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.

 

 

 

Deepest Roots: 30 years of Hip Hop in Seattle

roots needle 2

Nearly 40 years ago hip hop was born.  On two coasts it evolved into completely distinct forms of the same base element. Just as both the Diamond and Graphite are both forms of Carbon, the atoms of the base element are simply bonded together in a manner which in the end produce completely different products. By the mid 1980’s both New York and California were both considered hip hop meccas; yet their music, dance style, and fashion bore little resemblance to each other.

It was during these early years that Seattle began to form its own identity within the greater hip hop community. Although there is an argument to be made that there were both California and New York influences it wasn’t too long before Seattle began to stand on its own.

Still, for those of us lucky enough to be around during its conception, the Seattle hip hop scene has evolved in ways that no one could have imagined. In this article I would like to share Seattle hip hop from my perspective. In doing such, I hope that you will forgive me if I saw things differently from you that may have also been there at the time. Please accept this article as a show of love and respect for those that were here from the start.

Seattle_Emerald-Street-Boys_1983

So around 1982 rap music started getting some air play by legendary DJ Nasty Nes Rodrigues. A Seattle rapper with his own tape (let alone LP) was hard to come by; but K-Fox DJ Nasty Nes did what he could to push the music of local artists such as the Emerald Street Boys and Sir Mixalot. The influence of West Coast “freak-rap” such as Egyptian Lover was very evident in Sir Mixalot’s early recordings, although he alternated from “freak” to “fun” with raps modeled after Brooklyn based rap group Newcleus. Shortly after, groups and individuals such as the Silver Chain Gang, Daddy D, KOC, and Jam Delight begin making names for themselves on the Seattle rap scene.

Of these groups the Emerald Street Boys quickly rose to the top, recognized as a complete performance package, even getting attention from Seattle’s premier music newspaper The Rocket.

Meanwhile… Breakdance is slowly making its way into Seattle with kids popping and locking at the occasional YMCA or Boy’s Club Party. It also begins to make appearances at some of the larger summer parties held in Mt. Baker and Rainier Valley by the Dumas and Wiley families. Iconic breakdancer Junior Alefaio and Carlos (Slamalotte) Barrientes form two legendary groups “the Emerald City Breakers” and “Seattle City Breakers”.

Then came the Motown 25 performance and the Michael Jackson Moonwalk and everyone wanted to learn to breakdance. Undoubtedly 1983 was Seattle’s golden year, as Nathaniel (DJ Paris) Wilson, Jamie Sullivan, and John Meadows lit the fuse and brought down the house with their choreographed dance to the Jonzun Crew’s “Space Cowboy”.   The Floor Rockers led by Eric Lamar Johnson and Devon Anderson rocked the Garfield High School homecoming, the Emerald Street Boys, Silver Chain Gang, and MC Andy Hamlin performed at the Black Festival in Judkins Park, and Sir Mixalot’s song “7-Rainier” hits street-gold status selling over 500 copies from the trunk of the Cadillac. Meanwhile… Danny (Scramblin Feet aka DJ Supreme) and Carter (Short Circuit aka FeverOne) from the Seattle Circuit Breakers begin making names for themselves, even as their group performs on Seattle’s Saturday morning variety show “Flash”.

Music videos from Seattle artists were all but unheard of in 1983.  But local artist Bobby and Jack Oram (aka Mr. X) released “I pity the man” accompanied by a video shoot at the Blue Moon tavern and featuring the Seattle City Breakers (starring Baby Ray as “Mr. X”).  Members of DeRoxy Crew, Grandmaster Breakers, Backstreet Breakers, West Coast B-Boys, and Breaking Mechanism also made brief appearances in the video.

seattlecircuitbreakers                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ssb zig

Hot clubs for breakdancers included Lateef’s, Stallions, Club Broadway, Spectrum, Buzzy’s, Skoochies, and oddly enough a little AA joint called Club Fremont. Super groups such as the Circuit Breakers, Paradise, Unlimited Force, Seattle City, West Side, Fresh Force, Breaking Mechanism, 1st Degree, and Deroxy featuring Dave (Pablo D) Narvaez all had a chance to shine in these hip hop friendly clubs. Individuals such as the Mighty Spencer Reed, Dale Lundeen, Reggie Baron, Donald (Ziggy) Zirkle, Gerald Carpio, Flex, Anthony (Mr. Cool) Soriano, Tony Torres, Joe (Dreamer) Baechle, Rubik, Bublz, Chris LaPonsey, Robert Farrell, Wacky & Packy, Ian (Snowboy) Whitmarsh, Sean Holeman, Freaky Lee, and Raphael Contreras quickly became known around town as serious competitors.

1984 Seattle saw its first wax rap album as Sir Mixalot left his job at the video game arcade “Lectric Palace” and teaming with DJ Nasty Nes released “Square Dance Rap”. The following year, Sir Mixalot would continue to build on his fame by releasing a extensive catalog of songs on tape including “On the Map” giving props to fellow NW artists such as Phantom of the Scratch (aka DJ Strange), Vitamix, Wicked Angel, Baron Von Scratch, Glen Boyd, Maharaji, and others.

Seattle also sees its first aerosol mural as DC3 and Kuo (Mr. Clean) Yang paint a block long burner on the side of the Downtown Nordstrom; inspiring other artists such as Musician/Rapper and Graffiti artist Michael (Specs Wizard) Hall, David (Image 8000) Toledo, and Sean (Nemo) Casey to pursue the medium.

spaide piece

Meanwhile.. there was something stirring in Rainier Valley as iconic rapper E-Dawg was beginning to write raps and perform locally as MC Electro Shock…

And just in time for Breakdancing to actually start dying out, Komo television squeezes the last bit of life out of it with Summer Break 84’, featuring a painfully stiff Steve Pool.  Despite the decline of breakdancing, dance parties thrown at the YMCA and Boys Club by Sir Mixalot continue to break records with packed attendance.  Town hero’s Duck & Shame, Aaron (Kaze) Dixon, Sean (Stax) Moore, and Chris (KE1) Morris are regular attendees, keeping the crowds hyped and the dance floor packed.

