by Erica C. Barnett
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller joined the crowded race for mayor Tuesday, May 4, after months of hinting that he would make an announcement soon. He told PubliCola that, if elected, he would propose a bond measure, backed by a property tax increase, to build 3,000 new permanent homes for people experiencing homelessness; back a local version of universal basic income; and work to find “common ground” between people on all sides of the homelessness issue.
“If there’s one issue that we can all agree on, it’s that the conditions of our parks and our streets is unacceptable, and despite spending a record amount of money, homelessness has gotten worse,” Sixkiller said. “One part of the strategy for homelessness going forward is, number one, continuing to move more folks inside and creating safe spaces for people to move into shelter, but second, we’ve got to build or require more permanent places for folks to [live].”
Sixkiller is leaving the mayor’s office to campaign full-time.
As deputy mayor, Sixkiller was in charge of overseeing Mayor Jenny Durkan’s response to homelessness. In that role, he often clashed with the City Council, defending Durkan’s reluctance to open more restrooms for unsheltered people early in the pandemic and proposing a huge new “shelter tent” for homeless people in early April of last year, when it had already become clear that COVID-19 could spread quickly in mass shelters. But he also advocated for hotels as a replacement for congregate shelters later that year, negotiating a compromise between the mayor (who was not a fan of hotels) and the council that ended up resulting in about 200 hotel-based shelter beds, with another hotel in north Seattle on the way.
Sixkiller wouldn’t say whether he supports the “Compassion Seattle” initiative, which would impose a new human services spending mandate on the city and lays out conditions for future sweeps. “I’m still looking at” the proposal, he said, adding, “I think what the charter amendment underscores is that folks across our city and from all ends of the spectrum want to see results … both for folks that are experiencing homelessness and those impacted by it. … As an organizing principle, it’s a really important thing.”
Before joining the mayor’s staff, Sixkiller worked briefly as the chief operating officer for King County. Prior to that, he founded a D.C.-based lobbying firm, Sixkiller Consulting, with his wife, who is still a principal at the company. In 2020, they received a total of $990,000 from eight clients, including Microsoft, Chevron, Motorola, and Virgin Hyperloop. Although Mariah Sixkiller is listed as the only owner of the company, Seattle ethics rules would likely require Sixkiller to recuse himself as mayor from issues his wife is working on, as he has had to do in his current job.
So far, there are 16 candidates in the mayoral race; the filing deadline is May 21.
Sixkiller’s departure leaves an open position at the mayor’s office, but not for long; Durkan’s office says they plan to bring former deputy mayor David Moseley out of retirement to take Sixkiller’s place. Moseley will take over most of Sixkiller’s portfolio, which includes transportation, utilities, parks and housing, but Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington will be in charge of homelessness.
Washington headed up the City’s Homelessness Strategy and Investment division until 2019, when she resigned to take a position in the City’s Department of Education and Early Learning. Her relationship with the City Council could charitably be described as tense; her explanations for city policies such as an earlier increase in encampment sweeps were often vague and inconsistent, and was often defensive in response to criticism, including from journalists who questioned the City’s sunny claims about homelessness.
Durkan hired Washington for her current position last year.
Erica C. Barnett is a feminist, an urbanist, and an obsessive observer of politics, transportation, and the quotidian inner workings of City Hall.
📸 Featured Image: Screenshot from a 2019 King County YouTube video profiling Casey Sixkiller during his tenure as chief operating officer. Sixkiller, who is currently Seattle’s deputy mayor, announced his run for mayor on Tuesday, May 4.
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