Neighborhood preservationist and Green Lake clean-up advocate David Toledo out of the District 5 City Council Race.

August 5, 2015

Neighborhood preservationist and Green Lake clean-up advocate David Toledo out of the District 5 City Council Race.

The sole voice of opposition to the tent-encampments in residential neighborhoods did not receive enough votes in the Primary to move forward with his campaign. Attorney Debora Juarez garnered 38% of the vote, moving her into top spot for the General Election. Sandy Brown took second with 20% of the initial count, which will most likely make him the second candidate in November’s top-two election, unless there is a last minute flood of votes for another candidate.  Counting will continue throughout the week.

In the crowded field of 8 candidates David Toledo had established himself early as the only voice of opposition to Nickelsville style tent-cities being built in residential neighborhoods.

Prior to 2015 large-scale tent encampments had been limited to areas zoned for industrial or mixed-use; but earlier this year the City Council had approved building large encampments in residential areas as well. North Seattle is scheduled to receive an encampment in Ballard, and another in Crown Hill.

Toledo has a long history of volunteerism at local shelters and tent-cities in Seattle; and agrees that tent-cities do serve a purpose in providing safety and stability. But Toledo believes that industrial and mixed use areas are better equipped to support tent-cities as they have better bussing/transportation support; and he worries that establishing large tent-cities in residential areas will permanently change the historical character of any residential neighborhood.

Toledo’s concerns were echoed by neighbors of the Ballard encampment, who protested last week. Aaron Stoltz, of VFW Post 3063 stated that “a transient camp right next door to my hall is going to make it unrentable for at least two years”. Other neighbors expressed concerns with the camps proximity to a bar and a liquor store. Also of concern is the possibility of increased trash and debris surrounding the encampment; a problem which plagued Nickelsville when it operated under the 1st Avenue Bridge.

Green Lake clean-up is another area that Toledo had advocated for during his run for City Council. Toledo had pointed out that when the sewage pumps fail the raw waste flows directly into the lake. During one failure in 2008 over 95,000 gallons of raw sewage went directly into the lake; and in 2013 there were 3 failures.

Toledo had brought 40 years of history in the area, along with 10 years in the affordable housing field and nearly 20 years of serving as Director for the Unified Outreach Arts Program. Toledo had shaken up the race with his outside-of-the-box campaign strategy which included a “Cartooning with the Candidate” tour of local libraries and delivering frozen treats to potential voters during Seattle record-breaking summer. Toledo posted his concession speech to his Facebook after receiving news of the vote count;

“The ballot totals have posted and it doesn’t look like I’ll be moving forward with the top two vote recipients. Thank you to everyone for your support with sharing posts and to those that made financial contributions. It’s been a fun few months of campaigning but now it’s time to see what God has planned next. Isaiah 43:18-19”

David Toledo 2015 Voters Guide
David Toledo 2015 Voters Guide

Amazing list of honorees at the Robert Stephens, Jr. Awards ceremony

Awards winnerss June 20, 2015 Seattle’s Central District came together to celebrate long time advocates for youth, arts, social justice, and stronger neighborhoods; honoring some of Seattle’s most legendary names.

“We selected men who personally impacted us. The men in the room are the ledges whose shoulder we stand on.” Said Garfield Community Center Director Andre Franklin. Another member of the advisory committee stated that seeing so many true community leaders in one place left them “in awe”.

The event was birthed from a partnership between B.U.I.L.D. (Brothers United In Leadership Development), Unified Outreach, and the Garfield Community Center Advisory Board; along with Seattle Parks, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and 4Culture.

The event featured a full buffet spread with home style chicken, macaroni, greens, and corn bread. An incredible meal that in itself was worthy of celebration.pic food

Vicious Puppies Black and Blue Sammy Tekle Seattle2
Vicious Puppies aka Dog Pound

Music and MC duties were provided by DJ Surreal (aka George Yasutake), and guests were treated to a gravity defying performance from one of Seattle’s hottest breakdance groups, the Vicious Puppies (aka Dog Pound). Last month the Vicious Puppies brought their dramatic stage presentation of “Black and Blue” to the Neptune Theatre. The play brings social conscience and race relations to the front lines with a true-to-life story based on actual events. The play has received great reviews and the group is looking to expand the touring calendar throughout the summer. The Puppies have also played the main stage at the Sasquatch tour and other large venue events and are quickly becoming one of Seattle’s most in-demand groups.

Award Hampton
James Hampton receives his award.

Award honorees included well known community leaders who have served the people of Seattle for decades; as well as shining stars actively making a difference today.

The event recognized Mike Yasutake, John Yasutake, Gregory Davis, Aaron Dixon, Elmer Dixon, Bishop Ray Rogers, Steve Sneed, James Hampton, Reco Bembry, Guy Davis, and Larry Evans.

Each award recipient was introduced by someone who had a personal story of how the award winner had impacted their life.  The microphone was then handed to the award winner who then shared their own story about who had most impacted them.  The ceremony was full of humor and laughter, as well as somber moments and tears of gratitude.

IMG_20150620_115319 The afternoon culminated with the honoring and awarding of the new Robert Stephens, Jr. Community Service plaque which will hang in the Garfield Community Center.

