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Nikkita Oliver sees infrastructure improvement and expansion as vital for Seattle

Candidate for Seattle City Council, Nikkita Oliver presents a comprehensive platform that goes far beyond police reform.

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[SEATTLE] – (MTN) Malcontent News is conducting a series of interviews with 2021 Seattle city council candidates. We have contacted, or are in the process of contacting the most viable candidates, inviting them to answer seven prepared questions. Today we feature Nikkita Oliver (they/them).

For all candidates, the first interview will be about their platform and vision. Prior to the primary election, we will conduct a second round that will focus on differentiation, and challenging positions and visions. Once the final candidates are selected in the primary, we will invite them for one last round of interviews.

All candidates for the first round will be asked the same seven questions, and have received a copy in advance. These questions were created by our editorial board, and are aligned to topics of key interest to the residents of Seattle.

Malcontent News is committed to providing equal time for all candidates, and operating under a “fairness doctrine” of equal time and treatment.

We will be publishing a transcript of each interview. Transcripts may be lightly edited to remove, umms, ahhs, pauses, and aid in readability.

NIKKITA OLIVER

nikkita oliver, 2021 candidate for Seattle city council, seat 9 [at large]
Audio of nikitta oliver interview

Question one – houselessness crisis

Renee Raketty:
As you know, Seattle is facing an ongoing crisis related to unhomed peoples. Washington State experience to 6.2% increase in homelessness during the 2019-2020 year. King County spends over $1 billion per year in public and private investment in support of approximately 12,500 homeless people with disappointing results. If elected to the city council, what would you advocate and support to address this crisis?

Nikiita Oliver:
You have a lot of work to do. We’ve been in a state of emergency around the housing crisis and supporting our loved ones who don’t have homes since 2015. A major part of the crisis is we just simply have not built enough housing. We have not actually invested ourselves in that. While we might be spending, within our region, lots of money on services; if we provide services but have nowhere for people to come inside who want to, then what we’re doing is basically saying, ‘We’ll give you some services to survive but we’re not going to support you getting into housing where you’ll have opportunities to thrive.”

A huge priority is looking at Seattle’s comprehensive plan for 2024 and addressing issues around exclusionary zoning. The fact that we’ve only been developing density on 12 percent of the land and we need to address the fact that single family zoning — as the way our city is set up now — is not going to allow us to develop enough housing in order to ensure that our loved ones who want to come inside can and to be able to provide enough housing for the missing middle. Displacement and gentrification is also a part of the crisis that we’re facing.

This is the reason why we spend money but it continues to be ineffective. Some answers to this is Seattle getting into housing — actually building social housing that is affordable; that is also nice. People want to live in nice homes and meet the needs of our community members. So [we need to] continuing making more investments in social housing. We can’t continue to rely upon the private market to be our answer to the housing crisis. There’s just not a real incentive for the private market to actually respond to the need. So we need to be willing to actually drive some of the development if we’re going to build $400 million a year for 10 years of affordable housing. We need to figure out, how does our regional plan really work? I think for a lot of folks, they felt Seattle saying, “we are part of a regional plan,” has been a little bit of a cop-out and putting the majority of the work on the county or other cities to respond.

I think the city needs to level up. We have a $6.2 billion budget. We have over 800,000 residents. It is time that we really take accountability and responsibility for the ways in which development and our city and growth have actually been a part of exacerbating the housing crisis. We also need to deal with the fact that our tax structure, the way in which we generate revenue very regressively. It ends up putting the burden of the cost of this new development and the services that we absolutely need to be providing on the backs of those who already pay the most in taxes. Those who pay the least and honestly have benefited the most from the development and growth, continue to not really have to be invested in seeing our city become the healthiest city that it can be.

We are also, probably, going to face a massive eviction crisis. So in addition to the crisis we were already in — COVID-19, the recession, and many people not being able to pay rent or mortgages — means that we also need to figure out how do we stabilize folks who are still in their homes but maybe facing eviction. Continuing to find ways to either cancel rent or do rental support or mortgage support to keep people in their homes; there is going to have to be a combination of responses that come from the city. This is going to require us to really think about our priorities as a city. Are we willing to prioritize people being able to stay home and stay healthy? The way that we do that is going to be investing in things that keep people from losing their homes and investing and building housing rapidly. I know that it’s been a challenge for our city to prioritize this in the past but I think that — with the right folks committed to seeing the interest of our city as a whole be served — we can actually move in that direction.

