King County Council, District 1
Black wealth remains near zero due to centuries of systemic anti-Black racism and is on a trajectory to only worsen. In Seattle, white wealth is nearly 20x more than Black wealth. What specific actions will you take to close the Black-white wealth gap?
How much of the Black-white wealth gap will you close while in office?
Who are you working with in the Black community to close it?
How will you support investing federal funding directly and specifically into the Black community in the next two years?
At King County, we have prioritized investing equitably with respect to pandemic response with a focus on the black community, particularly in South King County. This is true not only for the federal funds before our best starts for kids Levy and our veterans seniors and human services Levy.
I have worked closely with Michelle Merriwheather at the urban league to support their work with specific grants And policy initiatives, including my ordinance to create Juneteenth as a holiday at King County.
I’ve been a long time supporter of the Breakfast Group’s mentoring initiative, securing county dollars for that work. I believe that support for strong starts for young people and support through their educational years as well as access to good paying union jobs through strong apprenticeship programs, all of which I have been a strong advocate for, are a path to economic opportunity and success.
There is a crisis in Black health in this region. In King County: Black babies are more 2x more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies; Black birthing people die 3x more than white birthing people; Black residents die of diabetes at 3x the rate of white residents; Nearly half of all Black adults in King County are food insecure; Black adults are 3x more likely to be living in poverty; Black adults are evicted at 6x the rate of white adults; Black people in King County contracted COVID-19 at 3x the rates of whites; and yet Black community received less than 2% of federal relief funding.
This region boasts some of the most sophisticated, renowned hospitals and medical facilities in the world. The disparities in medical treatment received by Black communities are appalling, with COVID-19 serving as just the most recent flashlight into this dark and disturbing reality. What are your specific plans to invest in Black community health?
In the entire Pacific Northwest (OR, WA, ID, MT, WY) there are zero Black community-owned, federally qualified health clinics. What are your specific plans to support base-building Black community-owned clinics? Specifically, the Tubman Center for Health and Freedom (TCHF), Somali Health Board (SHB), Surge Reproductive Justice (SRJ), African American Health Board and more?
When I shared the King County Board of Health, I put reducing disparities across racial and ethnic lines, as the top goal for the board’s work plan. I also convened a series of workshops for the board to address racial disparities and increase its focus on this issue. As a result, we began collecting more data to identify disparities and declared racism as a public health crisis, demanding that the health department prepare policy programs and proposals to illuminate the identified any qualities and health outcomes. I strongly believe that healthcare provided by and for one’s peers is better and more effective healthcare, and so I am supportive of community efforts to enhance culturally responsive and community driven healthcare Organizations.
Equity means ownership. Thriving Black communities require control and agency over land. We prioritize Black land acquisition as a foundational pillar to our work. As demand for land grows at an unprecedented pace, the rapid gentrification, active divestment from, and exclusion of Blacks from Seattle and King County is important not merely due to the dismantling of historical Black cultural and societal spaces, but also the socio-economic, health, wealth, and education fallout resulting from Blacks being pushed out of the State’s largest economic and cultural engine. What is your specific short and long-term plan to rectify this region’s abysmal Black land ownership rates?
What is your plan to rapidly advance Black home ownership rates?
What is your plan to rapidly advance Black community land acquisition and restore historically Black cultural and societal spaces?
How much will you invest in the: (A) Keiro project - the first entirely Black community led and centered homelessness consortium with wraparound direct services; (B) Red (Black and Green) Barn Ranch - Black liberated farming and youth healing center; (C) Youth Achievement Center - a holistic co-housing complex that is designed to support homeless students, historically underserved students, system-involved youth?
What mechanisms will you put in place to halt gentrification across the state, specifically to stop corporate and private developers from buying up once affordable property and pricing out Black communities and families?
