Seattle Anti-Racism 2017 Candidate Survey
European Dissent (ED) and the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CAR-W) surveyed 2017 Seattle mayoral candidates to gain a greater understanding of candidates’ race analysis. We’re using these answers to increase transparency to constituents about where candidates stand on accountability to communities of color and undoing racism. All of these topics center communities of color in this city.
As white people raised in the United States, we have received messages that teach a false sense of superiority based on skin color. How has racist messaging affected your sense of self and what are you doing to address this?
Cary Moon: It affects my sense of self every day. Every day we all see thousands of images that reinforce our racist culture. It is a non-stop stream of reinforcement of the status quo: pictures of “threatening” young men of color, history that centers white oppressors as heroes, the myths of the American Dream as available to all, the reassertion of racial stereotypes in media, and much more. Every day I try to be aware of it, I intentionally listen to news analysis from the perspective of a person of color, I intentionally choose all my fiction reading (and podcasts, and twitter, and documentaries) by authors from marginalized communities, and follow the work of leaders from communities of color in the political sphere.
Jenny Durkan: Racism has affected and continues to affect my life, and the lives of every American. It is insidious and so deeply imbedded in our country in ways many people never realize.
I strongly believe we have been too slow to acknowledge the deep impacts of our history of slavery. The struggle of African Americans was really a struggle to obtain the most basic of rights — dignity and respect. While we made some overt strides on removing legal barriers, we have much left to do. And we have failed to do so the systemic, hard work it takes to change cultural barriers, hearts, and minds.
I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s. As a child, I watched a powerful governor physically block students from seeking education because they were black. The struggle and anguish of those years were palpable, and etched themselves on who I am. I remember where I was when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were gunned down.
I wanted to be a lawyer since I was young — to fight for what was right and help people achieve justice. I began my career as a criminal defense attorney and represented people of color caught up in the “war on drugs,” fought to change state sentencing laws, and helped create one of the first drug courts in the country to provide treatment alternatives to incarceration.
I worked with the Japanese-American community to get redress payments for those unconstitutionally incarcerated under Executive Order 9066. I was on the frontlines fighting with community members of color against Initiative 200 that ended affirmative action in our state, and will take up that fight again as mayor.
As U.S. Attorney, I was so proud to serve President Obama and Eric Holder as I worked with key advocacy groups — El Centro de la Raza, Mothers for Police Accountability, the NAACP, Northwest Immigrant Rights’ Project (NWIRP), OneAmerica, and others — to push for reforms in our police department, including addressing biased policing.
I created a civil rights unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office to enforce fair housing laws, anti-discrimination laws, and language translation services in our court system. I brought hate crime prosecutions to protect Sikh and LGBTQ people. We also were one of the pilot offices to establish outreach and partnerships with the Muslim community — and to work with their kids.
The day that Trump’s travel ban was issued, I went to SeaTac airport and worked with the ACLU and NWIRP in a successful effort to get a federal court to block illegal deportations of people who had been placed on a jet to Dubai.
I will take my decades of experience of fighting for justice in the trenches as a committed ally to people of color and every underrepresented community to City Hall.
How has being white benefited you throughout your life and specifically in this current campaign?
Cary Moon: I have had privilege all my life. Being born into our dominant white culture, a culture that makes us believe every ‘win’ or special opportunity we have was earned due to innate qualities and individual determination, I was not aware of really how advantaged I was until I did a deep dive into equity work in the last five years. Now I understand all the doors that were open to me because of my skin color, family background, and generations of accumulated advantage due to being white; due to being from a professional class family that sent me and all my siblings to college; due to the security of being able walk through life every day free of fear or challenge; due to being protected from struggles and traumas others are forced to withstand; due to the self-confidence of never being “other”. I understand that the ability to prevail in a tough mayoral race, which is tremendously hard work, depends on using ALL these advantages. My education and professional manners; my ability to work long days without pay; my ability to raise money and pay professional consultants and staff to manage the politics well for me.
