Health 99 Event / Working Washington’s PayUp Party / Saturday Gathering with South Asian Community Leaders / SDOT West Seattle Bridge Update / Federal Tree Grant Includes Delridge Native Forest Garden / 2024 Budget Preview / Opioid Settlement Funding Resolution / Free Tutoring in South Park and High Point / Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month With a Book / New Covid Vaccines Arriving / SPU Requesting Water Conservation / Prioritizing Diversion Over Prosecution for State Drug Law / Diaper Need Awareness Proclamation


Health 99 Event

On Tuesday, I joined Mayor Bruce Harrell and Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins in an event providing a progress update for the newly launched Health 99 overdose response unit. This unit of the fire department’s Mobile Integrated Health program is staffed by a firefighter/EMT and a Human Services Department case worker. Exemplifying the city’s interdepartmental collaboration for the vision of a strong public health and safety network, this team responds to individuals who have experienced an overdose and works directly with service providers to connect these individuals to outpatient services, primary care, homeless outreach services, and more.

Health 99 continues Seattle’s reputation as a national leader in health initiatives to address the opioid crisis, faced by cities across the nation. Follow-up care and warm handoffs to services are essential to reduce the likelihood that an overdose is repeated.  Accessible emergency care wrapped in inclusive and supportive services helps more people enter addiction recovery.

Public health and public safety are intertwined issues; the Seattle Fire Department is doing this work to build a healthier, safer Seattle.

To support the urgent funding for one element of Mayor Harrell’s April Executive Order, specifically: “access to mobile opioid medication delivery,” last month I successfully championed $1 million in funding to support Treatment in Motion, a mobile medication vehicle at three additional locations, with the capacity to serve up to 360 people each day.

Next week, I’ll be hearing legislation in my PSHS committee to appropriate $7 million in support of Mayor Harrell’s $27 million investment announced in his April Executive Order, to support an overdose recovery center so Health 99 has a location to take people after non-fatal overdoses to recover, get stabilized on medications, and access resources.

A data finding in the public use and possession bill that the Council voted this week documents that between January and July of this year there were eleven overdose responses on average each and every day in a public place.

If we hope that by adding an enforcement tool that successfully prioritizes diversion over arrest will help people, we must increase the places available for people to go.

If you have someone you care about and love, who is an addict, what you care about most, and first, is that they don’t die in the throes of their addiction. By investing in Health 99, Treatment in Motion, and a Post-Overdose recovery center, we are expanding access and breaking down barriers to proven treatment for our most vulnerable residents. We cannot end the fentanyl epidemic and drug overdose crisis without treatment – and we need more treatment, not less.

Working Washington’s PayUp Party

On Thursday evening, joined workers in celebrating our city’s recent wins in gaining protections for app-based workers. The event was hosted by Working Washington in their new office space and included testimony from staff, gig workers, and myself.

I am grateful for the privilege of standing alongside this worker-led movement over the last three years to build these necessary and common-sense protections for workers. In the years 2012-2016, we worked so hard to improve labor rights, with paid sick and safe leave, minimum wage, and secure scheduling.  That the so-called gig economy expanded exponentially soon after, systematically and intentionally designed to deny the largest growing employment sector from these hard-fought rights, exploiting the fact that they aren’t considered legal “employees;” we simply could not let that stand.

I’m proud to have had dozens, if not hundreds, of workers join me in Council chambers across dozens of committee meetings, council briefings, full council meetings, and meetings with my office to build the policies we came together to celebrate this week.

As the organizing adage goes, nothing about us without us. Thursday was not a celebration of the legislative body that voted on these policies, but a celebration of the worker-leaders that made Seattle a national leader in app-based worker protections. Hundreds of pages of policy were drafted with direct feedback by these workers, and I am humbled to have co-sponsored that legislation and to have worked with passionate people with direct lived experience to get the votes to pass each one at full council.

But we aren’t done yet. We’ve passed significant protections, but we now need to ensure that every worker gets to enjoy the benefits we’ve fought for. This Tuesday, we’ll be having a pre-introductory briefing and discussion on a potential revenue source to ensure the Office of Labor Standards is able to enforce the protections we’ve spent the last three years building.