1985 Seattle Bandstand aired, just in time for the new dance craze to take-off. The “Prep” was a dance that combined all of the competition that breakdancers craved with the ability to actually dance with your girlfriend. Prep crews such as the Ducky Boys and PPIA (Party People in Action) quickly gained notoriety and neighborhood fame on the program. This year also saw the 40 foot mural on the Garfield High School track by graffiti artist (and Ducky Boy member) David Toledo and Bobby (Vision) Charles, as well as murals by Tony (Skreen) Fleeks, Sean Savage, Merrill (Shylo) Brown, Dorean (Solo Doe) Dinish, Spraycan, Keep & Shame, Bazerk & Faze, Dadone & Spaide, Danny Molino, and others.

1 Ducky Boys

car

The following year we saw increases in Seattle rap presence with Demetrius White, KOC, Frostmaster Chill, Robert (MC Le Rap) Spikes, Bill (Mister Bill) Pleasant, and Big Boss Cross all starting to establish themselves; however, it was the 1987 release from former Seattle Circuit Breaker, Danny (DJ Supreme) Clavesilla  that made the nation take notice. Along with Cornel (CMT) Thomas, and Chenelle (Chelly Chell) Marshall they formed Incredicrew. Shortly after Sir Mixalot releases the first full Rap LP from Seattle (SWASS).  Sugar Bear (Emerald Street Boys) spins regularly at Club Encore in Renton and has a capacity crowd every weekend.

Swass

1987 Nasty Nes returned to his true love and local rap on the KCMU station, along with Music Menu record store owner and rap aficionado “Shockmaster” Glen Boyd.   In heavy rotation are Seattle artists Chilly Uptown and Kid Sensation. Local artists Specs Wizard, PD2, Kevin Gardner, Tony O, Redwine, 2Smooth, Dwayne Pitre, Spencer Reed, Nicky F aka MC Ready, Richard & Randy Marley, and Kelly (DJ Zippy K) Peebles are all contributing to a vibrant music scene. A great year for rap, Seattle also saw the emergence of Duracell featuring Derrick (Silver Shadow D) and Bruce (Horton B) Griffith. Barry (DJ B-Mello) Williams also announces he’s arrived with trend setting mix tapes that establish him as a top-shelf DJ.

David (Image 8000) Toledo and Sean (Nemo) Casey complete the seminal aerosol mural “ImageNemo” at Gasworks Park, inspiring the next generation of graffiti writers even as David Toledo himself retires from the art.

Image Standing 1987

By the way, the New York City Breakers came to town and were shut down by the High Performance Breakers, putting a nail in the coffin of breakdancing in the 80’s.

The 1990’s brought some hot new rap acts that not only lit the streets of Seattle on fire but gained nationwide attention. Criminal Nation and High Performance (yes, they rap too!), Brothers Of The Same Mind, and Silly Rabbit featuring Tony Russell all put out quality albums.

Meanwhile…, Tyrone (Cool Rippin’ T aka TYRONE the Working Class Hero) Dumas starts making beats and raps, as his cousin Michael (E-Dawg) Johnson begins mowing Sir Mixalots yard; seeing it as a stepping stone to building a relationship and with future aspirations of a career in the music business.

The nineties also gave us access to our own local video-music station as Public Access Television launched Music Inner City and the Coolout Network featuring Georgio Brown and introducing us to the 206Zulu Queen Kitty Wu, along with Glow Medina and other hosts.

Coolout throwback

1992 the game changed as Sir Mixalot’s “Baby Got Back” (with B-Side “Can’t Slip” featuring E-Dawg) dominates MTV and the charts, pulling in a Grammy and shining a light on the Mixalot Posse aka the Cosmic Legion featuring Terry “Maharaji” Matthews, Ron “Attitude Adjusta” Brooks, and Steve (Kid Sensation aka Xola) Malik. Glen (Shockmaster) Boyd leaves “Rap Attack” and moves to LA to work for Rick Rubin and Def American Records. Still, local groups such as MurderOne featuring James (King Kels) Kelsey, and PDQ featuring Frankie Wells pushed against the mainstream and produced some of 1992’s best music. 1992 also sees Alison Plumper launch the local music magazine “the Flavor”.

Ps… Did you see how E-Dawg went from mowing the lawn to making platinum albums? Learn from that!

And even as the music scene starts to explode; Seattle graffiti art has also found a new group of heroes including Nathan (SireOne) Hivick, Divine, Hews, Soul Uno, Sneke, Stash, and Rey, while old-school artists Specs and Nemo continue to be major forces in the city.

In 1993 Garfield High basketball star Ishmael (Butterfly) Butler and his group Digable Planets take rap in a whole new direction, E-Dawg and Filthy Rich release “Drop Top” and also appear on the Seattle the Darkside compilation (also featuring Xola, Jay Skee, and 3rd Level), Greg B, Silver Shadow D, Ghetto Children, and Six in the Clip all continue to establish themselves as contenders in the rap game.

The following year Andre Bostic forms Sexy Sounds Management and releases the “Moving Target” album featuring David (Image 8000) Toledo, Dawny (Truck) Toledo and Esera (Easy) Mose (also from the group Nature Boys), with production by DJ Supreme and TYRONE and featuring scratching by DJ B-Mello. Additional artists on the Moving Target album include James (Justice aka Boogie Brow) Stewart and Fred (Just Do It) Stewart.  1994 also saw releases by Greg (Funk Daddy) Buren, DJ Kamikaze, Sinsemilla, DJ Topspin, and Prose And Concepts (formerly Six in the Clip).  1994 also saw the publication and distribution of David Toledo and Michael Owsley’s comic book “Urban” based on their real-life adventures as Seattle graffiti artists.

