Juneteenth is Today, June 19; Good District 1 Food News; COVID-19 Updates; Federal Relief Legislation Advances; ST3 Realignment; West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force; Expanding Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion; Pre-Filing Diversion Report; Independent Contractor Protections; Colman Pool Re-Opens;

Juneteenth is Today, June 19

Juneteenth is today,  Saturday, June 19.  Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On that date in 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform the last remaining enslaved persons that they were free, over two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and two months after the surrender of the Confederacy.

Just Thursday, President Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday, approved by the Senate and House earlier this week.

Last month Governor Inslee signed House Bill 2016, making June 19 a holiday for state workers.  President Biden and Vice President Harris recognized the efforts of Ms. Opal Lee   who began Opal’s Walk 2 DC in 2016 at age 89. She started with the plan to walk the 1,400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, DC in hopes of gaining support from Congress to officially name Juneteenth a national holiday.

The South Seattle Emerald has a Juneteenth 2021 in Seattle: A Guide to Local Events, and here is information about We Out Here 2021, a festival to honor and celebrate Black excellence.

Good District 1 Food News to Share from the Human Service Department (HSD)

We learned this week the results of the 2021 Geographic Specific – Delridge, Georgetown, South Park – Food Bank Services Request for Proposal,

The four agencies receiving $153,307 in funding are Cultivate South Park, St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle/King County, South Park Senior Citizens, and West Seattle Food Bank.

Cultivate South Park, is a coalition of South Park residents dedicated to building community through food and public spaces.  With these funds they can continue their “El Mercadito” program, an outdoor fresh food and produce market. South Park Senior Citizens can continue home deliveries of fresh produce from local farms and hot meals to their clients had proven essential to their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The origins of these funds was from a city-wide Food and Nutrition Request For Proposals released in 2019.  During that process, applications from service providers didn’t sufficiently cover the Delridge, Georgetown, and South Park neighborhoods.  To address this gap, HSD withheld a portion of the 2019 RFP funding, amounting to $223,372, in reserve for these neighborhoods. This was intended to allow HSD an opportunity to find agencies that would serve these specific communities and have funding available to do so because of the “geographic gap that emerged when agencies who applied didn’t meet the needs of Delridge, Georgetown, and South Park communities through the original Food and Nutrition RFP. “

Given that there was $223,372 available for needs in Delridge, Georgetown, and South Park and that HSD reported this week that they received four eligible applications for this RFP, requesting a total of $243,048 I have inquired with HSD why it is that they are not making available the balance of the $70,000 as intended.

COVID-19 Updates: Mask Directive Ends 6/29, King County Hits 70%, Where to Get Vaxed

There’s lots of positive news about the pandemic, despite the fact that 1,611 King County neighbors died of Covid in the past year.  It’s important to remember the lives lost too soon, even as we look forward to emerging from the worst of the pandemic.

Vaccination Goal Reached:  On June 15th, King County achieved an important milestone as 70% of residents age 16 and older have completed their vaccine series.

Mask Directive Ends 6/29:  Because we reached this goal, on June 29, the King County mask directive will end. Once the King County mask directive ends, the Washington state mask guidance will be in effect in King County.  And remember: it’s always important to “respect the rules of the room.”  If you’re in a space that requires you to wear a mask, please do!  And until June 29th, everyone should mask up.

Find Your Shot:  If you still need to get vaccinated, try these:

Federal Relief Legislation Advances with Key Investments for Arts Sector and Community Wellbeing

In Tuesday’s  Finance & Housing committee meeting, I joined other committee members to approve a series of amendments to the Seattle Rescue Plan, two bills (Council Bill 120094 and Council Bill 120093) to appropriate $128 million in federal COVID-19 relief from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  The two bills will go to full Council for final approval on Monday, June 21st.

I’m happy to say that all four of my amendments were approved and incorporated into the legislation.

Relief for the Arts and Culture Sector:  The arts and culture sector has been hit hard by COVID-19.  Washington state employment security data shows that that the arts sector had the highest job loss of any sector in King County at 55%, and the US Census Bureau reports this sector is likely to take longer than most to recover.  More than a third of arts and culture worker have gone hungry at some point during the pandemic, according to Americans for the Arts surveys; and 80% of income-claiming musicians have sold an instrument to make ends meet.  The City’s 2019 Creative Economy Study found that the creative sector drives a full 18% of Seattle’s GDP – four times the national average.  Yet relief has been difficult to come by, especially for BIPOC artists and smaller, community-based creative organizations and businesses.

To ensure that Seattle doesn’t lose its extraordinary community of arts, music and creative workers, who enrich this city with their contributions, I worked with Seattle Arts Commissioners to propose two amendments, both of which were adopted:

Support for Keep Moving Streets including Alki Point:  The original Seattle Rescue Plan included funds to make Stay Healthy Streets permanent, but nothing for Keep Moving Streets such as Alki Point.  Neighbors at Alki Point mobilized and conducted their own survey with more than 1,050 signatures on a petition to make the change permanent.  My office received more than 75 emails in support of making Alki Point a permanent Stay Healthy Street.

