Nikkita Oliver: Activist, Organizer, City Council Candidate

Nikkita Oliver: Activist, Organizer, City Council Candidate

Today Crystal is  joined by Nikkita Oliver: Seattle activist, community organizer, lawyer,  educator, and now candidate for Seattle City Council, Position 9. They  get in to the transformative change needed to our systems of public  health, public safety, and housing, how mutual aid is being incorporated  into Nikkita’s campaign, and the virtues and challenges of being an  outsider in our political system.

As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at

Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s guest, Nikkita Oliver, at @Nikkita4Nine. More info is available at


“Nikkita Oliver Focuses on Mutual Aid, Community in Campaign for City Council” by Chamidae Ford:

“Nikkita Oliver’s Vision for Public Safety Goes Way Beyond Defunding the Police” by Nathalie Graham:

“King County’s new youth jail and the false promise of ‘zero youth detention’” by Nikkita Oliver:

“Seattle City Counsil passes ‘JumpStart’ tax on high salaries paid by big business” by Daniel Beekman:

“New laws aim to keep people from losing their homes in Washington” by Melissa Santos:

“Encampment Sweeps Take Away Homless People’s Most Important Belongings” by Rick Paulas:

“Timeline of Seattle Police Accountability” from the ACLU of Washington:

“Nearly 200 cops with credibility issues still working in Washington state” by Melissa Santos:

Learn more about Creative Justice at


Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00]  Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm your host, Crystal Fincher. On this  show, we talk to political hacks and policy wonks to gather insight into  local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work and  provide behind-the-scenes perspectives on politics in our state. Full  transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episodes notes.

I  want to welcome to the show, candidate for City of Seattle Council  Position 9 - one of the at-large open seats being vacated by Council  President Lorena González. Here with us today is Nikkita Oliver. Thank  you for joining us today.

Nikkita Oliver: [00:01:07] Thank you so much for having me - so excited to share space with you.

Crystal Fincher: [00:01:11]  Excited to share space with you also. So I just want to start off by  asking - what motivated you to run for office again, number one, and to  run for this position?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:01:22]  I will say it was a really challenging decision. Our first run in 2017,  I think was a huge community grassroots effort. It was dynamic and  transformative, and provided a really dynamic platform for continuing to  grow community organizing. And I think that is what excites me most  about what we're doing in 2021 - and even what we've seen in 2020 - is  just the opportunity to build the strength of community, continue to  organize with community, bring more voices to the table, especially  communities that have been most impacted by systemic oppression. Or  maybe even just get rid of the table and expand the ways in which we  have dialogue and conversation. I think being in the COVID pandemic and  the crises that we've faced has really pushed us to think more  creatively about how we organize, what does community care and  collaboration look like, where does mutual aid fit into the work that  we're doing? And honestly, mutual aid being very foundational to so many  movements in the work that's happened in the years prior to 2020.

And  so as we approached 2021, I knew pretty clearly that running for mayor  was not what I wanted to do, though there was some community requests  for me to consider that. I just thought very deeply about the really  powerful racial justice uprising and the Black Lives Matter movement,  and the intersections of that with labor organizing especially amidst  this COVID-19 crisis - whether or not that executive office was the best  place for someone who has my values and the platform that the community  has built together. And so I was actually pretty squarely ready to sit  out of the election and continue doing community organizing work and  building mutual aid, but community members started to bring really  important arguments and ideas and possibilities.

And  so wanting to always engage with folks that I have relationship with,  and really sit through and think about our strategy for the big picture  of the world we want to build, the city we want to live in - the more we  talked, the more this seemed like a very feasible and also responsible  thing to do. We're facing a huge housing affordability crisis. We've  been in a state of emergency around homelessness since 2015. The  COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated so many of the pre-existing conditions  of inequity and racial injustice that we have already seen happen, that  has been happening. And really just as we're in these monumental crises,  talking about how much we need transformational change.

As  a restorative justice, transformative justice advocate, there's the  work in restorative justice of repairing harm and being accountable. But  then the next level to that is transformative justice - of changing the  systems and the conditions that we live in so we don't keep seeing that  harm continue to happen. And the movements from last summer and in the  fall - and that work really has changed the national conversation about  our ability to talk about accountability, restorative justice, repair  and reparations, and even abolition. There seems to be a really  important political space to take those dialogues, the ideas - and turn  them into real policies that actually have impact on the lived  experiences and material conditions that folks are living through, and  so that's really what got me to commit to running.