Robert Stephens, Jr. has been a fixture in Seattle’s Central District for over 35 years. A veteran of the U.S. Army, Mr. Stephens, Jr. began serving the community after completing his tour in 1968. Mr. Stephens, Jr. has a Masters Degree in Education Psychology, is a K-12 teacher and school counselor, and has worked with Seattle Public Schools, Langston Hughes Cultural Art Center, Neighborhoods House, and Washington State Reformatory.

RSJ award
Robert Stephens, Jr.

Mr. Stephens, Jr. has been involved with a number of non-profit organizations and governmental advisory committees over the years; and has had a hand in the establishment of Odessa Brown Health Clinic, Madrona Dance Studio (now Spectrum), Medgar Evers Swimming Pool, and dozens of other programs that are now an established part of the community.

Mr. Stephens, Jr. has served as the President of the Central Area Neighborhood District Council; founded the Seattle Central Area Cultural Arts Commission, and helped in the creation of Homer Harris Park.IMG_20150620_115407

When presenting the award, Garfield Community Center Advisory Council Member David Toledo stated “When we began searching for someone that exemplified the community spirit; someone who was a true advocate for our youth, for the arts, and for the neighborhood; we all knew right away that it was time to honor Robert Stephens, Jr.”

Dramatic Leap for Local Dance Crew as “Black & Blue” Debuts at the Historic Neptune Theatre

Black and Blue Dan Haile Vicious Puppies Seattle  June 11th, 2015 Writer/Director Maximilian Meador-Stockstill brings the real-life police/teen interactions of Seattle residents to the stage in an entertaining combination of drama, suspense, humor, and dance.

Sammy Tekle shines as the main character who (although recently deceased) walks the audience through a series of emotional flashbacks which start with him hanging with his crew (which include some spectacular dance performances) and end with him being shot during a routine traffic stop.Vicious Puppies Black and Blue Sammy Tekle Seattle2

Dan Haile has the audience in tears as he delivers the eulogy for his fallen friend; and Vicious Puppy (aka Dog Pound) members (Jonathan Higuchi, Binh Nguyen, Robert Eyerman, Justin Law, John Pham, Quan Nguyen) deliver a passionate back-and-forth debate regarding the role of police and how we as citizens should interact with them.Vicious Puppies Black and Blue Sammy Tekle Seattle

Black & Blue received a standing ovation and extremely positive feedback during the question & answer period following the performance. Writer/Director Maximilian Meador-Stockstill stated he would be interested in expanding the tour and all actors showed an interest in an extended run.

The Vicious Puppies (aka Dog Pound) continue their meteoric rise to celebrity status by expanding their already impressive resume which includes performances at the Paramount’s “Dance This!” and main stage performances at this Summer’s “Sasquatch” tour.

vpcrew

David Toledo’s “Cartooning with the Candidate” Draws Positive Reviews at Local Library

GW David Toledo Seattle City Council Cartooning with the Candidate 2
David Toledo and “Votey” talk issues.

June 14, 2015, City Council hopeful David Toledo continued his “Cartooning with the Candidate” speaking-tour of North Seattle’s public libraries with a visit to the Greenwood Library. The family-friendly event has been a big hit with residents of District 5 who are enjoying the creative approach to voter outreach. What makes these meet-and-greets unique is that they are kid friendly; providing free coloring books and art supplies to keep children engaged while parents have the opportunity to ask questions and share thoughts with the candidate.

GW David Toledo Seattle City Council Cartooning with the Candidate 4
Thinking outside the box is encouraged!

Lori is a District 5 resident and single mother who attended the June 7th event at Green Lake.  Lori says that she would be even more engaged in the political process if she were able to bring her two children to more events.  Lori says that it speaks highly of Mr. Toledo that he thought of parents with young children when he organized the function. “I think this is a great indication of how he will govern, putting people first”.

LB David Toledo City Council CB 1
Young artist hard at work!

If you’re a resident of District 5 you’ve undoubtedly already had a chuckle at some of the ultra-creative campaign literature put out by the Vote David Toledo campaign. Drive down North 105th and directly across the street from the historic Rickshaw Restaurant you’ll see a large Vote Toledo billboard featuring Toledo and his daughter, enjoying a hamburger while standing in front of a wall of very artistically designed David Toledo caricatures in various styles.

Additionally, Toledo’s campaign has also released a web based trivia challenge and several fully animated cartoon commercials.

https://wevotetoledo.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/david-toledo-brings-pop-culture-trivia-to-the-city-council-race/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVMUAhtkzb8

In accompaniment to Toledo’s artistic side is a wealth of experience dealing with real-world issues. Toledo is a Housing Specialist competent in all areas of affordable housing; working in the field for nearly a decade who says he “knows what’s needed to stabilize rent and increase housing options without rent control or rezoning of residential neighborhoods.”

Toledo is also one of the co-founders of Unified Outreach which provides free volunteer services to elder care centers, transitional housing facilities, and youth mentoring programs. GW David Toledo Seattle City Council Cartooning with the Candidate 3But Toledo says the most important thing he brings to the table is a 40 year history of living in North Seattle. “Community roots matter. I have a responsibility to you based on neighborhood loyalty and shared history. When I make promises I will keep them. Sidewalks for North Seattle, expanded public safety funding, affordable housing solutions, small businesses growth and a job training wage, improved roadways for commuters and commerce, and best of all a clean and swimmable Green Lake!”