Moving Target Record 2Urban Cover

1995 we saw the stirrings of a rebirth of break dancing, with groups like Circle of Fire, Massive, and Boss crew holding regular cyphers at a number of clubs. Rap-fusion group Silly Rabbit continues to push the boundaries of Seattle music; releasing the ablum “8ball” accompanied by a full length comic book based on the band, written and drawn by David (Image 8000) Toledo and distributed in both the US and Canada. TYRONE release “Middle Man Mojo” to high acclaim and establishes himself as Seattle’s hottest up and coming musician.  Source of Labor performs at the Phunky Phat 95 festival at Evergreen State College.

1997 Edward Dumas launches Wet City Records with artists such as Twin G aka Twin Gamer, Harrison (Tino T) Allen, Jerome (Price) Riley, and Jerrit (Incomparable) Calloway. Chuckundi (DJ Kun Luv) Salisbury begins establishing himself as one on Seattle’s movers and shakers by hosting some of Seattle’s biggest night-out events; and launches Seattle’s Seaspot Magazine the following year. Seattle B-boy FeverOne becomes an official member of the Rock Steady Crew, and takes under his wing a young break dancer named Jerome (Jerome Skee) Aparis.

Danny (DJ Supreme) Clavesilla has a big year in 1998 as his company Conception Records (featuring producer Jake One) releases the compilation album “Walkman Rotation” and he teams up with Kutfather to host “Street Sounds” on radio station KCMU. 1998 also sees the formation of what would become the Unified Outreach non-profit arts program as David Toledo and Edward Dumas began self-funding free arts programs for youth in homeless shelters and transitional housing.

The following year Seattle’s break dance community sees the formation of its first “super group” (the Massive Monkees) headed by FeverOne protégé Jerome (Jerome Skeee) Aparis.  C.A.V.E.’ is formed by brothers Dumi and Tendai Maraire.

Y2K wreaks havoc as faulty systems and futuristic cyborg assassin’s cause the destruction of both the Rocket newspaper and Music Menu Records store. The bright spot for the year? Sportin’ Life Records is established, and Josh (Joshquest) Purden begins a stellar career as one of Seattle’s hottest club DJ’s.

The new millennium sees a new evolution of rap music in Seattle, as Ben (Macklemore) Haggerty performs live for the first time, D’Maurice and Armageddon launch their weekly music and video program, and Suntonio Bandanaz, C.A.V.E’, and Blue Scholars become the new faces of Seattle rap.

2004 Seattle Hip Hop steps outside the box as Ishmael (Butterfly) Butler stars in the film “Men Without Jobs”, and 206 Zulu is established by Danny (King Khazm) Kogita.

2007 Seattle and the rest of the nation saw Jake One establish himself as an major player by producing music for 50 Cent & Mary J. Blige, Rakim and others, and quickly follows up with his on debut album “White Van Music” featuring Vitamin D.  Dave (Pablo D) Narvaez of Foxy DeRoxy crew establishes “Studio Narvaez Photography” aimed at documenting NW Hip Hop.  Devin Pittman host’s “What’s Good Seattle?  The Shop206” on Public Access Television, focusing on local music and arts.  DJ B-Mello takes a spot on KUBE radio.

2009 sees more music evolution as former C.A.V.E’ artist Tendai (Oneder Boy) Maraire and Ishmael (Butterfly) Butler form Shabazz Palaces. Massive Monkees take 3rd place on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. MC, DJ, and Graffiti artist Michael (Specs Wizard) Hall releases a new line of comic books (Capstan Media). Rappers Sean Soultheinterrogator Danaher, Gerry Jermaine Borromeo, Sonny Bonoho, and Pierre Petty-p Guinchard gain notoriety.  Johnie Storm, Nitro Fresh, and Julie C begin basements sessions in what would become the “Saturday Morning Cartoon” project. 2009 also sees the founding of major the major promotion and management company “The Town Entertainment” by Jazmyn Scott (sister of Andre Phillips from the legendary Floor Rockers crew).

2010 David Toledo, Carlos Barrientes, and Dave (Pablo D) Narvaez host the 30-year Seattle City Breakers Reunion featuring the return of Ziggy; bringing together 4 generations of Seattle B-boys. The event also serves as a launching point for Pablo D’s multi-generational group “the North City Rockers” featuring Ernesto Iraheta, Rigo Jones, Nathan (SireOne) Hivick, and Ziggy Zig Zag.  2010 is also a breakout year for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis garnering praise for “Can’t Hold Us’, while Shabazz Palaces signs with Subpop. The same year David Toledo also partnered with TYRONE to produce a composite live-action/cartoon animation video for TYRONE’s song “Coolest Bruva”.

In 2011 we saw Anthony Ladao, the son of old school B-boy Michael (Shogun) Ladao make a name for himself as the front man for fan favorite pop group Midnight Red.  2011 also welcomes E’s Way Radio featuring Michael (E-Dawg) Johnson in a thank-then-rank format that gets high praise from listeners.

massive

Seattle breakdance hits a high point in 2012 as the Vicious Puppies Crew headlines the “STG Dance This!” showcase at the Paramount Theater. The same year the Massive Monkees win the R16 World B-Boy Masters Championship in Seoul, South Korea. Additionally, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis release “The Heist” which will go on to achieve platinum status. Billy the Fridge begins gaining notoriety as one of Seattle’s hottest rappers.  Graffiti artist Delton Son also begins to receive major recognition from Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture culminating in a series of art showings.

VP 2

Seattle’s hip hop history is very rich and vibrant; with a community as diverse as the city itself. It continues to grow and evolve, but remains connected to its roots thanks to old school icon’s and historians such as DJ Supreme, FeverOne, Pablo D, and others who have stayed active over the past 30 years (30 years???)