Saturday Gathering with South Asian Community Leaders

In January, Jaahnavi Kandula died after being struck by a vehicle driven by an SPD officer traveling at high speed.  Last Monday SPD released body-worn video from an officer response, where a SPOG leader said her life “had limited value”

The video has since resulted in numerous articles worldwide, and widespread anger, in particular in India. India’s ambassador to the United States has raised the issue with the Biden administration.

On Saturday I joined Mayor Harrell, Chief of Police Diaz, and others to meet with leaders and organizations representing the South Asian Community. My statement in the press release is copied below:

“On behalf of the City of Seattle I’m so sorry for the appalling conversation, devaluing human life, between two officers whose job it is to be guardians of all members of our community. This failure, reflected now on the global stage, must not stand as representative of the Seattle we all love. To restore trust, begin to heal, and achieve justice for Jaahnavi, we must act. I heard community leaders today call for accountability for the officer whose actions resulted in tragic death and the officers who spoke so callously about her death. I heard a call for officer training in empathy, support for Jaahnavi’s family, pedestrian safety investments, and support for additional Seattle’s services to our immigrant community. I pledge to carry forward this call to action.”

Officer Auderer was one of 11 SPD officers trained as a drug recognition evaluator (DRE), a police officer trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.  Officer Auderer made these comments after performing an investigatory function related to the death of Ms. Kandula; he is also the SPOG Vice-President.  SPOG’s role, as an organization, is to assist SPOG members in defending themselves against complaints and discipline.   Last week, I expressed my strong concerns to SPD and the Mayor’s Office that there could be a potential conflict of interest when SPD dispatches to the investigation of another police officer, someone who in one role works as a leader of an organization that has a responsibility to assist SPOG members in defending themselves against complaints and discipline, and in another role, perform a function that will be considered as part of the complaint process and discipline outcome.

The Mayor has also asked SPD to “review whether or not restrictions can be placed on SPOG leadership in investigations of possible officer misconduct” and SPD confirmed they are reviewing the policy.

In addition, the Community Police Commission sent a letter to Chief Diaz recommending the officer be placed on indefinite unpaid leave.

SDOT West Seattle Bridge Update

Photo: Madison Linkenmeyer

SDOT published an update on the West Seattle Bridge, one year after the reopening, that the bridge is performing as expected. It states, “Since reopening, the bridge has been monitored by the bridge structural health monitoring (SHM) system 24/7, with physical inspections occurring on a regular basis. All monitoring shows that the bridge is functioning as it should.”

Here is the one-year monitoring report. The update includes background on the repairs that were performed.

The update says, “Based on these results, SDOT will continue to operate the bridge structural health monitoring system at all times and visual inspections will shift back to the 2-year cycle required by FHWA.”

It also says, “The bridge now includes SDOT’s most extensive, sophisticated bridge monitoring system which allows us to detect subtle movements or any growth of existing cracks. The safety system runs 24/7 and automatically alerts engineers immediately of any issues that would require further inspection. In reviewing the system data over the last year under different traffic and transportation conditions, the rehabilitation and safety measures completed are performing as anticipated.

Over the past year, the bridge has also undergone regular visual inspections of the carbon fiber wrapping and post-tension repair systems, which show no signs of distress.  To ensure that all repaired systems were performing as expected, SDOT has conducted these inspections at a higher frequency than is required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for a bridge after being returned to service.”

Federal Tree Grant Includes Delridge Native Forest Garden

Seattle received a $12.9 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to plant and maintain trees where people live, learn, and play to combat extreme heat and climate change, improve access to nature, and support green careers for young people.

Seattle’s two funded projects, covered by the Justice40 Initiative, were made possible by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

One of the two projects is for the Delridge Native Forest Garden:

$900,000 for the Delridge Native Forest Garden will enhance approximately four acres of City-owned parcels and unimproved rights-of-way in the Longfellow Creek basin in West Seattle. The project will remove invasive species and plant native conifers and understory plants with cultural significance to regional Tribes. The project will include a footpath, and planting will be coordinated with local communities to provide educational and volunteer opportunities.

