On Thurs., the City of Seattle’s Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force (Task Force) formally submitted their recommendations to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for the City to invest $30 million to help reduce disparities that exist due to years of systemic challenges and negative investments outcomes facing communities of color.
Established in October 2020, the Task Force was charged with developing strategies that begin to address the disparities caused by years of disinvestment in communities of color. From the onset, and due to the historical discriminatory context affecting these communities, the mayor and the Task Force recognized that this will not be an overnight process. The work will take time, effort, strategic planning, community building, and deep continued investment to undo years of discriminatory practices that have plagued these communities and served as barriers to reaching equity.
The Task Force’s investment recommendations – which are part of the Mayor’s Equitable Community Initiative which commits $100 million in new investments annually starting with Durkan’s 2021 budget proposal to both scale some of the City’s current programs and examine additional priority areas for new investments –calls for investments in small businesses, health care, housing and education.
“We learned throughout this process that there are laws and politics that stifle growth and development for our community. However, this appears to be more blatant in Black and brown communities. Therefore, our hope is that this funding will elevate more wholistic sustainable cultural centric neighborhoods throughout Seattle where everyone can, live, work and play,” says Task Force member, Sharon Nyree Williams, Executive Director, CD Forum.
The Task Force’s recommendations land within four key pillars and center on identifying resources and support systems to build an equitable society. The Task Force is proposing to allocate approximately one quarter of the $30 million among each of the four pillars. An ordinance will be transmitted to City Council in late June/early July 2021 with final program amounts as implementation plans with City departments are finalized.
Those four pillars established for funding are:
• Building Opportunity Through Small Business Support – to provide business development and technical assistance.
• Developing Diverse and Culturally Competent Educators and Education Opportunities – to provide cultural education for BIPOC youth, programs for the formerly incarcerated, and establish an equity education innovation fund.
• Accessing Affordable Housing, Land Acquisition and Generational Wealth – to establish a lease to purchase homebuyer program, an apprenticeship pipeline program, and support generational wealth.
• Increasing Positive Health Outcomes – increase food access and environmental justice, foster culturally responsive and inclusive healthcare, and enhance/ improve workforce development of healthcare providers of color.
While task force members recognize that the recommendations are an initial step towards addressing the disparities that exist in the region, it is their hope that the policies and funding will begin to break down systemic barriers that prevent communities of color to fully participate in the growing economy of the region.
“The disparities that Black and Brown people face has caused harm for hundreds of years; it is our hope that these recommendations will begin to attack a system that has been openly racist towards Black and Brown people,” says Williams.
The representation of the Task Force reflects the kaleidoscopic of diverse interests of the city’s most marginalized communities. People who make this city a vibrant milieu, a fusion of talent who are long-time residents, born and raised, and newcomers with shared lived experiences, talent, and domain expertise. The have participated in 25 meeting and had more than 50 hours of analysis, discussion, and deliberation in developing their recommendations to the mayor. Over the coming weeks they will continue sharing their work with the people of Seattle and the City Council.
“I am deeply grateful to the Task Force for their service to the Seattle community. These community members committed their time and expertise as we begin to address the historic inequities caused by systemic racism and institutionalized oppression. They came together during a time where many continue to be disproportionately impacted by the trauma of continued disinvestment and that sort of lived-experience is crucial to determining what’s needed,” said Mayor Durkan. “The best ideas come from community and these recommendations track closely to what we’ve heard from community for years. However, to truly address institutionalized wrongs we need years of investment of this magnitude, which is why I’m including an additional $100 million for the BIPOC communities in the next budget to continue community driven investments.”