West Seattle Bridge Expected to Open to Traffic Week of September 12; Transportation & SPU Committee Discussion on Light Rail Alignment; Gun Violence Prevention; Alarming Increases in Youth Suicide – and How to Prevent It; SPMA Contract; Reminder: WSF Fauntleroy Terminal Open House Through the 13th; New Off-Leash Areas?; Spotting Urban Carnivores; Public Comment on Rules for Independent Contractor Protections; In-Person Office Hours

West Seattle Bridge Expected to Open to Traffic Week of September 12

On June 9th SDOT announced at the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force a new estimated opening for the West Seattle Bridge:

“We expect the West Seattle Bridge to be open to traffic during the week of September 12. Sharing that today is a relief since our focus has always been on safely getting everyone back on the bridge ASAP. It’s been hard having to wait for this update, but we did need to get through the concrete work to understand exactly where we were schedule-wise. Thank you for being so patient, Seattle.”

We know that all of West Seattle, South Park, and Georgetown have had the bridge reopening top of mind since it closed. I am still holding out hope for a summer re-opening, but I appreciate SDOT’s announcement; it lets us know that we’re close – just three months away.

The tasks that remain include: concrete curing; post-tensioning; final epoxy injections; major maintenance; and testing.

Key schedule risks include weather (concrete cures slower in wet weather); supply chain; worker availability; and testing the bridge after work is completed.

At the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting, I asked what factors could potentially result in a more accelerated schedule, given that even a short reduction in time would align with the start of the school year.  SDOT indicated the shifts are 60 hours per week, 10 hours daily for 6 days per week, and noted concern that longer shifts could be a safety issue. Night shifts to clean and set up work for the next day is an option. They also noted the concrete curing, post-tensioning, and carbon fiber wrapping is done sequentially, so less rain could help in the near term with concrete curing.

SDOT expects to announce the precise opening date 30 days in advance.

When the West Seattle Bridge opens, restrictions on the use of the Spokane Street (low) Bridge will end.

Below are images that show the steel cables that provide post-tensioning across the span of the bridge, and the location of anchor blocks:

Tightening the cables compresses the concrete in the bridge, making it stronger:

The meeting on the 9th was the final scheduled meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force. I appreciate the able, collaborative work of the Co-Chairs, former Mayor Greg Nickels, and Paulina Lopez of the Duwamish River Community Coalition.

Transportation & SPU Committee Discussion on Light Rail Alignment

On Tuesday, June 7 the Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee heard a first presentation on Resolution 32055 to provide recommendations to the Sound Transit Board on their selection of the Preferred Alternative for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project to be studied in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Here’s the Central Staff Memo, and the Presentation. Slides 16-29 are specific to West Seattle.

This was a first presentation; a committee vote on the resolution could come later this month or early in July, in order to inform the decision of the Sound Transit Board, which could vote on July 28th.

For the West Seattle Junction and Avalon areas, the options include a recommendation for the WSJ-5 “Medium Tunnel”:

For Delridge, the recommendation is for the “Del-6” option, which has a station at Andover:

For the Duwamish crossing, the recommendation is for a southern crossing:

There is clear, strong community consensus in support of a tunnel in the West Seattle Junction. The Medium Tunnel has a comparable cost estimate to elevated options in the Junction.

For Delridge, there isn’t a clear community consensus. Executive staff noted during the presentation that all potential alignments have impacts on residents and businesses, and that is clear.

For Delridge, the resolution added language to the draft version emphasizing the importance of transit access for areas further to the south and the importance of completing a transit access study, and protections for Longfellow Creek. These are good additions, especially given that most riders will access the station from the areas to the south that were identified in the Racial Equity Toolkit; the Environmental Justice study in the Draft EIS only covers ½ mile from station locations.

Taking a step back, in the public discussions in 2019 about options to study in the Draft EIS (the “scoping process”), all the options went directly through the Youngstown community and up Genesee, significantly impacting residents, with the visual impact of an elevated guideway along Genesee.

