Groundbreaking Legislation is Out!

April 20, 2018

Remember last fall, when TRU and Housing For All started pushing for a big business tax to fund housing, shelter and services?

Six months later, legislation is in our hands! (Here’s a more digestible summary.)

If passed this bill will raise $75 million per year, three times what was proposed last fall.  The tax will affect only approximately 3% of businesses in Seattle, those with annual revenue of $20 million or more.  Of the new funding generated by the tax, fully 75% will go to housing, 20% to shelter and services.

This legislation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Seattle to take a real step towards closing the affordable housing gap and addressing a root cause of the homelessness crisis.

The unveiling of this legislation is a great moment for TRU and our many allies in Housing For All who have come together to urge an effective and compassionate response to the homelessness state of emergency.  Now we just have to get it passed!  Join us for the official public hearing at City Hall:

Public Hearing: Monday, April 23, 5:30pm

Transit Riders Union calls for moratorium on punitive fare enforcement following damning audit

April 9, 2018

A new report from the King County Auditor’s Office released on April 4th reveals a RapidRide fare enforcement system wholly unable to justify its existence. It is not demonstrably effective, and it is demonstrably costly, harmful, and inequitable.

King County spends $1.7 million per year punishing people – predominantly poor people and people of color – who cannot provide proof of payment to the fare enforcement officers who periodically board RapidRide buses.

Nearly a quarter of riders slapped with a $124 fine, and over 30% of those charged with a misdemeanor, were homeless or “housing unstable”. According to the report, “the fines for individuals experiencing housing instability totaled just over $290,000 from 2015-2017. These fines, when unpaid, go into collections, which can then impact a person’s ability to obtain housing.” Less than three percent of fines are ever paid.

This situation is absurd and despicable. It traps the King County residents who most need public transit and are least able to pay fines. And to what end? According to the report, “research has not found a correlation between fare enforcement and fare evasion”. In other words, there is no evidence that fare evasion rates would rise significantly if fare enforcement simply stopped.

The Transit Riders Union calls on King County to establish a two-year moratorium on punitive fare enforcement while a better system is devised. “Fare-checking staff,” previously known as fare enforcement officers, should still check fares so that Metro can track any changes in fare payment rates over that period, but there should be no punishment: no warnings, no citations or fines, no misdemeanors. Perhaps riders who cannot show proof of payment could be handed a leaflet with information about reduced fare programs and where to obtain an ORCA card.

“Immediate cessation of punitive fare enforcement is the only acceptable baseline from which to consider any new policy,” said TRU’s general secretary Katie Wilson. “It is simply wrong to continue harming vulnerable populations while this problem is studied further. King County cannot continue harassing, fining and criminalizing poor people by default while task forces and elected officials mull things over.”

“Does it make sense do to this kind of fare enforcement at all?”  King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci asked during an interview with KIRO 7. “I don’t know that it makes any sense to be fining people who are coming onto the buses for shelter because they don’t have shelter.” The Transit Riders Union applauds this sentiment and urges the King County Council and County Executive to act swiftly to halt punitive fare enforcement pending further investigation.

Housing For All Campaign Heats Up

March 21, 2018

Our campaign to build thousands of new units of deeply affordable housing through a tax on large businesses is heating up fast.  The Chamber of Commerce & Co. are on the march, spreading misinformation and rallying their troops to try to stop the Housing For All movement in its tracks. We can’t let them succeed.  Please take a moment to send a message of support to our elected officials, urging them to stand strong:

Email City Councilmembers & Mayor Durkan

On Wednesday, March 14th, members of Housing For All filled Council Chambers and delivered a letter signed by fifty organizations to the City Council and Mayor Durkan.  That same afternoon the Progressive Revenue Task Force presented its final report, recommending major investments in new deeply affordable housing, shelter, and services: $150 million per year in new progressive revenue, with $75 million coming from an Employee Hours Tax on large businesses.