Nikkita Oliver

Question two – infrastructure and economic recovery

Renee Raketty:
As a result of the ongoing COVID pandemic, economic recovery, and development, as well as addressing Seattle’s crumbling transit infrastructure such as the West Seattle Bridge, is of great importance. Moreover, some are expressing concern businesses are leaving Seattle and workers will not return post-COVID. The question then is threefold. How does the council address crumbling infrastructure, aid in economic recovery and development as we move beyond COVID, and what concerns do you have about the loss of business, both large and small, and a loss of jobs within Seattle?

Nikkita Oliver:
I think what we really have to grapple with as a city is that we cannot recover back to normal. We actually need to grapple with the fact that our social and economic safety net for most people is one that is ineffective. As a result, that’s why we are seeing such a huge economic crisis because we have not ensured that all people have access to healthcare. We have not ensured that all people have access to affordable housing and we have really failed to ensure that workers are protected. So really thinking about how do we ensure that any employment that the city is involved in are union, prevailing wage jobs. Thinking about the contracts we have, not just in terms of development and construction, but also expanding the conversation about prevailing wages and unionization to other industries that touch the city. There are tons of industries that we do contract work that we could be pushing to actually treat workers right; to have the right working conditions, hazard pay, and to ensure that people have high wage jobs.

This is a really important part of knowing that disasters are going to come. This is not the last time that we see this. As a result, if we’re going to build a social and economic safety net that works for everyone, anything that the city is invested in needs to push contractors or industries that we work with to make sure that people have high-wage jobs that pay healthcare and benefits. That’s just thinking forward in terms of protecting us, protecting people, protecting workers, when an additional crisis does come. The West Seattle Bridge and other bridges, other infrastructure in our city are of huge concern.

The Move Seattle levy expires in 2024. This was a 2015 levy and, in many ways, it’s actually fell short of the promises that taxpayers voted for. So the first thing that I think the city actually has to do when it comes to our crumbling infrastructure is explaining why that levy did not fulfill the promise that we made to voters. That explanation, being a pathway towards saying, “Is it possible to continue this levy? Will you all vote for it again? Here’s the explanation of why it fell short. Here’s how we will address those shortcomings in the future?”

Getting our infrastructure up to par is important for a number of reasons. It’s not just about safety — but it’s also understanding that if we want to be able to keep our maritime and port industries healthy — which are significant jobs in our region and also an important part of moving goods. Not just through Seattle but to other regions in Washington State, including thinking about the eastern part of the state, the fruit basket — then we need to ensure that the infrastructure around the port is solid so that freights can move in and out without issue.

This is also about our environment. When freights are backed up and not able to move through the port in a timely manner; we’re seeing way more pollution, both in terms of exhausts but also noise pollution happening in the neighborhoods that already facing some of the highest levels of pollution. So this is also a health concern.

Addressing our crumbling infrastructure touches a myriad of areas of life from the environment to industry and economic well-being, to also the health of communities that many of these industries are moving through. In 2024, providing that clear explanation on what some of the challenges were: it’s not just the West Seattle Bridge. It’s also thinking about North Seattle and east-west buses; sidewalks for safety. It’s looking at the bridges in other areas of our city that are also deteriorating. We don’t want to see them in the same situation that the West Seattle Bridge is; where it’s been closed down for almost a year.

Then we need to consider thinking about how does this impacts our transit infrastructure. The transit infrastructure also plays a major role in thinking about the well-being of workers; the ability to move through the city or in and out of the city in a way that doesn’t require you to spend two hours of your day doing that. Most of our families can not afford to do that. We have to understand that transit and the accessibility of our city are also tied to the economic well-being of folks.

