Grassroots to City Hall: Sanchez's Progressive Agenda for Seattle Council

Seattle City Council candidate Saunatina Sanchez discusses her vision for Seattle and how she plans to address the city's most pressing challenges

Grassroots to City Hall: Sanchez's Progressive Agenda for Seattle Council

In a recent appearance on the "Hacks & Wonks" podcast, Seattle City Council candidate Saunatina Sanchez discussed her policy priorities and vision for the city. Sanchez, running for the citywide Position 8, provided a comprehensive look at her plans to address housing, public safety, the budget deficit, and community engagement.

Sanchez emphasized the need for significant changes to Seattle’s housing policies to combat affordability issues. She advocated for the removal of single-family zoning restrictions, arguing that this would help address the city's historical segregation and provide more equitable housing opportunities. "We need to legalize housing, all kinds of housing," Sanchez said. She proposed moving away from the currently popular double-loaded corridor design in the United States that constrains the types of housing structures that can be built and promoted "mega-blocks" based on Barcelona’s urban planning model, which prioritize walkability and community-oriented design.

Sanchez advocates for reallocating resources from the police department to civilian-led mental health crisis response teams and violence intervention programs. She believes that investing in preventative measures and community-based services will enhance public safety. "There's a lot of … resistance from taking money away from security and control services and putting those into actual human services and support services," she explained.

Facing a projected $230 million budget shortfall starting in 2025, Sanchez discussed her preparedness to make difficult budgetary decisions. She highlighted the need to scrutinize the city's expenditures, particularly within the police department. Sanchez also supports progressive revenue measures, such as a capital gains tax, to address the deficit. "In terms of focusing on taxing our businesses, making sure that they are paying for the services that they are enjoying in our city is the highest priority," she asserted.

Sanchez recognizes the challenges faced by small businesses in Seattle and advocates for creating a more supportive environment. She believes that fostering vibrant, walkable neighborhoods will benefit local businesses by encouraging community engagement. Additionally, she stressed the importance of supporting workers to ensure a stable local economy.

As a potential councilmember, Sanchez aims to work collaboratively with her colleagues, focusing on shared goals and practical solutions. Drawing on her extensive experience as a community organizer, she emphasized the importance of listening to residents and incorporating their needs into policymaking. "Because of all these experiences and because of my deep roots in Seattle, I am ready to - on Day One - start to make a difference in how the residents engage with the city," Sanchez concluded.

About the Guest

Saunatina Sanchez

Saunatina Sanchez (she/her) is a grassroots community organizer looking to serve the City of Seattle with dedication to details and a holistic approach. When considering legislation, she asks: “What’s the goal? Who benefits? Who’s harmed?” She's spent the last 20 years working on the ground to help communities via the Black Lives Memorial Garden, Transit Riders Union, Community Roots Housing, Treehouse 4 Kids, Cascade Bicycle Club, and a myriad of other neighbors via youth educator work and standing with unions at walkouts and rallies. Saunatina believes in common sense solutions for everyone, such as 24/7/365 public restrooms, utilizing transit centers as community hubs of commerce, and breaking bureaucratic barriers (red tape) to ensuring the right projects get done for the most people. Having grown up in social housing and using public transit, she gained a passion for urban planning, infrastructure, and how all issues of public safety are connected, including housing, community health, commerce, and services for all.

Find Saunatina on Twitter/X at @SaunatinaforSEA.

Podcast Transcript

[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.

Today, we'll be speaking with a candidate for Seattle City Council Position 8, which is a citywide position that represents all residents of Seattle. Former Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda was elected to the King County Council and Tanya Woo was appointed by the Council to temporarily fill that vacancy and this is the election to determine the permanent replacement, who will serve in the seat for the remainder of the term. There are currently four people running for this position - Tanya Woo, Alexis Mercedes Rinck, Tariq Yusuf, and Saunatina Sanchez. The primary election on August 6th will select the top two candidates to advance to the general election in November.

Before we dive into the interview, let's briefly review the roles of Seattle City Council and Mayor and why your vote for councilmembers matters so much. City Councilmembers serve as the legislative branch of Seattle's government, while the Mayor leads the executive branch. Councilmembers’ key duties include proposing and voting on City ordinances and policies, reviewing and approving the City's annual budget, providing oversight of City departments and programs, serving on Council committees focused on specific issues like housing or transportation, and responding to constituent concerns and representing their district's interests. In contrast, the Mayor's responsibilities include implementing and enforcing laws passed by the Council, managing day-to-day City operations and City departments, proposing the initial City budget for Council review, appointing heads of City departments and commissions, and representing the entire city in external affairs. In other words, the City Council is similar to a board of directors setting the overall direction and policies. The mayor, on the other hand, is like the CEO responsible for day-to-day operations and implementing the strategy. If Seattle were a ship, the Seattle City Council would be the navigator charting the course and deciding on the destination, and the Mayor would be the captain steering the vessel and giving orders to the crew. Councilmembers shape the laws that affect residents’ daily lives, from housing and transportation to public safety and environmental policies. They play a key role in addressing the city's most pressing challenges and planning for its future. The Council holds significant power in shaping the city's future, ensuring that your voice is heard in the policies that govern the city. That's why your vote for a City Councilmember is incredibly important and impactful. And why Hacks & Wonks wants to help you hear directly from candidates and equip you with the information you need to make the best decision for you and your community.

Today, Saunatina Sanchez joins us to discuss her vision for Seattle and how she plans to address some of the city's most pressing challenges. Welcome, Saunatina.

[00:03:43] Saunatina Sanchez: Thank you for having me, Crystal. I'm really excited to be here.

[00:03:47] Crystal Fincher: Excited to have you here. We are going to get started with a lightning round. We've got quite a few questions that are just yes, no, or one word answers - so we'll get started.

First question, would you vote to approve the current draft of Seattle's Comprehensive Plan?

[00:04:06] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:04:07] Crystal Fincher: There are only about 8,000 units in King County's system available for the over 53,000 people experiencing homelessness. Do you support encampment sweeps when there's no shelter space available?

[00:04:20] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:04:21] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to end single-family zoning to address housing affordability?

[00:04:26] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:04:27] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to approve Initiative 137 to fund the Seattle Social Housing Developer?

[00:04:33] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:04:34] Crystal Fincher: Will you oppose the addition of a competing initiative to I-137 on the ballot?

