Former Legislator Jessyn Farrell Announces Candidacy for Mayor

by Andrew Engelson

Jessyn Farrell, who previously represented north Seattle as the 46th legislative district legislator in the Washington State House of Representatives; ran for mayor in 2017; and served as executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC), announced her candidacy for mayor of Seattle on Thursday, March 18.

“This is a really hard time,” Farrell told the Emerald in a brief interview. “People are facing really significant challenges, whether it’s economic hardship, racial injustice, isolation, or remote schooling. And things are made all the harder by a lack of real leadership.”

“As mayor, I will establish a new standard for successful, thriving cities,” Farrell said in a press release announcing her candidacy. “By making housing more affordable and establishing universal birth-to 5-childcare, Seattle will attract and keep the most talented workers, from teachers and chefs to entrepreneurs, musicians, and artists. What’s good for workers and families is good for business and that will be Seattle’s competitive advantage post-COVID.”

To combat gentrification and lack of housing affordability for BIPOC communities, Farrell told the Emerald she supports what she calls a “complete communities” housing initiative, which would rely on increasing pathways to ownership via community land trusts, increasing the diversity of housing types, and pushing for social housing: “The idea [is] that we can publicly own and fund housing for a variety of life cycle needs and income types,” she said. “There are places around the world that have done this really well, like Vienna and Singapore.”

Farrell, an attorney and longtime transit activist, served as director of Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) and helped lead the effort to pass the Sound Transit (ST3) proposal as well as other statewide transit funding and projects. She served in the legislature from 2013 to 2017, and during that time, she was noted for being the sponsor of the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act, which prohibits driving while texting or using electronic devices, and the Oil Transportation Safety Act, which increased safety regulations on rail shipments of fossil fuels.

Transit and pedestrian infrastructure are key areas of focus for Farrell. “Particularly at the city level, there are things we need to really be focusing on, whether it is fixing potholes or delivering sidewalks to those neighborhoods that have been asking for sidewalks for decades,” she said. “And building safe routes to school for every school in the city, and prioritizing schools where children are furthest from educational justice.”

On the topic of police accountability, Farrell wouldn’t commit to a funding decrease for the Seattle Police Department (SPD), but instead told the Emerald that “every single person, regardless of their race, should be able to go about their day-to-day lives and feel safe and not worry that an interaction with the police is going to result in harm or death.”

“We need to rethink what public safety means,” Farrell said. “We have a traditional notion of a cop responding to a whole variety of issues … There are so many other ways to create safety in a community, particularly those economic, social, and cultural supports that make someone feel like they can thrive in their own community.”

A member of Governor Jay Inslee’s Safe Work and Economic Recovery Community Leaders Group that helped shape the Safe Start COVID recovery plan, Farrell believes the key to helping Seattle rebound from the pandemic will be reducing household costs, including programs that increase affordability of childcare and support for “people who work in the gig economy, performing artists, childcare workers — there are lots of people in our community, especially members of the BIPOC [community] — who do not have access to health care, retirement, or those things that contribute to economic stability.”

In terms of the homeless crisis, Farrell said “we’ve put ourselves in a box, pitting parks versus sweeps. … We need parks to be a place where people of all ages and abilities can recreate. And they’re not safe places for people to sleep. But at the same time, sweeps — which has been a solution that the City has been using, simply don’t work. It’s inhumane, and it’s ineffective.”

Farrell ran for mayor once before, in a crowded field in 2017 following the resignation of former Mayor Ed Murray. She came in fourth place with 12.6% of the vote, behind Jenny Durkan, Cary Moon, and Nikkita Oliver.

A Seattle native, Farrell graduated from the University of Washington where she led the saxophone section of the Husky Marching Band. She obtained her J.D. from Boston College Law School and has spent 20 years in the nonprofit, private, and public sectors. She currently works for Civic Ventures, a progressive public policy incubator. Farrell lives in northeast Seattle with her three children Emaline, John, and Julian, their dog Felix, and cat Sylvia Poggioli.

Andrew Engelson is a Seattle-based writer and editor who lives in the South End.

Featured Image: Photo courtesy of Jessyn Farrell for Mayor.

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