Happy 2018! And a Look Back on 2017 Accomplishments

Happy holidays and new year from Councilmember Herbold’s Office!

Contents

 

PART 1 // D1 TRANSPORTATION UPDATES


Sound Transit Light Rail

In May, Sound Transit announced a Draft System Expansion Implementation Plan for ST3, including a schedule for light rail to West Seattle, to implement the 2015 ballot measure.  The ST3 scope equals the first two Sound Transit measures (1996 and 2008) combined.

The starting point is the representative alignment in the ST3 plan approved by voters, including stations at Delridge, Avalon, and Alaska Junction, to “connect West Seattle to downtown Seattle via Alaska Street, Fauntleroy Way, Genesee Street, Delridge Avenue, Spokane Street, and the SODO Busway.”

Scheduled to be the first Seattle project completed in ST3, the timetable could involve utility work as early as 2024, in anticipation of construction beginning in 2025. This creates a potential conflict with the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project. In recognition of these challenges, I sent a letter to Sound Transit regarding these issues, and recently received a reply.

In December, the Council approved an agreement between the City of Seattle and Sound Transit to guide cooperation, with clarity to budget and schedule, and with specific points for City concurrence.

The agreement acknowledges “that suggestions to study additional alternatives are likely to emerge during the alternatives development process,” and “The target is to identify options to be investigated as soon as possible during alternatives development to support the goal of early and durable consensus on a preferred alternative.”  The agreement calls for the development of a preferred alternative, with city concurrence, during the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2019.

The Sound Transit Board approves the alignment.  An “Elected Leadership Group” will make recommendations to the Sound Transit Board regarding the alignment and other issues and will include other local elected officials.  As District 1 representative for West Seattle, I’ll be serving on this board.

 


Lander Street Overpass Funding

The Lander Street Overpass project over the railroad tracks in SODO has received $10 million in funding from the Port of Seattle. With this, the long-delayed project attained full funding.

In the City’s successful request for federal funding, I added language emphasizing that the daily closures result in “hindering access to Downtown from West Seattle and South Park.” The West Seattle Transportation Coalition cites a 45% reduction in north/south vehicle lanes over the last eight years through SODO. Closures due to rail traffic average 4.5 hours daily, affecting north/south traffic.

The schedule calls for construction in 2018, and completion in early 2020.  The cost estimate is $125 million, reduced from the $142 million figure listed in the SDOT 2017 capital budget, due to design revisions by SDOT.

 


Highland Park Roundabout

Highland Park Way SW is one of only a few east-west access points for the West Seattle peninsula.  Dating back to 1941, the community has advocated for pedestrian and motorist safety at this intersection, the cite of numerous recent accidents.

During last year’s Neighborhood Street Fund process the community proposed a traffic roundabout (as they had in 2013) at Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street.  It was the highest-rated project of the Delridge District Council, but, due to cost, wasn’t selected.

I supported funding for initial design work, and SDOT dedicated $200,000 of existing funds to advance design for a roundabout. Improving safety and alleviating congestion can also reduce the use of side streets, an increasing safety issue, especially during rush hour.

SDOT applied for funding through a state grant; including a letter of support signed by all nine Councilmembers.  Numerous other elected officials and West Seattle community groups showed their support as well. Unfortunately, the application wasn’t successful; we’ll be considering next steps early in 2018.

 


Mudslides

In February, after a mudslide closed Highland Park Way SW for a few days during heavy rains, I investigated SDOT plans for landslide mitigation, and found that work identified in a 2000 report was not being adequately funded.

I worked with the City Budget Office to increase funding in the 2nd quarter supplemental budget by $1.37 million; the 2018 budget also included an increase. The 2nd quarter funding went to projects at SW Cambridge and California Avenue SW, the 10200 block of 47th Avenue SW, and Highland Park Way SW.

 

PART 2 // PUBLIC SAFETY IN D1


South Park Public Safety Task Force

You may recall that during last year’s budget, Councilmember González and I partnered to create a South Park Public Safety Task Force. South Park had the 3rd highest number of gunshots reported in Seattle neighborhoods during 2016, according to Seattle Police Department data.

The purpose of the task force was to formulate and report to Council recommendations regarding the public safety and vitality of that neighborhood, including strategies that are culturally and linguistically responsive data-driven approaches.

This summer, in response to community requests after a number of nights of vandalism against businesses, I requested that the Chief of Police convene a community meeting. The Department of Neighborhoods stepped in and brought other City departments. High attendance showed just how concerned South Park residents are with the ongoing public safety issues.

In September, the report and recommendations of the  South Park Public Safety Taskforce were presented including funding for a Public Safety Coordinator; Improvements to Pedestrian Safety; Lighting Dark Alleys and Crime Spots; Providing More Frequent Garbage Pickup; and Funding Opportunities for Children and Youth.

The budget balancing package I proposed, with Councilmember Lorena González’ sponsorship, included funding a South Park Public Safety Coordinator and pedestrian and traffic safety improvements. My office is working with Seattle City Light and a local business owner to light the alley between Cloverdale and Donovan.

 


Alki Public Safety and Health Survey/Budget Action

Since taking office, I have heard concern from residents of Alki and adjacent neighborhoods regarding vehicle noise and other public safety concerns. As a beachside neighborhood and regional destination, there are unique public safety and health challenges from Beach Drive to the West Seattle Bridge. Earlier in 2017, I met with SPD about issues at Alki, and requested additional officers and use of the Mobile Precinct.

Later in the summer, I worked with community members to develop the Alki Public Safety and Health Survey. 1100 people responded. The results showed a high level of concern for vehicle noise; you can see the results here, including by neighborhood.

The survey results informed a budget action I developed with community members, which the Council adopted in November, requiring the Seattle Police Department to identify new enforcement policies and practices with respect to vehicle noise and cruising in the Alki neighborhood that could be used in other neighborhoods, such as Fauntleroy, adjacent to the ferry dock.

 

PART 3 // HOUSING HIGHLIGHTS


Housing Bond Update

You may recall that last year I worked to expand financing for more affordable housing through utilizing the City’s existing bond capacity.  Using the City’s bond capacity for housing was very controversial when the Council approved it in 2016.  In February of 2017, the Affordable Housing Neighborhood and Finance Committee approved two pieces of legislation that helped the city move closer to using the financing.

Then, in July of 2017 the Office of Housing (OH) announced that some of that new funding would be available through its annual competitive Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process.  More than a dozen non-profit developers signaled their intent to bid.  Finally, in December of 2017, the City of Seattle announced $100 million in affordable housing investments.

OH Director Steve Walker said that the availability of $29 million in bonding authority in 2017 allowed the City to “make commitments to two large-scale transit-oriented affordable housing developments at the Roosevelt light rail station and Northgate transit center…In total, the $29 million in bonding authority supports the creation of 300 affordable apartments that otherwise would not have been created.”

In addition to $29 million in bond financing this allocation utilizes the first year of funding from the 2016 voter-passed Seattle Housing Levy, funding from incentive zoning payments, and proceeds from the sale of surplus properties.  Leveraging additional local and federal resources, this will support more than $260 million in investments.

 


Fair Chance Housing

Back in 2012, Councilmembers Licata and O’Brien asked that the Office of Housing (OH) begin to address the barriers created when criminal background screenings are used to select tenants.  The Fair Chance Housing Taskforce was a 2015 Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) taskforce recommendation to increase access to rental housing for people with criminal records.

In February 2016, after announcement of the task force, several Councilmembers joined me in writing to then Mayor Murray about the Fair Chance Housing taskforce, available here.

In May 2017, my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee hosted its first conversation with members of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce.  Through the work of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce and the Office of Civil Rights the Fair Chance Housing legislation was proposed. The final Fair Chance Housing legislation, co-sponsored by myself and Council President Harrell passed unanimously by Full Council on August 14, 2017. This ordinance prevents landlords from screening applicants based on criminal convictions; arrests that did not lead to a conviction; convictions that have been expunged, vacated or sealed; juvenile records; or status of a juvenile tenant on the sex offender registry. The bill also prohibits the use of advertising language that categorically excludes people with arrests or conviction records. The legislation does not apply to people registered as sex offenders who committed their crime as an adult.

The legislation goes into effect in early 2018, allowing the City to implement a new Fair Housing Home Program to help property owners adjust their practices and learn how to implement practices to affirmatively further fair housing by reducing biases in tenant selection.

 


Short-term Rental

In December, the Council took its final vote to complete what was two years of deliberations addressing how Seattle should regulate and tax short-term rentals (STR) out of concern that, with a projected loss of 1,000-1,500 additional long-term units in the next three years, continued growth of multi-listing hosts would undermine Seattle’s long-term housing stock at a time when the market is tighter than ever. My primary goal was to return and maintain as many long-term rental units on the market as possible.

The bills cover each the taxing structure, land-use code, and regulatory structure related to short-term rentals.  CB 119083, pertains to how the City taxes short-term rentals.  CB 119082 addresses how short-term rentals are addressed in the land-use code.  CB 119081 addresses the regulatory structure.  Council will receive an implementation status report in June. The short-term rental regulations will not become effective until January 1, 2019.

 

PART 4 // LAND USE LATEST


MHA rezones

The Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program requires developers in urban villages to contribute to affordable housing by either building it onsite or paying into a City fund for Affordable Housing. The city plans to develop 6,000 affordable units with the implementation of the MHA program. This year the Full Council adopted MHA for each the University District,  Downtown & South Lake Union; 23rd and Union-Jackson Residential Urban Village, the Chinatown International District and Uptown.

You may recall that the broad principles of the MHA program were approved by the Council in the MHA framework legislation, in Fall 2016. This framework legislation laid out how all developers would newly be required to contribute to new affordable housing in all developments in exchange for additional zoning capacity.

I am concerned about the impact that displacement has on existing residents and neighborhoods. In February 2017 I sponsored, and the Council passed, Resolution 31733, to request an analysis of both physical and economic displacement as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in order to evaluate whether the proposed city-wide upzones would: (1) increase or decrease direct displacement due to demolition; and (2) either introduce or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace vulnerable populations. This resolution put the Council on record declaring its “intent to consider strategies to mitigate any loss of subsidized affordable units and naturally occurring affordable units resulting from an increase in development capacity.”  It also made very clear the kind of analysis that the Council expected as part of the of the Displacement Risk Analysis being done for the DEIS.  Because the DEIS was not fully responsive to Resolution 31733, in July 7, I sent a letter to Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), Director Sam Assefa requesting again that this analysis be completed.

The comment period on the DEIS was announced in June and was extended a couple weeks to respond to requests for additional time.  On November 9, 2017 the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was released.   On November 27, 2017 an appeal of the FEIS was filed.  This appeal adds a layer of uncertainty to the timing of future legislative action.  You can follow this issue on the city’s HALA webpage as well as signing up for Planning, Land Use and Zoning committee meeting agendas here.

 


Vacant Building Program

In August of this year, the Council passed legislation to improve maintenance and demolition standards of vacant buildings. The City has experienced a significant increase of complaints about vacant building; between 2013 and 2016 we saw an increase of 58%.  District 1 has the second highest amount of complaints between 2013 and 2016. You can see those here.

I worked to amend this legislation to require development of a Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Vacant building monitoring programs require property owners to register vacant and foreclosed properties. This allows the City to ensure they are maintained and secure and not a nuisance to the public.

The Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) will report in March of 2018 with proposal for an enhanced Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Such a proposal should: (1) establish triggering events for enrollment; (2) strengthen minimum standards for vacant buildings; (3) include a penalty structure for failure to comply; (4) minimize costs to owners when buildings are well maintained (5) allow owners of vacant buildings to have buildings occupied by caretakers.

 

PART 5 // ACCOUNTABILITY IN GOVERNMENT


Police Accountability Legislation

I support strong police oversight, and co-sponsored police accountability legislation to create, among other things, a new Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and making the Community Police Commission (CPC) a permanent body.

The function of the CPC is intrinsic to the success of police accountability reform in Seattle. The 2012 Consent Decree process was begun in 2010 when 34 community groups called on the US Department of Justice to investigate excessive use of force.  It is critical that the community retain a seat at the table.

I worked with the CPC to propose amendments to require 25% of CPC members on the search committees for future Directors of the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). Another amendment expanded the size of the CPC, in order to increase their ability to carry out police accountability work, now enshrined in city law.

Finally, I proposed an amendment to ensure that the CPC retains the authority that the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB), the OPA’s previous civilian review board, had to review closed case files. The OPARB emphasized the importance of this power in a 2014 letter. This kind of oversight power led to the discovery, for example, that SPD was doing criminal background checks on people making misconduct complaints (see 2003 annual report).

Thanks to SPD and Seattle’s police officers for their implementation of reform. The Seattle Police Officers Guild collaborated in the work of the CPC over the last several years, and helped inform their recommendations with practical experience. The Court-appointed federal monitor ruled in April that SPD had reached initial compliance with the use of force reforms.   The monitor will continue review the department for at least two years to ensure compliance.

 


Observer Bill of Rights

In May, the Council passed legislation I sponsored to establish an Observer Bill of Rights for people to observe and record police activity. The bill establishes that, by law, the public has the right to observe police activity. It states that officers may not use physical force to punish or retaliate against observers, and must seek to minimize harm to bystanders when using less lethal tools like pepper spray or tear gas. In addition, if a person brings a claim that the law was violated, the Office of Professional Accountability must be notified.

Observation has always been an important element of accountability.  Mothers for Police Accountability here in Seattle has, for decades, trained community observers to watch the actions of police in detaining suspects.  Most police interactions with the public are fair and professional, but the observation is one way to reduce the chances that people are treated unfairly in their interactions with police. And when people are not treated fairly, or force is used inappropriately, observation ensures there is a witness.

At a time when we have an increasing reliance on cameras that police officers wear or have in their cars, the police activity that the public observes is still important.  A Washington Post article from March noted that in a shooting in Albuquerque, the camera of the police officer who fired the shot wasn’t recording, three missed the crucial moment, and three were either blurred or contained no record.

 


Duwamish Greenbelt Tree Settlement

In April, City Attorney Holmes announced a settlement over the illegal 2016 tree cutting on City property in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt.

Two complaints were filed last fall, including for timber trespass, damage to land, negligence, environmentally critical areas violations, violations of the parks code, and violations of the city’s tree and vegetation management in public places code.

Two couples paid City $440,000 regarding one of the decimated areas. The City’s other suit regarding the other area is ongoing, and unaffected by this settlement.  The Parks and Recreation Department has used the settlement funds for remediation of the property.

Hopefully this settlement—60% higher per tree than the similar 2003 case in the Mount Baker neighborhood—will deter future rogue clearcutting. Those with financial means can’t count on small settlements to pave the way towards increased views and property values. Trees in our greenbelts are precious resources that maintain soil stability, lessen the risk of landslides, and maintain air quality by absorbing carbon. We must protect them.

 


Socially Responsible Banking Legislation/Fair Business Practices

In February, the Council voted to adopt Fair Business Practices for contracting, including banking.  To give local, in-state banks a better chance to compete for the City’s banking services, I sponsored an amendment increasing from 15% to 20% the amount used in scoring for socially responsible banking and fair business practices.

The City manages nearly $4 billion annually; during 2016 the average daily balance in the City’s account with Wells Fargo was approximately $56 million. Integrating social responsibility with the City’s banking needs, and relevant state law, is challenging. State law limits the use of credit unions to $250,000, which means the City can’t use them for general-purpose banking.

My staff researched which banks are eligible for the City’s banking services under state law. Of the 63 banks are registered with the state, it appears only between 8 and 11 banks are eligible, depending on whether the minimum threshold for managing City deposits is set at $450 million, or $300 million. Between 4 and 7 of those banks are in-state.

Bank of America and US Bank, as well as Wells Fargo, all received significant fines from the Department of Justice for mortgage fraud. This points to the challenges we face in selecting a City bank in alignment with the City’s values.

The City will re-bid its banking services. The contract proposals include smaller chunks, to increase the likelihood of smaller banks being able to apply.

PART 6 // ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND EQUITY FOR A BETTER SEATTLE


OLS Funding

The Office of Labor Standards (OLS) is responsible for administering and enforcing six local labor laws: $15 Minimum Wage, Paid Sick and Safe Time, Fair Chance Employment, Wage Theft, Secure Scheduling, and the Hotel Employees Health and Safety Imitative.

The work of the OLS is vital to employer and worker education. A University of Washington study from April 2016, found that 72 percent of workers, including 91 percent of immigrant workers, did not know about or had only a vague understanding of their rights to a minimum wage. Outreach to workers is crucial for employees and employers alike because when all employees know their rights, businesses who do not adhere to our laws do not have an unfair business advantage over those good employers that adhere to our labor standards.

Early this year the Council passed a bill that I co-sponsored to ensure that the OLS would have a dedicated fund to support the operations and activates of the office. This revenue supports enforcement activities, including the investigation of complaints and directed investigations, as well as the education and outreach to employers and employees.

 


Priority Hire

Two and a half years ago, the City adopted Priority Hire. The program works to maximize the City’s investment in public infrastructure by helping local residents secure employment opportunities on City funded public works project contracts totaling $5 million or more.

Specifically, Priority Hire requires a minimum percentage of works being local residents from economically disadvantaged zip codes, and sets a minimum requirement for apprenticeship utilization from pre-apprenticeship programs. These requirements improve opportunities for un/underemployed workers and gives them access to living-wage careers.

In July of this year, my Civil Rights, Economic Development, and Arts Committee took up recommendations from the City Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), and another report from the Priority Hire Advisory Committee. The Council voted to approve legislation I sponsored to a. increase hiring through the Priority Hire hiring process and b. improve participation by open-shop and Women and Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE) contractors.

 


Legacy Business Program

You might remember that in the 2017 budget I sponsored a budget initiative to include funding for the Office of Economic Development (OED) to conduct a legacy business study.  In September of this year the Legacy Business Study was published and included several recommendations on how Seattle could further support this work, including:

  1. Refine or expand existing OED programs to better support legacy businesses.
  2. Create new business assistance specifically targeted towards legacy businesses.
  3. Work to create a comprehensive legacy program.

In continuing to move forward this important work, I made sure that the 2018 budget contains funding to develop and implement a new Legacy Business Designation Program and support for business entrepreneurs who are women and people of color.

 


UDP Expansion

In October 2016, a constituent let my office know that Medicare Part B premiums were being included as a source of income towards qualification to the Utility Discount Program (UDP).  The UDP is a City program for low-income customers and offers a 60% discount on your Seattle City Light (SCL) bill, and a 50% discount on your Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) bill for eligible customers.  The result of including Medicare Part B premiums as a source of income is that people who should have access to the UDP were being deemed ineligible.

Medicare Part B premiums are automatically withdrawn from Social Security and Social Security Disability income checks; residents never even see the funds.

I worked with both utilities and the Mayor’s Office to remove the requirement to count Medicare Part B premiums as income. Both utilities implemented the new rules on June 1, 2017.  SPU estimated that the change added an additional 1,1015 households to the UDP.

 


Eliminating the Subminimum Wage

In July, 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. The Commission for People with DisAbilities (PwD) voted unanimously, in June, to end this exemption.

After conducting a review of Seattle’s policy, the PwD held a public comment session to hear from the community and organizations. Additionally, they reached out to all the businesses that currently utilize the subminimum wage. The PwD Commission received no comment opposing the elimination of the subminimum wage certificates.

All subminimum wage certificates which the Director had previously signed will laps at the end of 2017. The Council will codify this decision in 2018.

 


Fixing Our Broken Tax Structure

Washington State has the most regressive tax structure in the nation. People earning $20,000 a year devote two months of pay to their yearly tax bill, while the 1% pay their entire annual tax bill in only 6 days. Economist Dick Conway reports that across five different measures – fairness, transparency, adequacy, stability, and economic vitality – Washington State’s tax structure is the worst of all the states in the nation.

Besides placing a greater burden on those least able to afford it, and straining the middle class, the dependence on property taxes makes it harder for fixed-income seniors to remain in their homes.   We need a fairer tax system. To address this, I co-sponsored legislation for a tax on high incomes.

The tax of 2.25% is on only the income of Seattle residents over $250,000 for single filers, or income above $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. For a single filer with income of $300,000, only the $50,000 over $250,000 would be taxed, for a total of $1125, or 0.038 percent of their total income.

The legislation was designed to minimize the cost of implementation and reporting. Residents with qualifying incomes will file their income as listed on line 22 on IRS form 1040; early estimates indicate it would raise approximately $140 million from about 11,000 tax payers.

An earlier resolution noted that legal viability would be the primary consideration in developing the tax structure.  The legislation is currently under legal challenge.

The tax revenue will be used to: (1) lower the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes, including the business and occupation tax; (2) replace funding lost through federal cuts or respond to changes in federal policy; (3) provide services, including housing, education, and transit; (4) create green jobs and meeting carbon reduction goals; and (5) and implement the tax.

I proposed, and the Council passed, a follow-up budget measure requiring a report by the City Budget Office on use of potential revenues, including future consideration of reduction or elimination of property tax levies.

 

PART 7 // ARTS MATTERS


Why Art Matters

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

In response, the Office of Arts and Culture, KUOW, and I co-hosted a forum in April, Why Does Art Matter, to bring awareness to this issue, and to call on federal representatives in Congress to not pursue this path.

The NEA supports numerous local arts groups, both large and small. One such group is the Creative Advantage arts education program in Seattle Public Schools, which has programs in District 1 schools such as Arbor Heights Elementary, Concord International Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Roxhill Elementary, Sanislo Elementary, West Seattle Elementary, Louise Boren STEM K-8, Denny International Middle School, and Chief Sealth International High School.

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 have eliminated federal funding for these agencies, and brings up questions about how to continue this important work. Thankfully, Congress acted to not cut this funding.

 


Cultural Arts Spaces

Along with the crisis in affordability in housing, we have a crisis on maintaining arts and cultural spaces in Seattle. The Office of Arts and Culture released the CAP report: 30 ideas for the Creation, Activation & Preservation of Cultural Space.  When the report was released, I requested an implementation plan.

Through the budget process, I secured funding to incentivize cultural uses in older buildings, where three-quarters of cultural spaces in Seattle are located, and space tends to be less expensive.

Secondly, I secured funding for a half-time liaison between The Office of Arts and Culture and the Department of Construction and Inspections to support nonprofit cultural organizations in the permitting process.

Finally, a budget action requires a report on creating a cultural spaces public development authority, to lease, develop, and purchase real estate to maintain cultural uses.