[00:04:41] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:04:42] Crystal Fincher: Do you rent your residence?

[00:04:44] Saunatina Sanchez: I do.

[00:04:46] Crystal Fincher: Are you a landlord?

[00:04:47] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:04:48] Crystal Fincher: Will you oppose any attempt to weaken Seattle's renter protections?

[00:04:53] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes, I will oppose.

[00:04:55] Crystal Fincher: Would you have voted to support the Connected Communities legislation?

[00:04:59] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:05:00] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote for new progressive revenue if it is put before the Council?

[00:05:04] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:05:05] Crystal Fincher: Would you oppose contracting for jail services separate from the King County Jail?

[00:05:12] Saunatina Sanchez: I oppose contracting jail services - yes.

[00:05:17] Crystal Fincher: Are you in favor of allowing police or School Resource Officers in schools?

[00:05:23] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:05:24] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to increase funding for a civilian-led mental health crisis response?

[00:05:28] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:05:29] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocation in the City budget to increase the pay of human service workers?

[00:05:35] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:05:35] Crystal Fincher: Do you support diverting the City budget for forced encampment removals and instead allocating funds towards a Housing First approach?

[00:05:43] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:05:44] Crystal Fincher: Do you support reallocating the unused funds from unfilled SPD positions and putting that money towards other non-police priorities in the City?

[00:05:55] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:05:56] Crystal Fincher: Do you support allocating money in the City budget for supervised consumption sites?

[00:06:00] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:06:01] Crystal Fincher: Do you support increasing funding in the City budget for violence intervention programs?

[00:06:06] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:06:07] Crystal Fincher: Would you have voted to approve or oppose the retroactive SPOG contract that was recently passed?

[00:06:14] Saunatina Sanchez: Oppose.

[00:06:16] Crystal Fincher: Would you have voted to oppose the recent expansion of automatic license plate readers on all SPD vehicles?

[00:06:23] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes, I would oppose.

[00:06:25] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to support shortening the retention time of license plate data?

[00:06:30] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:06:31] Crystal Fincher: Would you support or oppose a ban on the wearing of masks?

[00:06:37] Saunatina Sanchez: I would oppose a ban on the wearing of masks.

[00:06:41] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to ensure that trans and non-binary students are allowed to play on the sports teams and in the extracurricular programs that fit with their gender identities?

[00:06:50] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:06:51] Crystal Fincher: Will you vote to ensure that trans people can use bathrooms or public facilities that match their genders?

[00:06:57] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:06:58] Crystal Fincher: Do you agree with the Council's decision to implement the JumpStart Tax?

[00:07:02] Saunatina Sanchez: I want JumpStart funding to stay with the programs that it was passed-

[00:07:09] Crystal Fincher: So you like the tax?

[00:07:10] Saunatina Sanchez: I do. Yeah.

[00:07:11] Crystal Fincher: Okay.

Will you vote to divert or reduce the JumpStart Tax in any way?

[00:07:17] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:07:18] Crystal Fincher: Do large corporations in Seattle pay their fair share of taxes?

[00:07:22] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:07:23] Crystal Fincher: Do small businesses in Seattle pay their fair share of taxes?

[00:07:27] Saunatina Sanchez: Yeah.

[00:07:28] Crystal Fincher: Would you vote to repeal the PayUp legislation?

[00:07:31] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:07:32] Crystal Fincher: In order to address staffing shortages throughout the city, should Seattle offer financial incentives to key frontline employees like they have for police?

[00:07:42] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:07:43] Crystal Fincher: Are you happy with Seattle's newly built waterfront?

[00:07:47] Saunatina Sanchez: I am.

[00:07:48] Crystal Fincher: Do you believe more return-to-work mandates are necessary to boost Seattle's economy?

[00:07:54] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:07:55] Crystal Fincher: Would you have supported Councilmember Rivera's Equitable Development Initiative amendment?

[00:08:01] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:08:02] Crystal Fincher: As a councilmember, would you vote to approve the current draft of Seattle's Transportation Plan to appear on the ballot before voters?

[00:08:10] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:08:11] Crystal Fincher: As a voter, would you vote for the current draft of Seattle's Transportation Levy?

[00:08:17] Saunatina Sanchez: I don't know.

[00:08:19] Crystal Fincher: Have you taken transit in the past week?

[00:08:21] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:08:22] Crystal Fincher: Have you ridden a bike in the past week?

[00:08:24] Saunatina Sanchez: Yeah.

[00:08:25] Crystal Fincher: Should Pike Place Market allow non-commercial delivery traffic?

[00:08:31] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:08:31] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever been a member of a union?

[00:08:34] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:08:35] Crystal Fincher: Will you oppose any effort to reduce funding or staffing for investigations into labor violations like wage theft and illegal union busting?

[00:08:44] Saunatina Sanchez: I will oppose taking money away from that.

[00:08:47] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever walked on a picket line?

[00:08:49] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:08:50] Crystal Fincher: Have you ever crossed a picket line?

[00:08:52] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:08:53] Crystal Fincher: Is your campaign unionized?

[00:08:56] Saunatina Sanchez: No.

[00:08:57] Crystal Fincher: If your campaign staff wants to unionize, will you voluntarily recognize their effort?

[00:09:02] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:09:03] Crystal Fincher: Have you voted in every general election in the past four years?

[00:09:07] Saunatina Sanchez: Yup.

[00:09:07] Crystal Fincher: Have you voted in every primary in the past four years?

[00:09:11] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:09:11] Crystal Fincher: Every primary in the past 10 years?

[00:09:14] Saunatina Sanchez: I believe so.

[00:09:15] Crystal Fincher: Did you vote for the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy?

[00:09:19] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:09:20] Crystal Fincher: Did you vote in favor of Seattle's Social Housing Initiative 135?

[00:09:24] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:09:25] Crystal Fincher: Who did you vote for in the 2023 City Council race in your district?

[00:09:30] Saunatina Sanchez: Alex Hudson.

[00:09:32] Crystal Fincher: In 2022, did you vote yes for Ranked Choice voting?

[00:09:36] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:09:37] Crystal Fincher: Do you support moving City Council elections to even years?

[00:09:42] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:09:43] Crystal Fincher: Do you support renewing funding for Democracy Vouchers in 2025?

[00:09:47] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:09:48] Crystal Fincher: If the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission recommends you recuse yourself from a vote, will you do so?

