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Getting to Know Colleen Echohawk, Seattle Mayoral Candidate

Hacks & Wonks

Release Date: 06/01/2021

The Broken System of Police Oversight with Amy Sundberg and Dr. Shannon Cheng show art The Broken System of Police Oversight with Amy Sundberg and Dr. Shannon Cheng

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Crystal is joined by Amy Sundberg, author of Notes from the Emerald City, and Dr. Shannon Cheng, Chair of People Power Washington to talk about public safety in Seattle and King County. They also discuss the People Power Washington Voter Guide that details where Seattle and King County candidates stand on public safety issues. 

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Today on the show, Marco Lowe, Professor at Seattle University’s Institute for Public Service, joins Crystal to discuss recent polls that have come out about Seattle’s mayoral, city council, and city attorney races, the importance of understanding poll methodology and margin of error, and our government's responsibility to fight climate change.

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Today Crystal is joined by Vivian Hua, Executive Director of the Northwest Film Forum. They discuss Vivian’s path to leadership in the film forum, Vivian’s film Searching Skies, supporting emerging artists in the pandemic, and the need for long-term cultural spaces.

Week in Review: July 16, 2021 show art Week in Review: July 16, 2021

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Primary ballots are in mailboxes now! Today former mayor of Seattle and Executive Director of America Walks Mike McGinn joins Crystal to discuss the front runners in the mayor’s race, how candidates need to be making the case to the public in these remaining weeks before the primary, and the psychology and emotion that drives Seattle’s voting decisions.

Seattle, Pay Attention to Pierce County! A Conversation with Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young show art Seattle, Pay Attention to Pierce County! A Conversation with Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young

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Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young joins Crystal to the differences in funding for transit in King and Pierce counties, how Pierce County is absorbing those who can’t find homes in King County, how the Pierce County Council is investigating police misconduct, and how one governs as a Democrat when there is a real Republican presence.

Week in Review: July 9, 2021 show art Week in Review: July 9, 2021

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This week Erica C. Barnett of PubliCola joins Crystal to discuss what’s going on in Seattle’s mayoral race. Additionally, they cover the potential firing of two Seattle Police Department officers who participated in the January 6th insurrection, and the punitive nature of our state's work release program.

Toshiko Hasegawa on the Power of the Port of Seattle show art Toshiko Hasegawa on the Power of the Port of Seattle

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Today Crystal is joined by Toshiko Hasegawa, candidate for Port of Seattle Commissioner, to discuss how the Port of Seattle can modernize and prepare our region for a greener future. They cover economics and equity, improving air quality and health of South King County residents, and how the Port can encourage fair treatment for workers.

The Brady List: Officers with Credibility Issues show art The Brady List: Officers with Credibility Issues

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The Friday Week in Review show will be back next week, as we enjoy the long weekend. We are airing a show with Melissa Santos talking about her excellent reporting on Washington's Brady List. 

Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, Candidate for City Attorney show art Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, Candidate for City Attorney

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Candidate for City Attorney Nicole Thomas-Kennedy joins Crystal to discuss why she has chosen to throw her hat in to the ring, what it means to be an abolitionist, how solving poverty will do more to alleviate crime than harsher punishments, and how Nicole’s experience as a public defender would inform her views as City Attorney.

Week in Review: June 25, 2021 show art Week in Review: June 25, 2021

Hacks & Wonks

Today Crystal and Heather Weiner discuss the coming heatwave and how we can support our unhoused neighbors in the heat, Uber paying a wage theft settlement, AND the organizers of Cap Hill Pride submitting a fragility-infused complaint against Taking B(l)ack Pride.

More Episodes

Today on the show Seattle mayoral candidate Colleen Echohawk joins Crystal to talk about her plans to tackle the homelessness crisis within 14 months, how she will reform public safety, and why indigenous perspectives and leadership are so important in our country.

As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.

Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s guest, Colleen Echohawk, at @ccechohawk. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.



