I Believe in You, I Believe in Us

November 21st, 2016

Friends,

It’s been almost two weeks since we found out who the 45th President of the United States will be. In the wake of the presidential election, many members of our community have expressed fear and concern with the uncertainty of how this new president will govern based on the divisive language he used and the policy proposals he advocated for during his campaign. Accordingly, many of us have already started organizing around what we can do in the wake of potential federal policy proposals with daunting and real implications for our communities, particularly immigrants, refugees, women, Muslims and the LGBTQ community. In the coming weeks and months, my priority is to work with community to advance local policies and advocate for federal policies that will continue to protect these communities. As Chair of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans committee, I will be doubling down on my work to ensure each and every Seattle resident feels safe and respected.

To my brothers and sisters in the struggle for immigrant rights, I continue to stand in solidarity with you. I take my role in this historic moment in our struggle for justice very seriously not because I’m an elected official, but because my own parents first emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as undocumented immigrants before adjusting their status and, in my mother’s case, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. Just after the election I stood with the Mayor as he announced our City’s continued commitment to protecting immigrant and refugee communities. I wholeheartedly stand by the Mayor’s pledge to continue enforcing our own policies that prohibit our employees, including police, and contracted providers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status. Our city will continue to provide critical human, public safety and health and human services regardless of immigration status.

My office has received many inquiries related to resources for immigrants and refugees, in that spirit, I share with you some valuable, bilingual resources for the immigrant and refugee community that can be shared with your networks.

I look forward to partnering with community and other elected leaders to provide all Seattle residents’ unfettered opportunities to succeed in our community.

Resources for members of the immigrant and refugee community:

 

A budget we can be proud of:

While the aftermath of the election was unfolding, here at City Hall we continued to craft a budget for 2017-2018 that reflects Seattle’s values of equity. Today, that budget passed with majority support.

This budget was my first budget cycle as a councilmember. My priorities included investments in public safety, housing, paid family leave, and support for immigrants, refugees, non-English speakers, LGBTQ youth and seniors, and domestic and sexual assault survivors.

Here are a few highlights but you can check out my website for a full list of budget items that I championed on behalf of community.

  • Public Safety.  Making sure that residents of South Park and Chinatown-International District have the resources they need to spur community-driven public safety improvements.  For South Park, that means the creation of a Special Task Force to provide the City with concrete policy recommendations that will improve overall public safety and livability of that neighborhood.
  • Housing.  Funding an affordable housing needs assessment analysis for LGBTQ seniors and funding resources for development of a homeless youth housing project to ensure some of our most vulnerable neighbors have access to stable housing and the services they need.
  • Paid Family Leave.  Advancing the City’s paid family leave benefits by funding a paid parental benefits coordinator at the Seattle Department of Human Resources, who will help City employees navigate benefits available to them when there is a birth of a child or a family member becomes ill.
  • Immigrants & Refugees. Ensuring that immigrants and refugees become New Americans by increasing the funding for the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Citizenship Workshops.  These workshops will help eligible immigrants to naturalize and further integrate into our democracy by registering to vote and voting.
  • Survivors of Domestic & Sexual Violence.  Funding four mobile advocates for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and a legal navigator at the King County Courthouse. These budget actions will allocate funds to directly assist survivors of domestic and sexual violence through the labyrinth of the legal and social services system, which can be very confusing and burdensome in an already stressful and uncertain moment for survivors.

As a whole, I believe that our 2017-2018 budget demonstrates bold and creative action towards investing in our community by prioritizing the needs of working families and underrepresented communities. Thank you to all of those that participated in the year’s budget by meeting with me, my staff, attending public comment or sending us a note.  Your continued engagement is valued.

 

Wow; it’s been a year!

Can you believe that it’s been a year since I’ve had the privilege of serving as your councilmember? I can’t either!  It feels auspicious that this year Thanksgiving falls on the same day I was sworn in to be the first Latina to serve on the Seattle City Council.  And, in spite of the work that has yet to be completed, we have much to be thankful for here in Seattle.  Perhaps, my colleague Councilmember Debora Juarez (Dist. 5) said it best when she said that on this Thanksgiving Day we should pray for the struggle of our Native communities who are fighting every day to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline Project.  Here in Seattle we are finding new ways to celebrate Native communities and today the Council proclaimed November to be Native American Heritage Month.

On the eve of my one-year anniversary in office, I want to convey my gratitude to the people who have made this year one of immense growth and success. In 12 short months, thanks to your support and counsel, we:

  1. Became the second major city to pass a secure scheduling ordinance;
  2. Banned the practice of so-called “conversion” therapy on minor children;
  3. Proposed an expansion of the City’s paid parental leave policies to add more weeks and coverage for paid family leave; and,
  4. Submitted the City’s proposed police accountability and reform legislation to the U.S. District Court.

