Andrew Lewis, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 7

Andrew Lewis, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 7

On this Tuesday topical show, Crystal chats with Andrew Lewis about his campaign for Seattle City Council District 7. Listen and learn more about Andrew and his thoughts on:

  • [01:02] - Why he is running
  • [03:31] - Response to critics calling him ‘fickle’
  • [07:03] - Lightning round!
  • [12:33] - Lightning round follow-up: Endorsements, SPOG contract questions, waterfront, reallocating encampment funds
  • [17:05] - Homelessness response: Is there room for improvement?
  • [20:13] - City budget shortfall: Raise revenue or cut services?
  • [23:39] - City budget shortfall: Progressive revenue options?
  • [26:03] - Climate change, bike and pedestrian safety
  • [31:36] - Public Safety: Alternative response

About the Guest

Andrew Lewis

Councilmember Lewis is a born and raised Seattleite and a proud graduate of Seattle Public Schools. He holds a BA in history and political science from the University of Washington, a masters degree from the London School of Economics, and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to serving on the City Council, he served the people of Seattle as an assistant city attorney. He lives in West Queen Anne with his wife Laura, an assistant attorney general, their daughter Vivian Grace, and two rescue cats, Scoop and Maggie.

Find Andrew Lewis on Twitter/X at @LewisforSeattle.


Campaign Website - Andrew Lewis


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episode notes.

Well, I am very happy today to be welcoming Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis to the show. Welcome.

[00:01:01] Andrew Lewis: Hey, great to be here.

[00:01:02] Crystal Fincher: Well, lots of people have been familiar with you for quite some time. You are an incumbent running for re-election here on the Seattle City Council. I guess the first question is just - Why are you running, especially when so many other of your colleagues have chosen not to?

[00:01:18] Andrew Lewis: Yeah, well, it's really great to be here to talk about the campaign 'cause I really do think Seattle is positioned to be one of the definitive cities of this century in terms of our potential - our potential for climate resiliency, our potential to overcome a lot of the challenges we face around housing insecurity and emerging challenges in public safety - and I wanna be a part of that. And finish a lot of the work that we've set in motion in the first term, and really bring a lot of that work to its full conclusion. We've worked, in my office, to put in place a big capital plan to redo a lot of our community centers in the city to be climate resiliency hubs - that is gonna be an increasingly necessary piece of infrastructure for shelter during extreme weather events like heat and smoke surges. We have worked to put in place a pilot for a dual dispatch alternative 911 response that is gonna be hitting the road in October, and that the Harrell administration and my office have shared ambition to see scaled to a bigger civilian department that has the capacity to respond in a public health-centered way to a lot of emergencies in our community. So if the first four years was about setting the stage to get these investments locked in and get a commitment and funding locked in, the next four years is really about implementation and really seeing that fully realized. We also have a lot of big, exciting things that are coming on the horizon in the next term - including major revisions to Seattle's Comprehensive Plan, which has huge implications for housing affordability, for climate. We have the Move Seattle levy which will be renewed in 2024 as well. So really, really big policy lifts that I really have strong opinions on and wanna see realize their full potential for a multimodal city with dense and abundant housing. So those are some of my priorities and I'm sure we'll dive into those more over the course of the interview.

[00:03:30] Crystal Fincher: We will. Now, one criticism leveled against you is that you're fickle - that may be putting it pretty bluntly. But one, The Stranger said - in their endorsement of you to be clear, they are absolutely recommending you - they said you "could really use a stronger spine" and The Seattle Times said, "Seattle voters have every reason to feel whiplash these past four years. Perhaps no other councilmember has veered from one position to the next as often and as dramatically as Andrew Lewis. Do you agree with that criticism and how do you respond to it?