 


Sound Transit Busker Program

Last year I asked Sound Transit to allow buskers to perform at stations, similar to the successful program at Sea-Tac Airport, and to work with the Seattle Music Commission to establish this program.

They established a six-month pilot program at the Capitol Hill and University of Washington stations, and a performance policy, and followed up with a survey of transit riders and street performers, and researched other cities such as New York, Vancouver and the Bay Area.

In September, Sound Transit expanded the program, adding Beacon Hill, Columbia City, Othello, Tukwila International Boulevard and Angle Lake.   Approved performance sites are designated by a silver star, to prevent performers and audiences from blocking station traffic. Performer guidelines and photos of silver star locations are linked here.

Prior to the program, Sound Transit didn’t allow street musicians to perform at light rail facilities; thanks to Sound Transit for supporting buskers!

 


Film in Seattle

During the budget process, I secured funding from admissions tax revenues for the Office of Economic Development’s Office of Film and Music (OFM) to support advancement of the film and media production sector during 2018. This is a core economic development funding of the office. However, due to management of the City’s Special Events program moving from Parks to this OFM, they have been able to carry out only a small amount of this work.

 

PART 8 // BUDGET WRAP UP – D1 SPOTLIGHT

In November, the Council adopted the 2018 City budget, and 2018-2023 Capital Improvement Plan.

As Chair of the Budget Committee, I assembled a final balancing package.  Together, my Council colleagues and I passed several important amendments to the city budget that will meaningfully impact the lives of everyday people in Seattle, all while maintaining current service levels.

In addition to items mentioned elsewhere, here are a few of the highlights; a longer description is here.

  • Hiring more police officers: the budget adds 35 additional police officers positions, to stay on track to hire 200 additional officers by early 2020
  • Funding to implement police accountability legislation; the Council added two and a half positions and contracting funding for the Community Police Commission, and two positions for the Office of Police Accountability.

District 1

  • Expand the Ready to Work project into District 1:  There are unique challenges facing immigrants and refugees living in SW Seattle. The Ready to Work model is designed to support English learners with an intensive centralized and neighborhood based support.  The Ready to Work expansion is slated to open in April of 2018.
  • Funding to plan and design a walkable, bikeable path uniting the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods to enhance walkability between Georgetown and South Park’s historic “Main Streets” and connect the heart of the Duwamish Valley.
  • Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD): expansion of LEAD to North Precinct, and to begin taking referrals from the Southwest Precinct.
  • Addition of $1 million for participatory budgeting which, in 2017, funded projects in, Delridge, Westwood/Highland Park, High Point and South Park.
  • Vacant Building Monitoring Program Funding (written about above re: District 1 having the second highest number of complaints).

 

PART 9 // CONSTITUENT CONTACTS

This year I hosted in-district office hours on nine separate occasions. There are three locations that I rotate between to help make it easier for constituents to meet with me in their own neighborhood. These nine meetings constituted a total of 43 hours where I met with 111 constituents. Issues ranged from traffic and sidewalk issues, to zoning and housing issues. Multiple groups utilized this time to connect with me about specific issues their organization or neighborhoods were facing.

In-District Office hours will continue again in 2018; please keep an eye out for my emails and on the blog to know when I will be in your neighborhood.

This year we received thousands of emails from constituents all over the city. By our rough count, we received and responded to nearly 7,000 individual emails on topics ranging from transportation, land use, utility, parks, and public safety, and other issues.  Next year we will have a better ability to report on the number emails received according to topic, as well as the average time taken to respond.

This number does not include emails received and responded to where the Council was the subject of an organized email campaign.  When we receive hundreds of emails on the same topic, we note every issue raised in each piece of correspondence, and then craft a reply that was responsive to all issues raised.  While some folks express disappointment upon receiving an “auto-reply” to these, I hope to assure everyone that my staff and I read all of the correspondence I receive and I take the perspective and opinions expressed into account when a reply is carefully crafted.

Happy 2018! And a Look Back on 2017 Accomplishments

Happy holidays and new year from Councilmember Herbold’s Office!

Contents

 

PART 1 // D1 TRANSPORTATION UPDATES


Sound Transit Light Rail

In May, Sound Transit announced a Draft System Expansion Implementation Plan for ST3, including a schedule for light rail to West Seattle, to implement the 2015 ballot measure.  The ST3 scope equals the first two Sound Transit measures (1996 and 2008) combined.

The starting point is the representative alignment in the ST3 plan approved by voters, including stations at Delridge, Avalon, and Alaska Junction, to “connect West Seattle to downtown Seattle via Alaska Street, Fauntleroy Way, Genesee Street, Delridge Avenue, Spokane Street, and the SODO Busway.”

Scheduled to be the first Seattle project completed in ST3, the timetable could involve utility work as early as 2024, in anticipation of construction beginning in 2025. This creates a potential conflict with the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project. In recognition of these challenges, I sent a letter to Sound Transit regarding these issues, and recently received a reply.

In December, the Council approved an agreement between the City of Seattle and Sound Transit to guide cooperation, with clarity to budget and schedule, and with specific points for City concurrence.

The agreement acknowledges “that suggestions to study additional alternatives are likely to emerge during the alternatives development process,” and “The target is to identify options to be investigated as soon as possible during alternatives development to support the goal of early and durable consensus on a preferred alternative.”  The agreement calls for the development of a preferred alternative, with city concurrence, during the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2019.

The Sound Transit Board approves the alignment.  An “Elected Leadership Group” will make recommendations to the Sound Transit Board regarding the alignment and other issues and will include other local elected officials.  As District 1 representative for West Seattle, I’ll be serving on this board.

 


Lander Street Overpass Funding

The Lander Street Overpass project over the railroad tracks in SODO has received $10 million in funding from the Port of Seattle. With this, the long-delayed project attained full funding.

In the City’s successful request for federal funding, I added language emphasizing that the daily closures result in “hindering access to Downtown from West Seattle and South Park.” The West Seattle Transportation Coalition cites a 45% reduction in north/south vehicle lanes over the last eight years through SODO. Closures due to rail traffic average 4.5 hours daily, affecting north/south traffic.

The schedule calls for construction in 2018, and completion in early 2020.  The cost estimate is $125 million, reduced from the $142 million figure listed in the SDOT 2017 capital budget, due to design revisions by SDOT.

 


Highland Park Roundabout

Highland Park Way SW is one of only a few east-west access points for the West Seattle peninsula.  Dating back to 1941, the community has advocated for pedestrian and motorist safety at this intersection, the cite of numerous recent accidents.

During last year’s Neighborhood Street Fund process the community proposed a traffic roundabout (as they had in 2013) at Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street.  It was the highest-rated project of the Delridge District Council, but, due to cost, wasn’t selected.

I supported funding for initial design work, and SDOT dedicated $200,000 of existing funds to advance design for a roundabout. Improving safety and alleviating congestion can also reduce the use of side streets, an increasing safety issue, especially during rush hour.

SDOT applied for funding through a state grant; including a letter of support signed by all nine Councilmembers.  Numerous other elected officials and West Seattle community groups showed their support as well. Unfortunately, the application wasn’t successful; we’ll be considering next steps early in 2018.

 


Mudslides

In February, after a mudslide closed Highland Park Way SW for a few days during heavy rains, I investigated SDOT plans for landslide mitigation, and found that work identified in a 2000 report was not being adequately funded.

I worked with the City Budget Office to increase funding in the 2nd quarter supplemental budget by $1.37 million; the 2018 budget also included an increase. The 2nd quarter funding went to projects at SW Cambridge and California Avenue SW, the 10200 block of 47th Avenue SW, and Highland Park Way SW.

 

PART 2 // PUBLIC SAFETY IN D1


South Park Public Safety Task Force

You may recall that during last year’s budget, Councilmember González and I partnered to create a South Park Public Safety Task Force. South Park had the 3rd highest number of gunshots reported in Seattle neighborhoods during 2016, according to Seattle Police Department data.

The purpose of the task force was to formulate and report to Council recommendations regarding the public safety and vitality of that neighborhood, including strategies that are culturally and linguistically responsive data-driven approaches.

This summer, in response to community requests after a number of nights of vandalism against businesses, I requested that the Chief of Police convene a community meeting. The Department of Neighborhoods stepped in and brought other City departments. High attendance showed just how concerned South Park residents are with the ongoing public safety issues.

In September, the report and recommendations of the  South Park Public Safety Taskforce were presented including funding for a Public Safety Coordinator; Improvements to Pedestrian Safety; Lighting Dark Alleys and Crime Spots; Providing More Frequent Garbage Pickup; and Funding Opportunities for Children and Youth.

The budget balancing package I proposed, with Councilmember Lorena González’ sponsorship, included funding a South Park Public Safety Coordinator and pedestrian and traffic safety improvements. My office is working with Seattle City Light and a local business owner to light the alley between Cloverdale and Donovan.

 


Alki Public Safety and Health Survey/Budget Action

Since taking office, I have heard concern from residents of Alki and adjacent neighborhoods regarding vehicle noise and other public safety concerns. As a beachside neighborhood and regional destination, there are unique public safety and health challenges from Beach Drive to the West Seattle Bridge. Earlier in 2017, I met with SPD about issues at Alki, and requested additional officers and use of the Mobile Precinct.

Later in the summer, I worked with community members to develop the Alki Public Safety and Health Survey. 1100 people responded. The results showed a high level of concern for vehicle noise; you can see the results here, including by neighborhood.

The survey results informed a budget action I developed with community members, which the Council adopted in November, requiring the Seattle Police Department to identify new enforcement policies and practices with respect to vehicle noise and cruising in the Alki neighborhood that could be used in other neighborhoods, such as Fauntleroy, adjacent to the ferry dock.

 

PART 3 // HOUSING HIGHLIGHTS


Housing Bond Update

You may recall that last year I worked to expand financing for more affordable housing through utilizing the City’s existing bond capacity.  Using the City’s bond capacity for housing was very controversial when the Council approved it in 2016.  In February of 2017, the Affordable Housing Neighborhood and Finance Committee approved two pieces of legislation that helped the city move closer to using the financing.

Then, in July of 2017 the Office of Housing (OH) announced that some of that new funding would be available through its annual competitive Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process.  More than a dozen non-profit developers signaled their intent to bid.  Finally, in December of 2017, the City of Seattle announced $100 million in affordable housing investments.

OH Director Steve Walker said that the availability of $29 million in bonding authority in 2017 allowed the City to “make commitments to two large-scale transit-oriented affordable housing developments at the Roosevelt light rail station and Northgate transit center…In total, the $29 million in bonding authority supports the creation of 300 affordable apartments that otherwise would not have been created.”

In addition to $29 million in bond financing this allocation utilizes the first year of funding from the 2016 voter-passed Seattle Housing Levy, funding from incentive zoning payments, and proceeds from the sale of surplus properties.  Leveraging additional local and federal resources, this will support more than $260 million in investments.

 


Fair Chance Housing

Back in 2012, Councilmembers Licata and O’Brien asked that the Office of Housing (OH) begin to address the barriers created when criminal background screenings are used to select tenants.  The Fair Chance Housing Taskforce was a 2015 Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) taskforce recommendation to increase access to rental housing for people with criminal records.

In February 2016, after announcement of the task force, several Councilmembers joined me in writing to then Mayor Murray about the Fair Chance Housing taskforce, available here.

