Full Text Of The Letter


Dear Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council Members,

Climate change threatens everything we love. Here in Seattle, heat waves have become the new normal, wildfire smoke chokes our summer skies, and our salmon and orcas are dying. These impacts are multiplied the world over, as rapidly increasing numbers of people and ecosystems are threatened by rising sea levels, deadly storms, drought and famine.

Despite its commitments to climate action, Seattle's climate pollution has been rising in recent years.[1] We can no longer respond to the climate emergency with incremental measures, or empty words. The climate crisis urgently necessitates an all-hands-on-deck mobilization.

We, the undersigned, call for the creation of a transformative Green New Deal for Seattle that will eliminate our city’s climate pollution by 2030, address historical and current injustices, and create thousands of good, green, well-paying, unionized jobs.

Furthermore, we urge our city leaders to create a Green New Deal investment vehicle and a Green New Deal Task Force, which will decide how investments will be made, by no later than the end of 2019.

Using A Green New Deal To Eliminate Climate Pollution

To reduce our climate pollution, Seattle’s Green New Deal should invest in the build-out of tens of thousands of units of affordable housing, without displacing existing communities[2]; more transportation access, including ubiquitous and free electric transit for all Seattle neighborhoods and bus routes that connect every community[3]; the equitable transitioning of our city’s 160,000 fossil fuel-heated homes to carbon-free, electric heating[4]; and the weatherization of our housing stock.[5]

A Green New Deal for Seattle must also set up the infrastructure so our communities will be resilient to inevitable climate impacts, such as wildfire smoke, sea-level rise, in-migration, and extended droughts. By investing in local, just, and carbon-free food systems, our Green New Deal can help ensure food security for all residents. As we face sweltering heat and smoky summers, the Green New Deal must roll out universal access to filtered air spaces & cooling centers for the public. Seattle’s Green New Deal must strive to do more than simply eliminate our climate pollution; it should seek to build a truly sustainable and just future. To that end, Seattle’s Green New Deal should aspire to the goals articulated in the federal Green New Deal: good jobs, affordable housing, access to healthy food and affordable transit, as well as universal healthcare and childcare, should be guaranteed to all people residing in our country.

To ensure that we are not undermining our efforts to reduce climate pollution, Seattle’s Green New Deal should be coupled with legislation ensuring that no new homes rely on fossil fuels, and that new fossil fuel infrastructure is banned in the city.

Using A Green New Deal To Boost our Economy

Eliminating our climate pollution by 2030 will require investing billions of dollars and creating thousands of jobs in our city. It will cost at least $1.6 billion to transition Seattle’s 160,000 fossil fuel-powered homes to electric heating[6]; the weatherization of our housing stock could cost around $800 million[7]; and the cost of building tens of thousands of units of affordable housing will also be high. All of this, however, is far less expensive than not reducing our climate pollution.[8] Furthermore, these investments will create thousands of jobs and benefit our economy.[9] In addition to jobs in the traditional construction trades, Seattle’s Green New Deal can create green job opportunities for artists, domestic workers, educators, health workers, gardeners, bus drivers, and more.

The jobs created by Seattle’s Green New Deal investments, from janitors to construction workers, electricians to service workers, should be unionized and include Project Labor Agreements and Labor Harmony Agreements that would ensure high-quality work and fair treatment of workers. They should also utilize priority hire and be accessible to undocumented people and people with criminal records; being a Sanctuary City means being a place where no one is exploited, and no one thrown away. Additionally, all jobs created by our city’s Green New Deal should apply all of Seattle’s new worker protection laws: from paid family sick leave to the domestic workers bill of rights. Lastly, high schools in Seattle should add vocational training that provides a pathway to career-bound, green jobs.

Using Seattle’s Green New Deal to address historical and current injustices

While climate change affects everyone, communities of color and low-income communities are and will continue to be most negatively impacted.[10] This is especially true in Seattle, where environmental pollution is deeply segregated by race and class. Children growing up in the Duwamish Valley are three times more likely to suffer from asthma than those growing up in North Seattle.[11] People living in South Park and Georgetown have an expected lifespan that’s eight years shorter than the average Seattle resident, and 13 years shorter than the well-off neighborhood of Laurelhurst.[12] Our Green New Deal investments must prioritize addressing these environmental injustices and center solutions from communities most impacted. To ensure that this is an integral part of our Green New Deal, individuals deeply rooted in communities of color, Native communities, and immigrant, refugee, and low income communities must be central to a Green New Deal Task Force that will approve how Seattle’s Green New Deal investments are made.

