West Seattle Bridge Update, September 11; Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network; Crowd Control Weapons Recommendations Presentation; Good Things Happening in the West Seattle Junction

September 11th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update, September 11

Funding update

Through the end of August, SDOT had spent $7.6 million on high-bridge emergency stabilization, bridge monitoring and traffic mitigation efforts and projects. Future work will cost significantly more.

In order to fund work moving forward, on Monday the Council adopted legislation I co-sponsored along with Councilmember Pedersen, Chair of the Transportation and Utilities committee.  The legislation authorizes the loan of funds in the amount of $50,000,000 from the Construction and Inspections Fund and $20,000,000 from the Real Estate Excise Tax, or REET II, Capital Projects Fund to the 2021 LTGO Taxable Bond Fund for “early phases of work on the bridge repair and replacement project.”

The $70 million will fund:

  • Bridge stabilization work
  • Bridge monitoring
  • Repairs and enhancements to the Spokane Street (Lower) Bridge
  • Traffic and mobility mitigation projects including Reconnect West Seattle project
  • Planning and design of a long-term replacement

The internal city loan will be repaid through issuance of debt in 2021; I thank my Council colleagues for their support.

In addition, SDOT will be applying for a FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant in the upcoming cycle; applications are due on January 29, 2021. By this deadline SDOT will have better project definition, which will assist in developing a grant proposal. Thank you to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal for her support and advocacy in supporting this application.

Community Task Force Updates

The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force met on Wednesday, and received updates on several subjects as follows:

Cost Benefit Analysis

There was an update and discussion regarding the cost benefit analysis, which will inform the decision whether to repair or replace the bridge. Both a replacement bridge and an immersed tube tunnel are being used for the purpose of the replacement option analysis.

If replacing the bridge is chosen, a separate Type, Size and Location study would be needed to evaluate the various replacement options before choosing one.

Here’s SDOT’s timeline for the cost benefit analysis, leading to a decision whether to repair or replace the bridge in October (I asked if the timeline for a decision remained October, and SDOT affirmed this):

Here’s a slide that shows the weighting of various criteria as part of the cost-benefit analysis, by SDOT, the Technical Advisory Panel, and the Community Task Force, as well as the combined total:

Here’s a description of how SDOT and their consultant WSP will incorporate lifecycle costs into risk calculations, while noting a new lifecycle range for a repair of 15-40 years, whereas the previous lifecycle estimate for a repair was only 10 years:

Low Bridge Access Policy

SDOT is forming a subcommittee on access to and use of the lower bridge, consisting of members of the Community Task Force, consisting of business, labor, maritime users, employer shuttles, and schools. I suggested including a resident as well, especially from the northern portion of the peninsula.

Stabilization work

SDOT provided an update on stabilization measures, with images of the post-tensioning brackets inside the bridge:

Reconnect West Seattle

SDOT provided an update on implementation of Reconnect West Seattle projects, noting 23 community-projects for 2020, and 32 planned for 2021 (these projects require more planning and/or community feedback on whether a plan meets community desires). The initial investment for these critical mitigation projects is $6 million.

One project listed for implementation raised objections from former Mayor Nickels, and South Park representation: a northbound freight-only lane on West Marginal. SDOT indicated more community consultation would take place about this.

Traffic Update

SDOT is planning speed radar installations by the end of the month: two along Sylvan Way, two on 14th Avenue SW, and two on Cloverdale in South Park.

The most recent traffic volumes are below, with continued high use on Highland Park Way and West Marginal; the lower (Spokane Street) Bridge, the South Park Bridge and the 1st Avenue South Bridge all also have higher volumes than the pre-COVID baseline:

Here are the most recent travel times:


Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network

Today, in my Public Safety and Human Services Committee we heard legislation related to the Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network.  Seattle Fire Department Chief Scoggins presented the legislation but before he did, his opening remarks addressed the fact that today is an anniversary of a tragic event in our nation’s history.  I share his remarks here, as well as sharing in the sentiment expressed:

“We recognize that today is the 19 year anniversary of 9/11 when our country faced some very difficult times when we lost more than 2,900 people as well as 71 police officers and 343 firefighters.  On that day, the fire service made a commitment that ‘we will never forget.’  SFD had events honoring them.  We read the names of all 347 fire fighters at our fire stations this morning to honor our fire fighters who passed away that day.”

Photo credit to SFD

The Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network, otherwise known as PSERN, will be a new digital radio communication system primarily used for emergency response. This system will replace a 1995 analog system at 800 MHz, this older system will still be used by many City departments.

An interlocal agreement between 12 jurisdictions  (Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, King County, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Redmond, Renton, Seattle, and Tukwila) will create a new non-profit to own, operate, and maintain this radio network – that non-profit will be called PSERN.

The new network, once completed in 2023, will provide 97% reliability at street level in the King County area. The goal is to have all of the 12 parties approve the interlocal agreement by mid-September. My committee took action today to approve this interlocal agreement for the city of Seattle; another 50% of the cities/agencies have already signed on.  The Full Council will vote on this legislation on Monday, September 21.

Crowd Control Weapons Recommendations Presentation

Also at today’s meeting of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting, the Community Police Commission, the Inspector General, and the Office of Police Accountably presented their recommendations regarding the use of crowd control weapons. I sponsored an amendment requesting this in the Council legislation adopted on June 15. I also sponsored an amendment to submit the legislation to US District Court Judge Robart, who oversees the 2012 Consent Decree with the US Department of Justice.

The three accountability bodies sent their recommendations in mid-August; each of the three accountability bodies have slightly different roles and responsibilities as part of the 3-legged stool that comprises our civilian accountability system. Here’s a link to their recommendations:

Here’s a summary chart; while it’s not a substitute for the individual reports, it contains a useful high-level comparison of the recommendations, where they overlap and where they diverge, of the three accountability bodies.

All three bodies note support for allowing for the use of some less lethal options outside the context of crowd control. Both the OPA and OIG propose re-authorizing the limited use of crowd control devices during crowd control situations when violence is present; the OIG indicates any re-authorization should be accompanied by changes in policy and training to reduce risk of harm to non-violent protestors; the OPA proposes conditions to minimize use.

Video of the meeting will be available at the Seattle Channel committee archive.

Here’s background about the court cases regarding use of crowd control weapons; US District Court Judge Robart approved a temporary restraining order on implementation of the Council’s ordinance that was requested by the US Department of Justice. A current motion would see resolution of the case in October.

To allow for further consideration of our approach addressing the issues raised by the DOJ, the Court, and the 3 accountability partners, we have requested a short extension of the current deadlines set by the Court. The court had previously ordered the parties to submit memoranda by Sept 12, “analyzing the interaction of the Ordinance with the Consent Decree, as well as with any SPD policies that the Consent Decree governs”. The court also directed the parties to respond to the reports submitted by the OPA and IG. In light of the necessary work to address the issues raised by the DOJ, the Court, and the 3 accountability partners, we recognize that more time will be needed.

In a separate case, On June 13th, US District Court approved a temporary restraining order sought by Black Lives Matter and the ACLU limiting the use of crowd control devices in protests; the City agreed to extend the preliminary injunction limiting the use of crowd control devices through September 30th.  On August 10th, in response to a motion of contempt by BLM/ACLU, the City agreed to the expansion of the injunction to further limit the use of chemical irritants or projectiles, and specifically called out a prohibition on use against journalists, legal observers and medics, and specified that declaring a riot does not exempt the city from its obligations under the order.

Good Things Happening in the West Seattle Junction

As they always do, the West Seattle Junction Association is working hard to promote our neighborhood business district with a critical emphasis on the need on economic recovery for the small businesses there.  Check out this video commissioned by West Seattle Junction Association to promote our beautiful district.

“West Seattle has its own vibe. We are set apart from the rest of Seattle in a very unique way – and it shows through our community, people, and businesses. Set in the heart of West Seattle is the West Seattle Junction: the center of art and commerce for the incredible people that encompass our neighborhood. Whether you’re looking to visit, or for a more permanent change of scenery – look no further than the soulful, vibrant community of West Seattle.”

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West Seattle Bridge Update; High Point Library Curbside Book Pickup; Crowd Control Weapons Recommendations; Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens’ Youth Rights Ordinance; Rental Assistance Dollars – County Seeking Feedback; Virtual Office Hours; E-mail Volume / No Newsletter Next Two Weeks

August 21st, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update

On Wednesday the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee voted  to approve legislation sponsored by Councilmember Pedersen and myself to authorize an interfund loan of up to $70 million to fund work on the West Seattle Bridge and related projects during 2020 and 2021. A Full Council vote is scheduled for September 8th, the day after Labor Day.

This is one of three new actions this week to advance critical work on the West Seattle Bridge. The Bridge is a declared emergency and we can’t use regular planning approaches, so I thank both my Council colleagues for recommending financing legislation to Full Council as well as SDOT for moving quickly to hire a designer, as announced this week. I’m eager to implement the third critical action discussed Wednesday – automated traffic enforcement on the low bridge.

The $70 million interfund loan would be borrowed from the City’s cash pool and repaid with a $100 million bond sale in 2021.  Any needed spending above $100 million through 2021 will be supported by a separate interfund loan, to be established, if necessary, sometime in early 2021. The legislation includes an updated Capital Improvement Budget page that lists an additional $30 million in bond proceeds for the 2021 budget, for the $100 million total.

The legislation will fund:

  • Bridge stabilization work
  • Bridge monitoring
  • Repairs and enhancements to the Spokane Street (Lower) Bridge
  • Traffic and mobility mitigation projects including Reconnect West Seattle project
  • Planning and design of a long-term replacement

The Transportation and Utilities Committee also held a briefing on the West Seattle Bridge. Due to COVID and the Council’s work to revise the 2020 budget due to declining tax revenues, this was the first opportunity for the committee to meet in several months. I thank Chair Pedersen for hearing this at the first opportunity.

SDOT has selected a designer for a replacement for the West Seattle Bridge, which will be necessary for all repair or replacement scenarios.

I appreciate SDOT taking this action now, rather than waiting on the decision of whether to proceed with a replacement or a repair. If we pursue a replacement, this decision will save time.

The design team includes 26 total firms, including 11 woman and minority-owned business enterprise companies.

SDOT will propose legislation to the Council soon for automated enforcement on the lower bridge. This is made possible by the years-long effort of Representative Joe Fitzgibbon to change state law in the 2020 state legislative session to allow for camera enforcement in transit lanes. This could begin as soon as this fall, and is authorized as a pilot project through June 2023. Monetary penalties would begin in January 2021.

Once camera enforcement begins, SDOT will have the opportunity to examine traffic patterns on the lower bridge, and may be able to adjust allowed users. Requests continue to come in for additional access, for example businesses and essential workers.

The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force also met on Wednesday. Here’s demographic data for the Reconnect West Seattle Mobility Action Plan Survey results:

In South Park, there were 97 paper ballots in other languages, with 63 in Spanish, 27 in Vietnamese, and 3 in Somali.

There are significant community concerns about speeding, and traffic on side streets. Community suggestions include speed calming devices; speeding enforcement and local-only access to neighborhood streets.

Below are additional key themes:

The survey results also include responses about what would help people use buses and the water taxi more often (though it’s important to keep in mind that social distancing due to COVID-19 impacts people’s willingness to use transit). Travel time and frequency of service were the top results for buses; KC Metro will be adding back service in the Admiral neighborhood on buses 55, 56 and 57 on September 19th.

For the water taxi, more parking nearby, more frequent trips, and better bus/shuttle connections were the top results. KC Metro has issued an RFP for a second boat, but outside funding will be needed for a second boat.

SDOT has begun providing access for employer shuttles; KC Metro’s shared employer shuttle program is expanding access for smaller employers.

For biking, there is interest in increasing trips if facilities are improved and if e-bikes are more affordable though weather and time of day limit use.

Below are the most recent traffic volumes, which continue previous trends. The 25% increase over the pre-COVID baseline for the South Park Bridge is higher than previous counts:

Below are the most recent travel time estimates:

Below are the most recent traffic volumes for the lower (Spokane Street) bridge, for August 5 through 13, and since early March:


High Point Library Curbside Book Pickup

The Seattle Public Library system is launching curbside pickup service for library holds, and High Point Library is one of several sites available.  The curbside pickups are currently only available for holds placed before libraries closed on March 13.  If you have holds available for pickup, SPL will contact you by email or phone.

To schedule a curbside pickup, download the myLIBRO app or call 206-386-4190. When you’re on your way, tap the “I’m on My Way” button via the app so the library can gather your materials.  You can also pick up your holds without scheduling in advance. After you receive a notice that your hold is ready to be picked up, come to the branch listed during open hours and wait in the walk-up line.  Either way, bring your library card and a face covering.

Learn more about curbside pickup, including hours of service and directions for the myLIBRO app.  And stay tuned: SPL expects to announce the ability to place new holds soon.

Lowman Beach Park Racket Court Design

Seattle Parks & Recreation is hosting a virtual open house on Wednesday, August 26th from 6:30-7:30pm to gather input about the possibility of a new racket court at Lowman Beach Park .  As part of the Lowman Beach Seawall Replacement project, the existing court will be removed.  Learn more about the seawall replacement project and find links to attend the August 26th meeting here.


Free Covid Testing at Chief Sealth Starting 8/28

Starting Friday August 28th, free, walk-up Covid testing will be available at the Chief Sealth High School Athletic Complex in Westwood.  Register online starting on August 26th for testing between 9:30am – 5:30pm, five days a week.  Translation services are offered at all Citywide testing sites and can be requested while registering.

I thank the Seattle Fire Department for continuing to lead testing efforts by administering tests at the Citywide sites. In the early days of the crisis, SFD developed expertise in administering tests through new pilot programs including testing for first responders and Mobile Assessment Teams in long-term care facilities.  My office worked with SFD to make their excess testing capacity available to front-line service providers in an effort to help protect people experiencing homelessness and those who work with them.  You can learn more about SFD’s efforts to provide testing here.

Testing is free at the City of Seattle sites, and clients are not billed, regardless of health insurance status. For those with insurance, UW Medicine will handle the billing of Medicaid, Medicare, or individuals’ private insurance. Under Washington state law, insurance companies cannot charge co-pays for COVID-19 testing. For uninsured clients, UW Medicine will seek reimbursement directly from the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act Relief Fund for the cost of the test.

This community was successful beating back coronavirus in the spring and we can do it again. With the closure of the West Seattle Bridge making it harder to access testing, this additional testing capacity in District 1 will make a real difference. If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of COVID, or have been in contact with someone with COVID, please seek testing.

Crowd Control Weapons Recommendations

Last Friday the Community Police Commission, the Inspector General, and the Office of Police Accountably all sent reports to the Council regarding the use of crowd control weapons, as requested in the Council legislation adopted on June 15. At the time of passage, I sponsored an amendment to the bill requesting these reports by August 15th, along with another amendment to submit the legislation to US District Court Judge Robart, who oversees the 2012 Consent Decree. I appreciate the work of these three accountability bodies guiding our policy work related to policing practices and their necessary reform.

Each of the three accountability bodies have slightly different roles and responsibilities as part of the 3-legged stool that comprises our civilian accountability system. Here’s a link to their recommendations, which I’ve invited them to present to my Public Safety and Human Services Committee in September:

The recommendations of the three bodies are different, in line with their responsibilities as accountability bodies; the OPA perspective is informed by its responsibility to evaluate complaints filed; the OIG focuses on structural issues in SPD’s policies as compared to other law enforcement; and the CPC’s perspective focuses in part on the effect of policing policies on the community’s trust.

All three bodies note support for allowing for the use of some less lethal options outside the context of crowd control. Both the OPA and OIG propose re-authorizing the limited use of crowd control devices during crowd control situations when violence is present; the OIG indicates any re-authorization should be accompanied by changes in policy and training to reduce risk of harm to non-violent protestors; the OPA proposes conditions to minimize use.

The legislation was adopted in response to complaints from numerous residents, especially from Capitol Hill, who were deeply upset by the frequent use of tear gas near their homes for over a week. This resulted in, for example, a family fleeing their residence. Because tear gas seeped into their home, their newborn child woke up coughing and foaming at the mouth; they fled the neighborhood out of fear for their child’s life.

There are two court cases affecting the use of crowd control devices. On June 13th, US District Court  approved a temporary restraining order sought by Black Lives Matter and the ACLU limiting the use of crowd control devices in protests; the City agreed to extend the preliminary injunction limiting the use of crowd control devices through September 30th.  On August 10th, in response to a motion of contempt by BLM/ACLU, the City agreed to the expansion of the injunction to further limit the use of chemical irritants or projectiles, and specifically called out a prohibition on use against journalists, legal observers and medics, and specified that declaring a riot does not exempt the city from its obligations under the order.

In a separate case, US District Court Judge Robart approved a temporary restraining order on implementation of the Council’s ordinance that was requested by the US Department of Justice. He requested the three accountability bodies to submit recommendations to him as well; a decision could come as soon as September.

Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens’ Youth Rights Ordinance

In mid-July I wrote a blog post about this legislation, before it was brought to Council.  You can read that article here. I cosponsored this legislation with Councilmember Morales after calls from community members and advocates concerned about youth not understanding their rights when interacting with police officers.

The Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens’ Youth Rights Ordinance is named after a teenager who, in 2017, was shot and killed by plainclothes deputies during a misguided King County Sheriff’s Office’s sting operation that wrongly targeted two teens. Dunlap-Gittens’ was a high school senior set to graduate from Federal Way High School. His mother described him as a good son with a big heart, who wanted to be a lawyer and enjoyed writing poetry.

The Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens’ Youth Rights Ordinance requires:

  1. An officer, before any questioning and after administering a Miranda warning to a person 17 years of age or younger, allow the youth to consult with legal counsel in person, by telephone, or by video conference. There are exceptions for information necessary to protect life from an imminent threat.
  2. An officer, prior to requesting consent to search a youth/their property/home/vehicles, allow the youth to consult with legal counsel in person, by telephone, or by video conference.
  3. After consulting with legal counsel, the youth may, or can have a parent, guardian or legal counsel, advise the officer whether they want to exercise their constitutional rights.

The Full Council unanimously passed this legislation on Monday. Children of color are disproportionately contacted by law enforcement, incarcerated, and charged with offenses in King County juvenile court. In 2018, 73.2% of the children charged were children of color and 86.5% of the youth incarcerated between January and September of 2019 were children of color.

I want to thank Mi’Chance’s family for testifying before the Council and for their advocacy which made passage of this ordinance possible.

Rental Assistance Dollars – County Seeking Feedback

On Thursday the County announced a plan to spend over $40 million on rental eviction prevention and rental assistance. Landlords must agree to accept 80 percent of the rent or fair market rent, whichever is less, so that public funds can help more households.

  • Large Residential Property Fund ($17.9M)
    To reach the largest number of low-income households as quickly as possible, nearly $18 million is dedicated to a fund that is available to larger residential property managers and landlords with multiple residents needing assistance. Efforts will focus on Low Income Tax Credit properties and properties in the zip codes with the highest unemployment and COVID-19 disease burdens.
  • Individual Household/Small Landlord Fund ($10M)
    Another fund focuses on assisting any individual household that meets the eligibility requirements. Due to expected high demand, tenant selection will occur via a weekly lottery. Potential recipients will submit a form to enter the lottery process, with the first tenants and landlords drawn on September 14, 2020 and weekly thereafter until all funds are spent. Community-based organizations will assist tenants with the application process, and other nonprofit organizations will provide the actual rental assistance.
  • Manufactured Home Park Fund ($2M)
    Specialized assistance and funding is dedicated to help manufactured home park residents, many of whom are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, including approximately 70 percent Latinx. Similar to the Large Residential Property Fund, non-profit organizations administering the funds will work with park owners to assist households quickly. Community-based organizations will provide residents with language and other assistance, as needed.
  • Eviction Prevention – United Way of King County ($5M)
    Funding is allocated to United Way’s Rental Assistance Program to support households through UWKC’s Home Base program when the state-mandated Eviction Moratorium ends in mid-October, unless the moratorium is extended. If extended, the resources will be reallocated to support the other funds.

The remaining dollars will be spent on outreach and administrative costs. The County is seeking feedback on this proposal, and you can comment here through August 25.

If you are a tenant seeking assistance, please see this link to see if you qualify to receive funds. For small landlords, please see this link.

Virtual Office Hours

On Friday August  28, I will be hosting virtual office hours between 2pm and go until 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, you will need to contact my schedule Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time.

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, September 25, 2020
  • Friday, October 30, 2020
  • Friday, December 18, 2020

E-mail Volume / No Newsletter Next Two Weeks

E-mail volume recently has been at an all-time high, with tens of thousands of e-mails coming in. I’m sorry it’s taking longer than usual to get back to everyone.

The City Council is on its summer recess for the next two weeks, and there won’t be any Council meetings during that time. My next update will be in September in a couple of weeks.

 

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West Seattle Bridge Update, August 14; Statement on Retirement of SPD Chief Best; Parks & Alki; Jumpstart Veto Override and Spending Plan

August 14th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update, August 14

Next week the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force will meet on Wednesday, and continue its review and input to the development of the cost-benefit analysis model that will be used in part to decide whether to repair or replace the bridge.  We will also continue review of and input to the draft Reconnect West Seattle plan.

On Wednesday August 19th, the Transportation and Utilities Committee plans to consider legislation to authorize two interfund loans  of up to $70 million to fund work on the West Seattle Bridge. I serve on the committee and look forward to supporting this legislation.

Through August 3rd, SDOT spent $3.8 million on bridge and related work.

Last week, in my ongoing conversations about the funding opportunities for the West Seattle Bridge with the office of US Representative Jayapal, I learned about a new potential federal funding source, called the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure (BRIC) grant program. The application period for this opens on September 30th; applications are due on January 29, 2021. By this deadline SDOT will have better project definition, which will assist in developing a grant proposal.

BRIC grants are for states, local communities and tribes for pre-disaster mitigation activities. BRIC priorities are to incentivize public infrastructure projects; projects that mitigate risk to one or more lifelines; projects that incorporate nature-based solutions, and the adoption and enforcement of modern building codes.

I thank the office of Representative Jayapal for diligently monitoring potential federal grant opportunities, and quickly letting the city know whenever they are available.

According to SDOT, the lower bridge has opened 858 times through the end of July: 757 times for marine traffic, and 101 times for maintenance, testing or aborted openings. The most common operator is Broughton and Beckwith; openings last an average of 12 minutes; 357 openings occurred during peak travel hours.

I asked SDOT about openings in 2019. For the entire year, there were 1390 openings for marine traffic, 502 during peak travel hours, and 371 times for maintenance, testing or aborted openings.

The Coast Guard currently uses a “standard of care” that asks mariners to voluntarily limit their requests for openings during peak travel hours.  502 openings during peak travel hours for the entire year of 2019, as compared to 357 openings during peak travel hours through July of this year, has led me to make additional inquiries of SDOT of whether or not the Coast Guard is using the “standard of care” as intended.

Here are the most recent traffic volumes; traffic continues to be high on Highland Park Way and West Marginal, and above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge and Roxbury, and South Michigan Street in Georgetown.

Travel times are listed below:

Traffic volumes for the lower (Spokane Street) bridge are shown from the start of February through August 1st:

 

Statement on Retirement of SPD Chief Best

Below is the statement I issued in response to Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best’s announcement that she plans to retire next month:

“As chair of the committee that oversees public safety in Seattle, I want to start by sincerely thanking Chief Best for her 28 years of dedication and service to our City.

“Make no mistake:  the Chief’s retirement is a staggering loss to leaders of the Black and Brown community.  I remember the 2018 annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, which occurred during another time of uncertainty for the future of her leadership.  One official after another spoke, each met with polite applause. That day, Chief Best’s speech received not one, but two, standing ovations.  I texted her at the time to say that I didn’t want to jinx her, but that after two standing ovations I believed she had cinched the top job and that I hoped it was the case.  The importance of her tenure and achievement as the City’s first Black woman to lead the Seattle Police Department can not be overstated.

“At times of social unrest, police chiefs are often in no-win situations. I’ve seen it before.  In the wake of the WTO demonstrations, Police Chief (Norm) Stamper resigned in the absence of clear direction from the Executive or obvious support from the Police Union.  The Council, now that we’ve passed a new SPD budget, needs to work with the Chief in order to successfully implement it. If she did so, she could lose the support of the police union, SPOG, which is continuing to move to a more conservative point on the political spectrum.  At the same time, if she doesn’t work to make deployment decisions that only she is authorized to make in order to implement the Council’s budget, she will continue to face criticism.

“Any career in policing, at this time in our nation’s history, will involve engagement with a large segment of the public questioning the third rail of local politics: that larger police departments equal better public safety outcomes.  Every major city in the nation has a police chief who is learning that leadership means understanding that they may need to figure out how to accept – and get their departments to accept – that the public wants less policing and more community safety.

“Policing at the highest levels in our country has been forever changed by what we’ve observed since George Floyd’s death.  We are in an historic time that requires everyone in leadership and service – in Seattle and throughout the country – to question, to learn, and to change.  This is especially true for law enforcement, an institution being called upon to reckon with the harm it has done to Black and Brown communities, while accepting the opportunity to embrace fundamental, structural change that will lead to true community safety.

“I am deeply and sincerely sorry that the Chief feels Council’s actions have been disrespectful toward individual officers and that our journey to reimagine community safety has been personally directed at her. As public safety chair, I take responsibility and offer my apology to Chief Best.

“The Council is in a difficult position as well.  We have to be able to say when we disagree, and strive for accountability when necessary.  We have to be able to ask hard questions about the SPD, and engage in difficult debate about the appropriate role of policing, the SPD budget, and SPD’s recent actions in response to demonstrations against violent policing here in Seattle.  After the first weekend of demonstrations, after the Chief addressed the Council, she told me that the Council had disrespected her in questioning her in committee about the actions of the police.  Indeed, it is the Council’s job to ask questions.  And with Council’s role in appointing a new Chief clearly spelled out in Resolution 31868 re Council confirmation of department directors), any candidate will be subject to the same scrutiny as Chief Best has faced.

“Chief Best deserves our recognition and respect for nearly thirty years of dedication to policing and public safety, duty, and service to the people of Seattle.  I am grateful for her service.  I am also committed to continuing the work around rebuilding community safety and trust in our City.”

 

Parks & Alki

After hearing from many members of the public, and receiving inquiries from my office as well, Parks & Recreation agreed to provide funding for SPD officers to close the gate at Don Armeni and assist with closing Alki Beach.  Specifically the announcement, reported last week on the West Seattle Blog and the Seattle Times, was that:

“The Parks Department has generously agreed to fund a three-officer detail to support Parks staff in closing Alki Beach and the Don Armeni Boat Ramp at night, starting tomorrow (Thursday), August 6th. The officers will work three hours, from 8-11 pm, every Thursday through Sunday night for the remainder of the summer, until Sunday, September 27th.”

My office immediately inquired with Parks Superintendent Aguirre, requesting an update on the situation, and whether we should expect a request for a Council approval of a transfer of funding from Parks to SPD for this purpose.

The question was resolved on Monday when we were informed that Parks will be contracting with off-duty officers to close Alki Beach and the Don Armeni boat ramp at night. Parks has the resources and appropriation authority to pay for this work so no further appropriation authority is needed from the Council.  I still have an outstanding inquiry with the Parks Department why they determined that Parks Ambassadors are not sufficient to close Alki Beach and the Don Armeni Ramp.  I recognize, having been in both locations at night, that there may be some closure compliance issues, but I’d like to understand why they cannot be addressed on a case by case situation, rather than relying on off-duty officers to close the park and boat ramp.

 

Jumpstart Veto Override and Spending Plan

On Wednesday this week, the Full City Council held a special meeting to discuss the Mayor’s veto of the Jumpstart spending plan passed unanimously by the City Council on July 20.

CB 119812 authorized spending from the City’s two emergency “reserve funds” in 2020 to support people and businesses impacted by COVID, including support for small businesses, nonprofits, immigrants and refugees; food security; rental assistance benefiting landlords and tenants; and immediate housing needs. The two reserve emergency funds would be replenished in 2021 with the projected new payroll tax revenue paid only by eligible large employers (with more than $7 million in total payroll) and based only on the number of highly compensated employees (only positions with payroll greater than $150,000/year). The Mayor vetoed this legislation on July 31.

The Council not only voted to override the Mayor’s veto, but we also voted on and passed, 7-1 (with only Councilmember Sawant voting in opposition) a new bill to address some of the concerns expressed by the Mayor in her July 31 veto.  It’s important to understand the Council’s Charter obligations for why we voted to override this veto, even knowing that we had a new piece of legislation to pass that would replace the vetoed bill.

Some argued we should just “mothball” the vetoed bill and introduce a new one to address the Mayor’s concerns.  We are prohibited by the City Charter from doing so.  The City Charter says that the Council “shall” vote to sustain or override the veto.  We don’t have the legal right to take no action.  This Charter requirement has as its foundation that the Council as a Legislative body must do its work in public.  We can’t make a non-public policy decision to ignore a bill that has been vetoed and start with a new bill.

Another suggestion was that, if we were going to propose a new bill to address the Mayor’s concerns with the vetoed bill, we should have just sustained the Mayor’s vetoed bill and then voted on the new “replacement bill” for the Jumpstart spending plan.  We couldn’t do that on Wednesday either, because the new “replacement bill” for the Jumpstart spending plan was drafted as an amendment to the original vetoed bill.

If we had voted to sustain the Mayor’s veto, in order to vote on the new “replacement bill” for the Jumpstart spending plan, we would have had to draft an entirely new bill and that would have to be officially introduced on the Council’s “Introduction and Referral Calendar,” which assigns a bill number to the legislation and creates a public record. The Council cannot vote on a bill the same day it is introduced. The second thing to understand is that the Council has a two week recess period every year at the end of summer (last two weeks of August), August 17th happens to be the last Full Council before recess this year, and unfortunately the Council was not able to introduce new legislation before August 17th that would allow the Council to allocate a smaller amount of money than what was vetoed in CB 119812. Therefore the Council took the action of overriding the Mayor’s veto so that we could act on a piece of legislation that was already introduced so that the City can get relief to people without additional delay.

After overriding the veto, in the same meeting, the Council amended the legislation with a new bill in order to reduce the spending from $86 million in 2020 to $57 million in 2020.  This reduced spending goal was in recognition of the need of the City to access additional emergency reserves in order to address an additional reduction in revenue.  In order to give maximum flexibility to the Mayor and Executive Departments charged with expending the COVID19 relief funding, I requested that the following language be added to the new bill:

“The Council acknowledges that the administration of this program will require new contracts and systems to distribute these critical services and direct relief to the community  may take time and could result in not expending the full $57 million in 2020. If the full amount is not expended in 2020, the Council is committed to working with the Executive to continue funding these critical COVID-19 relief programs in 2021 and to address newly identified 2020 revenue shortfalls.”

It’s important to recognize the importance of these critical relief programs, but it’s equally important to understand the City’s ability to allocate these dollars in a timely fashion. The Council is signaling – through these actions – its intent to work with the Mayor to disperse the $57 million as quickly as possible, but we recognize that it may not be possible to spend all of the money by the end of 2020.

  • $9.55 million of the funds are intended to address the COVID19 economic hardship to small business owners (including non-profits) with 25 or fewer full time equivalent employees (FTEs) and their employees due to loss of business income, grant funding reductions, layoffs and reduced work hours
  • $2.39 million of the funds are intended to address the COVID19 economic hardship to childcare providers and their employees experience due to loss of income, layoffs and reduced work hours.
  • $20.01 million of the funds are intended for existing homelessness prevention programs, rental assistance programs, rapid rehousing programs, and diversion programs, many that serve both tenants and landlords.
  • $3.2 million of the funds are intended for personal protective equipment, overtime and premium pay for staff, food service, and cleaning supplies to support COVID19 health practices as part of the work being done by shelter providers and non-profit housing providers.
  • $700,000 of the funds are intended for mortgage counseling and foreclosure prevention programs, including costs for housing counselors, legal aid, service coordination, and direct financial assistance.
  • $11.3 million of the funds are intended as direct financial assistance to Seattle’s low-income immigrant and refugee households who have experienced the economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 crisis, prioritizing those who experience structural or institutional barriers to accessing support from the government (e.g. language barriers, risk of deportation), are ineligible for other federal or state emergency assistance, or are receiving such assistance in a limited or delayed manner that does not meet their needs, or those who have had or whose families have had adverse health impacts from COVID.
  • $9.09 million of the funds are intended to expand the Emergency Grocery Voucher program to allow more people participating in existing City programs to be served by this program.
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West Seattle Bridge Update, August 7; 2020 Budget Re-balancing Deliberations; New Free COVID-19 Testing Location; Mayor Extends Eviction Moratorium; Community Input for Police Response to George Floyd Protests

August 7th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update, August 7

Reconnect West Seattle

Over 15,000 people filled out SDOT’s Reconnect West Seattle surveys in July. For the neighborhood prioritization ballots, Highland Park/Riverview/South Delridge/Roxhill had 1,072 responses; South Park 301; Georgetown 209, and SODO 69.

SDOT reports that most people expressed concerns, in the following order, about traffic and congestion; pedestrian safety and accessibility; speeding; and environmental impacts and pollution.

SDOT shared responses regarding how people travel; the COVID pandemic is a complicating factor in evaluating how people will travel once it recedes.

The survey shows the amount of people working from home has increased significantly, and it appears it may continue after social distancing resulting from COVID. The percentage of people considering the water taxi, vanpools, employer shuttles, and biking also appears higher. Buses register as lower than before social distancing, but significantly higher than current use:

Here’s a summary of responses regarding buses, the water taxi, bikes, and working from home, and what conditions would lead people to choose these options:

One area that did not have a project proposed in the neighborhood prioritization ballots was Sylvan Way, which has become a diversion route to access Holden to leave the peninsula. I heard concerns from residents about visibility, speeding and accidents, and relayed that to SDOT.

SDOT announced it has ordered four radar speed signs they will install in coming weeks, and will be trimming vegetation this weekend to improve sightlines between Delridge and Holly.

