Sweetened Drink Tax; South Park Pride Picnic; Highland Park Find It Fix It Walk & Roundabout Design Funding

June 1st, 2017


Sweetened Drink Tax

Yesterday, in the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee the public finally saw the newly proposed bill for the sweetened drink tax.  This has been an issue that I’ve been tracking closely for the last couple of months as I’ve had several concerns about not only how to spend projected revenue, but about the tax itself.

I voted no on the final package yesterday.  The bill will be heard and voted on at Full Council this coming Monday, June 5th.  The tax, if passed and enacted, will support a lot of good programs like addressing the food gap with Fresh Bucks (Fresh Bucks provides a dollar-for-dollar match on EBT (SNAP/Basic Food/Food Stamps) purchases (up to $10 per day) at participating farmers markets to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables), and funding Pre-K and Seattle College’s 13th Year.  I support those programs so I’m writing to let you to know why I voted in opposition to the tax that is proposed to fund them.

This kind of tax will always be a regressive tax, meaning that the tax burden of this kind of tax will always be greatest on those with lower incomes.  Despite my concern about our reliance on regressive taxes, and the fact that the Council is currently discussing passage of an income tax so that we can get out from under our regressive tax structure, I was still willing to consider supporting this tax.  Unfortunately, the bill that came out of committee isn’t only regressive, I feel that it is punitive to low income people and small businesses.  See here for why I feel this tax goes beyond acting as a deterrent like the taxes we levy on cigarettes, alcohol, and cannabis, but is actually punitive to consumers:

Sweetened Beverage Tax Proposal - 1

In addition, the tax as proposed in committee, has a racially disparate impact on people of color.  The Mayor and Council’s Racial Equity Toolkit (RET) analysis of the tax proposed only on sugary drinks and not diet drinks concluded that, “In contrast to these trends for sugary drinks, Whites and high-income Americans are more likely to drink diet soda compared to communities of color and low-income Americans.”  Consequently, in response to the RET findings, the Mayor wisely amended his proposal to include artificial sweeteners, in their report they wrote that: “including drinks with artificial sweeteners and lowering the overall tax, the impact will be spread across a broader cross-section of Seattle residents and will have smaller impact on low-income communities as businesses will not have to raise prices to the same extent.”

Due to my concerns with the proposal that was distributed to Councilmembers at 5pm on the Tuesday before the Wednesday meeting, my staff and I worked through the night to bring three amendments to committee on Wednesday morning:

  1. A reduction in the tax rate from 1 ¾ penny per fluid ounce to a more fiscally responsible and measured penny per fluid ounce.
  2. Prioritization of funding to programs that close the food security gap, as well as access to healthy food programs such as Fresh Bucks – over that of programs to support early childhood learning.
  3. Expansion of the definition of “sweetened beverage” to include taxation on beverages sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners (“diet” beverages), excluding zero-calorie natural sweeteners (e.g. Stevia).

Unfortunately, the amendments to significantly reduce the tax rate and include diet beverages failed at committee, but my amendment to prioritize nutrition and access to healthy food programs passed unanimously.  Councilmembers have argued for a higher per ounce tax because they feel that a higher tax will result in more consumers reducing their use of these products.  Healthy Food America says that a 10% tax results in a 10% reduction in use.  If that is true, my proposal still would have resulted in a nearly 27% reduction in use.  I have concerns basing our policy decisions on this 10% reduction formula because it is not clear that the data considers that jurisdictions with this tax, some people cross the jurisdictional boundary (like across Roxbury to the Safeway) to buy their soda.

Since the committee vote, I have learned that the City Budget Office (CBO) projects that a 1 cent per ounce tax that includes diet would raise $15.5 million in annual revenue. Alternatively, the package that was passed out of committee yesterday is projected to raise only $14.8 million a year with a 1.75 cent per ounce tax that does not include diet.

Sweetened Beverage Tax page 2 - HerboldI hope my colleagues on the Council will see, now that these new revenue projections are out, that my proposal not only raises additional revenue – more than the revenue raised by the version that moved out of committee – for important programs that we all support, but also reduces the negative impacts of this regressive tax on low income people, jobs, and small business, and in doing so creates a more responsible package that balances several important competing policy considerations.

 


South Park Pride Picnic

The 7th Annual South Park LGBTQ Pride Picnic is coming up this weekend. There will again be free tamales for the first 200 people to arrive, prepared by Carniceria el Paisano in White Center!

There will be several local performers including Carlos Cascante and his band Tumbao, EmCee Isabella of Noche Latina, Aunt Betty Malone of Rainbow Bingo, and the Sisters of the Motherhouse of Washington.

When: Sunday, June 4, 2017.
Time: 1 – 4 p.m.
Where: Duwamish Waterway Park 7900 10th Avenue S

Check out the Facebook event and RSVP here.

 


Highland Park Find It Fix It Walk & Roundabout Design Funding

Last Thursday, May 25, I participated in the Find It, Fix It community walk in the Highland Park neighborhood in West Seattle. Here’s a map of the walking route, which was focused on SW Holden between 9th and 16th.

Find It Fix It walks provide an opportunity for community members to identify neighborhood needs and discuss challenges directly with City leaders.

The first stop was at Riverview Playfield. Paul West noted the Parks Department will be rebuilding the restroom this summer that was damaged in an arson, and also talked about the need to replace the telephone poles adjacent to the park, which prevent cars from driving on and damaging fields. He also talked about trails in the West Duwamish Greenbelt, and noted their Facebook page, with a website coming soon.

The second stop focused on speeding through residential streets between 9th Avenue SW and 16th Avenue SW. Alan Robertson noted that Highland Park Way is one of only three east/west access points to the peninsula (if you could the upper and lower West Seattle Bridge as one access point). As a result, lots of traffic comes through the neighborhood from and to other neighborhoods in West Seattle. Backups on SW Holden often result in motorists driving on side streets at high speeds.

SDOT’s Jim Curtin noted that the speed limit on non-arterial streets have been reduced from 25 to 20 mph, which allows SDOT to deploy traffic calming measures in a more streamlined fashion, and allows SPD to do more vigorous enforcement. He also noted that a 2016 Neighborhood Park and Street fund project for a traffic circle at 12th and Kenyon is moving forward, and currently in design. He further noted that in 2017, a raised crosswalk will be added at SW Myrtle Street, a curb bulb and flashing beacons @ Kenyon Street; SDOT is looking at flashing beacon @ SW Webster Street. He also noted a project under consideration in the Neighborhood Street Fund “Your Voice Your Choice” process is for crossing improvements at SW Henderson and 11st SW, near Highland Park Elementary. SDOT also noted the presence of the crosswalk with curb bulbs and flashing beacons at 11th and SW Holden was a community-generated project.

The walk then went to talk about the intersection at Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden. The community has long advocated for a solution for pedestrian and motorist safety at this intersection, which has seen numerous recent accidents; Michele Witzki noted the community has requested action at the intersection dating back to 1941. During last year’s Neighborhood Street Fund process the community proposed a traffic roundabout (as they had in 2013), and SDOT did a conceptual design. It was the highest-rated project of the Delridge District Council, but wasn’t selected in the final city approvals, in part due to the cost.

Highland park roundabout

I’ve worked with the Mayor on locating funding for initial design work, and announced that SDOT will be dedicating $200,000 of existing funds to advance design for a roundabout, to improve safety and alleviate congestion by improving traffic flow, which could also help lower the incidence of drivers using side streets. Thanks to Mayor Murray and SDOT for agreeing to do this work, which should make it easier to apply for grants. Earlier that day, SDOT met with representatives of the state Transportation Improvement Board on-site about applying for a construction grant, and they were bullish on the project according to SDOT.

The other item discussed at that location was about the February landslide, which closed Highland Park Way for a few days.

I did some research during the first quarter supplemental budget process, and found that in 2000, SDOT performed a risk assessment for slope hazards for landslides on arterial streets in Seattle. The assessment rated 24 locations as high priority; however, only 7 have had proactive mitigation work done, since a majority of the approximately $500,000 allocated annually since then has been used for reactive work in other locations.

I’ve been working with the City Budget Office to advance funding to accelerate this work. Here’s a link to a letter I distributed during the committee discussion.

For Highland Park Way, SDOT says they are periodically monitoring the site and has asked for a small amount of additional funding for this site ($60K, lumped in with the other landslide mitigation requests) in the 2018 budget to install a rock buttress and ecology block wall in the right-of-way.   I will try to get that funding this year instead in the second quarter supplemental budget legislation.

