Pierce County Executive – Ryan Mello

Municipal/Other Questionnaire

Candidate Info

Candidate Name:    Ryan Mello
Position Sought:     Pierce County Executive
Are you an incumbent for this position?     Non-incumbent
Home Legislative District:     Pierce County Council, District 4
Are you a Democrat?     Yes

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:     Eric Seibel
Website:     ryanmello.com
Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofRyanMello
Twitter:     https://twitter.com/RyanMelloTacoma

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience. Beyond your qualifications, what makes you the best candidate for this position or office? Please describe any specific background or unique perspective you offer and how those will help you accomplish your goals for the position sought. If possible, give practical examples.

Serving in local elected office for the last 17 years (Metro Parks Tacoma Commission, Tacoma City Council and Pierce County Council) along with serving as the Executive Director of the Pierce Conservation District for a decade has prepared me well to lead Pierce County. I have served in both policy making and executive roles and believe I have honed the skills of setting priorities, setting clear expectations, holding people accountable, communicating with the public and pushing aggressively to make the most impact possible.
I have been deeply connected to the community, currently serving on the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation Board of Directors, and previously served on the Board of Directors of the Tacoma Historical Society, Transportation Choices Coalition and Equal Rights Washington as a founding Board Member. I have not had the opportunity to be employed in an environment that was organized, however I value the labor movement so much that I joined the Steelworkers of America as an Associate Member.
Out of college, I stayed in Tacoma to join the domestic Peace Corps – the AmeriCorps Program – and did my service at the United Way of Pierce County. My assignment was to design programs that would instill a lifelong ethic of philanthropy and community service in young people. Through this experience I fell in love with Tacoma and Pierce County and the people and community-based organizations that make it so vibrant.
All of these experiences and more have enabled me to understand this community well and prepare to fight to make it safer, healthier and more prosperous. I will be ready to lead as Pierce County Executive from day one.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I believe that bold, competent, and experienced leadership is needed now more than ever and that the job of leading the second-largest county in Washington state is no place for on-the-job training. As we rebuild our institutions and economy after the pandemic, we must do so from the middle-out, not the top-down, and advance protections for working families that will enable us to come out of this crisis stronger than when we entered it so that we can be more resilient in the future.
I learned from my time on the Tacoma City Council that the major issues facing our community cannot only be addressed at the city level to have a high impact. Affordable housing, and limiting the displacement of working people, homelessness, building out our transit system, addressing traffic congestion, and building an economy that works for everyone must be done at the regional level.
That is why I want to take my record of bold, effective leadership and history of accomplishments for working people to the Office of the Pierce County Executive.

3. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

To win, I am building a diverse and inclusive coalition of organized labor, community advocates, environmental activists, business leaders, Democratic volunteers, and working families. Having the endorsement and support of the 31st Legislative District Democrats is essential to the success of my campaign.
I have dedicated my professional and civic life to advancing the principles of the Democratic party including being a founding Board Member of Equal Rights Washington (Washington State’s political voice for the LGBTQ community), serving on the Board of Transportation Choices Coalition (Washington States’ political voice advancing transit and non-motorized transportation policies and funding), and supporting many Democratic candidates’ campaigns for public office. I have worked on initiatives to conserve our air, soil, water, parks, fish and wildlife habitats, farm and forest lands, and other natural resources.
I am a trusted and tested Democratic candidate with experience in moving a bold, Democratic, and progressive agenda at both the Tacoma City Council and the Pierce County Council. I have a history of leading and advancing policies for labor and working people, LGBTQ people, women, low-income and working people, the environment, disabled people, and others who make up the heart of our Democratic Party.

4. What are your campaign’s most important themes, issues, or priorities (three to five)? Share issues or priorities specific to the office that you’re running for.

