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‘Our crumbling streets can be rebuilt later, our humanity cannot’

Saturday's memorial for Ronacin Tjhung
Saturday’s memorial for Ronacin Tjhung

As advocates for safe streets, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has spent a lot of its efforts lobbying, campaigning and building support for infrastructure investments. So with lots of local transportation funding at risk if the Trump administration succeeds in its threat to pull federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities,” where does Seattle Neighborhood Greenways stand?

“Our crumbling streets can be rebuilt later—our humanity cannot,” SNG Executive Director Cathy Tuttle wrote in a joint statement with Rich Stolz of the Washington immigration rights organization One America (posted in full below).

Seattle should fight hard against punitive action by the federal government. But if that fails, we must defend our values and our neighbors before defending our budgets.

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The joint statement was released just days before the Muslim ban executive order was signed, kicking off another weekend of massive protests in the region.

It was also released days before neighbors, co-workers and loved ones gathered on S Graham Street to remember Ronacin Tjhung, a recent immigrant from the Philippines and father of five who was killed in a collision with someone driving an SUV while he was biking to his second job.

“Working people of all nationalities need safe bike routes,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant said at the memorial, “so that people don’t have to make dangerous decisions to get to their jobs.”

Hours later, I was in another crowd listening to Sawant lead, this time in SeaTac Airport. We were demanding the release of people detained at SeaTac and ports of entry across the nation because of where they were born.

We must keep working for safe streets for everybody. But that starts by fighting to make sure everyone can get to our streets in the first place. All of you out there who are organized around the issue of safe streets should also utilize those networks to organize for other causes as the need arises.

Organize bike rides from your neighborhood to protests, and invite people who may be nervous about biking on city streets to join you. You will help them get to the protest and help them feel empowered to bike around their city in the process. Or your ride can be a way to hold each other accountable for showing up just as hard on day 100 as we did on days 1 and 10.

Check out the Stranger’s constantly-growing Resistance Calendar, pick an event, and spread the word that you will be meeting up at the local park with plenty of time to bike at a leisurely pace to the start. And, of course, add your ride to our events calendar. If you have any questions about hosting or promoting a ride I am happy to be a resource. Email [email protected].

Here’s the SNG/One America statement in full:

Dear Mayor Murray and Seattle City Council,

The purpose of this letter is to express our support for the Mayor’s declaration of Seattle as a Sanctuary City, committed to shielding undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation and family separation. President Trump has expressed his intent through executive order to punish sanctuary cities by threatening to revoke their federal funding. Because of the City of Seattle’s principled stand, under some scenarios, the President’s position may put into question billions of federal dollars annually for infrastructure and other essential municipal services for Seattle and the region, which could in turn have a direct impact on projects and policies we have advocated for, together.

Our crumbling streets can be rebuilt later–our humanity cannot. In Seattle, we trust in our ability to draw on significant internal resources to continue to maintain and improve our street infrastructure while we continue to protect and welcome people new to Seattle who come here from across the world.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways coalition members are located throughout Seattle, from Lake City to Rainier Beach. As part of our organizing model, we ally and support those groups that bring neighbors together in positive, constructive gatherings and coalesce to defend basic human rights, including the work of One America. Immigrants are members of our coalitions and communities, and all of us deserve access to basic, safe infrastructure.

Immigrant and refugee communities have taken action to support community transportation improvements including the Move Seattle Levy. Recently One America and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways partnered on distributing “Hate Has No Home Here” multi-lingual yard signs. And sadly, immigrant communities are often our partners on Vision Zero Memorial Walks following traffic fatalities. Together, we strive to put people first in a manner that recognizes how creating a more equitable community can mean taking important risks.

We resolve to support people of color, children, the elderly, the other-abled, and the people who cannot afford to travel by means other than by transit, on foot or by bike. We will continue to do what we can to ensure their safety comes first, even—especially—as we face the possibility of an unsupportive federal administration. We will support Seattle in its efforts to protect and increase federal investments in critical transportation infrastructure needs. And we will oppose actions by federal authorities, like using the threat of cuts to federal funding to compel the City to undermine values that we cherish.

