On Thursday, First Hill resident and Transportation Choices Coalition Executive Director Alex Hudson announced her campaign for City Council District 3, which includes the Central District, Madison Park, and Capitol Hill.
You might know her as one-third of the “trio of mouthy broads” that ran the tongue-in-cheek blog, Seattlish. In an interview, she said her blogger past emboldened her to share her opinions even “when no one asked,” which is one of the major prerequisites for council candidates.
Hudson called herself an “urbanist at heart,” advocating for free transit for youth and repealing shitty jaywalking laws. She plans to bring her urbanist perspective to council to eliminate traffic deaths, finally build a shelved street car connection downtown, and make sure the city doesn’t fuck up billion-dollar decisions when planning the West Seattle and Ballard Link expansions. In addition to her municipal policy expertise, Hudson wants to bring a sense of urgency to the council.
“It's my expectation that leaders in City Council are really, really serious about solving the City's problems at the speed and scale of words like ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency,’ which I just don't see,” she said.
While Hudson talked a big game about throwing down hot takes and promising urgency, in our interview she often avoided giving her own perspective and instead deferred to stakeholders or task forces.
Hudson firmly believes the City needs to end exclusionary zoning and produce more affordable housing, but she slowed her roll when asked if the City should increase JumpStart, the progressive payroll tax, to fund those affordable units. She said she’s “really curious to see” what the Progressive Revenue Stabilization Task Force proposes this year, but she did not have any progressive revenue proposals to promote herself.
Though she sounded shaky on increasing progressive taxes, she expressed interest in “unlocking” affordable housing in existing buildings. For example, she said the City could expand the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption program (MFTE) to give landlords tax breaks as an incentive to turn current market-rate units into affordable units, which she said could unlock thousands of additional units.
She also wouldn’t give a firm answer to a question about her stance on I-135, an initiative to establish a public developer (PDA) that would one day build and own mixed-income social housing. She ticked off concerns about the initiative’s lack of funding and the number of units the PDA would actually build or acquire. Sounds like a no, but she’ll have until Feb. 14 to fill out her ballot.
Wishy-Washy on a Pike-Pine Superblock
Though she expressed disgust with the lack of progress on the City’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths, she didn’t have much to say about the Pike-Pine superblock idea, a four-year-old proposal to make the busy corridor in District 3 less dangerous for pedestrians.
Some urbanists felt a glimmer of hope this fall, when Council Member Teresa Mosqueda revived the conversation, but then the Department of Transportation got wishy-washy on it. Mosqueda wouldn’t pronounce the project dead, but she told Capitol Hill Seattle Blog that it's going to take a long time and it might not happen on the Hill.
Hudson didn’t give her own opinion on the years-long conversation, saying that there’s a lot of ways to prioritize pedestrians and that she would “swiftly” implement recommendations from neighborhood stakeholders.
Question Marks on Cops
When it comes to cops, Hudson spoke to the desperate need for police alternatives. She said the City should not rely on cops to be mental health professionals, drug counselors, or housing connectors. “I don't call Comcast when my power goes out,” she said.
But it's going to take money and political will to bring police alternatives to scale. The Solidarity Budget, a lefty lobbying group born out of the 2020 protests, advocates for the City to redistribute half of the police department’s massive budget to fund the kinds of police alternatives Hudson advocates for.
When asked if she would funnel money from the police budget into alternatives or maybe hike a tax for them, Hudson said she would have to take a “pretty good look at the budgets” to figure out where to get the money from. But if voters pass the King County mental health levy in April, then the County, which manages public health, could help pay for alternative responses, she said.
Even though she’s not sure where the City would find money to fund alternatives with current funds, Hudson said she “probably” would have voted with the City Council to reduce the police budget back in 2020. After all, Hudson said, she marched in Black Lives Matter protests and took tear gas straight to the face. However, she added that it was unfortunate that the council had to find an answer to a “bigger conversation” in a pressure cooker.
All of Hudson’s deference seems to stem from her spirit of collaboration, which she said separates her from sitting Council Member Kshama Sawant, who put in her one-year notice as D3’s rep last week. That’s no hate on Sawant. though. Hudson voted for her in every election, even in the recent recall.
Hudson called herself a “professional collaborator,” citing her experience in leading negotiations on behalf of a coalition of urbanist organizations to squeeze better public investment out of the 2018 Washington State Convention Center addition. The coalition advocated for $61 million for bike lanes, affordable housing, and green space improvements. With the help of thousands of volunteers, they pushed the council to approve a package that invested $83 million into public infrastructure, exceeding their original ask.
“I'm not saying I'm gonna be hella mid,” Hudson said. “You can compromise, you can unify, you can collaborate, and you can still get stuff done.”