Seattle City Councilman Mike O'Brien

Seattle City Councilman Mike O'Brien unveils his Green New Deal proposal at an Aug. 6 press conference. The council approved an oversight board to implement the sweeping legislation at their Sept. 16 meeting.

Seattle City Council unanimously voted to implement an ambitious package of environmental, economic and social policies dubbed a Green New Deal.

The Sept. 16 vote created an oversight board tasked with ensuring city departments are following through on the policies.

In August, council members approved a nonbinding Green New Deal resolution that outlined an ambitious set of policy goals (CU No. 1915 [15]). The resolution is far broader than similar proposed federal legislation that has stalled in Congress. The city’s version includes policies as disparate as rent control and mass transit electrification.

The 19-member oversight board will track the progress made by city departments implementing the resolution’s policies. Its duties enumerated in Council Bill 119604 include recommending policies and budget priorities to city government, and producing an annual implementation work plan, among other responsibilities.

The bill also directs Seattle’s Office for Sustainability and the Environment to create a team composed of representatives from across city government and tasked with helping each city department come up with action plans for implementing relevant parts of the Green New Deal.

“The Green New Deal Oversight Board gives climate leaders a platform to deliver solutions that both solve the climate crisis, provide new economic opportunities, and do it in a way that justly transitions us from a fossil fuel dependent economy,” Councilman Mike O’Brien said in a press release following the vote. O’Brien sponsored the resolution and CB 119604.

“We have ten years to radically transform our city and our economy, (and) to eliminate fossil fuel use if we want to stem the most catastrophic impacts of climate change,” O’Brien said in the press release.

The resolution says that Seattle should be “free of climate pollutants, meaning those that cause shifts in climate patterns, including carbon dioxide, black carbon, methane, nitrogen oxides, and fluorinated gases, by 2030.”

“For us to successfully combat climate change, we need to make sure frontline and fence-line communities are part of the solution building process,” Nancy Huizar, an activist with Got Green, said in the press release. Got Green is one of several groups that pushed for the bill’s passage. Puget Sound Sage, 350 Seattle, and the Sierra Club also campaigned in support.

The oversight board is to consist of eight representatives from communities “disproportionately burdened by pollution and environmental hazards and, based on socioeconomic and population health risk factors, is particularly vulnerable to an increased pollution burden,” the bill states.

The rest of the board’s makeup, as outlined in the bill, is three representatives from environmental justice organizations, four labor union representatives, three representatives with experience in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and a workforce training specialist. Board members would serve three-year terms.

Seattle’s mayor and City Council will each appoint eight board members. Those 16 board members will appoint people to the remaining three seats.

The board and city departments are supposed to submit their work plans to the mayor and City Council by mid-2020.

CB 119604 must be signed into effect by Mayor Jenny Durkan, who previously has publicly supported the initiative.

Contributing Editor

Dan has covered stories from Seattle to Tbilisi; spent time with the AP, Everett Daily Herald and Christian Science Monitor; and was twice a member of a team nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He and his wife have three young children and live in Seattle.