Councilmember González’s Resolution ‘Affirming the Human Right to Family Unity’ Passes Council Unanimously

SEATTLE – The Seattle City Council voted unanimously in favor of Resolution 31822, Affirming the Human Right to Family Unity, today during a meeting of the Full Council.

The Resolution, sponsored by Councilmember M. Lorena González  (Pos. 9 – Citywide), who chairs the Council’s Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans and Education Committee, states clear opposition to the Trump Administration’s practices separating children as young as eight months old from their parents and/or detaining migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is part of a pattern by the Trump Administration to disregard the rule of law in order to target immigrant communities and antagonize migrant communities. The City reaffirms its commitment to keeping families together, and stands in solidarity with immigrant communities, including a significant population of Central American immigrants who call Seattle home. We have an obligation as civic leaders in our community to call out unjust, immoral actions, and it is immoral and inhumane to separate children from their parents or guardians,” said Councilmember González.

In addition, González reaffirmed the City’s commitment to the immigrant community (Sec. 4), and invited the community to signal support for keeping families together by participating in a National Day of Action (Sec. 7) and supporting immigrant rights organizations such as One America, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, Kids in Need of Defense, RAICES, and others working on behalf of families seeking asylum.

Selected highlights from the Resolution:

(T)he Trump Administration’s lack of family reunification plans for over 2,300 children and their parents or guardians and ongoing detention camps at the U.S.-Mexico border (is) in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the applicable international human rights framework.

WHEREAS, The City of Seattle (“City”) condemns separation of migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border as an egregious violation of human rights and an immoral act of violence and trauma targeting migrants and immigrants seeking safety and asylum; and

WHEREAS, the separation of children and their families is a continuation of historical practices by the U.S. government, both federal and local, that primarily harmed children of color through forced migration and enslavement, detainment, internment, and boarding schools that erased language and culture; and

WHEREAS, research has proven the psychological impact of separation of children from their parents and families has led to irreversible, intergenerational trauma that manifests itself through violence, addiction, and other negative behaviors that harm both the children and their loved ones; and

WHEREAS, the Trump Administration has targeted migrant and immigrant families through policies and proposals including Executive Order 13767: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements; Executive Order 13768: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States; the proposed federal 2017 RAISE Act seeking to limit legal immigration; the proposed “border wall” between the U.S. and Mexico; and threats to withhold federal resources from “sanctuary cities”; and

WHEREAS, the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting border crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border has separated thousands of children from as young as eight months old to the age of 18 from their parents and guardians, creating conditions that are a departure from international human rights and migrant rights, leading to worldwide outcry; and

WHEREAS, the State of Washington’s Attorney General, joined by California, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, announced a lawsuit against the Trump Administration on June 21, 2018[PWS1] , challenging its “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in the separation of immigrant children from their parents during border crossings; and

WHEREAS, the City adopted Resolution 31730 affirming Seattle’s commitment as a Welcoming City by unanimous vote on January 30, 2017, and Resolution 31420 affirming Seattle to be a Human Rights City on December 10, 2012; and

WHEREAS, the City adopted Ordinance 125296 in April 2017, creating and funding the City’s first Immigrant Legal Defense Network, which provides, in partnership with King County, legal representation, guidance, and/or referral to indigent immigrants who live or work in Seattle and King County; and

WHEREAS, the City recommits to its policy to be a Welcoming City, and considers detainment of children to be harmful to their growth and welfare.

 

Vehicle exhaust noise; Hate Crime Motivation Legislation; Your Voice, Your Choice voting; Plastic Straw & Utensils Ban; Free Summer Meals for Youths

Council adopts vehicle exhaust noise legislation

On Monday, the City Council adopted legislation that I sponsored to simplify enforcement of existing law prohibiting excessive vehicle exhaust noise.  Enforcement currently requires use of a sound meter, which police officers usually don’t carry, and meters require calibration.

SPD noted in the committee discussion last week that they plan to use education as a first step, before issuing citations. The new law will go into effect 30 days after the Mayor signs the bill.