The next stop was at the staircase on the north side of the street at SW Holden and 14th Avenue SW, with a review of the condition of the staircase, and needed maintenance.  The final stop was at the surplus City Light property on the southwest corner of 16th Avenue SW and SW Holden Street. Business owner Jenni Watkins and resident Beth Adrisevic talked about the intersection, and the property. The lack of a left turn signal was noted, an issue which also affects traffic onto side streets.

In late 2015, the community requested that City Light not immediately sell the property, to allow the community time to pursue a rezone to allow for a mixed-use housing development with an opportunity for low-income housing and/or commercial uses, which the community lacks. Then Councilmember Tom Rasmussen removed this location from legislation placing the property for sale. Last year I asked OPCD Director Sam Aseffa to include this property in the MHA rezones, and he agreed. That process is ongoing.

Here’s a link to the Seattle Channel’s video of the walk.

 

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Regarding the Shooting on Alki; SOCR Commission Work Plan and Expansion; Police Accountability; Fair Chance Housing Taskforce; In-District Office Hours

May 26th, 2017


Regarding the Shooting on Alki

Councilmember Gonzalez held her Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New American’s committee this morning.  On the agenda was a presentation about the Seattle Police Department’s response to gun violence.  Although I am not a member of the committee, understanding how deeply our community was impacted by this tragic event, I attended in order to ask questions about the shooting last night in Alki as well as inquire about SPD’s response to what I feel has become chronic gun activity in Delridge and South Park.

If you would like to watch the committee meeting on line you may find it linked here. Here’s a link to the presentation materials.

You can see on slide 6 that, year to date, with 27 shots fired, the Southwest Precinct has the 2nd greatest number of shots fired in the City, a distant 2nd from the South precincts 72 shots fired. The vast majority of those shots fired in the Southwest Precinct are in the Delridge and South Park areas.  But because of a concern I share with the community about increases in violent activity on Alki in summer months, at today’s meeting I asked for increased police patrols as well as deployment of SPD’s mobile precinct.  After Wednesday’s meeting, in response to my request at the meeting, Assistant Chief Steve Wilskie in Patrol Operations contacted me to say that they will also be deploying the Mobile Precinct to Alki through the Memorial Day weekend. Their annual Alki bicycle patrol/foot patrol emphasis is also in place for the remainder of the summer. Finally, starting on May 25, 2017, the Southwest Community Police Team officers will be doing outreach to both businesses and neighborhood organizations along Alki.

My staff, earlier this year inquired with the Alki Community Council whether or not they had interest in co-sponsoring a forum to discuss public safety on Alki in the summer months.  My hope was to do an event in advance of summer.  Nevertheless, I would still be interested in doing such an event.  Let me know what you think.

SOCR Commission Work Plan and Expansion

On Tuesday, the Seattle Office of Civil Rights’ (SOCR) four commissions—the Seattle People with disABILITIES Commission, the Seattle Women’s Commission, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission, and the Seattle Human Rights Commission— attended my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee to discuss their 2017 work plans as well as legislation that would expand the commissions’ size. The commissions’ work plans outline the tasks and policy goals each commission intends to accomplish for the year. For 2017, each of the commissions highlighted advocating for affordable housing and equitable development. Other issues of general focus among the commissions include improving public health by advocating for safe consumption sites and supporting additional shelter for the city’s homeless population. Additional information regarding the commissions’ work plans and the presentation is here.

The four SOCR Commissions also presented to the CRUEDA committee legislation that would increase each commission’s membership from 16 to 21 members. This request came directly from the commissions, which believe additional commissioners would help them better effectuate their work as advisory bodies to the Mayor and City Council. Because the commissioners are unpaid volunteers, this proposal does not have any budget implications, and the commissions were clear that they are not asking for additional paid staff. By expanding the number of commission seats, this proposal will increase opportunities for civically engaged Seattle residents and workers to participate in making the city a more equitable place. The meeting materials are available here.

The proposed legislation will be discussed and a possible vote on Tuesday, June 13th at 9:30a.

Police Accountability

This week the Seattle City Council made important improvements to our police accountability system. I support strong police oversight, and co-sponsored the police oversight and accountability legislation. Under the leadership of Chair Lorena Gonzalez, the Council passed legislation, among other things, creating a new Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and making the Community Police Commission (CPC) a permanent body as well as amended the bill to commit to providing the resources sufficient to enable the OIG and CPC to perform all its responsibilities.

The function of the CPC is critical to the success of police accountability reform in Seattle. The 2012 Consent Decree process was begun in 2010 when community groups sent a complaint to the US Department of Justice about excessive use of force; it is important that the community retain an important seat at the table.

I have worked with the CPC over the last few months to propose amendments to the legislation to strengthen Council Bill 118969 as follows:

  • I proposed increasing the representation of the CPC to a minimum of 25% for the search committees for the new position of Inspector General, and the Director of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). As the current OPA Director, Pierce Murphy, has announced he will leave his position in July, hiring for the OPA position will begin soon, with strong CPC representation, including serving as a co-chair of the search committee.
  • I proposed increasing the size of the CPC to 21 members, in order to increase their ability to carry out their extensive police accountability work, which is now enshrined in city law.
  • I also proposed an amendment that would give the CPC authority to carry out annual performance evaluations of the newly-created Inspector General, and Director of the Office of Police Accountability. Though the amendment failed in a committee vote; alternate language was approved to allow for input into the Inspector General’s workplan. The ordinance allows CPC to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the new police accountability system in Seattle, and its implementation.
  • Finally, at Full Council I proposed an amendment to ensure that the CPC retains the authority that the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB), the OPA’s previous civilian review board, currently has to review closed case files. The OPARB emphasized the critical importance of this in a 2014 letter. Review of these files by OPARB led to the discovery, for example, that SPD was doing criminal background checks on people who made complaints (see 2003 annual report); this led to that being changed. The amendment passed 8-0.

I’d like to highlight an issue that we were unable to resolve in today’s vote but one that, moving forward, I intend to address.  The CPC has requested that oversight review bodies (the CPC, Inspector General, and OPA Director) be involved as technical advisors during the collective bargaining process as it relates to police accountability with police unions; I’ve been in touch with the CPC and labor about moving forward with a proposal in the future, and distributed potential language for legislation at today’s Council Briefing meeting this morning. I’ve also worked with them on a related proposal about informing the public about the city’s goals in bargaining.

The Council on Monday also approved legislation I introduced last August to establish an Observer Bill of Rights for people to observe and record police activity. The bill establishes that, by law, the public has the right to observe police activity, consistent with existing Seattle Police Department Policy. It states that officers may not use physical force to punish or retaliate against observers, and must seek to minimize harm to bystanders when using less lethal tools like pepper spray or tear gas. In addition, if a person brings a claim that the law was violated, the Office of Professional Accountability must be notified.

I’d like to thank police department and Seattle’s police officers for their work to implement elements of police reform. The Seattle Police Officers Guild has participated in and collaborated in the work of the Community Police Commission over the last several years, and helped inform their recommendations with practical experience. The Court-appointed federal monitor overseeing the police reform process in April ruled that the Seattle Police Department had reached initial compliance with the use of force reforms; while the monitor will continue review the department for at least two years to ensure compliance, this is an encouraging step, and stands in contrast to the Monitor’s earliest reports, which were critical of the amount of progress the department was making.

I look forward to the implementation of this police accountability reform ordinance; its long-term success will depend on all of us continuing to prioritize accountable, constitutional policing.

Fair Chance Housing Taskforce

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee hosted a conversation with members of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce about the stakeholder process led by the Seattle Office For Civil Rights to address housing barriers faced by people with arrest and conviction records.

Approximately, one in every three adults in the United States has an arrest or conviction record, and nearly half of all children in the U.S. have one parent with a criminal record. It is estimated that 30% (172,714) of Seattle residents over the age of 18 have an arrest or conviction record and 7% (43,428) of Seattle residents have a felony record.

Back in 2012, Councilmembers Licata and O’Brien asked that the Seattle Office of Housing begin an effort to address the barriers created when housing providers rely on criminal background screenings to select tenants.  The Fair Chance Housing Taskforce was formed in response to the 2015, the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) taskforce recommended to increase fair access to rental housing for people with criminal records through local legislation, education and technical assistance.

In February 2016, after announcement of the formation of the task force, I asked Councilmembers Gonzalez, Juarez, and O’Brien to join me in writing a letter to Mayor Murray about the scope of work for the Fair Chance Housing taskforce, available here.

