Conversation with Jessyn Farrell, Candidate for Seattle Mayor
Release Date: 06/08/2021
Hacks & Wonks
Today Crystal is joined by Tiffani McCoy, Advocacy Director at Real Change, to discuss Charter Amendment 29, aka Compassion Seattle. It will appear on your November ballot, and would codify encampment sweeps into our city charter. They discuss the misleading way this amendment is messaged, what the cost of the amendment would be, and why its backers should give us pause.info_outline Week in Review: July 30, 2021
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Today consultant Heather Weiner joins Crystal to provide insight into the final days of primary campaign season, including: optimistic vs pessimistic messaging, a candidate who spelled their own name wrong, and Pete Holmes' interview where he admits to making decisions based on fear of losing endorsements.info_outline 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.info_outline Week in Review: July 23, 2021
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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.info_outline Supporting Art and Cultural Space: Conversation with Vivian Hua of NWFF
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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.info_outline 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.info_outline 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.info_outline Week in Review: July 9, 2021
Hacks & Wonks
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.info_outline Toshiko Hasegawa on the Power of the Port of Seattle
Hacks & Wonks
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.info_outline The Brady List: Officers with Credibility Issues
Hacks & Wonks
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.info_outline
Today Crystal is joined by candidate for Seattle mayor, Jessyn Farrell. They discuss why she supports the Compassion Seattle charter amendment and how she would uniquely respond to Seattle’s affordable housing crisis, how she would go about hiring a new police chief and negotiating the new SPOG contract, the importance of transit in our region, and expanding our idea of green jobs.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
"Homeless Advocates Launch Campaign Against ‘Compassion Seattle’ Charter Amendment" by Natalie Bicknell https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/05/28/homeless-advocates-campaign-against-compassion-seattle/
Why we’re challenging “Compassion Seattle” https://transitriders.org/blog/2021/05/07/why-were-challenging-compassion-seattle/
"Homeless Advocates Challenge Compassion Seattle Ballot Initiative" by Erica C Barnett https://publicola.com/2021/05/06/homeless-advocates-challenge-compassion-seattle-ballot-measure/
There is no Compassion in Seattle's Proposed Charter Amendment by Kshama Sawant https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2021/05/21/57559745/there-is-no-compassion-in-compassion-seattles-proposed-charter-amendment
“Mayor Durkan, if you care about public health, stop the sweeps” by Julianna Also, Omid Bagheri Garakani, and Miranda Vargas: https://southseattleemerald.com/2020/05/27/opinion-mayor-durkan-if-you-care-about-public-health-stop-the-sweeps/
“Would Compassion Seattle lead to fewer tents or more? Nobody knows” by Katie Wilson: https://crosscut.com/opinion/2021/05/would-compassion-seattle-lead-fewer-tents-or-more-nobody-knows
“Timeline of Seattle Police Accountability” from ACLU Washington: https://www.aclu-wa.org/pages/timeline-seattle-police-accountability
“Union negotiations loom over the future of policing in Seattle” by David Kroman: https://crosscut.com/news/2020/10/union-negotiations-loom-over-future-policing-seattle
“Eight big things the Washington State Legislature passed in 2021” by Melissa Santos: https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/04/eight-big-things-washington-state-legislature-passed-2021
“Seattle Times sues City of Seattle over Jenny Durkan’s missing text messages during protests” by Asia Fields: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/seattle-times-sues-city-of-seattle-over-missing-durkan-text-messages/
‘Major area’ of Seattle could forbid most cars under city’s new, greener transportation plan” by Michelle Baruchman: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/seattle-releases-goals-to-electrify-transportation-system/
“What Seattle’s Permanent Stay Healthy Streets Could Look Like” by Ryan Packer: https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/05/07/permanent-stay-healthy-streets/
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hacks & 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 thrilled to have Jessyn Farrell, who is a candidate for Seattle mayor joining us today. Thank you so much, Jessyn.
Jessyn Farrell: [00:00:58] Thank you so much, Crystal. It's really exciting to be here.
Crystal Fincher: [00:01:02] Thank you. Exciting to have you. So what caused you to want to jump into this mayor's race and with everything going on in Seattle, say this is the right time for me to step in and lead?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:01:13] Yeah, that's a really -- that is the question. And I'll just start by saying, I think this is a real existential moment for this city. Are we going to really become that city of justice and shared prosperity that I think we all hope for in our hearts, or are we going to keep going in this status quo way where we are not able to get in front of our biggest challenges? Whether it's homelessness or truly re-imagining public safety, the affordability crisis. A city needs people. And if people can't afford to live here, that's going to be really hard. Climate change. And then also just the basic city services like being able to fill potholes and fix those high accident locations on Rainier Ave, or deliver sidewalks to those communities like Pinehurst that have always wanted them and have never had them.
