I was recently asked to participate in the Downtown Seattle Association’s (DSA) mayoral candidate evaluation process. I respectfully declined to respond to their questionnaire, given my strong differences with DSA’s downtown-only approach to economic recovery.
It’s no secret that DSA and I have substantial policy differences. Last year DSA—funded by the city’s largest corporations and for-profit developers—lobbied aggressively against JumpStart Seattle, a progressive revenue measure I co-sponsored to provide rental assistance, housing and food vouchers for those in need at the height of the pandemic, and that was paid for by a small tax on big corporations.
When their lobbying failed, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which represents those same corporations as DSA, sued us and failed again. DSA is now one of the major financial backers of Charter Amendment 29, which I’ve criticized from the beginning as an unfunded mandate that could force the next Mayor to cut vital services like parks, childcare, public safety, and snow and garbage removal because of its lack of a dedicated funding source. But that’s not why I opted out of their process.
The DSA asked candidates to submit plans for recovery that focus solely on downtown businesses. It’s that type of self-interested approach—disregarding the needs of dozens of other diverse neighborhood districts and their communities—that has failed Seattle in the past. I have developed a comprehensive plan that lays out a vision for equitable economic recovery and revitalization in every neighborhood—prioritizing the needs of all of our city’s people, businesses, and neighborhoods.
My plan, "Progress for All”, takes a workers-first approach because they are the foundation of a just economic recovery. Seattle needs to make it easier for our region’s workers to go back to work, with better childcare options and support for diversified transit options and work environments; from start-ups that begin in a garage to storefronts that represent the amazing diversity of our neighborhoods.
My plan lays out a path to lift up workers into good jobs by establishing incentives and technical assistance for worker co-ops, worker-owned collectives, profit sharing, and employee ownership. It expands worker protections by establishing a citywide access-to-hours policy so that current hourly employees who want to work up to 40 hours can get more hours before new part-time employees are added, and it raises standards in the gig economy by ending sub-minimum wages and making it easier to access benefits.
Small businesses and neighborhood business districts throughout our city are vital to expanding and diversifying our economy, but they can’t afford lobbyists who use their money and influence to push policies that favor large corporations. That’s why I will reinvigorate and focus the Office of Economic Development to serve as an energetic community partner that serves neighborhood businesses and start-ups with tools they need to find capital and technical assistance, removing barriers for new entrepreneurs from low-income communities.
COVID-19 exposed and deepened the wealth gap and income inequality that many of us have experienced our whole lives. To truly end homelessness, we need to solve for these root causes and not just manage symptoms with half-measures.
Equitable recovery means confronting racialized wealth inequality. That’s why I will work to reverse the displacement of low-income communities by tripling permanently affordable quality housing, expanding land trusts, beefing up renter protections, moving surplus public land into community-based stewardship, and funding equitable development projects. My administration will also work with a partner to create a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) to offer patient, low-cost capital to community-serving enterprises.
And as we build the Seattle of the future, with new, affordable homes and commercial spaces, we’ll do so in a zero-carbon way, with clean energy sources that help mitigate the worst aspects of climate change while creating good-paying union jobs.
The people of Seattle deserve a mayor who dreams as big and works as hard as they do to build a progressive Seattle of connected, livable, safe neighborhoods that all have affordable childcare options, good public schools, safe parks, modern public transit, with housing and rent everyone can afford, where all kinds of businesses can prosper, and where all jobs pay a living wage.
We have a one-year old daughter, and I think about the Seattle of her future. What will her Seattle look like, and what must we do right now to ensure it’s the city of her dreams, the way it was for me as a young migrant farmworker in central Washington?
This is not a moment for small thinking. We can build a progressive Seattle that again is the envy of the nation. I invite you to read my economic plan “Progress For All” at lorenaforseattle.com/progressforall and join our movement to tackle generational inequity by lifting up those who continue to shoulder the burden of business as usual.