I have made several efforts to ensure the Council is improving housing access for people involved with the criminal justice system. Most recently, on May 8, the Full Council adopted an amendment I championed to the 2016 Administrative and Finance Plan for the 2016 Housing Levy to ensure that housing providers who use criminal records for tenant screening purposes describe how the policy or practice of making decision based on criminal history “actually assists in protecting resident safety or property. A stereotype that a person with a conviction record poses a greater risk than any individual without such a record is insufficient. Housing owners will take steps to ensure the accuracy of criminal records and other records used in the screening process…Owners will provide notice of screening criteria as required by law.”

Further, in June 2016, the Council adopted Resolution 31699 uplifting HUD’s guidance regarding the use of criminal history in housing screening, see my previous blog post.

I would like to thank the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, Rental Housing Association of Washington, Bellwether Housing, Public Defender Association’s Racial Disparity Project, Pioneer Human Services, Fair and Accessible Renting for Everyone (FARE) Coalition, and Columbia Legal Services for the work they have done thus far to help the city address this housing barrier. The Executive is poised to transmit Fair Chance Housing legislation to Council in June 2017. To stay abreast of this issue please sign up for CRUEDA meeting agendas.

 


In-District Office Hours

I will be at the Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) today, Friday May 26th from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 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.

Date Location Address
Friday, June 23, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
Friday, July 21, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, August 18, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, September 22, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
Friday, October 27, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 15, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
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Highland Park Find It Fix It: May 25, Fauntleroy Schoolhouse is Celebrating 100 Years!, Make Art Not Landfill, Office Hours

May 19th, 2017


Highland Park Find It Fix It: May 25

Next week I’ll be participating in a “Find It, Fix It” Community Walk in Highland Park on Thursday, May 25th, along with the Mayor and City department staff.

It all starts at the Highland Park Improvement Club (1116 SW Holden) at 5:30 p.m. for refreshments and information about City services. The walk begins at 6:30 p.m., and goes until 8 p.m. Stops will include Riverview Playfield, the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street, and discussion will include issues related to speeding, pedestrian and motorist safety, the recent mudslide on Highland Park Way, and lack of food and gathering spaces; here’s a map of the walking route, also copied below. The tour was developed in collaboration with the Highland Park Community.

Here’s a link to flyers in English and Spanish; Spanish translation will be available during the walk.

Find It Fix It walks provide an opportunity for community members to identify neighborhood needs and discuss challenges directly with City leaders.


Fauntleroy Schoolhouse is Celebrating 100 Years!

Join your friends and neighbors to celebrate the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse’s 100th anniversary! Beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 21st at the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse (9131 California Ave SW) there will be music, games, and snacks. There will also be a keynote address from Schoolhouse alumni Jim Whittaker and Robert Skotheim.

The Schoolhouse has been a pillar to the community for 100 years, and I am honored to have brought forth this proclamation which was signed by the Council earlier this week. The proclamation recognizes the Schoolhouse whose mission is “to help children build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and provide educational access for all students,” and it proclaims May 21 as “Fauntleroy Schoolhouse’s 100th Anniversary Day.”

To RSVP for the celebration sign up on the website here or call (425) 445-4064.


Make Art Not Landfill

In San Francisco for the past 27 years, Recology CleanScapes has hosted “Artists in Residency” at their garbage transfer station. The program brings artists together with discarded materials at the transfer station. Since 1990 they have hosted over 120 artists, and 30 students have completed residencies.

The program is now being brought to their (and our) South Seattle recycling facility. This five-month program gives artists access to reuse materials to create art, and which is then publicly hosted for exhibition and reception during the artists’ residency. Artists are also given a stipend and access to an on-site studio.

The program in Seattle began in 2016, you can see photos of the residents’ work here.


In-District Office Hours

I will be at the Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) Friday May 26th from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 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.

Date Location Address
Friday, June 23, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
Friday, July 21, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, August 18, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, September 22, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
Friday, October 27, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 15, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Avenue S
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Observer Bill of Rights, Chinatown and International District Rezone, Commissioner Candidates Needed – Please Apply, Longfellow Natural Drainage Systems Project

May 12th, 2017


Observer Bill of Rights

The Observer Bill of Rights, a bill that I authored and sponsored for introduction last year, passed 4-0 out of committee earlier this week, and is scheduled for a Full Council vote on Monday, May 22.

Observation of police activity has always been an important element of accountability.  For instance, Mother for Police Accountability here in Seattle, has for decades trained community observers to watch the actions of police in detaining suspects.  The majority of police interactions with the public are fair and professional, but the observation of police actions is one way to reduce the chances that people are treated unfairly in their interactions with police. And when people are not treated fairly, or force is used inappropriately, observation ensures that there is a witness.  Today, actual recording of observed police activity is an element of accountability that is growing in its importance.

The bill would establish that by law the public has the right to observe police activity, consistent with existing Seattle Police Department Policy. It states that officers may not use physical force to punish or retaliate against observers, and must seek to minimize harm to bystanders when using less lethal tools like pepper spray or tear gas. In addition, if a person brings a claim that the law was violated, the Office of Professional Accountability must be notified.

An earlier version of the bill was first heard in August.  More information is included in the staff memo.

Across the country, recordings of police activity by the public have increased the public’s ability to hold police accountable. However, sometimes this has led to arrests, which in turn has generated First Amendment legal challenges to those arrests.  Here in Seattle, the OPA Auditor in 2008, reviewed police incidents where people were arrested and charged with “obstruction only,” without any other charge resulting. One third of the cases involved arrests of bystanders and over half of those were African-American.

At a time when we have an increasing reliance on cameras that police officers wear or have in their cars, we need to remind the public that the police activity that they observe is still important.  A Washington Post article from March noted that in a shooting in Albuquerque of 7 body cameras, the camera of the police officer who fired the shot wasn’t recording, three missed the crucial moment, and three were either blurred or contained no record.

 


Chinatown and International District Rezone

Last week, the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee held the second discussion on the proposed upzone for the Chinatown and International District (CID) Urban Village, necessary to implement the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program in that neighborhood.  To catch up on the conversation, review PLUZ meetings on 4/18/17 and 5/2/17.

Under MHA, developers would be required to contribute to affordable housing as part of most commercial or residential development. At the same time, areas subject to MHA would receive additional development capacity in the form of an increase in the amount of height or floor area. In SLU/Downtown and the University District, many of the zoning increases were very dramatic, giving developers a very large increase in development capacity.  In the Chinatown and International District the proposed zoning changes are very modest, ranging from 10-30 feet in additional height.

The affordable housing requirements will vary from a requirement of 5-7% of all units earmarked as affordable.  For your review, here is the Chinatown International District Rezone Map.

The PLUZ committee is considering the amendments to the CID proposed legislation that seek to preserve the affordability of the small business district.  There will be a public hearing on June 1.

 


Commissioner Candidates Needed – Please Apply

The Seattle Women’s Commission (SWC) advises the Mayor, City Council and city departments on issues that impact women in Seattle. The Commission identifies areas of concern and recommends policy and legislation, provides feedback and opinion on issues of city and state budget. To learn more, please visit https://www.seattle.gov/womenscommission and you can also attend their next meeting Monday, May 15, 2017, 5:30p, at City Hall in the Boards and Commissioners Room.

Seattle Human Rights Commission (SHRC) was established in 1963 to advocate for justice and equal opportunity, to advise the City of Seattle on human rights issues and to collaborate with public and private sectors in order to educate them on methods to prevent and eliminate discrimination city-wide. To learn more, please visit https://www.seattle.gov/humanrights and you can also attend their next meeting on Thursday, June 1, 2017, 6p, at City Hall in the Boards and Commissioners Room.

Commissioner seats are volunteer position that meets monthly and requires regular meeting attendance and has a two-year term of office. If you are interested in applying for the commission, please send your resume and cover letter to lisa.herbold@seattle.gov and cc: Commissioner Liaisons Erika.pablo@seattle.gov and Marta.Idowu@seattle.gov

 


Longfellow Natural Drainage Systems Project

If you live near the Longfellow Creek, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) wants to hear from you. When it rains, it has a big impact on our water quality; our yards include pollutants such as pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides, and our streets have oil and heavy metals from vehicles. When it rains, these pollutants run off into the local waterways. You can see SPU’s long-term plan to protect the waterways here.

With this project, SPU is hoping to improve water quality in Longfellow Creek, as well as manage stormwater drainage, slow traffic, and beautify streets. SPU is asking for the community to take a survey before May 26th for your input to be considered. Click here to take the survey.

