Homelessness: The homelessness rates of New York City and San Francisco are about double the rate in Seattle. The homelessness rate in D.C. is about triple that in Seattle. (see chart below) Why are we trying to mimic these so-called progressive cities? Why is our city government spending tens of millions of our money on a contingent which represents less than half of 1% of our city’s population? In addition to halting the increase of City-sanctioned homeless encampments, we need to get rid of existing City-sanctioned homeless encampments. That isn’t nearly as harsh as what the City* is currently doing. In the name of compassion and safety, the City is bulldozing homeless camps, which is why the City has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union. If a person isn’t on private property or on City property, why should we “care” so much that we bulldoze their camp? If someone is on state or federal property, then that person is the problem of the state or federal government, not of the City. If we truly care about the homeless, we should care for them on an individual basis, not allow the government to do our caring for us. Obviously, the government is not an effective means of ending homelessness because it is currently only aiding and abetting it. When asked how to deal with this problem, Mayor Murray said just last year, “We’re actually making this up as we go along.” That strategy stopped being acceptable on day two of the existence of homelessness, but Murray seems to have doubled down on that strategy. He pays the Director of Homelessness – a position Murray, perhaps, created for his friend? – an annual salary of $137,500 after ignoring the less-expensive advice from Barack Obama’s leading homelessness expert. Governments cannot effectively care; people can.
Cost of living: Another reason why our city’s cost of living is so large is due to our counterproductive rules. Rent control might sound good in theory, but since it already exists in other cities, we don’t need to theorize. How’s rent control working out in New York City? Not at all well. Their cost of living is greater than ours, and their rate of homelessness is double ours. Also, yes, our state’s tax system is regressive, but I’m running for mayor, not governor. We’re stuck with a sales tax, and if non-whites are disproportionately affected by poverty, then isn’t it in the best interest of diversity to reduce both property and sales taxes? Nothing is free, but in the name of helping our poorest residents, the City continues to dream up frivolous ideas which end up hurting the very same people they’re trying to help. The more our government tries to do, the more alienated and poor we become. We need to simplify the business license tax, and do away with the other taxes (if they are in addition to the sales tax). It’s not for the government to reward certain businesses while punishing others. We already have a sales tax, so there’s no need to punish Seattleites with additional, “special” rates; it’s either taxed or it isn’t. We also need to get rid of occupational licensing. We’ve already been vetted and/or have completed our schooling, so we’re capable. We don’t need the City’s permission to go about our lives in the manner we see fit.
Neighborhood autonomy: Seattle's neighborhoods are what make our city unique; however, the City has too much power, and it is harming our neighborhoods. As two examples, the City picks and chooses which neighborhoods to target for zoning changes and which neighborhoods to host homeless encampments, with little to no feedback from the neighborhoods themselves. Sure, neighborhoods can voice their concerns, but they have little to no power in the process. This process needs to be decentralized, and I think the following proposal will accomplish this goal. Upzone all of Seattle, but divert planning power from the City to the neighborhoods. This will prevent developers and special interest groups from circumventing the neighborhoods, and it will allow all neighborhoods the opportunity to build taller and denser if they so choose. To be clear, I don’t want any level of government to tell any property owner what that person can or cannot do with their own property; however, as mayor, I won’t be able to make such decisions unilaterally. Because I’ll have to work with the City Council, decentralizing the planning process is a step in the right direction. The growing value of housing, relative to other assets (as well as labor income) over the past 40 years, is responsible for almost 100% of increasing wealth inequality in the Western world. This is happening in Seattle because the City is enabling it. Housing and zoning decisions should be left to the neighborhoods, not dictated to the neighborhoods by an authoritarian city government.
Sanctuary status: I am happy to see Mayor Murray ready to do without federal funding, but I was baffled to learn that Seattleites may be asked to approve local tax hikes. Wrong call. He just wants to extort more money from us by way of fearmongering. If the leviathan that is our city government cannot function without federal funding, then our city government is too big. We need to shrink the size of our government, not raise our already-high taxes. Why should we take from Americans who don’t live in Seattle to help fund Seattle? The lack of federal funding would be a badge of honor for our city: “We don’t take money from D.C.” “We don’t accept money from Trump.” Raising taxes would invalidate that honor. I am not proposing the abolishment of vital services. Just take a look at the City’s 39 departments, and I am confident that you’ll be surprised to find plenty which aren’t vital. The fact that we pay for 39 departments is indicative of the City’s harmful, political pursuit to please everyone; however, that pursuit will only divide and bankrupt us further. No federal assistance is a good thing; let’s wean ourselves off and get back to the basics. Let’s make government dull again. According to Murray’s spokesman, Seattle law states, “City officers and employees are directed to cooperate, and not hinder, enforcement of federal immigration laws.” Let’s change that law, so that City officers and employees are in charge. The law should read, “Welcome to Seattle: county, state, and federal officers and employees are directed to cooperate, and not hinder, enforcement of City laws.” I’m advocating municipal autonomy. We have a competent police department, so I’d rather it handle local issues than allow our city to be invaded by federal police forces.
Traffic congestion: We not only pay the City’s 11,600 employees handsomely, we pay County employees just as generously so that they can afford to live in Seattle. King County is expansive: stretching south of Lynnwood to north of Tacoma, including Vashon Island, and eastward to the tip of the Snoqualmie Pass. Why must we have most of King County’s 14,000+ employees work in Seattle – the largest city in the state and one of the most expensive? That makes no sense. Why must Seattle be the County seat? Why not have the seat move to the North Bend-Snoqualmie area? That area is easily accessible by the entire county, due to its central location and access to major roads, and the cost of living is far less than that of Seattle. County bureaucrats needn’t be paid (by us) to live in such an expensive and congested city as Seattle. In addition, we need the City to end the war on ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. Those services help reduce congestion. If we don’t like Uber or Lyft, then we – as individuals – are free to boycott their services, so why would we need or even want the City to make that decision for us? If the City continues to harass Uber and Lyft, what’s to stop ridesharing companies from ceasing their Seattle operations? That would be a lose-lose for everyone. Also, Mayor Murray’s move to kill the bike-share program was a good one, but we should take it a step further by ending the mandatory-helmet law. The threat of being fined for not wearing a helmet keeps bicyclists off the road. Like deciding whether to use a ridesharing company, wearing a helmet is a personal choice, and the more Seattleites are on bikes, the less of us will be in cars. I’m well aware that bike use isn’t the golden ticket to reducing traffic congestion. I’m advocating individual liberty: I want the City to stop forcing the public to make certain transportation decisions, and I want the public to force the City to focus on “boring” and nonpartisan tasks, like roads.
*City: government of Seattle
This chart is adapted from the US Conference of Mayors, Hunger & Homelessness Survey. Seattle wasn't included in the original chart.