None of this would have been possible without my City family.  Many of you have had the pleasure of working with my staff and interns.  This work is one of love and it could not be done without the dedication to public service exemplified by my team: Orlando Cano, Cori Simmons, Cody Reiter, Brianna Thomas, Genevieve Jones, Cory Dahl and Roxana Gomez.

I also want to thank so many of you for inspiring me to do this work every day.  In the last two weeks we have seen how this community mobilizes into action to express our love of community and our collective resilience. There was a legal clinic and vigil at El Centro, people encircling Greenlake, peaceful protests by students and local leaders getting together to determine #WhatWeMustDoNow. And tonight I’ll be going to Rainier Vista at the request of eight young, powerful Muslim women to talk about where we go from here.

Combined, these efforts demonstrate that we remain committed to protecting one another and our shared values. Moreover, people who have never participated in politics are taking it upon themselves to understand and involve themselves in the civic fabric that weaves our lives together. I tell you with full confidence that we have the networks of support and resilience necessary to meet the coming challenges. I am certain that we will strengthen an already powerful movement that is based in our values of opportunity, safety and equity for all.  And for that I am very thankful.

In gratitude and solidarity,

Lorena

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You City Dollars at Work

November 7th, 2016

With the fall days getting darker and darker we’ve been burning the midnight oil at City Hill to craft a budget that is attuned to the needs of all Seattleites. As we head into another round of negotiations I want to give you a quick update of where we are in the process, and my priorities for the budget.

Where we are:

The 2017-2018 Budget approval process officially began with the Mayor’s Budget Address on September 26th. Since then we have been analyzing the Mayor’s proposals, meeting with countless advocates to hear community needs, establishing our priorities and crafting them into proposals. On November 2nd the Budget Committee Chair, Councilmember Burgess, presented his work reconciling all initial requests into one big balancing package. Additional proposals and ones that did not make it into the Initial Balancing Package were submitted last Friday. This week we will be discussing this second round of submissions. The week thereafter we will vote on the Revised Balancing Package. On November 21st we will cast the final vote on the 2017-2018 Budget. The Proposed Budget, full calendar and documents database reside here if you want to learn more: http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/select-budget-committee.

budgetcalendar

 

My proposals included in the Initial Balancing Package:

Chinatown-International District (CID) Public Safety Coordinator

($75,000 in 2017 / $75,000 in 2018)
As Chair of the committee that oversees public safety I took this year’s CID Public Safety Task Force recommendations to heart. One of their top priorities was the funding of a public safety coordinator who would act as a liaison with the City, advocate for the community, help determine appropriate action for daily public safety/human service situations, and build trust between non/limited English speaking residents, small businesses, community organizations and the police. The public safety coordinator would also serve as co-chair of the CID Steering Committee formed in response to the CID Public Safety Task Force recommendations.

 

CID Public Safety Surveys

($20,000 in 2017 / $20,000 in 2018)
This project, also a recommendation of the CID Public Safety Task Force, would provide funds to contract with a local community based organization and partner with an academic institution to perform culturally competent public safety surveys in the CID, including Little Saigon. The surveys will provide data to help the City make informed policy decisions on public safety matters facing the CID. For example, a similar study conducted in early 2016 by two local community development associations found that respondents did not report witnessing a crime to the police 73% of the time for non-violent crimes and 60% of the time for violent crimes.

 

Danny Woo Park Improvements

($200,000 in 2017 / $200,000 in 2018)
Danny Woo garden is a historic community hub in the CID. The 1.5 acre garden contains at least 88 plots that are cared for and cultivated by Asian and Pacific Islander immigrant residents of the neighborhood. It serves as an important part of these individual’s lives, giving them purpose, an opportunity to exercise and way to engage with their neighbors. Originally, established in 1975 it’s in need of some TLC. Some of the proposed improvements include new native drought tolerant plantings, multi-lingual interpretive signage and infrastructure updates for pathways, stairways and retaining walls using sustainable practices.

 

Paid Parental Leave Benefits Coordinator for Municipal Workers

($144,050 in 2017 / $148,369 in 2018)
This budget action would provide funding to the Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) for one full time Strategic Advisor who would work as a benefits coordinator. This position would help implement the City’s paid leave benefits including paid parental leave, sick leave, and vacation, consistently across City departments and help employees understand and coordinate their leave benefits.

 

Mobile Advocates for Survivors of DVSA

($491,000 in 2017 / $491,000 in 2018)
Unfortunately, we are all too aware that 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 7 men have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). This budget action would allocate funds to the Human Services Department (HSD) for four full time, mobile advocates to assist survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault (DVSA). As a member of the Domestic Violence Prevention Council and someone who has represented survivors it is abundantly clear to me that we need advocates that are adaptive to the needs of survivors. This means advocates who can provide individualized, flexible, and mobile assistance within survivors’ chosen communities; work directly with landlords and public housing authorities to expand options for survivors; and use a trauma-informed lens to respond to survivors’ and children’s needs related not only to past victimization but ongoing threats, sabotage and violence.

