Sexual Assault Awareness Month; Secure Scheduling Study; Spring Clean 2018; Transportation Safety in South Park; Notifica App; In-District Office Hours

April 13th, 2018


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

On Monday April 9th the Seattle City Council and Mayor Durkan signed the Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) Proclamation.  SAAM is an annual campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault and to educate communities on how to work towards a world free from sexual violence.  While many regions have been organizing events addressing sexual violence since as early as the 1970’s, SAAM was first observed nationally in 2001.

On April 9th 2018 I had the opportunity to present the 2018 Sexual Assault Awareness Month Proclamation at the Full Council meeting of the Seattle City Council.  In attendance to receive the proclamation were representatives from the Seattle’s Women’s Commission, the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence and the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.

On April 25th the City of Seattle will observe “Denim Day.” Denim Day was founded after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned in part because the victim was wearing tight jeans.  Denim Day is designed to draw attention to victim blaming and to allow all of us to take action to say that they is no excuse for sexual assault.  I will share more details about this year’s Denim Day events as they become available.


Gap Stores Secure Scheduling Study

You may recall that in late 2016 I and Councilmember Gonzalez led the City Council to pass the Secure Scheduling Ordinance. This ordinance requires that businesses covered by the law must post work schedules 14 days in advance, must provide a written good faith estimate of hours, grants employees a 10 hour “right to rest” between closing and opening shifts, guarantees predictability pay for last minute scheduling changes as well as access to additional hours for existing employees before hiring new additional employees.

Recently a study from Gap retail stores has been released. This study began in 2015 with a small group of Gap stores in San Francisco, and was expanded to include a total of 28 stores between the San Francisco and Chicago metropolitan areas.

The study ran from November 2015 to August 2016, with 19 of the 28 stores being selected to the “treatment condition” and nine stores assigned to the control group. During the study all 28 stores required two-week advance notice for work schedules, and they eliminated the practice of on-call shifts.

With the study recently being released they found:

  • Consistency, predictability, and worker input increased. The intervention produced significant, but modest increases in these three dimensions of schedule stability.
  • Adequacy of work hours did not increase for most associates. Part-time Plus associates saw an increase in hours during the intervention period, but the average associate did not.
  • Stable scheduling sharply increased median sales by 7% in treatment stores during the intervention period—a dramatic increase in an industry in which companies often work hard to achieve increases of 1-2%.
  • Stable scheduling also significantly increased labor productivity by 5%. Treatment stores generated an additional $6.20 of revenue per hour of labor than did control stores.
  • Fluctuating customer demand is not the primary source of instability. Only 30% of the variability in weekly payroll hours was explained by changes in traffic from week to week. Store managers identified three key sources of headquarter-driven instability: inaccuracies in shipment information, last-minute changes in promotions, and visits by corporate leaders.

The City of Seattle is also studying the impacts of its ordinance, with the baseline report recently released and heard in Councilmember Mosqueda’s committee last Thursday, you can view that here and watch the committee meeting here. As our study proceeds into the first year of evaluation I will continue to share the results with you.


Spring Clean 2018

It’s that time of year again. SPU’s annual Spring Clean event is here. From April through the end of May, Seattle Public Utilities, the Department of Neighborhoods, and the Seattle Department of Transportation are partnering with residents for the Spring Clean. Every year hundreds of residents cleaned-up litter and remove graffiti in their local neighborhoods. The City helps support these volunteers with FREE bags, gloves, safety vests, and waste disposal. All  the projects are conducted on public property.

If you’re interested in getting involved you can call (206) 684-7647, or register online here.


Vote on South Park Transportation Safety Improvements

The Department of Neighborhoods has released a survey to help prioritize $500,000 in spending approved by the Council in the 2018 budget for transportation-related public safety improvements recommended by the South Park Public Safety Task Force.

You can take the survey here. The survey is also available in Spanish, and Vietnamese.

The survey has specific options, and cost estimates, for projects such as street lighting, and crosswalk upgrades.


United We Dream Mobile App: Notifica

As the Trump administration continues to increase its raids in our cities and states, organizers are getting more creative about how to protect and defend people from deportation. Last month, United We Dream launched a mobile phone app, Notifica, available in English and Spanish.

The app allows people to notify friends and family if they have an interaction with ICE. It’s intended to inform family members and legal advocates or other contacts, and begin organizing to stop the detention and deportation of that affected user.

Immigrants with access to legal representation are more likely to succeed in their cases, as noted in a 2016 study by the American Immigration Council.  Last year the Council approved funding for legal representation through non-profits; here are links for those resources in the Seattle-King County Immigrant Legal Defense Network..

Here’s a link to a social media tool-kit, a flyer, and FAQs from United We Dream.


In-District Office Hours

On April 27, I will be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave S) from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 p.m., the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Friday, May 25, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, June 15, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, July 27, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, August 17, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, September 21, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, October 26, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, December 14, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S 

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Center City Streetcar: Pressing the “Pause” Button; Council Considers an Employee Hours Tax: Update and Next Steps; New Green Electric Trucks Coming to Seattle; Domestic Workers Listening Session; March Constituent Emails

April 6th, 2018


Center City Streetcar: Pressing the “Pause” Button

I thank Mayor Durkan for pressing the ‘pause’ button on the Center City Streetcar through her executive order to stop work.

This step is necessary to ensure that the independent review earlier ordered by the Mayor is meaningful. Had work proceeded as scheduled—especially in awarding a construction contract—it would be more difficult to integrate the results of the independent review, or delay or stop the project. I had begun working on legislation to cease spending until after the review was complete; with the Mayor’s executive order, it appears that won’t be necessary.

I remain concerned about potential unsustainable operations shortfalls, which could be millions annually, even under the most optimistic ridership and farebox recovery scenarios.

Here’s a brief rundown of how we got to this point.

In July of last year, I introduced an amendment requiring SDOT to present a report to the Council on operations costs and the financial operating plan, including ridership and fare box recovery, and to provide contingency funding sources if operations or construction funding was inadequate. I asked for the report to be due on September 30, so that the information in it could help the Council in our consideration of the 2018 budget.

The report estimated operations costs at $16 million, and stated, regarding any construction funding gap, that “SDOT will identify alternative funding sources to complete the project on schedule,” without noting any specifics.  In addition to a likely construction funding gap, this report made it very apparent that there would also be an annual operations funding gap.

As a skeptic of this project, I considered a proposal to shift funding to other purposes, but after Councilmembers received a memo from the Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR) about the potential risks regarding federal transportation funding, it didn’t appear there was any support for reprogramming 2018 budget funds away from the streetcar project.

Last month the Seattle Times broke a story noting an internal Metro memo that said annual operations costs could be $8 million higher, at $24 million, and that while this had been communicated to SDOT, the Council hadn’t received this information. On March 19, the Mayor ordered an independent review of the project, due by June 19, three months later.

At a Council committee meeting the next day, I noted that SDOT planned to take significant actions before June, including ordering steel later in March, and awarding a construction contract in April or May. I then suggested a “pause” on the project, in order for the independent review ordered by the Mayor to be able to inform whether, or how, the project proceeds.

On March 30th, the Mayor issued a stop work order, and Senior Deputy Mayor Fong sent a letter to Councilmembers explaining her decision. The letter notes a preliminary analysis showed a construction budget shortfall of $23 million, which would raise the construction cost to around $200 million. Here’s a link to the documents shared at a Council Briefing meeting on Monday, from City Budget Office Director Noble, and Interim SDOT Director Sparrman, regarding the scope of work for the independent review, and the $23 million construction shortfall.  It’s worth noting that the Council not yet authorized $45 million in bond funding listed in the project budget.

An alignment for the Center City Streetcar was approved by a previous Council in 2014. That legislation stated, “As Center City Connector funding options are considered, the Seattle City Council and SDOT will prioritize local funding opportunities that do not reduce transit service or funding from other city neighborhoods and that are specifically enacted to pay for streetcar costs.”

Making up for annual streetcar operating shortfalls would inevitably reduce funding for other transportation needs, including existing transit services.  This is the primary reason I don’t believe a Center City Streetcar is the best use of our limited tax dollars. That said, it’s important that the Council receive accurate information in its consideration of projects, in fulfilling its duty to authorize City spending. I look forward to reviewing the results of the independent review.

 


Council Considers an Employee Hours Tax: Update and Next Steps

Last month I wrote about the Progressive Revenue Task Force Final Recommendations. To review, in November of 2017 the Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31782. The Progressive Revenue Task Force was formed in late 2017 and held their first meeting on January 4.  You can watch video of the task force meeting at the Progressive Revenue Task Force webpage.  On March 9, the Progressive Revenue Task Force released their final recommendations.

On Wednesday March 14th, the City Council had its first briefing from the task force members. This was an opportunity for Councilmembers to ask questions of task force members.

On Wednesday March 28th the Finance and Neighborhood Committee began the council’s deliberative process on this issue.  During this committee meeting the council reviewed the Central Staff memo on the Progressive Revenue Task Force Recommendations, heard a presentation from Central Staff on a summary of potential business tax revenues and had a high level  review of business tax comparisons between cities in our region.

