This year’s mayoral race pits a former U.S. Attorney with the backing of the establishment against a self-described public-policy wonk with fewer accomplishments in the public arena, but whose vision for the city’s future is inspiring. In terms of overall experience, Jenny Durkan has the edge. For five years she led the U.S. Attorney’s office for Western Washington, overseeing a 150-person workforce while coordinating with local and federal law enforcement. Moon’s early experience as a manager at her father’s manufacturing firm and her work with the People’s Waterfront Coalition gives us less confidence in her ability to handle the $5.3 billion, 12,000-employee bureaucracy.
When considering the issues facing the city, though, the tide turns decidedly in Moon’s favor and, because of this, we fully support her candidacy.
In judging the candidates, we focused on three issues we believe are most important when it comes to Seattle’s future: homelessness, housing affordability, and policing. On the last of those items, Durkan deserves credit as one of the people most responsible for the Department of Justice’s findings against the Seattle police and subsequent consent decree. While there remain problems with policing, as seen this past summer from the officer-involved shooting death of Charleena Lyles, there can be no doubt that we are in a better place than we were five years ago.
But Durkan falls well short on our other two essential items. On homelessness, she has said that she wants to continue the current policy of routinely evicting unauthorized encampments. She frames this stance as compassion for the homeless, arguing that unsanctioned encampments are inherently dangerous. While true in some cases, such a broad statement about the houseless does not conform with the reality of Seattle streets, and leaves us doubtful that she has either the will or the insight to prioritize human dignity over bureaucratic efficacy on Seattle’s crowded streets. On housing affordability, she adheres firmly to the path set by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda while noting its flaws. What those are or how she would go about fixing them are matters that receive less attention from the candidate.
This is where Moon excels: identifying what works and what doesn’t with current policy and pushing for more. First, Moon recognizes that the dislocation of homeless people is, in fact, a part of current city policy, and proceeds far more cautiously when talking about removing those living under our bridges and in our greenbelts. She has come out strongly against the current sweeps policies, and has addressed the fear-based mind-set of neighbors that leads to animosity toward the homeless to begin with. That’s a bold point for a candidate to make, and we commend her for making it. She also states that we must focus on building housing alternatives for our homeless neighbors, and has committed to a housing-and-shelter-first approach by opening more tiny-house villages and low-barrier shelters. Durkan has recently voiced similar plans, but too easily reverts to the position that the city is currently on the right path. If elected, we hope that Durkan will push for more housing. We know that Moon will.
On housing affordability, Moon also has a vision for the future that we can believe in. She is in favor of keeping HALA in place, but wants the public sector to do more. For instance, she has plans to quadruple the percentage of affordable housing in the city, and pursue creative housing alternatives such as duplexes and triplexes, backyard cottages, co-ops, and community land trusts to get there. Her speculation tax has problems, but comes from an effort to seek new solutions to a problem that has only grown worse under the previous administration, whose policies Durkan appears happy to continue.
Win or lose, we expect Moon to continue to beat the urbanist drum, as she has done for so many years. And that is one of the primary reasons we like Moon more as mayor. She has a clear vision for the city and that vision includes the people most threatened by current policy.
Throughout the innmerable forums that have taken place during the general election, Moon has done a good job of centering these communities. In our primary endorsement of Nikkita Oliver, we expressed concern that the issue of racial justice would fall by the wayside. While conversation about these issues has fallen off some in the general election, we have seen Moon continue to push them forward, forcing the conversation when others might be content to let it die down. We have also seen her engaging directly with communities of color during the campaign. We expect her to put them at the forefront of her administration.