Jenny Durkan: I have had many blessings, a lot of good fortune, and privilege in my life. Undoubtedly, being white was a factor in the opportunities I’ve had — going to good schools, in my work life, accumulating wealth, and serving in government.
As an openly gay woman, I also know the type of hard work it takes to fight for equal rights — in schools, in the workplace, and in society as a whole. It has been a long and hard journey that continues.
I certainly recognize that in Seattle (as in America) wealth, power, and privilege are concentrated and held by too few people. That must change. I support the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, and have been on the front lines of social justice issues, including the struggle for full marriage equality, other LGBTQ rights, and efforts to address racial bias in policing.
Throughout my career I have sought to ensure greater diversity, empowerment, and opportunities to lead. This has been reflected in my campaign and will be reflected in how I govern if elected. We must show how we can share decision-making authority across race, class, gender, and among those with different physical abilities. It is essential to have all voices at the table to make sure we’re understanding different perspectives, with a focus on intersectionality, and balancing across the issues. I am committed to using an equity lens and making social justice an integral part of how we budget, govern, and conduct city business.
Do you feel you are more fit to serve Seattle’s communities of color than someone from those communities? How does your racial identity shape your ability to work accountably with communities of color in Seattle?
Cary Moon: I am not sure I AM more fit to serve Seattle’s communities of color than someone from those communities. I am determined to be a good ally, knowing this will be an ongoing and every day challenge. I am setting up my leadership team to share power across race class and gender, and determined to fully implement the Race and Social Justice Initiative at all levels of city government, and am determined to use a racial equity lens in all allocation of resources. And I am determined to sustain transparent relationships with communities of color so they have opportunity to hold me accountable when we fall short. I believe voters are not just considering the identity of WHO can represent communities of color. This mayoral election is also about who has the depth of knowledge to solve the deep challenges our city faces, about who can organize the political will across a majority of Seattleites toward transformative solutions, about who has the skills and experience with the specific and complex work of governing the city. I believe voters are looking for breadth of skills, knowledge of urban issues, commitment to a vision and transparent action agenda, leadership experience.
Jenny Durkan: I do not believe fitness to serve can be based on race. I’ve had incredible privilege in my life. Knowing this, I have done my best to use that privilege and my voice to support and work with marginalized and underserved people. I have taken being a thoughtful, committed ally seriously throughout my entire career. And I want to be held to very high standards if I am fortunate enough to be mayor.
I believe in community-based solutions. Communities know what they need, and often our best solutions come from community members. I have seen this time again throughout my career, and have repeatedly gone directly to communities to learn how to best implement solutions. I listen and I learn.
I started my career as a criminal defense lawyer and represented people of color caught up in in the “war on drugs.” I had a front row seat to the failed war on drugs, as an entire generation — mostly African-American men — was devastated by a criminal justice response to a public health issue. That’s why, as U.S. Attorney, I fought for treatment alternatives and diversion instead of incarceration. I championed one of the first federal drug courts and founded a civil rights division in my office, to fight housing discrimination and job discrimination.
As U.S. Attorney, I increased outreach to the Muslim, Arab, and Sikh communities (spending time in neighborhoods and at local mosques and gurudwaras), created a civil rights unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, brought hate crimes prosecutions against those who attacked our neighbors, and worked to protect a range of civil rights from fair housing, to language access rights, and employment rights. Those experiences were important in shaping the priorities of my office.
In 2015, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution for Zero Youth Detention by 2020, how do you plan to help meet this goal? How do you reconcile this commitment with the city granting the Master Use Permit for the “Youth and Family Justice Center” (youth jail)?
