The Green Party of Seattle represents a voting block of concerned citizens. The following is a five-part position statement on specific issues relevant to Seattle city governance. The Green Party of the United States is a nationally registered party that represents a values-based political framework based on Ecological Responsibility, Social Justice, Peace & Non-violence, as well as Grassroots Democracy. Our elected officials must understand how these issues are all inter related, and work with voters to support a future-ready and sustainable Seattle.
Position Statement 1: Environmental responsibility
As a city, Seattle is considered a leader in environmental policy. In the past, Seattle was able to achieve a leading edge as an environmentally responsible municipality through relatively passive means, such as recycling. Over the last few years the dynamic has changed in regard to both the urgency of the environmental problem and constrained resources available to address it. Environmental issues now require a more proactive approach from city officials.
Other municipalities continue to set bold goals for carbon neutrality, fossil fuel divestments, and zero waste, but the City of Seattle has fallen behind. The Green Party of Seattle feels that to embrace environmental responsibility honors the will of our citizens and the legacy of our Native first peoples. Natural beauty is a defining characteristic of Seattle, and protecting our environmental health also offers the city a practical economic opportunity. Citywide operational savings can be accomplished with long term planning that coordinates clean energy technology and strategic investments. Our elected officials must have a basic understanding of our needs and resources in order to enact these solutionary measures. The Seattle Climate Action Plan (based on white papers from 2010)) needs a complete review, and has not been updated since 2013, (Office of Sustainability & Environment accessed 2018). The plan recognizes three main areas of focus: road transportation, building energy, and waste. The rapid influx of new residents, and subsequent development of higher housing costs has led to more commuters on the roads, less green space and more waste. These factors contribute to more stress on our storm and wastewater management as well as taking us further away from carbon footprint goals. In 2013 the Seattle Climate Action Plan called for carbon neutrality by 2050, but now Seattle must not only plan for the current environmental impacts, it must think ahead toward future development, and set infrastructure goals that promote a livable city for all.
As one of the select members of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Seattle made a commitment in 2015, to "Advocating for Policy Change-Identifying and advocating for policies at the state, regional, and federal levels to reduce emission sources not controlled directly by cities and engaging with other external stakeholders who are critical to cities' success." (CNCA, 2015). The Green Party of Seattle would like to see our city officials follow through on this commitment instead of falling behind others, such as San Francisco. The entire state of California now has a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, and as Green technology continues to develop, this is not at all unrealistic. It is imperative that we develop and implement a renewable energy plan for the City of Seattle that includes the energy needs of conducting city business, supplies energy to our municipal buildings, and offsets both environmental, and financial costs to the city. The Green Party of Seattle urges the city to undertake serious review of a public banking system. Seattle's divestment from Well's Fargo has opened up a new opportunity for the city to fund investments in renewable energy and environmentally responsible technology. A city owned banking system would serve our communities by cycling revenues back into the local economy that could be used to sustain our local schools and secure pension funds. Clean energy technology represents a growth industry that meets real world needs. Green Tech is not dependent on environmental destruction or a war-based economy to be viable. Seattle has a unique window of opportunity to invest in our own infrastructure and community services. We must not hand over the future of Seattle to Wall Street without consideration of the real world financial obligations at work to run our city.
- Consider these 10 actions that build both environmental resiliency and economic strengths for the City of Seattle:
- We commend the city of Seattle on the use of electric vehicles. We must continue to move in the right direction. The entire fleet electrification, including plans for heavy equipment replacement must be achieved as older vehicles are retired, and technology develops. Power production through city owned investments such as community solar and other renewable sources of electricity must be planned for. We must anticipate the future needs of our city to stay ahead of them.
- Seattle must take action to protect the waters of the Salish Sea, and use the available science to help us to do so. Our responsibility to the Native peoples who have always depended on the bounty of the Salish Sea, to the migratory mammals, birds, and wild salmon that it sustains, must be proactive. The creation of a whale sanctuary in the Salish Sea should be supported by the City of Seattle.
- We recognize that the city is moving forward with runoff remediation that includes a vigorous plant remediation scheme using a tunnel system to separate out storm waters and prevent raw sewage from spilling into the sound during heavy rains. The current situation of large sewage spills into the Salish Sea is unacceptable, and the Green Party of Seattle supports cost saving natural remedies whenever possible. Natural microbe remediation as well as plant remediation should be explored. After an initial investment, an area of bio remediation, such as would be possible at the park at Discovery Point, would provide decades of cost savings.