“The COVID pandemic split the King County homeless system in two. A year later, the differences remain stark” by Sydney Brownstone: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/the-pandemic-split-the-homeless-system-in-two-a-year-later-the-differences-remain-stark/

“COVID-19 and the overwhelming demand for basic needs” by Andrea Caupain Sanderson: https://crosscut.com/opinion/2021/02/covid-19-and-overwhelming-demand-basic-needs

“How Compassion Seattle could shape the mayoral race” by Joni Balter: https://crosscut.com/opinion/2021/05/how-compassion-seattle-could-shape-mayoral-race

“Echohawk Emergency Housing Action Plan” from the Echohawk campaign: https://www.echohawkforseattle.com/emergency-housing2

Community Police Commission Recommendations tracker: https://www.seattle.gov/community-police-commission/current-issues/recommendations-tracker

“Where Seattle is on police reforms, one year after protests” by David Kroman: https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/05/where-seattle-police-reforms-one-year-after-protests

“Afternoon Fizz: ‘A Dictator Posturing As a Mayor,’ Another Preventable Disease Outbreak, and CPC Challenges Cops’ Crowd Control Plans” from Publicola: https://publicola.com/2021/04/22/afternoon-fizz-a-dictator-posturing-as-a-mayor-another-preventable-disease-outbreak-and-cpc-challenges-cops-crowd-control-plans/#more-17527



Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hacks and Wonks. I'm your host, Crystal Fincher. On this show, we talk to political hacks and policy wonks to gather insight into local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work and provide behind-the-scenes perspectives on politics in our state. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. 

Today we are so excited to have joining us, candidate for Seattle mayor, Colleen Echohawk. Thank you so much for being here.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:00:59] Thank you. I'm so glad to be with you today, Crystal.

Crystal Fincher: [00:01:01] Yeah. Okay, so I'm excited. What actually caused you to want to join this mayor's race at this time?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:01:10] Well, thank you for asking the question because if you had told me like a year ago that I would be doing this, I would be surprised. I think that there's two things that really propelled me into this race. Number one is I work with our homeless community, I've supported our homeless community for many years now - believe in them deeply. And I am just so frustrated about what has happened. We've had almost six years of a state of emergency and the crisis has only gotten worse.

There were moments through the pandemic - the second thing that just really pushed it - where our homeless community, our larger community, was just in pain and in agony because we were shutting down libraries, we were shutting down community centers, we were shutting down my own Day Center. Then we were telling people, "You have to wash your hands. That is sanitation. That's how you're going to keep COVID away." And then our homeless community was just left out in the rain to just have to poop on the sidewalk because there is no bathrooms. And it just got to a point where I just felt like - if I have some skill in this role, and I do, and if I can bring that to the mayor's office and offer that kind of leadership to actually solve this problem on behalf of the 12,000 plus people who are experiencing homelessness, then I should step up. There's just a real crisis of Black, indigenous, and people of color communities are vastly overrepresented and we haven't had enough leadership that represents our community. So that was the other part of just-- I was raised to step up to situations and that's what I'm doing.

Crystal Fincher: [00:03:00] Well, you certainly bring up a lot of correct and valid issues that - man, this pandemic really did lay bare the inequities that already existed and then made them worse - and specifically with our unhoused community. There's an initiative right now, Compassionate Seattle that - frequently, initiatives are responses to a failure of leadership and as you said, we've had this crisis for quite some time. This initiative is now up. We've talked about it before on the show. I guess I'm wondering, one, do you support Compassionate Seattle? And if not, how does your vision differ?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:03:39] Yeah. Well, I think that what we're seeing, and you've talked about this already, is that this is what happens when you declare an emergency and the problem only gets worse for the next five years. We have people trying to fill the vacuum that was created by years of inaction at City Hall. I, in some ways, and, well, in many ways, I appreciate that someone is trying to get something done. I appreciate that. That is a good thing.

I think something that's really hard for me with Compassion Seattle is that people that I have worked with for years and years, people who are national leaders around homelessness, they helped really craft this. I saw the very first draft, and then I saw the last draft. We all can see the last draft, and it's night and day from what it looked like. But I think there's some very significant problems. The number one thing is that the funding - that is not at all adequate funding just to solve this crisis that we're in, so that's the number one thing. The second thing is it's weird to change the City Charter. I don't think that's a good way to do governance - it's like amending the Constitution. I just don't think that's the right way of doing it. And then, third and probably the most important piece, is that they did not spend enough time working with our Lived Experience Coalition. There were a couple of people who had lived experience of homelessness, who did give their opinions and were part of the final design, but I think that we have a very strong Lived Experience Coalition. I think they should have a say in this. 

So, I am struggling with it because of all those factors. I don't think I will personally vote for it. But I am supportive that people want to do something and have pushed this forward - and we'll see what happens. I think that there is a lot of opposition - even on the right - to it, which is fascinating. But what I hear and I see from Compassion Seattle is that people are frustrated and angry that we have not done this work in the way that we should, and they want to get something done.

