The new wave of city council members—three women and two women of color—is already making its impact on city council. Just check out some the new committee assignments. There’s the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New Americans Committee. There’s the Education, Equity, and Governance Committee. And there’s the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee.
What’s the common theme of renaming some committees (it used to just be the Education and Governance committee), reshuffling others (economic development didn’t used to be teamed up with civil rights), and reframing (formerly “gender pay equity” is now the broader “gender equity”)?
There’s a clearer and more specific commitment to civil rights issues.
When new at-large council member Lorena González was running for council she told us point blank: “What I hope to bring to the table as a policy member is using [a social justice] lens at every single policy. We can’t make policy from a place of assuming everyone is white, makes $35,000, and is male.”
González, the daughter of immigrant farm workers, is heading up the aforementioned Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New Americans Committee.
Given that the city’s relatively tiny Office of Civil Rights (it has a $4 million budget while the planning department, for example, has a $76 million budget) doesn’t generate a lot of legislation on its own (it’s now mainly focused on enforcing the new $15 minimum wage and paid sick leave standards), the new focus on civil rights at the legislative end of the governance equation may generate renaissance of civil rights legislation in Seattle.
Big thumbs up to that possibility.
But by comparison, it’s hard (for transit fans) not to notice that even after the city just passed a $930 million transportation levy with a heavy focus on transit, and after the mayor created a new transit division within the transportation department, transit isn’t being called out in the new council committee level. The transportation committee, which will newly be headed up by Mike O’Brien (also a Sound Transit board member), has been renamed the Transportation and Sustainability Committee, though that is more a reflection of the fact that the land use committee, formerly O’Brien’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee has been changed to the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee (which, by the way, gets the award for the nerdiest name ever). O’Brien, presumably, is taking the “sustainability” piece with him to leverage his planning expertise into transportation.
You’d think that people would get that the transit is a civil rights issue. And that it too should be called out. At a recent City Club year in review forum, none of the panelists tagged the $930 billion transportation levy, nor the $15 billion state authorization for Sound Transit Three, as big events for of 2015.
Orca Lift, Metro’s low-income fare program, only one of two in the country, surpassed 20,000 enrollees since debuting in March 2015.
Okay. End rant.
In other news, the new issue of The Atlantic has a profile on wealthy lefty Nick Hanauer.
Painting him as a heroic class traitor who’s poised to change decades of supply-side capitalism in America, it begins:
Hanauer, who is 56, with blunt features and a pouf of dark hair, paused to collect his thoughts, then leaned forward in his leather seat. “A guy like me—a very successful capitalist, somebody who knows all the rich people—is the best face for the message of reforming capitalism, right?” he said. People might dismiss the argument coming from a fast-food worker or a labor leader. “I’m the one who can say, ‘It doesn’t have to be that way,’ ” he continued. “When they say that the better profits are, the better it will be for everybody, I’m the one who can say, ‘That’s a lie.’ ”