[00:09:55] Saunatina Sanchez: Yes.

[00:09:56] Crystal Fincher: How are you going to vote on the three statewide ballot initiatives that are going to appear on the ballot this November - Initiatives 2109, 2117, and 2124?

[00:10:07] Saunatina Sanchez: I'm not familiar with the details of each of those.

[00:10:11] Crystal Fincher: So you're unsure how you're going to vote on the attempts to repeal the Climate Commitment Act, capital gains tax and long-term care?

[00:10:19] Saunatina Sanchez: Thank you - numbers aren't good for my brain. I will vote no on all of those.

[00:10:23] Crystal Fincher: Okay. Who do you plan to vote for for President?

[00:10:29] Saunatina Sanchez: I am unsure.

[00:10:31] Crystal Fincher: For Governor?

[00:10:33] Saunatina Sanchez: Bob Ferguson.

[00:10:34] Crystal Fincher: Commissioner of Public Lands?

[00:10:39] Saunatina Sanchez: I'm leaning towards Upthegrove.

[00:10:41] Crystal Fincher: Superintendent of Public Instruction?

[00:10:46] Saunatina Sanchez: I'm not sure yet.

[00:10:48] Crystal Fincher: Insurance Commissioner?

[00:10:53] Saunatina Sanchez: That's another one I'm still looking at.

[00:10:55] Crystal Fincher: Well, that concludes the lightning round questions, so hopefully that was pretty painless. Now, we'll move on to the general regular questions. So just starting off, why are you running? What made you decide to do this?

[00:11:10] Saunatina Sanchez: I've always had the idea that I was going to enter public service in this way, in some way of running for office. I have done a lot of work over my life to figure out how different communities exist in Seattle specifically. As somebody who was born here, grew up on the South End, and was bused to the North End for elementary school, I really did see the disparity of how different neighborhoods were treated and how different kinds of people were treated. And it inspired in me a motivation to break down those barriers and try to connect the communities that I loved - both the less-resourced communities of my home in the South End and the more-resourced communities of like the Meadowbrook area in the North End where I went to school at John Rogers. So yeah, I feel like this particular race was one that called to me because it is for the citywide position and how much I love my District 3, my Capitol Hill home - I do take in the entire city whenever I'm doing organizing work. And so, yeah, I'm really excited to be able to bring my lifelong organizing career experience into public service and really work on the fundamentals, the infrastructure, and making the City of Seattle a good workplace for the people who maintain our services. So that's why I decided to run.

[00:12:54] Crystal Fincher: So one of the issues with the current City Council is that many of the recently elected councilmembers are totally new to government and public office - and they don't have a basic knowledge of how the City government operates, they're still learning. What do you bring to the table in terms of relevant experience in that area?

[00:13:14] Saunatina Sanchez: Well, as I was just mentioning, my main focus in terms of my organizing work is focusing on the workers of whichever organization I'm trying to support. So to me, running for office in this way is me applying to a job to manage these departments. And as I said in my opening, I've made Seattle sort of a study of my life and so I've had lots of meetings with people in various departments. So I have organized a lot with the Transit Riders Union over the years - proudly endorsed by them - which is an honor because it means that they see the good work I do in the organization and think I'll do the same for the whole city. And in that work, I've had a lot of interactions with Seattle Department of Transportation, the Office of Budget. And then I've had a lot of interactions with the Parks Department - when I was in my mid-20s, just after college, I helped lead the effort to raise about $50,000 for a new park in my neighborhood because we went to a Parks meeting where they were showing us the land that they had and they were like - We have enough to put grass down. And so the neighbors and I got together and said - Hey, how about we raise money and you make a nicer design? And so that's what we did. And a few years after, Summit Slope Park and Unpaving Paradise P-Patch was built, and it became an award-winning park in the Seattle Park system. And so these are the kinds of things that I bring in relation to the day-to-day business of the city. I know how dedicated the workers are of the city, and I want to make sure, like I said earlier, that I'm managing the City of Seattle as a good workplace for them.

[00:15:00] Crystal Fincher: So I want to talk about the Comprehensive Plan, and I want to start by talking about your vision. Can you describe what your vision of the city looks like if the Comprehensive Plan is successful and valuable in your view?

[00:15:18] Saunatina Sanchez: I think that we need a very ambitious Comprehensive Plan. We hear that from the people who put together the research around the creation of the plan. We've heard it from residents, from people organizing in the various fields of land use and housing. And so I think that if we are able to get a Comprehensive Plan in the vein of like Alternative 6, that goes even farther in terms of adding housing to our city and making housing flexible for different populations - that we can have a very integrated and well-serviced city.

[00:16:01] Crystal Fincher: What does that mean - integrated and well-serviced? And part of what's going into asking this is we talk about alternatives and the amount of housing that needs to be built and all of that, but sometimes what gets lost is the type of cities and neighborhoods and lifestyle for residents in the city that that results in. So looking at the city today versus what it would be in terms of your vision that the Comprehensive Plan has the potential to achieve, what does it look like in your ideal vision?

[00:16:31] Saunatina Sanchez: Totally. And yeah, that preamble leads me to seeing different neighborhoods with examples from around the world. So one of my passions is land use - and so I read a lot about how different cities manage their different districts. So I look at an Amsterdam district, a marine industrial district that's very similar to what's going on in Ballard - there's the fight between the Burke Gilman and industry and neighborhood, and there's all these competing interests. And we have examples from around the world that show these different needs can be integrated when we bring experts to the area and then explain to the different parties how their needs are going to be considered in these plans. And I think that's one of the aspects that we've been missing a lot in proposing changes to our neighborhoods. We also don't listen as much to neighbors when they say they want to change. For instance, in my neighborhood, just down the street is a potential mega-block, which is based on the Barcelona style of managing a city - which is to designate major streets around a particular housing and multi-use section and inside that area is a walkable, very neighborhood-oriented, people don't have to stress about high-speed vehicles. And so this is a project that the people of Pike/Pine Broadway Business District want to try, but they've gotten resistance from the City. And so having worked with organizations like The Urbanist and Transportation Choices Coalition - these groups that I know also bring these ideas from around the world and have been visioning what Seattle could be when we move away from car infrastructure - that's the vision that I'm having is we know we need to reduce our dependence on cars and building our neighborhoods in the way that neighbors want to, to get to that place is what the plan is.