Check out this map of some of the potentially feasible areas:

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UDP Medicare Rule, Trump-Proof Seattle Thursday, May 4th, Duwamish River Opportunity Fund to provide funds for community projects, Sound Transit debuts ST3 timeline, Good news for NEA funding in federal budget

May 8th, 2017


UDP Medicare Rule

Last October a constituent brought to my attention that Medicare Part B premiums were included as a source of income towards qualification to the Utility Discount Program (UDP).  The UDP, if you’re not familiar with it is City program for lower-income customers and offers about 60% on your Seattle City Light bill and a 50% discount on your Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) bill for eligible customers.  The result of the practice of including Medicate Part B premiums as a source of income is that low-income people who should have access to the UDP are being deemed ineligible.

I worked for several months with the heads of both utilities urging them to remove Medicare Part B as an included source of income. I specifically wanted to remove Medicare Part B because it is not income that is ever realized by the customer. Medicare Part B premiums are actually deducted from federal checks (such as Social Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance) that customers receive.

The utilities have agreed to new proposed rules to remove that requirement, and specifically call out Medicare Part B premiums as allowable deductions from income. SPU estimates that this change will add an additional 1,015 households to the UDP.

On May 1st, the Directors’ Rules were made available for public comment, if you are interested in commenting you can find both rules here:

  • Seattle Public Utilities (CS-700): on page 5, under C. Allowable Deductions from income the last bullet point states: “Medicare premium expenses in the current standard Medicare part B premium amount (see Medicare.gov) may be deducted from Social Security, SSDI and SSI income.”
  • Seattle City Light (III-428): also on page 5, under section 5.6.3 the last bullet point states: “Medicare premium expenses (the current standard Medicare part B premium amount may be deducted from Social Security, SSDI and SSI income. See Medicare.gov for current premium amount.”

The rules are open for comment until May 15th, once the comment period ends, the utilities will evaluate the comments and implement the rules on June 1st.

 

Trump-Proof Seattle Thursday, May 4th

Just a reminder that the Trump Proof Seattle Coalition is sponsoring a Town Hall event in District 1 tonight.  Doors open at 5:30. There will be information tables and organizers present.  Program begins at 6pm, in Olympic Hall at South Seattle College. Campus map here: http://www.southseattle.edu/campus-information/campus-map.aspx  Childcare available, please see Trump-Proof Seattle for more.

 

Duwamish River Opportunity Fund to provide funds for community projects

Since 2014 the City, through Duwamish River Opportunity Fund (DROF), has allocated funds to quality-of-life enhancements for the Duwamish River area that can be implemented in partnership with King County, the Port of Seattle, and community stakeholders and is intended to enhance existing programs and support new programs focused on challenges faced by Duwamish River communities.

On May 2nd the DROF announced that they will provide $250,000 for community-initiated projects. The proposals should address topics such as job training, economic development, access to healthy food, affordable housing strategies, environmental development or restoration, or major community development activities that will have long-term, sustainable impacts.

Applicants are encouraged to attend a workshop before applying. These workshops will review the application process and discuss the requirements for a good proposal. The workshops will be held:

Furthermore, the fund has made two changes this year:

  • Awardees can request advance start-up funds up to 10% of approved budget or $5,000, whichever is lesser.
  • Projects can incur approved expenses starting from project start date rather than from the contract date.

To view the Request for Proposals and Application, visit seattle.gov/neighborhoods/programs-and-services/duwamish-river-opportunity-fund. For questions, call 206-256-5947 or email drof@seattle.gov. The deadline to apply is Monday, June 12 by 5 p.m.

Finally, the City is recruiting community members to serve as grant reviewers:

“Seattle Department of Neighborhoods is recruiting community members to serve as grant reviewers of DROF applications to select those projects that are impactful and improve the quality of life for communities living within the Duwamish River Valley. Grant reviewers should live, work, or receive services in the Duwamish River Valley area and have a clear understanding of community needs and resources. They will be compensated for their time. Visit our webpage to review the Frequently Asked Questions document and the DROF Grant Reviewer Application. The deadline to apply is Thursday, May 25 at 5:00 p.m.”

 

Sound Transit debuts ST3 timeline

Sound Transit has announced a Draft System Expansion Implementation Plan for ST3 projects, which includes a schedule for light rail to West Seattle.

For West Seattle to Downtown light rail, the schedule shows Project Development through mid-2022, Final Design through mid-2025, and construction from 2025 through 2030. It is scheduled to be the first Seattle project completed in ST3.

The document includes a summary of Sound Transit’s approach toward community engagement on alignment, station locations, permitting, identification of a preferred alternative, real estate purchases, and other items.

A PDF file of the complete Sound Transit schedule is available here.

 

Good news for NEA funding in federal budget

Congressional leaders recently announced they will vote on a bipartisan federal spending bill that maintains funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The President’s original budget announcement proposed eliminating federal support for the NEA.

The NEA supports numerous local arts groups, both large and small. One such group is the Creative Advantage arts education program in Seattle Public Schools, which has programs in District 1 schools such as Arbor Heights Elementary, Concord International Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Roxhill Elementary, Sanislo Elementary, West Seattle Elementary, Louise Boren STEM K-8, Denny International Middle School, and Chief Sealth International High School.

No cuts are included in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, also proposed for elimination in the President’s original proposal. The spending bill provides funding through the end of the fiscal year in September.

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Resolution on High-Earner Income Tax, SPU SBP Committee Update, West Seattle Bridge Studies, And speaking of Bridges, South Park’s Green Walls to Clean Air

April 28th, 2017


Resolution on High-Earner Income Tax

Seattle is a growing and prosperous city that should offer better schools and healthier communities, yet our City faces many urgent challenges, including a homelessness state of emergency, an affordable housing crisis, overcrowded classrooms, education equity and racial achievement gaps, inadequate provision of mental health services, and severe traffic congestion.

Because there are real risks that the Trump administration will cut funding for Seattle priorities like housing and human services, education and transit, the Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition of more than 40 different organizations has come together to fight back.  They have been meeting with Councilmembers in every district to propose an income tax on high earners.

Residents have contacted my office in recent months in shock over the increase in their property taxes.  It’s our tax structure that is responsible; Washington State’s is the most regressive in the nation, with people earning $20,000 a year devoting two entire months of pay to their yearly tax bill, while the 1% pay their annual tax bill in only 6 days. We need a fairer tax system.  Economist Dick Conway reports that across five different measures – fairness, transparency, adequacy, stability, and economic vitality – Washington State’s tax structure is the worst of all the states in the nation.

  • Fairness – we have the most regressive system, meaning the tax burden is greatest on those with lower incomes (see above)
  • Transparency – we don’t know how much we pay in taxes because so much is buried in the sales tax. Transparency is a prerequisite for rational tax policy.  Washington has the second least transpar­ent tax system in the nation.
  • Adequacy – our tax system doesn’t generate enough revenue to meet the public needs (e.g., education and transportation) of a growing economy – resulting in over-reliance on the property tax levies.
  • Stability – Washington has a highly unstable tax system due to its inadequate and volatile sales tax base, the ninth most unstable in the nation.
  • Economic Vitality – many economists believe that the best way to promote economic vitality is with high-quality education, good roads, and a safe and healthy environment. There is no evidence that having an income tax is an impediment to economic growth and there is a lot of evidence that the lack of an income tax has put our economy – not to mention our schools – in jeopardy.

On Monday, the Council will consider a resolution “expressing the City of Seattle’s intent to adopt a progressive income tax targeting high-income households.”

The resolution lays out a timeline and the elements of the legislation that need to be determined, including: what types of income can and will be taxed; the threshold above which income is taxed, and/or below which households are exempted from the tax; at what percentage(s) income is taxed; the use of the revenue so raised; and the administrative mechanisms to ensure the accurate and enforceable collection of income tax revenues.

The resolution notes that legal viability will be the primary consideration in making these decisions.

It further notes that “revenue from such a systemic change in taxation could be dedicated to lowering the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes; replacing federal funding potentially lost through Trump budget cuts; and providing public services, including housing, education, and transit; creating green jobs and meeting carbon reduction goals.”

The Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition proposal is a 1.5% tax on adjusted gross income in excess of $250,000 per year.  They estimate this could raise $125 million annually.  On Thursday, May 4th they are coming to District 1 at South Seattle Community College, Olympic Hall.  I’ll be there.  Doors open at 5:30. Program begins at 6pm and Childcare is available.  Campus map here: http://www.southseattle.edu/campus-information/campus-map.aspx

 


SPU Strategic Business Plan Committee Update

On Tuesday my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts (CRUEDA) committee received an update from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) about their steps towards updating their Strategic Business Plan (SBP), passed by the Council in 2014. The SBP is a six-year outlook and guiding document for the utility.  It is adjusted every three years to reflect the most accurate information about projects and costs and the utility rates needed to support those project costs. The process begins with a nine member, all volunteer Customer Review Panel (CRP). They are appointed to act as the voice of the utility rate paying customer during the planning and development stages of the SBP.

