Tag: tammy morales

The 2019 City Council Candidates: District 2 Candidate Tammy Morales

Image via Tammy Morales campaign.

This year’s council races include an unusually high number of open seats, an unprecedented amount of outside spending, and eight first-time candidates. To help voters keep track, I’m sitting down with this year’s city council contenders to talk about their records, their priorities, and what they hope to accomplish on the council.

Today: Tammy Morales, an organizer for the Rainier Beach Action Coalition and former Seattle Human Rights Commission member. Morales ran in 2015 against District 2 incumbent Bruce Harrell and lost by just over 300 votes. She’s running for the same position this year, but without Harrell (who’s retiring) in the running.

The C Is for Crank (ECB): Four years ago, you ran as a progressive alternative to Bruce Harrell, but you certainly strike me as the kind of candidate that would join the DSA or call yourself a socialist. So how have your positions changed in the four years since you last ran?

Tammy Morales (TM): I don’t know if my positions have changed. I think for me, I’ve gotten clearer about sort of the macro economic structure that is driving the inequality in our country. That’s why I was really interested in learning more about what DSA is. And tied to that is my deeper understanding about racial inequality and how so much of that is rooted in every structure and system that we have in this country and this sort of extractive economy that is driven by this constant need to grow and expand the markets. And it all just sort of came together for me in a way that it was less clear before.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in small business or that I don’t believe in having a market-based economy. But it does mean that I think even more so strongly now that the role of local government is to intervene when the market is failing the most vulnerable in our community.

(Morales followed up later to say that she would consider a business and occupation tax rebate program for micro-businesses with fewer than 20 employees, commercial rent control or longer leases for small businesses, community land trusts for commercial spaces, and a public bank that could provide small-business loans).

ECB: When you say “growth,” are you referring to economic growth or growth in terms of population?

TM: Well, I think the people growth is driven by our idea that we have to constantly attract more businesses. We have to expand industry. We have to provide the incentives that let Amazon bring 53,000 people here. And at some point, you reach capacity and it’s just not a sustainable model, especially when we haven’t really prepared all the infrastructure that we need to absorb that.

“We’re talking about permanent, affordable housing, things like community land trusts that could ensure long-term affordability, right of return, affirmative marketing of projects, and preserving existing affordability rather than allowing for affordable buildings to be torn down and replaced with market-rate buildings.”

ECB: When you talk about infrastructure, are you talking about concurrency [the idea that the city shouldn’t allow more density without providing infrastructure to support it]?

TM: We’re witnessing the result of this confluence of things. The feds have disinvested in public housing, our housing policy has been driven by serving developers that are interested in facilitating more market-rate construction, and then there’s the fact that we grew by 100,000 people in 10 years and our projections were that we would do that in 20. We just weren’t ready. And so we’re playing catch up. And what that means is that because so much of what has been in the pipeline for construction has been market-rate and not workforce housing or low-income housing, we’re witnessing displacement, especially in this district. So one of the priorities for me is dealing with that displacement.

ECB: Tell me about some of the policies you would want to implement to deal with displacement.

TM: We’re talking about inclusionary zoning—revisiting that and making it mandatory to include some percentage [of affordable housing on-site at new developments] rather than chipping into a pot of funds. We’re talking about permanent, affordable housing, things like community land trusts that could ensure longterm affordability for rental or homeownership opportunities, right of return, affirmative marketing of projects, and preserving existing affordability rather than allowing for affordable buildings to be torn down and replaced with market-rate buildings or something that people can’t afford anymore. So I think there are a slew of things that we could be doing to acknowledge that we can’t keep pushing out low-income folks out of the city.

ECB: When Kathy Nyland was head of the Department of Neighborhoods, she pushed for a new kind of outreach and engagement strategy that reached neighborhoods who had been excluded from traditional policymaking discussions. The idea was to expand the idea of community engagement beyond the traditional neighborhood district councils. How do you think that’s going now?

TM: I just spent a year working on a racial equity analysis with the office of civil rights, and the thing that we talked about for a year was the lack of commitment to authentic community engagement. So I think we need to reinvest in that department. We need to bring back the neighborhood service offices, so that people don’t have to go downtown, so that the resources that folks need to help them navigate the city departments are here for them, and to provide it in language  and during hours that people can actually access.