Obviously,  similar to our 2017 campaign, we want to do things differently than the  status quo. And so knowing how foundational mutual aid has been to  folks' survival in this last year and how foundational it's always been  and will continue to be - to be able to see thriving, resilient  communities - we wanted to weave mutual aid into the campaign structure,  into the work that we're doing. Because it feels kind of foul to spend  well over $300,000 to build name notoriety to win an election, when  there are so many people that may face eviction at the end - if this  moratorium ends and there isn't a real plan to keep people in their  homes. So many people who can't get enough food for their families or  don't have access to the right kind of medical care - we wanted to find  ways to weave mutual aid through the campaign.

So  we've done things like work on vaccination pop-up clinics and help get  the word out to community members, bring volunteers to those clinics,  and have mutual aid food supports. Our very first campaign event was a  mutual aid exchange where people brought what they had that they could  share and other people picked up and took what they need. Our current  lit for our campaign has a vaccination guide on one side and information  about the campaign on the other. I mean, really wanting to prioritize -  how do we think differently about the way we use political platforms to  actually build the strength and galvanize communities, especially those  that have been most impacted by injustice.

Crystal Fincher: [00:06:29]  I love that model. I love bringing mutual aid into community and making  that a value of a campaign and an action of a campaign in public  service. I'm wondering - so before when you ran for mayor, there were a  lot of people excited about, "Okay, we have someone in the executive  position." You have definite authority from that perspective. In a  legislative context, where you're one of several councilmembers who may  not all share your values, and you're one person coming into that body,  having to work with your colleagues, convince them to your position -  how do you see being able to make progress on the issues that you care  about without being the sole voice who may be a - what some people may  consider a protest vote in a lot of those situations. How do you  actually move your colleagues and make progress on the issues that  you're talking about?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:07:34]  Yeah. At heart, I am a community organizer, and I think that that is a  really important element of what, not just I, but the community that I  organize with will bring to Council. What Council has really lacked is  the ability to mobilize, politically educate, and galvanize each other's  colleagues in a direction that actually begins to address the crisis  we're facing with responses that are commensurate with that crisis. And I  think the Council actually has changed some over the last few years.  Since 2017, it's actually changed considerably. I think having both  Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant, and then also Teresa Mosqueda on the  Council, has started to build a more progressive left flank. And so  adding Nikkita for Nine to that Council would add an even stronger left  flank that is focused on meeting people's basic needs, focused on  housing.

If we don't make  significant strides in this next four years around housing, we will have  effectively displaced and pushed out so many community members, and  maybe will not be able to create space for folks to come back. So the  Comprehensive Plan 2024, which is an update to our Comprehensive Plan,  is going to be a key piece of addressing issues around exclusionary  zoning, co-ops and community land trust, infill and diversity of housing  options to get people in homes. And to make it so people can return  back to the city, workers can live and work in the same spaces, and also  help us reach our climate goals.

And  I think that these are actually things that many City councilmembers  actually share and desire to address - whether or not they actually have  been able to galvanize each other towards achieving that goal is a  different issue. But I do think a Mosqueda-Oliver-Morales-Sawant flank  does present a huge opportunity to do some seriously transformative  things in our city and address those crises. Now I'm not going to  pretend like it's going to be easy, and I know that's four votes of  nine, but in most instances you just need one more vote, maybe two or  three depending on what area of the budget process we're in. And there  is a huge amount of possibility, I think, to educate folks and galvanize  them in the right direction.

I  also believe that there is a very active community that is behind this  campaign, and we have received endorsements from community members,  community groups, as well as unions like UAW 4121, WFSE 1488, UFCW 21,  IUPAT DC 5, IATSE Local 15. I mean, these are very different - our  connection to labor is very different this year than it was in 2017. And  I think having collaborations with grassroots community and with labor  is going to create, outside of City Council, a level of movement that  City councilmembers are going to have to be responsive to. And I think  that that's key. No one councilmember is going to change every issue.  But it is about - are you able to bring the policies that are  commensurate with the crisis, while simultaneously organizing and  galvanizing community, and organizing your colleagues? And I've been  doing that for years - think about the No New Youth Jail fight. In 2012,  no one thought it was possible to get to a place where in July of 2020,  Dow Constantine puts out a letter saying that he will close the Youth  Jail by 2025. That is because we organized community, and I do think  that that same ability to do that organizing work is possible.

