City Council Approves $15/hour Minimum Wage in Seattle


Councilmember Sally J. Clark
Council President Tim Burgess
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Bruce Harrell
Councilmember Nick Licata
Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Councilmember Kshama Sawant

City Council Approves $15/hour Minimum Wage in Seattle
Historic vote addresses income inequality

SEATTLESeattle City Council unanimously approved the adoption of a $15 per hour minimum wage today, making Seattle the first major city in America to take such an action to address income inequality. Beginning April 1, 2015, the legislation will phase-in a $15 per hour minimum wage annually over 3 to 7 years, depending on employer size.

“Today we answer President Obama’s call and the moral call to address the plight of low wage workers,” said Councilmember Sally J. Clark, chair of the City Council’s Select Committee on the Minimum Wage and Income Inequality. “Seattle’s new law puts low wage workers on a path to $15 and does it in a way that respects Seattle’s love for local businesses and world-leading innovation.”

Twenty-four percent of Seattle workers earn hourly wages of $15 per hour or less, and approximately 13.6 percent of the Seattle community lives below the federal poverty level, according to a University of Washington study. Washington State’s minimum wage is currently $9.32 per hour. Effective April 1, 2015, the minimum wage in Seattle will be $10.00 or $11.00 per hour depending on employer size. A chart illustrating the subsequent annual minimum wage increase based on employer size is available here.

“With inaction at the state and national levels, it’s time for cities to demonstrate bold and necessary leadership to address income inequality,” said Council President Tim Burgess. “Seattle has found a workable and careful compromise that recognizes both the harm caused by stagnant wages and the harm to local businesses should we move forward too quickly.”

Mayor Ed Murray forwarded a proposal to the City Council after it had been developed by a stakeholder group, which included representatives of Seattle’s business, labor and non-profit communities and three councilmembers. The Seattle City Council, reviewed relevant studies, held public forums for feedback, hosted industry-specific discussions, considered the Mayor’s proposal and heard thousands of community comments over the first half of 2014.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said, “In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ‘The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.’ Today, we have made true progress so people can work and live in our city.”

“Today is an unprecedented step forward for working families in Seattle,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “Especially for women who tend to make up more than half of low wage workers, a higher minimum wage is a powerful tool to reduce income inequality based on gender.”

“This is a historic moment: the culmination of workers banding together over a year ago to raise the national debate on income inequality. Seattle listened and today, we are acting to help workers earn a living wage,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell. “This is one of the most important race and social justice-related legislation enacted, most positively impacting people of color, women and immigrants. We must continue working with small businesses and the ethnic minority community to support their growth and help them succeed.”

“Council’s next critical step is to legislate the enforcement of this new law with the creation of an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement,” said Councilmember Nick Licata. “Responsible businesses who follow the law must not be at a competitive disadvantage with those businesses not administering fair labor practices.”

“I am honored to cast my vote today in support of the tens of thousands of working people in Seattle who are about to get a much needed raise,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “Almost a year ago to the day, I escorted fast food workers back to their jobs to ensure they would not face retaliation for striking for better pay, and thanks to the movement they started we are making history today.”

“This legislation sends a message heard around the world: Seattle wants to stop the race to the bottom in wages and that we deplore the growth in income inequality and the widening gap between the rich and the poor,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.

“This is a victory for our movement – it shows the power of working people when we organize and fight for our rights,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “It will inspire millions of people all over the nation to build on this historic step forward. Fifteen in Seattle is just the beginning.”

The legislation will take effect thirty days after Mayor Ed Murray signs the legislation into law. Seattle has a population of approximately 634,535 in 2012, according to the United States Census and is approximately 84 square miles in land area.

[View in Council Newsroom]

Councilmembers Rasmussen, O’Brien, Bagshaw Pledge to Give Seattle Voters Chance to Save Transit Service


Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

Councilmembers Rasmussen, O’Brien, Bagshaw Pledge to Give Seattle Voters Chance to Save Transit Service

SeattleCouncilmembers Tom Rasmussen, Mike O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw issued the following statement today:

"Metro bus service is critical to the people of Seattle. It is necessary for those who cannot afford cars and depend on buses to get around. It is essential for our environment that people have multiple options for mobility and it is essential to reducing traffic congestion as well. Too many buses in the city are at capacity, and with ridership at an all-time high we simply cannot afford to lose bus service.

"Seattle voters deserve a chance to preserve bus service in the city and we are committed to giving them that opportunity in November. We are exploring every option available to keep the busses running in Seattle in cooperation with our colleagues on the City Council and Mayor Ed Murray. We are also committed to working with King County Metro and cities in our region to ensure that we preserve and build a strong regional transit system.