 

Legal Navigator at King County Courthouse

($76,000 in 2017 / $76,000 in 2018)
This navigator would be the point person in the downtown King County Courthouse to both assess the victim’s civil legal needs and refer them to a civil legal aid provider to provide legal assistance as appropriate to the victim’s needs and circumstances. This would include on-site legal consultation, assistance, and/or “day of” representation for DVSA survivors. Additional services may include legal clinics to provide training, assistance, and support for survivors, advocates, and attorneys on domestic violence protection order declarations, sexual assault protection orders, family law, immigration law, assistance with U Visas and related, referrals to other agencies and attorneys network. The goal is to serve 500 Seattle residents in the initial 12 month period.

 

Increase in Juror Pay

($61,770 ongoing)
This budget action would increase appropriations to the Seattle Municipal Court on an on-going basis to allow the Court to increase juror pay from $10 to $25 per day. This is especially important because while Seattle has recently fought for and won a higher minimum wage, juror pay has remained frozen for decades. Increasing juror pay is necessary to ensuring that the Court is able to assemble a jury that is truly made up of our community’s peers.

 

Democracy Vouchers Outreach!

(No budget action, just a Statement of Legislative Intent)
This Statement of Legislative Intent would ask the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), in collaboration with OIRA and Department of Neighborhoods (DON), to identify and report on best practices related to outreach to Legal Permanent Residents (LPRS) and limited English proficient residents regarding the Democracy Vouchers program. With the passage of Initiative 122, the SEEC now administers the Democracy Voucher program, a public campaign financing program with funding provided by a voter-approved levy. Consistent with the language of Initiative 122, LPRs are eligible to opt in to the program, receive Democracy Vouchers and assign their vouchers to participating candidates, but unlike registered voters will not automatically receive vouchers under the Initiative. The report, due to Council by April 15, 2017, would identify a plan to ensure LPRs and limited English proficient residents are fully included in the Democracy Voucher program.

 

My additional proposals:

Home and Hope

($200,000 in 2017 / $200,000 in 2018)
This three year project aims to transform vacant or underutilized tax-exempt sites owned by public agencies and not-for-profit organizations into well-located, quality affordable housing and mixed-use, public benefit development projects. Specifically these funds would produce an inventory and functional database of properties that possess suitable elements for development in the near future; organize community partners and build their capacity to develop the sites as well as coordinate the necessary negotiations between the partners and the public agency that owns the property; and support the delivery of one or two sites in 2017 and an estimated 3 sites per year starting in 2018. Within 5 years we would expect to develop enough sites to produce at least 1500 units of affordable housing.
OIRA Citizenship Workshop

($150,000 in 2017 / $150,000 in 2018)
To meet the demand for citizenship services among the estimated 70,000 eligible Seattle residents OIRA’s New Citizen Campaign would provide expanded, free services through a “mega workshop” for up to 1,000 eligible residents, as well as monthly clinics and work-site programs. The immense success of their first citizenship workshop in October, and increased demand for the next workshop on December 4th, demonstrates the need for further funding.

 

If you would like to provide your input on the budget you are welcome to offer public comment at upcoming budget committee meetings, send me an e-mail or call my office.

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Revisiting the North Precinct Project

September 15th, 2016

I continue to believe that the existing North Precinct police station must be replaced to meet the needs of North Seattle residents and the operational needs of North Precinct officers. However, after reviewing hundreds of pages and hearing from a wide variety of community members, it is clear that we must take a step back from the North Precinct project. This is the only way the City can have a meaningful impact on the design and significantly reduce the cost of a new police precinct. Hitting pause to re-evaluate the costs of this project is the only acceptable path forward if the City is truly committed to using our finite resources responsibly.

We need to explore establishing an Expert Review Panel that would be charged with fiscal oversight of this project. We also need to explore contracting a project manager with deep experience in delivering complex, public safety facilities and public financing models.

Since mid-August, I have continued to hear from a variety of community members who continue to express the need for increased police resources in North Seattle but have concerns regarding the cost, design and scope of this proposed precinct. That input, the cost and my growing concerns about the prior lack of project oversight and public process, has lead me to the conclusion that the only responsible next step is to return to the drawing board.

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Councilmember González’ Statement on Introduction of Encampment Legislation

September 6th, 2016

Councilmember Lorena González issued the following statement regarding today’s upcoming decision to introduce legislation to revise the City’s encampment clear out policy:

“In two months, the City of Seattle will be recognizing the one-year anniversary of the declaration of a State of Emergency on Homelessness.  Sadly, in the almost twelve months since that declaration, we are only slightly closer to making homelessness a one-time, short-lived experience. There are many reasons for a lack of progress, but it’s clear that the City’s current protocols on managing outdoor unsanctioned homeless encampments have come up short.  Status quo is not acceptable. A new strategy for managing the growing encampments crisis in our city has never been more urgent.