[00:04:04] Andrew Lewis: Yeah, I actually don't agree with that criticism - that probably won't surprise anybody here. But I think that a lot of it comes down to the fact that we unfortunately have a media environment where there isn't much recognition or respect for nuance - absent the Hacks & Wonks podcast, of course, where nuance is the currency of the realm. But if you look at some of those instances where we, as policy makers, are forced into a very polarizing environment where the options that were dealt are these two polar options and there's not really much interest from actors in the media that have a strong agenda and like - look, obviously I'm supported by The Stranger, I appreciate their support, I'm glad that I have their endorsement - and they wouldn't contest that they have an agenda. I'm sure The Seattle Times editorial board would not contest that they have an agenda either. And I do think that polarizing actors can get frustrated when the dichotomy that they're pitching people gets flipped on its head because people that are in the middle - that are being forced to pick false choices from two things that are dealt - want to flip the table over on those false choices and try to figure out a way to bring community together and come up with a better policy. And I think that we see, with the result of the Fentanyl Work Group that Mayor Harrell put together with support from my office, that we are getting a better proposal with a broader base of support from the work - that we have spent over the summer digging into how to best respond to the fentanyl crisis, rather than just reactively passing a policy that was set up really with no clear, well-thought-out implementation plan in June. And I can't really sit here and say that it's bad policy to take a little bit longer and ask real probing questions instead of just pick between two choices that are put in front of us. And honestly, I think a lot of the problems in our politics come from accepting those kinds of false choices. So, look - if I'm reelected, I'm certainly going to continue to try to figure out how to make the best policy outcomes we can. And sometimes that might mean rejecting divisive policies. And if people want to call that being fickle, that's what they can do. But I think that the people of Seattle want to see solutions to their problems and not just figuring out how the red team or blue team can win in a given moment.

[00:06:49] Crystal Fincher: I appreciate your beautiful rhetorical flourish on "nuance is the currency of the realm" here on Hacks & Wonks. You have a podcast also where nuance is also covered there.

Now, we're going to depart from our normal kind of candidate interview script - I guess, that we've had over the past several years and switch it up a little bit before we get back to the regular script - and do a bit of a lightning round, which we've done in live events and in forums, debates, but haven't so much in these interviews. But I think it can be useful to level set and to help give people just a base understanding of who we are before we get back into long-form questions where we get to discuss things without the, I guess, limitation of kind of the super short soundbite type of thing that other forums are limited to. So starting out - these are yes or no questions, and we'll make our way through them, is - Did you vote yes on the King County Crisis Care Centers levy?

[00:07:52] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:07:53] Crystal Fincher: Did you vote yes on the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy?

[00:07:57] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:07:58] Crystal Fincher: Did you vote in favor of Seattle's Social Housing Initiative 135?

[00:08:03] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:08:04] Crystal Fincher: In 2021, did you vote for Bruce Harrell for Mayor?

[00:08:08] Andrew Lewis: I voted for Lorena González.

[00:08:10] Crystal Fincher: And did you vote for Nicole Thomas Kennedy or Ann Davison for City Attorney?

[00:08:16] Andrew Lewis: When I don't publicly endorse a candidate that I have to work with, I don't publicly state - so I'm gonna decline to answer.

[00:08:24] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. And did you vote for Leesa Manion or Jim Ferrell?

[00:08:27] Andrew Lewis: I voted for Leesa Manion.

[00:08:29] Crystal Fincher: Do you rent your residence?

[00:08:33] Andrew Lewis: I own.

[00:08:35] Crystal Fincher: Okay, and are you a landlord?

[00:08:37] Andrew Lewis: I am not.

[00:08:38] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to require landlords to report metrics, including how much rent they're charging, to help better plan housing and development needs in your district?

[00:08:47] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:08:48] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to provide additional funding for Seattle's Social Housing Public Development Authority?

[00:08:54] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:08:55] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with King County Executive Constantine's statement that the King County Jail should be closed?

[00:09:03] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:09:04] Crystal Fincher: Should parking enforcement be housed within SPD?

[00:09:08] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:09:09] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to allow police in schools?

[00:09:13] Andrew Lewis: No.

[00:09:14] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocation in the City budget for a civilian-led mental health crisis response?

[00:09:19] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:09:20] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocation in the City budget to increase the pay of human service workers?

[00:09:25] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:09:26] Crystal Fincher: Do you support removing funds in the City budget for forced encampment removals and instead allocating funds towards a Housing First approach?

[00:09:36] Andrew Lewis: No, but I'm happy to expand on that later.

[00:09:39] Crystal Fincher: Will do. Do you support abrogating or removing funds from unfilled SPD positions and putting them towards meaningful public safety measures?

[00:09:49] Andrew Lewis: No.

[00:09:49] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocating money in the City budget for supervised consumption sites?

[00:09:54] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:09:55] Crystal Fincher: Do you support increasing funding in the City budget for violence intervention programs?

[00:09:59] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:10:00] Crystal Fincher: Do you oppose a SPOG contract that doesn't give the Office of Police Accountability, OPA, and the Office of Inspector General, OIG, subpoena power?