There's just this real sense that I share that we are just not living up to our potential. And when Seattle is at its best, we are truly showing the rest of the country how to do things. And so I'm running because I believe deeply that we can do that. I think we need a leader that has the chops, that's done this before, but at the same time is not mired in the same old city hall stasis and infighting that we've been stuck in for years. So I'm running because I think I can tackle the job. And again, I just think that we're at this real inflection point for the city and we need to do better. And we can.
Crystal Fincher: [00:02:49] So thinking specifically about Durkan's administration, current mayor, Jenny Durkan, what can voters expect to see reverse in terms of her policies? What differences will be most noticeable in a Farrell administration than they saw in the Durkan administration?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:03:06] Well, let's start with some of the biggest issues and then we can go down to the more day-to-day issues. We've now been in a crisis around public safety for years. And of course, it was really instantiated and a laser-like focus became put on ourselves in the social justice uprising of a year ago, but we've had literally a year to make progress on transforming public safety. And to me, the core value is that every single person in our community should be able to go about their day-to-day lives and feel safe. And for our Black and Brown friends and neighbors and family members, that too often isn't the case.
And I think about Charleena Lyles, for example, who was calling for help and was killed by police. I think about friends who might be hesitant to get in their car because they're fearful of getting pulled over. I also think about the public safety issues. If you're a small business owner, facing theft. If you are facing domestic violence. There are a lot of different ways that people don't feel safe in our community. And we had this opportunity to build a shared vision and that was just a real failure of leadership from the Durkan administration to lay that out and to help get us there. The public wants to do this. It is so clear.
And so that's a real key failure and that's something very clearly I would do different, laying out a vision based on some of those things I just said and then really tackling the specifics. Sweating the details really matters. How are we actually going to do crisis response so that people are helped rather than harmed? How are we going to do transportation enforcement? And I should just take out the word enforcement, how are we going to do transportation safety without the enforcement piece that can often be a consequence or having harm be a consequence? So though that's a real particular area, but we can talk about homelessness, we can talk about climate change, and I hope we get a chance to. But I'll stop and let you ask some follow-up.
Crystal Fincher: [00:05:14] Well, so you talk about that. You bring up homelessness. There have been a number of excellent forums, one last night, which I hope a number of the viewers also watch and partake, but you had the opportunity to speak alongside other candidates about homelessness in particular and issues such as using FEMA funds and the mayor's office's failure to fully take advantage of those funds, the issue of homelessness sweeps, Compassion Seattle. So I guess I would say starting with that Compassion Seattle initiative, do you support that? Do you not? And looking at the approach that's been taken with sweeps, how do you address just the issue of people immediately on the street and people looking to address that by simply sweeping them, and how do we actually get people into homes?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:06:12] And those are really among the core questions of this campaign. So I'll just start with the short answers. I do not support sweeps. They are inhumane and they don't work in terms of helping people move into housing. And the thing that is shocking to me is that we have now been doing sweeps for years and years and years. And again, when I talk about this status quo in City Hall and this inability to really stop doing things that are both harmful and ineffective, that's what I'm talking about around what's compelling me to run and why we need a change in leadership.
Now, Compassionate Seattle, I'll just say I support it. I have taken a very close read and it, in my reading, does not mandate sweeps. At the end of the day, it's a little bit of a Rorschach test for the mayor. It is only as good as the next mayor's commitment to helping people get into housing, connecting them with the supportive services, and then finding the funding. That's another place where there is a gap in the Compassionate Seattle initiative, because to really get to that place where we've built the 3,500 units that we need for permanent supportive housing, you have to have new funding.
That said, to me, Compassionate Seattle is more of an indictment of the politics around our inability to move forward. For those of you who are transit nerds or were around 15 years ago during the Monorail era when we voted on the Monorail over and over and over again, we turned to the initiatives and the initiative process in this community to bypass failed leadership. We do that at the state level, we do that at the local level. And that to me is what this is about.