I sponsored an amendment that expresses Council’s intent to provide funding in future appropriations to conduct outreach and provide the resources needed to make Keep Moving Streets such as Alki Point permanent.   I expect we will have an opportunity to do so this fall, when the second round of federal relief arrives.

RV Storage and RV Safe Lots:  Many of you have written to me with concerns about services for people living in RVs near your homes or businesses.  While Seattle Public Utilities does offer RV pump-out services and garbage pickup, I have long advocated for the City to establish RV safe lots, where RV owners may safely park their vehicles and access services.

The Seattle Rescue Plan included $500,000 to establish a pilot safe lot program.  My amendment expands the use of that funding, so that the City can safely store RVs for owners who accept referrals into shelter or housing.  Folks living in RVs may worry that their RV could be stolen, impounded or fall into disrepair if they accept a referral into shelter or housing that would require them to leave it behind.  Storing their RV temporarily while they move indoors can help those who fear losing their biggest asset, which has also doubled as a safe and secure home.

In addition, the legislation includes critical investments for which I have advocated, including $1.2 million supporting trauma-informed well-being services that will help Seattle residents struggling to survive the “shadow pandemic,” with restricted movement, social isolation, and economic insecurity increasing our vulnerability to violence and self-harm.

Sound Transit Board Discussions on Potential ST3 Realignment

On Tuesday the Transportation and Utilities Committee received a briefing from Sound Transit about potential “realignment” of projects approved by regional voters in 2016, including light rail to West Seattle.

The origin of the discussions is with reduced revenues related to COVID, and subsequent cost increases due to, for example, property becoming more expensive.

Sound Transit currently estimates the revenue shortfall at $1.5 billion, and cost increases at $6.4 billion, for a total gap of $7.9 billion. This is a significantly smaller gap than the $11.5 billion gap identified earlier this year, as revenue has increased.

One approach Sound Transit is considering to address the shortfall is to delay projects. The presentation at the committee meeting shows three scenarios; the current ST3 plan has light rail opening in West Seattle in 2031, delayed 1 year due to COVID.

For West Seattle, the presentation shows:

  • Scenario 1: to the Alaska Junction by 2035, with a connection to SODO, then a connection to Downtown in 2037
  • Scenario 2: to Delridge by 2035, and the Junction by 2038
  • Scenario 3: to the Junction by 2032, with a connection to SODO through 2038, then a connection to Downtown

I asked Sound Transit staff about these options. Staff noted the ST3 plan includes a 5-year spur line between West Seattle and SODO for the first five years.

I emphasized the need for capacity on trains for riders from West Seattle; if riders have to wait at the  SODO station while full trains go by, it will hinder the success of the system.  This highlights the need for close integration and cooperation between Sound Transit and King County Metro and SDOT.

In response, Sound Transit staff noted expansion of the main line is planned to Tacoma for 2032, and at that time additional trips and train lengths are part of their planning for operations, to increase capacity.

Also included are realignment proposals for other Seattle projects, including Ballard, the Graham Street infill station, and the NE 130th station. The presentation did not include information on cost savings for each potential delay.

I also asked, why make a decision before there is clarity on how much federal funding will be available? We receive new updates regularly from Washington, D.C. about a potential federal infrastructure package.

In addition, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for West Seattle/Ballard will not be published until the fall. What is the rationale for making a decision on realignment before the public has had the opportunity to weigh in on the Draft EIS?

Sound Transit staff noted all options approved to be analyzed in the Draft EIS for West Seattle and Ballard will be included if the Board takes action.

I also asked what work is being done to reduce other costs, such as administration, operations, maintenance, and value engineering.

The next Sound Transit board meeting is on June 24. The presentation notes potential action to adopt a realignment framework in July.

I believe a decision on adopting a realignment scenario at this time is premature.

In the bigger picture, it’s worth noting Sound Transit will be opening 28 new stations by 2024,starting with three new stations on the Northgate link on October 2nd.

West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting and resources

If you’d like to watch last week’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting, below are links to the meeting, as well as to specific sections of the meeting:

West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force Meeting #20

Below is the agenda for the meeting. Clicking on the text will bring you to the time in the meeting video where that topic is discussed.

The next meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 14 at 12 PM (noon).

Below are resources to receive updates from SDOT:

$3M to Expand Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)

Last fall, LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion/Let Everyone Advance with Dignity) expanded into District 1 its work diverting low-level criminal offenders away from courts and into services, after extended advocacy from District 1 residents to do so.  LEAD is a proven approach to reducing criminal recidivism that relies on a unique collaboration between law enforcement, advocates, elected officials, treatment providers, and community leaders – all working together to find new ways to solve real problems for individuals who are not well served by the criminal justice system.

Because of the pandemic, the number of referrals to LEAD has soared, while the costs to operate have increased, resulting in LEAD becoming overloaded and unable to accept new referrals.  I sponsored a successful amendment to appropriate $3 million to LEAD, in order to ensure they can continue to accept new referrals and provide services to those already enrolled.  The same legislation, sponsored by Councilmember Lewis, provides $9 million to expand JustCARE, a program that brings supportive housing to folks living unsheltered and engaging in low-level criminal offenses.  LEAD and JustCARE work together closely.