What’s next?  Over the coming weeks, Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Lorena González, who co-chaired the task force, will be drafting legislation.  TRU and Housing For All will be working hard to win the votes of at least six councilmembers.  Stay tuned for alerts of council meetings and public hearings, and attend our next Action Meeting on Saturday, March 31st.  We aim to pass this legislation through full council by mid-May!

Seattle’s Housing Gap: Unmet Needs & Challenges for People Experiencing Homelessness

February 13, 2018

Tuesday, February 20th
6:00 – 7:30 PM
Seattle City Hall, Council Chambers

We hear a lot of talk these days about affordable housing and how there’s not enough of it. But just how serious is this shortage, and what tools does the City of Seattle have to do something about it?

This event will explore the “housing gap” and its implications for our quality of life and the future of our City. We will focus especially on households in the lowest income bracket, 0-30% of Area Median Income (AMI), who may be homeless or at the greatest risk of homelessness. A presentation and round-table discussion will be followed by public comment.

Hosted by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and Housing For All
Co-hosted by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Mike O’Brien, and Kshama Sawant

Housing For All Campaign Launch 2018 – Wed., Jan. 31

January 14, 2018


6:00 – 8:00 PM
Wednesday, January 31st
Seattle Labor Temple, Hall 1
2800 1st Ave, Belltown
Venue is wheelchair accessible

(Note change in date, time and location from what was previously posted)

We are at a crossroads in Seattle’s history. As population and housing costs surge, the inseparable crises of homelessness, housing insecurity, and displacement deepen.

We can’t solve these crises without far more affordable housing. In order to meet the need, Seattle must build approximately 20,000 more homes affordable to low-income families and individuals in the next ten years .

Due to pressure from the Housing For All Coalition, the City Council has formed a Progressive Revenue Task Force to recommend funding sources, such as a tax on big businesses, to create new housing, shelter and services without further taxing working and poor people.

We can win this by the end of March – but only with your help. Join us on January 31st to learn more, get involved, and take actions that day that advance the campaign!

Housing For All Budget Accomplishments

November 27, 2017

Big Business Tax for Housing, Coming in 2018

This fall, the Housing For All Coalition set out to secure a commitment from our elected officials to massively step up the production of new housing affordable to people and families with the lowest incomes. We are on the road to victory.

On Monday, November 20, shortly after approving the 2018 budget, the City Council unanimously passed a Resolution 31782, establishing their intent to tax large businesses to fund housing and homeless services by the end of March 2018.

While the tax didn’t pass this fall, as we’d hoped, we now have an opportunity to push for additional progressive revenue and a much larger package than the $25M originally proposed. New sustainable revenue at this scale is the kind of game-changer that has been so lacking in the two years since Seattle declared a Homelessness State of Emergency. Without the work of the Housing For All Coalition, the City Council would not have the courage to stand up to relentless opposition from business groups like the Chamber of Commerce and commit to raising real revenue to address the crisis.

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to this effort so far. TRU and the Housing For All Coalition will be there every step of the way as this legislation is crafted over the next several months. Let’s bring it home in the new year!

Steps Toward Stopping the Sweeps

This fall we also set out to reform the City’s policies on removal of unauthorized encampments, a.k.a. sweeps. We called for outreach and services to be provided without threat of removal, unless an encampment site is irremediably unsafe or in conflict with other public uses of the site. Without housing to offer, the City is merely shuffling people around and doing more harm than good.

Although we weren’t able to achieve this policy shift during the budget process, the City’s 2018 budget includes measures that will add new transparency and accountability to removals of unauthorized encampments. Henceforth the City Council will receive weekly reports of all sweeps planned for the following week, with reasons for their prioritization. The City’s ability to put up fences, such as those erected beneath the Spokane St. Viaduct earlier this month, will be restricted. And next year, responsibility for encampment removals will be shifted from the Finance and Administrative Services to the Human Services Department.