In May 2017, my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee hosted its first conversation with members of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce.  Through the work of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce and the Office of Civil Rights the Fair Chance Housing legislation was proposed. The final Fair Chance Housing legislation, co-sponsored by myself and Council President Harrell passed unanimously by Full Council on August 14, 2017. This ordinance prevents landlords from screening applicants based on criminal convictions; arrests that did not lead to a conviction; convictions that have been expunged, vacated or sealed; juvenile records; or status of a juvenile tenant on the sex offender registry. The bill also prohibits the use of advertising language that categorically excludes people with arrests or conviction records. The legislation does not apply to people registered as sex offenders who committed their crime as an adult.

The legislation goes into effect in early 2018, allowing the City to implement a new Fair Housing Home Program to help property owners adjust their practices and learn how to implement practices to affirmatively further fair housing by reducing biases in tenant selection.

 


Short-term Rental

In December, the Council took its final vote to complete what was two years of deliberations addressing how Seattle should regulate and tax short-term rentals (STR) out of concern that, with a projected loss of 1,000-1,500 additional long-term units in the next three years, continued growth of multi-listing hosts would undermine Seattle’s long-term housing stock at a time when the market is tighter than ever. My primary goal was to return and maintain as many long-term rental units on the market as possible.

The bills cover each the taxing structure, land-use code, and regulatory structure related to short-term rentals.  CB 119083, pertains to how the City taxes short-term rentals.  CB 119082 addresses how short-term rentals are addressed in the land-use code.  CB 119081 addresses the regulatory structure.  Council will receive an implementation status report in June. The short-term rental regulations will not become effective until January 1, 2019.

 

PART 4 // LAND USE LATEST


MHA rezones

The Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program requires developers in urban villages to contribute to affordable housing by either building it onsite or paying into a City fund for Affordable Housing. The city plans to develop 6,000 affordable units with the implementation of the MHA program. This year the Full Council adopted MHA for each the University District,  Downtown & South Lake Union; 23rd and Union-Jackson Residential Urban Village, the Chinatown International District and Uptown.

You may recall that the broad principles of the MHA program were approved by the Council in the MHA framework legislation, in Fall 2016. This framework legislation laid out how all developers would newly be required to contribute to new affordable housing in all developments in exchange for additional zoning capacity.

I am concerned about the impact that displacement has on existing residents and neighborhoods. In February 2017 I sponsored, and the Council passed, Resolution 31733, to request an analysis of both physical and economic displacement as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in order to evaluate whether the proposed city-wide upzones would: (1) increase or decrease direct displacement due to demolition; and (2) either introduce or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace vulnerable populations. This resolution put the Council on record declaring its “intent to consider strategies to mitigate any loss of subsidized affordable units and naturally occurring affordable units resulting from an increase in development capacity.”  It also made very clear the kind of analysis that the Council expected as part of the of the Displacement Risk Analysis being done for the DEIS.  Because the DEIS was not fully responsive to Resolution 31733, in July 7, I sent a letter to Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), Director Sam Assefa requesting again that this analysis be completed.

The comment period on the DEIS was announced in June and was extended a couple weeks to respond to requests for additional time.  On November 9, 2017 the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was released.   On November 27, 2017 an appeal of the FEIS was filed.  This appeal adds a layer of uncertainty to the timing of future legislative action.  You can follow this issue on the city’s HALA webpage as well as signing up for Planning, Land Use and Zoning committee meeting agendas here.

 


Vacant Building Program

In August of this year, the Council passed legislation to improve maintenance and demolition standards of vacant buildings. The City has experienced a significant increase of complaints about vacant building; between 2013 and 2016 we saw an increase of 58%.  District 1 has the second highest amount of complaints between 2013 and 2016. You can see those here.

I worked to amend this legislation to require development of a Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Vacant building monitoring programs require property owners to register vacant and foreclosed properties. This allows the City to ensure they are maintained and secure and not a nuisance to the public.

The Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) will report in March of 2018 with proposal for an enhanced Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Such a proposal should: (1) establish triggering events for enrollment; (2) strengthen minimum standards for vacant buildings; (3) include a penalty structure for failure to comply; (4) minimize costs to owners when buildings are well maintained (5) allow owners of vacant buildings to have buildings occupied by caretakers.

 

PART 5 // ACCOUNTABILITY IN GOVERNMENT


Police Accountability Legislation

I support strong police oversight, and co-sponsored police accountability legislation to create, among other things, a new Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and making the Community Police Commission (CPC) a permanent body.

The function of the CPC is intrinsic to the success of police accountability reform in Seattle. The 2012 Consent Decree process was begun in 2010 when 34 community groups called on the US Department of Justice to investigate excessive use of force.  It is critical that the community retain a seat at the table.

I worked with the CPC to propose amendments to require 25% of CPC members on the search committees for future Directors of the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). Another amendment expanded the size of the CPC, in order to increase their ability to carry out police accountability work, now enshrined in city law.

Finally, I proposed an amendment to ensure that the CPC retains the authority that the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB), the OPA’s previous civilian review board, had to review closed case files. The OPARB emphasized the importance of this power in a 2014 letter. This kind of oversight power led to the discovery, for example, that SPD was doing criminal background checks on people making misconduct complaints (see 2003 annual report).

Thanks to SPD and Seattle’s police officers for their implementation of reform. The Seattle Police Officers Guild collaborated in the work of the CPC over the last several years, and helped inform their recommendations with practical experience. The Court-appointed federal monitor ruled in April that SPD had reached initial compliance with the use of force reforms.   The monitor will continue review the department for at least two years to ensure compliance.

 


Observer Bill of Rights

In May, the Council passed legislation I sponsored to establish an Observer Bill of Rights for people to observe and record police activity. The bill establishes that, by law, the public has the right to observe police activity. It states that officers may not use physical force to punish or retaliate against observers, and must seek to minimize harm to bystanders when using less lethal tools like pepper spray or tear gas. In addition, if a person brings a claim that the law was violated, the Office of Professional Accountability must be notified.

Observation has always been an important element of accountability.  Mothers for Police Accountability here in Seattle has, for decades, trained community observers to watch the actions of police in detaining suspects.  Most police interactions with the public are fair and professional, but the observation is one way to reduce the chances that people are treated unfairly in their interactions with police. And when people are not treated fairly, or force is used inappropriately, observation ensures there is a witness.

At a time when we have an increasing reliance on cameras that police officers wear or have in their cars, the police activity that the public observes is still important.  A Washington Post article from March noted that in a shooting in Albuquerque, the camera of the police officer who fired the shot wasn’t recording, three missed the crucial moment, and three were either blurred or contained no record.

 


Duwamish Greenbelt Tree Settlement

In April, City Attorney Holmes announced a settlement over the illegal 2016 tree cutting on City property in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt.

Two complaints were filed last fall, including for timber trespass, damage to land, negligence, environmentally critical areas violations, violations of the parks code, and violations of the city’s tree and vegetation management in public places code.

Two couples paid City $440,000 regarding one of the decimated areas. The City’s other suit regarding the other area is ongoing, and unaffected by this settlement.  The Parks and Recreation Department has used the settlement funds for remediation of the property.

Hopefully this settlement—60% higher per tree than the similar 2003 case in the Mount Baker neighborhood—will deter future rogue clearcutting. Those with financial means can’t count on small settlements to pave the way towards increased views and property values. Trees in our greenbelts are precious resources that maintain soil stability, lessen the risk of landslides, and maintain air quality by absorbing carbon. We must protect them.

 


Socially Responsible Banking Legislation/Fair Business Practices

In February, the Council voted to adopt Fair Business Practices for contracting, including banking.  To give local, in-state banks a better chance to compete for the City’s banking services, I sponsored an amendment increasing from 15% to 20% the amount used in scoring for socially responsible banking and fair business practices.

The City manages nearly $4 billion annually; during 2016 the average daily balance in the City’s account with Wells Fargo was approximately $56 million. Integrating social responsibility with the City’s banking needs, and relevant state law, is challenging. State law limits the use of credit unions to $250,000, which means the City can’t use them for general-purpose banking.

My staff researched which banks are eligible for the City’s banking services under state law. Of the 63 banks are registered with the state, it appears only between 8 and 11 banks are eligible, depending on whether the minimum threshold for managing City deposits is set at $450 million, or $300 million. Between 4 and 7 of those banks are in-state.

Bank of America and US Bank, as well as Wells Fargo, all received significant fines from the Department of Justice for mortgage fraud. This points to the challenges we face in selecting a City bank in alignment with the City’s values.

The City will re-bid its banking services. The contract proposals include smaller chunks, to increase the likelihood of smaller banks being able to apply.

PART 6 // ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND EQUITY FOR A BETTER SEATTLE


OLS Funding

The Office of Labor Standards (OLS) is responsible for administering and enforcing six local labor laws: $15 Minimum Wage, Paid Sick and Safe Time, Fair Chance Employment, Wage Theft, Secure Scheduling, and the Hotel Employees Health and Safety Imitative.

The work of the OLS is vital to employer and worker education. A University of Washington study from April 2016, found that 72 percent of workers, including 91 percent of immigrant workers, did not know about or had only a vague understanding of their rights to a minimum wage. Outreach to workers is crucial for employees and employers alike because when all employees know their rights, businesses who do not adhere to our laws do not have an unfair business advantage over those good employers that adhere to our labor standards.

Early this year the Council passed a bill that I co-sponsored to ensure that the OLS would have a dedicated fund to support the operations and activates of the office. This revenue supports enforcement activities, including the investigation of complaints and directed investigations, as well as the education and outreach to employers and employees.

 


Priority Hire

Two and a half years ago, the City adopted Priority Hire. The program works to maximize the City’s investment in public infrastructure by helping local residents secure employment opportunities on City funded public works project contracts totaling $5 million or more.

Specifically, Priority Hire requires a minimum percentage of works being local residents from economically disadvantaged zip codes, and sets a minimum requirement for apprenticeship utilization from pre-apprenticeship programs. These requirements improve opportunities for un/underemployed workers and gives them access to living-wage careers.

In July of this year, my Civil Rights, Economic Development, and Arts Committee took up recommendations from the City Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), and another report from the Priority Hire Advisory Committee. The Council voted to approve legislation I sponsored to a. increase hiring through the Priority Hire hiring process and b. improve participation by open-shop and Women and Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE) contractors.

 


Legacy Business Program

You might remember that in the 2017 budget I sponsored a budget initiative to include funding for the Office of Economic Development (OED) to conduct a legacy business study.  In September of this year the Legacy Business Study was published and included several recommendations on how Seattle could further support this work, including:

  1. Refine or expand existing OED programs to better support legacy businesses.
  2. Create new business assistance specifically targeted towards legacy businesses.
  3. Work to create a comprehensive legacy program.

In continuing to move forward this important work, I made sure that the 2018 budget contains funding to develop and implement a new Legacy Business Designation Program and support for business entrepreneurs who are women and people of color.

 


UDP Expansion

In October 2016, a constituent let my office know that Medicare Part B premiums were being included as a source of income towards qualification to the Utility Discount Program (UDP).  The UDP is a City program for low-income customers and offers a 60% discount on your Seattle City Light (SCL) bill, and a 50% discount on your Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) bill for eligible customers.  The result of including Medicare Part B premiums as a source of income is that people who should have access to the UDP were being deemed ineligible.

Medicare Part B premiums are automatically withdrawn from Social Security and Social Security Disability income checks; residents never even see the funds.