Crystal Fincher: [00:06:00] Okay, so what I heard from you wasn't quite a No - you're struggling with it, and you've certainly identified some of the issues that a lot of people have with it. I guess one of the opportunities that you have is - if you're elected mayor, that you get to fill that leadership vacuum that created this initiative anyway. So why not just vote no and then do what you should be doing in the first place?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:06:23] Well, I just said that I'm not going to vote Yes on it. I think that the hard thing for me, like I mentioned earlier, and we actually talked about this before starting - is I have some really good people, friends, who were a part of it and I see why it's so hard. But I think the funding mechanism is the main reason that I'm not going to vote for it. I think we have to have more robust funding mechanisms.

In our plan, that we have on our website, and invite people to take a look at it - in fact, we're going to drop some really nuts and bolts things today - goes far beyond what the Compassionate Seattle initiative has. We're calling it 22 steps to get all the people that are outside into housing in 14 months. I think that having 1,000-2,000 emergency housing units is not enough. These are human beings, these are children, these are elders. We have to have initiative right now - treat this truly like the emergency that it is - and get people inside. And that's what I'll do if elected mayor.

Crystal Fincher: [00:07:35] What are some of those steps? What are some of the specifics that people can see you take - that demonstrate you're treating it like the crisis that it is - and that actually work to solve the problem and you're laying out in 14 months? That's ambitious.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:07:48] Yeah. Well, it's ambitious and it comes from years of experience of working with our homeless community. The number one thing, the moment that I am elected, we will use the transition period to identify hotels, identify unused land, identify - if it's tiny homes or whatever - find those spaces immediately so that the moment we get into office, we can just hit the ground running on getting this work done. We know that we're going to have to have an all-of-the-above approach on the emergency housing. And I do want to say something quickly - one of the answers and the biggest answer to homelessness is permanent housing. That's just the reality. We have to have that in our minds and recognizing that as a goal. But while we're doing that, we also have to have the emergency housing that gets up and running. And so, we will use all-of-the-above approach, find the land so we can move all the RVs onto that land, and offer really good services. 

We have a plan for a 100 outreach workers to build those relationships. The outreach workers we help to hire from the Lived Experience Coalition and other folks with lived experience, and build those relationships. We saw, through the pandemic, the program Just Cares. I was honored to participate in that program. We were able to build those relationships in those encampments, move the entire encampment into a hotel. And they went willingly - we weren't sweeping people. They were just going because it was a better option. And so-

Crystal Fincher: [00:09:37] Well, that's a good point.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:09:37] Yeah.

Crystal Fincher: [00:09:38] Do you ever see a reason to sweep people?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:09:41] No. No. I think that with good engagement - with talented and good outreach - you don't have to sweep. You can go out there and build that relationship and get folks into housing and security. These are human beings. Let's not forget that. That's the other thing that I think - the reason I'll be a good mayor is that these are not numbers to me. These are people that I know, and love, and appreciate - and I'm willing to get out there and take the responsibility to find the kind of housing that's going to work for them. This is an opportunity for Seattle - we either can create the right leadership in the mayor's office or not. We have to do something. These folks deserve for someone to fight for them, and I will be that person to fight for them.

Crystal Fincher: [00:10:39] When you talk about - certainly, permanent housing is the ultimate solution to homelessness - we also have an affordability crisis. How do you address that? What's the answer?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:10:53] Yeah. We are quickly moving towards - only the very, very rich can enjoy this city. Honestly, that really bothers me. This is a Native city, this is a Coast Salish city. We have legislation in 1865 that said Native people cannot be in the city limits. We pushed out our Muckleshoot community, whose land we're on right now - the City of Seattle is. And so, we have to find ways to stop the gentrification and to bring back our community into Seattle. We need to really understand the affordability crisis, and that's going to be rezoning. There's just no way around it. We, in our campaign, are talking about the middle. What does that look like? How can we get there? There are ways that we can do the rezoning work with the neighborhoods, with public space designers, and make sure that we are doing it in a good way. But we cannot continue as we are.

