NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Bruce Harrell talks with NPI about his 2021 candidacy for Mayor of Seattle

Bruce Har­rell is a for­mer Seat­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber and inter­im May­or. He’s one of the fif­teen can­di­dates vying to be the city’s next may­or. In NPI’s recent sur­vey of the Seat­tle Top Two elec­torate, Har­rell came out on top of the field with 20% of respon­dents indi­cat­ing they were vot­ing for him. 32% were undecided.

Bruce Harrell is running for Mayor of Seattle

Bruce Har­rell is run­ning for May­or of Seat­tle (Pho­to cour­tesy of Bruce Har­rell for Seat­tle May­or campaign)

I spoke with Har­rell on July 22nd to dis­cuss his cam­paign and platform.

This tran­script has been light­ly edit­ed for clarity.

Ruairi Vaugh­an, Ever­green State Elec­toral Ana­lyst (NPI): Thank you for tak­ing the time to talk with NPI!

Bruce Har­rell: Yes, my pleasure.

RV: You’re unique among the can­di­dates in this may­oral race because you’ve actu­al­ly held the job of may­or before, in Sep­tem­ber 2017. Of course, this was only for a short inter­val, but what insights from that time have helped pre­pare you for this election?

BH: I think I have a stronger appre­ci­a­tion for the enor­mous pow­er and influ­ence of the posi­tion. Not just hav­ing twen­ty-four depart­ments with over a thou­sand job titles, but the cab­i­net and the sub-cab­i­net and the com­mis­sions and the depart­ment heads, gives the may­or incred­i­ble influ­ence to actu­al­ly get things done.

I don’t think oth­ers may have an appre­ci­a­tion for that until you’ve actu­al­ly seen it; I have a great respect for what can be done.

We have a strong may­or sys­tem, and until you’ve actu­al­ly been there, rec­og­niz­ing the pow­er of either an exec­u­tive order or direct action that can be tak­en under the exist­ing bud­get, I don’t think many have appre­ci­a­tion for that. Which then cre­ates enor­mous oppor­tu­ni­ty for an effec­tive mayor.

I would also say that the impor­tance of trust and build­ing effec­tive rela­tions with your depart­ment heads is crit­i­cal. I know a lot of the depart­ment heads, I’ve known and had pre-exist­ing rela­tion­ships with them even before I was on the Coun­cil. I have good rela­tion­ships with many if not most of the depart­ment heads over the years – of course they change.

When I think about how the city runs, I think of a tri­an­gu­lar rela­tion­ship with the May­or, the City Coun­cil, and the depart­ment heads. I under­stand there’s the court sys­tem and the hear­ings exam­in­er and the audi­tor out­side of that tri­an­gle, but for the most part I think of that tri­an­gu­lar rela­tion­ship that is crit­i­cal toward the suc­cess of the city. If they are not com­mu­ni­cat­ing with trust and with trans­paren­cy it breaks down and the city as a whole suf­fers as a result of that.

So dur­ing the inter­im peri­od, I was over­whelm­ing­ly received by a lot of the depart­ment heads because I had worked with them. Quite hon­est­ly, a lot of them trust me and I trust them, and I will demand trans­paren­cy from them to allow the to excel in their core com­pe­ten­cy with­out micro­manag­ing them. But I also will make my deliv­er­ables and the out­comes I want to see very clear to them.

So I had an appre­ci­a­tion for that, because I was not sure how long I was going to keep that job, and I made it clear to them with both my legal and busi­ness back­ground, that that was the kind of may­or I would be – I was going to hire the best and let them excel in their core competency.

I’m not a social work­er, for exam­ple, so I can’t play one when direct­ing the Human Ser­vices Depart­ment, but I can make it very clear on agreed-upon goals and out­comes and can dri­ve that. So, I had a real­iza­tion and appre­ci­a­tion for the impor­tance of trust in the rela­tion­ships with the depart­ment heads.

I think last­ly, I had a new real­iza­tion for the impor­tance of trans­paren­cy. If you go back to Nick­els admin­is­tra­tion, despite a lot of the ini­tia­tives that he drove, peo­ple just recall his deba­cle dur­ing a snow­storm and what peo­ple would per­ceive as less-then-tran­s­­par­ent deci­sion mak­ing going out of his office.

