A ballot drop box where you can drop off your vote. Photo courtesy of APACE.

After Election Day on November 2, the next mayor of Seattle will be either Lorena Gonzalez or Bruce Harrell. The International Examiner asked the candidates how they will address he needs of Chinatown-International District. We are publishing in full the following answers, which we received over email.

Mayoral candidate Lorena González. Courtesy photo.

Lorena Gonzalez

  1. What’s one thing you’ve learned during the campaign from Chinatown International District community leaders that you didn’t know before, or that changed your thinking?

My favorite Seattleite, Roberto Maestras, organized with Uncle Bob Santos of the CID. It showed me what was possible with organizing across communities of color and is proof of what we can achieve, together.

Since before I first ran for office, I have prioritized relationships with the neighborhood and CID leaders who are fighting to ensure the CID stays home for many in the API community as we see Chinatowns disappear from cities across the country. The CID is a special community to me, and important to support as a fellow child of immigrants.

  1. What would you do as mayor to address hate and violence against Asians and Asian Americans?

I am the only candidate in my race that has been an elected official during this unprecedented time and civil rights moment of our generation. My team and I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with communities during this racial reckoning as half of my staff have been directly impacted members from the Black and AAPI communities. We have worked hard to leverage our power and influence to direct millions of dollars of investments to meaningfully move the needle on community safety and move our city towards inclusive public safety through upstream investments that strengthen community and families.

  1. Public safety is a concern in the CID, as are robberies and break-ins at businesses. What do you identify as the most important solutions to this that you could contribute to as mayor?

As a civil rights lawyer for more than a decade, I worked tirelessly to get justice for victims of police violence and racially biased policing across Washington and Seattle. As Mayor, I will work to address our city’s public safety challenges while ensuring that we have true public safety where our Black, brown, and indigenous community members do not have to fear police violence.

Right now we are asking the police to do too many things. Studies show that 50% of police calls do not need armed sworn officers to respond. My administration will scale up the Community Service Officer program to improve response for non-violent crimes, including property crimes. Community service officers can be hired and trained faster than police officers and are less expensive for the city and more responsive to neighborhood safety concerns. We will also increase funding for programs like Health One Mobile units, so that appropriately trained professionals are responding to behavioral health emergencies.

Scaling up these units will allow our police force to shift their focus to more serious violent crime. And I will hold them accountable to do that job effectively and in a manner that respects the civil rights, dignity and liberty of all Seattleites.

  1. People are concerned about gentrification and displacement in the CID. They worry that with an unprecedented number of high-rise housing projects proposed, the neighborhood will gradually stop being a place where seniors, immigrants and refugees, small business owners, working people, and people from a mix of incomes can thrive. What would you do to protect the neighborhood from the pressures of displacement and gentrification?

Our Black, brown and Indigenous neighbors experience the trauma of homelessness at disproportionately high rates due to systemic inequities. We should drive down this disproportionality with policies and priorities that recognize and focus on what people and communities need to heal, stabilize, and thrive. We need to ensure that as we continue to develop our city, we are creating more affordable housing with, for, and in BIPOC communities. I have long supported the Equitable Development Initiative and as Mayor will work to increase and stabilize this funding.

  1. Small businesses are still struggling after taking a heavy hit during the pandemic. Many businesses in the Chinatown-ID face unique challenges. What will you do to help CID businesses bounce back?

I have released an economic development plan focused on small businesses and workers. Part of this plan includes revamping the Office of Economic Development as a center for resources, tools and technical assistance for small businesses. By doing this we will serve local businesses with tools they need to find capital and technical assistance, with attention to removing barriers for new entrepreneurs from low-income communities.

We will also ensure immigrant businesses have in-language, culturally competent guidance, help protect local ownership and family businesses transitioning to the next generation, whether in fragile neighborhoods like CID or unique industries like fishing and maritime.

You can read my full plan at lorenaforseattle.com

Mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell. Courtesy photo.

Bruce Harrell

  1. What’s one thing you’ve learned during the campaign from Chinatown International District community leaders that you didn’t know before, or that changed your thinking?

Throughout our campaign, I’ve made sure I have consistently been in the Chinatown International District, including visiting small businesses and meeting with community leaders. One thing that has both inspired and impressed me is the resilience and strength of this community. In the face of so many challenges – a pandemic and its effect on the economy; rising bigotry, hate, and violence; challenging growth and increasing housing costs – the community has stood strong.

However, the CID community hasn’t just powered through; they’ve organized and rallied behind each other and toward needed change, seeing me as the leader to optimize recovery for them. I have lived in Seattle my entire life, and the kind of energy I’m seeing around embracing cultural and shared values, along with the need for new leadership in City Hall, is stunning. Whether it be for public safety, new economic opportunities, preservation and creation of affordable housing, or simply just wanting leadership who listens, the CID community is making clear that we need change. I’m honored to stand with them in pursuit of this shared vision for a better, safer, more equitable future for the city that we love.

  1. What would you do as mayor to address hate and violence against Asians and Asian Americans?

As the son of an African American father and Japanese mother, who lived through incarceration by the U.S. government, I know violent, hate-filled acts are not new. I was raised in the Central Area at a time when families that looked like mine were not shown real estate in other neighborhoods and even in my diverse neighborhood were called names that would not be tolerated in today’s Seattle Public Schools.