Crystal Fincher: [00:12:04] What is that way? We hear about NIMBYism. We hear people vehemently opposed to changing the culture of the neighborhood and wanting things to maintain exactly the way that they are. And people - they're afraid of their property values and all of that - so what is the answer? How do you see you can come to - what is that middle ground?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:12:29] Yeah. You're hitting the proverbial nail on the head. I think a big part of what we are missing is vision. That has been something that was frustrating for me from our current mayor and the previous mayor as well - not communicating effectively about what this city should look like, and even not communicating what the plan is around homelessness or whatever issue that we're dealing with. As mayor of the City, I will be communicating - I will let people know what the plans are, and I also hope to really help people understand a vision for equity and racial justice in our city. 

We have to realize - I drove through Ballard the other day. There's Black Lives Matter signs in so many houses all through Ballard. If you believe that Black Lives Matter, then you believe Black people deserve great housing in our city. If you believe Black Lives Matter, then you believe that that kid in the South End who has high rates of asthma and going back and forth into the emergency room all the time because of the air quality, you believe that we have to make changes and implement our climate policies. I am going to help our region - help Seattle - understand what it truly means when we grab onto these slogans. That will be my vision. That will be what I will be very clear about from the get-go and through this campaign. And so, we have to just understand, and if we really want to be a progressive city and live out these values, then we're going to have to change.

Crystal Fincher: [00:14:26] You talk about that - so many people do have those signs in there. I've talked about before - allyship is a verb - and does raise the question, "Are you acting like those Black lives matter or is that just a convenient sign to have in the yard?" I do think that that value is shown through zoning. I also think that value is shown through how we keep each other safe, and protect our neighbors, and relate to each other. That certainly has to do with the conversation around policing and public safety here.

You were appointed by the former mayor to the Community Police Commission. Just looking at the work that you've done there and the insight that you have - what do you think was positive - from what you did from the Community Police Commission? Where do you think we need to go, specifically policy-wise, with policing in Seattle?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:15:21] Well, I love that you said the positive part of it. That's important. I want to recognize that. There are some incredibly dedicated people in the Community Police Commission - Reverend Walden. There's just a tremendous amount of people who have ensured that our police accountability that is in place right now through the consent decree - that it happened. We have certainly had rousing meetings. If you've never gone to a Community Police Commission meeting, they're lively - let's say that - because the issue is so close to home. As leader of the Chief Seattle Club, we serve the family of John T. Williams. It is very close - many of the people that I know and love walked alongside John T. Williams all the time, and they are petrified and afraid of Seattle Police Department.

We have many people, and I don't know if folks recognize this - in our homeless community - sadly, we have physical and sexual assaults that happen. They will not report. They do not want to talk to Seattle Police Department and they continue to have to deal with so much trauma that we can't actually wrap our arms around because of the fear of Seattle Police Department. And so, the work there has to change.

I'm also really proud of the Seattle Community Police Commission - that we stood against the 2018 contract. I personally went with members of the Commission to the mayor's office and we pleaded with her to not move forward with this contract. And now we can see, over the summer, the terrible outcome of that. I have competitors - opponents - in this race who voted for that contract. As we move forward in police accountability, we need to have a leader who is going to be courageous and take a stand. That's going to be with-- the two most important things we're going to see come out in the new mayor's office is hiring the chief of police and, of course, the contract. Both of those places will require community-led focus and work with the Community Police Commission. One of the things that has been hard as a Community Police Commissioner - is that we often are ignored by the mayor's office - time after time after time. In fact, there's now a dashboard on the Community Police Commission website that shows all the times that we've been ignored.

I am committed to that commission. I'm committed to actually, having been there, increasing the power and authority of that commission. And not just the commission - I want to be working with the community as well. The commission can only represent so much. But we are committed, and you can see this in our plan on the website, to bi-monthly meetings with community around policing and making sure that we are understanding where we're headed as a city.

Crystal Fincher: [00:18:48] Well, and you mentioned the two big things - they're huge - in terms of the Seattle Police Officers Guild contract, in addition to hiring a new police chief. With that contract, I mean, that dictates so much - even beyond the police chief's control. I guess the first question is, would you need the 2017 ordinance to be included in that contract? If it didn't include those elements, would you sign that contract? What are the bright lines for you when it comes to that negotiating and what you need to see from that contract - to make sure that it's going to serve the residents - all of the residents of Seattle?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:19:25] I think that the crowd control issue is something that is on top of mind for our residents in Seattle. Demilitarizing the police. Those are the things, to me, that are top priorities when it comes to the contract. We cannot relent. We have to have better outcomes when we - we will have other protests. That is clear. We're going to have more protests. I am behind that. I know it can help, that it can make change. But we have to make sure that crowd control - what happened over the summer - never happens again.