Toledo’s Cartooning with the Candidate meet-and-greets began in April and are scheduled to run through the month of July.

Lake City – June 21st (2pm – 4pm)

Broadview – June 28th (2pm – 4pm)

Green Lake – July 12th (2pm – 4pm)

Toledo is facing a number of challengers in the race including long time residents such as Hugh H. Russell and Debaduta Dash; as well as new residents to the area such as Halei Watkins and Sandy Brown.

GW David Toledo Seattle City Council Cartooning with the Candidate 1

District 5 Candidates “Bring it” at the Broadview Forum

Broadview Candidate Forum
March 13, 2015 The evening had all the ingredients necessary for a knock-down, drag-out night of bare knuckle debate; a Lawyer, a (former) Pastor, and a Mayoral Legacy sharing the same stage? Hold on to your hats!!!

Well, that’s what one might expect. Sadly, neither the fire and brimstone of a two-fisted Sam Childers, nor the earth shaking revelations of a Annalise Keating were present at the Broadview forum… and for those hoping to see the rise of the next great political prodigy? The night may have come up a little short.

The District 5 candidates for the most part stuck to their scripts (which some candidates had literally printed out and read from each time they answered a question). The evening seemed to be more about meeting the candidates and seeing which one had the friendliest demeanor, with the only real passion or deviation from script coming during the discussion on infrastructure.

Still the evening was impressive in that the event went off without a hitch, great sound system, comfortable seating, good lighting, and a program that started and ended on time. The evening began with a very informative lesson on District 5 from Campaign Consultant Ben Anderstone. The event was moderated by Broadview Community Council Chair Jim Jensen who did a great job of being seen without taking over the show. The introduction period then gave some insight into who was running and why; ranging from our newest neighbor Sandy Brown to David Toledo’s near lifetime as a north Seattle resident.

Our New Neighbors:

Sandy Brown is a former Minister who moved to District 5 when he saw that there was a need for leadership on the issues important to him. Recently Brown advocated for Initiative 594 which required criminal background checks for those purchasing firearms online and at gun shows.

Mercedes Elizalde says she was also drawn to run in District 5 after seeing the need for more social services and housing.  Elizalde is one of the only union members currently running for office (David Toledo is the other).

Halei Watkins moved to the north Seattle about 2 years ago and states that her experience as a community organizer for Planned Parenthood gives her the tools she needs to get things done.

The Old Guard:

Debora Juarez bought her home in Lake City 12 years ago. Juarez, who is a lawyer, says her experience building relationships with Washington State’s Indian tribes demonstrates her ability to work with large scale contracts and budgets.

Mian Rice recently bought a home in Maple Leaf after living in Licton Springs for the past 12 years. The son of former Mayor Norm Rice; Mian believes his experience with government agencies and history working at the Small Business and Policy Department of the Port of Seattle makes him an excellent candidate for City Council.

David Toledo is a 40-year resident (and renter) in North Seattle who believes that candidates should know the neighborhoods that they seek to represent. David’s introduction fondly recalled childhood memories of time spent with his mother at the Bitter Lake playground; and made mention of several community icons of the past including Cinema 1-2-3 and the Kiddyland at Woodland Park Zoo.

Transportation

All candidates agreed that transportation is a major issue in District 5. All candidates were in agreement that we needed to find funding sources for our bus lines, move forward with the light rail station at 130th, and provide protected bike-lanes throughout the district. There was no visible stand-out in the idea department, and no one offered ideas on funding, but Mian Rice noted that his Master’s Degree in Transportation Planning from the school of Civil Engineering would give him an advantage in tackling problem areas.

Housing

Once again the candidates all seemed to be in agreement regarding a need for affordable housing in District 5. Mercedes Elizalde pointed out that in her position at LIHI she works regularly with seniors that can’t keep up with the ever climbing rent in the Seattle area. Sandy Brown stated that we must be patient and give Mayor Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee time to work. Halei Watkins stated she is a renter and knows how hard it is to make ends meet. David Toledo had perhaps the best statement when he said that the term affordable housing is very broad and could include rent control, mixed income housing, and various subsidy programs. Toledo encouraged the audience to google David Toledo where they will find his recently published article on understanding the affordable housing conversation.  (https://wevotetoledo.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/the-affordable-housing-conversation-everyone-can-understand/)

Surprisingly, none of the candidates touched on upzoning, mirco housing, or tent cities.

Public Safety and improving the Aurora Corridor

The candidates were in agreement that there needed to be increased funding for the police in District 5. Sandy Brown stated that he would like to see police expand their role to patrolling neighborhoods as opposed to simply responding. Mercedes Elizalde cited public safety during bus rides as a major concern. Mian Rice stated focusing on infrastructure and improving the signage at the city limits would help cut down on crime and prostitution. David Toledo stated that in order to reduce crime on Aurora we need to focus on bringing in and supporting new types of businesses that discourage the criminal element from prospering; briefly touching on regulatory reform for small businesses. Halei Watkins stated that she applauded the Mayor’s plan to add 50 new police to the department but stated she would like to see that doubled.