My concerns are about many of our small businesses. Small businesses that are owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color who really have suffered through the pandemic without having access to all of the things that allow their businesses to sustain. I’m also thinking about folks who are freelancers, some of whom have been able to get access to unemployment, but for many of whom, it took a very long time to get that access to unemployment. So maybe they’ve become backed up on rent or other types of bills that they’re later going to have to find ways to pay. This is where canceling rent or having rental support programs; finding ways that maybe mortgages can be canceled or mortgage support programs; having a rent stabilization on commercial properties is going to be huge. The city has taken emergency measures that have been really significant in allowing small businesses to continue to function. One of these is folks being able to run their small businesses out of their homes if they have particular detached units. This is a creative option that has not been allowed to exist prior to the pandemic.

One thing the pandemic has shown us is that there are things that we could have done long before that we didn’t do because we said we couldn’t. Then we found out that in a state of emergency that we could. Sustaining some of those measures are going to be key to ensuring that small businesses, freelancers, are able to thrive. Then, moving forward, how are we ensuring that our folks that work in tech: I’m thinking about our Uber drivers or folks that are delivering food, who are a part of our gig economy, what are we doing to ensure that those folks are able to get access to health care and benefits?

We’ve seen through the pandemic that has not been possible for a lot of folks. We need to keep talking about what does it look like to have a gig workers package that ensures those safety measures: hazard pay healthcare benefits. So that again, when disaster does come again — because this is not going to be the last thing we face, the climate catastrophe is really upon us — we need to make sure that people are prepared and they have access to the social and economic safety nets that work.

Question three – does Seattle have a crime and/or inequity problem

Renee Raketty:
As a result of the protests related to the murder of George Floyd, police violence and ongoing racial inequality, Seattle has earned a reputation as being a crime-ridden, dirty and unsafe city. At one point the city was even labeled, by the past presidential administration as an anarchist jurisdiction. Do you agree with this view?

Nikkita Oliver:
I do not agree with this view. I think in many ways this view is created by mainstream media outlets not telling the whole story. I think it’s really important that we tell whole stories, acknowledge what’s really been happening in our city — which is actually drastically different than that. I’m not sure if you want more detail but I certainly have lots of thoughts in that area.

Renee Raketty:
Absolutely. We want to know how are we going to shift perceptions?

Nikkita Oliver:
We shift perceptions by building the city we want to see. We don’t control mainstream media but what we do control is the way in which our city continues to move and develop. Some of our elected officials need to actually take accountability for statements that they made during the protest that was then leveraged by media outlets, both locally and nationally, to paint a picture of a city in crisis. That’s not what was happening in our city.

I understand that there were things that happened in CHOP that caused a lot of pain for people. In fact, those things were happening in other areas of our city — in terms of folks being shot and killed. When we make that issue about just one area of our city, we actually miss the underlying issues that are the reasons why certain types of gun violence are happening. These are economic reasons. These are social reasons. We have areas in Seattle that have been redlined historically; that have experienced exclusionary zoning, are over-policed, and lacked social services. Many of them are also food deserts. They’re not what we would call — in the urban development sphere — communities of opportunity. These neighborhoods are lacking economic opportunity, educational opportunity, and the services that ensure people can thrive.

Nikkita Oliver, candidate for Seat 9 of the Seattle City Council holds their first rally

So while some areas of our city are growing into these urban villages that have grocery stores that have great produce, or have access to medical facilities, and have access to social services; there are other areas of our cities that are being inequitably developed and are not receiving that same attention and growth to ensure that we do the things that actually prevent violence. This is not conjecture, and it’s not me just making up a story. We know that through social science, when people have their basic needs met and they have access to economic and educational opportunities, then violence decreases substantially.

We have communities though who have been historically and presently disenfranchised from the access to that opportunity while the wealth of white folks and our region has continued to grow. Those communities continue to have access to higher earner jobs. The wealth of Black communities has actually continued to decrease.

I think that we absolutely want to change this weird narrative that’s happened around Seattle and show who we really are. I’ve also talked to people in the suburbs of Seattle and they say things like, “Oh, Seattle, traffic’s too bad.” This kind of complaining about Seattle. I want to change that narrative too.