I agree. I have been an advocate for funding homeownership support programs, specifically Homesite, which helps lower income folks buy homes and build wealth. I am also a supporter of community land trust to reduce the impacts of “gentrification.” Specifically, I worked with the every day March leaders to add language in our budget requiring the county executive to explore a land trust for surplus land owned by King County adjacent to the youth jail. The prior plan was to sell this off to developers who could pay the most money, but I directed the county in a new direction, to work with community and explore means and methods to bring housing and services on the site and I have the land community owned.
The public education system is anti-Black. It uses harsh discipline policies that push Black students out of schools at disproportionate rates; denies Black students the right to learn about their culture and whitewashes the curriculum to exclude Black peoples' history, contributions, and accomplishments. It pushes Black teachers out of schools in Seattle-King County, and across the country, and spends entirely more money on imprisoning Black youth than on educating and healing them. How will you support pro-Black education?
How will you create and maintain Black community schools?
How will you establish and maintain restorative justice practices in schools to end the school-to-prison pipeline?
What will you do to ensure Black teachers are hired, that current educators receive anti-racist professional development, that schools implement Black studies curricula?
What will you do to ensure the Black community has control of schools that serve Black kids as well as education resources and levy funds that are meant for but rarely make it to Black youth?
Schools are not within the purview of King County government, however our best starts for kids Levy program invests hundreds of millions of dollars in providing strong starts and supports for children and youth. I was the leader in making sure that 30%-plus Of the levy monies would support youth — and not just infants — to ensure that we could bring necessary resources to mentor and care for young adults as they grow and work their way through challenges.
Already experiencing COVID-19’s economic fallout, conditions for Seattle’s Black community have worsened. Against that backdrop, KCEN and many others in the Black community mobilized to divest from policing and demanded correlating investment in pro-Black public safety solutions that work for us, for the first time in Seattle's history. This movement was driven by Black community and specifically called and continues to call for a reckoning with anti-Black racism (i.e., not a general “racial” reckoning, or a “BIPOC” movement).
Emboldened by the overwhelming support of thousands and thousands of community members, the Seattle City Council briefly upheld their pledge to divest from a percentage of the Seattle Police Department (SPD)'s bloated annual budget and invest modestly in Black communities. It should not have taken such prolonged, sustained community efforts for this change but we acknowledge the small percentage of divestment as a break from decades of votes to expand violent, anti-Black policing.
The work of reshaping this region into one that values all Black lives—and moves away from funding racist policing and towards resourcing true public safety—is overdue and not for non-Black folks, unaccountable gatekeepers or non-rooted folks to dictate. We advocated strongly for monies from the police budget to be invested directly into the Black community and are unmoved on that stance.
Last year’s accountability charter amendments demonstrate clearly the public’s demands that policing change at the County Level. What are your specific plans to divest from policing to invest in true public safety for Black communities for the first time in history? What are the tangible steps you will take?
What date will you close the Youth Jail in the first year of your term?
What specific steps will you take to shift investments from the criminal punishment system towards human services that are controlled, led and center Black community?
I was the sponsor and camping chair for the charter Amendments. I actively campaigned for them and personally funded the campaign. I strongly believe we need significant structural reform to our law-enforcement system. A required a community advisory committee be established to appoint a new sheriff and I insisted, facing significant blow back in objection, that “police reform advocates” have two positions on the committee.
I am the only King County Council member who opposed building the youth jail. I did it before they started construction but could not get support from my colleagues or the county executive. I was able to run legislation to Improve the facility but I am proud to see that my earlier position is now been adopted to close the jail within five years. It is a tragic waste of money that it was ever built and those funds could have been should’ve been used to build a community-based medically appropriate and trauma informed juvenile care system. We will now build that — but at additional cost to the community and delay for our youth.
I do believe that an early Initiative must be development of a third option when calling for help. Today we have two responses: police or fire. So many calls do not need either of those but rather an individual equipped to help with behavioral health or social service needs.
I rarely vote against ordinances that create new crimes or enhance penalties. I believe we need to carefully assess whether or not it is appropriate to criminalize conduct which to often leads to more harm than good.