Seattle City Council, Position 8
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?
We need progressive revenue to close the racial wealth gap, and I am proud to have helped pass the JumpStart Progressive Revenue Tax which can further address income inequality, the racial wealth gap, house our unsheltered neighbors, and invest in Green New Deal priorities. By upholding, strengthening and protecting the local progressive payroll tax, JumpStart, this progressive revenue has the power to equalize our city. We have a sustainable funding source that is applied to only the largest companies and largest salaries to pay their fair share in providing prosperity to the City as a whole. This means $130 million per year for affordable housing, shelters, homeownership and more. But obviously generating progressive revenue isn’t enough.
For too long, funders, including government agencies, have had a top down approach to investments and funding. They decided the priorities, the needs, and amounts invested. That must change. That’s why I have worked to ensure that JumpStart revenue generated is invested equitably, and always worked to bring everyone to the table to ensure that our investments and solutions are community-driven. Bringing folks with lived experience to the table to help write policy is how we can work to address systemic anti-Black racism that is at the root of wealth inequality here in Seattle.
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?
The Covid-19 crisis showed for many the enormous inequities in healthcare and medical treatment that we have long known Black people endure in our region. I started my career fighting for health equity for kids and families, and that remains my number one priority.
I plan to overcome this harrowing situation by creating progressive policy that pursues healing from the trauma that many in marginalized communities hold and centers their voices by ensuring they are not only at the table, but defining what the table is in the first place. This will allow for direct investment in Black community-owned clinics that will prioritize the health and wellbeing of Black folks who may have been overlooked or mistreated by the healthcare system. By investing in clinics such as those mentioned, we are offering a place free of embedded racism to the community that Black and Brown folks can utilize without the fear that their health problems will be dismissed.
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?
What specific policies will you pass to not only halt gentrification but re-invigorate the Central District as the hub of Black land ownership in Seattle?
Equitable economic development has been a huge priority of mine as we passed the groundbreaking JumpStart progressive payroll tax to ensure funding for equitable development and economic resilience solutions. I am also proud to have passed the Racial Equity Toolkit to evaluate current zoning policies and understand the impact on communities of color. I have also Prioritized community-driven housing-related projects that are culturally relevant and historically rooted.
Looking forward, I will expedite Equitable Development Invest (EDI) grants in the community for infrastructure and cultural anchors that promote development done right and complement new housing options. I support investments in efforts such as the Keiro Project and others as I recognize that these projects are essential to rebuilding the Black community from within. We also know that even before COVID, communities of color faced housing insecurity at higher rates than their white counterparts, in part due to the growing unaffordability of housing and the gap in homeownership among white and Black families that has been well established for decades. To overcome this and expand land ownership by Black communities, we must create affordable housing within the city that has 3 and 4 bedrooms, along with more affordable first time home ownership options. The gentrification of historically black neighborhoods such as the Central District can be halted by prioritizing the needs of Black and Brown people in those communities before we allow developers to come in and displace people with unaffordable housing or business space.
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?
As we work on funding our schools to address inequality and overcome systemic anti-Black policies and efforts, we must support students and equip them with the tools to problem solve and seek innovative solutions to close the widening racial gaps in health, wealth, and education. I will continue to support ongoing efforts to help students and educators become anti-racist advocates who can help us all see the systemic biases that exist in all outlets of our society, as well as efforts aimed at increasing diversity among teachers and promoting anti-racist professional development. Supporting Seattle Public Schools in their effort to recruit and retain Black educators is key to culturally relevant curriculum and providing students with faculty that they can identify with and feel represented by. Black studies curricula should be included in every student’s education so that future generations recognize the past and present disparities between races and understand how this impacts the lived experiences of Black and Brown folk in our country and our city. In order to halt the school-to-prison pipeline that removes Black youth from their communities and puts them in the carceral system, we must remove police officers from schools and reform harsh disciplinary solutions that punish students by pushing them out of school.
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.
What percent of SPD’s budget will you divest from and invest specifically in Black community-led and -centered organizations? What date will you close the Youth Jail in the first year of your term?
Will you join the veto-proof majority of the city council who pledged to defund SPD by half and what will you do to accelerate that commitment becoming a reality?
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?
The police budget has grown by almost 45% in the last decade. No other department has seen that level of increase. Last year, when I chaired the budget committee in the wake of the uprising for Black Lives, it was the first year the police budget didn’t grow, and in fact shrunk. I am committed to downsizing SPD and investing in alternatives that emphasize community health and safety so fewer folks ever have to interact with armed officers. Our overinvestment into the criminal legal system has resulted in less investments into what keeps Black and Brown communities safe: housing, childcare, good living wage jobs, and access to healthy foods. We must pursue a holistic approach to re-envisioning our communities' safety while reducing the police budget so that violence against marginalized populations does not continue. I will continue to work towards scaling the SPD budget to reduce their responsibilities where an armed officer isn’t needed, and redistribute essential revenue toward improving the safety, prosperity, and well-being of our Seattle community. So far as Budget Chair I have included over $60 million for black-led organizations and representatives from communities of color to allocate to upstream investments through Participatory Budgeting and community-driven directives to address violence, housing insecurity, mental health, education and income security. Working on the budget, I hope to ensure future redirections of funding to programs that decriminalize poverty, homelessness and addiction, and invest in policies that promote healing through community-oriented policing solutions instead of continuing to increase SPD’s budget. We now need to force the Mayor to allocate those dollars so we can show the public that PB works.