Why Art Matters: April 12 @ Youngstown; City Homelessness Levy Not Moving Forward; South Park Business Roundtable; Terminal 5 Update; Letters re: 35th Avenue SW and Federal Funding Priorities

Why Art Matters: April 12 @ Youngstown

On April 12, KUOW, the Office of Arts and Culture and I will be hosting a forum, Why Does Art Matter, at Youngstown Cultural Center, from 6-8 p.m.

The 2018 federal budget released by Donald Trump proposes elimination of federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

The Office of Arts and Culture (OAC) notes that local groups received $750,000 from the NEA for more than 23 organizations, and Seattle Public Schools received $100,000 for The Creative Advantage, a partnership of OAC and the Seattle Foundation.

The Office of Arts and Culture’s website has additional details:

A panel moderated by KUOW’s Marcie Sillman will discuss the role of public investments in the arts and the health of our community, and the current landscape of dedicated arts funding. Confirmed panelists include Vivian Phillips, Seattle Arts Commission; Simon Woods, Seattle Symphony; and James Miles, Executive Director of Arts Corps. Break-out sessions after the panel will focus on diving more deeply into specific issues and action steps.

Now more than ever, the arts play an important role in defining our identity and leading the way for racial equity. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are vital for our community’s well-being. The President’s proposed budget would eliminate federal funding for these agencies, and brings up questions about how to continue this important work, as well as the larger question of what the elimination of government-sponsored cultural agencies communicates to Americans and the rest of the world.

A statement I released notes the numerous local groups that receive funding.

A Full federal budget proposal expected in May.

April 12, 2017, 6-8 p.m. doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Youngstown Cultural Center
4408 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, WA 98106
RSVP here


City Homelessness Levy Not Moving Forward

On Monday, 4/3/17, the Mayor announced he was withdrawing his support for a citizens’ initiative asking Seattle voters to approve a new property tax levy to fund services for unsheltered individuals and families.

Without knowing more about the impact this would have on low and moderate income renters and homeowners, I had concerns about passage of a new property tax measure.   Prior to the passage of the Seattle 2016 Housing Levy and Sound Transit 3, we had some good information about how much people in Seattle paid in property taxes as compared to our neighbors in 19 other jurisdictions.  At the time, it turned out that, when adjusted for assessed value, our property taxes are lower than 17 other jurisdictions in our region, only Bellevue and Mercer Island had lower property taxes.  Without adjusting for assessed value we fell in about the middle of the pack.

Fast forward to 2017 and the arrival of our 2017 property tax bills.  According the King County Tax Assessor’s Office:

Initiatives approved by voters last year will increase King County property taxes in 2017, resulting in additional investments in schools, fire protection and transportation. Most property tax revenue, nearly 52%, will pay for schools…While individual property taxes vary depending upon location, property taxes went up 7.96% percent at the aggregate level. Countywide, property tax billings will be $4.8 billion in 2017, up from $4.5 billion from last year.  Property taxes are the primary funding source for schools, public safety, parks and libraries.”

I have asked the Tax Assessor’s office to provide me with a new, updated comparison of property tax paid in nearby jurisdictions – post passage of the Seattle 2016 Housing Levy and Sound Transit 3. This information should help policymakers and the public make decisions about future property tax measures. Here are 2016 charts that compare Seattle’s property tax rates and median property tax bills with other local cities.

Washington state is one of only seven states without a State income tax.   We have the nation’s most regressive state and local tax systems. Therefore, we unfortunately rely on property taxes and sales taxes to fund most local priorities.  The poorest 20% of earners pay 16.8% of their income in taxes, compared to 2.4% for the top 1% of earners. In other words, the poorest 20% must work two full months just to pay those taxes; yet the wealthiest 1% pay their years’ worth of taxes in only 6 weekdays. Any tax increase falls hardest on those who can least afford it.

In his announcement, the Mayor joined King County Executive Dow Constantine in support of a new regional 2018 effort that would increase the sales tax by 0.1 percent. This countywide sales tax increase would provide $68 million per year for services focused on getting shelter and permanent housing for people who are currently unsheltered.  Though our region is home to the two most wealthy people on the planet, I am hearing from many people who say that they are getting priced out of Seattle.   I support efforts to develop options to find new, less regressive revenue sources to fund essential city services, such as efforts that could prompt a legal challenge with the objective of overturning the statewide prohibition against state and municipal income taxes.