Earlier this year, Seattle released the 2021 Canopy Cover Assessment which found that neighborhoods that experience racial and economic inequities have 27% less canopy than more advantaged neighborhoods. This award is an opportunity to address canopy inequities by focusing planting and tree care in these neighborhoods. By funding projects aimed at engaging community in areas where trees get planted, improving the tree canopy in neighborhoods that suffer most from extreme heat, poor air quality, and health disparities, and expanding access to nature near schools and housing, cities like Seattle can deliver tangible economic and ecological advantages to overburdened communities.

2024 Budget Preview

On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Harrell will transmit his proposed 2024 budget changes to Council.  This marks the start of Council’s eight weeks of budget deliberations, culminating in an expected final vote on November 21st.   If you’d like to stay informed about budget conversations, sign up for the Select Budget Committee email list here.

2024 is the second year of the 2023-2024 biennium, and we are expecting relatively minimal changes from the 2024 budget that Council endorsed last year (which you can find here).

My budget priority this year will be funding equitable wage increases for human services workers to address the city’s staffing crisis, consistent with Resolution 32094, passed earlier this year.  If the City were to provide a wage equity increase of 3.5 percent in 2024 the cost would be $7.34 million in 2024.

One big change in Council’s process, however: every amendment we propose must be “self-balancing” from the start.  That means if we propose increased spending, we must also identify a corresponding cut right away.

Important Dates

Wednesday 9/27 at 9:30am Council receives a public briefing on the Mayor’s proposed 2024 budget changes
Wednesday 10/18 at 5:00pm Public Hearing #1 – an opportunity for the public to provide comment on the budget changes they’d like to see
Thursday 10/19 Council receives an updated revenue forecast for 2024 and beyond
Monday 10/23 at Noon Councilmembers’ proposed amendments are due
Monday 11/13 at 5:00pm Public Hearing #2
Week of Monday 11/13 Councilmembers discuss and vote on amendments
Tuesday 11/21 Council votes to approve the amended 2024 budget

Opioid Settlement Funding Resolution

Last year, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office settled litigation against three opioid distributors (McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corp) for $518 million, which will be paid out over 17 years and shared among the state, counties, and cities. King County expects to receive between $1M and $1.5M annually.  Seattle expects to receive about $550K or slightly more per year for the first seven years of this settlement (HSD staff are currently working to refine annual revenue projections and that information will be available soon).  In addition, Seattle and King County will receive additional funding because Washington joined another multistate resolution with the opiate producers and sellers CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Teva, and Allergan.  This 2nd settlement will pay out $434 million over 15 years, which will provide approximately an additional $14 million to the City over the next 15 years.  While this is a significant amount and much-needed new resource, when spread over so many years, it will not be transformative.

That’s why it is so important to invest these resources in the most effective services.  Yesterday, the King County Board of Health approved a resolution I developed that urges all cities within King County to align their opioid settlement funds and invest in services recommended in the Opioid Settlement Stakeholder Feedback report, which draws on the expertise of community members with lived experience of substance use disorder.

The overdose crisis continues to devastate communities across King County; as of today, 941 residents have died from overdose, the vast majority from opioids, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. We are easily on track to eclipse last year’s 1,001 deaths for the entire year. The opioid settlements provide an unusual opportunity to address the crisis directly, although the resources are still insufficient for the size of our crisis. That’s why combining forces and funding is so important.

Free Tutoring in South Park and High Point

The Seattle Public Library’s free K-12 after-school tutoring service, Homework Help, is now available at nine branches, including South Park and High Point in District 1. The Library will continue to offer virtual one-on-one tutoring through seven days a week, as well as many other programs and services to help students of all ages succeed.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month With a Book

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), Seattle Public Library has selected a list of 25 recent nonfiction titles by Latinx and Latine authors, from Isabel Allende to Javier Zamora.  Check out the recommendations here.  And if you don’t yet have a library card, what a great reason to get one!   Learn how.

New Covid Vaccines Arriving

Last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the possible increases in infection this fall and winter.  Dr. Eric Chow, Chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunization at Public Health – Seattle & King County, said:

Here is something I’ve been really struck by: studies are showing that people who are up-to-date with vaccinations have less long-lasting symptoms (“long COVID”).  Long COVID symptoms include “brain fog” or difficulty thinking, difficulty breathing, depression, and fatigue, all conditions that interfere with daily living. Long COVID can affect anyone… the new vaccine provides important protection for everyone.

