West Seattle, meet your newest—and 5th, maybe 6th(!)—city council candidate: Brianna Thomas.
Thomas is the field director for the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund, which fundraises and lobbies on housing affordability issues. In 2013, she organized the ground efforts for the successful $15-an-hour minimum wage in SeaTac. Before that, she worked on the city council campaign of Brad Meacham, who ran against Bruce Harrell in 2011. (During that campaign, Meacham and another candidate with the same consultant had almost identical answers on a questionnaire. Oops.)
“I love knocking on doors,” says Thomas, who's 33, rents an apartment, and doesn't own a car. “I love talking to voters one at a time and hearing what they need.”
That’ll be useful in the new districted elections system, where the combination of narrow district areas, low voter turnout in an off-year election, and a ton of candidates in the primary means door-knocking could actually influence who gets elected.
“The entire point of having districts was neighborhoods having a voice,” she says. “I think I’m the best suited voice for this neighborhood. I think I’m the person that’s most willing and most able to fight for West Seattle.”
Thomas says she wants to see the council more forcefully push for increased oversight of the police department. She also wants to make gender pay equity a higher priority by funding the work needed to close the wage gap (much more about that challenge here). She supports allowing more homeless encampments in the city because “waiting for a permanent solution and doing nothing in the meanwhile isn’t acceptable." She wants the city to actively try to find a grocery store to open in West Seattle’s food desert. And she says she'll fight for light rail to West Seattle to be funded in Sound Transit's next ballot measure, expected in 2016.
On housing policy, she supports linkage fees and believes the city should increase the housing levy, which uses property taxes to pay for affordable housing and will be up in 2017. In addition, she wants the city to lobby Olympia to change state laws in order to allow cities to enact rent control.
Then there's this: On the downtown tunnel project, she's not ready to abandon tunneling completely but says we need a Plan B modeled after the surface/transit alternative. "I was never on board with the tunnel as a voter and a regular person," she says. "It's one of the most beautiful parts of our city. Why would we go underground? I love going across the viaduct in the morning. It's gorgeous."
The rest of us are talking about what's going to happen if we have to shut down the viaduct because it's a death trap.
Thomas is taking a stand on a few divisive things here—tent encampments, rent control, the tunnel—but she's still light on specifics, which is especially noticeable on something like gender pay equity that's favored by pretty much everyone. (Jean Godden, for example, has been working on that issue and Mayor Ed Murray can get behind it even when he’s in a fit of rage.)
So I asked Thomas what she thinks sets her apart if not (yet) specific policy proposals. “The voracity with which I am willing to do the work to actually see it happen,” she says. She says she’s seen too many politicians abandon their “fire in the belly” for fear of losing their seat.
"I understand how policy actually happens," she says. "I understand there’s a ton of compromise and that everyone does need to be heard at the table, but right now not everyone is being heard—for sure. High Point is not being heard. South Park is not being heard. Harbor Island is not being heard… These are problems."