On Monday April 2nd the Finance and Neighborhood Committee held a special committee meeting. At this meeting Council Central Staff presented on Homeless Service Needs and discussed options for the “services” portion of the proposed spending.  This presentation included information about the number of people currently homeless in King County, outlined the City’s current homelessness investments and discussed the broad scope of services this new revenue source could fund.

 

The Central Staff memo on Tax Structure Issue Identification of a Potential New Business Tax was also discussed at the April 2nd meeting.  This memo addresses a number of areas of consideration for the Council.  Issues identified include:

  • Targeted annual revenue amount,
  • Considerations between an employee hours tax, payroll tax or some combination thereof,
  • Per FTE tax rate if the council decides to move forward with an employee hours tax,
  • Exemptions for smaller businesses, or type of business, and considerations related to an alternative annual flat fee for exempted businesses.

The City Council will now take the next couple of weeks to review these decision points and work on draft legislation.  Before we draft legislation Councilmember Gonzalez and I will be organizing a business roundtable discussion as well as meeting with several neighborhood chambers.

The City Council will be having a public hearing on the proposed tax legislation and companion spending resolution at a Finance and Neighborhood Committee meeting on Monday April 23rd at 5:30pm. The Council anticipates having draft legislation available by April 23rd ahead of public comment.

After the public hearing, the Finance and Neighborhood Committee will again meet on April 25th at 2pm.  This committee meeting will discuss the draft legislation and the “Spectrum of Potential Investments in Housing.”  You can sign-up for the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee meeting agendas here.  You can find the full EHT deliberation calendar here.

 


New Green Electric Trucks Coming to Seattle

In my committee meeting on April 10, we will be hearing the Solid Waste Collections Contracts. These contracts cover the garbage, recycling, and compost collections from all residents.

The Council approved the current contract back in March 2008.  Waste Management and CleanScapes (merged with and is now known as Recology) are the authorized contractors under that contract.

When Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) notified me that they would be issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for these contracts, I worked with the members on my committee to send this letter to SPU to specifically explain that we felt strongly that Seattle should pursue a pilot program for electric garbage trucks.

I am happy to report that both Waste Management and Recology have included in their proposals the addition of two full size (class 8) electric trucks for feasibility testing, four midsized (class 6) electric trucks for small routes and container delivery, and ten electric supervisor pick-up trucks and support vehicles. As Seattle prides itself on its green values, this important step of introducing electric garbage trucks, puts Seattle at the forefront of developing technologies in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

If adopted the new contracts would result in savings of $5 million per year starting in 2019, for a total of $50 million in savings over the course of the 10-year contract. Additionally, the new contract will add routine clean-up crews to proactively address debris, graffiti, and other community impacts.

If you’re interested in the proposed contracts you can see the legislation here and here. Again, this legislation will be discussed at the April 10 committee meeting.

 


Domestic Workers Listening Session

This Saturday Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda will be hosting a listening session on the proposed Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that the people who take care of our kids as nannies, care for our elders as long-term care provides, and clean our homes as housekeepers are extended the same common-sense labor protections that most other workers in Seattle have and that employers can have their needs met as well.

When: 10:00am – 11:30am

Where: Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW

Please RSVP here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


March Constituent Emails

Constituent correspondence is a really important task in my office.  My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve your community, whether that’s through getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering.  The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in March, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in March related to policy or legislation the Council is considering.

 

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Parking Legislation Update; Alki Vehicle Noise Enforcement; Civil Legal Aid Update

March 30th, 2018


Parking Legislation Update

The final vote on the parking update legislation will be this Monday, April 2 at Full Council. My two previous reports about this legislation can be found here and here. The version of the bill that passed out of committee on March 21 can be found here. I proposed a few amendments, and most of them were adopted. However, my amendment to reintroduce, in very narrowly defined circumstances, the use of State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) mitigation in urban villages with “Frequent Transit Service” was rejected at committee. I intend to bring a modified version of this amendment back to Full Council for a vote.

This amendment gives SDCI the flexibility to utilize SEPA mitigation under some very narrowly defined conditions. I asked Council policy staff to analyze last years’ data and they found that of 136 projects, only six of them would have triggered this SEPA mitigation option.  Of those six, three of the projects provided parking for other reasons.  So, if last year is a good comparison, this tool would have only been a consideration of SDCI in three of 136 projects, or 2%.

State SEPA policies require consideration of parking impacts. However, the City has entirely removed the authority to use SEPA to mitigate the parking impacts of projects that have impacts when those projects are in areas where the City has removed parking requirements, areas referred to as “Frequent Transit Areas.” In other words, SEPA requires developers to do parking studies as part of the permitting process, but even when those studies show that a development without parking is going to create a problem, SDCI can’t require mitigation. In those instances, this is what SDCI tells the public:

“while impacts to parking could be substantial, we are unable to mitigate the impacts by requiring additional parking on-site.”

The spokesperson for SDCI has been quoted by the press saying “[W]e have said that when on-street parking capacity exceeds 85 percent, finding parking becomes more difficult, and parking mitigation (in areas where we have authority to mitigate parking impacts) may be appropriate.” But again, our existing laws do not allow SDCI to mitigate on-street parking impacts in Frequent Transit Areas. My amendment grants them that authority, ONLY in instances where parking capacity is found to have reached 85%.

Some have argued that SEPA should only be used to mitigate environmental impacts.  Yet, under state law, SEPA requires us to look not only at the impact of decisions on plants, animals, air quality, and water; but also on housing, public services, and historic preservation. This means that the state requires that we look at parking as part of that comprehensive analysis of impacts of development.  In addition, when Seattle is in the top 5 of cities for number of hours (58 hours/year) spent looking for parking, failure to mitigate parking impacts becomes a very big environmental issue.

Seattle Area Household Median Income is about $90K a year, more than half of our population earns less than that, and nearly 70% of renters earn less than the Seattle Median Income.  Countless people drive for a living whether as a part of their traditional employment or the new gig economy – Uber, flex, Amazon fresh, Instacart, etc.  The home delivery model is the new labor model that scores of Seattle workers count on for supplemental income to make ends meet in their household budgets.  Countless others need their cars to fulfill other obligations that are in the city’s interests like apprenticeship programs and educational attainment to earn living wage jobs, childcare for school readiness, and elder care needs.

Without some very limited tools to allow mitigation, I believe this policy as passed out of Committee is telling these people – those that need their cars to survive (a growing proportion of many specific demographic segments of workers as well) – that we believe that their ownership of cars is based in their desire for convenience; not a necessity, and if it was only less convenient for them to own a car they’d get rid of their car. I believe this flies in the face of the economic realities of many of our car-owning struggling renter population and is punitive.

This map overlays two other maps to give a clearer picture of where new frequent transit service will be in comparison to renters, as well as car owners. The significance of this map, as I’ve said before, is to show that the oft reported statistic, that is being used as the policy basis for this legislation doesn’t tell the full picture.  The SDCI Director’s report says that “For the one-quarter of Seattle census tracts with the highest proportion of renter households, 40% of all renter households have no vehicle.” However, this doesn’t track to all areas designated as “frequent transit areas.” For instance:

District Urban Village Car Ownership Rate Parking Requirements
1 Morgan Junction 83% No parking minimums
2 Columbia City 84% No parking minimums
2 North Beacon Hill 84% No parking minimums
3 Eastside of 23rd & Union-Jackson 82% No parking minimums
4 Fremont 83% and 92% No parking minimums
4 Wallingford 79% No parking minimums
5 South end of the Aurora-Licton Springs 90% No parking minimums
6 North end of the Greenwood-Phinney Ridge 86% No parking minimums
6 South end of the Crown Hill 95% No parking minimums
6 Ballard 85% No parking minimums
7 Upper Queen Anne Ranging from 92% to 69%, with an average of 83% No parking minimums

Again, I intend on bringing this amendment to Full Council on Monday, and I would encourage you to contact your councilmembers to urge them to support limited SEPA mitigation in the few examples where a development is planned in an area where parking capacity is found to have reached 85%.


Alki Vehicle Noise Enforcement

Last summer my office worked with residents of Alki and adjacent neighborhoods to develop the Alki Public Safety and Health Survey.  The results of this survey showed clear community concerns regarding vehicle noise and cruising, and were used to develop a budget action in November requesting that the Seattle Police Department submit a report to the Council on their enforcement policies with respect to vehicle noise and cruising in the Alki neighborhood during the warm-weather months, and identify possible solutions.  The budget action also notes that other neighborhoods, such as Fauntleroy and the Downtown/Belltown corridor.

The Council received the response on March 16. Here’s a link to the response.

The SPD memo notes SPD has historically provided extra patrol officers during the warm weather months in the Alki neighborhood; it further notes that current laws regarding noise and cruising can be difficult to enforce, and that possible adjustments could improve SPD’s ability to enforce. For example, the memo says that the language in the municipal code specific to vehicle muffler noise is vague, and that the initial complaint cannot come from an officer. The memo also notes ordinances in Bellevue and Kirkland relating to vehicle and watercraft noise audible more than 50-75 feet from the source, and notes that the King County Auditor is reviewing the effectiveness of the King County Noise ordinance, and will share results upon completion, estimated for the end of June. It also notes the potential for technological solutions in development by private parties for noise enforcement, similar to automated speed zone cameras.

