In Native culture, we often center our work in the Seven Generations principle, which says that what we do now must create positive, meaningful, and sustainable solutions for today and seven generations into the future. This principle helps guide our work with intentionality--I will lead from this ethic.
addressing homelessness meaningfully
I visited my reservation recently. It was on this trip that I had recognized an important aspect about how my family and friends treated those without resources and supports: no one sleeps outside and no one goes hungry. It illustrated an important point that we can resolve this crisis, we just need to be creative and work hard toward the goal.
Homelessness is a crisis facing our city, and city leadership needs to respond with urgency and intentionality. Watching our representative’s lack of urgency on this issue is what compelled me to run for City Council in the first place.
We know what strategies and programs work for lifting folks out of their experience of homelessness. We need to double down on those strategies and shed the strategies that aren’t working.
Housing - The solution to homelessness is housing. We need to utilize a housing-first, racially equitable theory of change. We can explore revenue sources such as a payroll tax or work with our county partners to identify a revenue source similar to ST3. And we should focus our efforts upstream: eviction prevention, for example. During my time at All Home, I advocated for increased funding for civil legal aid and have advocated strongly to Council members Herbold and Gonzalez about looking at the New York model. Additionally, we should be providing rental assistance, free legal aid, as well as providing and funding pathways to homeownership, supporting decent and small landlords that want to provide affordable places to live.
Youth Homelessness - We know that 48% of adults currently experiencing homelessness also experienced homelessness as a young person. That means we should be investing, more deeply, in interventions and supports for our young people. When we reduced veterans homelessness it was because of three important strategies: regional coordination, targeted investments, and a by-name list. We need to do the same with youth and young adult homelessness-- we prioritize young people and we will reduce the inflow of adults into homelessness.
Diversion - Diversion is an exciting intervention as it relates to homelessness because for roughly 30% of people who experience homelessness, they can resolve their crisis quickly using diversion. The best part about diversion is that it was an idea that came directly from people experiencing homelessness. They said they just needed one-time support to resolve their crisis, whether conflict resolution, family reunification, mediation, or financial assistance, such as move-in and first month’s rent. This innovative approach costs, on average, $1750 to exit people to housing, quickly - for much less time than other interventions. So we need to invest more in strategies like this that are working and are directly addressing racial disparities in homelessness.
Let’s set the context. In the 1970s, the federal government was building 600,000 units of affordable housing per year and they were also offering rental assistance. Beginning with a new administration in the 1980s, they reduced to only building roughly 10,000 units per year--all while our population was growing and income inequality was widening. We also know that between 2010 and 2016, we lost 60% of affordable housing stock across the country because of disinvestment and deterioration. But the context doesn’t end there: since the 1960s, incomes have risen roughly 5%, while rents have increased by 60%.
Locally, 40% of our neighbors have no more than $400 dollars to their name and 50% of our neighbors spend more than 30% of their income on rent, which means they are rent burdened. And, in order for someone to afford the average rent they’d need to make more than $26/hour; a minimum wage worker would need to work 96 hours per week just to afford rent in Seattle.
The reality is grim, but not impossible for us to address. Skyrocketing rents and cost of living is pushing thousands of our neighbors out of the city. Further from their places of work, their schools, and their communities in which they have often lived for decades. This is unacceptable. The City needs to lift the stranglehold it has over our housing stock options currently, so that we can be rapidly be building housing that meets our cities needs.
Upzoning around schools - Schools are community hubs, and our Council should treat them as such, and be working on building up around these schools. Increasing housing types within a four block radius of the 105 schools in the Seattle Public Schools would help with increasing housing options, affordability, and getting creative about increasing services in these areas, which is a great way for us to be bringing needed services and resources to our families right where they live. Plus, we can prioritize our teachers and our students and their families who most need affordable housing options to live right near their schools.
Shallow Rent Subsidies - There are communities across the country getting creative with preventing displacement and keeping people in their homes. In Washington, D.C., for example, as part of the D.C. Flex Fund Program, they have a shallow rent subsidy program for folks who are living at the edge of their means. Basically, we could invest in a two-year program, where each participant gets a monthly subsidy to make sure they make their rent on time, they can stay in their homes, and begin to build their savings.
Our current transportation infrastructure isn’t cutting it, and our entire community feels the strain on our roads. As we continue to reduce our dependence on cars, we must look to supporting and growing alternative modes of transit. Research shows that transit investment is one of the most cost-effective means for economic development - $1 invested in transit produces $4 in economic returns. I would like to focus on building up infrastructure particularly around schools and areas where seniors live.