King County Metro Bridge Closure Action Plan

King County Metro has released a West Seattle Bridge Closure Transit Action Plan.

The plan notes Metros plan’s through September, and plans from September 2020 to September 2021. It also includes two network planning scenarios for diversion of buses if the lower bridge is closed.

The report notes lower capacity during the COVID epidemic:

Analysis of travel data shows strongest demand from West Seattle in the morning commute to other West Seattle locations, the Central Business District, and SODO, with notable demand to South Lake Union, SeaTac, and Southcenter. Several charts show trips during the morning peak by census tract:

The report includes two network planning scenarios. Scenario 1 is for when the lower bridge is open. This scenario represents current operations, and use of the lower bridge.

Scenario 2 is for if the lower bridge is closed, for either maintenance work, or due to instability or collapse of the West Seattle Bridge, resulting in an evacuation area;  it has two planning tiers, both of which would require reroutes.

Tier 1 of Scenario 2 is for when the lower bridge is closed for e.g. maintenance; Tier 2 of Scenario 2 would be for a closure of the lower bridge due to problems with the West Seattle Bridge (instability or collapse, resulting in an evacuation area). SDOT has indicated they do not believe the bridge is any imminent danger of collapse.

For Tier 1, trips to Downtown currently traveling on the lower bridge would access West Marginal from the Chelan 5-way intersection, then travel onto the 1st Avenue South Bridge, to either SR99 or 1st Avenue South, then continue with regular service.

Tier 2 would be more disruptive, with West Marginal not being accessible from the 5-way intersection. Page 24-25 shows the potential reroutes. A new shuttle would provide service to connect North Delridge to the water taxi at Seacrest dock.

The report also notes potential locations for park and ride locations, planned service changes in September 2020 and plans for water taxi, noting what requires additional budget. It further notes significant capital investment would be needed for either temporary or permanent dock space to add a third boat to the water taxi.

I appreciate King County Metro’s work in developing this plan.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Last week SDOT asked members of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force for input regarding the  Cost Benefit Analysis SDOT is conducting to inform the decision whether to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge.

Here was my request that SDOT include an immersed tube tunnel among the six high-level options: “The lack of an immersed tube tunnel in for developing the cost-benefit criteria in the evaluation criteria could make is less likely to be seen a feasible future alternative.  Please include the immersed tube tunnel as one of the options for cost-benefit analysis.”

At the Community Task Force meeting, SDOT clarified its inclusion in the high-level options.

Other comments I submitted about the criteria included:

  • The need to account for short-term and long term impacts to residents and businesses
  • That equity criteria for air quality impacts, traffic impacts also account for both short-term and long-term impacts.
  • The need for criteria considering how available funding will affect the size of the structure i.e. how many lanes are included, and for which users, e.g. cars, freight, public transit.
  • The need for criteria quantifying how an option could have impacts on different communities. If, for example, a replacement option has a smaller number of lanes than the West Seattle Bridge, and thus reduced capacity, it could result in permanent diversion of traffic to the southern portion of the West Seattle to exit the peninsula,  and diversion of traffic on to the South Park Bridge
  • The need for criteria to measure how seismic standards influence decisions about constructability and funding feasibility, and the number of lanes a structure could provide, and for which users?

The cost-benefit analysis will inform the decision to repair or replace the bridge. The graphic below shows how analyzing alternatives for a replacement will work:

Council Consultant Hired

Last month the Council hired an engineering consultant to support the Council on key West Seattle Bridge issues such as review of the stabilization proposal; review of a repair proposal and/or review of replacement proposal. The consultant will focus on the Technical Advisory Panel memos as the key points to engage SDOT and the Council.

The consultant advised the Councilmembers on the Community Task Force re: the cost-benefit criteria proposed by SDOT described in the section above.

Budget Actions

The Budget Committee took action on two Council bills relevant to the bridge, as part of its revisions to the 2020 adopted budget. The Full Council is scheduled to vote on Monday, August 10th.

I’m sponsoring the first bill, which will create a West Seattle Bridge Immediate Response item in the SDOT Capital Program Budget.

The second bill revises city financial policies to specify that Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenues can be used to pay off bonds for work  to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge.

SDOT has provided two relevant updates as well. First of all, SDOT has begun its search for a firm to conduct a Traffic and Revenue Study to study tolling. SDOT notes no decision on funding has been made, though this type of study is a requirement to pursue other federal funding options, such as Transportation Infrastructure Finance Loans.

The study will examine transportation demand over the next several decades, and will include an analysis of equity, and how travel patterns could change with tolls. This could result in additional use of transit, but could also result in permanent diversion of traffic to southern access points to the peninsula and the South Park Bridge, a relevant equity issue.

Secondly, SDOT provided additional information on its blog about the interfund loan legislation it has sent to the Council.

The $70 million interfund loan will provide funds to cover expenses in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021; SDOT will be working to secure other funding. The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) item includes funding estimates for the first two years of work, which SDOT estimates to be between $160 million and $225 million over 2020-2021, while noting a great deal of uncertainty.

The  CIP goes through 2021, and doesn’t include all potential costs related to repair or replacement. SDOT notes, “The $70 million interfund loan would be borrowed from the City’s cash pool and repaid with a $100 million bond sale in 2021.  Any needed spending above $100 million through 2021 will be supported by a separate interfund loan, to be established, if necessary, sometime in early 2021.”

Lower Bridge Use/Access Update

SDOT has extended use of the lower bridge with 13 permits for the West Seattle Chamber and the West Seattle Junction Association, and for additional vanpools for essential workers:

Traffic Update

Below are the most recent traffic volumes. Traffic remains high on West Marginal and Highland Park Way, and above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge and SW Roxbury:

Below are the most recent travel times:


2020 Budget Re-balancing Deliberations

Wednesday’s Budget Committee meeting was a busy one, with Councilmembers voting on a slew of amendments related to the Seattle Police Department’s budget.  Along with Council President González, and Councilmembers Mosqueda and Morales, I introduced a package of narrowly-defined and careful cuts and budget provisos that includes:

  • 38 FTE reductions, starting in November, suggested from specific units, including Mounted Patrol, School Resource Officers, Navigation Team, Harbor Patrol, and Public Affairs, SWAT
  • 30 FTE from expected attrition through officers voluntarily leaving or retiring from SPD
  • 32 FTE suggested general reduction in sworn officers.

It’s important to understand that ultimately, Chief Best holds the authority to make decisions about how and where these reductions may occur.   While Council may determine the overall appropriate size of the police force, and suggest units (such as Mounted Patrol) where layoffs may be made, it’s the Chief of Police who will make the determinations as to where layoffs occur.

In addition, all the reductions take a very specific format, in order to set the City up for the most positive labor bargaining outcomes.  Instead of making cuts of positions, the amendments put a proviso on two months’ worth of salary for each position that is targeted for reduction.  We have received expert advice that it may take between two to four months for each reduction to be bargained.  If it takes longer than that, Council may need to vote to lift the provisos, so that the officers can be paid as the bargaining finishes up.  But the proviso format means that the City will have those dollars on hand, just in case they are needed.

The actions, if approved by the Council and bargained as described above, will result in a reduction of SPD’s police force by 100 officers (from the current level of about 1,400 officers), and result in savings of about $2.9 million in 2020.

The package also includes modest cuts to the SPD’s travel, training, and recruitment budgets, which seemed appropriate given current travel restrictions and the Mayor’s hiring freeze.  These cuts total less than $1M.

Finally, the budget actions also include and intention to create a civilian-led Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention; and remove certain functions from the Seattle Police Department including:

  • Move 9-1-1 communication functions and funding from SPD to a civilian-led department
  • Move the Office of Emergency Management from SPD to a different City department
  • Move some Harbor Patrol functions from SPD to the Seattle Fire Department
  • Move parking enforcement functions from SPD to the Seattle Department of Transportation

The Budget Committee meets again on Monday and will consider legislation to make investments in community safety, as well as legislation I am sponsoring that re-establish budget spending levels for each of the 5 police precincts. Up until last year, the City Budget included budget control levels for each of the 5 precincts.  With the 2020 budget, the 5 precincts were combined into a single budget level, Patrol Operations, at $147.8 million.  With this amendment, the Council will be able to approve appropriation levels in each of Seattle’s police precincts.  With wild speculation that any cuts to the SPD budget may result in the closure of the Southwest Precinct, this legislation will give Council the ability to ensure this precinct will remain funded.

On Thursday, I participated in a press conference along with Council President González and Councilmember Morales to share the vision behind this package.  Here are my remarks:

Mayor Durkan keeps saying we should be “realistic” and that we’ve been irresponsible for committing to a goal before we had the details.

I have never, in my 22 years in government or 8 years prior as an activist – inside or outside government- seen a single hard thing, shaking up the status quo and responding to a historical moment, accomplished by limiting action to what seems “realistic.” In this instance, re-imagining policing, means imagining what may not at first seem realistic.

By signing onto a stretch goal, Council began a partnership with community that has brought us to the place we are now, a unified Council position on the 2020 SPD budget and a pathway AND A PLAN for how to leverage the decisions we are making now to reduce the size of the police Department in 2021. We have shared information about the very real barriers to our goals in real time with community as we were understanding those barriers ourselves. In doing so I hope we have built trust and made an investment in the leadership infrastructure of the people who are critical to this important movement. The activists, the advocates, the people who have experienced harm at the hands of our criminal injustice system and the allies who have never had these experiences first hand but know that the promise of justice will never be delivered if they remain complicit and silent to injustice that they see every day.

The Executive and Council clearly have a different approach to meeting the demands of the movement for true community safety. From what they have shared so far, it doesn’t seem to involve meaningful, structural change or partnering effectively with and empowering community members with lived experiences.

The Mayor says the Council and community have the right ideas, but this is the wrong time. She tells us that she’s working with the Chief to bring a package that “reimagines the police.” The problem with this is that it ignores exactly what the community has been saying – they’re not at the table and want to be. The community is here now pushing Council and working with us to do what she says we should do later.

The Mayor and Chief seem to be using the structural barriers in our government institutions to say what they CAN’T DO instead of trying to find a way for us to work together to try and accomplish what we all say we want to accomplish, reduce the footprint of armed police response for each and every social problem regardless of whether it’s the RIGHT response. Remember 56% of 911 calls are non-criminal and only 3% result in arrest. We are asking police officers to do too much and in doing so we make our communities less safe – whether in sending a police officer to a situation that doesn’t require an armed response or in reducing police capacity to address real crime.

There’s a lot of interest in the ability of the Chief to do out of order layoffs; this is one of the institutional structural, barriers I mentioned earlier. The bottom line is that the rule exists and thus it can be used. Our challenge is – the Executive and Council together should figure out how to use it to meet our shared objectives; not start from the supposition that a rule that clearly exists to be used can’t be used.

On Monday Daniel Beekman of the Seattle Times asked whether the Chief will submit an out of order lay off request with the Public Safety Civil Service Commission. The Chief answered that the decision lies with the Public Safety Civil Service Commission Director. We all understand that – the community understands that. Our request is whether she’ll work with us in developing a request to the PSCSC that has the best chance to preserve the diversity of the SPD in a way that is constitutional and legal according to labor law, does not choose law offs by race as some have claimed we are asking but instead does so in a way that preserves the efficient functioning of the department as the rule requires.

We’re re-imagining and so are local governments all over the country- how are they going to tackle these same issues? Let’s ask these questions and learn, and above all together, TRY.

And if we are unsuccessful then the council, using the proviso has voluntarily put ourselves in a position to be accountable and we will have to consider lifting the provisos. But if the Executive doesn’t try then they will be the ones being held accountable and the question to that branch of government will be, did you really want to re-imagine policing in our city?

New Free COVID-19 Testing Location

On Friday, July 31 the City announced a third location for free testing. Located at Rainier Beach High School in south Seattle it is a walk-up location that is open: Mon, Weds, Thurs, Fri, Sat, 9:30am-5:30pm.

If you want to get tested, please visit the City’s website here and select the most convenient location to see available times. You will also need:

  • A photo ID with your date of birth. Testing is available regardless of your citizenship/immigration status.
  • Insurance card, if you have insurance. If you have insurance, Medicare or Medicaid you must provide this information and UW Medicine will bill them. You will not be charged for the test.  You do not need to have insurance or a doctor’s note to schedule a test.

If you’re unsure if you need testing, COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • fever or chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • muscle or body aches
  • headache
  • new loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • congestion or runny nose
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

Mayor Extends Eviction Moratorium

On Friday, July 31 the Mayor extended the current Seattle eviction moratorium which says that your landlord “shall not initiate an unlawful detainer action, issue a notice of termination, or otherwise act on any termination notice, including any action or notice related to a rental agreement that has expired or will expire during the effective date of this Emergency Order, unless the tenant’s actions constitute an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members.  Further, no late fees or other charges due to late payment of rent shall accrue during the moratorium.”

Further, the Mayor extended the moratorium on evictions on small businesses and non-profits. Both of these moratoriums are extended through December 31, 2020.

Community Input for Inspector General Event Review of Police Response to George Floyd Protests: August 13

Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established to “help ensure the fairness and integrity of the police system as a whole in its delivery of law enforcement services by providing civilian auditing of the management, practices, and policies of the [Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Office of Police Accountability (OPA)] and oversee ongoing fidelity to organizational reforms implemented pursuant to the goals of the 2012 federal Consent Decree.”

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis is a tragic reminder of the long history of deep individual and structural racial injustice in our nation’s policing system. During this critical time, the Office of Inspector General (OIG), in partnership with community and other agencies, is undertaking a sentinel event review of the Seattle Police Department response to recent protests against racial injustice in Seattle.

The OIG notes goal of a sentinel event review is to identify underlying causes of negative outcomes, like a large-scale use of force against protestors, to prevent the same bad outcome from happening again. This process identifies gaps and flaws in the system that contributed to the harmful event, so they can be addressed. Creating an innovative process, with community participation, to assess system flaws can be a way to challenge longstanding assumptions about policing practices and start building a different way of providing public safety that is responsive to concerns being expressed by community

Through this process, OIG seeks to improve the systems that guide law enforcement, in particular SPD’s response to protests, in a manner that is grounded in community priorities and perspective.

The complexity of this review and the thoroughness that is necessary will require that the work happens in phases. You can learn more about ongoing work at seattle.gov/oig/community. OIG is partnering with CPC and other community stakeholders to gather perspectives, input, and questions from community concerning SPD response to recent protests. The OIG will use information gathered from public hearings, news, social media, and speaking with community, to focus on areas of community concern in the formal review of SPD protest response, with community voices at the table.

The will be hosting virtual community listening forums for those who want to share their perspectives  on Thursday, August 13, 2020, from 9:30 am – 11:00 a.m.

There are three ways to join:

  1. Join online by clicking this WebEx link:
    https://seattle.webex.com/seattle/j.php?MTID=ma840e2fd03b2213574b6a50c3c463f46
    Meeting number (access code): 146 760 6561
    Meeting password: ZXw3GPStE53
  2. Join by phone:
    +1-206-207-1700 United States Toll (Seattle)
    +1-408-418-9388 United States Toll
  3. Join using Microsoft Lync or Microsoft Skype for Business:
    From within the app, dial seattle@lync.webex.com
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West Seattle Bridge Update, July 31; Age Friendly Seattle Virtual Events; Seattle City Light Scammers

July 31st, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update, July 31

Funding

The Council has received legislation to fund necessary 2020 work on the West Seattle Bridge and related projects.

The legislation authorizes two interfund loans for a total of $70 million. The primary loan is for $50 million from the Construction and Inspections Fund, with a secondary loan of $20 million from the REET (Real Estate Excise Tax) II Capital Projects Fund. The loans will be paid back in 2021 by issuing bonds, with Real Estate Excise Tax proceeds used to pay the debt service on the bonds. REET is authorized under state law for use for capital projects and maintenance.

This funding will support a preliminary two-year work plan, including bridge stabilization work that may include shoring and/or controlled removal (if for example a replacement is pursued), bridge replacement options analysis and design,  lower bridge repairs and enhancements, and implementation of Reconnect West Seattle projects.

SDOT will work to identify potential partnership funding; at a presentation earlier in July, SDOT identified bonds, federal and state grants, and other potential funding sources.

The summary also estimates project cost through 2025, for purposes of the City’s six year 2020-2025 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget at $191.9 million. That is the midpoint of cost estimate ranges from $159.2 million to $225.7 million. SDOT indicates this estimate will be reevaluated at 30% design. Clarity on whether repair or replacement will be pursued will also help inform future estimates.

Future bond sales are listed in the six-year 2020-2025 CIP page for a total of $150 million in funding, including 2021 and 2022 bond sales. In general, CIP funding sources beyond the current year are estimates that can vary year by year, especially in the early stages of projects; only the current year listed for CIP budget items will have appropriated funding, which is authorized annually by the Council.

Lower Bridge Use

SDOT published an update with additional details and a FAQ on their policies for use of the lower bridge. SDOT notes capacity for around 160 more vehicles per hour during the day, toward the bridge capacity of 450 vehicles in either direction each hour, and information about their decision to not allow motorcycles to use the bridge.

