Black-presenting individual (Nikkita Oliver) speaks into microphone in front of protest sign

Q&A: Nikkita Oliver Focuses on Mutual Aid, Community in Campaign for City Council

by Chamidae Ford


Nikkita Oliver has made a name for themselves in Seattle and beyond. The lawyer, artist, professor, and abolitionist is bringing their many skills to the race for Position 9, one of two at-large seats on the Seattle City Council.

On Mar. 10, Oliver announced their candidacy, a grassroots campaign centered around mutual aid that prioritizes providing community members with basic needs. This is not Oliver’s first attempt at a bid for public office — in 2017 they began their political career with a run for mayor, narrowly missing out on the general election.

Oliver is currently the executive director of Creative Justice, an organization that focuses on providing art therapy as an alternative to incarceration. They are also deeply involved in Seattle’s Black Lives Matter movement and have worked closely with organizations to serve marginalized communities.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

South Seattle Emerald: You wear a lot of hats. Lawyer, professor, artist, abolitionist. How do these varying aspects of your identity impact your platform?

Nikkita Oliver: A lot of the work that I participate in is either birthed out of lived experience or it’s birthed out of work that I did to try to find my own healing. So work as an artist was really about [being] a young person striving to find my own voice and trying to find my place in the world. And so art has really been a huge aspect [of] at first telling my own story but then becoming a storyteller and partnering with other young people and their healing. 

I went to law school because I was teaching at a school called Seattle Urban Academy, and a lot of our young people were court-involved. And so I would go to court with young folks and I would ask them about their cases if they went to court and we weren’t able to attend. And often the young people would not know what was happening in the court setting. Were they charged with something, what was going to be the outcome, what was the next step in the process? And so there was just a lot of confusion because the legal system is pretty unaccessible.

I also served as a chaplain somewhere around 2008 to 2011 at the youth detention center. And a lot of my role was to just go talk with young people, pray with them, if they wanted religious materials to provide those to them. And it just became really clear to me how damaging putting people in cages is and how the court system rarely responded to their immediate needs. And so at some point I decided to go to law school even though to be quite frank, I did not feel quite equipped to go to law school or like I belonged in law school, but I had some mentors who really encouraged me to go. And I actually applied to law school and told the University of Washington that I was an artist and I wanted to come to law school to figure out how to teach people about their rights using arts. And so I was really fortunate that in 2015, I was able to get a job with Creative Justice as a mentor artist using both my legal skills and art skills and storytelling skills and healing work. And now in 2021, I serve as executive director of that organization. 

SSE: Can you tell me about your time as a chaplain for a youth detention center? What was that experience like, and how has it impacted your platform? 

N.O.: I mean, honestly, that was probably one of the moments that really radicalized me … I’ll share a story. There was a young person that I met with regularly for some time. And this young person came from a family where both parents were incarcerated and they had been living in kinship care. And I remember sitting with them, they had been in and out of the detention center since the age of 12. They were 17 at the time. And they said, “You know, Nikkita I’ve been in here so long. I don’t think I know how to live life on the outs.” And that was the moment I realized that we were doing something that is deeply damaging to our children, that a young person at the age of 17 already views their life as being more likely to be incarcerated than not. 

And so I heard that from a lot of young people by sitting with them and kind of hearing their struggles, but also what I heard was a lot of … basic needs that went unmet, lack of access to stable housing, generational trauma, lack of access to mental health and physical health care, healthy food, clean water — all the things that allow children to thrive. For a lot of young people in the detention center [they] were not existing in a stable way in their lives. And so I developed a lot of compassion serving as a chaplain in the youth detention center because I heard firsthand the circumstances that young people were living in. And so my exposure to them was not just the alleged crimes that they were charged with, but it was really actually hearing their stories in a holistic way, which, as an attorney, I know is something that courts are not actually set up to do. They often start their engagement with a young person and at the point of the alleged crime and often do not engage whole families, which are experiencing much of the ramifications of the anti-Black policies, tough-on-crime era, super-predator myth, lack of access to housing. And so as a result, we don’t really get a holistic picture of what would actually keep young people out of the school-to-prison pipeline. 

SSE: Can you talk to me about Creative Justice? What has that experience of providing alternatives to incarceration taught you? How do you think your experience running Creative Justice is reflected in your plans for Seattle?