In 2019, Council approved Resolution 31916, which declared our intent to ensure that programs such as LEAD receive sufficient funding to accept all priority referred clients.  Last fall, Council approved my amendment that required LEAD to accept referrals from non-law enforcement sources, such as Business Improvement Areas.  We expect a report this summer from the Human Services Department, which holds the contract with LEAD, with estimates of the number of priority referrals and the funding that would be required to serve them.

City Attorney’s Pre-Filing Diversion 2020 Annual Report

In 2017 the City Attorney’s office began offering a pre-filing diversion program for 18-24 year olds accused of committing misdemeanor crimes such as theft, assault, property destruction, criminal trespass, obstructing an officer, and minor in possession (alcohol). The program is run in collaboration with Choose 180, a non-profit organization dedicated to restorative justice practices.

The City Attorney’s office has released a 2020 Community Report on this program. Instead of being processed through the criminal system, defendants participate in a 4-hour workshop presented by Choose 180. A charge is not filed against participants who successfully complete the workshop.

Nearly half of participants identify as African American/Black:

The report notes the disadvantages participants face on numerous levels. In May of 2019, the City Attorney began offering a post-filing diversion opportunity to address equity concerns given the high number of young people using shelter as their addresses. 25% of participants experienced housing instability during the previous year.

Slightly over half of participants are unemployed:

The report notes of “1,051 young people invited to participate in diversion, 447 young people completed the program, and 481 reports were diverted.”

92% of participants had no new convictions, showing an impressive rate of success:

To address the disadvantages participants face, Choose 180 also provides additional services to participants, “most frequently with mentoring, benefit programs, job readiness and opportunities, and housing.”

The 2018 Seattle Reentry Workgroup Report, written in response to Council Resolution 31637, recommended expansion of pre-filing diversion. The City Attorney subsequently sent the Council recommendations to expand the pre-filing diversion program to include adults 25 and over. Around 80% of charges filed by City Attorney’s Office involve individuals over the age of 25.  As the proposed Criminal Legal System Strategic Plan heard in my committee last week highlighted, “the City does not currently offer a mainstream diversion (non-age restricted) option for those who are not repeatedly cycling through the Criminal Legal System. The Driving While License Suspended program is not age-restricted but it is intended to address only one specific crime.”

I support this expansion and it is included as a work program item in my 2021 committee workplan. I’d intended to propose funds for an Racial Equity Toolkit assessment necessary for the expansion during the Council’s 2020 budget adjustment last summer.  The City Attorney was able to fund this work without a City Council budget adjustment and the Racial Equity Toolkit will likely be completed this summer. I look forward to supporting this expansion in the forthcoming budget season to launch a new program next year.

As recommended in the proposed Criminal Legal System Strategic Plan, as the Council “considers expanding diversion options for this group, it should explore restorative justice-based programing because interventions should be matched to an individual’s risk to reoffend, individuals with a lower risk level would require a lighter touch, which restorative justice conferencing could provide.”

One challenge our court system faces, at multiple levels, is a backlog due to the COVID pandemic. Diversion programs can be both a long-term solution and short-term aid.

Independent Contractor Protections Pass Full Council

On Monday the Council unanimously passed CB 120069, my bill entitling workers classified as independent contractors with pre-contract disclosures, timely payment, and payment disclosures for services valued at $600 or more.

Misclassified workers are among the most vulnerable workers and independent contractors are a quickly growing segment of our workforce. We don’t know how many workers are misclassified, but US Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has said, “in a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees.”  So there’s definitely more work to be done in this area. In the meantime, this law will provide independent contractors with labor standards that typical employees take for granted – like simply knowing what the agreement for payment is, an explanation of the basis for payment after receiving it, and an obligation of timely payment.

For me, addressing the effects of misclassification on a growing segment of our workforce is a priority. During my first committee assignment, I had oversight of the Office of Labor Standards (OLS), and the Council passed Resolution 31863 that I sponsored. In part, the resolution requested that the Labor Standards Advisory Committee (LSAC) work with OLS on the issue of misclassification and provide input on effective strategies. In May 2020, the Council received final recommendations from LSAC; however, due to the pandemic we were not able to take them up until early this year.

The passage of this legislation means that all workers will have easy access to information that will empower them to determine if they are being misclassified or not, while at the same time including timely payment and payment disclosures. This is an important step in making sure all Seattle workers are compensated for the work they do with transparency and fairness.

The bill also states that the Council intends to ensure that contract workers are paid Seattle’s minimum wage, while retaining their contractor status, and commits the Council to work on this issue with the goal of passing additional legislation by the end of the year.

As reported in the Seattle Times, “the message to the app companies is: ‘You need to start taking this seriously,’ said Herbold…”

Colman Pool Re-Opens June 19th

For everyone who’s missed our local pools, good news: Colman Pool reopens today, Saturday, June 19th!  Colman will offer lap and family swimming at reduced capacity, with some operational changes to ensure public and staff safety.  Learn more about operations and Colman’s new schedule here.

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