Question four – police reform

Renee Raketty:
Renee Raketty: (15:03)
Compared to the West Coast cities, such as San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, and San Diego. Seattle has the second-highest cost per police officer tied with Oakland and the second-highest officer per capita behind San Francisco. Additionally, the average officer makes $153,000 a year before benefits, according to the Seattle Times. Despite this large force and supporting budget, Seattle police reports, low response times and they claim the issue to be a lack of staff. The budget was cut by approximately 18% and staffing levels were adjusted to support roughly 1,325 officers. How would you define defund the police? What is your position on that and how, as a member of the city council, do you restore community trust and SPD?

Nikkita Oliver:
“Defund the police” is also ‘invest in the community.’ I think it’s really important not to separate those two from each other. I think it’s also important to acknowledge that our current system of public safety does not create safety for everyone. In fact, there are many communities that are actually less safe when they call the police. There are communities that are actually afraid to call the police when they’re actually in need of support. I think we also have to acknowledge that we do not have the myriad of services that we need to ensure that people are safer. Police are not typically doing what we think. I think a lot of folks have it in their minds, maybe from movies or TV, that police are all day responding to violent crime and violent calls. The reality is a lot of what police officers are doing are responding to things involving property or maybe parking issues or even noise complaints. That is the majority.

In Seattle, I think 1.3% of the calls that come through 911 are quote/unquote, “violent crime.” So that’s actually a very small percentage. I think we’ve also seen and I know you’ve seen this, having been out at the protest. There will be an obscene amount of police officers at the protest and then later we’ll find out that something else was happening in the city but the Seattle Police Department will say that they had very slow response times. I would wonder how are they prioritizing what’s important for their presence to be at.

That being said, I do have to go back to the underpinning thing here. Our system of public safety is not one that works for everyone. We’ve heard this time and time again, it’s not new information. It’s not new as of 2020. In fact, these are conversations that people have been having for a long time about public safety and what really makes the community safe. An 18 percent defund of a police department that has one of the highest budgets in the entire United States really is not that much. SPD’s budget prior to this last budget cycle was $410 million. They often actually spent over that budget and would be asking the council for additional dollars in addition to receiving money from groups like the Seattle Foundation giving dollars to the Police Foundation that then gave money to the department to buy more equipment. There are also additional dollars, including federal dollars, that come into the SPD on a regular basis. So I don’t believe that they’re actually hurting for money.

What is hurting for financial resources are community-based responses to intervening with harm and responding to harm when it happens. I’m thinking about what do people do when they’re in domestic violence situations and they do not believe that calling the police is going to make it safer. This was my own life at one point in time with a partner of mine. I did not feel like I could call the police for support because — at the time — I was dating a six-foot-seven Black man and did not think that calling the police was going to make our situation any better. In fact, it worried me that something might happen to him and his life if I did that, and is that a burden I wanted to carry?

I am not the only Black person who has ever been in that situation and thought about that. I’m certainly not the only person. There are families who also are afraid to call the cops when their loved ones are having mental health crises. We know that this is happening. We also know that the police are ill-equipped to respond to these types of situations. Why aren’t we not investing more of our public safety budget in ensuring that we have the resources that can meet a multiplicity of needs, knowing that most of the things that people call 911 who actually do not need an armed officer to come to the door?

My goal is, my hope as a city council member, is that we can actually continue building upon the things that we know work; mental health supports, people who can respond to mental health crises. I’m thinking right now about Tommy Le, whose family just received a big settlement but will never receive Tommy back, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis. Charleena Lyles was in the midst of a mental health crisis. Charleena could still be here with us if we had the right support. How are we doing the work of learning from these tragedies to actually be doing the things that we know work for community members?

That’s my goal — prioritizing our public safety budget to actually do the things that make the community safe in terms of our ability to respond to a mental health crisis, domestic violence, to intervene, and stop violence before it occurs — because that would be the ideal.

