Budget Victories

This was an exciting budget season with passionate testimony and messages directed to the Council daily.  This was my final opportunity as a Councilmember to work for the goals that are most important to me.   I am pleased that all of my recommendations were approved by the Council.

We were fortunate that during our budget deliberations in late October we learned that projected revenues had increased by just over $10 million.  This allowed us to be even more effective with our investments and the Council added nearly $2.3 million to the approximately $40 million dollars in the Mayor’s proposed budget to provide services to the homeless

Below is a list of the issues by topic area, and their outcomes, that I successfully sponsored in the 2016 Budget. I’ve linked to a more detailed description of the budget action items online and any other pertinent information.  Please let me know if you want more information.

Human Services, Civil Rights, and Accessibility

Support Social Work Services at Senior Centers
Added: $250,000

The Council added $250,000 dollars to increase social work hours at our senior centers.  This is a huge victory to help isolated older adults throughout Seattle!  Social workers provide essential information and assistance, convene support groups, provide counseling, and perform home visits.  As many noted in their testimony and messages, social workers save lives.  This win would not have been possible without the strong advocacy of so many older adults, social workers, and senior center staff.

LGBTQ Older Adult Competency Training
Added: $75,000

The Council will add $75,000 to the Human Services Department to support cultural competency and equity training for professionals working with LGBTQ older adults, families, and caregivers, and a peer support program for this population. This program will increase the knowledge and skills of practitioners working with LGBTQ older adults and provide LGBTQ older adults with access to needed support services – a strong first step in addressing barriers and inequalities that can stand in the way of healthy aging.

Homeless Youth Casework
Added: $80,000

The Council increased funding to provide services to the homeless by approximately $7.3 million.  These allocations are directly connected to the State of Emergency on homeless which now exists in Seattle.  I’m happy to report that, as result of strong community advocacy, the Executive has agreed to allocate $80,000 to help fund social work for youth on Capitol Hill through Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS). This program helps homeless youth get the education, support to transition from homelessness into self-sufficient lives off the streets. These funds will help expand the amount of support PSKS can offer by providing a full time caseworker. To hear for yourself how necessary these services are, listen to the moving testimony from PSKS participants during this year’s Budget Committee sessions.

Hearing Loop Expansion
Added: $117,181

The Council will appropriate $117,181 for an updated assistive listening system in Bertha Knight Landes (BKL) Room – City Hall’s large conference meeting space. We also have support to pass a resolution stating the City’s commitment of increasing accessibility, while specifically instructing the Department of Finance and Administrative Services to report regularly on its progress in managing that ongoing expansion of accessibility.

Planning for Seattle AIDS Legacy / Memorial Project
Added: $75,000

The Council will add $75,000 to the Office of Arts and Culture in 2016 to help fund the initial planning process for an AIDS Legacy/Memorial. Also, there will be a $75,000 match in community support, for a total planning budget of $150,000. Most importantly, this is a community investment in planning for an AIDS Legacy Memorial Project in Seattle – and diverse stakeholder groups will be closely involved. Stay tuned, you’ll hear more from us about next steps.

Transportation Solutions

Corridor Congestion Reduction
Added: $600,000

The Council dedicated $600,000 to additional improvements on the West Seattle Bridge.  This will begin to carry out or plan some of the many improvements that were identified in the West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor Action Report.  Specifically, $500,000 will allow SDOT install ITS equipment including Bluetooth readers and dynamic message signs along the Corridor between Airport Way South and Port of Seattle Terminals 5 and 18 in order to collect and display real-time travel time information to trucks drivers and other motorists.  The $100,000 will fund a feasibility review of some of the most promising physical and operational improvements that were identified in the Report.

As part of the Budget, Council has also included a statement of legislative intent requiring SDOT to provide Council early in 2016 with a status update and action plan for implementing improvements in the West Seattle Bridge Corridor.

Employer Mandated Transit Benefits
Ask: Statement of Legislative Intent

It’s well documented that one of the best ways to encourage commuters to take transit is to provide them with transit passes. Through the budget process I gained the support of my colleagues to request the Executive to evaluate the feasibility and merits of a new program requiring employers to provide transit benefits to employees.  

To me it’s a win-win-win: When employers provide passes or payroll deductions to purchase passes they can actually reduce the payroll taxes employers and employees pay. That’s good for employees, employers and our environment.

