Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Liberty Bank Groundbreaking
June 19, 2017
Today was supposed to be a day of celebration for Seattle’s African American community.
On Juneteenth, we were scheduled to be here in the heart of Seattle’s historic Black neighborhood breaking ground on the future Liberty Bank Building, an inspiring community driven project that includes $12.2 million in City dollars to turn Seattle’s economic success into a model for inclusion rather than gentrification.
And while all of that is true, we are here today, grieving. Again.
Grieving over yet another devastating encounter between an African American family and the police.
Grieving over yet another death in the African American community.
Seattle’s Black community is hurting. Seattle’s Black community is angry.
This is a painful part of our city’s history — the hurt and the anger that the Black community has endured for decades. For too long.
All of America is grieving. Sunday’s shooting follows the painful Philando Castile verdict in Minnesota
But your deep sense of injustice and your deep dissatisfaction have led to action.
Your activism and collaboration with the City led to the landmark and historic police accountability legislation I signed last month.
That legislation gives civilians an unprecedented, independent oversight role of investigations into police conduct.
Of course, that does not bring Charleena Lyles back.
Like all of us, her family is now plagued with questions about this shooting, from technical policing questions to philosophical and moral questions.
Sadly, African American families may now be questioning whether they should even call the police during emergencies. An unacceptable, but real dilemma that undermines just governance. And points to the ultimate question that continues to define all these tragedies: This city is asking itself what factor race played in the death of Charleena Lyles.
That is not meant as a judgment, but as the reality of the type of questions we must be asking.
Under this new era of accountability, yesterday’s police shooting will be thoroughly investigated.
The pressing questions about how and why this happened will be answered. Must be answered.
Must be answered for her family and her children.
Must be answered for all who are grappling with this tragedy, particularly for the African American community.
You are grieving today, and I am committed to an exhaustive investigation of this shooting.
We are committed to the well-being, the civil rights, and the success of Seattle’s African American community.
That’s why we are here today at the site of the Liberty Bank Building, the future home of a development that will include more than 100 units of affordable housing.
I want to congratulate all the partners who made this project happen.
Today, we are not simply breaking ground on another Seattle construction project.
We are breaking ground on a project that “gets it.” We are breaking ground on Seattle’s steadfast commitment to equity.
The First Bank Building is named after the first Black-owned bank West of the Mississippi, which opened its doors on this spot in the heart of the Black community in 1968.
We will build 115 units of affordable housing here.
While the city’s economy is booming, I have simultaneously been concerned that too many are being priced out of the city they love. Nowhere is this more acute than in the Central Area.
But an uncompromising tenet of this city is that growth must be accompanied by inclusion.
That’s a lofty goal. Fortunately, our Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda puts teeth into it: We are now mandating that developers contribute to affordable housing every time they build.
This unprecedented policy couples economic growth with housing affordability.
In the case of Liberty Bank, funded in part by City housing levy dollars from the Office of Housing, this fight for inclusion explicitly and proudly recognizes the Central Area’s unique history.
And that means recognizing its legacy businesses, religious institutions, organizations, and longtime residents.
The agreement for this new development makes a high-priority commitment to secure long-term African American ownership for the building, and that the bottom floor commercial space will support and develop African-American businesses.
But policy alone cannot guarantee success stories like today’s.
Guaranteeing and achieving inclusion also takes perseverance and partnerships. In fact, there’s no way to be inclusive without forming partnerships.
I applaud Centerstone, Black Community Impact Alliance, Africatown, and Capitol Hill Housing for your perseverance on behalf of this community, and for establishing a partnership that not only prioritized affordability, but also prioritized this City’s values.
Your partnership demonstrated that a community can shape the way it grows and changes — can shape how Seattle grows and changes.
I’d also like to also thank my Office of Economic Development for their role to support the growth and development of black-owned businesses in the Central Area, and for identifying black-owned contracting firms.
This historic partnership may be a first, but it cannot be the last. And it will not be the last. Mark my words, you have established a new standard. Call it the equity standard.
I now turn it over to Chris Persons, Executive Director of Capitol Hill Housing, to continue to mark this very special day.