Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of the Chief Seattle Club, is running for Mayor of Seattle and promises a people-first approach with an emphasis on affordable housing and homelessness.
Echohawk, who was involved in the city’s police reform efforts as a member of the community police commission, joins a still tight list of people who want to take power after Mayor Jenny Durkan, who announced she will not run in 2021 .
“I am running for Mayor of Seattle because I love this city and we have a unique opportunity to rethink how it works and who it works for,” said 44-year-old Echohawk on her website. “When we take a people-first approach to renewal, we can become as transformative as our communities ask us to be.”
Andrew Grant Houston, architect and city planner, and Lance Randall, director of a nonprofit for economic development in South Seattle, have also announced campaigns for the mayor. Councilor Teresa Mosqueda announced earlier this month that she would not run for mayor, while Councilor President M. Lorena González is due to consider running. The deadline for submitting a candidate for the main election in August is May 21.
In an interview on Monday, Echohawk, an enrolled member of the Pawnee Nation’s Kithehaki Band who lives in north Seattle, said, “It’s time for a really big change,” and that starts with living.
“We have to build housing, we have to find really affordable ways to bring housing into our city,” she said.
That means, Echohawk said, both a reallocation and likely more tax revenue. She said Seattle is still grappling with the impact of redlining on its neighborhood.
“We’re going to look at our zoning because some of it isn’t fair,” she said. “The neighborhood groups will go into that, but there is one problem – we don’t have enough density.”
Echohawk has run the Chief Seattle Club, which provides housing and services to Native people since 2013, and has seen up close how the community struggles with homelessness and the coronavirus pandemic.
With Echohawk’s endorsement at the head of the National Coalition to End Homelessness in Indigenous Cities in the City, King County changed the way its 2019 annual homelessness survey was conducted at a specific point in time, resulting in nearly tripling the number of homeless people affected indigenous people who appeared in the census listed.
Their activism has also influenced the way the county prioritizes indigenous peoples for housing and has resulted in unique local housing projects that aim to address the disproportionate effects of homelessness on indigenous communities.
In August, King County announced the addition of tribal affiliations to its homeless database following a push by local organizations, including the Chief Seattle Club.
Durkan announced last month that she would not run for a second term after a tumultuous year marked by pandemics, police protests and a city budget cobbled together amid falling revenues.
When asked what she would have done differently than the incumbent, Echohawk said, “I would have been down there to protest with the community.” She said she only participated in one or two protests – due to health concerns from COVID – but “I think our community has made a strong statement that this is a reckoning time and that Seattle needs to live out our progressive values.”
But she said she is not fully involved when activists try to disappoint the Seattle Police Department by 50%.
“I understand why the 50% figure was posted there because the community was angry and frustrated,” said Echohawk. “We have to defuse, I don’t know if it will be at this 50% level.”
Echohawk said she will remain director of the Chief Seattle Club for the time being, but will take time off for the primaries in August and leave the organization in October.
Sydney Brownstone contributor to this report.