COVID-19 hasn’t gone away—in fact, we’re seeing a rise in the number of people going to King County emergency departments and hospitals for COVID-19. Updated vaccines protect against more recent variants even if you have had previous vaccinations or infections.

Check with your healthcare provider or clinic to see if they have the new COVID vaccine, or check the list of pharmacies and other locations on  Read more about the new vaccine here.

SPU Requesting Water Conservation

Chester Morse Lake, September 17, 2023.  Photo by Kevin Johnson

With water levels below average after an unusually dry summer, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is requesting that residents and businesses voluntarily reduce their water use.

While Seattle may be known for its rainy weather, the last few months have been anything but wet in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, the region has experienced an unprecedented stretch of dry weather.

The unusually dry summer, coupled with a forecast of continued dry conditions including a potential delay in sustained fall rains, have the water supply managers at Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) concerned about having sufficient water for people and fish.

That’s why SPU is asking Seattle residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their water use until further notice.

Here are ways people can reduce their water use:

  • Stop watering lawns. (It’s OK to efficiently water newly planted lawns, young plants and trees, and vegetable gardens).
  • Take shorter or fewer showers.
  • Check for and fix leaks now, especially running toilets.

Find more water-saving tips at  and see the progress the City is making each week in reducing water use at:

Prioritizing Diversion Over Prosecution for State Drug Law

On Tuesday the City Council approved legislation proposed by Mayor Bruce Harrell, that will put treatment and diversion at the forefront of the City’s response to public drug use and possession.

As a legislator, sometimes you must have the conviction to vote ‘no,’ to get to a better version of ‘yes.’ The bill that passed is vastly improved over the bill that failed in June. While this compromise legislation is not perfect, it makes unprecedented legal commitments to noncriminal intervention of public drug use while allowing police to take action under specific circumstances.

We know a police-only response to addiction will not work. This legislation acknowledges that and, for the first time in Seattle, explicitly states that diversion and treatment should be the foundation of our response to drug use.

This measure is the result of collaboration and compromise between advocates, elected officials, and law enforcement. The legislation, which creates a new framework for police policies that will be developed following the bill’s passage, will:

  • Establish diversion, treatment, and other alternatives to jail as the City’s preferred approach to public drug use and possession;
  • Creating clear guidance for when and how Seattle police officers should use pre-arrest diversion and pre-booking diversion, the former doesn’t include any arrest at all; and
  • Limiting prosecution to be a last resort.

As the legislation gives new authority to the City Attorney’s Office, the legislation includes important comprehensive and independent reporting requirements to assess the impact of the legislation. It also establishes a behavioral health advisory committee to advise the city on any needed changes.

My statement after the vote included the following from the managers of the LEAD program:

“We manage a diversion model, LEAD, that arose directly out of years of systemic litigation challenging racial discrimination in Seattle drug enforcement. It is a concern that most diversion efforts nationally over many years tend to exacerbate racial disparities among those left to the criminal legal system when they are not offered diversion; knowing this, we explicitly designed LEAD to have safeguards to prevent that pattern from playing out here,” said Lisa Daugaard and Tara Moss, Co-Executive Directors of Purpose. Dignity. Action. 

They continued, “Those concerned about implicit bias in enforcement practices are, of course, correct. This is always something to guard against—in all criminal enforcement, not just with respect to this one ordinance. Therefore, it is essential that Seattle’s framework establishing a presumption of diversion, have a requirement of data collection and regular reporting on the race of those diverted and the race of those facing jail and prosecution, if any.” 

“We appreciate Councilmembers Herbold and Lewis for building in that safeguard, and the Mayor for welcoming it and underscoring how valid these concerns are. We know it is possible to create a diversion system that actually advances race equity—a U.S. research team has found that all of LEAD’s benefits have been distributed proportionately to BIPOC participants, and our project management team is oriented to ask this question daily with regard to all aspects of LEAD practice. It’s important that such an approach be built into Seattle’s legal framework for responding to drug activity,” they concluded.

