Seattle Council Passes Tax on Business to Help Address Homelessness

Following more than five months of deliberation, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance related to taxation, intended to help address homelessness.  The amended proposal establishes an annual tax of $275 per full time employee on the City’s largest businesses, those with revenues of more than $20 million  (about 3% of all businesses). The measure would generate an estimated $47 million annually and end on December 31, 2023.

The ordinance passed by a unanimous vote, with all nine councilmembers supporting it.

Selected highlights of the amended ordinance include:

Exempt Seattle’s small and medium-sized businesses, only applying to those with at least $20 million or more annually in taxable gross receipts as measured under the City’s existing Business & Occupation tax;

  • Apply only to the City’s approximately 585 largest businesses, or approximately 3% of all Seattle businesses;
  • Require large businesses to pay $275 per full-time equivalent employee working 1,920 hours per year (or about $0.14 per hour);
  • Include an evaluation of the economic impacts, and an independent oversight committee; and,
  • Exempt healthcare providers that provide at least 25% of their services to patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid as well as all hospitals.

Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2 – South Seattle), said, “In every policy or fiscal decision we make, we have to look at the impact on jobs. Our goal is to have a successful and vibrant business community–one of the best in the country–and at the same time, assist our most vulnerable and strategically invest in affordable housing. One does not exclude the other. Our investment strategy must balance these objectives without demonizing advocates or businesses. Today, we have reached a compromise that accomplishes this goal.”

Harrell continued:  “I did not support the spending plan, because our strategy must leverage the expertise and resources in real estate, software applications and other areas to make sure we gain the trust of the public in how we invest funds from this new revenue stream. This legislation is currently designed for a finite period to address the affordability and homelessness crisis. How we spend the money becomes critically important–residents, members of our business community and advocates should be afforded the opportunity to weigh in.”

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia), a co-sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee said, “Since Seattle declared a state of emergency around the homelessness crisis, people have told us they want to see action, action that means people out of tents and in safer, healthier spaces, and cleanup of the public spaces in our neighborhoods. They also want more state and local funds for mental health and behavioral health improvements. This tax contributes toward the long-term solution of affordable housing, while giving immediate attention and resources to fund shelter services, so those living on the streets tonight can find a dry, warm and safe place to stay. I’m pleased my council colleagues also agreed to exempt hospitals and non-profits from this tax, recognizing the vital work they do in our community serving those on Medicare, Medicaid, and other vulnerable populations.”

Councilmeber Rob Johnson (District 4 – North Seattle), and a co-sponsor of the legislation said, “Any solution to help address our homelessness crisis must produce immediate results and protect the long term economic health of the city. Today’s action creates more affordable housing, addresses immediate needs of those living unsheltered and has a five-year sunset so we can effectively measure our efforts. I want to thank my council colleagues for this collaborative effort and for the engagement of non-profit organizations, faith and civic leaders, businesses, labor, affordable housing developers and community members.”

Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5 – North Seattle), and a co-sponsor of the legislation said, “I want to see results from this tax, which means fewer people living on the streets and more people in shelters and permanent housing. Now it is time for regional partners and the federal government to join Seattle in taking bold actions to address homelessness.”    

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Pos. 8 – Citywide), said, “Today, we took an initial step forward to reduce homelessness, build safer communities and toward a City that allows people who work in Seattle to afford to live in Seattle.  We have a homelessness and housing affordability crisis in Seattle, our shelters are at capacity and there is not enough affordable housing for folks to move into. Today’s progressive tax proposal and corresponding spending plan provides a significant down payment toward the housing our community needs. Our City is growing rapidly, and we must respond with urgency, compassion and leadership.  I look forward to continued collaboration with the community and my council colleagues to ensure we build more affordable, sustainable, and equitable housing for our city.”

With no state income tax, Washington is routinely ranked as having the most regressive tax structure in the nation.  Earlier this year, property taxes were dedicated by state lawmakers to fund education shortfalls; a B&O tax would require voter approval and spread the burden across all industries, including small business.  Other taxation options such as a tax on utilities would adversely affect rate payers, many who are on fixed incomes.