I asked SDOT about potential general use of the lower (Spokane Street) Bridge on weekends, and they note traffic levels are comparable to weekdays (July 18 and 19 were weekend days), and at times exceeds the authorized level of 450 vehicles per hour. They have additional information by time of day for July 11/12 and 18/19 in this blog post.

Overall, lower traffic volumes are above the pre-COVID baseline:

SDOT is planning to send legislation to the Council in late summer or early fall to allow for camera enforcement, and has indicated they will revisit policies for use of the lower bridge then.

Stabilizing the West Seattle Bridge

SDOT’s bridge stabilization contractor has completed raising four work platforms to allow work on measures intended to clow cracking. The platforms allow work crews to safely access the exterior of the bridge, and allow up to 10 people to work on the bridge. The platforms will be under the bridge for at least three months, and will be lowered onto barges when work is complete.

SDOT notes that over the next few months, crews will use the work platforms for bridge access to perform stabilization measures including:

  • First, we will inject epoxy to seal the cracks in order to protect the bridge’s skeleton of steal post-tensioning cables holding up the concrete.
  • We will wrap sensitive sections of the bridge with carbon fiber reinforced polymer to strengthen the bridge much like putting a cast on a broken bone.
  • Then we will install additional steel post-tensioning cables inside the hollow portion of the bridge to help hold up the bridge, like adding braces for extra support.
  • Next, we will repair the locked bearings at Pier 18 which are preventing the bridge from reacting to normal daily stresses as intended.
  • Finally, we will go back and install additional carbon fiber wrapping and post-tensioning cables for further strengthening and support.

During stabilization work, we will continue to use our intelligent monitoring system to watch the bridge’s response to the repairs to make sure it remains safe for workers and the waterway below.

Additional information is available here.

Traffic

The most recent traffic volumes show high rates continuing on West Marginal, Highland Park Way, with volumes above the pre-COVID baseline on the South park Bridge, Roxbury, and South Michigan Street.

Vehicle travel times are below:


Age Friendly Seattle Virtual Events

Age Friendly Seattle virtual events—Civic Coffee Hours and a new series, Close to Home: Stories of Health, Tech and Resilience—offer older adults in the greater Seattle area a weekly opportunity to stay connected. You’ll learn how local government, nonprofit organizations, and community members cope with the “new normal” of COVID-19 and a wealth of other topics. You can join them to get this valuable information, ask questions, and get answers.

All events start at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time and are accessible by visiting our Virtual Events hub that has everything you’ll need to participate online (use the blue “Join Event Now” button) or by phone (use the green “Get Instructions” button). If you join on your computer, you’ll have a choice of closed captioning in Arabic, Chinese, English, Korean, Russian, Spanish or Vietnamese.

Close to Home: Stories of Health, Tech and Resilience is a new series of programs that stream live on the first, second, and fourth Thursday of every month, featuring information and resources for older people, caregivers, and their families. Presenters include government, nonprofit, and community representatives.

Age Friendly Seattle’s popular Civic Coffee Hours now stream live on the third Thursday of each month (except December), continuing to provide a platform for community elders to interact with government decision makers. A broad range of issues have been discussed over the years (see previous events at the bottom of the Virtual Events page).

If you cannot attend the live virtual events on Thursday mornings, you can find previously streamed episodes in the Virtual Events playlist on their YouTube channel—with captions in all seven languages. When you visit, please Subscribe (and click the bell to be notified) of new episodes as soon as they are uploaded.

Detailed instructions are also provided on Age Friendly Seattle’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. They look forward to connecting with you soon!

Seattle City Light Scammers

I have received reports from constituents in District 1 about Seattle City Light scam calls. This seems like a good opportunity to remind my blog readers that Seattle City Light Employees will:

  • Never call, email, or make a home visit requesting an immediate payment.
  • Never call on the weekend
  • Never call to request credit card, banking, or financial information
  • Never email you to request credit card, banking, or financial information
  • Never request credit card banking or financial information during a home visit
  • Never shutoff service without providing written warning in advance
  • Always provide Employee Identification

If you receive a phone call asking for immediate payment or your power will be shutoff, please hang up and call Seattle City Light Directly at (206) 684-3000. Additionally, please check out Seattle City Light scam alerts page here for more information and to report a scam.

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Coronavirus Updates; West Seattle Bridge Update, July 24; Seattle Transportation Benefit District Update; Statement on Trump Sending officers to Seattle; Duwamish River Opportunity Fund Seeks Proposals; More Protections for Small Business Owners & Nonprofits; Updates from the Budget Committee

July 24th, 2020

Coronavirus Updates

Governor Inslee and Secretary of Health Wiseman announced yesterday restrictions on the “Safe Start” phased reopening in Washington. These restrictions come after an increase in the number of covid-19 cases. Across the state we now have over 50,000 cases, 1,500 deaths, and 5,000 hospitalizations due to the virus. In order to try and stymie the increase the Governor has changed the regulations for restaurants, bars, fitness centers, weddings, and funerals.

Most notably table size for dine-in in phase three is reduced to five people from the same household and total occupancy reduced from 75% to 50%. Alcohol service inside of restaurants must end by 10pm. These regulations will take effect on July 30.

Further, the Governor expanded the requirement to wear face coverings in all common spaces including: elevators, hallways and shared spaced in apartment building, universities and hotels as well as congregate settings such as nursing homes.

More specifically in King County we continue to see a rise in positive cases:

 

These numbers show that it’s more important now than ever before that we double down on social distancing, wearing a mask when in public areas, and staying home as much as possible in order to prevent backsliding anymore.

Finally, the Governor also extended the eviction moratorium across the state until October 15. In the city of Seattle we have additional protections for renters:

  • Council Bill 119784 which creates a defense to evictions for non-payment of rent for six months after the end of the declared public health emergency.  It requires that renters file a certification of financial hardship with the court in raising the defense.
  • Council Bill 119788 which allows residential tenants to make up past due rent in installments up to six months.
  • Council Bill 119787 which prohibits landlords from considering evictions related to COVID-19, as part of an application, during and six months after the civil emergency.

West Seattle Bridge Update, July 24

Reconnect West Seattle surveys open through July 31 

South Park

Here are links to printable versions, that also include maps showing the location of potential projects: Roxhill, Highland Park, Riverview, South DelridgeSouth ParkGeorgetownSODO.

The website also includes bike network and freight network proposals.

Through July 22nd, over 10,000 people replied to the survey, and over 1,000 to the neighborhood prioritization ballots: 741 response from Highland Park, Roxhill, South Delridge, and Riverview; 161 responses from South Park, and 110 in Georgetown and 50 in SODO.

Additional information and surveys are available in multiple languages at the Reconnect West Seattle website.

My office has asked about Sylvan Way, which is seeing significant traffic impacts and accidents since the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. Specific proposals for Sylvan Way are not included in any of the neighborhood surveys; SDOT is examining this and may have separate proposals.

Lower Bridge Use 

SDOT intends to increase access to the lower bridge during the summer, for maritime/industrial users by Harbor Island; 22 employer shuttles; 8 vanpools of essential workers, and for Longshoremen. Vehicles must display the placard below.

Cost Benefit Analysis: Repair or Replace 

SDOT presented information about a cost benefit analysis to guide decision making about whether to pursue a replacement or repair the existing bridge. The analysis is proposed to be based on evaluation criteria; 10 draft criteria are listed below:

  • Constructability Will the contractor be able to build this repair/replace concept given site constraints and schedule?
  • Environmental What kind of temporary and permanent impacts will this repair/replace concept have on the Duwamish River and surrounding area? Can we build it within the mandated in-water work windows?
  • Equity  How will this repair/replace concept contribute to equity in West Seattle and the Duwamish Valley?  How will it impact historic and treaty rights of local Native Peoples?  How will it impact and/or alter communities of color from accessing cultural and community hubs?
  • Forward compatibility  Will this repair/replace concept be compatible with Sound Transit light rail? Will it restore traffic capacity (weight and quantity) to the desired levels? Will it meet waterway navigational needs?
  • Funding What funding will be available, and what will the potential funding burdens be on local resources and communities? Is this repair/replace concept eligible for federal, state, local, or emergency funding?  Estimated capital costs and a Bridge Life Cycle Cost Analysis will be conducted for each alternative, too.
  • Maintenance and  operations What will this repair/replace concept need over its lifespan in terms of operations, maintenance and inspection?
  • Mobility  How will this repair/replace concept contribute to the movement of people and goods and overall access?  How will it impact vulnerable communities (seniors, people with disabilities and others) from accessing social service needs such as meals, healthcare services, case management and other vital services?
  • Multimodality  Does this replace/repair concept facilitate or improve the movement of people and goods by all modes? How will it impact current local and regional traffic?
  • Regional business  How will this repair/replace concept impact businesses as it pertains to the local and regional movement of people and goods? How will it impact the ship channel? Will construction affect business access?
  • Seismic resilience and safety What seismic standards will the repair/replace concept meet? How will seismic upgrades be incorporated into the design?

If you have thoughts about the relative importance that should be given to the criteria, or see something important that is not listed, please let me know.

Below are the key dates SDOT sees for getting to a decision:

Below are six concepts SDOT is using for the cost-benefit framework. The times listed for the durability for a repair are 15+ years, longer than the previous 10 year maximum estimate, a sign that a repair may be more durable than original estimates indicated. I asked SDOT for additional information about this; they indicated it was based on engineering analysis on potential repair, such as the core sampling results, and instrument readings, and feedback from the Technical Advisory Panel. SDOT’s consultants and TAP will provide more specific estimates and detail as part of their work in coming weeks.

A Type, Size and Location study would be needed to determine actual options; these concepts are for the purpose of the cost-benefit analysis.

Here’s one of the repair concepts:

Here’s one of the replacement concepts:

Here’s the tunnel concept:

You can see all six options in this SDOT blog post.

Traffic/Travel Times 

Travel times continue to be high on West Marginal and Highland Park Way, and above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge and Roxbury at 15th, and on S Michigan in Georgetown, and 7% above pre-COVID levels on the 1st Avenue South Bridge (a WSDOT facility):

Here are the most recent travel time estimates:

Seattle Transportation Benefit District Update/Bus Service

Last week the Council voted in committee to move the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) ballot measure to the Full Council for a final vote on Monday, July 27. The STBD funds additional bus service beyond what King County Metro provides.

The proposed 2020 measure includes funding for “emerging needs,” and specifies funding for West Seattle due to the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. In 2014 Seattle voters approved funding for additional bus service, low-income bus passes, and related services. The measure provided funding from 2015 through 2020.

I sponsored an amendment that the Council adopted to increase equity. The current criteria for service funding does not allow for funding routes such as the 131, 128 and 113 in Highland Park and South Delridge, or the 132 in South Park, because of the number of stops they have outside Seattle. The amendment would add as eligible routes “any King County Metro route serving historically low-income communities in Seattle.”

These routes also coincide with the most frequent routes off the peninsula with the closure of the West Seattle Bridge: Highland Park Way, and Roxbury/Olson. The South Park Bridge is seeing increased traffic diversion to cross the Duwamish; route 128 connects High Point with the Alaskan Junction, and a high concentration of grocery stores.

The remaining issues before the Council is whether the rate should be 0.1% or 0.2% sales tax, and whether it should last for four or six years. I-976 prohibited collection of the vehicle license fee that formed half of the revenues for current STBD funding.  For car-owning lower-income households, increasing the sales tax from .1% to .2% will be far outweighed by not having to pay the car tab fee. The low-income households who don’t have a car would see their total tax burden rise by increasing the sales tax from .1% to .2%. The questions that remain for me, are 1. whether the impact to those households from reduced bus service is more harmful than the increased tax burden; and 2. whether an additional .1% tax, on top of the proposed .1%, and the additional funding it would raise specifically for the West Seattle “emerging needs” setaside, would help Metro add significant new transit capacity to support the SDOT mode shift goals of increasing West Seattle and South Park transit users from 17% (pre COVID19) to 30%.

At the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting, KC Metro shared a slide noting the transit hot spots for West Seattle bus traffic. Downtown and South Lake Union are destination points, but there are also a high level of trips within West Seattle:

Bus trips 131, 132, 120, 128 and 50 are operating at 50% of pre-COVID baseline, while bridge crossings are around 20% of baseline.

Metro indicated in response to my office’s question, that a 0.1% STBD would be close to pre-COVID levels, but not at those levels. Below are items they mentioned that would need funding from outside KC Metro; I’ve heard from constituents about all of these:


Before COVID, in January 2020, the STBD funded within District 1, 24% of service on Routes 120 and 50, 28% for the C Line, 23% for Route 55, 9% for Route 57, 8% for Route 60, 14% for 125.

Statement on Trump Sending Officers to Seattle

Council President González and I released a statement this morning about the prospect of Donald Trump sending federal agents to Seattle, with no request from Seattle:

Council President González, Councilmember Herbold Say City of Seattle Stands United Against Occupation By DHS Federal Agents 

Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide) and the Council’s Public Safety Chair Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park) issued this statement following several reports that federal agents are on “stand-by” in Seattle monitoring potential protests around federal buildings: 

“Seattle leaders have made it abundantly clear that federal local law enforcement intervention is unwanted and unneeded.  Despite the collective call on the Trump administration to halt plans to come to Seattle, national and local media report that federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) are on standby in Seattle.  DHS is the same agency responsible for implementing President Trump’s horrific policy of separating children from their families seeking lawful asylum at the southern U.S.-Mexico border.    

“President Trump’s deployment of federal agents to Seattle is dangerous political theater designed to intimidate and harm Americans exercising their constitutional right to protest. Weaponizing federal agents against the people they serve is unacceptable.  Protests demanding transformational change to a broken policing model must not be met with threats of violence from federal agents.  

“We will not allow the Trump Administration to reign terror on the residents of the City of Seattle. We are united in our belief that debate and demonstrations are fundamental to making our city and our country better. 

“We ask all members of the public to be vigilant, to have a safety plan, and to know your rights, if you are demonstrating or are near demonstration areas.  If you are detained, you have the right to remain silent and to speak to an attorney. The U.S. Constitution provides rights for everyone, regardless of your immigration status.   

“Our offices will continue to monitor the federal agents’ presence in Seattle, and we will work with Mayor Jenny Durkan, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Governor Jay Inslee, and our congressional representatives to halt any actions by federal authorities that violate our residents’ constitutional rights.” 

On June 8, 2020, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Resolution 31948 condemning the use of military force in jurisdictions such as Seattle that have not requested and do not intend to request federal interventions.  

Separately, earlier this week we sent the following e-mail to the President of the Seattle Police Guild. We have received no reply.

We are writing to you today with alarm and concern about this weekend’s events in Portland: the arrival of Federal Law Enforcement to address local protests and usurp the authority of local law enforcement to address the public safety impacts of the protests.  It is our sincere hope that you have neither met with federal law enforcement, nor collaborated with federal law enforcement, regarding recent protests in Seattle. We ask you to confirm, in writing, that you have done neither.    

Seattle’s leaders are united in saying federal law enforcement is neither wanted nor needed here. 

  • On June 8th, Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31948 condemning the use of military force in jurisdictions such as “Seattle that have not requested and do not intend to request federal interventions.”   
  •   Mayor Durkan, on June 1 issued a statement that “no U.S. Military troops are needed nor will they act as police in Seattle.” And today she signed a letter with Mayors from several other cities to call on the Trump administration to immediately halt plans to send federal forces to major American cities and withdraw any forces currently in cities.  
  • The Seattle City Council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee Chair, Lisa Herbold, has confirmed that Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best has not met with Homeland Security about plans to deploy Federal Law Enforcement in Seattle.    

We are alarmed to learn through recent reporting that police and federal officers are working together to respond to protests in Portland, in contravention of the city’s elected leaders. City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty issued a public statement saying that, “We know that Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner met with DHS Secretary Chad Wolf…  We know Portland Police are collaborating with this federal occupying force.”   

Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said in recent days that the administration intends ”to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.” As City Councilmembers, we must make it clear to you and SPOG that this occupation is not welcome in Seattle. 

Our urgency in reaching out to you is further heightened by your interview today on the Dori Monson show where you said:  

“Maybe this is the opportunity where we’ve seen the success of what’s going on in Portland as far as the law enforcement ability to hold these criminals accountable by arresting them. And you saw the success that the federal officers had….when they moved in to Portland. Perhaps this is a time now in Seattle where we might need some federal intervention here.”  

As the Mayors’ letter states:  “The majority of the protests have been peaceful and aimed at improving our communities. Where this is not the case, it still does not justify the use of federal forces. Unilaterally deploying these paramilitary-type forces into our cities is wholly inconsistent with our system of democracy and our most basic values.” Not only is unilateral deployment of federal force unjustified; as SPOG president, we hope you recognize that you are not authorized to invite the presence of these forces to Seattle, nor to collaborate with them.  We emphasize, with as much urgency as we can muster, that you not replicate the reported actions of Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner.  

Duwamish River Opportunity Fund Seeks Proposals

On Tuesday the Duwamish River Opportunity Fund (DROF) announced that they’re seeking proposals to support and benefit the Duwamish River neighborhoods. In total the fund has $250,000 to support these community based projects.