I’m going to stop here it you all don’t mind. I’ve shared 1982 – 2012 giving us 30 years of hip hop history in Seattle.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed Seattle’s history from my perspective.   Without a doubt there are many crews, individuals, events, and items that have had a profound affect on Seattle, and I hope you forgive me if I forgot to mention them.

Please also take time to visit these other sites for even more history.

http://tyronesmusic.com/

http://drdaudiabe.com/5-2

http://www.206zulu.com/

http://supremelarock.com

2014 JP Scratches Mobile DJ

contact: KingCountyNews@Gmail.com

BRING THE NOISE! Legendary Seattle artist David Toledo makes the leap from street art to political activism.

Originally published 10/08/14: http://theincrediblecrew.blogspot.com/2014/10/bring-noise-legendary-seattle-artist.html

Image Standing 1987

Seattle is known as both a place of artistic expression and of issue advocacy.  On one hand Seattle is a place where creativity flourishes and bursts forth in the form of game-changing music, technology, and art appreciation centers; while on the other hand advancing the rights of workers, launching innovative youth outreach programs, and addressing race & social justice issues head-on.

It there is one person that exemplifies Seattle’s dual personality it is artist and youth advocate David Toledo.  A published author, illustrator, musician and playwright; 10 years ago David stepped back (slightly) from the limelight in order to focus on youth advocacy; stopping youth violence, and using the arts to give a new direction to many of Seattle’s at-risk teens.

David and team recently wrapping up the Unified Outreach summer classes and highly acclaimed “Work Training in the Arts” program.  David agreed to sit down with us over a plate of wings and biscuits in Seattle’s Central District.

David:  That’s my high school right there.  They’ve done a lot of renovations but I still like to walk the yard once in a while or slip inside after hours just to breeze through the hallways.

YAC:  Good memories?

David:  Definitely.  I wish I could go back and do it all again… But I’m sure that’s what most people say.

YAC:  You graduated Garfield in 1988?

David:  I was blessed to attend Garfield in the mid 80’s, when the city was exploring cross-city busing as a way to desegregate the Seattle and heal divisions caused by neighborhood redlining.  If you look at my Facebook page you’ll see about 70% of my friends were met at Garfield; but I actually graduated from Ingraham after I was transferred closer to home my senior year.

YAC:  Has the neighborhood changed since you attended Garfield?

David:   I think there is truth to the gentrification argument, that families that have lived in the area for generations being driven out.  Families redlined into the area due to discriminating housing practices that found the good and settled here to put down roots, bought houses, and planned on establishing a home for their children and grandchildren.

“City officials have surrendered to developers, and those that are advocating for the community are just too radical.”

And now we are talking about micro housing and more development but no one is talking about how that will affect the quality of life in the area.  What are the pros and cons?   We have to get a handle on affordable housing issues, and do so in a responsible way.  So far it looks like our city officials have surrendered to developers, and those that are advocating for the community are just too radical.  We need honest mediators to bring both sides together.

YAC:  What would you like to see?

David:  Not all development is bad.  I walked these streets in the 80’s and 90’s and I’m not afraid to share both the triumphs and the tragedies of that time period.  New construction is needed, but we need to respect local establishments that have historical significance.  How can the community partner with the developers to honor these locations?

Anyway, I know you didn’t come here to talk about housing issues.  I’m sure you’d rather talk about all the exciting things we’re doing with the arts.

YAC:  August 30th the Unified Outreach program held its annual youth Fashion Expose.  Can you tell us a little about the work training in the arts program?

d4 (Work Training in the Arts)

David:  Of course, but first let me give you some history.  Being artists ourselves, the volunteers have known the importance of networking and career tracks in being successful.  Politicians are quick to use the quote Pastor Greg Boyle “Nothing stops a bullet like a job”, and we believe that.  However, putting a job in a low income area doesn’t mean that the youth in that area will have access to it.  Which, by the way is why I favor tax breaks or other incentives for hiring employees that live in the same district as the business, but that’s another subject.

Like most who are involved with youth programs we continually heard of kids taking art classes or workshops offered throughout the city- but once the student graduated he/she didn’t know what to do with their newfound artistic skills. So in 2010 we began engaging Mayor McGinn regarding the need for career tracks for any arts programs receiving funding from the city.  We suggested that if a group was seeking city funding that one of the requirements be that the facility provide their students with direction beyond the classroom, and offered our Youth Fashion Expose as an example.  Now one thing about Mayor McGinn is he loved and engaged both Seattle’s youth and the arts.  Mayor McGinn didn’t just listen, he acted, and in 2011 launched the City’s “Work Readiness in the Arts” program, connecting the Office of Arts & Culture, Seattle’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI), and Non-Profit Arts programs in a partnership to provide job training skills in various artistic mediums.  The program doesn’t have the mandatory “education track or networking” component that we sought, but it is a step in the right direction.

YAC:  Which brings us to the Youth Fashion Expose’?

David:  Exactly!  So what this program offers is work training in event production and management.  We offer the Fashion Expose in partnership with Carlisia Minnis/MAC Fashion House and Lika Love, as well as a Music Industry course featuring Seattle rap artist TYRONE (aka Tyrone Dumas) which is incredible.

“Kids need educational or career direction beyond the initial classroom training.”

In these programs Unified Outreach partners with SYVPI to train 10 at-risk youth (per program) to plan, promote, and deliver an industry level community event.  During a 6-week period students learn facilities management, sound & lighting, promotions, stage set-up, video production, and more.  Then on the final night our instructors step back and allow the students to take full control of the show.  Afterwards we spend a week of programming helping the youth to build resumes, obtain contact information for designers, artists, promoters, and other networking opportunities.  The kids leave the program with the skills to put on any type of large scale event, as well as a strong resume which includes a DVD of the performance and behind the scenes footage.

