Voices of the People’s Budget: John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition

This is the second part in our series, “Voices of the People’s Budget.” On the evening of October 30th, labor leaders, community organizers, social service providers, and engaged citizens came together for a People’s Budget Town Hall. Here they shared their concerns about the Mayor’s business as usual budget and began a conversation about what is necessary to make Seattle affordable for all.

John Fox, Seattle Displacement Coalition

Transcript of Speech as Delivered

My name’s John Fox, I am the Coordinator for the Seattle Displacement Coalition. We’ve been tracking how the City spends our tax dollars for years and years, and I can tell you: it is not a very pretty sight. From 2004 through 2014, the City committed over $925 million for South Lake Union, for a host of major infrastructure projects. An equal number went into Downtown, while those of us in the community line up at public hearings night after night to beg for crumbs, millions and millions of dollars are poured into Downtown to expand development in Downtown—development that has caused the loss of thousands of units of low-income housing in our city over the decades. So we have been paying twice: once, to provide that infrastructure to accommodate growth, runaway growth, at the expense of our communities; and again to provide the services and support and the housing for the thousands of people who are forced out of their homes.

This current budget is more of the same. I could get into detail of that, but I won’t: it’s more of the same. We do a Google word search every year on the budget. The Downtown and South Lake Union, when you type in those words, this year’s, actually it’s the Capital Improvement Plan over the next five years, all of the major development monies we spend, South Lake Union and Downtown are mentioned 180 times. How many times is Rainer Beach mentioned? Eighteen times. How many times is Columbia City mentioned? Twice. Lake City? Twelve times. Maple Leaf? Twice. Othello? Only three times. I could go on.

There are over sixty cities in this state, this region, that implement transit impact fees. We don’t do that because the Downtown and corporate establishment have a lock on City Hall. We support the use of the office head tax, and the Commercial Parking Tax. Those need to be expanded. It’s time developers paid their fair share.

Yes, there is socialism in Seattle, but I don’t mean the socialism of Councilmember Sawant aimed at lifting the incomes of everybody up and ensuring the fair distribution of resources, it’s socialism for the rich, where we pay the cost and they benefit. That’s what they call in this town the public/private partnership.

It’s time for that to end. If our current crop of electeds continue to hand developers massive up-zones that displace hundreds of low-income and working people, if they continue to provide multimillion dollar tax breaks to large corporate developers, if they continue to hand over giant chunks of our city dollars to promote that corporate expansion in Downtown, it’s time for things to change. It’s time for new leadership.

We have district elections now. Power has moved to our neighborhoods, if we grab the opportunity and organize to recruit and run candidates like Kshama Sawant that will represent our neighborhoods rather than Downtown and the establishment. Yes, it’s time for change at City Hall. Let’s get started with it.

And this is a good start!

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