Addressing our climate crisis - We need to get creative with raising revenue for both our transportation needs and in order to further support our necessary and critical climate crisis. Congestion pricing has been a helpful policy in other cities around the country and around the world. While we have lots of questions to answers, barriers to remove, and to address unintended consequences such as a tax’s impact on low-income communities and working class people, it could be a great source of revenue to help us achieve ambitious climate change goals and the demand for more and diverse transportation options.
Pedestrian safety - We know that improving sidewalk safety can be accomplished by simple measures such as improving lighting, and installing curb cuts.
Bike Infrastructure - we have a community that is seeking alternative ways to get to work, but the current bike lanes in our city are inadequate both in length and connectedness, as well as in protecting the people who bike. I would like to see us intentionally map out how we can build up these protected bike lanes, like the one along 2nd Ave, so that they connect throughout the city. The safer we can make these lanes, the more folks will seek them out and use them.
small businesses and vibrant neighborhoods
We want a community in which small businesses can afford to get started, can afford the continuously rising rents, and have access to resources on how to stay afloat. Our public sphere must be welcoming, have design elements that make it feel safe, and be a destination that support good jobs. A beautiful street is the confluence of transport and transit, small businesses and good jobs, and the people who make those communities thrive.
Our City Council bears great responsibility for the fact that our city must remain a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees by ending local collaboration with federal immigration enforcement. It is imperative that elected officials in city government are held accountable to impacted community members as well as centering immigrant and refugee experiences in the governing and policymaking process. In Seattle, we have an opportunity to protect and serve marginalized communities that are being unjustly targeted by the current administration, regardless of citizenship status.
As our country attempts to tear families apart, Seattle will continue to stand up against this form of bigotry.
I don’t think that the answer to public safety problems is just to hire more police. We need to be working with our community members, elevating the voices of those most deeply impacted by public safety concerns, and centering them in the solution. To me, that means our unsheltered neighbors, our youth, our communities of color, immigrant communities, and LGBTQ communities who face disproportionate violence.
Long-term strategies can include safety by environmental design, such as ensuring we have adequate curb cuts at all intersections and crosswalks, installing more bike racks and designated bike homes so that they aren’t blocking pathways and sidewalks, and making sure our streets are properly lit.
Youth Support - We need to support our youth, and they say they need counselors and mentors, youth employment, and other opportunities. I would like to elevate the NAACP Youth Coalition, which recently called for more counselors, mentors, and social workers in our schools. I believe the city can take a deeper role in providing those people in our schools.
Upstream - In order to support public safety goals, we need to invest in community based violence prevention programs, and victim re-entry services and supports.
I believe, as a city, equity must be a part of all of our policies and legislation. And we must get creative about embedding it in areas we may not have imagined before.
Fees and fines: Instead of requiring all of our municipalities fees and fines be flat amounts that every has to pay, no matter their income, we should move to income-based fees and fines. I am interested in establishing a “Fees and Fines Task Force” to study and assess the impacts of our current system, with the aim of implementing policies that alleviate the burden of poverty on marginalized folks in our community.
It is no secret, we need to make sure what we’re spending your tax dollars on should be transparent, be tied to data and outcomes, and be cost effective. And we know, given we are in the most regressive tax city in the most regressive tax state, that more of our neighbors, including wealthy neighbors and corporations, need to pay their fair share.
Progressive Revenue: In 2018, the city’s “Progressive Revenue Task Force on Housing & Homelessness” released a report that outlined potential progressive revenue taxes the city could and should pursue to address our housing affordability and homelessness crisis. I am interested in pursuing the ideas outlined in the report because just in the homelessness crisis, according to the McKinsey & Company report, we need to spend $400 million to address the crisis, and we are spending about half that amount now.
climate crisis response
We need to make sure that the precision of our solutions match the precision of the harm initially inflicted. And that harm was precise. So we should take great care in how we address environmental pursuits and addressing climate change so we aren’t negatively impacting any of our communities.
The first step I would take is to look to Portland, Oregon, who is committed to powering their municipality with 100% renewables. That is one step. This program is exciting because of its commitment to racial justice, as they are developing a solar program that enables broad access to renewables for low-income communities and communities of color, which means this program allows individuals who don’t own their homes or don’t have money or space to install solar panels to still reap the benefits of clean energy with a Portland Clean Energy Fund. This fund provides a dedicated revenue stream to bring renewable energy to the community, at least 50% of which will go towards low-income communities and communities of color.
I am interested in policies that pertain to banning single use plastics and styrofoam in our cities. Additionally, we need to look at our food waste, and how we can prevent it. California requires at least 20% of edible food that would that would otherwise be disposed to instead be recovered to eat.
i look forward to more opportunities to engage with community members on the solutions they want to see for our city.