YAC:  That is an incredible program.  I agree that kids need educational or career direction beyond the initial classroom training.  Your program fills a much needed void in the arts community!  Now let’s talk a little about your personal history.  I think it’s especially appropriate that we talk about your roots in hip hop since we are just steps away from your high school and the spot of one of your most famous works of art?  At one time you were considered one of the best graffiti artist’s in Seattle.  Can you tell me about that?

David:  I suppose I had some neighborhood fame during hip hop’s golden era, back around 1983-1985.  I was pretty well known for doing hip hop art back then.  Unlike today, there weren’t a lot of street artists who did full scale murals, really there were only a handful.  So the minute I put up a 30 foot burner on the Garfield High track field I established myself.  After that if I was at Sir Mixalot jam at the YMCA or Boy’s Club I had a little group of aspiring artists that would congregate around me.

d2 (Image Nemo aerosol 1987)

YAC:  So you were Seattle’s first graffiti muralist?

David:  Oh no! Not at all.  As a matter of fact my first inspiration was the block-long graffiti mural by Kuo (aka Mr. Clean) that changed my life.  I had never seen anything like it.  But by this time there were already other artists establishing themselves with large pieces, such as Spraycan, DadOne, Spaide, Skreen, Nemo, KeepOne, Solo Doe, Faze, Bazerk, and others.  But I had really strong characters, and that helped my pieces to get a little more attention; but all said and done, most of those cats were better with a spray can than me.

YAC:  At what point did you transition from walls to canvas?

David:  I met graffiti artist Sean (Nemo) Casey in 1986.  I had already stopped going out at night and began focusing on my music & dance crew (the Ducky Boys) which had been gaining notoriety at local dance clubs in Seattle and surrounding areas.  I think Nemo and I painted 2 walls together, then Nemo suggested that we really start focusing on canvases. He was into all kinds of artistic mediums, truly gifted.

YAC:  Let’s quickly touch on your dance crew, the Ducky Boys.

David:  So there was a period where kids were growing out of breakdancing, but still looking for something to do at the club (other than dance with girls, go figure).  Enter “the prep” which was a dance battle of sorts.  So kids would have “prep crews” that would go out and dance against each other.  During this brief period (85-87) the most well-known crews (thanks to our appearance on Seattle Bandstand) were the Masters of the Prep (later known as PPIA), the Ballard Boys, and the Ducky Boys.  The dance crew slowly evolved into a musical group with the help of DJ’s Spencer Reed and Kelly Peebles.

d1 (Ducky Boys 1985)

YAC:  That sounds like fun.

David:  It was a great time in my life.  But there were also a couple of times that the guys and I had to fight our way out of the club because the regulars didn’t like to see us win cash prizes in the dance contests.

“He literally had pressed me up over his head and was going to throw me through the storefront window.”

YAC:  Really?  Dance-fight?  Like in West Side Story?

David:  (Laughs) not quite.  Some of these fights were pretty serious, there was one fight where I was literally pressed over this guy’s head and thought he was going to throw me through the storefront window, and honestly, he could have if he wanted to.  Thankfully he decided to simply body slam me to the floor. I’m truly grateful that God never allowed me to go through a window, or to be too severely damaged in a fight, because I put myself in a lot of unnecessary situations trying to represent my crew.

YAC:  I think that a lot of kids are dealing with that same mentality today.  There is a willingness to do some pretty crazy things in order to impress our friends.

David:  It’s true.  The respect and approval of your friends means so much at that age.  It’s funny, because in the situation where I was almost thrown through the window, the guy I got into it with that day probably had more in common with me than anyone else I was hanging with at the time.  He’s gone on to be an author of children’s books, he’s a concert promoter, and he’s really sharp.  If he and I would have sat down with our business hats on we might be running a Fortune 500 company today, man I’d like to have a do-over there.

YAC:  Do you remember what you were fighting about?

David:  Sadly, I don’t.  Which means it was probably something pretty silly.  I can honestly say that most of the altercations I was involved in were due to my trying to protect others.  Do you remember the scene in Forrest Gump, when Forrest sees the hippie boyfriend slap Jenny, and Forrest goes over the table to get him? I guess I was everybody’s Forrest Gump back then.  Even today, it’s hard for me to sit still when I see a person physically or verbally attacking someone who isn’t equipped to fight back.  People can be so mean, and there are some out there that escalate their hostility when they see the person they are attacking is not fighting back.

YAC:  But in this case?

David:  In this case I’m ashamed to say that I think we were fighting about who placed where in a recent dance contest.  It was something really silly, and shamefully embarrassing.

YAC:  Do you feel that having similar experiences helps you to better understand the kids you work with?

David:  I think it helps.  But these kids are also dealing with things that I could never imagine at that age.  Social media brings peer pressure and bullying to a whole new level.  But we just try to lead by example.  I share my stories, successes and failures, in hopes that it helps them to make the right decisions if ever found in similar situations.

David:  Wait a minute.  We’re doing it again.  We’re way off track if this is meant to be a story about the arts program.

YAC:  Well, we’re here to talk about the program but I think your history is also important in understanding what drives you.  But okay, back to the gallery showing.  You artists just can’t seem to stay focused.

David:  (Laughs) Okay, so I met Nemo, who was already doing gallery showings featuring his work with aerosol.  My first pieces were aerosol works as well, featuring hip hop style letters and characters; but I quickly moved from spray-paint to oils and acrylics.  So my early showings were a mixture of both traditional and contemporary works.  One canvas would have a hip hop character and letters, the next canvas would be an oil painting of an old man drinking coffee.  The dramatic leaps of style and mediums impressed some, while leaving others trying to make sense of what, when, and how they were connected.

David Toledo oil paint 1999 (Oils 1999)

YAC:  And from there your next project was what?