South Park Business Roundtable

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has started a new effort to focus on advocacy for small neighborhood businesses.  To do so they have begun to collaborate with smaller neighborhood chambers. As part of this effort, they have facilitated a series of business roundtable conversations with Councilmembers in their home districts. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending one co-convened by the West Seattle Chamber and South Park Business Association.  This was an opportunity for me to discuss current opportunities and challenges for small businesses as well as emerging issues at City Hall.  We discussed issues ranging from concerns about use of a Junction port-a-potty for activities other than intended, to the impacts of some of Seattle labor laws on franchise employers, to the new fee structure for the business license tax certificate fee that – for the first time – includes a new and higher tier for businesses with $5 million in revenue from a $110/year fee paid last year to $1,000/year beginning this year and $2,000 in 2019.  Creating such a tier for larger business was a priority of mine because it allowed the City to hold harmless the smallest 85% of Seattle business – those with $500,000 or less a year in revenue.

I look forward to continuing this dialogue with the Metropolitan Chamber, South Park, and West Seattle business owners to ensure neighborhood businesses have their voices heard at City Hall.


Terminal 5 Update

Terminal 5 (T5), behind the Chelan Café, has been empty since late 2014. The Port Commission authorized $4.7 million for modernization of the terminal. You may recall from one of my blog posts  last spring, that I wrote this letter expressing the importance of implementing a quiet zone, the use of shore power, and the addition of broadband back-up alarms.  The letter was my comment responding to the Port’s Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS).  I felt it was important to give voice to the impacts of the project on behalf of District 1 constituents who live in the area.   Subsequently, the Port released the Final EIS in October which you can read here.

Once that proposes was completed the Port applied for a Shoreline Substantial Development Application with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI). On Monday, SDCI issued an analysis of the application, which can be found here. On page 25 you can review the conditions that will be placed on the Master Use Permit; among them are the use of broadband back-up alarms, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Seattle Department of Transportation to establish a railroad quiet zone, and a MOU with Puget Sound Clear Air Agency to implement an Air Quality Management Program to be consistent with the objectives described in the SEPA analysis.

I will continue to follow and continue to advocate for the use shore power when a ship has the capabilities.


Letters re: 35th Avenue SW and Federal Funding Priorities

I recently sent two letters regarding transportation priorities.

First of all, I sent a letter to SDOT Director Scott Kubly regarding the condition of 35th Avenue SW, which is one of only a few north/south arterials in West Seattle, and a key link to the West Seattle Bridge. I’ve received numerous complaints about the condition of the pavement since taking office at the start of 2016, and experienced the poor condition of the road in my travels. Complaints have increased recently.

The letter, linked here, details some of what I’ve heard from West Seattle residents, and requests, “please consider this letter a request to examine and repair potholes on 35th Avenue SW from Roxbury to Alaska. I’d appreciate an answer to this request as soon as possible.” In the longer term, the letter requests SDOT:

  • To reconsider their 2016-2024 paving plan, which lists 35th from Roxbury to Morgan as a planned paving project for 2023;
  • To provide the current pavement condition rating of 35th, according to the standards of SDOT’s Pavement Management webpage;
  • Provide the estimated cost for the paving work on 35th, and
  • Whether they have an update to the 2013 Arterial Pavement Condition map included in the 2015 SDOT Asset Management Status and Condition Report (see Figure VII, page 68 of the report, page 74 of the pdf), which shows a significant portion of 35th as dark red, the worst rating.

I appreciated SDOT’s quick response saying that “…later this month our crews will be doing a concerted effort to address potholes caused by the wet and cold winter.  35th Ave SW is on their plan as a route to be targeted.”

SDOT also indicated they would be in touch later on my larger request re: modifying the pavement plan, and acknowledged that they have begun looking at the implications, as well as my request to re-evaluate the corridor.


Federal Funding Priorities

Earlier this week I sent a letter to 7th Congressional Representative Pramila Jayapal listing my priorities for federal infrastructure funding. Representative Jayapal reached out to elected officials in the district regarding their priorities; I appreciate her collaborative approach.

I noted the importance of Seattle receiving the $55 million federal Fast Lane grant for the Lander Street overpass project, which would take traffic over the railroad tracks. The railroad tracks result in 4.5 hours of road closures daily; this is important to maintaining access to Downtown from West Seattle and South Park.

I also note that with the passage of ST3, light rail is scheduled to arrive to West Seattle in 2030. The timetable could be delayed, or the project endangered, if funding to complete ST2 does not proceed as planned. The letter notes support for full federal funding for the Northgate to Lynnwood line, the Angle Lake-Federal Way line, and the Tacoma Link extension.

Finally, the letter notes that funding for the Center City Streetcar is not a priority of mine, given the uncertainty of access through Downtown Seattle during the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, construction of a new Alaskan Way, and potential construction of the Washington State Convention Center expansion, with the potential for severe disruption of access to Downtown from West Seattle and South Park.

The One Center City group comprised of SDOT, Metro, Sound Transit and others is looking for ways to maintain access to Downtown, and is expected to release a proposal later this month, or next month. The Viaduct is currently scheduled for removal in 2019, with a new Alaskan Way scheduled to open in 2020, which raises the question of how buses that use the Viaduct to access Downtown (e.g. the C Line) will access Downtown.

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