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Seattle mayoral candidates talk racial equity

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Bruce Harrell and M. Lorena González: From "Seattle mayoral candidates talk racial equity"

Mayoral candidates M. Lorena Gonzalez and Bruce Harrell spoke about their visions for racial equity at a forum on Oct. 11.

In a Zoom event hosted Oct. 11 by the Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE), mayoral candidates Bruce Harrell and M. Lorena González  spoke about racial equity in Seattle.

RARE, an organization created by  Roosevelt High School alumni, was founded in the wake of the George Floyd protests as a forum to discuss racism.

The two candidates, who both come from minority backgrounds, were given chances to answer community-generated questions and speak toward their vision of racial equity in the city.

Describing how he would manage discrimination accountability, Harrell touted his previous work in passing a city policing accountability law.

Harrell stated broadly that he would “change the laws to make sure they are cutting edge into eradicating racism,” and that citizens would “see us test it and train people.” He described a program his campaign calls the Race and Data Initiative, which would “double down on how we measure and change behavior while we measure.”

González, in her answer to the same question, was quick to claim that the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative — an “effort to end institutionalized racism and race-based disparities in city government” — has not been equitably implemented.

“In large part, it was sort of structured as a vision statement without any sort of real resources or enforcement,” González said.

Like her opponent, González also emphasized the need to collect data, but instead with a focus on the progress of racial equity.

“I think it is really important for the next mayor to not just issue an executive order reaffirming our racial equity goal, but to really hold our directors accountable to specific metrics around what will be expected in terms of achieving success for communities of color,” González said.

Harrell said that under his administration, he would be able to make a difference in Seattle’s racial equity climate by giving leadership positions to members of minority communities, citing his past work as the sponsor of the Race and Social Justice Initiative, as well as his relationships with community members.

“Under my leadership, we will see an extremely diverse cabinet,” Harrell said. “I believe that we know how to recruit, particularly in our communities. I have some pretty powerful relationships in the city.”

González, on the other hand, sees zoning laws as an answer to promoting racial equity throughout the city. A proponent of upzoning, González believes that rezoning areas that only allow for single-family dwellings would help bring diversity to many of Seattle’s neighborhoods.

“Part of the reason why I am a big proponent of having greater housing choice across the city is because I see it as a systemic way of addressing the realities of the lack of racial integration within our school system,” González said.

González also stated that “increasing our density” in all neighborhoods with multi-family dwellings would be part of her plan to make housing more affordable and accessible. She also said that she would enact anti-displacement and anti-gentrification policies to ensure racial equity.

The mayoral candidates will face off in two debates hosted by the Seattle City Club on Oct. 14 and Oct. 28 before the Nov. 2 general election. 

Reach reporter Timothy Phung at Twitter: @TimPhung

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