"We commend Mayor Murray for his leadership in developing a proposal, which will be released next week. We also commend Keep Seattle Moving for keeping public momentum going to ensure we do not lose the bus service we so critically need in Seattle.

"On Monday, May 19 we will have a briefing in City Council Chambers at 9:30 a.m. to learn more about the impacts of the potential loss of bus service in the City and to learn more about the Mayor’s proposal. We will convene additional City Council meetings as needed throughout the summer to develop a proposal to send to the voters for the November ballot."

Editor’s note: The City’s deadline for submitting a ballot measure to King County Elections for the November election is August 5, 2014.

[View in Council Newsroom]

Oh, the Places You’ll Go with Seattle Parks and Greenways!

You know all this from my previous blog entries (Part I, Part II, and Part III): Our city proudly counts 465 parks spanning 6,200 acres of beaches, forests, fields, playgrounds, ball courts, community centers, and rain-kissed open space. We rely on these parks for respite from city life, room to stretch our legs, space to spread a picnic blanket, and a place to gather with friends and family.  Unfortunately, we cannot maintain these well-loved parks and community centers through current funding sources and now face a $267 million major maintenance backlog.

Smith Cove Park

On Monday, the City Council will consider legislation that would provide stability for one of our city’s greatest resources—our parks. First, the Council’s Select Committee on Parks Funding will consider ordinances laying the groundwork for the creation of a new Seattle Park District, and then the Full Council will consider them. If the ordinances are approved by the Council, Seattle voters will decide this August whether to create a Seattle Park District. As I explained in a past blog entry, a Seattle Park District would create a sustainable and dedicated funding source for Seattle parks.

Because of statutory limits, our parks have not been maintained, and cannot be maintained the way we want them, through short-term levy fixes. Our 2008 levy focused on securing more parkland so everyone in Seattle could walk to a park but did not solve the question of how new parks would be developed or existing facilities would be maintained. Subsequently, our Parks Department suffered during the great recession, resulting in nearly 100 layoffs and cuts to other employees’ hours. The result has been a growing list of boilers, electrical systems, irrigation networks, and other infrastructure that needs fixing or replacement, cuts to community center hours, and an inability to expand our Seattle’s park and recreation offerings to meet growing needs.

I will be voting yes on Monday for the Seattle Park District. Here are some of the projects and services that would be funded over the next six years if voters say YES this August:

  • Major Maintenance – New funding would allow us to make substantial headway on the $267 million backlog and to address future maintenance needs as they arise. While our 2008 Parks Levy helped bring new parks and open space to communities without ready access to existing recreational facilities, the levy did not provide money for operations and maintenance. Our current “Fix It First” approach will safeguard existing park infrastructure—ensuring Seattleites can continue to enjoy our city’s most-loved parks amenities. If the Seattle Park District is approved, you will see new roofs atop buildings, fresh turf on once battered fields, worn out jungle gyms replaced with new play structures, and landscape, trail, and forest restoration across our parks. Not all the repairs will be obvious to parks goers, including electrical repairs and other improvements bringing facilities up to current code requirements, but all will ensure the continued vitality of our parks system.
  • Fourteen New Neighborhood Parks – We could finally develop and maintain 14 new parks at sites acquired thanks to the 2008 levy funding but left unimproved. These properties, known as land-banked sites, dot many of our densest and fastest growing neighborhoods. Scattered from Lake City to South Park Plaza and West Seattle to Wedgwood, these new parks would help us close a “Park Gap” that has left some neighborhoods without a walkable open space destination. Other land-banked sites include Morgan Junction, Rainer Valley, the International District, and Denny Triangle in south, central and west Seattle and Baker Park, Greenwood and Phinney Ridge, Fremont, and the University District in the north end.

Golden Garden at dusk!