Whether that is fair or not is not the issue, what the issue was is that the pub­lic thought there was a lack of trans­paren­cy. Even with the cur­rent issue deal­ing with May­or Durkan’s texts that were delet­ed, the pub­lic is expect­ing transparency.

So when I became May­or, I led by open­ly say­ing things, as you may recall, such as the city has become filthy. I said that, tongue in cheek, because I have lived here my entire life and I have nev­er seen such alarm­ing lev­els of garbage, debris, and graf­fi­ti – as though we should now be used to it. I made it very clear from the van­tage point of the may­or that that is not the city we want to be. So peo­ple had a strong appre­ci­a­tion for my can­dor, just because I was bru­tal­ly honest!

So I think the les­son is that peo­ple want hon­esty and trans­paren­cy, and that will go a long way. I had an appre­ci­a­tion for it just for the five days I was mayor.

RV: The most press­ing issue fac­ing the city is obvi­ous­ly the home­less­ness cri­sis. You’ve called for the city to use fund­ing from the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan Act (ARPA) to deal with home­less­ness, and also bring togeth­er fund­ing from the coun­ty and state. How much mon­ey do you think it is going to take to solve this crisis?

BH: Well, I’ve read sev­er­al reports on that issue and I don’t think it’s appro­pri­ate for me to state a dol­lar amount. I have heard the bil­lion dol­lar amount thrown around, I have heard that hard hous­ing costs less than $200 mil­lion, but I don’t think it appro­pri­ate to give a spe­cif­ic dol­lar amount until we have pub­lished a plan and I have the experts around to help me pub­lish that plan.

I will say, though, with a lev­el of con­fi­dence, that between the $150 mil­lion that the city is cur­rent­ly spend­ing, along with the $160 mil­lion that we will get next year, that that cou­pled with the mon­ey that I will raise from the civic and phil­an­thropic com­mu­ni­ties – which we can talk about a lit­tle more – will allow me to dras­ti­cal­ly change what we will see every day.

That means get­ting peo­ple into hous­ing – whether it’s tran­si­tion­al hous­ing or sus­tained hous­ing, there will be a com­bi­na­tion there­of – using the poli­cies we’ve already imple­ment­ed. These are good poli­cies, these are best practices:

  • Hous­ing First is a best practice;
  • Indi­vid­u­al­ized case management;
  • Whether you’re treat­ing some­one for drug and alco­hol or men­tal ill­ness or re-skilling them for job entry;
  • Whether you’re con­ced­ing that some­one may be chron­i­cal­ly homeless;
  • Or whether you’re meet­ing the needs of those who are disabled;
  • Using a region­al approach to address these issues.

These are best prac­tices that I will implement.

So the tool­box is there. What is not there is sim­ply the will to get it done. So you’ll see that I will revis­it the sit­ing and acqui­si­tion process. I will open it up to the pub­lic, using a region­al approach.

You may also remem­ber that one of my plat­forms will be to allo­cate $10 mil­lion to each of the sev­en dis­tricts. The rea­son I think this becomes crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant is each of the coun­cil mem­bers of the sev­en dis­tricts all seem to be total­ly com­mit­ted to solv­ing home­less­ness. I read their newslet­ters and hear them speak.

I want to give them tools to help the exec­u­tive achieve their out­come. They may use a por­tion of that, or a good­ly sum of that, towards sit­ing and build­ing; they may also use some of that to lever­age it into the gen­er­al sub-fund or oth­er fund­ing. That’s going to force the city to work with their councilmem­ber on a very gran­u­lar basis while look­ing at how we house those peo­ple who are unhoused.

The sit­ing and acqui­si­tion process becomes crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant for the num­ber of RVs [recre­ation­al vehi­cles] we see on the streets. I think many of the peo­ple in these RVs would like to have ser­vices, would like to know how to improve their lives, and look at alter­na­tive forms of hous­ing. I would like to assist these res­i­dents and see where they are in their par­tic­u­lar life, and that’s where the indi­vid­u­al­ized case man­age­ment approach and best prac­tice makes sense.