1 – Economic Prosperity
A good economy is one where businesses can thrive, and everyone has access to a good, family-wage job to provide for their family and invest in their future. I am committed to focusing on helping our small businesses thrive and keeping working people employed. I will also invest in affordable, quality childcare so that parents work while supporting a family. In a changing workplace with increased remote work and automation, I will invest in people’s skills so they can compete in this changing economy. We will protect good, family-wage jobs and ensure people who work hard and play by the rules can earn a decent wage, with benefits and be able to retire with dignity.
– Invest in more good-paying, family-wage jobs in Pierce County.
– Keep property taxes lower and more manageable for people on fixed incomes.
– Invest in better infrastructure – better streets, sidewalks, streetlights, calmer streets and parks- so businesses thrive and are economically competitive.

2 – Community Safety
Concerns on increasing violent and property crime are real and I support bold new criminal justice solutions to keep our communities safe. It starts with making sure public safety and justice officials have the resources they need to keep violent offenders behind bars and invest in solutions to reduce recidivism. We need to strategically bring down our property crime rate. I will invest in community, mental health and veteran’s courts so that people are held accountable while also getting the resources and support they need to not reoffend and get an opportunity to lead a better life for themselves.
– Keep our community safe by ensuring our law enforcement and public safety officers have the resources they need and we address public safety holistically
– Find solutions to end the opioid crisis
– Expand behavioral health programs so every community member has the access they need

3 – Housing Affordability & Homelessness
Everyone has the right to live in a safe, clean and affordable home. More than 40% of people in Pierce County pay more than 30% of their monthly income on housing – that’s too much. I support appropriate incentives and mandates to build more housing and to keep it affordable, especially for those most in need. Our seniors cannot get priced out of the homes they have lived in for years simply for not affording the property taxes. I pledge to work for solutions to ensure we all have an affordable and quality place to live. As Council Chair, I led the council in passing the Maureen Howard Affordable Housing Act to initially add 256 units of affordable housing in Spanaway and provide funding for thousands more affordable units across Pierce County in the coming years. The rising cost of housing is also a significant contributing factor to the homelessness crisis in the county and around the nation. We need policy and investment solutions that focus on the causes of homelessness like mental health services and employment opportunities.
– Building affordable housing for all, especially for seniors, veterans and disabled individuals
– Boldly and collaboratively addressing homelessness by investing in long-lasting solutions
– Housing First Policy to stabilize individuals and families
– Providing intensive casework services to support individuals and overcome the barriers that contribute to people becoming homeless in the first place.

4 – Conservation & Rural Support
For two decades, I have worked to protect our environment and support our natural lands. As the Executive Director of the Pierce Conservation District, I worked around the county – focusing on conservation initiatives that protected our working farms and forests, worked to recover our salmon populations, improved our parks and much more. I will continue my longstanding efforts to recover the health of Puget Sound, protect our working farms and forests from urban sprawl, complete our trails connecting all of our communities, improve our parks and recreation facilities and fight the climate crisis with the urgency it demands.
– Expand and improve public transit, neighborhood streets, and transportation infrastructure in rural areas.
– Increase broadband access to all corners of our community
– Support family farms, forests and natural lands.
– Protect our great quality of life with cleaner air, water and great parks, rural heritage and working lands.

Part II – Yes/No Questions, please qualify your answer if necessary

1. Do you support steps to build a fairer economy through tax reform and progressive taxes as wealth increases?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #1     I support policies and strategies such as the capital gains tax in Washington state and using those revenues for childcare, K-12 and other essential services, investing in our K-12 and higher education system and strong apprenticeship programs so we have a strong, skilled workforce, community workforce agreements so that we are having labor peace and strong labor agreements, strategies that make it easier to form a union and organize workplaces and further strategies that limit our regressive tax structure in Washington state such the Working Families Tax Credit program and more. I also strongly support strategies that raise wages and narrow the wealth disparity in our community such as living-wage initiatives.

