Murakami launches District 3 campaign

Seattle council candidate favors working with big businesses to find solutions, minimizing upzones in single-family neighborhoods

Murakami launches District 3 campaign

Murakami launches District 3 campaign

Pat Murakami is running for Seattle City Council again, and the stakes appear high for the Mount Baker resident and business owner.

“I’m at the point where I help improve Seattle or I’m leaving,” she said.

Murakami was born in Chicago, moved to Alaska with her family in 1959, and then came to Seattle to study at the University of Washington in 1975. She and her husband own and operate an IT firm, and she is president of the Southeast Seattle Crime Prevention Council (now the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council) and former president of the Mount Baker Community Club.

This is Murakami’s second bid for city council, having challenged Lorena González for the at-large Position 9 seat in 2017, which González took by nearly 70 percent.

The Mount Baker resident said she’s certain running a campaign in one district will be easier than all of them.

Some of the policies she’d pushed for during her 2017 council bid are already being put into practice, such as her call for auditing nonprofits the city funds to address Seattle’s homelessness crisis. The City of Seattle is now reducing funding to homeless agencies that don’t meet required performance goals for moving people into stable housing.

“I would like to see money spent effectively and see results,” Murakami said.

The District 3 candidate also supported developer impact fees, which the city council is now working on implementing, though Murakami would also like to see a tax on developers coming from outside the city.

District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant has yet to file her re-election campaign. Seattle entrepreneur and nonprofit director Beto Yarce was first to announce his run for council in late November, followed by Murakami, and then former software developer and now recreational pot entrepreneur Logan Bowers. All challengers say Sawant isn’t focused on the needs of district residents.

“You’re supposed to represent the district,” Murakami said, which consists of residents from multiple political parties, and not just socialists. “She is not interested in basic community concerns. Her interests align much better with national issues.”

She sees those District 3 concerns as including a desire for more living-wage jobs, and preventing economic evictions in the quickly gentrifying Central District.

While it would take approval by the Washington Legislature, Murakami said she supports rent control for corporations, but not small landlords who may rely on their rental properties for income when they retire.

Hearing Examiner Ryan Vancil issued a decision that clears Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation for upzones across the city on Nov. 21, with a requirement that the city do further analysis on potential impacts to historical sites.

Murakami said she supports upzones along arterial streets and in scale with neighborhoods, which should have a voice in such decisions. She said the city shouldn’t implement upzones “willy-nilly in a single-family neighborhood.”

The District 3 candidate sides with the Save Madison Valley group, which is appealing a master use permit for constructing a six-story mixed-use development that includes 82 housing units and a PCC Market where City People’s Garden Store sits today. Murakami agrees the size of the project is not in scale with the neighborhood, adding too much construction is being allowed in landslide and liquefaction zones in Seattle.

While she supports affordable housing, Murakami said the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program benefits developers more than the community, and she wants to not only ensure that low-income rental pricing is followed, but that they are also in effect in perpetuity for the life of the project.

As for what developers are asked to pay as a fee in lieu of constructing affordable housing onsite under the MHA program, Murakami said it’s not enough to cover the cost of creating housing elsewhere.

“I would insist that it’s onsite, because the healthiest community is a diverse community, and that includes economic diversity,” she said.

Murakami has served on the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council for nine years. She was vocal in her criticism of Mayor Jenny Durkan not selecting Carmen Best to replace Kathleen O’Toole as police chief earlier this year. Durkan ended up nominating Best for the job amid public backlash, offering a previous finalist, former Pittsburgh police chief Cameron McLay, a consulting job advising the city on ongoing police reform.

The District 3 candidate said she thinks Best is doing a good job as Seattle’s police chief, but the department needs more officers. Recruiting officers from other municipalities isn’t working, Murakami said, and she wants to see more new recruits coming from Seattle and reflective of the community.

Increasing affordable housing availability and shelter services remains a high priority for Seattle, which has been under a homeless state of emergency since November 2015.

The Seattle City Council passed and then repealed an employee-hours (head) tax earlier this year, which would have collected $275 per FTE from companies claiming more than $20 million in gross receipts. The head tax was expected to generate $47 million annually for creating more affordable housing and enhancing shelter services.

Murakami said a head tax should have been based around net operating revenue, but she would rather see a less regressive tax system first. She supports lobbying the state to approve an income tax to reduce sales and property taxes.

The District 3 candidate said large corporations like Amazon should have been first asked to help deal with the impacts their businesses have had on Seattle’s affordability before a head tax was considered. The city and business leaders could have found a workable solution together, she said, adding Amazon might not have expanded its headquarters out of Seattle.

“We should have been working with Amazon and other cities near us to let Amazon have a more regional presence,” Murakami said.

The city has been struggling to find a suitable location for a safe consumption space or community health engagement location (CHEL), where people with addiction could more safely take drugs under medical supervision — heroin being the biggest focus — and have access to medical and social services, clean needles and a place to rest afterward.

Murakami said she sees CHELs as giving people a pass for making bad decisions, and she would rather see more on-demand treatment and mental health facilities. She said she went to Vancouver, British Columbia, where a safe injection site has been operating for years. Overdose deaths remain high, Murakami said, and she observed many used needles discarded in public.

“Some people are using the facility, but not enough to make a difference,” she said.

A British Columbia Coroners Service report on illicit drug overdose deaths from January 2008 to September 2018 notes zero deaths at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites. Overdose deaths increased sharply from 2015 to 2017, according to the report, far above deaths from homicide and motor vehicle collisions.

Seattle is bracing for the Seattle Squeeze, a term coined for the intense congestion expected to occur in the city once the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes, followed by the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for buses, the construction of the Washington State Convention Center Addition, and then a large portion of State Route 520, including the West Approach Bridge South.

“First of all, multimodal streets are a ridiculous concept,” Murakami said. “I’d like to see bikes on a bike boulevard.”

Bike boulevards are usually used on streets with low speeds and vehicle volumes, and can connect to a larger bikeway network.

Murakami said putting bike lanes on arterial streets created more congestion. The mayor has been promoting congestion pricing to get people out of single-occupancy vehicles, which Murakami said is punishing drivers for problems the city helped create and will move more motorists from arterials to residential streets.

Sound Transit continues to expand light rail in Seattle and the Eastside, and plans to link the First Hill and South Lake Union streetcars with a Center City Connector remain stalled over cost overruns.

Murakami said fixed-rail transportation should never have started, and that these transit options don’t recover the CO2 cost created during their construction.

She favors increasing carpool vans and shuttle buses.

In 2009, Murakami opposed Washington House Bill 1490, which would have required about 50 housing units or employment centers per acre of developable land within a half-mile of light rail stations. The bill did not pass.

Murakami told the Seattle Times then that she worried the increased development would result in more crime and the loss of single-family homes and green spaces.

“One of the things the city has failed to do is let growth happen organically,” Murakami tells MPT.

People can keep up with Murakami’s campaign at