Experience Managing a Billion Dollar Budget

When asked who had experience managing a budget the size of our city, the candidates all took turns looking at the floor and began grasping for branches in hopes of finding something in their portfolio that would prove they are ready to engage such a beast. Halei Watkins stated she doesn’t have experience in the financial field, but that she’s good at math and not afraid of a challenge. Debora Juarez cited her work with the tribal community and stated that she had often been involved with contracts and negotiations that included the exchange of billions of dollars. David Toledo pointed out that he would assemble the best team possible when dealing with city budget issues, but also cited his previous experience as an area manager for Kodak during their heyday. Mian Rice cited his experience negotiating contracts for the Port and working directly with the City of Seattle. Sandy Brown stated that budgets are very similar when it comes to the nuts and bolts and that in his previous role as Pastor he was responsible for large scale church operations.

Infrastructure (Sidewalks and Sewage)

All candidates agreed that the lack of sidewalks is a major concern. However, only David Toledo was willing to tackle the issue of sewage in District 5.  Toledo discussed the need for upgrading the Sewage Pumps in the area, and stated that when the Midvale Pump fails the sewage is redirected into Green Lake. He further stated the station had 3 pump failures in 2013. Toledo went on to say that during a single failure in 2008 over 95,000 gallons of sewage was dumped into Green Lake.

Oil and Coal Transportation

All candidates agreed that their needed to be strong over-site and regulation of oil and coal transportation through District 5. Sandy Brown pointed out that the train tracks run very close to the shores of Golden Gardens and that a spill could have tragic results. Halei Watkins backed Sandy’s statement by pointing out areas on the map that are at risk if a spill should occur. Debora Juarez stated that because of her background and her heavy involvement with Native American’s that the environment is very important to her.

The remainder of the evening was filled with items such as favorite restaurants and places to site-see in Seattle. As this was the first forum of the campaign season I think that a soft-ball style approach was acceptable. However, voters will undoubtedly require answers on program funding and a much more defined stance on hot top issues as the campaigns move forward. Cheers to the Broadview Community Council for putting on a very welcoming, professional forum that was enjoyable from start to finish.

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of this website.”

25 Things Creative People Do Differently

slam Pabs

While most think of creative people as “right-brained” or artsy, creativity exists within all of us – even the most logical, linear thinkers.

However, some of us have honed our creative sides a little more than others, and know how to capture and express that imaginative energy. Creative people cover a broad spectrum of personalities, from the stereotypical starving artist to the entrepreneurial businessman. They share some common traits that allow them to bring that creativity to life, including the following:

25 Things Creative People Do Differently:

  1. They work when the work comes to them…meaning that they only paint, draw, write, sew, dance, or write out business plans when they feel like it. Creative people know the mind performs best in small bursts of concentrated work.
  2. They probably don’t have a “normal” job. The creative spirit feels dampened by a job in which it doesn’t get to roam free and do as it pleases. Many creative types turn to entrepreneurship to make money, because it fulfills their soul while still allowing them to get paid.
  3. They see inspiration in everything. Creative spirits become inspired by anything and everything, from an unusual pattern on a leaf to the bright lights of a city at night. They see the world as their oyster, and have a knack for finding inspiration in the most unlikely of places.
  4. They never stop questioning. The creative mind always wonders and always wanders; creative people have highly active imaginations, and ponder the big AND small questions in life. They want to know it all.
  5. They aren’t afraid to fail. They don’t even see failure as a bad thing, because they know that the only way to grow in life is by putting yourself out there and making mistakes.
  6. They are very independent people. They don’t like being told what to do or when to do things. They work best alone and feel totally confident walking their own path in life.
  7. They are risk-takers. Creative people don’t just love doing new things, they actually seek out dangerous or uncomfortable opportunities because this makes them feel alive. It unlocks new doors of creativity, and might even give them insight into previously undiscovered talents.
  8. They use their pain to fuel their passion. Creative people have likely been through very hellish and traumatic experiences, but these experiences give life to their work. They feel inspired by what they learned from their setbacks, and transmute the negative energy from the pain into something positive.
  9. They practice self-development. Imaginative people know that a foggy, unproductive, negative brain will block their creativity and not allow them to express themselves fully. They read self-help books, practice mindfulness, meditate, do yoga, and say positive affirmations. They know that a positive attitude is the cornerstone of achieving a high level of creative success.
  10. They daydream. Creative people let their minds wander, and don’t ask any questions until later. They simply enjoy traveling to new lands and thinking up new concepts through their imaginations, and know that daydreaming can lead to the most profound, unparalleled ideas.
  11. They enjoy spending time alone. Most creative people are seen as loners or misfits, and never really fit in to any stereotype or clique. While this may not always be the case, creative people usually feel most comfortable in solitude because they do their best work in their own company.
  12. They aren’t afraid of being different. They know they’re different, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. They own their uniqueness, and feel honored to show it off.
  13. They only want friends who uplift and inspire them. They don’t want to be around people who don’t have big dreams and visions – they seek out friendships with people who they can bounce ideas off of and who truly understand their soul.
  14. They often act before they think. Despite the stereotype of creative people, most of them actually take huge leaps of faith without going through all the scenarios in their minds first. Why? Because they know that they must live it, not just think it, in order to reach their goals.
  15. They do things most people aren’t willing to do. They don’t give up easily, they put themselves out there, they fail over and over again but see it as growth, and they put in hard work even when they’re tired. Creative people are troopers; they have a strong will and don’t let anything stand in their way.
  16. They have a “yes” mentality. They say yes to life, because they know this will create more opportunities for them. They do things even when they’re scared or unsure – they realize that momentum coupled with a positive attitude create the perfect mixture for exciting things to happen.
  17. They have a strong work ethic. They might work fifteen or more hours a day, depending on how they feel. They know that dreams don’t work unless they do.
  18. They are complex people. They might feel that no one understands them, but they don’t care. They have an intricate web of personality traits and deep emotions, but they feel proud to have so many layers. They think this makes them a more interesting person!
  19. They get bored with the same old routine. They thrive off of new experiences, and actually cringe and feel caged in by doing the same things at the same time, day in and day out.
  20. They move around a lot. They don’t like staying in the same place too long, because their creative energy thrives off of new places, faces, and activities.
  21. They are highly emotional, intuitive people. Most creative people identify with being an empath, or highly sensitive person. They feel things very deeply, and let out their emotions through their creative work.
  22. They may have a hard time falling asleep. Because of their active brains, they might stay up into the early morning hours some nights, either working or just thinking.
  23. They take care of themselves. They realize their creative energy can’t move through them if they don’t keep their mind, body, and soul healthy. They likely care about their diet, exercise often, and meditate daily.
  24. Life means nothing to them if they don’t follow their heart. They don’t relate to people who see everything as a means to an end. To them, their passion is both the means AND the end.
  25. They live life on the edge. They know that they must always feel excited and challenged in life in order to live to the fullest. They want to live a life that is anything but ordinary.

