Naveed Jamali has been quietly campaigning for the Seattle City Council District 7 seat for a few months now, meeting with potential constituents at unscheduled listening sessions. He decided to make things official after Councilmember Sally Bagshaw confirmed she wouldn’t seek a fourth term next year.

“A lot of this is listening to people,” Jamali said. “One of the things you do in the intelligence agency is listen to data.”

Jamali is a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer who worked for the Office of Naval Intelligence, and he recently ended a stint as an intelligence analyst for MSNBC.

He moved to Queen Anne with his wife Dr. Ava Brent, and their sons Toby and Casey, 6 and 9, in 2016.

Jamali said he had grown tired of the political gridlock he saw in national politics, and then locally. He began thinking about running for the city council seat in the spring, when he heard Bagshaw might not be running in 2019.

“Being a local legislator, there’s much more opportunity to be an agent of change, and that’s very much what I want to do,” Jamali said.

He said he respects the work Bagshaw has done on the council for nearly a decade now, but added the city is changing and needs to move forward.

The problem Jamali sees with the current city council is that it jumps to conclusions about legislation without the right context, he said.

“The first part of this is, what are the problems we need to solve,” Jamali said.

Making Seattle more livable means making the city more affordable, he said, but it also means increasing access to opportunity and allowing for growth.

The city has been in a state of emergency over its homeless crisis since November 2015, and improving services and access to housing has been a major focus for the council over the last three years.

Jamali said he sees no benefit to people sleeping in tents or RVs.

“But, then again, it’s not about ping-ponging people from one part of the city to another,” he said.

Jamali is wary of the $90 million the city spends annually addressing homelessness, and isn’t a fan of outsourcing services to third-party providers and their subcontractors. It lacks accountability and transparency, he said, and he’d like to know if the city could do more in-house.

“We have $90 million. The questions is, is that $90 million spent better outsourcing this, or is it better spent hiring case managers and making city employees,” Jamali said. “Is it better increasing the police force? These are fair questions, and I think they’re worth asking.”

Jamali hinted at a potential run for city council when he spoke with KTTH Radio’s Jason Rantz in September about finding discarded needles and used condom during a family outing around the waterfront.

The city has been struggling to find a suitable location for a safe consumption space or community health engagement location (CHEL), where people with addiction could more safely take drugs under medical supervision — heroin being the biggest focus — and have access to medical and social services, clean needles and a place to rest afterward. The needles would also be disposed of at the CHEL, which is supposed to reduce the numbers found in parks and other public spaces.

“I see these as things that just kick the can down the road, because safe injection sites, I don’t see how that solves the larger problem that we’re facing,” Jamali said. “We have to have an honest discussion about what exactly is the problem of homelessness.”

He said he sees the city benefiting most from strategies that prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, as well as keeping those who have been living on the streets for a short period of time from becoming chronically homeless.

A number of the city’s efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing options in Seattle have been delayed by appeals.

Hearing Examiner Ryan Vancil issued a decision that clears Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation for upzones across the city on Nov. 21, with a requirement that the city do further analysis on potential impacts to historical sites.

A coalition of neighborhood groups argued the FEIS did not adequately assess impacts to traffic, the economy, air quality, tree canopies and open spaces.

“The concerns I have with MHA is, does it really create affordable housing,” Jamali said, “especially if there’s a safety net where people can just pay out of it.”

Under MHA, developers have the option to increase new building heights by either providing affordable housing onsite or paying a fee that the Office of Housing uses to fund affordable housing projects elsewhere.

Jamali said livability has a lot to do with access to jobs, good schools and mass transit. Areas in the city that have those, he said, are always going to be expensive due to a free market.

“It’s hard to envision that there’s ever going to be affordable housing built in Queen Anne or Magnolia,” Jamali said.

He also doesn’t see increased density connected to affordable housing being achieved by increasing the numbers of accessory dwelling units in single-family zones.

The Queen Anne Community Council is currently appealing a final environmental impact statement for legislation that would do that, arguing the city is illegally eliminating single-family zoning and erred in its findings that the legislation would have few impacts by not assessing more neighborhoods before reaching its determination.

Jamali said he sees developers either creating one- and two-bedroom apartment rentals or expensive single-family homes, and he’d like to see more density in the middle.

“We need to have more housing, and upzoning Queen Anne is just not going to solve that problem,” he said.

Jamali said there’s room for development in Interbay, and the trick is to encourage developers to look at that and other neighborhoods as viable sites.

Interbay will likely see more growth when 4,500 employees with Expedia Group begin traveling there to work on the travel giant’s new 40-acre campus next fall.

“The short answer is that I think it is a positive,” Jamali said of Expedia’s move into Seattle, “but I think that what it shows is the need for infrastructure. We’re going to have a lot more people driving in, so there’s concern about parking. But, you know, we can’t go backward. I think that it’s important for Seattle to understand that Seattle’s not a city of timber, we’re not a city of Boeing, we’re not a city where there’s gold or oil in the hills. The reason that big businesses are here is simply because there’s a pool of talent.”

If the city isn’t livable for those employees, he said, then the big businesses will leave with them.

When asked if he would support a potential revisiting of an employee-hours tax —more commonly referred to as a head tax — on large employers, Jamali was noncommittal, but said he’s willing to listen to any idea that can be proven to be beneficial for Seattle.

“It’s not about being pro big business, but it is about understanding that Amazon employs a lot of people in this city; they’re our neighbors,” he said. “We need to make this a city that makes sense for the people that work there, not just Amazon but small businesses as well.”

Bagshaw has promised to use her last year in office to work on securing funding for a 1:1 replacement of the aging Magnolia Bridge. The cost to do that is estimated at $340-$420 million, and likely will take more than a year fund entirely.

“We know we need to do something about the bridge. This is not a political question, it’s a factual one,” he said.

The closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is expected to signal the beginning of a years long “period of maximum constraint,” or what SDOT is now coining as the Seattle Squeeze, when congestion in the city is expected to be the worst in history.

Mayor Jenny Durkan continues to propose a congestion fee to not only reduce traffic, but also to combat climate change.

Improving the city’s transportation infrastructure is important, Jamali said, as is reducing congestion.

“I think the goal should be, how can we get less cars on the road,” he said, “but we can’t do that by just penalizing people for driving.”

Jamali wants to see mass transit services improved, adding he has no problem with the city being more bike-friendly, though cycling really isn’t an option for people with lengthy commutes. 

The District 7 candidate lauds the Seattle Police Department for its reforms since entering a consent decree with the Department of Justice in 2012.

His concern is that the police force isn’t growing the way it should in order to address growth in the city, seeing retention and recruitment as the major challenges in that effort.

“What I see is that it’s a net gain,” he said. “We’re losing as many as we’re replacing. Are we really growing the police force? If we are, it’s non-significant numbers, and I think all Seattle should want a police force that’s the best of the best, best recruited and best trained. I think we all benefit from that.”

The City of Seattle is currently reviewing six types of surveillance equipment, asking the public to weigh in regarding concerns about their uses and potential privacy violations.

With Jamali’s background in military intelligence, Queen Anne News asked him for his thoughts about the use of such technologies in Seattle, which came back to the issue of the city’s police shortage.

“We’re basically a police force that’s reactionary, going from one call to the other. Surveillance doesn’t deter a criminal,” Jamali said. “Surveillance is a great tool as a reactive, investigative component. Really, the core problem is how do we get more cops on the street.”

If surveillance technologies were used to supplement the lack of police, he said, that would be concerning.

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