  • Smith Cove Park –Development and maintenance of Smith Cove Park, on the Elliott Bay waterfront would also be funded. Acquiring property and building a park here has been a city goal since 1990. With the land now jointly used by King County and the City, a new waterfront park with views of downtown and Mt. Rainier could soon be a reality.
  • Safer Parks – For our parks to be enjoyed by all, they must be safe. To ensure our parks feel safe to women and families, the Seattle Park District would fund additional Park Rangers and Animal Control Officers. The proposed district could also support efforts to activate parks across the city.
  • Beautiful and Enduring Parks – We could also improve park grounds, with a particular focus on ensuring parks remain at their prime during their most heavily used months. This means making sure garbage cans are not overflowing after summer cookouts and restrooms are clean. A tight tree maintenance budget will also be boosted, and new resources will be available for the Seattle Conservation Corps, which creates opportunities for homeless adults to do paid work maintaining city parks. More funding would also go toward preventative maintenance, to ensure parks facilities endure.
  • Restoring Community Center Operations – Cuts made during the recession left community centers with shorter hours and fewer staff members to serve the public. With Seattle Park District funding, we could add programming and staff to meet each neighborhood’s unique demands.
  • Community Center Rehabilitation – We could rehabilitate aging community centers to meet today’s, and future, needs—another component of our Fix It First initiative. Roofs and other basic building components, like HVAC systems, could be replaced, and we could expand gyms, reconfigure meeting rooms, and make our centers more environmentally sustainable. We can also work with neighbors to meet the needs of their particular community.
  • Recreation for All – All Seattleites deserve recreational opportunities. To ensure greater access for communities of color and immigrant and refugee populations, we would fund partnerships with outside organizations working with underserved individuals and will continue to invest in successful programs like women-only swim times and food and fitness programs for elders from immigrant communities.
  • Summer Camps, Swimming Pools, and Other Accessible Opportunities – Sixty additional youths could go to summer camp through a funding boost for the Special Populations Program, which serves people with disabilities.  Other programming enhancements would include field trips and classes, a sign-language interpreter to ensure deaf children can participate in swimming lessons, and equipment allowing those who use wheelchairs to access swimming pools and play lacrosse.
  • All Ages Opportunities – Programing for youth and older adults would be expanded. More young people would have access to programs that teach job and life skills, and more adults over 50 would have access to food and fitness programs. Particular attention would be paid to serving people with dementia and extending programming to immigrant and refugee communities.

A perfect summer day!

  • Get Moving Fund – Most of us could use more movement in our life, with 56 percent of King County adults and 21 percent of middle and high school students qualifying as overweight or obese. Our Parks Department could partner with outside organizations to provide opportunities for Seattleites to get on the move through targeted outreach, expanded partnerships with community groups, and increased access to athletic opportunities.
  • Growing Our Greenways – Greenways are residential streets that connect pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-motorized travelers to parks. These vital corridors would be enhanced to include better connections across streets and intersections to parks.
  • Dog Parks Spruce Up – Seattleites love their dogs as much as they love parks. This means major traffic at Seattle’s 14 Off-Leash Areas. With a Seattle Park District, the city could fund improvements to our four-legged friends’ favorite parks.
  • Arts in Parks – Seattle boasts both natural beauty and a bevy of talented residents. The “Put Arts in the Parks” initiative would enliven our neighborhood parks through arts and cultural offerings, especially in underserved and economically constrained neighborhoods. Through the initiative, the city’s Office of Arts and Culture would pair with community-based organizations to bring more cultural and creative activities and installations to our parks.

Downtown Dog Park

  • Saving City Forests – The Green Seattle Partnership, a public-private collaboration, aims to restore 2,500 forested acres by 2025. Seattle Park District funding would help make headway to the goal and provide for other forest stewardship programs, such as trail building and invasive species removal. This is especially important since the funds are leveraged by dedicated volunteers, helping us clean our air and water.
  • P-Patch Rejuvenation – Seattle’s 82 city-managed P-Patches are a place for neighbors to come together to dig in the dirt and grow food for those in need. These community gardens have succeeded at uniting communities and safeguarding open spaces, but many of our P-Patches need updates to aging infrastructure and improvements that expand access.
  • Maintaining Our Aquarium and Zoo – The Seattle Aquarium’s waterfront location makes this a popular destination, but the salt water environment makes upkeep demanding. The Seattle Park District would provide additional funding for annual maintenance. Similarly, the city owns Woodland Park and is responsible for keeping it lovely.

This has been a multi-year effort, and thanks are due to Parks and Recreation employees, the broader community, the Parks Legacy Citizen Advisory Board, the Board of Parks Commissioners, and more. I am grateful to all who have been involved, those who have provided financial data and oversight, and those who have helped me shape a package and the approach. I respect the many advocates and am thankful that we are a city who cares deeply about our parks. Thank you for helping the Council reach this point.

Next Stop: The Council vote Monday, April 28th.

Make Way for Play! A How-to guide to Take Back Your Street


Ready for some exciting homemade neighborhood fun inspired by you, your family and your neighbors?  This spring and summer we can take over the streets and expand our neighborhood park space.

The point is to celebrate community and culture in every neighborhood through an opportunity called “place-making.”   The asphalt isn’t just for cars anymore.  This summer you are encouraged to Take Back the Streets and Make Way for Play!

It takes just one energetic organizer on your block to make this happen. YOU!

