When I think about why I decided to run for the Seattle City Council, and what I hope to accomplish, everything flows from a focus on conservation and smart growth. We have an unrivaled natural environment and way of life in Seattle, but both are under serious, increasing pressure—whether you’re heading out for a weekend of camping and hiking, driving or carpooling to the office in the morning, trying to find an affordable apartment reasonably near your work, or shoehorning yourself into a packed, swaying bus. How we channel our booming population and development in a way that best serves our environment and all of our citizens is and will be one of our greatest challenges. We need to be creative and decisive, now and for years to come, to make sure we preserve what we love most about this city and our Pacific Northwest ecosystem. We can’t close our eyes or wish away this challenge, but we can embrace it as an opportunity to reimagine how our city moves and operates—in sustainable balance with our natural resources—for decades to come.
When I first flew into Seattle years ago, I remember feeling like I’d landed in another county. From the dense evergreen forests to snow-capped volcanos, from the sparkling lakes and Puget Sound to all the parks and waterfront, the city exudes an overwhelming freshness. That sense of clean air and natural beauty was a major part of what brought me and my wife Danielle to the region, and it is paramount that we protect our natural resources with great energy and spirit.
I think it’s easy to assume that since we are generally an environmentally progressive city, we don’t have to fight as hard as in other parts of the country. I disagree strongly. I believe that precisely because we are global leaders we ought to be even more pointed and deliberate in our efforts. That’s why, in the face of our enormous growth, we have to aggressively preserve parks and green spaces and undeveloped land. We have to redouble our efforts to clean up the Duwamish River and watershed, and continually restock, expand and diversify our urban canopy. We’ve already given up a great deal of ground with our environment. Yet there’s no reason—not economical, not ideological, not political—that we can’t be at the forefront of conservation and urban development.
Mobility and Community
The heart of urban smart growth, to me, means structuring our city to maximize mobility and transportation options for all of our residents, and revitalizing neighborhoods from the street and block level up through the city and region. Sometimes these changes can seem too small and incremental to be worth the time and investment. But I’ve seen how something as simple as a new trail—whether wedged into a crowded downtown area, or stretching way out in the country—can transform how an entire neighborhood looks and feels and prospers.
When I worked for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy as director of communications and editor of our magazine, I loved meeting trail builders and active transportation advocates all across the country. I got to ride and explore many of these rail-trails, and to feel the enthusiasm and pride of the folks who often spent years laboring to get a local trail built. Seeing the results of their work, and the ripple effects of a newly opened pathway, remain some of my most poignant memories from those years. I met with dozens of bar and restaurant and cycle shop owners who had set up along a new trail, and I learned about other businesses, from bed-and-breakfasts to community theaters, that flourished with increased foot traffic. I got to see entire waterfronts—once polluted or inaccessible—become greenways teeming with scores of visitors and all sorts of wildlife; and even the most ardent opponents of a trail project become ambassadors of the path after it opened. I could gush endlessly about the power of a shared space to build community (and also about the potential of infrastructure to serve a dual purpose as art and inspiration, like on the High Trestle Trail in Iowa, where a lighted bridge, high above the Des Moines River, makes a nighttime run or ride truly unforgettable, and worth a trip for visitors from across the country).
Trails and active transportation, of course, are only one small element in a complex blueprint for smart growth. But I love the example they provide for how we can rethink our city grid, as well as some of the traditional ways we connect and interact with each other.
Public Health, Transportation and Safety
More broadly speaking, to keep Seattle linked and active at the city scale, and to make sure our infrastructure stays ahead of our population, we will need to ensure walkable access to quality grocery stores for everyone, and safe access to quality schools for parents and kids. We have to accelerate our investment in a truly comprehensive public transit system, not as an accessory or something you add piecemeal to a city, but as a core value in how Seattle functions. And we need to drastically improve pedestrian and driver safety on some of our busiest arterials, such as Delridge Way, where having few marked crossings—like at the bustling Delridge Playfields—results in harrowing dashes across the street during peak traffic hours.
Fair, Sustainable Development
Smart growth also means significantly expanding affordable housing options throughout the city, and making sure no current tenants and property owners get pushed or priced out of the city. It means creating better protections for residential and business leases, and making sure the stores that help build a neighborhood, and fuel its character and personality, don't get forced out when it's time to re-sign. It means making sure new housing developments and apartment complexes reserve more units for different income levels, and provide parking that more closely matches occupancy. It also means celebrating the diversity of our neighborhoods, and insisting that people of all professions and backgrounds can live here and thrive.
There’s so much more to talk about, and so many other major issues I’m eager to discuss and include. I don’t ever want to have a strict agenda, or be shut off from evolving ideas and new perspectives, and I look forward to learning what matters most on your streets and in your neighborhoods!