My office is currently working with Council Central Staff on follow-up questions for additional detail, and with community on next steps and potential solutions.


Civil Legal Aid Update

On Monday March 19th the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution to move Seattle toward incorporating more civil legal aid services into the City’s legal defense contract with King County.   This work will ensure that what we have begun to refer to as “collateral consequences” are more actively considered when defendants in Seattle Municipal Court are to be charged with misdemeanors and felonies.

In 2016 I sponsored the legislation that led to the first phase of this project, the hiring of 3 civil legal aid attorneys through the King County Department of Public Defense.  These civil legal aid attorneys help prevent people from experiencing collateral consequences such as losing housing, public benefits, driver’s licenses, and professional technical licenses, as well as addressing  other civil issues in the course of a legal defense for an unrelated charge.  Civil legal aid attorneys work with Public Defenders and advocate for defendants to avoid these potential collateral consequences.  In this first phase of the pilot civil legal aid attorney have not been permitted to represent these defendants, in this next phase, they will.

If rehabilitation is the goal of our criminal justice system, we need to directly address the unintended consequences of interactions with that system. Homelessness and unemployment should not result from a misdemeanor when it’s completely unrelated to the offense a person allegedly committed.

In the first phase of the pilot, civil legal aid attorneys have had impressive success with the people they’ve advised. We are moving closer toward a defense system in which civil consequences are actively considered through our plea-bargaining process. Specially trained attorneys serve defendants, which, hopefully, means more people can stay in their homes and keep their jobs upon release.

Since last year, civil legal aid attorneys in the King County Department of Public Defense have provided guidance to ensure potential collateral consequences are considered during the plea-bargaining process.  Through the first phase of the pilot, 293 cases received civil legal aid from July through December 2017.  Some excerpts of work conducted by Collateral Consequence Attorneys, from the  King County Department of Public Defense’s Report:

  • “A resident of a ‘tiny-home’ faced loss of the house if he remained in custody for more than 30 days on a theft charge. The Collateral Consequence Attorney advised the defense attorney and the prosecutor, who agreed to a lesser charge and sentence so the client could keep his home.
  • “Numerous clients have been advised about appealing license suspension and assisted in securing temporary or limited licenses. Maintaining the right to drive has afforded breadwinners and parents the ability to continue providing for their families.
  • “A client who was living in his car with all of his possessions had his car impounded following a DUI. By working with the impound lot and client’s family, the Collateral Consequence Attorney was able to get the client’s possessions secured prior to [the car] being put up for auction.”

Eligible clients of civil legal aid attorneys are indigent defendants referred by Seattle Municipal Court to the King County Department for Public Defense for criminal representation.

Following passage of a forthcoming Interlocal Agreement to be considered in the Council’s Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans & Education Committee meeting in April, civil legal aid attorneys will soon be able to begin limited direct representation of defendants.

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Proposed Ethics Code Legislation; In-District Office Hours

March 23rd, 2018


Proposed Ethics Code Legislation

On Tuesday, the Governance, Equity, and Technology Committee heard legislation regarding an amendment to “the Seattle Municipal Code to require City Councilmembers to disclose financial interests in legislative matters under consideration by the City Council prior to participating in those matters, and creating a limited exception to the requirement that City Councilmembers disqualify themselves from participating in such matters.”

The Seattle Ethics and Elections website states: The Code seeks to prevent conflicts of interest.” In other words, the objective is not to make conflicts known to the public, but it is instead to try and ensure that they do not occur at all.

Currently, the code states that if a financial interest is not shared with substantial segment of the population, a Councilmember must recuse themselves from the issue being discussed and voted on. This standard has served the City well since 1980.

However, with seven of the Councilmembers elected by districts, there is concern among some that by disqualifying a Councilmember from participating because of a conflict of interest we may disenfranchise residents of their district. Therefore, the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission unanimously recommended the adoption of the proposed legislation. The legislation would allow a Councilmember to participate in and vote on an issue, even if there was a financial interest so long as the Councilmember filed a financial statement and disclosed their financial interest before every committee meeting and Council vote.

I appreciate the desire to ensure that every District has someone representing them in all instances that the Council votes, but I have serious concerns with the proposed approach. The legislation was discussed by the Council in Committee back in June 2016, but after the Committee voted to approve it, rather than voting on it in Full Council, the Council sent back to committee for additional consideration. This was an unusual step and it occurred thanks to a memo that the then Councilmember Burgess sent outlining his concerns and his opposition to the legislation.

The legislation heard on Tuesday, in the Governance, Equity, and Technology Committee, is the same bill from 2016. There were no changes included in it to address the concerns raised in 2016. Consequently, I proposed an amendment to the legislation similar to that suggested by then Councilmember Tim Burgess.

In the Tuesday Governance, Equity, and Technology Committee, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda expressed her own concerns, pointing out that two at large Councilmembers represent every district and that the focus of the ethics code should be on whether a council member would benefit financially from voting for or against a measure.

I have additional questions about how and whether to define a “substantial segment of the population” and look forward to additional deliberations on this issue with Councilmembers as well as SEEC. I believe that it is important that we maintain a “bright line” rule when it comes to our ethics code and I want to ensure that the legislation eventually passed by the Council meets that high bar.

In-District Office Hours

On March 30, I will be at the Southwest Neighborhood Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:00p.m. – 6:45p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 pm, the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Friday, April 27, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, May 25, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, June 15, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, July 27, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, August 17, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, September 21, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, October 26, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, December 14, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S 

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South Park Update; In-District Office Hours; Progressive Revenue Task Force Final Recommendations; Property Tax Update 

March 16th, 2018

South Park Update


Here’s an update on implementation of recommendations of the South Park Public Safety Task Force, most recently discussed here. Below are updates on public safety, lighting, parks and transportation.

The Public Safety Coordinator position seeking bids from community based organizations who will then hire and supervise a city-funded public safety coordinator for South Park was released in late February; the deadline for responses closed on February 28. Notification of the award should be completed today, with a contact completed by March 30th.

This City Light map shows where additional lighting improvement have been made, over the last few weeks, in particular, the location of new streetlights to be installed in the alley between Cloverdale and Donovan, and 8th and 14th, and in the alley between Cloverdale and Sullivan between adjacent to 12th. Here’s a detailed engineering map for the alley streetlights. SDOT approved the installation of the alley lights earlier this week.

The Recreation Program Specialist position for the South Park Community Center focused on youth recreation is posted on the City’s job opportunities page, and open for applications through March 27 at 4 p.m.  After hire of this permanent position, the Parks and Recreation Department will be working with youth in the area to identify and design new youth recreation programs.  I have requested the Teen Late Night Program, currently operating only on Friday nights, to be expanded to Saturday nights.  I’m looking forward to hearing back from the Executive about my request.

For the $500,000 in Transportation Improvements funded by the Council, the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) has begun a community process to prioritize funds based on recommendations from the South Park Public Safety Taskforce.

Here’s a link to a map showing where improvements are taking place for crosswalks, radar speed signals, a new pedestrian light, LED lighting upgrade, street curb improvements, and trail upgrades. Also included are the locations of five potential new transportation improvements, and how to help prioritizing the $500,000 for those projects the Council approved in the 2018 budget.

The map is also available in Spanish, and in Vietnamese. DON has developed paper voting ballots for the prioritization of transportation projects in Spanish and Vietnamese as well.

DON is conducting outreach in the South Park community throughout the months of March and April. DON has confirmed the following direct outreach opportunities:

  • Concord PTA Meeting on 3/8 (12 residents attended)
  • Seattle Parks and Recreation event at the Community Center on 3/9 (100+ residents attended)
  • South Park Neighborhood Association on 3/13 (20 residents attended)
  • South Park Neighborhood Information and Resource Center on 3/14
  • Senior Center Community Conversation on 3/14
  • Duwamish Valley Youth Corps meeting on 3/15
  • Duwamish Safe Streets on 3/20
  • South Park Community Center Easter Egg Hunt on 3/31
  • South Park Arts on 4/9
  • Concord PTA Meeting for Spanish speaking families on 4/19
  • Duwamish Valley Youth Corps meeting on 4/26

DON will be hosting office hours in South Park throughout the months of March and April. DON will be available at:

  • South Park Library Branch on 3/21, 4/3 , and 4/17
  • South Park Community Center on 3/30, 4/6, and 4/20
  • Via Vaddi Caffe on 4/9 and 4/23

As many of you know, Seattle Parks and Recreation has also been working on a renovation to the South Park Community Center, last Friday they presented to the community the final plan which they came to after receiving community input through and online survey that I previously sent out and at the Duwamish River Festival. Here’s a link to the final site wide plan.

Work is also taking place on two projects through the Neighborhood Matching Fund for the 5th and Cloverdale streetscape design, and Duwamish Waterway Park Improvements Phase 2.

Thank you to the Department of Neighborhoods for stepping up and coordinating City work in South Park, and to SDOT, Parks and City Light for their work in the South Park Community. Here’s a link to an update on DON sent me about implementation of the South Park Public Safety Task Force recommendations on Wednesday, March 14.


