First Responders Protections / May is Mental Health Awareness Month / SR99 Northbound Ramp Opened Tuesday Morning / Learning More about LEAD and Co-LEAD / Draft App-Based Workers Deactivations Rights Ordinance / Justice40 Initiative Event / City Light TempWise Pilot / Washington State Ferries Public Meetings / Harm Reduction in Action


First Responders Protections

This week, Council voted to pass a bill amending the criminal code to include firefighters and fire department personnel in the definition of a public officer for the crime of Obstructing a Public Officer. This legislation closes a gap in our municipal code to ensure that firefighters enjoy the same protections from obstruction as the city employees that were already covered in the bill, including the fire marshal, building inspectors, and police officers.

Seattle law already protected many other city employees from being obstructed in their job duties, and it’s necessary to extend these protections to Seattle Fire Department employees. When firefighters are carrying heavy and difficult to manage equipment to put out fires or kneeling over to resuscitate a patient, they are particularly vulnerable. Unfortunately, that vulnerability leads not only to risks to themselves, but delays that have a disparate impact on the vulnerable communities they serve.

In July of last year, we started to receive correspondence from Seattle Fire Fighters Union IAFF Local 27 writing about the increasing dangerous interactions fire fighters have had in the field.  Here is some of what they reported:

  • One fire fighter was hit with a large rock thrown by an assailant while extinguishing a fire at an encampment.
  • In another incident, fire fighters were threatened by two individuals with weapons, one made of steel rebar, and were forced to retreat to a distant location to wait for SPD backup before extinguishing the fire. Once on scene, they were able to find a person yelling for help who was transported to Harborview to be treated for sexual assault.
  • One young fire fighter had been assaulted twice in her first 16 months in the department, being kicked in the genitals on an Aid response and slapped in the face on a separate occasion.

No employee should have to worry about their safety while doing their job, especially as they deliver life-saving services in response to a 911 call.  These incidents have risen so sharply and been so alarming, that the union developed a tracking tool for assaults and threatening behavior targeting fire fighters. In January, they shared data that showed that 37% of the reports included physical contact. 11% included weapons brandished. There were 12 times in that report when weapons were used.

Some constituents wrote to me with concerns about unintended consequences that this bill could have.  I do not take this issue lightly, but I am most urgently concerned about the disparate impacts associated with inaction.  We know that people who rely on emergency services typically have less access to preventative health resources. We know that this disparity – in access to healthcare – falls along lines of class and race. We know that these kinds of reported threats delay and prevent SFD personnel from being able to respond to a call for service delays life-saving care has a disparate impact on the most vulnerable people in our city during their most vulnerable moments.

I am thankful to Councilmember Lewis for cosponsoring this bill and to Councilmember Mosqueda, who authored three amendments that I offered on her behalf at Full Council to help prevent and mitigate any unintended consequences such as a racially disparate use of arrests for this charge.  The amendments were as follows:

  1. To ensure that individuals cannot be charged for obstructing their own medical care. This amendment codifies the intended practice and is in line with best practices to protect the dignity and agency of individuals who may be the subject of a 911 medic aid call.
  2. Requesting that SPD and SFD revisit policies to reinforce expectations that SPD consults with SFD before coming onsite or engaging with people at a fire or emergency response scene.
  3. Requesting SPD and SFD to complete a Racial Equity Toolkit analysis of the impacts of implementing this bill and to provide the Council with regular updates on the progress of this work. It would also request these departments to report on their current and potential future ability to determine whether those who are arrested for obstruction of SFD personnel are or may be experiencing mental or behavioral health crisis.”

In addition, this week I sent a letter to Chief Scoggins requesting that he, during the 30 days preceding the effective date of the ordinance, lead meaningful engagement to build the internal policies and procedures surrounding this ordinance.  I also requested that this engagement include inviting input on how the current CAD Caution/Hazards policy impacts the workplace safety of human services providers and vulnerable people and include in these engagements the participation of Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness, the ACLU of Washington, the King County Department of Public Defense, and Purpose. Dignity. Action.

