Updated 9:43 pm, Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Photo: GENNA MARTIN, SEATTLEPI
Steerage scenes from “Titanic” could be called out as model for Wednesday night’s candidates debate sponsored by the Seattle Human Services Coalition. The crowd was boisterous and heard calls to help those left behind in a society that rewards those on the upper decks.
Both candidates for Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon, pledged action from day one — Nov. 28, due to Ed Murray’s resignation — to counter homelessness and push back in a city growing unaffordable even as it grows more diverse.
But there was a difference. Moon, an urban activist, bluntly talked about racial privilege and class identity as root causes of Seattle’s problems, to be rooted out.
The Emerald City, she argued, has been at the beck and call of “white people who have access to power and think they are superior.” The solution is a city government, top to bottom, of “racial, gender and income equity.”
The words are provocative coming from a white woman, married to an architect, who has used her own money for the lion’s share of her campaign war chest.
But Moon was intense. “We need to look at anti-racism training across this city,” she argued. And later: “White people need to step up because African-American people have been doing this work for too long.”
Durkan was less edgy but equally committed to a just and inclusive city.
“You have to review everything through the lens of equity, social justice and racism,” she told the crowd.
“We have to stop the top-down approach,” she added. “Solutions come from communities.”
Durkan put the blame for rising racial polarity in America squarely at the top. “This president has emboldened racists, and it was not just what happened in North Carolina but across the country,” said Durkan, who served as U.S. attorney for Western Washington under President Obama.
Solutions? Durkan spoke of the need to locate 300 to 500 shelter beds in every council district of the city. She promised to bring non-profits and the faith community into a more active role dealing with the housing crisis.
Moon praised proposals by Councilwoman Kshama Sawant to find a way to use money from Seattle’s general fund for housing, and by Councilman Mike O’Brien to create RV parks for those living in their campers.
Moon identified a capital gains tax as a needed and desirable form of revenue. She defined capital gains as an income source for the rich, saying: “This is money wealthy people get from investments and they are doing nothing to earn it.”
“We are generating great income and it is only going to the rich,” said Moon.
The debate had high moments for both candidates.
For Moon, it was arguing the issue of “food security” for immigrants and low-income residents. “We are losing the Red Apple at 23rd and Jackson to gentrification and profit,” she argued. The popular market, which has catered to Asian and African-American shoppers, is closing for good on Sept. 30.
Moon was sharply critical of the upscale New Seasons Market, set to open next year at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street in Capitol Hill. New Seasons was subject to an “unwelcoming ceremony” by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union when it opened a store on Mercer Island.
Based on her work as a federal prosecutor, Durkan delivered a passionate defense of safe injection centers, where addicts can use drugs but also receive health care and treatment for breaking their addiction.
It is a “public health issue” keyed to “harm reduction,” Durkan argued. The city’s needle exchange program is not enough.
“It makes no sense to say, ‘Here is a clean needle, now go out to the park, go out to the alley to use it,'” said Durkan.
The candidates, each seeking to be the first woman to serve as Seattle mayor since Bertha K. Landes a century ago, will meet — often — over the next 47 days.
One widely anticipated debate, dealing with social services, will take place the night of Sept. 28 in the cathedral hall behind St. James Cathedral.