Seattle’s Most Influential People 2019: Sightline Institute Founder and Executive Director, Alan Durning

Sightline Institute has produced some of the most important writings on the region’s housing shortage

By Erica C. Barnett

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November 4, 2019

This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the November 2019 issue, as part of the Most Influential People of the Year feature. Click here to subscribe.

Over the past few years, Alan Durning, the quiet, unprepossessing founder and executive director of Sightline Institute, the state’s leading climate and housing think tank, has helped frame the debate on an astounding number of local issues. Under Durning’s leadership, Sightline (founded as Northwest Environment Watch in 1993) has produced some of the most important writings on the region’s housing shortage, produced key reports and data that formed the foundation for pro-housing laws in Seattle, and argued effectively for inclusion and equity in conversations about development. Durning was also instrumental in drafting, passing and defending the Honest Elections Seattle Initiative, which (among other election reforms) provides every Seattle voter with $100 in publicly funded “democracy vouchers” to distribute among local candidates. During this year’s primary election, voters distributed $1.5 million to candidates through the democracy voucher program, upending the notion that only wealthy people can influence the outcome of elections. 

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