And so, those are two places in the contract that are going to be key for me. The other thing, and the state legislature has pushed some of this far, and hopefully we can go even further in future legislative sessions - but we have to hire a chief of police that will truly hold our police department accountable. And what I mean by that is that right now, when a chief... Which by the way, chief... That, to me-

Crystal Fincher: [00:20:45] Yeah. You know what? Yep.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:20:47] ... it's weird. It's weird. I think Toronto has changed that from a word that has been co-opted from the Native community. It's a very weird thing, but it is what it is.

Crystal Fincher: [00:21:02] We could do a whole show. There is so much language that even just internally, in my business, that we've talked about, that is so common in business language and common language, that is just co-opted there.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:21:15] It is.

Crystal Fincher: [00:21:16] It really is discomforting.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:21:20] It is discomforting. It's not something that is helpful in our work towards equity. But anyways, it is what it is. The chief of police will need to be holding folks accountable - that means disciplining and not being afraid of disciplining. That means when we fire someone, and then it goes to the arbitration board, and they come back and they say, "You know what? You have to keep this person in the department." Our plan says that person never goes near public.

And I can tell you from personal experience about that - is that I have seen with my own eyes a Seattle police officer follow a native homeless man who is - he jaywalked in Pioneer Square. Everyone jaywalks in Pioneer Square. He's jaywalking and eventually they take him to the ground and I saw it, I put in my protest at Office of Police Accountability. They said, "No, sorry. The officer was fine. He was doing his job." But what was weird to me is that later on I had someone in our organization, another staff member say, "Hey, Colleen, look at this video." It was a YouTube video - that same exact officer and that same exact man - going at it again and taking him down to the ground again. I cannot believe that that was not intentional - that jaywalking, with the same guy, same officer. And so, when we know that an officer has been disciplined for something like that, that officer doesn't get back on the street.

I'm going to hire a chief of police that will say, "You know what, I'm going to follow the direction of the mayor. We're not going to have bad cops out there on the street. We just cannot do it." That's something that is doable right now, right? Because the contract is the contract - I believe in arbitration, we've got to support our unions. But we can actually do something to keep bad cops off the street. And that's one of the key components of our plan. I feel it so deeply - I've experienced it myself and we have to do better. We have to change.

Crystal Fincher: [00:23:33] So I just wanted to clarify - do you support the 2017 Police Accountability Ordinance and including that as a minimum or requirement in a new police contract?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:23:46] Yeah. Absolutely, and I appreciate you saying a minimum because there are things about the 2017 accountability that we need to take further. I mentioned in our earlier conversation that I've put in my own complaints to the Office of Police Accountability, and I did not get responses that were adequate. So we need to change some of those things there. I think that the next contract - we should make it even stronger, have more accountability. Also, one thing that I really care tremendously about is that we find ways to ensure that the Community Police Commission has a stronger voice. That's something I would also be advocating for in the contract that's coming up.

Crystal Fincher: [00:24:30] Well, we are also still in the middle of a pandemic.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:24:32] Yeah.

Crystal Fincher: [00:24:34] We can see the end, hopefully - and Seattle's doing a job that's better than most in terms of vaccination rates. Still, definitely, improvement can be made. But there's still a lot of people struggling. There's still a lot of people out of work. We saw where a lot of the haves didn't really feel much pain throughout the pandemic. But, man, the have-nots have been hurting, are hurting worse, and they're still hurting. People in Seattle, from service workers to artists, are still out of work. A lot of our small businesses are still trying to figure out a way to stay afloat, if they haven't already been forced to close. What do you see as the path forward? I guess, starting with, do you support the JumpStart Tax?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:25:24] Absolutely. Yes. We have to have further revenue and we have to do better of ensuring that our communities - I come from the Native community - the Black community, the other people color communities, that we are accessing these resources that are coming out of City Hall. The Office of Economic Development - they had grants. But those grants - I'm dying to do an audit on those. I am almost sure that our small businesses who are BIPOC did not have fair access to those.

