South Park Business District Vandalism
I am saddened and disturbed to hear of overnight vandalism against businesses in South Park It’s happened three times in the last week, and overnight on both Monday and Tuesday evenings.
On Wednesday morning, I sent the following e-mail to Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole:
I am writing you about a surge in vandalism in the South Park business district.
For the second night in a row, South Park businesses have had their windows smashed. This is now the third time this has happened in a week; last week, a business was also the target of an arson. This is resulting in a decreased sense of public safety in a fragile business community. I’ve heard from business owners and residents expressing grave concern about this—this clearly appears to be a deliberate pattern targeting businesses in the community.
Revitalization of the business district is a core priority of the South Park community. The South Park business district has suffered from vacant buildings for some time, and the community greatly values local business owners willing to invest in South Park to establish the kind of businesses already common in so many of Seattle’s neighborhood business districts. It’s important that current and potential business owners feel they can safety operate businesses in South Park.
I am requesting that you do whatever you can to put SPD resources into the South Park business district overnight, to seek to prevent additional vandalism.
I am also requesting the Seattle Police Department hold or attend a public meeting to let the community know what you are doing in response to this, as requested by several constituents. I am happy to attend.
I appreciate your response to my letter last year about public safety challenges in South Park, and your willingness to direct additional resources toward addressing them. I also appreciate Captain Davis’ recent response to residents and business owners, which notes:
“Looking forward, we will be investigating the latest incidents of property damage with hopes of a quick resolution. Each of our three work shifts are on alert of this issue and will patrol the affected areas appropriately. If any of you should have further concern, please feel free to contact me or any member of my command staff. Lastly, please take the time to observe the South Park neighborhood’s crime statistics which can be viewed on the SPD website. I believe you will find the information useful. Again, thank you for taking the time to convey your concerns.”
District 1 Councilmember, Chair Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee
In addition, I encourage everyone to support the businesses in South Park that have been damaged, including Burdick Brewery, which just re-opened, Left Bank Wine and La Toscanella.
To seek long-term solutions to public safety challenges in South Park, Councilmember González and I created a South Park Public Safety Task Force, that is currently meeting, and scheduled to make recommendations to the City Council in September, in advance of the City Council’s work on the 2018 budget. Please let me know if you have thoughts or suggestions.
Night Out on August 1
Night Out is a national event promoted in Seattle by Seattle Police Department Crime Prevention. It is designed to heighten crime prevention awareness, increase neighborhood support in anti-crime efforts, and unite our communities. This year’s event is on Tuesday, August 1.
To participate in Night Out and to have your street closed for the event, you must officially register your Night Out event with the City of Seattle. You can close a street as long as you don’t close an intersection, or live on an arterial. There is no fee.
Registration is open until 5 p.m. on Monday, July 31, so there’s still time to get your event listed; you can register here. A map of events is linked here, just select “Southwest Precinct” or your specific neighborhood; numerous events are scheduled throughout West Seattle and South Park. Here’s a link to the information page, which includes advice on how to organize a Night Out event on your street, and materials in several languages.
I’ll do my best to get to as many District 1 events as I can!
Civil Legal Aid Pilot
On Monday this week attorneys got to work on City-sponsored pilot program that I championed in last year’s budget to prevent people from losing their housing or employment when they are in the midst of a legal defense for an offense unrelated to their housing. This pilot will allow new civic legal aid attorneys to partner with Public Defenders to advocate for the accused to keep their housing and ability to work.
An arrest that doesn’t lead to conviction sometimes results in a tenant’s eviction or loss of a job, which, to me, feels like the opposite of justice. We’re dealing with an unprecedented homelessness crisis, and part of the solution is ensuring people stay in their homes and keep their jobs. That is why, I spearheaded an effort to include money in the City’s annual budget for three attorneys to provide these additional civl legal services on misdemeanor cases heard through the Seattle Municipal Court.
My office worked closely with King County Department of Public Defense on this pilot project because of the significant, negative consequences like the loss of housing or employment licenses that the process of criminal prosecution has on individuals. Anita Khandelwal, King County Department of Public Defense Policy Director said, “The Collateral Consequences attorneys funded by the City of Seattle will help DPD’s clients avoid some of those consequences and reduce the harmful impact of the conviction on the individual, which makes it impossible for them to move forward with their lives. Ultimately, Seattle’s investment will improve outcomes for DPD’s clients—which is good not just the clients, but also for our community.”
Until a recent change resulting from last year’s budget action, Public Defenders were prohibited from engaging on matters unrelated to their assigned criminal cases. Seattle’s two year pilot program will operate similarly to existing civil legal aid models from the Public Defender Services for the District of Columbia and the Bronx Defenders in New York City. Council will hear initial findings about the pilot at the end of the year.
SPU Strategic Business Plan, Update 4: Issue Identification
I’ve written a few times about the Strategic Business Plan (SBP). You can see those updates here, here, and here. In this weeks’ committee meeting Central Staff identified issues in the SPU plan that Councilmembers might want to change. You can find the presentation and memo with specific options in amending the SBP, particularly with the idea of reducing the 5.5% average annual increase. You can watch the committee meeting here.
There are many possible ways to approach lowering the average annual increase, but I would like to highlight a few that I am particularly interested in:
- Rate smoothing – while this won’t directly lower rates, it will prevent a large spike in rates that can have a more detrimental impact on rate payers than a more gradual increase.
- Water tap fees – while SPU currently employs a tap fee for new development, it does not recover the full cost of the actual installation. This means that rate payers are subsidizing growth by paying part of the tap fee. If we raise the fees to recover the cost of service we would increase revenue by an estimated $900,000 annually.
- System development charges – water tap fees are a subset of system development charges however, as I talked about in my last blog post, Seattle has the lowest water system development charges in the region.
- Examining the SPU Capital Improvement Project (CIP) list to determine if there are projects that can be deferred.
- Reducing the assumed CIP accomplishment rate from 100% to a rate more in line with historical norms.
- Tie the utility tax rate to inflation (2.4%) instead of the overall rate increase of the current 5.5%.
If you haven’t done so already, I would encourage you to contact my office with your thoughts, concerns, and any suggestions you have for potential reduced spending so that I can share them with SPU and the Executive and incorporate them into the SBP.
City-Wide Emergency Hub Drill
This Saturday, July 29th, the Seattle Emergency Hubs will host a citywide drill. During this drill participants will practice for “the big one.” Specifically, this drill will be a continuation of the Cascadia Rising Subduction Zone earthquake, on day six after the initial quake.
Take a look at the map below and find the closest hub to you to participate.
Elimination of the Sub-Minimum Wage
On Wednesday the City announced an intent to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities. Seattle’s current law mirrors Washington State law which allows employers to pay less than minimum wage. This last June the Commission for People with DisAbilities voted unanimously to end this exemption. The commission then met with the Council and Executive to discuss a path forward in ending subminimum wages for people with disabilities. Seeking the quickest route forward we decided to pursue a Director’s Rule process with the Office of Labor Standards (OLS), which will begin in August. This directors rule will be followed with legislation which the Council intends on voting on before the end of the year.