By Henry Yates
Last Friday, Runta News had the privilege of interviewing leading Seattle Mayoral Candidate Jenny Durkan. We asked her questions important to our readers.
RUNTA NEWS: What do you think of the stance Mayor Murray has taken against the administration on the issue of sanctuary cities? Do you support the lawsuit filed by the city challenging the administration?
I strongly believe that Seattle should be a sanctuary city and would continue the lawsuit. I’m ready and able to take on Attorney General Sessions and the Trump administration at every legal turn if they are hurting our city. A lot of candidates will tell you they too will stand up to Trump, but the difference in my case is that as a former U.S. Attorney in the Obama Justice Department, I have the experience and understand how to take on Trump and win. In fact, I already have. The day the travel ban was announced I was at SeaTac airport, part of the legal team that got the first federal court order blocking people from being illegally deported from our country.
Many of our readers live in Southeast Seattle. This is an area that is undergoing significant changes. How will you as Mayor ensure Southeast Seattle residents will prosper?
I feel the city has a greater obligation to southeast Seattle. This community does not get the infrastructure so many other communities in the city does, it has a disproportionate number of residents with less economic opportunities and working in lower wage jobs. I will address these issues holistically because I understand that it is important to provide opportunities in many different areas like business assistance, housing and employment.
What’s your opinion of the president’s so-called “Muslim ban?”
Unconstitutional. Hateful. Discriminatory. I was at SeaTac airport on the day Trump’s illegal Muslim immigration ban went into effect, and we successfully got a federal court order that blocked an effort to deport individuals. The plane on which they were being “sent back” actually had to return to the gate, so they could complete their journey to our country. I am proud that our state and our federal court blocked this ban.
How will you ensure that Seattle continues to be a welcoming city to immigrants and refugees from around the world?
Especially with Donald Trump as president, I want all immigrants and refugees from around the world to know that they are welcome in our city, and I will fight attempts to restrict the rights of immigrants.
I value the work of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and I have longtime relationships with organizations like the ACLU and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. I would continue to work to expand public-private partnerships to help immigrants and refugees have access to education as well as legal representation.
What would you do differently than the current mayor to address the homelessness crisis in Seattle?
I am committed to smartly directing city resources while working with service providers, caring philanthropists, communities, individuals and businesses dedicated to finding solutions. I recently laid out some immediate steps we should take to get people off the streets and into safe housing: https://medium.com/@JennyforSeattle/three-immediate-steps-to-address-homelessness-in-seattle-2b7c1889ab08.
I don’t think there is one “magic bullet” or one-size-fits all solution to this complex, multifaceted problem and we should continue to seek new, innovative solutions and to do so in better collaboration and coordination with the County and other partners.
How would you create more economic opportunity for recent immigrants and their children and help them integrate into the robust Seattle economy?
As a city experiencing unprecedented economic and population growth — growth that is creating significant affordability challenges — we must collectively make a commitment to invest in communities of different races, ethnic backgrounds, and incomes. It is part of what adds to the richness of our social fabric. Growth is inevitable; let’s rise to the opportunities (and the challenges) it presents.
Public and private partnerships in neighborhoods are a way to create vibrant, healthy communities where the private market alone has not done enough. To ensure equitable development, I will work to foster participation among low-income communities and communities of color as true stakeholders in the decisions that impact their communities. I would use the resources available to the city through the Community Cornerstones Program and partner with the Office of Economic Development, Department of Planning and Development, and the Department of Neighborhoods to achieve our goals of equitable development.
Any plan for equitable development must address long term impacts related to housing, education, transportation, jobs and infrastructure, and must incorporate racial and economic equity with all of these areas. These factors will play heavily into Seattle’s future growth and livability.
Finally, we need to increase the availability of apprenticeship programs to provide meaningful training and opportunities for family wage jobs. One such program is PACE, which I had the opportunity to observe and see the difference it can make in people’s lives. We need to expand these types of programs, in part by forming strong public private partnerships with the vibrant business and labor community in our city.
Can you share your thoughts on the police reform process? Do you think it’s going well? What could be done better?
As U.S. Attorney, I worked closely on police reform efforts and to negotiate the consent decree. Because of these reforms, police all have been trained in national leading crisis intervention and de-escalation practices, while also fundamentally changing policies, training, reporting and oversight of uses of force and stops. While this has saved lives and has improved the relations between the community and the officers that serve them, we still have work to do.
The hard fought police reforms demand closely monitored and more transparent investigations of police shootings in Seattle. The recent shooting of Charleena Lyles is a tragic reminder that we must continue to ensure officers are trained and that they have the proper equipment. As importantly, we must recognize that we failed Ms. Lyles before the police ever came to her door. She struggled with mental health issues, domestic violence and all that goes with trying to raise children in poverty. We need to do more to provide real services and support for people in these situations and ensure there are real pathways out of poverty, particularly for communities of color.