Seattle City Council District 7 candidate Andrew Lewis and Jim Pugel talked LGBTQ advocacy, police accountability, small business representation and collaboration with WSDOT on city transportation projects during a Greater Seattle Business Association forum on Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Since the GSBA's slogan is "Equality is Good Business," co-moderator Brady Piñero Walkinshaw, CEO of Grist and former District 43 state representative, asked Lewis and Pugel what they’ve done to support the LGBTQ community in Seattle.

"I can't say that I've done enough, but I'll tell you what I've done," said Pugel, a former Seattle Police officer and interim chief. "As a young officer here on Capitol Hill starting in 1983, we had a lot of hate crime, and we had a lot of prejudice being shown to anybody who was gay because that was about three years into the AIDS epidemic, the HIV epidemic."

To combat that prejudice, Pugel said he worked with members of the Queer Street Patrol as a police liaison, meeting with the group every night to make sure they were safe and patrolling in the right numbers.

"It was a peer-based, community-based patrol that would go out and make sure that gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or anyone who identified as anything was going to be safe."

Lewis said he also used his occupation to fight for the betterment of the LGBTQ community.

The city prosecutor said he's proud that he's had the opportunity to argue cases that involve crimes against those that identify as LGBTQ, but there is plenty of work to be done within Seattle’s justice system to fully support the LGBTQ community.

"I think misdemeanor hate crimes are extremely important, and that's really what we're talking about at the City of Seattle level," Lewis said, adding that he's been able to see how people who have committed LGBTQ hate crimes have the ability to be rehabilitated — taught a new way to think — but his hands are tied without severe enough charges for these kind of criminals.

"We've seen with domestic violence, we've seen with misdemeanor domestic violence that people are responsive to treatment, people are responsive to exposure to toxic masculinity, misogyny and learning to be different people and responding," Lewis said.

If the right probation programs are put in place, Lewis said, the city will be able to critically engage with offenders, exposing them to a more indiscriminate way of thinking.

Pugel said helped curve a growing trend of gay bashing at Volunteer Park back in the ‘90s. He said closeted men went to Volunteer Park and were engaging in intercourse in different parts of the public space. Knowing that the men were not going to report a crime in fear that their orientation would be exposed, thieves were robbing them while they were preoccupied. He also said he protected the health of those in the LGBTQ community by assisting with the needle exchange program in the city.

Pugel said he just wants people to be safe.

"Again, I haven't done enough, but it's been a career goal of mine to make sure that all of us, regardless of who we are, where we live, where we recreate, that we're all safe and healthy," he said.

Pugel joined SPD in 1981, and was appointed interim chief by former mayor­ Mike McGinn in April 2013. When Ed Murray beat McGinn and took office, he replaced Pugel with another interim chief; Pugel retired in 2014.

While the school-to-prison pipeline is a "very real thing," Lewis said, there is also a devastating LGBTQ-to-prison pipeline that needs as much attention.

"I've seen a lot of (people) kicked out of their household because of sexual orientation, to foster care, to juvie, to prison as a pipeline," Lewis said. "One of the projects I'm really excited about through the Home and Hope plan at the Enterprise Foundation is to acquire some property on Capitol Hill to have a shelter that is focused on homeless LGBT youth who are in and out of the jail system, in and out of foster care, do not have a safe place to go and end up in the criminal justice system."

The GSBA forum also addressed federal Judge James Robart’s assertion that accountability is weakening in the city, which is still under a 2012 Department of Justice consent decree over findings of excessive force and biased policing.

Co-moderator Liz Dunn of Dunn & Hobbes and the Cloud Room asked the candidates if they agreed that the most recently negotiated Seattle Police contract shows weakened accountability, and asked how each of them plan to address the next collective bargaining negotiation slated for December 2020.

Lewis, who is a fourth-generation union member, said SPD bargained in good faith, but reached an agreement with the mayor that did not reflect several guidelines for police accountability as stipulated by the Seattle City Council. Topics addressed by the council's ordinance on the subject include the movement of timetables for investigations and broader subpoena power for the Office of Professional Accountability. He recommended that when the police return to the bargaining table, they should take Robart's ruling, and the council’s ordinance, seriously.

Pugel took a slightly different stance and urged SPD to take swifter action in returning to the bargaining table.

"To maintain the trust in the community that we serve, and the… community that many of these officers live in, they should cooperatively meet with the mayor and exercise their right, not the demand, but the right, to reopen (negotiations)," he said.

However, he cautioned against violating a union's autonomy.

"There are reopeners available, and to maintain the trust and the sense of procedural justice for you, the community that we serve, I would urge them to do it, but they can't be forced," Pugel said. "I would not force any union to do that."

Walkinshaw said three quarters of all establishments in Seattle have 10 or fewer employees. While the mayor established the Small Business Advisory Council, it has been underutilized, he said.

"How do you make sure small businesses feel heard and are authentically represented in your decision making?" Walkinshaw said.

Pugel and Lewis both said the most effective way to incorporate small businesses in the decisions that affect their communities is to meet with the business owners face-to-face and listen to their concerns.

Dunn asked the candidates how they would keep up the city's current momentum and collaboration with WSDOT regarding the freeway blocks separating Capitol Hill and First Hill from downtown. Much talk was centered around possible projects for the area, including a balance of dense housing and green space.

Pugel said Seattle has the least amount of green space of any major city in North America, and that he will support a vision that includes green space and dense housing throughout the corridor.

Lewis agreed.

"If we can figure out a way to put more density, more people, more housing opportunities in the center of the city next to the epicenter of where folks are working in health care on First Hill, working downtown in the economic core of our city, it really is a great opportunity to be able to do that without it having a displacement effect on the other neighborhoods that are nearby," he said.