Councilmembers’ Statement on School Bus Strike Tomorrow

Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Rob Johnson and Lorena González issued the following statement regarding the school bus driver strike set to begin tomorrow:

“The people who safely transport our kiddos in Seattle to public schools deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This must begin with a decent contract with First Student. We stand in solidarity with Teamsters Local 174 in their pursuit of health care benefits and retirement plans for Seattle school bus drivers that reflect our values as a city. When public dollars go to contract businesses, it is imperative that we ensure we are taking care of the people who take care of our kiddos and this means a higher standard for wages and benefits. We applaud the efforts of Local 174 to bring First Student up to par.

“We know this means some extra planning for parents. Here is some information to help parents plan for alternative ways to get their kids to school tomorrow. As you make your plans, please know the following resources are available to you:

  • Metro bus routes serve all public schools in Seattle. Click here to find which route will work best for you.
  • Consider participating in a Walking School Bus or Bike Train (a group of children walking or biking to school with one or more adults picking up students along the way). Contact Yvonne Carpenter with the Seattle School District for more information at ylcarpenter@seattleschools.org.
  • Contact your PTSA for other local school-specific plans.”

Councilmember Johnson Response to FEIS Appeal

Seattle, WA — Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) and Chair of the Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee issued the following statement in response to an appeal of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS):

“Two years ago, Seattle City Council committed to the implementation of a mandatory inclusionary zoning program to help address our affordable housing crisis – now known as Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program. The Council has unanimously supported MHA implementation in framework legislation and through enacting legislation in the U-District, Downtown, South Lake Union, Chinatown/International District, Uptown and parts of the Central Area.  With the publication of the FEIS and the transmittal of city-wide MHA legislation, we are now much closer to requiring all new development in Seattle to contribute to our affordable housing goals.

“An appeals process is an important part of upholding the values of rigor and transparency of our government.  It’s what ensures we have good information and affords everyone the opportunity to ‘check our work’. There has been a tremendous amount of attention given to the analysis within the FEIS, and a responsiveness to additional analysis, especially around displacement and school enrollment, between the draft and FEIS. It will now be the Hearing Examiner’s role to determine the merits of the appeal.

“Every day, I hear about Seattle’s urgent need for more housing choices for people of all incomes and family sizes, which is the goal of the MHA program.  Though Council is prohibited from taking final action during the appeal process, we will continue our planned 8-month outreach and deliberation process so that when the appeal is resolved, we can act quickly to implement a critical strategy that will result in more income and rent-restricted housing and more housing options across our city for people of all incomes.“

Contact:

Amy Gore, Councilmember Johnson’s Office, 206.-684-8808

Dana Robinson Slote, Council Communications, 206-615-0061

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Celebrating Victories of the 2018-2019 Budget Process

As the chair of the Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee and as the representative for District 4, I have heard a lot this year about ways that we can support livability as our city grows. Funding infrastructure improvements for mobility, parks, and public safety are critical to meet the needs of current and future residents. The following budget adds that I sponsored or co sponsored reflect the key values on which we, as a city, must remain focused.

To invest in working families and the next generation:

  • I couldn’t be more excited to partner with the county to fund the $2 million-dollar renovation of Magnuson Park Community Center, and to add $130,000 to fund adequate staffing to support engaging programming for kids and adults;
  • I’m thrilled to have found the $70,000 necessary to reopen all seven wading pools that had been closed in 2010 due to budget cuts. We need more places to encourage family friendly fun, and if we continue having summers like this past year’s, more places to cool down;
  • I added $75,000 to support families who choose to close their streets to traffic for safer play;
  • And I sponsored a study to look at strategies to implement public-sector child care.

To improve pedestrian and bike safety on public right of way:

  • I sponsored a proviso making NE 43rd a pedestrian only street to support the work of the U District Mobility Group and many other community members. This budget action lifts up the vision of community members for what they want their neighborhood to look like when the light rail station opens in the U District in 2021;
  • I restored $150,000 to our Summer Parkways program to ensure we’re supporting active, car-free transportation;
  • And I was happy to support the $600,00 addition to support the planning, public outreach and design of a walkable, bikeable path uniting the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods.

To support safer and healthier communities:

  • I sponsored the investment of $1.3 Million for the creation and operation of a safe consumption site in Seattle. I’m looking forward to working with my council colleagues and partners at the county to take this critical step toward a harm reduction approach in our opioid crisis;
  • I was happy to support the expansion of our successful Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion to the North End;
  • I sponsored a food access study that will result in a pilot program getting low income residents living in food deserts to and from grocery stores and farmers markets where they can use their Fresh Bucks;
  • I supported an addition of $588,000 to help ensure the Lazarus Day Center can remain open to serve the 350 elderly homeless members of our community who visit the center each day;
  • I supported the critical $2.75 million investment in new permanent supportive housing options;
  • And I was happy to support the addition of $450,000 to open and support two additional authorized encampments.

