How the City Prioritizes Encampments for Services / Return Your Ballot / Brain Health in District 1 / Medical Abortion is Legal and Available Here / Roxhill Park Bog Preservation Efforts / SER Report Wave 4 Report / Rental Late Fee Cap / Firefighters’ Obstruction Bill


How the City Prioritizes Encampments for Services

Since early 2022, I have been publicly asking the Mayor’s Office for a clear policy that explains how encampments, which are reported to the City by residents, are assessed and prioritized for services and removals.  My longstanding request was finally answered at Wednesday’s Public Assets and Homelessness Committee meeting.  You can review the illuminating presentation here.   Watch the conversation about prioritization here.

Here is what we learned about how the City prioritizes encampments:

Deputy Mayor Tiffany Washington also helpfully included several examples of how actual encampment sites were assessed and prioritized.  Here’s one:

I believe that the City should communicate transparently and honestly with residents about what happens to their reports about encampments.  I hope that by shining light on the prioritization process, Seattle residents will understand why reporting an encampment doesn’t always immediately result in folks living there moving into temporary or permanent housing.

Time to Return Your Ballot

Election Day is this Tuesday, April 25th, so it’s time to find your ballot and vote!  Here’s how…

Ballot drop boxes: Return your ballot to a ballot drop box, no stamp required. Your ballot must be returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Plan ahead to avoid lines.

By mail: No stamp is needed to return your ballot!   King County Elections recommends dropping your ballot in the mail by the Friday before Election Day – that’s today – to make sure it gets postmarked in time to be counted. Your ballot must be postmarked by Election Day.

Vote Centers: King County vote centers are available to voters who need assistance completing their ballot. Trained staff and specialized equipment are available to help voters with disabilities cast a private, independent ballot.

Register to Vote:  You can register in person through April 25, Election Day, at a vote center. For more information on locations and hours of vote centers, visit

Talking Brain Health in District 1

I was thrilled to join community members and newly-confirmed Human Services Director Tanya Kim at West Seattle Senior Center on Tuesday to discuss the importance of exercise, community building, and some ways the City of Seattle promotes good brain health.  I learned so much from my fellow panelists Karen Thompson of Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter, and Sandy Sabersky of Elderwise.  The discussion was translated into Spanish so more could participate.

Seattle’s Human Services Department organizes monthly Civic Coffee events in partnership with The Seattle Public Library. These are opportunities for older adults to gather, meet local government and community leaders, learn about key issues, ask questions, and provide feedback.

Visit Age Friendly Seattle’s Virtual Events access page to find information about the next upcoming Civic Coffee event, including locations to join in person and links to join online.

Medical Abortion is Legal and Available Here

Mifepristone is a safe, effective drug that’s been used in medication abortions for 23 years. It’s been in the news lately because of a lawsuit in TX, but access to mifepristone remains protected in WA.  Learn more.

Find out how and where to access medical or surgical abortion in King County at Abortion services – King County.


Roxhill Park Bog Preservation Efforts

Last week, I visited Roxhill Bog, located within Roxhill Park between SW Barton Street and SW Roxbury Street. Roxhill Bog is the headwaters of Longfellow Creek, one of the most diverse, urbanized sub-basins of the Green-Duwamish River and a critical educational and recreational amenity for the community in Seattle’s 1st District.   I have written about the Roxhill Bog in the past here.

With Earth Day on April 22nd, it’s a timely reminder of how local activism can make a difference.

Educator workshop at Roxhill Bog (photo: Sharon Leishman)

A decade ago, two neighbors, Scott Blackstock and Rory Denovan, became concerned about Roxhill Park Bog’s ecological changes from the loss of water in the wetland.

The community was losing this 10,000 year old bog, its unique wetland plants, and its ecosystem which was enjoyed by the community and provided our local schools with an important outdoor classroom.  They asked these simple questions: where is the water, and why has it changed? What can we do to save our wetland?  As they started researching the Bog’s water levels, they became alarmed at how the peat soil was degrading so began to reach out for others to join their community-driven effort in saving this valuable wetland, not only environmentally but for the community.  Early partners included Delridge Neighborhood Development Association (DNDA), Duwamish Alive Coalition (DAC), American Rivers and Natural Systems Design, with funding from the Rose Foundation, King County Water Works, and Boeing.

Since taking office in 2016 I have worked with the community on this issue including encouraging Seattle Public Utilities and the Department of Parks and Recreation to attend a meeting at the Fen with the community. I’ve provided letters of support to both the American Rivers Association and King County to assist with grant applications. With King County Councilmember Joe McDermott’s support, the community received a 2020 WaterWorks grant from King Council to allow the community to proceed with their own hydrological study.