While these measures fall short of “stopping the sweeps”, new layers of oversight are likely to significantly improve the situation on the ground for our homeless brothers and sisters. With continued monitoring by the Office of Civil Rights, the Housing for All Coalition, and other allies, we are setting the stage for further-reaching reform next year.

More Budget Victories!

A number of additional goals of the Housing For All Coalition were achieved this fall:

  1. $450,000 to support authorized encampments. This funding will provide more adequate support to existing authorized encampments and tiny house villages, and make possible the establishment of two new sites.
  2. $500,000 for a Homeless Youth and/or Young Adults Opportunity Center and Housing Project at Broadway & Pine on Capitol Hill.
  3. $150,000 to fund exploration of community ownership housing models.
  4. Passage of a tax on short-term rentals such as AirBnB, with at least $5M per year going to fund the Equitable Development Initiative to support community-driven projects.
  5. $750,000 to expand the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program to north Seattle.
  6. $1.3 million for Seattle’s first safe consumption site.

Now is the time for HOMES – Take Action!

October 14, 2017

Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley speak to reporters in the Sam Smith room at City Hall on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 12. Photo by Casey JayworkOn October 12th, Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Kirsten Harris-Talley held a press conference calling for a massively stepped-up response to the homelessness and housing crises, and proposing a big business tax to raise over $20 million per year in new revenue to tackle these twin crises. The plan is called HOMES – housing, outreach, and mass-entry shelter.

Although this is still not nearly enough to create all the housing and shelter that’s needed, it is a solid start. And it’s about time. The Transit Riders Union has been pushing the City to use this progressive tax authority for years, but the answer we’ve gotten from our elected officials is always: it’s not the right time. Nearly two years into an officially-declared Homelessness State of Emergency, the City has yet to act like we’re in an emergency. It’s time for all hands on deck, and that means everyone, including large businesses that are benefiting from Seattle’s booming economy while so many of us are left behind.

Here are three things you can do to make sure the HOMES plan succeeds this fall:

The HOMES tax is just one of eleven things the Housing For All Coalition hopes to accomplish during the city budget process this fall. Take a look, and if you agree, please tell the Councilmembers that you support the Housing For All campaign’s budget priorities!

Help Our Homeless Friends in Nickelsville

September 23, 2017

Help Nickelsville Ballard secure a new location with enough space to keep their community together and shelter more people. Send a quick email here!

Join the Housing For All Campaign

September 19, 2017

HousingForAllSeattle.org

  • Check out the coalition’s platform here
  • Sign up for campaign updates or to volunteer here
  • Email City Officials to express your support here

Get involved! Attend an Action Meeting: Every Saturday, 2-5 PM at the Frye Apartments community space, 223 Yesler Way.

Housing For All Campaign Kick-Off: Saturday, Sept. 9

September 1, 2017

Event on Facebook

2:00 – 4:00 PM
(doors open 1:30)
Labor Temple Hall 1
2800 1st Ave

It’s been two years since the City of Seattle declared a Homelessness State of Emergency, and the homelessness crisis has only deepened. This year’s One Night Count found 3,857 people sleeping unsheltered in Seattle alone. The City’s response to this crisis isn’t working, in large part because it fails to reckon with the shortage of deeply affordable housing. City policies end up punishing homeless people rather than giving them a leg up.

This is unacceptable. Things need to change, and there’s no better time than now. Our elected officials and all the candidates for Mayor, City Council, and City Attorney need to know where the people stand.

On Saturday, September 9th, join the Housing for All – Stop the Sweeps Coalition for the launch of our fall campaign. Learn about the homelessness crisis and what’s we’re going to do about it. And sign up to get involved – we can’t succeed without you!

You’re Invited: Tax Justice Victory Party, July 30th!

July 19, 2017

We won!!!

Just six months after the Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition began our campaign for tax justice, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a 2.25% tax on income in excess of $250,000 ($500K for joint filers), to protect against Trump budget cuts and fund vital public services.