This is the last part of this. Police are often called after harm has already occurred. So it is already a reactionary measure to public safety. What would it look like if we built a city where we built the priorities of our public safety system around preventing and intervening harm, rather than responding once it’s already happened. We could actually keep a lot of people out of the criminal punishment system, which is a broader system that needs to be addressed in relationship to policing. We could prevent a lot of harm to families and people in our city if we approach public safety from that place instead.

Question five – mental health crisis

Renee Raketty:
I’m glad you brought up mental health. Let’s talk about that for a second because I do think it’s an important issue. One of many things that COVID has shed light on is the ongoing mental health crisis in this country. Seattle is not exempt from this of course. Recently, a man in the throes of a mental health crisis was fatally wounded by the SPD near the Seattle waterfront. Washington State has consistently ranked towards the bottom for public health services for the mentally ill. What would you do as a member of the city council to address this mental health crisis?

Nikkita Oliver:
The incident you mentioned hits close to home because he was a student at Seattle University where I teach. I think people read these stories and they forget that folks are actually in our communities that are having crisises and then have deadly encounters with police. What can we do?

So as we continue the work around defunding and investing — divesting and investing into structures that work — we can actually invest in mental health professionals and intervention services that actually work. I’ve had to call for a county Mental Health Professional (MHP), a county MHP before and it’s taken 24 hours before that MHP has been able to respond to the crisis that I’ve been in with a client. Often what this means is myself or family members of this person ended up having to stay with them 24/7. In some instances, following them around the city to try to keep them safe or avoid an interaction with police. Sometimes it still ends up in an interaction with police.

The fact that we invest so much money in a system that is not able to actually respond to the needs we know are most emergent is not only fiscally irresponsible but it’s also socially irresponsible. So I think finding ways financially to beef up our mental health professional options — whether that’s looking at programs like Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets. I’m not saying specifically CAHOOTS because that model was developed in a particular context and all models that develop one place can not just be transferred to another place. We need to be thoughtful about how we develop more mental health supports in the city. That’s what defunding is actually about. It is about finding the thing to invest in that actually will do the work that we need. We know that mental health has always been something that people need response to but the recession and the pandemic have certainly exacerbated the mental health crisis that we’re facing.

We do have organizations that are able to support folks in crisis but we certainly don’t have enough of them. When you have to wait 24 hours or more before someone is able to meet you, what that likely means is that your loved one has probably spun out much farther than they were 24 hours prior. It’s even harder to do the work of mitigating harm and ensuring that that person gets the supports. The other thing is I think we need to work better with our hospitals. I’ve gone to the hospital with folks wanting to admit theirselves for support. The process of doing that comes with a lot of stigma. It’s a very cumbersome process. You often have to prove that you are suicidal or other things that will make them want to bring you into the hospital. So we need to change that process. If someone comes to you saying they need help, we should just get them help.

Nikkita Oliver

The third issue that is attached to that though is we just simply do not have enough beds, mental health professionals, or mental health supports in our region. So when people do go to the hospital saying they would like to get support, they’re often told there isn’t a bed for them. How can we be providing more of those spaces within the city using the budget we have to do that and actually investing in the things that work. The last thing I would say, I keep coming back to healthcare, but we don’t have full spectrum healthcare for some folks. As a result, when they seek out mental health supports they’re not able to pay for it. Is there a way for the city and, I would put the county in there to partner [with us], because the county does do a lot of public health work, can we be developing ways that people can access mental health supports prior to being in crisis that doesn’t require them to have health insurance — knowing that ultimately when we can get people mental health supports early on, we actually make everyone, including that person, much safer

Question six – zoning and Seattle housing crunch

Renee Raketty:
Affordability is a major problem for Seattle. 88% of Seattle’s land that is zoned for housing is zoned for single family units. Over the last five years, most of the new construction has been centered in the 12% that supports high density, housing developers and builders focused on small footprint, footprint properties with the minimum parking and luxury appointments.

Nikkita Oliver:
I know most people don’t probably whouldn’t believe this but this is actually one of the issues I’m most excited to work on. I think a lot of folks see me as just the police person. To be honest, our legacy of exclusionary zoning is contributing to so many of the problems that we’re facing in the city. There’s a book called The Color of Law that really digs into how housing is a determinant of how people thrive. It’s a determinant of whether or not communities experience high rates of violence. It’s a determinant of whether or not communities are over-policed. Housing plays a big role in that.