Public Spaces and Community Development

Open Space Planning Process
Added: $200,000 

Another key victory of this year’s budget process was the appropriation of $200,000 to develop innovative strategies to increase the acquisition and development of public spaces.  Our public spaces include parks, greenbelts, community and recreation centers, as well as P-Patches and other urban farms.  Seattle is growing faster than it has in decades.  Public spaces help to create community.  As we develop strategies to keep Seattle affordable, and to provide effective transportation solutions, it is paramount that we also pursue strategies to develop public spaces that contribute to a high quality of life.

This effort would not have been possible without community advocacy.  Organizations such as the Seattle Parks Foundation, Forterra, The Trust for Public Lands, Seattle Tilth, Grow, the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, and countless public advocates including Cisco Morris all came together to make this effort possible.  Don’t forget to eat your Brussel sprouts!

Community Visions for Local Open Space
Added: New Legislation

For years, communities across the city have been advocating for the retention of public property as public space.  Many of these public properties belong to Seattle City Light (SCL), which is required to move forward with the sale of many of its former substation properties.  However, as part of the budget process, the Council developed an innovative approach in which SCL will continue to use some of those properties for utility purposes for 1 – 2 more years, allowing time for community organizations to raise the funds necessary to keep the property in public hands.

The sites include the former Delridge, Fauntleroy, and Dakota substations.  Visions for these sites include open space, urban farming, and environmental learning activities.  This would not have been possible without countless hours of advocacy by communities throughout West Seattle, and by the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition.

A Closer Look at Highland Park
Added: Statement of Legislative Intent

Thanks to the advocacy of the Highland Park Action Committee, this year’s budget included a Statement of Legislative Intent in which the Council directed the City’s planning department to take a closer look at the needs of that community.  This could include more space for neighborhood retail, and possibly for more affordable housing.  This is the first step toward developing better community assets in a wonderful neighborhood.

Budget: End of Round 1

Round 1 of the Council budget review concluded on Monday.  Now we move into the phase of the budget where it’s important for people to express their support for the budget action items they favor.

During the next week, councilmembers will be gauging public support on items that could make it into the budget package that Councilmember Licata is developing for the Council.

Below is a description of a few of my proposed Budget Action Items, some of which I blogged about last week.  I’ve included quotes from people who provided their comments at our meetings. I find their testimony to be very compelling. I hope you do as well.

Please send an email to all councilmembers council@seattle.gov or to specific councilmembers by looking up their email addresses here if you support any of these recommendations. My advice is to include the budget action item title in the subject line of your email along with your stance on the topic. For example, “Please support the AIDS Memorial/ Legacy Planning proposal!”

  • AIDS Memorial/ Legacy Planning proposal: I am proposing that $75,000 be allocated to the Office of Arts and Culture to support the development of an AIDS Memorial/ Legacy Planning process. This amount would be matched within the community. Please see the full description here and click the following names to view public testimony in favor of this project from Robert Feldman and Michele Hasson.
  • Land Trust Study: requesting funds for consultant services for a planning process regarding the possible creation and operation of a Seattle-based land trust or conservancy. Please click here for the full description and click on the following names to hear public testimony in favor of this proposal from Joyce Moty, of GROW, and Thatcher Bailey, of the Seattle Parks Foundation.
  • LGBTQ Older Adult Competency Training: adding funds to the Human Services Department to support cultural competency and equity training for professionals working with LGBTQ older adults, families, and caregivers. Please click here for the full description of the proposal and click on the following names to hear Public Testimony in favor of this proposal from Rita Smith and Charles Emlet, Professor of Social Work at the UW and also from Peter Quenguyen, Social Worker at South Park Community Center.
  • Homeless Youth Casework: adding funds to the Human Services Department to provide casework for homeless youth in the Capitol Hill and downtown neighborhoods. Please click here for the full description of the proposal or click on the following names listed to hear public testimony in favor of this budget add from Millie Heyes, PSKS Social Worker; Dakota Donley, Christina Solus, Anthony Abel, and Quinn McVicker, participants of PSKS.

Final discussion and voting is scheduled for Friday, November 13th and Monday, November 16th. Stay tuned. I hope that you can take a few minutes, after the busy election season, to send an email to your councilmembers regarding the issues you support.

This is when we ask you to participate in our legislative process by telling us, your City Council, how you feel about the items we support.

Thank you for reading.

Update on the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project

Over the course of the last year, my office has received a great deal of correspondence regarding the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project proposed for the Cheasty Greenspace.  This project first came before the Council as part of its approval of a Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) grant that would support the construction of a perimeter trail, envisioned by the proponents as the first phase of a larger project involving mountain bike and pedestrian cross trails through the interior of the Greenspace.  The project was initially proposed by The Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mountain View (Friends), in collaboration with a number of community partners.