And that's, I think, also my strategy in terms of engaging with people in these Comprehensive Plans. Because it's great to have a vision, but if we don't have a plan to engage with people, how are we going to implement that vision? And that goes back to my experience with the Cascade Bike Club - early, early days, there was lacking bike infrastructure in Seattle. So much so there wasn't even a bike map - it would have had like two lines on it, maybe. And some of that resistance came from business owners who were like - We need parking because people drive here and we need their money. So what a group of us did over a few years was go to different neighborhoods and talk to business owners and say - We're going to survey your customers and then gave them the results. How did they get there? By biking, walking, transit - much, much more than cars. Plus the people who drove spent less money than the people who got there for other modes. And so that brought enough businesses on board to change the tenor of the conversation. So we went from getting a very resistant from Seattle Department of Transportation on these infrastructure to getting a lot of support and implementing programs like the request-a-bike-rack kind of program. So that's sort of my vision in terms of the Comprehensive Plan - it's talking about what we need as a city, as a community in terms of our growth, because we know we're going to grow. And so if we don't plan for it, we are shooting ourselves in the foot, right? We need to think long-term, and my vision for Seattle is to help us change our city to the ecological wonderland that we talk about - Climate Pledge Arena. We want this future, and so we need to be given the opportunities to implement.

[00:20:20] Crystal Fincher: So, getting into the details, what do you want to see revised in the plan, and what amendments will you be prepared to advance?

[00:20:28] Saunatina Sanchez: I want to remove single detached housing from our Seattle - it's not going to be illegal, but I want to legalize other building types in every single district. Because that's really one of the major issues with our region - we know that Seattle was built on segregation and a lot of those single detached neighborhoods were created to prevent people like me and you from getting into those spaces. And now, people want to preserve those as a historic district a lot of times. And so what I ask is - What is it we're preserving? What kind of history are we preserving in these things when it was so easy for the city to demolish Yesler Terrace, when that had actual nationwide historical significance as the first integrated housing project of the country. We need to legalize housing, all kinds of housing. I also think that we need to look at the floor area ratio or the FAR. So even if we can build more floors, if the ability to build out on the entire property, land is limited - that is going to affect just as much as if height was limited. So we have to look at both of those, height and FAR - floor area ratio. And this comes into the tree canopy protection - that's where I go back to the climate, our ecological wonderland, right? Our tree canopy is very important to Seattleites - we're the Emerald City - and I want to honor that, and I want to increase our tree canopy. And the way we do that is by protecting old growth trees - well, older trees - which are mostly on private land. And if we reduce the FAR, we can't build as many homes without cutting down trees. So we have to look at all of the different impacts these plans are going to have on different areas of our city. And so in terms of the amendments, two I would obviously very focused on is legalizing all heights in our city - six floors and a corner store is my dream. And then increasing the FAR, the floor area ratio, so we can build more variety of housing options.

And I guess that's another thing too, is - I think I want to throw in - which isn't something that's often talked about, which is how do we get away from a particular design, popular design plan for buildings in United States, which is called double-loaded corridors. So basically because of certain codes, developers want to make sure that they have fire exits in all kinds of parts of the building. And so it prevents a lot of different kinds of housing structures to be built. And so we know that - again, if we look around the world - these structures are just as safe as the double-loaded corridor structures are, the popular ones here. And so one of the things I would really like to do is be able to have research and development, in a way, added to our housing. This is especially relevant if, when we get our Social Housing program up to date - is putting up innovation, having an incentive for us to develop innovative housing solutions that work with climate, that think about how do we develop community, different communities, not just buildings. So those are the things I'd like to focus on.

[00:23:53] Crystal Fincher: Now, the City of Seattle is projected to have a humongous $230 million budget shortfall starting in 2025. The Council is mandated by the state to pass a balanced budget and the options to achieve that are either to raise new revenue or cut services and funding. And there does not appear to be the votes on the Council to raise any new revenue. Given that, how will you approach creating a balanced budget?

[00:24:26] Saunatina Sanchez: I like to look at what we're getting for our money, the services we're getting for our money. And I know that there's a lot of - it's resistance - resistance from taking money away from security and control services and putting those into actual human services and support services. So what I'm doing right now is kind of going through the budget and I'm figuring out the needs of Seattle. I've read through the Parks Department Update Plan for 2024 and 73% of people surveyed say that the priority of the Parks Department should be clean bathrooms. If this is a need that Seattleites have identified, what are we getting for our services in the Parks Department? What is the money going to in the Parks Department around security, versus maintenance, versus landscaping, versus all of the different projects? And how does that align with what people are asking for? And so going through the budget with a fine-tooth comb is not going to completely solve all of our budget woes. I do think that it's a valuable thing to make sure that when we do propose new revenue, we are focused on spending it on what Seattleites need. At the same time, I'm not sure how the current City Council plans to have a balanced budget without raising new revenue and maintaining services all at the same time. I don't see it as a-

[00:25:58] Crystal Fincher: Well, they're not talking - that's not the thing. And you're - should you be elected - are going to be part of that. Really what I'm asking is about specifics, especially - I've been surprised by the amount of people, who - I'll ask people, Hey, what do you want to hear from City Council candidates? And the amount of people who have said explicitly - I want to hear the detail, I want to hear specifics, I want the list of things that are on the top of their list for what's likely to be cut. With the understanding that you've talked about progressive revenue - this is not you advocating for cuts - but it is your responsibility in the absence of any revenue, which it looks like that is the direction that the Council will take. So there are going to be tough choices, but that's what you're signing up for. And so what is at the top of your list? Top or bottom? What is it that you are looking at for absorbing those cuts? Because as you said, it's not going to be able to be handled with a fine-tooth comb. This is not something where the waste, fraud and abuse, auditing stuff - not to say that nothing can be found that can be more efficient, but it's not $230 million. Even with new revenue, there may be cuts. So what is your list?

