Sa(you)want Rent Control?

Sa(you)want Rent Control?

Last week, nearly a thousand people gathered in Town Hall to witness the debate on rent control. The atmosphere was tense and the crowds were restless, highlighting how pressing the issue of housing affordability in Seattle has become.

Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata led the argument in favor of rent control. Both Sawant and Licata described the severe burden that the increasing rent prices are placing on low-income households, and called for the need to limit these large price hikes through the rent control policy.

“The housing market is broken, and needs to be fixed,” Licata stated, “Without rent control, there is no answer to these skyrocketing rents.”

State Rep. Matt Manweller and Roger Valdez, a developer lobbyist, painted a far more negative side of rent control. They explored rent control in cities such as San Francisco and New York, linking the policy with the rise of dilapidated housing and the lack of housing growth in these areas. For them, the problem is centered on the widening disparity between supply and demand, and rent control does not address this.

“Rent control does not work,” Valdez asserted, “Build more housing – it’s that simple.”

However, addressing housing affordable is never that simple. Housing affordability has been a growing problem in Seattle since the late-1970s, and is only getting worse. Even so, history and experts are not on the side of rent control.

The debate was held in a very crowded Town Hall on July 20th, 2015.

In a rare consensus, nearly 93 percent of economists agree that rent control creates more problems than it solves. Nevertheless, Sawant and Licata are convinced that it can work.

“At end of the day, we can recite all facts, but this is about vision,” Sawant concluded, “if you want Seattle to be a vibrant, dynamic, and culturally diverse city, then we will need policies like rent control.”

Each city is unique, and it is impossible to predict whether such a policy would work. However, if any city could break the pattern, my bet is on Seattle.

This blog post was written by Allen, a rising senior at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

#Toby

#Toby

Natalie Brand, K5 News’ chief political reporter, came to interview our very own Toby Crittenden this morning.

Toby is a master narrator- he told The Bus’ story seamlessly. His hair also looked great (#TeamSaveIt).

Brand seemed interested in voter apathy and ways in which local organizations, such as The Bus, work to engage people. Brand asked, “Why is voter turnout lower in the tech community?” to which Toby responded, “I wish I could say that young people are a big, monolithic block, but they aren’t… If I moved across the country, I would be aware of what’s happening day to day, but it wouldn’t necessarily catch my heartstrings.”

Toby believes that the more time you spend in a city, the more likely you are to develop a keen awareness and passion for what’s happening around you. The tech community tends to be in-and-out, and it’s understandable that young people are likely to have strong roots and interests elsewhere. However, Toby argues that as tech community grows and solidifies, if in 10-20 years we are still asking that question, then we will have a huge problem.

On the efficacy of reaching out to young people, Toby explained The Youth Agenda’s four core issues are purely representative of young folks’ concerns and passions. Part of The Youth Agenda’s goals, beyond engaging young voters, is to make sure politicians know which issues young people care about as a means of enhancing their credibility.

When questioned about voter demographics and target populations, Toby explained that we ask ourselves, “where are the most young people, and where are the most people of color? We strongly believe in racial justice, and we try to target folks who are least likely to have access to information.” The Bus’ places a substantial focus on Districts 2 and 3, for example.

In relation to The Bus’ youth engagement, Toby relayed some of the super fun and cool things we do. He described Candidate survivor as a “…way to flip the Town Hall [paradigm] and take candidates out of their comfort zones… to ask real policy questions while creating an immediate feedback loop (i.e. text to vote).”

Kudos Toby, on a job well done!

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Americans with Disabilities Act, 25th Anniversary @ Westlake

Americans with Disabilities Act, 25th Anniversary @ Westlake

On July 22nd, Seattle celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Westlake. The first part of the event was devoted to the recognition of donors, sponsors, volunteers, and speakers, and the second half was devoted to a rally.

Over ten organizations volunteered, and the event was sponsored by a number of corporations, government affiliates, and independent donors (I.e. SPD, City Council, the City of Bellevue, Starbucks, Boeing-which-did-not-show-up, etc.).

The Executive Director of the Washington State Independent Living Council (WASILC), Emilio Vela Jr., stated that his favorite part of the event was recognizing those affected by disabilities—he pointed to one fellow stating, “This guy right here was one of the first guys to go to college in Kansas and make a case for accessible entrances, transportation, and walkways.” He further argued, “disability rights are civil rights… it’s about independent living; working and residing where xtyou want, using public transportation, whether you’re deaf or blind or a wheelchair user.”

One speaker evocatively explained how she had developed a debilitating, “invisible,” disability, or a crippling anxiety disorder, and was able to benefit from the ADA  in ways previously thought unimaginable. She claimed, “If it were not for the ADA, [the act] which told my family and my friends, and frankly me, that having a disability is nothing to be ashamed of, I would still be governed by my disability today.” Instead, she is making a difference in Washington State, by servicing those living with disabilities, and engaging folks on the importance of the ADA across the state. Her story dually speaks to the ADA’s protections for those living with mental illness.