To balance the growth of our city with livability:

  • I added $130,000 to extend a code development position at SDCI to ensure council priorities around tree regulations, industrial lands, and development standards for schools are carried out;
  • I added $114,000 to support the development of community outreach plans for projects going through the Design Review Program;
  • As part of the Seattle Public Utilities Business Plan, I increased spending on Green Stormwater Infrastructure by $15 million to support the creation of green jobs and the health of our city’s tree canopy;
  • And I was very supportive of the add of $75,000 to support the Home and Hope Project’s creation of quality affordable housing and early learning opportunities.

Finally, I want to thank my colleagues who brought forward the HOMES tax proposal. Even without its passage, it focused our budget urgently and rightly on the needs of those unsheltered. It focused our collective values and found consensus on the outcomes we need to see to make a difference. While there is yet much more to be done, I am proud that our budget invests in homeless youth, support for survivors of gender-based violence, Pathways Home recommendations, and more shelter options.

Disappointing Setback in Progress Towards Police Accountability

I am deeply saddened and frustrated that SPD’s Force Review Board found that killing Charleena Lyles was within department policy; it is both devastating and unacceptable that our policies can lead to this kind of tragedy. There still remains an investigation by the Office of Police Accountability, and the King County Prosecutors Office will be reviewing and determining legality.

While the sequence of events in the case before us sadly cannot be changed, I am heartened by and hopeful of the changes that are happening in real time to the way policing looks in Seattle. On May 22nd Council passed the Police Accountability Ordinance, and we are working to implement its contents as quickly and as intentionally as possible:

  • Today we are appointing civilian lawyer Andrew Myerberg as the director of OPA. He has a 7-year track record of increasing police accountability and knows the ins and outs of our city. I believe he will bring meaningful change to the policing culture of Seattle.
  • On Monday, the Seattle Police Management Association signed a new contract with the City of Seattle, voluntarily embracing progressive, necessary changes happening to Seattle’s policing policies, including the use of body cameras and regulations around bias free policing.
  • During the current budget season negotiations, I’ve been supportive of Councilmember González’s proposals to ensure we have the funds to expand OPA and stand up the Office of the Inspector General.
  • We are actively working on getting a civilian into the role of police auditor, a new role that will independently review all of the rulings of the Force Review Board and OPA.
  • And I look forward to working with the Community Police Commission to make sure that D4 residents have a voice at the table to review policies and have an impact.

In the wake of the shooting last summer, I spent a lot of time talking with residents living in and around Magnuson Park about what changes they want to see to realize a safer and healthier community. I’ve been working during the budget season to find funding for their priorities and will continue to do my best to amplify the voices of those who know what is best for their community.

Black lives matter. And while I’m hopeful about the work we are doing, we are all frustrated with the pace of necessary change. There are many systems beyond policing and criminal justice that overwhelmingly impact communities of color. When we affirm black lives matter, we must also acknowledge the experience with other institutions that can exacerbate the types of outcomes that continue to demonstrate disparities in health, housing, access to opportunities, jobs, income inequality, and intergenerational wealth.

As we continue to prioritize investments and make updates to city policy, I commit to continue leading with race as a lens to evaluate and inform our City actions to advance equitable outcomes for all.

Responding to our Homelessness Crisis

At Tuesday’s Budget Committee meeting, I brought forward an alternative to the employee hours tax. I think each of my colleagues feels heartbroken seeing our homelessness crisis continue to grow, and we agree that we must respond with increased funding. And many, if not all of us, support the package of investments that the proposed employee hours tax would fund. However, I do not support the approach that’s been proposed.

Just because an employee hours tax seems like a quick and easy solution for us as a council does not mean it’s the right and only path for us to take. Stable well-paying employment is critical for Seattle residents – it’s the engine of our economy – and it’s important that we prudently analyze the economic impact of this proposal and have a clear sense of how to effectively spend the funds it would raise.

When an hours tax was proposed and implemented as part of the 2006 city transportation levy it was thoroughly vetted during a several months long public process. It also had a clear set of ongoing projects it was intended to fund before getting repealed during the economic downturn in 2008. If we bring this approach forward again, a similar process and similar strategic set of investments should be laid out clearly for the public and service providers to engage with before any council action to impose an hours tax.

I think it is very important to have business at the table to explore options to leverage their support – there is money on the table, and creative partnerships to establish, no doubt.  And I will join my colleagues in calling on the business community and private philanthropy to increase their investments in services and housing.

With all that said, because I strongly support many of the programs and projects funded by the proposed employee hours tax, it was important to me to bring forward an alternative funding path and not just end the conversation by voting no. The proposal I shared on Tuesday details many ideas for new revenue streams, additions to our current bonding capabilities, and budget cuts to current programs across different city departments – none of them set in stone. I worked to ensure we knew the options available to us of where revenue could be redirected to fund strategies to reduce homelessness.

I want to be very clear that there are items on that list that myself and my colleagues would feel extremely uncomfortable pursuing – take funding for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, for example. Making streets safer for everyone has been my life’s work. But we have found ourselves at a point in our homelessness crisis where we must start having these conversations. If we aren’t pushing ourselves to ask tough questions on where we could spend less in order to redirect more funds to getting people off our streets, then we are not responding to our homelessness crisis with the urgency and priority that it requires.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in the weeks to come to find more funding we can spend on supporting those in our community who need it most.