[00:27:14] Saunatina Sanchez: I mean, my list does focus on the Police Department. It is the most expensive service that we're paying for that we're not getting, it seems, much actual return on - as it were. And so, during the lightning round, you mentioned those ghost cup positions. It's like the fact that that wouldn't be on the top, the chopping block of everybody's list is surprising to me because it's basically saying that we need to hoard money to control people rather than open it up to support people. So yeah, I very much do focus on the police budget. I do also want to look at Seattle City Light and I'm interested in looking at - and I focus on that one, not because I don't think it's a good department that's doing good work, but because of the recent conversations around executive compensation. We spend a lot of money on people who are doing things above the frontline - and that's where I come back to the janitorial services, the restroom. If we could have a team of 40 janitors or 40 maintenance techs, however they're titled, in the park system, that would cost about - we can get two of those for every police officer's budget. And what are we doing? What are we focused on in terms of service? And I go back to City Light because, again, executive compensation. What is it about the top, top position that people think is so much more difficult to find quality for rather than the people who are doing the work on the ground floor? Right now, I'm on the board of Community Roots Housing, so I hear a lot about staffing issues in terms of our maintenance department. And one of the reasons is because we don't have a great budget for those positions - those positions aren't as well compensated as other positions at the managerial level. And so I think we do have to look at - if we want to actually bring equity to our city and our budget, we have to look at the disparity between the bottom and the top. And if we can bring down some of the top, maybe that could help.

[00:29:26] Crystal Fincher: Now, I do appreciate the thought that you've put into this. You have clearly identified some things. I think one thing that may be eye-opening to a lot of people listening is the magnitude of the problem. Ghost cop positions, or the unfilled SPD positions, are certainly areas that have been targeted for savings before. But the estimated savings from those ghost cop positions - I think was put at $1.1 million, if that money were to be reclaimed - compared to a budget deficit of $230 million. So less than half of a percent, potentially. It does seem like there's going to have to be much deeper and much more fundamental cuts. Is that how you see things? Do you anticipate that you're going to have to go much further than what you've talked about so far?

[00:30:21] Saunatina Sanchez: I think there is a danger that - from my progressive standpoint - I'm going to have to take funds away from services that I think are necessary for our city. And I come back to the idea that we started the year with a $200-ish million deficit. And the raise - the retroactive raise - for the Police Department, again, is what ballooned our budget. So I do want to acknowledge the challenge of balancing our budget when we have such resistance against taking money away from a place, a department that doesn't seem to be delivering as much value as other departments in our city. I also - the reason that you hear a lot of hesitation because none of us want to have this conversation - we want to have a conversation around how we can improve our city, not how we can survive because the people who we elected don't want to make hard decisions. And that's really what it is - is the people who are currently in the position are deciding to put the people that they know and their own special interests ahead of others by not going for new revenue. How impactful would a Seattle capital gains tax at 2% be to the people who would pay it? Not very much, but it would completely wipe out our budget deficit. So it's challenging for me to see, to want to propose, to even consider all of these things when I'm not in that position and I can't advocate for revenue, which is what I want. And yeah, it is very disappointing that it seems like we are given this austerity mindset when we live in a city with billion-dollar corporations. And it is hard to get out of that to have to think about cutting essential services like caseworkers helping my unhoused neighbors or I'm a big fan of maintenance and janitorial workers - as you can see - making sure that the departments in the city are working as efficiently as possible for the people of the city. And instead, it seems like it's a vanity project for people who already have connections and interests and how can they protect those. So yeah, it's a very challenging position to be in right now.

[00:32:45] Crystal Fincher: Appreciate your willingness - that is a really tough conversation about cuts and unpleasant and I know not what you're advocating, but is going to be a responsibility of whoever is elected into this position - so important to talk about. And also, it's possible that given how tough this conversation is likely to be and how councilmembers are kind of just beginning to go through the detail of what it means to address this deficit, there could be potential that a member or two looks at the entire landscape and says - You know what? It would be less painful to more people to implement progressive revenue than to pursue all cuts. So pursuing that option, you talked about a capital gains tax - what types of progressive revenue would you be prepared to support and vote for in the city?

[00:33:41] Saunatina Sanchez: Yeah, as I said, a capital gains tax, I think, is the first highest priority. I'm following along with the Progressive Revenue Task Force. So I'm seeing how we have the ability to be very thoughtful about implementing taxes - even progressive taxes can sometimes be regressive depending on who they hit. So I want to make sure, for example, if we do implement any kind of business head tax or hours tax or anything like that, we really want to focus on the companies that are making millions and billions of dollars and not on our local neighborhood businesses, which is just making enough to make a living as a worker in the city. So yeah, I think in terms of focusing on taxing our businesses, making sure that they are paying for the services that they are enjoying in our city is the highest priority.

[00:34:41] Crystal Fincher: In these conversations, especially those involving the budget, and with the new councilmembers that took office and the promises that they made regarding public safety - there's lots of conversation about taking action and funding things that prevent crime versus those that respond to crime, and really how to balance both of those things. And so as we're dealing with a budget deficit, as we're looking at how to allocate those resources, what's your approach to public safety and the balancing of preventative measures versus response measures?

[00:35:17] Saunatina Sanchez: Yeah, I do put more emphasis on preventative measures. For instance, in our transit, people often talk about the safety on transit and how dangerous it feels. And one of the things that is often proposed is having security guards doing walkthroughs, and that's what we have right now. Most of the Link Light Rail stations that I go through, especially Downtown, have two to four to six security officers just patrolling the space. And what I wonder is - why would we not hire people to maintain the space instead of just wander around and look at things? There's no reason that we can't empower somebody whose job it is to claim that they can't report things, and they often do. So I feel like when we focus just narrowly on this idea of response, we miss out on how we can work with both preventative and response at the same time. So having somebody who is dedicated to a station, or multiple maintenance people who are dedicated to a station, are there all the time - they get to know the people who go through that station. And people are a lot more willing to engage with janitors and maintenance staff than they are with security, because there is that sense of like - I don't want security to notice me, I'm a good person. But with maintenance and janitorial staff in that way, there is a more convivial relationship. And so when people who are tasked with caring for the space are there regularly, they begin to form relationships and that helps the safety, prevention. And also, if something happens, those are people who know what's really dangerous, what maybe they can handle - and so you have that also response. And that doesn't mean they can't call in somebody. If it's something they think they can handle, it's better to get de-escalation training, make sure that we are supporting the people that we're asking to fill these roles, and also have access to people who - that's their specialty focus. If we actually invest money in CARE teams to respond, that seems a lot more conducive to public safety than having somebody show up with a gun and potentially making things worse. So these are the kinds of things in terms of balancing preventative and response - we need to care for our space and allow people who live in the space to care for it. There's a lot of alienation. And I can use an example from my life is - I was organizing with the Black Lives Memorial Garden, and I still am. And it was destroyed by the City. And we found out just a few weeks ago that it was personally ordered by the mayor to be destroyed on December 27, even though the Parks Department had promised the group that we were going to have a town hall style meeting in January. So there's this sense of alienation, right? I'm a neighbor in this place. Most of the neighbors I've talked to are supportive of this kind of thing - it keeps eyes on the park, people are there helping each other. And we're punished. We are told that that's not how the people who are in charge want the space to be used. So we have to be removed, and other people's priorities or other people's interests are prioritized. So, making sure that people are able to connect to their communities and be neighbors, I think is a lot more important in terms of public safety - that's not really talked about.