2. Do you support robust investment in publicly owned housing/subsidized housing for elderly and low-income individuals/families, and zoning changes to support such housing?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #2     My record on the Tacoma City Council and as Chair of its Infrastructure, Planning & Sustainability Committee and Chair of the Puget Sound Regional Council’s (PSRC) Growth Management Policy Board for about 6 years have demonstrated that I lead in this area.
Examples include the policies we were able to include in PSRC’s Vision 2050 update, the establishment of Tacoma’s Mixed-Use Centers Code, establishing Pierce County’s Purchase & Transfer of Development Rights Code and Program, the Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit Code, and numerous other progressive improvements of Tacoma’s Comprehensive Plan, Land Use & Development Code during my time on the Tacoma City Council. I also co-led many efforts on affordable housing that included the design of the Affordable Housing Action Strategy (AHAS) and the first-ever implementation of inclusionary zoning in Tacoma or Pierce County included in the Tacoma Mall Sub Area Plan.
As Pierce County Executive, I will continue to work hard on the affordability of housing for seniors and working people – people who work hard in our community such as firefighters, teachers, and grocery clerks should be able to afford to live in the same area.

3. Developer impact fees are allowed under the Growth Management Act. Should they be increased to help pay for needed improvements to our roads, parks, and schools?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #3    

4. Do you support building a municipally owned and operated broadband system in your city or jurisdiction?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #4    

5. Do you support local investments to address climate change where applicable?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #5     Specifically, I will allocate funding for tree canopy increase and preservation enforcement and will also change the land use code and investments in parks, community gardens, and other community facilities that substantively improve the conditions for people to live healthier lives. We will start with the implementation of these investments with lower income and communities with higher densities of people of color as this is where stark inequities of health and opportunity are clear. I will promote policies that decrease air pollution such as a regional and statewide clean fuels policy, electric vehicle infrastructure, and the elimination of new and expansion of existing fossil fuel and other toxic facilities.
As Pierce County Executive, I will continue to be a champion of our natural environment and a leader in the effort to mitigate the most destructive aspects of climate change.

6. Do you support women’s unrestricted access to reproductive healthcare?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #6    

7. Do you support laws regulating the purchase, ownership, and carrying of firearms?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #7    

8. Do you support the right of workers to unionize and bargain, including public employees?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #8     The right to organize and collective bargaining are fundamental to workers having a voice and power in the workplace and I unequivocally support the right to organize and collectively bargain. I have deep, authentic relationships with organized labor and have helped bargaining units navigate the City of Tacoma and Pierce County government in bargaining fair contracts. Over the years I have stood with workers as they organized new workplaces (such as a new long-term care facility in Tacoma with SEIU 775), stood with workers in many different places who were striking and for more fair contracts and safer working conditions (such as ILWU 23, striking nurses at St. Joe’s Hospital and Tacoma General Hospital, healthcare workers at WellFound Hospital, workers at Korean Women’s Association, and many others). I will continue to stand physically with workers as they organize new workplaces, bargain and when needed, strike for fair contracts, safer working conditions and stronger futures.


Part III – Free Response (Please answer at least four fully, and consider the additional three optional)

1. Why are you requesting Democratic endorsement? What aspects of the Democratic platform most resonate with you?

The 31st LD Democrats should support me for Pierce County Executive because our progress has been weakened with Republican Bruce Dammeier in the Executive’s Office for the last 7 years. A Democratic Executive, implementing the policies of a Democratic majority of the Council will be able to advance so much more for the people of Pierce County. I have demonstrated Democratic values with my work to advance LGBTQ equality, racial equity, labor and worker justice, focused accomplishments on affordable housing and those most vulnerable and legislative accomplishments on climate justice.

2. What public policy reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC and LBQIA+ individuals in our communities?

My sense of social justice was sparked at a young age growing up in Hawaii, working to protect special places and natural resources and being on the front lines of fighting for LGBTQ equality as a young man. Perseverance has been a value of mine as I do not give up fighting for what is right – regardless of obstacles and barriers – working in coalitions to build political power for good and to make progress, despite how slow it can be at times or how many steps backwards we are forced to take at times.
As County Executive, I plan on continuing to champion equity and justice in my role by:
• Working with the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Pierce County to evaluate policies and procedures with an equity lens and implement an equity framework for all investments and operations
• Continue to bring a strong equity lens to my own decision-making process
• Ensure we log diversity elements for appointments at Pierce County so that when making various appointments to Boards, Commissions, and other decision-making bodies we can see how diverse (or not) the current body and applicant pool is and with that knowledge steer decisions with equity, diversity, and inclusion at the center.
• Continue my staunch advocacy for environmental justice as black and brown communities are disproportionately impacted by carbon pollution, bad air quality, heat island effect and health effects exasperated by poor air quality, lack of ability to walk and recreate, eat healthy, quality food, and heat exposure.

