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    Neighbor Appreciation Day, Housing Levy – Again, and BPC

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    This Saturday, Celebrate Neighbor Appreciation Day

    Join me and my staff in District 1 to celebrate Neighbor Appreciation Day! We will be planting native trees and shrubs as well as removing invasive plants, there will be live music to provide some entertainment as well as snacks and water. A pizza lunch will also be provided.

    Please sign up here if you are going to attend.

    When:                 Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016

    Where:                Pigeon Point Park at Pathfinder Elementary School, 1901 SW Genesee St

    Schedule for the Day:

    • 10:00AM – 10:30AM – Sign In and Introductions
    • 10:30AM – 12:30PM – Forest Restoration
    • 12:30PM – 1:00PM – Lunch
    • 1:00PM – 2:00PM – EcoArts Activity and Wrap Up

     

    Housing Levy – Again

    Because of the first meeting’s short notice and the community’s interest in generating better turnout, the Office of Housing will attend a second community meeting for West Seattle residents to discuss the proposed new Housing Levy.

    When:                  Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016

    Where:                 Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon Street.

    Affordability is a major issue for many District 1 residents as well as residents throughout the City. The average price for a 1 bedroom ranges between $1500 and $1700 per month making it impossible for a household earning less $53,000 per year to find an affordable dwelling unit.

    Since 1986 the affordable-housing levies have helped many households find and maintain their affordable housing. In 2014, 1,455 INDIVIDUALS in 596 HOUSEHOLDS were assisted by the 2009 housing levy.

    The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Committee and the Mayor have recommended renewing the housing levy, in the amount of $290 million over the next 7 years. The cost to median Seattle homeowners is $122/year (an increase of $5/month). The levy directs spending for:

    • Rental Production and Preservation of 2,150 affordable apartments
    • Operating and maintenance of 350 affordable apartments
    • Homelessness prevention for 4,500 families
    • Homeownership funds to assist 380 low-income homeowners

     

    Black Prisoners’ Caucus Legislative Summit

    Last Saturday, I and about 30 other individuals from organizations such as Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC), Blackout Washington, The Village of Hope, the People’s Institute Northwest, and many others set out on a 7:30 am ferry to Bainbridge and then drove for 3 hours to arrive at Clallam Bay Corrections Institute to attend the annual Black Prisoners’ Caucus Legislative Summit. We were joined by additional prison reform advocates who had been driving since 2 am to join us from as far away as Spokane. The thought that stayed with me on the long drive there and back was how difficult drives like this must be on family members trying to visit loved ones on any sort of regular basis.

    The Black Prisoners’ Caucus was formed by men incarcerated at the Washington State Reformatory at Monroe in 1972. In 2012, another BPC was established at Clallam Bay Correctional Complex. The BPC has a yearly Legislative Summit to highlight issues of concern to prisoners and their families.

    I’ve been working on issues related to criminal justice reform for much of my adult life, so I was shocked and a little ashamed to learn two things on Saturday of which I was unaware:

    1. Since 1984, Washington State has abandoned the use of parole.

    The BPC is seeking to reform the sentencing system and revive the mandate for the system to support rehabilitation. The lack of parole not only offers no hope to individual prisoners who rehabilitate but a prison system with no mandate to rehabilitate systemically supports the need to build more prisons.

    As a recent Real Change editorial explained:

    “The massive escalation of tax dollars and resources poured into the maintenance and expansion of prison over the past 30 years was diverted from other vital state institutions: the public school and university system, the mental health system, the foster care and child welfare system, public housing, employment security and vocational training, substance abuse treatment services and veterans’ services.”

    1. Since 1995, State law has prohibited the use of public funds to support higher education for incarcerated people.

    With education severely restricted inside Washington State prisons, the BPC has reached out to communities for sponsors and volunteers and other resources to support college-level classes in order to create a prisoner-led and developed program called Taking Education and Creating History or TEACH.

    These are just a couple of the issues that the BPC is working on. In addition they are supporting HB 1390 championed by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) to end the current debtor’s prison system of allowing local governments to charge interest on the fines, fees, and victim restitution (Legal Financial Obligations) when a person is in prison serving their sentence. The debt resulting can serve a barrier to people trying to return to their community, with some jurisdictions re-incarcerating people who are unable to pay their LFOs.

    These efforts are largely geared towards state law and the work of state legislators. I left on Saturday moved by what I heard and asking myself how the City of Seattle could do more ourselves to support criminal justice reform efforts. With the inclusion of “re-entry” as a policy focus issue in Council President Harrell’s Education, Governance, and Equity Committee, the Seattle City Council has begun to take up this issue. In addition, the Mayor has recently formed a Fair Chance Housing committee to reduce barriers to housing for people with criminal records. I’m committed to insuring that impacted communities are engaged in the policy work we do. In moving this work forward, I’ll be looking for ways to incorporate the voices of the BPC in those efforts.

     

     

     

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