At that time, we heard a lot of opposition from the Youngstown community.  Options some of us worked to develop to address this such as the “purple option” weren’t moved forward by the Sound Transit Board for inclusion in the Draft EIS.

The Board did include a route that minimized impacts on the Youngstown community, with stations at Andover (Del-5 and 6). Given when it was included, potential impacts weren’t discussed during the scoping process.

During public comment at the Transporation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee, we heard from the Alki Beach Academy daycare center, and Transitional Resources, which offers 24/7 services to persons with serious mental illness, through both living facilities and a service center, about the potential impacts of the options with a station at Andover, which have not been adequately examined in the Draft EIS.

It’s important to fully examine these impacts.  Consequently, I am not sure that indicating City support for a preferred alternative in Delridge is appropriate at this time.  I am considering options to amend the legislation.

Not indicating a preference for a segment would not be unprecedented in this resolution. For example, in the case of the Chinatown/International District, the original draft of the resolution stated an alignment preference.  The introduced version was changed to say: “the City is not able to state a preference at this time, given inadequate information in the Draft EIS related to business and residential impacts.”  That is the other Racial Equity Toolkit area on the line.

The Andover Del-6 option is the only Delridge option that connects to the Medium Tunnel option, so to a degree supporting the West Seattle Junction medium tunnel option limits the selection to Del-6 in this resolution (though the Executive was clear their recommendation in Delridge was not based on that). The Executive has been very collaborative on this legislation, and I’m grateful for this approach.

In addition, the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee met on Thursday, June 9, and heard an overview presentation on public comments received on the Draft EIS. The West Seattle/Duwamish portion is on slides 29 through 33. Here’s a slide showing a high-level summary of comments:

A slide emphasizing the Racial Equity Toolkit for Delridge noted the following:

Gun Violence Prevention

Yesterday I joined leaders from across Seattle, King County, and other cities to discuss our regional efforts to combat gun violence through the Regional Gun Violence Prevention Leadership Group.  It’s no surprise that gun violence is increasing in our communities.  Director Worsham of Public Health of Seattle-King County, which is leading the work, said: “Gun violence is a disease in our community that’s spreading, and we need to inoculate and stop the spread.”

Seattle’s Efforts:  I review a report on shots fired in Seattle every week, provided by the SPD.  Every week when I get this report, I want to know more about how we’re helping survivors, families, and the people they love.  I want to know more so I can do more – because we know these deaths are preventable.  I shared some of Seattle’s efforts with members of the Leadership Group.

Seattle Community Safety Initiative community hubs:  For several years, Council has provided $4M annually for the Seattle Community Safety Initiative (SCSI), led by Community Passageways, which built community safety hubs and wraparound services in West Seattle, SE Seattle, and the Central District.  SCSI partners review weekly shots fired reports with SPD, respond to hot spots and incidents, and activate spaces and engage young people with popup events.

Community Safety Capacity Building cohort:  Council provided $10M in 2021 to fund 33 community safety projects, to build safety in our neighborhoods from the ground up for 18 months.  Strategies include: activating hotspots, peer street outreach, de-escalation and conflict mediation, re-entry services, healing and restoration, and youth mental health and wellness.  This group will begin meeting as a cohort with an evaluator to assess their impact and learn from each other.  Seattle’s City Auditor has previously done a significant amount of work to understand the impact of street outreach programs, so they are participating as well.

Regional Peacekeepers Collective:  Much of this work is accomplished through the Regional Peacekeepers Collective (RPKC).  I sponsored $500,000 in the 2021 midyear budget supplemental to fund the RPKC, and appreciated and supported the Mayor’s proposal for additional funding in the 2022 budget.  RPKC uses a regional public health approach to end violence by providing:

  • Rigorous intervention for those directly involved
  • Secondary prevention for younger siblings
  • Follow-up care and support for family restoration and healing

This work focuses on the high-intensity engagement of young people referred by Harborview Medical Center, which coordinates with outreach/family engagement provided by Community Passageways and its partners, and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, who have identified approximately 50 young people as being most likely to be involved in gun violence, along with their closest associates and younger siblings.