David:  I think the early 1990’s were some of my most commercially creative years.  During this time I wrote and acted in various plays, was the lead writer and illustrator for a number of comic books, and performed with Seattle alternative-band “Silly Rabbit” and the rap group Moving Target, along with my brother Dawny and Esera Mose (also releasing and album of the same name).

YAC:  Things were really moving along.  Then what happened?

David:  By 1996 I was working a full time desk job and really focused on a steady white-collar pay check.  I dabbled in various artist mediums, but only sporadically.  But there was also something missing.  I had grown up with a mother who was very involved in helping others.  She took in refugees, let families from church stay with us, and housed foster children.  In the late 1970’s she and a few friends began a soup kitchen at one of the senior housing complexes in Greenwood, and in the early 80’s she started one of the first neighborhood food-banks, from our front porch.  This was a single mother, raising 4 kids on her own, working nights to make ends meet.  But despite her own struggles she was always asking how she could help others; delivering and cooking food, sowing buttons, lending a friendly ear, whatever was needed.

“We operated for nearly a decade with absolutely no funding other than what the volunteers put into the program.”

So here I was, almost 30, and wondering how I could make a difference.  So I started volunteering at a transitional housing shelter in the Central District.  I would go in once a week and draw or paint with the kids, and that’s where my love of youth programming began.

YAC:  Would you say that was the beginning of the Unified Outreach program?

David:  In a way, yes.  So as I began volunteering at other shelters I started to ask other artist friends of mine to help out.  When we would show up to do art classes people would ask what group we were with.  So eventually we thought that we needed to establish a name for the group, and Unified Outreach was born.  That was 1998 when we actually put a name to the program.  We applied for and received 501c3 Charity status in 2004.

YAC:  So you actually celebrated 10 years of charitable status this year?  Congratulations!

David:  Oh yeah, I hadn’t even thought about that.  16 years of programming, with the last 10 years under the 501c3 status.  It’s be a very rewarding, full of ups and downs, but very rewarding.  And during this time I think I really grew as a person.  I spent two years in North Los Angeles/Inglewood volunteering at Christ Gospel Mission as well as the Greater Bethany Food Bank advocating for the homeless, working with at-risk youth, and trying to get a better grasp of issues that affect those around me.  Here in Seattle I’ve worked on affordable housing issues, spoken out against corruption and cronyism in our state government, and called for a return of arts programs to our public schools.

YAC:  What do you see in the future for Unified Outreach?

David:  We really have a lot of programs that are being initiated by former students.  There is a production group that meets weekly at our studios, completely made up of former students and other youth.  I believe the oldest in the group is 20 or 21 years.  They are using the sound booth and video equipment with a goal of producing ready for network commercials and television sitcoms within the next 2 years.

And of course we’re looking at other options for future work training in the arts programs such as cartoon animation, ebook publishing, healthy living programs and other ideas.

YAC:  Any personal arts projects for David Toledo?

David:  I’m working on a cartoon series called the Mascots, and finishing a short script for theater, hopefully both to be completed by the end of 2015.

Mascots w David Toledo  (The Mascots Cartoon)

YAC:  What would you say is Unified Outreach’s biggest accomplishment?

David:  I think just surviving.  We operated for nearly a decade with absolutely no funding other than what the volunteers put into the program.  We didn’t receive our first grant until 2011.  We kept the program alive and running with love, sweat, and tears.

“They continued to spin the story that Unified Outreach had somehow broken the law, calling for arrests and threatening to come down to the art center and confront the kids.”

YAC:  Was there ever a time when you thought about closing the doors?

David:  Yes, sadly there was, and it was tied directly into our first grant, although it was really just about politics.  In 2011 Unified Outreach had received a check from the City for $1000.00 to help with printing of a youth arts newspaper.  My sister was running for office at the time, and supporters of her political opponent attacked our program in an attempt to smear her.  As one would expect the kids writing the articles wrote about what they were doing and seeing at the time, including writing about my sisters run for office since it was something they heard me talking about daily.  Nothing over the top, just some general articles about her run which I still think were very fair and balanced.  Seeing an opportunity to attack my sister, her opponents complained to the city and the elections commission about the paper being political literature.

YAC:  Wow.  What happened?

David:  The city officials called us in a panic, worried about being caught in the middle of a political war.  Before they even asked we offered to give the money back in order to help calm the situation, I wrote them a check that morning.  The elections board looked at the newspaper and agreed with us that there was no wrongdoing, and closed the case.  However, the political partisans continued to spin the story that Unified Outreach had somehow broken the law, calling for arrests and threatening to come down to the art center and confront the kids.

That is the thing that still turns my stomach, how adults can do something so despicable as to harm children (even emotionally) just to gain the political upper hand.  Our kids went from feeling like they had accomplished something major, the production of a complete newspaper – written, drawn, photographed, and published by youth, to feeling like they did something wrong.

(At this point David’s lip quivers, as he seems shaken recounting the events).

Because of those threats we had to think about protecting our students from the mental and potential physical abuse by these political fanatics.  So we closed the doors for a time and cut back on programming until after the race was over.  Once we thought that our students were safe to return we began to schedule classes again.

YAC:  That’s terrible.  I’m glad that you were able to regroup and to continue with your programming.  It’s hard to believe that people can be so wicked, but then again, politics is a dirty game.

I’m not sure if this is a good Segue but over the past few years you have really grown from just and artist into many different areas of advocacy, from curbing youth violence, race & social justice, fair housing, and more.  You seem to have become a real activist.

David:  I think that being active in the community demands that we engage on issues that are important to people.  I always try to approach the dialogue with a humble heart; but we never know where inspiration may come from.  Even if someone has completely different ideas about how things should work, there may be some areas of common ground, and if we listen, there may be some good ideas mixed in with the rhetoric.