The thing that Compassionate Seattle does that is positive on the policy side, I talked about a couple of the deficits. So I think it charts a pretty consensus path around what it is that we need to do, which is to say, we need more homes, we need more places for people to be, and we need more permanent supportive housing. And so to me, the question then is what person in this race is best positioned to actually deliver and turn words into action? We don't need another election cycle of empty promises and Seattle process. It's really time to help people get into stable housing because that is what every human deserves.
Crystal Fincher: [00:08:46] Well, that's really interesting because I do agree with you in that initiatives are generally a response to a failure in elected leadership and saying, "Hey, our electeds aren't getting it done." We evidently have to put together something to do ourselves. And certainly this administration, Jenny Durkan had laid this out as one of her top priorities. We have an emergency declaration about homelessness and we still seem to be stuck certainly not making the progress that we seem to need to make. You identified some of the major deficits of it. Even with the funding, there are many people and lots of writing that has critiqued it for only being a couple percentage points above the current level of funding that we have. And it's very dicey about the timing of that funding and the mix of housing or the lack of mix of housing that that would then provide.
If an initiative like this is a response to failed leadership and you're touting your ability to bring strong leadership, would it be better then to not have to codify these deficits and significant problems, especially amid a lot of the criticism and say, "You know what? We don't need this initiative. We don't need to settle for some of the problems that it has. I can handle this. I'm making this promise that I'm not going to fail you like other prior leaders have failed and I can actually address this in the most beneficial way without those deficits." Why are you choosing to support the initiative instead of maybe taking that route?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:10:15] Yeah, I think that there definitely is a critique of is the initiative process the best policy-making tool, right? It's a really blunt instrument. But what I would say is the benefit if this passes, and my sense is that it quite likely will, it creates a very clear consensus around what the policies are that we need to be doing and it codifies them. And we can then stop arguing about, well, is it housing first or is it mental and behavioral health services? Actually, it's both. And we need to be deploying our resources in a way that is the most effective to get people the services and housing they need.
So to me, the biggest benefit is the rhetorical benefit of being able to say, "Look, Seattle has a lot of consensus on what it is that we need to do." We can stop arguing about navigation teams, which have been controversial and ineffective. We can stop arguing about, again, that housing versus services discussion. To me, it provides the framing up of the path that we need to go in. And again, the reason I say it's only as good as the next mayor because you still have to do the work of implementing it. You still have to do the work of filling and building on the funding issues and not eviscerating other important City services, whether it's the fire department or parks or -- actually, parks are held harmless I think in the initiative, very cleverly I suppose -- but libraries for example. So again, to me, it provides the rhetorical benefit and it means that we can then move off of the policy debate that we have been spinning in for the last six years and we can dive into the implementation and funding debate, which is where we really need to be putting our time.
Crystal Fincher: [00:12:10] I see. And you actually do raise a point in there about needing to implement and actually deliver. That has certainly been an area that has been critiqued in the current administration. And, hey, we're announcing a policy and just the details of that policy and getting it implemented, working alongside the city's partners and vendors and through various departments seems to be consistently yielding troublesome feedback and delays and seeming miscommunications or lack of communication.
One element that people have noticed with prior mayors, this one and that I have spoken on also, is the executive position is different fundamentally than a legislative body like the legislature, which you were a part of, or the city council. It is an executive position. The buck stops with you and you're actually in charge of managing the operations of the city and making sure everything gets done. And at the end of the day, people are looking to you. If something doesn't happen, it's on you. How do you, coming from a legislative body, think that you're well-equipped and well-suited to handle an executive position and the management of the city?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:13:28] Well, it stems fundamentally from my belief about what politics is. And at its very best, it is the mechanism that allows us to collectively solve our problems through governance. And that the skillset that a mayor has to have is really twofold. It is the political arts that actually really matter, again, because government is about collectively solving problems, at least my belief about progressive, effective government is. And then it absolutely is administrative. And I am a former legislator and we can talk all about that piece because being able to work with the legislative body matters. I have also worked at the executive level in a large agency. I worked at Pierce Transit during the Great Recession where we had the heartbreaking job of having to cut service by 30% because of the sales tax decline. And that was a large agency with a large budget, a unionized workforce.
And so I have a real appreciation for the administrative side and how important being a great leader of an organization matters. And to me, it starts from the administrative standpoint. And again, that is not the only skillset that a great mayor needs. You need to be able to run the organization, run the city. You need to be able to work and respond to and iterate with the public because fundamentally the public is your boss. You need to be able to do the work of getting your priorities through the legislative body, the council. So the skillset of a mayor is more complicated than that of a legislator for sure. But I just would say that I do have experience in the large organization front as well as, again, the legislative piece, but also the community engagement and receptivity and, fundamentally, collaboration.