Crystal Fincher: [00:11:23]  You've talked about the need to address eliminating displacement,  leaving space for people who have been displaced to come back. We are,  as you said, in the middle of a crisis with a large and growing unhoused  population, with just housing unaffordable for people from the bottom  up until - unless you're in the top. How do we address getting people  who don't have homes into homes? In the context of - we have a Council  who seems to share that value, who seems to want to take action, and has  taken some action - but we still have this big problem. What is missing  and what needs to happen? What can you do about it?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:12:10]  We need a Seattle that faces its problems head on. James Baldwin says,  "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed  until it is faced." And Seattle has really failed to turn and face and  address - not just the housing crisis with the gross inequity and  inequality that exists from income and wealth, access to housing and  healthcare - and how highly racialized and genderized that is. If we're  going to get to solutions that actually address root causes, it requires  us really engaging a real conversation around the ways in which the  Seattle we have been building has only been for a few people. It's only  been for wealthy folks. It's only been for corporations. We actually  have a long history of that. It started in 1923 when we put in place the  first exclusionary zoning laws, and those have remained in place and  actually worsened in some years through other Comprehensive Plans. And  so as a result, we now find ourselves where we are.

I  think that's also why it's important - people will say, "Nikkita,  you've never been in office - what makes you qualified to be an elected  official?" Most of the people running for office right now are people  who have either been staffers, or actually already been in office  before, or they're political insiders. And as a result, do we really  want to keep repeating the same policy ideas, the same ways of thinking  about government that have actually put us in the place where we have  this problem now? I think it's really important that we consider - maybe  we need new voices, new ideas, new ways of doing things to actually get  us to a place of change. And that's why I think this four years is  super key, and I think the four years before it was key. In reality,  some of my Native elders say, "If you were going to plant a tree, the  best time to do it would have been yesterday. But if you haven't done  it, you should do it today." And we really need to start planting those  trees, especially as it relates to the housing crisis, because housing  is a key determinant of health, it's a key determinant of access to  education and economic opportunity, it is a key determinant of public  safety.

So all of the big  issues that we've been talking about in the last year are deeply  impacted by the housing crisis itself. So our current zoning patterns  have really bifurcated our city - two thirds of the residential land is  not accessible to all but those with the highest incomes. And so we  really need a mix of housing and residential patterns that open up  different types of spaces and options. And that's going to require us  addressing the fact that having a majority of our areas where folks can  live being single-family zoned, actually does not serve our city being  able to develop density, infrastructure, and enough affordable housing  to make sure everyone can get housed, we can address the climate crisis  and meet our climate goals, and also have infrastructure that makes more  the city walkable and accessible to people by public transportation, by  foot, or by bike. A major part of the policy work that we'll need to  do, and I want to participate in, and I'm excited about - is addressing  our zoning issues.

And  then thinking very thoughtfully about what are the various types of  infill projects we can be doing in order to address the missing middle.  What types of housing can we be building when it comes to co-ops and  community land trust that Black, Indigenous, people of color who have  been excluded from the housing market can actually have some form of  home ownership and build equity. We know that historically, for white  families, one of the major ways of building wealth has been through home  ownership. So we cannot relegate BIPOC communities just to apartments.  We need to make sure that there is the opportunity to build that equity  and lay that economic foundation for our families.

And  I think that our city has been way too dependent upon developers and  the private industry as our way of responding to the housing crisis.  Private developers have no incentive to actually address this crisis. In  fact, they benefit from the way in which the crisis continues to go,  and make rents rise, and property values go up. So we need to be  thinking about how do we, as a city, get into housing - how are we  building social affordable housing and investing in things that can get  us out of this crisis. We need to build about $400 million worth of  housing for the next 10 years. And the JumpStart Tax puts us in a better  position to start doing that - with about $160 million, starting in  2022, going towards that housing. Or somewhere between $130 and 160  million.