Laws currently on the book for stereo noise and screeching tire noise are enforceable as written.

Many thanks to community members who, beginning last fall during budget deliberations, have come to testify about the impacts of modified mufflers.  Background on the community’s efforts that led to my proposing the legislation is available here.

Hate Crime Motivation Legislation

On June 19th the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee heard a first briefing on legislation to establish a hate crime-motivation in the Seattle Municipal Code. The legislation has been proposed by the City Attorney Office. I am the sponsor of the legislation.

If passed, the legislation would give the City Attorney’s Office (CAO) greater ability to prosecute hate crimes that aren’t being prosecuted under the state felony Malicious Harassment law.

The importance of this issue is highlighted by increasing reports of hate crimes in Seattle, in line with alarming national trends. Last year, upon my request, the City Auditor prepared a Review of Hate Crime Prevention, Response and Reporting in Seattle Phase 1 Report with findings that reports of hate crimes had increased 126% from 2012 to 2016. There was a further 64% increase from 2016 to 2017. 2018 figures show high rates as well.

Adding a hate crime motivation section to the Seattle Municipal Code would allow the CAO to add a hate crime motivation to charges for assault, harassment, or property destruction, and request a higher sentence.

A hate crime motivation in the Seattle Municipal Code would have two key effects. First of all, the CAO would be able to prosecute hate crimes against all protected classes at the City level. The City’s malicious harassment law allows only for prosecution of malicious harassment based upon age, parental status, political ideology, marital status, and homelessness. Adding a hate crime motivation provision would allow the CAO to prosecute malicious harassment based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap.

Secondly, the CAO would no longer need to prove the element of malice; the new special allegation requires only that the person committed the act intentionally. This will allow the CAO to more broadly safeguard protected classes.

The hate crime motivation provision would replace the malicious harassment law, which is used only a few times per year. The state felony malicious harassment law could still be used for prosecution by the state or King County Prosecutor for felony cases.

The Committee will next consider the legislation on July 10.

Your Voice, Your Choice voting open through July 16

Voting has begun for the 2018 Your Voice, Your Choice Parks & Streets program.

A total of $285,000 is available in each of Seattle’s Council Districts. You can vote for your top three choices in the district where you live, work, go to school, or volunteer. Community members age 11 and up can vote online or at in-person polling stations through July 16. Paper ballots are available at all Seattle Public Library branches.

You can vote in District 1 here; here’s a link for the rest of the city.

Here’s the map of proposed projects, and project descriptions by SDOT and Parks.

Winning projects will be announced in August, and funded and implemented in 2019.

Background on the program and work done earlier this year is available here.

Plastic Straw and Utensils Ban

In 2008 the City Council passed an ordinance banning plastic service ware (including straws and utensils) with items to be banned having a multiyear planned phase-in as follows:

  • Banned January 2009 – expanded polystyrene food service food containers, plates, “clamshells,” hot and cold beverage cups, meat and vegetable trays, egg cartons used for selling or providing food for consumption on or off the premises. (exempted was raw meat and seafood expanded polystyrene food service food containers).
  • Banned July 2009 – raw meat and seafood expanded polystyrene food service food containers.
  • Banned July 2010 – Disposable plastic food service ware, or non-recyclable containers, plates, “clamshells,” serving trays, meat and vegetable trays, hot and cold beverage cups, and utensils that are made of plastic or plastic-coated paper and intended only for onetime use (including so-called biodegradable products where any portion is not compostable).

Since options were not widely available for straws and utensils in compostable or recyclable forms, the city decided to allow the market time to catch up before enforcing that part of the ban.  Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), did not plan to begin to enforce it until July 1, 2018, 10 years after it the 2008 Council approval.

Since 2014, via direct mail, their website, and through local media, and at several outreach events, SPU has been telling food service ware stakeholders that the annual exemption would be ending soon.  In March of 2017, SPU announced that the annual exemption would end July 1, 2018. 

