CANDIDATE: Dr. Clinton Bliss, Mayoral Candidate
- Website: https://www.doctorblissformayor.com
Describe a meaningful arts experience that has stayed with you over time. How do the arts reflect the voices and perspectives in your own neighborhood? How do you envision the arts as part of the Seattle, especially as part of education, equity, housing, transportation, culture, the economy, and/or community?
The state of arts in any city reflects the extent to which we are thriving in our city particularly with community-based arts. Community-based arts give expression to the essence of who we are, our values and our dreams. In a sense it is an indicator of how well a city is doing overall.
For the last 30 years I have had the pleasure of living close to and sometimes in the Fremont neighborhood. For me, the Solstice Parade has been an example of the best of community arts, with its inclusive, participatory, creative, and life-affirming qualities. Anyone from any neighborhood has had access to participate on numerous levels, from planning, preparing to participating or spectating (with the exception of corporate interests, which is a policy badly needed in our democratic process). Over the years, I have helped plan as a member of the Fremont Arts Council, helped build and maintain floats, donated, participated in parades (but never as a naked bicyclist?) and sometimes been a spectator. It has always been an enriching experience for me, and I have seen how it enriches other’s lives. The performing arts are also a large part of my life. When I was in college I trained as a classical vocalist, but decided to go into medicine, and today my son is pursuing a career in classical music, with a full scholarship at Juilliard. My life partner and I look forward to watching Shakespere in the park in the summers, and when we go out for a night out, seek local music and performance.
I do not feel that the graffiti on our streets, highways, parks, under our bridges and other public spaces is art. I differentiate murals from graffiti, and see graffiti as an aggressive act that violates all of our rights to a beautiful city where we all feel we belong and feel safe, personally and in terms of our property. I abhor the apparent end of the graffiti unit at the police and the reporting of graffiti online with no follow up or apparent. As a small business owner who has had to remove graffiti more times than I can count, I find the graffiti nuisance ordinance that requires me to remove graffiti with zero accountability to the perpetrators or police for ending it to be unjust and unfair. While I have seen SDOT making some attempt to clean up the graffiti in some areas, it is far from sufficient. I think it is no conscience that the areas where people are living in tents and RVs in our public spaces are plagued by graffiti, and I will put an end to this as Mayor – both people living in tents and RVs in our public spaces and the unchecked graffiti.
I have a plan outlined on my website at www.doctorblissformayor.com for how I will do this, and briefly explain here:
No amount of affordable housing and shelter beds will end tent encampments and the practice of supporting addiction through theft. The medical definition of an addicted person is one who will choose to support their addiction over anything else in their lives including their partners, their parents, their children, their job, their reputation, their body, and their housing. If given free housing, they will trade it to support their habit. We must get all tent dwellers out of city parks and off of city streets permanently, completely and all at once. Anything less will continue to grow the problem. To do this we must provide an option for emergency housing and treatment in a controlled environment that does not allow for ongoing drug and alcohol use. Tent dwellers in city parks have demonstrated that they are unable to adequately care for themselves and must be offered treatment and support. Hospitalization is the model we use for intensive treatment programs everywhere, whether for addiction, eating disorders, mental health problems, or medical problems. Just like we would do if we had a surge of COVID cases, we will need to open an emergency treatment hospital within a controlled environment, most likely in one of the stadiums, staffed with medical doctors working with mental health, addiction, social service, and vocational rehabilitation specialists. Tent dwellers will be given the option to come to this treatment center voluntarily, and they can refuse, but they will not be given the option to stay in the parks and those that do will be arrested and the courts will have to determine if they should be involuntarily treated or incarcerated. If they are released and found once again to be living in a public space they will be arrested again. No more living in city parks and public spaces! I anticipate this emergency hospital will be operational for about 3 months. Residents who have been stabilized will then be given the option to transition to an ongoing residential treatment facility that has opportunities for work, education and ongoing treatment, within a controlled environment. I anticipate most residents will need to be in this environment for approximately a year, though some may need longer or shorter stays. Police accountability is critical to our success and defunding the police is an irresponsible action that will lead to civil rights abuses by criminals. We must have a robust and rapidly responsive police force that acts lawfully and works directly with our communities to provide real public safety for all.
How do you plan to support and protect Arts Industry workers in the Seattle area in a post COVID world?
Right now the chief challenge facing most of our artists in Seattle is affordable housing. We are essentially running many of our artists out of town because they cannot afford a place to live. Too many people working in Seattle, including artists, are not housed in the city and have to leave because they can’t afford to live in Seattle. Seattle needs to rethink “creating” affordable homes and stop tearing down affordable homes to build homes under the guise of “affordable” that are not affordable. Affordable housing should be a public-private partnership, similar to our public utilities. Low-income housing and offsets that builders pay under HALA are not creating available affordable housing but instead are used as a sin tax. The Incentive Zoning program reports only 6 buildings. We must ensure outputs are: enough affordable housing to house our people who need it.
Under my leadership, the city of Seattle will develop a public private partnership similar to our public utilities, that will be responsible for providing affordable housing for people who work in our city. Our city needs a public works project of affordable housing available to those who work in our city and make less than 70% of the median household income. Under my leadership, the City of Seattle will build pre-designed and pre-permitted mid-rise units situated all around the city. Residents would live close to their jobs to limit traffic, travel, and our carbon foot-print. These units would provide construction jobs for people who live here as well. Moreover, If we want more affordable housing we need to build it, not tear it down, and we need to reward those who provide affordable housing, not punish them. We must first fix the zoning laws and ordinances so that all of us except some developers experience as broken, or we will end up with an even bigger broken morass. We must eradicate the dysfunction and corruption of our current zoning laws and affordable housing programs, such as the Seattle Low Income Zoning and HALA programs, and fix them so that current programs and policies result in the outcomes of green and livable affordable housing for those who need it. Regulating rent must be fair to renters and to local landlords living and providing housing in our city, or we will lose housing for everyone. It is the role of the city government to protect current affordable housing and to develop more affordable housing when no existing options exist, such as by increasing scattered site housing for low income Seattleites through the Seattle Housing Authority (https://www.seattlehousing.org/properties/scattered-sites). I favor a public-partnership similar to the public utilities to realize affordable housing for all who need it.
Secondly we must do what we can to control the rising cost of living, such as food prices, due to Seattle’s current policy of allowing and even encouraging theft. We must stop allowing and even encouraging people living in tents and RVS, addicts, mentall ill or the poor to meet basic needs through theft at grocery, drug and retail outlets as well as people’s properties and cars. We are doing this now as an erroneous interpretation of the The Ninth Circuit Court ruling which gives Seattle no excuses for not providing basic shelter, food, security and treatment. We must end the enabling and justification of theft, vandalism, and violent crime
The way we do this is by 1) providing basic shelter, food, security and treatment 2) bringing back constitutional community policing and 3) enforcing the rule of law. It will be expensive to do this, but if we do not, we all pay anyway by being victims of theft, vandalism and eventually violent crime that the police do not respond to and the prosecutor does not prosecute, thereby encouraging and enabling a truly vicious cycle which is and will put an end to much of the arts in Seattle, and our quality of life. I have a plan for this, outlined on my website. We can have a beautiful city again, if we act wisely and with compassion and integrity for everyone.