“Today, I will vote in favor of introducing legislation that refers to the Human Services & Public Health Committee potential standards for when and how encampment sweeps may occur and requires the City either provide housing options or an alternative legal encampment location before evicting residents. The legislation was developed in consultation with advocacy organizations and homeless service providers who have direct experience in case management for the unsheltered, including the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, ACLU of Washington, Columbia Legal Services, Public Defender Association, Seattle Community Law Association, Real Change, and people experiencing homelessness. It is my expectation that this proposed legislation will undergo a robust legislative process that will include community engagement with businesses, neighborhood groups and homeless service providers. Introduction of this bill is not the final destination. It is, however, a bookend in the conversation I expect will unfold over the next several weeks.

“Simultaneously, the Mayor’s Unsanctioned Encampments Cleanup Protocols Task Force is a volunteer group of homeless and human services advocates, neighborhood groups and business owners who are meeting, on an expedited basis, to develop recommendations for new encampment clean up protocols. The Mayor has indicated that the task force will complete its work by the end of the month, and I believe that the task force’s recommendations will further assist in shaping this initial bill.

“September will be a busy month as we concurrently consider the legislation and the Mayor’s Task Force’s findings, and, although some may see both options working at cross-purposes, it’s my belief that these efforts will complement, not contradict, each other. By introducing the legislation today, we’re not precluding amendments from City Council or from the Mayor.

“As I consider the options for how to humanely deal with the almost 3,000 people living outside in Seattle, I also commit to listening to community concerns about the full spectrum of options that will come before City Council this month.

“I want to thank the volunteers on the Mayor’s Task Force, the Mayor and Councilmember Sally Bagshaw for their continued leadership in finding a balance that is swift, humane and sustainable.”

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Responsibly Moving Forward with the North Precinct

August 10th, 2016

Over the past several months, the Gender Equity, Safe Communities & New Americans committee (GESCNA) has had multiple public hearings regarding the design, operations and cost of a new police precinct that would serve all of North Seattle (Council Districts 4, 5 and 6).  The current Seattle Police Department’s North Precinct serves approximately forty percent of the City of Seattle’s population.

In 1998, the North Precinct was identified in the Seattle Police Department Long-Range Facilities Plan, which noted 18 years ago that the existing facility was already overcrowded by thirty percent.  Today, the North Precinct houses 254 staff or sixty-five percent over its designed capacity.

From 1998 through today, the City of Seattle has worked to develop and advance this capital project to meet the public safety needs of North Seattle.

Prior to my election, the City Council took approximately a dozen budget-related actions on this project.  As a new councilmember, early on I expressed concerns about the $160 million price tag approved in the 2016-2021 Capital Improvement Project budget.  While I believe that the City must construct a new North Precinct to meet existing and long-term operational needs, the City must find ways to minimize costs in the context of a homeless state of emergency, affordability crises and legitimate concerns of police reform.

As a result of additional City Council scrutiny, the total estimated project cost was reduced by an additional $11 million to $149 million.  While this is an improvement, more must be done to ensure that all cost savings have been found.

I have also heard concerns from community members who are a part of Black Lives Matter and #BlockTheBunker. As a former civil rights lawyer, who has sued the Seattle Police Department for bias policing and excessive force, I understand that for some this capital project represents social inequities within our policing and criminal justice systems that disproportionately impact communities of color.

In this overall context and in order to provide clear policy direction to the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), I co-sponsored Resolution 31698 with Councilmembers Tim Burgess (Position 8, Citywide) and Debora Juarez (District 5).  This resolution was passed on August 15, 2016, with a 7-1 vote.

My resolution does not endorse a specific budget number for the North Precinct because I believe it is more appropriate to have that conversation in the context of the City’s ordinary budget process and after more robust engagement of the north Seattle community.  Instead, my resolution directs FAS to, over the next several months, do the following:

  1. Complete a Racial Equity Toolkit Analysis. FAS must apply the City’s Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) to the facility’s operations, including potential use and programming of the publically accessible areas in and outside of the facility.  This will include meaningful outreach to north Seattle communities of color, including those disproportionately impacted by bias policing.
  1. Hire an Independent Third-Party Cost Estimator. FAS must retain an independent third-party cost estimator, whose responsibility will be to provide an independent evaluation of estimated construction costs with an eye towards finding additional cost savings.

I believe that my resolution provides much needed fiscal oversight over this significant capital project that will provide an additional opportunity to find further cost savings. My resolution also directs FAS to structure meaningful conversations with north Seattle residents about the proposed facility.