And then another  set of dollars going towards weatherization and retrofitting -  addressing some of the issues around the housing crisis that comes from  building. So while transportation might be our greatest carbon emission  issue, buildings are starting - are a growing issue as well. So we have  to build green and that means there's going to be a lot of opportunity  through green economies to create career pathways, pre-apprenticeship  and apprenticeship utilization opportunities - that gets young people  and families into high wage earning jobs, with benefits. And industries  that actually make our city greener and better and healthier.

And  so I just think there are so many options, but these are interconnected  issues. When we're talking about housing, jobs and employment and  workforce development, and infrastructure, and public safety, and public  health - they're actually deeply integrated issues. One of the things  I've seen the City Council fail at doing is to talk about them from the  place of them being integrated. We tend to try to address them in silos.  And if we want to have a vision that actually gets us to a place of  thriving as a city where everyone thrives, we need to find  intersectional ways of developing solutions that works with labor, that  works with impacted communities, and that works with communities that  have been impacted by systemic and racialized depression.

Crystal Fincher: [00:18:10]  So you talk about less-exclusionary zoning, about increasing housing  supply. Does that get people without houses into homes?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:18:19]  Yes, and - there's the issue of also keeping people in their homes that  are presently facing the potential of mass evictions. Somewhere over  130,000 people - if the moratorium gets lifted - will face massive  evictions. And so we need to be investing in renter support, we need to  be finding ways to get rent forgiveness, we need commercial and  residential rent control. And while I understand that residential rent  control is still illegal, I think it is a fight that we need to get into  because it is a part of a multifaceted strategy of keeping folks in  their homes and then getting other folks into new developed housing.

That  being said, we need a short-term and a mid-term strategy. And so tiny  house villages has been an effective way of creating safer spaces for  folks who have been living outside to have a space that is more stable  and provides much more opportunity for health. I support continuing to  expand our tiny house villages. We have lots of public land that we can  do that on, and we have resources that we can use to support that  effort. That being said, I think tiny house villages is a short-term  response. People should get to live in quality, affordable housing,  supportive and transitional housing that has running water and heat. I  have young people where I work at Creative Justice, some of whom live in  tiny house villages and they don't have access in their space to  running water. And I want people to think about - how that cannot be our  primary response. Housing is a human right. Quality housing is a human  right. And some people may choose to stay in tiny house villages, but it  should be a choice. You should get to choose where you move to next.

So  that's why I also think a mid-term strategy is important. The County  has put in place a tax that allows them to generate revenue to then  purchase hotels where people can have supportive and transitional  housing that is more long-term, but obviously it's not the only answer  or solution. So tiny house villages, working with the County around  hotels, continuing to grow our regional approach, and then building new  social affordable housing. None of this is going to happen all on its  own as the primary fix. It is a multifaceted, complex, and evolving  strategy that needs to have flexibility and be able to adjust as the  crisis either subsides - or, let's be real, could get worse. So we want  that flexibility. Yeah, it could get worse because we've really failed  to respond. I mean, it's been six years of a state of emergency.

Crystal Fincher: [00:20:56]  Well, and so there is a proposed response that's going to be on the  ballot called - the what I consider to be ironically titled - Compassion  Seattle Charter Amendment, initiative. To basically put into policy the  ability to conduct encampment sweeps, with some nods towards increased  funding. What do you think about that?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:21:25]  Yeah. I think Compassionate Seattle, the initiative, is problematic.  There are some issues there. The first is - it does codify sweeps. It  literally puts them into our City Charter. Something that we know is  inhumane, creates safety issues, and is ineffective. We also know  there's not enough places for people to go when they get swept out of  encampments, so what we really do is we relegate folks to trying to  figure out how to survive. When we put people in survival mode, we  decrease their safety and we also decrease the overall safety of the  larger community. Living outside is hard. People are dealing with trauma  and mental health crises and also just trying to build a little bit of  sustainability and safety. When we force people out - when we sweep them  - we actually increase the likelihood that we're going to have public  safety issues.

One of the  things our campaign is proposing is actually having a radical response -  where rather than sweeping people, we try to provide supports - whether  that's medical care, food support, trash and disposal supports, or even  supports for those who use drugs. We want to respond with a public  health response, rather than one that criminalizes or increases the  likelihood that we'll have public safety issues. And then also combine  that with the other housing strategies of moving people who want to go  into safer spaces into those spaces.