In-District Office Hours

On March 30, I will be at the Southwest Neighborhood Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:00p.m. – 6:45p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 pm, the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Friday, April 27, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, May 25, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, June 15, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, July 27, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, August 17, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, September 21, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, October 26, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, December 14, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Progressive Revenue Task Force Final Recommendations

On March 9, 2018 the Progressive Revenue Task Force released their final recommendations.   Before I get into the background I want to address a couple of concerns I’ve heard:

  1. How many businesses would pay the tax? With an eligibility threshold of $10 million in gross business revenues, according to Council Central Staff’s initial estimates, it’s anticipated that approximately only 5% of Seattle businesses would be expected to pay the tax.
  2. Who represented business on the tax force? The 17 member task force was composed of a number of service providers, 1 business representative who would be eligible to pay the EHT, 2 medium to small businesses, and 1 very small business.
  3. What is the spending plan for the revenue? Roughly speaking, the spending plan is to use 80% of revenues to build permanent housing.  Options for use of revenue are found in Appendix E.  Just like the Council does for any dedicated revenue, we will develop a more detailed, multi-year spending plan that will accompany the legislation.

In 2017, the City Council considered a 2018 Budget proposal to implement a $100/FTE employee hours tax to generate $25 million a year in revenue to address the city’s homelessness crisis.  Ultimately, the proposal was not included in the 2018 Budget. Citing the need for more time and engagement with service providers, Seattle businesses and the community at large, the Council unanimously passed Resolution 31782.  The resolution established “a process by which the City of Seattle will determine new progressive revenues including an Employee Hours Tax (EHT), expressing the City Council’s intent to impose such potential revenues, and expressing the City Council’s intent to make investments with these revenues that would assist people who are homeless or at a high risk of becoming homeless in obtaining and retaining stable housing.” Additionally, the resolution outlined considerations for task force membership, a set of principles the task force should consider when drafting their recommendations and asked the task force to consider an EHT “between $25 million and $75 million.”

The task force was formed in late 2017 and held their first meeting on January 4, 2018.  Councilmember Gonzalez and I were members and co-chairs of this effort, joined by 2 additional community co-chairs.  Over the course of 2 and a half months the task force met both as a full group and in a number of working groups.  You can watch video of the task force meeting at the Progressive Revenue Task Force webpage.

Passed unanimously, the recommendations begin with a set of principles agreed to by the task force:

  1. There is an urgent need for fiscal discipline;
  2. Tax burdens should not be increased lightly;
  3. Despite the economic prosperity driving growth in the City’s revenues, and in part because of it, Seattle is facing a homelessness crisis of unprecedented proportions (emphasis added, citation 2018 Proposed Budget Executive Summary, page 2);
  4. Homelessness in Seattle is a crisis that must be resolved, in all of our interests;
  5. Resolving homelessness in Seattle cannot be accomplished, even applying fiscal discipline, without substantial new revenue; and
  6. When seeking new revenue, it is undesirable to rely any more heavily on property or sales taxes.

On any given night in Seattle, in addition to the 4,619 people in shelter or transitional housing programs, there are 3,857 people living unsheltered in our community.  To address this need the task force recommended $150 million in new progressive revenues be collected annually.  The task force recommends that half of this revenue be generated through a $75 million per year EHT and recognizes that this is a significant amount of revenue and will make an appreciable impact but will still need to be matched with additional revenue, hopefully revenue generated from recommendations coming out of the regional approach referred to as One Table.

Seattle's homeless demographics

Appendix A of the report begins to address what it would take to close Seattle’s Low-Income Housing Gap.  The Appendix outlines that even with the nearly 6,000 affordable units that are anticipated to be generated through the Mandatory Housing Affordability program, Seattle still needs 21,000 additional units in the next 10-12 years.  It is anticipated that Seattle will need hundreds of millions of dollars a year in order to meet this need.

Seattle and King County's housing gap

 

While the task force didn’t recommend a specific way to structure the tax they did lay out three options for the City Council to consider. Again, as mentioned above, according to Council Central Staff’s initial analysis, it’s anticipated that only approximately 5% of Seattle businesses would be expected to pay the tax.  Because the B&O tax has a lot of regressivity built into its structure, the task force tried to build in as much progressivity as possible. Option 1 below, built on a percentage of payroll, rather than a cost per employee hour, recognizes that some high grossing businesses, due to high labor costs, have very narrow profit margins:

Option 1:

$10 million per year gross revenue exemption threshold

  • Firms with 1-100 FTE employees pay 0.25% of all payroll (avg. $0.078/hr)
  • Firms with 101-500 FTE employees pay 0.50% of all payroll (avg. $0.156/hr)
  • Firms with 501+ FTE employees pay 0.75% of all payroll (avg. $0.234/hr)
  • Firms with gross revenue between $500,000 and $10 million pay $395/year

Option 2:

$8 million per year gross revenue exemption threshold

  • Firms with 1-500 FTE employees pay $200/FTE/year ($0.104/hr)
  • Firms with 501+ FTE employees pay $450/FTE/year ($0.234/hr)
  • Firms with gross revenue between $500,000 and $8 million pay $395/year

Option 3:

$8 million per year gross revenue exemption threshold

  • Firms with 1-500 FTE employees pay $140/FTE/year + 0.1% of all payroll
  • Firms with 501+ FTE employees pay $300/FTE/year + 0.25% of all payroll
  • Firms with gross revenue between $500,000 and $8 million pay $395/year

One of the task force recommendations that is generating a lot of discussion is the “skin in the game” alternative tax rate.  The report states, “the housing and homelessness crisis is a matter of concern to the whole community, and businesses of all sizes should contribute towards the solution,” and that this alternative tax rate that should, “be done in a way that is not unduly burdensome for small businesses.” As purposed, this alternative tax rate of $395 would only apply to businesses under the EHT gross revenue threshold and would exempt very small businesses with revenue under $500,000.  I was heartened to see that it was the small and medium businesses on the task force who came up with the idea of a “skin in the game” alternative tax rate.

On Wednesday March 14th the City Council had its first briefing from the task force members. This was an opportunity for the task force to review its recommendations and for Councilmembers to ask questions.  This is the beginning of the Council’s legislative process.  The City Council will now review the task force recommendations and develop the legislation and have further engagement with the business community.  It is anticipated that we will propose legislation later this spring to align with its commitment to institute an EHT with enough time so that it can imposed as of January 1, 2019.

Property Tax Update

The State Legislature recently completed its 2018 legislative session. One bill they passed decreased the state property tax for education in 2019 by 30 cents, from $2.70 to $2.40 per $1,000 in home valuation. For an average Seattle home, appraised at $597,000, this amounts to $179 next year. $400 million for education will be provided through other sources.

The state education property tax differs from most local property taxes, because the total amount of the state tax is directly tied to home values.

For Seattle taxes, that usually isn’t the case. First of all, under state law, cites are prohibited from increasing property taxes by more than 1% without a public vote. So increases in home values don’t automatically translate into increased Seattle taxes, because the Council is prohibited from increasing property taxes above 1%.

Secondly, Seattle property tax ballot measures identify a specific dollar figure over a specified number of years. For example, 2016 Housing Levy specified $290 million over 7 years, or $41.4 million annually. So the amount the average homeowner pays is constant over seven years.

However, because property taxes are set by multiplying the assessed value by the property tax rate, an increase in the home values results in a lower tax rate, though the average homeowner pays the same amount. Taxes for Seattle ballot measures in 2018 illustrate this well: the rate per $1,000 in home value for voter-approved measures decreased in Seattle from 2017 at $1.11 to $0.97.

The above is a slight oversimplification (property taxes for voter-approved measures actually went down $5 from 2017 to 2018 for the average Seattle property owner), but illustrates overall how property taxes work.

From 2017 to 2018 the average rate paid for Seattle property taxes decreased from $2.62 to $2.36 per $1,000 in assessed value. In 2013 the rate was $3.29 per $1,000 in value.

However, because of the increase from state education property taxes from $2.03 per $1,000 in 2017 to $2.92 in 2018, the overall 2018 rate increased from 9.258 to 9.562 per $1,000 in valuation.

 

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Celebrating International Women’s Day; Report on SPU/SCL Call Center; Parking in the West Seattle Junction; Hate Crimes Audit Update

March 9th, 2018

Celebrating International Women’s Day

On Monday March 5th the Seattle City Council and Mayor Durkan signed a proclamation declaring Thursday March 8th, 2018 as International Women’s Day.  The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Press for Progress.  This year the Seattle City Council and Mayor Durkan celebrated International Women’s Day with a proclamation touting the many achievements women have brought to this vibrant city; noting the impact of the #metoo movement, discrimination faced by women of all backgrounds, and that the gender wage gap has yet to be overcome.

Members of the Seattle Women’s Commission came to Monday’s Full Council meeting to accept the proclamation and spoke about issues facing women in Seattle.  In addition to presenting the proclamation on Monday I had the opportunity to be on a panel at the City’s Women in Power: Press for Progress event with my colleagues councilmember’s Gonzalez, Juarez and Mosqueda.

Report on SPU/SCL Call Center

I’ve heard from many of you about the Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light (SCL) call center wait times and service levels. I am tracking this issue closely, and my staff are working hard ensuring that individuals who contact my office get timely assistance. Ultimately we have to get to the root of the issues and solutions to those issues.