In partnership with King County, the Boeing company, and many others, the first phase of restoration will pilot a new approach to hold more water in the southern portions of the wetland by constructing a subsurface groundwater block with minimal impact to existing vegetation and parks facilities. This approach will provide valuable information for future restoration of the entire wetland and form the foundation for new green stormwater infrastructure to reduce combined sewer overflows in the Delridge Neighborhood.

Along with the plan designed by Natural Systems Design with the help of American Rivers, of returning water back to the Bog, the Delridge Neighborhood Development Association, Duwamish Alive along with Parks have been offering community programs in the park including arts for seniors, birding and Bog tours, nature-themed activities for neighborhood youth and an environmental program for teens to once again welcome the community back to this special place.  They are looking forward to again offering these programs this year for the community and sharing the Bog’s story.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about this project, the history, and ecology of Roxhill Bog, contact DNDA to arrange a presentation either in person or on Zoom.  Email  or

Summer Youth Environmental Justice program (photo: Caroline Borsenik)


SER Report Wave 4 Report

The Office of the Inspector General released the Wave 4 Sentinel Event (SER) Report.

This is the 4th and final sentinel event report about the Seattle Police Department’s response to the 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd. As noted on the OIG website, “A sentinel event is a significant negative outcome, such as a death or serious injury, that acts as a signal that problems within a system exist and may lead to similar bad results if the system is not examined to find root causes and proper remedies. Industries like airlines and health care providers have developed and used “sentinel event review” processes to thoroughly examine these types of incidents, identify what caused them, and use those lessons to prevent them in the future.”

What are the steps of SER?

This SER had three stages:  Stage 1 – Gathering community input and perspectives, Stage 2 – SER panel analysis and findings, Stage 3 – Audit and further systems review of issues identified by SER.

The four SER reports covered protests during 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, and SPD response. The final report covers the time period of July 2 through October 7, 2020. Three protests were selected for review, as described in the report:

  1. A march in Capitol Hill on July 25th, where more than 5,000 people protested the deployment of federal law enforcement personnel to Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
  2. A protest on September 7th, outside the headquarters of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) to demand increased transparency in future collective bargaining agreements.
  3. A march in Capitol Hill on September 23rd, to protest a Kentucky grand jury’s decision to indict one of the officers involved in the March 2020 murder of Breonna Taylor on charges of ‘wanton endangerment,’ with no officers facing charges directly related to Taylor’s murder.

The Wave 4 report lists 49 factors, including:

  • Ineffective communication by SPD with protestors, media, and legal observers;
  • SPD crowd management tactics, including the decision to issue dispersal orders and the tools used to facilitate dispersal;
  • The assumption by SPD of protestor coordination and planned violence, and its resulting posture of defensiveness; and
  • The impact of officer exhaustion on perceptions of and interactions with protestors.

The SER panel, which included community members and officers, identified 20 recommendations in the Wave 4 report designed to improve SPD’s response to protests in the future. They fall into five main areas, as noted by the Office of the Inspector General:

  • Community Legitimacy – Addressing the gap between structural and perceived legitimacy and acknowledging the need for SPD to take accountability for its actions and the actions of individual officers when public trust is damaged.
  • Situational Awareness – Acknowledging the need for SPD to change its mindset when responding to protests, particularly where police themselves are the focus, by minimizing the prevalent belief within SPD that protesters work as a unified, oppositional group, rather than a diverse population of individuals with a diverse set of reasons for attending the protest.
  • Communication – Improving the ability of SPD to communicate with protestors, media, and legal observers to safely facilitate crowd events.
  • Tactics – Improving SPD crowd management tactics to limit force and ensure safety for protestors, officers, and others in the area.
  • Officer Wellness – Supporting officer physical and emotional wellness during periods of extended deployment by reducing shift lengths and offering sufficient opportunities for breaks, food, and water, as well as through the provision of mental health services. Section IV provides a complete list of recommendations.

The report says about all four reports, “In total, the SER Panel identified 229 distinct contributing factors leading to undesired incidents and issued 136 recommendations to SPD and the City of Seattle intended to prevent such events from happening again.”

Under the proposed Consent Decree Agreement on Sustained Compliance filed by the US DOJ and the City of Seattle, the Seattle Police Department will consider and respond to the recommendations in the four reports and provide a status update to the Court by July 31. If a specific SER recommendation does not result in a policy change, the reason will be explained in the report.

Some of the SPD responses to the recommendations in previous SER reports are published on the Inspector General’s Sentinel Event review website (several of the recommendations have been implemented).