Proposals should fall into one of the follow categories:

  • Safe fishing or fish consumption
  • Environmental development or restoration
  • Job training or economic development
  • Community development
  • Pedestrian safety
  • Affordable housing strategies
  • Healthy lifestyle

Applications interested in applying are also encouraged to participate in a virtual workshop before applying to better understand the application process and the requirements. There are two opportunities to attend a workshop:

Tuesday, August 4 – 5:00 – 6:30pm  

Join Online: https://bit.ly/DROF_2020-08-04

Join by phone:

+1-206-207-1700 United States Toll (Seattle)

+1-408-418-9388 United States Toll

Access code: 146 718 6791

Wednesday, August 12 – 5:00 – 6:30pm 

Join Online: https://bit.ly/DROF_2020-08-12

Join by phone:

+1-206-207-1700 United States Toll (Seattle)

+1-408-418-9388 United States Toll

Access code: 146 396 9922

If you’re interested in a one on one consultation or have questions, please call 206-733-9916 or email DROF@seattle.gov.

The deadline to apply is Monday, September 21 by 5pm.

More Protections for Small Business Owners & Nonprofits

On Monday, Council passed CB 119829 sponsored by Councilmember Lewis, which limits personal liability in commercial leases for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by Covid.  Commercial leases can contain provisions that allow a landlord to go after the personal assets of the tenant or a 3rd party that guarantees the tenant’s obligations. To prevent the crisis from having further far-reaching economic impacts by allowing a landlord to access personal assets, this emergency legislation prohibits enforcement of provisions that would allow personal liability.

I sponsored a successful amendment to this legislation, which will extend the protection for six months after the end of the Mayor’s state of emergency for small businesses and nonprofits that were subject to in-person operations limitations under the Governor’s Covid proclamations.  I believe small businesses and nonprofits may need a period of time after the state of emergency is lifted in order to regain their financial footing.  This amendment gives them a reasonable grace period to do that.

The additional six months is in alignment with legislation Council passed in April, which I sponsored with Councilmember Morales, that gives an extra six months beyond the state of emergency for small commercial tenants and their landlords to work out a payment plan for any owing rent or fees.  My goal is that during that additional six months, tenants and their landlords will be able to build trust in each other and in the tenant’s recovery, so that fewer landlords ever take the step of pursuing a tenant’s personal assets.

I’d like to remind commercial tenants and their landlords that those payment plans are required – small business tenants have the ability to insist on a reasonable payment plan in Seattle.  Small business and nonprofit tenants who are experiencing difficulty working with their landlords may be able to access free legal support through www.communities-rise.org.  They have a special lease toolkit and more resources.

Updates from the Budget Committee

Combating senior isolation: As Human Services chair, I have been concerned about the impacts on Covid on Seattle’s seniors. In the best of times, senior isolation is a real public health concern.  Now, it’s a quiet emergency.  I’m sure all of us with beloved elders understand how their lives are fundamentally altered by Covid, and the impact to their mental and physical health and resiliency.

The City’s Human Services Department has reacted by developing new programs and partnerships to combat senior isolation:

  • Calling more than 14,000 seniors in April to check on their health and welfare and triage special needs
  • Broadcasting monthly civic coffee hours, special Seattle Channel programming and webinars for seniors with captioning in multiple languages, and making these programs available on YouTube.  You can learn more here.
  • Pushing out information about Friendly Voices, a national volunteer hotline for seniors, and Washington Listens, a new statewide service
  • Distributing digital tablets to foster social connectivity and telehealth

During the 2020 budget rebalancing process, I am sponsoring amendments that will provide additional, much-needed resources to combat senior isolation.   I had hoped to make these additions part of the Jump Start Covid relief package, but ran out of time.  I am glad that multiple of my Council colleagues have signed on to co-sponsor these amendments, which will receive a vote on Wednesday, July 29th.

  • $50,000 to convene seniors centers, senior housing and other stakeholders to develop a plan to safely reopen in 2021.  Senior Centers are lifelines for the seniors who rely on them.  Their closure has been keenly felt, but with the unique vulnerabilities of their clients, re-opening is fraught.  These funds would allow for a well thought-out plan that keeps seniors and employees safe, while also balancing the need for the services and opportunities senior centers uniquely provide.
  • $120,000 to expand Stay Connected, a pilot partnership between four senior centers and the UW Alacrity Center. The pilot builds on an established evidence base to train laypersons – such as case managers, social workers or volunteers – to assess the estimated 20% of seniors who may be struggling with social isolation, and provide targeted interventions that can address symptoms of mild depression.
  • $50,000 to provide wifi hotspots at 30 locations around the City, where seniors could make use of wifi safely to access to online opportunities for socializing, reading, gathering information, and using video- and tele-health.
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West Seattle Bridge Update; 2020 Budget Rebalancing Deliberations; New Homeless Service Provider Funding; Director’s Rule for Exceptional and Significant Trees; Jump Start Investments; Seattle Transportation Benefit District; Letter to Mayor and Police Chief re: Free Press

July 17th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update

Reminder: Reconnect West Seattle Survey

The Reconnect West Seattle Survey to support communities impacted by the West Seattle Bridge closure will be open through the end of July. As of Tuesday, there were 7,000 responses.

Neighborhood Prioritization Process Ballots are an additional opportunity specifically for people who live in Roxhill, Highland Park, Riverview, South Delridge, SODO, Georgetown, or South Park to identify the projects that would be most helpful to improve safety and traffic outcomes in their neighborhoods through which West Seattle Bridge detours are located.

Information and surveys are available in multiple languages at the Reconnect West Seattle website.

Declaration of Emergency

Since the West Seattle Bridge closure in March I have been asking DOT and the Mayor to consider the benefits of declaring a state of emergency. I am happy to report that on Thursday the Mayor issued a proclamation of civil emergency for the West Seattle Bridge,  and an emergency order requesting federal and state assistance.

I thank the Mayor for taking this step, and to SDOT for working with myself and Transportation and Utilities Committee Chair Pedersen to include language in the proclamation committing to monthly updates to the Council on uses of the emergency powers (SDOT is providing weekly updates to the Council separately from the proclamation).

SDOT’s update notes “The emergency proclamation signed by Mayor Durkan today is the first ever brought forward and put into effect by a Mayor of Seattle in response to a critical piece of infrastructure,” testifying to the importance of the bridge not just for West Seattle, but for the region. SDOT notes the proclamation will:

  • Strengthen funding efforts and flexibility at all levels of government; in other words to help get funding from the State and Federal government;
  • Enable critical actions around the High-Rise Bridge—no matter what repair or replacement path is selected—through streamlined permitting, materials and contract procurement;
  • Support West Seattle Low Bridge precautionary strengthening work; and
  • Support implementation of mitigation measures in the greater Duwamish Valley communities impacted by changed travel patterns while the High-Rise Bridge is closed

The statement Councilmember Pedersen and I released supporting the declaration of civil emergency is linked here.

Lower (Spokane Street) Bridge Maintenance

SDOT announced the low bridge will require reinforcement, and announced some changes to help maintain the bridge.

SDOT is planning to use carbon fiber wrap and/or additional steel post-tensioning cables, similar to the what is planned for stabilization of the West Seattle Bridge.

SDOT is lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph, to reduce stress and vibration on the bridge, especially from heavy trucks. In addition, they are adding weight restrictions for trucks carrying weight loads over 207,000 pounds (20% heavier than a 737). Technically these are considered Over-Legal 2 or OL-2 class trucks. This will affect around a dozen trips per week; vehicles this heavy already are required to obtain a special state and city permit to carry loads this high.

At a presentation before the Council in late April, SDOT estimated a $5 million cost for maintenance of the lower bridge during 2020. Estimates are now $10 million.

SDOT installed intelligent monitoring systems on the lower bridge similar to the equipment places on the West Seattle Bridge.

I’ve asked SDOT if they expect any closures and they indicated there will be short term closures during the control system replacement, lift cylinder maintenance/change out of the strengthening program over the next two years. They noted work will be scheduled to minimize impacts (i.e. overnight, weekends, and in coordination with other projects that impact traffic in the corridor). A closure in late May for maintenance was done overnight on the weekend.

Technical Advisory Panel Update

The Technical Advisory Panel has recommended retaining consideration of long-term repair, as they haven’t seen anything that indicates it is infeasible or economically unviable.

They also note an understanding that analysis is ongoing, and that there is uncertainty with respect to capacity (number of travel lanes that a repair option would provide), and that they reserve the right to revise their statement as new information is presented to them.

Traffic

Here’s the most recent traffic data, which shows continued heavy traffic on West Marginal and Highland Park Way, as well as increasing traffic on the lower (Spokane Street) bridge.

Below are the most recent travel times:


2020 Budget Rebalancing Deliberations

There has been a lot reported in the media recently about the 2020 budget rebalancing deliberations as it relates specifically to the SPD budget.  Unfortunately, some of which has been reported doesn’t reflect my, or the Council’s, efforts. I’d like to set the record straight regarding my position on the Seattle Police Department’s budget.

The first thing I want to address is the Southwest Precinct. No one on the Council, to my knowledge, is proposing to cut the Southwest Precinct.  It’s disappointing that Chief Best is proposing to do so in advance of any Council proposals.  Furthermore, if there ever was an effort to close the Southwest Precinct, as the Councilmember for District 1, I would unequivocally fight that effort. The Southwest Precinct is needed more now than ever before with the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. Finally, while under the Charter, it is wholly under the purview of the Police Chief to decide how to deploy officers, the Charter also states that “there shall be maintained adequate police protection in each district of the City.”  The Council can, within the City Budget, ensure that there is a “Budget Control Level” for each precinct, and it is the Council that has budget authority for the funding for each Budget Control Level or the spending for each precinct.

It has also been recently reported that the Chief says that she will need to reduce patrol staff to 630 employees – this prognostication from the Chief about an unknown future Council action seems designed to delay an important conversation about policing in Seattle and this Country.

Specifically, Chief Best has stated that we would lose more than 50% of our Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) officers due to typical layoff procedures which would require firings in reverse order of seniority. This system of layoffs is based upon institutional racism and speaks only to what we cannot do, not to what we must do. Now is the time to ask ourselves what we can do and how we can change a system badly in need of reforms. The Chief is empowered, under Public Safety Civil Service Commission (PSCSC) to request authority to implement layoffs in a way that is called “out of order.” This means the Chief does not have to fire the newest hired and more diverse officers first. She can request the PSCSC Executive Director for permission to lay off out of order when doing so is in “the interest of efficient operations of his or her department.” The Chief is making the argument to the public that firing BIPOC members of the SPD would be harmful,  I agree and I know that the Chief can argue just as convincingly that maintaining the employment of BIPOC officers is in the interest of efficient operations of the SPD. Specifically, the Chief should be arguing to remove those officers with the most number of disciplinary complaints first, regardless of their seniority.  Contrast Chief Best’s support for SPOG’s status quo approach with that of Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo who last month broke with their police union in recognition that “it’s debilitating for a chief when an officer does something that calls for termination, but the union works to keep that person on the job.”

Finally, I want to address the size of our police force. A recent report by the Vera Institute of Justice titled What Policing Costs compiled data from fiscal year 2020 adopted budgets from 72 of the largest cities in the US. There are two data points I want to highlight:

  • Seattle has one officer for every 340 residents, more officers per population than most West Coast cities. Under Public Safety Civil Service Commission rules we use seven comparative cities on the West Coast (Long Beach, Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose) as a benchmark for wages, hours, and conditions of employment. For instance, Portland has one officer for every 501 people, Sacramento, one officer for every 475 people, San Diego, one officer for every 537 people, and San Jose one officer for every 609 people.
  • Seattle spends $546 per resident for police, the 11th highest rate among the 72 largest cities in the country, and more than 6 of the 7 comparable West Coast cities.

It is true that in the past I have been an ardent advocate for and supported the hiring of additional police officers, in an effort to “grow the size” of our police force. As a community organizer working in low-income communities of color in the ‘90’s, I worked to lift the voices of community members seeking a fair allocation of police resources to meet the public safety needs of those low income communities.  As an aide to a Councilmember, I worked to pull residents across city precincts to advocate for hiring more officers citywide to ensure that public safety needs in one precinct were not addressed by “borrowing officers” from another, in a “rob Peter to pay Paul” situation and in 2006 we funded the first new positions to SPD since the 70’s.  And then, as a Councilmember myself representing some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the City receiving slow and inadequate police response, I have supported an additional $110 million dollars of annual funding for SPD in my four years on the Council, increasing the budget from $300 million 2016 to $410 million in 2020.

Now I’m hearing loud and clear from many in community that more officers does not equal more public safety. And I am listening.  I am reading, researching, and learning. This local effort, bolstered by the national dialogue about bloated police budgets in cities across the nation, without better public safety outcomes and ongoing racial disparity impacts to communities of color is causing me to reexamine my own assumptions about whether “growing the size of the SPD” will deliver better public safety outcomes.

I continue to support funding to address public safety. However, what has evolved in my position is that it should not be only the police addressing public safety concerns. Too often we ask the police to do too much and they are ill-equipped to handle these issues. Former Dallas Police Chief Brown noted in 2016, “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country. We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it… Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops… That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

A review of 911 calls I requested in Seattle, to begin the process of identifying what work currently done by police officers might best be done by other types of professionals, found that in 2019 56% of dispatched calls were non-criminal.

It is past time that we work to solve these problems upstream, so that we don’t have to so heavily invest in a police force that’s unable to address all of the issues we’ve asked them to use policing in order to address. This why I support shifting funding away from SPD and into upstream programs – identified through community engagement – that are better situated to address the root concerns we have thus far failed to. In a 2016 report from the Obama White House’s Council of Economic Advisers found that “a 10 percent increase in wages for non-college educated men results in approximately a 10 to 20 percent reduction in crime rates.” This is just one small example of how investing upstream will not only save money, but prevent crime from occurring in the first place.

The new Southwest Precinct Captain, Kevin Grossman, who was recently interviewed by the West Seattle Blog said:

He’s hoping “the rhetoric calms down a bit” – he agrees that there’s an overreliance on 911 to solve our society’s problems, and acknowledges that police have traditionally ben asked to do a lot of things they shouldn’t do. “There’s room for a bigger conversation about what police should be doing, shouldn’t be doing.” but he hopes there’s room for a rational conversation, though he says 50 percent would be too big a cut – “a cut like that would be devastating and would seriously affect the level of service we would provide.” As for specific types of change, Grossman offered support for the CAHOOTS model. “That would take a lot of work away from us – that’s all right, but that’s not in place yet. … Would probably save the city a bunch of money and might turn out better than some of our calls.”

Even Captain Grossman agrees that we should be reexamining what we’re asking the police to do, and this means changing the level of service we expect from our police officers and shift some of those responsibilities to better equipped professionals that address these concerns upstream.

In support for Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now’s goal of reducing SPD spending by 50% and reallocating funds to community needs, I proposed a Council Budget Action (beginning on slide 32) in the July 15th Council Select Budget Committee with a range of options for cuts in the SPD budget, some of which, if approved by the Council, can be immediately reinvested in community-based alternatives to public safety issues. Cuts in this package, or any other that the Council approves, that have labor implications, would be available over time after negotiations with the police unions, just as required for cuts in personnel for any city staff.

Another important budget update is about my efforts in the 2020 Budget rebalancing process to support Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), a nationally-replicated program developed here in Seattle that diverts individuals away from arrest and toward a community-based intervention program for low-level criminal offenses (such as drug possession, sales, and prostitution offenses).  In Seattle, there are currently two ways to be referred to LEAD’s unique services:

  1. Referrals directly from law enforcement.
  2. Referrals – approved by law enforcement – from community sources and other agencies, such as the Seattle Fire Department, the Mobile Crisis Team, the Crisis Diversion Facility, the King County Prosecutor, the Seattle City Attorney, the King County Jail, the Department of Public Defense, Business Improvement Associations, other neighborhood groups and business groups, housing and health care providers.

Both pathways require the Seattle Police Department to play an active role in approving all referrals.  Unfortunately, for the past weeks and months, law enforcement has not had the capacity to make or approve these referrals.  As a result, LEAD’s scarce and desperately-needed resources, such as specialized case management and individual hotel rooms, have gone to waste – even though they are clearly and desperately needed.

I’m sponsoring a budget action, along with Councilmember Morales, that will remove SPD from that “gatekeeping” function it currently plays in LEAD, at the request of LEAD’s project managers and with the support of Police Chief Carmen Best.  The proviso will create a “third pathway” for referrals from non-law enforcement sources, without requiring SPD to approve them.  It would be one of several changes that LEAD has made recently to respond to the very changed environment in which they are operating – and the growing need for their work.

This new pathway will not change the positive, collaborative relationship LEAD has built with SPD officers over the years.  It just removes them from the administrative hurdle at the start of a new referral.  This Crosscut article goes into more depth on the need for this budget action.

New Homeless Service Provider Funding

A week ago, Council voted to appropriate $13 million in one-time funding from the state Department of Commerce to support COVID response.  These are sorely needed and anxiously awaited funds to reimburse frontline homelessness providers for their extraordinary efforts and unanticipated costs to serve people during the pandemic.