Originally post appears at http://www.powerofpositivity.com/25-things-creative-people-differently/

Candidate David Toledo Releases The Greatest Campaign Commercial Ever

David Toledo Seattle City Council Cartoon
Screen Shot from the David Toledo for City Council Cartoon. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVMUAhtkzb8

February 11, 2015 The campaign commercial announcing that David Toledo has joined the race for City Council is possibly the most creative and fun piece of campaigning we’ve ever seen.  The 1-minute throwback gives a nod to the batmanesque style of the 1960’s with a video that shows how a little creativity and a sense of humor can make even politics fun.

But don’t think of Toledo as all flash and no substance; it only takes a Google search or a visit to the www.WeVoteToledo.com website to see that Toledo has the small business, community advocacy, and public policy experience to make him a serious contender for the seat.

Toledo is joining an already crowded race in District 5, but Toledo does have the advantage of being the only candidate with a 40-year history of actually living in North Seattle.

David Toledo’s website gives a chronological account of his family’s community involvement during those 40-years, including his mother’s establishment of soup kitchens and a self-funded food bank to help North Seattle neighbors during the economic crisis of the late 70’s.   Also David’s founding of Unified Outreach in 1998, a charity which for the past 17 years has provided services to elder care centers, homeless shelters, and a variety of youth arts programs aimed at helping low income and at-risk youth.

In addition to his altruistic endeavors, Toledo works in the field of Low Income Public Housing as a member of OPEIU 8.  He recently had an article published on affordable housing in Seattle that you can see at http://kingcountynews.org/2015/02/05/the-affordable-housing-conversation-everyone-can-understand/

On the issues Toledo says “I love this district and all that it represents.  I want to see North Seattle thriving with job growth up and the crime rate down.  I want new businesses to open and flourish; able to provide much needed services without being strangled by unnecessary regulations.  I want local residents to have a shot at good jobs close to their homes by providing incentives for local hiring.  I want a transit system that meets the needs of commuters by examining alternative funding sources.  I want parks and lakes that are clean and whose waters are safe for swimming. I want our clean and swimmable Green Lake back!  We need an educational system that respects parents and that encourages our children to succeed.  And we must protect our most vulnerable by strengthening social service programs for veterans, seniors, and special-needs communities; and by ensuring affordable housing in our area.”

Other candidates for the position include Low Income Housing Institute recruiter Mercedes Elizalde, Planned Parenthood field organizer Halei Watkins, gun control activist Sanford Brown, and Mian Rice (the son of previous City Council Member/Ex-Mayor Norm Rice).

See the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVMUAhtkzb8

David Toledo Seattle City Council District 5

 

The Affordable Housing Conversation Everyone Can Understand

By David Toledo

THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING BUZZ. UNDERSTANDING WHAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT.

Seattle loves our buzz-words and bumper sticker slogans; and who can’t get behind something like “Affordable Housing, Now!” Especially when the annual night-out homeless count found 2,813 people sleeping on the Seattle streets (and another 1,000 on the outskirts of town).

But ask the average person on the street to define affordable housing and you might be surprised with the answer (or lack of).  Terms like affordable housing, rental subsidies, transitional housing, shelters, Section-8, and low income housing all run together in a hodge-podge of confusing buzz words and political jargon.

If we want to solve these problems we need to all start speaking the same language.