The Friends are doing a great job of removing invasive plants and restoring the area.  Such volunteer work is essential to reclaiming our Greenspaces, and I deeply appreciate the work of the Friends.

When this proposal came before the Council intense community interest in support and in opposition was expressed.  Some would like to see Cheasty developed with a network of pedestrian and mountain bike trails and others are concerned about the effect of mountain bike trails on the Greenspace.

Since at least 1988 Seattle has had policies relating to our Open Spaces (now referred to as Greenspaces).[1]  Generally the policies on Greenspaces include 5 key goals, to[2]:

  1. Help preserve areas of natural landscape and habitat for wildlife
  2. Provide natural buffers between land uses of different intensity or areas of distinct character or identity
  3. Help mitigate the effects of noise and air pollution
  4. Help reduce the necessity for constructed storm water systems
  5. Help preserve the quality of natural drainage systems and enhance the stability of the land

Those and other City policies were developed over the years through a lengthy public process at a time when there was intense pressure for development and building within the greenbelts.  While the policies for the Greenspaces do not prohibit pedestrian trails or the use of bicycles, it is clear that uses in the Greenspaces are to be “low impact”.  Where such uses are proposed, careful planning consistent with City polices and environmental stewardship must occur.

Those who oppose the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project have been characterized as “a small but vocal group”.  However, there is strong support throughout the City for protecting our Greenspaces and strong support for the five key goals in our policies. 

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission in an April 2, 2014 letter to the Mayor and Councilmember Jean Godden noted the following:

Cheasty Greenspace is part of the approximately 14 percent of park land that falls under the April 2009 Seattle Parks Classification as a “Natural Area/Greenbelt”. That classification notes that “Natural areas are park sites established for the protection and stewardship of habitat and other natural systems support functions.  Some natural areas are accessible for low impact use.  Minimal infrastructure may include access and signage where it will not adversely impact habitat or natural systems functions.” …The Commission is very concerned about any conversion of natural areas and Greenspaces in our urban forest to more active uses which can impact the habitat and wildlife protection in these areas.

When this project was proposed to the Council, it did not appear that public dialogue had been held on how the project was consistent with our longstanding Greenspaces policies. Evidently, the Parks Department (DPR) was aware of the sensitivity of constructing a mountain bike trail in the Greenspace/Natural area because DPR in communication with the City Council refers to the trail as a “1.5 mil perimeter bike loop”.

To be clear, the legislation before the Council was the NMF grant for funding of a perimeter trail only.  Thus Council’s decision to specify that design discussion should focus on a perimeter trail was, in part, an effort to keep discussion focused on the scope of the NMF proposal before the Council.

Meanwhile it was made public by the proposal’s advocates that the long-term desire was to include interior mountain bike trails within the Greenspace, which Council was concerned may not be “low impact”.    We know, for example, that Cheasty Greenspace is an ecologically sensitive area, especially with respect to the slopes and wetlands.  Yet, without sufficient information at the time the Council acted last summer, it was Council’s belief that more study should be done, and that steps should be taken (such as focusing on a perimeter trail) to prevent potential ecological risk to the landscape.   I support that cautious approach.

When proposed actions are potentially inconsistent with longstanding city policies it is appropriate for the Council to respond to public concern.    In this case we asked the Parks Department to conduct a public process on the project, so that more information could be developed and public review could occur.

DPR is in the midst of that Council-requested public process involving a Project Advisory Team (PAT) composed of community members.  The PAT will make a recommendation to the Parks Board of Commissioners on the design of the project.  Following this, DPR is expected to make a final decision on the design consistent with Council direction, and return to the Council for approval.  These requirements are consistent with the City Council’s responsibility to comply with city policy, our responsibility for oversight of City Departments, and our stewardship of our parks and public lands.

I look forward to reviewing the recommendations of the Project Advisory Team, the Parks Board, and ultimately of DPR.  I expect that in-depth study will be completed on the ecological impact of the final design proposal.  And, I anticipate a more comprehensive discussion of how this project correlates to our existing policy on Greenspaces and of whether the policies should change.

The Council has requested the Parks Department to review and report back to the Council on policies relating to use guidelines for natural areas and greenspaces (such as the Cheasty Greenspace) by this summer.  That process has already begun, and I anticipate that there will be ample time to review those policy recommendations within the context of the Cheasty project.

There is a need for more places for active recreation including mountain biking.  I am confident that need can be met without damaging our Greenspaces and undermining the unique benefits they provide to our environment.

