Seattle mayor announces first steps toward ‘Green New Deal’

Getting homes, libraries and city-owned buildings off fossil fuels, collecting climate data and creating “resilience hubs” to support residents during weather are just a few of the programs slated to roll out under $6.5 million in environmental investments Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell signed into law Thursday. 

At a news conference outside the South Park Community Center on Thursday, the mayor said he plans to propose a $2.6 million fund in the 2023 budget that would help low-income families transfer from oil and gas furnaces to “clean electric heat pumps.”

Harrell said the city is committed to transitioning away from fossil fuels and that all city-owned buildings are to run on clean energy by 2035.

It seemed like a distant reality on Thursday, with the sound of Boeing jets passing overhead and diesel trucks flying down Highway 99.

Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said her throat had been sore from the return of smoke to Seattle from the Bolt Creek wildfire near Index. She said the health affects of climate change are especially a reality for communities like South Park.

“We are standing in a front-line community right now,” Mosqueda said at the news conference. “Front-line communities who have done the least to cause climate change but who are on the front lines experiencing the harshest effects.”

Last week, Seattle City Council unanimously approved Harrell’s proposal to use money from the city’s JumpStart payroll tax for the investments. The tax applies to companies with payrolls over $7 million.

Seattle was among dozens of U.S. cities that passed a Green New Deal resolution three years ago. The 2019 resolution pledged the city would make transit free and more “widely accessible,” reduce the use of fossil fuels in Seattle homes and businesses, and encourage housing density, among other things.

Later that year, the city council voted to create a 19-member Green New Deal oversight board to advise and monitor the city’s progress on its goals. In June, the board released its 2022 and 2023 budget recommendations, suggesting how the $6.5 million should be used.

Signing these investments into law is just the beginning, said oversight boardmember Tomas Madrigal in an interview. And the mayor’s proposal only begins to chip away at the board’s recommendations.

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