My comments from the Council meeting are below:

“The bill before us clearly states that “diversion, treatment, and other alternatives to booking are the preferred approach to incorporating a state law that already makes possession and public use of a controlled substance a gross misdemeanor.

This state law applies everywhere in the state. So, the state law adopted in May making possession and public use gross misdemeanors already applies in Seattle, and SPD can arrest, whether we act on this bill or not.

I see the signs in the room, saying this bill grants discretion to police officers.  It does not grant discretion to police officers, this bill guides officer discretion that officers already have under state law, to create a course of action based on a threat of harm assessment, for pre-arrest diversion, resulting in no arrest, and when there is an arrest, pre-booking diversion to avoid prosecution.

This does not create new arrest authority, it seeks to limit it, in a way that does not exist under state law.

It does create new authority for prosecution, and for that reason it is so important to have ongoing review to ensure the bill goals of limiting arrest and prosecution are realized in implementation: the amendment that was passed in committee last week establishes a behavioral health advisory committee to advise the city regarding the needs for changes in police protocol, legislation or other policy and provide data as recommended by the state, and separately, review by the City’s Office of the Inspector General.

The legislation also requires reporting to this new committee, of data, including demographic and other information related to individuals who are diverted prior to arrest, and prior to jail booking when there has been arrest, and prior to referral, if the City Attorney is considering prosecution. The intent is not only to align the data requirements under state law, but to add additional data collection requirements for the cohort of people that this law strongly recommends police do not arrest.

There is an undeniably racially biased history in this country in the enforcement of drug laws. This history is a big part of the reason why so many do not trust the enforcement of drug laws.

I believe we must face this history squarely.

During a previous committee briefing, the Mayor’s office noted the approach is informed by a desire to balance public safety objectives with the Mayor’s own experience with the war on drugs.

In the Mayor’s legislation, it states, “The City of Seattle recognizes that prior federal, state, and local drug offense law enforcement and policies, including the “war on drugs,” disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and caused trauma and pain that lingers still today in these communities;”

It further states “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;”

This is a commitment to not repeat the errors of the past. And we need all of you to help ensure that in implementation this commitment is realized.

This is why the policy statement emphasizing diversion in the City of Seattle is so important.

We know that even a small period of time in jail can result in people losing jobs, housing, and other important connections. We heard in early public comment that a misdemeanor can have this kind of life-changing impact.

That’s why specifically, the emphasis pre-arrest diversion is so important: unlike the Blake Fix, it does NOT tangle people who are not harming others in the criminal justice system as a default approach.

In the first seven months of the year, the Fire Department reported an average of more than 11 public overdoses each day in Seattle. Those are overdoses specifically occurring in public places.

It is important to address this; this morning I participated in an event reporting out on the efforts of the Fire Department’s Health 99 overdose response team, a pilot program part of the Fire Department’s Mobile Integrated Health Program. Since its launch on July 7, Health 99 has responded to 68 overdoses and conducted 20 client outreach visits.

It’s also important to address implementation in a way that doesn’t drive people into the shadows and thereby increase the likelihood of additional overdoses. When people are forced into the shadows, there is limited ability for intervention.

We know that 40 percent of first overdose reversals given to patients on an Fire Department overdose reversal call were actually administered by bystanders.

The collaborative approach in developing this legislation, working with groups like LEAD and REACH and We Deliver Care again, are intended to guide and limit officer discretion, and to identify people who this policy says loud and clear, we don’t think should be eligible for arrest, and steers that group of people to pre-arrest diversion. This is not an option that was considered under the Blake fix legislation at the state legislature. And I think it’s an important element of this legislation. If we don’t act on this legislation, police will still be able to arrest people, and I think it’s really important for this Council to guide the policies that define how and when people are arrested.

Diaper Need Awareness Proclamation

This week, I brought forward a proclamation declaring September 18 – September 24 as Diaper Need Awareness Week. This proclamation was presented during Full Council to members of WestSide Baby. We know that about 1 in 4 families in King County experience diaper need, and we know certain communities are disproportionately impacted by diaper need and by this public health crisis. In these communities, caregivers are often having to make hard decisions between buying diapers on a limited income, or groceries for the week. I am grateful to WestSide Baby’s team and volunteers for their work in supporting Seattle babies and families.

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