We have really, chosen not to turn and face our legacy of exclusionary zoning. Our current zoning pattern has created a bifurcated city. Two-thirds of our residential land is not accessible to all but those who have the highest incomes, which is a serious issue. So we need to be changing our zoning as we approach this 2024 comprehensive plan to be building a mix of housing and residential patterns that allows more people to live in more places throughout the city.

There are a number of reports that have come out that have actually recommended us addressing our zoning issues. I think it’s very important that we do it. There are examples of cities like Portland, which has a residential infill project where they have basically re-legalized the missing middle or missing middle housing citywide. This allows for a diversity of housing structures to exist in the city. Seattle has committed itself, in a lot of ways, to building urban villages. So we need to both expand our current urban villages but also be strategic about the places where we build new ones.

There is transit infrastructure being built throughout the city and there are areas that need more transit infrastructure and those would be areas that would be right for urban villages but it cannot continue to happen on the same 12% of land. We have 85%of the developing happening on 12 % of the land, which is really unacceptable.

We also cannot do it in our industrial lands [and] there’s been some talk about building affordable housing in our industrial lands. There are place-based industries that happen in those spaces that cannot happen anywhere else. So it doesn’t make sense to build there, not to mention our industrial land areas are also very much food deserts. We don’t know about the toxicity of the area and the long-term impacts that would have on folks. I’m really excited to work on our comprehensive plan for 2024. It is a huge chance to do zoning reform; to make significant strides on housing affordability.

It is also an opportunity to address our climate crisis. With all the new housing that we would build, we can build it green. We can be thinking about our sustainable infrastructure. We can be building transit in a way that helps us reach our climate goals. Having more people, being able to travel within the area that they live by foot or by bike or by bus or by light rail will make a significant decrease on the things that we’re facing with the climate crisis. So I’m really excited to work on this particular issue and also believe that housing, fundamentally, is a major determinant of the things that we’re seeing and housing in our area. This is something, again, we have to grapple with.

[It] has been highly racialized based on who is getting the wealth and income games in our city. Who’s getting access to high earner jobs. The last part of this is also anti-displacement and anti-gentrification strategies that ensure that people can stay in place. I’m thinking about our seniors who as property taxes increase cannot afford to keep their homes. I’m thinking about young people who have grown up here who may not be getting into those pipelines in the higher end of jobs and, as a result, will either spend the rest of their life as renters — though many of them cannot afford that — or they’ll never get to have any type of home ownership.

So we also need to think about co-op models, community land trust, as ways of ensuring that people can also build equity. Equity is how a lot of white folks have been able to build their legacies; send their children to college. Many Black, native, Latinx folks have been excluded from building equity through home ownership. So thinking about co-ops and community land trust is also a huge opportunity to be able to open up that opportunity for equity and wealth building that many communities based on race have been excluded from.

Renee Raketty:
Do you support changing zoning rules for [Additional Dwelling Units] ADUs and more dense construction to alleviate the housing crisis? How dense and where would you support ADU development?

Nikkita Oliver:
I support changing zoning rules for 80 years and more dense construction to alleviate the housing crisis. ADU’s are an opportunity to build another diversity of housing and build housing for the missing middle but that cannot be our only answer. There has to be much [more] diversity of housing options that we’re doing the work of presenting. So, you know, thinking of quadplexes and other things that can be built. I know that a lot of folks then will push back and say, “What about the character of our communities?” I understand that and also we’re in the midst of a huge affordability and housing crisis. If we continue to allow things to go the rate we’re going, then we’re going to be building a city just for a few and exlude the many. Accepting that density is going to be something that equitably needs to be taken on by all neighborhoods is just a really important factor of building our city in a just an equitable way that is accessible to everyone. Having areas of land that are just fully excluded for some people is not acceptable. That’s not an inclusive city. That is not a city that has a race and social justice initiative.