Now, what will be new under my approach is that I will call for at min­i­mum 70% of the ARPA funds to be used, that’s north of $80 mil­lion, and I will raise hun­dreds of mil­lions from the phil­an­thropic com­mu­ni­ties, and I think you know I’ve talked about this on the cam­paign trail, that my wife was once the CEO and pres­i­dent of Unit­ed Way. We assist Unit­ed Way in our phil­an­thropic efforts.

With that expe­ri­ence, we will build a dash­board and build a giv­ing mod­el so that not only will high wealth indi­vid­u­als give, but peo­ple can give $5 or $100, they can give cloth­ing items, assist with resume draft­ing, they can bring food to the food bank, but I will cre­ate a nar­ra­tive in this city where there are entry points for every person.

Ruairi, I think that is the prob­lem, that every­one in the city real­ly does want to help solve this issue, but most peo­ple don’t know what they are to do.

I get that dai­ly, “How can I help?”

I think the city’s role is to build that infra­struc­ture, by which every­one in the city who wants to help is able to help and that they know they are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence – that’s where the pub­lic plan comes in, so they can actu­al­ly see the cost per unit, per per­son, the costs that are going to home­less­ness ser­vice providers.

There are good providers out there, and we know who they are: DESC, LIHI, Catholic Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vices, the Urban League.

We can go down the list of peo­ple who are doing good work and we are going to open up that data­base to show the city who’s doing the work and how much of the work they are doing, which ones are effec­tive and which ones can improve.

The oth­er piece of it is I’m cre­at­ing a new depart­ment called the Seat­tle Jobs Cen­ter. We know for a lot of peo­ple that are home­less or unhoused that our soci­ety has cre­at­ed a whole new sub­class of pover­ty – and no one real­ly talks about that.

When I was young in Seat­tle, a dis­abled vet­er­an, a teacher, a barista, a restau­rant work­er could afford to live in my neigh­bor­hood – that was in the Cen­tral Dis­trict of Seat­tle. Well, a lot of peo­ple have been the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of where soci­eties have gone, with high-tech, biotech, the sci­ences, and aero­space, and many peo­ple just need to be retooled. So the Seat­tle Jobs Cen­ter will be the city’s attempt to make sure that every per­son who wants to retool them­selves, tap into their gifts, learn new skills, will be able to do that.

We will har­ness all of the avail­able ser­vices out there in the pri­vate mar­ket – these are appren­tice­ships, intern­ships, train­ing pro­grams, schol­ar­ships, grant oppor­tu­ni­ties – we’ll put all that into a depart­ment and have coun­sel­lors ready to help peo­ple nav­i­gate their own lives and improve their lives.

The data sug­gest that a lot of peo­ple who are expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness need that, cou­pled with health out­comes, hygiene ser­vices, men­tor­ing, they need to have an oppor­tu­ni­ty and that’s what the city will create.

So I think that my plan on home­less­ness is well-round­ed, estab­lished on best prac­tices, and I’ve read quite a bit of mate­r­i­al on home­less­ness. I think we can imple­ment best prac­tices here in Seat­tle and, quite can­did­ly, show many cities how it can be done with the right polit­i­cal will.

RV: One of the points of your home­less­ness pro­gram is encour­ag­ing Seat­tleites to par­tic­i­pate via vol­un­teer­ing efforts like resume draft­ing ses­sions. How do you make sure you’re pre­vent­ing unqual­i­fied civil­ian vol­un­teers from get­ting paired with peo­ple who real­ly need pro­fes­sion­al help for men­tal health or addic­tion issues, and ensure everyone’s safety?

BH: That is the Human Ser­vices Department’s (HSD’s) role.

When you’re talk­ing about indi­vid­u­al­ized case man­age­ment, that is a very spe­cial­ized, trained area of exper­tise. The lay per­son may look at one per­son and think their needs may just be soft coun­sel­ing, when in fact they could suf­fer from schiz­o­phrenic or para­noid behav­ior or oth­er clin­i­cal prob­lems that need a deep­er lev­el of treat­ment. So the HSD direc­tor will be very skilled in hir­ing the right peo­ple to pair the right treat­ment providers.