Workers, organized labor and small business leaders must also be at the decision-making table; their input is essential to ensuring that Seattle’s Green New Deal supports a thriving local green economy and that workers benefit from the transition away from fossil fuels. There should also be a measure of flexibility in the rollout of different initiatives, so that neighborhoods can help choose the changes they see first.

To further ensure that justice is at the heart of Seattle’s Green New Deal, the city should also establish a Free, Prior and Informed Consent policy with regional Tribes.[13]

Funding Seattle’s Green New Deal

There are numerous ways we can fund a city-wide transformation, and using multiple mechanisms will be most effective. We can put a climate emergency tax on big business[14] [15], we can price congestion[16], we can put a one-off climate emergency levy to the voters[17], we can re-purpose funds from the general fund, and we can dip into Seattle’s existing rainy day fund.[18] Of course, all of these funding mechanisms will need to be rigorously studied before implementation. Washington state already has the most regressive tax system of any state in the country[19]; it’s critical that our Green New Deal funding mechanisms do not further unjustly burden low-income communities.

In addition, the City of Seattle must hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for its role in the climate crisis. We urge City Attorney Holmes to file litigation against the fossil fuel industry for knowingly causing global warming while spending tens of millions funding climate disinformation. Thirteen jurisdictions in the United States are already litigating the fossil fuel industry[20], and these lawsuits can help ensure that the corporations most responsible for the climate crisis pay their fair share.

But we must not wait for new funding sources to begin the work of a Green New Deal: all City departments should be assessing current spending by how that spending reduces climate pollution and achieves the City’s environmental equity goals, as defined in the 2016 Equity and Environment Agenda.

The Path Forward

While the climate crisis is global, cities matter; they are the source of most of the world’s emissions, and the easiest places to implement change for large numbers of people. Major cities around the world are already responding to the climate emergency: Copenhagen is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2025 [21] and Oslo by 2030 [22], and cities worldwide are announcing bans on internal combustion engines.[23]

Seattle has what it takes to be a global climate leader. We have communities who have been fighting injustice for generations, who can lead the way in showing how we take care of one another while demanding a healthy, stable future for all of us. We have neighborhoods striving for local resiliency. We have industries full of workers who are increasingly asking how they can use their skills and knowledge for the public good. We have city leaders who have time and again acknowledged that the climate crisis is not just fought at the U.N. or in D.C.; it's fought and won here, where we live. This is the moment for all of us to come together and do what must be done for our common future.

Future generations are depending on us. We must step up to this moment, and show what leadership looks like.

