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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 30, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 26
SGN exclusive interview: Seattle mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell
Section One
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SGN exclusive interview: Seattle mayoral candidate Jessyn Farrell

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Jessyn Farrell is staking a lot on her run for mayor of Seattle. To run without the fundraising limits imposed by state law, she resigned from a safe state House seat she's held for three terms.

Farrell represented the 46th Legislative District - including Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, and parts of North Seattle - and while she's not so well known in other areas of the city, she's counting on the votes of those who know her best to get her into the November general election.

Farrell tells the SGN she sees 'a real nexus with LGBT issues and all the major issues facing the city.'

'Affordability,' she cites as one example. 'Whether you're just entering the housing market, or you've been in your house for 40 years and can't afford property taxes, or you're a young new family, or you're a senior on a limited income, this has to be a place where everyone can afford to rent, or buy a home, or retire.'

Farrell says that if she is elected mayor, she will 'preserve Capitol Hill as the cultural heart of the LGBT community,' hopefully reversing the trend of LGBT people dispersing to cheaper neighborhoods.

'That means several things,' she explains. 'First, it has to be a safe place for the LGBT community. We have to devote city resources to public safety, but that's not enough. We also can get matching grants for additional safety measures.

'Hate crimes are on the rise, and many populations just don't feel safe in the neighborhoods where they live. Prosecuting hate crimes is very important.'

How would she ensure that LGBT residents feel at least safe, if not comfortable, calling on Seattle police for help?

'We have to build on the efforts towards inclusionary policing,' Farrell replied. 'For example, the new [SPD] training video where members of the Trans community speak for themselves in their own voices. We need to do more of that.

'We also need to hire police from the LGBT community, so they know the community and they look like the community.'

Perhaps the main reason for the LGBT exodus from Capitol Hill is the skyrocketing cost of housing, especially affecting minimum-wage workers and people on fixed incomes.

'People need housing options,' Farrell says. 'I think we need to look at LGBT senior housing.'

Reminded that Capitol Hill advocates have been talking about LGBT senior housing for decades without much progress, Farrell replies that she would adopt a practical strategy to make senior housing work.

'Look, you don't start by trying to raise however many millions of dollars for the project,' she says. 'The cost of the land is the highest cost, so you can dedicate the city's surplus properties to developing publicly owned affordable housing. And you prioritize senior housing.

'We started with that idea around Sound Transit stations. There's not a lot of surplus property on Capitol Hill, but if you develop around mass transit hubs, that could work.'

Youth are also a critical category in discussing housing issues, Farrell adds.

'We need specific and focused efforts toward LGBT youth,' she says, 'because they make up a sizable proportion of the homeless population.

'Part of that has to be mental health support and appropriate health care delivery. A very sizeable proportion of our homeless youth are enrolled in schools, so we can use public schools as the framework for that. But we have to have trained professionals to deliver appropriate care - trans-inclusive care, for example.'

In any case, homeless people 'need safe places to sleep,' Farrell insists. 'That means a range of things. We should have sanctioned encampments with services - health care and mental health care. More temporary housing. Tiny houses. More shelter beds.'

All of which raises the issue of funding in an era when the federal government - under Trump - is a declared enemy of the City of Seattle.

'The state is not going to come to our rescue,' Farrell warns. 'Even if they fully comply with McCleary [the court order to fund K-12 education], it will be up to the City to fund these supports. The supports we do have are inadequate in the first place, and it will be up to us to do more.

'I want to remind your readers that I have legislative experience so I know how to work with the City Council. And I've been a community activist, so I can dialogue with the community.'

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