The  second thing about Compassionate Seattle that I don't think people have  talked enough about is they want to build 2,000 units of housing. And  it's unclear whether or not those units are emergency or permanent  housing. We know that emergency housing is actually not the most  sustainable response for getting people into long-term supportive  spaces, who want to be in those kinds of spaces. It has a six month  requirement on the first set of units, and then a year requirement on  the second set of units, which based on the timing probably means  majority of those will be like an emergency housing situation. Which  doesn't get to the root of your previous question about does this  actually end the state of emergency around homelessness?

And  then there is some talk about funding, but it's about a 1% increase of  the funding we're already spending, and not really a serious increase  into the things that we know address the root causes of why people are  without homes. And it does have the potential of putting back in place  the Navigation Team. Which I know is a complex issue, but the Navigation  Team has really been used as a band-aid to allow sweeps to continue to  occur, rather than building rapport and relationships with folks who are  living outside, and using that relationship as a way of being able to  support people in transitioning into a new living space. We need to be  humane, we absolutely need to be compassionate, and we need to do what  works. There are best practices around addressing this crisis and there  are better ways to do it.

Crystal Fincher: [00:24:29] Is there ever a justification for a sweep?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:24:33]  I don't think so. I think that sweeps ultimately criminalize people and  they actually disrupt the small amount of safety that people have been  able to create. There are humane, public health ways to respond to  encampments and supports we could actually provide that increase the  safety of folks that are living outside and increase the safety of the  folks living around in those areas. Ultimately, most people who advocate  for sweeps do so because they don't want folks without homes in their  neighborhoods. And I do understand that there are public safety and  public health issues that occur when encampments are in places like  parks or near schools, but there are ways that we can decrease those  safety issues that are much more humane and less likely to disrupt  someone's very small amount of stability.

And  also the way that the City has done sweeps - and I have seen many  sweeps. I've gone out to them, I've live-streamed them, I've actually  helped get people into housing who have been swept - sat with them and  waited, and called advocates, and then been a part of getting them to a  hotel or getting them to their next place. It's incredibly challenging  and it takes a lot of time because the system of getting housing is very  bottlenecked. So when we tell people that there are places for people  to go, it's just not always true and it is often a super disruptive  experience for folks who are already in a very traumatic position.

We  could respond to folks that are living outside in a way that actually  decreases trauma and increases public safety by providing some of those  earlier supports that I described. And when there is housing available,  going out to folks, building the relationship and rapport, and  supporting them in making that transition into housing - without the  force of armed police, bulldozers, cutting open people's tents, throwing  their belongings away. One of the policies of a sweep is - if it's  raining or if something is soiled or wet, the policy is to throw it  away. It rains a lot in Seattle. So oftentimes during a sweep, many  people's belongings are soiled and wet and they're often thrown away.

Crystal Fincher: [00:26:44]  Yeah, it is in my view, a problem and definitely one in search of  solutions. Another big issue that you are known for taking a leading  stance on - is just public safety overall in Seattle. Everything from  how you remain safer in community to how we approach our current method  of policing and what is appropriate and what is not. You have an  opponent who has been a staffer to a Councilmember and who has dealt  with issues in community. How do you think you are better equipped to  address this issue than someone who has been able to - from the  perspective of someone also wanting to push for more change - to having  an understanding of how the system works from the inside, with  incredibly complex and complex on-purpose codifications of our current  public safety policies and practices in a way that needs to be unwound  and uncoiled in so many different areas, levels of government,  departments. How do you see, as an outsider, the ability to more  effectively address that than someone who has more familiarity with the  system?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:28:04]  I think I have lots of familiarity with the system. As someone who's  had to survive and thrive in a system that was ultimately not built for  me or my family, I think my familiarity with the system is actually  probably much greater than folks who have insider politics. Because I've  had to learn how to navigate it as someone who is not just an outsider  in terms of not welcomed into political spaces, but also an outsider  based on race, class, gender. It's really important to acknowledge that  marginalized communities are actually very savvy in navigating systems,  and have to be to survive, which often - it's why this value of those  who are most impacted getting to be a part of policy solutions and  solution implementing - is actually really important. Because not only  do we understand the ill of the failed system, we also understand all  the things that people have to do to navigate it. And I think that is  really important.

