Alex Hudson counts a crosswalk at the busy corner of James and Terry Streets as one small achievement of her days as director of the First Hill Improvement Association, achieved after watching hospital patients try to cross a four-lane arterial busy with downtown and freeway-related traffic.
When Hudson tried to enlist help from Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, none was offered aside from the suggestion: Why don’t you hold a demonstration? Hudson is announcing today that she will seek Sawant’s District 3 seat on the council.
Hudson is the third candidate to announce for the seat that militant socialist Sawant is vacating. Joy Hollingsworth announced on Martin Luther King Day, while The Stranger welcomed LGBTQ Commission co-chair Andrew Ashiofu to the race on Tuesday.
A League of Women Voters activist named Myrtle Edwards was, in the 1960s, one of the City Council’s first reformers. She ran under the moniker: “Always sound, always progressive.” Hudson, 38, current head of the pro-rail Transportation Choices Coalition, speaks of “servant leadership” and rebuilding a Council that is effective and progressive.
“I was feeling very strongly that I didn’t see solutions, didn’t see pulling forward (on the Council),” she said, relaxing at a café in Madrona, a neighborhood studiously ignored by the outgoing incumbent. Going on to describe Council life with Sawant, Hudson added: “You had yelling, screaming, not answering the phone, vilifying people – that’s not what leadership is about.”
Hudson has been negotiating for much of her life in Seattle. Operating out of an office in the Stimson Green mansion, she worked on urban design and open spaces on fast-growing First Hill, and negotiated on such fronts as getting a high-rise with affordable housing on the site of what would have been the First Hill light rail station.
She currently works out of Transportation Choices’ office at 3rd and Union, a vantage point for the city’s crises of homelessness, crime, and addiction. She has promoted multi-modal transportation, and worked for the goal of making public transportation free for everyone under 18 years of age. (Under-18 residents total 1.4 million in the Evergreen State.)
In an announcement statement, she declared: “My commitment to progressive change is second to none, but I believe in building bridges, not driving wedges, because over the years I’ve learned that’s how you most effectively translate good intentions into progressive results.”
Hudson lives on First Hill with her partner, former state Young Democrats chairman Derek Richards, and is raising as guardian a 14-year-old niece. The family is car-free. She is a renter, saying: “I gave up the idea of owning a home in this city a long time ago. She argues that city permitting procedures and fees can be an obstacle for months and months and add millions of dollars” to needed housing.
She doesn’t use the word, but Hudson is an advocate for incrementalism, negotiating to secure improvements and then returning to the table for more. In her First Hill job, she worked for offsets during construction of the new $2 billion convention center. She recalls a morning that started off with a meeting at the Labor Temple, then getting on her bicycle and riding to her next appointment at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “I’m probably one of the only people in the city who has a morning like this,” joked Hudson.
Of opponent Hollingsworth, she added: “I am not running on the assumptions of my grandmother. I am running on my accomplishments. I am a cancer survivor, guardian to a 14-year-old . . . I looove this place, I love my neighborhood, I love its rich culture, its vibrant local communities.”
Hollingsworth is scion of an old African American family. The reference by Hudson was to her opponent’s grandmother Dorothy Hollingsworth, the first Black member of the Seattle School Board. Joy Hollingsworth has lived in District 3 most of her adult life, but is deeply involved in a family-owned marijuana growing operation in Thurston County.
Ashiofu ran unsuccessfully for the State Legislature in the 37th District last year. He checks all the boxes at The Stranger, which promoted, advocated and defended Sawant for the past decade. “If he joined the [Council] today, he would be the only Black member, the only HIV-positive or queer member, and the only member who has disclosed that he was previously homeless,” wrote an admiring profile.
District 3 embodies the diversity of a Seattle that has added more than 100,000 residents in the past decade. Its constituents include more affluent single- family neighborhoods, Madison Park and Madrona, but also the renters of Capitol Hill and First Hill.
Hudson has roots that extend through the district. She was named one of “Seattle’s Most Influential People” in 2015 by Seattle Magazine. She is a board member at Bellwether Housing, the non-profit affordable-housing developer, as well as the Freeway Park Association and the Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation Policy Board. “I’m just a total geek for urbanism,” she said Thursday night.
What to expect if Hudson is elected? She would push for construction of the Central City Connector, the controversial First Avenue streetcar project. She would work hard on the West Seattle light rail extension, and “how to maximize station-area planning.” She would be deeply involved in developing a Seattle Transportation Plan to go with renewal of the pricey Move Seattle transportation levy.
She sees the public-safety crisis as fourfold – homelessness; “a public policy crisis; mental illness “so no one is forced to have a mental health crisis on the sidewalks; as well as crime. “We’re going to need to set up a new system of crisis support and pay people well,” said Hudson.
She wants the city to recruit new police officers, but cites a recent incident to show gaps in the city’s safety net. “I was walking at Freeway Park and I see someone sleeping on the ground beside his wheelchair. I saw him again later in the day and figured, this guy needs help. Who do I call?”
We are nine months away from an election that will remake the Seattle City Council and make for a Sawant-free Council. The current, fractured outfit shows up in polls with a 70 percent disapproval rating. With candidates staking out “lanes,” Hudson wants to be seen as the sound progressive.