The Mayor decided to cut ties with the District Councils because the Councils are composed largely of white people over 40 who own a home. This, supposedly, is sufficient indictment to jettison the entire system, which has been in place for 30 years, and which – not incidentally – was created by the City Council.
But is there any evidence to show that the demographic composition of the District Councils has resulted in racial discrimination or inequity? Has anyone even suggested that the District Councils have acted as purveyors or protectors of white privilege? If so, the Mayor did not present any such evidence, nor is there any to be found in the two recent reports from the Department of Neighborhoods on which the Mayor’s decision was supposedly based. (Report 1, Report 2)
In fact, the contrary is true. Early analysis of the Department of Neighborhoods’ database on the distribution of grant money shows that minority neighborhoods got a larger share than other neighborhoods (see the chart, above).
Kathleen Braden is a recently retired geography professor from Seattle Pacific University and a member of the most recent City-Wide Review Team which made recommendations on neighborhood project grants. She analyzed historical information from the Department of Neighborhoods’ Large Grants program. Her conclusion: “There is no evidence to suggest this money was funneled into wealthy neighborhoods,” she said.
Braden spoke on the panel at last week’s meeting of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition. She said that when she joined the Review Team, she had three assumptions: 1) all the reviewers would be wealthy white people, 2) the Team would be a rubber-stamp for decisions already made by the Department, and 3) most of the money would go to wealthy white neighborhoods.
None of these assumptions turned out to be true. In fact, she said, the team was diverse, they worked hard to review applications and make decisions, and the outcome was equitable.
Braden cautions that her analysis is preliminary. “This is a first pass at analysis to point the way, not anything final or definitive. One would hope the mayor’s office or the Department of Neighborhoods would follow up with that.”
We’re not holding our breath. We expect the Mayor – and his cheering section at The Stranger and Publicola – will continue to smear neighborhood activists as racist regardless of what the evidence shows, because it serves their political agenda.