Based on the demographic breakdown of votes of Mayor Elect Jenny Durkan will have her work cut out for her if she intends to unite communities. Her detractors may say that she has no intention of this, and is beholden to corporate donors. We at Team Diva remain optimistic. Durkan and her administration know the scale of work to be done…and we hope that she also knows that it needs to happen with folks like you and Team Diva.
Durkan’s Policy Record
Jenny is no amateur when it comes to politics, and that was evident from the moment that she announced her candidacy. Her father, Martin Durkan, was a state legislator. Her brother is a lobbyist for advertisers and landlords. Beyond her own family, she is close to the family of former governor Christine Gregoire, whose narrow gubernatorial win in 2004 was challenged in court by opponent Dino Rossi and defended by the Washington Democrats. Their lead counsel in the suit was…Jenny Durkan.
Though this is her first time in elected office, Durkan has been in the thick of bureaucracy and the political establishment for years. This will remain to her advantage, as long as she can win the trust of constituents and community leaders.
Suffice it to say she has the inside track to get real shit done. And we need to get critical changes completed in our city and at the state level.
Durkan made a number of commitments as a progressive during the campaign. We see five key goals that will require community assistance to be done right.
- Reduce Homelessness
- Expand Affordable Housing in Our City
- Demand Police Accountability
- Improve Public Transit Infrastructure
- Work With Olympia on Lasting Tax Reform
“Housing is a human right,” says Durkan. We and many others believe that wholeheartedly.
In the short-term, Durkan says that she would open more emergency shelter beds across the city and coordinate with the county to provide services. She has also shown support for a rent voucher program.
A lack of affordable housing and a rise in homelessness overlap strongly, but do not correlate perfectly. Mental health, addiction, and LGBTQ discrimination (especially among street youth) also drive homelessness. As a prosecutor, she has worked to make our justice system less punitive for precisely these groups. Now she needs to create tangible civic support for them, to guarantee them shelter in one of the country’s wealthiest cities.
Homelessness: What Can You in the Community Do?
In winter especially, there are many opportunities to serve the homeless population. If you are passionate about this cause, taking time to volunteer with a shelter or food kitchen is an excellent introduction. That firsthand experience is invaluable when speaking to representatives and forming an opinion on policy.
Long-time members of Divaland know that one of our favorite local charities is PSKS, serving homeless youth. (The LGBTQ population among homeless youth is disproportionately large, and among the most vulnerable of our community to disease, abuse, addiction and violence.) Learn more and consider donating.
The Murray administration’s Housing and Livability Agenda (HALA) was a work of compromise between activists, government officials, and developers. It will upzone lots across the city on which developers must set aside space for affordable housing or pay a fee. It will also give big tax incentives to those developers and exempt them from infrastructural considerations.
Durkan wants to accelerate the HALA program, and shorten the time period for developers to get permits. The goal is to make an immediate dent in the city’s affordable housing deficit. She also plans to direct city departments to speed up affordable housing projects during the permitting and review process.
Affordable Housing: What Can You in the Community Do?
Sometimes the squeakiest wheels are the most NIMBY, too. If you are passionate about seeing humane and equitable programs implemented across the city, attend community forums and communicate your concerns to City Hall. Durkan is right that a one-size-fits-all approach is not realistic. Our representatives need to hear our voices, too, and know that the city supports density everywhere.
Hold Seattle Police Accountable
Durkan often speaks of her role in obtaining the federal consent decree, which had long been demanded by the Community Police Commission. (She continues to offer conditional, reserved support to the CPC.) The consent decree mandates federal oversight of the Seattle Police Department to combat brutality and bias among officers.
The police guild has resisted and litigated the consent decree at every turn, wasting taxpayer money to insulate itself from critique. They now have an ally in AG Jeff Sessions, who is trying to limit consent decrees nationwide. We feel confident that Durkan will work to maintain the consent decree, given that it is one of her most touted achievements. Many are asking if it is enough, though, especially after the killing of Charleena Lyles earlier this year.