N.O.: You know, honestly, the way that I view Creative Justice is it’s one of the first steps in us building community-held, community-led responses to harm and pathways to healing. And so, No New Youth Jail started in 2012, around when the County put forward a levy to vote for, at that time, $180 million for the youth jail to be built. And there were some folks that worked in 4Culture, which at the time was the nonprofit arts arm for the County, but now it’s under the County. And with each capital project, 1% of levy dollars is supposed to go towards public art. And there were some really innovative folks who were like, what if instead of using the 1% of these levy dollars to build statues or have paintings made that maybe people don’t even know where they came from, we actually took a portion of those dollars and we tried to do something different with public arts dollars. And so the table was convened of community members, artists, young people who had been in the youth detention center, public defenders, [and] I believe even a prosecutor sat on this table and they, together as a work group, decided to found Creative Justice with Aaron Counts, who was my co-director for a number of years. And so, while I was in law school, I would not say, like, I’ve always been an abolitionist, because I haven’t. It was something that my understanding evolved into in terms of seeing the school-to-prison pipeline in action. 

I used to work at Rainier Beach High School. I worked at Graham Hill Elementary School and Garfield High School and Franklin High School and Cleveland High School. I worked at a lot of schools in South Seattle and in the Central District and just saw how our children were being pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline. So … No New Youth Jail movement, Creative Justice, and being in schools really is what evolved my understanding as to why abolition is both the pathway and the destination. That the goal is to render these punitive systems and systems of policing and prisons obsolete by creating the conditions where people’s basic needs are met and everyone has the opportunity to thrive. And so being a part of Creative Justice has really been a dynamic opportunity to be a part of the project of abolition and build with community, build with young people impacted by mass incarceration, prisons, and police in an accountable way and model what healing-engaged spaces can look like that both respond when harm occurs but also prevent and interrupt harm. 

SSE: You have talked a lot about new creating systems such as affordable social housing and better access to food and health care in order to improve public health and public safety. What are your main priorities and how do you plan to implement them?

N.O.: Yeah, I think one of the first steps is actually starting with our zoning. Prior to 1923, Seattle was a city that allowed multifamily dwellings anywhere in the city, and then in 1923, we started demarcating — not just simply things like industrial areas or commercial areas. We also demarcated something called single-family zoning. When you combine it with racist housing covenants and redlining, [this] has actually resulted in why we have neighborhoods that have an immense amount of opportunity and then we have neighborhoods that don’t have much. And the neighborhoods that don’t have much are almost always majority Black and Brown communities and low-income communities. 

So our housing policies since inception have actually been inherently anti-Black and anti-Indigenous. Housing plays such a big part and what people can access — whether that’s health care, transportation, quality schools, good food, clean water — all of these things are impacted by where housing is located. And … we’ve had a system now for almost a hundred years — since 1923 was the first comprehensive plan that has, through our laws, enforced these policies. 

We’re seeing the ramifications of that now, and we haven’t really done anything considerable to address it. In fact, in the 1990s, we did a large amount of down-zoning. So I think one of the first things that we really need to do on the Seattle City Council is addressing zoning issues so we can address our affordable housing crisis, and we need to do it in such a way that we’re not dependent upon the private market, but as a city, we need to get into housing ourselves. We need to develop affordable social housing that’s accessible to everyone, so that we’re also not giving in to the way in which the United States has typically done housing, which is to do it in such a way that we actually isolate communities from each other. And we need to use this next comprehensive plan, which is coming up in 2024, as a way to continue to actually ingrain that in our ordinances and the way that we do our work. 

So I think housing is actually a major part of addressing anti-Blackness — of addressing some of the root causes of the things that I’ve described. And I also think we have to address issues around wealth, and housing is one way to do that. A lot of white and wealthy families have actually built their wealth through housing — through their equity in their homes. And so how do we address the ways in which Black communities and Native communities have been systematically disenfranchised from accessing that particular area of wealth? That has an impact on people’s lives generationally as to, can you access good colleges? Can you access certain types of jobs? When you lack economic opportunity, you also often — because in the United States, we attach jobs to healthcare — you often also lack access to the things that keep your body healthy. When your body’s not healthy, then it’s even harder to work. So we really created a whole system that disenfranchises people from all of these very core things that allow you to thrive in housing. 

SSE: How do you plan to address the growing concerns around the large community of people without homes? How is your approach different from others?