I agree that the SPD must be transformed in a manner that does not perpetuate systematic injustice. As a community, we should not have to choose between being protected from real criminal activity and constitutional, bias-free policing. That’s a false choice. We can have both public safety and law enforcement that is well trained to deescalate rather than shoot-first and ask questions later.  That is the challenge that remains and we must continue to work on reform via police accountability legislation that will be considered in my committee before the end of this year.

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Fighting for Families / Luchando para Familias

June 23rd, 2016
En Español
In English

We are a nation of immigrants. Our greatest national monument, the Statue of Liberty, is etched with the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” Today, those words are weighing heavily on my mind and heart.

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling blocking President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration that would have provided more than 4 million immigrant families the opportunity to stay together and further contribute to the fabric of America. Millions of American immigrants will be forced to continue living in perpetual fear of deportation and the threat of losing everything they know: their loved ones, their careers and their families. In Seattle, 1 of 5 residents are foreign born and statewide it is estimated over 100,000 are undocumented. Today’s decision means that these Seattle families awoke today to news that our federal government has, once again, failed them. To these families, I say: Seattle will not fail you. This City is your home and you belong here.

I am proud to chair the New American’s committee on the Seattle City Council and to continue my advocacy on behalf of immigrants and refugees as an elected official. But, I am equally proud to be the child of parents who originally came to this country as undocumented immigrants from Mexico. I am at once the first person of Latino descent elected citywide in Seattle, the daughter of a mother who became a U.S. Citizen in 1996 and a father who adjusted his status and became a legal permanent resident. This is why the immigration struggle and movement is deeply personal to me.

Our country’s highest court missed an opportunity to provide clarity and guidance for the nation, the sole service they are charged with. Instead, they have parted radically with the founding doctrine of our nation. We are the greatest nation on Earth only because we are a diverse group of people, banding together to make a dream work. Today’s deadlock is a setback for immigrant families.

But the movement is far from over. I believe desperately in those words at the base of the Statue of Liberty. I know that you do too. The immigrant community is resilient, one of indomitable spirit and hope. Our unwavering commitment to American values of justice, respect, dignity and togetherness make us who we are.

The movement for justice will not stop until every American can live with dignity, without fear of being separated from their families. For our opponents, this is purely political. They stand to lose nothing. But for immigrant families, it’s personal. We stand to lose our most cherished value: family unity. I know that justice will prevail because we will continue to demand it.

This November is an opportunity for immigrant families to make their voices heard. Now is not the time to retract. Now is the time to double down. We must double down on helping eligible immigrants become U.S. citizens. We must double down on registering those immigrant U.S. citizens to vote. And, we must double down on turning out the vote of these New Americans. It is through civic engagement that immigrant families will make their voices heard in the other Washington.

Somos una nación de inmigrantes. Nuestro mayor monumento nacional, la Estatua de la Libertad, está grabado con las palabras: “Dame tus cansados, tus pobres, tus grupos masivos que desean respirar en libertad …” Hoy en día, esas palabras están pesando fuertemente en mi mente y corazón.

Esta mañana la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos emitió un fallo [link] bloqueando la acción ejecutiva del Presidente Barack Obama sobre la inmigración que habría proporcionado más de 5 millones de familias inmigrantes la oportunidad de permanecer juntos y contribuir aún más a la tela de América. Millones de inmigrantes se verán obligados a seguir viviendo con el miedo de ser deportados y la amenaza de perder todo lo que saben: sus seres queridos, sus carreras y sus familias. En Seattle, 1 de 5 residentes es nacido en el extranjero y se estima que mas de 100,000 inmigrantes indocumentados viven en el estado de Washington. La decisión de hoy significa que estas familias de Seattle despertaron hoy con la noticia de que nuestro gobierno federal, una vez más, les ha fallado. Para estas familias, digo: Seattle no te fallará. Esta ciudad es su hogar y usted pertenece a este lugar.

Estoy orgulloso de ser la presidenta del comité de los Nuevos Americanos en el Consejo de Seattle y continuar mi defensa en nombre de los inmigrantes y refugiados como consejal. Pero, también estoy orgulloso de ser hija de padres que originalmente vinieron a este país como inmigrantes indocumentados de México. Estoy a la vez la primera persona de origen Hispana elegida para representar toda la ciudad de Seattle, la hija de una madre que se convirtió en un ciudadana de los Estados Unidos en 1996 y un padre que ajusto su estatus y se convirtió en un residente legal permanente. Estas son las razones por cual la lucha de la reforma migratoria comprensiva es muy personal para mí.

La Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos perdió la oportunidad de proporcionar claridad y orientación para la nación, el único servicio que se acusa. En su lugar, se han separado radicalmente con la doctrina de fundación de nuestra nación. Somos una nación admirable sólo porque somos también un grupo diverso de personas. Estancamiento de hoy es un revés para las familias inmigrantes.