Among other things, the SBP projects the rate path for all lines of business in SPU. This includes: water, wastewater, drainage, and solid waste. In the previously adopted 2015-2020 SBP, the anticipated combined (water, wastewater, drainage, and solid waste) annual rate increase would average 4.6% over each of the 6 years.  We learned in the CRUEDA committee presentation that the combined annual growth rate increase that they are studying for the update to the SBP ranges instead from 5.4% – 5.6%.

This potential increase is due to several reasons: first, in 2015, shortly after the first SBP was passed, the Port of Seattle stopped being a customer of SPU and created their own utility and, consequently, stopped paying SPU $4 million annually for their services. Secondly, a federally mandated consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency required the acceleration of a combined sewer overflow pipeline in Ballard, called the Ship Canal Water Quality project.  It is estimated to cost $365 million. Finally, the Move Levy, passed by voters in 2015, creates an opportunity to access the Utility’s infrastructure while the roads are being repaved.  SPU refers to them as opportunity costs and estimates $116 million in transportation opportunity costs that the Utility is proposing that we spend now, to save more money later. The combination of those three issues means that SPU has taken the position that the previously projected 4.6% combined (water, wastewater, drainage, and solid waste) average per year rate increase is no longer feasible.

Last Fall, when the CRP was assembled and began their work, SPU started with a proposed combined (water, wastewater, drainage, and solid waste) rate increase of an average of 6.8% a year for the 2018 – 2023 SBP.  Since then they have worked to bring the possible rate increase estimates that they are studying down to between 5.4% and 5.6%. Please see the graph below for specific year over year percentages and monthly bill estimates for the options that the CRP is currently considering.

 

The CRP is continuing their work, meeting twice monthly with SPU to work on a final recommendation which they will send to the Council and Mayor at the end of May. They are continuing to identity additional efficiencies and prioritization of projects that will hopefully result in a maintained quality of service balanced with the need for more affordable rates than the increased currently being considered.  That recommendation will then be heard in my committee several times and the Council will continue to refine the SBP before final passage.

Finally, I would like to highlight the important analysis that was conducted by Council policy staff which can be found here. Table 2 in this memo highlights the peeks in rates for 2019 and 2020 when both the Ship Canal Water Quality project and the transportation opportunity costs would hit the rate payers. I would like to see the increases spread out more over the six years so that rate payers do not receive particularly large increases in any one year.

Expect updates from me on this issue in future, and please email me to let me know your thoughts.

 


West Seattle Bridge Studies

The Seattle City Council has commissioned six studies of the West Seattle Bridge corridor, called for in the West Seattle Bridge/Duwamish Waterway Corridor Whitepaper prepared for former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen in 2015, to improve safety, incident management, and traffic flow on the West Seattle Bridge and the lower bridge.

This study covers the area from the West Seattle Bridge and Spokane Street Viaduct to I-5 (including the lower roadways).  Four studies were funded in 2015, sponsored by Rasmussen.  I secured funding for the remaining two in 2016. The

These four studies have recommendations to:

1) manage the daily unpredictable disruptions on the lower roadway

2) reduce crashes on the upper bridge

3) reduce incident clearance times to restore normal traffic.

Recommendations include improvements for managing congestion on lower Spokane Street, such as real-time information on swing-bridge openings, a Terminal 5 gate queue management agreement, an active traffic management system, and constructing refuge pullouts. Cost estimates are listed at the end, on page 24.  I’ll be looking for ways to work with SDOT to implement these recommendations.

The report recommended against a median gate to allow emergency vehicles to make U turns, or for emergency/fire lane striping. The studies are linked here.

 


And speaking of Bridges

I’d like to thank SDOT for installing “Duwamish Waterway” signs on the upper and lower bridges, to mark the crossing to West Seattle. Last year I received a request from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society about noting this, especially given the importance of the Duwamish as the original residents. I asked SDOT about this, and they installed the signs earlier this month.


Image: Clay Eals

 


South Park’s Green Walls to Clean Air

Martha Baskin’s Immigrant Community Designs “Green Walls” to Clean the Air, The Only Walls They Favor aired on April 20th and explores the green walls being installed in South Park to help clean up air pollution. As a historically industrial and underserved neighborhood South Park has dealt with many different kinds of pollution for a long time. Asthma rates are more than double for young people and life expectancy is 13 years lower than wealthier parts of Seattle. The community has come together to work with the City, County, EPA, and other organizations to find solutions to these problems.  The green wall was supported by funds from the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund that provides support to programs focused on challenges faced by Duwamish River neighborhoods during the Superfund clean-up

Here’s an excerpt:

“Beneath hand-crafted green wall panels on the site of a public library, youth in Seattle’s South Park immigrant community plant honeysuckle, jasmine and clematis. Soon their leafy vines will climb metal cables welded onto the panels. When fully grown, the green walls will filter particulates and help clean the air in a neighborhood dominated by highways, air traffic and industry.”

The community is shifting their focus after planting 700 trees over the last year and a half. Green walls are the second phase of the plan to reduce air pollution for the area. Green walls are a new concept for many people, but as more people learn about them the more they get engaged. The Port of Seattle and the South Park Merchant Association are in talks about building more green walls in South Park and Georgetown.

You can read the previous green wall press release from the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition here and you can listen to Martha Baskin’s report here.

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Duwamish Greenbelt Tree Settlement; Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month + Denim Day; Spring Clean 2017; Office Hours May 5th

April 21st, 2017


Duwamish Greenbelt Tree Settlement

If you haven’t heard already, this week City Attorney Pete Holmes announced a settlement of the case against some of the parties involved in the illegal cutting of trees in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt on City property.  I wrote about this late last March and again in June.

As a reminder of the background on this incident, the unpermitted tree cutting occurred in an environmentally critical areas on a steep slope below the defendants’ homes. About 150 trees of varying sizes were cut. Two complaints were filed last fall, seeking relief on grounds including timber trespass, damage to land, trespass, negligence, environmentally critical areas violations, violations of the parks code and violations of the city’s tree and vegetation management in public places code.

According to the settlement, two couples will together pay the City $440,000 regarding one of the decimated areas. The City’s suit regarding the other area is ongoing, and unaffected by this settlement.

Parties in that separate suit were given criminal immunity in exchange for for their full cooperation, including sharing the identities of their neighbors who are alleged to have shared the costs associated with the tree cutting.

The Parks and Recreation Department will use the settlement funds to begin remediation of the property in the next month or two with the majority of the work on the site completed in 2017.

I’m glad that the actions by the defendants have resulted in consequences.  I’m hopeful this settlement—60% higher per tree than the 2003 case in Mount Baker—will deter future rogue clearcutting. In Seattle, those with financial means can’t count on small settlements to pave the way towards increased views and property values. 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. We must protect them.

On a per tree basis, this recovery is significantly higher than the amount recovered in the City v. Farris matter based on 2003 tree cutting. That case involved 120 trees and settled for $500,000, or $4,166 per tree. This case involved 66 trees, and the settlement amounts to $6,667 per tree.

The defendants made a statement as part of this week’s announcement.  You can read it here.

 


Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and Wednesday, April 26, 2017, Denim Day

Seattle's Denim Day

On Monday, the Full Council adopted the City’s annual Proclamation recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month and declaring Wednesday, April 26, 2017, Denim Day. I was honored to present the Proclamation to the Seattle Women’s Commission, recognizing their leadership on this issue.

Both efforts call attention to misconceptions and misinformation about rape and sexual assault, the harmful attitudes that allow these crimes to persist, and educate the community about ways to prevent sexual violence and support survivors.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month was first observed by the United States in April 2001 to draw attention to the fact that rape and sexual assault remain a serious issue in our society, and harmful attitudes about rape and sexual assault allow these crimes to persist.

International “Denim Day” has been observed since April 1999 as a symbol of protest triggered by an Italian Supreme Court ruling in which a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. Enraged by the verdict, women in the Italian Parliament protested the ruling by wearing jeans on the steps of the parliament. As news of the decision spread, so did the protest.

Organizations across the County that support survivors of sexual assault, like King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, are encouraging people to start personal conversations online and in-person to discuss boundary violations, gender stereotypes, or unhealthy relations ideals in movies, TV or music. They are also calling on supporters to believe and listen to survivors by amplifying the voices of sexual assault survivors on people’s lives.

One way we can start a conversation and show are solidarity with survivors is to wear your jeans on Seattle’s Denim Day. Will you join me?