I worked with both utilities and the Mayor’s Office to remove the requirement to count Medicare Part B premiums as income. Both utilities implemented the new rules on June 1, 2017.  SPU estimated that the change added an additional 1,1015 households to the UDP.

 


Eliminating the Subminimum Wage

In July, 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. The Commission for People with DisAbilities (PwD) voted unanimously, in June, to end this exemption.

After conducting a review of Seattle’s policy, the PwD held a public comment session to hear from the community and organizations. Additionally, they reached out to all the businesses that currently utilize the subminimum wage. The PwD Commission received no comment opposing the elimination of the subminimum wage certificates.

All subminimum wage certificates which the Director had previously signed will laps at the end of 2017. The Council will codify this decision in 2018.

 


Fixing Our Broken Tax Structure

Washington State has the most regressive tax structure in the nation. People earning $20,000 a year devote two months of pay to their yearly tax bill, while the 1% pay their entire annual tax bill in only 6 days. Economist Dick Conway reports that across five different measures – fairness, transparency, adequacy, stability, and economic vitality – Washington State’s tax structure is the worst of all the states in the nation.

Besides placing a greater burden on those least able to afford it, and straining the middle class, the dependence on property taxes makes it harder for fixed-income seniors to remain in their homes.   We need a fairer tax system. To address this, I co-sponsored legislation for a tax on high incomes.

The tax of 2.25% is on only the income of Seattle residents over $250,000 for single filers, or income above $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. For a single filer with income of $300,000, only the $50,000 over $250,000 would be taxed, for a total of $1125, or 0.038 percent of their total income.

The legislation was designed to minimize the cost of implementation and reporting. Residents with qualifying incomes will file their income as listed on line 22 on IRS form 1040; early estimates indicate it would raise approximately $140 million from about 11,000 tax payers.

An earlier resolution noted that legal viability would be the primary consideration in developing the tax structure.  The legislation is currently under legal challenge.

The tax revenue will be used to: (1) lower the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes, including the business and occupation tax; (2) replace funding lost through federal cuts or respond to changes in federal policy; (3) provide services, including housing, education, and transit; (4) create green jobs and meeting carbon reduction goals; and (5) and implement the tax.

I proposed, and the Council passed, a follow-up budget measure requiring a report by the City Budget Office on use of potential revenues, including future consideration of reduction or elimination of property tax levies.

 

PART 7 // ARTS MATTERS


Why Art Matters

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

In response, the Office of Arts and Culture, KUOW, and I co-hosted a forum in April, Why Does Art Matter, to bring awareness to this issue, and to call on federal representatives in Congress to not pursue this path.

The NEA supports numerous local arts groups, both large and small. One such group is the Creative Advantage arts education program in Seattle Public Schools, which has programs in District 1 schools such as Arbor Heights Elementary, Concord International Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Roxhill Elementary, Sanislo Elementary, West Seattle Elementary, Louise Boren STEM K-8, Denny International Middle School, and Chief Sealth International High School.

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 have eliminated federal funding for these agencies, and brings up questions about how to continue this important work. Thankfully, Congress acted to not cut this funding.

 


Cultural Arts Spaces

Along with the crisis in affordability in housing, we have a crisis on maintaining arts and cultural spaces in Seattle. The Office of Arts and Culture released the CAP report: 30 ideas for the Creation, Activation & Preservation of Cultural Space.  When the report was released, I requested an implementation plan.

Through the budget process, I secured funding to incentivize cultural uses in older buildings, where three-quarters of cultural spaces in Seattle are located, and space tends to be less expensive.

Secondly, I secured funding for a half-time liaison between The Office of Arts and Culture and the Department of Construction and Inspections to support nonprofit cultural organizations in the permitting process.

Finally, a budget action requires a report on creating a cultural spaces public development authority, to lease, develop, and purchase real estate to maintain cultural uses.

 


Sound Transit Busker Program

Last year I asked Sound Transit to allow buskers to perform at stations, similar to the successful program at Sea-Tac Airport, and to work with the Seattle Music Commission to establish this program.

They established a six-month pilot program at the Capitol Hill and University of Washington stations, and a performance policy, and followed up with a survey of transit riders and street performers, and researched other cities such as New York, Vancouver and the Bay Area.

In September, Sound Transit expanded the program, adding Beacon Hill, Columbia City, Othello, Tukwila International Boulevard and Angle Lake.   Approved performance sites are designated by a silver star, to prevent performers and audiences from blocking station traffic. Performer guidelines and photos of silver star locations are linked here.

Prior to the program, Sound Transit didn’t allow street musicians to perform at light rail facilities; thanks to Sound Transit for supporting buskers!

 


Film in Seattle

During the budget process, I secured funding from admissions tax revenues for the Office of Economic Development’s Office of Film and Music (OFM) to support advancement of the film and media production sector during 2018. This is a core economic development funding of the office. However, due to management of the City’s Special Events program moving from Parks to this OFM, they have been able to carry out only a small amount of this work.

 

PART 8 // BUDGET WRAP UP – D1 SPOTLIGHT

In November, the Council adopted the 2018 City budget, and 2018-2023 Capital Improvement Plan.

As Chair of the Budget Committee, I assembled a final balancing package.  Together, my Council colleagues and I passed several important amendments to the city budget that will meaningfully impact the lives of everyday people in Seattle, all while maintaining current service levels.

In addition to items mentioned elsewhere, here are a few of the highlights; a longer description is here.

  • Hiring more police officers: the budget adds 35 additional police officers positions, to stay on track to hire 200 additional officers by early 2020
  • Funding to implement police accountability legislation; the Council added two and a half positions and contracting funding for the Community Police Commission, and two positions for the Office of Police Accountability.

District 1

  • Expand the Ready to Work project into District 1:  There are unique challenges facing immigrants and refugees living in SW Seattle. The Ready to Work model is designed to support English learners with an intensive centralized and neighborhood based support.  The Ready to Work expansion is slated to open in April of 2018.
  • Funding to plan and design a walkable, bikeable path uniting the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods to enhance walkability between Georgetown and South Park’s historic “Main Streets” and connect the heart of the Duwamish Valley.
  • Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD): expansion of LEAD to North Precinct, and to begin taking referrals from the Southwest Precinct.
  • Addition of $1 million for participatory budgeting which, in 2017, funded projects in, Delridge, Westwood/Highland Park, High Point and South Park.
  • Vacant Building Monitoring Program Funding (written about above re: District 1 having the second highest number of complaints).

 

PART 9 // CONSTITUENT CONTACTS

This year I hosted in-district office hours on nine separate occasions. There are three locations that I rotate between to help make it easier for constituents to meet with me in their own neighborhood. These nine meetings constituted a total of 43 hours where I met with 111 constituents. Issues ranged from traffic and sidewalk issues, to zoning and housing issues. Multiple groups utilized this time to connect with me about specific issues their organization or neighborhoods were facing.

In-District Office hours will continue again in 2018; please keep an eye out for my emails and on the blog to know when I will be in your neighborhood.

This year we received thousands of emails from constituents all over the city. By our rough count, we received and responded to nearly 7,000 individual emails on topics ranging from transportation, land use, utility, parks, and public safety, and other issues.  Next year we will have a better ability to report on the number emails received according to topic, as well as the average time taken to respond.

This number does not include emails received and responded to where the Council was the subject of an organized email campaign.  When we receive hundreds of emails on the same topic, we note every issue raised in each piece of correspondence, and then craft a reply that was responsive to all issues raised.  While some folks express disappointment upon receiving an “auto-reply” to these, I hope to assure everyone that my staff and I read all of the correspondence I receive and I take the perspective and opinions expressed into account when a reply is carefully crafted.

This Week in the Budget; City Auditor Report on City Finances; Disability Rights Fairness Hearing; Domestic Violence Awareness Month


This Week in the Budget

The City Council’s Budget Committee will hold a second public hearing on the 2018 budget on November 1 at City Hall. In addition, there will be hearings on the Seattle Asian Art Museum Renovation, and the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Central Waterfront Piers Rehabilitation Projects, as required by law.

The hearings begin at 5:30 p.m.; sign-up begins at 4:30 p.m. More information about the hearings, and accessibility at City Hall, is available here.

The Council met as the Budget Committee this week to consider 143 different proposals developed by Councilmembers to amend the Mayor’s Proposed 2018 budget. Here are links to the meeting agendas for Tuesday and Wednesday, which include links to a total of 143 individual proposals.

The other Budget Committee meeting next week will be on October 31, for the presentation of the Chair’s Initial Balancing Package; as Chair of the Budget Committee that’s my responsibility. The proposal must be balanced.

Councilmembers can then propose changes the following week, at meetings scheduled for November 7 and 8. More information about the budget process is described here.

Here’s a link to the Budget Committee schedule, and a summary of the Council’s budget process. The Mayor’s Proposed 2018 Budget and 2018-2023 Capital Improvements Program can be accessed at the City Budget Office webpage. The Council’s budget website includes a searchable Budget Document Database for Council budget documents dating back to 2009.  The database includes both issue papers and specific Councilmember proposals.

You can find Budget Committee agendas here; you can sign up to receive e-mails with meeting agendas here.

 


City Auditor Report on City Finances, 2012-2016

The Seattle City Auditor released a report on the City’s budget and finances over the last four years, titled City of Seattle Financial Condition 2012-2016.

It’s a comprehensive analysis of the City’s finances, based on the eight financial and economic indicators: 1) revenues and expenses; 2) debt; 3) pension liabilities; 4) capital assets; 5) financial and operating position; 6) city budget trends; 7) city wide employment, and 8) economic and demographic information.

The report has several informative charts, including a comparison of the per capita impact—a useful measurement, given that Seattle’s population increased by 11% from 2012 to 2016, from 616,000 to 686,000.

The audit was mandated by Council legislation passed in 2016, along with a follow up report scheduled for September, 2018, and every two years after that. These requirements are enshrined in the Seattle Municipal Code, section 3.40.060

The report notes,

“A city in good financial condition can meet its financial obligations on a continuing basis. It can maintain existing service levels, withstand economic disruptions, and respond to growth, decline, and change. A financially healthy government collects sufficient revenues to pay short-term bills, finance major capital expenditures, and meet long- term obligations without transferring disproportionate costs to future periods.”

“Overall, the City of Seattle financial and economic indicators we present in this report are positive.”

Below are some of the key points in the eight report areas. Figures below are adjusted for inflation, unless indicated otherwise.

Revenues: revenues were up 20% since 2012, or only 8% per capita (just barely above the rate of inflation) over the entire 5-year period; part of this reflects the increase in the size of voter-approved levies. This is a good illustration of the statement that revenues do not keep up with inflation or the increased costs of providing city services.  The City’s limited revenue sources include property taxes, sales tax, business taxes and various charges. Public safety is the largest general expense, at $577 million. The City receives 29% of the total property tax levy; the rest goes to other state and local governments.

Debt: The City’s general purpose debt has decreased since 2012, with debt service covered by the City’s general fund down 20% (not adjusted for inflation). The amount of voted debt increased, due to the $290 million seawall bond. The City’s debt polices adopted in 2014 set a goal of retaining the highest practical credit rating; the City has consistently maintained high bond ratings. Revenue bonds are paid for with specific revenues (e.g. City Light and Seattle Public Utilities rates), and cannot be used for general purposes. The City does not have any lines of credit for short-term debt.

