Prolific Offenders Report Follow Up; Proclamation honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month; Library Levy and Public Hearing; March Constituent Email Report

Prolific Offenders Report Follow Up

There has been a lot of discussion and coverage of a recent report commissioned by a collaborative effort of several of Seattle’s small business associations. The television special called “Seattle is Dying” further amplified the public dialogue.

Let me first say that we need, and I commit to bring urgency to developing solutions. We have unacceptable numbers of people living outside, and some of those people – by no means all, or even most – are among those in the report, having been arrested 4 or more times in the two-month period that the report covers.  But the fallout from the television show called “Seattle is Dying” – when it was revealed that one of individuals that was filmed at length was not homeless – demonstrates the harm done when homelessness is conflated with criminal activity and/or addiction.

I think it’s notable that the report doesn’t call for a particular solution. The business associations commissioning the report, in not making specific recommendations, has thoughtfully recognized that we have to collaborate with public safety policy experts in best practices as well as working with experts in data-driven programs that that serve people who are homeless, mentally ill and/or have substance use disorders.

The report calls for city leaders to elevate these issues and take steps to improve the situation. In response to that call, I met this week with directors of each of the organizations involved in commissioning the report, the SODO BIA, Ballard Alliance, U District Partnership, the West Seattle Junction Association, the Alliance for Pioneer Square, the Downtown Seattle Association as well as Visit Seattle. As the Councilmember with oversight of economic development issues, I know how critical it is that we collaborate with not only the policy experts, but the advocacy organizations that represent scores of small businesses throughout Seattle.

These groups have given voice to our inability to a. house people (lack of housing for this population was noted in the report) and b. support long term coordination between prosecutors, officers, neighborhood groups and case managers, to make good individually-based decisions when known individuals engage in ongoing problematic behavior.

This group has given voice to the impacts on their ability to run their businesses in a compassionate way that shows how they too understand the complexity of the issue. I’m appreciative of the tone that they’ve set, and I sincerely believe that it’s this kind of approach that can facilitate a successful conversation about solutions and how to enact them. Here’s one example of a respectful, compassionate email I’ve received, I’m sharing it here, because I believe it models the kind of engagement that we see less and less of – at least it seems that way sometimes. This business owner writes: They have “been proud to be part of the pioneer square community for 15 years. We value being in this culturally rich area, but the present public safety conditions are deeply concerning. These concerns are not only saddening but present a business liability. Customers have told us they will no longer visit… and individual members have experienced threatening behavior which forces them to lock the doors. Besides being outright frightening, the current safety conditions have set a tone of vigilance that makes it impossible to have an inclusive and open-door space that welcomes everyone in our neighborhood. Please help us keep Pioneer Square commercially viable and culturally vibrant. We know this problem is complicated…”

I believe we can learn a lot from King Counties’ Familiar Faces initiative. Familiar Faces refers to a population who are frequent users of King County jail, being booked into jail four or more times in a twelve-month period and also have mental health and/or substance use issues. See here for more.

I’ve reached out to City Attorney Holmes, Mayor Durkan, and Councilmember González so that we can do the necessary work with our small business advocates as well as public safety and mental health/drug treatment policy experts, but so we can also strive to do a better job of demonstrating our commitment to urgent action.


Proclamation Honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and I will present a Proclamation, crafted in partnership with the Seattle Women’s Commission, honoring the month in Full Council on Monday, April 8. Please join us!

SAAM was first nationally observed in 2001, but has been used to raise awareness and organize against sexual- and gender-based violence since the 1970s. I want to acknowledge the important work of the Seattle Women’s Commission, the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, and the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for leading in our region to support survivors and work to eliminate sexual assault, rape, and gender-based violence in our communities.

It’s also important to recognize the work of advocacy groups elevating how women of color, indigenous women, people with disabilities, and trans women are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence. An important report by Seattle’s Urban Indian Health Institute “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls” has put a spotlight on how murder is the third-leading cause of death among native women across the country, and how negligent efforts to capture this data is an outcome of institutional racism.

The #MeToo movement has generated an important national conversation on sexual violence. It has also brought to light the cultural and institutional barriers for survivors to come forward that serves to keep dangerous men in power. Reporting sexual assault and harassment isn’t only retraumatizing, but it can lead to discrimination that could jeopardize a survivor’s opportunities in areas of employment, public accommodations, housing, and contracting. Read more about a bill I championed and passed last year to extend the statute of limitations here.