- Regular audits of the sources of environmental water contaminants must be done, to track the greatest sources of pollution. Polluters must be held fiscally accountable for their violations, not leave toxic residue for the taxpayers to clean up. A healthy economy includes environmentally responsible business practices.
- Our major industries, and new construction contractors are big contributors to the toxicity of the Salish Sea, with the Elliot Bay shipping path being the biggest individual source. The City Executive offices and Port Commissioners must maintain an awareness of environmental impacts occurring on their watch, with a regular environmental monitoring program.
- In the Elliot Bay we have large scale ship traffic that must also be managed while in berth and in the bay itself. Local water testing of ships while in port as well as more clear guidelines to be included in the Harbor Safety Plan (Puget Sound Harbor Safety Plan, 2017), are needed to ensure the Port of Seattle's goals are being met. It is understood that the port is a large employer in the area and as such, an important economic asset. Implementation of greater environmental scrutiny would further secure this important city resource, and the health and safety of the citizens that work there.
- We applaud the native habitat restoration projects, and shoreline rehabilitation, but the fact that our storm water runoff problem is not being adequately addressed makes this huge volunteer subsidized investment a less sustainable one, coordination of these efforts is imperative to their success.
- In the face of so much building construction, open space preservation, as well as micro open spaces must be further secured and developed by the city to help in the filtration of our storm water runoff.
- Planting trees, and maintaining mature trees is a simple, cost effective way to sequester carbon that should be utilized wherever practical to provide carbon offsets that further our citywide carbon neutral goals.
- Finally, we recommend yearly assessments that include input from our non-profit environmental organizations and educational institutions because they have the ability to execute the scientific method without the economic bias of stakeholder companies. Seattle is a city that sets publicized Transition goals toward the Carbon Neutral City status so we must bolster that commitment with action.
- Transition benchmarks include:
- Transition from fossil fuel dependency
- Transition to Zero Waste
- Transition toward total divestment from companies that actively fund environmental destruction
The many communities and neighborhoods in our city depend on our elected officials to invest in the environmental health of Seattle. Progress that we make to meet our Transition goals will create long term cost savings, and a clean, energy efficient model city that thrives on the leading edge of a sustainable future. The Green Party of Seattle calls on our city officials to continue the pursuit of environmental goals that set a standard of excellence for our state and our nation, because the world is watching.
Position Statement 2: Housing and Homelessness
The Green Party of Seattle fully endorses the Housing For All Seattle platform and we agree that housing is a human rights issue. It is a misconception among the comfortably "homed" that mental health and addiction are the main causes of homelessness. Many more homeless individuals and families remain invisible to us in Seattle because they are able to depend on a social safety net of friends and family that reserve their couches and open their homes.
- Action Items (Housing For All Seattle Platform (2017) Include:
- Consider a long-term Rapid Re-Housing voucher program until enough affordable housing is available.
- Revisit the Homeless Investments RFP process in light of the severe shortage of affordable housing, recognizing that the fundamental role of shelter is to meet people's immediate, urgent needs.
- Preserve and expand Seattle's total shelter capacity to meet the needs in our communities by supporting a diverse array of low-barrier, indoor shelter options with supportive services as needed.
- For vehicles that are being used as shelter, find alternatives to ticketing and towing that are non-punitive and don't result in debt traps. Provide supportive services and establish safe parking areas for people living in vehicles.
There are many un-homed families without social safety nets sleeping outdoors in vehicles. In the City of Seattle Public School system, homeless student population grew by nearly 30 percent between 2012 and 2015, (Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, 2017). The line between Homed and Unhomed people is fragile and prevention is part of the solution. "The relationship between rising rents and increased homelessness is particularly strong in four metros currently experiencing a crisis in homelessness - Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., and Seattle." (Zillow Study, 2017). Our city has helped to perpetuate an increasing wealth disparity for our citizens. "Mounting evidence suggests that for most homeless people, short-term Rapid Re-Housing vouchers will not be a reliable bridge to stable, permanent housing in our region's hot housing market." (housingforallseattle.org, 2018). Favoring the interests of developers over the interests of established communities, families, and individuals undermines our overall economic stability. This dangerous trend must be reversed with appropriate municipal responses, and effective strategies that are responsive to a basic human need for shelter.
