With its official launch, the Seattle Solidarity Budget coalition seeks to influence decision making over the 2022 City of Seattle Budget.
This weekend marks the launch of Seattle’s Solidarity Budget. Now in its second year, the coalition behind the effort is getting word out in advance of the release of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed 2022 City budget (which is expected on Monday) with the goal of increasing the Solidarity Budget’s influence over the upcoming budget negotiations that will occur between the mayor and city council. These negotiations will offer vigorous debate and competing visions for how the City should invest its resources to advance the Covid pandemic economic recovery, develop a more equitable system of public safety, address the homelessness crisis, create affordable housing, reduce carbon emissions, and more.
Not to be confused with the People’s Budget, an effort undertaken annually by Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3), the Solidarity Budget arose out of the Black Lives Matter activism of 2020, bringing together 200+ community groups who sought for the 2021 City Budget to prioritize budget actions that would divest funds from policing and increase investments in the community. As a member of the Move All Seattle Sustainably Coalition (MASS), The Urbanist endorsed the 2021 Solidarity Budget. Other endorsers included Decriminalize Seattle, Creative Justice, King County Equity Now, Seattle Transit Riders Union, Disability Rights Washington, Real Change, 350 Seattle, Puget Sound Sage, and Seattle Democratic Socialists of America.
This year the coalition behind the Solidarity Budget has had more time to craft a longer, more detailed budget in advance. This budget, which addresses many areas of City governance, continues to centralize divesting from policing and making “corresponding investments into community care, support, and safety for Black, Indigenous, migrant, unhoused, disabled, queer, trans and low-income communities.”
2022 Seattle Solidarity Budget Highlights
The 2022 Solidarity Budget proposes taking actions in several areas, each of which contains recommendations for funding and/or implementation of public policy. Priorities and their key recommendations include:
Defund Police, Courts, and Prosecutors. The coalition demands that the “divestment from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) continue, and that Seattle commit to shrink other parts of the policing pipeline by defunding the municipal court and the criminal division of the City Attorney’s office.” Key recommendations include:
- Defunding SPD by 50% by eliminating position authority, reducing funding for positions, and ending funding for new hires and ending police spending on new tech, new buildings, new weapons, or police public relations.
- Defunding the misdemeanor punishment arm of the municipal court and the criminal division of the City Attorney’s office by 50% by eliminating courtrooms and shrinking the number of cases prosecuted.
- Investing $5.5 million in addressing gender-based violence and $40 million in capacity building grants for community-based organizations to build non-police responses to crisis and harm.
Put Budgeting in People’s Hands. The coalition’s vision is for a City “where all people can participate actively in democratic governance and community self-determination demands that the City scale up its investment into Black-led and centered participatory budgeting.” Participatory budgeting is a democratic process by which community members decide how to spend a portion of a public budget, and since 2015 it has been a practice in Seattle. Primary recommendation:
- The 2022 budget should double the current investment in participatory budgeting to $60 million.
Invest in Indigenous Sovereignty. In the absence of federal recognition, Duwamish Tribal Services has struggled to provide numerous social, educational, health, and cultural programs to its members. Primary recommendation:
- Invest $2.8 million in promoting the Tribe’s Indigenous sovereignty by funding mental health services, grants for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and inpatient care, and vouchers for housing, food, and other basic needs for low income Tribal members.
Generate Progressive Revenue. As a city that is home to some of the wealthiest corporations and individuals in the world, the budget calls for the City to identity options for generating progressive revenue. Key recommendations include:
- Funding a taskforce of community experts whose charge will be to offer a report with an expanded list of options for progressive revenue to Council, by July 2022.
- Addressing any city revenue gaps by divesting from police, courts and prisons — instead of diverting funds from affordable housing, clean energy, workforce development and other community-defined priorities defined in the JumpStart Seattle legislation and spending plan.
Calls to invest in meeting universal needs and supporting essential infrastructure
A major goal of the Solidarity Budget is to create a city where “everyone has the support and community to thrive and where anti-Blackness is addressed.” In order to do so, the coalition believes that universal needs need to be met and essential infrastructure supported. To achieve this aim, the budget includes provisions that would:
Invest in Seattle’s Green New Deal and a healthy climate future for all. The coalition believes the 2022 City Budget can “lay the groundwork for this equitable energy transition, while meeting urgent needs for utility assistance, building community climate resilience and creating pathways to good living-wage jobs.” Key recommendations:
- $85 million per year, for 3 years, to transition all low-income homes in our city to clean energy. Doing this will tackle Seattle’s fastest-growing source of climate pollution, while simultaneously improving the health of our communities, reducing utility bills and creating good, living-wage jobs.