[00:10:11] Andrew Lewis: I'm on LRPC, so I can't comment on active bargaining, unfortunately - but I can expand on that later.

[00:10:17] Crystal Fincher: Do you support eliminating in-uniform off-duty work by SPD officers?

[00:10:23] Andrew Lewis: Same answer, unfortunately.

[00:10:25] Crystal Fincher: Gotcha. Will you vote to ensure that trans and non-binary students are allowed to play on all of the sports teams that fit with their gender identities?

[00:10:33] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:10:34] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to ensure that trans people can use bathrooms or public facilities that match their gender?

[00:10:39] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:10:40] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with the City's decision to implement the JumpStart Tax?

[00:10:44] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:10:45] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to reduce or divert the JumpStart Tax in any way?

[00:10:52] Andrew Lewis: I could, yes.

[00:10:53] Crystal Fincher: Are you happy with Seattle's newly-built waterfront?

[00:10:58] Andrew Lewis: Yes, but that's something I want to expand on, too.

[00:11:02] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Do you believe return-to-work mandates, like the one issued by Amazon, are necessary to boost Seattle's economy?

[00:11:09] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:11:10] Crystal Fincher: Have you taken transit in the past week?

[00:11:12] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:11:13] Crystal Fincher: Have you ridden a bike in the past week?

[00:11:15] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:11:16] Crystal Fincher: Look at you, Andrew Lewis. Should Pike Place Market allow non-commercial delivery car traffic?

[00:11:24] Andrew Lewis: No.

[00:11:25] Crystal Fincher: Should significant investments be made to speed up the opening of scheduled Sound Transit light rail lines?

[00:11:31] Andrew Lewis: Repeat that one more time, sorry.

[00:11:33] Crystal Fincher: Should significant investments be made to speed up the opening of scheduled Sound Transit light rail lines?

[00:11:39] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:11:40] Crystal Fincher: Should we accelerate the elimination of the ability to turn right on red lights to improve pedestrian safety?

[00:11:46] Andrew Lewis: Yes, absolutely.

[00:11:48] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever been a member of a union?

[00:11:50] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:11:51] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to increase funding and staffing for investigations into labor violations like wage theft and illegal union busting?

[00:11:59] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:11:59] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever walked a picket line?

[00:12:02] Andrew Lewis: Yes.

[00:12:02] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever crossed a picket line?

[00:12:04] Andrew Lewis: No.

[00:12:05] Crystal Fincher: Is your campaign unionized?

[00:12:07] Andrew Lewis: So we pay the union wage. I don't know if he is formally - my campaign manager's formally joined, but of course I'd be all for it. So, yes.

[00:12:20] Crystal Fincher: And that was the next question. If your staff wants to unionize, would you voluntarily recognize their effort?

[00:12:25] Andrew Lewis: Yeah, totally.

[00:12:26] Crystal Fincher: Well, look, Andrew Lewis - you concluded our first in-interview lightning round here on Hacks & Wonks. I guess following up on that, there were a couple of issues where you wanted to follow up on that - so I'll give you a little bit of time to clarify.

[00:12:41] Andrew Lewis: Yeah, I mean, the first thing I would say, like in how I do endorsements - there were some questions about endorsements. If I publicly endorse - publicly endorsed Lorena, publicly endorsed Leesa Manion - I will say in the future who I voted for. If there's a municipal office where I have to work with that person, like council colleagues or other municipal officials - if I don't publicly endorse, I don't state 'cause I have to work with those people. So, I mean, people can maybe infer based on some of my other statements and actions, but it's just a hard and fast rule I have that I inherited from my friend, Nick Licata. So I will just say, put that out there. On the waterfront - well, actually, first, LRPC - there's some questions regarding bargaining. At the Seattle City Council, there's a body called Labor Relations Policy Committee - it's five City councilmembers. Our deliberations are private 'cause bargaining is private - for good reason. We oversee the bargaining process for all unions that have contracts with the City, including the Seattle Police Officers Guild, and we weigh in in that body on approving bargaining parameters. So sitting on that body - it's just best practice to not specifically talk about hard and fast positions on the bargaining process. And I know that's frustrating to a lot of my friends in labor for the coalition bargaining that's happening right now. But by virtue of serving on LRPC, I have to be really, really careful about what I say to avoid unfair labor practice allegations and other things like that, regrettably.

