Seattle’s next mayor will take over a city undergoing historic transitions, from pandemic shutdown to swing reopening; from working at work to working from home; and from a city flooded with new residents with money to a city left with a massive homeless crisis.
GeekWire sat down with virtually every one of Seattle’s two finalists for mayor: current city council president Lorena González and former council president Bruce Harrell. We asked them the same set of questions about the pressing issues facing the city, and some fun personal questions about their tech habits.
This question and answer session has been edited for brevity and clarity and does not include all questions asked. Watch the videos below for the full interviews.
GeekWire: Let’s get straight to the questions. What will your administration do to maintain Seattle’s competitive advantage as a startup business and technology hub?
González: I see that as two really important things. The first is talent. We have a lot of rich talent here in our city that fuels the tech sector. As the candidate in this career who has the strongest and largest job support, it is really important to me to support the workers and the future workforce who want to enter this really important field that pays well and is a good job opportunity and career. This is very important.
And then the second is to make sure we have a vibrant city. Amazon has 12,500 jobs posted here in Seattle. Therefore, it is important for us to make sure that we are building a city that depends on good public transportation, that has good parks, that has good affordable housing. These are the things that attract a lot of tech workers to come here. I’m focusing a lot on workers because I really believe that workers are the backbone of the tech industry. He’s the one who makes it work.
Harrell: First of all, we have to see what attracts talent: having a clean city, a certain quality of life, certain expectations of public safety. People migrate to destinations, talent does, and to keep, attract and even build talent from within, we have to have a certain quality of life. And that is why I am a strong advocate for effective public safety. I did not subscribe to the “defunding model” because I wanted everyone to know that we are heading in the right direction to optimize public safety. So I’ll start with that.
Second, I think the city needs to facilitate partnering with industry leaders. I’m not just talking about Amazon, but about the big tech companies in the region. And even those companies that rely heavily on technology. You wouldn’t think of Starbucks or Boeing as a tech company, per se. But as we well know, their use of technology can give them a competitive advantage.
So I think the partnerships that the city has to maintain to make sure that we retain the big employers here, and the ancillary and smaller employers here, we need to facilitate those relationships to make sure the industry leaders are here. We’ve done an average job of that, and not so much a great job recently.