#TeresaTuesdays – Hate Has No Place Here; An Affordable Housing Infusion; Budget Week 6; and more!



Hate Has No Place Here

“We must stop accepting the illusion that this is the view of a few troubled individuals. It is not. Something larger is happening, and it is now upon us to respond.” ~ Rabbi Will Berkovitz, of the nonprofit Jewish Family Services at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle memorial for the people who were killed in a shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue.

Over the last weeks, we have seen atrocious actions across the country, seeking to punish critics of the federal administration, seeking to silence free press, seeking to advance white supremacy. It’s no surprise given the rhetoric from the darkest corners of white nationalism in the United States that this domestic terrorism is becoming more brash, more violent, and actualizing a message from the President toward his perceived enemies – the press, his critics, people of color, and people of different faiths.

This acrimony has been seen and felt locally, with white-supremacy groups aligning with anti-homelessness activists to stir discord and resentment in our city. We must reject the divisive, often violent discourse from the far right across the country, and here at home. Ours is a great city, and I refuse to bend to those who would turn us against each other in order to advance an agenda that takes care of those who have plenty at the expense of our neighbors most in need.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. As your Councilmember, I am continuing to fight for justice for our sisters and brothers, and will refuse to be bowed by efforts to legislate compassion from our duty as government. Instead, I continue to stand, and will continue to stand, for taking every opportunity to do what is right.

My heart is heavy, and I know how difficult it can be to find hope when times are so dark. But I know that, when we work together and lift each other, we do make positive change. I invite you all to continue to stand for doing what’s right, doing what is best for our neighbors and families in our communities.

$30 Million for Affordable Housing

Late last week, I was able to join leaders who helped celebrate a collaborative agreement that we came to with the Washington State Convention Center. Drum roll… we expedited $30 million for affordable housing that will be available this year to fund much needed housing efforts across the city. Through conversations with Pine Street, the Community Package Coalition, and with support from Councilmembers Johnson and O’Brien, we now have $30 million new dollars this year for housing needed today!

I was particularly touched by the words from Marty Kooistra, Executive Director of the Housing Development Consortium, a coalition of affordable housing developers:

“Thank you to everyone for pulling together the opportunity to celebrate this announcement. This is truly a moment in time when we should celebrate. Permit me to share just a few thoughts as to why:

First, we are dealing with a significant affordable housing crisis. In King County alone if we were to house everyone who is without a home or cost burdened we would need to create 156,000 affordable homes today. Our attention must be laser focused on unleashing the resources our prosperous region has to overcome this huge gap.

Second, this investment is part of an unprecedented public benefits package that was labored over with intense, focused and sometimes challenging negotiations. It was hard won by the negotiating parties led by the members of the Community Package Coalition and Pine Street Group. Everyone had to set aside their deepest convictions and find a comprised path forward. It was truly a feat that should be recognized here today and let me extend my thanks to those brave folks.

Finally, and related to this last point, is the need for us to come together across sectors to find solutions. The recent experience with the Employee Hours Tax served to drive us apart and to enliven distracting finger pointing and unhealthy rhetoric. We all need to admit that as it relates to this wicked problem of the lack of affordable housing and homelessness that we are all right and we are all wrong. The solutions are ones we will find when we come together not drive wedges. Let us celebrate this moment where we have agreed to a solution that comes at the right moment in time.”

Excellent advice. Thank you, Marty, and thanks for all that Housing Development Consortium does.

We are Deep in the Budget Discussions

We’re entering week 6 of council’s budget deliberations.  This week, we’ll be hearing about budget items Councilmembers have identified as areas of interest.  After listening to many of you, and meeting with many of you across Seattle, I’ve developed an initial list of priorities:

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Ensuring we have funding for affordable housing and that our development is equitable is a priority of mine. The proposed budget essentially flatlines investment in affordable housing in Seattle because we don’t have additional revenue. I am advancing a proposal to issue bonds against the Short-Term Rental Tax source to support equitable development projects that have a housing component. By front-loading this investment today, we can ensure that future generations benefit from access to open spaces, community centers, small business opportunities, and the community assets that enhance affordable housing investment.