 


Spring Clean 2017

Spring Clean 2017

As you might have already seen, Spring Clean 2017 is here. Running from April 1st through May 31st, Spring Clean is Seattle’s annual community clean-up event. Every year hundreds of residents cleaned-up litter and remove graffiti in their local neighborhoods. Seattle Public Utilities helps support these volunteers with FREE bags, gloves, safety vests, and waste disposal. All of the projects are conducted on public property.

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

 


In-District Office Hours May 5th

I will be at the Southwest Neighborhood Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) Friday May 5th from 12:00pm – 5:00pm. The final meeting of the day will begin at 4:30pm.

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, May 26, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, June 23, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, July 21, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, August 18, 2017 Senior Center of West Seattle 4217 SW Oregon St
Friday, September 22, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
Friday, October 27, 2017 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center 2801 SW Thistle St
Friday, December 15, 2017 South Park Community Center 8319 8TH Avenue S
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NCIS Update from the City Auditor; Pothole Palooza; SPD Use of Force Report; Campbell Building Designated Historic Landmark; The LGBTQ Commission Needs YOU!; Save the Date

April 14th, 2017


NCIS Update from the City Auditor

I wrote a blog post about the New Customer Information System (NCIS) a little over a year ago. NCIS is a joint Seattle City Light (SCL) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) project to replace the Consolidated Customer Service System (CCSS) – the old SCL and SPU billing system. The old system supported billing and customer processes for both utilities, but failed to meet current business practices and was no longer supported by the vendor.

The NCIS project, which launched last September, ran $34 million over budget and arrived nearly a year late. At the time I expressed concern that the Council did not receive timely and accurate information about the cost overrun and timeline changes. In response, the Council asked the City Auditor’s Office to review the implementation of NCIS and specifically:

  1. Why did the project take longer than expected and go over budget?
  2. Why wasn’t project status communicated to the City Council on a timely basis, and what communication process improvements could be made?
  3. How effectively did the project use the input of its Quality Assurance expert?
  4. What were the key decision points for this project, including the dates of the original proposal, and Council approvals?

This last Tuesday, we heard the findings of the Auditor’s report in my committee. You can see the meeting materials here and here, and watch the committee here. The Auditor also partnered with an information technology consulting firm, Gartner, Inc. to write a best practices report which provides an overview of the project life cycle, including initiation, planning, execution, and monitoring and control. You can view that report here.

The City Auditor made five recommendations and consulted with the City’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) on action plans who will:

  • Submit monthly IT status reports to Council staff.
  • Implement a project “stage gating” process that refines budget estimations over time, and requests budget approval in phases.
  • Assign a dedicated finance analyst to large IT projects.
  • Give additional consideration to improving the tracking of quality assurance risks.

The Auditor’s report is a step in the right direction, but I continue to have concerns about transparency as well as receiving timely and accurate information especially when it comes to multidepartmental projects such as NCIS.   There are further recommendations that I will share with the CTO as it relates to a. the content and dissemination of monthly reports on large projects, b. the facilitation of additional transparency of those reports, c. determination of which large projects get a dedicated financial analyst, and d. better assurances that we are taking step towards development of an Earned Value Management (EVM) approach to forecast project problems.  Seattle City Council Insight has a helpful recap of the issue here.

Finally, you might remember that I called for the creation of a special Council committee to oversee City-funded capital projects that exceed initial budgets. Additionally, last Fall Council passed a Resolution establishing a capital project oversight work program for the Budget Committee for 2017. The purpose and goal of this work program is to develop phased appropriation requirements, establish requirements for Council authorization of large capital project grant applications, and improve budgetary controls over capital project contingency usage. We expect a report to the Council this summer, and I will update you when I have more information.

 


Big News – Pothole Palooza

SDOT is kicking off pothole repair starting on Monday, April 17. They’re calling it “Pothole Palooza” and will be concentrating all their crews on pothole repairs.  They are planning to fill as many potholes in that week as we can find.  Let’s see how District 1 measures up; report neighborhood potholes so SDOT can map them out as their Pothole Rangers move throughout the city.

There are three ways to report potholes:

SDOT will collect requests all this week and then go out and fix potholes in each district.  I encourage everyone to submit requests.

Last week SDOT told me they would target 35th Avenue SW in response to a letter I sent to SDOT Director Kubly.

 


SPD Use of Force Report

The court-appointed Federal Monitor overseeing police accountability reform in Seattle released a Use of Force Report. The report states:

“Overall, use of force has gone down even as officer injuries have not gone up and crime, by most measures, has not increased. At the same time, the force that SPD officers do use is, by and large, reasonable, necessary, proportional, and consistent with the Department’s use of force policy… “credit for this major milestone goes first and foremost to the men and women of the Seattle Police Department.”

The Monitor further notes, “The significance and importance of this finding cannot be understated, as this report makes clear. It represents a singular and foundational milestone on SPD’s road to full and effective compliance—and represents Seattle crystallizing into a model of policing for the 21st century.”

You can read the full report here.

This shows that the police accountability process, initiated by Seattle community groups in 2010, and supported by the US Department of Justice in the 2012 Consent Decree, is working, and shows the value of federal involvement.

The Police Chief Catherine O’Toole noted that the rate of officer injury has not increased, crime is down 10% citywide, and “officers in the field are de-escalating volatile situations with regularity and skill, putting in practice the training that has established Seattle as a national leader in policing reform.”

My thanks to officers for their work to change the culture at SPD; the results speak for themselves.

 


Campbell Building Designated Historic Landmark

Last week the Landmarks Preservation Board designated the Campbell building as an historic landmark. It’s the home of Cupcake Royale, at 4554 California Avenue SW.

I sent a letter in support of designating the Campbell building, as a follow-up to an earlier letter in support of the nomination, the first step in the process.

I thank the Landmarks Preservation Board for their work, and designation of this building, as well as their earlier designation of the Crescent-Hamm building, home of Easy Street and other businesses.

 


The LGBTQ Commission Needs YOU!

The Seattle Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Commission has vacancies for which I would welcome interest of community members in filling. If you are interested in applying for the commission, please send your resume and cover letter to lisa.herbold@seattle.gov and cc: Commissioner Liaison Erika.pablo@seattle.gov. To learn more about the commission please visit www.seattle.gov/lgbtq and you can also attend their next meeting Thursday, April 20, 2017, at 6:30pm, at City Hall in the Boards and Commissioners Room.

 


Save the Date

The Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Lifelong Recreation Programs, in partnership with Generations Aging with Pride, will offer a series of LGBTQ Senior Resource Fairs in April and May. The resource fairs are designed to engage, support and empower LGBTQ seniors on their personal aging journey.

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Why Art Matters: April 12 @ Youngstown; City Homelessness Levy Not Moving Forward; South Park Business Roundtable; Terminal 5 Update; Letters re: 35th Avenue SW and Federal Funding Priorities

April 7th, 2017


Why Art Matters: April 12 @ Youngstown

On April 12, KUOW, the Office of Arts and Culture and I will be hosting a forum, Why Does Art Matter, at Youngstown Cultural Center, from 6-8 p.m.

The 2018 federal budget released by Donald Trump proposes elimination of federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

The Office of Arts and Culture (OAC) notes that local groups received $750,000 from the NEA for more than 23 organizations, and Seattle Public Schools received $100,000 for The Creative Advantage, a partnership of OAC and the Seattle Foundation.

The Office of Arts and Culture’s website has additional details:

A panel moderated by KUOW’s Marcie Sillman will discuss the role of public investments in the arts and the health of our community, and the current landscape of dedicated arts funding. Confirmed panelists include Vivian Phillips, Seattle Arts Commission; Simon Woods, Seattle Symphony; and James Miles, Executive Director of Arts Corps. Break-out sessions after the panel will focus on diving more deeply into specific issues and action steps.

Now more than ever, the arts play an important role in defining our identity and leading the way for racial equity. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are vital for our community’s well-being. The President’s proposed budget would eliminate federal funding for these agencies, and brings up questions about how to continue this important work, as well as the larger question of what the elimination of government-sponsored cultural agencies communicates to Americans and the rest of the world.

A statement I released notes the numerous local groups that receive funding.

A Full federal budget proposal expected in May.

April 12, 2017, 6-8 p.m. doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Youngstown Cultural Center
4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, WA 98106
RSVP here

 


City Homelessness Levy Not Moving Forward

On Monday, 4/3/17, the Mayor announced he was withdrawing his support for a citizens’ initiative asking Seattle voters to approve a new property tax levy to fund services for unsheltered individuals and families.

