Guest Opinion

Seattle Voters Send Unflappable Advocate for People Experiencing Homelessness to Olympia in 2017

Bring on 2017 says Nicole Macri.

By Nicole Macri December 30, 2016

We’ve  asked a handful of local leaders that had big showings in 2016 to reflect on the year ahead.

A smorgasbord of candidates, liberal-to-lefty, environmentalist-to-labor, lined up this year when the house seat in Seattle's 43rd legislative district opened up. The 43rd represents Downtown, Capitol Hill, the U. District, Wallingford, and Fremont, making it one of the most diverse, vibrant, and dense districts in the state. The speaker of the house, state representative Frank Chopp, is from the 43rd, and current Seattle Mayor Ed Murray used to be the rep, and then senator from the district.

Homeless advocate Nicole Macri emerged from a field of eight candidates in the August 2016 primary, and then won in November's top-two showdown with 65 percent of the vote.

Homelessness has been the most high profile and pressing issue of 2016—and as a deputy director at the Downtown Emergency Services Center, Macri was often seen at the city council dais testifying at pivotal city council human services committee meetings this year, explaining DESC's successful harm reduction approach to the crisis. It's symbolic, fitting, and inspiring that voters from the heart of Seattle chose Macri, a housing policy expert and an unflappable longtime advocate for people experiencing homelessness, for the state legislature.   

And it's not surprising that Macri's legislative agenda for 2017 comes with a focus on a community-driven response to homelessness. (Here's more in PubliCola's New Year's resolution series from our other 2016 winners: incoming U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold, and King County Council member Claudia Balducci.)

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Macri emerges from pack on primary election night, August 2016

Last year around this time, I was contemplating a run for State Representative in Seattle’s 43rd District. I sought advice from a few people I trust and respect. Most told me, win or lose, running for office would be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life. They were right. What I didn’t expect was that it would also help prepare me for a new chapter in American history.

There is palpable fear and uncertainty about what a Trump presidency will bring in 2017. But, the numerous meaningful conversations I’ve had with neighbors this year give me an optimistic outlook about what we can accomplish. I’m proud to live in a community committed to justice, safety, equity and inclusion, and which understands the hard work it takes to uphold these values.

The annual legislative session kicks off on January 9th, and I will join with legislators from across Washington, set to tackle some very big budget challenges. I’ll also be working hard to defend our community’s values, and propel our state toward a vision where everyone is safe, healthy and has access to opportunity.

The primary task this session is to adequately fund K-12 public education. The price tag is large – $3.5 billion – and much is at stake for students and communities across the state. Thin majorities in both legislative bodies mean that House Democrats and Senate Republicans must find new ways of working together, or else risk the stalemates that have thwarted progress in the past.

And, K-12 education is not the only critical issue the legislature will face. The affordable housing crisis dominates community conversations, and our mental healthcare and substance use treatment systems are woefully inadequate. These realities contribute to an ongoing opioid epidemic, and the unprecedented and persistent emergency of homelessness in urban, suburban and rural areas across Washington.

I’ve spent much of my life providing solutions to problems many have considered intractable—including how best to address affordable housing, homelessness, and the needs of people living with mental illness and addiction. As I prepare for my first session, I am already working on policy proposals to enhance the State’s attention on these issues, and ensure we focus our resources on solutions that are community-driven and which demonstrate effectiveness.

Throughout my career, I have shown that with determination and collaboration, we can solve tough problems in ways that make things better for all of us. This is best done when the voices of people most impacted by decisions can inform them, provide feedback, and hold decision makers accountable. I will take these experiences and values to Olympia to promote innovation, and expand opportunity and equity for people across this state.

This is a dynamic time in our region. The State must be a better partner in helping ensure all communities in Washington thrive. The legislature can lead the charge toward a vision where no one experiences the dangers and indignities of not having a home or of enduring discrimination for who they are or where they come from; all students get a good education and can attend college without being mired in debt; working people can support their families and retire with dignity; everyone has access to the healthcare they need; our environment is protected today and for generations to come; and, the important role that small businesses play is protected and upheld.

While the future feels uncertain in new ways, one thing is certain–realizing this vision will require hard work. I look forward to partnering with people at home and in Olympia to ensure the future can be brighter for everyone in Seattle and across our state.

Nicole Macri is the incoming state representative from Seattle's 43rd Legislative District which represents Pike Place, Denny Regrade, Capitol Hill, Broadway, Madison Park, Washington Park, Broadmoor, Montlake, University District, Wallingford, Fremont, and downtown.

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