On Monday morning, 28 year-old Central District renter and homelessness policy wonk Alexis Mercedes Rinck announced her campaign for the Position 8 citywide city council seat, making her the first (and long-awaited) challenger to appointee Council Member Tanya Woo, who announced her run to retain the seat earlier this month.

Rinck was born in Pacifica, California (home to the world’s most beautiful Taco Bell and actual taquerias, she assured me) to two teenage parents who met in a gang. “That sounds like the start of a gritty, Oscar-award-winning movie, but it was a really hard start to life,” she told The Stranger. Her father spent her whole childhood incarcerated and went on to face chronic homelessness and substance abuse disorder. Her mother ended up losing custody in the throes of the juvenile detention system, so Rinck went to live with her grandparents.

Her grandparents lived in a “better-resourced” community where she said she could better heal from the trauma of her early childhood. She went on to become a community organizer protesting the Trump administration, a Planned Parenthood canvasser, a proud food service worker, a college graduate for both bachelors and masters degrees, and the director of subregional planning and equitable engagement at the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), where she developed the authority’s multi-jurisdictional five-year plan.

“I am a living testament that when we invest in young people, regardless of what kind of adverse childhood experiences they've had, we can feel and we can actually change generations,” Rinck said.

Last November, corporate donors bought a fleet of conservative council members to do their bidding at City Hall. In just the first three months of the new council’s term, Rinck sees “the early signs” of regression with talk of rolling back the minimum wage for gig workers and reversals to oversight bills. Perhaps most frighteningly of all, Rinck does not see a clear plan to address the City’s looming quarter-billion-dollar budget shortfall. She fears without more strong, progressive voices on the council, life-saving services that helped her–and that could have helped her parents–could be on the chopping block. 

In Wonks We Trust

Rinck promises to bring unique expertise to homelessness policy. She knows the ins and outs of the region’s complex human services apparatus and how it interacts with foster care, courts, jails, and all that. She knows where all the holes are, and she's gonna fill ‘em. 

She also knows what disrupts the system—criminalization and sweeps. Rinck, whose mom passed away while dealing with addiction, does not support the council’s recent law to criminalize public drug use because she doesn’t think criminalization helps people recover. 

Rinck also said that random sweeps do not help bring people inside because they separate unhoused people from their case workers, which can set them back on the road to housing. She would support a ban on sweeps in extreme weather because she knows from working at KCRHA that the only focus in those cases should be survival, not hauling stuff from one block to another. Rinck would support expanding KCRHA’s slower approach of encampment resolutions, where caseworkers establish a relationship with people at the encampment, make a list of names, and over weeks–sometimes months–work to place them in shelter or housing. 

Rinck apologized several times in her interview for going “too in the weeds” on homelessness policy, but it was refreshing—The Stranger is not convinced all the council members even know what the acronym “KCRHA” stands for.

Rinck emphasized her belief that homelessness is a housing problem–a belief that just so happens to be founded in actual evidence. During our interview, she even pulled out a printed copy of the Mayor’s recently released draft Comprehensive Plan (she’s usually more eco-friendly, but the housing crisis makes it worth the paper). She’s admittedly still working through the document, but so far she wants a plan that allows for more housing, and not just housing concentrated in “urban villages.” 

Still, Rinck wants to upzone “thoughtfully” because she’s worried about displacement. To combat displacement, she would support community land trusts and programs to help turn renters into homeowners. So don’t say she’s never agreed with the current council!

🚨Wee-Ooh 🚨Wee-Ooh🚨 

I know we are in the middle of a housing crisis and nothing could possibly be more important, but right now the city council is laser-focused on hiring hundreds more cops despite cities across the country failing to fill their forces to satisfy their fancy. The council has been unable to lure enough officers with hefty hiring bonuses, so they’re talking about creative ways to bring in more boys in blue, including subsidizing their housing. 

Rinck said the City should lower its hiring goals and put that money toward other things to promote public safety. Rinck would rather put more funding toward the recently launched dual dispatch program, mobile treatment programs, and gun violence prevention programs—not ShotSpotter, to be clear. 

Show Me the Money

To fulfill any campaign promise—whether it be ensuring a healthy Office of Labor Standards or shoring up eviction prevention assistance—Rinck needs to find money in the City budget. The City currently faces a deficit of $230 million, which amounts to about 14% of the funds the Mayor and council actually steward. 

The new council seems keen to cut in order to balance the budget, but Rinck said that could cost critical programs. Instead, she said she supports progressive revenue “with my full heart and everything I am.” She doesn’t have a favorite tax right now, but she likes the ideas from the recent report from Progressive Revenue Stabilization Taskforce and the supplemental analysis from Transit Riders Union.

When it comes to cuts, Rinck hesitated to name departments that could use a trim, but she promises she spends her free time “bopping around the budget” in hopes of finding a clear answer. At least she’s showing some initiative there—the recently elected members liked to tell reporters they had to wait to be elected before they could see the budget. 

No Time for Opps

Rinck told The Stranger she didn’t want to waste too much precious campaign time comparing herself to the current council. She wants to focus on the issues, which should in itself make clear the differences between her, Woo, and the council as a whole. 

Besides, despite her differences, Rinck said she’s confident she can win over her potential future colleagues and pass policy. In her role at KCRHA, she convinced five towns in North King County to fund the authority and join the regional approach, towns she said some people had “written off” as unwilling to cooperate with something related to Seattle. 

“Often people kind of write people off and assume they won’t support something because they’re ‘that way,’” Rinck said. “And sometimes that’s true, but you gotta ask the question, you gotta have the tough conversation, you gotta try.”

After big wins for conservatives in 2023 empowered the Mayor’s borderline cultish #OneSeattle regime, Rinck’s willingness to stray from the popular opinion on council stands out, particularly in comparison to the recent appointment process over the seat she’s running for. More than 70 council hopefuls applied for the citywide seat when progressive powerhouse Teresa Mosqueda left it vacant in January. With the stamp of approval from the council’s corporate donors, recently failed District 2 candidate Woo won the seat despite the top contenders’ willingness to grovel before the dais. 

Rinck’s candidacy marks a shift from pathetic ass-kissing to progressive ass-kicking. 

“I’m of the belief that big business shouldn't be deciding who represents this City,” Rinck said. “You know, Woo was appointed by five people. I'm looking to be elected by 100,000 people.”