T5 Letter to the Port
Tucked behind the Chelan Café, Terminal 5 (T5) has sat empty since late 2014 when the Port Commission authorized $4.7 million for modernization of the terminal. A draft environmental impact study (DEIS) will be coming out in mid-May. It will present three options with varying costs and improvements that would be made to the terminal.
While attending the Delridge District Council meeting last Wednesday I presented to the Port representative in attendance a letter supporting the concerns that I am hearing from constituents about the T5 project. Foremost among them is the need to provide shore power as part of this project. Shore power provides electrical power to a ship when docked so that it does not have to run its diesel engines while at port; this is significantly more environmentally friendly as well as reduces noise. In addition, the letter underscores the need to implement a quiet zone for trains and utilize broadband back-up alarms to help with noise reduction.
After the DEIS comes out in mid-May there will be another 30-day comment period. Stay tuned for more information on outreach the Port will be conducting.
Resolution on Directed Investigations
I have been working with the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) on the process and implementation of directed investigations for enforcement of our labor laws. Directed Investigations are investigations that are initiated by the Director of the OLS without a worker introducing a complaint. With the passage of Seattle’s historic labor laws, starting with Paid Sick and Safe Time in 2012, policymakers intended for enforcement to include this tool because many workers are unware of their rights and/or are unlikely to file a complaint because of perceived or actual threats of employer retaliation. We currently have four labor laws: Paid Sick and Safe Time, Fair Chance Employment, Wage Theft, and Minimum Wage. These are local labor laws and the federal and state governments do not enforce them. When the OLS was created in 2014 it was granted the authority to conduct investigations when employees filed grievances with the OLS as well as directed investigations, but last year the Council clarified that the OLS has authority to conducted directed investigations for all of our labor laws.
Tuesday we heard in committee a resolution which outlines the steps that the OSL will take in the coming year to develop a new program of Directed Investigations in the OLS which include:
- How the OLS will involve the new Labor Standards Advisory Commission and other stakeholders in the development of the program
- What data that the OLS is using to inform their decisions on where to focus their investigations, which may include the University of Washington Paid Sick and Safe Time and Minimum wage ordinance studies, and the OLS’s own case information including complainant and respondent demographics, as well as data from the Department of Labor and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
- What percentage of directed investigations they anticipate they can conduct, with the goal of 10% in 2017
- How the OLS plans to allocate staff resources, and develop the capacity and expertise
- The outreach OLS will conduct to inform businesses
- The timeline and process for development and implementation of Director’s Rules
Businesses that do not adhere to these laws have an unfair advantage over businesses that do. Directed investigations are important because our laws are only as strong as our enforcement and ensuring that all employers adhere to our laws is not only good for workers, but also for business.
This resolution will be before the Full Council this coming Monday, May 2nd.
Update on request for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Sell Nonperforming Loans to Nonprofits
I am trying to leave no stone unturned when it comes to addressing the affordable housing crisis that is displacing many long-time Seattle residents and disrupting our communities.
As you may recall, in February Local Progress and the Center for Popular Democracy continued its national campaign to mobilize City leaders to make sure that non-performing loans (NPLs) sold by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) can be purchased by nonprofit organizations. This was a follow up to an action I participated in August where Councilmembers from all over the nation descended on Washington DC to get Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD to stop selling mortgages to Wall Street at a discount. The last thing we need is federal agencies selling our precious housing stock to hedge funds and private equity firms.
I responded to the February call to action by writing on op-ed in the Seattle Times on “Wall Street’s Impact on Seattle’s Housing Affordability.” Councilmembers then sent a letter that I drafted to HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Federal Housing Finance Agency asking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac help delinquent homeowners receive mortgage principal reduction and stop selling mortgages to Wall Street at a discount.
In response to this collective national effort on April 14, FHFA announced that it will newly offer principal reduction to certain seriously delinquent, underwater borrowers who are still struggling in the aftermath of the financial crisis to help them avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. FHFA expects that approximately 33,000 borrowers nationwide will be eligible for a Principal Reduction Modification. Servicers must solicit borrowers eligible for a Principal Reduction Modification no later than October 15, 2016.
On April 19, 2016, the Council received a response to its letter from FHFA director Mel Watt. In the letter, he outlines the new FHFA enhanced requirements for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae’s sales of non-performing loans (NPLs). These enhancements require a variety of new options, which, according to FHFA, “are designed to minimize foreclosures, help mitigate the potential for neighborhood blight and decay, and help improve loan modification success rates.” This new program represents progress, but it still falls short of the campaign’s goals which are a national agreement to use increased collaboration with local government to create a pilot program for targeted sales to local non-profits.
Mel Watt, has offered his staff to meet with City representatives, along with nonprofits and other community buyers to discuss the Enterprises’ NPL sales. I’ll continue to keep you posted on these efforts.
Friday Office Hours
Join me this Friday, April 29th at South Park Community Center (8319 8th Avenue S) from 11:00am to 5:00pm. These office hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming, please email my scheduler Alex Clardy.