On the waterfront, which is another question that came up. I think the waterfront's gonna be great and have a lot of really cool new things - the Overlook Walk, the Aquarium expansion, obviously going to be a big new investment. So on the whole, it's a beneficial addition, and I think yes is the best answer to that question. There are ways it could be dramatically improved - I don't think anyone out there is denying that. A couple of months ago, when we were discussing the designation of Dzidzilalich - the renaming of Elliott to Dzidzilalich Way - I asked the Office of the Waterfront staff how much leeway we have to make improvements to increasingly remove the amount of footprint that's on the waterfront that is reserved for cars - which is the biggest deficiency, in my opinion, of the waterfront. And everything essentially north of the ferry terminal is city right-of-way and not state right-of-way - where we have an increased amount of leeway to make changes. So I'm optimistic that over time, we can continue to work and shape the waterfront to reflect the kind of urban space that I think a lot of us in the community wanna see. It's tough that so much of the shape of the waterfront was kind of locked in over a decade ago before I was on the council to really have a say in how to shape those conversations. But just clarification there on the waterfront.

On the question regarding money that goes towards removing and remediating encampment locations - I mean, that's an ongoing - that maybe is the subject of further questions, actually, in the interview, but I don't think it's necessarily a situation where we're in a position to completely get rid of the money that we've set aside for the Unified Care Team - with the current state of how the rest of our contract with the regional authority is set up, we do need the ability in case of emergencies or obstructions or other exigent problems to be able to remediate an encampment location. But I think that we should be doing it with compassion and discretion and not - yeah, and that our focus needs to stay on having a Housing First approach to resolving the crisis of homelessness that we're facing.

[00:17:05] Crystal Fincher: How do you think that compassion and discretion has been going so far? Has the City met that mark, or is there room for improvement?

[00:17:14] Andrew Lewis: I think there's always room for improvement and I think that all of us admit that that's the case. We - for the first time, we're tracking why people might decline offers of shelter. In the Durkan administration, we never did that. It's something that's been a long council priority to like, if someone declined shelter, we should ask them why. In the Durkan administration, there was no interest - there was just sort of a philosophy of like, Well, no, if they say no, then why would we ask them? And it's like - well, if you want to increase the rate of people accepting offers, you should be asking people. And under the Harrell administration, we have started asking. And the Harrell administration has been very responsive to feedback in updating and changing a lot of our outreach practices that, in the Durkan administration, we weren't getting any traction as a council in that kind of responsiveness.

And what we've learned through that process is the dominant shelter preference are tiny house villages. And if you have more tiny house villages, you're gonna significantly reduce the amount of encampments in the city. There has been a 42% decrease in encampments over the course of the past year or so, through our work with the Unified Care Team. And that reflects a reduction in the amount of displacement, because there is an emphasis on increasing the amount of shelter placements from the outreach that we do to encampments. We have increased the amount of enhanced shelter in tiny house villages, though not as much as I would like to see. So I think the focus needs to be on continuing to scale up those enhanced shelter options that - we do have a consensus from the Harrell administration on wanting to do. The historic challenge has been resistance from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority to tiny house villages, but I think the new leadership team there has a different view of the utility of them. So my hope is that we can continue down that path in centering things that work. The best model that we've done in recent years is the JustCARE model, which used a hoteling-supported placement system. But we can do the same work with tiny house villages, and that might be more attainable than leasing or acquiring additional hotels in the current climate. So that's what we need to continue to work on - in my estimation. If you want fewer encampments and you want to provide people with a place to go, I think it all really comes down to having more tiny homes.

[00:20:06] Crystal Fincher: And I think it's fair to say you've been the council's leading proponent of tiny homes during your time serving. I do wanna talk about the upcoming anticipated revenue shortfall in the City of Seattle. It's projected to have a revenue shortfall of several million dollars beginning in 2025. Because the City's mandated to pass a balanced budget, the options to address the upcoming deficit are either to raise revenue or to cut services. How will you approach the issue of how the City collects and spends money on behalf of its constituents?