[00:38:42] Crystal Fincher: I did want to follow up or clarify - earlier you mentioned exploring the expenses related to the Police Department - what we are spending on police, feeling like the City isn't getting its money's worth or even looking at the amount of people patrolling transit stations not being the most effective use of funds. There are people in the community who say that that's what they want. And crime overall is trending down. How do you respond to people who would say - Isn't that proof that those expenditures are working? Isn't that what we want to see?

[00:39:23] Saunatina Sanchez: I come back to - would you rather have somebody whose only job is to wander around and report suspicious behavior, who maybe 50% of the time looks at their phone and isn't actually paying attention to things? Or would we rather have that same person who is tasked with monitoring the space also be wiping down the escalators, be making sure that the trashes are cleaned? I'm not saying we should take away eyes from the station. I'm saying we should actually be applying the appropriate services to our city. If we had - and this is what I did a calculation of recently - again, because bathrooms are such a priority for Seattleites and we have so few actual public bathrooms that are open in Seattle. I wanted to see what it would cost to have a team be able to clean every single bathroom in Seattle twice a day. And I came to about $2.5 million, maybe $3 million, for labor and non-labor costs. So again, we have people in the parks currently whose only job is to wander around and report suspicious behavior. What if they were also - while they were doing that - taking care of the bathrooms, taking out the garbage, making sure that people who looked lost or were going through issues had a connection and they were able to be neighbors themselves while they cared for the park, while they watched things. So I think that's the difference - that's where I come in terms of it's connected - preventative and response are connected issues. And we need people who are actually connected to the community in order to really find that nuance and know - Oh, this is just our friend who wanders around, has schizophrenia, totally cool - versus somebody who is like - Oh, this person does have a history of being violent. We need to make sure that we're keeping an eye on that person a little bit more closely. We're not going to get that with somebody who wanders through every few days and reports graffiti.

[00:41:32] Crystal Fincher: I understand. There's been a lot of troubling news that has come out of the police department, particularly about issues surrounding culture. There are a number of pending lawsuits from current and former officers alleging misogyny, sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation - which just speak to a culture that isn't supportive of all of its officers, that harbors toxicity. And in a time when the Council is saying it's a priority to recruit and hire officers, certainly seems like that would be a barrier to recruitment and making the department less attractive to potential recruits. So what, in your position as a councilmember, could you do to improve the culture of the department?

[00:42:28] Saunatina Sanchez: I have a lot to say about our Seattle Police Officers Guild, or SPOG, in terms of that culture. When you read their internal publications, you see that they look at Seattleites as a hostile force. They are here to control us, they are here to make sure that we are behaving ourselves according to whatever standards they hold. And that goes along with the culture that's brought into the department. So we do live in a diverse world, and the current policing system was set up to protect a very small group of people. And when people who the Police Department were set up to harm come into it, that culture doesn't automatically change - the people who come in are slowly brought into the culture as it is. And so as we've seen - not just in Seattle, but around the country and around the world - policing systems tend to become very autocratic and almost fascist because they are given a lot of leeway by the people who are hiring them. Because the people who are hiring them aren't worried about the working class, not even the people who are doing that job - they just want to know that there's somebody who's going to show up and protect their property.

[00:43:55] Crystal Fincher: So what can you do to improve that?

[00:43:58] Saunatina Sanchez: What I'm trying to work on is bringing these cultural understandings to light. So the focus on regulations and policy is important because it gives us a kind of foundation of how to act. At the same time, we know there's a lot of discretion in how policies are implemented or maintained. And so what I really want to focus on when I'm in office is - what is it that we are hiring for? We currently prioritize hiring for people who are ex-military. And what if we didn't? What if we hired for people who had gone through EMT? Or what if we hired people who went to the Peace Corps or other organizations that don't come at it with a very hierarchical, a very Western, aggressive mindset. And so I think focusing on the hiring qualities of our officers is going to have the longest impact - making sure that we are looking at the actual job description of what tasks do we want these people to do and how do we want them to do it? That's where we need to start.

[00:45:11] Crystal Fincher: There's been a number of troubling incidences of violence, particularly gun violence, at schools across the district - both on and near campuses. And students, parents, staff are on edge, very concerned, and wanting to see action taken to improve safety in schools. What can you do, in your capacity as a councilmember, to help ensure a community-led approach to improving safety at schools across the district? And what does that look like to you?

[00:45:47] Saunatina Sanchez: I mean, we already have an example of that. After the Ingraham shooting, the students of Seattle did a walkout so that they could get funding for counseling and mental health services - and that money has not been released yet. And then we have Garfield. And those parents are asking - Would that have helped? Would that funding, if it were released when it should have been released, would that have potentially prevented what had happened at Garfield? And so, yeah, we know what the community wants - it wants people for kids to talk to when they're having stress. It wants safe places for kids to hang out and do activities. I also come back to land use - when we build our cities in such a way that we isolate kids because they're not able to travel on their own. And that's even up to like 18 sometimes - if you're not able to drive, a lot of times you're prevented from accessing programs that could potentially change your life in a positive way. And so these are the kinds of things we need to focus on in terms of preventing tragedies, which is actually putting resources into our programs that give kids an option, that give everybody an option - as opposed to violence and despair.

[00:47:11] Crystal Fincher: There's also been an alarming rise of driver-caused violence against pedestrians and bicyclists - it's happening at record rates right now. What specifically can be implemented that you would lead on to reduce the injuries and deaths of pedestrians and cyclists on Seattle streets?