The City of Seattle has contributed $2M to this effort, which joins $7M from the County to ramp up RPKC through 2022 and early 2023 including:

  • Over 35 community positions to interrupt violence and provide care teams.
  • Emergency services for youth and families, participant (youth) costs, training, and technical assistance.
  • Harborview interventionist to connect families and survivors with services and supports.
  • Project management and support positions in Public Health.

White House Community Violence Intervention Collaborative:  Ours is the only regional effort among the 16 jurisdictions selected to participate in the White House’s Community Violence Intervention Collaborative.  This strategy implements preventative measures that are proven to reduce violent crime and attacks the root causes – including by addressing the flow of firearms used to commit crimes.

Alarming Increases in Youth Suicide – and How to Prevent It

I’ve been sounding the alarm about the crisis in mental health caused by the 2 years of fear, grief, and isolation we’ve survived.  Last year Governor Inslee declared a Children and Youth Mental Health Crisis, and US Surgeon General Murthy issued a rare public health advisory warning about the rise in mental health problems among young people.

Now we are seeing a heartbreaking rise in youth suicide.  The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 20% of high school students seriously contemplated suicide and nearly 10% attempted suicide in 2021.

The Seattle Times reports, “Use of medications or other poisons to attempt suicide or self-harm are rising among youths as young as 9, and the largest increases are among those ages 10-12.”

From The Seattle Times article on the rising number of suicides using poison among young children

Everytown For Gun Safety’s research shows that firearm suicide among young people increased by 146% in the past decade.

From Everytown for Gun Safety report, “The Rise of Firearm Suicide Among Young Americans

How to Protect Your Family:  We have the power to help protect our families and our communities. Responsible firearm and medication storage can be as simple as taking one additional step to reduce unauthorized access to firearms and medications. The key is safe storage.

Firearms: Many assume kids or other household members do not know where firearms are kept at home. But research shows that kids often know where they are in the house, and many firearm owners handle unlocked firearms without their caregiver’s knowledge.

Medications: While opiate medications are a well-known and serious addiction concern, other common household medications, including other pain medications, pose significant health risks. Cannabis is also potentially hazardous, particularly to children. Cannabis products often sell in forms like gummy bears, making them attractive to kids.

Support is available:

The safety of those we love is in our hands!  Learn more about keeping the children you love safe here: Promoting Safe Firearm and Medication Storage – PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER.

SPMA Contract

The Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA) contract is scheduled for a Full Council vote on Tuesday the 14th. Below is additional information about the contract, and questions/comments Councilmembers have received from members of the public.

There are two labor unions that represent Seattle police officers: the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA), and the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild (SPOG). SPOG represents officers and sergeants; SPMA represents captains and lieutenants and has fewer than 100 members; this agreement applies to SPMA members.

This agreement makes several advances in accountability. Before reviewing those important advances and addressing the concerns that some constituents have raised, I’d like to first provide an overview of labor negotiations for police unions, and the changes I facilitated to establish a role in negotiations for the accountability bodies. Feel free to skip to the details below if you’d like.

Process for police labor unions negotiations

Collective bargaining agreements negotiated with labor unions representing city employees are different from regular legislation. Unlike legislation, Council cannot vote to amend the agreement.

For this reason, for negotiations with Seattle’s two police unions, the Council is required to hold a public hearing, at least 180 days before negotiations begin, and to consider in good faith whether and how to carry forward in negotiations that the interests expressed at the public hearing.

For the SPMA, the public hearing was held in September 2019; the start of negotiations was delayed due to the arrival of the COVID pandemic.