In my per­son­al expe­ri­ence, I’ve men­tored and tutored kids since I was four­teen years old. I real­ized even then, tutor­ing at the Rotary boys and girls club, about many kids – who were sev­en, eight, or nine – how dif­fer­ent they were. I was teach­ing some of them to read, and I real­ized some just had an inabil­i­ty to read, but some had much deep­­er-seat­ed issues.

So I per­son­al­ly gained an appre­ci­a­tion for how you must know what you’re doing when you’re offer­ing ser­vices to some­one who’s in need. So we’ll make sure we have the right screen­ing process to get that right.

RV: I want to move on to anoth­er huge issue fac­ing the city. In your time on the City Coun­cil, you spear­head­ed some impor­tant reforms to the Seat­tle Police Depart­ment. Despite these reforms, the depart­ment is cur­rent­ly fac­ing class action law­suits for assaults on medics and jour­nal­ists dur­ing the protests last year, it had the largest con­tin­gent of offi­cers at the Jan­u­ary 6th riot of any police depart­ment in the coun­try, and the police union is cur­rent­ly fil­ing griev­ances against inves­ti­ga­tions con­nect­ed to that riot. With all that swirling around, how will you restore trust in law enforce­ment in this city?

BH: So first, there should be some lev­el of cel­e­bra­tion for what occurred in Olympia, when you look at the dozen or so police account­abil­i­ty laws that were passed. I do not think it was coin­ci­den­tal that we had the most diverse set of leg­is­la­tors that we’ve ever had in our state’s his­to­ry pass those dozen laws.

Choke­holds are banned, you have a new office of inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tions, you have the rea­son­able care stan­dard, as I recall, that requires a lev­el of deesca­la­tion. I’m going from mem­o­ry here, but you also had the require­ment that offi­cers inter­vene when they see mis­con­duct occur.

These are ground­break­ing laws, and as the City of Seat­tle and as the next may­or my first actions will be to make sure that through our train­ing and through our reg­u­la­tion we ful­ly imple­ment these laws that were passed and we insti­tu­tion­al­ize them in how we do busi­ness. You’ve heard me say this before, but we have many good poli­cies in place, being under a con­sent decree and with our exam­i­na­tion of the use of force by our offi­cers, our cre­ation of our inspec­tor gen­er­al and our com­mu­ni­ty police com­mis­sion work that’s being done.

That’s why I keep talk­ing about how it’s not a piece of paper that will change this depart­ment. Pieces of paper when memo­ri­al­iz­ing strong pol­i­cy are impor­tant, but the cul­ture is not changing.

My approach, hav­ing changed cul­tures at orga­ni­za­tions, will start with the lead­ers. I will hire the most effec­tive chief that we can find in this coun­try and we will start with the May­or set­ting the tone for transparency.

It will also start with the infor­mal lead­ers of the police depart­ment speak­ing out about that which they do not tol­er­ate – which should be mur­der, fatal­i­ties, and unrea­son­able force. No one can say that our police depart­ment has bro­ken its code of silence, and until our com­mu­ni­ties believe that the offi­cers have bro­ken their code of silence – much like we saw in Min­neapo­lis when George Floyd was mur­dered – we will not have com­mu­ni­ty trust.

While I knew I said a very provoca­tive state­ment that I want­ed the offi­cers to vol­un­tar­i­ly watch the George Floyd video and vol­un­tar­i­ly sign a pledge, the rea­son I made that provoca­tive state­ment is to impress upon peo­ple that if an offi­cer can­not, on a human lev­el, say that was mur­der, they have no place in our police depart­ment – none, zero!

The point being is that a piece of paper, or train­ing, or a legal safe­guard, or state law can­not make that offi­cer effec­tive if on a human lev­el we can­not agree that was wrong. When we can agree that that was wrong, I think it is incum­bent upon the offi­cers – and con­sis­tent with their oath of office – to say and pub­licly pro­claim that that was wrong and that will not be tol­er­at­ed here in Seat­tle. And that is where you change cul­ture, when the infor­mal lead­ers of a group, regard­less of rank, start describ­ing that which the depart­ment will become, will be, will honor.