Early this year, because of the issues I’ve heard from so many of you, I included in my committee work plan review and monitoring the performance of the call center and coordinatization with SPU to resolve identified issues.  I only have SPU, not SCL, in my Committee, I’m taking this up in my workplan even though the call center handles both SPU & SCL problems and the data shows that most of the problems relate to SCL billing issues.   In late January I submitted several questions of SPU and in late February they provided answers to those questions, you can see the Q&A here.

The most common complaint that I hear is that the phone wait times are far too long, and often people give up waiting to be connected to a customer service representative. Below is a chart that shows the average call wait time, the number of customer service representatives available, and the current target wait time (the hope is to eventually reduce these targets too).

Many of you may be aware that the utilities switched to a new billing system at the end of 2016, called NCIS. Here is my last report about NCIS. While the new billing system, and accompanying learning curve, has contributed to some delays at the call center, there are other issue at play as well. Specifically, the report lists, among other things:

  • Peak workload volumes in seasonal moves for residential customers, college students, and escrow transactions.
  • Move transactions taking longer to process in the new billing system.
  • Accuracy of SCL bills due to multiple, consecutive estimated meter readings.
  • Delays in refunds, billing adjustments, and transfers.
  • New billing system transition issues related to time needed to process certain transactions. The contact center’s average handle time per call has increased 27% (3 minutes) from that related to the previous billing system.

To help illustrate the magnitude of the work that the contact center receives on a weekly basis I asked for the calls received as well as emails, below you can see the graphs that represent each.

While the workload is not an excuse for the long wait times, it does help provide perspective.

SPU has undertaken several steps to help correct the problem:

  • Created an offline team to handle all the non-phone related customer requests which includes emails, escrow requests, correspondence, solid waste online service requests, and staffing customer service desk on SMT 4th floor.
  • Changes were made to SPU’s website to improve the way customers send us emails to ensure that we receive all the necessary information to promptly respond to the customer’s issue.
  • As a temporary change, the contact center hired 8 temporary Customer ServiceRepresentatives to exclusively handle Solid Waste calls and emails.

I will continue working with SPU to find ways and implement strategies to reduce the wait times and increase the efficiency of the contact center. If you have an issue with your utility bill, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in my office.

Parking in the West Seattle Junction

SDOT has completed a parking and access study in the West Seattle Junction.

SDOT found that in commercial areas, existing time limits are effective in creating parking turnover and availability. As such, they are not proposing paid parking. SDOT also found that off-street parking approaches capacity between 6 and 8 on weekdays, and noted that residential streets immediately around the Junction meet the basic qualifications for a new Restricted Parking Zone.

Weekday on-street parking occupancy in commercial areas was within the 70-85% range, or roughly 1-2 spaces available per block face. 70-85% occupancy is the target SDOT has established for on-street parking; rates above that can lead to a recommendation for paid parking.

SDOT also examined off-street parking occupancy, which also peaked in the 6-8 p.m. range on weekdays, and peaks during mid-day hours on Saturday.

Given that on-street parking occupancy is higher from 6-8 p.m., SDOT will consider extending time limits on and around California Avenue SW from 6 to 8 p.m.

Other next steps for SDOT include discussing a potential RPZ with JuNO at their April meeting, and considering time limits on commercial streets close to the Junction, and reviewing and adding load zones and at least one designated disabled space.

SDOT’s draft timeline notes additional outreach in commercial areas in April and May, release of a proposal for public comment (tentatively listed for July), toward a final plan in Fall, and implementation in winter of 2018-2019.

SDOT’s project website is updated and includes links to a presentation SDOT gave on February 28, and an access survey conducted for SDOT and transportation and parking patterns of people who visit the Junction.

Background on city parking policies is included here.

When SDOT announced the study, I requested that SDOT be sensitive to the unique nature of the Alaska Junction, and specifically include consideration of the extra capacity that the off-street parking contributes to the area in their study. They agreed, and included the presence of the free off-street parking in their study.


Hate Crimes Audit Update

In September the City Auditor published Phase 1 for their review of Review of Hate Crime Prevention, Response, and Reporting in Seattle.
One of the recommendations included in the report proposed “regional or statewide coordination of hate crime efforts to further the City’s impact of addressing these crimes,” and noted that SPD, SOCR, and SPU agree with all the recommendations.

It further noted “The City of Seattle could encourage a regional approach to responding to hate crimes by supporting a statewide agency or task force.”

The report noted the Community Relations Service from the NW Regional Office of the Department of Justice was willing to facilitate meetings to begin this conversation, and I indicated my office could represent the City as a co-convener.

Meetings of a planning group have begun. Next steps include creating stronger connections within Seattle with Seattle-area organizations and institutions to build a strong network that could then be expanded regionally.

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March 5 Deadline for ST3 Early Scoping Comments; Addressing Sexual Harassment; Property Taxes in Seattle; February Constituent Emails

March 2nd, 2018


Reminder: March 5 Deadline for ST3 Early Scoping Comments

Monday, March 5 is the deadline for submitting comments to Sound Transit as part of the ST3 scoping process for light rail from Downtown to West Seattle.

You can submit comments at Sound Transit’s online open house; here’s a link to the “Alternatives” page, where you can insert comments onto a map, and see other people’s comments.

Here’s background on how Sound Transit will develop a preferred alternative, and their schedule.

Moving Forward Our Work to Address Sexual Harassment

Earlier this year I shared the letter I wrote to Mayor Durkan thanking her for her leadership on sexual harassment issues and outlining a number of actions including asking for her to collaborate on an employee climate survey, requesting a human resource review and to work together to explore human resource innovation in sexual harassment trainings.

I also outlined my intention to move forward on a bill to extend the statute of limitations on sexual harassment claims brought to the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR). We had our first discussion of the bill in the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee on Tuesday February 27th.

Council Bill (CB) 119202 includes three proposed changes to the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC); (1) extending the statutes of limitation (SOL) for administrative charges enforced by the SOCR, (2) defining the term sexual harassment within the statute, and (3) specifying that the definition of discrimination includes sexual harassment.

 

  1. Extending the statute of limitations

Though this is not currently defined in the law, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that is based on sex. SOCR enforces SMC provisions against discrimination based on sex in the areas of employment, public accommodations, housing and contracting.  The statues of limitations for filing a discrimination claim varies depending upon to which of these four areas the claim pertains.  Currently the statute of limitations for employment, public accommodations, and contracting is 180 days.  The statute of limitations for housing is currently one year.

This bill would extend the SOL for employment and contracting to one and a half years and would extend the SOL for public accommodations to one year.  The current SOL for housing would remain unchanged.

There are several different avenues available to people who want to move forward with filing a sexual harassment claim; they can pursue administrative and/or judicial recourse depending on the type of claim they want to move forward with.  Claims filed with the Office of Civil Rights are administrative claims.

In considering how long to extend these statute of limitations, my staff and I consulted with the Office of Civil Rights, Council Central Staff, community-based organization such as the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence, and we are currently in contact with the Silence Breakers.  Through this engagement, it became clear that it is important to allow people experiencing sexual harassment as much time as possible to file claims while not prohibiting their ability to peruse a private right of action.  As such we have extended the SOL in each of the four areas of discrimination to half that of the current private rights of action.

For visual breakdown of the SOL for various jurisdictions and the impact of this bill, please see the chart below.

  1. Defining Sexual Harassment

Many different types of actions are forms of sexual harassment.  Currently, the SMC does not define sexual harassment. My goal in including a definition of sexual harassment in the statute was intended to help provide support and clarity for people experiencing this form of discrimination.  We know that one of the reasons people don’t come forward is that they may not know that the experiences they are having ARE sexual harassment and even when people are aware that they are experiencing sexual harassment they often don’t know what avenues of recourse are available to them.

The Council Central Staff memo outlines several potential unintended consequences related to defining sexual harassment within the bill.  Neither federal, state nor city statutes have a definition of sexual harassment.  In lieu of a definition codified in law, state and federal agencies have administratively named the kind of actions that, when taken against another, constitute sexual harassment.  This has allowed the courts to develop a body of case law about sexual harassment.  There is concern that creating a static definition in the Seattle Municipal Code could set a standard that is unnecessarily narrow and not consistent with the current caselaw.

After hearing these concerns, I am considering an amendment to remove the definition of sexual harassment from this bill in favor of addressing this issue via the director’s rules.

  1. Adding sexual harassment to the definition of discrimination

As mentioned earlier, sexual harassment is currently enforced under the part of the Seattle Municipal Code addressing discrimination.  Nevertheless, that part of the law not only doesn’t define sexual harassment (see above), it doesn’t even include the words “sexual harassment.”

This item would simply include the term “sexual harassment” within the definition of discrimination in the employment, public accommodations, housing, and contracting section of the SMC.  My hope is that adding the term “sexual harassment” to the definition of discrimination will help to further clarify that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination.  This item does not create a new category of discrimination but rather helps to explain that sexual harassment is already a form of discrimination based on a protected class.