Without knowing more about the impact this would have on low and moderate income renters and homeowners, I had concerns about passage of a new property tax measure.   Prior to the passage of the Seattle 2016 Housing Levy and Sound Transit 3, we had some good information about how much people in Seattle paid in property taxes as compared to our neighbors in 19 other jurisdictions.  At the time, it turned out that, when adjusted for assessed value, our property taxes are lower than 17 other jurisdictions in our region, only Bellevue and Mercer Island had lower property taxes.  Without adjusting for assessed value we fell in about the middle of the pack.

Fast forward to 2017 and the arrival of our 2017 property tax bills.  According the King County Tax Assessor’s Office:

Initiatives approved by voters last year will increase King County property taxes in 2017, resulting in additional investments in schools, fire protection and transportation. Most property tax revenue, nearly 52%, will pay for schools…While individual property taxes vary depending upon location, property taxes went up 7.96% percent at the aggregate level. Countywide, property tax billings will be $4.8 billion in 2017, up from $4.5 billion from last year.  Property taxes are the primary funding source for schools, public safety, parks and libraries.”

I have asked the Tax Assessor’s office to provide me with a new, updated comparison of property tax paid in nearby jurisdictions – post passage of the Seattle 2016 Housing Levy and Sound Transit 3. This information should help policymakers and the public make decisions about future property tax measures. Here are 2016 charts that compare Seattle’s property tax rates and median property tax bills with other local cities.

Washington state is one of only seven states without a State income tax.   We have the nation’s most regressive state and local tax systems. Therefore, we unfortunately rely on property taxes and sales taxes to fund most local priorities.  The poorest 20% of earners pay 16.8% of their income in taxes, compared to 2.4% for the top 1% of earners. In other words, the poorest 20% must work two full months just to pay those taxes; yet the wealthiest 1% pay their years’ worth of taxes in only 6 weekdays. Any tax increase falls hardest on those who can least afford it.

In his announcement, the Mayor joined King County Executive Dow Constantine in support of a new regional 2018 effort that would increase the sales tax by 0.1 percent. This countywide sales tax increase would provide $68 million per year for services focused on getting shelter and permanent housing for people who are currently unsheltered.  Though our region is home to the two most wealthy people on the planet, I am hearing from many people who say that they are getting priced out of Seattle.   I support efforts to develop options to find new, less regressive revenue sources to fund essential city services, such as efforts that could prompt a legal challenge with the objective of overturning the statewide prohibition against state and municipal income taxes.

 


South Park Business Roundtable

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has started a new effort to focus on advocacy for small neighborhood businesses.  To do so they have begun to collaborate with smaller neighborhood chambers. As part of this effort, they have facilitated a series of business roundtable conversations with Councilmembers in their home districts. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending one co-convened by the West Seattle Chamber and South Park Business Association.  This was an opportunity for me to discuss current opportunities and challenges for small businesses as well as emerging issues at City Hall.  We discussed issues ranging from concerns about use of a Junction port-a-potty for activities other than intended, to the impacts of some of Seattle labor laws on franchise employers, to the new fee structure for the business license tax certificate fee that – for the first time – includes a new and higher tier for businesses with $5 million in revenue from a $110/year fee paid last year to $1,000/year beginning this year and $2,000 in 2019.  Creating such a tier for larger business was a priority of mine because it allowed the City to hold harmless the smallest 85% of Seattle business – those with $500,000 or less a year in revenue.

I look forward to continuing this dialogue with the Metropolitan Chamber, South Park, and West Seattle business owners to ensure neighborhood businesses have their voices heard at City Hall.

 


Terminal 5 Update

Terminal 5 (T5), behind the Chelan Café, has been empty since late 2014. The Port Commission authorized $4.7 million for modernization of the terminal. You may recall from one of my blog posts  last spring, that I wrote this letter expressing the importance of implementing a quiet zone, the use of shore power, and the addition of broadband back-up alarms.  The letter was my comment responding to the Port’s Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS).  I felt it was important to give voice to the impacts of the project on behalf of District 1 constituents who live in the area.   Subsequently, the Port released the Final EIS in October which you can read here.

Once that proposes was completed the Port applied for a Shoreline Substantial Development Application with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI). On Monday, SDCI issued an analysis of the application, which can be found here. On page 25 you can review the conditions that will be placed on the Master Use Permit; among them are the use of broadband back-up alarms, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Seattle Department of Transportation to establish a railroad quiet zone, and a MOU with Puget Sound Clear Air Agency to implement an Air Quality Management Program to be consistent with the objectives described in the SEPA analysis.

I will continue to follow and continue to advocate for the use shore power when a ship has the capabilities.

 


Letters re: 35th Avenue SW and Federal Funding Priorities

I recently sent two letters regarding transportation priorities.

First of all, I sent a letter to SDOT Director Scott Kubly regarding the condition of 35th Avenue SW, which is one of only a few north/south arterials in West Seattle, and a key link to the West Seattle Bridge. I’ve received numerous complaints about the condition of the pavement since taking office at the start of 2016, and experienced the poor condition of the road in my travels. Complaints have increased recently.

The letter, linked here, details some of what I’ve heard from West Seattle residents, and requests, “please consider this letter a request to examine and repair potholes on 35th Avenue SW from Roxbury to Alaska. I’d appreciate an answer to this request as soon as possible.” In the longer term, the letter requests SDOT:

  • To reconsider their 2016-2024 paving plan, which lists 35th from Roxbury to Morgan as a planned paving project for 2023;
  • To provide the current pavement condition rating of 35th, according to the standards of SDOT’s Pavement Management webpage;
  • Provide the estimated cost for the paving work on 35th, and
  • Whether they have an update to the 2013 Arterial Pavement Condition map included in the 2015 SDOT Asset Management Status and Condition Report (see Figure VII, page 68 of the report, page 74 of the pdf), which shows a significant portion of 35th as dark red, the worst rating.

I appreciated SDOT’s quick response saying that “…later this month our crews will be doing a concerted effort to address potholes caused by the wet and cold winter.  35th Ave SW is on their plan as a route to be targeted.”

SDOT also indicated they would be in touch later on my larger request re: modifying the pavement plan, and acknowledged that they have begun looking at the implications, as well as my request to re-evaluate the corridor.

 


Federal Funding Priorities

Earlier this week I sent a letter to 7th Congressional Representative Pramila Jayapal listing my priorities for federal infrastructure funding. Representative Jayapal reached out to elected officials in the district regarding their priorities; I appreciate her collaborative approach.

I noted the importance of Seattle receiving the $55 million federal Fast Lane grant for the Lander Street overpass project, which would take traffic over the railroad tracks. The railroad tracks result in 4.5 hours of road closures daily; this is important to maintaining access to Downtown from West Seattle and South Park.

I also note that with the passage of ST3, light rail is scheduled to arrive to West Seattle in 2030. The timetable could be delayed, or the project endangered, if funding to complete ST2 does not proceed as planned. The letter notes support for full federal funding for the Northgate to Lynnwood line, the Angle Lake-Federal Way line, and the Tacoma Link extension.

Finally, the letter notes that funding for the Center City Streetcar is not a priority of mine, given the uncertainty of access through Downtown Seattle during the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, construction of a new Alaskan Way, and potential construction of the Washington State Convention Center expansion, with the potential for severe disruption of access to Downtown from West Seattle and South Park.

The One Center City group comprised of SDOT, Metro, Sound Transit and others is looking for ways to maintain access to Downtown, and is expected to release a proposal later this month, or next month. The Viaduct is currently scheduled for removal in 2019, with a new Alaskan Way scheduled to open in 2020, which raises the question of how buses that use the Viaduct to access Downtown (e.g. the C Line) will access Downtown.

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Age Friendly Resolution, West Seattle Bridge Encampment Cleanup, SPU Contract Amendment, Fauntleroy Project Update

March 31st, 2017


Age Friendly Resolution

On Monday, the Full Council adopted the Age Friendly Resolution 31739, expressing Seattle’s commitment to being a more age-friendly city and committing to several areas of continuous improvement across every function of City government.

In August 2016, AARP designated Seattle as the 104th community in the U.S. to be a part of the AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities.   But the proposed 2017-2018 budget did not include any funding to implement the improvements that the AARP suggests for Age Friendly Communities.