Crystal Fincher: [00:15:37] Well, thanks for that. And that certainly is management of a large organization and a complicated organization. Another area that you mentioned you had a difference of approach with the current administration was public safety. It looks like a lot of people are talking about a different approach. One item just kind of on the top of the agenda is the SPOG contract coming up, the police union contract that is being negotiated. And we've been having a lot of conversations about police contracts, about how we need to reimagine and restructure policing. So I guess one general -- what are you looking at in terms of a difference? And specifically, what policies would you look to implement or change? And then in terms of the contract, are you going to draw bright lines in terms of accountability like codifying the 2017 Ordinance in a contract or refuse to sign it if it doesn't? Where do you stand on that?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:16:36] Let's start with that because that, to me, was one of the biggest travesties of that 2017 contract. And just to go back to a theme we talked about a little bit again, the public weighed in on police accountability through 940 because the public was angry that the elected officials at the city level in Seattle and other places were not addressing the deep harm that is occurring, particularly in Black communities. And so I just point to that because that's another example of that kind of bypassing elected leadership, but then I just can't... It was just shocking that the mayor would negotiate and the council would approve a contract that undermined those very things the public had weighed in on saying this is something that we care about. So number one, I am committed to not signing a contract that is not codifying and does not -- let me put this in the positive:
I will sign a contract that is building on the good work that the legislature did around accountability, whether it's de-certification or use of force or many of the other things that they worked on. Our city contract has to be building on that and furthering that. So that's something that is really important. And I'll also say that I don't go into a negotiation with SPOG lightly. Public negotiations are really hard. And having a background in negotiation, I have negotiated lots of tough bills. I didn't negotiate a contract at Pierce Transit, but have some experience at that level. So the negotiating skillset actually really matters. Even if the mayor isn't literally at the table, but being able to oversee and be held accountable for that, that really matters.
Crystal Fincher: [00:18:44] I just want to clarify real quick, you mentioned the work that the legislature had done. I think you also meant the work that the city council did with the 2017 Ordinance. Is that accurate?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:18:53] Yes, it is. Thank you.
Crystal Fincher: [00:18:54] Okay. All right, thanks.
Jessyn Farrell: [00:18:56] Thank you for clarifying that. Yep.
Crystal Fincher: [00:18:59] And then as far as just specific policies you would look at, including how we approach staffing, where do you plan to act in moving forward with SPD?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:19:11] So I think that, again, the priorities specifically for me would be - number one, building on, again, what the legislature did around -- and I'm talking about this current, this most recent legislature -- around use of force decertification. I think there's another world around really tightening up our management of overtime. That is something that really drives the budget and that really matters. But then beyond the contract, the contract is really important and having the four corners of that contract reflect our city's values is important. But then the staffing level conversation really has to be driven by our values. And that's why I started out at the beginning of this conversation kind of laying out this idea of what it means to feel safe in this community, because that means that we have to stop doing the things that are making people feel unsafe and we need to continue to do those things that are working.
And again, I can be very specific because this is where the details really matter. Crisis response, we do not need armed, uniformed police officers in many, many, many kinds of crises. We need to be working with community-based organizations, we need to be working with a caseworker style model. And there are really great things that are happening on the ground already in Seattle and we need to be scaling those. And we need to be recognizing from a government standpoint that as we are relying and shifting the work of particularly crisis response onto community-based organizations, we need to be partnering with them to build up their own internal capacity. We need to be recognizing that building relationships with -- maybe if we're talking about the homeless population, for example, takes time, and we need to be creating our budgets and accountability mechanisms based on that knowledge. We can't flip a switch and expect suddenly we have trusted relationships. You have to take time to do that.
So that's crisis response. And I talked about transportation enforcement and transportation safety. Specifically, what that means - there's disparate enforcement based on your race in this city - jaywalking, transit fare enforcement, bike helmet laws. We need to be looking at other mechanisms to make sure that people are safe. Like getting rid of jaywalking laws, for example -- it doesn't really promote pedestrian safety. So we should be doing other things. Same with speed. Speeding cars in neighborhoods, for example. There's actually a lot of stuff we can do with the built environment to slow down cars, give drivers the signals that they need to be going at a lower speed, whether it's curb bulb-outs, roundabouts, street trees, those kinds of things that remove the need for an armed police officer enforcing speed. Traffic safety cameras, for example. So those details really matter. And those are two areas that I would really focus on in year one, because I think that's where a lot of harm is happening.
