Cary Moon: Idealistic but not necessarily unrealistic
A shiny, deflated, multicolored unicorn balloon floats listlessly on the door to a conference room filled with a few folding chairs and a couple tables. The office floor is bright and airy, mostly empty save for some card tables and “Moon for Mayor!” posters on the walls.
“That’s Esmeralda,” mayoral candidate Cary Moon said. “We got her when The Stranger endorsed us.”
Moon walks in with her pink laptop and moves with ease, breezing through the audio setup and bright lights shining in her face like a pro. She turns to the camera, poised and ready. You would never know she’s only been a political candidate for a few months.
Urban planner and Seattle Mayoral candidate Cary Moon speaks at her office on her platform, homelessness and the changing landscape of the city.
Aurora San Miguel
This election cycle was like none other. When news broke that now former Mayor Ed Murray had been accused of sexual assault, what was going to be a relatively standard race quickly got turned on its head, and the stakes for the mayoral race rose rapidly.
Whoever wins the election will assume office that same day election workers certify the results and will be responsible for leading the city of Seattle out of what has been a tumultuous year. It is a race away from scandal, a race to become the city’s first female mayor in 89 years, and a race to have the best solutions to Seattle’s most pressing issues — homelessness, housing affordability, and transportation.
As Moon and her opponent, former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan, near the end of an intense campaign cycle, many Seattle voters, including students at the UW, remain unconvinced about which candidate they should cast their vote for.
Born in Indiana, Moon earned a bachelor’s degree in operations engineering from the University of Michigan and later went on to earn a master’s in landscape architecture with a certificate in urban design from the University of Pennsylvania. She ran the operations end of her family’s business for several years and eventually went on to start a company, Landscape Agents. Her company was hired and began working to create the Pioneer Square Neighborhood Plan, which in addition to citing the need for more middle- and high-end apartments, called for a downtown waterfront park that Moon would spend years trying to build.
Moon co-founded the People’s Waterfront Coalition, which pushed for a waterfront with a park and one that was free of the viaduct. Although the city eventually decided to go with the viaduct plan, she won accolades for her involvement, vision, and activism.
Critics of Moon argue that she lacks the management experience, formal political experience, and concrete accomplishments required to become the mayor of a city with 12,000 employees and $5.8 billion budget. Moon believes her background in urban planning, architecture, and activism give her the qualifications necessary to be an effective mayor.
“I love this city so much,” Moon said. “We have incredible potential … and we need someone who understands urban growth, who has the courage and the backbone to stand up to special interests, and understands solutions to some of these challenges in the mayor’s office.”
Moon said she has several top priorities for if she is elected mayor, with some being concrete policy solutions and others ideological shifts she’d like to see take place in Seattle.
She listed the housing affordability crisis, the homelessness crisis, deep income divide, and the traffic and transportation issues as some of her top priorities.
“I also want to look a little bit more deeply at how we share power,” Moon said. “Because one of the issues that has come up in our city, especially in the last few years is that we are simply not sharing power across race and class and gender.” She cited Block the Bunker, Black Lives Matter, the Seattle Peoples Party, and Nikkita Oliver’s campaign as examples of push back in recent years against traditional power structures in politics.
As a first-time candidate in a field of 21 candidates, Moon spoke about how she initially had trouble distinguishing herself, specifically in terms of collecting donation.
“I did not have a big list of donors, I did not have access to Ed Murray’s list of donors, I am building support on person at a time,” Moon said.
In the primary, as the campaign was building momentum, Moon matched donations with money from her own wealth, because she felt that she had a “duty and responsibility to use [her] privilege … for good.”
Moon spoke about how she worked to help develop and pass Honest Elections Seattle, an initiative passed last year that established the democracy voucher program, and how she hopes the city will move more toward publicly-financed campaigns for all races and candidates. Until then, she is up against the “machine of corporations and donors who are on particular mailing lists who will go towards the kind of mainstream candidate.”
She briefly criticized the Murray administration for what she referred to as “real trust issues” and spending the past four years shrinking the transparency of government, which is one of the reasons she’s working to bring back trust in government and wants to work directly with communities to rebuild accountability and faith in their elected officials.
While on the surface Moon and Durkan may seem similar, once voters begin combing through platforms dramatic differences emerge. Their varied approaches to the homelessness crisis is one place to look.
Moon is a proponent of low-barrier shelters, tiny house villages, sanctioned encampments, and she has come out in support of Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s proposed ordinance that would provide special permitting to homeless individuals living in RVs.
“These are part of a short term solution in how we invite folks inside and create a safe place for them,” Moon said. “And then we can go clean up the encampments that were left behind, but we have to have a place for people to come inside and not spend money [on] the sweeps which is just chasing them from one location to another and throwing their lives into further chaos and sometimes danger.”
The homelessness crisis and housing affordability problem are irrevocably linked, and Moon’s solution to the affordability crisis begins right at the root of the problem: There just isn’t enough housing for the influx of newcomers moving to Seattle every day, thereby widening the income divide, driving housing prices up, and forcing people out of their homes.
Moon offers a myriad of solutions to the housing problem, including loosening zoning requirements to allow tiny houses, backyard cottages, and multi-family housing in areas that currently consist of single-family homes. She wants to ramp up public housing and use public lands to build more housing.
While both Durkan and Moon recognize that the city has a responsibility to get homeless individuals inside now, Moon takes it a step farther than Durkan, pledging to end encampment sweeps and supporting a universal right to shelter.
As mayor, Moon also wants to do more to protect tenants rights and work toward eviction prevention, create a more comprehensive tenant’s bill of rights, provide legal services and relocation assistance, and look at rent stabilization.
When asked about the main differences between herself and Durkan, Moon said that “experience and commitment to shared power and changing how we make decisions in this city” were the two biggest.
All of Moon’s policies focus on a more inclusive, transparent, and welcoming approach to city politics to try and make the system work for everyone, all while acknowledging serious systemic issues.
“It’s easy to get checked out of politics because politics frankly doesn’t work for a lot of people,” Moon said. “We need folks to also run for office and be part of how government works, because the only way we’re going to make these big systemic changes is both inside and outside government. Be inside and outside. Participate and push. Democracy is at risk.”
It is impossible to discuss these two candidates without addressing the elephant in the room: Murray’s sexual assault allegations and eventual resignation. Moon took a moral stand early on and called for Murray’s resignation weeks after the first allegations of sexual abuse surfaced. Durkan failed to formally condemn him until he was accused for a fifth time.What Moon may lack in political experience, she makes up for in a progressive vision for the city and decades of city planning experience.
“Get involved,” Moon said. “Participate. Run for office. We need an energized civic dialogue, we need smart solutions and we need movements and strong momentum for change.”