One of our active community members has taken to delivering flower bulbs by cargo bike, “because we’ll need to see signs of hope in the spring.” We will look to the spring of 2017 as a time to celebrate our diverse community.

Wishing you strength and happiness in 2017.

Cathy Tuttle, Executive Director Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

Rich Stolz, Executive Director One America

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9 responses to “‘Our crumbling streets can be rebuilt later, our humanity cannot’”

  1. Conrad

    If the feds withhold money for sanctuary cities, I won’t bother with filing taxes.

  2. William

    I am deeply concerned by the stance of the Trump administration on immigration but it is not clear to me how that is linked to bicycle infrastructure of why those opposing Trump’s policies or advocating for safer streets should be forced into positions as extreme as Ms. Sawant. If Seattle sets itself up as a city that will shield anybody who smuggles themselves into the country illegally from deportation, I do not think that is going to contribute to a long term effort to have a sensible and enlightened reform of US immigration policy.

    1. Ben P

      I too am not as extreme as Sawant. For example, I don’t think Boeing should be taken over by the workers and switch to bus production, something Sawant has supported. But her quotes in this article are very reasonable. “Working people of all nationalities need safe bike routes.” Can you disagree with that? Can you disagree with her call to release those held in airports? I almost feel like the new administration has given meaning, purpose, a reason to exist, to Sawant’s activism. You need to be as extreme as Sawant to rally with her.

      As far as the long term effort to make a sensible and enlightened immigration policy. I don’t really know what sensible immigration policy would look like. But I do think the newest federal policies range from disagreeable to inhumane. I think it is disagreeable to force cities to help the feds on immigration enforcement. I think the sudden ban on people from certain countries is at both unprofessional and inhumane. If the feds are going to act this recklessly, I believe cities should not follow orders blindly.

      But what does that have to with bicycle infrastructure? For starters, as the article itself gets at, we risk losing funding, including bicycle infrastructure funding, by standing up to the federal government. As a bicycle infrastructure advocates, we need to make a choice. Do we value good bicycle infrastructure more, or do we value standing up for immigrant rights more. Tom is reporting that Seattle Neighborhood Greenways have come out strongly in favor of immigrant rights. And Tom has let us know he agrees. And I’m going to let you know I agree too.

      But I also want to take this further. Suppose the Trump is wildly successful in cutting funding to cities, well beyond our current understanding of the constitution. What are we going to cut? As far as personal transportation goes, I can go anywhere on a mountain bike. We could literally not pave our roads at all and I would be satisfied as a cyclist. As a driver, I want high quality freeway without congestion. The reason why most people can’t bike is because cars make it extremely dangerous. But suppose we can no longer afford to support our car infrastructure? Here is my question, by making it easier to bike, could we make our transportation systems cheaper?

      1. Ben P

        You *don’t* need to be as extreme as Sawant to rally with he

      2. William

        “Working people of all nationalities need safe bike routes.”

        I do not disagree with it, but I do not particularly respect her for cojoining “working people”, “all nationalities” with “safe bike routes”. Bike routes have no clear link to immigration and it is unclear why working people have a greater need for safe bike routes than the retired, those in the education system, stay at home parents or those who are unemployed.

        It is not clear to what extent Trump can punish cities that refuse to help the INS when they are not required to by law. It seems more likely that federal bike funding will be stripped for all by Congress.

        I do not want to be too facetious, but Seattle seems to go through quite a lot of bike funding without generating very much in the way of coherent infrastructure, so it is not clear whether there would be much of an effect on the end users if the funding was cut.

      3. Ben P

        All fair points

  3. […] reading: Seattle Transit Blog reports that local infrastructure boosters say Seattle should stand firm in its commitment to […]

  4. […] reading: Seattle Transit Blog reports that local infrastructure boosters say Seattle should stand firm in its commitment to […]

  5. […] reading: Seattle Transit Blog reports that local infrastructure boosters say Seattle should stand firm in its commitment to […]

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