We are currently engaging in additional outreach to the Seattle Women’s Commission, the Seattle Human Rights Commission, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission, the Seattle Commission on People with Disabilities and the Seattle Silence Breakers.  Following this engagement, this bill will come to a future Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee meeting for a vote.

Where do your property taxes go? Why are they increasing in 2018?

Property taxes have been in the news recently, and for good reason. King County Assessor Wilson announced earlier this year that property taxes are increasing 16.9% on average in King County in 2018. The increase in Seattle will also be 16.9%, or $825 for the average home. How is this happening?

The short answer is that 81% of the increase, or $669 for the average Seattle homeowner, comes from increased state funding for education adopted in 2017 by the State Legislature. The funding was approved in response to the 2012 State Supreme Court McLeary decision, which held that the state did not adequately fund education. As a result, state property taxes for education increased by 62% from 2017 to 2018.

Below is a primer on property taxes, with charts showing what property taxes fund, details about the sources of the 2018 increase, and how Seattle property taxes compares to other local cities.

Property taxes are set by multiplying the assessed value by the property tax rate. The Seattle rate for 2018 is 9.56207 per $1,000 in assessed value.

Here’s where your property taxes go; only 25% go to the City of Seattle:

Property taxes form 24.5% of Seattle’s General Fund, as shown in the chart below from the City’s 2018 Adopted Budget:

Here’s where the 2018 increases come from:

Several of the increases are related to voter-approved measures.  4.7% of the King County 7.5% increase comes from the 2017 Veterans, Families and Seniors levy. The increase for the School District comes from the 3-year funding measure passed in 2016, which included $229 million in funding in 2017, and $250 million in 2018. The Emergency Medical Services levy was passed in 2013; the most recent Sound Transit measure was passed in 2016.

So how does Seattle compare to other cities in King County? Below is a chart showing the median property tax bill in King County. Seattle’s average rate of $5,709 is $1,359 lower than the average King County city property tax of $7,068:

Another way of looking at property taxes is the rate per $1,000 of assessed value. For each $1,000 of value, Seattle’s property tax rate is $9.56. Among King County’s 39 cities, only Bellevue, Mercer Island and 5 other small Eastside communities have a lower rate than Seattle:

The 2018 increase for an individual home depends on the increase in the assessed value as determined by the King County Assessor. The median assessed home value in Seattle increased 13% from $528,000 in 2017 to $597,000 in 2018. Depending how much a home increased in value, the increase may be lower or higher than 16.9%.

The King County Assessor has webpages about how they assess the value of residential propertiesexemptions for senior citizens and disabled persons, and legal limitations on property taxes.

The Municipal Research Service Center has a primer on how the Property Tax in Washington State work.

I co-sponsored legislation last year to tax high incomes in Seattle. One of the uses for potential revenues is “(1) lowering the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes.”

The City’s 2018 State Legislative Agenda states support for “comprehensive tax reform that leads to a more equitable and progressive tax structure and decreases reliance on flat tax sources like sale and property tax.” I worked with County Assessor Wilson to include a provision in Seattle’s 2018 State Legislative agenda in support of an exemption “to promote increased participation by seniors and disabled veterans through a simplified application process and eligibility criteria tied to varying property tax values across the state.”

Note: the 2018 Median Property Tax Bill chart omits the 5 highest and lowest figures, as high figures for the Eastside points communities skew the chart (Hunts Point is over $27,000); if you’re interested you can view a complete chart of King County cities that goes up to $30,000 here).

February constituent e-mails

Constituent correspondence is a really important task in my office.  My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve your community, whether that’s through getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering.  The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in February, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in February related to policy or legislation the Council is considering.

 

Category # of Emails Responded
Transportation Issues 38
Public Safety 7
Human Services & Homelessness 9
Information Technology 2
Public Utilities (electricity, water, sewer, recycling, garbage) 16
Labor & Economic Development 4
Parks & Recreation 5
Civil Rights 5
City Finances & Taxes 22
Planning & Development 27
Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation 5
Housing and Neighborhood Issues 3
Progressive Revenue Task Force 11
“Hostile Architecture” 52
Education (Sweetened Beverage Tax) 5
Building a Bridge for Housing for All Funding 234
Total 451

 

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Community Support for Family of South Park Shooting Victim; Comm Shop; Your Voice Your Choice Project Development Meetings in D1 Starting Feb. 26; Small Business Advisory Council; Destination Delridge

February 23rd, 2018


Community Support for Family of South Park Shooting Victim

Sadly, Dallas Esparza, the teenager who was shot in South Park on February 7, has passed away.

Please consider donating to the gofundme page set up for Community Support for his family.

The page notes, “This boy, who grew up in SP along with his brothers, is described by a teacher as ‘… a very special student who will be remembered as a kind, respectful young person.’ His mother is a single parent, and struggling to stay strong and present for her remaining children. If you can, please donate here to help defray hospital and funeral costs.”

You can donate here.

Council Votes Unanimously to Award $1 Million in bridge funding for Hygiene and Emergency Shelter Services

On Wednesday January 17, Mayor Durkan announced her intention to sell an underutilized City property known as the Communications Shop. Mayor Durkan’s proposal included utilizing a portion of the sales to support the urgent need for affordable housing and services for people experiencing homelessness.

This issue was first discussed in the Finance and Neighborhood Committee on Friday February 9th and again on Wednesday February 14th . There were three separate bills and two resolutions brought to committee for discussion and a potential vote. After three hours of discussion CB’s 119195 and 119196 were voted out of committee. CB 119195 relates to the sale of the property and was voted out of committee unanimously. CB 119196, related to the use of funds, was voted out of committee with three votes in favor and 4 abstentions. In response to a number of concerns including the allocation of funds related to homelessness, Councilmember Mosqueda and I worked together to draft a substitute to CB 119196.

The substitute bill allocates an additional $1 million in bridge funding for emergency shelter and drop-in hygiene services ensuring that these essential services will remain funded through 2018. The substitute bill also added a number of recitals outlining potential public health concerns related to the lack of hygiene facilitates, and addressing the need for bridge funding for service providers who either received decreased funding or whose funding was not renewed via the Homeless Investments Request For Proposal (RFP).

Pathways Home is the City of Seattle’s plan to address the City’s homeless crisis. Last year the Human Services Department announced that they would run a competitive process to re-issue all of their homeless dollars. In November of 2017 the Human Services Department announced the awards. Bridge funding was awarded to some of the previously funded organizations who were not awarded ongoing funding through this RFP. Bridge funding offered to service providers not selected in the Homeless Investments RFP process was originally limited to only less than six months for most recipients. This was an insufficient amount of time for some agencies to work with people receiving their services to find new services. I believe efforts to transition people to other services should occur and those new services should be demonstrated as more successful in getting people into permanent housing than the services being cut before bridge funding is terminated.

Among these underfunded services are emergency shelter and drop-in hygiene facilities. Hygiene services are essential part of our region’s public health response. It’s important that we learn from the hepatitis A outbreaks in cities such as Los Angles, San Diego and Santa Cruz. A public health crisis like this in Seattle is preventable. Hepatitis A is spread through close personal contact and is exacerbated by limited access to hygiene services.
While there is funding in Pathways Home for increased hygiene services, the majority of the increased services do not allow “drop-in” hygiene services. Unfortunately HSD announced cuts last year for “drop in” hygiene services. This bill restores critical low-barrier services in downtown and the University District.

In addition to adding $1 million in bridge funding and preserving all $5.3 million for the Mayor’s proposed uses that will come in a future recommendation of the Innovative Housing Strategies subcabinet, the subcabinet will now contain representation from the City Council.
This substitute bill co-sponsored by Councilmember Mosqueda and I was unanimously passed by Full Council on Tuesday February 20th.

Inaugural meeting of the Small Business Advisory Committee

This week was the first meeting of the City’s Small Business Advisory Council (SBAC). The SBAC was established in November of 2017 in order to provide an opportunity for Seattle small businesses to talk directly with City representatives about the issues most urgently impacting Seattle small businesses. In addition to representation from the Mayor’s office, Councilmember Mosqueda and I, the SBAC has representatives from nearly 30 small businesses from around the city. The inaugural meeting was an opportunity for the advisory council members to introduce themselves and share their ideas for how the City can support Seattle’s small business community. The SBAC currently plants to meet quarterly, holding additional, ad hoc meetings as necessary.

Your Voice Your Choice Project Development meetings in District 1 starting February 26

The Your Voice Your Choice Parks and Streets grant program will be holding five Project Development meetings in District 1 between February 26 and March 26.

The Project Development meetings will narrow the proposals in each of Seattle’s 7 Council Districts down to 10 options for public voting; proposals are currently being reviewed for feasibility and being within the budget limit of $90,000.

According to the Department of Neighborhoods, more than 1,000 ideas were submitted citywide by the public.

Here’s the meeting schedule for District 1:

February 26, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., South Seattle College, Chan Education Center, Rm 202 – 6000 16th Ave. SW
February 27, 6 – 8 p.m., South Park Community Center – 8319 8th Ave. S
March 12, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., Southwest Youth and Family Services – 4555 Delridge Way SW
March 14, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., West Seattle Branch Library – 2306 42nd Ave. SW
March 26, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Southwest Branch Library – 9010 35th Ave. SW

Anyone who lives, works or attends school in Seattle can participate.