 

EQUITABLE INVESTMENTS: Examining our city’s policies around Urban Villages and ensuring we have equitable growth strategies is a priority of mine. For 24 years, we have seen growth directed into certain parts of the city mainly through the Urban Village strategy, which squishes development to select pockets around the city. But studies have shown a possible disparate impact from this practice, restricting the opportunity for more affordable homes to be built around the city, and possibly contributing to communities of color and low-income households being displaced. So, I am asking for a Racial Equity Toolkit to be done on Seattle’s growth strategy, to ensure it is rooted in equity across our city.

 

PROMOTING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES: This past year we have seen an increase in several infectious diseases like Hepatitis A, influenza, tuberculosis and pneumonia, among others, that put those experiencing homelessness, and the community at large, at increased risk of severe illness or death. People experiencing homelessness often have limited access to medical care and have difficulty getting prompt treatment when needed. In this budget, I’m advocating for a communicable disease response team to address the spread and prevention of diseases among our neighbors sleeping outdoors and other vulnerable populations, and to address health needs in encampments and the broader unsheltered population.

 

COUNT US IN: Ensuring our decennial Census coming up in 2020 counts every resident is a priority of mine. Census counts determine how much federal funding we receive and help determine our national political representation, so, it’s important!  The federal government is proposing adding a citizenship question into the Census – discouraging many of our neighbors from participating. I am advancing a proposal to ensure we do this in coordination with our community partners, so we have a key person responsible for coordinating with our community partners, with the County and State’s response, and more. We don’t what to have future federal funding cut short because our full population wasn’t counted. It’s the fiscally wise thing to do, and by law we must count all people in our census. We must ensure our community isn’t intimidated by the census, and that all residents are counted in.

CHILD CARE: Ensuring our City’s workforce has what they need to make ends meet and have accessible childcare is a priority of mine. As our City grows, our needs grow. Seattle is one of the most expensive cities in the country to have childcare, especially for infant care. Access and affordability is a problem for most families regardless of income. Our downtown corridor, where many Seattle residents work, has very few childcare facilities with long waitlists and expensive rates. This leads to parents having to choose whether or not to join the workforce, figure out how to cobble together childcare, or travel long distances for childcare adding to stress.  I’m supporting budget items to figure out how we add more childcare facilities around the city and hope to lead by example with opening a facility right here at City Hall.

HUMAN SERVICE WAGES: Ensuring that those who provide care and service to our most vulnerable homeless community aren’t themselves homeless and living in poverty is a priority of mine. We’ve heard stories of human service providers who work as case managers, mental health counselors, chemical decency health professionals, and more living in the cars, going to food banks, losing their homes, simply because we don’t pay them enough to do this critical work. Thus, turnover and vacancy rates are high at our most critical organizations – that is no way to build trust with a vulnerable population and help stabilize folks. I’m working to support at the very least a 3.5% inflationary adjustment for our human service providers.

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YOU all Made This Possible

I was honored to be named as one of Seattle Magazine’s most influential people in Seattle. It is incredibly humbling to be on the list and to join such amazing local leaders fighting for a more just and equitable city. Thank you to local journalist Erica C. Barnett for such a great write-up.

As this week comes to a close, I’m incredibly grateful for the recognition from Seattle magazine and deeply appreciate all your notes of congratulations. I didn’t accomplish all we’ve done this year by being the loudest voice or going it alone. We did this by working together, with community and with my colleagues on Seattle City Council, by finding commonality, and by rooting policy changes in the experiences of those most affected. TOGETHER we passed the domestic workers bill of rights, higher wages for workers with disAbilities, prevented eBay-like rent-bidding online, expedited $30 million for affordable housing investments, prioritized public property for affordable housing and the public good – and so much more. These were unanimous votes, with large turnout and support from the communities affected.

So yes, stay mad about the injustices and inequity facing our city and nation, this can’t be the new normal and we must fight back. But turn toward each other, fight the “isms” that divide us and not one another, and let’s go make the changes we need together.

2018 was the beginning, and I am incredibly honored to be able to continue our efforts for greater shared prosperity and equity in access to housing and opportunity.

Don’t Forget to Vote!

We are ONE WEEK away from election day, and your ballot is due postmarked no later than Tuesday, November 6. Thanks to a change made by the County (and then the state) earlier this year, your ballot no longer requires postage to be sent in! You can also leave your ballot in a drop-box, located throughout Seattle and King County.

Lost your ballot? If you lost your ballot, or didn’t receive it, check in with King County Elections, and they will ensure you are provided with a new ballot, and that your vote counts. Another option: in-person voting at one of the Accessible Voting Centers.

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