My Thanks; This Week in the Budget/Final Wrap-up; Employee Hours Tax Resolution; Response to ICE in South Park; Seattle Observes National Transgender Day of Remembrance

My Thanks

There is much to be thankful for as I write this on Thanksgiving Day eve.  There are individual people to be thankful for their contribution to making Seattle a better city.  There are groups that I am thankful for as well who, in raising their voices together and with my occasional helping hand, have insured City government is making decisions in the public interest.  Finally, there are legislative victories that I couldn’t have accomplished without others, for which to be thankful.  On the last, I’ll wait until my year end 2017 wrap up post, but indulge me in reflecting on my thanks for particular inspirational individuals and groups.  Anyone reading this, if you are working for your community I’m thankful for you, I’m just doing a shout out to a few people and groups on my mind today as I write this (don’t feel bad if you were left out).

Maybe you’ve heard of Tarra Simmons?  Last week, even though a Washington State Bar Association panel voted 6 to 3 against letting Simmons take her bar exam because of her criminal record, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that she “has the requisite moral character and fitness to practice law” and “shall be allowed to sit for the Washington bar examination.”   I’ve been following her story for months and it’s an inspiration.

I’m thankful for Jim Guenther and Sandy Adams, a West Seattle couple many of you know honored by Southwest Youth and Family Services (SYFS) with the Weeks Award for their support of SYFS academic and enrichment programs and for donating funds for vans, technology, and scholarships.

I’m thankful for the civic commitment of folks like Cindy Barker, who was recognized this year by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), receiving one of 11 Community Preparedness Award in the nation because she has promoted Emergency Communication hubs and is the brainchild of the “Hub-in-a-Box” program (which the Council funded in this year’s budget).

I’m thankful for neighbors engaged in South Park who have worked successfully to get funding to implement their recommendations for public safety and to stand up to ICE and protect their neighbors (more below).

I’m thankful for the 1,110 people who participated in the Alki Public Safety Study to send a message to SPD about their priorities for law enforcement to do more to enforce the laws against bad driving behaviors (more below).   Survey results online here.

I’m thankful for my own neighbors in Highland Park who have secured City funds in the 2018 budget to construct the arterial roundabout they’ve been working on for years.   I’m thankful for the South Delridge and Westwood, Roxhill, and Arbor Heights Community Association and the Alki and Admiral neighbors for convincing the Seattle Department of Transportation to reverse course on two separate decisions, one regarding the much-needed plans to pave the walkway on 25th Ave SW between Trenton and Cloverdale & the other to remove a recently installed all way the stop and re-activate the pedestrian crosswalk signal at 59th and Admiral.

A lot for which to give thanks.


This Week in the Budget/Final Wrap-up

On Monday, November 20 the City Council adopted the 2018 City budget.

Over the course of the last seven weeks my fellow members of the Budget Committee and I have scrutinized and debated Seattle’s fiscal priorities. The Council’s vote to approve City spending reflects our collective attempt to balance the budget amidst a multitude of competing priorities. As Chair of the Council’s Budget Committee, I was responsible for assembling a final balancing package that addressed the values of our constituents, especially those with the most urgent needs.  Together, my Council colleagues and I managed to pass several important amendments to the city budget that will meaningfully impact the lives of everyday people in Seattle, all while maintaining current service levels.

Below are a few highlights of the 2018 budget actions adopted by the Council. A complete list of amendments to the budget made by the Council is available here. Additional highlights are included in the  press release.