The legislation will take effect in January 2019.

 

Council Approves Unprecedented Agreement to Redevelop KeyArena

SEATTLE – Council today authorized Mayor Jenny A. Durkan to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Oak View Group (OVG) to redevelop KeyArena into a world-class multi-purpose sports and entertainment arena. The legally binding agreement commits OVG to project costs, including all project overruns, $40 million in neighborhood transportation improvements, and a bevy of additional financial commitments and other obligations.

“We’ve set the stage to make the most significant investment in Seattle Center since the World’s Fair,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle), co-chair of the Council’s Select Committee on Civic Arenas. “Today’s agreement was the Seattle Process at its best: We gathered stakeholders, consulted the community, highlighted our concerns and goals, aggressively negotiated, and when we had a solid plan, we pushed it through.  I cannot overstate the diligence that went into this agreement.  We can all be proud of this transformational partnership.”

Council was party to a four-month negotiation between the City and OVG to develop agreement conditions. Council also retained a financial consultant to provide independent analysis to ensure the City would be party to a fiscally sound agreement. Council signaled its priorities early in the negotiation process, which generally fell into the following six categories:

  • The project must be fiscally prudent
  • The project must positively integrate with Seattle Center
  • Current Seattle Center tenant impacts must be addressed
  • Transportation impacts must be mitigated
  • OVG must treat workers equitably and consistent with the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative principles during construction and operations
  • Needs of impacted neighborhoods must be addressed

The MOU agreement commits OVG to a 39-year lease with two, eight-year renewal options for a total of up to 55 years. The redeveloped arena will nearly double the size of KeyArena, meet LEED Gold or equivalent standards, and will preserve the current historic roofline. KeyArena was last renovated over 20 years ago, and a 2015 evaluation concluded that for the City to attract a sports franchise, the arena would need to be modernized.

Council President Bruce A. Harrell (District 2, Southeast Seattle), co-chair of the Select Committee on Civic Arenas, said, “The City negotiated one of the strongest arena agreements you will find in the country, protecting our taxpayers and the City. The community benefits agreement is unprecedented with investments to help address issues like homelessness and other social needs. I am confident this will be a partnership of success with OVG in building a state-of-the-art arena, generating economic vitality, and the ultimate goal of getting an NHL team and bringing back the Sonics.”

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia) said, “After a year of hard work and negotiations, we’ve taken the next step toward our civic Arena becoming the iconic destination for Seattle and the region. This redevelopment unlocks the potential for the best new arena for sports, entertainment, high-tech expos, concerts and more—with partners who have already demonstrated their commitment to partnering with the City for success. Thank you to the members of the Oak View Group, to Brian Surratt and City negotiators, and to the community leaders who have come to the table to address mobility and economic development challenges.  We’re underway!”

OVG will not use City bonding capacity for development of the project, nor will they be exempt from paying admissions taxes to the City. OVG intends to fund the project through a combination of private equity, debt financing from lenders, and federal historic tax credits. OVG will assume all costs related to operating and maintaining the arena.

OVG is expected to contribute the following to the KeyArena redevelopment project:

  • $600 million in project costs, plus all cost overruns.
  • $3.5 million to cover the City’s cost for the hiring of expert consultants and legal counsel during the MOU negotiation process.
  • $250,000 for a transportation consultant to develop a neighborhood mobility action plan.
  • $40 million payment for transportation improvements over the 39-year lease term (approximately $1 million per year), as informed by the mobility action plan.
  • Guaranteed baseline rent and tax guaranty payments, amount to be determined by an accounting firm based on the four-year trailing historical annual average of arena-related revenues for years 2014 through 2017 (roughly estimated to be approximately $2.6 million per year.
  • $20 million in-kind or cash to non-profit organizations, including $10 million dedicated for YouthCare. Council amended the MOU to require that at least half the contributions be made in cash.
  • $1.5 million to relocate the Seattle Center campus’ skate park and maintenance facility.
  • $500,000 for relocation of other affected Seattle Center tenants.
  • All costs related to temporary and permanent relocation of Pottery Northwest
  • Hire and pay for a community liaison.
  • 14 rent-free days per year for the Seattle/King County Public Health Clinic, Bumbershoot, and other community events.
  • Dedicate one percent construction costs to the 1% for the Arts Program.
  • Make a Mandatory Housing Affordability payment for the increase in arena square footage.
  • Arena workers are expected to be paid a prevailing wage, and current qualified KeyArena employees will be offered an equivalent job following the arena’s opening.
  • As revenue collections begin, the City will collect 25 percent of excess revenue in the first ten years of the lease, and 50 percent for the remaining years beyond the baseline rent and tax generated.
  • If arena tax revenues ever fall below current levels (about $2.4m/year), OVG will reimburse the City the difference.

