Why I’m the Best Candidate for South Seattle: Brianna Thomas

The Emerald invited top candidates running for Seattle City Council’s District 9 position to tell readers why they deserve South Seattle’s vote. Voters have until Aug. 3 to cast their vote in the primary election.

by Brianna Thomas

Seattle has a reputation as one of the most progressive cities in the country, but racial disparities are more pronounced than ever before. The impacts of exclusive policies that have disadvantaged Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities across America — poorer health outcomes, food insecurity, low access to capital and economic development opportunities, gentrification — are all present right here in South Seattle. I’m running for Seattle City Council Position 9 because our city’s greatest challenges deserve real results — not just rhetoric — to make concrete progress for our communities. 

Growing up, public service was the family business. As a bi-racial Army kid living in rural Georgia, I experienced racism and economic hardship, and witnessed the struggles of those around me. I grew up volunteering regularly at the local soup kitchen feeding neighbors experiencing homelessness while my family was getting by on public assistance. This work instilled principles of equity and service that guide me to this day. 

For over a decade, I have dedicated myself to public service, as Office Manager at the Church Council of Greater Seattle, Field Director at the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund, campaign manager for Honest Elections in Seattle and the nation’s first $15 minimum wage in SeaTac, and for the last five years as Legislative Aide and now Chief of Staff to Council President Lorena González.

During my time at City Hall, I have led negotiations for police accountability legislation, the Surveillance Ordinance in collaboration with ACLU-WA, and the Secure Scheduling Ordinance, providing greater protections for employees in restaurants and retail. I helped build the City’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to ensure fairness and integrity in our civilian-led law enforcement oversight system. I have advanced solutions to our most pressing issues from a place of empathy and in the pursuit of justice. 

We are facing a collective crisis at the intersection of race, health, and wealth inequality, all magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects and all felt disproportionately by South End communities of color. Our council leadership must reflect the experiences of communities impacted by generations of trauma, displacement, and this most recent crisis of economic instability.

For the first time since the 1960s, there is no Black representation on the Seattle City Council. 

Though our council is representative of other historically excluded communities, the unique lived experience of Black folks is missing. For too long, our communities have been promised sweeping change, with little follow-through. I will act with urgency to solve our city’s crises, with actionable policy change that would stand up to legal challenges. 

South Seattle has borne the brunt of divestment and displacement. I will lead efforts to reverse the impacts of generations of redlining within our zoning laws and housing policies that push BIPOC residents out of their homes and out of Seattle. As Seattle continues to grow, we must prioritize green, sustainable development throughout the city. Failure to do so results in asymmetrical growth — primarily in communities of color like the C-ID, South Park and the Rainier Valley — and perpetuates health disparities for BIPOC communities. 

Childhood asthma in South Seattle is three times higher than in North Seattle, and urban amenities like access to waterways, parks, and transit-friendly locations tend to be placed north or in areas of higher socioeconomic standing. As other parts of Seattle see investments in parks and greenspaces, industrial polluters in the south and central parts of our city remain relatively unaddressed. I believe that building a stronger relationship between the Council and the Port is critical to finding solutions that keep our industrial lands working, without exacerbating these disparities. 

The pandemic disportionately impacted BIPOC-owned businesses: 41% of Black businesses nationwide have closed. We must create opportunities for them to thrive locally. I propose expanding the Office of Economic Development and establishing a Black and Brown-owned business Ombudsperson and a small business liaison to help navigate resources and requirements. I will prioritize economic development and housing policies that do not displace the South End and, that support families’ ability to acquire intergenerational wealth through homeownership and maintenance, and I will back the expansion of programs that promote aging in place. 

More than ever, our city government must prioritize BIPOC communities’ lived experiences, and as your council member, I will lead on tangible policy changes to lift our communities to prosperity. I have a personal stake in the liberation of BIPOC Seattleites, which drives my service to our city. I humbly ask for your vote. 

📸 Featured Image courtesy of the candidate.

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