August 14 PSHS Committee Recap / Community Police Commission August 31 Event, Executive Director Appointment / Alki Beach Pride / Register for Fall 2023 Classes and Activities / Fire Safety Fair / Unreinforced Masonry Tour with Congresswoman Jayapal / WRIA 9 Visit to Chinook Winds Project


August 14 PSHS Committee Recap

On August 14 the Public Safety and Human Services (PSHS) Committee held a special meeting to 1. hear a panel discussion to discuss gaps in the diversion and treatment services landscape for people using fentanyl or other controlled substances as well as to 2. invite the Executive to present legislation proposed by the Mayor that will, if passed, incorporate into the Seattle Municipal Code a new State Law making possession and public use of illegal drugs a gross misdemeanor.

The panel consisted principally of service providers, such as LEAD and CoLEAD, REACH, the We Deliver Care Third Avenue Project, Mobile Integrated Health/Health One (Fire Department), VOCAL-WA, the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, and Department of Public Defense SEIU 925. Several presenters had lived experiences that they shared with Council.

Some of the key points made were the importance of stability for people trying to address addiction and related issues—things like sleep, food, and safety. This ties into the lack of availability of housing and barriers to access to housing and/or long-term care. We Deliver Care, for example, can regularly get people into detox, but often there is nowhere for persons coming out of detox to go afterward. This misses a key opportunity for stability; the need for a treatment center was highlighted.

One presenter spoke of being homeless, selling drugs to finance an addiction, stealing from Target, being accepted into LEAD, and achieving stability that led to a new life. Panelists spoke of the history of disparate impact of drug law enforcement on BIPOC, especially Black, communities, and the need to not replicate that cycle of harm.

Another presenter shared a story of a client who the court determined needed substance use treatment.  This person had very high medical needs, their health was so compromised that there was no treatment facility in the entire state that would admit this individual. “This client who had very high medical needs and needed substance use treatment, had no options to get care.  What happened, after this client sat in jail for four months, the City prosecutors dismissed his case…and he was released to the streets with no care.”

Representatives for SFD’s Health One spoke to the difficult cycle of withdrawal from fentanyl, and the importance of stability.  As a result of the Mayor’s April Executive Order, Health One has established a new specialized unit to respond to overdose calls.  Between January and July 31, 2023, first responders and bystanders have, on average, responded to eleven overdoses a day in a public place.  Currently, after a successful overdose of a person living unsheltered, Health One saves a life and then has no other option but to leave the person whose life they’ve just saved where they found them.  The panel spoke to the need for a post-overdose diversion facility where EMS can bring people after non-fatal overdoses to recover, get stabilized on medications, and access resources.

Here is some background on issues of behavioral health:

In 2021, Council passed a resolution I sponsored that called for King County and the State of Washington, and our federal government to increase services to address behavioral health conditions, which includes substance use disorders.

I’m not sure if it’s always clear to the interested public that behavioral health is primarily a responsibility of the county and state – not the City.  We do not have dedicated funding sources for this purpose, unlike the other levels of government

I applaud the County’s leadership, following that resolution, in proposing and passing the Crisis Care Centers levy, which will create a countywide network of five crisis care centers, restore and expand residential treatment beds, and grow the community behavioral health workforce.  Thank you also to the voters for their strong approval.

These are significant and desperately needed improvements – and yet they still will not fully build out the array of substance use treatments we need.

While this is not the City’s prime responsibility, the City cannot walk away from the desperate need of our residents.  As we’ve seen here, there are evidence-based treatment and intervention options that save lives and improve the health and well-being of people who use drugs.  We need partnership and increased funding from all levels of government who bear responsibility for addressing this crisis.  And we must do our part as well.

After the panel presentation, the Mayor’s Office presented the proposed bill. The bill designates diversion and treatment as the approach preferred over arrest and describes a new “threat of harm” standard that is intended to guide officer discretion in enforcement decisions.

The Mayor’s Office described the framework of the bill, when to arrest, and when to divert, based on the threat of harm assessment.  Organizations that participated in the panel will likely play an important role in diversion efforts. The Mayor’s office noted the approach is informed by a desire to balance public safety objectives with the Mayor’s experience with the war on drugs.  Further, a law-enforcement only approach wouldn’t work with the limited number of officers and limitations on jail capacity (the jail has a staffing crisis as well).

I appreciate that the Executive has taken a nuanced approach in this proposal to implementation of the authority granted by the state legislature, consistent with authority over public safety in the City Charter.  In particular, I appreciate the delineation of how the authority will be used in practice when deciding whether to pursue diversion or arrest and providing clear, practical direction to officers on how to use this authority.

Legislative findings in the bill note:

  • Diversion is preferred as an approach over arrest
  • King County has a designated Behavioral Health services division for mental and behavioral health and substance use disorder care and treatment
  • Prior federal, state, and local drug enforcement and policies, including the “war on drugs” disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and cause trauma and pain that lingers still today in these communities, and
  • “The City of Seattle is committed to not repeating the errors of the past and will work to have the implementation of this ordinance balance public safety with the well-being of individuals using controlled substances”

Clearly stating that commitment to a balanced approach is vitally important. I also appreciate the Mayor’s proposed bill included some of the input I provided as a workgroup member.

With the City Council’s next day vote on the Introduction and Referral calendar (IRC), the bill was formally introduced at the City Council meeting. The IRC is developed by the Council President and voting on it is a necessary step before a vote can take place on a bill. This will allow for a vote at the next PSHS committee meeting in September.

The Public Safety and Human Services Committee is scheduled to consider amendments and vote on the legislation on September 12th.

