Q&A with Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera

Getting to know Renton’s city leaders: Councilmember Carmen Rivera

How well do you know your Renton City Council? The Renton Reporter is asking Renton City Council members questions to learn more about their leadership styles, top issues of concern and more.

This week, the Renton Reporter spoke with Councilmember Carmen Rivera.

Q: What is your relationship with Renton and what do you do outside your role as a city council member?

A: I am a first-generation Renton resident, born and raised. I’ve seen Renton grow a lot in my life, and recall seeing the “Renton City Limits” sign move from right around the corner of my home to near Fairwood, as more areas have been incorporated into the city. I have always called Renton home and love the community that reside here. I am a graduate of the Renton School District, attending Tiffany Park and Talbot Hill Elementary Schools, Nelsen Middle School, and Lindbergh High School.

Outside my role as a city council member, I am a full-time Assistant Teaching Professor at Seattle University for the Department of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Forensics. I teach classes like Intro to Criminal Justice, Forensic Psychology, Offender Profiling, Juvenile Justice, Criminology, and Criminal Justice Organizations (one of my growing favorites). I was recently inducted into the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu, as an honorary member, due to my distinguished service to scholarship, service, and loyalty to the values of Jesuit education.

Q: Why did you want to become a Renton City Councilmember?

A: I returned to more active civic engagement in 2020 and began watching what was happening locally, particularly Renton. As discourse grew around the Red Lion as a shelter for the unhoused, I attended city council meetings and provided personal testimony as someone who has worked with unhoused youth. I was saddened by the 5-2 decision to pass Ordinance 5996: Emergency Interim Zoning Controls – Homeless Shelters, eventually closing the Red Lion, and felt it an ineffective decision. That has shown itself true in the uptick of unhoused individuals trying to survive on our city streets, with few services. I feel strongly we need to take a pragmatic approach to this crisis I have witnessed grow out of hand over the past decade. As someone with direct social service experience, I believe in supporting policy that provides resources and avenues out of houselessness, through treatment services and workforce development.

Q: What do you love or admire about the Renton community?

A: I truly love and admire the passion of our residents. They are the ones who truly push Renton to be ahead of the curve, and it is our job as elected public servants to listen to them. I love hearing them come to public comment and organize around issues that matter to them. We all have a common love for Renton, as we all love our home immensely. Renton is one of the most beautiful cities in King County. I love all of our natural green spaces where I grew up playing. Renton is an ideally located, luscious city.

Q: What are some of the biggest problems facing the Renton community currently?

A: I believe one of the biggest problems facing the Renton community is adapting to her growth – I think the population has grown over 150% in my lifetime and we need to build the infrastructure to support it. We need to ensure we have the housing, especially affordable housing for first-time homebuyers with pathways to homeownership. Nearly half of our city rents and currently we are on par with the rental rates of Seattle. I believe investing in our Rental Registration Program as well as funding our Department of Equity Housing and Human Services (EHHS) so they can partner with community-based organizations to provide more treatment and behavioral health services to those who are struggling, are two immediate priorities that would impact a vast amount of Renton’s population. Addressing both housing and treatment services are part of holistic public safety, attacking some of the root causes of crime and building several tools of public safety.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your career as a council member, or what are you already most proud of?

A: I hope to work with the city council and mayor to pass pragmatic and impactful policy that will positively impact the residents of Renton and her future generations. I would like see us invest in our city through community workforce agreements or project labor agreements while developing employment pipelines. I believe workforce development is essential and I think creating employment pipelines throughout the city for our new graduates or those who are unemployed would benefit everyone. I am very proud of supporting the partnership between Project BeFree with the City and Renton Police Department, as they were one of the first community organizations I met with and re-introduced Chief Schuldt to when I first joined the council. Additionally, connecting the Renton Police Department to join Seattle University’s Criminal Justice Advisory Board As a Criminal Justice professor, I introduce students seeking careers in law enforcement to Renton Police Department and connect them with Assistant Chief Rutledge who is always happy to schedule a ride along or coffee with them. We already have one graduate who has been hired by RPD. I think the best I can do is help connect and build bridges with our city.