Voters will soon choose a new mayor to lead our city. The choice could not be more clear-cut.
One option is the current City Council president, M. Lorena Gonzalez, who grew up in eastern Washington, is a lawyer, and was first elected to the Council in 2015. Lorena's legal career focused on representing workers and victims of discrimination and police brutality.
The other option is Bruce Harrell, an attorney who has represented nonprofit organizations, telecommunications companies, and people who have experienced blatant discrimination. Bruce spent twelve years on the City Council before retiring in 2019.
Both candidates are intelligent, committed to public service, and care deeply about our city and its people. Both are political progressives who want to create more opportunities, especially for those on the margins. Both want a city where everyone prospers.
However, their visions for Seattle's future are incredibly different, most significantly regarding homelessness, policing, and their perspective of our job-creating businesses.
Gonzalez envisions a city with a dramatically reduced police force that pursues only the most serious crimes, leaving many misdemeanors, including property crime, unchecked. She has no real plan to bring those living unsheltered inside or stem the proliferation of tent encampments in our parks and on our sidewalks and says if elected she will continue the current approaches of the City Council. She's actively hostile to the downtown businesses that pay the bulk of taxes that fund city services. She promises to abolish all single-family neighborhoods, an astonishingly blunt action that will only create years of legal and political squabbling.
Sound incredible? Consider the evidence.
As president of the City Council, last year Gonzalez recklessly pledged to slash the police budget by 50%, even though that would necessarily lead to the loss of hundreds of dedicated police officers who ensure neighborhood safety, favoring instead shifting money to undefined, untested, and nonexistent alternatives to police protection. She allowed the debate over policing to become so antagonistic, so disrespectful of the women and men who serve our city, that the police chief — the first Black woman to lead our officers — resigned in protest.
Over the past 18 months, nearly 300 officers have left the department, many in total dismay and disgust over the City Council's approach to policing. This reduction in our police service is staggering and unprecedented; it represents about 22% of the total number of officers. These departures led the current police chief to recently inform the Council that he cannot deploy enough officers for each shift, leading to dramatically slower response times to 911 emergency calls.
Last summer, Gonzalez was a lead sponsor of a measure to defund the police recruitment and retention office that could have possibly staunched the flood of resignations; the Mayor rejected it, but a Council majority led by Gonzalez overrode the Mayor's veto. Two months ago, Gonzalez reinforced her "defund the police" advocacy when she answered a direct question on whether she would cut the police budget by "50% or more," she answered "maybe." Just last week, James Robart, the federal judge overseeing reform of our police department, said, "I have seen too much knee-jerk reaction and not enough forethought . . . there is an essential requirement for public safety." No kidding.
The Gonzalez approach to policing creates unnecessary risk at a time when violent crime has surged to the highest it's been in the past ten years, a documented increase comparing the January-July period each year between 2012 and 2021.
On the other hand, Bruce Harrell seeks reform without risking public safety or demonizing the many officers who serve our city with professionalism and integrity, treating all people with dignity. Harrell understands that safe neighborhoods are essential for shared prosperity. He appreciates the vital work of our police officers and isn't afraid to say so. He will rebuild our police service so that we all can have trust and confidence in our officers.
Harrell's record demonstrates that he has been a leader for effective reform. Seattle police officers wear body cameras today because of his insistence. He wrote and won passage of the first-ever anti-bias policing ordinance. He helped to repeal a reform-blocking, innovation-impairing 1970s law that prohibited hiring police commanders from outside our police department, arguing successfully that the police chief should be able to hire the best candidate wherever they come from.
The choice is glaring when it comes to homelessness as well.
Despite the homelessness crisis we can all see across our city, Gonzalez was the only City Council member to vote against the formation of the new Regional Homelessness Authority designed to chart a new, more strategic, and more outcome-focused approach. She voted to eliminate the extraordinary social workers and specially trained police officers who visited tent encampments to encourage people to accept emergency housing and services. And, Gonzalez opposes Compassion Seattle's Charter Amendment 29, a measure on the November ballot written by a group of homeless service providers, neighborhood and business leaders that will compel the city government to take a fresh approach based on the successes achieved in other cities.