You can view proposals on this map. Proposals are color-coded to correspond to one of the meetings, shown on the left-hand side of the map. The principal focus of each meeting will be on the projects listed in the same color. Project lists for each meeting will be uploaded at the Project Development page as they are available.

If you’re not able to attend the meeting focused on a project list, you can discuss it at another meeting.

The citywide schedule for all seven district is listed here. Information about eligible projects is here.


Destination Delridge

The Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association (DNDA) is a non-profit that brings together neighbors, organizations, and the business community with the local government to help build a more sustainable community. On March 2, they will be hosting their annual fundraiser:

“An exciting evening filled with fabulous food, drink, live entertainment, music, art and interactive games. Mingle and connect with 200+ attendees who share your passion for social justice and our community, as we gather to support DNDA’s Art, Nature, and Neighborhood programs.”

Join me at Destination Delridge!

When: Friday, March 2, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Metropolist in SoDo (2931 1st Ave. S)
Tickets: $100
Theme: “Oh The Places We’ll Grow”

In-District Office Hours

Today, February 23, I will be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave. S) from 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 p.m. The final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a full list of my tentatively scheduled office hours for the rest of 2018. These are subject to change.

Friday, March 30, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, April 27, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, May 25, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, June 15, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, July 27, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, August 17, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, September 21, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, October 26, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, December 14, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

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Fauntleroy Watershed Council Annual Report; New Parking Legislation Proposal; Bus Service to Admiral and Alki; In-District Office Hours

February 16th, 2018

Fauntleroy Watershed Council Annual Report

In my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts committee meeting on Tuesday we heard from the Fauntleroy Watershed Council who presented their annual report. The Fauntleroy Watershed Council is a venue for volunteers interested supporting and maintaining the Fauntleroy Creek, Park, and other natural areas within the Fauntleroy watershed. The Council was founded in 2001 and their mission is “to further restoration, stewardship, and responsible public enjoyment of the park and creek.” Among the highlights in this year’s report, the Fauntleroy Watershed Council:

  • hosted 764 students releasing salmon in Fauntleroy Park.
  • funded and installed emergency erosion control in the lower creek.
  • enhanced educational experiences for Salmon in the Schools students.
  • celebrated EarthCorps’ eradication of knotweed from the Kilbourne ravine.
  • supported planning for replacement of Fauntleroy Creek culverts.

At the committee table we discussed some work that Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is beginning to undertake regarding three culverts that are in need of repair and expansion to better facilitate the water flows and wildlife in the area.

Additionally, I learned that SPU has worked closely with the Fauntleroy Watershed Council in the past but, reportedly due to budget constraints, the partnership isn’t as strong as what it once was. I have already connected the Fauntleroy Watershed Council to SPU’s General Manager Mami Hara in order to discuss a renewed relationship to better facilitate the utility’s involvement in the Watershed Council’s work to restore and maintain Fauntleroy Park and Creek.

New Parking Legislation Proposal

In January I wrote about the pending new neighborhood parking legislation. I have been tracking this issue since 2015 when I shared my concerns with the Hearing Examiner regarding the implementation by Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI, previously DPD) of the definition in the Seattle Municipal Code of “Frequent Transit Service.” This definition is important because it determines the requirement for the provision of onsite parking in developments depending on whether they are or are not within Frequent Transit Service areas.

In previous committee discussions I have questioned whether or not relieving developers from the cost of creating parking ($35,000 per space, plus $300 a month in operational costs) will result in reduced costs for renters. I had asked how rental costs differ between developments with and without on-site parking.  Though this data is apparently not available in Seattle, we’ve got some regional data that suggests that housing without parking has lower rents. From the 2015 American Housing Survey, rent for tenants in the Seattle area who moved between 2010 and 2015 into multifamily rental buildings and compared rents for buildings with and without garages or carports. (Caution because sample size is small.)

Seattle Area Nationwide
Garage? Rent Count Rent Count
Yes $1,370 135 $1,299 1,877
No $1,069 441 $931 6,052

In the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee last week Council and Executive staff introduced and discussed an alternative frequent transit service definition in the neighborhood parking proposal. This alternative is distinct from the definition that was proposed in late 2017 when Mayor Burgess proposed the legislation. The new proposal begins on page four of this memo. I still have to analyze the impacts of the proposed changes, but my fundamental concern is still that I question whether the case has been made to demonstrate a correlation between transit ridership and a reduction in car ownership, and therefore not needing a place to park a vehicle.

The new proposal came with a new map that shows the potential expansion of frequent transit service as well as an overlay (as I previously asked for) of the potential Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) overlay which shows that if an urban village is expanded, where that expansion would occur and how they proposed parking legislation would interact with that expansion. This gives the committee a better understanding of how both of these pieces of legislation would affect our neighborhoods.

I also asked for a map of multifamily housing with vehicle ownership rates; however, I was only able to get data on renters. This map shows quartiles of renters by census tracts and the numbers are the percentages of households that do not have a vehicle. Finally, this map overlays the two previous maps to give a clearer picture of where new frequent transit service will be in comparison to renters as well as car owners. The significance of these maps is to show that the oft reported statistic, that is being used as the policy basis for this legislation is misleading.   The SDCI Director’s report says that ““For the one-quarter of Seattle census tracts with the highest proportion of renter households, 40% of all renter households have no vehicle.”

In other words, these maps show that, regardless of a low rate of car ownership in these particular choice census tracts there is still a high rate of car ownership in the areas where allow developers to build without providing parking. For instance, District 1 has an 82% car ownership rate which has stayed mostly flat since 2009.                      

This legislation will continue to be heard in the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee and there will be a public hearing held on Wednesday, February 21st at 9:30am located in the Council Chambers.

Bus Service to Admiral and Alki

As District 1 Councilmember, I regularly hear from residents of the Admiral and Alki neighborhoods about the lack of daytime and evening bus service to and from Downtown. Non-rush hour service on Bus Route 56, which connects Alki and Admiral to Downtown was eliminated in 2012.

As a result, Admiral is the only Urban Village in Seattle without off-peak transit service to Downtown. It is also the only Urban Village not served by the Frequent Transit Network included in the Seattle Transit Master Plan. Urban Villages were adopted by Seattle in the 1994 Comprehensive Plan to direct growth to areas with enhanced services, so the lack of service is noteworthy, and unique. The lack of off-peak service to Downtown for an urban village also does not seem consistent with our approach to managing growth.

I have written a letter to SDOT Director Goran Sparrman, requesting that SDOT assess the costs associated with improving off-peak transit service on Route 56, and inform me of the City’s funding capacity to meet this need with Seattle Transportation Benefit District funds passed by Seattle voters in Proposition 1 in late 2014, which directly funds bus service in Seattle. You can see the letter here. While King County Metro operates bus service, since 2015, with the passage by Seattle voters of Proposition 1, Seattle funds additional bus service.

Background information is included below about how the Admiral Urban Village fits into the city’s transportation and growth plans.

After the State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act in 1990, to stop regional sprawl and direct growth into designated areas. The City of Seattle adopted the Urban Village Strategy in its passage of the 1994 Comprehensive Plan. By 1999, the City had completed passage of neighborhood plans throughout Seattle, to implement the state Growth Management Act, and to direct growth into areas with enhanced services to match the growth.

Seattle has six Urban Centers, six Hub Urban Villages and eighteen Residential Urban Villages. Of those 30 areas targeted for growth in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, only Admiral lacks off-peak transit service to Downtown.

Figures from the Seattle Transit Master Plan illustrate the unique status of the Admiral Urban Village. Figure 3-1 shows the City Capacity Transit Vision for High Capacity Transit Corridors. Figure 1-2 shows how these current and planned corridors align with the Urban Centers, Hub Urban Villages, and Residential Urban Villages adopted in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan.

All of Seattle’s six Urban Centers and six Hub Urban Villages are included in a corridor—nearly all of which go to Downtown. In addition, 16 of Seattle’s 18 Residential Urban Villages are included in a corridor. The only ones that aren’t included in one of the transit corridors for RapidRide, Light Rail, Priority Bus Corridors, and the Streetcar are 1) Admiral and 2) South Park.

Figure 4-1 shows the status of the Frequent Transit Network as of March 2016; it notes a few areas on the map for “Priority Upgrade to Frequent”, including the Admiral Urban Village.

The Frequent Transit network included in the Transit Master Plan is designed to provide service every 15 minutes or better, 18-24 hours a day, seven days a week. This document shows bus routes that meet the frequent transit service level for land use purposes (SMC 23.84A.038), i.e. 15 minutes or less for at least 12 hours per day, 6 days a week, and transit headways of 30 minutes or less for at least 18 hours every day.

The current Frequent Transit Network using land use standards serves 29 of the 30 areas targeted for growth, but not Admiral.

Transportation Figure 5, from the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan, shows the Planned Frequent Transit Network, which includes SW Admiral Way through the Urban Village.

It appears that among Seattle’s 30 Urban Centers and Urban Villages, the Admiral Urban Village is one of only two not included the High Capacity Transit Network, and uniquely 1) is not served by the current Frequent Transit Network, and 2) has no off-peak bus service to Downtown. In addition, it saw a decrease in bus service to Downtown, with the 2012 elimination of off-peak service to Downtown on bus route 56. No buses leave for Downtown after 9 a.m., and return buses from Downtown operate only during evening rush hour.