You can close down your non-arterial street – for a day with SDOT’s permission — to create the space you’ve secretly envisioned.

You can create your own park right in the middle of your block with potted trees and planters.

You can sponsor a play day on your street where your kids can lead their own bike parade from your home to your local park, block by block.

You can set up your own garage band fest.

Have a hula-hoop contest;

A skateboard day-in-the-street;

An after dinner all-comers kick-the-can event.

A grandiose international feast. 


Thanks to Steve Durrant and Alta Design for the good work they did for Chicago. Make Way for Play is Steve’s title on an excellent guide he did for that city.

You think it up, you can do it.  Permits are free.

SDOT has created a Block Party website:

Need a few extra dollars to get started?  The Department of Neighborhoods offers “Small Sparks” grants up to $1000, specifically designed to create community connections.  You can apply for a grant on-line here.


There are three common-sense limitations:  the block parties cannot close an arterial or intersection nor impede a bus route, and you have to close down and clean up by 10:00 p.m.


You must first submit an application and get SDOT’s OK.  No charge.  Be sure to give yourself at least a month’s lead time before your event.

Ready to  invite your neighbors? Download the sample invitation here.

Close down your street using informal barricades like garbage cans. Here’s a sample street closure sign.

I’d love to see how many of these Pop-Ups we can create this summer.  Please invite me to yours!



Parks – Recognizing Costs Savings, and Energy Efficiencies, and Labor Reductions

We Councilmembers will make a decision next Monday whether and how to create a funding source dedicated to Parks alone.

Request Number One: Make clean, safe, accessible restrooms available in our parks.

We have loved our parks and greenspaces for more than a century. We look to parks for health, sanctuary, and play.  Unfortunately, we have been unable to maintain them as if they will be around for the next 100 years.

As chair of our Parks Department between 2010 and 2013, I worked with parks to take and confirm sensible cost-cutting measures.  Knowing that we will need to go back to the voters, I have repeatedly said we can’t keep asking voters for more without delivering more.

Parks has tightened its belt over the past four years.  The Seattle Parks Department has demonstrated that they have reduced costs, their programs are responsive to the community and within budget, their construction projects are value-engineered from the get-go.  Parks has made impressive progress.

Fabulous exercise for every age.

Parks’ has lived within a significantly reduced budget.  Parks’ staff has been reduced by 12% since 2009 – over 100 employees were layed off, and many have had to live with significantly reduced hours.  The City sadly had to take millions of dollars from Parks’ general fund budget year after year during the economic downturn.  Hard times require some tough choices.

Queen Anne and Magnolia players want an all weather turf field.

On the positive side, Parks has met the challenge.  Parks has reduced its operating costs, now uses less energy, changed maintenance practices to meet national standards and improved staffing models.   These reductions have been documented.  See the Legacy Plan: (

Our future soccer stars!

Labor unions have also been helpful.  Labor leadership worked with Parks management to keep costs down, to freeze salaries, and to negotiate a new category of workers who can work across-skills.  These employees now go to a park and accomplish multiple tasks: they change the lights, fix the sprinklers, paint out graffiti, clean up the garbage, and more, thereby allowing the skilled crafts to do what they do best, efficiently.  The workers have saved Parks money, and they have contributed to a positive park environment.

While the Park system has been growing, Parks has done more with less.  Yet, as I’ve written before, (Investing in our Future), there’s a limit to how much can be done with less.  That’s where the Council comes in.

City Council is now considering the Mayor’s $54 million Proposal of Parks Investment Initiatives.  This proposal is based upon the recommendations of a very dedicated group of citizens who worked for nearly a year to evaluate problems and propose solutions.

Many of the older buildings in Magnuson Park could be lovely again — but aren’t now.

Under the Mayor’s proposal, 62% of the investments –nearly 2/3’s — will be made to take care of the major maintenance backlog and update the current parks and facilities we have.  This has been my personal long term goal, to FIX IT FIRST.  Thereafter, 10% of the investments will be used to promote and pay for improved programs for people.  And 25% of the investments will be made to build for the future.

Our 465 Parks, 6200 acres of green space, 26 community centers, 10 swimming pools, 150 playgrounds, and 204 athletic fields provide substantial benefits –our property values increase, our health improves, we build community spirit, neighbors meet neighbors, our water is cleaner and our air is cleaner.

A cooling, air-cleaning forest corridor at Schmitz Park in West Seattle.  Thanks to volunteers in all our parks who tackle blackberries, ivy, and holly.

Council will vote on Monday.  I will be voting yes for the Seattle Park District.  Sustainable, Accessible.