The first step in addressing the very different, yet sometimes linked problems of affordable housing and homelessness will lie in our ability to clearly communicate what we see as the genesis of each problem.  Once we are clear with what problems we are trying to correct we can begin identifying existing programs along with their strengths and weaknesses.  We need to communicate in clear, easy to understand terms what at the challenges and what is the goal as we move forward in address our housing problems.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING:

The term affordable housing is connected to median income.  Once the median income for an area is established then rentals over 30% of a renter’s income is considered cost burdened or unaffordable.  So what is median income?  Median income is the middle point of a climbing income chart.  At one end you have zero income, the other end you have the highest earner in the given area.  All earners are put on a chart from lowest to highest in chronological order.  Then, the chart is split right down the middle and that point is the median, the exact center of the chart.  Median is not the average income of an area, nor is it a bell-curve (majority income).  Here’s an example- if the market consists of only 9 people, with the first 3 all making $3 each, then all others earning income that climbs in $5 increments, the median in this case would be $13 (the middle point), and 30% of that would be $3.90 (affordable housing).  Now, if all landlords in the area rented at that rate, it would make it very hard for tenants at the lower end of the spectrum to find housing; which is what has been the topic of discussion for those advocating for “affordable” housing.

Median Income Sample

The confusion comes when using the term “affordable” housing in broad terms. In markets with heavy ends of the spectrum landlords who may in fact be pricing their units at 30% of median income may appear to be price gouging when that is not always the case.  Median income for a 2-person household in Seattle for 2014 is approximately 64K.  So a 1-bedroom apartment priced at $1600.00 is considered affordable housing by HUD standards, even though this rate would not be considered affordable by someone living in the lower end of the chart.

We need a clear distinction between advocating for rent control, subsidized housing, or homeless shelters and services.  All are important discussions and deserve to receive consideration from our city leaders and community stakeholders.

If we are talking about rent controlled areas then we must be clear that rent control legislation is what we are seeking.  However, as RCW 35.21.830 currently prohibits rent control in Seattle we need to look at other ways to provide relief to renters.

If we are talking about increased subsidy programs we need to look at the pros and cons of existing subsidized housing in Seattle to see how to best develop any new funding programs.

SUBSIDIZING TENT CITIES AND SHELTERS:

Currently the City is looking at providing 50 new shelter beds and proposing a bill to allow three tent encampments in the city.  Funding of new and expanding shelters and tenant cities must be a priority for our legislators.  If Seattle moves forward with linkage fees on new construction this should be one of the areas that we use the collected revenue.

As these programs are expanded we must understand that there is no one-size-fits-all regarding our shelter system.  Many seniors won’t stay in a shelter because they fear the youth violence, whereas some veterans won’t take a bed that could go to someone else because they are still holding to their idea of honor and service to their fellow man.  We need to look at targeted funding/special programs for our seniors and our veterans, as well as growing our teen, single mothers, and family shelters.

The proposed 3 tent cities modeled after the Nickelsville camp can provide community structure that is much safer than the streets would be for a family trying to survive on their own. However, the city still needs to develop a structure for how to best partner with these programs, and provide access to essential services such as one-stop help complexes to give access to city services and help with personal economic recovery.  Additionally, some activists are working towards establishing tent-cities in residential areas; whereas currently they are limited to mixed use and commercial zones. The concern that tent cities may permanently change the personality of a given neighborhood is something that city leaders must consider when engaging this issue. We must resist the urge to fix-it-quick and instead find a long-term solution that meets the needs of those facing homelessness while still respecting the property rights of our neighbors.

HOUSING SUBSIDIES:

Voucher Programs:  Voucher programs are generally HUD funded programs that involve HUD paying a portion of said rent.  The “Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher” program is a voucher that is given to a tenant to use at ANY rental property that falls within the voucher limits (a 1-bedroom voucher is $879).

The Section 8 voucher holder is considered a “protected class” in Seattle which means landlords cannot discriminate or refuse tenancy just because they don’t want the Section-8 check.  It has become increasingly harder to use Section 8 vouchers in the Seattle area because of the recent rise in rental amounts, but the voucher is still valued for its portability.

The second type of voucher is called “Project Based” which ties the subsidy to the apartment itself.  The Project Based program partners with a given apartment building (these apartment owners are community partners working directly with HUD or with a Housing Authority).  This means the tenant pays a reduced rent on the apartment.  If the subsidized tenant decides to move from the apartment they lose the assistance and the next person moving into that apartment gets the subsidy.  As long as the voucher holder stays under 80% of median income they will receive some portion of assistance.  If the tenant income surpasses that 80% of median income the tenant loses their voucher.  However, in both cases the vouchers are also transferable between household members, and can be given to other family members or even friends as long as they are listed in the household.  The vouchers are transferred by promoting a current household member to Head of Household prior to the original voucher holding tenant moving out.  Some subsidy vouchers have been known to be handed down through several generations.

It is not uncommon for developers to receive tax-breaks in exchange for a low-income annex to new construction. Contracts usually stipulate that a portion of the new rental space be subsidized for an average of 40-years before moving to market rate.

LIPH:  Another type of subsidy is Low Income Public Housing (LIPH).  This is housing which is usually owned and operated by the government or a non-profit, although some public housing projects are managed by subcontracted private agencies.  Seattle Housing Authority owns some 600 properties in Seattle including single resident homes, duplexes, high rise buildings, and major housing properties such as Yesler Terrace, High Point, Rainier Vista, and New Holly.

Seattle Housing Authority provides subsidy assistance to over 28,000 people in the Seattle area alone each year.  This includes over 5,300 Low Income Public Housing (LIPH) units in major apartment complexes, 1,600 town homes, duplexes, single family units, and another 8,500 Section-8 vouchers.  King County Housing assists another 7,800 apartments and 11,000 Section-8 vouchers, and smaller programs house thousands more in the Greater Seattle area.

