Council Blog Post re Police Union Negotiations, August 8 SPMA Hearing / Terminal 5 Quiet Zone Construction / Expanding Opioid Addiction Treatment / Visiting the Rainier Valley Food Bank / Duwamish River Festival this Saturday / Rainier Beach Shooting / Rent Control Preemption Trigger Ordinance


Council Blog Post re Police Union Negotiations, August 8 SPMA Hearing

Below please find a blog post, reprinted from the Seattle City Council Blog, about how labor negotiations work with Seattle’s two police unions, and the August 8 public hearing on Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract negotiations.  The most recent SPMA contract adopted in 2022 included several recommendations received during its public hearing back in 2019, including improvements to the discipline review system regarding subpoena power, standard of proof for dishonesty and preponderance of evidence, the 180-day clock, and arbitration. That’s why these public hearings are so important and how input from the public can result in real accountability reform in police contracts.

Seattle City Council to hold public hearing on Seattle Police Management Association contract

The Seattle City Council will be holding a public hearing to gather community input on the upcoming Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract negotiations. It will be on August 8 at 5:30 pm inside Council Chambers at Seattle City Hall.

It’s a crucial moment, as it will be the public’s only opportunity to give input before the contract is negotiated.

The City of Seattle agreed to an updated contract with SPMA last year. Among other important reforms to the police accountability system, things, it created a new Discipline Review System. That new system, which sets the rules for how police managers can appeal cases in which they have been found to have violated policy, addressed many of the shortcomings found in the previous, traditional arbitration system.

That agreement is only scheduled to last through the end of this year. Contract negotiations will get underway in the coming months. Under city law, a hearing must be held at least 90 days before negotiations begin. The current contract will remain in place until negotiations are complete.

What are Seattle’s two police officer unions?

Seattle has two different unions that represent police officers. The Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) represents lieutenants and captains, while the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) represents officers and sergeants.

What are police contracts

Seattle’s police contracts are the result of negotiations between Seattle’s police unions and the City. Among other things, they establish how much police officers are paid, what benefits they receive, and how police officers can be held accountable when they violate policy.

Importantly, both SPMA and SPOG negotiate their contracts independently of one another. That means SPOG officers and SPMA officers work under different police accountability rules.

How police contracts affect police accountability

In Washington State, police contracts do more than establish what wages and benefits officers receive – they can limit how the City can hold police officers accountable when they violate police department policies. Police contracts can limit how police officers are investigated, make it harder to determine if officers have violated policy, and ultimately hold them accountable.

Who negotiates police contracts?

City leaders, including five of Seattle’s nine councilmembers, oversee the negotiations through the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC). Following a public hearing, the LRPC will establish its priorities or ‘bargaining parameters.’ Once parameters are set, negotiations with the union begin. Once negotiations have started there are limitations on each party’s ability to raise new issues. Generally, no new issues can be raised, unless approved by the union.

As of the current SPOG and the last SPMA negotiations, Seattle’s civilian-led police accountability agencies participate in the LRPC parameter-setting process and serve as technical advisors to LRPC members. The Office of Police Accountability, the Office of Inspector General, and an appointed Community Police Commission representative all have access to the confidential process to advise on police accountability issues.

In negotiations, the City is represented by the Negotiating Committee. That includes representatives from the Executive’s staff and a Seattle City Council Central Staff member. The Negotiating Committee meets with union representatives and reports back to the LRPC.

When a deal is reached and confidentially approved by both the LRPC and the union’s negotiators, the deal is called a “tentative agreement.” The police union’s members then vote on the deal. If the union approved, the City Council approves the contract.

If the Council then votes against the tentative agreement after members approved it in the LRPC, the City could risk drawing an Unfair Labor Practice complaint from the police union and be subject to sanctions.

What happens if no deal is reached?

Unlike many other employees, police cannot legally go on strike due to the nature of their jobs. Instead, if a police union and the City can’t reach a deal, the negotiations can go to interest arbitration. In that process, a neutral arbitrator would make binding decisions to resolve disagreements about the contract. That process is governed by RCW 41.56, specifically RCW 41.56.430 through RCW 41.56.490.


Terminal 5 Quiet Zone Construction

Construction of the Terminal 5 Quiet Zone has begun. SDOT’s project page has a list of what to expect during construction:

  • Maintained access to businesses
  • Temporary lane closures on West Marginal Way SW
  • Detours in place for people walking, biking, riding foot scooters, and driving to travel safely around work zones
  • Temporary on-street parking restrictions, with “no park” signs placed 72 hours in advance
  • Flaggers directing people driving, walking, and bicycling through detours around the work
  • Typical construction equipment, materials, noise, workers, dust, vibrations and activity in the area during work hours
  • Typical weekday work hours are 7 AM – 5 PM, Monday through Friday
  • Weekend and night work as needed

Construction is anticipated to continue through Summer 2024.