Tech industry booms, as well as recent real estate development booms benefited the technology workers with six figure incomes, and others who were already financially secure. Working families have become economically marginalized in Seattle. One of the most important securities in life, shelter, has been lost. Our state's regressive tax system is proportionally more burdensome to working families. Property taxes increase for all driven by an influx of higher earners, without a city or state wage tax. Rampant gentrification of many neighborhoods has decimated the character of our communities. The Green Party of Seattle would remind our elected officials that a livable city is one in which people with a full time job can afford to sleep indoors. In a crisis or natural disaster such as an earthquake, our first responders such as paramedics, nurses, utility workers, and heavy equipment operators will not be available to put our city back together if they do not live here. The majority of Seattle public school teachers with families can't afford to live within the city limits, and commute over 45 minutes to get to work. Affordable housing for the workers needed to secure city infrastructure is disappearing at a rapid rate.
- We must consider some simple code measures to control Seattle's future sustainable development, and to protect the future of our communities.
- Foreign investors must not hold properties vacant while city residents sleep outside in tents, and where people are literally dying in the streets, (over 80 homeless persons dead in 2017).
- The Green Party of Seattle enthusiastically supports a personal income tax on wages in excess of $250,000 for individuals and in excess of $500,000 for married couples filing joint returns, to be taxed at 2.25% (Seattle City Council, 2017).
- Impact fees for developers must be specifically channeled to fund solutionary responses to the problems that development creates, not reactionary responses such as "Sweeps"
- The critical mass of 4,000 homeless people sleeping in doorways, vehicles, under overpasses, and in Seattle city parks every night must be addressed. A proposal to build 5,000 homes in five years (Jon Grant, 2017), funded with an increase in the city's corporate tax revenue, with offsets for smaller businesses, provides a needed tax relief to two-thirds of Seattle businesses, while raising enough revenue to build 5,000 units of deeply affordable housing for the homeless within the next five years.
- Meanwhile solid prevention and amelioration strategies must be in place:
- Property taxes must remain affordable for seniors, disabled veterans, and other vulnerable homeowners
- Neighborhood and citizen input should be heard, before our older neighborhoods, many that house multi-generational families, are turned into large developments, especially without adequate green space or parking
- City Leadership must bring solutionary responses to their districts to prevent people from becoming homeless, provide safe accessible space for the un-homed people indoors, and promote increased availability of transitional and low-income housing
- Enthusiastic support for community outreach by elected officials; use of neighborhood forums to build bridges between communities of homed and un-homed people so that the resources already available are utilized in a meaningful and coordinated way
- Evaluate non-profit agencies for duplication of services, and benchmark the way city funds are used (for instance do not throw away thousands of dollars of tents and sleeping bags donated to the un-homed during "Sweeps" )
- New construction must meet the needs of the community, not merely the financial expectations of wealthy investors:
- Development should not exceed the capacity for transportation and school in any neighborhood, and citizen concerns should be heard about the real world impact and logistics of new construction, (citizens expect you to listen to them)
- Any increased capacity needs for infrastructure, as a consequence of development, must come before or simultaneous with, said development
- Financial support for increased infrastructure burdens must be required from the developers, which ultimately will turn a profit from the use of our city services
- Damage done to our streets, during new construction, retro fitting, or commercial development must be repaired to previous conditions or better, from end to end of the project zone
- Innovative city planning means we get in front of inevitable change before it happens, which includes building codes that add lasting value without raising the cost of construction:
- Construction that allows for passive solar and future PV solar retrofitting
- Increased insulation requirements and window density
- Green rooftops
- Continue with Seattle Public Utilities subsidies for heat pump and electric heat conversions
- Continue LED lighting subsidies
- Twenty foot setbacks with green buffers would help control storm water runoff and mitigate environmental impact
"Sweeps" are not a future focused and sustainable solution to homelessness! Homelessness in Seattle is a public emergency. Un-homed people deserve dignity and respect. Chasing homeless people around the city, and stripping them of their possessions does not contribute to a humane society. We expect that our elected officials endeavor to promote a culture of justice in our city. Ensuring safety for our vulnerable homeless population will require a holistic response to shelter, one that includes addressing emotional and behavioral trauma that the insecurity of life on the street creates. The longer we allow this traumatic situation to persist, the more damage is done to the individual person's ability to cope, and the greater propensity will be for that damage spread to our society at large.