Although some programs such as Senior Housing have a minimum income requirement with rent portion based on a step-program, the majority of LIPH programs do not have such a requirement and ask only a $50 monthly payment for tenants with very low or zero income.  This is where the biggest drain is on the Housing Authority’s budget and something we will look at in the next section.

SAVING THE SUBSIDIZED HOUSING WE ALREADY HAVE

In 2014 Seattle Housing Authority presented their Step Forward Proposal.  Under the proposal current households with “work-able” tenants would be required to move to a step increase rental program.  Unfortunately the program met with fierce resistance and was shelved, possible permanently.  But I would like to examine the proposal as well as the circumstances that led to its inception.

Their proposal simply put operated like this:  LIPH households that had someone “work-able” between the ages of 24 and 61 and who does not have a disability would move to a step-rental program.  Let’s look at a 1-bedroom example of how the program would work: A family in a one-bedroom apartment would pay $140 monthly rent for the first year (four bedroom homes start at $180), rent increased the second year to $340, and so on until it peaked at $720 in the 7th year.  The program is easily affordable for even someone working part-time at minimum wage and is in-step with the increased minimum wage law that is currently being applied in Seattle.

Some Seattle City Council members not only refused to engage in discussion of the proposal, but actively encouraged the disruption of town hall meetings that were designed to foster dialogue between the Housing Authority and its tenants.

But what events inspired the proposal in the first place?

In 2011-2012 Seattle Housing lost 11% of its annual budget when HUD announced that it was cutting funding to Seattle Housing Authority.  This resulted in massive staffing cuts, but left the tenant subsidies untouched.  In other words, Seattle Housing Authority did everything they could in order to keep the tenant programs running as they had always been.

Now, imagine you are the property owner of one of the 4-bedroom homes that SHA owns. The renters are a zero income family paying the standard $50 minimum rental bill each month.  This year the roof starts leaking, and someone kicks a hole in the wall, the window gets broken, and the refrigerator needs replacing.  Plumbing issues, electrical issues, bedbugs, vandalism, and more.  How do you cover the costs of these types of repairs when you’ve only brought in a total of $600 in rent for the entire year?  Even the best of tenants will require maintenance now and again; and SHA pays union wages, so the repair job is always quality; but the bills aren’t cheap.

But the biggest source of destruction in many zero-income homes is mold.  One of the biggest problems facing a zero-income family is how to pay for electricity.  If a family cannot pay their electric bill or intentionally keeps their heat turned off to save money, the result is often mold.  Mold can destroy insulation, fixtures, interior and exterior walls, and more.

So we have to ask ourselves is the current model sustainable?  Can Seattle Housing continue to meet the needs of current and future residents with funding being cut and with a City Council that fails to act as an honest broker between the Housing Authority and Tenant Advocates?

I’m not here to debate the merits of the Step Forward proposal.  But I will ask if you had previously heard any of the information I just presented? In order to solve our housing problems voters and advocates need to be presented with all the facts and we need city leaders that are able to examine all ideas without giving in to their own hubris and political grandstanding.  Don’t like the proposal? Have concerns with certain areas and need more information on exemptions?  Bring them to the table and let’s talk about them.  I understand and agree that nothing should be rubber stamped.  We see the results of failed due diligence in the matter of the tunnel fiasco and we want city leadership that asks questions and is engaged.  We need city leaders that encourage honest conversations and debates in an effort to find positive solutions to our housing problems.  However, what we’ve seen instead is a city council that encourages shouting down opponents and the obfuscation of facts, and that is doing our city a great disservice.  We must be careful about our focus on what other programs the city should fund or expand even as the largest housing program in our region is sinking beneath us.

EXPANDING SUBSIDIZED HOUSING IN THE SEATTLE AREA

There have been a number of proposals for expanding subsidized housing in the Seattle area.  Ideas range new construction “linkage fees” assigned to contractors and used to fund smaller low-income housing programs.  Others have suggested more flexibility with micro-housing and congregate housing standards, encouraging the building of apartments that trade the comfort of spacious living for a lower rental costs.

However, we as a city also need to look at external forces that hinder low-income housing from being successful.  We talked earlier about the issue of mold being rampant in low-income housing units; causing structural damage as well as health issues for tenants.  This problem is often overlooked by those that advocate for free homes/housing for the homeless.  Although their hearts are in the right place, it is almost certain that any shelter in the northwest will fall into disarray if the person being housed is unable to keep the electricity on.

Educational opportunity, work training programs, economic growth, and addressing Seattle’s perilous relationship with one of the country’s most regressive tax systems are all steps our city leaders must take if we are to ever see a decrease in our need for emergency shelter and subsidized housing services.

For those of us that advocate for our brothers and sisters that are at-risk of losing housing, or that are already living in transitional housing, shelters, tent-cities, or on the street; we must be clear in our message.  We must not be afraid to discuss ideas and we must never let “perfect” be the enemy of “good”.  We can overcome even the most mountainous of problems one step at a time; unified, armed with knowledge and a willingness to hear all ideas.

 

David Toledo Seattle City Affordable Housing Advocate
David Toledo is the Director of Unified Outreach Seattle, a 501c3 established 1998.