We need to be reckoning with the fact that our very first comprehensive plan that was put in place in the 1920’s was done so in collaboration with someone by the name of Harland Bartholomew. Harlan Bartholomew was a known segregationist and basically helped us develop our first version of these exclusionary zones that went in place. And then in the 1980’s, we did a huge down-zone that then prevented even more families moving into certain places. So if we’re going to have a city that makes it so everyone who works here can live here, then, we’re going to have to take density on equitably.

Renee Raketty:
How do you combat gentrification while also meeting housing needs?

Nikkita Oliver:
I think it’s about how you build and it is about acknowledging who doesn’t have access to the housing. There are anti-displacement strategies we can put in place. This is where co-op models and community land trusts are important. This is also where the city getting into housing is key. We have many reports, the Seattle Growth Strategy white paper, the Neighborhoods for All executive summary actually all outlined for us that we know which neighborhoods are most at risk of gentrification and displacement. Yet, [when] we have started our building, the places that we build density; we have built their first. So our strategy is off.

We need to be starting in spaces where we know we will have the least amount of impact while simultaneously doing those things that help keep people in place. This is where thinking about our seniors and the rising cost of property taxes is really important. What are we doing to help folks on fixed incomes be able to maintain their homes? How are we doing one-to-one, replacement of housing? So if we tear down a building that is affordable, are we putting up that one-to-one ratio of affordable units and ensuring that people can come back. Now, that is also really challenging.

I know they’ve said at Yesler Terrace there’s a 100 percent rate of people returning back but that’s of those who wanted to return back. Many people when they left Yesler Terrace, when we literally sold off public land — which I don’t think we should have done — had [to] move. You know that they’d already moved somewhere else, started living in that place, and then chose not to move back because it wasn’t necessarily the best decision for them at that time. So really thinking about when we do tear down buildings that are affordable, are we doing our best job to ensure that folks have a real ability to move back into that space?

Are we preserving our public lands so that we, as a city, can continue to get involved in that? Are we doing the anti-displacement work of addressing rising property taxes and supporting people in staying in their homes? Again, this is where the development needs to be taken on more equitably. We know where folks are living that are most at risk of being displaced. Why do we as a city continue to build density in those areas first rather than prioritizing other areas of the city where, when development is received, people likely won’t be displaced?

Question seven – taxation

Renee Raketty:
Seattle has a reputation for having high taxes compared to other Washington cities. A number of initiatives through the years have added incremental taxes to fund transit, homeless programs, education, and the general fund. These taxes are small on paper. A number of one-tenth of one percent taxes have been passed by voters and supported by the Council as an example. Most of these taxes are regressive due to Washington state’s tax structure. Will you pledge no new taxes on the citizens on Seattle? What programs would you want to see cut if you are on the Council?

Nikitta Oliver:
I don’t think I can 100% pledge no new taxes on all of the citizens of Seattle or all of the residents, I should say. There are wealthy folks in our communities that don’t pay their fair share in taxes. There are corporations that don’t pay their fair share in taxes. I think that there are taxes to be put in place. I think it’s important for those folks to be paying.

What I can commit to is doing the work of not putting more taxes on those who already pay more and finding ways to eliminate our regressive tax structure which requires that as the city of Seattle to actually be a part of pushing our state Legislature to make those change. [To] do it in a way that doesn’t remove the ability of cities or localities to continue to put in place their own taxes on big business or the wealthy. Our tax structure is very regressive and the wealthiest amongst us pay anywhere from zero to two percent in taxes. Those who have the least pay somewhere from zero to 17 percent. I just don’t think that is acceptable.

We need to do the work of addressing our regressive tax system. There are taxes that we can continue to address around big business that could be augmented or grown. I think we should grow those taxes because our city does need to generate more revenue to meet the immense amount of social needs that exist. We know that when we meet those social needs our city as a whole will be safer.

Renee Raketty:
Nikkita, I want to thank you so much. I’m glad that our [readers] will have a chance to hear your positions, understand them more fully, and be able to make a decision in this election.

Nikkita Oliver:
Thank you. I appreciate sharing space with you. Thank you so much.

David Obelcz contributed to this story.

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