Additionally, on April 24 the City of Seattle will observe “Denim Day.” Denim Day was founded after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned in part because the victim was wearing tight jeans.  Denim Day is designed to draw attention to victim blaming and to allow all of us to take action to say that they is no excuse for sexual assault.  I will share more details about this year’s Denim Day events as they become available.


Library Levy and Public Hearing

As you’ve likely read about, the Mayor has proposed a new Library Maintenance and Operations Levy to replace the previous levy from 2012 which is set to expire at the end of 2019. The previous 2012, $123 million property tax levy approved by voters focused on four main areas: Open Hours and Access, Collections, Technology, and Maintenance.

The proposed levy from the Mayor is a $213 million seven-year levy that would be put on the August 6 ballot this year. Here is the breakout of the newly proposed spending:

  • Open Hours and Access – $67.5 million (annual average – $9.6 million)
    • $61.7 million to sustain funding for operating hours added as part of the 2012 Library Levy.
    • $5.8 million in new funding to support morning and evening hours at three additional branches as well as moving four additional branches to seven-days-a-week operations by adding Friday hours. The program also includes one additional operating hour on Sundays at all 26 branches at no incremental cost.
    • Collections – $58.2 million (annual average – $8.3 million)
  • $45.3 million to sustain funding for collection investments added as part of the 2012 Library Levy.
    • $8.0 million in new funding to support fine-free access to the Library’s collections, eliminating a barrier that disproportionally impacts low-income patrons.
    • $5.0 million in new funding to support patrons’ shift to use of higher-cost digital materials.
  • Technology – $29.4 million (annual average – $4.2 million)
    • $16.2 million to sustain funding for technology investments added as part of the 2012 Library Levy.
    • $8.0 million for two major technology system upgrades. The first is to replace or upgrade the Library’s primary business platform which manages materials procurement, manual and automated check-in and self-checkout processes, and provides a discovery layer for patrons to access and explore Library resources from any digital device 24 hours a day. The second is to upgrade aging technology infrastructure responsible for providing highspeed public internet access at the Central Library and all 26 branches, to accommodate patrons growing bandwidth use through personal devices and growth in availability as well as availability and consumption of more bandwidth-intensive materials.
    • $5.3 million to sustain the Library’s technology and digital equity investments currently funded by cable franchise fee revenues.
  • Maintenance – $55.7 million (annual average – $8.0 million)
    • $42.1 million to sustain investments in regular and preventative maintenance, and major maintenance added as part of the 2012 Library Levy.
    • $13.8 million in additional funding to undertake seismic retrofits to reduce the risk of injury and loss of life during an earthquake at three Library locations identified as high-risk in a 2016 survey.

For greater detail on the previous levy and how the funds are proposed to be spent in this levy, please see the summary and fiscal note.

The process as outlined by the Council President is a fairly quick one to put this levy on the ballot. As such there will be a Public Hearing on Thursday, April 11 starting at 5:30pm at City Hall in the Council Chambers. If you have comments about the levy, I would encourage you to come to this Public Hearing.

I want to address one of the issues some of you have written to me about — the proposed elimination of library book late-fees.

While late fees are proposed to be eliminated, customers who do not return an item will be still be charged to replace it.  If an item is not returned within 40 days after its due date, then the item will be considered lost and in need of replacement. The library patron will be charged for this replacement.  In addition, they will not have their access to library services revoked.

The Sno-Isle Library system made this change 35 years ago!  The Sno-Isle Library system, serving Snohomish and Island counties, is one of the largest systems in the state with 23 branches. The Sno-Isle Library cites the disproportional impact late fees have on children and their families, and that the costs of collecting late fees may exceed the benefits; furthermore, the practice is not effective in reducing or eliminating overdue behaviors.

As Sno-Isle libraries found out more than 3 decades ago, this is an equity issue that unaddressed impacts low income residents and their children. At the South Park library, patrons owe an average of $15.91 (more than $15 blocks the account); in Magnolia and Queen Anne the average amount is just $4.60. At South Park library 20 percent of frequent users’ accounts have been blocked, compare this with the Fremont, Magnolia, Greenlake, and Montlake libraries where only 7 percent are blocked. The proposal to eliminate the fines is projected to cost a little more than 1 million a year.

Again, if you have comments about this proposal, please attend the Public Hearing scheduled for Thursday, April 11 at 5:30pm.


March 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 March, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in March related to policy or legislation that the Council is considering.

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