Sincerely,

  • Got Green
    Jonathan Fikru, Young Leaders Organizer, Got Green
  • 350 Seattle
    Jess Wallach, Organizer, 350 Seattle
  • SEIU 775
    Adam Glickman, Secretary Treasurer
  • SEIU 6
    Zenia Javalera, President
  • Earth Ministry
    LeeAnne Beres, Executive Director
  • Faith Action Network
    Reverend Paul Benz and Elise DeGooyer, Co-Directors
  • Violet Lavati
    Tenants Union, Executive Director
  • El Centro De La Raza
    Estela Ortega, Executive Director
  • UAW Local 4121
    David Parsons President
  • UAW Local 1981
    Louis McGill, Organizer
  • Sunrise Movement
    Ahmed Gaya, National Field Director
  • Sunrise Seattle
    Kevin Pelstring, Coordinator
  • League of Women Voters Seattle-King County
    Heather Kelly, Action Chair and 2nd VP
  • Families of Color Seattle
    Amy Pak, Executive Director
  • Transit Riders Union
    Katie Wilson, General Secretary
  • Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
    Cassie Chinn, Deputy Executive Director
  • Sierra Club WA
    Brittney Bush Bollay, Founder
  • Fuse Washington
    Aaron Ostrom Executive Director
  • Mazaska Talks
    Matt Remle, Founder
  • Rainier Valley Corps
    Florence Sum, Fellowship Coordinator
  • Washington Healthcare Access Alliance
    Christine Lindquist, MPH, Executive Director
  • Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
    Mark Vossler, MD
  • Zero Hour
    Ethan Wright, Advocacy Director
  • Fridays for Future Seattle
    Joe Mangan and Lydia Ringer, Organizers
  • Real Change
    Tiffani McCoy, Lead Organizer
  • Nickelsville
    Scott Morrow, Staff
  • Legal Voice
    Courtney Chappell, Advocacy Director
  • Rooted in Rights
    Anna Zivarts, Program Director
  • Parents for Future Seattle
    Helene Costa, Founding Member
  • Climate Action Families
    Emory Ranes, President
  • Seattle Neighborhood Greenways
    Clara Cantor, Community Organizer
  • Cascade Bicycle Club
    Vicky Clarke, Policy Director
  • Seattle 500 Women Scientists
    Jeanna Wheeler and Sarah Myhre, leadership board
  • Zero Waste Washington
    Heather Trim, Executive Director
  • Our Climate
    Emily Martin, Northwest Field Organizer
  • Washington Environmental Council/Washington Conservation Voters
    Joan Crooks, CEO
  • Mike O’Brien
    City of Seattle Councilmember
  • Teresa Mosqueda
    City of Seattle Councilmember
  • Kshama Sawant
    City of Seattle Councilmember
  • Mike McGinn
    Former Seattle Mayor
  • Kirsten Harris-Talley
    Former City of Seattle Councilmember
  • Cary Moon
    Former Mayoral Candidate
  • Phil Tavel
    City Council Candidate D1
  • Tammy Morales
    City Council Candidate D2
  • Christopher Peguero
    City Council Candidate D2
  • Mark Solomon
    City Council Candidate D2
  • Pat Murakami
    City Council Candidate D3
  • Cathy Tuttle
    City Council Candidate D4
  • Emily Myers
    City Council Candidate D4
  • Shaun Scott
    City Council Candidate D4
  • Heidi Stuber
    City Council Candidate D4
  • John Lombard
    City Council Candidate D5
  • Melissa Hall
    City Council Candidate D6
  • Heidi Willis
    City Council Candidate D6
  • Kara Ceriello
    City Council Candidate D6
  • Michael George
    City Council Candidate D7
  • Jason Williams
    City Council Candidate D7
  • Larry Gosset
    King County Councilmember
  • The Rev. Erik P. Kindem
    Peace Lutheran Church Seattle (ELCA)
  • Rev. Daniel J. Peterson
    Queen Anne Lutheran Church
  • Pastor Dale Alekel
    1st United Methodist Church of Seattle
  • West Seattle Unitarian Social Justice Coalition
    Anne Miller, Chair
  • Pacific NW Conference United Church of Christ
    Mike Denton, Conference Minister
  • Pastor Rich Gamble, Pastor
    Keystone Church
  • Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, Founder
    Panim Hadashot
  • Pastor Tim Devine
    St. Paul’s Church
  • Reverend Angela Ying
    Bethany United Church of Christ
  • Rev. Staci Imes
    Pastor Woodland Park Presbyterian Church
  • Very Rev. Steven L. Thomason
    Dean and Rector Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral
  • Rev. Beth Chronister
    Minister, University Unitarian Church
  • Rev. Robert William Deuel
    Pastor, Woodland Park UMC-Green Lake UMC
  • Rev. Meighan Pritchard
    Pastor, Prospect United Church of Christ
  • Other 98
    John Sellers, Executive Director
  • Friends of the Earth
    Karen Orenstein Deputy Director of Economic Policy
  • 350.org