[00:47:32] Saunatina Sanchez: I just did a video on the protected intersection at Dexter and Harrison. And that, to me, is an example of what we can do when we listen to experts and implement best practices from places around the world that have already solved it. Vision Zero is entirely possible. And the only reason we haven't gotten there yet is because whenever transit, transportation, urbanists activists come - we are rebuffed as idealistic. And so I think that we need somebody who is serious about changing our landscape from car culture into actual human-centered design. We have examples that work. Why aren't we listening to them and applying them all over the city? We need to vastly, vastly increase our transition away from cars if we're going to have any hope of dealing with not just car violence and Vision Zero, but again, our environmental challenges - because both of those are entirely interconnected. The more we build for cars, the less nature we have. And the less nature we have, the more people tend to go a little wacky. It's like when we aren't able to be a part of nature, it feels like we become more aggressive to each other as well. So I think we need to bring all of these into each other to solve this issue.

[00:48:58] Crystal Fincher: Do you support a move towards automated traffic enforcement of driver speed and behavior?

[00:49:05] Saunatina Sanchez: I am, with caveats. Because obviously surveillance technology is incredibly dangerous if it doesn't have restrictions put on it at the very beginning. So I think that automated speed and license plate reading is a good service for now, along with a lot of restrictions on how that data is used and when it's wiped and all of that stuff.

[00:49:28] Crystal Fincher: What type of restrictions?

[00:49:31] Saunatina Sanchez: Well, I think - like I just referenced, wiped, right? There should not be data retention at all for these kinds of things. If somebody's caught and they're sent a ticket or the system sends ticket, that's it. The infraction should be marked, but all the other data should just be automatically wiped. There shouldn't be an ability to use them for tracking purposes. So that's the primary thing. I also think that we do want to put a time limit on them. So right now we have dangerous streets that are designed to help cars go fast, so we need these kinds of superfluous infrastructure items to make sure that we are controlling people. When we redesign the streets - and again, this has been proven around the world with design experts - to make cars feel comfortable only going a certain speed, they will go lower. So instead of, again, having to deal with the ramifications of car violence, of speeding, of parking infractions - what if we designed our spaces so that these things were a very rare possibility? It's not possible to speed very much through San Francisco's windy street. Or what are we doing to actually prevent these things before they start?

[00:50:52] Crystal Fincher: So on almost every measure, we're behind on our 2030 and 2050 climate goals, and we're experiencing more and increasing impacts from extreme heat and cold, wildfires, floods - you name it, it's coming. What are your highest priority plans to get us on track to meet those goals?

[00:51:14] Saunatina Sanchez: Take away cars. I keep coming back to this because, as I said earlier, land use is how we manage our lives. How we design our spaces is how we have an impact on our environment. We are currently emitting - what is it - like 60%, 70% of our emissions come from cars. And the more we build for this infrastructure, the more we're going to encourage the oil industry to keep pumping and getting that all to us. So we need to really look at what are the sources? How can we help people? How can - on a system-wide basis - reduce our oil intake, our oil consumption? And to me, redesigning our streets so that it's easier to walk, bike, take a train or bus somewhere - it's easier to do those things than it is to drive - that's how we're going to get to our goals. We do also need to look at buildings. The way that we currently build our homes is in a very cookie-cutter model, like I mentioned earlier - double-loaded corridors and all that - which isn't very efficient from a local standpoint. So going back to the Comprehensive Plan and future land use issue, I want to make sure that we are incentivizing innovative building techniques to work with our environment, as opposed to having to use lots and lots of energy for air conditioning or heating.

[00:52:51] Crystal Fincher: What can be done to improve the business climate in the city, and particularly to support small businesses who may not be in the Downtown core?

[00:53:03] Saunatina Sanchez: When people feel comfortable wandering, they want to stop into a store. They want to enjoy their neighborhood. And so I think being able to support people-centered places in each neighborhood is going to have the most dramatic impact on improving our small businesses. We need to consider, again - How do people get to these businesses? Who are the customers? And how do we help those customers be customers? If we have low wages in the city, people aren't going to be able to go out to a bar after work with their friends. Or there's a sock store in Wallingford that I love, but I'm not able to splurge on a new pair of socks once a month because I'm struggling to buy food or I need to pay a power bill or something like that. So, we need to make sure that we are supporting our working class, we are supporting people who are living and engaging in those businesses so that we have a good economic base to support those small businesses.

[00:54:08] Crystal Fincher: Have you been engaging with small businesses in the city and talking to owners? And if so, what are they saying? What are their answers to those questions or ideas for improving?

[00:54:21] Saunatina Sanchez: I have connections to a few businesses here on the Hill. And one of the things I hear a lot is how challenging it is to get people into their store - that's part of why I brought that up. There's a local game store, which is now mostly pinballs, in my neighborhood. But I've gone to that business, been a customer for years, and what I'm always hearing from the owner is - They have a good community, but the people who come there don't have the money. They don't have resources to really support the place. And so there's a good community spot that is well-loved, it creates connections in the neighborhood. But the people who want to support it can't because we're struggling to just barely get by. And that goes along the same with bars. And I have a friend who has a dog kennel business, and it's just always one of those things where she's telling me - Oh yeah, one of the people got laid off, and so they had to cancel their trip, which means they had to cancel their boarding and all that stuff. And so there's this trickle down. And so when we don't protect workers, when we don't really emphasize the people who make our city live, nobody can thrive.

[00:55:35] Crystal Fincher: So you are going to be - should you be elected - joining a Council with a number of colleagues who you may not be aligned with on every issue, which is not unusual. On councils, there is a need to be able to work collaboratively with people of ranging backgrounds and ideologies and inclinations to implement policy. How will you approach working with colleagues who you might not be aligned with on many issues?

[00:56:04] Saunatina Sanchez: I feel like I'm used to being the odd one out of a group. I'm autistic, but I didn't find out I was autistic until I was in my mid-30s. And so I always feel like I've gone into a space, figuring out what the other people of the room - their vibe - sussing out, making sure that I was trying to bridge the gaps between the arguments. Because the only way that I could understand the issues was to ask over and over again - Okay, so you're upset about this and you're upset about this. How can we figure out communicating together on this? So I am used to going into rooms and sort of not belonging and figuring out how I am misaligned with people, and really focused on the areas where we do come to an agreement on something. I don't have any personal negative feelings about anybody on Council. What I really do want to focus on is the goals of all of the different legislation. So my strategy of working with the councilmembers has been my strategy of, I feel, working with any group of people. It's like - we are here to do a job, and I want to make sure that we are all on the same page about the job we're going to do. And if we disagree about strategies, that's fine. But I'm not trying to become anybody's personal enemy. I really do focus on what we're working on, what is the goal, and bringing in the ideas of who does this help, who does this harm. Focusing on these issues and not making it personal - because to me, it's only personal because I'm going to be affected by the legislation eventually, so what is the impact on people? And just having those conversations - it's continuing conversation - you're not going to always ever like all of your co-workers in any job. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do your best to come to a shared understanding of what job you're there to do.