Crit­ics want to sim­pli­fy my state­ments by say­ing crit­i­cal obser­va­tions, which tells me they do not have a clue about how you change cultures.

The rea­son why in the six­ties and sev­en­ties Black peo­ple said “Black is Beau­ti­ful” and “Black Pow­er” is because we were chang­ing the nar­ra­tive in our com­mu­ni­ty. We were say­ing that we are a crea­ture of beau­ty and we are empow­ered; you change the nar­ra­tive with procla­ma­tions and you change the culture.

You saw a rev­o­lu­tion of the mind and the spir­it, and in the police depart­ment that is what we must do if we are tru­ly to change the culture.

We change the nar­ra­tive, we change that which we cel­e­brate and that which we denounce. Now we will have a new kind of offi­cer, we will exam­ine every­where gun and badge goals, we will look at that. Charleena Lyles epit­o­mizes the exam­ple of a per­son who is in dis­tress, suf­fered from schiz­o­phrenic behav­ior, who need­ed a men­tal coun­selor and a cri­sis coun­selor, not a gun and a badge.

Last I will say that we need new lead­er­ship at SPOG [Seat­tle Police Offi­cers Guild], there’s just no soft way to say that.

SPOG, unfor­tu­nate­ly, are not embrac­ing the kind of cul­ture change that I would like to see, and I am hope­ful that new lead­ers will come forth and make them­selves known at SPOG so they can say amongst them­selves, “We want to build com­mu­ni­ty trust, we want to be respect­ed and trust­ed in the com­mu­ni­ty.” I don’t even hear them say­ing that and if they do not say that they do not believe that.

RV: Cir­cling back to the pro­pos­al for offi­cers to watch the George Floyd video, obvi­ous­ly it is a very sen­si­tive video. Have you con­sult­ed with Gorge Floyd’s fam­i­ly or rep­re­sen­ta­tives about this proposal?

BH: No is the short answer. But to me, giv­en the fact that mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple have watched that video through­out the world, that seems to be an illog­i­cal thing to have to do. Have you seen it?

RV: I saw parts of it.

BH: Did you ask for their permission?

RV: I did not…

BH: So why would I ask for per­mis­sion to ask the offi­cers to vol­un­tar­i­ly watch it? I appre­ci­ate it, and that is the kind of ques­tion I do ask.

I watched it and I didn’t ask their per­mis­sion, it’s in the pub­lic domain and there­fore per­mis­sion is not required.

RV: I wasn’t think­ing so much about per­mis­sion as about respect…

BH: So, I could just have eas­i­ly said the [Manuel] Ellis sit­u­a­tion in Taco­ma or the John T. Williams sit­u­a­tion that hap­pened here in Seat­tle. I think you’re miss­ing the point. The point is this: we have seen egre­gious acts of vio­lence com­mit­ted by police offi­cers, mur­ders. George Floyd is not even the point. These are unam­bigu­ous acts of mur­der. You take any one you want, and you have the police offi­cers look at those acts of mur­der – I would like SPOG to admit that that will not hap­pen in Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton. George Floyd is only one of hun­dreds of Black men killed in this coun­try at this time, so he is not even an issue, nor is his family.

RV: Let’s move on from polic­ing. Anoth­er way to help com­mu­ni­ties of col­or is to help them recov­er from the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. You were the co-chair of the small busi­ness recov­ery task force. How should Seat­tle move for­ward to ensure that the eco­nom­ic recov­ery is equi­table for all the cit­i­zens of the city?

BH: We saw with rem­nants of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion deal­ing with the $28.6 bil­lion fed­er­al fund that was relat­ed to the pan­dem­ic stim­u­lus, that there was not the kind of dis­tri­b­u­tion of funds that I would have liked to have seen – and that many small busi­ness­es would have liked to have seen. There are recent arti­cles describ­ing how a few of the large restau­rant chains received $10 mil­lion and hun­dreds of the small­er restau­rants – who were tru­ly strug­gling – didn’t receive any.

One of the things I’ve done recent­ly was small busi­ness­es tours in dif­fer­ent parts of the city: Sodo, Uni­ver­si­ty Dis­trict, Colum­bia City, et cetera.

I asked them, “What does help look like to you, what do you need?”