[00:20:44] Andrew Lewis: Yeah, it's estimated to be around - $200 million is the deficit that we're anticipating for the next biennium. So we have the entire year of 2024 to plan around a variety of different strategies to mitigate the impact of that looming deficit. I think that there's a couple of things that can be brought to bear. Obviously, there's some revenue options that were queued up by a recent task force that was convened by Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Mosqueda. It's not likely that any of those revenue sources in and of themselves would be enough to completely close the gap. So there would have to be - if there is a strategy pursued to pursue new revenue, there would have to also be some level of efficiencies and reforms that are found. I think that there is some utility in having the City really take a hard and fast look at some of the things that we do and figuring out if we can do them better. I think there's a broad consensus, for example, that things like design review are tedious, subjective, not really helping to advance a lot of our current policy challenges around getting things built in the city. All of these processes come with associated costs. I think that there are ways to look at the 45 offices and departments that we have at the city and look for some opportunities for consolidations of certain roles. I think there's a credible argument to be made that the Seattle Department of Construction Inspections, the Office of Planning and Development, the Office of Housing, the Department of Neighborhoods could theoretically all be merged into one department and there's probably economy of scale savings that we could realize from those kinds of efficiencies and consolidations. So I think that we need to think creatively in looking at all of the different options to get there. I don't think we can take revenue off the table and we can't take looking at some ways to more efficiently and effectively deliver existing services. Or get out of certain lines of business entirely - like I just indicated, design review, but there's other things in the permitting and land use world that we could probably streamline as part of the Comprehensive Plan. And I think there's a lot of interest in those kinds of actions - to have a more, to be able to build housing quicker, to be able to build things faster, and to reduce the associated costs with the process that slows a lot of that housing construction down.

[00:23:39] Crystal Fincher: I think everybody would welcome streamlining of that process, and I've also seen indications that there is broad interest in doing that. So we talked about the streamlining - are you considering any progressive revenue options?

[00:23:54] Andrew Lewis: Well, yeah - I mean, look, I co-sponsored the JumpStart Tax - gosh, like three years ago now, I guess, is when we did that. It seems more recent. So I'm not averse to new progressive revenue. I have proposed in the past a capital gains tax, which is one of the things that was recommended in the report. But I wanna take a good hard look first at ways that we can really show our work in 2024 - trying to figure out how we can really make the case that there's ways to find some additional ways to save money in the deficit before we are rolling out and committing to new revenue. People forget - partly 'cause I think there's a lot of people that don't wanna give the council credit for things - but people forget that in the last biennium, we found $60 million worth of savings that we rolled into the budget. So it's not like we aren't able to go through this work and find ways that we can save money. I mean, the county has been doing similar budgeting practices by necessity for over a decade because they have to. I mean, the county's in a position where they have the same budget pressures that we're facing - they can't raise progressive revenue, so they have found ways to be more efficient and effective. And I don't think that we at the City face the same pressures, but I think that there's a lot of ability to realize similar efficiencies. Also because we have dynamic and new needs - the Social Housing Initiative is a dynamic and new need - that's not something that we've had before that we've had to figure out how to resource. So finding ways to redistribute and reallocate funding from other parts of the budget, I think, is something that should be a focus of our work in 2024.

[00:26:02] Crystal Fincher: Makes sense. On almost every measure, we're behind on our 2030 climate goals - which is an important milestone to hitting the 2040, 2050 climate goals - as we are experiencing the impacts of climate change right now, many of which are devastating from extreme heat and cold, to wildfires and floods. What are your highest priority plans to get us on track to meet 2030 goals?

[00:26:31] Andrew Lewis: So in my first term - really proud of prime sponsoring legislation mandating that new commercial construction needs to essentially be non-emitting. Like you can't build a new commercial building in Seattle and heat it with natural gas - you have to get heat pumps. Councilmember Strauss sponsored a similar bill for residential construction doing the same thing. So that's new buildings. I want us to work on figuring out ways to adapt existing buildings, to convert to electric heat pumps instead of using natural gas. One of our biggest contributing factors in our climate accounting, our carbon accounting, is the heating of large buildings. And that's something that we can really take on, and I think that we - in the Comp Plan next year and through other sort of incentives and mandates - can get there to speed that transition up and have that part of the carbon accounting really go down.