One of the challenges the report noted for SPD for the September 7, 2020 protest at SPOG headquarters was that “SPD leadership…had asked for the building to be unoccupied during the protest to minimize the potential for conflict and potentially ensure the safety of people inside.” Yet, “SPOG and SPD are separate entities and do not work in coordination; SPOG members making decisions at SPOG headquarters were not on duty nor tied to the SPD crowd management operations.”

In other words, SPOG members did not leave the building as requested by SPD leadership.  The report indicates that this “resulted in a 90-minute interaction resulting in 56 reported uses of force by SPD.”  Further, the report indicates that “Bicycle officers rode into the crowd from behind the SPOG headquarters as the song, ‘Save a Horse; Ride a Cowboy’ played from the building’s external speakers” and “Officers yelled at protestors to ‘run’ and ‘move faster,’ even as they complied with dispersal orders; protestors at the front of the crowd were unable to move back at pace expected by SPD.”

The report states that “Community panelists pointed to the music blaring from the SPOG building as one example of officers’ confrontational approach. SPD panelists agreed the music was inappropriate and could be viewed as antagonistic.”

Recommendations include “SPD professionalism policies and training should emphasize avoiding actions that are or could be perceived as retaliatory or punitive, especially in defense of their facilities.”


Rental Late Fee Cap

On Tuesday, the Council voted to pass legislation limiting how much can be charged in late fees each month when rent is late.  I’m including it in my newsletter this week because, though this bill was discussed and recommended for passage by a committee on which I do not serve, the Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee, it is a very important piece of public policy.

Before beginning my career in City Hall, I worked as an organizer with the Tenants Union. Renters’ rights have been a core issue of mine. As a Councilmember, when I served as the chair of the Council’s committee with oversight on the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, I successfully sponsored legislation such as Fair Chance Housing, Source of Income Discrimination and First-in-Time Protections, Losing Home Report Recommendations (5 separate bills).  Here’s a piece I wrote just last week about Fair Chance Housing and the importance of local legislation protecting tenants:  More Than a Contract – SMERCONISH

I wholeheartedly agree that high late fees are exploitative to renters.  I further question whether they even serve as an effective incentive that results in more timely payment of rent. In fact, the Seattle Public Library has recently shared that getting rid of library late fees had no effect on book return rates. Certainly, it can be argued that people have much greater motivation to keep a roof overhead than to keep their book borrowing privileges. Renters do not pay timely rent in order to avoid late fees, renters pay timely rent to avoid evictions. That is incentive enough for most people.

I appreciate that there was thorough discussion and consideration in committee about the upper limit of the cap.  Councilmembers Mosqueda and Morales who were not part of the earlier committee discussion brought forward an amendment, that Councilmember Sawant also sponsored, giving the Full Council an opportunity to weigh in on the cap.

As I said in chambers, the testimonies shared during public hearing and the emails that have poured into our inbox established good reason for reconsideration of the Committee recommendation. In the bill as amended in committee, someone paying an average rent of about $2,000 for a 1 bedroom in Seattle could pay as much as $30 per late fee. For a family who has struggled to pay their rent, a late fee that is $30 instead of $10 could mean the difference between commuting by bus or having to walk to work, even with ORCA Lift. That $20 difference could mean falling behind on other bills and racking up additional late fees on credit card payments or internet service. It could be the deciding factor in your child’s ability to go on educational field trips with their classmates, or whether you can get a prescription filled.

I voted in favor of the amendment at Council to restore the rent cap to $10, and proudly voted yes on the bill as amended. I appreciate the leadership of Councilmember Sawant in this legislation that brings us in line with neighboring cities and progressive municipalities across the country.

Firefighters’ Obstruction Bill

This Tuesday, the Council’s Introduction and Referral Calendar included a bill referred to the Public Safety and Human Services Committee that would amend the Seattle Municipal Code to include firefighters and fire department personnel in the definition of “public officer” for the crime of obstructing a public officer.

It is well known that the challenges faced by all our public safety employees at the City of Seattle have increased with the rise of the opioid epidemic, economic uncertainty, and multiple public health crises – COVID, mental health, and substance use.

This bill will give our fire department employees in the line of duty an additional tool for their personal safety and the ability to secure the scene of a medical health response or fire response, particularly in the case of bystander intervention while firefighters and paramedics are providing aid. In my regular meetings and correspondence with Chief Scoggins, he’s shared stories that include an aggressive bystander throwing rocks at SFD and AMR personnel while they transported a patient in a gurney.

No public servant should have to fear for their safety while performing lifesaving aid. While this code change may not eliminate the assaults and obstructions experienced by SFD personnel, it will help them safely secure their response scenes and potentially reduce the likelihood of threats to their work as integral members of our public safety network.

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