Cary Moon: As a voter, I fell for the misleading campaign for a “Family Justice Center” in 2012. I didn’t read the fine print, or hear the critique. That was a mistake, and I have since learned from EPIC and Black Lives Matter activists and community leaders how wrong this project is. I am strongly in support of stopping the project, re-scoping the building design, scaling back the cells to a much smaller number, and increasing the funding for true rehabilitation, and then going back to the voters. We should be investing in our kids who have gotten off track, in diversion and restorative justice, instead of incarceration. As mayor I will explore every avenue to make this happen, and work with King County to find an effective strategy to achieve this 180 degree different approach to this project. Regarding zero youth detention, this will require collaboration with King County and Municipal Court and the City Attorney and Seattle Public Schools. The mayor doesn’t have direct control over this, but can advocate for a new approach to youth restorative justice, can collect data and keep applying pressure for change, can send resources thru the Families and Education Levy and other funds toward effective mentoring and youth programs.
Jenny Durkan: I care very deeply about reforming our criminal justice system and addressing the school-to-prison pipeline. In law school, I volunteered as a counselor in the Prisoners’ Counseling Project, sponsored by the Black Prisoners’ Caucus, which provided regular in-prison legal counseling to prisoners. I also worked as a criminal defense lawyer for years. I have been inside many of the state’s prisons and jails. Prison is not an abstraction to me; I know the reality of these places.
The current youth detention facility is a horrible place. I represented young people there years ago and it was appalling then. It screams to children and their families: “you don’t matter.”
While the number of detentions has decreased, through restorative justice programs and diversion — in 1996, the average detention population at the detention center was 190; in 2016, it was approximately 51 — that is not enough. We need to do even more to provide more restorative and holistics services.
I have been thinking deeply about some aspects of the system itself, particularly when it comes to charging kids and detaining them before their case is even adjudicated. “Pre-disposition” detention is a real problem — and a real example of how institutional racism impacts our goal of zero youth detentions. The reality is children of color face far more barriers and don’t get the same opportunities other kids have. These trends start as early as preschool, where black boys are sometimes expelled or referred to law enforcement as disciplinary action, a punitive approach that is reflected and replicated in our criminal justice system.
Young people of color are being detained when they shouldn’t be. They don’t get the support they need — whether it is a safe placement, health care needs, including mental health, education and other supports. That must end, and the only way to do it is to disrupt it with better prevention, diversion, safe placements, robust services, and restorative justice.
Throughout the campaign, I have spent a lot of time listening to people on this issue, like those at TeamChild, families, the courts, advocates, and elected officials to figure out what we can do better. Fundamentally, we must move away from a model of arrest and detention of juveniles. And, as mayor, I am going to support and fund the work that will disrupt and dismantle the current system to deliver on the promises around fixing opportunity gaps, employment, and truly investing in our kids. We have to do better if we are going to reach our goal of zero youth detentions.
To do this, we need to work with the County to create and continue dedicated child welfare and restorative justice programs. We must acknowledge and address the school-to-prison pipeline, and the fact that young black boys are being incarcerated at much higher rates than their white peers. We need to be in the communities most affected by the school-to-prison pipeline, listening to how we can better serve those people as a city. To prevent youth violence, we must invest in communities, families, and our youth. This means expanding meaningful opportunities for young people by engaging neighborhood stakeholders, credible messengers, and building on the knowledge and expertise that exist in our communities.
As mayor, I would support and explore expansion of Rainier Beach’s highly successful, community-based “A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth” initiative that identifies and addresses place-based causes of youth victimization and crime, and increases non-arrest interventions. I would seek out other comprehensive, community problem-solving efforts to serve as models for replication and scaling.
I would also work to expand upon the community collaboration model established through the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative in the three most impacted neighborhoods: Southeast, Southwest, and the Central Area. We can build on the neighborhood network concept established through this initiative to ensure that young people are supported beyond their teens and into young adulthood. Finally, I would support the Community Consortium of racially diverse community leaders in developing community-based diversion proposals in South Seattle in dialogue with the King County Prosecutor.
In a time of increased social crises, from houselessness to gentrification to underfunded schools, we are also seeing continual increases to police funding. Do you believe that SPD’s budget is lower than necessary, adequate, or bloated? Do you support construction of a new North Police Precinct?