Pension liabilities: The City’s pension fund has had a deficit; in 2013, the Council set a 30-year amortization plan to reach full funding. During the four years since 2013, the funding ratio has increased by 4.6% to a total of 68%. The audit notes many experts recommend at least 80%. The City also created a second track for pension plan designed to help close this gap over time.

Capital assets: Eight city departments manage most of the City’s capital assets. The highest are City Light and SDOT, with assets with a replacement value of $20 billion, with an overall total estimate of $46 billion. Over the last 14 years, Seattle voters have approved seven levies to support the City’s capital assets. How departments fund capital assets vary. For SDOT, funding is mostly through levies and grants. Parks relies on the Seattle Parks District. The report notes the Real Estate Excise Tax is used for various departments including SDOT and Parks.

Financial and operating position: the report notes the City has fully funded reserve accounts. The “Rainy Day Fund” had $47 million (it now has $54 million), designed to cover activities in the event of revenue shortfalls; the Emergency Subfund, for unplanned expenses, has $60 million. Both of these funds are near or at their maximum allowed funding levels.  Liquidity, or the ability to pay short-term bills, is measured by the ratio of current assets to currents liabilities. A low ratio, below $1 of assets for $1 of liabilities, can indicate a cash flow problem or the need for short-term borrowing. The City’s liquidity ratio has been healthy during this period, at $2.37 in 2016.

City budget trends: The total value of the City’s Capital Improvement program increased 41% between 2008 and 2017, with SDOT having the largest increase (largely due to work on major projects such as the Mercer Corridor, and Spokane Street Viaduct). For operations, some departments, such as the Seattle Police Department, are funded entirely from the General Fund. Other departments have their own revenue sources (the Human Services Department receives significant grants, Parks has some concessions revenue). This section has interesting tables showing the operating budgets from 2008 to 2017 for the 10 largest City departments. Adjusted for inflation, SPD’s budget has increased 27%.

Citywide employment: City employment grew 9% from the end of 2007 to the end of 2016. SDP’s number of positions went up 14%.

Economic and demographic information: As noted earlier, Seattle’s population increased 11% from 2012 to 2016. 54% of jobs in Seattle were in the service sector. The total value of all assessed property in Seattle increased 59% from $117 billion in 2011 to $186 billion in 2016.

 


Disability Rights Fairness Hearing for Lawsuit, November 1, 10 a.m.

Earlier this year the City reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed by Disability Rights Washington, committing to installing thousands of curb ramps throughout Seattle, to improve access for disabled persons. A proposed consent decree sets out commitments.

The final step in the process is a fairness hearing, scheduled for November 1, 10 a.m. in Courtroom 16106 of US District Court at 700 Stewart Street. At this hearing members of the affected class, disabled persons, can speak to the settlement agreement’s fairness and adequacy.

You can contact curbramps@creeclaw.org if you’d like to comment.

Here’s the SDOT ADA webpage where you can make a request for a curb ramp, or report bad or missing ramps.

 


The Seattle Women’s Commission Recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is domestic violence awareness month.  According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence affects more than 12 million people in the United States each year. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an opportunity for us to learn more about an issue that touches so many people’s lives.  I want to recognize the local leadership of the Seattle Women’s Commission in highlighting the importance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and lifting up the on-going partnership and leadership of the following organizations:

  • Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services
  • API Chaya
  • Asian Counseling and Referral Services
  • Aurora Commons
  • Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence
  • Consejo Counseling and Referral Service
  • Eastside Legal Assistance Program
  • Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress
  • InterIm CDA
  • Jewish Family Services
  • King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
  • King County Sexual Assault Resource Center
  • NAVOS
  • New Beginnings
  • Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
  • Northwest Justice Project
  • Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse
  • Organization for Prostitution Survivors
  • Powerful Voices
  • Refugee Women’s Alliance
  • Salvation Army
  • Seattle City Attorney’s Office
  • Seattle Indian Health Board
  • Seattle Municipal Court
  • Seattle Police Department
  • Wellspring
  • YouthCare
  • YWCA

Happy 2017! And a Look Back on Progress in 2016

Housing Issues

Source of Income Discrimination (SOID) Law

SOID is important new comprehensive tenants’ rights legislation, enacting one of the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) recommendations.  The final bill created a new protected class for people with alternative sources of income, created a new “first in time” requirement to make the housing application process more objective, require that rent assistance be accepted to cure eviction actions, and banned “preferred employer” programs, the sweetheart deals for renters employed by certain employers.

The Council will monitor this legislation and evaluate its impacts. The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR)  is responsible for enforcing this legislation. SOCR worked with stakeholders including Rental Housing Association of Washington, Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, Urban League, Solid Ground, Tenants Union of Washington and facilitated two community public meetings to draft the Administrative Rules.

HUD guidance for housing

Resolution 31669 provides landlords with information about their obligations under the Fair Housing Act to consider as tenants, people with arrests or criminal records, who have been cleared of a crime or served their time. The resolution clarifies HUD’s guidance to property owners helps people seeking housing, and protects landlords from fair housing complaints and lawsuits. Categorical bans on all people with criminal records actually increase recidivism and make communities less safe.

As Efrem McGaughey, a formerly incarcerated individual and member of the Tenants Union of Washington State, said, “By affording formerly incarcerated people who are working to change their lives a chance to find housing without facing prejudice, we are strengthening our community as a whole. The long-term results will increase contributing members to our society, more filled apartments for property owners, and more stability for people who have faced oppression and homelessness.”

This is an important first step in establishing clear screening rules for Seattle landlords. It’s important that all housing providers understand HUD’s advice.

MHA-R Legislation

The Mandatory Housing Affordability/Residential (MHA/R) Program requires all residential developers to contribute affordable housing by including it in their development or paying into an affordable housing fund. The requirements will apply only after Council adopts future zoning changes, scheduled for Council consideration in 2017 and 2018.

In the legislation, there is a requirement that a displacement risk analysis approximate the number of existing affordable housing units demolished as a result of future upzones. This lays the groundwork to ensure that the mandatory affordability requirement for developers will be adjusted higher over the entire area being up-zoned commensurate with the number of units likely to be demolished.

For the last 30 years, housing advocates have been trying to get the need for housing displacement mitigation recognized. Councilmembers O’Brien and Licata were the first to encourage the city in 2014 to study how development left unregulated without some level of mitigation can impact vulnerable communities.

Between 2005 and 2015 the city permitted the demolition of almost 6,000 units of housing. We don’t for sure know how many of these units were affordable rentals and to be clear, no legislation can stop housing demolition entirely. The May 2015 preliminary Growth and Equity report stated, “If unmitigated, new market-rate development in high-displacement risk areas is likely to lead to displacement of marginalized populations.”

Housing Levy

Since 1986 affordable housing levies in Seattle have helped many households access and maintain their affordable housing. The voters supported the recommendationsof theHousing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Committee, the Mayor, and the Council in voting to pass the renewal of the housing levy, in the amount of $290 million over the next 7 years. The levy directs spending for: Rental Production and Preservation of 2,150 affordable apartments; Operating and maintenance of 350 affordable apartments; Homelessness prevention for 4,500 families; and Homeownership funds to assist 380 low-income homeowners.

Affordability is a major issue for many District 1 residents as well as residents throughout the City. The average price for a 1 bedroom ranges between $1500 and $1700 per month making it difficult for a household earning less $53,000 per year to find an affordable dwelling unit. I believe a truly comprehensive affordable housing strategy must include new programs to preserve existing affordable housing.

The Council voted to pass my amendments to the Housing Levy ordinance including:

  1. Supporting a new housing preservation program aimed at acquiring multi-family rental buildings at risk of sale and redevelopment to preserve these buildings for long-term affordable rental housing or converted to permanently affordable homeownership units,
  2. Increasing support for land trust models to increase affordability in condominiums, and single family dwellings, as well as tenant ownership models for rental property,
  3. Increasing housing options for LGBTQ seniors. Across every Census division in the U.S. Seattle has the least developed services for LGBTQ older adults and their families. Unlike most large cities, we are also running behind on developing housing for LGBTQ seniors.

 

Budget Issues

2017-2018 City Budget

In November the City Council adopted the 2017 City of Seattle budget and 2017-2022 Capital Improvement Plan, and “endorsed” a 2018 budget that will serve as the base for next year’s budget process. Below are a few of the items I worked on.

The Council adopted my District 1 budget proposals as follows:

    • West Seattle Bridge studies – This will continue work begun by former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, adding $100,000 to carry out the evaluations called for in the West Seattle Bridge/Duwamish Corridor Whitepaper to improve safety, incident management, and traffic flow on the West Seattle Bridge.
    • South Park Family Service Center – This funding will support health and human services, a leadership program, and an education program in South Park.
    • T-5 Quiet Zone – A statement of Legislative Intent for SDOT supporting work with the Port of Seattle, the Federal Railway Administration, and the railway companies doing business at Terminal 5, to extend the quiet zone from Terminal 5 to the Delridge Way/W Marginal Way intersection.
    • A task force on South Park Public Safety – Supporting recommendations regarding the public safety and vitality of that neighborhood; I co-sponsored this with Councilmember González, who chairs the committee for public safety issues.
    • Fauntleroy Boulevard Project (described in its own section of this newsletter)

$29 million Housing Bond

The Budget Committee approved my proposal to create a $29 million housing bond intended to expand financing for affordable housing in Seattle for 2017.  With a vote in favor of this proposal, the Council signaled our desire to prioritize housing in the budget process, and without pitting Seattle’s housing needs against other citywide priorities. We are in a homelessness state of emergency.  We need to build today to meet the need.  Building today is less expensive than building at future costs, and these funds will continue to benefit the community for the entire period of the bond payment under their 50+ year requirement to be maintained as affordable.

I also sponsored the creation of a Child Care Mitigation Fund, to address the displacement of before-and-after school child care from Seattle School District buildings. The funding would be available for use by the District and child care providers to make arrangements to keep child care on-site at schools or assist in relocating where providers would otherwise be displaced.

Another item I sponsored is an Economic Development Issue – Seattle Legacy Business study funding, for a study to determine the scope and definition of a Seattle Legacy Business program to preserve businesses that contribute to the City’s unique culture and character and are at risk of being lost.

Additional budget information is in the Police and Pronto sections.

A summary of my other budget actions is linked here; here’s a link to the summary of all the changes the Council made; the lead sponsor is listed at the end, though many of the proposals had additional co-sponsors. There are many others for which I was listed as a supporting sponsor.

 

Business Issues

Seattle Legacy Business Project

Seattle is known for its unique neighborhoods, each home to a thriving landscape of locally-owned businesses that occupy an essential role in the stories and rituals that define the city. In my first week as a Councilmember, a District 1 resident brought me the idea of a Seattle Legacy Business Program, modeled after a successful San Francisco effort.  Since I chair the committee with oversight of economic development issues, I was inspired by the effort.

I worked with the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Seattle, and 4 Culture to survey community members to identify our most important business establishments; identify elements that contribute to the culture, character, and history of Seattle; and establish tools to protect them. The Mayor’s Commercial Affordability Committeerecommendations supported the conclusion that more work was necessary to determine how a Seattle legacy business might function. During the 2017-18 City budget process, I secured funding to determine the scope and definition of a new Seattle Legacy Business Project.