The MOU provides an agreed-upon framework that will soon be memorialized in a Development Agreement, Lease Agreement, and Seattle Center Integration Agreement. Redevelopment construction is estimated to begin at the end of 2018 for opening in October 2020.

Contact
Mercedes Elizalde, Councilmember Juarez’ Office, 206-684-8805
Dana Robinson Slote, Council Communications, 206-615-0061

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Harrell, O’Brien Announce Updates to Community-led Forum, Council Vacancy Schedule

SEATTLECouncil President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle) and Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle) announced updated dates for the community forum as part of a process to fill the vacancy in Council Position 8. During today’s Full Council meeting, Council formally endorsed the 20-day vacancy process through Resolution 31778.

At the request of members of Transparent Seattle, a community-based coalition advocating for a more transparent process in filling the Council vacancy, there will be a community-led forum on the evening of Tuesday, October 3, 5:30 p.m., in Bertha Knight Landes Room at City Hall (format to be determined).

Given the October 6 deadline for deciding who will fill the vacancy, the Council is able to provide logistical support for the community forum by reserving a large meeting room and dedicating some support staff on Tuesday, October 3.

This process may be facilitated by interested Councilmembers and is intended to be led by community groups. The purpose is to allow community members to meet and ask questions of the applicants.

The Seattle City Council invites community members, both individuals and organizations, to engage in the vacancy process by participating in the community forum on Tuesday, October 3, or in the City Council Public Hearing on Wednesday, October 4, 5:00 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. Council expects applicants to attend at least one of these evening meetings.

There is no change to the application period, which opened on Monday, September 25 and closes on Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.

Candidates for appointment should demonstrate an understanding of Seattle government operations, budgeting, and legislative processes; demonstrate knowledge of the public policy issues associated with potential Committee assignments; demonstrate a commitment to social justice and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively across cultures and with diverse populations; and desire to serve the people of Seattle as a public official.

On Monday, October 2 during Council Briefing the City Clerk will provide Councilmembers with the names of all candidates who submitted application materials by the October 1 deadline.  All applications will be posted on the Council website and City Clerk’s website on October 3, affording the public an opportunity to review the applications and submit comments via council@seattle.gov

The remainder of the process will occur as memorialized last week in Council President Harrell’s press release:

  • Councilmember conferences, (optional) between October 2 to October 5:  Each Councilmember may meet and confer with any and all candidates of their choice in order to make an informed decision within the 20-day deadline.
  • Special Full Council Meeting at City Hall:  Wednesday, October 4, 5:00 p.m.:  Applicants for the vacant Council seat may address the Council and the public followed by a public comment period for community members.
  • City Council Executive Session to Discuss Qualifications: Thursday, October 5, 9:30 a.m.:  As permitted by the Open Public Meetings Act, (OPMA), RCW Chapter 42.30, the Council will meet in executive session to discuss the qualifications of candidates. No decisions will be made in executive session.
  • City Council Appointment at Special Full Council Meeting: Friday, October 6, 2:00 p.m.:  The Council will vote to fill the vacancy at the Special Full Council meeting.

The City Charter gives the City Council 20 days to fill a vacant Council position. The 20-day period runs from Monday, September 18 to Sunday, October 8, 2017. As such, the last regular business day to make the decision within the 20-day period would be Friday, October 6, 2017. In the event the Council fails to fill the vacant position by the end of that 20-day period, the Council must meet every business day thereafter until the vacancy is filled (Charter Article XIX, Section 6). Once appointed, the new Council Position 8 Councilmember will serve until November 28, 2017.