Because of their small size and shape plastic straws and utensils cannot be processed through the machinery at recycling facilities. When people put straws in the recycling, because they are too small to separate, they contaminate recycling loads which are taken to a landfill.  When plastic straws end up as litter, they often end up in our waterways as a source of plastic marine debris. According to a 2017 report from the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by 2050, it is said the oceans will contain more plastic than fish.  Plastic straws and utensils also contaminate our compost. When they end up mistakenly in the compost, they are very difficult and expensive for local compost facilities to remove from the compost. No one wants plastic in the compost they put on their gardens.  Clean Water Action reports the number of straws used in the US, in just one day, could circle the earth 2 ½ times.  Finally, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reports that half of all plastics go to single-use disposable applications and 1/3 wind up in the environment. They project that by 2050 there will be a 400% increase in plastics production.

Free Summer Meal program for Youth

Between June 26 and August 24 free breakfasts, lunches, and snacks will be served at approximately 100 locations across the city to kids and teens ages 1 – 18 years. You can check out the website here to ask questions, or search for the nearest location.

Passing on the Denny International Middle School Press Release on Visiting the Dalai Lama

On a recent trip to Dharamshala, India, to meet with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people at his residence in exile, Ms. Lori Markowitz, presented his Holiness with a Denny sweatshirt as a gift from the entire Denny International Middle School community!  He was pleased to see our logo includes the words, “We love all immigrant and refugee families” and was very supportive of our school motto, “We All Belong!”  He sent a message of encouragement back to all the Dolphins to develop increased hope, compassion, and love in our community and in our world.

Here at Denny, we are very proud of our Youth Ambassadors program, which inspires our scholars to make a positive difference in our community.  Ms. Markowitz has been an incredible supporter of our school by partnering with us to launch and continue Youth Ambassadors and by helping us to make powerful connections locally and around the world.  We are inspired by the words of hope, compassion, and love from the Dalai Lama—and very grateful to Ms. Markowitz for helping us to make this powerful connection!

In the spirit of compassion,

Jeff Clark, Principal, Denny International Middle School

Ms. Lori Markowitz gave the following insight into her historic trip:

“What a wonderful way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Youth Ambassador program born during the seeds of Compassion conference April, 2008. Meeting his Holiness the Dalai Lama in India at his residence in exile was an honor and privilege I will certainly cherish for the rest of my life. To be able to travel with two of the very first Youth Ambassador students made the experience that much more memorable and powerful.

The messages his Holiness shared with us will remain close to our hearts. Habib and Olivia (remarkable Youth Ambassadors who I’ve had the privilege of working with for many years) will indeed continue to be ambassadors of hope, kindness and love.

The Dalai Lama believes compassion and love need to be emphasized daily and included in the school curriculum. The idea is, if children are intentionally taught to be generous and joyful and to nurture empathy and mutual understanding (not in a religious manner) they will have a happier, healthier life. We saw many Tibetan wind horse flags representing goodwill, inner strength and positivity, ” Others Before Self” — the kind and giving spirit was palpable. The Youth Ambassador program is dedicated to cultivating compassion, providing unique learning experiences, building strong school communities, and investing students in a broader movement for positive change.

Giving his Holiness the Denny International Middle School “we all belong” sweatshirt as a gift was truly an honor! Currently, the Youth Ambassador program is embedding a civics and compassion curriculum allowing students to become more engaged citizens involved in making their own neighborhoods better areas to live and thrive in, a vital component of a thriving democratic society.”

Education Levy, Summer Lunch Program, and Goodbye to a Member of our Team

Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy Ordinance

On Monday, June 11, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed revised CB 119258 out of the Select Committee for Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy. The revised package proposed by my committee co-chair, Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) and I, reflects a proposal that investment in preschool, K-12, and postsecondary education.  These education investments,build a strong pipeline to help Seattle’s kids get onto and stay on a path of academic success and achievement.