This is a long-awaited development.  In my first year as a Councilmember, in 2016, I sent a letter to the Port advocating for a quiet zone. The letter said “I want to encourage your efforts to look into applying a quiet zone. Many constituents have written about the noise that is emitted from trains entering and leaving T5 at the Chelan Café intersection and have suggested making the area a quiet zone.”

This led to the development of a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) in 2016, SLI 66-1-A-1, in 2016, requested SDOT work with the Port of Seattle, the Federal Railway Administration, and the railway companies doing business at T-5, to extend the quiet zone along W Marginal Way between Delridge Way SW and 17th Ave SW.  In addition, the obligation to install a quiet zone was included in the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection’s permitting requirements for the Terminal 5 expansion.

In 2021 the Council approved Council Bill 120138, authorizing the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to acquire property needed to construct the necessary improvements for a quiet zone.

See here for more about quiet zones. You can sign up for updates at SDOT’s Terminal 5 Quiet Zone page.


Expanding Opioid Addiction Treatment

On Wednesday, members of the Finance & Housing committee approved my proposal to expand access to opioid addiction treatment for Seattle residents with a $1 million addition to the Human Services Department budget.  This coming Tuesday, the full Council will have an opportunity to approve the budget legislation.

The treatment vehicles take 5 months to order.  For this reason, it was important to me to take action now in order to support Mayor Harrell’s intention expressed in the recent announcement of his coming Executive Order to support “access to mobile opioid medication delivery.”  We could not wait until the passage of the 2024 budget in the fall, with those funds only becoming available next year.

This funding will expand Evergreen Treatment Services’ Treatment in Motion (TIM), a licensed mobile dispensary/mobile medication unit that provides all forms of medication for opioid use disorder in the community, including methadone, buprenorphine, and long-acting injectable Sublocade.   TIM staff also provide field intakes, medical evaluations, dose evaluations, counseling, and community and patient outreach, all within a specially outfitted vehicle.   You can learn more about medication for opioid use disorders here.

TIM currently serves 30-40 people daily downtown but has the capacity to serve up to 120.  With this funding, TIM will:

  1. Serve a second site with the existing vehicle, this one in Pioneer Square.
  2. Order a second mobile dispensary vehicle with twice the capacity of the existing one and serve two additional sites, locations to be determined.
  3. Purchase a used ADA van to transport people to the mobile dispensaries.

With this expansion, TIM will have the capacity to treat up to 360 people for opioid use disorder every day, at four distinct locations in Seattle.  Thank you to Evergreen Treatment Services for this timely proposal.  Our overdose deaths are at crisis levels, and this work will save many lives, as well as help many hundreds of people recover from their addictions.

Visiting the Rainier Valley Food Bank

Last Friday, I visited the Rainier Valley Food Bank during their twice-weekly Grocery Shopping service. Scores of volunteers unloaded pallets of food and helped guests find what they wanted on well-stocked shelves. More volunteers greeted guests waiting in line and kept up spirits with music and conversation. Guests can also access City Council-championed hygiene trailers with showers on site, ready-made meals to go, and talk with a Community Connector about rental assistance, job training, benefits, and more.

Rainier Valley Food Bank plans a significant expansion to better serve the community with fresh, healthy, culturally-appropriate food, and bring even more resources to guests. They have been fundraising and grant-writing to support that expansion as well as a vision that expands beyond their own footprint. They are working towards a neighborhood revitalization with the planned renovation of nearby Rainier Beach High School and the City-funded rejuvenation of Be’er Sheva Park.

Hunger, and the need for services like this, increased significantly during the pandemic and have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

With the leadership and advocacy of the Seattle Food Committee, I’ve fought for increased resources to help people struggling to feed themselves and their families, including $5 million in the 2022 budget to replace federal relief funds that had run out, in order to maintain current levels of food support for Seattle residents.

Duwamish River Festival this Saturday

Duwamish River Festival is this Saturday at Duwamish River People’s Park and Shoreline Habitat! Learn more at Duwamish River Festival — Duwamish River Community Coalition (

Rainier Beach Shooting

Last Friday, our city was shaken by yet another senseless act of gun violence. I’ve written in this newsletter several times about gun violence. In this instance, a shooting took place at a Rainier Beach community event held to prevent gun violence and support community members in healing from gun violence. I am grateful that there were no fatalities, but otherwise, I am still heartbroken to again write another blog post detailing another shooting in our Seattle neighborhoods and the work we must do to curtail them.

I am appreciative of the Mayor and Chief Diaz showing up at the Safeway parking lot during the National Night Out to discuss their plans to address community gun violence. Still, like all of you, I am frustrated and fed up with reading about yet another terrible shooting.

It seems every few weeks I write how we are hopeful because of SPD’s work with their Community Safety Task Force, the arrests they have made, the record-breaking number of guns they have confiscated, the ongoing investigations they are conducting, as well as the significant and impactful investments we have made through the Human Services Department in the Seattle Community Safety Initiative.

