- Courtesy of Sandy Brown
- Sanford "Sandy" Brown: Cares about gun-control, homelessness, and North Seattle's sidewalk problem.
"My biggest personal issue is a citywide issue," says the former executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, "and that's the issue of homelessness, and finding ways to end the problem of street homelessness." First United Methodist Church, where he served as senior pastor until this spring, hosts a shelter with dozens of beds, and Brown was a founding member of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. He says there are a handful of specific problems with the city's approach to homelessness that could be addressed. Like getting other municipalities in the county to kick in more support, since it's a regional problem that Seattle is forced to fund disproportionately. Yes, the city should be spending more money, he thinks, but not too much more—"$4 to $5 million a year," in his estimation, to do things like focus on rapid re-housing and improving a broken shelter system by addressing barriers to shelter (like people with pets and families, or people who can't comply with clean-and-sober rules). He's a supporter of safe, legal encampments as an "interim survival mechanism" for people on the streets, though he sees encampments as more of a symbol that the shelter system isn't functioning as it should.
As for District 5, the North Seattle council district that stretches across the top of the city—from Maple Leaf, Northgate, and Lake City to most of Carkeek Park and up to the city's border with Shoreline—he says the one magic word that every 5th District candidate is going to spend a lot of time saying: "Sidewalks."
"My heart is in helping District 5 to organize and let its voice be heard in Seattle," says Brown. On a host of issues, but "the first being sidewalks." He points out that about two-thirds of the city's sidewalk-free streets are in North Seattle, and "there are lots of reasons why that's a problem." Not just pedestrian safety, but also "how we relate to each other as a community," he argues. Yes, kids need a safe way to walk to school, but when people feel safe walking their streets, sidewalks also end up helping to connect and organize neighborhoods.
But sidewalks are ridiculously expensive—they can run something like $250,000 per block face, which is why much of North Seattle is still a land where front yards end directly at the wheels of parked cars and people walk their dogs and trot to the coffee shop as carefully as they can. How would he propose funding the massive undertaking of sidewalking North Seattle's neighborhoods?
"There has to be somebody who puts this as a high priority," he answers. "Clearly it has not been a priority." Should there be new revenue? Or are there other budget priorities that should lose millions of dollars in existing funding in exchange? "I'm open to new revenue sources if that makes sense," he says, but adds, "Often it's not that there's not enough money, it's 'What's our priority?'" He says the city should simply allocate more per year toward building sidewalks and set a long-range timeframe for finishing work on what he calls "promises made back when neighborhoods were annexed into City of Seattle."
The other two big issue he cites in North Seattle are police protection and transportation. There's serious concern that the area isn't getting "adequate police protection," says Brown, especially in light of a recent memo saying that Seattle Police are virtually ignoring burglaries in the North Precinct—which number close to 1,500 a month—due to understaffing. As for transportation, he notes that "every time I get on an E bus, I'm standing," and says we should be working with Olympia to get a good transportation package (something people watching the capitol say is honestly not expected anytime soon).
He looks forward to spending time in the district finding out what residents' top priorities are, and he has nothing bad to say about his only other challenger so far, fresh-faced organizer and activist Halei Watkins.
"You know," he says, "I don't know anything about Halei, I've not met Halei. I look forward to campaigning... Halei is the first in the race, but I don't think I will be the last." As for his experience, Brown cites his work on issues like gun-control (he's campaigning heavily for Initiative 594 this year, which would close the background-check loophole in Washington State) and marriage equality, and his lifetime of faith-based social-justice work. "What I'm presenting about myself is I have lots of community experience over many years" and he's "used to being an advocate for issues that are difficult and take some courage... I think my résumé speaks for itself, and I think folks will recognize that."