[1] Seattle City Council Resolution 27852, adopted September 12th, 1988

[2] Seattle City Council Resolution 28653, adopted February 8th, 1993

 

 

Update on the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project

Over the course of the last year, my office has received a great deal of correspondence regarding the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project proposed for the Cheasty Greenspace.  This project first came before the Council as part of its approval of a Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) grant that would support the construction of a perimeter trail, envisioned by the proponents as the first phase of a larger project involving mountain bike and pedestrian cross trails through the interior of the Greenspace.  The project was initially proposed by The Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mountain View (Friends), in collaboration with a number of community partners.

The Friends are doing a great job of removing invasive plants and restoring the area.  Such volunteer work is essential to reclaiming our Greenspaces, and I deeply appreciate the work of the Friends.

When this proposal came before the Council intense community interest in support and in opposition was expressed.  Some would like to see Cheasty developed with a network of pedestrian and mountain bike trails and others are concerned about the effect of mountain bike trails on the Greenspace.

Since at least 1988 Seattle has had policies relating to our Open Spaces (now referred to as Greenspaces).[1]  Generally the policies on Greenspaces include 5 key goals, to[2]:

  1. Help preserve areas of natural landscape and habitat for wildlife
  2. Provide natural buffers between land uses of different intensity or areas of distinct character or identity
  3. Help mitigate the effects of noise and air pollution
  4. Help reduce the necessity for constructed storm water systems
  5. Help preserve the quality of natural drainage systems and enhance the stability of the land

Those and other City policies were developed over the years through a lengthy public process at a time when there was intense pressure for development and building within the greenbelts.  While the policies for the Greenspaces do not prohibit pedestrian trails or the use of bicycles, it is clear that uses in the Greenspaces are to be “low impact”.  Where such uses are proposed, careful planning consistent with City polices and environmental stewardship must occur.

Those who oppose the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project have been characterized as “a small but vocal group”.  However, there is strong support throughout the City for protecting our Greenspaces and strong support for the five key goals in our policies. 

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission in an April 2, 2014 letter to the Mayor and Councilmember Jean Godden noted the following:

Cheasty Greenspace is part of the approximately 14 percent of park land that falls under the April 2009 Seattle Parks Classification as a “Natural Area/Greenbelt”. That classification notes that “Natural areas are park sites established for the protection and stewardship of habitat and other natural systems support functions.  Some natural areas are accessible for low impact use.  Minimal infrastructure may include access and signage where it will not adversely impact habitat or natural systems functions.” …The Commission is very concerned about any conversion of natural areas and Greenspaces in our urban forest to more active uses which can impact the habitat and wildlife protection in these areas.

When this project was proposed to the Council, it did not appear that public dialogue had been held on how the project was consistent with our longstanding Greenspaces policies. Evidently, the Parks Department (DPR) was aware of the sensitivity of constructing a mountain bike trail in the Greenspace/Natural area because DPR in communication with the City Council refers to the trail as a “1.5 mil perimeter bike loop”.

To be clear, the legislation before the Council was the NMF grant for funding of a perimeter trail only.  Thus Council’s decision to specify that design discussion should focus on a perimeter trail was, in part, an effort to keep discussion focused on the scope of the NMF proposal before the Council.

Meanwhile it was made public by the proposal’s advocates that the long-term desire was to include interior mountain bike trails within the Greenspace, which Council was concerned may not be “low impact”.    We know, for example, that Cheasty Greenspace is an ecologically sensitive area, especially with respect to the slopes and wetlands.  Yet, without sufficient information at the time the Council acted last summer, it was Council’s belief that more study should be done, and that steps should be taken (such as focusing on a perimeter trail) to prevent potential ecological risk to the landscape.   I support that cautious approach.

When proposed actions are potentially inconsistent with longstanding city policies it is appropriate for the Council to respond to public concern.    In this case we asked the Parks Department to conduct a public process on the project, so that more information could be developed and public review could occur.

DPR is in the midst of that Council-requested public process involving a Project Advisory Team (PAT) composed of community members.  The PAT will make a recommendation to the Parks Board of Commissioners on the design of the project.  Following this, DPR is expected to make a final decision on the design consistent with Council direction, and return to the Council for approval.  These requirements are consistent with the City Council’s responsibility to comply with city policy, our responsibility for oversight of City Departments, and our stewardship of our parks and public lands.

I look forward to reviewing the recommendations of the Project Advisory Team, the Parks Board, and ultimately of DPR.  I expect that in-depth study will be completed on the ecological impact of the final design proposal.  And, I anticipate a more comprehensive discussion of how this project correlates to our existing policy on Greenspaces and of whether the policies should change.