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The other thing is that if we are going to hold ourselves accountable to being a race and social justice city, a human rights city, then we have to commit to what it takes to do authentic community engagement. I think what I would like to see is that every city department has, in their budget, a line item for community engagement. So you budget for public education, for outreach, for events in the neighborhoods. And that needs to include funding for translators, for childcare, for food, for stipends for community members who you’re asking to come and give up their time to share their expertise about their neighborhood.

ECB: In response to recent news about fare enforcement, a lot of people are calling for free transit. That would obviously impact District 2, which has both light rail and some of the heaviest-ridership buses in the county along with a lower-income population than most other council districts. What do you think of that idea?

TM: I know Metro gets cranky whenever candidates start talking about this. This is where I do start thinking about revenue in the city and in the state, and, um, what it would take to be able to provide free transit, which is why I supported the statewide income tax, capital gains tax or whatever we can do to try to generate a more progressive funding stream in the city and in the state. Because I do think that we have a role to play in providing basic ways for people to get around.

ECB: You’ve been a food security advocate for a number of years. What are some steps that the city counts that you as a city council member would take to improve food security in District 2, which is a district where a lot of residents lack access to healthy food?

TM: We need longterm, local food resiliency. People need to learn how to grow food again, needs to learn where food comes from. And so, to the extent that we can expand community gardens, support people in growing their own foods so that they could start to understand what that means, that’s important. As part of the local Food Action Plan, we created and expanded the Fresh Bucks program [which gives SNAP recipients access to fresh fruits and vegetables], and it’s oversubscribed. Continue reading “The 2019 City Council Candidates: District 2 Candidate Tammy Morales”

An Unscripted Forum and Open-Mic Nite in Southeast Seattle’s District 2

Bruce Harrell does not need your "yes or no crap."
Bruce Harrell does not need your “yes or no crap.”

It’s nearly impossible to judge candidate “performance” at an unscripted, barely moderated event like last week’s District 2 forum without writing first about why it was a fiasco, and in this case the answer boiled down to three words: Josh Farris acolytes. Or: Unprepared forum moderator. Or, even shorter: No crowd control.

Whichever way you characterize it, the issue was that Farris, the relatively soft-spoken, seemingly reasonable, socialist-leaning third candidate in the Southeast Seattle district, showed up accompanied by a cadre of noisy, boisterous, disrespectful fans. Meanwhile, the moderator, Lakewood Seward Park Community Club board member Jeannie O’Brien, made essentially no effort to discipline the Farrisites by asking them to be quiet or stop heckling, creating an atmosphere of chaos that allowed them to commandeer a mic later and stretch the two-hour forum—which, again, featured just three candidates—until nearly 10:00 at night. (The Lakewood forum became the community’s de facto introduction to the three candidates after the 37th District Democrats canceled a forum for the 2nd and 3rd District races because Kshama Sawant, the popular Socialist council incumbent, like Farris, is not a Democrat).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the lay of the land in District 2. Bruce Harrell, longtime council incumbent and Seward Park resident, is running for the new District 2 seat. His main challenger is food-systems nonprofit manager Tammy Morales, another Seward Park resident who is running on a platform of affordability, police accountability (an issue on which she frequently attacks Harrell, who’s head of the council’s Public Safety Committee), and general “progressive values.: Flanking both of them on the left is Farris, a Occupy Wall Streeter and Iraq war veteran who’s running on an anti-eviction platform.

The trouble started right after Farris’ intro wrapped up and his supporters, mostly young guys who had ringed the room, started screaming and cheering uproariously, prompting an elderly lady in the front row to whisper to the Farris supporter next to hear, “Please stop screaming. I’m wearing hearing aids.” When the screamer continued screaming anyway, she explained further the hearing aids are “basically little microphones in my ears,” prompting the women next to her to begin openly mocking her,  setting the tone for an evening that was frequently punctuated by cheers and interruptions from hecklers.

Through all the noise (or perhaps because of it), I was reminded of something I forget about Bruce Harrell between elections: The man suffers no bullshit from his audience. And despite his affinity for binders full of notes (a security blanket that was clearly visible on the table in front of him), Harrell’s a strong campaigner, and he doesn’t back down when challenged even if his challenger, like Morales (and Farris), doesn’t pose much of a threat. Last week’s forum was no different, and at times it was fun to watch Harrell (act? play?) indignant when Morales tried to paint him as “someone who claims to be a social justice advocate but fails to step up for working people,” or who only became interested in “investing in the community after he’s been [on the council] eight years.”

"My question is a series of statements."
“My question is a series of statements.”

