TAMMY MORALES Will run for city councils District 2 seat against Council Member Bruce Harrell.
  • Courtesy of Tammy Morales
  • TAMMY MORALES Will run for city council's District 2 seat against Council Member Bruce Harrell.
Southeast Seattle resident Tammy Morales is not a big fan of Bruce Harrell, the Seattle City Council member currently filed to run for the council seat in her district, District 2, next year. “I feel like the South End has been neglected,” she says. “There isn’t anybody speaking for communities in the South End at city hall right now.” She notes a “palpable sense of frustration” with the city government in the communities that make up District 2—and “it’s not that people don’t know how to use their voice. It’s that people feel like nobody is listening.”

Her neighborhood, she argues, needs a “true champion.” And she thinks it should be her.

“My work, my career has been about serving low-income communities,” says the food-policy consultant, “and trying to build healthy communities. And there’s a lot of work to do here.”

Where will she start that work? Economic development.

“We need a clear economic development strategy,” Morales says. “How many jobs we want to create, what kinds of jobs we want to create… how we are going to support small-business development.” She’s glad to see the city council and the mayor are finally coming around to look at local-hire legislation, a policy that could mandate that some jobs on city construction sites go to local workers. The push for that bill came after the Rainier Beach Community Center got rebuilt with public funds but not a single worker from the neighborhoods was hired for the project. But Morales, who has been running a consulting business focused on community development and food policy for the past seven years, says the district needs more than that one bill. Like a new community college, for example.

Yes, there’s already a South Seattle Community College. “The problem is it’s in West Seattle,” she points out. And with more transit cuts on the way, people can’t get there reliably. A community college in District 2 would be a part of a plan to boost the local economy, adding a training and education component to her desire to bring new jobs to the area.

Where should that new college be situated? “Well,” she laughs, “there’s a bunch of vacant land by the light-rail station.”

She’s referring to an interesting conundrum: Local government built a shiny new light-rail system, which should have meant an opportunity for developers to start building lots of housing and retail near transit stations in the south of the city. But that density has yet to fully materialize. The South End could certainly absorb more of the city’s density, argues Morales, but she adds that there are some specific gaps to fill in—namely, affordable family-size units, like two- and three-bedroom apartments. She’d consider zoning requirements that mandated more family-size units and the inclusion of affordable housing in new buildings.

More broadly, she says her focus as a council member would be to find a balance in how to create new growth and new opportunities that revitalize the neighborhood and yet “keep it affordable so people don’t get pushed out, so the people who are already there can actually benefit from that.”

So: Spur economic growth—she says she’d love to see manufacturing jobs in the South End—build a community college, encourage density near transit and maintain affordability, and oh yeah, I forgot to mention increase bike and pedestrian infrastructure and a focus on community policing (read: cops getting out of their cars and walking beats). Peachy keen!

How do we do all that? Like many new candidates, she’s a little light on specifics. She recommends we align existing incentives and subsidies to better serve small businesses in the neighborhood, change some zoning rules, better use the city’s existing Race and Social Justice Initiative.

But she faces an even bigger challenge: Her opponent, Council Member Harrell, who is ambitious (he ran for mayor last year), a lifelong Seattleite who would be running for his third term (Morales moved here in 2000), and always well-funded. She’s throwing down to challenge an incumbent who has already raised more money for next year’s race than any other incumbent or candidate.

First things first, she says: “Bruce is not the incumbent. This is a new district.”

Still, Harrell’s war chest is impressive. Council Members can roll over some of their cash from year to year, and with donations new and old, Harrell has already raised almost $72,000 for this campaign, according to the city’s ethics and elections commission.

“I don’t know if I'll be able to out-fundraise him,” Morales says, but that’s not the only way to win. She notes that Council Member Kshama Sawant beat a monied incumbent opponent, Richard Conlin, last year, and says she’ll focus on her ground game.

The community is ready for a change, Morales thinks. “This district is progressive, it needs a progressive candidate running it, and that’s not [Harrell]. This is a democracy, this isn’t the house of lords. He doesn’t just get the seat. He has to fight for it like the rest of us.”