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Hill Wonk | Dreaming big — asking ‘What if?’ — invites us to imagine a shared future

We’ve asked Zachary (Pullin) DeWolf, Vice President of the Capitol Hill Community Council, to contribute to CHS about community civics and politics on a monthly basis. If you’re an expert and want to share with the community in a recurring CHS column, we’d like to hear from you.

Martin Luther King Jr. (discoverblackheritage, flickr)

[This is dedicated to a special woman, K. Toering.]

Sitting at the back of the theater — the din of people shuffling in, a lingering aroma of freshly-made popcorn — I waited for the film to begin.

Selma, shown as part of a special community screening for communities of color groups and organizations, portrays one of our country’s most critical chapters in civil rights history. Before it began, she stood at the front of the theater and looked out at all of us, smiling. The type of smile born of confidence in the creation of something that evolves into more than imagined, and she asked, “What if?”

For many of us in that theater, the civil rights leaders we admire have asked that same question in the pursuit of the rights and freedoms we all deserve and enjoy. The figures from the narrative of my past may have asked “What if?,” such as Sitting Bull in preparation for Battle of Little Bighorn; he was victorious. “What if?” is a question of hope, derived from a belief in people-power moving us forward toward progress.

Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota holy man, led his people in resistance to oppressive government policies.

Living in King (MLK, Jr) County, I’m especially compelled to contemplate the great sacrifice and courage of the man for whom our county acquired its name. In this season of gratitude and reflection of King’s legacy, we are challenged to consider how serving others pursues shared community, by asking, “What if?”

Fitting, then, that The Washington Legislature began this week for it too requires great sacrifice and courage to focus sharply on legislation addressing education, transportation, mental health services, and working together to build strong, affordable communities in which families can thrive.

This means that our legislators must take bold action to further clarify King County’s authority to fund more affordable homes for low and moderate-wage workers now so low-income folks can live affordably close to transit and jobs. This also means legislators must prioritize making new investments in the Housing Trust Fund in 2015 to address the growing need for homes affordable to low-income families and individuals (which will create thousands of jobs and stimulate our local economy.)

Locally, it means that our city must explore developer fees, implement effective incentive zoning policies, and fund the ARCH housing trust fund in order to address the lack of affordable housing and the widening gulf of income inequality in our community. Though, the legislature doesn’t bear the full responsibility of creating shared community.

We, too, have an obligation to accompany our community through this time of rapid growth, rapid growth that too often dismantles the authenticity and affordability of our neighborhood, tearing down a place once called “home” to make way for new buildings and neighbors.

Leaning into the steep challenges that face our neighborhood, we must work together so our differences make us stronger and more effective, and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. However, this is predicated on transforming our former “Not In My Backyard” mentality into a “mighty-metropolis” attitude that combines the preservation of single-family housing with robust construction of responsible density.

As the movie credits began flashing across the screen, I sat there attuned to hope that our community can be affordable because asking “What if?” invites me to dream of a brighter future. “What if?” challenges us all to consider how reality looks when committed to each other’s opportunity and success.

I understand it, though. Change can seem deceitful. Maintaining the best of yesteryear – when everyone had their own home and the view of the sound was not obstructed by cranes – profoundly conflicts with the need to prepare for affordable and accessible housing for America’s fastest growing city.

Yet, that neighborhood no longer exists. What if, in its place, we name the aspects of our heritage and history we most want to retain? What if, together with the insights and efforts of all, we incorporate, honor, and revitalize those values in our home neighborhood?

Please join us at The Capitol Hill Community Council [agenda] as we begin the new year by inviting our neighbors to build community through the committees created from the needs and feedback gathered at our Winter Open House. We are eager to translate the hopes and perspectives for the neighborhood into meaningful and informed change. Join us Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Cal Anderson Park Shelter House to engage with our neighbors, learn about the information gathered last month, hear from local groups and organizations involved in making Capitol Hill stronger and healthier, and to get involved!

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7 years ago


district three
reasonable housing cost


median household income
zip code
percent per month twenty five
percent per month thirty
equivalent wage per hour


025 $92,907 98112 21,678 $1,935.56 $2,322.68 $46.45
210 $57,387 98102 21,805 $1,195.56 $1,434.68 $28.69
249 $53,605 98144 26,329 $1,116.77 $1,340.13 $26.80
298 $49,846 98122 31,287 $1,038.46 $1,246.15 $24.92
556 $26,140 98104 12,630 $0,544.58 $0,653.50 $13.07


2008 2012
data for washington
based on acs
which stands for
united states census
american community survey
average of the period of time