Less than 24 hours after Council’s vote, the Human Services Department released a Request For Proposals (RFP) for $4.85 million of the funds. The intent of the RFP is to help nonprofits sustain the new practices and protections recommended by Public Health and the CDC to keep their employees and the people they serve safe.   Proposals are due July 17th, and awards will be made by July 27th.  Funding awards will cover the period of March 1, 2020-December 31, 2020.

I appreciate the extraordinary speed with which HSD acted after receiving the green light from Council.  Their efforts will keep more people safe during the public health emergency.

Director’s Rule for Exceptional and Significant Trees

On Thursday the Department of Construction and Inspection released a draft Director’s Rule for the “Designation of Exceptional and Significant Trees, Tree Protection, Retention, and Tree Removal during land division, including tree service provider requirements.”  This is the most recent development in what has been a long and ongoing conversation that I know a lot of people in District 1 and throughout the city care deeply about.

The conversation left off when former Councilmember Bagshaw and her staffer, now Councilmember Dan Strauss – in coordination with the Mayor – authored a resolution that included a timeline and requested quarterly reporting on the progress of the development of the legislation from the Executive beginning January 31, 2020. In the resolution, the Council also requests that legislation prioritize:

  • Retaining protections for exceptional trees and expanding the definition of exceptional trees.
  • Adopting a definition of significant tress as at least 6 inches in diameter and creating a permitting process for the removal of these trees.
  • Adding replacement requirements for significant tree removal.
  • Simplifying tree planting and replacement requirements, including consideration of mitigation strategies that allow for infill development while balancing tree planting and replacement goals.
  • Reviewing and potentially modifying tree removal limits in single-family zones.
  • Establishing an in-lieu fee option for tree planting.
  • Tracking tree removal and replacement on both public and private land throughout Seattle.
  • Providing adequate funding to administer and enforce tree regulations.
  • Requiring all tree service providers operating in Seattle to meet minimum certification and training requirements and register with the City.

The Council voted unanimously to pass this resolution in September 2019.

We have since received the first and second joint reports required by this resolution from the Seattle Department and Construction and Inspection and the Office of Sustainability and Environment.  The first report was presented to the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, chaired by Councilmember Strauss on February 12. Included in that report was an updated timeline, which may need to be revisited due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. The second report will be presented to the Land Use and Neighborhood Committee on July 22 beginning at 9:30am.

With this draft Director’s rule the public will have until July 28 to comment, and you can send those comments here: SCI_DRulesComments@seattle.gov.

Jump Start Investments

Jump Start is the payroll expense tax passed by Council on July 6th.  It’s a narrowly-targeted tax on only the largest businesses paying the highest salaries and driving our city’s affordability crisis.  Only companies with annual payroll greater than $7 million will be taxed and they will only be taxed on their pay to employees making more than $150,000 per year.  Jump Start is projected to bring in $215 million annually.

At Wednesday’s Select Budget Committee, Councilmembers approved spending plans associated with the new Jump Start revenue.

CB 119812 authorizes spending from the City’s two “reserve funds” in 2020 to support people and businesses impacted by COVID, including support for small businesses, nonprofits, immigrants and refugees; food security; rental assistance; and immediate housing needs.

I sponsored a successful amendment (incorporated into Amendment 1) that will provide advice and assistance to recipients of direct assistance.  Eligibility for income-tested benefits such as food stamps can be complex for households to navigate.  In a year when households may receive more than one type of unplanned-for assistance from local, state or federal government, it’s especially complex.  And the community-based organizations who help clients navigate these programs may themselves have questions about how benefit and support programs interact.  My amendment will make it possible for organizations to access and provide advice to the people they are working with, so that no family inadvertently loses its needed benefits.

Resolution 31957 outlines how Jump Start revenue will be spent in 2021 and on.  In 2021, it replenishes the reserve funds that were appropriated in CB 119812; and continues investments in COVID relief and  services that are lifelines to Seattle residents.  In 2022 and beyond, it provides for significant investments in affordable housing, equitable development, economic revitalization, and Green New Deal efforts.

I sponsored two successful amendments to this resolution, both of which earned unanimous support.

Affordable Homeownership: Amendment 8 sets aside approximately $6 million annually for permanently affordable homeownership opportunities available to households earning up to 80% of Area Median Income.  The funds would specifically be reserved for households at risk of displacement from their communities, or who have faced barriers to homeownership due to past discriminatory policies and practices such as redlining and restrictive racial covenants.  I’m grateful to Budget Chair Mosqueda for her co-sponsorship of this amendment with me.

Home ownership is key to building intergenerational wealth, and a key driver of the racial wealth gap.  While the funds appropriated here will not address that problem at scale, they will give more BIPOC households every year the opportunity to bridge that gap for their own families, after being shut out from this opportunity by Seattle’s own past discriminatory policies.  Depending on the investments made, this funding stream could result in anywhere from 35 to 100 new permanently affordable homes per year.  No small feat in Seattle’s housing market!

Rental Assistance:  Amendment 6A asks the Executive to study developing a new rental assistance program, which could be funded using Jump Start revenue in the future.  Rental assistance is a much-needed lifeline for many Seattle households.  Even before COVID, Seattle’s runaway rental market was increasingly out of reach for many residents and workers, putting their homes and stability at risk.  And when Council takes actions to level the playing field for renters in this out-of-reach market, I consistently hear from small “mom and pop” type landlords concerned about losing their often naturally-affordable rental property that they are counting on for retirement or other income.

So it’s critical that rental assistance take the correct form, so that in the long-term, it does not become a public subsidy propping up an unaffordable rental market but that it supports both tenants and the small “mom and pop” landlords from whom they rent.  This amendment threads the needle among these concerns by asking the Executive to develop a plan that will accomplish multiple goals:

  • Help those most in need
  • Preserve long-term tenancies
  • Prevent evictions
  • Preserve affordable housing
  • Examine the role of small landlords in providing safe, affordable homes.

Many thanks to Council President González who took the lead in developing this amendment, and our co-sponsor Councilmember Morales.

Seattle Transportation Benefit District

Today the Council considered renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) in committee, and voted to move the legislation to full council on July 27th.

In 2014 Seattle voters approved funding for additional bus service, low-income bus passes, and related services. The measure provided funding from 2015 through 2020.

The proposed 2020 measure includes funding for “emerging needs,” and specifies funding for West Seattle due to the closure of the West Seattle Bridge.

I  co-sponsored an amendment to note the Council’s intent to consider developer impact fees, which are allowed under the state Growth Management Act for capital improvements, and the STBD for transit service. It passed 8-0.

I  also sponsored an amendment to increase equity. The current criteria for service funding does not allow for funding routes such as the 131, 128 and 113 in Highland Park and South Delridge, or the 132 in South Park, because of the number of stops they have outside Seattle. The amendment would add as eligible routes “any King County Metro route serving historically low-income communities in Seattle.”

The amendment also notes the need for transit funding in to meet the mobility goal shift of increasing transit use from 17% to 30%, established by SDOT, for West Seattle during the bridge closure. This amendment also passed 8-0.

Letter to Mayor and Police Chief re: Free Press

On July 10 I sent the letter below to the Mayor and Police Chief regarding the arrest or threat of arrest of members of the media by SPD. The City Attorney declined to prosecute the case for the arrest mentioned in the letter. I have not yet received a response to my letter, but will report back when I do.

I am writing about the recent arrest or threat of arrest of members of the media by the Seattle Police Department.

First Amendment protections for the press in the United State Constitution are a lynchpin of American democracy. Unless respected by government, the quality of our democracy is diminished and eroded.

After the filing of the Mayor’s July 1 Executive order in and around Cal Anderson Park, and subsequent city action, two members of the media have reported about their experiences regarding arrest, or the threat of arrest, that are neither in line with the First Amendment, nor the City’s Municipal Code.

First of all, Omari Salisbury of Converge Media, a regular press presence during the protests on Capitol Hill, tweeted “Citing order of @MayorJenny SPD is now giving @WWConverge a final warning to stop broadcasting or face arrest. Our offices are right next door to the East Precinct. This is where we broadcast from daily.”

While Mr. Salisbury was not arrested, such actions can have a chilling effect on press coverage.

In addition, a correspondent for the Independent, Andrew Buncombe, was arrested for “failure to disperse” on July 1 while covering the closure.  He subsequently wrote an account of his experience.

I am deeply concerned about the treatment of members of the media, and arrests, or use of threat of arrests. 

Seattle Municipal Code section 12A.12.020, Failure to Disperse, explicitly exempts news reporters in the event of a public safety order:

12A.12.020 – Failure to disperse.

  1. As used in subsection B of this section, “public safety order” is an order issued by a peace officer designed and reasonably necessary to prevent or control a serious disorder, and promote the safety of persons or property. No such order shall apply to a news reporter or other person observing or recording the events on behalf of the public press or other news media, unless he is physically obstructing lawful efforts by such officer to disperse the group. (emphasis added)

The City Council adopted an Observer’s Bill of Rights in 2017, which clearly states the right to observe the actions of officers:

SMC 3.28.610 Public observation, recording, or expression in the vicinity of police actions

  1. A person not involved in an incident may remain in the vicinity of any stop, detention, or arrest occurring in a public place, and observe or record activity and express themselves, including making comments critical of an officer’s actions, so long as the person’s conduct and presence are otherwise lawful. The person’s conduct and presence must not: hinder, delay, or compromise legitimate police actions or rescue efforts; threaten the safety of the officers or members of the public; or attempt to incite others to violence. These conditions on the conduct do not prohibit conduct that creates a slight inconvenience for an officer, such as minor delay caused by escorting the person to a nearby location.
  1. No employee of the Seattle Police Department nor an agent thereof shall prevent a person from engaging in an action or actions protected by this Section 3.28.610.

Mr. Buncombe ends his article by saying:

“In Trump’s America, where the media is routinely cast as evil and dishonest and where an African American reporter for CNN can be arrested live on air, the need to defend journalism and its centrality to an informed democracy has never been greater. And the foundational act for journalists is to show up, either literally or else in spirt and commitment and focus. Whether we’re covering the actions of a city council, the workings of Wall Street, or the faltering, long-overdue attempt of a nation to confront the racial inequities that underpin its creation, the most important thing is to pledge ourselves to the task of doing so, and then get on with it.

Our job is not to disperse. Our job is to be present.”

It is our job as elected officials to ensure the press remains free and is able to carry out its work, in accordance with the Constitution and City law. The Constitution and Municipal Code protections for the press, and observers, do not exist for the convenience of government, to be cast aside whenever they happen to be inconvenient to government.

Please explain your plan to remedy this unacceptable abridgement of 1st Amendment rights and improper use of City law.

That charges may be dropped by the City Attorney does not excuse the arrest of a reporter.  The action of removing the reporter from the scene prevented him from covering the story and informing the public of what he saw; neither Mr. Buncombe nor Mr. Salisbury should be subjected to even the threat of arrest.

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West Seattle Bridge July 10 Update; West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force Updates; Budget Committee Update;Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens Youth Rights Ordinance; Coronavirus Updates; Summer Food Assistance and a Public Shower Hotline

July 10th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge July 10 Update

Today the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is launching Reconnect West Seattle.

The Reconnect West Seattle Framework outlines SDOT’s approach to identify traffic mitigation projects along bridge closure detour routes, establish new mode share goals by zip code, and identify SDOT’s plans to help travelers make their trips on different modes.  It is a draft and the final plan will be informed by the people affected by the closure.

SDOT is asking residents in West Seattle and surrounding communities to take one or both of two surveys by July 31.

The Reconnect West Seattle Survey is for everyone who lives or works in West Seattle. The survey is the community’s chance to let SDOT and our partners know what they need to move on and off the West Seattle peninsula at similar rates to before the High-Rise Bridge closure, but with a significant reduction in travel lanes.

Neighborhood Prioritization Process Ballots are an opportunity for people who live in Roxhill, Highland Park, Riverview, South Delridge, SODO, Georgetown, or South Park to identify the projects that would be most helpful to improve safety and traffic outcomes in their neighborhoods. The ballots include a list of potential projects; you can also make suggestions that aren’t included in the list.

Next week postcards will be sent in the mail to the neighborhoods listed below.  Here’s a link to the Reconnect West Seattle draft framework.

Here are links for surveys in English:

Here are the surveys in English, Chinese Traditional, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese, Khmer, Korean and Oromo.

Reconnect West Seattle Survey: English, Español, 繁體中文, af Soomaali, 한국어, Tiếng Việt, Oromiffa, ភាសាខ្មែរ

Roxhill, Highland Park, Riverview, & South Delridge Ballot: English, Español, 繁體中文, af Soomaali, Tiếng Việt, Oromiffa, ភាសាខ្មែរ

South Park Ballot: English, Español, 繁體中文,af Soomaali, Tiếng Việt, ភាសាខ្មែរ

Georgetown Ballot: English, Español, 繁體中文, af Soomaali, 한국어, Tiếng Việt

SODO Ballot: English, Español, 繁體中文, Tiếng Việt

Paper copies of the survey and ballot are available by request at westseattlebridge@seattle.gov or by calling 206-400-7511.

Reconnect West Seattle has two main goals: to restore travel across the Duwamish to similar levels seen before the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge closure and using an equity focus to reduce the impact of detour traffic in some Duwamish Valley neighborhoods.   If you have feedback on the plans, you can, in addition to completing SDOTs survey, let me know and I will work to advocate for your recommendations.

Prior to the bridge closure, a vast majority of people in West Seattle drove cars on and off the peninsula as their primary means of transportation. For example, in 2019 over 80 percent of morning commuters heading eastbound drove, while just 17 percent took the bus. Now that the bridge is closed, and travel lanes have been reduced from 21 to 12 lanes there are not enough travel lanes to support the same travel habits and number of cars on the road.   SDOT’s goals are to increase West Seattle bus commuters from 17 percent to 30 percent.

Metro is also working to develop its own service scenario options that respond to the closure as well as any potential emergency closure of the Spokane Street bridge (low bridge). Metro’s goal is to develop range of mobility options for fast, reliable service between WS and downtown that is travel time competitive (or better) than driving.

Today the Council began deliberations on the proposed the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) for vote in the November 2020 election in order to continuing the 0.1% sales tax we are paying now. Though State law allows us to propose a 0.2% measure, we are not pursuing an increase because of the economic crisis many are experiencing.  The measure would raise half the amount of what we are raising now because Tim Eyman’s statewide Initiative 976, opposed by a majority of Seattle voters, eliminates  our ability to collect the car tab dollars. The City of Seattle and other cities are suing to overturn I-976.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, STBD provided funding for 36% of C Line service. The Council voted to amend the criteria to allow additional service on Route 120; those are two of Metro’s top 10 routes in all of King County.  The STBD has expanded access to frequent, reliable transit by growing the portion of households within a 10-minute walk of transit service arriving every 10 minutes or less from 25 percent in 2015 to 70 percent in 2019.

Thanks to Councilmember Pedersen for his work as Transportation and Utilities Chair to move this forward. Here are the materials for the first Council briefing: Central Staff memo, draft legislation, presentation and here is the STBD webpage.

I am pleased that Mayor Durkan’s proposal includes a commitment to address the unique access problems West Seattle faces without the bridge by making investments that address acute mobility needs in areas like West Seattle.  The proposal includes funding for West Seattle service investments, listing $3 million annual average investment over six years, though more of that could be spent in earlier years, while the bridge is closed.   This funding could support targeted transit service or transportation demand management strategies to mitigate the West Seattle Bridge closure.

West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force Updates

The West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting on Wednesday, July 8 included updates.

SDOT will be doing a cost-benefit analysis to compare repair and replacement scenarios using a broad range of criteria; they will present draft criteria to the Community Task Force in August. Here’s the path for decision making:

SDOT indicated that it’s likely that any replacement or even repair of the bridge would exceed the City’s financial means without outside funding.  SDOT is exploring numerous potential funding sources:

SDOT indicated it will be releasing a request for proposals for an investment grade traffic and revenue study:

On July 13, the Council will discuss and may vote on Council Bill 119826. This would authorize SDOT to accept a $3.5 million grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council (LINK) that includes $2 million to conduct a Type, Size and Location Study for the eventual replacement of the West Seattle Bridge.

The study will examine potential replacements, such as rebuilding the bridge or an immersed tube tunnel. It would for the basis for environmental review of alternatives and developing cost estimates.

Update on Traffic

Traffic volumes remain high on West Marginal and Highland Park Way, and are trending above the pre-COVID baseline on the South Park Bridge, Roxbury, and Michigan Street in Georgetown. The 1st Avenue South Bridge is also 7% above the pre-COVID baseline.

Below are the most recent travel time estimates:


Budget Committee Update

The Council’s Budget Committee met on July 8 to consider revisions to the 2020 budget to address the more than $300 million revenue shortfall because of COVID19 and its impact on our economy.