Readers of my weekly newsletter understand the budget actions the Council has taken to fully fund SPD’s hiring plan, and their recruitment blueprint, our investments in community-centered safety initiatives, and funding to expand existing gun violence interruption programming. We’ve shared the good news of legislative victories in the state legislature in 2023 and 2022, but also the knowledge of the state preemption limiting local gun regulations, and how our legislature must give cities and counties the ability to legislate common sense gun control.

I have written time and time again about how heartbroken I am every time we lose another Seattle resident to gun violence. But this time, I am not just sad and angry. I, like many of you, am fed up.

In this exhaustion and frustration, I remain inspired by the resolve of the SE Network SafetyNet program, which has led the Community Healing Space Activation events in Rainier Beach. I am moved to continue searching for legislative and budgetary solutions by their persistence. Week after week, this group has built community in Rainier Beach, holding space for healing and difficult conversations, prioritizing the youth of our communities, and saving lives.

We cannot let our frustration and fear shake us. As we pause to process and mourn when we need to, we must keep working. Seattle, the Washington State Legislature, and the federal government must come together to better figure out what we can do to end this terrible scourge of gun violence across the country.

Rent Control Preemption Trigger Ordinance

This Tuesday, Council voted 6-2 to reject an ordinance that could have possibly gone into effect sometime in the indeterminate future, and only if the state legislature were to remove the statewide preemption on regulating the increase of rent payments. I was part of the majority that voted to reject the ordinance, and I’d like to share why I voted as such.

Speaking first to the opponents of rent regulation laws generally, I don’t agree with the opposition.  There are more than 200 cities across the country with some form of rent regulation, and each city has tailored their laws to fit their housing markets.

The main arguments against rent control are that rent regulations:

  1. lead to high vacancy rates,
  2. slow new construction, and
  3. result in deterioration and abandonment.

Economist Phillip Weitzman, a former director of research and policy with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development has said, “The existing empirical literature does not take into account the rise of second generation [moderate] rent controls.” A review of cities with these later laws shows that most of the arguments used against regulating rent are associated with these strict first-generation rent control laws. In NYC there are about 38,000 rent-controlled apartments compared to about one million rent-stabilized apartments. The term “rent-regulated” encompasses both rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units.

Landlords say rent control doesn’t work, but I’ve never heard of a person living in a rent control unit moving out because it didn’t work for them.

Speaking specifically to the content of the proposed bill, it was promoted as having no loopholes, meaning no exemptions for certain housing units.  For instance, the bill did not exempt newly constructed housing. To address concerns that rent control results in new construction slowing, most cities exempt newly constructed buildings. The most recent experience with a policy that did not include such an exemption, St. Paul passed a no-exemptions rent control law in 2021, similar to the bill the Council voted on this week.

Yet, five months after it took effect, St. Paul saw a 30% reduction in building permits, while nearby Minneapolis (a city that did not impose rent control on newly constructed buildings) saw a 30% increase in building permits. In response, St. Paul elected officials to amend the bill they passed in 2021 to exempt newly constructed buildings from rent control.

Why does it matter that construction might slow if new buildings aren’t exempted from rent control?  It results in a reduction in the increase in the supply of housing units that we cannot afford.

The Myths and Facts document at the bill sponsor’s webpage says: “recently, UC Berkeley researchers have found that the six cities that had rent control in the Bay Area actually produced more housing units per capita than cities without rent control.” All six of these cities studied also have new construction exemptions. In other words, the bill sponsor’s own research supports new construction exemptions.

I believe it would have been better if this bill considered exempting new construction and created incentives for owners of new buildings to participate. For instance, in NYC, owners of new buildings are exempt but largely voluntarily opt-in in exchange for tax abatements. I might have offered an amendment but for the sponsor’s constant admonishment that amendments to add loopholes or water down the policy were not welcome.

I was a tenant organizer with the Tenants Union for nearly 4 years. When I chaired the committee with oversight of civil rights issues, I was able to work with tenant advocates to mobilize and successfully sponsor and pass Fair Chance Housing, Source of Income Discrimination and First-in-Time Protections and 5 separate bills related to WA CAN’s Losing Home Report Recommendations and a law Broadening Reasonable Accommodations Required in Housing

I say so only to emphasize that I know how important it is to lift the state pre-emption that bans rent regulation, but I did not see how legislation that fails in Seattle would build a movement of support for change in Olympia. To build momentum for change in Olympia, re-working the legislation when it became apparent it would fail was necessary.

I was also concerned that this trigger law would have instead harmed the efforts of legislators and tenants’ rights advocates to lift pre-emption. This bill, if passed, would have broadcasted, to the opponents of legislative change in the state legislature, what version of rent control to continue to pre-empt. Even worse, Seattle’s law could be used as a reason to oppose lifting the pre-emption at all.

Further, it’s important to remember that the most recent rent stabilization bills in Olympia did not propose to lift the pre-emption at all; they would have instead created statewide rent regulations. If that is the approach that the legislature continues to pursue, this bill would have never been enacted anyway.

Though I support lifting the State preemption as well as instituting laws regulating rent, I voted against this particular bill.

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