The Council has requested the Parks Department to review and report back to the Council on policies relating to use guidelines for natural areas and greenspaces (such as the Cheasty Greenspace) by this summer.  That process has already begun, and I anticipate that there will be ample time to review those policy recommendations within the context of the Cheasty project.

There is a need for more places for active recreation including mountain biking.  I am confident that need can be met without damaging our Greenspaces and undermining the unique benefits they provide to our environment.

[1] Seattle City Council Resolution 27852, adopted September 12th, 1988

[2] Seattle City Council Resolution 28653, adopted February 8th, 1993

 

 

Council Adopts Bill to Improve High-Speed Fiber Network Deployment

Council Adopts Bill to Improve High-Speed Fiber Network Deployment

SEATTLECity Council unanimously approved legislation today that will help expand high-speed fiber network deployment by removing excessive administrative requirements for siting of new broadband cabinets, incentivizing smaller cabinets that deliver higher speeds and requiring landscaping and screening in neighborhoods.

All neighborhoods will benefit, but the changes will initially help companies like CenturyLink launch one-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) fiber internet service to Beacon Hill, the Central District, Ballard and West Seattle. New cabinets are necessary for the delivery of 1 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) service. One-gigabit-per-second is equivalent to 1,000 megabits-per-second (Mbps). According to speedtest.net in Seattle, the current average download and upload speeds are 34.95 Mbps and 19.85 Mbps.

“This critical change will bring next-generation broadband to unserved and underserved neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee.We have gone through an extensive community process to get to this point, balancing the concerns of home-owners, street character and the desire to push fiber further out into neighborhoods. Next-generation fiber broadband is vital for our students’ education, helps mitigate traffic by allowing residents to work from home, and businesses and startups benefit by stimulating innovation and jobs. We must continue to think outside the box to create an environment competitive for companies to build fiber to your home and business.”

“This legislation is a win-win for neighborhoods. Underserved neighborhoods will receive a lightning-fast level of broadband service, while the visual clutter typically associated with these communications cabinets will be greatly reduced. I look forward to the expansion of this service throughout the city,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, chair of the Transportation Committee.

Robert Kangas, chair of Upping Technology for Underserved Neighbors, said, “This is a great first step to opening our neighborhoods to improved broadband. Thank you to the Mayor’s office and the Seattle City Council for working with members of the community and the broadband providers to give us more competition and improved service. This will help Seattle remain a leader in the tech community for years to come. While this is an immediate win for the under-served areas of Seattle, it will benefit the entire city.”

Brian Hsi, chair of the Citizens’ Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board’s Broadband and Cable Committee, said, “I’m pleased to see progress being made toward bringing more broadband choices for Seattle residents. For too long parts of our City could not receive the infrastructure necessary to build out affordable, quality, high speed broadband options. That changes today with the passage of this legislation.”

Beginning in January 2013, SDOT began engaging with stakeholder groups and sought feedback on siting issues for new telecommunication cabinets in the public right-of-way and held meetings with stakeholders from North Beacon Hill, Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board, Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities, Citizens’ Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board, Public Space Management Task Force, Department of Information Technology, Department of Planning and Development, Office of Economic Development, Seattle City Light, CenturyLink, AT&T, Comcast, Wave, Verizon and various other community groups. The consensus of the group concluded that new legislation must prioritize:

1)    Improving broadband deployment, especially in underserved areas;

2)    Keeping our public spaces and rights-of-way free from visual clutter; and

3)      Maintaining other priorities for the public spaces and rights-of-way for community activation goals.

Council Bill 118208 will help broadband deployment by:

1)    Incentivizing smaller cabinets (less than 36”) that deliver faster connection bandwidth by streamlining the permitting and outreach requirements.

2)    Providing a dis-incentive for siting larger cabinets by requiring additional public outreach and visual mitigation for cabinets taller than 36”.

3)    Eliminating “veto power” from adjacent property owner as currently required in SDOT Director’s Rule 2-2009.

4)    Eliminating requirement of obtaining 60% approval from within 100 feet on proposed installation as currently required by SDOT Director’s Rule 2-2009.

5)    Requiring written notification to all residents, businesses, and property owners within 100-foot radius if the proposed installation cabinet is greater than 36 inches in height.

6)    Requiring screening mitigation such as landscaping and vinyl wrap for new cabinet installations in residential zones above 36 inches.

7)    Removing graffiti in a timely manner.

8)    Requiring all service providers to submit quarterly reports to SDOT that describe each complaint received, how complaint was resolved, and how long it took to resolve the complaint.

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