Wade Sowders for Seattle City Council, District 7

District 7 - Downtown - Belltown - SLU - Queen Anne - Interbay

My name is Wade, and I want to build.

Reach out to me! I want to hear from you- about what you think, about what you want, about what I can do for you- and I will do my best to respond to as much as I can.


Housing is the highest priority. Housing is the largest component of the cost of living, and so decreasing its cost is the simplest and most effective way to improve the general welfare today, and in doing so alleviate a great many unrelated problems and stresses. All efforts must be made and incentives aligned to build more housing. We must upzone broadly and widely, and move to a flexible form-based code to dramatically increase the variety in allowable types and locations of housing.

Regulate only the general form and overall structure of a building, not its usage, to open up the most possible options for unit count, size, and design. Additionally do not distinguish between residential and commercial usages, universally permitting area-appropriate multi-use buildings. Strictly enforce strong rules on nuisance, noise, and soundproofing, and maintain and expand tree canopy as best we reasonably can.

Get as close to by-right building as possible, whereby small to medium development projects require only a minimum of paperwork and approval. Rules should be clear, simple, and strict in order to be easy to meet, with a minimum of subjectivity. Remove as many review processes as possible, as these slow down and raise the cost of development and often serve as vetoes. Reduce or eliminate design review and monoculture-inducing codes to permit more variety and creativity in design. Speed up the permitting process, aiming for project approvals within only a few weeks. Reducing the overhead of development will lower the paper cost significantly, and in the long run make it easier for organic small-scale development to occur.

Eliminate the property tax on improvements to encourage investment.

Broad upzoning and clear regulations will dramatically increase the housing supply and decrease housing costs. Correcting the imbalance between jobs and housing will help resolve persistent and widespread hiring problems across nearly every industry. Permitting small-scale, neighborhood-appropriate commercial activity anywhere will further benefit small business, and small business will benefit their local neighborhoods. More housing will grow the economy more than nearly any other policy.

This process will take time. New development starts at the top of the housing market, but progress will be made across all income levels even from the beginning. After an abrupt initial transition, we will see more incremental and gentle evolution, with more small projects over time.


Seattle's tax system is severely dysfunctional. It is regressive, relying heavily on sales tax. It is capricious, as many of its revenue sources are vulnerable to economic swings. It is often strange, as it invents increasingly creative new forms of tax to make up budget shortfalls and to pay for highly demanded public services.

Land value taxation is the best form of taxation, and comes with a long list of well-established major economic and social benefits. Accordingly, it should be the preferred source of government revenue: all existing and new taxation should be shifted onto land. The direct effects of this is an eventual net reduction in overall taxpayer costs and a simultaneous increase in available government revenue; the indirect effects are a reduction in rent-seeking and a return of profit to productive work and investment.

Taxing land encourages housing construction, and complements a permissive housing policy. It counters the speculative effects of zoning changes, and ensures the windfalls of housing supply increases go to the public in general, instead of the real estate industry. Land taxes are also stable in the face of changing economic winds, compared to sales tax revenue that swings chaotically and creates unnecessary difficulty and pain in government budgets and public services that depend on it too heavily. They increase with prosperity and desirability, incentivizing the government to work to its utmost to make every possible investment in the city. Land taxes are paid exclusively from the profit of land owners, and cannot be passed on to tenants.

Similarly, value capture is a powerful mechanism to fund large capital projects, and should be the preferred mechanism to fund mass transit. Well-chosen public improvements, especially transportation, increase nearby land value by more than the cost of the project through their mere presence, and by taxing this increase are able to pay for themselves. Major public transportation systems both American and abroad have been made profitable on the back of value capture, and applying the technique in Seattle will enable us to dramatically increase the pace of transit construction.


A heavy emphasis on addiction treatment should require little justification. Drug overdose is now one of the most common causes of death, and growing in volume and across more age ranges. Drugs and the system underpinning them create immense misery, and drive crime and social decay. And as fentanyl displaced heroin and heroin displaced prescription opioids, xylazine is now displacing fentanyl, and the era it heralds will be uniquely horrific.

There is no safe amount of fentanyl, and there must be no legal amount to possess. Drug usage must be strictly prohibited, decriminalization paired with intolerance, and the preferred enforcement is addiction treatment. Break up open-air drug markets, and bring offenders to a judge, with wide latitude to encourage or coerce treatment.

While gradual harm reduction techniques saw merit with heroin, they are less appropriate for a drug as lethal as fentanyl, as there is no slow path off of a drug that kills so quickly and randomly. Focus heavily on medication-assisted treatment, and make opioid substitutes and antagonists as freely available as possible. They should be easier for an addict to come by than the real thing.

Be patient and persistent, as relapse is common, and recovery can take a long time even in the best case.

Any reduction in unmanaged addictions translates directly to a reduction in the size of the illegal drug market and in crime, improving quality of life for everyone, and freeing up a significant amount of policing capacity to respond to other problems.


Prioritize outreach and case workers; a recurring limitation is that there is not enough of either of these. Ensure we are consistently tracking every homeless person within the city and frequently checking in with them, and that case workers have broad latitude to take whatever action and provide whatever supplies makes sense in context.

Most economically homeless people do not stay so for long, and can be quickly returned to self-sufficiency. Chronically homeless people are fewer in number, but may require years of support to be integrated into society, when it is possible at all. Increase the quantity and raise the quality of short-term shelters as high as we can. Prioritize safety, because a dangerous shelter serves nobody. Reduce the cost and overhead of building supportive housing and build as much as feasible.

The more is done to build more housing and bring down rents and cost of living, the fewer homeless there are, the less demand is placed on the system, and the more resources are available to serve more difficult cases. Long term reductions in this category of homelessness is accomplished only through appropriate housing and economic policy.


The Seattle police department should be staffed to two to three times current levels, broadly in line with the national average. This will provide the manpower to address even low-level property crime that currently cannot be prioritized, alleviate the stress of overtime on our officers, and permit the department to weight its time more heavily towards prevention and public service than reacting to crime.

Significant increases in police hiring is likely to be extremely difficult in practice. In the short term, we can make the most of the limited police force we have by addressing drug addiction and repeat offenders, which presently consume a substantial amount of their time. Expanding alternative response teams and smaller, more specialized public safety departments, can also help distribute the workload- police are being asked to do too many things that should not be part of their job, and those are best addressed by expanding social services.

A fast and consistent response to crime is more important than a severe one. The majority of offenses do not rise above the level of a ticket and a fine, but a large police department is required to be able to write them consistently for even low-level offenses.


Who are you?

I am Wade Sowders, a software engineer at Amazon, and I moved here about seven years ago. I live in Denny Triangle.

I grew up in the rural Midwest and, like many others, accidentally turned an early fascination with computers into something productive by learning how to program. I studied mathematics while working part time, and thinking about where I was going to go and what I was going to do afterwards. I wanted to live in Seattle more than anywhere else, and I considered myself lucky to find work here.