[00:58:20] Crystal Fincher: With the new councilmembers who joined the Council last year, we heard them share a lot of ideas, articulate visions and potential initiatives that they would like to pursue or work on. Is there anything that you've heard from any of the new councilmembers that has made you think - Yes, I would like to work on something like that with that person. Anything come to mind?

[00:58:43] Saunatina Sanchez: Oh, absolutely. Cathy Moore - it was great - she responded really positively to the advocacy that we've been doing on the Transportation Levy because she introduced an amendment to make sure that money was not going to go into armed officers on transit. So there's a lot of places that I know that I have sympathies with people - I know Bob Kettle is passionate about emergency management like I am. I go to emergency hub drills a couple of times a year when they happen, if I'm able to, because I know we live in earthquake country. And I need to be prepared. And I need to be prepared to help my neighbors, because not everybody's into those things. So I know for a fact that I have a lot of overlapping interests and similar mindsets with people on Council. We don't agree on everything and we might not agree on most things, but that doesn't mean that we're completely aliens to each other. So, yeah, I think that there's a lot of places that we could work together on issues that affect the services of the city.

[00:59:48] Crystal Fincher: What haven't we talked about today that's important to address?

[00:59:53] Saunatina Sanchez: We haven't really touched on the aspect of poverty itself. That came up to me early days when I was doing tabling, somebody commented - because I have a little mail piece, walk piece, that talks about all of the different issues that I've worked on and that I want to continue to work on in City Council. And somebody pointed out - Well, you have all these issues, but you know that all comes back to poverty, right? And I'm like - Oh my God, you're right. That's it. We don't focus enough on how the desperation of poorness makes people, right? As somebody who has been pretty much on social services my whole life - my mom was on Social Security disability because she had intellectual disabilities, I always was on food stamps for most of my life. I live in public housing and I currently do choose to live in public housing - I don't want to leave public housing, I think we need more public housing. But these are the kinds of things that I know, as a poor person, has greatly benefited me and has given me the stability to be here right now talking to you. And when we don't focus on the root cause of all the things we talked about today, which is people not having resources for their basic needs - that then the conversation gets into - Well, how can we actually have a safe community? What does safety mean? Well, safety to me means everybody is fed. Everybody is able to have a full belly every day so they're not desperate and feel like they have to steal or they have to be violent in order to get their needs met. So that's, I think, what we should focus on a lot more in our society is how to bring us all to a stable place and not have a poor class anymore.

[01:01:44] Crystal Fincher: So as we get ready to close this conversation, there are voters across Seattle trying to figure out what the difference is between you and the other people in this race. And so as they're considering that, what do you tell them about why they should vote for you over your opponents?

[01:02:01] Saunatina Sanchez: I have 20 years experience doing organizing work in the Seattle area. I have had a wide variety of work experiences from office management to software testing to now I'm a teacher - I do communications training, especially focused on autistic, neurotypical-to-neurodivergent translation, as it were. And so because of all these experiences and because of my deep roots in Seattle, I am ready to - on Day One - start to make a difference in how the residents engage with the city. I've been on the outside of the system. I know what it's like for people to say - It's not your turn yet. Somebody else needs to get more before you can get anything. And so having that perspective, having somebody who is still on the bottom of the economic ladder of our country is a voice we don't hear very often. And I have trained to be here in this moment and represent my class. I've worked hard to understand the city, the people of the city, and how my skills can best be used for this position. So I focus on my experience and my passion for improving the daily lives of everyday Seattleites.

[01:03:35] Crystal Fincher: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today, Saunatina. Really appreciate it and look forward to following you throughout the campaign.

[01:03:44] Saunatina Sanchez: Thank you, Crystal. It was a great conversation - really loved it.

[01:03:47] 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.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.

Understanding Seattle's City Government: The Roles of Council and Mayor

Councilmembers' key duties include:

  • Proposing and voting on city ordinances and policies
  • Reviewing and approving the city's annual budget
  • Providing oversight of city departments and programs
  • Serving on council committees focused on specific issues like housing or transportation
  • Responding to constituent concerns and representing their district's interests

In contrast, the mayor's responsibilities include:

  • Implementing and enforcing laws passed by the Council
  • Managing day-to-day city operations and city departments
  • Proposing the initial city budget for Council review
  • Appointing heads of city departments and commissions
  • Representing the entire city in external affairs

In other words, the City Council is similar to a board of directors, setting the overall direction and policies. The Mayor, on the other hand, is like the CEO, responsible for day-to-day operations and implementing the organization's strategy. If Seattle were a ship, the City Council would be the navigator, charting the course and deciding on the destination, and the Mayor would be the captain, steering the vessel and giving orders to the crew.

Councilmembers shape the laws that affect residents' daily lives, from housing and transportation to public safety and environmental policies. They play a key role in addressing the city's most pressing challenges and planning for its future. The council holds significant power in shaping the city's future, ensuring that your voice is heard in the policies that govern Seattle.

How to Vote and Primary Election Information

The primary election that includes this Seattle City Council race will end on August 6th, and the top two finishers will advance to the general election that ends on November 5th, 2024.

Ballots will be mailed for the primary election on July 17th, and ballots must be postmarked by August 6th or returned to a ballot dropbox by 8pm on August 6th. You can find 24-hour Ballot Dropbox locations in King County here and the locations of Accessible In-Person Voting Centers in King County here

Register to vote or update your voter registration online at For the August primary election, the deadline to register to vote online or update your voter registration online is July 29, 2024. You can register to vote or update your voter registration in person at the county elections office until 8pm on election day. 

After sealing your ballot in the return envelope, don’t forget to sign and date in the designated section on the outside of your ballot! Get more information about how to fill out your ballot and vote here

We highly recommend tracking your ballot and signing up for voting alerts, which you can do here

If you were convicted of a felony in Washington or another state, your right to vote will be restored automatically as long as you are not currently serving a sentence of total confinement in prison. Once your right to vote has been restored and you wish to vote, you must register (or re-register) to vote. Learn more here

Did you never receive or lose your ballot? Get info on replacing it here.