Cary Moon: The police budget and allocation of priorities need to be carefully considered, and I’m ready to do that. Why are their four police precincts south of the ship canal and only one north? Why are some communities feeling over-policed and others under-policed? How can we change the culture of policing through our ongoing reform process, and ensure police are building trusting relationships with communities by spending time in community? The communities north of the ship canal often tell me frequently no one even answers their 911 calls, and that response times when they do answer can be over 15 minutes. Patrol officers often say they spend so much time on 911 calls and helping people in crisis they don’t have time to walk the beat, getting to know folks, doing proactive work. My team needs to look at all these issues, listen to community leaders, before we decide actions.
Jenny Durkan: Police reform and accountability is a major priority of mine, and I have devoted much of my career to it. I will take a close look at the SPD budget — and all department budgets — to make sure they are adequate and appropriate. And, importantly, I will ensure we are spending on the right things. In addition to pushing for comprehensive reforms within our police department, we need to consider the needs of a growing, changing city. One of the most basic responsibilities of a mayor is to provide public safety for all. This means both continuing the reforms to build back trust between the police and the communities they are supposed to serve — including critical de-escalation, crisis intervention, and implicit bias trainings for all officers — and it also means ensuring our police and fire departments have the resources they need to do their jobs.
We need to revamp the North Precinct project and explore a possible alternative solution of multiple, smaller north end precincts, as well as better community relations. The existing police precinct for North Seattle does not meet the needs of the police department; more importantly, it does not meet the needs of the community it is supposed to serve. It is grossly overcrowded by 65%. As a result, detectives and other staff are housed in nearby commercial office space, which adds to costs and hinders effective communication, efficiency, and cohesiveness. This in turn impacts their effectiveness within our communities, and is an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars.
However, I believe we must consider all community input and concerns when moving forward with these decisions. With a $160 million price tag, people are right to raise questions. We have recently made upgrades in other police precincts, but for about one-fifth the proposed cost of this project. I believe there are changes we can make to the project that will significantly reduce the cost of the facility for taxpayers while preserving its core functions. This is the type of oversight and analysis I would be doing on all major projects as mayor.
What does it look like for you to support communities of color who are working to build anti-racist communities and institutions in this city?
Cary Moon: Being a good ally myself. Including leaders from communities of color in city leadership, and following best practices for listening and sharing power. Setting up communication channels so accountability can happen. Keeping racial inequity front and center, and using this challenge of deepening inequality as an opportunity to dismantle our version of liberal systemic racism. Ensuring we are using economic development strategies that expand ownership (housing, property and businesses) in communities of color because this is how lasting wealth and economic security is established.
Jenny Durkan: I am incredibly proud to have a built a truly diverse coalition in our campaign, earning the support or endorsements of organizations, coalitions and individuals focused on representing diverse communities and pushing for social justice, including Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC), Northwest Asian Weekly, Northwest Vietnamese News, Seattle Medium, Human Rights Campaign, Equal Rights Washington, SEAMEC, and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
If elected, I will work to increase outreach to Seattle’s communities of color and immigrant communities, promote inclusive hiring for key positions, support language accessible programs and publications, support women-, minority-, and immigrant-owned small businesses, and engage community members wary of government officials and workers in safe spaces.
My staff and I will work with community members and initiate regular meetings with members of immigrant communities and communities of color in culturally appropriate spaces to ensure their voices are heard by city government. It is imperative to listen and learn from communities, especially around addressing racism in our society.
Partnerships with community-based organizations, such as organizations and individuals who are working to build anti-racist communities and institutions, are a marker of successful outreach and collaboration. As mayor, I will work to forge stronger relationships between the City and community-based organizations.
With all of these strategies, our outreach and listening has to be proactive, not reactive. When I was US Attorney, my office and I did extensive and meaningful outreach to communities of color. The outreach was intentional and ongoing and, for example, in our work around police reform, the input, experiences, and solutions were directly incorporated into our investigation and, ultimately, the consent decree. As mayor, I will hold my staff and departments accountable for using a lens of racial and economic equity on budget decisions, hiring, and programs. We will build relationships to foster ongoing engagement and outreach, so that communities can lead us to the solutions that they need.