 

 

 

Hip Hop History, Creativity, and Diversity Celebrated at Washington Hall

November 28, 2014 ~ The timing was perfect as earlier this month Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed November as Washington State Hip Hop History Month; following the lead of Mayor McGinn and the Seattle City Council who in 2010 proclaimed November Hip Hop History Month in Seattle.

Washington Hall celebrated Hip Hop History with an all-star performance line-up of Seattle’s biggest names in rap music; along with some of the nation’s top break-dancers sharing the stage. Musical artists participating in a freestyle open-mic “cypher” included platinum selling artist E-Dawg, along with city favorites Suntonio Bandanaz, B-Ragg, Sammy Tekle, Ernesto Iraheta, and more!

David Toledo Studio Narvaez Clayton Bragg
B-Ragg on the mic with David Toledo and Pablo D in back.

 

On stage were DJ’s Able Fader, Cues, Sureal, and A.C. who kept the place rocking from start to finish.

DJ Sureal
Tamao George Yasutake aka DJ Sureal

There was a delicious potluck buffet and a toy drive to help the B.U.I.L.D. Seattle Christmas giving-tree.

The event was sponsored by 206 Zulu, Seattle City Breakers, Unified Outreach, and Studio Narvaez, in partnership with 4Culture and Rane. It was organized by Nathan (SireOne) Hivick and hosted by the North City Rockers Ernesto Iraheta and Pele’ Ross, along with the fabled Specs Wizard.

The event will be the last break-dance celebration at Washington Hall for the next nine months as the facility begins to undergo renovations to restore the historic building and the install a new elevator; allowing special needs and wheel-chair bound visitors to enjoy the facility without limitations.

The elevator installation will be a blessing to special-needs artists with limited mobility, such as 206 Zulu founder and President Danny (King Khazm) Kogita who has been in a wheelchair since childhood. Also other artists such as Clayton (B-Ragg aka C-Dogg) Bragg who has limited mobility due to cerebral-palsy.

Clayton Bragg and E Dawg
Edawg and Clayton (B-Ragg) Bragg

Clayton is a rapper from Lynwood, Washington who as has a video channel on YouTube which provides regular album reviews for NW CD releases. Clayton has been spending time in the studio and is expecting his album out in early 2015. It was after reviewing the E-Dawg CD “How Long” that Clayton was contacted with a special invitation to attend the November 28th performance as E-Dawg was headlining the event.

David Toledo (Unified Outreach) made all arrangements and acted as Clayton’s personal assistant throughout the evening; physically carrying the artist up 3 flights of steps to the performance hall and making sure that Clayton had full access to E-Dawg and the other artists as well as great seating for all performances.

“It was great having B-Ragg attend the event. He’s doing a lot with his video blog and he’s hard at work in the studio. The crowd really enjoyed hearing him rap tonight; and with his own album coming out we believe that one day he’ll be headlining one of the shows.” David Toledo said.

Clayton Bragg David Toledo E Dawg
E-Dawg, B-Ragg, and David Toledo

Clayton said he really enjoyed the show and is especially excited about the people he was able to meet in person including E-Dawg, Seattle City Breaker’s founder Carolos (Slam) Barrientes, King Khazm, and most importantly DJ Sire One and Pablo D who occasionally act as guest hosts on Boom Box Radio; a Everett-based rap program that broadcasts on Friday nights at 10pm on station KSER 90.7 Fm. Clayton is looking forward to having his new album break on the show.

The event was also attended by a bevy of local celebrities including Georgio Brown from Coolout Tv and Dave (Pablo D) from Studio Narvaez; the two partnered in October for a Hip Hop Celebration at the Experience Music Project (EMP). Also attending were TYRONE “the Working Class Hero” Dumas, members of the North City Rockers, the Vicious Puppies, Massive Monkees, Seattle City Breakers, Circle of Fire, and other famous groups.

Sammy Tekle Vicious Puppies
Breakdancer and MC Sammy Tekle

Highlights of the night were an all-girl breakdance cypher which saw the return of Seattle’s old school b-girls Amber Jamieson and Jojo Tabora-Dyckhoff to the dance floor; as well as a “Seniors Classic” which featured “Seattle’s first b-boy” Junior Alefaio.

Judges for the night included the incredible Rigo Jones, Seattle City Breakers founding father Carlos “Slam” Barrientes, and consummate b-boy Rafael Contreras.

Donte Almenzor Junior Alefaio David Toledo Carlos Barrientes Raphael Contreras Robert Farrell
Old School Icon’s: (L-R) David Toledo, Donte Almenzor, Carlos Barrientes, Junior Alefaio, Raphael Contreras, Robert Farrell

Wrapping up the evenings events Sam “Preach” Dumas, founder of the (Masters of the Prep aka Party People in Action dance crew) issued a challenge to 1980’s dance rivals “the Ducky Boys” to meet at the same time next year for a “prep only” dance off; reviving a rivalry that goes back to 1985 and the Seattle Bandstand television show.   Will the Ducky Boys accept the challenge? We’ll know in exactly 12 months!

With construction estimated to take 9 months the event organizers hope that everything will be ready in time for the 2015 Hip Hop History Month celebration. Next year’s event promises to be on for the ages!

2015 JP Scratches

Story and photos may be reprinted in their entirety.