N.O.: I think there’s multiple ways. I mean, first of all, just building housing is key, right? We have a housing-first model in our city, but we don’t have places for people to go. I think the second thing is honestly, we have to stop the sweeps. Sweeping people only disrupts their sustainability and the little bit of stability that they’ve found. It just pushes people to a new place that they will later be swept from. It subjects people to trauma and different types of brutality. And so it’s really an inhumane practice. What we could be doing, though, is finding ways that we can help folks that are currently living outside do so in safer, more sustainable ways. Instead of using the money that we use for sweeps, we could use that money to support folks that are living in green spaces, because after all, this is a problem that the City has failed to address. 

I think another thing is we can continue to invest in tiny home villages. There are a lot of surplus properties that the City owns. There are also surplus properties that the County owns. And since we are attempting to partner in a regional model, I think those plots of land could be used to continue to support tiny house villages. That being said, in many of the tiny house villages, people don’t necessarily have access to water in their spaces. They don’t have access to all the basic things that you need to thrive. And so really that’s not enough, that’s mitigation until we get to the place where we have enough housing. So I think the model that the City and the County has used in terms of purchasing hotels as spaces that people can live in and also have wraparound support and services is a model that we can continue [to build] upon. 

And the County actually just put a tax in place that allows them to purchase more hotels. So I really think continuing to grow our regional approach is going to be important for even having enough revenue to respond to the level of the crisis. And then lastly, I think it’s important that as buildings — there are buildings being taken down that are currently affordable units — [it’s important that] those are replaced at at least a one-to-one ratio and that they remain affordable. So thinking about things like commercial rent control or even residential rent control are going to be important aspects of making sure that people can stay in place. So while we’re getting people housed, we also need to make sure that people are not being pushed out of their homes, which also makes us [figure] out post-COVID-19-crisis, and when the eviction moratorium ends, how are we actually going to find ways to cancel debt? Because we’re going to have a lot of people who are facing evictions. And honestly, as a city, when it comes to public health and public safety, that is bad for all of us. 

SSE: How do you plan to address gentrification and displacement of minority communities and the income inequality in the city?

N.O.: Well, first off we have to address the housing market and it can’t be done through just simply private developers. Again, I think Seattle has to be willing to get into housing. We need social housing, we need affordable housing, and we need a response that is actually commensurate with the crisis. We need to be putting about $400 million a year into developing housing if we’re going to get anywhere in the next 10 years of addressing the crisis. And we are about six years behind, because we’ve been in a state of emergency since the Murray administration, as it pertains to housing.

I think zoning is a major part of that but also thinking through funding. We have one of the most regressive tax structures in the entire United States, which impacts the way in which we’re able to generate revenue. We often rely upon regressive taxes that actually placed the burden upon those communities that already have the most struggles and are most disenfranchised. Our income tax is a possibility. Obviously there have been some court rulings around how that can happen and that it has to be a flat tax. We would have to figure out what rebates look like for communities that are paying a lot more than they should be. I think we need to figure out ways in order to continue to tax big business. There have been conversations in the past about figuring out how to augment our [business and occupation (B&O)] tax, which has to be done in a particular way. Otherwise it harms small businesses, and small businesses are a big part of creating economic sustainability and stability for marginalized communities — for Black and Brown communities. 

Anything we do actually has to be done in a way that’s progressive. It asks those who have the most and make the most at the top to pay the most. And those who are already paying a lot, the poorest in our communities, actually sometimes pay up to 17% [of their income’s] worth of taxes. We have to begin to bring that down and stabilize our revenue streams.

Taxation is a part of addressing those things, and the income inequality, housing is also a part of it, but we need to be putting anti-displacement measures in place. This includes the right of return back to neighborhoods. This includes thinking through what does reparations look like for communities that have been displaced? There’s a city in Illinois that has actually started a housing fund with the framework of reparations using a tax that it has the intent of bringing Black communities back into spaces that we have been displaced from, while addressing things like gentrification, displacement, and income inequality. There are things that are happening across the United States, models that we could look at and figure out how we could address not just displacement but the fact that displacement has targeted particular communities. 

We’re also seeing things in the Chinatown/International District where many businesses, many folks who have lived and worked in the CID, are presently being displaced by the rising cost of rent and by developers who don’t necessarily have an incentive or interest in ensuring that those who have been in that place, who have made that place popular and culturally relevant, have the opportunity to stay there. So it’s incumbent upon the City to do it.