Pero nuestro movimiento está lejos de terminar. Creo desesperadamente esas palabras en la base de la Estatua de la Libertad. Yo sé que tal vez para usted también. La comunidad inmigrante es elástica, una de espíritu indomable y con grandes esperanzas de alcanzar el gran sueño American. Nuestro firme compromiso con los valores estadounidenses de justicia, el respeto, la dignidad y la unión, nos convierte en lo que somos.

El movimiento por la justicia no se detendrá hasta que todos los estadounidenses puedan vivir con dignidad, sin temor de ser separados de sus familias. Para nuestros oponentes, esto es puramente político. Ellos pueden llegar a perder nada. Pero para las familias inmigrantes, es personal. Vamos a perder nuestro valor más preciado: la unidad familiar. Yo sé que la justicia prevalecerá, porque vamos a seguir exigiendo la justicia.

Este mes de noviembre es una oportunidad para que las familias inmigrantes para hacer oír su voz. Ahora no es el momento para retraer. Ahora es el momento de doblar nuestros esfuerzos. Debemos doblar los esfuerzos en ayudar a los inmigrantes elegibles a convertirse en ciudadanos de Estados Unidos. Debemos doblar nuestros esfuerzos sobre el registro de los ciudadanos inmigrantes estadounidenses a votar. Y, hay que doblar nuestros esfuerzos en asegurar que estos nuevos estadounidenses llegan a votar. Es a través de la participación ciudadana que las familias inmigrantes harán oír su voz en el otro Washington.


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Councilmember Gonzalez’s Response to Pronto Bike Share Vote

March 18th, 2016

Thank you for taking time to write in about Pronto Bike Share.  Over the past several weeks, I have received hundreds of calls and e-mails both expressing support for and opposition against saving the existing bike share system.

I will be frank: I struggled with this decision.  That struggle was wedged between my belief that it is important for Seattle to provide maximum transit options to relieve traffic congestion and my fiduciary duty to use your taxpayer dollars in the most fiscally responsible way.  Ultimately, I voted in favor of lifting the $1.4 million proviso that the prior City Council allocated and I appreciate the opportunity to explain why.

First, voting in favor of lifting this proviso has been characterized by some of my councilmembers as the only fiscally responsive decision.  I disagree.  Had Councilmembers Burgess and Herbold’s proposal passed, the City would have been obligated to repay a $1 million grant to the federal government in addition to liquidating the City-owned bike share assets (likely at a loss).  Under the proposal that I voted in favor of, the immediate net cost to the City will be $400,000 to acquire the assets of Pronto.

Second, as Seattle becomes a dense and urban city, all residents must have ready access to a variety of transit options that will ultimately reduce traffic congestion. This is a critical feature of our city and worthy of continued investment. In cities that have successfully implemented bike share programs, it has been proven to bridge the last one mile between other transit options and a person’s final destination. Indeed, the voters recognized the need to continue investing in our transit infrastructure this past fall when they overwhelmingly approved a $930 million levy to allow the City to continue investing in our system. That levy included a $250 million investment in building out our City’s bicycle infrastructure.  I believe that a publicly-run bike share system, like our public bus and light rail system, is the best way to ensure that bike share will ultimately fulfill its promise to be a useful one-mile connector and accessible within neighborhoods.

I am deeply disappointed that this City Council was put in this position and plan to closely monitor the enhancements made to the bike share program to ensure that the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) meets its duty to be fiscally transparent and responsible.

To that end, I offered an amendment that will be the first step in ensuring that bike share resources are fairly and equitably distributed citywide. As a result, the SDOT will work with the Office for Civil Rights to develop an inclusive outreach plan that will help the program meet the needs of low-income residents and communities of color and ask them about the need for and the expansion of the bike share system. This amendment, along with city oversight and accountability, will allow all Seattleites to benefit from a bike share system.

Lastly, some of you have expressed deep concern about funding the Pronto acquisition rather than our city’s homelessness crisis and other human service needs. I agree that we must continue to prioritize homelessness issues and I am committed to finding workable solutions. Regrettably, the $1.4 million that the prior City Council allocated to expand this bike share program can only be used for “street use” purposes, which does not include critical human and safety net services.

Expanding access to critical city elements, such as transportation, is one piece of a larger solution to our traffic congestion woes.  I will continue to work hard to address inequities in our community and to ensuring that these dollars are subjected to the highest standards of performance, accountability and transparency.

 

Yours in service,

lorenaSig

Councilmember Lorena González

 

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Fencing off The Jungle will not help our homelessness crisis

March 7th, 2016

The growing crisis of homelessness in our region is larger than the reach of a single solution, implementation of a single strategy, or responsibility of a single elected official or human-services provider. It’s a shared crisis rooted in interrelated problems of poverty, addiction and mental illness. It is larger than a single city, region or state.

