Night Out Against Crime

Night out seattleTomorrow night is the annual Night Out Against Crime, where block parties around the city bring neighbors together and strengthen community efforts to prevent crime. The police department reports that more than 1,400 neighborhood groups organized for Night Out last year.

You can register or see where there are events in your neighborhood here

A Good and Honorable Man

Mayor SchellThe passing of former Mayor Paul Schell this past weekend came as quite a shock because he was such an active, engaged and passionate leader. 

Above all, I knew Mayor Schell to be a good and honorable man. He was deeply committed to serving the common good. He cared about all of Seattle, every neighborhood, all of the people of Seattle.

This Seattle Times story is a good summary of his public service. Note especially the photo gallery. Former Mayor Charles Royer shared poignant comments on KUOW early today.

Former Mayor Schell’s public memorial service will be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 3 p.m. at the Bell Harbor Conference Center.

The Rapid Evolution of Transportation

Mayor Murray signs the new for-hire industry legislationNew technologies are revolutionizing transportation in Seattle and elsewhere. It is becoming easier and easier to live, work, shop, learn and play in the city without owning a car, a change that makes Seattle more affordable as car ownership carries many obvious (and not-so-obvious) costs. Nearly 17% of Seattle households do not own a vehicle, according to a recent study. Seattle ranks 10th in the nation in the percentage of non-vehicle households.

Of course, a critical piece of this dramatic change is ensuring a functional and flourishing public transit system. On Thursday, councilmembers will review funding proposals to lessen cuts to Metro bus service throughout the city next year.

This past Monday afternoon, the Council voted 8-1 to advance the transportation evolution by approving a 117-page bill that contains many solid improvements for the City’s regulation of the “for hire” industry, including companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.

First, it puts in place clearer insurance requirements for the new app-based companies, including drawing a well-defined distinction between when a vehicle is being used for personal use and when it is being used for “livery” services. Personal insurance industry representatives praised this “bright, distinct line.”

Second, the bill removes caps on the number of people who can drive for these companies. I opposed the caps in the Council’s original bill and am happy to see them gone. As I’ve written before, I believe that caps make sense in a “walk-up” market but not the pre-arranged “dispatch” market.

Third, the bill provides benefits to existing flat-rate for-hire vehicles and traditional taxis. The flat-rate vehicles will be able to pick up people who hail them on the street; taxis will be given more designated stands and property rights to their vehicle license (sometimes known as medallions), increasing their equity and allowing them to further their business goals. And it will not be long before taxi companies introduce their own apps to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft, which this bill now allows them to do.

Finally, the bill streamlines other regulations throughout the entire for-hire industry.

It likely won’t be many years before this industry is driven by customer demand, easy-to-use smartphone apps or other innovative technologies, and intense competition over who can provide the highest quality customer service.

Study Shows Gun Violence Begets Gun Violence

Harborview Medical CenterWith a City Council vote in June of 2013, Seattle became the first city in the nation to fund direct research on gun safety. The Council took this action because the National Rifle Association consistently blocks research funding at the federal level and because our leaders in Washington, DC and Olympia have been unable to enact reasonable gun safety measures.

Specifically, the City Council asked researchers from the University of Washington’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center to evaluate interrelationships between hospitalizations due to gun violence, substance abuse, mental health diagnoses, arrest records and deaths.  Today, the researchers presented their findings to the Council.

The evidence shows gun violence begets gun violence.  If you are harmed by a gun, you are much more likely to be harmed again or to harm others. 

The research demonstrated that hospitalizations due to firearm-related injury are strongly correlated with poor outcomes after discharge from the hospital, including future injuries, criminal involvement and death. For example, individuals hospitalized for a firearm injury were 30 times more likely to be re-hospitalized for another firearm injury than people admitted to the hospital for non-injury reasons.

The research also showed a greater risk of subsequent violent or firearm-related crime, hospitalizations, and death among those with a prior history of firearm injuries or crimes compared to those with psychiatric disorders.

The findings pinpoint where public health officials, law enforcement, and social service providers should focus their efforts to prevent future harm from guns. It is unfortunate that the NRA has blocked this type of research at the national level because it provides valuable information for policymakers and the public.

According to Dr. Fred Rivara, a UW professor of pediatrics and researcher at Harborview, early intervention efforts should include not only the medical professionals, but also stronger partnerships among public health, law enforcement, the courts, social service providers and others. By working more closely together we can prevent subsequent injury, death and crime. Dr. Rivara also points to the long-term benefits of evidence-based early childhood programs.

In Seattle, if we gather good data to understand who is most affected by crime, we can continue to invest in what is proven to work to keep them safe.

Here are links to the presentation and report the UW/Harborview researchers presented to the Council today and here is a link to the press release.