The Budget Committee began with a panel presentation from Decriminalize Seattle, King County Equity Now, and the Participatory Budget Project.  It’s important that we listen to community voices moving forward in reimagining what policing and public safety look like.  The panel proposes that the City Council cut 50% from the SPD budget and earmark those funds for reinvestment in community-led health and safety initiatives.  They suggest cuts might come from:

  • Freezing hiring
  • Reduction in patrol staffing, prioritize for reduction those officers with highest number of complaints
  • Remove the Office of Collaborative Policing, including Navigation Team
  • End contracts with private firms that defend SPD and the City against police misconduct
  • Cut SPD’s recruitment and retention budget
  • Cut SPD’s public relations budget
  • Cut SPD’s spending on Homeland Security
  • Cut SPD’s training budget
  • End overtime pay for police officers
  • replace current 911 operations with a civilian-led system

One of the presentations was a Seattle Police Department 9-1-1 Call Analysis from SPD. I requested this presentation to examine the categories of work involved in SPD response, to begin the process of identifying what work currently done by police officers might best be done by other types of professionals. The idea was proposed by Decriminalize Seattle in the Budget Committee meeting on June 17 that 911 calls should be referred, where appropriate, to non-police responders including community-based workers who can provide mental health support, family and community mediation, drug-user health, and many other crisis services.  Their presentation highlighted emergency response systems that were not dispatched by police departments like:  the Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams in Salt Lake City and the M.H. First team in Sacramento.

Three weeks ago, after learning about this model from Decriminalize Seattle, I requested this presentation on 911 call analysis.  Soon after, the Chief announced support to “Assess non-criminal 911 calls, current outcomes, and alternate responses” and my colleague, Councilmember Andrew Lewis last week announced a proposal to “create and fully fund a new mental health and substance addiction first-responder program, based on a Eugene, Oregon program called Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets, or CAHOOTS.”

The Budget Committee will meet again next Wednesday to hear Central Staff issue identification memos, including issued identified by Councilmember for potential cuts and additions to the 2020 rebalancing budget package.

Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens Youth Rights Ordinance

Children often can’t exercise their constitutional rights when in contact with the police.  Studies have found that children’s immature brain development results in not understanding their Miranda rights and difficulty asserting their constitutional right to silence. Black children, with experiences and knowledge of the experiences of their community, have fear and distrust of police that elevate the barriers to asserting their rights.

For these reasons, we must establish safeguards for police interaction with children.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends that “juveniles should have an attorney present during questioning by police or other law enforcement agencies.”

I am working with Councilmember Morales and a coalition of community members who have proposed the Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens Youth Rights Ordinance to protect children under the age of 18 by “ensuring that they consult with counsel prior to waiving their constitutional rights and prior to any interrogation or request to search.”

Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens was a 17 year old who killed running from plainclothes deputies who, as part of a sting investigating a hit-and-run death, pretended to be a 15-year-old female in search of alcohol.  Dunlap-Gittens was not involved in the crime that they were investigating

Research shows that:

  • Children are more susceptible to police coercion and have a willingness to comply with authority.
  • Children don’t fully understand what can happen when they waive their rights.
  • Children are more likely to give false confessions.
  • Children of color are disproportionately contacted by law enforcement, incarcerated, and charged with offenses in King County juvenile court. In 2018, 73.2% of the children charged were children of color and 86.5% of the youth incarcerated between January and September of 2019 were children of color.

The Youth Rights’ Ordinance would require that:

  1. An officer, before any questioning and after administering a Miranda warning to a person 17 years of age or younger, allow the youth to consult with legal counsel in person, by telephone, or by video conference. There are limited exceptions for information sought to protect life from an imminent threat; delay would hamper the protection of life from an imminent threat; and only if, in this exception, the questioning is limited to those matters.
  2. An officer, prior to requesting any consent to search a youth or their property, home or vehicles allow the youth to consult with legal counsel in person, by telephone, or by video conference.
  3. After consulting with legal counsel, the youth may, or can choose to have a parent, guardian or legal counsel, advise the officer whether they want to exercise their constitutional rights.

In 2017, California passed a similar law for youth 15 and younger.  San Francisco, in 2019, expanded the protection to youth 17 and younger. When children understand their rights, trust, accountability, and due process is enhanced and children, especially children of color, are less vulnerable to practices that lead to disproportionality in both police charges and incarceration.

Coronavirus Updates

Rising COVID rates:  Coronavirus has been increasing in King County since mid-June, with the largest increase in new cases in young adults and Seattle residents. With more re-opening of businesses, community activities and contact with one another, Public Health Seattle & King County is warning that the risk for infection has increased.

Maintaining the safety principles that led to our initial success against the outbreak has never been more important. These include:

  • Practice physical distancing of 6 feet or more
  • Minimize contact with others outside your home
  • Frequent hand washing or sanitizer
  • Use cloth face coverings in public
  • Avoid group gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces.

Free testing locations:  Coronavirus testing is free in Washington state.  Consider being tested if you have recently been in close with anyone with Covid, or if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches, headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you have a healthcare provider, contact them about getting tested.  If you don’t have a healthcare provider, this webpage has a list of free testing locations for you.  All are available regardless of immigration status, and provide free language interpretation services.  District 1 locations include:

Neighborcare Health at High Point (West Seattle)

6020 35th Ave SW, 1st Floor, Seattle, WA 98126

Phone: (206) 461-6950

Languages: Amharic, Arabic, Cambodian, Oromo, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Ukrainian; interpretation available

Sea Mar Community Health Centers at South Park

8720 14th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108

Phone: (253) 681-6600

Languages: Spanish, Interpretation available

Sea Mar Community Health Centers at White Center

9650 15th Ave SW #100, Seattle, WA 98106

Phone: (206) 965-1000

Languages: Spanish, Interpretation available

UW Mobile Clinic at South Seattle College

6000 16th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98106

Phone: (206) 744-0400

(Open Fri., 10am-3pm, no appointment necessary)

Languages: Interpretation available

New mask requirements:  Face coverings are required in all public indoor spaces, and outdoors when you cannot remain 6 feet apart.  Effective July 7, the Governor’s statewide order directs businesses to require and enforce the use of face coverings by all customers or clients.  Learn more about face coverings here.

A face covering is not needed when you are outside walking, exercising, or otherwise outdoors if you are able to regularly stay 6 feet away from other people who do not live with you.  Some people do not need to follow this directive, including:

  • Babies and toddlers under age 2 should never wear cloth face coverings. Children ages 2-4 are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering.
  • All children ages 5 years & up should wear a face covering unless medically directed to do otherwise.
  • Anyone with a disability that makes it hard for them to wear or remove a face covering.
  • Anyone who is deaf and moves their face and mouth to communicate.
  • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional to not wear a face covering because of personal health issues.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or unable to remove the face covering without help.

Confused about what’s open and what’s not?

  • Check out this webpage from Public Health of Seattle & King County that explains what is open and not during Phase 2, and contains links to specific guidance and requirements.
  • Seattle Parks and Recreation keeps this blog post continuously updated with the latest on parks and amenities openings and closings. You can find a neighborhood park here.

Pediatric vaccinations keep your child safe

Keep your child safe by staying up to date on vaccinations during COVID-19. Clinics have changed to make it safe for your child to get needed vaccines.  While there isn’t a vaccine against COVID-19 yet, the good news is that vaccines can protect children from 14 other serious diseases. Delaying or missing vaccines could put your child, your family and your community at risk for these diseases. Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them.

Talk with your child’s doctor, nurse or clinic about the immunizations your child needs to stay healthy, and ask about the clinic’s safety measures to protect your family when you visit.

  • Need help finding a doctor or clinic, or other health resources? Call the Help Me Grow Washington Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.
  • ¿Necesita ayuda para encontrar un médico o clínica u otros recursos de salud? Llamea la línea de Help Me Grow Washington al 1-800-322-2588.


Summer Food Assistance and a Public Shower Hotline

Free summer meals in District 1:  The City’s Summer Food Service Program began on July 6th and will run through August 21st.  It provides free breakfasts, lunches and afternoon snacks for children ages 1-18.  Many sites are available to the public, so any child 18 years and under can come to receive a meal.

Summer Food Service Program sites will operate with precautions in place to minimize risk while serving meals to the community.  Sanitation and distancing practices will be followed in accordance with CDC and local health department guidelines.

District 1 Meal Sites include: South Park Community Center, Highland Park Playground, High Point Community Center, and Cascade Middle School.  Find the meal site closest to your house at https://www.uwkc.org/free-summer-meals/.

Public hygiene facilities:  With community centers, libraries, and some service providers closed down, the public health emergency has been particularly difficult for people who rely on public hygiene facilities.  The City of Seattle has published a map of hygiene facilities (including toilets, handwashing stations, laundry, showers, and day centers) that may be helpful to anyone who relies on public facilities to stay clean and safe.

In addition, the City just launched a hotline that will be kept updated with locations and hours for mobile shower facilities: (206) 386-1030.  A flyer is attached with more information.  The current plan for the shower locations is below, but this may change – that’s why it’s a good idea to call the hotline at (206) 386-1030 first.

  • King Street Station: 303 S Jackson St.; Monday – Friday; 10AM to 4PM
  • Seattle Center: 305 Harrison St.; Tuesday – Saturday; 10AM to 4PM
  • University Heights Center: 5031 University Way NE; Sunday & Monday; 10AM to 4PM

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West Seattle Bridge Update, July 2; News from the Select Budget Committee; Seattle Municipal Court Vera Project Probation Report; Workers’ Rights Update; June Constituent Email Report;

July 2nd, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update, July 2

Next week SDOT will be releasing a draft “Reconnect West Seattle Mobility Action Plan” on their website.  This will include specific neighborhood plans for four areas: Highland Park/Riverview/South Delridge/Roxhill, South Park, Georgetown, and SODO; it will also include modal plans such as freight and bicycle. There will be a public comment period about which projects within the plans to prioritize; feel free to send comments to me as well. The plans will be presented to the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force on July 8 and 22.

SDOT has begun stabilization work on the bridge, which is a necessary step whether rebuilding the bridge or removing and replacing it. SDOT notes, “Though our recent analysis indicates that repairing the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge may be possible, we still do not know how much repairs would cost, how long they would take, how many lanes could be restored, and whether repairs would last long enough to be a worthwhile investment.”

Some of the stabilization work will involve “hydro-demolition” of concrete (similar to high power pressure washing) to open holes without damaging the rebar or steel tendons (that’s why a drill isn’t being used). Crews will open over 100 holes, which will take at least two weeks.

After the holes are created, work platforms can be hoisted up from a barge. This will allow work to be done from both the top and underside of bridge, so that stabilization measures can proceed; initial carbon fiber wrapping could begin as soon as late July with external post-tensioning to follow.

Below is a diagram of post-tensioning strands and anchor bolts located in the bridge girder. They won’t be visible from the outside except where they anchor to the bottom of the bridge:

SDOT indicates the initial carbon fiber wrapping will take around 10 weeks. Post-tensioning strand installation will begin shortly after, and take a week or two. After these stabilization measures, work on releasing the bearings on Pier 18 take place. After that, SDOT will complete carbon fiber wrapping and post-tensioning.

During the last week, I attended SDOT’s monthly meeting with employers and businesses, as well as a town hall with Amazon, which has numerous employees who live in West Seattle.

As part of the Mayor’s proposed adjustment to the 2020 budget, in response to the COVID crisis, the City Budget Office sent a memo that estimates bridge repair costs in 2020 to be $22.8 million:

West Seattle Bridge

While not specific to COVID19, funding the emergency repair activities for the West Seattle High Bridge will put additional pressure on the SDOT budget. SDOT estimates 2020 costs for bridge repair to be $22.8 million. To help fund 2020 costs for emergency repair work, SDOT will take on additional debt supported by an interfund loan in 2020. More funding will be required in 2021 and 2022.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a $1.5 trillion critical investment in our infrastructure, including roads and highways, ferry and rail programs, and bridges all across the county.  My office has been working with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to make sure she has the best information about our West Seattle Bridge funding needs.  She has made the case to her colleagues that passage of H.R. 2 is “especially important as we work to ensure that our community has the resources necessary to repair or rebuild the West Seattle Bridge.” The legislation that passed the House will now go to the Senate.

At the Community Task Force meeting last week, SDOT indicated they are seeking a declaration of emergency from the Governor; this requires first a declaration by the Mayor.  Because this will assist with funding and possibly permitting and contracting, I have been advocating for a declaration of emergency since the March closure.

Traffic counts continue to be high on West Marginal and Highland Park Way SW, and continue to increase above pre-COVID thresholds on the South Park Bridge and South Michigan Street; SW Roxbury is also above pre-COVID traffic counts:

Here are the most recent travel times:

Beginning July 12, the 1st Avenue South Bridge will be closed overnight for up to 14 days in order to replace some of the grid decks. WSDOT operates this bridge. Closures will take place from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Sunday through Thursdays.

The Spokane Street (lower) bridge at the northern end of the peninsula is now open to general traffic between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

 

News from the Select Budget Committee

New progressive tax on Seattle’s largest businesses

The headline this week is new progressive revenue for the City of Seattle.  At the Council’s Select Budget Committee on Wednesday 7/1, I joined most of my colleagues in approving Councilmember Mosqueda’s JumpStart legislation, a narrowly-targeted tax on only the largest businesses paying the highest salaries and driving our city’s affordability crisis.  Only companies with annual payroll greater than $7 million will be taxed and they will only be taxed on their pay to employees making more than $150,000 per year.  This structure is different from the 2018 Employee Hours Tax (or “head tax”), which had a flat tax to employers for each employee, regardless of their pay.

The tax will be levied beginning in 2021.  Revenue will be invested in COVID-19 relief, continuing City services that are helping residents stay afloat during the emergency, affordable housing, equitable development, and small business support.

During the committee meeting, we amended the legislation to adjust the tax rates and bring in an estimated additional $40 million annually (totaling approximately $215 million a year); eliminate the 10-year sunset clause; and strengthen the “level playing field” language, which says that Council intends to reconsider this tax if the county or state passes similar a similar progressive tax, so that businesses are not bearing a double burden.

Wednesday’s vote means the tax legislation (CB 119810), and a basic spending plan associated with the new expected revenue (CB 119811), have successfully passed out of committee.  On Monday, the Full Council will vote to approve both.  On July 15, the Select Budget Committee will consider a resolution with a more detailed spending plan for the JumpStart tax revenue, as well as legislation (CB 119812) that will fund COVID 19 relief programs this year, including support for small businesses and immigrants and refugees, food security, rental assistance, and immediate housing needs.

New funds for Seattle’s homelessness response

Also on Wednesday, we passed legislation I sponsored with Councilmember Mosqueda to accept $13 million from the state Department of Commerce to fund homelessness and affordable housing services (CB 119816). These funds first became available to the City back in March; I have been working behind the scenes to get these dollars allocated quickly, and I thank Budget Chair Mosqueda for her willingness to consider this legislation as soon as we received it, instead of holding it back for the larger budget rebalancing conversation.  This legislation will also be voted on Monday at full Council.

This $13 million is desperately needed by nonprofit service providers who are incurring significant expenses they couldn’t have planned for due to coronavirus, while making extraordinary efforts to provide frontline care and services to people who are hit the hardest by the public health emergency and economic downturn.  It will provide food service to people experiencing homelessness or living in permanent supportive housing; backfill planned investments in permanent supportive housing that are in jeopardy due to lack of tax revenue; continue support for efforts to make congregate shelters safer during coronavirus; continue hygiene services for people living unsheltered; and reimburse homeless service providers for other extraordinary costs required by the coronavirus response, such as facility modifications, and changes to program models.  In addition, this legislation will allow the Executive to “restore” $1.4 million for rental assistance and homelessness prevention, which is a top priority of mine.  Given that so many people are still not back to work and that we still have an eviction moratorium in place, giving tenants and landlords increased access to rent assistance funds is very important.

Schedule note

The presentation on SPD 911 response I noted last week has been rescheduled for the meeting on July 8.

Seattle Municipal Court Vera Project Probation Report

Seattle Municipal Court announced a report released by the Vera Institute of Justice to Municipal Court Probation Services on Strategies for Improving Policies and Practices. The report which was commissioned in 2019 to evaluate the Courts Probation Services is based on the following principles:

  • Principle 1: Probation supervision should be goal-based and focus on people who pose a high risk to public safety, which is likely to be a small portion of those charged with misdemeanors.
  • Principle 2: Probation conditions and management of those conditions should be responsive to levels of risk, needs, and strengths.
  • Principle 3: Probation should be outcomes-based.
  • Principle 4: The process of shifting the goals of probation supervision requires significant staff training and mentoring.
  • Principle 5: Collaboration and community engagement are necessary for effective system change.
  • Principle 6: Probation departments must recognize and minimize disproportionate impact on people of color and women.

