Black History Month Proclamation / More Tragic Gun Violence in Vulnerable Communities / Memphis Police Video / Mayor Harrell Nominates Deputy Chief Rebecca Gonzales for CSCC Director / West Seattle High School Parking Lot Gate Installation / City Hall Severe Weather Shelter Open / South Park Tide Update / 4th Quarter Reconnect West Seattle Report / Resuming Late Fees for Unpaid Tickets / Committee Recap


Black History Month Proclamation

This week the Council and Mayor jointly proclaimed February as “Black History Month.”

This proclamation was drafted by the Human Services Department in partnership with Mayor Harrell’s office and the Mayor’s Council on African American Elders (MCAAE).  I was given the opportunity to bring it forward for the City Council’s consideration.

The proclamation notes that “recorded African American heritage in Seattle dates to the mid-19th century” and affirms that “Black History Month is a reminder that Black history is Seattle history, Black culture is Seattle culture, and Black stories are an essential component of the story of our city.”

It also states, “the City of Seattle acknowledges the long history of institutional racism towards Black people and other communities of color; has committed itself to undoing racism and promoting racial equity and social justice on an ongoing basis since 2005; and continues to identify and analyze manifestations of racism and develop shared culture and leadership”.

The 2023 Black History Month theme is “Black Resistance.” The proclamation recounts how the concept of Black Resistance stems from Henry Highland Garnet’s call to action in an address to the National Negro Convention of 1843, in which he said, “No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance. What kind of resistance you had better make, you must decide by the circumstances that surround you, and according to the suggestion of expediency”.

More Tragic Gun Violence in Vulnerable Communities

This past weekend was Lunar New Year, a beautiful and culturally significant holiday for so many Asian American communities across the country, especially for Chinese American and Vietnamese American families. It was to be a weekend of deeply rooted traditions, of joyous celebrations, and of the hope that the new spring season brings. To all those that celebrate, I wish you good health and fortune in the coming year.

Unfortunately, these celebrations were marred on Sunday morning when the nation woke up to devastating news. Late Saturday night, on Lunar New Year’s Eve, the San Gabriel Valley in California saw yet another senseless act of gun violence. Unfortunately, this was only one in a series of mass shootings across California this weekend.

Mass shootings claimed the lives of at least 19 individuals across at least three shootings in California on Saturday and Sunday, including farmworkers in Half Moon Bay and another shooting in Oakland.

It is important to know that gun violence is not a Californian problem. It is an American problem. This week, Yakima too experienced the gun deaths of three people in a mass shooting.  There were several shootings here in Seattle as well.

We know that gun violence disproportionately and horrifically affects communities of color. Underregulated access to firearms and lack of access to mental health resources combine with a lack of institutional investments in our most disenfranchised communities and result in inequitable violence across the nation.

I strive to stand in solidarity with these communities by continuing to find ways to invest City resources in strengthening gun violence prevention efforts, expanding mental health resources, and ensuring that communities of color are being heard.

Memphis Police Video

This evening, Memphis Police Department will release a video of a traffic stop that ended in a senseless and brutal tragedy.  This is only one of many steps towards accountability for grieving Memphis residents.  For Mr. Nichols’s family, for Memphis, and for all those who question – in the face of such needless and horrific violence – how to have trust in the oversight of those charged with our safety, I call on Seattle, as a city, to join the call for a thorough and transparent investigation and to do so peacefully.

Mayor Harrell Nominates Deputy Chief Rebecca Gonzales for CSCC Director

Last week, Mayor Harrell nominated Seattle Fire Department Deputy Chief Rebecca “Reba” Gonzales to be the next Director of the Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC).  I appreciate that the statement making this announcement underscored that the CSCC will implement “a pilot civilian response team that will be dual dispatched with police to priority 3 and 4 calls with a mental/behavioral nexus.”

Deputy Chief Gonzales has served the City within SFD for almost three decades, most recently overseeing the Emergency Medical Services Division.

The CSCC was created in 2021 after Seattle City Council voted to move the 911 call and dispatch center out of SPD in preparation of expanding the scope of dispatch to include alternative response models. In effect, the CSCC is our city’s main 911 call center, dispatching SPD (and eventually, a civilian co-response) or routing to SFD’s Fire Alarm Center.

I have had the pleasure of working alongside Interim Director Lombard during his time leading the CSCC through uncharted territory as a new department. I thank him for his creativity and leadership in standing up the CSCC and look forward to working with the incoming Interim Director Gonzales.

The Public Safety and Human Services Committee will begin preparing for Interim Director Gonzales’s confirmation hearing. After considering her initial performance in the role as Interim Director, information gathered and shared during the Committee’s confirmation process, and weighing public testimony, the Committee will make a recommendation to the full City Council whether to confirm Mayor Harrell’s nomination and appoint her to the permanent role of CSCC Director.

West Seattle High School Parking Lot Gate Installation

Thank you to the Seattle School District for installing a gate at the entrance to the West Seattle High School parking lot.

Constituents have contacted me about racing and reckless, loud driving late at night at this lot for some time, and I advocated with the school district to add a gate. The lot at Chief Sealth High School has a gate.