I'm  also a lawyer. I'm an educator at Seattle University School of Law. I am  a well-known and respected community organizer who has been a part of  many coalitions that have brought about change. I mean, there are actual  laws that I have been a part of changing from the outside. That's so  much harder to do, when you're already the community that doesn't have  power and doesn't have leverage - and somehow you still are able to  mobilize people, politicize people, galvanize people to make change. I  think our current system belittles that type of influence and power,  rather than acknowledging it is actually incredibly important and  transformative for the process of making our system more transparent,  more accessible, and more accountable.

So  I don't think we need more political insiders who know how it's been  done for the past 5 years or 20 years. I actually think we need more  people - who have had to observe the system and survive the system - in  spaces of influence and decision-making, being able to direct and say,  "You know what? If we wanted this process to actually be easier for  folks who are most impacted, here's the list of things that I know both  from lived experience, and from being in those communities, and being a  part of living through those conditions- here's the things that we need  to change." And I think that it is a huge change in the way that  politics has worked in the United States and it is also an important  change that has to be made.

That  being said, I am under no illusions that being an elected official  means that suddenly the system will be just. It won't. It really is me  making a conscious decision to try to make change from the inside. It's  part of why I have no desire to be a career elected. I don't want to be a  career politician. Because I think that when you end up in that space  for too long, you may actually lose touch with the folks that are most  impacted and then suddenly the changes or the things that you're pushing  are not reflective of the changes to material conditions that need to  happen for people who have been excluded or denied access in our  system.

And so also  thinking about what is our succession plan? How are we seeing other  community members built up, strengthened, and empowered to be in these  positions? So we actually have a rotation of highly skilled community  organizers who can also do the work of being an elected. So our campaign  is prioritizing having folks who are new to politics, cutting their  teeth on this campaign. I've been told, as our campaign is negotiating  for our unionizing - our youngest campaign member is serving as the shop  steward. I mean, there's just really dynamic opportunities that  communities can have to build their power of base. And one of our great  ancestors, Ella Baker, said, "We don't need strong leaders, we need  strong communities." And I think about that a lot in this work - that  when communities are strong - at the end of the day, it doesn't matter  who's in that seat. Community will rise up and advocate for itself. And  my goal is to use the office and the platform of running for office to  continue to see our communities be strengthened. I don't think that's  necessarily the vision of other candidates nor the vision of very many  past electeds.

Crystal Fincher: [00:32:25]  So what are the policies that you're looking to change or implement  when it comes to public safety in Seattle? What does need to be done?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:32:34]  I think we need to think completely different about how do you create  public safety. If police and prisons and prosecution made community  safe, the United States would be the safest in the entire world. We  incarcerate 25% of the world's incarcerated population, and yet only  have 5% of the world's population. And yet we are still struggling to  figure out how to create safe communities. As a restorative justice,  transformative justice advocate, and also as an abolitionist - is not a  word I'm afraid to say - I believe we can create a world beyond prisons  and police. I believe we can create a world beyond punitive systems. We  have to do the work to make it happen and a huge part of that is meeting  people's basic needs. When we meet basic needs, we build safety because  basic needs are a baseline for community safety.

And  I deeply believe that our city deserves options that go beyond policing  and mass incarceration as our choices for public safety. The majority  of what we call "crime" often happens because people don't have their  basic needs met. So part of the work and the vision and the policy  development is going to be around things that I've already talked about -  affordable social housing, equitable if not free transportation,  affordable childcare, fully-funded schools - that have counselors,  restorative justice coordinators, health services, and really thinking  about how could the City contribute to a community school model and  having culturally responsive and accessible youth programs - thinking  about full spectrum gender for healthcare for everyone.

And  what would it look like to have a deep and wide community-based set of  options for responding to domestic violence, for ensuring that when  survivors who have experienced harm exit situations, they have access to  safe housing to go to. We're not really able to provide that right now.  And what are the transformative responses when harm does occur? Often  when harm has happened, it is because someone has also already  experienced harm and our current system does not do the work of healing  and repair, and so as a result, we perpetuate more violence. We're  already working on civilianizing 911. There's been a lot of advocacy and  work around community-based supports for those who use drugs. The State  v. Blake decision at the Washington State Supreme Court was monumental.  And while the state legislature may have rolled that back some and done  some recriminalization, they did also get funding towards having more  supports for folks who use drugs or folks who do get cases related to  drugs. And so I think there are a myriad of responses that meet basic  needs, that address also healthcare, mental healthcare, drug user  supports, and provide us a menu of options.