 

Accountability Issues

East Admiral Tree Cutting

In March we found out over 150 trees had been illegally removed from Parks and SDOT property in the East Admiral neighborhood, west of SW Admiral Way up the hill from the West Seattle Bridge, on a steep slope in a potential landslide zone. This is a public safety threat: SW Admiral Way is a major arterial with 25,000 trips per day.  The City Attorney’s Office and the Seattle Police Department began an investigation. I noted that the sanctions must be significant enough to deter this kind of activity in the future. Penalties need to be strong enough so that those with financial means don’t see illegal tree cutting as a cost-effective way to increase their views and property values.

Trees play a significant role in maintaining soil stability in an environmentally critical area by absorbing water, thus lessening the risk of landslides onto a major arterial. Further, trees maintain air quality by absorbing carbon —an important issue in West Seattle and South Park, which sit adjacent to SODO and the Duwamish industrial area.

In September the City Attorney filed two civil lawsuits for $1.6 million in total damages and fines over the unauthorized cutting of 150 trees on public land in West Seattle. I thanked the City Attorney’s Office for filing two civil lawsuits, and their considerations of the use of a full range of the legal remedies available for civil suits, including timber trespass, which allows for triple damages.

The legal case is ongoing, as is the Seattle Police Department’s criminal investigation.

New Customer Information System (NCIS)

The New Customer Information System (NCIS) is a joint Seattle City Light (SCL) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) project which replaced the existing SCL and SPU billing system. The old system supported billing and customer processes for both utilities, but failed to meet current business practices.

In March we learned that the NCIS project was over-budget and off-schedule.  The Council learned that the project budget had increased to $108 million and, whereas the original delivery date was October 2015, the project wasn’t estimated to go-live until the fall of 2016.

Over Labor Day weekend SPU and SCL worked overtime to roll out the new billing system. You may have seen some of the reports regarding privacy issues that were revealed as part of that roll out. However, those were quickly handled by SPU and SCL who took the system offline to ensure customer privacy was maintained. The early wrinkles seem to have been ironed out and the system is working as intended now.

 

Community Safety Issues

Bias Crimes/Hate Crimes Audit

On June 1st Seattle proclaimed June LGBTQ Pride Month. The Council and Mayor recognized that the fight for equality is not over and we must continue to lead the nation in establishing policies to prevent discrimination.

In June, LGBTQ Pride Month in Seattle, the horrible Orlando tragedy took place, as well as a brutal attack on a local LGBTQ leader. The Seattle Times noted, “in 2015, 72 hate crimes and incidents against LGBTQ people were reported to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) — double the number from the previous year.  The number of such crimes against blacks — 67 — more than doubled. There were a total of 208 hate crimes and incidents reported in 2015, up from 126 in 2014.”

Some question whether patterns of gentrification are related to this increase in hate crimes, given the decline in the LGBT population in Capitol Hill, and the reduction in the number of African-Americans in the Central District.

I have worked with the City Auditor to investigate the reporting of hate and bias crimes in Seattle, to determine whether we analyze bias crimes reporting data for trends that eventually influence resource allocation, and whether crimes are investigated and prosecuted as bias crimes. The City Auditor will be carrying out this work in 2017. Given the current national political environment, where we have seen a surge of hate crimes in the wake of the 2016 elections, this work is even more important.

In December I sponsored a resolution noting, “The City Council and Mayor resolve to implement measures to make it easier for people to report incidents of bias-motivated threats, harassment, and violence, such as dedicated hotlines, greater publicity for the Seattle Police Department’s Malicious Harassment/Bias Crimes website, and support to community-based organizations that support the safety of marginalized communities.”

Beach Drive Speed Bumps

I worked to assist residents on Beach Drive SW to address the high incidence of drag racing (see video) and driving that is dangerous to public safety. The racing had been happening in the portion of Beach Drive SW that extends south from the lighthouse. The neighbors had requested the installation of speed bumps in 2015. Earlier this year community members began the process of applying for funds through the Neighborhood Parks and Street Fund. I requested that SDOT consider traffic calming measures to address the drag racing.

SDOT agreed to install three speed bumps, and they were installed in September.

Police Officer Hiring, 911 response times, CSOs

During 2016, the Council voted to add 114 new police officer positions. As representative of District 1 since the start of 2016, I have heard consistent, strong support for hiring additional police officers from both businesses and residents.

I support hiring additional officers: we need additional officers to address 911 response times, to enhance patrol operations, and for proactive policing, all of which are important to a comprehensive public safety approach.

During the City’s 2017-2018 budget, I voted to approve the addition of 72 new officer positions. Earlier this year, in August, I voted to add 42 officers, and fund them through additional use of the City’s General Fund. The first 100 new officer positions were funded without any new tax resources.

In addition, I co-sponsored the re-establishment of a Community Service Officer program with SPD. Community Service officers (CSOs) are unsworn officers who are able to prioritize community services associated with law enforcement, such as crime prevention; CSOs can also help free up SPD officers for 911 response.

I requested data from SPD regarding 911 beat response times in District 1 from 2011-2015; they are listed here. I noted “It’s very concerning to me that the 911 response time to Alki is 12 and a half minutes, a clear outlier from our standards in other SPD beats.”

The 2017-8 budget also increases the number of staff to take 911 calls, which have increased by 13% since 2010, and over 40% for Priority 1 life/safety 911 calls. This will help prevent wait times for people who call 911.

Early in 2017 the City Council will be considering comprehensive police accountability legislation as part of the 2012 Consent Decree with the US Department of Justice to reform policing in Seattle. A federal judge is overseeing this reform process.

 

Transportation Issues

Pronto

In 2015, before I took office, a previous Council set aside $5 million to expand the Pronto bike sharing system, but required that SDOT provide an implementation plan and financial analysis and bring both back to the Council.

Early in 2016 the Council received a proposal to: purchase the Pronto bike-share program for $1.4 million, pay off Pronto’s $1.275 million loan from KeyBank, and plan to expand bike sharing in 2017, which could result in an expansion of Pronto, or an entirely different bike share system.

I didn’t support this purchase, and voted “no.” I favored allowing for a private-sector funded system along the lines of the Car2Go car-sharing business.  Car2Go provides a service many use (myself included), at no public cost.

The legislation passed 7-2. I proposed amendments to redirect the $5 million toward fulfilling the existing Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans, and allow for a private bike share system, without public costs, as in New York. The amendment failed.

The City purchased Pronto, but ridership is low. The Mayor’s proposed 2017-2018 budget included funding to continue operating the Pronto system. I proposed a passing amendment to remove that funding.

The City received no bids to expand the Pronto system, not even from the company that operated it. The bids for a new system are for electric-assist bikes. A proposal from SDOT is expected in early 2017.  While a new system may not include an operating subsidy, I remain concerned about the cost of replacing equipment with a rapidly evolving technology.

Fauntleroy Boulevard Project

Shortly after taking office this year, community advocates expressed interest in making changes to the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project, to support it as a visual gateway to West Seattle. In response, I organized meetings between community advocates and SDOT and City Light.

At our request, City Light and SDOT provided cost estimates for undergrounding utility wires, which showed a funding gap of $4-5 million; a subsequent meeting revealed additional potential costs for a total gap of at least $5-7 million.

Community advocates proposed a compromise solution involving design modifications for beautification, consolidation and standardization of utility poles, to provide a better overall appearance, in keeping with the aim to create a gateway entrance. The departments agreed.

Upon my request to Mayor Murray, during the budget process City Light revised the project to specifically include $1.5 million for the street light improvements and utility pole relocations that were recommended by community members.

Improvements to Fauntleroy have long been a priority for the community, and were first prioritized in the 1999 West Seattle Junction Hub Neighborhood Plan, and later in the West Seattle Triangle planning process.

SDOT is now working on final design, with construction targeted for late 2017. You can sign up for the project email list for updates here, and contact the SDOT project team at fauntleroyblvd@seattle.gov.

 

Land Use Issues

SODO Arena Street Vacation

Earlier this year the Council considered a “street vacation” to remove a city street for a potential arena in the SODO neighborhood. Under city policy, street vacations are judged by whether they 1) protect the functions of the street right-of way; 2) have any adverse land use impacts, and 3) whether there will be public benefits sufficient to offset the loss of the street.

I heard some support from constituents in District 1, but heard widespread concern from a significantly greater number of West Seattle and South Park residents about access to Downtown. Many in West Seattle feel they already shoulder the greatest share of our City’s burden for professional sports facilities. District 1 is separated from Downtown by SODO, and the stadiums; as the West Seattle Transportation Coalition noted, there’s been a 45% reduction in north/south vehicle lanes over the last 7 years through SODO.

In the end, it seemed the one possible public benefit to meet the requirements of city policy for street vacations was an NBA team. I offered an amendment to require the ArenaCo group obtain ownership rights to an NBA team before the street vacation was granted; it didn’t pass.

My “no” vote was also decided in favor of protecting industrial and maritime jobs that we have now so that we can maintain the diversified economy that has kept our region strong in good economic times as well as the downturns.  Further, the legitimate traffic concerns of commuters and small business owners in West Seattle and South Park played prominently in my decision.

A recent Puget Sound Business Journal article revealed that the operator of Terminal 46 signed a 2012 lease extension only on the condition that they could walk away if business was disrupted by a SODO arena—so the potential loss of jobs appears real.

Since the vote, Mayor Murray has indicated he will issue a request for proposals to re-develop KeyArena at Seattle Center. SODO arena proponents have announced they will re-submit an application for a street vacation.

 

Equity Issues

Secure Scheduling

There are many workers who aren’t on a set schedule – they work in retail, restaurants, and service industry jobs. They often don’t get their schedule until a day or two before they start work for that week – other times they’re on-call and cannot predict when they will be required by their employer to pick up a shift. In a city where affordability is such a challenge that many people need to work two jobs, others juggle childcare responsibilities, or are attending school in order to get a better job, not having advance notice of a schedule can mean forgoing other income earning opportunities.

This isn’t just a workers’ rights issue, it’s a gender and racial equity issue. Check out the op-ed that Councilmembers Gonzalez, Juarez, and I wrote in February.

In March we began a process with the Mayor’s Office of convening stakeholders, they regularly met to discuss individual aspects of the legislation and reported out to my Committee after each of their meetings. In total we had 10 committee meetings and discussed: employer coverage, advance notice of schedules, predictability pay, right to request, right to rest, and access to hours.

On September 19 the Secure Scheduling bill unanimously passed the Full Council and will go into effect on July 1, 2017.

You can read more about the ordinance herehere and in the graphic below.

Green Pathways

In March I hosted a Lunch & Learn with Got Green. Got Green’s Young Leaders in the Green Movement stepped up and spoke out to call on the City Council to support the creation of internships:

    • that are good for the environment and our communities.
    • that have a racial equity lens in their outreach and ways to retain participants.
    • and that have systems in place to help young adults move into career pathways.

The result of the Lunch & Learn was the Green Pathways Resolution that I worked with and developed in consultation with Got Green and Councilmember O’Brien. It calls for a green jobs strategy. “A green job is one that preserves or enhances environmental health as well as the economic and social well-being of people and communities, centers communities most negatively impacted by climate change, and pays a living wage while providing career pathways.”

The Resolution also requests a green job inventory of internships, apprenticeships, and entry-level jobs offered by the City of Seattle and an outreach and engagement strategy to advance green jobs as a part of the ongoing work to advance careers in the private sector. In Seattle, youth unemployment still tops 13 percent, which disproportionately impacts young people of color and those from low-income communities.

