What the South End Wants to Hear from Seattle City Candidates

by Agueda Pacheco Flores

Even though Danielle Jackson says she is skeptical of the system, she always votes.

“I want my vote to count, but I’m not always happy with the people in place,” she says. 

Jackson is a long-time Rainier Valley resident and founder of the Changing Habits and Motivating Personal Self-Esteem (CHAMPS) organization. Her community organization helps connect Rainier Valley residents with programs and resources such as violence prevention workshops taught by youth for youth. The non-profit partners with groups, businesses, and churches across the valley to help people who may be struggling. 

This weekend’s Great Debate will see eight candidates from four local races debate live and on-stage at the Rainier Arts Center. The South Seattle Emerald’s Marcus Green will moderate the debate. Candidates from four different races will address the South End community, which has historically different needs than those to the north end of Seattle.

Jackson, for example, wants the mayoral candidates to address the issue of South End schools not receiving the same kind of funding and attention as north end schools. 

She says she hopes the mayoral candidates, Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez, also touch on mental health amid COVID and how they plan to help small businesses struggling to stay open. 

“There’s a lot of people going on edge,” she says.

Joe Nguyen and Dow Constantine, who are running for King County executive, will also be at the debate. As well as Nicole Thomas-Kennedy and Ann Davison, who are running for Seattle attorney, and Sara Nelson and Nikkita Oliver, who are running for Seattle City Council Position 9.

Gregory Davis (Photo: Emerald archives)

Like Jackson, Gregory Davis is another community pillar in the Rainier Valley. He’s a founding member of Rainier Beach Action Coalition, a non-profit that among many things, aims to reduce crime through community programs and outreach. For him, the challenges that arise in the valley must be met at a neighborhood level. 

“It all starts from the ground up — what are the needs of the neighborhoods?” he said. “Particularly the ones who historically are the ones that are uninvested in. That’s one thing I’d like to hear talked about.”

He points to infrastructure — the streets and transportation — as one of the things that concerns him and falls under the mayor’s purview. 

“We’ve got five to six housing development projects coming online; three are under construction right now, and it’s anyone’s guess if the infrastructure can support it,” he said. 

From the debates he has chimed in on, Davis says most of the talk around the places like the Central District revolve around its art and culture sector, and while that is important to the community’s success, he thinks the conversation is bigger than that. He worries about the growth and whether it will really benefit the community or further fuel gentrification and displacement. 

“I’m hoping to hear their ideas on how to limit it because our experience with the Central area is a psychological drag, to have to grasp the remnants of what was,” Davis said. “Is that how we want to be spending our time? I think we want to spend our time elevating ourselves and keeping our people here. Do they have some ideas?”

Sean Goode also wants the candidates to speak more candidly about gentrification and other issues facing the South End beyond just the typical talking points around programs they envision installing. 

“At the end of the day if we don’t make a pathway to change the material condition our young people and families are living in then all those other things are for naught,” Goode said. 

Sean Goode (Photo: Emerald archives)

Goode is the executive director of Choose180, a youth organization that provides kids with support and advocates against the school-to-prison pipeline. In the past, he says the nonprofit has worked closely with the City Attorney’s office on a program that has a high success rate in keeping youth out of courts. 

“In this candidate forum, it would be helpful to hear Ann Davison speak specifically towards her view on alternative justice measures and the work that has been done historically to keep young people in and out of courtrooms, because we know how Nicole feels about those things,” he said. 

Goode, who credits his community with keeping him on the right path as a youth despite all the surrounding adversity, says it would be a shame to see programs like those between Choose 180 and the City Attorney’s office dismantled under new leadership. 

He hopes at the very least candidates will move beyond generalities and speak to their actual plans of impact. 

“I would love to hear how they are going to make sure the South End is a place where a diverse community can continue to thrive and how they will somehow stave off the encroaching arms of gentrification that seem to inevitably be sweeping through all parts of the Seattle community.” 

Do you have a question you want asked at The Great Debate? The organizers are looking for South Seattle/ South King County relevant questions to ask candidates running for Seattle Mayor, Seattle City Council, City Attorney, and King County Executive. Email the Emerald at editor@seattleemerald.org. For more information about the event, visit the Rainier Arts Center’s website.

Vote yet? According to the latest statistics, just over 6% of ballots have been cast in the Seattle City races and 5% for all of King County. Ballots and voter guides were mailed last week but if you haven’t received your ballot, contact King County Elections. If you haven’t yet registered to vote, visit the KC Elections “Register to vote” page for information on registering online, by mail, or in person.

Agueda Pacheco Flores is a journalist focusing on Latinx culture and Mexican American identity. Originally from Querétaro, Mexico, Pacheco Flores is inspired by her own bicultural upbringing as an undocumented immigrant and proud Washingtonian.

📸 Featured Image: Photo Courtesy of King County Elections

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