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Archive for the ‘Equality’ Category

img_0032At the City Council meeting on February 7, Council member Mike Scott will introduce a resolution and ordinance designed to minimize the use of island policing resources to do the job of federal immigration authorities. Somewhat misleadingly known as “sanctuary city” laws (more accurately termed, “community policing laws,”) these kinds of policies have been adopted around the country, either formally or informally.

Contrary to some misunderstandings about what these laws are, they do not provide undocumented immigrants a place to hide from federal immigration authorities. Instead, they provide that local police will not use local resources to do the work of federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws, absent a court order or, in some jurisdictions, under very limited circumstances having to do with previous immigration violations and the commission of a serious violent felony. Absent those specified circumstances, police will not inquire about a person’s immigration status, or detain a person longer than they have legal authority to do. In the past and in some jurisdictions now, local law enforcement detains noncitizens longer than they would otherwise be allowed to do, in order to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the time to investigate the person’s immigration status. Some courts have held that so-called “ICE detainers” are unconstitutional, and many jurisdictions, including the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, now decline to hold noncitizens under those detainers.

There are over 326 counties, 32 cities, and four states that limit local law enforcement’s involvement in federal immigration enforcement. Police departments tend to support these community policing laws. As Tom Manger, Chief of Police for Montgomery County and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, has said, “To do our job we must have the trust and respect of the communities we serve. We fail if the public fears their police and will not come forward when we need them. Whether we seek to stop child predators, drug dealers, rapists or robbers—we need the full cooperation of victims and witness. Cooperation is not forthcoming from persons who see their police as immigration agents. When immigrants come to view their local police and sheriffs with distrust because they fear deportation, it creates conditions that encourage criminals to prey upon victims and witnesses alike.”

On January 25, the president of the United States signed an Executive Order (EO), directing local jurisdictions to assist with federal immigration orders, regardless of local ordinance or policy. The EO provides that jurisdictions that don’t comply will lose federal funding. This EO has been the subject of widespread condemnation by immigrant and human rights advocacy groups, as well as mayors, governors, ordinary citizens. Seattle mayor Ed Murray called the day the EO was signed the “darkest day in immigration history” since the Japanese internment and said he’s prepared to lose “every penny” of Seattle’s federal funding, which was about $85 million in 2015. Governor Jay Inslee called the EO “mean-spirited, unnecessary and contrary to our values as Americans.” (more…)

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RentalIt’s been six months since the Bainbridge City Council voted to develop the Suzuki property with an emphasis on affordable housing, and picked Olympic Property Group as the developer. With the housing crisis raging on throughout the Puget Sound region (see, e.g., here, here, and here, and the island’s Housing Needs Assessment, here), Bainbridge Island has made little progress toward easing its affordability problems.  And that lack of progress comes after more than a decade of inattention, as I wrote in March, when I noted that since 2003, the island has increased its income-qualified affordable housing stock by only 66 units.

But maybe there’s some good news after all. While progress on the Suzuki property has been bogged down in the particulars of an ecological study, the drafters of the Housing Element of the Comprehensive Plan update have done some promising work of their own.

The drafting committee has come up with concrete programs with a track record for helping to alleviate the housing cost burdens embedded in a community where the median single-family home price exceeds $750,000 and rental vacancies are near zero.

Among the ideas: amend the City’s development rules to encourage innovation such as tiny houses, micro units and cottage housing; expand opportunities for infill in Winslow and the Neighborhood Centers; and allow the creation of small lots and smaller footprint homes.

One idea in the draft Comp Plan has been especially popular in other communities: the Multi-Family Property Tax Exemption (MFTE) program. Established by state statute, this program allows local governments to exempt multi-family housing developments from property tax for 12 years if at least 20% of the units are rent-restricted for income-qualifying tenants. This program has been adopted by cities across Washington, both large—Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Bellevue—and small—Bellingham, Moses Lake, Yakima, Shoreline, Bremerton. (more…)

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home1We’ve heard a lot about the environmental value of the Suzuki property, and the potential ecological impact from development. In comparison, we’ve heard almost nothing about housing access, lack of diversity and other consequences of Bainbridge Island’s affordable housing problems. I don’t want to further polarize people, but I do think a balancing of the factors in the City’s decision would be helpful.

Fair housing is an ideal that emerged from our nation’s civil rights movement. In the 1960’s, a national advisory commission found that both open and covert racial discrimination prevented black families from obtaining better housing and moving to integrated communities. To overcome the legacy of segregation, unequal treatment, and lack of access to opportunity in housing, Congress adopted the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

The FHA outlaws obvious discriminatory practices like exclusionary zoning, discriminatory lending practices and racially restrictive covenants. Over the years, it has been expanded to cover several protected classes, prohibiting housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or the presence of children. Like many states, Washington has its own fair housing laws, and specifies additional protected classes, such as age, sexual orientation, political ideology and source of income.

But discrimination is not always obvious, and last spring, in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that housing policies resulting in “disparate impact”—a disproportionately adverse effect on protected classesviolate the law even if there is no intent to discriminate. The Court cited zoning laws and other housing restrictions as examples of actions that may not arise from intentional discrimination, but may nevertheless violate the law because they have a disparate impact on protected classes.

Also last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finalized a new rule that gives sharper teeth to the Fair Housing Act, impacting all communities, including our own. This rule requires all agencies receiving HUD money to provide regular reports on actions they have taken to “affirmatively further fair housing.” These reports must be be submitted to HUD for review. This is a more robust standard than the previous requirement to do an “analysis of impediments” to fair housing, which fell short of the goal of increasing housing fairness.

How do these developments affect us locally?

Bainbridge Island receives HUD money through Kitsap County, according to HUD Public Affairs officer Leland Jones. For example, Housing Kitsap–our county’s public housing agency—provides HUD money to islanders who have Section 8 vouchers. Additionally, federal money provided some of the financing for Ferncliff Village, an affordable housing development of our housing nonprofit, Housing Resources Bainbridge (HRB). Thus, the island’s efforts to affirmatively further fair housing must be documented and submitted to HUD under the new rule.

Even before the new rule, there was plenty of publicly available information about regional housing efforts.  For example, a 2014 report by the Puget Sound Regional Council said that although most forms of overt housing discrimination are in decline in the Puget Sound region, the impacts of historical unfairness are still evident. The report further noted, “Structural causes of segregation continue to have a pervasive effect across communities, whether or not self-segregation or discrimination are also at play. People are residentially sorted by economic status. High-priced neighborhoods as well as neighborhoods with limited rental housing fail to provide feasible housing choices for low- and-moderate income households.”

Bainbridge Island is deeply afflicted with these structural causes of segregation, and is one of the most racially segregated communities in the entire region. According to our latest Housing Needs Assessment, the population of Bainbridge Island in 2010 (the most recent year for which data is available) was 91% white. Since 1980, minorities have consistently made up less than 10% of the island’s population. Compare this to other Puget Sound suburbs: Shoreline: 69% white; Bellevue: 60% white. Even our Eastside doppelganger, Mercer Island, is substantially more diverse than Bainbridge at 78% white. (more…)

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A moment of gratitude for our state legislature, our Governor, our wonderful state! Marriage Equality is now law (I don’t care about the referendum, at least not today. I’ll be out there campaigning if it makes it to the ballot). Governor Gregoire gave a moving, powerful speech before she signed around noon today.

Read about it here. When I can find the text of her remarks, I’ll post them. Gregoire’s press release contains some of the wonderful things she said, here.

UPDATE: Click here for the video of the speech and signing. Here is the text of her prepared speech.

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