    KC Golden, Board Chair
  • Protectors of the Salish Sea
    Paul Chiyokten Wagner Founder
  • Rainforest Action Network
    Paddy McCully, Climate Director
  • Delridge Neighborhood Development Association
    David Betock, Executive Director
  • Climate Justice Initiative
    Karla Brollier, Director
  • Stand.Earth
    Alex Ramel, Extreme Oil Field Director
  • West Seattle Helpline
    Erin Dury Moore, Executive Director
  • Greenpeace USA
    Benjamin Smith, Field Organizing Manager
  • For the People
    Derek Hoshiko, Organizer and Ellen Finkelstein, Board Member
  • Plant for the Planet Washington
    Sue Lenander President
  • South Seattle Climate Action Network
    Beth Brunton and Ann Miller, Coordinators
  • Nikkita Oliver
    Artist, Attorney and Community Organizer
  • Denis Hayes
    Environmental Leader
  • Dave Batistiti
    Professor of Atmospheric Sciences
  • Nature Stewards
    Grace Stiller, President
  • Community Alliance for Global Justice
    Heather Day Executive Director
  • Food and Water Watch
    Thomas Myers, Regional Organizing Manager
  • Climate Solutions
    Gregg Smalls, Executive Director
  • Vashon Climate Action Group
    Kevin Jones, Board Member
  • Share the Cities
    Laura Loe, Founder
  • Mt. Baker Hub
    Eve Keller, Chair
  • Mothers Out Front USA
    Jeanine San Clemente, Coordinator
  • Capitol Hill Renter Initiative
    Jesse Simpson, Lead Organizer
  • The Urbanist
    Doug Trumm, Publication Director
  • Hedgebrook
    Cam Williams Bernhard, Staff
  • Full Circle Environmental
    David Sitzhal, President
  • Dylan Cate Strategic
    Dylan Cate, Principal
  • Emerald Cities Collaborative
    Steve Gelb, Local Director
  • Re-Think Green
    Julia Sandler, Founder
  • Byrd Barr Place
    Andrea Caupain, CEO
  • Marcia Baker
    Professor Emerita of Earth and Space Sciences
  • Dargas Frierson
    Professor of Atmospheric Sciences
  • MOAR
    Matt Hutchins, Cofounder
  • The Nest in the Heart of the City
    Suzanne Greenberg, Owner
  • Re-evaluation Counseling Community Resources
    Diane Shisk, Director of Operations
  • Grateful Bread
    Chris Lahoda, Owner
  • Red Crow Studio
    Jacquie Hill, Owner
  • Mangia Bene
    Debbie Brownstein, Owner
  • Kathy’s Corner Café
    Katy Leighton, Owner
  • Royal Room
    Tia Matthies
  • Conscious Cartoons
    Bill Jarcho, Festival Director
  • North Seattle Guitar Lessons
    Jared Borkowski, Owner
  • Say Yes to Life Swims
    Guila Muir, Owner
  • United to End Racism
    Teresa Enrico, Chair
  • Squirrel Chops
    Shirley Henderson, Owner
  • Stockbox Neighborhood Grocery
    Carrie Ferrence, Owner
  • Mountain to Sound Outfitters/Alki Kayak Tours
    Greg and Kara Whittaker, Owners
  • 2 Sisters Ecotextiles
    Patty Grossman, Co-Owner
  • Alki Bike
    Stu Hennessey, Owner
  • WR Consulting, Inc
    Marian Wineman, Owner
  • Stevens Pass Climate Team
    Rusty West, Organizer
  • Studio Azul
    Lily Christensen, Business
  • Bike Works
    Deb Stalls, Executive Director
  • G&O Family Cyclery
    David Giugliano (Davey Oil)
  • City Kid People
    Claudia Cerrato, Owner
  • Westwood Healing Arts
    Amy Wolf, Owner
  • Beacon Hill Safe Streets
    Robert Getch, Chair
  • Center for Healing Neurology
    Ilene Runoy, Founder and Medical Director
  • Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW)
    ET Russian CARW Member
  • The Architecture Lobby Seattle
    Alexander Froehlich, Chapter Steward
  • Tech 4 Housing
    Calvin Jones, Board President
  • Sustainable Ballard
    Jenny Heins, Executive Director
  • Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites
    ET Russion, Member
  • Soar
    Paula Steinke, Executive Director
  • Wallingford Indivisible
    Melinda Mueller, Facilitator
  • Toolbox Pictures
    Howard Shack
  • Columbia City Community Chorus
    Kathleen Tracy, Director
  • West Seattle Meaningful Movies
    Corey Elliot, Organizer
  • Climate Reality Seattle - King Co. Chapter
    Michael Truog and Ali Lee, Co-Chairs
  • Seattle Green Families
    Emma Nixon, Co-Founder
  • Crown Hill Community Garden
    Fred Miller, Gardener
  • Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action*
  • Kadima*
  • Sustainable West Seattle*
  • Food Systems Coalition*
  • University Unitarian Church Climate Action*
  • Keystone Church United Church of Christ*
  • People for Climate Action Seattle*
  • Indivisible Seattle*
  • 34th District Democrats**