Oftentimes  when armed police get on the scene of a crisis, they're ill-equipped to  respond to what's happening - whether that's a mental health crisis or a  domestic violence issue, they tend to exacerbate what's already  happening. And I think it's worth acknowledging that upwards of 40% of  police officers have their own domestic violence issues at home. So  we're sending people who are dealing with issues at home who are also  ill-equipped to do a job that they're not right for. We need to do  something different with our public safety model. And I know that may  make people uncomfortable, but if we want to build a truly safe city,  then movements for anti-violence tell us that prevention and  intervention are actually the best strategies for that. And our current  system is incredibly reactive and waits 'til harm occurs before we do  something about it.

Crystal Fincher: [00:36:32]  So what needs to happen, I guess, in the short-term. And specifically  starting with the SPOG contract that is up and going to be negotiated.  Will you be approving a contract that does not set the stage for that  and what are your baselines?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:36:51]  Absolutely not. I think that too often has the collective bargaining  agreement been used as a means for continuing to perpetuate the harm  caused to communities, not just by over-policing, but the whole failure  of the criminal punishment system and all of the connected players from  police, to prosecution, to courts. And so this collective bargaining  agreement is really important - that it protects the rights of  residents, it acknowledges the need for a change in how we create public  safety, that it does not impede the efforts and the work to divest from  a failed system of public safety and invest in one that actually works  for everyone, that it also does not create loopholes for officers to  evade and avoid accountability - including firing when there is  misconduct found. I think it's important that rather than continuing to  focus on pouring money into reforms, we actually focus on putting money  into alternatives. And the collective bargaining agreement, in many  ways, has been an obstacle to the City Council being able to do that in a  way that is transformative. So the next CBA has to reflect those things  in order for me to be willing to vote on it.

I  also think that that's not a decision that I actually have to make just  solely as a councilmember. I'll vote as a councilmember, but there are  deeply impacted communities that should have a say in the collective  bargaining agreement. And so I think also the process by which we get to  the CBA is key. Communities need to have space in the discussion,  influence and authority about what goes into that agreement. And then as  councilmembers, we need to hear community if they say this does not  reflect what we need. And in 2017 or 2018 - it was in that year span -  when the last collective bargaining agreement was voted on by the  Council, I went to Council chambers. I was there with King County NAACP,  many Black Lives Matter organizers, other organizations that had a  stake in how the CBA turned out. And you had many councilmembers say,  "This collective bargaining agreement is not necessarily reflective of  what community needs or even the recommendations we received from the  Community Police Commission and other agencies tasked with police  accountability, but we're going to vote on it anyways." And many  councilmembers voted yes for it. And that did a lot of hurt and harm,  and eroded trust between impacted communities and the City Council - and  so we have to do things differently next time.

Crystal Fincher: [00:39:34]  Okay. So it sounds like the 2017 accountability ordinance that was  passed and then subsequently undone - would need to be a minimum  benchmark for you to consider voting for it, if not go even further for  that?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:39:50]  Yeah. I mean, that's a minimum benchmark. I think the process matters  as well. I think we cannot overlook the importance of community  involvement in those negotiations. I think the fact that the MLK Labor  Council voted to have SPOG removed from the council is huge and so  labor's involvement in that work and those negotiations and how  community's involved is important. I don't think the accountability  legislation is the only piece. Even with the accountability legislation,  the rights of residents are not protected at the level that they should  be. In fact, officers are - who do commit misconduct, even when found  to be in violation - are the ones that are protected in the way that  that agreement has been structured.

And  I actually think what we need to do is it needs to reflect the reality  that when misconduct occurs, that those officers should not be allowed  to evade that and it should include firing. I think the fact that we  have a Brady list of officers that we know lie, and so prosecutors don't  want to put them on the stand - is so problematic. How can the people  that we entrust as law enforcement be known liars, and then still be  allowed to do a job that presents a huge amount of risk and potential  violence to some communities in our city. That, to me, doesn't sound  like public safety.