This round of negotiations with SPMA (and SPOG as well) is different than previous negotiations. In November 2020 former Mayor Durkan and I announced newly expanded roles for accountability partners in bargaining police contracts for negotiations with SPMA and SPOG. For the first time, a community representative from the Community Police Commission has had a role in the bargaining process. The Inspector General and the Office of Police Accountability Director also serve as bargaining advisors.

My primary objectives, for the SPMA contract, broadly, were:

  1. Implement the remaining reforms of the 2017 accountability legislation
  2. Address issues that, in 2019, the Court overseeing the Consent Decree highlighted as a basis for non-compliance regarding discipline, and appeals
  3. Issues identified by the CPC in their November 2019 letter (some overlap with a and b above) including:
  • Inclusion of preponderance standard for evidence in discipline review
  • Address the 180-day timeline problems
  • Remove the requirement that intentionality must be proven in dishonesty charges
  • Allow OPA to play a role in criminal investigations
  • Retain personnel files for six years after an officer is no longer employed by the City.
  1. Address new issues raised by accountability partners OPA, OIG, and CPC.

The Seattle Municipal Code established the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) for consideration of labor negotiations between the City and represented employees; it is a joint Executive-Council committee, with five City Councilmembers (a majority) serving on it.

SPMA Agreement

There are a number of key improvements in this agreement, that apply to SPMA members and form important milestones that can assist the City in replicating these reforms, as SPOG negotiations continue. Council Central Staff developed a summary of the changes.

Discipline review

Seattle’s current arbitration system is broken. It’s one of the main reasons a federal judge found the Seattle Police Department out of compliance with the Consent Decree in 2019, due to the ruling of an arbitrator requiring the reinstatement of an officer fired by the former Chief for striking a woman who was handcuffed. There are currently 93 open appeals, according to OPA. Some of them involve complaints filed as far back as 2016.

This agreement creates a new discipline review system that marks a sea change in how discipline appeals operate. It will help slow that backlog from growing by ensuring cases aren’t being entirely relitigated during arbitration as they currently are (de novo review). It will also ensure arbitrators, who are not generally experts on policing, don’t substitute their judgment for the police chief’s, undermining accountability as happened in the Adley Shepherd case.

The new system, as recommended by the CPC and the 2017 Accountability legislation establishes a preponderance standard for evidence rather than the higher standard of “Clear and Convincing” previously used. The new system will also prohibit a hearing of new facts related to the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) investigation unless the new facts were not “discoverable at the time of the Chief’s decision that could reasonably be expected to change the Chief’s decision; and/ or (2) new information arises regarding the reliability of existing witness testimony.”

Another important improvement is that the proposed SPMA contract removes restrictions on the ability of OPA to assign civilian investigators to certain tasks, allowing the OPA to make assignments based upon the skills and abilities of the investigator rather than whether they are a civilian or a uniformed Sergeant. Language in the SPOG contract limits the number of civilian investigators that can work at OPA. This change to the SPMA agreement now might help address that limitation in the SPOG contract.

This week, community members are raising questions about 6 elements of the contract as follows:

  1. Why isn’t Subpoena authority for OPA/OIG in the Contract?

The 2017 accountability legislation established subpoena authority for the Office of Police Accountability and the Inspector General. SPMA and SPOG objected because there was no process identified; I proposed legislation to establish a process (here’s the staff memo).

Consequently, the SPMA contract is now silent on the topic.  That means subpoena power, as passed by the Council in 2021, with Ordinance 126264, is unimpeded by the contact and goes into effect for SPMA members.

  1. Does the contract allow SPMA members to withhold information until after an investigation is closed?

During an appeal, the current CBA allows an employee to raise information or witnesses that were known but not disclosed during the OPA investigation. The new proposed contract, establishing a new discipline process, prohibits this.

  1. The Contract should allow OPA to refer and oversee criminal investigations as well as coordinate with these investigations

The 2017 Accountability Ordinance speaks to coordinating instigations with criminal investigations:

OPA shall have the responsibility to coordinate investigations with criminal investigators external to OPA and prosecutors on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the most effective, thorough, and rigorous criminal and administrative investigations are conducted.

