1. In the Pigott Auditorium at Seattle University, attendees packed the room to hear the mayoral candidates’ answers to the biggest issues facing our city; housing and homelessness. The forum was hosted by Solid Ground and Seattle University in partnership with Housing Development Consortium, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness
    and the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund. Crosscut and the Seattle Times were the media sponsors of the event.

    Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan advanced from a crowded primary contest featuring 21 candidates for Seattle mayor after the August 1 election. Cary Moon is an urban planner and activist, having recently served as the director of the Peoples Waterfront Coalition. Jenny Durkan was the first openly gay Western Washington U.S. Attorney when she was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009.

    Before the debate began, I was behind the scenes livestreaming interviews with the media panelists David Kroman and Heidi Groover and moderator Enrique Cerna. You can check out those interviews here.

    The debate itself was streamed live and recorded by the Seattle Times and Crosscut, where you can still watch both of the videos in their entirety:
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  3. The debate began with Enrique Cerna asking the two candidates for their responses to mayor Ed Murray’s announcement earlier that afternoon that he would be resigning his post. His resignation was announced after a fifth person, Murray’s cousin, accused him of sexual assaulting them as a minor. Although this was the first question asked at the debate, it did not overshadow the intended focus on housing and homelessness.

    Over the course of the next 90 minutes, the two candidates were asked questions ranging from their positions on HALA to their preferred method of funding for housing. In that time, it became very clear which areas the two candidates disagreed on, and which issues are likely to be in the forefront of the election.

    One of the earliest points of contention was over the current system of sweeps carried out by the city of unauthorized homeless encampments. In fact, just that morning, two people had been arrested while protesting a sweep under the Spokane Street Bridge.
  4. Cary Moon declared emphatically that she was against the sweeps, stating that they did more harm than good. Jenny Durkan emphasized the unsafe nature of the encampments, saying that removing people from them was an act of ensuring their safety.

    The candidates also disagreed about whether a tax on homes purchased by foreign buyers and second homes would be effective at lowering housing prices. Cary Moon supports targeted taxes on speculation and vacant properties, including a tax of purchases made by foreign nationals, a position that Durkan has claimed is discriminatory against Chinese buyers.

    The third major point of distinction between the candidates on their housing policy was on the City’s HALA grand bargain. Durkan said she would like to continue with the current form of HALA, while developing additional tools to increase affordability. Moon believes that HALA’s provisions need to be revisited to ensure that neighborhoods vulnerable to gentrification don’t receive the vast majority of housing built. In the course of the debate, it became clear that Moon did not mean to “restart” HALA so much as to make it less reliant on private developers.

    Heidi Groover of The Stranger asked the candidates whether they supported Council Member Mike O’Brien’s proposal to allow folks sleeping in their cars to use designated parking lots where they could receive services. Moon said yes and cited the All Home King County finding in the 2017 Count Us In report that 40% of all unsheltered people in Seattle are sleeping in their cars. Durkan did not answer whether she would support O’Brien’s ordinance, causing Moon to use her one “challenge card” which each candidate could use to ask a follow-up question of their opponent at one time in the debate:
  5. With so many of our neighbors sleeping unsheltered in their cars, it will be ever more important that we get a robust discussion of the ways in which we can help those folks transition to stable housing.

    While this forum was the only one centered solely on the issues of housing, it won't be the last one to feature these debates. On this Wednesday, September 20th, the two candidates will join those running for the Seattle City Council and City Attorney positions for the Seattle Human Services Candidates Forum.
  6. If you can't make it in person to hear the candidates, Firesteel will be live-tweeting the whole event over at @firesteelwa on Twitter. So you can follow along there, or check in afterwards to see what all the action was about!
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