I wrote about my mother’s experience with racial hate in a recent Seattle Times column as part of a needed dialogue and understanding of the historical roots of anti-Asian bias, and I’ve made clear that taking on this rise in hate is one reason I decided to run for this office.

I have a unique perspective and real lived experience that has informed my steadfast commitment to and proven record of delivering on equity, inclusion, and racial justice. As the only major candidate for Mayor this year who has had to deliver “the talk” to my own children, and having marched last summer to once again demand an understanding that Black Lives Matter, I can tell you that my commitment to racial justice is rooted in my DNA – and was a catalyst for why I am running for Mayor.  We will vigorously track hate crimes and make sure we prosecute appropriately and at the same time make sure we implement best practices in prevention, education and outreach to prevent these heinous attacks from happening in the first place.

As we saw last year when America pushed back against racism and misogyny by electing a Black and Asian woman Vice President, we can continue to send a message that representation matters by electing Seattle’s first AAPI Mayor, and only second Black leader for our city. I’ll lead a city that rejects hate and white supremacy, and shows that when we elect representative leaders, we change power structures.

  1. Public safety is a concern in the CID, as are robberies and break-ins at businesses. What do you identify as the most important solutions to this that you could contribute to as mayor?

Far too often, neighbors tell me they’re unsure in the event of a public safety emergency not only when police will respond – but if they will respond at all. This is completely unacceptable – every person in every community has the absolute right to feel safe.

Rising rates of crime and gun violence, and the City’s current aimless and negligent approach to public safety, should concern us all. My steadfast commitment is to restoring public safety, ensuring maximum seven-minute response times, and building community trust with law enforcement. Our neighbors and businesses in the Chinatown International District deserve the peace of mind that they are protected and prioritized.

Further defunding and department attrition is not a solution. We must restore staffing to national best practices, invest in stronger de-escalation and intervention programs, root out bias with internal culture change, and build a more responsive, representative police force.

We’ll review every situation involving a gun and badge, determining when and where uniformed officers are needed. Alternative responses to situations like mental health crises and non-violent disputes can address issues without escalation, while police focus on calls they’re best equipped to address.

Finally, our investigative and detective units need resources for thorough, effective investigations – solving robberies and serious crimes like homicides, hate crimes, domestic abuse, and gun violence, holding perpetrators accountable, and reducing crime in the long term.

  1. People are concerned about gentrification and displacement in the CID. They worry that with an unprecedented number of high-rise housing projects proposed, the neighborhood will gradually stop being a place where seniors, immigrants and refugees, small business owners, working people, and people from a mix of incomes can thrive. What would you do to protect the neighborhood from the pressures of displacement and gentrification?

The Chinatown International District is one of Seattle’s most special places – a reflection of the intersection of communities and cultures that call it home. But the challenge of affordability in our city puts this place at risk – both through the rise in housing costs and the new developments that risk displacing longstanding neighbors. We need to ensure housing is built to meet demand – and we need to have programs in place to keep communities intact.

We know that both the best way to maintain communities – and prevent homelessness – is to prevent someone from losing their housing in the first place. I will make it a major priority to expand rental assistance programs and pursue housing affordability measures to grow the housing supply and reduce housing costs for residents at risk.

As Mayor, I’ll address the housing crisis by dedicating general-fund sources to build more affordable housing, especially on vacant or underdeveloped public land; increasing density options citywide; reducing reliance on property taxes via alternative progressive revenues; and supporting tenants at risk of displacement.

During this growth and development, I’ll work to protect communities against displacement and gentrification by calling on our Office of Housing to explore programs for increasing equity in housing and homeownership, including community land trusts, affirmative marketing, and exploring policies like those in other cities that allow tenants to purchase buildings when up for sale.

  1. Small businesses are still struggling after taking a heavy hit during the pandemic. Many businesses in the Chinatown-ID face unique challenges. What will you do to help CID businesses bounce back?

I have a long history of assisting small, local, and immigrant- and BIPOC-owned businesses get off the ground and turned into thriving job creators and community pillars. As Mayor, I’ll be a trusted partner, delivering an equitable recovery and in the long term ensuring dedicated support for small businesses to compete, succeed, and expand to take advantage of opportunities ahead.

Over the course of this campaign, I’ve visited over one hundred small businesses, and I’m inspired by their stories of creativity and perseverance during the pandemic, but the most important lesson has been that in order for a recovery to work, we must keep our smallest businesses from slipping through the cracks and protect workers. Small businesses need leadership and an open door in City Hall.

Going forward, I’ve called for use of federal recovery funds to go toward small business recovery efforts, increased access to capital and resources, and new “business to business” partnerships to ensure that smaller businesses and BIPOC entrepreneurs enjoy the ancillary revenues and success of many larger businesses. Chinatown International District businesses deserve frequent, dedicated outreach, with language resources and other support systems for their specific and unique needs.

We will address public safety and restore peace of mind both by restoring police staffing levels and through non-police teams who can respond with culturally competent care to mental health emergencies and others in need of urgent help. I’ll take an active role ensuring our Office of Economic Development works with BIAs, small businesses, and other stakeholders to help spur economic growth and empower local business districts. I believe protecting these areas is necessary for ensuring a truly thriving city for all.

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