I asked - I get my nails done, and I went and was talking to my friend who owns the business. She's Vietnamese, English is the second language - she's an incredible, incredible human. I said, "Well, did you get a grant?" And she said, "Nope." I said, "Did you get PPP?" "No." I think that as mayor, because I come from a place of working for some of the most vulnerable people in our community - that's my lens. Those are the people that I'm going to be thinking about and wanting to hear their voices, wanting to see their leadership, and make sure that that person out there in this nail salon and suffering through this crisis. I'm so glad that her business is up and running, but it is still - there's a lot of people who were getting their nails done who aren't back. 

So that, to me, is of utmost importance. I am eager to get in there and be supporting communities of color. The other thing I'll add, just around the pandemic, is health equity. One of the things that just really pushed me into doing this, as well - is understanding how COVID impacted communities of color - understanding that as a Native woman, I was much more likely to be hospitalized If I contracted COVID, much more likely to die of COVID. That was something that was just so hard for us when we were working with our homeless community, who are Native - was we had people out there who their first language was their Native language, and there's not many people like that anymore. We had people who know the culture in a way that no one else knows because there's so few of us left. Keeping those elders alive was such a big priority for me during this pandemic.

So health equity will be of utmost importance. I've been meeting regularly with Black birth workers and talking to them about what our plans could be in the mayor's office, and we'll continue to flesh out those policies. But I can tell you that health equity will be a lens for me. One of the folks that are endorsing me, that I'm very proud of, is Dr. Ben Danielson. I will be asking for his advice and mentorship through this process of what we should be doing to understand the health impact, and the long-term health impacts of COVID on our community, and especially some of our communities that were hit the hardest by it.

Crystal Fincher: [00:28:53] Well, there are a few Seattleites with more credibility when it comes to health equity and just overall community health than Dr. Ben Danielson. So it would be great to know that he would be an advisor to the mayor's office. I guess, looking at that - what do we need to do, moving forward, in terms of - you talked about disparate impacts to BIPOC people in communities. Pollution - lots of times people think of climate change - in addition, pollution, are two big issues facing all of our community, but particularly the BIPOC community. How can you impact that? What plans do you have as mayor to reduce pollution and the effects of that - that are literally taking years off of the life of residents here in the City? It's very different, depending on what your zip code is. What can you tangibly achieve?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:29:57] Yeah. There's a lot out there that is super exciting. We're working around food access and food sovereignty systems, working with the Muckleshoot tribe. We have Valerie Segrest who's supporting our campaign and is helping lead some of that policy. Public transportation is a big part of what we need to do in order to change our outcomes around carbon emissions. 60% of our carbon emissions right now are coming from cars. So I am a huge proponent of more transportation making Seattle truly workable. Right now it's too hard to connect to things.

In 2018, my family and I were able to go to Japan. That city - man, it just - that country, Tokyo specifically, works. You can just be on public transportation. And so, we have to have vision for that. But beyond all that, there's a lot of policies out there - we're pushing out our own policies, everyone on the campaign trail right now is pushing out policies. But we've had policy after policy after policy - and every year, our carbon emissions get worse. I'm curious what 2020 will look like because of COVID. But there's a disconnect, and what we have to realize is that we need courageous leadership. We need someone who is going to say, "We are going to get there. We are going to become denser." That's the other issue - we have policy, we know what the policies are - but will we have the courage to change, is something that I am thinking about all the time.

My whole career has been about making change. My whole career has been about standing up and saying, "Hold on a second. How can that be, and how can we ensure that our communities of color, our Native communities are going to thrive in these situations?" And so, I will bring that same lens to the mayor's office. It is time for us to get serious about climate change. And the other thing I'll add to that is - I'm really excited about working with our tribes who have a government-to-government relationship with the city of Seattle, which is Suquamish and Muckleshoot. I like to say that we'll know that we have turned the corner on climate change when you look at a Puget Sound and it's abundant, full of orcas - because then we know that our salmon are in clean water and they are thriving. And then we know that our kid out in the South End is breathing clean air - and it is a part of a whole system. That's where I want us to get to. That's my vision. We have to be able to make those changes, and have the vision for it, and make it happen.

Crystal Fincher: [00:32:58] You mentioned that the proportion of pollution that is directly attributable to cars and vehicles - at least one of your opponents is highly in support of free transit for all. Do you also support that?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:33:15] Yeah. I'm worried about the funding. But absolutely, I think that there is such - it would make the difference. I think that people would get out there and get on public transportation if it was free, but I don't know exactly how we're going to pay for that. But we do have - we have a friend in the White House, at last. And looking at those federal dollars is something that I will be aggressive about. I have a pretty good track record of raising money. My agency at Chief Seattle Club - we're raising tons and tons of money. I have gotten very good at doing that - and I will do that at the federal level, I'll do that at the local level - and get those dollars in. I'm sorry, I got a little sidetracked about raising money there because I get excited about that. But yes, free transit is a really, really great idea. But as the CEO of the City, the mayor of the City, you've got to know where the dollars are coming from, and that's the only concern. I would love to see that.