- $100,000 to create a roadmap for community climate resilience hubs in every Seattle neighborhood
- $280,000 for Indigenous-led clean energy, sustainability and cultural preservation projects
Prioritize funding for housing for all. In 2022, the coalition is calling for the City to build a more equitable housing future by investing approximately $635 million in housing, supports, and land acquisition. Key recommendations:
- Commit 65% of the JumpStart revenue (at least $132 million annually), to acquisition, construction, and operation of deeply green affordable housing;
- Develop additional progressive revenue sources to bring housing funding to levels that actually can address the city and region’s longstanding housing deficit; We propose investing half a billion dollars per year in creating social housing.
- Support housing stability through renter protections and legal aid, emergency shelter and land banking;
- Support community-led efforts that pursue the goals to provide housing for all and to address the historical and present day impacts of exclusionary zoning and redlining.
Prioritize transportation funding that allows Seattle residents to live without a car. Key recommendations:
- An additional $100 million investment in infrastructure for people walking, rolling, biking, and in transit.
- A $40 million investment would add 100,000 bus hours and add key bus lanes and bus priority at intersections.
- Investing $10 million each in pedestrianizing streets, in quickly rolling out protected bike lanes, in repairing sidewalks in expanding sidewalks where they don’t exist, in Safe Routes to School, and in rolling out “block the box” enforcement cameras and transit lane cameras to keep intersections and crosswalks clear.
Recognize childcare as essential infrastructure and fund it accordingly. Citing the fact that the high cost of childcare falls disproportionately on families of color, the coalition is calling for the City to invest $153.7 million in universal childcare: Key recommendations:
- Expanding culturally-specific providers, and expanding options for care (including expanded infant and toddler care and drop-in care), and expanding spaces where care can happen.
- Expanding existing childcare subsidies to serve more families, and creating a pilot income support program
- Funding for mentoring and parent leadership development, parent education, and mental health support for parents.
Offer food support and food sovereignty. The budget proposes investing $17.8 million in food security for the city’s most vulnerable residents. Key recommendations:
- Increase the local capacities for food producers and distributors to reach the communities who are locked out of access to nutritious and culturally specific food.
- Deliver coordinated and cooperatively-owned and -managed solutions that can increase access to food for our communities by supporting the full farm-to-school and farm-to-table food ecosystem, particularly for culturally-specific food.
Expand education funding to approximately $171 million with an emphasis on Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) students and disabled students. Key recommendations:
- Providing robust supports that are needed to meet the cultural, socioemotional, and disability related needs of our BIPOC youth to help recover from the traumatic disruption caused and exacerbated by COVID-19, including culturally-specific support for caregivers, teachers and school staff, community-based organizations.
- Fund new hires to expand access to cultural, socioemotional, and disability related supports so that every school has access to caring professionals who can meet these needs.
Ensure Digital Equity and Internet Access through key investments and pilot programs. Recognizing that access to the Internet has become essential in our society, the budget proposes the City invest in digital equity so that low income community members have greater access to invaluable information resources available online. Key recommendations:
- Expanding access community’s access to to the high-speed fiber internet
- Training of community members to be liaisons (both digital navigators and digital stewards)
- Delivering quality devices and technical support, and digital skills training
- High-speed internet with accessible support
Determining how to invest in Seattle’s future
The Solidarity Budget coalition is seeking to add endorsers to their 2022 budget and those interested can sign up on this form.
Budgeting is a crucial part of city governance, impacting nearly all areas of residents’ lives. However, despite its critical importance, the budget-making process can appear nearly indecipherable for residents. Connections can be unclear between line items in the City budget and the concrete observations we make in our daily lives that relate to city spending, such as the ongoing presence emergency shelter and social services for people who are living unhoused or the lack of sidewalks or bike lanes in our neighborhood.
With our emphasis on examining policy to improve cities and quality of life, The Urbanist is committed to helping Seattle residents better understand the City budgeting process and the impacts of those decisions on our city. We will be offering coverage and critiques in the weeks the follow, so stay tuned for more updates!
Note: The Urbanist’s Executive Director Doug Trumm participated in the creation of the 2022 Solidarity Budget, in particular in the sections related to transportation and housing.
Natalie Bicknell Argerious (she/her) is Managing Editor at The Urbanist. A passionate urban explorer since childhood, she loves learning how to make cities more inclusive, vibrant, and environmentally resilient. You can often find her wandering around Seattle's Central District and Capitol Hill with her dogs and cat. Email her at natalie [at] theurbanist [dot] org.