There’s a dominant belief in science that a scientist should keep their head down, do their work, and they'll be rewarded. Emily Myers sees that changing. It's becoming more common for scientists to get involved in policy, engage, and be activists themselves.
Myers is nearly complete with her PhD in Parkinson's disease research at the University of Washington. Simultaneously, she's running for Seattle City Council District 4, which covers Wallingford, Wedgwood, the UW, and other nearby neighborhoods. Why the extra work? Because she believes scientific leadership is necessary for policy.
"Scientific leadership means speaking truth in public and using evidence and data to back up the claims we’re making and back up the policies we want to see pushed," Myers told The Stranger. "In the national climate, more and more we're seeing scientists stepping forward and saying this isn’t right, this isn’t true."
"We can’t afford to wait any longer to step forward and be a leader," Myers said. "I’ve seen so much inequity and so many health disparities and wealth disparities that being told to keep my head down and do my work is not feasible for me anymore."
As Myers points out, at the rate we’re going Seattle is not even going to reach our climate goals.
To combat climate change, Myers wants to invest in public transit and affordable housing.
"I think we need to keep pushing on the MHA (Mandatory Housing Affordability) and potentially expand that out," Myers said.
Myers, who is a resident of the U District, will be at the heart of some of the biggest change set to hit the district. The UW Master Plan is the university's vision to turn the areas surrounding the Seattle campus into a high rise district in the next 10 years. The Seattle City Council approved the plan in December of last year. However, Myers takes issue with some aspects of the plan.
"I think one of the most disappointing parts of the master plan for me particularly was the revision of the affordable housing mandate from the university," Myers said. "The university was mandated to put in 450 affordable units and then that became voluntary." That was changed at UW's behest.
"I think that really speaks to the values and making sure we have a people-powered movement for affordable housing," Myers said.
Myers is also centering her campaign on childcare and care work.
"Historically, it’s been work done by women and it’s been work that’s been devalued," Myers said. "Obviously our children do better when they have stable nurturing environments."
She wants to work with developers to mandate the construction of childcare centers with new developments. Access to childcare, and good quality childcare where workers are paid a living wage, is what Myers calls her "feminist dream for the city."
Her policy goals around homelessness are to take a behavioral mental health and harm reduction approach. That means increasing services like wrap-around housing, or continuum care, and low barrier housing.
"Programs like Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) are doing amazing work but they’re underfunded," Myers said. "If you have a social worker that has to build relationships but they have high turnover in their employees because they’re underfunded and underpaid it’s hard to help people. They’re doing amazing work but we really need to address where we’re putting our resources."
Myers's campaign just had its kick-off. She says she's excited about participating in the democracy voucher program and that she will not be taking corporate funding.