This is part 2 of our 2 part series asking questions of mayoral candidates. Harrell replied, Gonzalez did not.
Wallyhood: You have a reputation as a consensus builder, but as we saw with Ed Murray that can mean offering platitudes to the public while letting downtown power brokers make all the decisions (see: HALA). As things work today, find it / fix it requests are followed through on only occasionally. Social media and email to bureaucrats in government and city council reps are replied to only during political campaigns or if you have connections to people that matter. Public comment at council meetings is a joke, with only cranks and nut jobs having the time to make themselves heard. The mayor is simply unreachable.
Recently in Wallingford we have had to fight SDOT when they tried to force bike lanes on NE 40th and closed Green Lake Way to vehicles without any public input, requiring thousands of people to organize community push back and a great deal of wasted government expenditures before both projects were reversed. Meanwhile, key cycling and pedestrian improvement projects with broad community support and that are in the bike master plan have been ignored for many years, such as regional greenways on Woodland Park Ave N and NE 47th, and improving NE 45th over I-5 for pedestrians and cyclists.
Neighborhood plans were a way to build consensus and include reasonable voices from the neighborhood, but were killed off by Nickels in the interest of concentrating power downtown. Now it seems like the government just lurches from one shiny object or source of outrage to the next. Do you have a plan to include the general public in your planning and decision making going forward? Do you have an idea for making communications between government and citizens more clear and productive? Should the government invest more in find it /fix it, so that if people make a request they actually receive a support ticket and an answer?
Harrell: Yes, the process by which the City incorporates feedback from the general public, as opposed to responding to simply those who yell the loudest, is not an effective means to yield an effective communication path for productive dialogue and in turn, City policy and action. As a former City Councilmember, I was known for my candor and accessibility. I have always made myself available to various communities. As an at-large and districted member, I sought to ensure my office had robust constituent services that could respond urgently to the needs of all our neighbors. I was for many years the only person of color in the elected City government, and as a result my office received a disproportionate share of calls, emails, and requests. My small staff did remarkable work managing the workload, and I personally responded to thousands of calls, emails and texts from constituents from all walks of life.
As Mayor, I will model accessibility and my cabinet members, department heads and City employees will embrace a spirit of accessibility and accountability. I’ll have a larger staff, thankfully, and will make sure that no matter your zip code or station in life, you have an open door to the Mayor’s office.
We’ve got to engage community members from the start of extensive projects, and ensure that we’re looking at our transportation system holistically. The City has to do a better job bringing community in and building support for projects like this from the start, rather than being caught flat footed when shovels are ready but community isn’t. As we consider policy and look for solutions, I will always seek input from a robust group of stakeholders, community members, and marginalized and underrepresented voices, whose input is critical.
Find It/Fix It is a powerful tool, and I do believe the City should increase its investment in improving it so that all neighbors can contribute to making our city better, track progress, and hold the City accountable for making change. As Mayor, I will also examine a 3-1-1 call center to completely revamp and reimagine how the City manages customer service requests and communication with residents. We need to update antiquated systems resulting in more efficient internal city processes as well as faster response times for residents who need individual support from the city.
City Responsiveness. I plan to restructure the budget to give each district council member approximately $10m from the budget to respond to neighborhood needs and leverage those dollars with the overall budget. I will work with them on localized budget needs and expect them to be eyes and ears in their district with me to improve the City’s ability to meet neighborhood needs.
Email Responsiveness. Using email as a means to reach residents and small businesses, we will have a formal structure in place to ensure accurate and timely communications and we will be able to receive feedback on critical issues that affect your community. We will make summaries available and will be transparent to the City on the high level results of those communications.
Consensus Building. The public doesn’t care if fault lies with the Council or the Mayor; they want the City to act as a whole to get the job done and meet their needs. It is critical to examine leadership styles to determine what leadership approach will effectively address the major issues of homelessness and effective public safety without bias. I am that candidate.