Seattle City Council, Position 9

Xtian Gunther

Question

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?

  1. How much of the Black-white wealth gap will you close while in office? 

  2. Who are you working with in the Black community to close it? 

  3. How will you support investing federal funding directly and specifically into the Black community in the next two years?

Answer

I will create public private partnerships to stretch those federal funds and to ensure that new scholarships and training (WITH LIVING COSTS COVERED as part of that funding) opportunities are created and tailored specifically to Black folks where they live. My platform includes upping the importance of our community centers and expanding them so that we train more people of color toward tech-related careers.

Additionally, our community centers need to include commercial-grade commissary kitchens so that our Black communities have access to affordable work space toward launching food-related businesses. I also want to use Federal funds to roll out creative studio space for aspiring musicians, comedians, dancers, filmmakers, etc. who need no-cost places to hone their craft and collaborate. Our community centers need to be places where we can train and inspire the talents and worth of more marginalized people so they may prepare for careers and work that pays well, on the road to generational wealth accumulation. If we need to expand and build more training centers, we must partner with our business community to do just that.

I will open discussions with Seattle University and the University of Washington about increasing scholarships, including cost-of-living-allowances, to grant greater access to 4+ year degrees for people of color.

I will insist that the city/county create (and, through broad outreach, communicate-the-creation of) training and career development programs that increase the number of black people involved in the trades. And, the county must demand that unions such as, for example, the Ironworkers hit aggressive benchmarks by hiring Black apprentices. And, we must aggressively enforce any/all benchmarks. Short of that, let's get the city involved in creating and training up a Black ironworkers union and legislating a minimum number of Black ironworkers on jobs that receive any city/county funding. Just one example of how I won't/don't sit for the status quo, especially when it's steeped in bigotry.

Working with the rest of council, I'll follow through to usher in contracting standards that ensure that newly forming and existing qualified Black businesses are awarded (assuming competitive bids) 10%+ of all city contracts within no more than 4 years, even if we must get creative to legally get there. I am an out-of-the-box thinker. Give me a dilemma, challenge or problem and I'll seek (and usually find) a unique/new solution as necessary. It is unacceptable that Black contractors in the city win so little construction and trades contract work.

One of my big proposals also happens to be the only realistic one to create a sustainable pipeline of affordable housing, with several equity-raising effects.. That is, we must create a Public Utility District (PUD) for housing that, every year, builds and manages thousands of new 'green' high quality supportive, affordable rental, first-time homebuyer and anti-displacement units. Think Seattle City Light (with a touch of Habitat for Humanities), but swap power generation/distribution with housing. I'll create a task force to raise seed funding from government funds (that, today, are used on piecemeal, patchwork short-term solutions, instead of being pooled toward one effective long-term mechanism), private donors, corporations and Federal housing grant money. After an initial supportive housing push, in 2023, we will bring thousands of units of new affordably housing on line, with particular emphasis where it's needed most. By year three, the PUD will be largely self-sustaining with rents, mortgage payments, trust fund interest and ongoing governmental funding that already exists.

Cost savings for a housing public utility district come from the omission of profits, efficiencies and building on donated, city-owned and acquired lands, as well as public-private partnerships.

What's critical about such a PUD plan is

  1. it specifically calls for anti-displacement housing, especially for POC

  2. it can partner with existing organizations such as Africatown to get housing built when and where it's desperately needed

  3. it will ensure a significant increase in home ownership amongst modest and lower income residents,with focus on historically-mistreated Black Seattleites

  4. in addition to housing, our new PUD will deliver truly-affordable ground floor retail/business space for needed services and local businesses/business startups, increasing opportunity for so many people of color who have skills and talents but not enough financial equity to pursue them as a career in our expensive city. This is also one big way we can eliminate food deserts and create more retail and foodservice choices. Just as Food Innovation Network's Spice Bridge Food Hall in Tukwila is incubating POC food startups, we can have several or many locations of a similar program in Seattle, all made possible by affordable space and public-private partnerships.

  5. the new P.U.D. will also create new job opportunities for Black builders, contractors, trainees/apprentices and other related organizational and managerial jobs

We must also create a regular grant program that funds and issues payments to minimize evictions when Seattleites miss one or several rent/mortgage payments and need an assist.

In addition to scrutinizing our funding through an equity lens and raising objections to funding that either keeps the status quo or further advances inequity and using my voice loudly to object and seek changes, I will use me platform to advance key changes to how we approach housing, public safety and transportation, all toward increasing equity for the often forgotten and/or ignored.

On transportation, where I've been involved in lots of policy, let's get the Orange Line built by 2030, connecting the Central area with Mt. Baker, Capitol Hill, downtown and the rest of our local rail and ferry network, making mobility easier.

On health care, if the Feds won't do it, WA State or even Seattle/King County must institute a true universal care system, including health centers at or near each of our community centers. I will fight for consensus to significantly move toward that end.

I'd also like to increase food gift card distribution to address food access inequities and explore options for instituting a basic minimum income.

As the only councilor who'd have extensive arts/entertainment industry experience, I'll promote our Black culture, including new major festivals and exploring the creation of a new POC-centric performing arts theatre or center in an appropriate, highly accessible spot in Central or South Seattle. We must ensure our talented and entertaining folks can earn a living.

Last, but certainly not least; WA State or, if Seattle must go it alone, must enact something along the lines of Québec's $10/day childcare. It's a game changer for so many parents and their children. I am committing to 'moving the needle' on such a program, whether in Olympia or at City Hall. We can and must do this.

Next Candidate

Colleen Echohawk

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