That’s where the answers come – I should not pre­sume to know the answers!

One of the things they have said repeat­ed­ly is how can the city use its built envi­ron­ment, its struc­tures, loos­en­ing up the reg­u­la­to­ry envi­ron­ment to allow them to expand and pro­vide the kind of ser­vices they want, to allow rights of way on streets for cre­ativ­i­ty in deliv­er­ing their ser­vices. I’m extreme­ly sup­port­ive of that!

The oth­er thing they’ve asked for is – and many of these are busi­ness­es that still need access to cap­i­tal – is to work with Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment Finan­cial Insti­tu­tions (CDFIs) and Com­mu­ni­ty Block Grant Orga­ni­za­tions (CBGOs).

There are sev­er­al around, but I think that the city of Seat­tle can make sure that these orga­ni­za­tions thrive and are avail­able to small businesses.

They cater to small busi­ness­es and bet­ter under­stand their unique bor­row­ing needs than tra­di­tion­al banks. So you will see us, through my Office of Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment, estab­lish­ing a much stronger con­sor­tium of CDFIs and CBGOs.

The oth­er part I talk about is the pub­lic safe­ty piece and the Seat­tle Job Cen­ter piece, because many of these busi­ness­es are ful­ly con­vinced that the city’s lack of pub­lic safe­ty is an imped­i­ment to their cus­tomers and employ­ees get­ting to them.

So my stance on pub­lic safe­ty – not just police reform but effec­tive pub­lic safe­ty –is being well-received by these small businesses.

The oth­er por­tion that they are excit­ed about is the Seat­tle Jobs Cen­ter, which assists employ­ees to find jobs and employ­ers to find employees.

A lot of them are hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty find­ing employees.

I will also men­tion that the work I have done with women and minor­i­ty owned busi­ness­es and sup­pli­er diver­si­ty for thir­ty years.

We will key in on that to make sure our dash­board is trans­par­ent, that the city can see how we are using women and minor­i­­ty-owned busi­ness­es, cou­pled with oth­er juris­dic­tions: the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, the State, the Port.

I want to put all of that on the dash­board, so that we can see who’s doing a great job when it comes to diver­si­ty of sup­pli­ers and who can improve.

I want the City of Seat­tle to be the evan­ge­list of using women and minor­i­­ty-owned busi­ness­es, because they are all work­ing sep­a­rate­ly on their issues and there’s not a uni­fied attempt here. But the state of Wash­ing­ton has prob­a­bly done the poor­est in terms of sup­pli­er diver­si­ty and we want to improve that.

Can I ask you a ques­tion? I wasn’t get­ting snit­ty ear­li­er with the video, was I? I was just mak­ing a point, but maybe I mis­un­der­stood your point?

I know we’ve left that top­ic, but I’d like to flip back to it if I may?

RV: The point I was try­ing to make was that there’s dif­fer­ent kinds of watch­ing the video. If you’re a news con­sumer watch­ing the video, you’re not real­ly under an oblig­a­tion. If you’re a news media out­let rebroad­cast­ing it, I think you have some degree of oblig­a­tion to the fam­i­ly of the vic­tim, and if you are the City of Seat­tle, as an employ­er, mak­ing it compulsory…

BH: There’s a word I keep using over and over and over, every time I use that descrip­tion. You know what that word is? Vol­un­tary! I said I would ask the offi­cers vol­un­tar­i­ly to watch the video. I nev­er used the word manda­to­ry, com­pul­so­ry, or required. I always say vol­un­tar­i­ly. I am SHRM [Soci­ety for Human Resource Man­age­ment] cer­ti­fied, I am a senior-cer­ti­­fied human resource pro­fes­sion­al. I know what a work­ing con­di­tion is, so that’s why I say “vol­un­tar­i­ly” watch the video.

When I said that, I said I would ask each offi­cer to vol­un­tar­i­ly watch the video and that I would ask each to vol­un­tar­i­ly sign the state­ment say­ing this would not hap­pen in Seat­tle. I said, what a great day that would be, where these offi­cers vol­un­tar­i­ly said to us, the pub­lic, that that would nev­er hap­pen – imag­ine that day! Do you think for a moment that the thou­sand patrol offi­cers were all just going to go to YouTube and watch it?