- Seattle City officials should call on the Federal Government to be accountable.
- While homelessness in cities like ours has increased by 30% in recent years, federal programs have not kept pace, at 8%
- Many of our homeless are Veterans and wounded warriors
- Our native peoples whose ancestors lived here in peace prior to the original land grab for profit, have an even more significant right to shelter on their own land, in fact the Tulalip Tribe north of the city has donated many structures to the "tiny homes" villages around Seattle
Position Statement 3: Traffic and Transportation
Once again our rapidly growing population is the root of the problem. Seattle is growing in population much faster than was planned. Many years of complacency and resistance to that need to plan ahead, has meant a rude awakening. As a major metropolitan city, we ill-prepared to cope with the efficient transport of people, goods, and services. We are at capacity, and there is no more room for single occupant automobiles at the percentage of use we have now. Serious measures must be considered to reduce single occupancy automobile traffic.
- Municipal & Solutionary Measures related to Seattle City Transport:
- Maintenance of city streets and thoroughfares
- Commitment to improving access to public transit
- City planning for light rail
- Non-motorized transportation
- Pedestrian & Bicycle safety, (Seattle has more fatalities due to car violence each year than gun violence)
- Tolerance for aggressive driving, and the mindset that cars come first has to be changed. Angst and fatalities to the vulnerable street users keeps many that are able from making the effort to leave the car at home
- Technology used at traffic lights could be employed to ticket aggressive drivers in bike lanes and elsewhere to discourage infractions and increase safety and city revenue
- Adopt the California E Bike legislation as a municipal code and allow the assist to cap at 28.5 mph or 50 kilometers per hour so that commuters can arrive at their destinations faster and fresher, undaunted by Seattle hills, and able to find parking
- More live/work spaces would mean less people on the road
- Developers must be accountable and disrupted road surfaces repaired
- During construction sidewalks must remain open. We cannot ask our seniors and mobility challenged citizens to risk their lives crossing our busy city streets
- Seattle Department of Transportation must take a proactive approach to change its reputation of not reacting to a serious public safety concern until a fatality occurs. A rubric must be put in place for community feedback about hazardous crosswalks
- Ballard and West Seattle anxiously awaiting the arrival of Sound Transit, however all future surface street improvements must have the planned Sound Transit arrival incorporated in the design phase so that the city does not waste money on retrofits (deconstruction of areas recently resurfaced)
- Streets must receive a designation of use based on criteria that includes neighborhood character, traffic flow, planned development, neighborhood density, width of street and variances, connection to similar infrastructure elsewhere, zoning and cost savings with a holistic view of other ongoing projects
- Street improvements and scheduled maintenance should have a life of up to 10 years when supported by property taxes and levies, but other work in that time frame shall be billed to the private entities that have contributed to the need for repair, not the taxpayer
- Anticipate the future needs for privately owned electric transportation in the form of increased charging stations
Developing more renewable electricity to meet these added demands for public transportation is imperative. There is a transition happening that Seattle must embrace, and lead. If we get on the right side of it now, we will reap the benefits later, if we lag behind we will find ourselves trying to run a functional city with obsolete infrastructure.
The decisions made by City officials in Flint several years ago in the interests of short term economic gains, is a sobering example of how unethical city management may lead directly toward long term decline. The voting bloc represented by the Green Party of Seattle remind our elected officials in Seattle, that the whole of city management is greater than the sum of it's parts. All city resource allocations deserve careful consideration. Seattle is no stranger to boom and bust economies; we must plan ahead.
Position Statement 4: Police Accountability
The Green Party of Seattle enthusiastically supported State Initiative Measure No. 940.
Our membership, who voted to prefer Mitzi Johanknecht, as our choice for King County Sherriff, largely did so because she signed on early to this clearly necessary initiative. The Seattle Police Department may receive more total hours of training than most in our state, but the Green Party of Seattle would like to see that translate into true community engagement that builds more bridges between communities and police.