District 1

  • Funding for public safety coordinator and pedestrian/lighting improvements identified by the South Park Public Safety Task Force
  • Statement of Legislative Intent report from SPD by March 16 about solutions to vehicle noise enforcement and cruising in Alki (which could also affect Fauntleroy and Belltown)
  • Expand the Ready to Work project into District 1.  There are unique challenges facing immigrants and refugees living in SW Seattle. The Ready to Work model is designed to support Seattle residents who are English learners and hinges on the intensive centralized and neighborhood based support available to these English learners.  The special features of this project include level 1-3 ESL classes, 12 hours a week of classes focused on supporting English learns to succeed in a professional environment, intensive case management and curriculum focused on digital and financial literacy.  The Ready to Work expansion is currently in its planning phase and is slated to open in April of 2018.
  • Funding to plan and design walkable, bikeable path uniting the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods to enhance walkability between Georgetown and South Park’s historic “Main Streets” and connect the heart of the Duwamish Valley
  • Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD): expansion of LEAD to North Precinct, and to begin taking referrals from the SW and South Precincts, and a Statement of Legislative Intent to expand LEAD citywide in 2019
  • Addition of $1 million for participatory budgeting (done through the Neighborhood Parks and Streets Fund), which, in 2017, funded projects in, Delridge, Westwood/Highland Park, High Point and South Park
  • Vacant Building Monitoring Program: While working on legislation earlier this year to modify maintenance and demolition standards related to vacant buildings I worked to add an amendment that would require the department to present the Council with legislation by March 31, 2018. Requiring property owners to register vacant and foreclosed properties allows the City to register properties to ensure they are maintained and secure, and are not a nuisances to the public. The City has experienced a significant increase of complaints about vacant building, between 2013 and 2016 we saw an increase of 58%. Of those, District 1 has the second highest amount of complaints at 189 between 2013 and 2016.

Human Service and Homelessness

Public Safety

  • Hiring more police officers: the budget adds 35 additional police officers’ positions, to stay on track to hire 200 additional officers by early 2020
  • Funding to implement police accountability legislation earlier this year added two and a half positions and contracting funding for the Community Police Commission, and two positions for the Office of Police Accountability
  • Increased funding to support survivors of sexual assault
  • Adopted legislation to prohibit SPD participation in any federal program that transfers excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies

Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee

  • Civil Rights
    • Funding for a comprehensive community-based youth diversion program for youth 18 and under and developed by a consortium of dozens of community organizations as well as funding for the Zero Youth Detention project.
    • An Ordinance requiring the Seattle Women’s Commission, the Seattle Human Rights Commission, the LGBTQ Commission and the People with Disabilities Commission to advise on the Seattle Office of Civil Rights director appointment; adds a “firing for cause” protection to future SOCR director appointments and outlies a four year term limit for future directors .
    • Earlier at the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Art Committee, I and the People with Disabilities Commission proposed closed-captioning for all public meetings covered by the Seattle Channel.  Closed captioning is an essential public accommodation and the expansion of closed captioning on the Seattle Channel is important to ensuring access to every aspect of the City of Seattle’s public process.  Accessibility is a core value of the city and as such it is important that we ensure that everyone who wants to engage in the public process is able.  The 2018 budget includes $160,000 to provide closed captioning services for live City Council and Committee videos.
  • Seattle Public Utilities
    • Enacted rate smoothing to prevent spikes that can have a detrimental effect on customers.
    • Instituted 100% cost recovery for developers to pay for new water taps and system development charges so existing customers aren’t subsidizing new development.
    • Increased funding for unauthorized homeless encampment garbage pilot cleanup.
    • Study the SPU employee to manager ratio to provide quarterly written reports next year to address recommendations from a 2009 State Auditor report that employee to manager ratio was 7.7, whereas the national standard for organizations of similar size was 10 to 15 employees per manager.
  • Economic Development
    • Funding to develop and implement of a new Legacy Business Designation Program and support for business entrepreneurs who are women and people of color.
    • Funding for the Office of Film and Music to support the film and media production sector, a core function of the office that hasn’t received adequate funding.
  • Arts
    • Funding to implement the Cultural Arts Spaces (CAP) report: reserving funding to incentivize cultural uses in older buildings; a liaison between Arts and SDCI; and a report on creation of a cultural spaces public development authority.