I am mak­ing the point – and I don’t mean to con­de­scend – but at some point you can­not train bad offi­cers! We have to rec­og­nize that. Peo­ple have to under­stand, do I real­ly think that one day a thou­sand offi­cers are going to wake up and watch YouTube? No I do not! But at some point we have to admit that per­haps we have some of the wrong offi­cers on the SPD force. No one’s real­ly say­ing that!

[Laugh­ing] Now let’s go to a soft­er subject!

RV: So we were talk­ing about small busi­ness­es, and one of the ways to help these busi­ness­es is to help their employ­ees get health­care, tak­ing that bur­den off the busi­ness­es. You have a plan to build a Seat­­tle-wide health­care sys­tem, and none of the oth­er major can­di­dates have such a plan – why do you think it’s so important?

BH: I think it’s crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant! First­ly, it’s going to be called Healthy Seat­tle and it’s mod­eled after Healthy San Fran­cis­co.

You will see two things that’ are occurring.

Thank God that [Joe] Biden is our pres­i­dent and the [Patient Pro­tec­tion and] Afford­able Care Act now has bet­ter legs, and the econ­o­my still has trau­­ma-relat­ed health sys­tem, but you will still see that so many peo­ple still fall through the cracks. If you look at what our Human Ser­vices depart­ment cur­rent­ly does, they pro­mote cer­tain things like pub­lic health, healthy aging, these kinds of things.

But, par­tic­u­lar­ly for the aging pop­u­la­tion – although this applies to every­one – that most peo­ple still don’t under­stand the dif­fer­ence between Medicare and Med­ic­aid, that it’s some­what of a max for a lot of peo­ple to achieve healthcare.

So I want to sim­pli­fy that.

Medicare, of course, is based on age – but even though you may under­stand that, there are dif­fer­ent parts of the sec­tions that one is eli­gi­ble for and it gets rather com­pli­cat­ed based on the choic­es that one is required to make.

Med­ic­aid, of course, is based on income.

But my approach is going to be to make sure that the Human Ser­vices depart­ment can in fact nav­i­gate through those choic­es, and we will imple­ment Healthy Seat­tle, which is based on a small employ­ee pre­mi­um and their abil­i­ty to pay – that may be zero or a small frac­tion – and we will make sure all our res­i­dents have health care. That’s not only going to help address the home­less­ness issue, but it will tru­ly address the vibran­cy of our city.

I talk about being the sole spon­sor of the human rights leg­is­la­tion in 2012 – the rea­son I men­tion that is that many cities have not embraced that and not become human rights cities. I believe health­care is a human right, that no one should be with­out, nobody. So we’re going to reflect that in Seat­tle and going to also assist those whose need a sys­tem to get through the eli­gi­bil­i­ty issues – whether it’s Med­ic­aid, Medicare, or the ACA – because quite can­did­ly, there are peo­ple who speak Eng­lish as a sec­ond lan­guage, there are peo­ple who just don’t com­pre­hend the com­plex­i­ties of the appli­ca­tion process. That’s where I think the City can come in and help peo­ple nav­i­gate through the health­care maze.

RV: Anoth­er way to be help­ing people’s health out­comes is through things like reduc­ing pol­lu­tion. The City Coun­cil pledged to reduce emis­sions to zero by 2030 – do you think the city can make that goal?

BH: Yes. When I was part of the dis­cus­sions in 2013 and 2019, we said we should not set goals that we can­not attain, we should always set real­is­tic goals.

Harrell sat on the City Council for twelve years

Har­rell was on the City Coun­cil for twelve years (Pho­to cour­tesy of Bruce Har­rell for Seat­tle May­or campaign)

Now, I’m going to go back to some great his­to­ry that was made in the state this year. Look at the cap and trade bill – that will clear­ly reduce our pollution.

That’s ground­break­ing stuff that will pro­duce hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in the next cou­ple of years. The clean fuel was awe­some, there’s the [equi­ty-focused] HEAL Act, all those great items com­ing out of Olympia this year, just incredible.

