixed-use housing with accompanying services like childcare and supportive housing to create healthy communities at affordable prices.

When people live near convenient and affordable public transit, they will use those services, increasing overall transit revenue for other priorities, lowering greenhouse emissions, and fostering a healthier model of community-oriented growth.

As for my district specifically, the top transportation priority is the Magnolia Bridge. Since the Nisqually earthquake, the Magnolia Bridge has been deemed in need of replacement, yet city, state, and federal leaders have allowed the bridge to languish for nearly 20 years.

As a law enforcement officer for 34 years responsible for the safety of our community, that lapse in safety is totally unacceptable and is a dereliction of duty.

Being a city Councilmember means taking on our challenges and responsibilities and making the tough calls. That means fixing the bridge RIGHT NOW. Not next year, next election cycle, next Councilmember. TODAY.

That’s why I fundamentally support a one-for-one replacement of the Magnolia bridge and making its replacement a priority for the whole city council.

Because we don’t just need someone who knows the issues — we all know the challenges we are facing — we need someone with the experience, imagination, and collaborative spirit to make the tough calls and find the right solutions on day one. I do not pretend to be a soil, mechanical, nor civil engineer so I leave it to the experts on what it will look like and the exact placement.

As the Councilmember representing District 7, I would work with the mayor and Department of Transportation to develop the safest and most cost effective approach.

The original bridge was financed via the Port of Seattle, Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad, and regional partners and I would work vigorously to develop a financing package reflecting the original.

Andrew Lewis

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

Nobody in any modern city should have to live in a tent to have shelter.

We need to work with our navigation teams to offer safe and sanity permanent supportive housing placements to people living in encampments. We need to expand our navigation teams to include more EMTs and first responders who can do onsite triage and respond to public health emergencies; and prioritize removing encampments that present a hazard to the people living in them, as well as the public.

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

We need more permanent supportive single room occupancy (SRO) housing stock in Seattle with on-site services and resources.

I support King County initiatives to build modular shelters which can be prefabricated off-site and then constructed quickly to meet the crisis with urgency.

I further support using public land left over from the construction of transportation projects to site permanent supportive units in collaboration with non-profit providers like DESC and Plymouth Housing.

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

Seattle needs to fast-track all permitting, design review, and environmental review for the new behavioral mental health hospital funded by the Legislature last spring to be sited at the University of Washington, likely at Northwest Hospital.

This facility will provide in-patient beds and out-patient services for hundreds of our neighbors with currently untreated behavioral mental health needs.

Additionally, we need to follow the example of Cook County Illinois and create a supportive release center to make sure people exiting the custody of the King County Jail with public health problems have resources and a place to stay, instead of being released just to the streets of downtown Seattle without a safety net.

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

We need to take advantage of partnerships with the State and County to build more public housing, especially near transit-oriented stations. I am a big supporter of the Enterprise Foundation's Home and Hope plan, an initiative to build a mix of workforce housing subsidized with market rate housing with onsite early learning and childcare.

This plan has the bold goal of generating 5,000 units of affordable housing in three years by merging together money from the State Housing Trust Fund, the old King County stadium levies, and Seattle Housing Levy funds.

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

Grade separated light rail is the only way we are ever going to create a comprehensive, fast, and reliable alternative to driving a car.

We need to move forward with ST3 with urgency to get light rail from Ballard to West Seattle, and we need to move beyond ST3 to provide East-West connections, like UW to Ballard. In the meantime, we need to renew and expand the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) to make sure every household in Seattle has access to fast and reliable bus service.