Fiscal responsibility

  • Judgment and Claims fund– Seeking recommendations for managing the fund, which was over budget
  • Income tax–requiring a report by the City Budget Office on use of potential revenues, including consideration of reduction or elimination of property tax levies
  • Performance pay for City Light CEO: removal of performance pay for this position, which is the only department head position in the city to receive an incentive pay program
  • Cut a $3 million proposal to automate and centralize bridge openings for a single bridge
  • Funding to study the feasibility of a public bank to allow City in future to save month on cost associated with relying on big banks to finance bonds for City infrastructure

I’d like to thank everyone who contacted me and Councilmembers for all your work to help identify these priorities. Together, you’ve helped us develop a better city budget.


Employee Hours Tax Resolution

Often, we talk about economic prosperity not lifting all boats, but the proposition we are faced with — and the reason the Employee Head Tax was proposed — is because economic prosperity has not only failed to help everybody, but this economic prosperity has hurt some people, as noted in the Mayor’s proposed budget. I believe that the beneficiaries of that economic prosperity must do more to address the impacts of prosperity that has not been shared by all.

In seeking a budget that had, at its core, a principle of fiscal responsibility and sustainability, I proposed a progressive, ongoing revenue source to support a surge in affordable housing production – to more than double the units built with Housing Levy funds – to meet the great need of people living without homes. Instead of passing that ongoing revenue source, the Council passed Resolution 31782.  This resolution requires the Council to assemble a task force to be appointed by December 11. This task force will develop recommendations for a dedicated progressive revenue source to support people experiencing or at high-risk for homelessness and to raise no less than $25 million a year. This task force will deliver recommendations by February 26, 2018, and the Council will take legislative action by March 26. 2018. This is a huge win for those who have been waiting for something big and bold to address the city’s civil emergency on homelessness.


Response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in South Park

Last week regarding I.C.E. agents attempted to access a building in South Park without a judicial warrant. Here’s a link to a statement Councilmember González and I sent out in response.

The owner of this building rightly turned to a trusted advocate in the neighborhood for assistance about responding first.  As luck would have it, this advocate was meeting with a City of Seattle employee, and Seattle as a “welcoming city” took swift action.

The three individuals – with knowledge from a Know Your Rights training – checked for key things that make a warrant legal and actionable. The administrative warrant held by the I.C.E. agents did not meet the legal threshold that would allow them to legally enter the building.

Unequivocally verifying that an enforcement action is taking place before posting it on social media, is crucial to preventing the unnecessary spreading of fear or panic within our immigrant neighbors and communities.

If you believe you are seeing an enforcement action taking place, report it to the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network hotline at 1-844-RAID-REP (1-844-724-3737). Resources, in multiple languages, to Know Your Rights can be found at: OneAmerica, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, or with civil rights organizations like the ACLU.


Seattle Observes National Transgender Day of Remembrance

Monday November 20th was the 18th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.  Transgender day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 by a handful of community leaders, amount them Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize and mourn the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester.  Since its inception, Transgender Day of Remembrance has evolved as a way to bring attention to the appalling rates of murder and violence death experience by transgender people, especially transgender women of color.   Here is the list of the 25 transgender people killed this year:

  • Candace Towns, 30
  • Stephanie Montez, 47
  • Ally Lee Steinfeld, 17
  • Derricka Banner, 26
  • Kashmire Redd, 28
  • Kiwi Herring, 30
  • Gwynevere River Song, 26
  • TeeTee Dangerfield, 32
  • Ebony Morgan, 28
  • Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17
  • Josie Berrios (also known as Kendra Adams and Kimbella Rosé), 28
  • Kenne McFadden, 27
  • Sherrell Faulkner, 46
  • Brenda Bostick, 59
  • Chay Reed, 28
  • Alphonza Watson, 38
  • Jaquarrius Holland, 18
  • Ciara McElveen, 21
  • Chyna Gibson, 31
  • Keke Collier, 24
  • JoJo Striker, 23
  • Mesha Caldwell, 41
  • Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28
  • Scout Schultz, 21
  • Sean Hake, 23

As we mourn their deaths, please take a moment and read more about the lives of these individuals.  As we seek justice for their deaths we also celebrate their accomplishments in life.   Many thanks to the LGBTQ Commission for their leadership on this issue and for recognizing Transgender Day of Remembrance.

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