Our grassroots campaign has made waves around the country. The right-wing Freedom Foundation, sensing a threat to the entrenched privilege of the very wealthy, has promised to sue. We say bring it on. When we organize, we win!

You’re invited to celebrate this victory with us. There will be food, drink, speeches, music, a photo booth, and great company. Southside Commons is wheelchair accessible, and there’s a beautiful park right outside. See you there! (You can RSVP and share the invitation on Facebook.)

Victory Party
Sunday, July 30
3:00 – 6:00 PM
Southside Commons, 3518 S. Edmunds St.
Two blocks east of Columbia City Light Rail Station
One block west of Route 7 stop on Rainier Ave.

Who Should Lead Seattle?

June 7, 2017

The people, of course! But who should be our representatives in City Hall?

Last month TRU sent nine questions to the candidates for Seattle Mayor, City Council Position 8, and City Council Position 9. Many of them responded. You can read their completed questionnaires here.

On Thursday, June 22, TRU is co-sponsoring a candidate forum with other transportation and housing organizations. Come hear directly from the candidates:

Growing Seattle: A Candidate Forum on Transportation and Housing
Thursday, June 22
5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Impact Hub Seattle, 220 2nd Ave S.

Pack City Hall for a Progressive Income Tax on June 14

June 7, 2017

On Wednesday, May 31, we unfurled banners bearing thousands of petition cards around the whole perimeter of the council chambers, while an “overwhelming number of people” spoke in favor of a progressive income tax on Seattle’s wealthiest households to fund urgent needs.

This week we are putting the finishing touches on the legislation, and next Wednesday, June 14th, there will be a special council meeting and public hearing where the councilmembers discuss the ordinance for the first time and the people have a chance to testify having seen it.

So far we’re making all the right enemies: the Washington Policy Center, Freedom Foundation, Republican legislators in Olympia, Rob McKenna, the Seattle Times editorial board… but we don’t know who else might come out of the woodwork next Wednesday. It’s up to us to show our councilmembers that we have their backs as they consider this groundbreaking legislation:

Special Meeting & Public Hearing on Progressive Income Tax

Wednesday, June 14
5:00 PM Council Discussion
Public hearing to follow
Council Chambers, Seattle City Hall

Trump-proof Seattle Day of Action: Wednesday, March 1st

February 12, 2017

Click here to RSVP, sign up to volunteer or to receive updates

The Transit Riders Union is helping to build a coalition of community, labor, environmental, and social justice organizations to push for a 2.5% tax on the unearned income (capital gains, interest, dividends) of wealthy Seattle households that make over a quarter million dollars per year. This could raise $100 million dollars per year to help strengthen our communities and defend against Trump, and pave the way to fixing our state’s unjust tax system, the #1 most regressive in the nation.

We are planning a Day of Action for Wednesday, March 1st – including  an event at City Hall in Council Chambers, 12:00 – 1:00 PM; a letter delivery; and phone calls to elected officials.

More details to come soon! In the meantime, you can learn more on our resources page here.

Trump-Proof Seattle by Taxing the Rich!

January 30, 2017
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Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold speaks out!

Click Here to Pledge to Gather Signatures & Sign Up to Volunteer 

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Action Meeting on Saturday, Jan. 28th! If you didn’t make it but would like to sign up to volunteer for signature-gathering and other aspects of the campaign, you can do that here.

We’ve had multiple requests for the slide presentation and other materials from the event, so we are starting to compile resources on this page. We’ll also be creating an FAQ based on the questions submitted at the event. If there are other resources you think would be useful, please get in touch by emailing TRU’s campaign coordinator, Katie, at katie@transitriders.org.

 

Action Meeting: Trump-Proof Seattle by Taxing the Rich!