At a Glance: The proposed Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy would:

  1. Expand access to preschool by nearly 1,000 children per year by the 2025-26 school year to serve a total of 15,000 three and four year olds;
  2. Continue K-12 and community-based investments, including funding four new student health centers, supports for students experiencing homelessness and increasing teacher diversity in our classrooms;
  3. Create the Seattle Promise to allow public high school graduates to attend Seattle Colleges to obtain a college or postsecondary degree; and

We have created an infographic to help you learn more about Council’s Revised FEPP levy proposal. The Full Council will take a final vote on this legislation on Monday, June 18th at 2:00 pm.

Team Lorena Bids Farewell to Brianna Thomas

It is true: all good things must come to an end. This week Team Lorena is saying farewell to our Senior Legislative Aide, Brianna Thomas! A few months ago, we received the wonderful news that Brianna was accepted into the prestigious Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government graduate program.  After deciding to take a year deferral, Brianna will be leaving our office to further sharpen her skills and talents as the Chief of Staff at the new Office of Inspector General for Public Safety.

The work of my office would be impossible to accomplish without dedicated public servants, like Brianna.  She has been a core member of #TeamLorena for my entire time in office (2 ½ years!).  Her contributions to the work of my office and the residents of Seattle have been remarkable and steadfast.

Brianna was the lead legislative aide on secure scheduling, which provides thousands of minimum-wage restaurant and retail workers relief from unpredictable scheduling practices.  Brianna also worked countless hours on the community-driven Police Accountability Ordinance that established a historic civilian accountability framework to continue our city’s ongoing police reform efforts.

Schools Out, but Summer Meals aren’t!

Every summer, The City of Seattle funds a summer meal program, providing no-cost breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for kids and teens ages 1-18 years old at locations throughout the entire city. This year’s summer meals program runs from Tuesday, June 26, 2018, through August 24, 2018.

Click here to find the summer meals site nearest you!

 

Select Committee on Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Move $637.8 Million Education Levy to Full Council

The Select Committee on Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy unanimously voted to advance to Full Council a proposed ordinance to continue the City of Seattle’s investments across the education spectrum. If approved, the levy will expand quality preschool classrooms, continue investments in K-12, and establish tuition subsidies and support for college or post-secondary job training. In addition, it sets aside funds for wraparound education and health services, such as four new student health centers, dedicated resources for students experiencing homelessness, and funding to grow teacher diversity in our classrooms.

The proposed ordinance will go before the full City Council on Monday, June 18 at 2:00 p.m.

At a GlanceThe proposed Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy would:

  • Expand access to preschool by nearly 1,000 children per year by the 2025-26 school year to serve a total of 15,000 three and four year olds;
  • Continue K-12 and community-based investments, including funding four new student health centers, students experiencing homelessness and increasing teacher diversity in our classrooms; and,
  • Create the Seattle Promise to allow public high school graduates to attend Seattle Colleges to obtain a college or postsecondary degree.

The proposed levy, totaling $637.8 million over seven years, dedicates 54 percent of the dollars toward preschool and early learning. Expanding access to high quality early learning is a research-proven strategy to help close the school-readiness gap. Over the span of the 7-year levy, Seattle will have served 15,000 children in preschool classrooms.

“The renewal and expansion of the education levy is an unrelenting commitment to ensure all of our children receive a quality education, have the resources to succeed, and graduate from high school with opportunities for college and career,” said Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle). “I want to thank our residents for their support in closing the opportunity gap in Seattle schools and creating more equitable communities. When our students succeed, our communities thrive, and our economy prospers.”

“Supporting the educational achievement of all children is one of the single most important investments the City of Seattle can make. This renewed and enhanced levy represents critical and strategic investments that will transform the lives of Seattle’s children beginning with quality preschool and ending with college access and support. This levy also recognizes the impacts of our affordability challenges by providing resources to support the estimated 4,280 students in Seattle Public Schools experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), and co-chair of the FEPP Committee. “Our past levy investments have made a measurable difference in reducing the readiness and opportunity gap. This proposed levy continues many of those evidence-based investments, which means more of our kids will graduate and be prepared for post-secondary education with the skills necessary to take advantage of the jobs of tomorrow.”

