Goodbye to our 2017 Fellowship Class

Goodbye to our 2017 Fellowship Class <3

For the past ten-weeks, all 15 Fellows poured their energy into leading some of the most important campaigns in our area: De-Escalate Washington I-940, Decline to Sign I-1552, Washington Voting Justice, and banning conversion therapy in Renton.

Combined, the Fellows obtained over 3,000 signatures and registered dozens of new voters. This translated into over 3,000 individual conversations around LGBTQIA+ advocacy, voting access, and police accountability.

For those who have ever lead campaigns, you know first hand the difficulties of creating field plans, pulling turf, lobbying elected officials, and canvassing. These tasks were no exceptions for this Fellowship class. Through extreme canvassing temperatures, difficult conversations around oppression, and yes even rejection out on the field, the Fellows continued to be intentional and committed to their campaigns. Nothing wavered them. They went out into the field every week engaging young people and pushing forth progressive policies.

This last Sunday was the final day for the 8th Washington Bus Fellowship Class. It was a bittersweet moment. What started with 15 Fellows sitting around our conference table in the office, nervously making small talk ended with a deep commitment to each other, an understanding of collective healing, and passion for building people-led power. I know they will go back to their schools, workplaces, and communities to continue to put into practice what they learned this summer.

I have said this before, and I will say it again, with these Fellows out in our communities we are going to be ok. The social equity change we want to see will happen. Follow the work they will be doing in their communities.

Read statements from the Fellows below to get a glimpse at their experience this summer.

-Cinthia Illan-Vazquez, Fellowship Organizer

And a word from the incredible staff who led our summer Fellowship program…

Introducing the Bustice League!

Introducing the Bustice League!

This week’s Hella Bus Blog Thirsty Thursday blog post comin’ at ya! #knowledgeresponsibly

We’ve got big news coming out of Buslandia, a place where dreams come true. Do you dream of 100% youth voter turnout? Do you want to befriend other rad civically engaged young people? Do you wish you could be a real-life superhero? Whatever your dream is, we’re proud to announce The Bustice League™, our brand spankin’ new volunteer program created with the stuff that dreams are made of.

Members of the Bustice League are the super-volunteers that help our voter registration and campaign work succeed. Super-volunteers commit to a certain number of volunteer hours per month. The opportunities are varied and endless–you could register voters at Bumbershoot, testify at city council, create a zine, or help out around the office. Joining the Bustice League gets you access to #firstdibs at music festival volunteer shifts, bus swag, an opportunity to build up your organizing skills, and of course, a once in a lifetime chance to change the world.

The Bustice League is an extension of our leadership development programs, our seasonal internship and summer fellowship. The Bustice League is open to people of all ages and experience levels. Have you already completed our fellowship program and want to get back on the Bus? Join the Bustice League! Did you just find out about us at Seattle Pride and want to learn more about volunteering? Join the Bustice League! We’ll have fun and meaningful ways for everyone to join.

As staff members, we commit to investing in you and your growth as a young political organizer with a passion for justice. We’ll also plan regular social events (happy hour, anyone?) for Bustice League members.
If you like what you’ve read so far and want to become a defender of democracy, an advocate for justice, and a mighty political organizer, you should join the Bustice League! Come to our official launch party at the Washington Bus office in Pioneer Square on July 6 from 6-8 pm. We’ll bring the snacks, and you can bring your friends. Deal? Check out the Facebook event here and don’t forget to RSVP! If you can’t come to the launch party, but want to learn more about joining the Bustice League, shoot me an e-mail at sophia@washingtonbus.org.

This blog post was written by Sophia Hoffacker, the Bus’s own Field Coordinator.

Say Her Name.

Say Her Name.

On Sunday Charleena Lyles was shot and killed by Seattle Police in her home after calling to report a burglary. It is a devastating loss for her family, children, and the community.

Original photo: http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/06/19/25225266/charleena-lyles-victim-of-spd-shooting-remembered-as-life-of-the-party

Institutional, systemic racism, under-resourcing of mental health services, and insufficient training in implicit bias, crisis intervention, and de-escalation tactics all contribute to tragedies like this. We need to work together to challenge and change our systems and undo institutional oppression to stop losing lives of people of color and other oppressed communities.

Although the shooting is under investigation by SPD’s Force Investigation Team, history has shown justice is so rarely served for victims of police violence. In Washington State especially, due to wording in existing statutes it is nearly impossible to convict a police officer for a fatal use of force because the prosecution has to prove malicious intent. Even if an officer is confirmed to have committed a wrongful killing, it is extremely hard to prove evil intent. This year, the Washington Bus Education Fund will be partnering with De-Escalate Washington through our Fellowship to change the legal language on this statute so victims of fatal police shootings can get the justice they deserve. The group’s Initiative 940 will also create statewide standards for de-escalation and crisis intervention training for officers.

Looking for ways to support Charleena?

Donate online here to the GoFundMe page created to support her family, including her 4 children.

Looking for ways to get engaged further?

Attend the BlackLivesMatter March for Justice tonight at 6pm at Westlake Park.

Attend the Trans Pride March: Black Lives Matter contingent tomorrow at 5pm at the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station.

Sign up to volunteer with the Bus to fight for justice alongside our Fellows with De-Escalate Washington and Washington Won’t Discriminate.

Keep up with the conversation on social media #CharleenaLyles #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter

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.

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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