I also think the way in which we expand and grow our urban villages is going to have a huge impact on whether or not people get to stay in place. And we have to think about how transportation moves in lock-step with that. If transportation is not accessible then we’re also, you know, we’re further isolating people. So thinking about things like even though Metro is a King County issue we have to think about why don’t people have east-west access? Can people get to their jobs in places and ways that are either walkable or accessible by public transportation? Which also relates to our climate catastrophe. I think often we talk about things like displacement and gentrification as if they’re separate from the issues of incoming quality housing and the climate catastrophe. But in fact, they’re all intersecting issues that need to be addressed in a way that sees them moving in lock-step with each other. 

SSE: You mentioned that your goal is to create public health and safety systems that make policing obsolete. That being said, what are your initial plans to address the concerns many people have about the Seattle Police Department (SPD)?

N.O.: Well, we’ve already started on it, so I don’t want to act like just suddenly once I get into Council chambers there’s going to be a plan that rolls into place because there’s already a plan happening. I mean, for many years, people have been organizing around issues with public health and public safety issues with the Seattle Police Department. And then in the summer, there was a huge uprising where a movement won a 20% defund of the Seattle Police Department, and $30 million is going to be invested in community through participatory budgeting, informed by the Black Brilliance Research Project that has, through working with Black peoples —impacted by the myriad of things that we’ve talked about, but including issues around policing — actually informs the areas that those investments will go into. That is an important first step for scaling up our community-based and community led public health and public safety. 

We also were able to win $4 million off of the rebalancing package. That’s going into these public safety hubs that are being developed about organizations like Community Passageways and Urban Family Center and other orgs that are part of a larger coalition in order to address things like gun violence that’s happening in our communities — to be violence interrupters, to respond when harm does occur. 

And I think continuing to invest in the public safety hubs that are being created is going to be a really important part of continuing to strengthen the work that’s already happened. I think we have to strengthen our domestic violence support. There are lots of folks for whom police do not actually effectively respond when they’re in unsafe positions. And we do have organizations like API Chaya that provide domestic violence services for survivors. They certainly are not able to respond to every crisis that arises. We need to figure out how to strengthen those pre-existing organizations and also replicate them in other parts of the city. And that’s going to require investments. This is why looking at the Seattle Police Department budget, which is about $410 million a year prior to the defund, is really important. That is an exorbitant amount of money to invest in a system that’s not actually preventing the harm but it’s really only responding after [crimes] occur. And then I think really we have to understand that basic needs are attached to the issues that we’re seeing when people are housed and healthy. They’re just simply less likely to have run-ins with police or incidences that push them into the criminal punishment system. 

And as a city, we have to own that we’ve actually created a climate where people are left outside, where people are without food, and many folks are struggling with mental health. Also strengthening our mental health system. What does it look like for people to have access to physical and mental health care, regardless of whether or not they have access to a job? And we do have models for having community health clinics. King County has a health department, which provides clinics within our schools. 

And so I think this is also attached to another part of our platform, which is, how does the City invest in community schools where families and young people can access wraparound services through a system that everyone has to engage with, which is our education system? And while Seattle Public Schools is a separate governance structure, we do invest [in it] regularly. And things like at one point in time, Seattle was funding family support workers, and we could continue to support Seattle Public Schools through our investments and family support workers, restorative justice, coordinators, counselors, and ensuring that every school has some sort of public health clinic and other wraparound services that actually meet the needs of youth and families. 

So it really is thinking about the myriad of systems that exist in our city in order to strengthen the end community responses that we have, both to prevent harm and risk and respond when harm happens. The last thing I will say is there’s currently a safety [request for proposals], a public safety RFP that’s being put out by the City, and community organizations are applying for it. That RFP is going to last for about 18 months. Once organizations are awarded it, we need to be thinking about now, how do we re-up that RFP in 18 months in order to ensure that the organizations that we scaled up are able to then stabilize and sustain and continue to do the work that is allowing us to transition from being dependent upon armed responses by police to harm and is allowing us to have ways actually preventing and interrupting harm when it happens. 

SSE: You mentioned in your announcement that you hadn’t intended to run again for a public office. What changed your mind? How is this campaign different from your mayoral campaign in 2017? How is it the same? 

N.O.: Honestly, running for mayor was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because we faced a lot of obstacles. Running a grassroots campaign, me being a renter and a full-time worker — I’m still a renter and a full-time worker. And also just combating the various -isms, whether it’s based on gender or age or race, there was a lot for us to overcome in that race and to be quite frank, a lot of hate that came our direction. And while I think that race was innovative and also culture shifting, it was a very exhausting experience. That being said, I think politics as a platform has a lot of space for making really important cultural shifts, so win or lose the seat, this is an opportunity to drive the conversation closer to those things [that] humanize residents of our city and actually drags us closer to meeting people’s basic needs, which is what our City should be doing. 