In July, less than a month before the primary election, The Seattle Times wrote a story detailing the mayoral candidates' positions on homelessness. In that story, the paper reported, astonishingly, that Gonzalez did not seem to be prioritizing the issue and did not see any need for a change of direction on homelessness policy. “González has relied on her record [on homelessness] rather than promising a change in direction,” the Times wrote. “Her website didn’t mention the word ‘homelessness’ until Thursday, after The Seattle Times asked for more specifics about her plans.”
On the other hand, Harrell supports the formation of the Regional Homelessness Authority and sees it as an opportunity to reset our approach and address the crisis as a truly regional problem. He supports Charter Amendment 29 because it will create an action plan to expand behavioral health services — mental health and substance use disorder treatment — and create 2,000 new emergency housing units within twelve months so those living outside can be brought inside. Harrell believes we can do better on homelessness and is not satisfied with the status quo.
As for the business community, as president of the City Council, Gonzalez routinely denigrates our city's business leaders — the very people who create jobs and ensure our prosperity. During this campaign, she even refused to complete the Downtown Seattle Association’s standard candidate questionnaire to which all the other leading candidates responded. You'd think the City Council president would want to attract new businesses and nurture the ones we have.
On the other hand, Harrell understands the value of companies of all sizes to the people of Seattle. These businesses are our job creators, and they make downtown and our neighborhood business areas vibrant, attractive places to work, live, and play. Through the business tax, the property tax, and the sales tax, these enterprises pay over half of the city's total tax revenues, which are used to fund essential city services. And unlike Lorena, Bruce fundamentally believes that the mayor of Seattle should be willing to talk to every major constituency, including those he may disagree with, in the effort to find common ground and shared purpose.
As for housing, on primary election night, Gonzalez said she would abolish all single-family zoning in Seattle. Consider the implications if you live in Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, West Seattle, Lake City, Greenwood, Ballard, Wallingford, or Fremont. Gonzalez would rezone all these neighborhoods — and many more — to allow large multi-family apartment buildings, triplexes, duplexes, and condominiums. Her primary election night statement was consistent with the answer she gave The Seattle Times in late June; when asked if she would eliminate all single-family zoning, she answered "yes."
Harrell understands the significance and complexity of Seattle's housing supply shortage yet doesn't believe the answer is to completely wipe out single-family neighborhoods. He favors increased density where it makes sense, for example, along major transit corridors and arterials, including those in single-family zones.
As for leadership style, Gonzalez has allowed the politics of exclusion to dominate, the "us versus them" approach of confrontation and denigration of opponents. It's an approach largely responsible for the City Council's paralysis and dysfunctionality on so many issues and the public's appallingly poor perception of the Council.
On the other hand, Harrell favors the politics of inclusion, compromise, and getting things done. He values inviting everyone to the civic table for honest, rational discussion and effective governance. He believes in seeking counsel from subject-matter experts, studying best practices, investing in initiatives that create real solutions, spending taxpayer dollars carefully, and avoiding loud rhetoric, division, and continual one-upmanship.
Bruce Harrell is the Mayor Seattle needs.
If you agree, here are two things you can do right now.
First, you can support Harrell with your endorsement and your financial contribution. You can do that at the Harrell for Mayor website. Contributions are limited to $550 per person.
Second, look at the independent expenditure political action committee Bruce Harrell for Seattle's Future, a diverse group of individual Seattleites who have come together to help elect Harrell. This committee is separate from Bruce's campaign but shares the goal of electing him as our next Mayor.
I urge you to join me in supporting Bruce Harrell for Seattle's Future. If able, please support this effort financially. There is no limit on the amount you can contribute; donations have ranged from $25 to $25,000. (Corporate contributions are not accepted.)
Your financial support will be used to communicate with Seattle voters exactly why Bruce Harrell is our best choice for Mayor.