Crystal Fincher: [00:41:25] Do you think the Black Brilliance Project is moving in the right direction?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:41:30]  You know, I love that our City - this is one thing I do love about last  year. Our City did get creative. I-200 is a significant barrier to us  being able to respond to the need for repair and reparations directly to  Black and Native communities. But this is such a creative strategy - to  have communities that are most impacted - lead their own research paid  for by the City. So literally increasing capacity, and then in the midst  of a major economic crisis, ensure that that folks who did not have  access to resources had access to financial resources, internet  resources - is huge. And then to have that research report inform  participatory budgeting and the buckets that we will focus on, does in  some ways really open the door to saying, "We are going to focus on the  needs as led by Black community."

And  so it's probably as close as we're going to get, in the current state  of our legal system, to directly responding to the needs of Black  community - until we can get that legislation overturned. So I do think  it was a very creative strategy to make sure that the needs of Black  community in our City is undergirding how we decide to spend these  dollars and outlines what the buckets are, what are the policy focuses.  And then I know that report also outlines how participatory budgeting  can function in a way that centers most impacted communities. And as a  community member who's done a lot of free work for the City and the  County - wants to pay people for their intellectual property, and their  capacity, and the time that they put into helping our systems rectify a  problem that our systems have perpetuated. I think that that is of  incredible value.

Crystal Fincher: [00:43:28]  I happen to agree with that. I appreciate your perspective. We're  coming up on the end of our time, but I guess my last question to you  would just be - what are we not talking enough about and that needs to  be on our radar? And why are you, especially in the context of your  opponent in this race, the best person to take on these challenges?

Nikkita Oliver: [00:43:52]  I think we talk about a lot in the Pacific Northwest. We do talk about a  lot of the issues I care about. What we don't do is actually respond  with solutions that are commensurate. Anti-blackness and  anti-indigeneity and paternalism around our communities that have  experienced extreme historical, generational, and present-day harm and  trauma is a conversation that we absolutely have to engage. I feel like a  lot of electeds that are not directly impacted by these issues act in  very paternalistic ways - as if impacted communities don't know what we  need. And so I think having very real conversations about anti-blackness  and anti-indigeneity and the way that we make policies, and then having  the even harder conversation about repairing reparations.

And  one way that I think we can do this, in policy, is through cannabis  equity. The War on Drugs, the tough-on-crime era, and then the way in  which we legalized cannabis - was not good. We did it in a way that  actually excluded the folks that were most impacted by the War on Drugs  and the tough-on-crime era, and allowed white and wealthy people to have  open-door access to get into the industry. And as a result, the folks  we're seeing making the most money off of cannabis are white, wealthy  people - and Black and Brown folks still do not have an opportunity to  be equitably a part of an industry that honestly we were punished for  its existence.

And so I  think that that is one area where we can actually, in a policy way, talk  about repair and reparations and start to address the inequities that  have existed because of the War on Drugs and the tough-on-crime era. I  think we have a lot of work to do beyond cannabis equity, but I do think  it is one place that we can start. There is a huge amount of taxes that  come off that industry - some of which need to be put into programs -  to develop equitable programs for formerly incarcerated peoples and  folks who have had convictions on their record related to cannabis.  Getting people access to license, the support and capital they need to  start that business, and Black-led co-ops is an opportunity to think  about how, through this now legalized industry, we do the work of repair  and reparations and uprooting and undoing anti-blackness in much of our  policymaking. And that work could then become a model for how we tackle  other areas where there's anti-blackness and anti-indigeneity - and  what repair and reparations can look like in a practical way through  policy in our system.

Crystal Fincher: [00:46:41]  Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I appreciate it. Always  enlightening to hear what you have to say and look forward to seeing how  things unfold in this ever-changing wild election. So thank you so  much.

Nikkita Oliver: [00:47:01] Thank you so much for having me.

Crystal Fincher: [00:47:07]  Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks. Our chief audio engineer  at KVRU is Maurice Jones Jr. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl  Stadler. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled  F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I, and now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes,  Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type in "Hacks  & Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday  almost-live shows and our mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed.  You can also get a full text transcript of this episode and links to  the resources referenced during the show at  and in the podcast episode notes. Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next  time.