Oct 19, 2023 - Politics

Seattle District 7 council candidates spar over public safety

Photo illustration of Bob Kettle and Andrew Lewis.

Bob Kettle (left) and Andrew Lewis (right). Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Courtesy of both campaigns

The two candidates vying to represent Seattle's downtown core on the City Council both say the city needs to improve public safety, but they disagree about which of them can best deliver those results.

What's happening: In District 7, first-term City Councilmember Andrew Lewis faces a challenge from Bob Kettle, a retired Navy officer who has served on the board of the Queen Anne Community Council.

  • Lewis, a former city prosecutor, was elected in 2019 to represent the district, which includes Queen Anne, Belltown, downtown and South Lake Union.

State of play: Both candidates say the city needs to hire more police.

  • They also both support a new law that allows the city attorney to prosecute low-level drug offenses (although Kettle thinks Lewis should have voted for an earlier version).

Here's a look at where the candidates stand on a few key issues.

Police funding

Kettle told Axios that Lewis and other council members sapped morale at the Seattle Police Department in 2020, when they voiced support for an activist-driven plan to cut the department's funding by 50% and invest in alternative responses.

  • Kettle argues those public statements made it difficult to recruit and retain officers and created "a permissive environment" for crime.
  • Lewis has since said the initial focus on a 50% budget reduction was a mistake. But he still supports expanding non-armed 911 response options and pursuing other reforms, he told Axios.
  • Lewis added that he supports and voted to fully fund Mayor Bruce Harrell's police recruitment plan, which aims to hire hundreds more officers.

Police accountability

Lewis said he wants the city's next police union contract to include reforms that the council approved in 2017 but weren't fully implemented.

  • Those included provisions aiming to make it harder for officers to overturn discipline handed down by the chief, such as suspensions and firings.
  • Kettle said he supports more accountability, but hasn't delved into the contract details.
  • He said his focus is on rebuilding the city's relationship with officers, which he thinks will help get the police guild to agree to more changes.

Taxes and budget

Neither Lewis nor Kettle are pushing for new taxes.

  • Lewis thinks some city departments could potentially be consolidated, which he says could go a long way toward addressing the $251 million deficit projected in the city's general fund in 2025.
  • After looking for savings, Lewis said, he might support additional taxes — he called a city-level capital gains tax a "reasonable" option — but only after the council has "exhausted every other option."

Kettle said he doesn't think the city has a budget deficit at all. He argued the city can resolve its budget problem by finding efficiencies and combining city accounts that are currently kept separate.

  • Kettle said he's not necessarily opposed to some new revenue, but prefers more "broad-based" taxes as opposed to a "Band-Aid" approach. He said he doesn't have a specific type of tax in mind that he'd support.

Encampment removals

Both candidates agree that removing encampments of people experiencing homelessness is sometimes necessary, and support the mayor's approach on the issue.

What's next: Ballots were mailed Wednesday and must be returned to a ballot drop box or postmarked by Nov. 7 to be counted.

Go deeper: A guide to the 2023 election

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