I will continue my strong relationships and presence with leaders in black and brown, indigenous, and LGBTQ+ communities. I will ensure these communities have easy and regular access to decision-makers and ensure these voices are heard loud and clear and included in decision-making. I will go to these communities regularly, not wait for them to come to me.

3. What steps do you think need to be taken to improve voter turnout and increase voter trust in our election process?

4. What important local issues have you worked on (or taken an interest in) that you feel aren’t getting enough attention from elected leaders and the local media?

There are many parts of county government that need significant attention. There are 2 specific issues I will work to address if I am elected to County Executive. Firstly – the contracting process, especially with non-profit service providers for human services programs. The county’s contracting process takes too long, and it also takes too long for providers to get paid after the submission of their invoices. This puts an extraordinary strain on human services providers such that many are stopping to do business with Pierce County.
The other part of county government that needs attention is the inability of county government to be able to keep up with the costs of delivering core public services. The inability of revenues to keep up with expenses includes every aspect of county government – public safety and criminal justice, the maintenance of our infrastructure including roads, bridges, ferries, etc. and human services.

5. Please list at least three specific, concrete actions you would support to ease the homelessness crisis.

6. What safety, law, or justice issues are currently facing your jurisdiction, and how will you address them?

The main function of government is to keep a community safe from harm (public safety, food safety, drug safety, etc.), deliver services best delivered collectively (e.g. public safety, transportation and transit infrastructure, schools, parks, etc.) and create a level playing field so that our economy may work for more people and everyone can see their path to prosperity (e.g. minimum wage, paid leave, safe working conditions, civil rights enforcement, etc.).
There are significant and serious challenges to racial equity in our criminal justice system. People of color are disproportionately arrested, jailed, and convicted of various crimes as compared to white communities. African Americans are 5.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. This stems from communities of color being policed more than white communities and the racial bias of all aspects of the justice system including police, prosecutors, judges, and jurors.
As Pierce County Executive, I will advocate for the following policies to affect systemic change:
• Regular anti-bias training for all Pierce County Sheriff deputies and Deputy County Prosecutors.
• Body cameras for all Pierce County Sheriff deputies.
• Establishment and funding for more alternative courts such as community, veterans, and mental health courts where individuals may have appropriate pathways to justice other than jail for non-violent crimes that better support individuals away from recidivism.

7. What are the transportation/transit challenges which face your jurisdiction and how would you address them? What role does green energy play in your proposed solutions?

The main challenges to our current Pierce County transportation system are reliability, safety, convenience, and low-income accessibility.
I support going to the voters to increase revenues for Pierce Transit to deliver more service hours especially earlier in the day and late into the night for shift workers and more frequent service so that it is reliable and convenient for more riders. I also have advocated for and continue to support the additional strategies we have deployed to ensure the system is more reliable and safer for all riders. These include initiatives such as hiring incentives for operators, better contracts for Pierce County employees so we are competitive in the marketplace, our new alternative crisis response staff to keep the system safe, upgraded bus shelters, and new programs such as the Runner service and other initiatives. I have also championed the use of ORCA Lift (low-income fare program) at Pierce Transit and system redesign that better meets the needs of most riders.
As a member of the Pierce County Council, I serve on the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners and have done so for seven years now. I also served on a non-profit Board of Directors, Transportation Choices Coalition, whose mission is to advocate for policies and funding that improve public transportation in Washington state.
As Pierce County Executive, I would be able to continue to advocate for a safe, reliable, and effective transit system that serves the needs of working people in our community.

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name:     Eric L. Seibel
Date (mm/dd/yy):     05/01/2024

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