The City of Seattle signed a $150,000 contract in July with former pimp, now community activist Andre Taylor for his “recommendations to the City on de-escalation, community engagement, and alternatives to policing.”
The contract pays Taylor $12,500 a month for 12 months, provides Taylor office space in the city’s Municipal Tower, and names him “Street Czar”.
What is a “Street Czar”? one might ask.
“Street czars are people who have some credibility from the streets,” explains Taylor, “that have changed their lives, (and) that are also working within the system.”
Where does one earn “street credibility”?
Taylor, a former pimp who trafficked underage girls, was convicted in 2000 of seven prostitution-related counts. He only served one of his sentenced five years. Testimonies of the girls he trafficked, some as young as 16 years old, reveal that they were worked seven days a week while he spent time in his $300,000 home.
He boasts that he can talk to “gang members, pimps and prostitutes” who wouldn’t otherwise speak with city officials.
Taylor has now made a name for himself as an activist in Seattle. He moved to the Northwest in 2016 after his brother, Che, was fatally shot by Seattle police. He founded Not This Time, an effort to reform policing in Washington State. Taylor sees himself as a bridge between community members and city officials, and his website states its efforts to work for police accountability and safe communities.
Taylor led a mass rally on May 30th in downtown Seattle in response to the killing of George Floyd. Protests in Seattle have often become violent, injuring officers and causing damage to various businesses. Taylor has had a close relationship with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan over the summer as the city has navigated the violent protests and demands for police defunding. He has appeared with her in press conference events and has been criticized by other protestors for his cooperation with city leadership.
The contract came out of the city’s struggle with the autonomous zone set up on Capitol Hill known as CHAZ or CHOP. In a recorded conversation, Taylor encouraged the leaders of CHOP to demand $2 million from the city in exchange for their promise to vacate the area.
“Let me go before you to the mayor,” he told them. “Leave with resources, money for the community. Then you win.”
“I don’t know, we’ll ask for $2 million. They might give us $1 million, but let’s ask for it.”
CHOP leaders rejected Taylor’s proposal, and the city cleared out the encampment on July 1st.
Local radio host, Jason Rantz, juxtaposed the $150,000 contract with the city’s recent defunding of its police department, which would lay off 100 police officers.
“The City sought a contract with Not This Time because of our existing working partnership,” said Kelsey Nyland, Mayor Durkan’s spokesperson, “…but also because of the organization’s lived experience with the criminal legal system, and their history of successful advocacy and activism on issues of policing and dismantling systemic racism.”