We need to continue to work on the biggest plurality of our climate challenge, which is our transportation system in the City of Seattle. I used to think it was as simple as the process of building out light rail - I don't think that anymore. I mean, obviously that's gonna be essential and having that grade-separated fixed rail transit is critical and we have to be completely committed to speeding it up, getting it done right, and delivering it. But other things like emphasizing 15-minute city planning in the Comp Plan and figuring out ways to follow the lead of other cities that have made a lot of stunning progress in the COVID era around the subsidy and expansion of e-bikes. I think that e-bikes have a lot of potential to be a significant component. I don't think they're a silver bullet for our transportation climate problems, but I think that they are like a leg of the stool. I think that e-bikes can be a significant way to make biking, as a transportation alternative, more accessible and getting more people to take on that kind of commuting habit to reduce their dependency on single occupancy vehicles. That means we need to - in the Move Seattle levy and just through other budget priorities, through our transportation budgets - really make sure that protected and safe bike infrastructure is something that we're really investing in. So that people feel like they're - not just that it is a comfortable and convenient alternative to use an e-bike, but that you know you can do it safely and in a way that you are going to feel and actually be protected by the infrastructure you use to get around the city. Really proud, in my first term, to have sponsored the first increase in a decade of the commercial parking tax, which is a tax on private commercial parking lots - to create the first-ever dedicated funding for Vision Zero infrastructure improvements. So building on that is something we really need to do to meet our climate goals.

I'm proud to be the only candidate in this race in the primary who mentioned climate change in my voter guide statement. I think - in 2023, it's kind of stunning that you can have six candidates running in the Seattle City Council race and only one of the six even mentions climate change as something that we need to be doing. But here we are. So that'll continue to be a priority. Last thing I'll throw out there - really proud of the work I did with 350 Seattle and a coalition of environmental organizations to make significant investments in our community centers, through the renewal of the Metropolitan Park District, to be heating and cooling centers in extreme weather events and also to decarbonize those community centers as part of the process. This is all - it needs to be everything - we need to be mitigating, we need to be investing in climate resiliency, and we need to be aggressively working to reduce our overall climate footprint. And we can really be the city that I think leads the country in being an urban example of how you can be part of the solution on climate.

[00:31:09] Crystal Fincher: Now, I just want to give my full-throated support to the e-bike subsidy and to helping to improve bike and pedestrian infrastructure. It's so important, and especially e-bikes - showing that more than even regular bikes - to reduce vehicle trips, vehicle miles traveled, and as you put it, certainly a leg of the stool that's going to meaningfully address carbon emissions and pollution in our city.

I want to talk about public safety and particularly alternative response. Other jurisdictions - not just around the country, but in our own region and county - have rolled out alternative response programs to better support those having behavioral health crises, experiencing homelessness, a variety of issues that may not be best addressed by a police officer in an armed capacity. Which used to be a pretty common - and in some places still is - commonly talked about by even law enforcement officers, that they cannot address and solve everything. But it seems like Seattle has been falling behind on alternative response, behavioral health responses. Where do you stand on those solutions, and what are your thoughts on the civilian-led versus co-response models? And how do we move forward quickly to help improve public safety in the city?

[00:32:32] Andrew Lewis: All right, well, I'm gonna give a long answer, 'cause I feel very strongly about this. And appreciate the question. And honestly, Crystal, I appreciate - as an avid listener to your podcast - the way that this topic is discussed extensively with the guests that you have on, because it is not in our broader media and I think this is one of the first parts of the problem. In our broader legacy media, this really isn't discussed as something that's important. You know, like there's only passing reference to it in the editorializing from The Times, definitely none of our local TV news discuss it. And I'll just plant that as a flag - that I think that that is part of the reason it's been hard to get momentum for it - is it is not given much bandwidth, time, respect, or analysis by a lot of legacy media voices, and that diminishes the momentum for it.

But just to maybe go way back - I think I got ahead of myself on that part - there's lots of great models nationally for how you can send alternative civilian responses for public health-based calls for service. Eugene, Oregon has a longstanding program called CAHOOTS, Crisis Assistance Helping Out in the Streets. That program's been in operation for 30 years - sends mental health clinicians without the assistance of police to respond to calls for crisis in the community. And they've never had any serious injury or death associated for their staff of responding to those calls. Denver, which is probably a more analogous city - for our purposes as a major city - has a program called STAR, Support Team Assisted Response. Almost exactly the same as Eugene's CAHOOTS program - mental health clinicians and EMTs, civilians, provider-based. They've had no significant challenge, and a Stanford study actually recently saw that there's been an attributable, nearly one-third decrease in street disorder in the place where they've been in operation - which is incredibly impressive - and they've only been in operation for three years. Albuquerque has a similar program. So we really are a late adopter to this work.

