Seattle City Council District 7 candidate Jason Williams is running on a campaign focused on economic mobility.

The Magnolia resident grew up in Federal Way, his father working as a butcher and his mother as a grocery checker. When he was six, his mother pursued her lifelong goal of being a teacher, he said, attending night school at Highland Community College; his dad took a second job delivering pizza.

“That night class ended up taking eight years,” Williams said. It took her eight years to graduate, but she finally did it.”

Williams studied at Seattle Pacific University, where he was president of the Young Democrats and a district and state delegate during the 2008 election. He also interned for U.S. House Rep. Adam Smith before graduating in 2009 with a dual major in economics and political science.

Williams said he struggled to find a job after college, having accrued $85,000 in student loan principal.

“That was a very challenging time, and for me that was an eye opening experience for the financial instability that many Americans experience,” he said.

Williams said he took a job driving a forklift at IKEA before a mentor helped him land a consulting position at Accenture. He moved to San Francisco to work for the Monitor Group.

Williams earned an MBA at Yale in 2016, and then moved back to Seattle to take a product marketing position at Microsoft.

Williams said his wife had told him, when wildfires in British Columbia last summer pushed smoke into the region, that she didn’t want their daughter to grow up in such a world. He took that as a charge to change things, Williams said, and then applied that desire for change to other pressing issues.

“For me, when Sally Bagshaw said she wasn’t running for reelection, that really clicked for me and things started to fall in place,” Williams said.

On topics that include housing affordability, homelessness and transportation, Williams said he frames those challenges through an economic lens. He said no other District 7 candidates are talking about income inequality.

“Here, education is paramount,” he said. “I believe that we need high-quality education from birth through college.”

Williams is in favor of expanding the Seattle Promise college scholarship program, and the city working to make better connections with local employers while credentialing institutions that offer tech boot camps for underrepresented groups.

While Queen Anne and Magnolia represent wealthier neighborhoods in Seattle, the poverty rate in Pioneer Square is more than 40 precent, Williams said.

“I intend on being a candidate for every citizen in the district,” he said.

Like many candidates running for council, Williams believes the city has failed to earn the public’s trust and needs more accountability. Not only should there be more opportunity to participate in local government, he said, but the government also needs to show it can achieve results.

“While the budget’s rising, so have our problems, and solutions are not resulting from whatever work is going into solving homelessness and housing affordability,” Williams said.

Much of the city’s housing and homelessness services are provided by contractors, and Williams wants better performance tracking for those providers, as well as pay-for-success. He is cautious about offering performance bonuses for city employees.

“I think any good organization on a routine basis builds into their processes auditing and making improvements,” he said, “and that should be for our government as well.”

Seattleites want to address the housing affordability and homelessness crises, he said, but the pushback to last year’s head tax is proof people need to see results first. Residents and businesses know the city works better when all sectors come together to solve the big issues, Williams said.

“The exact details of whether more revenue is required and who will provide that revenue and who will provide more supports is something we will have to investigate further over the next several months,” he said.

If it is, Williams said, everyone will need to pay their fair share.

Williams is in favor of a 1:1 replacement of the Magnolia Bridge, the funding for which could require a local improvement district. It is estimated to cost between $340 million and $420 million.

Outgoing District 7 Councilmember Sally Bagshaw has previously suggested a LID for the Magnolia Bridge project.

“She lives downtown, and when you talk to people in Magnolia, my neighborhood,” Williams said, “they say they don’t have a voice.”

Williams said the city needs new leaders with the foresight to anticipate future growth and infrastructure needs, rather than waiting to have tough conversations about project delays and mounting costs.

“We need to get smart and we need to be bold about solutions,” he said, “and this is another area where our city leadership has failed.”

Williams doesn’t favor Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal to implement congestion pricing downtown until reasonable transportation alternatives are provided.

A light rail extension from downtown to Ballard is more than a decade away, and the Center City Connector is now projected to come online in 2025, with added costs and redesign requirements. Williams said he is encouraged by the ridership projections for the Center City Connector.

“If we have a high fidelity in those estimates of ridership, then I think it is worth considering,” he said, “but more work should be done more generally to manage costs and more work should be done to better address these delays.”

Queen Anne and Magnolia residents made up a large portion of travelers using the now-closed Alaskan Way Viaduct. A new State Route 99 tunnel is now open, but tolling is expected to start this summer.

Williams said he wants to advocate for more connector bus lines between future light rail stops and the top of Queen Anne and Magnolia Village. He also wants Sound Transit to plan for more centralized light rail stops.

Durkan is moving forward with a redevelopment plan for the former Fort Lawton property on Magnolia Bluff that would provide more than 230 affordable housing units and additional park and open space.

“It’s a very difficult issue,” Williams said. “I do live in Magnolia; I know a lot of folks are concerned with it.”

The city needs to do more to address affordable housing and making public spaces open to everyone, he said, but the site is far from human services and employment sectors, he said.

“It’s not a convenient location for folks who need supports,” William said, “ so I am inclined to say that there are likely better places to add affordable housing units.”

The federal government could offer the 34-acre site to the city at no cost through public benefit conveyances.

An appeal by the Queen Anne Community Council challenging the final environmental impact statement for a proposal to ease regulations on accessory dwelling units has been cleared to proceed.

Williams said there is simply a need for more housing stock to accommodate Seattle’s population growth.

“I think it is a fair solution, or rather it is one tool in the toolbox that we should move forward with, I believe, to ease the pressure on our housing system,” Williams said.

If elected to the council, he said, Williams would want to work with District 7 community councils to gain their support of its implementation.

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