I applaud Gov. Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Mayor Ed Murray, and my colleagues on the Seattle City Council and our allies in Olympia for working on an array of efforts to address homelessness in a way that is smart, humane and focused on both short- and long-term gains.

What we know is that there is no perfect policy or solution. But we also know some tools work better than others to ease the individual, family and community impacts of homelessness. What works are efforts to treat addiction, increase mental-health services, transition people into various available alternative housing options, provide immediate assistance to families and children, and improve security and sanitation at temporary shelters and tent cities.

What doesn’t work are fences and barriers.

Make no mistake, The Jungle along Interstate 5 is a deplorable setting that must be addressed. For decades, it has been a too-conveniently overlooked area of state land along a federal highway bordering Beacon Hill, a neighborhood that lacks the political power of other more affluent parts of our city.

Now is the time to address The Jungle. But our first proposed solution to a decades-old problem should not be, “Build a fence around it.”

I believe erecting an 8,000-foot fence topped with razor wire to simply try and prevent access to the area is wrong for several reasons. Furthermore, these shortcomings indeed can be illustrated by the equally ill-conceived and equally crime-ridden fence currently along parts of the U.S.-Mexican border.

First, fences can be cut, dug under and breached. Daily we see stories of human and drug trafficking along the U.S. border — and that is a fence line patrolled constantly, at a cost of tens of millions to taxpayers.

Second, if people — through habit, addiction or necessity — believe The Jungle to be their haven, human-services experts believe they would return to the area, possibly with even worse safety outcomes. This is also true of the U.S. border fence, where the barrier creates an artificial magnet for crime and tragedy, not a deterrent.

To draw this connection is not an attempt to draw local leaders into a debate over failed immigration policy, but a reminder of the unintended human consequences of these policies. Just like the problems in The Jungle are decades old, so too are the failures of our immigration policy. These are inherited crises that require new ideas and new leadership to make real progress.

[…]

This op-ed originally appeared in The Seattle Times. Click here to read the entire piece.

 

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Tackling the Homelessness Crisis & Public Safety

January 29th, 2016

One Night Count 2016

I never expected this job to be easy, I don’t think anyone does. This week has proven especially challenging as an elected official, as an advocate for the underrepresented and, frankly, as a fellow resident. Last night, I joined 1,000 volunteers in the Seattle-King County One Night Count organized by the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness.

From 2 am to 5 am, we spread out across Seattle to count our neighbors who are sleeping outside.  My staff and I were assigned to the Duwamish Greenbelt near South Park.  My experience in last night’s One Night Count further underscored what our city has known for some time: we are in a state of human emergency.

Listen to my real-time reaction to last night’s count here.

What I saw last night as I weaved through overgrown briar bushes and marshland wasn’t drug paraphernalia, lawlessness or wanton behavior. I saw children’s clothes, food containers, feminine hygiene products, clotheslines, gardens, makeshift recycling, people sleeping in their cars, and a shirt laid out to wear but hastily abandoned. I saw occupied and recently abandoned campsites and structures.  I saw the face of struggle but I also saw profound human resilience and strength.

Last year we saw a 20% increase in the number of unsheltered people and I am saddened to learn that last night’s count revealed an additional 19% increase. In spite of investing nearly $50 million towards homeless programs and resources, we are facing the harsh reality of a 39% increase in the number of unsheltered people living in greenbelts and in plain view in just two years. These faces and numbers paint a deeper picture of the human story behind the crisis:

2016 One Night Count Infographic

These numbers tell us, in no uncertain terms, that what we are collectively doing isn’t working. The City and County’s declaration of a state of emergency presents a unique opportunity for all of us to rethink our approach.

The homelessness crisis we are facing is dynamic, with different underlying root causes unique to each person who is experiencing homelessness.  I am ready to ask the tough questions and find answers to ensure that no Seattle resident is abandoned by the leadership of this city in their time of greatest need.  I hope you will join me in this conversation and that you will do so not only with compassion but with a sincere interest in being my partner in advocating for evidence-based strategies that have a meaningful impact in making homelessness a one-time brief experience.

Our First Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans Committee Meeting
Safe Communities (formerly known as Public Safety)

Wednesday morning at 9:30 am was my first committee meeting as the Chair of GESCNA. As most of you are aware, Tuesday evening 5 people were shot at an unsanctioned homeless encampment. As the chair of Safe Communities, the incident weighed heavy on my mind and heart. Gun violence remains prevalent in much of our city, regardless of circumstance. Seattle Police Department Chief Kathleen O’Toole attended my committee meeting to give us a special update on the investigation, which is active and ongoing. You can view her update as well as the full meeting here.