You can view the video of the meeting on the Seattle Channel website.

Community Police Commission August 31 Event, Executive Director Appointment

The Community Police Commission (CPC) will hold a New Beginnings Community Meeting and Annual Report Presentation on August 31 from 6-8 p.m. at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute at 104 17th Avenue South, at 17th and East Yesler Way.

The CPC is hosting this event in recognition of 10 years of the Seattle Police Accountability System and the memory of John T. Williams, whose death brought community groups in 2010 to call for the federal investigation that resulted in the current Consent Decree.

This meeting fulfills a requirement of Ordinance 125315 to “Convene an annual meeting to receive public comments and present to the community highlights of CPC’s annual report.” The CPC will be presenting the 2021 and 2022 Annual Reports, re-engaging with the community to introduce the work of the CPC in the police accountability system, strengthening partnerships, and learning about community needs and concerns in 2023.

A variety of food from local restaurants will be provided, as well as music and cultural programming.

On August 16, the CPC members voted to appoint Interim Executive Director Cali Ellis to the position of permanent Executive Director.

Under the 2017 accountability ordinance, the initial appointment for a permanent Executive Director is subject to confirmation by the Council. Any subsequent re-appointment is not. The term is for six years.

The appointment requires Council approval and is scheduled to be heard at the Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting on September 12th.

Alki Beach Pride This Sunday

Celebrate the love in our community at Alki Beach Pride this Sunday!  All are welcome at this family-friendly event to enjoy live music, waterfront dining, inspiring performances and the breathtaking views of the Puget Sound. It’s Pride’s most soulful (and sandy) celebration of the summer.

Founded by two black women, this is an LGBTQ+ event that promotes awareness and inclusion for all ages and families to enjoy festivities along the beautiful shores of Alki Beach. Uniquely the first Pride located “At the Beach” in Washington State aims to annually celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in a safe, strong, respectful, collaborative, diverse, and inclusive way with visibility for those who feel don’t feel seen, heard, or accepted.

Register for Fall 2023 Classes and Activities

Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Fall 2023 program brochures are here! You’ll find all the in-person, drop in, and virtual programs that are coming up soon in the catalogs below.

Scholarships (financial aid) are available!  Financial aid materials available in 繁體中文 (Traditional Chinese), Soomaali (Somali), Español (Spanish), Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese), አማርኛ (Amharic), Afaan Oromoo (Oromo), Tagalog, ትግሪኛ (Tigrinya), and English.

Fire Safety Fair at Station 13

Seattle Fire Department’s Station 13 (3601 Beacon Ave S.) will be hosting the department’s next Fire Safety Fair on Saturday, September 9th, 12-2 PM. This free all-ages event is open to the public and provides families an opportunity to learn fire prevention and life-safety tips.

Visitors to the Beacon Hill fire station will get to meet local firefighters, explore a working fire engine and fire station, and watch CPR demonstrations. The event also includes hands-on activities and an arts and crafts table for more fun learning opportunities.

Unreinforced Masonry Tour with Congresswoman Jayapal

Last week, I joined SDCI’s Amanda Hertzfeld on a tour of the Cadillac Hotel and a discussion of Seattle’s URM issues and our ongoing efforts in that arena. The visit gave City leadership (including SDCI, OEM, CM Lewis, and myself) the opportunity to highlight the work Seattle has done to develop a URM retrofit program and the need for federal support to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Through the meeting, City staff shared information about outreach to business owners, historic preservation work, and the cost-effective minimum seismic safety thresholds identified and established by structural engineers. Because the estimated average cost of retrofitting a URM building is estimated to be $750,000 per building, SDCI has identified potential funding mechanisms, including FEMA grants.

The City of Seattle has requested $20 million from FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant processes. These discussions equipped Congresswoman Jayapal with the information she’ll need to best support our BRIC applications and secure future support for federal prioritization of earthquake retrofit grants.

The meeting finished with a tour of the Cadillac Hotel’s own retrofits to improve earthquake resilience.

WRIA 9 Visit to Chinook Winds Project

I represent Seattle on Watershed Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 9, and serve as a Co-Chair. Thursday of last week the members toured the Chinook Winds project, which has recently been completed.

King County’s Mitigation project website notes,

“The Chinook Wind Mitigation Project is located on 5.912 acres at river mile 6.7 on the north bank of the Duwamish River in the City of Tukwila. Construction began in 2021 and the completed project created more than 4 acres of new estuarine wetland, aquatic, and riparian habitat area. The project includes off-channel aquatic and intertidal mud flat habitat, as well as low and high marsh, and riparian habitat. Chinook Wind is downstream from the City of Tukwila’s Duwamish Gardens Shoreline Restoration project and together the sites provide critical, rare, off-channel and shallow-water edge habitat for Chinook and other salmon.

The Chinook Wind Mitigation Project will provide immensely important habitat in the Green Duwamish system: transition zone rearing and refuge habitat for endangered Chinook salmon, which in turn are a primary food source for endangered orca whales. The Chinook Wind Mitigation Project is important for species recovery and watershed function because there are no remaining naturally occurring estuarine wetlands of this size in the Duwamish River system, due to many decades of urbanization and intensive industrial uses in the Duwamish River valley.

The Chinook Wind Mitigation Project will compensate for unavoidable permitted impacts to wetlands and aquatic resources in Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 9.”

King County purchased the property in 2015 and removed buildings and impervious surfaces. Soil contamination and clean-up were completed in 2020; the final design was completed in 2021, and construction began in 2021.

97% of the estuarine wetland habitat in the Duwamish River has been lost in the last 150 years.

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