Contact:
Vinh Tang, Council President Harrell’s Office, 206-684-8804
Jasmine Marwaha, Councilmember O’Brien’s Office, 206-684-8800
Dana Robinson Slote, Council Communications, 206-615-0061

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Seattle City Council meetings are cablecast and Webcast live on Seattle Channel 21 and on the City Council’s website. Copies of legislation, Council meeting calendar, and archives of news releases can be found on the City Council website. Follow the Council on Twitter and on Facebook.

Council President Harrell Proposes Process to Fill Vacancy

SEATTLECouncil President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle) announced a proposed process to fill the vacancy in Council Position 8 last week caused by Tim Burgess being sworn-in as the Mayor of Seattle.

The City Charter gives the City Council 20 days to fill a vacant Council position. The 20-day period is from Monday, September 18 to Sunday, October 8, 2017. As such, the last regular business day to make the decision within the 20-day period would be Friday, October 6, 2017. In the event the Council fails to fill the vacant position by the end of that 20-day period, the Council must meet every business day thereafter until the vacancy is filled (Charter Article XIX, Section 6). Once appointed, the new Council Position 8 Councilmember will serve until November 28, 2017.

“In the spirit of true democracy, the process I have outlined below allows for an open, transparent appointment process with public input and still comply with the short deadline prescribed in the City Charter,” said Council President Harrell.

Candidates for appointment should demonstrate an understanding of Seattle city government operations, budgeting, and legislative processes; demonstrate knowledge of the public policy issues associated with potential Committee assignments; demonstrate a commitment to social justice and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively across cultures and with diverse populations; and desire to serve the people of Seattle as a public official.

Finalists will be selected based on their qualifications and commitment to public service, understanding of city government and the public policy issues associated with the Council’s priorities; and their desire to serve the people of Seattle and assume the responsibilities and accountability inherent in the work of a Councilmember.

Beginning September 25, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/cityclerk/council-vacancy to access all information related to the application process. The Council will follow the process outlined below:

Application Period: September 25 at 8:00 a.m. through October 1 at 5:00 p.m.

Applicants must submit a resume and cover letter to the City Clerk and an option to provide three references or reference letters. The City Charter requires applicants be a citizen of the United States and a registered voter of the City of Seattle.

Submissions can be made in the following manner(s):

  • By email: CouncilAppointmentApplications@seattle.gov
  • In person: Seattle City Hall, Office of the City Clerk, 3rd Floor (600 Fourth Ave)
  • By mail: Office of the City Clerk PO Box 94728 Seattle, WA 98124-4728
  • By fax: 206-386-9025
  • *All documents received are subject to Public Disclosure.

City Clerk Transmission of Applications to Councilmembers: Tuesday, October 3, 2017.

  • The City Clerk will provide to each Councilmember a notebook that includes all the applications received by the October 1 deadline. The City Clerk will also post all applications on the Council and City Clerk’s website on October 3 at 5:00 p.m., giving the public opportunity to review the applications and submit comments. Included in this notebook will be objective screening criteria such as previous budget experience as well as documentation from the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission that such candidate is eligible to serve as a Councilmember.

Week of October 2 to October 5. Two Optional Community Forums in Bertha Knight Landes Room, time and format TBD.

  • This process will be facilitated by interested Councilmembers but is intended to be led by community groups (to be determined).  Its purpose is to allow community members to meet and ask questions of the applicants. An applicant may attend one of the forums and nonattendance will not be weighed against the candidate.

Week of October 2 to October 5. Councilmember conferences, optional.  

  • Each Councilmember may meet and confer with any and all candidates of their choice in order to make an informed decision within the 20-day deadline.

Special Full Council Meeting: Wednesday, October 4, 5:00 p.m.

  • Public comment period for community members.

City Council Executive Session to Discuss Qualifications: Thursday, October 5, 9:30 a.m.

  • As permitted by the Open Public Meetings Act, the Council will meet in executive session to discuss the qualifications of candidates.

City Council Appointment at Special Full Council Meeting: Friday, October 6, 2:00 p.m.