The report includes 15 recommendations and the Court’s response to the report. The recommendations are:

  1. SMC should prioritize probation resources for people who pose higher levels of risk to the community, thus significantly reducing the department’s overall caseload and avoiding increased system involvement among people who present less risk.
  2. SMC probation supervision should shift from “time-based” to “goal-based.”
  3. A risk assessment instrument should be validated for use with the current population of people on probation.
  4. Probation conditions and responses to violations should be focused on responding to risk and encouraging prosocial activities—rather than enforcing compliance—and should not be applied uniformly.
  5. Probation Services should track and regularly analyze key performance measures.
  6. SMC should make client interactions more meaningful.
  7. SMC should make greater use of incentives to encourage clients’ success.
  8. All new staff should receive in-depth training—beyond what is received while on the job—on SMC and Probation Services policies, regardless of prior work history (e.g., coming from DOC).
  9. New policies should be memorialized officially, easily accessible to all SMC staff in a centralized location, and continually referenced.
  10. SMC should remove barriers to collaborative approaches among its stakeholders.
  11. SMC should consider changes to CRC staffing and logistics to enable more client-focused service.
  12. SMC should engage community organizations and clients in identifying areas for improvement, which will offer insight that system stakeholders do not have.
  13. To collect data accurately, SMC should allow clients to self-identify and include ethnicity.
  14. SMC should conduct a deeper analysis to understand why racial disparities and gender disparities exist, including comparisons of conditions imposed, types of violations, and reasons for revocation across race, ethnicity, and gender.
  15. SMC should further explore gender-responsive programming.

The Court’s statement is linked here. In part it states that:  “In response to preliminary findings from the Vera report, SMC judges adopted new sentencing guidelines in early 2020 with the goal of reducing judicial referrals to probation for lower-risk individuals and reserving probation for high-risk cases.”  When I requested a copy of the new sentencing guidelines, I was told that the reference to new sentencing guidelines did “not refer to a specific document or policy at this point.”  Given my understanding that sentencing guidelines are included in a written document to help judges determine what elements of a crime scored in favor or against of specific types/lengths of sentences, I am now seeking to determine how the recommendations of the Vera Report can be achieved without new sentencing guidelines.

Workers’ Rights Update

Today the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) announced a nearly $2 million dollar settlement with Macy’s for violations to the Secure Scheduling Ordinance. I want to first recognize and thank the workers whom this has directly impacted for years.  If you’re not familiar with Secure Scheduling, this was legislation I championed with Council President Gonzalez, to require employers to schedule 14 days in advance, and if that schedule needs to change then employers must compensate their employees.  Time is money and last minute disruption of the schedules of parents, caregivers, students, and people with second jobs has real economic impacts. I also want to thank OLS and UFCW for bringing this injustice to light and setting the record straight.

In other news, as you’ll recall from recent blog posts, I sponsored legislation with Councilmember Andrew Lewis requiring employers to pay premium pay for third party food delivery drivers. The legislation requires that third party delivery apps pay their drivers $2.50 in premium per food drop off. This is in order to compensate the drivers for the hazardous yet essential work these workers are providing. The rational for the $2.50 is broken out into three areas – hazard pay, time to adequately clean their vehicles to meet public health guidelines, and the supplies needed to clean their vehicles.

Last Friday, Instacart filed a lawsuit against the city. Councilmember Lewis and myself had previously conferred with our Law Department about these issues, and both of us and the Law Department are confident that the City will prevail.

June Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office. My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s by getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering. The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in June, what I refer to above as “case management services.” The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in June related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.  Please note the new COVID-19 row highlighted in yellow.  These are a mix of case management services to get individuals the help they need in this crisis as well as emails answered in response to constituents contacting my office about Emergency Orders and emergency legislation related to COVID-19 response.  I have a debt of gratitude to the work being done by my team to respond urgently to people in crisis in this difficult time.

 

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West Seattle Bridge Update, June 26; Police Accountability Reports and Plans; Council Repeals Drug and Prostitution Loitering Legislation; Select Budget Committee Update; COVID-19 Updates

June 26th, 2020

West Seattle Bridge Update, June 26

At Wednesday’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, SDOT proposed to allow general use of the lower bridge at Spokane Street from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., when traffic levels are lower. School buses will also be allowed anytime. Other types of uses, such as employer shuttles, healthcare workers and maritime users, are recommended for further consideration:

I thank SDOT for proposing this change; I’ve advocated for other uses for the last few months. SDOT noted that for vanpools and employer shuttle, a key consideration is how many users there are in each vehicle, a challenge during the COVID-19 era of social distancing, and expressed interest in getting data from employers about the number of users in shuttles.

Here’s a link to an SDOT blog post about their rationale. SDOT notes the bridge capacity constraints and the need to monitor conditions for potential changes. SDOT noted that they will also continue to explore increased access, which will depend on scalable enforcement solutions such as automated camera enforcement.

SDOT also presented an update on the status of the West Seattle Bridge. SDOT released a blog post earlier this week about repairing the bridge, where they note “we still do not know how long any repairs would last.” The blog post goes into detail about how steel post-tending systems work and testing to date.

Below is a visual of bridge stabilization SDOT plans, showing what carbon fiber wrap and post-tensioning reinforcement could look like:

SDOT also noted shared a visual showing that some work will be performed from barges, with four temporary platforms. This will reduce the maritime clearance for the bridge by seven feet:

SDOT indicated that this stabilization work would be designed to complement a repair, if that path is chosen.

The Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) also presented to the Community Task Force for the first time.

We learned that one of the members has extensive experience in tunnels, including immersed tube tunnels (e.g. in Boston). As this is a proposal with significant community interest, I’m glad to hear this skill set is reflected in the TAP.

SDOT noted that for replacement, which will be needed regardless of whether a repair is done first, a type, size and location study is the first part of the process. It will involve public comment. The consultant selected through the RFQ process will work with SDOT on this; SDOT indicated it’s too early to say what the schedule for this will be.

Below are the key actions for the TAP, the first item is to review and support the decision-making process for type of repair or not to repair:

SDOT also presented an update on their plans for neighborhood traffic and mobility plans, on the following schedule:

SDOT is calling this the Reconnect West Seattle Mobility Action Plan. It will include specific plans for southern neighborhoods on the peninsula: Roxhill/Highland Park/Riverview/South Delridge, as well as for South Park, Georgetown and SODO. As noted in the schedule, community comment and prioritization is requested when documents are shared the week of July 6. An update to the Community Task Force is scheduled for July 8th, and the 22nd.

Below are some of the neighborhood-specific goals for what SDOT has developed to date:

Here’s a link to the SDOT presentation.

A memo received from the City Budget Office indicates significant shortfalls in revenues, especially from the commercial parking tax and school zone cameras. It notes “SDOT estimates 2020 costs for bridge repair to be $22.8 million. To help fund 2020 costs for emergency repair work, SDOT will take on additional debt supported by an interfund loan in 2020. More funding will be required in 2021 and 2022.”

Travel Times

The most recent travel times show heavy traffic on West Marginal, Highland Park Way, with increases above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge and South Michigan Street. Traffic on the 1st Avenue South Bridge is at pre-COVID levels:

Here are the most recent travel times:

 

Police Accountability Reports and Plans

On Tuesday I held a special Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting where we heard from the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG). These are two of the three legs of the “three legged stool” that make up the city’s police accountability framework, the third is the Community Police Commission (CPC) who unfortunately were unable to attend the meeting.

At the meeting the OPA and OIG updated the Council on their 2019 annual reports, you can read the OPA report here, and the OIG report here. Further the committee discussed the progress on their current investigations regarding the demonstrations. The OPA has a dashboard up here so that you can track their progress on these investigations. The OPA has received over 18,000 complaints of police misconduct since the beginning of the demonstrations in late May which have lead to 17 individual investigations all of which are tracked on the previously linked dashboard. The OIG on the other hand looks at systems instead of individual complaints.  In response to the call for a community led investigation into the actions of SPD, the OIG has begun what’s referred to as a Sentinel Event Review. As outlined on the OIG website:

“Sentinel event review is a systems-based, root cause analysis of incidents with significant negative outcome that is of importance and concern to community. The goal of this review is systemic improvement, and we are seeking to ensure it is grounded in community priorities and perspective, and also informed by law enforcement and relevant subject matter experts. The focus is on system improvement that addresses institutional racism.”

While both the OPA investigations and the OIG Sentinel Event Review will take time, both agencies have put aside other work to ensure expeditious conclusions and accountability of the Seattle Police Department for actions taken during these demonstrations.

After the committee meeting, following up on my questions during committee about whether the decision for all SPD staff to leave the East Precinct was in accordance with SPD policy and procedures, I sent a request for an OPA inquiry into the questions below:

  • What are the SPD policies and procedures to authorize vacating a precinct?
  • What are the conditions, according to SPD policies and procedures, under which SPD can authorize vacating a precinct?
  • Who, according to policies and procedures, authorizes SPD staff to vacate a precinct?
  • In this instance, who directed SPD staff to vacate the East precinct?
  • In this instance, did the person or persons who directed SPD staff to vacate the East precinct have the authority to do so?
  • In this instance, did the conditions exist, according to SPD policies and procedures, for an authorized SPD personnel to order vacating the East Precinct?
  • The Chief of Police and Mayor Jenny Durkan have stated that they did not direct staff to vacate the East Precinct, if not were either of them aware that staff had been directed to vacate the East Precinct?
  • If there is a determination that no personnel directed or authorized SPD personnel to vacate the East Precinct, what is the violation of policies and procedures of individual officers if they did so without direction or authorization?

Council Repeals Drug and Prostitution Loitering Legislation

On Monday the City Council voted unanimously to repeal the City of Seattle’s drug loitering and prostitution loitering laws.  The bills were sponsored by Councilmembers Lewis, Pedersen, and Morales.

The 2018 Seattle Reentry Workgroup Report, written in response to Council Resolution 31637, recommended that “City Council should remove drug traffic loitering and prostitution loitering from the City’s criminal code.”

The City Attorney has declined to prosecute under these laws since 2018.  Repeal will ensure that a charge of loitering can no longer be a basis for arrest or future prosecution when there is no evidence otherwise of drug trafficking or sex work.

The 2018 report also recommended expansion of pre-filing diversion. The City Attorney recently sent the Council recommendations to expand the pre-filing diversion program for young adults aged 18-24 used by Choose 180, to include adults 25 and over. I support this expansion. I’ll be proposing to add funding for this expansion during the Council’s current reconsideration of the 2020 budget.

During the Council meeting, I read the introduction to the report, which led to the recommendation to repeal these laws, which says,

“We would like to acknowledge and thank the many individuals and organizations who provided support, expertise, and shared their experiences and wisdom throughout this process. We also recognize those who have been supporting folks returning from incarceration and organizing for institutional change for a very long time. We know that much of that work has been done without compensation or acknowledgment yet done with love and an unyielding commitment to family and community strength. We thank you for that work and hope these recommendations support you. We also acknowledge that the individuals most impacted by the recommendations in this report are unable to join us at the City’s tables, as they are still incarcerated. We did this work in your honor.”

Select Budget Committee Update

Progressive revenue

Last week, I wrote about Budget Chair Mosqueda’s JumpStart legislation, which I am co-sponsoring. JumpStart is a finely-tuned progressive tax, specifically requiring the largest employers to pay a tax only on the highest salaries that are driving our city’s affordability problems.  It’s expected to raise about $173 million in 2021, the first year, and about $200 million annually after that.

JumpStart has a clear spending plan that will make significant impacts on affordable housing, homeless services, help for small businesses, and investments in equitable development initiatives.  In 2020 and 2021, it will provide additional resources for Covid relief.

I am sponsoring an amendment that will begin the tax later this year (instead of next year), raising an additional $75 million to fund lifelines like housing and food assistance that Seattleites are relying on right now, especially those most impacted by coronavirus, including BIPOC communities.

Starting in 2022, JumpStart will provide significant annual funding, estimated at $132 million a year, for housing that is affordable and available to Seattle residents struggling on the very smallest incomes, and folks experiencing homelessness.   It will also put $20 million annually into the Equitable Development Initiative, an important tool for community-driven development in communities at risk of displacement. And it includes about $40 million annually to support local businesses and economic activity to spur the recovery.

The legislation has a “sunset clause,” which means the tax will end after ten years.  It also includes a provision that would allow Council to end the tax early if a similar, progressive tax is passed by the County or State.  Next Wednesday, Council will consider amendments to the legislation.

Seattle Police Department budget “inquest”

Seattle City Council continued its deep dive into understanding the Seattle Police Department at Wednesday’s Select Budget Committee meeting.  We heard a presentation from Council Central Staff, and representatives of the City Budget Office and Seattle Police Department, focused on questions that Councilmembers had identified on June 10th.  You can view the presentation here.

City Council submitted numerous questions to the Seattle Police Department about the demonstrations after the death of George Floyd.  Some of these questions are related to funding questions related to SPD’s budget.  Here’s a link to the replies to Council questions.

In the Budget Committee on Wednesday, we ran out of time to be briefed on a presentation I requested about 911 response (presentation can be found at the link) and the categories of work involved in SPD response.  I made this request in a previous budget committee begin the process of identifying what work currently done by police officers might best be done by other types of professionals.

While it’s a starting point, I’d like to include work beyond just 911 calls, and a clearer sense of what officer work could best be done by others. Here’s an article with a high-level chart for how officers typically spend time in other cities that’s a useful illustration of what will be helpful for policymakers in Seattle.

Mayor’s 2020 budget rebalancing package

On Tuesday, Council received from the Mayor a package of legislation to help address the expected $300 million shortfall in tax revenue due to COVID19 in 2020.  It’s a complex process that will take up much of Council’s energy through the month of July.  On Wednesday, we received an initial, high-level briefing from Director Ben Noble of the City Budget Office on the rebalancing package; you can view that presentation here.

Particularly at a time when Seattle residents are using their voices and bodies to call attention to the way that SPD investments have increased disproportionately over time, and calling on City Council to reshape our community safety function and make investments in Black and brown communities that have suffered and died from overpolicing – we have to resist the urge to cut without intention, and instead choose investments in Seattle residents and communities that will spur the health of our economy, as well as our neighbors and communities.

COVID-19 Updates

Mandatory face masks starting Friday

You’ve likely heard that the Governor has mandated wearing face masks starting on Friday.  Here’s what you need to know.

Governor Inslee has issued a statewide order requiring individuals to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices and restaurants. The order also requires face coverings outdoors when you can’t stay 6 feet apart from others.  A face covering is not needed outside if you are able to regularly stay 6 feet away from other people who do not live with you.

Use cloth face coverings. Do not use medical masks.

Wear fabric face coverings, such as cloth face masks, scarves, and bandanas. The face covering must fit over your nose and mouth. Instructions on making cloth masks

It is important to save medical-grade surgical masks and N95 respirators for healthcare workers and people who have special health needs.

Some people do not need to follow this directive, including:

  • Children ages 2 years and younger. Babies and toddlers under age two should never wear cloth face coverings.
  • Children ages 3-5 are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when possible.
  • Anyone with a disability that makes it hard for them to wear or remove a face covering.
  • Anyone who is deaf and moves their face and mouth to communicate. Check out this guidance for community members who are deaf, hard or hearing, or blind.
  • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional to not wear a face covering because of personal health issues.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or unable to remove the face covering without help.

If you see someone without a face covering, please extend the benefit of the doubt and respect others’ decisions. No one should be subjected to stigmatization, bias or discrimination for wearing or not wearing a face covering. Default to understanding rather than judgement.

In addition to face coverings, the most important things we can do to protect our health and that of others are:

  • Maintain six feet of distance from others
  • Stay home when ill
  • Practice frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette (cough in your elbow, not the air)
  • Disinfect surfaces often.

These all work together to slow the spread of COVID – especially when the majority of people participate.

Extension of Moratorium on Rental Evictions

On June 18 the Mayor issued an Executive Order to extend the relief policies that have been put into place during the Covid-19 public health crisis. The Executive Order extends the moratoriums on residential, nonprofit, and small business evictions through August 1. This means that unless there’s an immediate threat to health and safety of the community, landlords cannot move to terminate or evict a tenant. If you’ve received a termination or eviction notice, please reach out to Renting in Seattle at 206‐684‐5700 or go online to submit a complaint. For additional resources available to renters, please see this link.

Tired of social isolation?  The City has new resources for seniors

Social isolation is a major problem for older people in the best of times, and worse during COVID19. The City’s Aging & Disability Service (ADS) serves residents who fall squarely within the high-risk category for COVID-19—age 60+; those with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease; people with compromised immune systems; and people with health disparities.

ADS and partners have taken steps to address social isolation, including:

  • ADS produced printed cards for food and meal deliveries that promote Community Living Connections and AARP’s Friendly Voices service
    • Any older adult or caregiver can call Community Living Connections to access resources. All calls are free and confidential: 1-844-348-5464.
    • Friendly Voices arranges calls between older adults and trained AARP volunteers for social connection. Request a call at https://aarpcommunityconnections.org/friendly-voices/ or 1-888-281-0145.
  • Age Friendly Seattle now offers a weekly online program, Thursdays 10:30 a.m.  Log in at https://bit.ly/AgeFriendlyLive.
    • Programs are either a virtual Civic Coffee Hour or a new series called Close to Home: Stories of Health, Tech & Resilience.
    • Live events are fully auto-captioned in English and six other languages, using MS Teams. The captions remain options for anyone who views the programs later on the ADS YouTube channel. This helps serve people who are hard of hearing as well as people with limited English.
  • Look for new programming called “AgeWise TV” on Seattle Channel at http://www.seattlechannel.org/feature-shows/agewise-tv. ADS supported a partnership between the Pike Market Senior Center, Seattle Channel, and other senior centers and community organizations to develop ten one-hour programs for older people.
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