Photo depicting the construction of a new residential apartment home.

NEWS GLEAMS | Proposed Housing Levy Renewal; County Files Lawsuit Against PFAS Manufacturers

A roundup of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!

curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷

✨Gleaming This Week✨

Seattle Housing Levy Proposed for Renewal

On May 30, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide) and chair of the Council’s Select Committee on the 2023 Seattle Housing Levy, announced Council Bill 120583 and Resolution 32093, in support of renewing the Seattle Housing Levy. The current Housing Levy was renewed in 2016 and set to expire at the end of 2023.

Over the course of seven years (2024–2030), the proposed $970 million package would “build over 3,100 new homes, both for-rent and for-sale, that will be affordable for at least 50 years … and is expected to generate nearly 35% more units of affordable housing units over the 2016 levy goals.” It comes after months of meetings, public hearings, and support from a coalition of community organizations, affordable housing developers, the City of Seattle Office of Housing, and more.

As previously reported by the Emerald, Patience Malaba, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium (HDC), is one of many housing advocates in support of the Housing Levy. “The simple reality is that the need for affordable housing in Seattle is greater than ever, and we need to do everything we can to increase the city’s supply of affordable homes. Rents do continue to rise and displace many people, and the people who are most impacted are Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and low-income communities,” Malaba said. “As daunting as that crisis sounds, we know what works as a city. … And one of the critical tools that has been truly foundational is the city’s housing levy.”

The bill would ask for a special election to be held concurrent to the November 2023 general election, “for submission to the qualified electors of the City of a proposition to lift the limit on regular property taxes under chapter 84.55 RCW in order to authorize the City to levy additional taxes for low-income housing for up to seven years … exempting certain seniors, veterans with disabilities, and other people with disabilities.”

“Since 1986, the Housing Levy has been the cornerstone of funding for affordable housing in Seattle, creating and preserving over 11,000 affordable rental homes and over 1,000 homeownership opportunities throughout the city,” writes a press release from Seattle City Council. “More than 16,000 people are estimated to live in Levy-supported homes at any given time.”

On June 7, the Select Committee on the 2023 Housing Levy will meet to discuss and possibly vote on the proposed legislation. If voted out of committee, it will then proceed to full City Council for a vote; if it passes there, it will then head to the mayor’s office for final approval.

King County Files Federal Lawsuit Against Manufacturers of PFAS Chemicals

On June 2, King County filed a federal lawsuit against manufacturers and companies that use toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, in their products. In recent years, PFAS have been nicknamed “forever chemicals” due to their toxicity, ability to contaminate clean water, and difficulty to remove from systems. This year, their presence has also sparked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pursue potential efforts to regulate PFAS on a national level.

The lawsuit targets manufacturers such as 3M and DuPont, seeking to hold them “accountable for the costs, expenses, and impacts caused by contamination,” according to a press release from King County, which maintains that “manufacturers — not the public — should pay for investigating, sampling, testing, and assessing the contamination, as well as the costs to install and maintain treatment systems and the cleanup of PFAS contamination in King County.”

Two PFAS compounds focused on in the suit are PFAS are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The lawsuit cites that, “For many decades, PFOA was used in the manufacturing of DuPont’s non-stick coating, Teflon. Another common use of both PFOA and PFOS is as a component of a fire-suppressant material called aqueous film-forming foam (‘AFFF’). AFFF is used in training and firefighting activities for fighting liquid-based fires, including those involving jet fuel, gasoline, or other fuels.”

The full text of the lawsuit is available through King County.

Some studies have shown that PFAS can bioaccumulate in human bodies, thus causing negative health effects, such as “cancers, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, liver damage, asthma, allergies, and reduced vaccine response in children.” There may also be some correlation between the presence of PFAS and reproductive difficulties or birth defects.

The Washington State Department of Health has recently launched a dashboard that allows residents to track whether PFAS might be present in their drinking water supply.

Flier advertising the Jesse Sarey Celebration of Life on June 11, 2023.
Flier courtesy of the family of Jesse Sarey.

‘Celebrating the Life of Jesse Sarey’ at El Centro de la Raza

The family of Jesse Sarey is hosting a day of music, performances, and food on Sunday, June 11, at El Centro de la Raza, in celebration of the life of a young man whose life was taken at the hands of law enforcement. 

An announcement for the event writes, “The Auburn Mayor, Police, and City Council have been complicit in the murders of three men: Brian Scaman (2011), Isaiah Obet (2017), and Jesse Sarey (2019) who’s families have been intertwined forever by Officer Jeff Nelson.”

Officer Jeff Nelson has been arrested and charged for second-degree murder and first-degree assault, with trial set for winter 2023. Sarey’s family has been waiting for the murder trial since the 2020 arraignment. It has been delayed numerous times across many years.

“The rogue police officer who killed my foster son Jesse Sarey is facing trial ONLY because of the weight of the growing social movement against police brutality, in recent years. This criminal officer (like many officers) has been involved in killing and injuring others, prior to my son. He has already cost taxpayers $6.5 million. In spite of facing trial, he is on paid administrative leave, even though [he’s] under house arrest,” said Elaine Simons, foster mother of Jesse Sarey, via an announcement for the event.

The Emerald reported in 2021 that “Officer Jeff Nelson’s indictment is the first for a police officer under Initiative 940, which took effect in Dec. 2019. This legislation changed the legal standard for criminally prosecuting police officers as it pertains to use of deadly force.”

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