The proposed 2022 SPMA contact removes the prohibition on OPA from coordinating an investigation and states: “While OPA will not direct the conduct of a criminal investigation, OPA may communicate with the criminal investigators and/or prosecutors about the status and progress of a criminal investigation.”

  1. Shouldn’t complainants be given the ability to challenge disciplinary decisions in court?

There is no reason that a complainant can’t avail themselves of the civil legal system by suing the City. 

There is an appeal process for employees in the 2017 Accountability Ordinance and in the SPMA and SPOG contracts. There has long been interest in creating an appeal process for complainants. The 2017 Accountability Ordinance is silent on the matter. The CPC has proposed that they develop a proposal and that it be taken up later. The re-opener language in the SPMA contract states that if State or Federal legislation is passed that affects the Agreement, either party may re-open the agreement to ensure compliance.  I would similarly support a re-opener if the 2017 Accountability Ordinance was amended to include a structure for a complainant appeal process.

  1. The SPD Handbook and other publicly available materials should be the primary source for disciplinary outcomes so police officers understand the standards and the public can evaluate them.

Labor law requires that discipline be based on comparable discipline administered in other cases for similar offenses.  Publishing likely disciplinary outcomes established by these precedents may be possible but not for inclusion in the SPMA contract because we wouldn’t want to lock down lower discipline in a contract where there’s a move towards creating a system with greater accountability for misconduct.

  1. A complaint that can’t be certified should be considered open until it can be, regardless of the 180-day clock and without needing permission granted by the union.

Findings are still issued in cases that don’t meet the 180-day timeline. OPA failed to issue timely findings in 12 out of 285 investigations (five percent) that were bound by a 180-day timeline in 2021. Once findings are issued in the untimely cases, to ensure transparency about cases not meeting the deadline, the 2017 Accountability Ordinance requires that the OPA send a letter to the mayor, the City Council President and Chair of the Public Safety Committee, the City Attorney, the Inspector General, and the CPC Executive Director documenting the reasons why they were not timely.

The current CBA requires SPMA to prove that there is a “good cause” to deny the extension to the 180 -day timeframe.

The contract also places a “pause” on the 180-day clock whenever a criminal investigation is conducted, regardless of where the alleged criminal activity occurred or what agency is conducting the investigation.

There are other key improvements in the contract. You can read more here: Central Staff Memo 6/6/22.

Reminder: WSF Fauntleroy Terminal Open House Through the 13th

Washington State Ferries’ online open house for the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal project is open through June 13th. You can share comments here.

New Off-Leash Areas?

I’ve heard from many constituents calling for a new dog park (known as Off-Leash Areas, or OLAs, by Seattle Parks & Recreation) in West Seattle recently.  Thanks for your advocacy for our furry friends!

New OLA in West Seattle?  My office recently met with the energetic volunteer leaders of West Seattle Dog Connection (WSDC, previously known as West Seattle Dog Park Coalition), who are working with Seattle Parks & Recreation to narrow down potential sites for a new Off-Leash Area in West Seattle.  Volunteers have done a significant amount of work to identify and qualify 20+ potential sites.  They are also working on building up advocacy and incorporating as a nonprofit.  You can connect with their efforts via their Facebook group, or by emailing WestSeattleDPC@gmail.com.

My staff connected WSDC with the District 1 Community Network, to help them spread the word about their efforts and find more support.  We also asked Seattle Parks & Recreation for an update on their efforts, and received this response:

…I recognize that West Seattle is one of the neighborhoods with the most potential for an expansion in our Off-Leash Area (OLA) system…  With that in mind, myself and my colleagues in our Planning, Development and Maintenance Division are also launching an OLA Study to explore potential feasible sites throughout the City for a future OLA. I can tell you that West Seattle is among a few neighborhoods that we are particularly focusing on, due to their increasingly dense population and geographical distance from an official OLA.