Given the geographic distribution of jobs and work patterns, direct access to Downtown is important. Unless we are able to provide sufficient bus service to the Admiral Urban Village, it is less likely it will be able to accommodate its share of growth.

Metro Service prioritizes crowding, schedule reliability and service frequency. Proposition 1 noted that revenues would be used for these purposes, consistent with the Seattle Transit Master Plan and Metro’s Service Guidelines.

However, I believe we are missing an important element of equity in not considering how we can increase ridership in areas with low ridership and minimal options available to improve ridership. The lack of off-peak service to Downtown for an Urban Village also does not seem consistent with our approach to managing growth.

While King County Metro’s Service Guidelines target a minimum service level of at least every 60 minutes, even an exception for less frequent off-peak service would be an improvement.

In-District Office Hours

On February 23, I will be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave S) from 2:00p.m. – 7:00p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 pm, the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Date Location Address
Friday, January 26, 2018 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, February 23, 2018 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, March 30, 2018 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, April 27, 2018 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, May 25, 2018 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, June 15, 2018 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, July 27, 2018 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, August 17, 2018 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, September 21, 2018 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, October 26, 2018 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 14, 2018 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S

 

 

 

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South Park; Second West Seattle Tree Cutting Settlement; Amazon Meeting; How Will Sound Transit Develop a Preferred Alternative for West Seattle Light Rail?

February 9th, 2018


South Park

Like you, I was shocked, saddened, outraged, and worried for the safety of my neighbors when we learned about the shooting of one of our South Park children.

Wednesday evening, I was at the Denny/Sealth PTSA Safety meeting at Neighborhood House in High Point when the officers that were the presenting guests were called away to respond. Many of you were much closer to this event. Maybe you, like I, felt a sense of helplessness in the face of such a needless tragedy.

When a teenager or any child in our community is shot we all feel that pain in different ways. It is my greatest hope that the child involved can recover fully, and that family and community members are there to offer support every step of the way.

As a parent and grandparent this is the worst of our fears. But I need you to not feel helplessness. I need you to keep raising your voices to demand more from City Hall.

I know that South Park will not be defined by this incident, but instead by the strength and pride of this community who, every opportunity, rallies to the aid of others who are suffering.

While it’s too early to know specifically what could have been done to prevent this senseless shooting, what we do know is it is past time for City Hall to really rally its support for South Park. What I do is commit to you in my capacity as representative of our community to continue to keep the health, safety and welfare of my South Park constituents at the forefront. As a Councilmember, the formal scope of my powers doesn’t necessarily extend beyond legislation and budget decisions. But it does afford me a chance to secure resources and services for all of us, and to advocate for the community.

I’ve been able to advocate for the residents of South Park, only because of the efforts that many of you have made to engage with my office.  Over the last two years my staff and I have worked on South Park issues ranging from:

  • Securing a dedicated SPD bike beat
  • Securing a mobile precinct unit for South Park
  • Closing several residential and commercial nuisance property cases while continuing to work on others
  • Advocating for the clients of the South Park Information and Referral Center
  • Supporting efforts to do community-based planning for the South Park Neighborhood Center
  • Supporting superfund remediation efforts for the Duwamish
  • Pushing to break ground on the long-delayed SPU Pump Station project to improve the environment where you live
  • Working to improve the lighting on the streets, in alleys, and recreation areas
  • Helping the Duwamish Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, to support their capacity building to undertake anti-displacement work in the Duwamish Valley
  • Proposed and secured funding for the South Park Family Service Center
  • Helped ensure the future of Duwamish Waterway Park and the continued development into a park space
  • 36.5 hours of open office hours in South Park to hear from you
  • South Park Public Safety Task Force (see below)

Let’s continue our efforts to work with the precinct officers to maintain their presence, engaging the crime prevention coordinators to help SPD to be more proactive, fighting for greater support for youth engagement and violence prevention services, mental health funding, and other services that help the people that need it most, and implementing and funding the recommendations from the community-driven South Park Public Safety Task Force. The Council, in the budget process, secured $600,000 for implementation. The Executive has committed to reprioritizing funds to help implement some others.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been in touch with the Mayor’s Office, Chief Carmen Best, and City departments. Below is an update on the City’s work to implement the recommendations of the South Park Public Safety Task Force. Please click here for an update on the City’s work to implement the recommendations of the South Park Public Safety Task Force. Thanks to the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) for their work in coordinating this update; DON is assigning a point person to make sure these items keep moving forward.

I’ll see you at the vigil tonight.


Second West Seattle Tree Cutting Settlement

On Monday, the City Attorney announced a settlement of $360,000 for a second tree cutting lawsuit stemming from the illegal cutting of 153 trees on public property in the East Admiral area in early 2016.  The first lawsuit was settled in 2017 for $440,000. Remediation work is underway, including saplings that were planted within the last week.

Saplings now adorn a hillside where the trees once stood, though it will be decades before our West Seattle greenbelt is truly restored.  Thank you to City Attorney Holmes and his team for securing this $360,000 settlement, in addition to the $440,000 settlement from last spring; I expect these clear consequences will make someone think twice before considering arboricide in the future.  I’m glad the funds will be going to restore this greenbelt, and other greenbelts in Seattle.

Here’s a link to the City Attorney’s announcement. Parks and Recreation Interim Superintendent Williams notes that over 620 trees have been planted, and over 5,500 native plants overall.

Trees in our greenbelts are precious natural resources that maintain soil stability, thus lessening the risk of landslides, and maintain air quality by absorbing carbon.

Earlier, the King County Prosecutor opted not to file felony criminal changes; the City Attorney has jurisdiction over lesser charges, i.e. misdemeanors.


Today’s Amazon Meeting

Later today some of my colleagues and I are attending what has been referred to as the “Amazon Reset Meeting,” along with a number of other policy makers and opinion leaders in Seattle. I think of it as an opportunity for King County Councilmembers, State Legislators, Governor’s staff, School Board members, Seattle College Presidents, and other attendees to set the terms for what we as a City believe is important for a good corporate partner that is employing a larger and larger portion of our workforce.

I’ve not been shy about calling for Amazon to pay more attention to its labor practices. I sent this letter last year and worked to get the famous “reset letter” to also include these same critical issues.

These are the topics on Amazon’s agenda today:

  • Providing Affordability and Opportunity in Seattle
  • Transportation and Mobility
  • Seattle Business Environment
  • Education and the Future of Work

It’s important for Amazon to understand the elected leaders in this region highly value workers’ rights, and that in seeking a better relationship with Amazon will not look the other way when workers are misclassified as contract employees and labor rights are denied.   I also want to ensure that union represented workers in markets that Amazon has and is acquiring are secure in their employment futures.

With that in mind I will continue to advocate for many of the issues important to Amazon workers:  not receiving minimum wage, overtime, rest breaks, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and other benefits.  Resolving these problems for the workers who keep Amazon running – and others struggling to make it in our City — is critical for the high cost of living in Seattle.

Finally, I want to ensure the understanding that preemption bills in the State Legislature that would limit Seattle’s ability to enact strong labor laws are not acceptable to many City of Seattle lawmakers.


How Will Sound Transit Develop a Preferred Alternative for West Seattle Light Rail?

Next Tuesday, February 13th Sound Transit will host the first open house for light rail to West Seattle. This is part of the “early scoping” period from February 2 to March 5, which starts the formal process to develop the route light rail will travel from Downtown to West Seattle.

It’s vital to get involved and put forward proposals for the light rail route as early as possible. Suggestions from the public will inform what gets considered through the three-tiered formal decision making process for developing the preferred alternative for the light rail route for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions.

The first layer is the Stakeholder Advisory Group, which began meeting on February 8; the full membership roster was announced earlier this week. They will make recommendations for alternatives to study, and for a preferred alternative. They are advisory to the Elected Leadership Group.

The Elected Leadership Group will recommend a preferred alternative for consideration by the Sound Transit Board of Directors based on input of the Stakeholder Advisory Group, the public, and the voter-approved project scope, schedule and budget. The first meeting was in January.

Members of the Stakeholder Advisory Group come from neighborhoods along the entire line, from West Seattle, SODO, Downtown, South Lake Union, Uptown (Lower Queen Anne), Interbay, and Ballard. Members of the Elected Leadership Group represent all those areas as well (I serve on it as the Councilmember representing West Seattle); Snohomish County Executive Somers, Chair of the Sound Transit Board, is also a member.

The Sound Transit Board will make the final decision to adopt a preferred alternative. This board consists of elected officials from throughout the Sound Transit district in Snohomish, King and Pierce Counties.

Proposals from the public will inform the decisions made by each of the three layers of decision making. Here’s Sound Transit’s Community Engagement Guide, which includes additional information about how to get involved. More information is available at the Sound Transit document archive and the project website.

Here’s a link to a document that shows the decision making process and the schedule flow; I’ve asked Sound Transit to update the document to clarify that the Neighborhood Forums listed in the schedule are tied to the recommendations schedule of the three formal groups.

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