Safe Seattle co-founder Harley Lever first came to Seattle by way of the fishing industry, a stopping point on his way to the Alaskan coast and the Aleutian chains. “It was brutal. The first 30 days on the boat, I prayed every day the boat would sink because the work was just that hard,” Lever told PubliCola. Originally from Boston, Lever would return to make Seattle his home in 2007.
Lever has never held or ran for public office but he's raised $18,500, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, the most out of the low-profile candidates. He filed his candidacy in early May after Lever posted on Safe Seattle’s Facebook group that they’re looking for candidates to run for mayor and two city council positions. He said he was convinced to run by people close to him.
“It was only of late that I decided to run and become a politician,” Lever said. “That whole thought makes me a little queasy to say, ‘I am a politician.’ It’s such a visceral reaction.”
Safe Seattle is an online group known for its opposition to supervised injection sites, encampment sites, and public safety complaints around homelessness. Lever has said he considers himself to lean more to the left than a lot of his site's regular visitors, though he still opposes safe injection sites and any new taxes.
Lever's platform also focuses on homelessness and the opioid epidemic. He said his brother is both homeless and struggles with heroin addiction in Boston.
“This is something that has affected our family for years,” Lever said. “It’s a very personal issue for me.”
Lever said supervised injection sites wouldn’t be able to handle all injections per day in King County, and instead wants Naloxone to be mass distributed for overdoses. Lever said he wants to create a mobile app that allows residents to become trained in the use of Naloxone, find a place to buy it, and be notified if there’s an overdose occurring near them.
A former contractor on human factor research projects led by the FAA and NASA, Lever said he now works as a business consultant helping companies run more efficiently through internet, data processing, and new technology. He said he wants more streamlined government processes incorporating technology. An example he offered involved a live database of available housing. Lever wants Seattle to model its homeless program off Boston, which uses personal data on homelessness to provide care based on what services they need.
“We know exactly what afflicts them. We know if they’re mentally ill, if they’re addicted to opioids, if they’re fleeing domestic abuse,” he said, and from there, can create a coordinated care system by strategically “sharing information.”
Lever said he first wants to “stop waste and the spending” in the city before considering any additional taxes. He said he considers the recently passed soda tax to be the most regressive and that the city relies on "very old and antiquated systems that inherently waste a lot of money."
To combat growing housing prices and ensure affordable housing, Lever believes it’s important to begin building houses along Sound Transit 3 (he didn't specify where the money would come from) and “strategically lay out what the Puget Sound area is going to look like in the next 30 years.” To do so, Lever said he would implement a regional approach beyond King County and develop strategies “from Olympia up to Everett."
“Just throwing money on top of broken systems is never going to change” anything, he said.