Mercedes Elizalde is the fourth candidate to file to run in the 5th District in North Seattle.
  • Mercedes Elizalde is the fourth candidate to file to run in the 5th District in North Seattle.

Of the seven newly created city council districts, there's only one where no current city council member lives: the 5th in North Seattle, including Maple Leaf and Northgate up to the border with Shoreline. And that's left it wide open for newcomers.

Today, Mercedes Elizalde, who recruits and trains volunteers at the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute, jumped in the race.

“I really want to be working on new policies that are going to help keep the city affordable, especially around responsible development," she says. "As things start to move north, [we should] make sure that we’re learning from what we’ve learned in other places and don’t develop too fast.”

But before Elizalde could get into more specifics, she hung up to go help organize tonight's homeless count. I'll learn more about her campaign priorities tomorrow.

Along with her work at the LIHI, Elizalde is on the board of the Tenants Union of Washington State and serves as co-chair of the Seattle Women's Commission, which advocates on issues affecting women in the city. (Morgan Beach, who's running in the 3rd district, is also on that commission.)

Also running in District 5: Former Methodist pastor Sanford "Sandy" Brown (UPDATE: I've added "former" because Brown says he's no longer a pastor), Planned Parenthood organizer Halei Watkins, and Mian Rice, who runs the Port of Seattle's small business program and is the son of former mayor Norm Rice.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, much of Elizalde’s focus is on social services and housing. She says when the city is funding affordable housing, it should be defined as affordable for people making 40 or 50 percent of median income in the area instead of the current 80 percent.

At the current rate, “a one bedroom … can still run for $1,300 or $1,400 a month because the area median income is really high,” Elizalde says. And that’s not affordable for a lot of people trying to make it in the city.

“The fact that we’re building to such a high percentage is a bit of patting ourselves on the back for not doing quite enough.”

Elizalde, who’s 28, Mexican-American, and rents in the Jackson Park neighborhood, says she'd provide a fresh voice and a focus on social services the council is about to lose with the departure of Nick Licata.

“We need somebody on the city council who’s worked on direct service work,” she says. “When it comes to really understanding what the policy means … it’s not just based on someone else’s research but based on real life experiences. That’s something I know I bring that’s not on the council now and is certainly not represented by anyone else who’s running.”

She says northern Seattle suffers from a shortage of childcare and preschool providers, which she worries will worsen as the area continues to grow.

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“We don’t even have anyone here who could apply for the city preschool money,” she says, referring to the ongoing implementation of the city’s new preschool program. If the city doesn’t do anything to “incentivize” preschools in the northern part of the city, “then preschool just won’t come to the north end until our schools are failing.”

She’s still short on specifics about how to improve this, but says city leaders aren’t working hard enough on figuring out why there aren’t more providers up north.

And like every candidate is sure to do this year, she’s talking (vaguely) about growth. She says the city should “learn from other neighborhoods,” like Ballard, in order to “plan ahead” and provide enough bus service and police response to fast-growing areas on the north end.

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