Members of the newly-formed West Seattle Dog Park Coalition recently reached out to me with a few suggested sites throughout West Seattle for us to consider for future OLAs…  we have incorporated these suggestions into our planning and plan on conducting site visits soon to learn more about the location and its features/challenges.  As you can imagine, a City-wide study of this sort takes some time, so we appreciate your patience.

My understanding is that the construction costs of a new OLA would come out of SPR’s capital projects fund.

Park District Funds for New Off-Leash Areas:  You can also advocate for new OLAs via the plan, currently under development, for the next 6 years of spending from the Seattle Park District.  As background, Seattle voters created the Seattle Park District in 2014 by approving Proposition 1. Property taxes collected by the Seattle Park District provide funding for City parks and recreation.  You can read more about the Seattle Park District here, and the six-year plan here.

I’ve shared the significant constituent support for new OLAs, both in West Seattle and throughout the city, with the Board of Parks & Recreation Commissioner who represents District 1, and with Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who chairs the Council’s Public Assets & Homelessness committee.  To receive updates on agendas for that committee, and learn when park district funding will be discussed, sign up here: Agenda Sign Up – Council | seattle.gov.

Spotting Urban Carnivores

Last week I joined volunteers from Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association to collect data from “critter cameras” in a West Seattle park.  The Seattle Urban Carnivore Project puts these cameras in green spaces all over the city to study how carnivores such as raccoons and opossums coexist with people across urban and suburban areas all around Seattle.

The volunteer team pulls the data card from the camera, checks it for photos (and “oohs” and “aahs” over any good ones), makes sure the camera is working properly, takes a little bit of data, and then hangs it all back up again. We were lucky enough to find a rare daytime snapshot of a raccoon!

You can report and share your own carnivore sightings.  Visit Carnivore Spotter to report or explore local carnivore sightings throughout the greater Seattle area!  Many thanks to the Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle University for leading this fascinating project.

Public Comment on Rules for Independent Contractor Protections

As I wrote about this time last year, the Council passed CB 120069 which entitles workers classified as independent contractors with pre-contract disclosures, timely payment, and payment disclosures for services valued at $600 or more.

The Office of Labor Standards (OLS) is now seeking public comment on draft Director’s Rules for the legislation.  The Director’s Rules process works to answer details not specifically addressed in the legislation. You can look at the legislation and the proposed rules on OLS’ website here. This policy is set to go into effect in September.

This work was born out of a long-standing priority of mine to address worker misclassification. Misclassified workers are among the most vulnerable workers and independent contractors are a quickly growing segment of our workforce. During my first committee assignment, I had oversight of the OLS, and I sponsored Resolution 31863, which the Council passed. The resolution requested that the Labor Standards Advisory Commission (LSAC) work with OLS on the issue of misclassification and provide input on effective strategies. This work led to the passage of CB 120069 mentioned above.

As required by Resolution 31863, OLS continues to report on their work regarding protections for independent contractors.  I appreciate OLS’ work on addressing these issues not just at a local level, but at the state level too where they provided technical and policy assistance on the development and eventual passage of HB 2076 which provides protections for Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers statewide.

I appreciate that the Labor Standards Advisory Commission included in their priorities policies that protect independent contractors who fall outside of traditional labor standards protections, such as domestic workers, TNC drivers, and gig workers.

You can see OLS’s most recent report from Resolution 31863 here.  The report covers policy development, outreach and education, and enforcement focusing on labor standards that provide protections to independent contractors.

In-Person Office Hours

On Friday, June 24, I will be hosting in-person office hours between 3pm and 7pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 6:30pm.

As we move back to in-person office hours I am asking that you still please contact my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) to schedule an appointment to ensure too many people aren’t gathering in a small area.

Here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, July 29, 2022
  • Friday, August 19, 2022
  • Friday, September 30, 2022
  • Friday, October 28, 2022
  • Friday, December 16, 2022
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