by Ahi Martin-McSweeney, CHBA Program Manager
| Apr 28, 2022
CHBA (the Capitol Hill Business Alliance, a program of GSBA) held our very first in-person Hill Talk event last Thursday! A big thank you to Steve Jensen Gallery for hosting us in their beautiful space. Hill Talk is a quarterly event that focuses on bringing civic engagement opportunities directly to Capitol Hill; connecting those who do business to decision makers and resources. We aim to empower our community to advocate for their top priorities and strengthen the collective voice of Capitol Hill.
For our inaugural event, we welcomed Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda to speak to her priorities and answer some questions posed by CHBA members. As one of Seattle’s two at-large representatives, Councilmember Mosqueda has always showed an interest in Capitol Hill as one of the densest (and liveliest, if we do say so ourselves) parts of our city. She opened the evening by talking about her family’s small business – Tasty Tacos in Des Moines, Iowa - and how she experienced first–hand how entrepreneurship can lift a family’s economic situation and work with the community around them.
Around encampment sweeps and the Seattle's approach to the housing crisis, Councilmember Mosqueda reiterated that we need to get people inside, but that offers of shelter are hollow when there is only 1 bed for every 4 people who need it. She suggests that signs for encampment clearings not be put up until the City is sure that it has beds available for each and every person in the camp, and to make sure that the proper outreach happens prior to a clearing. She mentioned that there was funding for RV safe lots in last year’s budget, however they were never implemented. There has been some success with funding from both the Jump Start tax as well as federal ARPA dollars that has already acquired over 400 housing units so far with acquisition of former hotels and apartment blocks. Above all, she said, what the city needs is “housing, housing, housing!”
When asked to expound on the Jump Start program which she created, Councilmember Mosqueda shared her vision of how this revenue stream is intended to support small business. GSBA helped negotiate the small business supports within Jump Start, which dedicates 15% of its revenues specifically to economic resiliency. The Councilmember hopes to see this funding support activation of storefronts, support for cultural events, the arts, food vendors, and more. It can also be put towards immediate relief projects, like addressing vandalism.
Perhaps the biggest topic in neighborhoods across the country right now is public safety. As we hear from our CHBA members, there is a particularly nuanced way of approaching public safety concerns in Capitol Hill, recognizing both the need for safety as well as understanding that there are other ways beyond traditional policing that would be more effective. The Councilmember shared her ideas for complimenting a traditional safety model with new approaches, including moving certain work (such as addressing mental health crises) away from uniformed police to workers who are better trained to handle those circumstances. She mentioned investments in programs such as Choose 180 and Community Passageways, as well as funding restorative justice options, LEAD, and mobile service options for mental health treatment and for victims of domestic violence. She acknowledged that a lot of funding for some options is not yet deployed, and that the City needs to keep working to ensure that money is getting directly to the community faster.
Streetscapes have long been an area of passion for the Councilmember, and she has spoken for years about the possibilities for dense walkable neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. Above all else, she stated that the foundational question is what do residents and small businesses of a neighborhood want to see in their own space? Options like Barcelona-style superblocks would always need strong community feedback before implementation, and have never been envisioned to block off vehicles for delivery and local traffic.
CHBA is working hard to provide meaningful programming and connection opportunities to businesses in the neighborhood. Up next is Community Conversations on Thursday, May 19 at 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM. Community Conversations are virtual events in which we discuss current topics and events impacting the business community. May's event will center around the unique needs of businesses with daytime hours of operation, from foot traffic to street traffic, and creative marketing tactics folks can use to leverage residential neighbors as a strong customer base. If this is your business, we invite you to join us! If you’d like to understand how to support these businesses better, we invite you to join us too!