Crystal Fincher: [00:22:24] Sure. And what's going to be your approach for hiring a new police chief?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:22:31] Number one, the first and core value that a new police chief has to have is to be a partner in the project of transforming public safety - and has to embrace that and see the role of the police chief as being someone who is able to build bridges and really be a change leader. And that's hard, right? But there are people who have track records of being able to do that within organizations, who have that skillset. And again, I think that the biggest thing that we need to be doing is to say we have transformed our public safety model in Seattle so that we are prioritizing what it means to truly feel safe. And again, it's that going about your day-to-day lives, but one thing I didn't mention is it is also all of those economic, social, and cultural supports that create a thriving community. And the police chief fundamentally has to see himself or herself or themself as a partner in that.
Crystal Fincher: [00:23:37] That makes sense. Are there any litmus tests that you're requiring of the chief or any chief that would serve in your administration?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:23:49] That is a good question. Again, I think the litmus test for me is show me that you have done hard things. Show me that you have led an organization from point A to point D. We don't need to just get to point B, say we're doing our reforms and stuff like that. We need to fundamentally get to a place where our police response is not necessarily the first response for every single 911 call, right?
That said though, I do want to mention there are things that I think a police response still really matters in. The detective work that goes into things like that spate of catalytic converter theft. That requires a lot of background work, or the work, and this is really important, the Regional Domestic Violence Unit. They are tasked with implementing our Extreme Risk Protection Order law, which takes guns away from abusers. And that requires a lot of work and it's upfront work that's not in the moment of crisis. And that's why I think that's the kind of work that you need to keep. And city council and the mayor cut that unit in the summer in that kind of reflexive moment, again, where we had an opportunity to really say, this is what we mean by public safety and we're going to really build budgets that actually go to that. But we haven't done that in this last year.
Crystal Fincher: [00:25:16] I think you raised a good point. I think that there is absolutely a conversation for, especially in the investigative work in trying to stop activity like that. There is certainly a case for that. Part of that question is - did the city council and mayor actually cut it, or did the department say that they were going to have to divert officers away from it, thereby closing those and that becoming part of the conversation and conflict around staffing levels and needing to have patrol cops out. And if staffing drops, then patrol cops take precedence over those other specialized, like elder abuse and domestic violence investigation roles?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:25:58] Right. All I can say about that is, "Show us the texts." We really actually need to see how those decisions unfolded so that I can answer that question because that actually matters, right? And then related to that, that gets back to that point to me around the police chief needing to be a true partner in the transformation, and that is hard.
Crystal Fincher: [00:26:23] I have to say, I love your response of, "Show us the texts." I was watching a forum when you brought that up again when the deputy mayor, Casey Sixkiller, disputed what had been reported through several investigations and news reports about FEMA funding and whether or not they spent what was available to them in full. And you bring up a relevant point and that so much of accountability and the ability to understand what happened is tied to those texts and information that, for some reason, has been deleted or hidden or is unavailable or whatever. So I just appreciate that.
Jessyn Farrell: [00:27:09] Yeah, I just have to underscore that trust in government is a real issue in this city. And part of that is because institutions have not worked for people, particularly Black and Brown communities, low income communities. And can we pause for a moment because my cat is really --
Crystal Fincher: [00:27:31] I am so amused by your cat and the meows in the background, but sure, we can pause. I think it's fine.
Jessyn Farrell: [00:27:37] So I just want to talk a little bit about that issue of trust in government and how important it is in this moment because our institutions have simply not worked for a lot of people in our community or have actively harmed them - and particularly Black, Indigenous, communities of color, low-income communities. And so this issue of truth actually really matters because truth is a really core element of trust and it's a really core element of healing. And we're in this moment in this city where we actually need to be talking truthfully about many things, right? Whether it is race or wealth, but also how we are making decisions and how people in power are making decisions. And we shouldn't be afraid of the truth. The truth becomes a mechanism, again, for our ability to solve problems together. And at the end of the day, that to me is what government is really all about.
