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;

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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