Harrell—who previously said he’d “never had so much fight in me as I have [in running] for this position”—responded, in full non sequitur battle mode, “I’ve never been afraid of anything—never. I don’t do things on the basis of fear. That’s a baseless accusation.”

The most striking difference between this debate and the council forums I’ve been to in the North End was the extent to which the issues down south are almost the reverse image of those that dominate up north. Whereas in the North End, people expressed concern about ugly apartment buildings coming in and depreciating single-family property values, the Lakewood forum centered on preserving racial diversity, keeping rents affordable, and preventing gentrification. Whereas everyone in the North End seemed obsessed with sidewalks to connect their single-family neighborhoods to local schools, the main transportation issues that came up in Southeast Seattle were the proposed restriping of Rainier Ave. S. to accommodate bike or bus lanes, and the fact that Sound Transit light rail has been so successful that many rail commuters are driving into Southeast Seattle and parking their cars on neighborhood streets, reducing the parking supply for residents.

All three candidates bemoaned gentrification, but they differed on what (if anything) to do about it. Morales suggested that the city should subsidize “not just very low-income housing, but housing for average workers who need a place to stay,” while Harrell said he would help improve Southeast business districts by prohibiting the “clustering” of marijuana retailers in the Rainier Valley. Currently, Rainier Ave. S is home to around a dozen medical-marijuana shops, some of which feature signs boasting “Open until midnight!” and offering free samples for first-time buyers.

And all three candidates agreed that the city needs to adopt a “linkage fee,” a citywide tax on new development, to help make developers “pay their fair share,” in Harrell’s words, to subsidize affordable housing. Farris, a new homeowner who called himself “basically homeless” (he was recently kicked out of his apartment following a long dispute with his landlord and is currently in between those two places), also said the city should adopt anti-eviction laws, a “blight tax” on banks that buy foreclosed homes, and rent control.

 

When the issue of transportation came up, all three displayed the familiar mix of conflicting opinions that often come up in discussions about “road diets,” the (fictitious) “war on cars,” and bike lanes. For example, while Harrell declared himself a passionate supporter of restriping Rainier to slow traffic and improve safety (“I don’t want another life lost on Rainier Avenue … If it takes a minute off your schedule, then start a minute earlier!”), he also said cyclists should be content to ride on “neighborhood streets” and that “I don’t think there should be a prohibition” on new park-and-ride lots in the city.

Morales followed up on Harrell’s park-and-ride comment by declaring herself “flummoxed” at the fact that the city does not allow new park-and-rides next to light rail stations (city officials prefer transit-oriented development to acres of bare pavement) and said she generally can’t walk the mile between her house and light rail because “sometimes I like to wear heels” and because she has young kids.

Farris, who is white, awkwardly attempted to demonstrate his cultural competency by talking about the need for more crossings on Rainier: “You see elderly folks crossing [Rainier] who  don’t understand that when a car’s coming, you have to stop. It’s not part of the culture. I’ve been to Vietnam, and when a car’s coming, you just walk out into the street and expect them to stop. That doesn’t happen here.”

The evening ended in what was supposed to be a Q&A with the audience. The problem was, no one was screening questions, and O’Brien neither enforced nor even provided any parameters before declaring it open-mike. Or, as I tweeted:  Screen shot 2015-06-15 at 9.14.23 PM

And guess what, I was right. The unscreened “questions” turned out to be mostly lengthy speeches by Farris supporters about everything from the new juvenile detention center (Harrell: “The jail is not controlled by the city …  You can shake your head all you want, but I want some bad people locked up”), to how to solve the affordable housing crisis (Harrell again: “I’m 56 years old. I don’t need people to applaud the linkage fee… Let’s not cheapen this process with this yes or no crap”), to whether the candidates would “give up” most of their salaries, as Farris has promised to do in the alternate universe in which he gets elected.

While new homeowner Farris used this last question as a chance once again to highlight his poverty (“I’m sleeping on a couch… It’s hard to be poor”), Harrell responding by saying that he earns his keep.

“If your question is, Would I give 50 percent of my salary to charity?, the answer is no,” Harrell said. “I would not be willing to do that. I have two kids in college and bills to pay, and I work very, very hard for it.”

After several more questions, and many more speeches (including one by a Farris supporter who claimed to have come to Harrell’s office seeking help “with tears in my eyes, representing Latino families and all families in the city”), the forum was over and everyone drifted into the night, a bit more knowledgeable and probably a little more confused than when they went in.