I will close out with a quote from Chief Scoggins in a press release earlier this week:

“This is very important legislation that will assist in improving safety to our firefighters as we respond 24/7 to fires, medical emergencies and many other types of incidents. Over the past several years our firefighters have been physically assaulted or verbally threatened while trying to serve those in need – who are often the most vulnerable in our community. When we have to delay our response because of threats, it can cause fires to increase in size or medical conditions to deteriorate. I want to thank the Mayor’s Office, the City Council and the community for their ongoing support of the Seattle Fire Department.”

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

On Tuesday, I presented a proclamation declaring May to be Mental Health Awareness Month to Matthew Kanter, Director of Programs, Education, and Outreach at the National Alliance for Mental Illness of Washington.

The White House proclamation on Mental Health Awareness Month notes that:

Communities of color, frontline workers, health care workers, and individuals with eating disorders have been disproportionately impacted, and the rate of depression across the country has more than tripled compared to rates in 2019.

Emergency department visits for attempted suicide among girls in 2021 increased by more than 50 percent compared to 2020.  American Indians, Alaska Natives, Black youth, and LGBTQI+ youth also face a disproportionate risk of suicide.

We are feeling the crisis in every community, in every home where someone is struggling.  The Council has stepped up to provide City resources to meet the growing need over the past several years.  That includes…

  • Significantly expanding funding for mental health support for Seattle students and residents, by at least $5M over 3 years
  • Continued expansion of the Mobile Crisis Team.
  • Funding to create a dual dispatch team of civilian staff to respond to 911 calls with a mental or behavioral health nexus
  • Adding behavioral health outreach in specific neighborhoods
  • A dedicated phone line for first responders to consult a behavioral health expert prior to or when arriving at the scene of a police, fire, or emergency medical event

This year, NAMI is celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month with the More Than Enough campaign!  It’s an opportunity for all of us to come together and remember the inherent value we each hold — no matter our diagnosis, appearance, socioeconomic status, background or ability.

We want every person out there to know that if all you did was wake up today, that’s more than enough. No matter what, you are inherently worthy of more than enough life, love and healing.  Showing up, just as you are, for yourself and the people around you is more than enough.

SR99 Northbound Ramp Opened Tuesday Morning

At 2 a.m. on Tuesday, May 9th WSDOT re-opened the SR northbound ramp from the West Seattle Bridge.

On Saturday, May 6th WSDOT shared that they had poured concrete, and it would take a few days to cure properly:

On May 8th WSDOT shared that they expected to work through the weekend and that the benefit of warmer temperatures would allow for the mix to cure more quickly. On the afternoon of May 8th WSDOT announced an update that they were aiming to open the ramp by 5 a.m. Tuesday the 9th. On May 9th SDOT announced that work was completed, and the ramp opened at 2 a.m.

Learning More about LEAD and Co-LEAD

At Tuesday’s meeting of my Public Safety & Human Services committee, representatives of the Human Services Department (HSD) and PDA (Purpose Dignity Action; formerly Public Defenders Association) joined us to discuss the new contract for LEAD and Co-LEAD services, which contains robust performance metrics that will allow us to learn more about LEAD’s impact over time.  You can watch the presentation here, or review the slide deck here.

PDA serves as the project manager for LEAD, which is a voluntary collaboration among multiple jurisdictions that signed onto a Memorandum of Understanding back in 2010; and agencies who provide services under subcontracts to PDA.

Policy guidance and oversight for LEAD are provided by the Policy Coordinating Group, of which I am a member, along with representatives from the King County Executive, King County Council, Mayor’s Office, Seattle City Attorney’s Office, King County Prosecutor’s Office, SPD, and King County Sherriff’s Office, among others.

In 2019 Council adopted Resolution 31916, which declared our “commitment to ensuring that law enforcement pre-arrest diversion programs, such as LEAD, receive public funding sufficient to accept all priority qualifying referrals citywide.”  While we have not yet reached that commitment, Council has consistently acted to support and expand LEAD, even in difficult budget environments.

I am particularly interested in learning more about LEAD’s impact in our community from the new performance metrics embedded in the contract, which will allow us to better understand how to scale up LEAD, and what impacts we might expect from additional investment.

I have invited HSD and PDA to return to committee in August and December, in order to share the results of the initial few quarters of data collection.

