by Reagan Jackson (featured photo by Alex Garland)
Editor’s Note: We asked two District 2 residents to make a case for each of the candidates vying to represent the district as its first ever city council representative. This is the first of those two articles.
With elections around the corner, the race for city council in district two has come down to new comer Tammy Morales and incumbent Bruce Harrell. For the past year the race could easily be considered a David vs. Goliath match up, with Harrell clearly ahead in terms of funding, name recognition, and of course the added advantage of eight years of experience on the City Council.
Even the Stranger, who in the past referred to Harrell as the “fucktard incumbent”, endorsed him by default, not because they believed him to be the best candidate, but because Morales was “light on specifics”. The sentiment: we don’t like him, but we don’t know her sums up the feeling of many voters, but according to Morales this has begun to shift.
“I feel like we’re building momentum,” said Morales. “As I got to community forums and candidate forums and as I’m out knocking on doors, I’m really hearing from people that they are just starting to recognize that there is actually a choice in this election.”
So what are our options?
Both candidates are liberal, so there probably won’t be very much difference in what they say they’ll do. The results will hinge on what they actually do.
As the native Seattlite who went to Garfield, Harrell is the known quantity. His voting record speaks for itself. He recently voted in favor of making Seattle a no youth detention zone, yet this was in contradiction to his earlier vote to fund the $210 million dollar new youth jail. He came out in support of a resolution to provide former felons with job opportunities by not allowing select employers to ask them about past criminal history, but critics accuse him of not doing enough to be voice of the community with regards to the police.
So who is Tammy Morales?
Morales hails from San Antonio Texas, but has lived in Seattle since 2000. Though she has only lived in the Rainier Valley for three years, she has worked in District 2 the entire time she’s lived in Seattle. She holds a MA in Community and Regional Planning and is a founding partner at Urban Food Links. Below are her responses to a few questions so you can decide for yourself.
Why are you running for city council?
So I started this campaign because I wanted to deal with the fact that we don’t really have an economic development strategy for the South End. The mayor said as much in his budget speech last week. There isn’t a strategy. As I’ve been doing community development work down here for 15 years, it’s still hard to answer basic questions about people’s skill sets, what kind of training they’d be interested in, what kind of industry we could attract, all of those data points that we need to know to put a strategy together. Nobody is collecting that information. So that is part of the work that I want to do, to help figure out what can we do to grow neighborhood businesses and what can we do to attract the kind of work that gives people living wage jobs.
What are your priorities?
My priorities are around supporting small business. It’s a tough balance. I am fully supportive of worker rights and worker protections. I think we need to invest more heavily in our new office of labor standards because we know that there are violations happening and we know that workers need our protection. And we need to make sure that our small businesses are supported as well. So I think we need to be investing in educating our small businesses around the new labor standards, making sure that they know what their new obligations are, and making sure that workers know what their rights are.
Again, it’s a balance, but we need both in order to have a vibrant local economy. So I think that’s really important. I have been advocating for the last year for increased civilian oversight on the police commission, more accountability of the police department, and I’ve been very clear about what I mean about that, a permanent commission and independent prosecutors is something I’ve been talking about more recently.
Turning to housing, there are 65 recommendations, but I think we need to do more to protect renters, including just cause eviction. I was at the home of (a woman named) Sarah this weekend and saw her apartment. For me it’s a really clear reason for why we need rent control, but what that looks like is still up for discussion. Until we can have that discussion, renters in the meantime are being kicked out or subjected to really scandalous living conditions.
What’s your plan to support local businesses:
I know a lot of folks are worried about the $15 minimum wage so we need to make sure that we’re supporting small business and I think a lot of that has to do with commercial leases. I think people are getting pushed out, just like residents are getting pushed out because leases are going up, rents are going up so putting some kind of package in place to protect small businesses from displacement, giving them access to community sourced capital, or developing a municipal bank so that we have access to low interest loans. For our Muslim business owners we really need to develop a REBA free loan program and that is something that the city has struggled with. They are out there, but we need to bring those kind of products here.
So a lot of what I hope to do is work on those economic development issues, connecting people to training, and to apprenticeship programs. I’ve been talking about trying to bring a community college down here to the South End so that people have access to that.
What changes have you noticed in the South End:
I’ve seen the neighborhood turn over, and I know people are frustrated and worried about the gentrification. And so that’s part of why I’m doing this. I feel strongly that the neighborhood is changing and it’s scary, but we can’t put our head in the sand about the fact that people are moving here.
The question is how are we going to do that? How are we going to manage it in a way that is equitable and keeps people from getting pushed out? So I think as I talk to people at their door there is this real tension between acknowledging that the neighborhood is changing and that we want the nice things here, but that we don’t want our taxes to go up because of it, and we don’t want to get pushed out because of it.
When I talk to some of the small business owners down in Columbia City especially, they’re worried that even as they see an increase of potential customers who can afford to shop in their stores, they themselves are getting pushed out because their rent is going up. So figuring out how to help our businesses stay is going to be important too. We need to make sure that those folks who have been here for 20 or 40 years and have invested in the community, and have made it into the kind of place that people want to move to don’t get pushed out.
That’s why I think housing and helping people connect with living wage jobs, along with supporting businesses, are all kind of package of things that we need to do to keep this community a diverse, rich, and wonderful place.
Do you have a response to those who view you as representing the interest of the wealthy?
I have spent my whole life working for marginalized families, and low income families. I have done policy level work to support children’s health insurance, to support welfare programs, to support mental health insurance parity. I’ve done community level work for the last 15 years supporting affordable housing projects, supporting small business development, particularly of minority and women owned businesses.
The work that I do with Urban Food Link is about making sure that people have access to healthy food. That’s not just about food per se; it’s also about creating a more just food system and that’s about sustainability, about environmental sustainability and climate justice. It’s about changing our farming practices so that farm workers don’t have to get sprayed by pesticides. It’s about making sure that farm workers make a living wage. It’s also about making sure that farmers get paid well, because many farmers themselves are on food stamps. So, I’ve spent my life dedicated to trying to provide economic opportunity for families and for workers.
I don’t represent the interest of the wealthy. I in fact represent the interests of people who are struggling and looking for opportunities for their families. That’s the work that I do, and I do it because of my own background. I come from a family where my mom was a single mom. She always had two jobs. She always has a hard time putting food on the table and I watched her struggle to help the family. It shouldn’t be that hard. People shouldn’t have to work that hard if they’re following the rules. People should be able to do an honest day’s work and provide for their families. When they can’t do that to me that says that there’s something wrong with our system. That to me says that the system is broken if you can’t function despite working so hard. So, that’s where I’m coming from and I think that I have always been an advocate for families and I don’t do that work because it’s lucrative. I do that work because I just can’t help myself. That’s where I’m coming from.
What do you want Seattle to know about you?
I am running because I want to serve community. I’m doing this because I want to make sure that working families know that they have someone standing for them at city hall. I’m not representing corporate interests. I’m not representing big money. I’m doing this to represent them. This isn’t a stepping stone for me. I’m not planning on running for some other office. I’m doing this because this is where I live and I want to make sure that my community is well represented. I want people to understand that there is a choice in this election between somebody who has been there for eight years and done no heavy lifting for the South End, not advanced anything in particular for families, or for the businesses down here, and that’s what I want to do. I want to be a voice for the needs of the South End community whether that’s residents or businesses. There’s a choice and I hope they choose me.
If you would like to check out both District 2 candidates and do your own comparison, you can watch the District 2 City Council debate between Bruce Harrell and Tammy Morales here.