YAC:  You’ve recently made attempts to engage Mayor Murray’s office regarding a proposal to establish a department of inner city affairs?

“The proposal received strong opposition from department-heads within the Mayor’s office that feared losing their funding.”

David:  Yes, during the summer of 2014 the Central District and Rainier Valley saw a dramatic increase in youth violence and murders.  Over 10 youth murdered, over 20 overall murders, and over 50 reported gunshots in a 4-month period.  Senior members of the community were crying out for outside the box thinking to engage youth.  Our steering committee put together what we felt was a solid blueprint for the creation of a new department that would cultivate a new partnership between community leaders and public safety officials and access previously unobtainable community resources.

YAC:  And the results of the proposal?

David:  The Mayor’s office refused to meet with us, stating that they already had programs in place to deal with youth violence.  Additionally, I understand the proposal received strong opposition from department-heads within the Mayor’s office that feared losing their funding.

I think the proposal was also just a little too radical.  Our design involved recruiting people from the neighborhood; some of which lacked the usually required degrees, in fact many might not even have their high school diplomas, and maybe had police records, whose only education was on the streets, but that the kids doing the violence know and look up to.  These people didn’t fit into the Mayor’s plan for youth engagement.  The city still sees the best course of action to curb the violence as college educated counselors and social workers from Ivy League Schools.

It was also mentioned to us by inside sources that there was a fear that meeting with us would give the proposal and the proposed community leader’s legitimacy and shine a spotlight on areas that our city officials would rather keep in the dark.

YAC:  Like turning on a light in the kitchen and seeing roaches scatter?

David:  The message we got is to not rock the boat. So rather than continue to beat on a closed door we are looking at other ways to bring change on a smaller scale.  We must continuing to engage kids in one-on-one relationships through arts programs, music, mentoring, and just being a part of the community.

And thankfully there are other great programs that are active in the area that we hope to partner with in the future.  Groups like B.U.I.L.D. and programs like Hack the CD that have outstanding leadership and are making a difference where they are needed most.

YAC:  I feel like we could sit and talk about arts programs and community involvement all day, but we have to end the article at some point.  Let me rattle off a few topics and please try to answer in one or two sentences if possible.

“Other than the festivals, Seattle Center is always deserted, but that’s what happens when you have an Arts Commission that is heavily populated with lawyers and real estate developers.”

YAC:  Best thing about growing up in Seattle.

David:  Summertime at Greenlake and at the Seattle Center Fun Forrest.  Two things break my heart, going to Greenlake and seeing “no swimming due to toxic algae” and visiting Seattle Center and seeing a once vibrant community meeting place practically a ghost town.  Other than the festivals, Seattle Center is always deserted, but that’s what happens when you have an Arts Commission that is heavily populated with lawyers and real estate developers.

YAC:  Favorite thing about Seattle today?

David:  Seahawks baby!

YAC:  First thing you would do if you were the Mayor?

David:  Personal camera’s on police officers.  We need that to protect our officers who put their lives on the line every day and need that documentation when they are forced escalate a situation.  And we need it for our communities who may have lost confidence in our public safety offices due to past experiences.

YAC:  If you could talk to the David Toledo of 1990 what would you say?

David:  Find and marry a good woman.  We are created as incomplete beings; having a partner that you can share this journey with is a blessing that I took too long to embrace.

YAC:  Your hero?

David:  My mom, who I love with all my heart.

YAC:  Favorite thing to do?

David:  Dance-off competitions with my daughter, nephews, and nieces.

Dance Point   (Daddy Daughter Dance-Off)

YAC:  Advice for struggling artists?

David:  Find artists with similar drive, ambition, and vision and build together.

YAC:  Advice for political activists?

David:  (laughs) No, no advice.  I’m still figuring it out, and what I do know about politics, I don’t like.

YAC:  Final words?

David:  I’ll just leave you with a favorite scripture, James 2:15 “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

ARTICLE WRITTEN BY:  M. KaPOWsley

PHOTOS MAY BE USED WITH PUBLICATON OF THIS ARTICLE.

Proposal for the creation of a Department of Inner City Affairs within the Seattle Mayor’s Office

TO:  Seattle City Council/Office of the Mayor                    DATE:  June 13, 2014

FROM:  David Toledo/Unified Outreach                            RE:  Establishment of Department of Inner-City Affairs

Proposed

To establish a Department of Inner-City Affairs (DOICA) within the City of Seattle Mayor’s office to address issues specific to Seattle’s Central District and Rainier Valley in order to assist in reducing the amount of criminal activity in Seattle with the use of “outside the box” youth programming and community liaisons that will be proactive in preventing violence, advancing race & social justice issues, and providing a mutually-beneficial partnership with Seattle’s public safety officers to provide previously unattainable neighborhood resources when crimes do occur.

Doica word 2

Background

There have been 7 young adults murdered a number of shootings in the Seattle Central District and Rainier Valley since Spring began, including shots fired at a vehicle as it was being ticketed by the KC Sheriff’s Department.

Budgetary Allocation:  We propose that the city use money already allocated to programs in the Office of Arts & Culture/Department of Neighborhoods to cover any costs associated with the program.  We propose 20% from each Department be allocated to the Department of Inner City Affairs.

Supervisory Relationship:  Director of theDOICA Reporting directly to the Seattle City Council or the Mayor.

WHO is committing the Crime?

One thing about youth crime and violence is that SOMEONE knows something.  The kids know who is doing what in the community; so the question is how does that information come to light?

Thinking OUTSIDE of the Box:

Within every youth community there are “networks” operating; kids who have formed communities-within-communities based on common interests.  Within urban communities we see an even closer kinship between youth who bond over artistic interests; kids who envision a career selling millions of albums rapping know the other kids in the city who share that dream.  The break-dancers know who the other break-dancers are; the graffiti artists know who the graffiti artists are.  These communal groups can be a great resource if we have the right liaison between the youth and our community leaders/authorities.