And we already are doing some good things there. The ORCA LIFT program is really powerful, it's doing good things. And I think finding ways to make sure that that is more accessible to our community should be a priority of our mayor.

Crystal Fincher: [00:34:39] So you wouldn't stand in the way of the policy, but finding funding for it may not be a priority of a Echohawk administration.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:34:48] My first priority of an Echohawk administration is to solve the crisis of homelessness. Having 5,000-6,000 people sleeping outside - I feel like it's immoral in a city like Seattle. And so that will be my first priority. That's where any funding that we have out there - it's got to go towards that. And then, once we get that settled, we have a 14-month plan for getting folks who are living outside inside. Then I'll be looking at other priorities like free transit, because it is a beautiful idea and I would love to see that happen.

Crystal Fincher: [00:35:26] So in a sea of candidates who are saying that addressing the homelessness crisis is also a priority, what will - from a voter's perspective, from a resident's perspective - how will an Echohawk administration be visibly, tangibly different than all of your competitors?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:35:45] Well, I think number one is that I have a proven track record of solving homelessness. In the past seven years at Chief Seattle Club, we've housed 681 people. We're building $180 million of affordable housing. I'm the only candidate that's built affordable housing. It's also the main reason I'm jumping into this race. I am not going to be a career politician. I am jumping in this race because I am frustrated, I care about our homeless community, I care about our larger community, and I have the skills to get it done. I think that is something that truly sets me apart. No one else has ever been successful at actually housing people, and I care about them. I was taught to jump in when there is people who are hurting. I grew up with parents who literally would pick up hitchhikers off the side of the road, and then they would live in our house if they were homeless. That is where I come from. And so, that's what I'll bring to the mayor's office.

Crystal Fincher: [00:36:57] I mean, and you say you don't want to be a career politician, so do you have a term limit in mind? I always wonder that when people say that. Is there a maximum term that separates you from being a politician to a career politician?

Colleen Echohawk: [00:37:10] I don't know. This is hard. Everyone was like, "Colleen, campaigning is hard. Being in this world is hard," and it is. And so, I don't know how much of this I want to do. I think that if we're successful in our first year, which I think we will - in our first four years, which I think we will be. I think that the City of Seattle needs to have a two-term mayor. We haven't had one in a really, really long time, and we need some consistency. It's part of the reason that our climate policy hasn't gotten to where we want it to get. So that could be it. 

But I don't have any ambitions to be a Governor or a Senator, or - I like Seattle. When I was thinking about doing this, I had an opportunity come up in DC. And I was talking about my sister who lives in DC - she's like, "Colleen, why would you do that? You love Seattle. That's your place." And I was like, "Okay." That was helpful for me. Seattle's my place. I look forward to - I have a lot of other things I want to do in my lifetime. But if I can support our community now, I really believe that you should do that. 

Well, and the other thing that's exciting for me is that - to be the first woman mayor, indigenous mayor of a major city is really cool for me. I have a daughter who has the most incredible leadership skills. When she was three, she told me she wanted to be the leader who's in charge of the other leaders. I love that. I'll never forget it. I mean, she should be President of the United States someday. If she can see that her mom, a Native woman, was able to be the mayor of a major city in this country, and is willing to take on the hard parts of it - because it is hard. She's saying to me sometimes like, "Wait, you're not getting done with work until like 8:30?" or whatever. But I want her to see that Native leadership and indigenous perspective's important for our country, and I love that part of it. It's something that we need. I want my daughter to see that you can do it, and that you should do it - if you have a call for leadership and you have a call to serve the community, so that part is pretty cool.

Crystal Fincher: [00:39:49] Well, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today and have this conversation, and look forward to seeing how the race unfolds.

Colleen Echohawk: [00:39:56] Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Crystal Fincher: [00:39:59] Thank you for listening to Hacks and Wonks. Our chief audio engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones Jr. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I, and now you can follow Hacks and Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type in "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar, be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. You can also get a full text transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced during the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.