Consequently, during the 2017-2018 budget deliberations, I proposed an Age Friendly Community Innovation fund that would have allocated $87,500 in 2017 and $175,000 in 2018. Under my proposal, each City Council district would have been eligible to receive grants up to $25,000. Instead of funding the proposal, the Council adopted a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) requesting that the Human Services Department (HSD) assess the needs of seniors to determine the need for and use of an age-friendly innovation fund

The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities targets improvements in eight domains that influence the health and quality of life for all as we age. “Livability Indicators” include:

Age Friendly Cities

On March 22, that the Mayor announced that he was going to allocate $200,000 from the first quarter supplemental budget to for 2017 to fund a series of age-friendly initiatives on environmental, economic, and social factors influencing the health and well-being of older adults. The funding will support organizations that are developing innovative new programs for seniors, nonprofits that provide transportation options for seniors and to fund a technology symposium to create user-friendly online resources for seniors.

Accompanying that funding commitment was a resolution.  The resolution was first discussed on March 22, during the Human Services and Public Health Committee meeting.  Councilmember Bagshaw, the sponsor of the resolution accepted my amendment that requests the Office of Economic Development (OED) to collaborate with the Mayor’s Office of Senior Citizens to identify opportunities to improve access to employment and training for Seniors, as expressed in Economic Development Policy 4.7 of the City’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan, which states that the City shall “[s]upport efforts to provide training and job placement for older workers and others who may have unique challenges finding employment.” I would like to thank OED Director Brian Surrat and Deputy Director Rebecca Lovell for working on this important amendment with my office.

According to a report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of individuals in the labor force who are 65 years or older is expected to grow by 75 percent while those who are 25 to 54 is expected to grow by only two percent, which will result in 19 percent of the workforce being comprised of 19.6 million American workers 65 years or older by 2050.

 


West Seattle Bridge Encampment Cleanup

In late February I asked Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) for an update on the unsanctioned encampment trash cleanup efforts, including the site under the West Seattle Bridge.  Again on March 13th, I reached out to SPU after a constituent sent me pictures of the location and I asked if they could send a crew to visit the site and to specifically facilitate garbage pickup in the area with special attention to the bike path.

SPU informed me that their policies did not allow them to clean up an active encampment location.  You may recall, that I have been active in supporting – and providing funding for – SPU’s efforts to address the proliferation of garbage around our city, including at unsanctioned homeless encampments.  Since the Council has provided significant funding for this work, I was dissatisfied with that response and I reached out to the Mayor’s Office and they agreed with my assessment.

Unfortunately, on March 23rd, there was an attempted assault on a bicyclist under the Bridge at Spokane St and East Marginal Way while commuting home. The West Seattle Blog broke the story, you can read about it here. As I mentioned above the Mayor’s Office had, the week prior, agreed to take action, but the day of the incident they and SPU staff visited the location to complete an assessment, after which they released this blog post.

Outreach to the individuals living outdoors at the location  began on Monday to offer services and alternative shelter and they continued those efforts through Wednesday.

Garbage removal began on Wednesday at Spokane St and East Marginal Way. Heavy machinery is being used to remove large amounts of accumulated trash, this effort will continue east to I-5. RV campers under the bridge have been asked to leave trash on the side of the road for SPU to pick up. They are not being asked to move at this time.

I also asked Seattle City Light (SCL) about the lighting under the bridge which has been out since the end of last year. The issue was complicated when the copper wiring associated with the lampposts was stolen. SCL believes they will be able to restore the lighting by Friday evening.

As a sensitive safety issue I will be tracking this and continuing to advocate for the safe cleanup of trash associated with all unsanctioned encampments around the City.

If you want to report illegal dumping, you can call SPU at 684-7587, or utilize the Find It Fix It App, both are effective in making sure that SPU receives information about locations that need cleaning-up. If needles are present, please indicate when reporting. SPU has a goal of picking up needles within 24 hours of reports.

 


SPU Contract Amendment 

On March 14th I heard Council Bill 118932 in my Committee, this bill would authorize Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) to amend the City’s solid waste disposal contract with Waste Management for waste disposal and transportation services. The amendment would reduce the City’s contracted rate per ton for solid waste disposal for the next several years in exchange for delaying a previously negotiated City option to terminate the contract with Waste Management.

Specifically, the amended contract would discount the current solid waste disposal rate by $2.00 per ton in 2017 and 2019, and $0.50 per ton in 2021. Based on the proposed discounts, SPU – and the rate payers – would benefit from about $8 million in cumulative savings from 2017 to 2023.

The amended contract delays, by five years, the City’s previously negotiated opportunity to end the Waste Management contract (from March 31, 2019 to March 31, 2024).

At the Committee meeting I voted in favor of this bill along with Councilmembers Sawant and O’Brien. By approving the proposed bill, SPU will enjoy $8 million in savings over a 7-year period; and SPU could use the savings to support cash financing of capital improvements, and to reduce the projected 3-year (2018 to 2020) average annual ratepayer increase from 4.4 percent to 4.1 percent—a 0.3 percentage point difference.  Since discounts extend to 2024, there is the opportunity for a favorable impact on future anticipated solid waste rate increases currently project by SPU ranging from 2.8 percent to 4.2 percent per year from 2021-2023; however, this is heavily dependent on SPU’s strategic plan update which has yet to be submitted to Council.

The alternative to passing this bill would be to seek a Request for Proposal (RFP), which would bring to bear the competitive process of the market; however, there are no guarantees of savings and we would run the risk of a higher solid waste disposal rate. SPU contends that there are many risks with going to bid at this point in time: 1) a short timeline to develop an RFP, which would make it harder for smaller firms to compete due to costs associated with contracts as large as Seattle’s. 2) A bid process could result in higher rates than the current tonnage rate (Snohomish County pays 25% higher than Seattle despite 33% more volume). 3) A potential loss of quality of service. 4) an immediate loss of $1.2 million in negotiated savings with Waste Management (this is the sum of savings from April 2017 to March 2019, the soonest any potential new solid waste disposal contract could go into effect).

In sum, SPU’s negotiated amendment is compelling because it guarantees lower solid waste rates at low risk while maintaining the quality of service Seattle residents expect. This bill will be heard at Full Council on Monday, April 3rd.

 


Fauntleroy Project Update

Last month, my staff and I attended a meeting of the newly formed Fauntleroy Way Neighborhood and Business Association to hear their concerns about the project.  SDOT hosted public “Walk and Talk” tours of the Fauntleroy Boulevard project area on March 16 and 18 and upon my request included staff from the Office of Economic Development so those staff could begin conversations both about possible design modifications that will minimize impacts to businesses, as well as to begin the conversation about ways to mitigate short-term impacts during construction of the project. I attended the walk-through on the 18th. My staff also attended an earlier meeting at the West Seattle Transportation Coalition.

The project is designed to have a more pedestrian, transit, and bicycle-friendly urban boulevard, in an area with increasing residential density and transit use as well as to provide a gateway entrance on Fauntleroy between Alaskan and 35th.  I have heard from many residents of the area that they do not feel safe walking down the hill to patronize the business district in their own neighborhood because of the lack of safe pedestrian connections.

SDOT’s website has an update with the project display boards from the public walk-throughs, which include details about the project.

You can provide feedback on the design, construction and landscaping options here, through March 31.

There are currently two options for construction planning, as shown below:

  1. 1-way routing, which would maintain 2-travel lanes SW-bound, with NW-bound traffic detoured to 35th and Alaska;
  2. 2-way routing: 1 traffic lane would be open in each direction

Options for Fauntleroy Ave SW

Previous engineering studies for the project were from 2014; a great deal of development in the area has occurred since that time.  When, during the course of project, a factor like increased density occurs, it is important to reconsider the assumptions about project impacts.  Last year I joined the neighborhood requests for updated studies on traffic impacts anticipated from the project.  SDOT agreed and, in its updated engineering study, is including future projected impacts (up to 20 years out).  Results are expected in April.

Funding comes from the Move Seattle levy approved by Seattle voters in November, 2015.  The origins of the project come from the community, in planning processes dating back to 1999, and the West Seattle Triangle Planning from 2012.  Conceptual design started in 2011, with community feedback in 2012, leading to 30% design in 2014. In addition to this long-standing support, I have heard, as mentioned above, some concerns about this project.  SDOT expects to complete 90% design in April, with 100% design this summer.

Concerns include loss of right-turn pockets onto Oregon and Avalon, and potential backups; diversion of traffic during construction, and potential backups; MHA/HALA planning, and ST3 planning; in addition, businesses have expressed concern about business access during construction.

SDOT is considering specific modifications to address business’ concerns, and design concerns.

I am hopeful that SDOT, the Office of Economic Development, and the Department of Neighborhoods will coordinate an approach that encourages cooperation with businesses to determine construction impacts, minimize them, and determine whether mitigation measures are necessary when the impacts can’t be minimized, so that we avoid a re-occurrence of what occurred last year on 23rd  Avenue in the Central District.

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