The first constituent to write to me, in July 2020, noted that the late-night activity started shortly after the COVID school closures. I reached out to then-SW Precinct Captain Grossman in August 2020. He noted that officers were focused on high priority calls, and that some officers at that time were regularly being reassigned from patrol to demonstrations in Capitol Hill.

Then SW Precinct Captain Grossman made the suggestion that closing the parking areas with fencing or gates could help address the problems. I then reached out to the school district about a potential gate.

City Hall Severe Weather Shelter Open

This weekend the weather forecast calls for late-night temperatures in the 20s.

An overnight severe weather shelter will be open for persons experiencing homelessness starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday, January 28th. The shelter is expected to operate between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m., through Thursday, February 2nd.

The shelter will be on the lower floor of City Hall, by the red doors adjacent to 4th Avenue.

South Park Tide Update

Photo: Seattle Public Utilities

Thank you to the crews from Seattle Public Utilities, SDOT, and Finance and Administrative Services for their work to prepare for the King Tides this week that started on Tuesday, with sandbags, concrete blocks, and jersey barriers to protect against potential flooding. There was no flooding during these King Tides this week.

SPU had personnel and back-up water pumping systems on site for any potential impacts, and worked with the Fire and Police Departments and the Office of Emergency Management to ensure response capability was in place. The Office of Emergency Management held a coordination call on Monday to ensure a coordinated response.

Work on long-term solutions to address high tide inundation and sea level rise will continue with the King County Flood Control District, Army Corps of Engineers, and County and Federal elected officials.

4th Quarter Reconnect West Seattle Report

SDOT has released the 4th quarter 2022 Reconnect West Seattle report.

This will be the final quarterly report for the program developed to ameliorate the closure of the West Seattle Bridge in West Seattle and the Duwamish Valley communities.

64 of 70 Reconnect West Seattle projects have been completed, and 56 of 64 Home Zone project elements in South Park, Highland Park and Georgetown.

Here are upcoming projects.

The design was completed: for intersection improvements at Dallas Avenue South and 14th Avenue South

Here are the remaining Home Zone projects:

Seattle Municipal Court Resuming Late Fees for Unpaid Tickets

Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) previously suspended late fees for unpaid parking, camera, and traffic tickets in March 2020 during the first height of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to economic hardships exacerbated or caused by the pandemic.

Beginning on January 30, SMC will resume these late fees for past due tickets at $25 for late parking and camera tickets, and an additional $52 for late traffic tickets.

You can use SMC’s online portal to find any tickets you may have and pay them online or in person. SMC also offers payment plans or community service plans if you are unable to pay your ticket in full, as well as the opportunity to sign up for a Seattle Ticket Debt Reduction Hearing for low-income residents.

For more information about the late fees and options for responding, disputing, or paying outstanding tickets, please see SMC’s blog post on their website.

Public Safety and Human Services Committee Meeting Recap

The Public Safety and Human Services Committee met on January 24th.

The agenda included a presentation on the work of the Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC), which plays an important, but little known, role in hiring and promotion, and some disciplinary reviews, of firefighters and police officers.

Prior to the presentation from PSCSC Director Scheele, I shared an update from the Mayor’s Office on the efforts to implement the SPD hiring plan, a detailed update on the “top-to-bottom review and reimagining of the hiring systems” that the Mayor’s Office and SPD have been facilitating, using the funding approved by the Council in the 2023-24 budget.

The testing service used by police departments across the country allows applicants to send their scores to multiple departments.  SPD reports losing candidates to other local police departments “because their testing and backgrounding processes were faster and more simplified, allowing those departments to more swiftly make job offers and hiring decisions.”

Here is the status of the implementation that I shared in the PSHS Committee this week:

  • A new digital background system, replacing a system where candidates filled out paperwork which extended wait times for requested documents like questionnaires and references.
  • Increased the number of entry and lateral exam administrations to 14 annually (from 11) – meaning more opportunities for candidates.
  • Three local physical agility testing locations and a virtual option for out-of-state candidates and establishing more accessible and timely medical screenings, reducing the number of trips out-of-state candidates are required to make to Seattle during the hiring process
  • Implementing preference points for community services, established in the 2017 Accountability Ordinance, prioritizing candidates who have significant experience serving community to put them at the top of the list for hiring consideration.
  • Hired additional staff to help with candidate throughput processing in recruitment, in the process of hiring two additional backgrounders to process applicants, a recruiting manager, and two additional recruiter positions.

PSCSC’s presentation that followed covered their mission to make and enforce rules for examination, appointments, promotions, transfers, demotions, reinstatements, suspensions, layoffs, discharges, and connected matters; directs development and administration of merit-based entry-level and promotional civil service exams for the Seattle Fire and Police departments (with support of Seattle Human Resources); provides sworn police and uniformed fire employees with a quasi-judicial hearing process for appeals concerning serious disciplinary actions, and examination and testing; and investigates alleged violations of enabling legislation, the Seattle Public Safety Ordinance, SMC 4.08.

Here’s where the PSCSC fits within the hiring process, by conducting examinations:

In addition to exams for new police officers and firefighters, the PSCSC conducts promotional exams:

COVID required the PSCSC to develop new testing procedures. Prior to COVID, all tests were in-person, which wasn’t possible when the pandemic arrived.

The committee also voted to move the reappointment of Director Andrea Scheele to the Full Council.

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