Nearly 29 percent of the levy would go toward K-12 investments, improving graduation rates, especially for students who are impacted by the opportunity gap.

“As a father of three school-aged children, I know first-hand the importance of investments in early education and grade school classrooms” said Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) and co-chair of the FEPP Committee. “I feel proud that this levy represents a strong continuum for our students, from preschool through their 14th year, that it reflects feedback we heard from community members, and that it continues this levy’s history of investing in research and evidence based strategies to help our students succeed.”

“Investing in our earliest of learners — and the workforce that cares for them and teaches them — ensures we have a resilient economy, encourages equity through closing opportunity gaps and promotes healthy communities,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “Families across this City are experiencing long waitlists, long commute times and increasingly expensive childcare.  Through this levy, we increase the number of better trained educators for our children ages 0-3, investing in the long-term health and stability of our community.”

Health programs would account for 11 percent. The final six percent would go to the Seattle Promise, which proposes tuition assistance to graduating Seattle students attending local community colleges for the first two years.

Seattle first passed a seven-year education levy in 1990. It was renewed again in 1997, 2004 and 2011. In 2014, voters also approved a four-year preschool program levy. History of education levies in Seattle. The Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy combines the traditional education levy with the preschool levy, and expands it.

Seattle residents living in a median-priced home pay $136 per year for the two existing levies. With this new levy, those same residents will pay $248 per year.  Low-income seniors, people with disabilities and veterans will be eligible for exemptions.

The passage of this levy follows robust community engagement. The levy was first considered in the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans and Education Committee in February. Following, the Select Committee on FEPP held six committee meetings, beginning on March 26, and two public hearings.

To download a full resolution PDF of the infographic, click here.

 

Councilmember González’s Statement on the Employee Hours Tax (EHT) Repeal Proposal

Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide) issued the following statement in response to the Employee Hours Tax (EHT) repeal proposal:

“Our tax system is upside down, placing the burden on low-income and middle-class households to pay a disproportionate share of taxes — as compared to corporations — to fund basic human needs.  That is why I continue to believe that the Employee Hours Tax was an appropriate policy choice to fund additional housing and human services for people experiencing homelessness. I regret that it appears that powerful and well-resourced interests have swayed public opinion to believe that more is not needed.

“Our region has experienced the highest rates of economic growth in the country, and while this has been good for the wealthy, our region’s working-class families continue to be shut out of accessing shared prosperity.

“I am deeply troubled and disappointed by the political tactics utilized by a powerful faction of corporations that seem to prioritize corporations over people.  The consequences of delaying action will be felt most profoundly by the thousands of people currently suffering while seeking stable housing and emergency shelter in our City.

“Over the past eight months, I worked with my colleagues, the Mayor, service providers, employers and housing advocates to identify solutions and strategies that would make an appreciable difference in sheltering and housing our growing homeless population. As the City of Seattle looks to a reset, I believe that our next steps should be immediate and guided by the following principles:

  1. We must act with urgency in addressing the homelessness crisis by treating it as a large-scale humanitarian crisis.
  2. We must continue our regional collaboration to implement system-wide improvements but acknowledge that the City of Seattle is home to over 70% of King County’s homeless residents. Any regional approach must prioritize the urgent needs of those currently experiencing homelessness in Seattle.
  3. We must generate significant additional revenue that will not burden residential property owners, renters or consumers, who already pay their fair share of taxes to fund human and housing services. This will require a deep and real commitment to finding new resources from all government levels, for-profit corporations and philanthropy.

“It was my sound belief that a compromise on this policy had been reached with business, and as an elected official representing all of Seattle, I am deeply disappointed that certain members of the business community did not engage in good faith with the City of Seattle. Instead, they chose to double-down on polarizing the issue of homelessness and fostering divide amongst Seattle residents.

“For civic and business leaders who are truly committed to concrete, progressive solutions to get our neighbors housed now, I welcome good-faith and urgent collaboration to identify revenue sources to accomplish our common goals.”