* signers requested organization name listed only

** 34th District Democrats did not sign on to this letter, but they did pass a resolution in support of a Green New Deal for Seattle. Resolution here.

Endnotes

1.  City of Seattle, 2016 Seattle Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, available at https://www.seattle.gov/environment/climate-change/climate-planning/performance-monitoring

2.  Building low-income housing near transit results in the greatest carbon pollution reduction per dollar spent – which means by making massive investments in affordable housing Seattle’s Green New Deal would not only help address our housing crisis, but also reduce climate pollution. For more see Got Green, Our People, Our Power, Our Planet; http://gotgreenseattle.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/OurPeopleOurPlanetOurPower_GotGreen_Sage_Final1.pdf

3.  Passenger vehicles are responsible for nearly half of Seattle’s current carbon pollution – a Green New Deal should prioritize investments in alternative transportation options that enable people to get out of their cars, while also contributing to the creation of vibrant, walkable neighborhoods with plentiful civic space and green space

4.  There are currently over 160,000 homes in Seattle that are heated by fossil fuels. Transitioning all of those homes to electric heating would reduce our climate pollution and create thousands of good-paying, union jobs in our city.

5.  Retrofitting Seattle homes to be more energy efficient would means not only reducing climate pollution but also thousands of good union jobs, and lower monthly utility bills for Seattle residents

6.  It costs at least $10,000 to transition a single home from fossil fuels to electric heat. With that in mind, it will cost at least $1.6 billion to transition all of Seattle’s 160,000 fossil fuel-powered homes to electric heat. These costs should be fully covered by Seattle’s Green New Deal, not by renters or homeowners.

7.  It costs at least $5,000 to weatherize an average sized single-family home. With that in mind, it will cost at least $800 million to weatherize all of Seattle’s housing stock. These costs should be fully covered by Seattle’s Green New Deal, not by renters or homeowners.

8.  Leading EPA climate scientists have estimated that the anticipated cost of climate change to the United States will be at least $224 billion per year by 2090 if we do not radically reduce our emissions. For more see Yale Climate Communications, Climate Change Could Cost U.S Economy Hundreds of Billions,

https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2019/04/climate-change-could-cost-u-s-economy-billions/

9.  See Forbes, The Economic Case for  a Green New Deal, https://www.forbes.com/sites/washingtonbytes/2019/02/20/the-economic-case-for-the-green-new-deal/

10.  Among the many findings in the 2018 U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment was the fact that “People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts.” For more, see the Fourth National Climate Assessment summary at: https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/  

11.  For more, Toxic News, Seattle’s Segregated Landscape; www.toxicnews.org/2019/02/21/seattles-segregated-risks

12.  For more, The Seattle Times, Study Finds Life Is Shorter For Some in the 98108 Zip Code;

13. Washington State’s Attorney General recently announced a Free, Prior and Informed Consent policy that, “requires the Attorney General’s Office to obtain free, prior and informed consent before initiating a program or project that directly and tangibly affects tribes, tribal rights, tribal lands and sacred sites”. This is especially relevant in Seattle watersheds, rivers and Puget Sound basin, where the Muckleshoot and Suquamish have traditional fishing rights

14.  From Amazon to the Ash Grove cement plant, our city’s biggest businesses are also our largest polluters, and they should pay their fair share. To ensure that they do, we could raise the city’s B&O Tax on the city’s largest businesses. For more on B&O taxes see: https://www.seattle.gov/business-licenses-and-taxes/business-license-taxes;

15.   Additionally, Seattle could implement a measure similar to Portland’s Clean Energy Fund, which passed at the ballot in 2018 with 64% of the vote. Portland’s “Clean Energy Surcharge” applies a 1% tax to large retailers with annual tax year total gross income from retail sales of $1 billion or more in the U.S. and $500,000 or more within the City of Portland, excluding utilities, co-ops, credit unions, and sales of qualified groceries, medicine or drugs, and health care services. Portland’s Clean Energy Surcharge is expected to raise between $54 million and $71 million annually. For more details, see Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund FAQs, https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/713039

16.  New York, London, Stockholm, Oslo and many other cities around the world have already implemented a congestion price. Fourteen years of the London congestion charge has enabled $2 billion investment in the city’s transportation infrastructure -- see Transportation of London website for more: https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/transparency/freedom-of-information/foi-request-detail?referenceId=FOI-2271-1617

17.  In February 2019, Seattle voters passed two public schools levies that will raise over $2.2 billion over six years.

18.  The City of Seattle has $51.1 million set aside for spending on unforseen costs. The climate crisis warrants the City using some of this money to seed its Green New Deal Fund.

19.  Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax System in all 50 States, https://itep.org/new-report-finds-that-upside-down-state-and-local-tax-systems-persist-contributing-to-inequality-in-most-states/

20.   Eight cities and counties in California, as well as municipalities in Colorado and Washington state, the cities of Baltimore and New York and the state of Rhode Island have already filed civil lawsuits against several oil and gas companies. For more,see, Inside Climate News, Fossil Fuels on Trial: Where the Major Climate Change Lawsuits Stand Today, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/04042018/climate-change-fossil-fuel-company-lawsuits-timeline-exxon-children-california-cities-attorney-general

21.  For more see The Guardian, Copenhagen’s Ambitious Push to be Carbon Neutral by 2025,  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/12/copenhagen-push-carbon-neutral-2025

22.  For more see the City of Oslo’s Climate and Energy Strategy, retrieved at https://www.oslo.kommune.no/english/politics-and-administration/green-oslo/plans-and-programmes/#gref

23.  Business Insider, 13 Cities That Are Starting To Ban Cars, retrieved at https://www.businessinsider.com/cities-going-car-free-ban-2017-8#berlin-is-building-bike-super-highways-9