In addition to the Chief’s update regarding the shooting, she was attending the meeting along with Brian Maxey (SPD Chief Operating Officer) and Ben Noble (Director, City of Seattle Budget Office) to present finding regarding SPD’s emergency 911 response times. While the data was not positive and indicated a significant gap between actual response times and reported response time, I am grateful to the Chief and her department for their transparency and commitment to solving this issue. Data indicates that under Chief O’Toole’s tenure, response times are improving and will continue to improve as the department innovates new ways to create officer and public safety resources around the city. Materials from that presentation can be found here.

New Americans

We also heard from Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Director Cuc Vu. Ms. Vu briefed the committee about the challenges faced by immigrant and refugee communities in our city as well as the legislative and budgetary priorities of that department for 2016. That presentation can also be found here.

Our Proposed Work Plan for 2016

Lastly, our central staff committee coordinator, Amy Tsai, presented the 2016 proposed GESCNA work plan. This was a “30,000 foot view” of what our committee responsibilities are and what we hope to achieve this year. If you’d like to tell us what you think we should be working on, email us! If you would like to know what falls into GESCNA and what we will be tackling in 2016, Ms. Tsai’s presentation is a great resource. Find it, along with the other presentations, here.

This is not the most cheery of updates, I know. However, this is our challenge as law makers and city leaders. As a city-wide elected official it is my duty to tackle these largest and most pervasive of issues and I remain optimistic about our ability to do so.

Yours in Service,

lorenaSig

Lorena signature

*Data provided by WA State Dept. of Commerce.

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Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy: The Continued Civil Rights Movement

January 19th, 2016

Yesterday communities across the country, including here in Seattle, came together to celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every year, in the days leading up to “MLK Day”, we hear speeches on the radio, TV and in our schools and churches about how far we’ve come in the struggle for equity. It’s true, gone are the days of segregated lunch counters, busses and drinking fountains. And gone are the days of lynching, fire hosing and honoring of old Jim Crow laws. In many ways, the Civil Rights Movement was a success.

But let me stop you for a moment and ask you this: What are civil rights? For me, civil rights are laws and policies that weave together our unified principles and commitment to ensuring that all people have unfettered access to opportunity regardless of the color of your skin. That is why, as a civil rights attorney, I advocated for the passage of new and the protection of old civil rights.

Dr. King gave his life for civil rights in 1968. While I hope that Dr. King would be proud of how far we’ve come in this struggle for equity, I also believe that we are not there yet. Indeed, as we embark on a presidential election that will replace America’s first black President, we are faced with an attack on voting rights and a national rhetoric of hate and fear. In many ways, the insidious discrimination that Dr. King and thousands more fought against has changed its face.

For example, the top-polling Republican presidential candidate unapologetically proclaimed that all Mexican immigrants, like my parents, are rapists and drug dealers. He is now advocating that America should turn her back on Muslim refugees fleeing from the tyrannical rule of terrorists. We also see the lack of equity in policing, which has given birth to the Black Lives Matter movement. When we learn that a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man during a traffic stop, we roll back civil rights. When we learn that police officers choked and killed an unarmed black man selling cigarettes on a sidewalk, we roll back civil rights. These incidents, even if not criminally sanctioned, are an assault on the legacy that Dr. King left to us to protect.

Yes, we’ve come a long way. We are no longer fighting against overt segregation and discrimination. Today, we are fighting something much harder to root out. We are fighting a sometimes quiet bias, sometimes buried so deep that those who carry it, don’t know that they do.

How do we fight this invisible enemy? By using those very tools that Dr. King gave us half a century ago. Tools like funding education, fighting income inequality and protecting our right to vote. When we empower ourselves with our vote and elect leaders committed to equity, we all win. When we enact policies that create opportunity for children in every home in our city, we all win. When we legislate to protect working families, we all win. Only when leaders in Seattle and beyond choose to deliberately create equity in every policy matter that comes before us, will we see the legacy of Dr. King appropriately honored.

I believe we can get there in my lifetime. Today, more families have access to healthcare in our country than ever before. Today, more women are entering the workforce with college degrees than men. Today, the City of Seattle is in the initial stages of enacting universal preschool. Today, we have a majority female Seattle City Council, with the first Latina Councilmember and the first enrolled Native American Councilmember.

In closing, I quote our President who this past week in his final State of the Union Address stated, “America has been through big changes before … Each time there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the ‘dogmas of the quiet past.’ Instead we thought anew, and acted anew.”

It is a new year. Let’s take this moment to recommit ourselves to the legacy of Dr. King not just on one day but every day.

Yours in service,

lorenaSig

Councilmember M. Lorena González
Seattle City Council, Position 9 (Citywide)
Chair – Gender Equity, Safe Communities & New Americans
Vice-Chair – Education, Governance & Equity

Email: Lorena.Gonzalez@seattle.gov
Phone: (206) 684-8802
www.seattle.gov/council/gonzalez

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