Police Accountability: What Can You in the Community Do?
It is worth noting: the consent decree is helping. The federal court monitor reported this year that SPD’s use of serious force has dropped 60 percent.
Having an empowered CPC is critical, and you can follow their work. If you are especially passionate and knowledgeable, consider getting involved. Naturally, giving constructive feedback to the city council, mayor’s office and Seattle’s Human Rights Commission is always a good idea, too.
Improve Transit Infrastructure
Durkan has voiced her deep dissatisfaction with Seattle’s transportation infrastructure. She’s not alone in feeling that ire. A lot of people backed Jessyn Farrell in the primaries precisely for their transit cred (like the Divas), and now it’s up to Durkan’s administration.
Voters have approved major spending on transportation in recent years, a $361 million “Bridging the Gap” levy in 2006 and the gargantuan, $930 million “Move Seattle” property tax levy of 2015. Durkan has called the results of these levies “slow.” Agreed.
Under Mayor Murray, the city passed significant transit and land use policy changes, and Durkan seems poised to continue that approach. She can’t wave a magic wand to speed up time or create revenue. She can remove and mitigate blocks to much needed transit permitting. And the plus side is that Durkan and the current head of Sound Transit have an extremely good report and understanding of current needs.
She also can’t magically remove the resistance to expanded transit across Lake Washington. The leaders of that resistance, such as real estate magnate Kemper Freeman and career shit-stirrer Tim Eyman, won’t go away anytime soon. Let’s hope that in time, our transit will improve so much that popular support will override the antics of Freeman and Eyman and the like.
Transit Infrastructure: What Can You in the Community Do?
South King County is going to be seeing the largest increase in population in our region and they are woefully underserved by public transit. We have also seen a direct correlation between property prices and transportation access. We all need to work together to make sure the money we are paying in property taxes and car tabs is being utilized.
Step 1: If you don’t already, follow Seattle Transit Blog. Their comprehensive coverage of transit issues shows just how sweeping and inextricable it is from the health of our city. (And if you love the blog, support it.)
Step 2: Get involved with Transportation Choices.
Work With Olympia to Create Tax Reform Statewide
Ed Murray won election as Seattle’s mayor in part because he promised to use his experience in Olympia to make big deals with the Capital. It didn’t really work out that way. In fact, Murray’s temper and general lack of deal-making capacity prohimited major breakthroughs in affordable housing and tax reforms.
Basically – are you ok with paying for infrastructure and education middle class homeowner? Or are you finally ready for genuine tax reform that would share that burden with our business community and those who make over $1,000,000 a year?
Durkan has the connections to enact major reform. We cannot afford to squander this moment to implement reforms statewide because of Durkan’s connection to companies like Comcast.
Statewide Reform: What Can You in the Community Do?
Stay abreast of legislative issues that have a direct impact on Seattle, whether it’s education, taxes, housing or transit. Many of these issues trickle down in both positive and negative ways on our city and it’s communities. Here some sources for up to date Washington State Legislative News: leg.wa.gov, Crosscut.com, washingtonstatewire.com, and The Olympian. Knowing and understanding the issues are the first step.
Lobby! Tell your Legislators how you feel about the issues, how they impact you and your community and encourage them to collaborate with our new Mayor. Many of the issues impacting our city do not happen in a bubble. It is up to our Mayor and our local Legislators to work together on addressing these issues on all levels. For more info on how to find and contact your Legislators go to: app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/
These issues are complex and will take time, but not unfixable, as many devoted activists will tell you. It is incumbent on the mayor to lead these efforts, and we have sorely lacked leadership in many of these matters for a long time. We now have a new opportunity to make real change in our city, but it will take more of us getting involved and holding our new Mayor accountable to her promises. Let’s see what we can all achieve in the next four years.