(Also published on partner site West Seattle Blog)
After six years on the Seattle City Council, West Seattle resident Teresa Mosqueda moved to the King County Council last month. Following her November election win with 55 percent of the vote, she took office last month in the District 8 seat vacated by Joe McDermott after 13 years. As shown on this map, her district stretches from downtown Seattle to Burien, also encompassing West Seattle, Georgetown, South Park, Tukwila, and Burien, as well as White Center and the rest of unincorporated North Highline, plus Vashon and Maury Islands. As she had said during the campaign – announced almost exactly a year ago – her big focuses are on health and housing, but there’s a lot more to pay attention to. We sat down with Councilmember Mosqueda for a half-hour video-recorded chat at the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse this past Thursday. The unedited video is above; below, key points from our conversation.
We asked what the transition’s been like. She had words of praise for the county staff having to bridge such geographic and political diversity. She’s already been back to a variety of places around the district and is scheduling community meetings. “What I’m hearing in these meetings is what I heard in the campaign,” she says – concerns related to her signature issues. But economic challenges are a major concern, and she says she’s talking with businesses and workers about how to support what they’re doing. The county itself is facing a budget crunch, which Mosqueda points out could shut down public-health clinics on which tens of thousands of people rely for health care, she says, so she’s been lobbying for state action that would enable a tax-collecting boost by the county (but this Seattle Times story the day after our chat suggests it’s not happening), and talking to the feds too.
Also on the topic of health, she’s been elected as chair of the Seattle-King County Board of Health, and says a current priority is addressing the “shadow pandemic – isolation, depression, behavioral health, substance-use issues.” She also chairs the council’s Health and Human Services Committee. One major task ahead is the implementation plan for the Crisis Care Centers Levy that voters approved last year, meant to combat the lack of places to take people to get the care they need. Before the brick-and-mortar facilities are opened, she said, there’ll be a “mobile response.” The levy also funds “workforce training … so that [more] people are able to provide services” early on. She says the implementation plan should be complete by the end of the second quarter.
On housing, a major topic we tackled was the King County Comprehensive Plan update, which is currently before the council – “really important decisions that will be made for the unincorporated areas … more walkable, livable neighborhoods,” Mosqueda summarized it. She says it could lead to more affordability and, just to pick one unincorporated area of note, a “new vision” for downtown White Center; she recounted a conversation with a local doctor who hopes that’s what will happen. She says the review of the comprehensive plan has just begun, so she’s joining at an opportune time. She hopes to hear from community members about their thoughts about the next 10 years, too (the period the plan update is to cover).
We asked about displacement risk, given higher rents in the new buildings that replace old ones. Mosqueda says that she is wants to ensure anti-displacement action, with strategies including community preference and affirmative marketing. That means the people who have to leave get first preference for returning to the new buildings – and that they’ll be able to afford to. That requires more incentives for developers, though, she says – including more height – so she hopes the comprehensive plan will include that.
What’s her concept of “affordable housing”? Market rate plus affordable units on the same site will be a crucial mix. And community-focused services like child care on the ground floor would be optimal.
So where has this concept already become reality? we asked. She mentioned a Seattle project at 13th/Fir on a site that once held a parking lot. (Read more about it here.)
We also talked about dealing with the many jurisdictions that the county spans – many cities and neighborhoods. Mosqueda says they have to offer help and support as an “ally, partner, maybe even a co-conspirator.”
On the subject of public safety and criminal justice, we asked Mosqueda about King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s recent reiteration that he still wants to move toward eliminating youth incarceration, though it will take longer to get there than he had previously hoped. His update also included an advisory committee’s recommendations, such as a “respite center” and community “care homes” for some juvenile defendants. Mosqueda told us, “I am interested in seeing that kiddos have a place to go so they can get stabilized and back into society. … If folks are going to interact more with law enforcement, we have to have an array of services we can offer those youths … Ultimately working toward the timeline (Constantine) laid out is the right thing to do.” But what about the current wave of violent crime involving youth? Mosqueda says looking at the underlying issues is important too.
The county administers other major parts of the criminal-justice system – courts, prosecutors and defenders, sheriff, etc. – so we asked if anything else is bubbling up in that area right now. She mentioned a recent “joint meeting to reconvene the Gun Violence Task Force” with jurisdictions including King County and Seattle, and noted legislators working on that. Anything specific she is proposing? Mosqueda responded that “listening to the youth directly” is her focus, and some with whom she’s met already are particularly interested in mental-health services.
Concluding our conversation, we asked how best constituents can interact with her and her staff. She says they’re going out for tours and meetings on “District 8 Days,” with Vashon her first stop and White Center next. She’s also involved in roundtable discussions and responding to constituents’ individual meeting requests – email her directly at email@example.com. To find out what’s happening at County Council meetings, check agendas here.