The increasing militarization of our police force undermines their primary directive, "to serve and protect". It has been difficult for Seattle police officers to come to terms with the culture of oppression that they are a part of, but the numbers don't lie. Questionable civilian deaths, proportionately larger for people of color, such as 30 year old pregnant mother of four, Charleena Lyles in June of 2017, are tragic examples of why officers must employ de-escalation techniques, and the use of non-deadly force as reflexively as they pull out their guns.
The burden of proof for wrongful death (RCW 9A.16.040, 2017) has been codified as sufficiently vague that police in our state can legally "get away with murder". "Washington law says an officer can't be convicted of a crime if he or she acted in good faith and without malice, or what the law calls "evil intent," when using deadly force - a standard that makes it nearly impossible for prosecutors to pursue charges in such cases." (Seattle Times, 2017). Increasing citizen oversight groups to cover all Seattle neighborhoods, and accepting input from citizens calling for independent investigations into shooting deaths of civilians are essential for fair and prudent law enforcement. Body cameras and use of non-lethal force protect the community at large. When a community has an adversarial relationship with police officers, it becomes a public safety issue on all sides. We ask that our elected officials commit to the actions outlined by this initiative as a public safety measure for all of the residents of Seattle, King County, and Washington State.
Position Statement 5: Economic/Political Equality
Seattle has lead in the fight to raise the minimum wage. The cost of living in Seattle far exceeds wage increases for low income workers, largely due to the exponential increase in the cost of housing. Economic security for working people hinges on meeting basic human needs for shelter, food, medical care, childcare, education, and personal safety. This is a challenge that must be met with more public funding and zoning to support housing alternatives, and provide a more deeply resilient economic safety net.
- Support these 10 measures to sustain economic stability in Seattle:
- Again, The Green Party of Seattle enthusiastically supports a personal income tax on wages in excess of $250,000 for individuals and in excess of $500,000 for married couples filing joint returns, to be taxed at 2.25%
- The Green Party of Seattle advocates for the creation of a public banking system. "We see the overall purpose as developing a just and sustainable economy in the Seattle area with the specific goals of building affordable housing, increasing energy efficiency in existing buildings and transportation, and transitioning to renewable energy for our region." (seattlepublicbanking.org, 2017).
- Education is the most important element to economic and political equality. Funding our public schools, and shifting from a "teaching to the test" mentality to real-world learning innovation that brings the classroom to the public sector will help prepare our youth with critical thinking skills that solve problems, and sustain them going into the future
- Special zoning allowances for co-housing communities that feature private living quarters and shared community work spaces can help people to cost-share, and lead to a measurable return on public investment
- Local community development and support for small neighborhood businesses, family run restaurants, and farmers markets over large superstores bolster the local economy
- Political representation and engagement from people in every district with renewed support for District Councils where citizens can be heard will complete the loop of good governance from city officials who truly represent their constituencies
- Respect for the character of our minority and ethnic communities. People who no longer recognize their own neighborhoods feel psychologically disenfranchised and 'emotionally homeless'. Resist forces of gentrification to preserve the historical continuity of our city's culture, and make 'home' continue feel like 'home'
- The Green Party of Seattle supports Ranked Choice Voting. Ranking their choices as first second third etcetera rather than choosing this or that alternative supports grassroots democracy (Charter Amendment #27) Ranked Choice Voting increases levels of voter participation that is desperately needed in local elections, where voters have the most power to use their voice, but ironically are least likely to show up at the polls
- Accountability to voters will make your tasks difficult at times, but ultimately reward your efforts with achievement. The Green Party of Seattle wants a city that works for all of us now, and into the future.
- Seattle is blessed with a natural and cultural heritage based on the continuous presence of our Native peoples; we must include them in our governance on these Duwamish lands. Seattle civil servants must adopt the First People's model of "seven generations" of sustainability when evaluating fund allocations. Take an unvarnished look at how change will affect our future generations with an eye toward sustainability over 'boom and bust'.
Worldwide Greens seek coalition and coalescence around the Green values that respect People, Planet, and Peace. We do not divide to conquer. Our membership consists of freethinking individuals who do not always agree with each other but hold the Key Green Values in common. As we transition from one administration to the next, we made this effort to analyze, recognize, and articulate areas of member consensus on these inter related issues. Seattle elected officials have a unique clear pathway toward positive change in 2018, and we must support their efforts to lead us there.
Congratulations to our newest elected officials. We wish you, and the city of Seattle, a brilliant future, with a renewed focus on sustainability.Sincerely,