Who do these kids TRUST?

Obtaining information from kids can be a complicated task.  There is no doubt that the knowledge of who has committed the crime (violent or otherwise) is generally known in the community.  But because of community loyalty, the mistrust of those in authority, or the fear of reprisal, many witnesses are afraid to come forward.

From our experience growing up in these communities and continuing to work with low income and at-risk youth we believe many low income and at-risk youth are more responsive to those in the (shared) artistic body, and those seen as old school/OG’s (original gangsters) who have established themselves in the neighborhood.

The same kid that is hesitant to share knowledge of a known criminal act with a parent, teacher, or police officer will easily share that information in casual conversation with their breakdance instructor or one of the OG’s at a neighborhood picnic.

Departmental Structure/Use of Liaisons:

We are proposing that the DOICA be headed by an Executive Director who answers either to the City Council or the Mayor.  The Director of DOICA will appoint 4-5 Program Directors who will report to him/her.  Each Program Director will have 10 Program Administrators assigned to a specific grid in either Seattle’s Central District or Rainier Valley (known as BBQ zones); each Program Administrator will have one assistant.

If is further recommended that the DOICA be permitted the power to appoint one Board Member to each of the following Commissions to ensure that the DOICA program is able to reach its maximum potential.  We recommend a DOICA voice on the Arts Commission, Community Police Commission, and the Human Rights Commission.

With the DOICA in place we believe that Seattle will be able to dramatically decrease violence.

We are proposing that those OG’s that are also active in the artistic field be recruited to act as liaisons between our at-risk youth and our community leaders/authorities.  Community leaders such as Pastor Ray Rogers, Dr. James Croone, Tyrone Dumas, and many more who have a 20/30+ year history in these neighborhoods and are “neighborhood famous” in Seattle’s CD and South-end of Seattle are needed.  These are respected elders you can find at neighborhood barbeques and community events and when they speak the kids listen.

These community elders are artists and arts administrators in their own right; hosting musical performances, parties, and community events where youth engagement occurs.  Events where troubled youth are recognized, conflicts resolved, lives set straight; yet these events will never be approved for a Department of Neighborhoods or Office of Arts & Culture Youth Arts grant because they don’t fit the Arts Commission’s idea of what an artist looks or sounds like.  The same type-A personality, the direct speaking style, the same REALNESS that makes these people attractive to our youth are seen as negatives by Seattle’s artistic gate-keepers and turned away from receiving artistic and community grants.  So the key is to design program partnerships that recruit these OG’s and back their programs; with the understanding that there is an open communication and true working partnership with the select branches of law enforcement, courts, and other areas of public safety.  We are confident that Unified Outreach has a blueprint for such a partnership; an achievable plan to save lives.

Accessing the necessary FUNDING:

The City of Seattle already spends millions of tax payer dollars each year on youth arts, sports, and technology programs.  Many of these programs are already making a difference in the lives of our children; however, in order to meet today’s needs it is obvious we must try something different.

Currently the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs has a budget of $8.5 million, and the Department of Neighborhoods has a budget of $12.4 million (combined nearly $21 million).  Not surprisingly, these departments often have a surplus (Large Project Fund is one example).  We propose 20% from each Department be allocated to the Department of Inner City Affairs in order to support a new Department operating under the guidelines that have been provided in this memo.  A more comprehensive operational structure and staffing hierarchy can be provided to the Mayor’s office and the City Council at their request.

What is the value of a human life?  Are the 7 lives lost over the last few months worth less because they are from the Central District and Rainier Valley?  $5.3 million per year towards the DOICA is reasonable and the return each year in the lives saved cannot be measured.  If city leaders can put $21 million each year to simply “enrich through art” the lives of those in Seattle, isn’t it worth $5.3 million to actually SAVE those same lives?  Would it be a more palatable program if it funded programs in Magnolia? Queen Anne? Lake Union?  These are hard questions that deserve answers.

Our proposal is a viable solution to reducing crime and providing safer streets.  However, because it is a new and unique approach to solving the problem it is bound to encounter pushback from the status quo; and as such will need visionary leaders to champion this as we move forward.  Seattle’s leadership must get out of its comfort zone and begin engaging in a more indigenous form of youth outreach, which requires bringing in oversight that understands the working relationship between this new style of community leader (OG’s), and at-risk youth.

The neighborhood elders that have contributed to the actualization of this proposal would be honored to serve on the steering committee as the City begins its search for a qualified candidate to serve as Director of this newly established Department.  These are men raised in Seattle’s CD and Rainier Valley and still have deep connections to those communities.  We know the neighborhoods, the kids, and the community leaders (OG’s) that can make this program a success.

AVOIDING Common Mistakes:

We have to avoid the common mistake of just throwing money at the problem.  We have to resist the urge to simply throw money at “established youth, arts, and community programs” in the area who may produce fine programming but do not know how to reach our target audience; and who (once they have received the special funding) will simply hire the same old friends & family and list them as “Special OG consultants”.  Not every person living in the CD and Rainier Valley for decades is respected by the community.  Also, there are many artists and arts/programs already operating that don’t reach the kids we are talking about.  We need to recruit REAL community-leader OG’s that have a PROVEN history of working with our YOUTH.  The people living in the neighborhoods that are being affected by this wave of violence KNOW who the people are that are working to make a difference.  The creation of a Department of Inner-City Affairs (DOICA) within the City of Seattle Mayor’s office, with the right people in leadership roles CAN and WILL save lives.

Proposed Department of Inner-City Affairs Mission Statement

“City of Seattle’s commitment to reducing violence and promoting justice for every community.”

Thank you for your time and consideration.  Unified Outreach and the Steering Committee would be honored to present our proposal to the Seattle City Council and/or Mayor Murray in a public hearing as determined by the Seattle City Council and Mayor’s Office.