Toward an Equitable Seattle and a Better Conversation #1

I am glad that the notion of becoming an “equitable” city is front-and-center in Seattle’s 2035 plan.

But I am frustrated that the conversation we are having today is stuck on “managing growth.”

That’s because I don’t think either a city’s size population or what its buildings look like is what defines “equitable.”

To me, an equitable place is one where everyone can get ahead…

We probably don’t need to invest in much planning to make a Seattle a place where those with the most can get ahead. Because love it or hate it, in the United States today and for the foreseeable future, having a lot of money is an unmatched way to get not only what you need, but also whatever you want.

The hard part of equitable is making a place where those with less can get ahead too.

In Seattle we are in the rare and fortunate position to be able to start a conversation about becoming an equitable city with half the battle already won.

To become a place where those with less can get ahead, we need jobs. Not just a few, but lots of jobs, so many that the crying need for employers to fill positions drives down unemployment, and ratchets up wages.

And not just any jobs, but high-wage jobs that throw off enough discretionary income to in turn sustain good service jobs and enable us to raise the minimum wage without demand skipping a beat.

We’re there.

But for those with less to be able to get ahead, they need to be here too.

They literally physically need to be here in order to access these job opportunities.

And they need to be able to do those jobs without the price of access to them undermining their ability to get ahead.

It means that a young person can’t hold a job with a higher-than-average starting salary at the price of having the savings potential gobbled up by the cost owning a car and burning gas on a long freeway commute.

It means that a single mom can’t hold the job that enables her to provide for her kids at the price of commute times that rob them of time with her that we know for a fact increases their chances of success in school and career.

It means that a two-earner couple at our $15-per-hour minimum wage willing to stretch and sacrifice ought to have a good shot at raising their kids anywhere in city for access to schools and opportunity, because like it or the zip code we grow up in predicts all too well not just how well kids are going to do economically, but also how long they are going to live.

A place where everyone can get ahead is one where people can live near good jobs.

I do not want to help “manage growth” by allocating marginal population counts to map coordinates based on what the map looks like today and the preferences of who got there yesterday.

I want to help Seattle become an equitable city by making it a place everyone can get ahead.

Is that what you want, too?

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