And I think that the crisis we faced in this last year has illuminated that we do not have a social safety net that works for the most vulnerable in our city, including Black trans women, including workers, essential workers, grocery store workers, educators, childcare workers, folks that have had to continue moving through the pandemic. And even those whose jobs were not able to sustain, like folks in our hospitality industry. I think it’s really important that after this unprecedented crisis that we actually have unprecedented responses and investments and the things that build a social safety net for our most vulnerable and for our workers. So what really inspired this campaign was seeing the immense amount of change we were able to make over the summer and as a movement, as a community, wanting to continue to push policies that further that change. 

I won’t lie, running for office actually took some convincing from my people in my circle of saying, “Hey, look, this is something we can do together. This is something we can do accountably. And this is something that’s actually really important because while we are changing the culture as grassroots organizers, we also need the policies that impact people’s lived experiences and material conditions to change. And we can do that in concert.” 

One thing that I think makes me very different than any other councilmember presently on Council is I am a grassroots community organizer. I am plugged into movements that have been making huge social shifts — and not just plugged in as in asked to be a speaker but an active organizer. I’m still a renter. I’m still working full time during this campaign. I feel like those are lived experiences that are not reflected on the Seattle City Council. Also as a nonbinary community member. I think it’s just really important that we begin to amplify new voices from those positions. I’m not going to pretend like I think this Council run is going to be any easier on us than running for mayor. But I know that our campaign … is grounded in mutual aid — we launched on that first day with a mutual aid exchange — [in] believing that we as a community can develop community collaborations that meet each other’s needs. I think the City could actually undergird those efforts and be a part of seeing our social safety net strengthen through community collaborations. I think this campaign will be transformative, win or lose. 

SSE: You spoke about your campaign announcement with a “we” rather than an “I.” Who makes up your team? How does approaching this in a team format impact your decision-making?

N.O.: Yeah, so our campaign committee is a lot of people actually. We have a smaller coordinating core committee of about six people that manage the day-to-day task of the campaign, but our coordinating committee at this point is about 19 people. We have young people on the squad who are ages 16 to 20. We have community organizers on our team who are a part of various movements around environmental justice, to housing justice, to racial justice, and economic justice. People that are doing a lot of different work. We have folks that are doing disability justice work and have experienced ableism in our city and are pushing us towards “what does a platform that is truly intersectional look like?”

And so I say “we” because I really don’t do this work alone, and it’s not about how smart I am. It is about how well we collaborate together to find the best solutions that actually lift from the bottom and pull from the margin. So the whole of our city can be doing better. We have exciting collaborations with folks like rebuilding with the Black Trans Task Force and thinking through developing an agenda for Black trans liberation and our city, which is really exciting in the sense that as an abolitionist movement, we know that trans liberation is central and essential to actually achieving our vision of safer communities for everyone. If Black trans women are not safe, we’re not all safe. If sex workers are not safe, we’re not all safe. If drug users don’t have access to the supports and services that they need and want, we are not all safe. And so it’s really important that we’ve been building in these collaborations because policy is not developed by one elected official. Strong policy is actually developed by the communities that are most impacted by it. So I say “we” because I don’t do this work alone, and I don’t want to take credit for movements that I, myself, am not running. They’re community movements. 

SSE: In your Morning Update show interview you talked about your dislike of how Seattle currently handles the budget. How do you think making the budget more accessible to the public will impact the city? 

N.O.: I think we’re doing that some — participatory budgeting has the potential to be a great way to democratize our budget process by ensuring that community members actually get to collectively identify community needs and then vote upon where those dollars go. And in particular, I think what is really beautiful about this first round of participatory budgeting is [that] it is informed by what we know through data … are actually the needs of Black communities. And then as a democracy, as a Seattle democracy, we will decide how those funds are distributed.

I think some of the major problems with Seattle’s budget process is the budget is not transparent. It’s done very late in the year and people only have about a month to review it and figure out what to advocate for, because there’s a wait for the mayor to drop the first version of the budget. Then there’s a six week rapid-period where there are very long, very late meetings that you have to know which budgetary items are going to be discussed when, what are the appropriate sheets to be in when, in order to get a budget consideration for that session. And so there’s — there’s just all these different procedures that are not transparent to our communities.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the last few years to get to engage in the budget processes as a community member and have people tell me when green sheets are due, when is the next thing due, what needs to be on that sheet? What councilmembers do you need to talk to, to advocate for what? Everyone doesn’t have that. 