Several politicians spoke to the importance of the ADA. Patty Murray, a Washington senator strongly in support of disability rights at both the state and national levels, left an audio message. She stated, “We have so much to celebrate today, but we must also think about what more can be done.” Murray is working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) so that students with disabilities have the opportunity to “work and grow and thrive,” in an increasingly inclusive environment.

On a beautiful sunny day, the ADA was celebrated in a crowded city square—visible, potent, and necessary.

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

Plymouth Housing: A Landing Site for the Homeless

Plymouth Housing: A Landing Site for the Homeless

Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to visit Plymouth Housing Group, an organization that serves some of the most disadvantaged homeless adults in Seattle. During this visit, we learned about the organization’s unique approach towards tackling homelessness.

Plymouth operates under a “housing first” philosophy, which focuses first on bringing people off the streets and into stable and permanent homes. This means that individuals who often have no other options for housing – drug addicts, the chronically ill, and the disabled – can find a home at Plymouth. By lowering the barriers to housing, and accepting those who are struggling the most, Plymouth acknowledges the challenges that come with homelessness and aims to tackle the issue at its core.

What struck me the most was the extent to which Plymouth went to try to make their tenants feel at home. As part of our visit, we helped make welcome posters and calendars for new residents, to provide a more welcoming and comfortable touch to their new homes. The idea is that by prolonging their stay, tenants will have greater opportunities to seek the supportive services that they need and build towards a better and more stable life.

Image taken from www.plymouthhousing.org

So far, the hard work seems to have paid off. According to Winona Caruthers, the Community Engagement & Housing Stability Coordinator, nearly 98% of tenants remain with Plymouth after one year. Today, Plymouth is serving more than 1000 formerly-homeless people in its facilities.

However, there is still much work to be done. The problem of homelessness remains rampant in Seattle, with nearly 4000 people still living on the streets – a 20% increase from 2014. At Plymouth, waitlists extend through several years, and have even closed. This poses many questions: Are we taking the right approach? Are we tackling homelessness at its source? What is the source? The city and non-profits certainly have a complex problem to address. Whatever the answer may be, volunteering at Plymouth has shown me the value of incorporating kindness and humanity into this solution.

This blog post was written by Allen, a rising senior at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

O’Toole Is O’Cool, Harrell Go To He…The Park

O’Toole Is O’Cool, Harrell Go To He…The Park

Recently, I attended a City Council Committee Meeting on public safety, civil rights, and technology. There were some 60 attendees in addition to Committee Chair, Bruce Harrell, council member, Jean Godden, and Chief of Police, Kathleen O’Toole.

Harrell began by addressing a group of middle school students in the audience, stating, “we have the Chief of Police here today, the highest ranking police official in the city, AND, she is a woman…We are very proud that gender doesn’t make a difference, at least not here in this city.”

What?

Last time I checked, gender makes a difference everywhere – even in a city as comparatively progressive and proactive as Seattle. Harrell, are you familiar with the host of LGBTQ hate crimes happening in and around The Hill these days? Unequal wage gaps? Apparently, you aren’t.

(I’ll revisit later on).

For now, allow me to debrief on a few of O’Toole’s main points on the SPD’s efforts to augment police accountability.

  1. So far in 2015, the SPD has not been involved in officer shootings and other violent disputes (phew).
  2. The SPD has implemented an Early Intervention System (EIS) to enhance officer accountability. O’Toole stated, “[the EIS] is a way to identify an officer’s abnormalities before he/she becomes problematic.” And yes, we’ve seen “problematic” from sea to shining sea.
  3. The SPD mandates de-escalation training as a part of its police academy, in efforts to “use deathly force [only] as a last resort so that officers have the tools to effectively de-escalate a dangerous situation.” While reminiscent of the “talk a man off the ledge” strategy, popularized in films and literary account of sorts, O’Toole argues that de-escalation has been largely successful to date.
  4. The SPD is going #Social #WorldWideWeb, via “trying to get better at telling [its] story,” says O’Toole. She is proud of the SPD’s new social media presence (FB, Twitter, etc.). Personally, I’d like to see an Instagram account titled, “TheCopCar98105,” but we’re not there yet.
  5. The SPD is working to align its statistical data with Seattle’s 57 distinct micro-communities. Each neighborhood has its own set of diverse challenges, that O’Toole and fellow officers believe should be uniquely addressed. Kudos!
  6. A new (mysterious ghost) IT man is working to develop “agile policing,” or the use of data from previous events to render new protocols. O’Toole says that this will help to “rapidly deploy resources through the use of technology” (like drones, but not).
  7. Community outreach is in. So is police recruitment. The SPD has the most “…diverse police explorer program in the state” for young people (like, 4th graders) to “…learn about policing… and to see if it’s right for them.” Forest Fire Fighting (yes, the FFF) was “right for me” when I was that age, but unfortunately, things change. Anyways, the program is diverse, and “targets historically underrepresented groups,” says O’Toole.
  8. O’Toole signed off (kind of) with these inspirational words, to soon be etched upon the back of a Pottery Barnes pillow – “I like to emphasize that prevention and intervention are always more important than enforcement.” #True.

Long live O’Toole!

This blog post was written by Natalie, a Public Policy major at Duke University and the Bus’ 2015 DukeEngage Intern.

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