Bruce Harrell will be on home turf tonight as he joins six other mayoral candidates for the Juneteenth Mayoral Candidates Forum. Recent polls put Harrell in a four-way race with incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn, Peter Steinbrueck, and Sen. Ed Murray.
CDN sat down with Harrell this week at his 23rd and Union corner office to talk about the Central District and his candidacy to unseat McGinn in November.
First, the basics. Harrell’s background is the sort a novelist would conjure for a homegrown Seattle politician. He was born and raised three blocks from his campaign office. As a child he walked to the now-closed T.T. Minor Elementary and Meany Middle schools. He was valedictorian at Garfield High School, and then went on to win a Rose Bowl as a leading defensive player for the University of Washington.
After a decade in corporate law with telecommunication company US WEST, now Qwest, Harrell went into private practice. In 2007 Harrell was elected to the Seattle city council, where public safety has been his number one issue.
“I grew up in a city where you can walk during the evening as a young person and feel safe,” he said. “Now I walk in many areas and I don’t feel safe. That’s unacceptable.”
Inevitably a discussion of public safety in the Central District turns towards Justin Ferrari, the 42-year-old father shot and killed in the crossfire of two teens at the intersection of East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Harrell said Ferrari’s death last year is Seattle’s worst nightmare, but that the city has failed to address the underlying causes of the tragedy. Harrell has criticized McGinn for not including more civic and religious groups in the fight against street violence, and vows to do more on that front.
Harrell’s most concrete public safety initiative is to equip police officers with body cameras.
He also wants Seattle to “set the precedent of what strong gun control should look like.” First, the state legislature would have to allow cities to set their own gun control ordinances. Harrell said once that happens, he wants police to have the authority to confiscate weapons if they suspect someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He would also mandate all firearms are stored in a lock-box and require background checks on every firearm transaction.
While the debate over the size and pace of neighborhood density continues on Capitol Hill, Harrell said he wants to see more density in the CD. He’s mostly in favor of apodments – the small, dorm-style apartments – and getting aggressive on allowing for higher buildings.
What he doesn’t want is big-box retail, which he said would lead to gentrification.
“You want small businesses here, you want home based businesses here. That’s how you avoid a completely gentrified area.”