Following on the heels of passing the resolution, we secured funding during budget to identify how City internships, apprenticeships, youth employment, workplace investment, and job training can lead to career paths.

SPU and SCL Delinquent Payment Policy and UDP

Whether because of a layoff at work or an unexpected medical expense, Seattle City Light (SCL) and Seattle Public Utility (SPU) customers sometimes come up short when it’s time to pay their bill and face a shut-off of their utilities. When a customer receives a shut-off notice, SPU charges a minimum of 75% of the balance due to prevent the shut-off, and SCL – up until a couple months ago – charged 50%.

In June I learned that SPU and SCL were intending to make their delinquency policies consistent.  I had no concerns with consistency, but I was concerned that the policy proposed was not for both utilities to require a 50% down payment, thus lowering the barrier for people with SPU shutoff notices, but that the utilities proposed instead to require that both SCL and SPU customers pay at least 75% of the outstanding balance in order to avoid shutoff.

To demonstrate how the 75% down-payment standard acts as a barrier to preventing SPU shutoffs, the West Seattle Helpline provided, and I shared with the utilities, data demonstrating the number of people that they were able to assist avoiding utility shutoffs in 2015.

In response, the utilities agreed to examine the delinquency policies and have since agreed to utilize the 50% down-payment to prevent shut-off. This will be implemented through a Director’s rule, and will be in place by January 1.

Furthermore, a few constituents brought to my attention that Medicare or Medicaid premiums were being counted towards income for consideration for the Utility Discount Program (UDP). Since this income cannot be spent on anything other than medical costs I sought to remove it as a source income for the UDP. Again, I worked with the CEO and General Managers of SPU and SCL and they’ve agreed to remove this provision in the source of income. This will allow customers who otherwise would not have qualified for the UDP due to their Medicare or Medicaid premiums to now apply and qualify for the program.

 

Environmental Issues

Terminal 5

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) which came out last May presented three options with varying costs and improvements that could be made to the terminal.

While attending a Delridge District Council meeting I presented the Port representative in attendance a letteroutlining the concerns that I heard from constituents about the T5 project. Foremost among them is the need to provide shore power. 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 underscored the need to implement a quiet zone for trains and utilize broadband back-up alarms to help with noise reduction.

The Port chose to proceed with alternative two which represents necessary physical improvements and increased cargo throughput to make efficient and effective use of T5. While these improvements include a commitment to shore power, broadband back-up alarms, and a quiet zone, it will take continued efforts to ensure they are implemented adequately. To that end I submitted a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) during the budget process which requires SDOT to report quarterly on the progress of implementing a quiet zone from T5 to the Delridge Way/ W Marginal Way intersection.

Plastic Bag Ban

Seattle implemented the plastic bag ban in 2012, and since then an additional 13 cities in Washington have passed similar ordinances. We have been joined by other large cities such as Austin, Chicago, New York City, Minneapolis, Honolulu, and Boston.

From 2010 to 2014, the amount of plastic bags in residential garbage declined from 262 tons to 136 tons, a nearly 50% decrease. However, there is still non-compliance, specifically at smaller grocery stores and convenience stores. The ordinance allows for a $250 fine, though SPU has not utilized it.

The five cents per paper bag charge had a 2016 sunset clause. I introduced an ordinance to remove that clause; we have heard from many grocers and other businesses that they support the five cent charge because it allows them to recoup the cost of the more expensive paper bags.

Additionally, at the recommendation of SPU, the ordinance restricts the use of green tinting in plastic bags to biodegradable bags only. The green tinting on non-biodegradable plastic bags has led to confusion about which bags are compostable and which are not, leading to an increased contamination rate.

Myers Way

In May, I organized a tour of the Myers Way properties with community stakeholders and City Staff. Community members had sought assurances the decision about selling this property will occur only after the entire community, specifically low income renters, people of color and non-English speaking residents are meaningfully engaged and that FAS apply the Racial and Social Justice Toolkitand follow the Equity and Environment Action Agenda before deciding what to do with this land.

I was pleased to learn that the Executive did not move forward with the plan to sell the Myers Way parcels. This issue is important to many residents residing in Top Hat, Highland Park, South Park, Arbor Heights, as well as citywide environmental groups such as Seattle Green Spaces Coalitionand TreePAC. This is a significant and important victory for the community who has worked so hard to bring the value of these properties to the attention of City decision-makers.

While the property currently remains with FAS, the executive intends to “land-bank” the site.

Regarding a different issue though still located at the Myers Way property, some constituents contacted me concerned about the people living in an unauthorized encampment on Myers Way. I also visited Arrowhead Gardens near the property and learned that they would like the City to provide garbage services to the site. SPU is now providing weekly garbage pick-ups for the site.

In the beginning of December the Mayor announced that Camp Second Chance – the encampment located at Myers Way – would be converted to a sanctioned encampment and would allow for up to 50 tents with 60-70 people. The Mayor’s Office has promised to work closely with the surrounding communities to make the Myers Way site a safe location for encampment occupants and a good neighbor to the surrounding communities.

 

Meeting with Constituents

In-District Office Hours Year End Review

With the implementation of districts this year it was important to me to be present and easily accessible for my constituents. I started my in-district office hours in March and since then have held 9 meetings, totaling 57 hours spent in office hours with constituents. During this time I spoke with 143 constituents about a variety of issues, ranging from HALA and small businesses, to the need for additional park space and better transit.

I have held my office hours at three locations around the district including the Junction, the Southwest Neighborhood Center, and the South Park Community Center. This has helped with meeting constituents with limited mobility or those who simply do not have enough time to drive all the way down to City Hall.

I will continue District 1 Office Hours in 2017; please keep an eye out for my emails and on the blogto know when I will be in your neighborhood.

Anti-Hate Resolution, Fauntleroy Boulevard project update, LGBT Commission name change, Music Commission appointments

Anti-Hate Resolution

As chair of the Committee that oversees Civil Rights, I am charged with providing policy direction and oversight, and making recommendations on legislative matters related to civil rights issues.  In response to Donald Trump becoming the President-elect, there has been an increase in hate speech and acts of violence targeted at Muslims, Sikhs, Arabs, Jews, Latinos, African-Americans Asians, women, people with disabilities, immigrants, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community members, that have been reported to police, on social media, and to advocacy organizations across the nation.

These incidents are extremely concerning for Seattle, which is a diverse city: 34% of Seattle residents are persons of color, and 19% of Seattle residents are foreign-born; 129 languages are spoken in Seattle schools. Moreover, the City of Seattle values being an open and inclusive city for all its residents, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). Many people in our city and nationally are members of vulnerable constituencies; we find them in our families, workplaces, and as friends doing indispensable work as caregivers, activists, educators, social workers, service industry employees, in public service, as business owners, attorneys, and elsewhere. These are people we love and support and it must be explicitly clear that we as a City stand in solidarity with them to protect them from these disgraceful acts of hate. Along these lines, my office has drafted an Anti-Hate resolution.

I would like to thank Councilmember González, Councilmember Sawant and Mayor Murray for their work on the Anti-Hate Resolution as well as One AmericaAllyship, and Gender Justice League for assisting with this resolution to reaffirm Seattle’s values of inclusion, respect, and justice, and the City’s commitment toward actions to reinforce these values; and calling on President-elect Donald Trump to condemn recent attacks and hate speech that perpetuate religious persecution, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia.

The resolution is scheduled for a vote at the Full Council Meeting on Monday, 12/12/16, 2pm, in Council Chambers.

 

Fauntleroy Boulevard project update

Shortly after taking office this year, community advocates expressed interest in making changes to the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project, to support it as a visual gateway to West Seattle. In response, I organized meetings between community advocates and SDOT and City Light. At my request, the departments explored undergrounding utility wires, but this proved too expensive.

Community advocates proposed a compromise solution involving design modifications for beautification, consolidation and standardization of utility poles, to provide a better overall appearance, in keeping with the aim to create a gateway entrance. The departments agreed.

Upon my request to Mayor Murray, during the budget process, City Light revised the project to specifically include $1.5 million for the street light improvements and utility pole relocations that were recommended by community members.

Earlier this month, SDOT announced an update regarding the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project. I thank them for re-initiating project work so soon after the Council approved funding during the budget process.

The project is designed to provide a gateway entrance to West Seattle coming in from the West Seattle Bridge, and to move away from the suburban, commercial-style arterial criticized on Fauntleroy Way between 35th Ave. SW and SW Alaska, toward a more pedestrian, transit, and bicycle-friendly urban boulevard, in an area with increasing residential density and transit use. It is funded through the Move Seattle Transportation levy passed in 2015.

The project reached 60% design during 2014; the last open house was in September 2014. Further work was put on hold until funding was secured. Conceptual design work began in 2011; improvements to Fauntleroy were first prioritized in the 1999 West Seattle Junction Hub Neighborhood Plan.

SDOT’s schedule lists meetings with property owners, businesses and community organizations, and a 90% design target during Winter 2017, with Spring 2017 targeted for 100% design, pre-construction coordination with the community during Spring and Summer 2017, with construction anticipated to begin in late 2017.

You can sign up for the project e-mail list for updates here, and contact the SDOT project team at fauntleroyblvd@seattle.gov.

 

LGBT Commission name change

I am proud to work with the Seattle Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Commissioners on Council Bill 118873, to change the name of the LGBT Commission to include the Q for Queer, as recommended by the Commission. This is important legislation for the Queer community. Queer identities may be adopted by those who reject traditional gender identities and seek a broader, more inclusive term that encompasses their full humanity. Starting in the late 1980s, queer scholars, activists, community members, and workers began to reclaim the term “queer” to establish a sense of community and assert a distinct politicized identity to be civically engaged. The City of Seattle advocates for greater awareness of discrimination faced by young people who use “queer” as a positive identity in which to feel empowered. It is important for the Commission that represents the LGBTQ community that the name should reflect the current and inclusive term. With this legislation the Commission’s name will also reflect the values of openness and inclusivity.

The legislation will be discussed in the Civil Rights, Economic Development, Utilities, and Arts Committee on Tuesday, 12/13/16 at 9:30am.

 

Music Commission appointments

Another item that will be up in the December 13 committee meeting are several appointments to the Seattle Music Commission.  The City Council voted to establish the Seattle Music Commission in early 2010. Commissioners are limited to two three-year terms, so several of the original commissioners are cycling out.

The establishment of the commission reflected a change in City government toward a more collaborative relationship with Seattle’s music community, and an acknowledgement of the economic impact of the city and region’s music industry. The commission brings together musicians, and representatives from radio, records labels, recording studios, the Symphony, the Opera, major Seattle corporations, small and large venue operators, retailers, and others.

The purpose on goals outlined in City of Music vision document, prepared under former Mayor Nickels, with three key areas: a City of Musicians, a City of Live Music, and a City of Music Business.

The Commission has worked on a wide variety of issues since its formation, including the Experience the City of Music program at Sea-Tac Airport, Pianos in the Park, Career Day for the music industry, a Black Music Summit. They’ve also worked on issues involving other City departments, such as loading access areas for musicians, and taxi stands in nightlife areas. They worked with me earlier this year to provide input on the update to Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan 2035 update, which now includes their recommendations.

I’d like to thanks the commissioners who have spent six years working hard on this commission, and contributing greatly toward developing an integrated approach to addressing issues of music, affordability and economic development.