January 18, 2017

Now is the time to act, right here in Seattle. With the federal government in irresponsible and dangerous hands it’s up to us to build community and resilience and power at a local and state level. On January 28th the Transit Riders Union is hosting an Action Meeting where you can learn about a bold campaign that is in the works right now, and sign up to get involved.

Action Meeting
Saturday, Jan. 28th, 2-4PM
Labor Temple Hall 1
2800 1st Ave

Want to RSVP (helpful but not required)? Can’t attend but want to be kept informed? Sign up here.

WA-regressive-taxWashington State has the #1 most regressive tax system in the nation. That means the poorest people pay the highest percentage of their income in state and local taxes – basically, Seattle and Washington State are tax havens for the wealthy. As a result we can’t adequately fund basic prerequisites of civilization, like education for our children.

And now, we’re all waiting to see what Trump’s administration is going to attack first. The Affordable Care Act is already on the chopping block. What’s next? Workers and their unions? Immigants? Social security and medicare? Foodstamps?

It’s time to act. We can help defend Seattle against Trump, set an example for other cities, AND pave the way to overhauling our state’s regressive tax system. If wealthy people with incomes over $200K contributed more fairly to our community, Seattle could raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year for affordable housing, transit, education, and green jobs. This will be a massive grassroots effort. We need you!

We Won!! King County Acts on Affordable Transit

November 7, 2016
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TRU Member Barb B. speaks

Earlier this year, the Transit Riders Union launched a campaign to improve public transit access for the many thousands of people who can’t afford ORCA LIFT. After all, mobility is a human right – and access to transportation may be the single strongest factor in escaping poverty. So, we delivered letters and petitions. We testified at public hearings. We built coalitions with service providers and other organizations. We met with elected officials. And guess what? We won!!!

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Transit riders turned out to testify before the vote today

We are excited to announce that today the King County Council voted unanimously to cut in half the price service providers pay for tickets through Metro’s Human Services Ticket Program, as we urged. The ticket price had doubled since 2008 due to fare increases. The new lower price will allow service providers to purchase and distribute more tickets and/or redirect funds to other essential services.

This comes after the council voted in September to increase the quantity of reduced-price tickets available each year, and after Metro created a new “combo-ticket” in June to open up access to Link Light Rail for people who rely on bus tickets.

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TRU Member Holly E. speaks

Not only that, the County Executive has promised that during the next biennium, he will “direct Metro to engage other transit agencies, the state, other local jurisdictions, human services agencies and other potential partners in a discussion of transit’s role in contributing to the social safety net for the lowest income residents, and how to possibly provide assistance while still being able to meet the growing demand for transit service throughout King County and the region.”

THANK YOU! to all the people and organizations that have contributed to every phase in this campaign. We have plenty of work still to do, but this is a great step forward.

Vote “APPROVED” on Sound Transit Proposition 1

October 31, 2016

logo@2x.pngYou have your ballot, it’s time to vote! The Transit Riders Union recommends that you vote APPROVED on Sound Transit Proposition 1 (if you live in King County, it’s the last thing on your ballot) and YES on Initiative 1433 to raise the minimum wage and mandate paid sick days statewide.

We’ll soon know whether or not voters in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties have approved a massive expansion of our region’s light rail system. While there has been some opposition from the usual anti-transit groups, the Seattle Times and even some more urbanist-minded folks in Seattle, the fact remains that in Seattle and around the region, transit, and particularly light rail, remains popular with voters. The massive ridership numbers at the new Capitol Hill and University District stations show that when given an alternative, people will choose transit over sitting in their car in gridlocked traffic.

As bad as traffic is currently it will only get worse in the coming years if we don’t act now to provide expanded light rail service. We’re expected to see 800,000 new people move to the region by 2040, when the projects included in Sound Transit 3 will be wrapping up. With the rising cost of living in Seattle forcing people out into the suburbs and surrounding cities, many of those people will be forced to locate in cities other than Seattle, cities that often do not currently have good, reliable, fast transit service. Continue reading