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MAXPIXEL
An open letter to Seattle's new mayor
November 8, 2021

Election results are in and Seattle’s incoming mayor, former city Councilmember Bruce Harrell, will have many high priority items on his plate for the city including continued COVID-19 recovery, addressing the needs of unhoused people, pushing for racial justice and a redefinition of public safety, and, of course, leading the city’s work in mitigating and adapting to climate change.  

Last week Mayor Jenny Durkan announced an Executive Order on climate actions, but Seattle is currently not on track to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. And given the climate impacts we’re already seeing—including hotter summers, wildfire smoke, sea level rise, decreased snowpack, and more—we need our elected officials to take urgent action on climate. As Mayor-elect Harrell forms his transition team and begins planning for his term, we urge him to consider prioritizing the following actions and live up to the ambitious climate commitments he made on the campaign trail. 

Implementing the provisions of Mayor Durkan’s Executive Order on climate actions including: 

  • Developing a carbon-based building performance standard for existing commercial and large multifamily buildings over 20,000 square feet, which would set interim targets towards reaching net-zero by 2050 

  • Exploring options to lower utility costs for affordable house providers, allowing them to develop new housing that is all-electric and resilient 

  • Expanding coverage of the fare-free youth ORCA Opportunity cards to include a wider range of public school students under 18 

  • Creating a pilot program for electric heavy-duty diesel vehicles (such as drayage port trucks, school buses, and garbage trucks) that drive through Duwamish Valley, a historically BIPOC-area already overburdened with air pollution   

Living up to his campaign commitments on climate change, including: 

  • Establishing 100% clean, safe, resilient all-electric buildings by increasing the use of electric heat pumps, including ending the use of fossil fuels in new construction and supporting heat pump retrofits to existing homes still heated by fossil fuels 

  • Creating green, living wage job opportunities, with a focus on lowering job entry barriers for BIPOC and low-income communities 

  • Supporting the development of dense, vibrant communities and increased housing supply, which will necessitate a variety of different housing types in all neighborhoods across the city 

  • Making streets safe for mixed uses by expanding and improving the Stay Healthy Streets program 

  • Improving our public transportation in all neighborhoods by adding bus-only lanes and making it safe and convenient to access transit by foot, bicycle, and other active means 

Ensuring that the City leads with racial justice and equity in its climate planning, including: 

  • Collaborating early with key stakeholders in frontline communities, including environmental justice organizations, leaders in BIPOC and low-income communities, and those most impacted by climate, air, and water pollution 

  • Working with the City’s new Green New Deal Oversight Board to make sure all policies are in line with a just transition for workers and residents. I'm honored to serve on this board with other great leaders, and I know we will be committed to holding the mayor accountable to what Seattle needs 

  • Prioritizing actions that not only reduce harmful impacts but also distribute the benefits of climate action (such as job opportunities, cost-savings from energy-efficiency and weatherization, and more) to frontline communities 

We can address our climate crisis and help protect our most vulnerable communities if we have bold leadership from our decision-makers, including Seattle’s new mayor. Following through on the above promises would be an important step toward Seattle meeting its climate goals toward improving residents’ health and safety. 

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Author Bio

Deepa Sivarajan

Washington Policy Manager, Climate Solutions

Deepa works to advance policies that will facilitate an equitable and just shift to clean energy in Washington. She is passionate about ensuring that environmental justice communities are represented in local and state policy development and implementation. Prior to joining Climate Solutions, Deepa served as a project manager at the public engagement and communications firm EnviroIssues, where she worked with local government agencies to involve communities in planning processes for transportation and urban planning projects. Deepa also has a background in environmental and electoral organizing, including advocating for wilderness protection with the Sierra Club.

Deepa holds an M.A. in Climate & Society from Columbia University, where she focused on climate policy and law, as well as a B.A. in Government and Women’s & Gender Studies from Georgetown University. Deepa serves on the Seattle Green New Deal Oversight Board and the Seattle Parks District Oversight Committee. She also volunteers with South Asians Building Accountability & Healing (SABAH), the Coalition of Seattle Indian-Americans, and the Northwest Abortion Access Fund. Deepa was born and raised in Seattle, where in her free time she enjoys reading and writing speculative fiction, cuddling her parents’ dog, and drinking way too much tea.