Crystal Fincher: [00:28:39] I agree. Now, we are still in a pandemic. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are doing, especially compared to the rest of the country, pretty well in Seattle and in King County in terms of vaccination rates. We're looking at a full reopening coming up in around a month it looks like, on June 30th I think is the date that has been targeted. But here in the city, we're still seeing a number of people struggling directly because of the pandemic. There are still many small businesses, the ones that have survived because a lot certainly haven't, struggling and people still looking for work. The service industry certainly has been struggling in several sectors and our arts and cultural communities have been absolutely devastated. I guess one is the question of the JumpStart Tax, which certainly has a lot of relief available for those specific entities and people struggling with housing, especially as we approach the end of the eviction moratorium. So do you support that? And then what is your approach for helping people who are struggling, businesses who are struggling to get back on their feet?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:30:01] This to me is a moment where the lack of creativity and willing to be big and bold and try new things is most lacking. And because the crisis is so profound and the small business community is the heart and soul of so many of our neighborhoods, having a city where artists can afford to live and perform and create is another thing that is the soul of our city. So these are real -- like, I started out at the beginning by saying, we're in an existential moment for this city. Those are things that are existential. And we could have come up with solutions that really were able to put money in the pocket -- to help small businesses get through this. Really transform affordable housing. Like we've done the eviction moratorium. That has been the right thing to do, but what are we going to do about the rent debt? What are we going to do about the slow rolling eviction crisis that may start happening?
We've had this opportunity to really leapfrog over -- we talk about the pandemic shining a light on all of these societal problems. We have not used this moment to leapfrog over the policy solutions that have been inadequate. And honestly, even the old progressive checklist -- by old, I mean now like a year old -- but the older progressive checklist of what we need to do isn't good enough anymore. And so that to me was just -- this has been a missed opportunity.
Now, I was the chair of the governor's Safe Work and Economic Recovery Taskforce and we focused on small businesses. And there were a lot of businesses that were left out of the federal PPP program, particularly Black and Indigenous-owned businesses that did not have traditional banking relationships. So I worked with that group to come up with a $50 million program targeted at those businesses that were left out of PPP, but that $50 million program needs to be $500 million. And again, going forward, we know that the relative capitalized value of Black-owned businesses is so much less than white-owned businesses. The mayor can be taking a really active role in creating access to capital, not necessarily with city dollars, but doing the work to convene and create access to banking relationships, the technical support and expertise, that startup capital. There are just so many things that small businesses want and need.
And just like the delivery of city services, it should be really easy to get a business license. You should not have to worry about going out of business because the city's closing your block to fill in a pothole in front of it, right? There are all these street-level issues that the city can be doing much better on. So that's one area I'm really passionate about. And same thing with artists. Artists have really suffered, especially performing artists. And attacking the affordability crisis mattered pre-pandemic and now it really matters because we need to make sure this is a city that artists can live in.
Crystal Fincher: [00:33:14] Completely agree there. So do you support the JumpStart Tax?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:33:17] Oh, sorry about that. Yeah, I absolutely support the JumpStart Tax - for a couple of reasons, not just because of what it's being spent on, but it really gets at, I think, our shared values of everybody in our city should be participating in helping pay for the high quality services that we all want, right? We all know we have the most upside-down tax code in the country -- although maybe we've now moved down a couple of notches because of the capital gains tax that was passed by the legislature -- but to me, it's just this basic idea that our corporate community, our highest, most wealthiest folks in the community should just be paying into the basic social contract so that we have services that make this a really great city. And to me, that's not controversial.
Crystal Fincher: [00:34:06] It certainly shouldn't be controversial in my opinion, but for some reason it is.
Jessyn Farrell: [00:34:11] I know.
Crystal Fincher: [00:34:12] Well, another thing that I don't think should be controversial is wanting to make sure that people can travel throughout the city even if they don't have a car. And regardless of whether they are walking or biking or driving or some combination, that they can safely and reliably get to where they need to go and get to where they want to go. What are your plans for ensuring that happens?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:34:38] Yeah, that is such a great question. And obviously you know my love language is transit and transportation. So I think that the core animating values for me around transportation and mobility are that it's a way to create freedom and agency and access for all of us. For people who may have special needs, for our youngest community members, for our oldest community members, for folks who can't afford to have a car. And then you have the added benefit and urgency of actually having to address climate change. So let's figure out how to help everybody have true mobility while reducing climate emissions at the same time. And so we have a really robust climate plan that really talks about these issues around equity and agency and mobility for everyone on my website, jessynformayor.com, but some of the hallmarks are 100 miles of Stay Healthy Streets.