Part of it, I think, is making our budgetary process more transparent and less burdensome for residents. And that may mean elongating the period of time that we do budget. Maybe we will start [the] budget sooner. Maybe the mayor drops their budgets sooner. Maybe we do budget training sessions prior to the budgets so the community members know how to get involved. I think one thing that was really beautiful to see last year was Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, who is the King County councilmember, did budget training sessions. So it tells people how to advocate as a part of the King County Council budget. He doesn’t have to do that, but it’s very transformative because it lets community members know what to do and how to do it. 

SSE: COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the world, especially marginalized communities. How do you plan to address COVID-19, from getting residents vaccinated to economic recovery?

N.O.: Vaccinations need to be happening now. We won’t be elected until November and we won’t be in office until January. And so I think it’s actually really important that the current Council, the current County, our public health officials are making sure that vaccination sites are actually available and [in] neighborhoods where folks have access to public transportation, where we know that there are likely high rates of COVID, and where people may not have internet access. A lot of the ways to gain access to vaccinations requires you to sign up via internet. We know, through the COVID-19 crisis, that there is a huge disproportion of access to internet in low-income and Black and Brown communities. It is our elders in Black and Brown communities and other folks who have either high exposure rates or comorbidities that are lacking access to vaccines.

I think one thing that is beautiful is what they’re doing at Rainier Beach, where they set up the COVID testing sites in neighborhoods where people maybe couldn’t access them in other places, [and] they’re similarly setting up vaccination sites. One way I think we could get more people vaccinated is rather than expecting people to sign up online, just to allow people to show up and get a vaccine. Make sure that we’re actually supporting people through that process. And one way [our] campaign is going to do that is we’re going to be making sure that as we’re campaigning, we’re letting people know where vaccinations are available, how to access them, and what you need to get it. 

And so we’re working with a number of groups that are also doing internet accessibility work. They’re going to be putting in towers on rooftops to make sure that we can increase that accessibility. And one of the discussions we’re having is how can we also combine that with providing people with information to [access] vaccination. So now that they have internet access, we also can help them know how to sign up for where they could get those vaccinations. I think the City could also be providing folks with transportation. So considering our elders are in areas where maybe there’s not great east-west transportation options, or maybe it’s not even safe for people who have certain types of health issues to be on public transportation, what could the City be doing to help people get to vaccination sites? So similarly, [with ride sharing services] we were able to get a ride somewhere. There’s no reason why we couldn’t also use that system that is centered, think mostly around the light rail, to help folks get to places where they could get vaccinations. 

That being said, when we think about what needs to happen once candidates are running for office now is going to be building up our social safety net. I don’t really like the words “COVID-19 recovery” because it insinuates that the system prior to this one was actually just. It wasn’t. And we’re seeing that. And so I think the City has to work on supporting small businesses. How do we help revitalize our economy — but especially that economy because people were not able to preserve their storefronts or they had to work from home — or many, many large gatherings that typically folks who have small businesses might be at did not exist in 2020. How do we help revitalize those businesses? Maybe it’s through the City helping set up online festivals or places on our websites where people could be actually advertising their businesses free-of-charge so people know where to access those small businesses. 

That’s one option is we actually help people amplify their existence and what they’re doing as a way of getting folks to invest. I think we could do a buy-local campaign as well, to help people know where they could locally get items that they typically purchase elsewhere. As a way, again, of supporting our small businesses. Again, housing is going to be a key thing. So addressing the issues around rent evictions, mortgage forgiveness. Rent, rental forgiveness is going to be huge for the city.

And the question people always ask is where we get the dollars. And at some point in time, our campaign will actually launch a more clear revenue platform so people can understand that there is money. That being said, our City has a $6.1 billion budget. We need to be more fiscally responsible at addressing the basic needs of residents. I think there’s a lot of things that we’ll need to be doing.

I also believe that those things are going to be happening right now, and I think it will be kind of — it would be problematic if I tell you exactly what needs to happen in January of 22 when we’re still in March of 2021, and the crisis is going to be different when we reach March of 2022. But I do know housing, small businesses, vaccinations are all going to be huge things that we have to continue. 


Chamidae Ford is a recent journalism graduate of the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle. Reach her on IG/Twitter: @chamidaeford.

Featured image by Susan Fried.

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