The mood was ripe for change Saturday as 9 of the 21 mayoral candidates running for the 2017 Seattle election gathered in the Eritrean Association In Greater Seattle building to discuss opportunistic inequality and police brutality. For the benefit of the reader, the stances mentioned below will be the strongest of the two discussions.
In reference to what she calls “the equity gap,” mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver cited the contrast between some Seattle schools that have access to “robust” and wealthy PTSA’s, and the more neglected schools such as Rainier Beach, which has not been remodeled since the ‘70’s.
Expanding Creative Justice in addition to reinstating the Family Support Worker Program, Oliver said, would help keep young people out of trouble and on the track to higher education.
“We have over 3,000 homeless children in our school district,” Oliver said, “Those Family Support Programs are essential to ensure that every young person has access to human services that can help them to be classroom ready.”
Happiness in the home is the key to encouraging kids to do well in school, mayoral candidate Jason Roberts declared.
“If you don’t have the money for school clothes or the money for lunch at school, you’re at a disadvantage,” Roberts said. “A child that doesn’t feel comfortable attending school with other children is less inclined to complete his education.”
Roberts plans to create and properly fund initiatives to help support all children who need basic materials for school, and through this, graduation rates would increase.
Candidate Harley Lever agrees that education is the most important investment a community can make. Lever plans on working with the tech giants in Seattle to create skill centers in economically deficient communities to help people that cannot get a living wage anywhere else get the $150 an hour job of an encoder.
The opportunity gap is an imbalance not just between white and black children, but all children of color mayoral candidate and Washington State Senator Bob Hasegawa said.
“I don’t think it’s the place of the city to get involved directly with education,” he said, “but what the city can do is provide the necessary supports for the student and their families so that the student has a nurturing community environment supporting it.”
Hasegawa did not go into much detail, but expressed his sorrow for and intent to change the living situation of thousands of children and their families that are homeless in Seattle.
Candidate Jenny Durkan prefers to use the term “equity” when discussing racial issues.
“Equality believes that everyone starts at the same place, equity knows that they don’t,” Durkan said. “Here in Seattle it’s clear that kids of color start behind in so many ways – and their educational…opportunities are less.”
Durkan believes that support for children ranges from increasing the availability of prenatal care to the expansion of after-school programs. In order to truly fix the educational opportunity gap Durkan emphasizes we must first fix Seattle’s unfair criminal justice practices.
The conversation that started with educational inequality quickly evolved into a discussion of blatant police bias in the many instances of brutality and harassment concerning people of color. One of the moderators for the panel drew attention to the killing of Charleena Lyles as a gross misuse of police force. Mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell took the question with a heavy heart and spoke about the systems currently in place.
Farrell emphasized the need for police officers to undergo more sensitive training that would give them better support in order to recognize and peacefully defuse situations with mentally ill subjects.
Former mayor Michael McGinn lighted on the “disturbing aspects” of police training and the apparent inability for the police department to change under current officials.
“There is an incentive for the elected officials to say ‘Everything is going great,’” McGinn said, “This is why independent community and civilian oversight is so critical.”
McGinn went on to say that, if re-elected mayor, he would bring in a third party to “truly audit the process of reform.”
Mayoral candidate and police officer James Norton agrees that police training should change and accountability should rise. Some instances when police are sent to the scene, they only exacerbate the situation because they are not properly trained to handle people with mental problems, Norton said. He believes mental health professionals should accompany officers to the scene in order to prevent unnecessary bloodshed and serve as an eyewitness should the situation escalate. This way, he said, it’s not just a police officer’s word against a civilian’s.
“If an officer does something criminal, they should be prosecuted just like everybody else,” Norton said.
CIRCC will be hosting another mayoral candidate forum in October. For the full video of this past forum and upcoming event dates, visit CIRCC’s Facebook page or view their website here.