  • The Council will vote to fill the vacancy at the Special Full Council meeting.

 

Contact:
Vinh Tang, Council President Harrell’s Office, 206-684-8804
Dana Robinson Slote, Council Communications, 206-615-0061

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Seattle City Council meetings are cablecast and Webcast live on Seattle Channel 21 and on the City Council’s website. Copies of legislation, Council meeting calendar, and archives of news releases can be found on the City Council website. Follow the Council on Twitter and on Facebook.

Council Approves Bias-Free Policing Law

SEATTLE – Council approved legislation today by a vote of 8-0 to codify the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) policies on bias-free policing, making it a permanent part of the City of Seattle’s Municipal Code. Seattle will be one of the first major cities to, and will for the first time, codify the SPD’s policy:

  • Prohibiting police officers from engaging in biased policing
  • Creating a private right of action for persons alleging that they are a victim of biased policing
  • Requiring SPD to provide training on the policies
  • Collecting specific data regarding Terry stops and traffic stops and
  • Making such data available to an audit

“I drafted this law to ensure bias-free policing is permanent, providing assurances for the future even after the police department is no longer under the scrutiny of a Federal Monitor or Federal Judge. The City is committed to providing bias-free policing to all residents,” said Council President Bruce Harrell. “I know firsthand from friends, families, and community members that racial profiling is a concern we must openly address. We have to clearly define our expectations of SPD, and we must hold our police officers to the highest standard. SPD’s mission statement echoes the golden rule of, ‘treating people the way you want to be treated.’ Good policing, protecting our streets, enforcing our laws, being proactive, and engaging with the community are fully consistent with the bias-free policing law.”

Councilmember M. Lorena González said, “I believe this legislation is the first step of many needed to make sure that every person in our city is treated fairly by our Seattle Police Department. During a decade of service as a civil rights attorney, I witnessed first-hand the consequences of our racial-biased policing system and the harm inflicted on the communities of those predominantly affected. With that being said, I am proud to be among the first of very few major cities to codify bias-free policing and make the ordinance a permanent one for our city. Today’s vote should serve as a signal to Seattleites everywhere that the city stands firm in our commitment to bias-free policing for all residents, at all times. While I recognize that there is more work to be done, Bias-Free Policing is a step in the right direction needed to dismantle the systemic disparities embedded in our society.”

The existing SPD bias-free policing policy has been in place since January 1, 2015, approved by both the DOJ Federal Monitor and the Federal Judge as part of the Consent Decree process. All officers have received training on this policy. The policy corrected three systemic deficiencies identified by the DOJ Investigation Team:

  • the failure to adequately collect data necessary to assess allegations of discriminatory policing;
  • the failure to develop adequate policies and procedures; and,
  • the failure to develop appropriate training curricula that properly addresses the potential for implicit bias.

The in-practice policy makes it clear that officers may not use race, ethnicity, or national origin in determining reasonable suspicion or probable cause unless it is a component of a suspect’s description. Officers must be responsible for knowing and following the policy and are required to report incidents of bias-based policing. The policies also place responsibility and accountability not only on the officer who engages in discriminatory policing but also on supervisors, commanders, and civilian managers.

“I am proud of the fact Seattle is introducing legislation at the local level for us to look at and at least identify the patterns and practices of police officers,” said Gerald Hankerson, President of Seattle King County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “We need to stop racial profiling and end the injustice.”

“At Columbia Legal Services, our client populations disproportionately come from the communities the bias-free policing ordinance is designed to protect,” said Hillary Madsen of Columbia Legal Services. “Everyone knows that who gets stopped by policy is highly problematic. Better data is necessary to find effective solutions so we are especially excited about the requirement in the bias-free policing ordinance for gathering data on Terry and traffic stops. Addressing disparities at the time of the initial stop ultimately reduces disparities and mass incarceration.”

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Seattle City Council meetings are cablecast and Webcast live on Seattle Channel 21 and on the City Council’s website. Copies of legislation, Council meeting calendar, and archives of news releases can be found on the City Council website. Follow the Council on Twitter and on Facebook.