Draft App-Based Workers Deactivations Rights Ordinance

Also at the Public Safety and Human Services Committee this week, we continued our path forward on PayUp – legislation to protect the rights of app-based workers. Last year, we passed the first ordinance, which guarantees minimum compensation, provided transparency, and ensured flexibility for app-based workers. Shortly after that, we went right to work on our next piece and convened a discussion on the need for deactivation protections.

In stakeholder engagement since then, we’ve heard stories of workers getting deactivated with no advanced notice at all. Many times, the workers don’t even receive notice of why they were deactivated. And they report that when reaching out to the app-based platforms, they receive no clarification and sometimes no reply at all.

At committee, Council Central Staff presented the most recent draft of this Deactivation Rights Ordinance. You can watch the entire committee meeting online at the Seattle Channel website.

This ordinance would guarantee app-based workers receive fair notice of the reasons they are getting deactivated and holds the platform companies accountable to building accessible appeals processes with human intervention. There are still technical updates and policy decisions to be made in the bill, but I requested a pre-introductory draft presentation because I feel it is in the best interest of transparency and good governance to show our work along the way.

This draft will undergo more changes and stakeholder engagement before being officially introduced at our next committee meeting.  I am grateful for the advocacy of the app-based workers who have called, emailed, and met with my office, and I am grateful to Councilmember Lewis for continuing as my cosponsor in this work protecting workers in the fastest-growing sector of our economy.

Justice40 Initiative Event

Photo: Justice40rward twitter feed

Last Saturday I presented on a panel at the Justice40rward Tour in South Park, re: the City’s Equity and Environment Agenda.

Justice40 is an effort made possible by the billions allocated to the EPA and an executive order by President Biden requiring, for the first time, that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is among the appropriations that can deliver on this commitment.

City Light TempWise Pilot

City Light has launched the TempWise Pilot. TempWise is a new program that rewards City Light customers for participating in energy-saving events with a smart thermostat. This program was started to help City Light continue to deliver affordable and reliable power to the community during demand spikes. These spikes usually happen during very hot days in summer or very cold days in winter, or when the grid is constrained.

The way the program works is that at times when energy usage is exceptionally high, City Light will make small temperature adjustments to the smart thermostat to reduce the energy use of your central air conditioner, electric furnace, or heat pump. These changes are no more than 3 degrees and last no more than 3 hours. There will be no more than 15 events per season (in winter or summer), and events will only occur during times of peak demand on non-holiday weekdays. You can opt out of an event at any time, for any reason.

Eligible participants will receive a one-time $50 check after successfully enrolling. As a thank-you for continued participation, participants can earn up to $40 annually by taking part in additional summer and winter events ($20 per season).

You can see if you qualify, apply, and find additional information at the TempWise Pilot webpage. Spots in the pilot project are limited.  Here’s a link to Frequently Asked Questions.

Washington State Ferries Public Meetings

Washington State Ferries will be hosting Spring 2023 virtual public meetings in late May and early June dedicated to route-specific issues and projects ahead of peak summer service.

The meeting for the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth “triangle” route will be on Wednesday, June 7 at 6 p.m. That meeting will also include the Point Defiance/Tahlequah route. You can register for the meeting here. Once you register, you will receive an e-mail on how to access the meeting by phone, computer or mobile device.

After each meeting, a recording will be available online.

Here’s the complete schedule and registration link:

Harm Reduction in Action

This week I visited the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA), a community-based nonprofit and drug user empowerment organization that provides harm reduction and other health services to people who use drugs.  With City funds I sponsored, PHRA and two other organizations have been providing services for the past year that are literally saving lives in the midst of our overdose crisis.

We learned how City funds are providing naloxone and training in the community; distributing test strips and smoking kits to keep users safe and healthy; providing much-needed healthcare and advocacy for pregnant people who use substances; and taking services directly to people living unsheltered in encampments or vehicles.

We’ll have an update on these grants from Public Health in my May 23rd Public Safety & Human Services committee meeting.  Sign up to receive the agenda by email at Agenda Sign Up – Council |

Learning about statewide naloxone kit distribution

Meeting with representatives of People’s Harm Reduction Alliance and Public Health

Drop-in services include internet access

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