I will say that the council in June of 2020 really put down - a stake in the ground for having this kind of a service as a really, really big priority. I was a big leader in that, former Councilmember Lorena González was a big advocate of that, my colleague Councilmember Herbold has been a huge, steadfast advocate of this kind of service. And for whatever reason, and I don't really - people can speculate, but I never really got a good reason why - it was not a huge priority for the Durkan administration. And the Durkan administration just really was not interested in lending capacity, bandwidth, or support to developing this kind of a program. And we lost a lot of time as a result of that - to be quite candid. The Harrell administration coming in - and I'm gonna say this - I think the Harrell administration on this issue has been great. We have lots of impediments in the City of Seattle and Washington State, mostly related to the fact that arguably this work needs to be bargained. And I don't wanna get into the bargaining too much, but that's been a big impediment. But the Harrell administration has worked in good faith with Councilmember Herbold and I to develop this work along - and admittedly it's complicated work, and it's taken a lot longer than any of us would like it to.

But the Harrell administration has gotten us to a point where we're gonna have a pilot in October. And I give immense credit to them for making this a priority in the first year and a half of their administration. And this dual dispatch pilot that's gonna be hitting the road in October is gonna bear a lot of similarity - in practice, I think - to a similar dual dispatch program in the City of Kirkland, which is called RCR, Regional Crisis Response. Actually, if the podcast is looking for a great guest to talk to about that - highly recommend Councilmember Neal Black, who's the one in Kirkland who turned me on to the fact that they have that service. I was not aware of it - did a ride-along with it-

[00:37:22] Crystal Fincher: We actually did a show on that.

[00:37:24] Andrew Lewis: With Neal?

[00:37:25] Crystal Fincher: Not with Neal - with Mayor Herbig and the executive director of the RCR program.

[00:37:30] Andrew Lewis: Oh, that's right - no, you did. Sorry, sorry. Yes, of course - oh my God, sorry. Yes, I listened to that. Old friends with Nigel Herbig, so yeah - I was texting him about it when that launched a couple of months ago. Sorry, I totally spaced on that.

[00:37:44] Crystal Fincher: How dare you not know every episode of Hacks & Wonks, Councilmember Lewis? [laughing]

[00:37:48] Andrew Lewis: I know - scandal, scandalous. But in any event, I do think our dual dispatch will bear a lot of similarity to that program. And it sets a good foundation because the team - you know, it's a dual dispatch team. And just really quickly, 'cause there's a lot of confusion in community about this. A co-responder system is where you have like a mental health clinician and a police officer in the same unit, the same vehicle, and they respond at the same time in the same vehicle. A dual dispatch program is where the units are separate - like you have a mental health clinician, EMT, in one vehicle and you have police in another. And both of them are dispatched at the same time, but they can sort of work together and like screen off in the field as necessary based on the needs of the call. And in practice, my understanding is that leads, in lots of cases, to the officer, you know, clearing the call and moving on to something only they can do - in the overwhelming majority of situations where the mental health clinician is able to take on the call on their own. So dual dispatch has the potential to continue to evolve into something that is a fully independent 911 response like CAHOOTS and STAR - because with the right training and doctrine, that fully independent unit can have incrementally, you know, more responsibility and more autonomy as we implement the program.

So, you know, it's been a while, but I appreciate the Harrell administration's prioritization of this. I appreciate that we're building the program out in the new 911 Communication Center Department, and that we have a new civilian director who's very, very committed to this work - and, you know, I look forward to this pilot being the first step. But in these cities - like in Denver and Albuquerque, those pilots grew very, very quickly into big, mature systems. So my hope is that we can have a similar experience here - we're just getting that service. The best advertising for the service, Crystal, is gonna be getting it out there so people can interact with it, people - and people tangibly know. Like one of the pushbacks I get a lot as an advocate for alternative 911 response is that people don't really have a great conception of like what that means, and they're sort of vulnerable to counterarguments about like - you know, people are gonna kill the alternative responders, or like things that just aren't problems in these other jurisdictions. And I think by getting it out there, it'll make it easier for advocates - like myself, like Councilmember Herbold - to be able to say, Look, this is what we're talking about, we need more of this. And I think that once it's out there, I think that it's gonna catch a lot more attention and public support.

[00:40:38] Crystal Fincher: Well, I certainly hope so - and there have been, I believe, some fits and starts in Seattle previously, whether it's the JustCARE model or others - but sincerely hope that we can get meaningful alternative response, comprehensive response up and running here in the City of Seattle. And thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today about your candidacy and your time during your first term - much appreciated.

[00:41:04] Andrew Lewis: Thank you so much.

[00:41:05] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at and in the podcast episode notes.

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