So one of the first things I will do com­ing in is mir­ror that and insti­tu­tion­al­ize that in our prac­tice, and make sure again that we are a leader in this country.

I tend to think of cli­mate change poli­cies in two buckets.

One is indi­vid­ual behav­ior – what can you and I do as res­i­dents of this plan­et, how can we make good choic­es every day?

That’s why I dri­ve elec­tric cars and have solar pow­er in my house.

I think that if a per­son is able to make changes that sup­port the envi­ron­ment, they can. So one of the things I want to do is re-incen­­tivize the state reg­u­la­tions on solar pow­er – even under­stand­ing that a lot of our pow­er is gen­er­at­ed through hydro and car­bon neu­tral sources – the more we can take off the grid the bet­ter! So you saw a lot of the state incen­tives for peo­ple to install solar on their homes start to min­i­mize or lessen over the years, so I’d like to see those reinstated.

If I could digress for a moment about the heat­wave we expe­ri­enced, because heat is one of the dead­liest kinds of extreme weath­er in our country.

Peo­ple think it’s extreme cold, but the heat is worse.

You may recall that in 2003 heat killed over 70,000 peo­ple in Europe, and about ten years ago there were about 55,000 peo­ple in Rus­sia who died from extreme heat! So I think about the record break­ing heat­wave that we received, which cli­mate change experts sug­gest are proof pos­i­tive that if it weren’t for cli­mate change, that would have not hap­pened. Our record break­ing tem­per­a­tures skipped the dou­ble dig­its, like eleven degrees, which is almost unprecedented!

I’m say­ing that as con­text because I think peo­ple are real­iz­ing how real this is.

So hav­ing said that, what I have to do, quite can­did­ly, is I have to hire the best. When I think of who the best cli­mate change advo­cate is for the city of Seat­tle, does a name come to mind? I want not one name, but three names to come to mind, so that peo­ple real­ize that under the Har­rell admin­is­tra­tion I will have three lead­ing cli­mate change experts dri­ving the pol­i­cy. So to answer the ques­tion – will we achieve it? – we will because I will have the three top experts on cli­mate change on my admin­is­tra­tion dri­ving this work.

RV: And who are those three people?

BH: Oh no, I don’t know the three names, not yet; I don’t have the job yet, Ruairi!

RV: In con­trast with oth­er big coastal cities, Seattle’s pop­u­la­tion actu­al­ly grew dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. As a life­long Seat­tleite, why do you think peo­ple keep com­ing to our city, when places like New York and San Fran­cis­co are los­ing residents?

BH: I don’t know is the short answer. I could only spec­u­late that we offer so much in terms of geog­ra­phy, the moun­tains, the water, the job envi­ron­ment, and we are a com­pas­sion­ate, lib­er­al city. Peo­ple still dig the vibe of Seattle.

Seattle’s not a place where you’re going from A to B and you hap­pen to be here – Seat­tle is a place that you tar­get. I think that Seat­tle still offers the dif­fer­ent employ­ers here, what nature has to offer here, and the peo­ple here – awe­some peo­ple! I think the vibe of Seat­tle is still strong, and that’s why I love it so much.

If you notice in this cam­paign, oth­ers will move here and then they will com­plain about how bad it is! I’ve lived here my whole life, and while I’m not obliv­i­ous to the great chal­lenges in front of us, I make it very very clear that I love this city, and that’s why I’m run­ning for mayor.

I use a quote by Mar­tin Luther King who said, “There is no great dis­ap­point­ment where there is no great love.” This city took some­one like me, whose par­ents did not go to col­lege, who grew up in the Cen­tral Dis­trict – in a poor­er part of the neigh­bor­hood at that time, in the sixties.

It took this lit­tle boy from pub­lic schools, raised him, and now I’m in a posi­tion to pos­si­bly be the may­or and cer­tain­ly have a viable can­di­da­cy. That’s what this city is about in my mind. It took my Asian grand­par­ents and my Black grand­par­ents and allowed them to have a great liv­ing for them­selves and their fam­i­lies – that’s the Seat­tle I like. So I think peo­ple still like the vibe here in Seattle.

RV: Bruce Har­rell, thanks for tak­ing the time to talk with NPI.

BH: My plea­sure, Ruairi!

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