$100 million a year to fund Black-led community organizations was a key commitment raised by Mayor Jenny Durkan as Seattle’s summer Black Lives Matter protests grew and later as she tried to end CHOP and the occupied protest zone without a police sweep this summer. Durkan still ended up ordering a raid and sweep — but that promise remained on the table. Now the mayor is going about the careful business of trying to stay true to her word in a city facing a near future of COVID-damaged budgets.
As she prepares to present her 2021 budget proposal Tuesday, Durkan is also laying out a plan for the $100 million a year commitment that is taking on unexpected dimensions including a new task force the mayor says will be announced this week that will “engage communities in a collaborative process to prioritize how the funding can create opportunity and an inclusive economy,” “build community wealth and preserve cultural spaces,” “ensure community wellness,” and “achieve environmental and climate justice.”
“Communities must be empowered and resourced to determine what solutions may best address deep, systemic issues,” Durkan wrote in an op-ed in the South Seattle Emerald describing the framework for the much anticipated funding effort. Durkan appeared on Converge Media to announce the new program and the taskforce.
Publicola broke the news on another asterisk on the mayor’s $100 million. Her office is planning to pay for the spending with revenue from the $200 million a year business tax passed by the City Council this summer to fund housing, business assistance, and community spending and help Seattle recover from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as well as revenue from Seattle’s Uber and Lyft fees.
The mayor has not yet announced who will be part of the taskforce but in her discussion with Converge, she said the $100 million effort will be expanded to focus on Seattle’s BIPOC — “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color” — communities, not only its Black citizens.
From past comments, it’s clear Durkan plans to reach beyond the organizations like King County Equity Now that have been most active during the summer’s Black Lives Matter activism and demonstrations.
“I announced many months ago that I was committing to $100 million of new community investments and we would have a process so those investments would be guided by community and the voice of community,” Durkan said after CHS asked about the $100 million promise during an August press conference following her ultimately unsuccessful veto of the City Council’s SPD budget cuts. “King County Equity Now wants to be the deciders in that? We will have those voices at the table but we will have a broader process.”
The BIPOC communities spending plan comes as nonprofits and activists await word on how the Durkan administration will deploy funding intended to be redirected to community groups after thee City Council’s override of the mayor’s vetoes reopened the path to cutting back SPD and redirecting more spending to social justice initiatives.
It also comes amid demands for a participatory budgeting process that many believe will give Seattle community groups and organizations more control over the funding city officials say is dedicated to their communities. The City Council’s package of SPD cuts and redirected spending included $3 million to grow a more community directed budget process in Seattle.
UPDATE: King County Equity Now says Monday it will announce details of its formation of “a 100+ member Black-led community-led research team” in partnership with local Black-led organizations including Bridging Cultural Gaps, East African Community Services, Freedom Project, and Wa Na Wari.
“The team is laying the groundwork for a true participatory budgeting process in 2021 that crafts real solutions to deliver equity now,” the announcement reads.
Mayor Durkan is scheduled to announce details of her 2021 budget proposal Tuesday afternoon.
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