After a smoke filled summer, I found myself knocking doors for Initiative 1631 with my fellow UAW4121 members. We were hopeful that Washington could pass this groundbreaking legislation. But as the fall progressed, we saw the release of the IPCC report on climate change and the ultimate failure of 1631 at the ballot box. Just days after the election, some of my family friends in Paradise, California watched as their homes were irrevocably destroyed and their community members died. In mourning this collective devastation, as I began to reflect on how we build a movement for climate justice, I made the decision to run for city council.
I’m proposing a plan for climate justice in Seattle that requires coordination between labor unions, city offices, and communities most affected by climate change. Our plan puts people to work in good jobs building the sustainable housing and transportation we need, updating our electrical grid and infrastructure to cut emissions, and creating a culture of climate resilience. Coellectively, we can build on the power of the Green New Deal movement and take bold climate action in our city.
JUST TRANSITION FOR WORKERS
For too long, climate action has been falsely cast as anti-job, anti-manufacturing, anti-development. I know that we can create jobs while transforming our city, economy, and culture. Dense urban environments can be some of the most energy efficient places to live, if we build them right. We can work with builders, plumbers and pipefitters, port workers, and more to create pathways to green jobs and end our city’s dependence on carbon. I’ve received input from front line workers and union leaders throughout my campaign on how to build buy-in and create an inclusive climate movement. As the candidate backed by the most labor unions, I have the organizing skills and relationships to make this happen for our city.
I’m proposing three major pathways for green jobs in the city of Seattle:
- Retrofits: Buildings are the number two source of carbon emissions in Seattle and we can reduce the emissions of old buildings with weatherization and utility retrofits. To incentivize this, we will tie rent stabilization policy to green leasing so that tenants and landlords are incentivized to make retrofits. We will also consider legislation that includes weatherization upgrades in the mortgage process for commercial and family home purchases, similar to Oregon’s plan to add earthquake retrofits. We’ll work with labor unions to expand apprenticeship programs for electricians, pipefitters, and carpenters to master sustainable building practices and grow a workforce to update our homes and offices.
- Building affordable housing: With new revenue to fund housing projects around Seattle, we’ll be able to employ engineers and architects to design new sustainably built social housing, and create jobs for union tradesmen and construction workers building homes for our growing population.
- Electrifying and expanding our transportation including ports, buses, and light rail. From bus drivers to electricians to solar panel manufacturers, we’ll need a growing workforce to meet the demands of getting our city to 100% clean, electric power in the next decade.
OUR CITY’S GREEN FUTURE
As our infrastructure changes, our culture will too. Our plan for climate justice also considers how we prepare for climate refugees, protect vulnerable people, and use public art and public spaces to rebuild our collective relationship with our planet. My network of colleagues in environmental science, science communication, and public health has worked with me to understand the latest data and best tools to make sure Seattle is preparing for what is to come and doing our best to mitigate this climate crisis.
- Resilience: Study after study tell us that the fires are not going anywhere and the last couple of heat waves are just harbingers of what is to come. We’ve got to prepare our vulnerable communities for this crisis by developing severe weather response teams, building cooling centers, expanding emergency shelter options with HVAC, and funding distribution of N95 masks. We can use stormwater capture to build drought resistance and expand rain gardens for working people. We also must prepare our human services infrastructure to accommodate climate refugees. Seattle needs more housing, stable social services, and schools.
- Climate Art: The City of Seattle has a “percent for art ordinance” that dedicates capital funding to public art projects. We can use these funds to commission art that can measure emissions, temperature, sea level, or other metrics of climate change while serving as beautiful, accessible, public science communication. Climate art projects like the Duwamish Revealed project, the high water line, Judy Twedt’s Sounds of Climate Change, or Forecast allow for people to experience the climate crisis in a more tangible way that move them to act. Changing our physical environment is a tool that supports artists and changes our culture.
- Public Spaces: We can “activate” public spaces adjacent to transit with activities in open areas, increased greenery in plazas, and spaces for kiosks and food carts owned by immigrants, womxn, and people-of-color . Alongside expanded bike lanes and more accessible sidewalks, these interactive public spaces will enrich urban environments and encourage people to get out of their cars and spend more time walking, rolling, biking, and riding transit. We see a communal, built urban environment as a tool to support small businesses and healthy physical activity, as well as a key feature of sustainable city living.
- Congestion Pricing: Cities like Stockholm and London have shown us that we can reduce traffic in city centers by adding a toll to downtown drivers, especially during high traffic times. It is possible to build a progressive model of congestion pricing that protects low-wage workers, incentivizes public transit uses, and funds free or reduced transit fares. We see congestion pricing as a tool to transition our city away from car-dependency and to make our urban centers safe and walkable, not places where you can get hit by a car in a donut shop.
For decades, our country has ignored the scientists. I got sick of hearing legislators take anti- science stances on climate change while saying “I’m not a scientist but…” This is our last chance to truly do something to ensure that our children have a safe, stable place to grow and thrive. So I ask you all this: instead of ignoring the scientist this time, how about we elect her?