News Gleams: Jayapal Pushes for Free College, Mayor Wants Fair Housing Access For Those With Criminal Records, and Skyway to Celebrate New Library

Collected by Antonio Foster

Jayapal Introduces Bill to Make First Two Years of Community College Free

On Tuesday, the 37th District’s State Senator, Pramila Jayapal, joined fellow State Senator David Frockt, (D-Seattle), and Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle), in introducing the Washington Promise program, which would provide two years of guaranteed tuition at community and technical colleges for all eligible Washington residents.

“This is a bold proposal to ensure universal access to higher education for all Washingtonians,” said Jayapal, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate. “The community college system in this state is one of the best in the country, and really prepares students for careers or for transfer to four-year institutions. But the cost of tuition is still a barrier for too many people. If we remove that barrier, our state will be on the fast-track to a stronger economy. Businesses in Washington have reported 50,000 open skilled positions annually. That is about $2-2.5 billion in annual middle class wages currently lost to families in our communities. We can’t afford not to pass this.”

The Washington Promise will be made available to all Washington residents who have completed a state or federal application for financial aid. Students pursuing an associate’s degree or technical certificate are eligible for four years after they first begin receiving the grant or upon completion of 120 credit hours.

The Jayapal/Frockt bill will be introduced in the Senate today.


New Skyway Library Opens this Saturday

After more than a year and a half of construction, Skyway will finally celebrate the opening of its new 8,000 square foot library on Saturday, January 23rd. The celebration will kick off at 9:15am and will include a ceremonial book passing (from the old library) and ribbon cutting. King County Executive Dow Constantine, and officials from the King County Library System are expected to be in attendance when the library officially opens at 10:00am. The new library is located at 12601 76th Avenue South, Seattle, WA.


Murray Seeks Fair Access to Housing for Those With Criminal Records

Yesterday Seattle Mayor Ed Murray formed a Fair Chance Housing committee to reduce barriers to housing for people with criminal records. The committee, which included several members from the South End community, will work to develop proposals that address rental housing discrimination, provide wider access to rental assistance and increase enforcement of Seattle fair housing ordinances.

“Creating an affordable Seattle means we must have equitable access to housing for everyone. Too many of our residents face life-long barriers to housing due to their criminal histories long after they have served their sentences and paid their debt to society,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Lack of fair access to housing can lead to homelessness and deeper dependence on public services. We must ensure everyone in our community has a fair chance to find a stable home.”

The formation of the committee was a recommendation of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) issued in July 2015. The HALA committee pointed to several discriminatory practices, including:

  • Advertisements for rental housing that make people with criminal records ineligible to apply.
  • Screening criteria that include an absolute exclusion of anyone with a criminal record or a broad category of criminal record, such as a felony.
  • Denials based on records that cannot be reported under state law, such as crimes greater than seven years since disposition or release, or juvenile records if the applicant is twenty-one years of age or older.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that as many as one-third of adults in the United States have past criminal files. In 2013, a Seattle Office of Civil Rights investigation found that African American and Latino renters were asked about criminal history more frequently than white applicants.

In 2013, the City of Seattle established restrictions on how employers can use conviction and arrest records during the hiring process and in the course of employment.

While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued guidance to local Housing Authorities about the use of arrest records, state and federal law does not prohibit property managers from running advertisements that exclude people with any type of criminal record from applying for housing, no matter how many years ago an incident occurred.

The Fair Chance Housing committee will provide input to the Office for Civil Rights on a legislative proposal addressing these barriers to housing, while acknowledging and responding to business and safety impacts. The Mayor’s Office and City Attorney’s Office will finalize the legislation prior to sending the proposal to the Seattle City Council for approval.


Rainier Beach Senior Selected to Speak at Ignite Seattle

Rainier Beach High School senior Ifrah Abshir, was selected as one of ten speakers for the Ignite Seattle Education Lab– an event taking place this Thursday, January 21st. The event will highlight promising approaches to persistent challenges in education. Abshir will detail her experience attending Freedom Schools this past summer. The schools ‘curriculum has a social justice, and community empowerment focus. The event will take place at Town Hall Seattle from 6-9pm. More information is available here


Emerald Editor-in-Chief’s MLK Day Address Featured on KUOW

South Seattle resident and Emerald co-founder, Marcus Harrison Green’s keynote address he delivered at the 43rd Annual Community Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. at Seattle’s Mount Zion Baptist Church was featured on KUOW 94.9 fm. The radio station has archived the speech, which can be heard here.