There is clearly a renaissance of activism in Seattle right now. Neighborhood activists are organized with informed and active councils such as Wallingford, Rainier Beach, and Crown Hill, as well as in land use-focused groups like the Queen Anne and Central Area LURCs (Land Use Review Committees).
Sadly this comes at a time when neighborhoods continue to lose influence and voice at City Hall and in elections. And despite localized neighborhood activity, and the appearance of citywide groups like Seattle Fair Growth, neighborhood voice has been lost with the demise of the Seattle Community Council Federation and the City’s backing away from the District Council system and resultant disintegration of the City Neighborhood Council.
At the same time, there are also many groups that are actively working to shift power and advocate for the interests of historically marginalized populations such as the Black Lives Matter movement and Nikkita Oliver’s People’s Party.
Other groups are powerful advocates for special interests often at odds with neighborhood interests, such as Seattle Subway, The Urbanist, the YIMBY movement, City Builders, etc. These groups are all active, with engaged membership. They talk regularly through social networks. They influence Council. They make endorsements. And they are fighting for what they believe the City should be like.
Finally there are groups that are issues based and are successfully changing the conversation in the city, such as the Transit Riders Union who have pushed for a city income tax and head tax to address homelessness, and Housing Now! that is pushing for more publicly financed housing.
In the past year we have examined organizing and activities by neighborhood groups and the challenges they face. This month we will look closer at organizing and activity that is happening by groups outside of neighborhood councils.
At our November 11th meeting we will be joined by two noteworthy Seattle activists:
- Kirsten Harris-Talley is currently serving as the interim at-large City Council member filling in for Tim Burgess who took over as interim Mayor.
- Andre Taylor is founder of Not This Time which is focused on reducing fatalities of people at the hands of the police and improving relations between communities and the police.
Kirsten has for more than fifteen years been as a facilitator and community advocate, and has been involved with successful campaigns such as #BlockTheBunker and #NoNewYouthJail. Kirsten served as program director for the Progress Alliance, an organization funding the infrastructure of progressive social and political change in Washington State. She is also a founding board member of Surge Northwest, a nonprofit which advances community engagement, education, and policy advocacy for racial and reproductive justice. Kirsten earned her associate degree from The School of Arts Institute of Chicago. She later received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. Kirsten lives in the Rainier Valley – Hillman City neighborhood.
On Monday November 13th Council will vote on legislation supported by Harris-Talley that would put an end to the ineffective and inhumane sweeps of homeless encampments where they are not unsafe or in conflict with other public use. The Housing, Outreach, and Mass-Entry Shelter (H.O.M.E.S.) tax would apply to businesses with gross revenue in excess of $5 million per year (about 90% of Seattle businesses are not affected). This proposal would bring in about $50M annually for permanent low income housing and related homeless services.
On the issue of police reform, several actions have started. Most notable are the Black Lives Matter movement and the Department of Justice intervention.
After SPD’s Ian Birk shot John T. Williams in the back in 2010, attention to the problems with state law heightened. The elderly Native American woodcarver Williams, who was hard of hearing, was shot to death by Birk just seven seconds after the officer arrived on the scene. The shooting was universally condemned, and Birk resigned just hours after SPD issued a scathing report. But King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg concluded that proving Birk was acting with “malice” was impossible: by state law, an officer is protected from prosecution if they acted in “good faith” and without “malice.” These standards are considered impossible to meet legally because they require a jury to assess the officer’s state of mind.
Since his brother Che was shot by police in Feb 2016, Andre Taylor has worked tirelessly for police reform. His first effort, Initiative I-873 in 2016 failed to garner enough signatures, but was the first in the nation attempt to address police reform directly by ballot.
I-940 attempts to address the language in state law that makes it virtually impossible to prosecute a police officer for willfully shooting someone. It also requires police training in violence de-escalation and mental health, requires first aid be provided, and independent investigations.
I-940 is on track to get to the ballot, and has garnered support from political leaders around the state.
Join us for what promises to be an interesting conversation with two leading and effective activists in Seattle.