The two candidates for Seattle The mayor agreed on Thursday that dealing with an ongoing homelessness crisis was the main issue facing the northwest’s largest city, but they differed widely on how to pay for it.
Lorena González and Bruce Harrell also clashed over police funding and the role and responsibilities of the technology giant Amazon have problems in the city where the head office is located.
González, chairman of the City Council and a former civil rights lawyer, said Amazon and other rich interests would have to pay more tax.
“I have made it my life’s work to stand up and fight for working families,” she said during a debate, adding that she would also hold the police accountable for the “extraordinary abuse of our lives and our freedom.”
During last year’s protests over the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis she embraced calls to “defend” the police.
This is a position taken by Harrell, the former chairman of the City Council.
“I do not subscribe to that defund story … I want an efficient police department,” he said.
November’s mayoral election will be closely followed nationally as Seattle is one of the country’s major cities where the debate on police funding is a key issue. Democratic primary voters in the New York mayoral race earlier this year elected a former police officer who objected to calls to “ward off the police.”
González has demanded reform of the city police department, which is under federal supervision, after the US Department of Justice found a pattern of excessive force and evidence of biased police.
Harrell said González’s calls to cut police funding by 50% would exacerbate crime issues facing minority and low-income neighborhoods.
Harrell also said the current City Council has not taken concrete action to find housing for those sleeping on the city streets and in camps in public parks in Seattle, which has some of the worst homelessness problems in the country.
“We’re pointing fingers, sorry,” he said.
Reforming the Washington state’s regressive tax code, which is heavily dependent on an income tax, is key, Harrell said. He also said he wants to work with Amazon and other rich companies to solve homelessness and other issues.
González came across Harrell, a lawyer who has the support of most of the city’s business community, to be the preferred candidate for the interests received.
“I do not intend to turn to state law to solve our revenue problems,” she said. And she said Harrell was supported by people who fought against trying to get companies to pay more taxes in Seattle and the state.
González has won the approval of many of the region’s unions. Her parents were migrant farm workers in central Washington
As chair of the council, she has helped levy a payroll tax on large companies, such as Amazon, to pay for city services, as well as occupational safety and health as a secure scheduling law.
Harrell has demanded the hiring of more police officers to prevent more shootings.
He grew up in Seattle’s central area, a red-line neighborhood; his father was a black transplant from Jim Crow South, and his mother’s family was Japanese and interned during World War II.
Incumbent Mayor Jenny Durkan is not running for re-election. The last three mayors elected by Seattle voters have not served more than one term.