The timing of former Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell's mid-March mayoral race announcement was perfect, he said at his kick-off press conference on Tuesday, because spring is all about rebirth, and that's what his campaign represents for the city.
But some of the new, regenerative ideas he proposed for Seattle left me scratching my head.
Number one on the "wait, what?" list was Harrell's plan to reform the Seattle Police Department. Harrell said he saved that policy "for last" in his campaign announcement because, as a Black man and former public safety chair on the council, it was one of his highest priorities.
"The other day, I watched the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of George Floyd's murder," Harrell began, "and I'm going to ask voluntarily that every sworn police officer watch that 8 minutes and 46-second video, and I'm going to ask them to sign a statement that says—a very simple statement—that the inhumane treatment of fellow human beings will not be tolerated in Seattle."
Harrell said that this video viewing was a "baseline" to reform that would open up a "dialogue" for "listening."
In the wake of last summer's social justice uprising, the council's efforts to defund the police, and the ongoing conversations about police reform, Harrell's big idea for reform is... making SPD officers watch the Floyd video? And making pinky promises not to kneel on a detained person's neck until they die? Will that be enough to shift a culture in the police department where six officers are under investigation for attending the Capitol insurrection rally?
I asked mayoral race front-runners Council President Lorena Gonzalez and Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, their thoughts on some of Harrell's policies.
In an email, Gonzalez said she didn't "see how viewing the horrific murder of George Floyd would do anything to improve attitudes and culture."
Gonzalez continued that "more hours of training and more paperwork will not do enough to remove systemic, implicit and explicit bias within our police department."
Echohawk laughed before she responded to the question in our phone interview. "I was shaking my head when I heard that," Echohawk said. "That is not police reform to ask officers to watch the George Floyd murder. I think we owe it to our community to do better."
In a follow-up email, Harrell expanded on his police reform platform, saying "of course a video is not enough" to change SPD culture. "A culture is changed by creating cultural norms," he added. I mean, if "don't murder" becomes a cultural norm at SPD after this, I guess I'll take it.
When it comes to other reform strategies, Gonzalez touted her work on the council that expanded civilian oversight of SPD. She also mentioned her vote for a bias-free policing ordinance as another productive way to reform policing. (Harrell drafted that bias-free policing law). Gonzalez also referenced last year's council budget, where she and the council moved civilian functions such as the 911 call center out of SPD's budget and redirected some of the department's money to social services. Advocates for reform, however, said those measures weren't enough.
Echohawk, who has served on the Community Police Commission for four years, said she wanted to find "community solutions" for police reform. It's unclear what those would be, but Echohawk said she would support "rethinking the police department from top to bottom."
Harrell, in an email, said he is supportive of "community policing, anti-bias training, and involving social workers and addiction specialists" to respond to a call when a cop isn't necessary.
In defense of his snuff film viewing strategy, he said, "To get to the root of the problem, we are going to have to find some common ground, especially with rank-and-file officers."
When it comes to police reform, Gonzalez, Echohawk, and Harrell all said that their most important role as mayor will be finding a new police chief, since Mayor Jenny Durkan said she won't look for ex-SPD Chief Carmen Best's replacement before her term is up. Harrell also argued that he would be best candidate for the job of negotiating a new police union contract.
The other big eyebrow-raiser for me was Harrell's proposal for addressing Seattle's homelessness crisis.
As we near the sixth birthday of Seattle's homelessness state of emergency, Harrell planned to be "relentless" on the issue. For him, that translated to setting up what sounded like a big GoFundMe, where anyone could throw money at the crisis.
"Whether you donate a dollar or $100,000, it makes no difference," Harrell said. "We will raise millions of dollars, and that money will go directly to homelessness."
Gonzalez, who is serving on the governing committee for the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, said that this strategy is known as paying taxes.
While philanthropic and charitable assistance is welcome, Gonzalez said, she doesn't want donations to excuse people and corporations with deep pockets from not paying their fair share.
Gonzalez co-sponsored last summer's JumpStart Seattle tax, which taxes the payrolls of high-earners at companies that report over $7 million in revenue. The $124 million raised from that tax funds affordable housing construction and city services. In an interview earlier this year, Gonzalez said she would support more progressive revenue strategies as Mayor.
Echohawk said public-private partnerships for homelessness response already existed, but Echohawk supported the idea of allowing "everyone to play a role" in solving the crisis.
Harrell clarified that his proposal was more than just asking for donations. He said the proposal constitutes "part of a larger, coordinated and accountable plan with a single dashboard for measuring programs and results, with entry points for volunteers, donors, foundations and civic partners to track our response, and feel confident that we are helping people get shelter and restore their lives." So, donations and a dashboard, then?
The Seattle mayoral race is getting more and more bloated as we near the May 14 filing deadline. Just this morning, former state Rep. Jessyn Ferrell announced her candidacy. You can check out all the candidates so far right here.