One of the things we found out in the pandemic is that people really like the Stay Healthy Street model. It's been awesome. And we should be vastly expanding them and I think really using a mobility-based model like -- where do people need to get to in their neighborhoods? What does a Stay Healthy route to your park look like? What does a Stay Healthy route to your business district look like to be able to get to a medical appointment? So that you're really focusing on not just like active transportation and being able to remove cars from the environment, but really helping people get to where they need to go. So that's something that is really exciting. Another piece is adding 100 miles of bus lanes and moving into free fares.
Crystal Fincher: [00:36:24] Free fares!
Jessyn Farrell: [00:36:25] Yeah, free fares. Here's the thing - farebox recovery, to use our transit speak, hey, it funds some of our transit services. There's no doubt about it. But it's a range - on so-called less productive routes, it's 11%. Maybe to the very most productive route, it's in the lower 20s. So it's just to say -- it definitely has a budget impact, but these are dollars that we can figure out how to supplant. And the benefits are so profound because we know that you look at the U-Pass model at the UW and what the UW did in the early '90s. They had 70% of people driving alone. They came up with this awesome program called the U-Pass program where they provide a very cheap or free bus pass. They'd contract with Metro and have awesome transit service from all around the region. They'd jack up parking prices and they'd have great walking and biking infrastructure. And lo and behold, their mode shift completely flipped. So in a few years, they had just 30% of people driving onto campus.
And that set of policies actually revolutionized transportation in our region and across the country because those are the things that give people great options for getting out of their cars. And part of that is that free transit piece. So that has to be part of our suite of policies. And then it gets at the equity piece, it removes the fare enforcement and the harm and the potential for harm, again, that Black and Brown friends and neighbors and community members may experience. So there's a lot of benefits.
Crystal Fincher: [00:38:07] Well, I appreciate it. And I guess, following onto that, that also has the benefit of helping to reduce emissions that are both damaging to climate and also emit harmful pollutants in the air, which also tangibly, demonstrably hurt people. So how are you going to be pushing towards further meeting our climate goals and reducing the harm caused by pollution in our city?
Jessyn Farrell: [00:38:38] This is something that I am 100% committed to. We need to achieve Net Zero by 2030. And there are several very specific actions that I would take. Number one, I would hire a deputy mayor who is solely focused on climate and climate justice and is empowered to work across every department, to work with stakeholders, to work with the community, to really craft and help prioritize policies that promote resiliency, that create better health, that actually reduce climate emissions, and that are really focused on cutting family costs. One of the things I know you know so well is that in the broad environmental movement, we often - we, particularly the traditional white environmental movement - don't spend enough time focusing on the cost side of this and how we are really focusing on cutting family costs as we're doing things like designing new transportation improvements, right? And making sure that we're not raising people's costs and creating economic harm as we're trying to solve and get in front of our climate crisis.
Crystal Fincher: [00:39:49] Right.
Jessyn Farrell: [00:39:49] So that's one thing, having a deputy mayor that is really focused on that. Obviously, all these great transportation things. The affordable housing crisis is also climate crisis. People need to be able to live in the city, live close to where they work, and that is inherently more carbon efficient. And so that's a piece of it. Also the green economy. One of the things that I think is really important is that we expand what we mean by the green economy. I love green infrastructure jobs. They're awesome. But we also need to be thinking about all those jobs that are inherently low carbon.
What if we looked at caregiving jobs as green jobs and created the same commitment for living wage jobs for caregiving jobs or artists? Creating art is inherently low carbon - I guess, unless you're like doing a performance art piece of burning a field of petroleum, right? But that's not typically what's happening in Seattle as performance art, but it really -- art should also be part of this idea of what a green job is so that we can be building out economic plans that are also prioritizing the economic stability and the ability of people who are in these jobs to thrive. And that's something to me that is also part of the climate conversation.
Crystal Fincher: [00:41:07] Well, I agree. I certainly also thank you for taking the time to spend with us today and have an extended conversation about your plans for the City of Seattle. And I hope that as we continue to move forward we have more opportunities to share a dialogue like this. But thanks so much for joining us today.
Jessyn Farrell: [00:41:25] Thank you so much. It was a real pleasure.
Crystal Fincher: [00:41:31] Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks. Our chief audio engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones Jr. The producer of Hacks & 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 & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type in Hacks & Wonks into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our mid-week 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.