Young adult leaders in Southeast Seattle caught the eye of some mayoral candidates Thursday during an hour-long community forum.
Fifteen candidates are currently vying to become Seattle’s next mayor. Six of these candidates took part in the “We Are Powerful” mayoral candidates forum moderated by Tuyet-Nhi Vo and Ikran Ali, both young leaders of the SE PEACE (Prevention Education and Action for Community Empowerment) coalition.
Prior to a live Q&A portion of the forum, coalition youth recorded interviews with Colleen Echohawk, Mr. Lorena González, Andrew Grant Houston, Bruce Harrell and Lance Randall, whom event co-organizer Sareen Mokha compiled in 23 minutes video. Contestant Jessyn Farrell participated in the live Q&A segment.
Alan Nguyen, a student at Cleveland STEM High School, raised some fundamental issues that concern the coalition, including the rise in people overdosing on fentanyl-containing drugs and suicide among youth and young adults.
Nguyen asked, “What will you do as mayor to keep the young people of Southeast Seattle safe, healthy and safe, free of drugs and alcohol, without criminalizing our children?”
Grant Houston, architect and urban planner, said he is focused on using a harm reduction and preventative care approach to tackling substance abuse and addiction, and also supports the decriminalization of drugs. He said housing more city residents and creating more community centers in neighborhoods can help people stay safe and healthy.
Harrell, a former Seattle City Councilman and attorney, who said he “grew up here on the streets of Seattle,” acknowledged the deadly consequences of substance use disorders. He held up a photo of himself with a few dozen friends from his teenage years. “In this group, we have lost several people to violence or dangerous drugs,” he said.
As a lawyer, Harrell said he has represented many young people “who have been overburdened” as criminals and wants to give young people access to mentors and positive role models. “I believe in helping children where they are, whether it’s unaddressed trauma, drug and alcohol issues that carry over from their environment,” Harrell said.
Randall is Chairman of the Board of Southeast Youth & Family Services, which provides mental health support and services to youth and families, especially youth of color. He said he wanted to create a city-wide action plan requiring every city department to help meet the specific needs of young people. Randall also called for more funding for behavioral health and addiction service providers.
“We have a lot of non-profit organizations trying to help our young people with these different challenges that they face, but [the nonprofits are] don’t get the kind of support they need, and because of that, they can’t hire people who have the skills and expertise to do the job. It’s very important that we hire people who are like the community itself,” Randall said.
González, the current city council president and former civil rights attorney, said, “Yes, I want to be very clear that criminalizing our children is the wrong approach.”
She said it is important to invest in proven local strategies and organizations.
Echohawk, former executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, has advocated for school-based mental health services and the distribution and training of naloxone (a narcotic that can treat overdoses in an emergency) across the country. city to help fight opioid drug overdoses.
Addressing the issue of substance abuse reduction during the live portion of the forum, Farrell, a former state representative and senior vice president of progressive public policy think tank Civic Ventures, said she wanted to work with state lawmakers to expand decriminalization of drug possession. , especially for youth, and that the city should work more closely with Seattle public schools to address the school-to-jail pipeline issue.
University of Washington student Saida Ddungu asked candidates to respond to violent crimes in Southeast Seattle, including the recent shootings at Rainier Beach Liquor and Wine and Safeway parking lots, and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other ethnic groups.
Farrell, who cites preventing gun violence and addressing climate change among his top priorities, has a “zero shooting” goal for the city. “It’s time for us to treat gun violence like the public health issue that it is,” she said.
Echohawk, González, Grant Houston, Harrell and Randall also support zero tolerance approaches to gun violence. Randall proposed neighborhood “hate watch” groups to record and report incidents of hate and bias, as well as summoning gang leaders across the city to call truces to prevent street violence and violence. crossfire.
All six candidates also expressed zero tolerance for hate crimes.
González specifically cited a $1.5 million spending proposal crafted with current Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilman Teresa Mosqueda to support a new elder care facility and address hate crimes and incidents of bias in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Responding to a question from the audience about other ways the candidates plan to support young people, Grant Houston said he is actively recruiting and employing young people to work on his campaign and plans to integrate youth leadership into city services. . Farrell said she wants to create a career path of green jobs for young people and guarantee. Echohawk said it would create more internships for young people within municipal services. And Harrell wants to expand formal mentoring programs to meet young people where they are. Randall said he would seek to expand the Seattle Promise free tuition program to four-year institutions, partnering with the colleges themselves to fund the final two years of tuition.
Mokha, co-organizer of the event, said her generation is particularly motivated right now to get involved in the process of change, even though not all young people are eligible to vote.
“It’s not just important to bring young people to the table, they need to feel welcome. Young people really care about themselves and realize they can be part of the change,” she said.
The primary election is August 3; ballots will be sent on July 14.