What Trump Could Mean for Seattle


Like a lot of you, I’ve spent the past day and a half trying to absorb the shock of this Presidential election. As those who read my work at the Stranger know, I was also a Hillary Clinton supporter back in 2008, so I’ll just summarize my immediate feelings about this second, more devastating loss as a combination of outrage, fear, despair, bitterness, fury, and determination. I’m terrified about what Trump’s win will mean for people of color, for immigrants, for women, for those in the LGBTQ community, for people with disabilities, and for anyone else whose identity makes them vulnerable–especially those outside the coastal bubble in which I, and probably you, the reader, live.

As an urbanist and someone who grew up, went to college, and worked as a political journalist in a crimson red state, I reject the notion that people in the middle of the country should simply “move to Seattle” and other liberal enclaves if they want to escape the impact a Trump presidency will have on the marginalized and vulnerable. It is contemptible to suggest that people who live in the vast geographical majority of America are misguided or ignorant for living where they live, and it’s our obligation to reach out to our friends and loved ones in red states and regions and support them as they fight for progressive values in their own communities. I admire those who choose to stay put and fight or put down roots and change things from within, because we don’t win by giving up and retreating to our enclaves, and we don’t win by marginalizing progressives in places like Indiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi–places that, by the way, have cities too.

Here in Seattle, we are no more exempt from creeping Trumpism than the rest of the country. As part of his agenda for his first 100 days, Trump has vowed to “cancel all federal funding for Sanctuary Cities,” like Seattle, where undocumented immigrants can’t be targeted for their immigration status. Yesterday, Mayor Ed Murray declared that he would preserve the city’s status as a “sanctuary city, even if it means losing federal dollars that fund critical local programs.  Under legislation adopted in 2003, city employees are barred from asking anyone about their immigration status, and police officers can only ask about a person’s status if they have “reasonable suspicion to believe” the person has committed a felony and is in the country illegally.

“Seattle will remain a sanctuary city, even if we lose millions in federal funding,” Murray said at a press conference yesterday morning. “It’s important, because these are our neighbors. That’s what this community is about. We can’t allow ourselves to be divided and sorted out.” Asked how worried he was about the loss of federal dollars, Murray said simply: “I’m very concerned.”

Seattle budget director Ben Noble says his office is still working to figure out how much funding the city stands to lose if Trump follows through , but a look at the mayor’s proposed 2017-2018 budget gives a sense of the magnitude of the potential loss. Departments and programs that would be impacted include:

The Human Services Department, which would lose grant funding that is already allocated to help pay for programs like Pathways Home, Murray’s proposed rapid rehousing program for chronically homeless individuals and families; emergency shelters; transitional housing for victims of domestic violence; emergency food assistance for low-income students and seniors; and training for home health-care workers. If HSD lost all its federal funding, transitional housing programs, rapid rehousing grants for housing on the private market, child and senior nutrition programs, and many other human services priorities would be slashed.

The Office of Housing, which would lose out not just on direct funding for affordable housing production and preservation, but on leveraged federal funds that supplement revenue sources like the housing levy, which voters renewed earlier this year, to build affordable housing for low-income Seattle residents. Murray has declared the city’s intent to build 20,000 affordable units by 2025; the loss of millions in federal grants and matching funds would make that goal difficult if not impossible to achieve.

The Parks Department, which would lose out on millions in Community Development Block Grants that help pay for projects like park restoration, ADA compliance, and improvement to parks in low-income neighborhoods.

The Seattle Department of Transportation, which relies on federal grants to pay for everything from expanding the city’s bike share program, to maintaining city-owned streets and bridges, to construction projects that support the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, to paying for RapidRide expansion. Next year, the city plans to start work on expanding and connecting the South Lake Union and First Hill Streetcars with a federally funded Center City Streetcar Connector through downtown Seattle; that project would likely be mothballed without federal funding. Additionally, the Lander Street overpass–which is necessary both for viaduct replacement and for the proposed NBA/NHL stadium in SoDo–can’t be built without federal funding (so far, the Obama Administration has committed $45 million to the project).

These are obviously far from the only federally-funded programs in the city budget. (Grants to hire police officers and recover from natural disasters would also be affected, for example). Nor is Seattle the only local jurisdiction that could suffer from the one-two punch of a Trump Presidency and a GOP-controlled Congress. As Seattle Transit Blog pointed out yesterday, Sound Transit, which won a decisive  victory Tuesday night, requires federal funding, and the Republicans in power seem likely to favor rural road projects over urban transit expansion.

Republicans in Congress have tried to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities before. In 2015, the US House passed legislation that would have banned funding for sanctuary cities; that bill died after failing to win a 60-vote majority in the Senate.

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