Seattle Council Passes Tax on Business to Help Address Homelessness

Following more than five months of deliberation, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance related to taxation, intended to help address homelessness.  The amended proposal establishes an annual tax of $275 per full time employee on the City’s largest businesses, those with revenues of more than $20 million  (about 3% of all businesses). The measure would generate an estimated $47 million annually and end on December 31, 2023.

The ordinance passed by a unanimous vote, with all nine councilmembers supporting it.

Selected highlights of the amended ordinance include:

Exempt Seattle’s small and medium-sized businesses, only applying to those with at least $20 million or more annually in taxable gross receipts as measured under the City’s existing Business & Occupation tax;

  • Apply only to the City’s approximately 585 largest businesses, or approximately 3% of all Seattle businesses;
  • Require large businesses to pay $275 per full-time equivalent employee working 1,920 hours per year (or about $0.14 per hour);
  • Include an evaluation of the economic impacts, and an independent oversight committee; and,
  • Exempt healthcare providers that provide at least 25% of their services to patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid as well as all hospitals.

Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2 – South Seattle), said, “In every policy or fiscal decision we make, we have to look at the impact on jobs. Our goal is to have a successful and vibrant business community–one of the best in the country–and at the same time, assist our most vulnerable and strategically invest in affordable housing. One does not exclude the other. Our investment strategy must balance these objectives without demonizing advocates or businesses. Today, we have reached a compromise that accomplishes this goal.”

Harrell continued:  “I did not support the spending plan, because our strategy must leverage the expertise and resources in real estate, software applications and other areas to make sure we gain the trust of the public in how we invest funds from this new revenue stream. This legislation is currently designed for a finite period to address the affordability and homelessness crisis. How we spend the money becomes critically important–residents, members of our business community and advocates should be afforded the opportunity to weigh in.”

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia), a co-sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee said, “Since Seattle declared a state of emergency around the homelessness crisis, people have told us they want to see action, action that means people out of tents and in safer, healthier spaces, and cleanup of the public spaces in our neighborhoods. They also want more state and local funds for mental health and behavioral health improvements. This tax contributes toward the long-term solution of affordable housing, while giving immediate attention and resources to fund shelter services, so those living on the streets tonight can find a dry, warm and safe place to stay. I’m pleased my council colleagues also agreed to exempt hospitals and non-profits from this tax, recognizing the vital work they do in our community serving those on Medicare, Medicaid, and other vulnerable populations.”

Councilmeber Rob Johnson (District 4 – North Seattle), and a co-sponsor of the legislation said, “Any solution to help address our homelessness crisis must produce immediate results and protect the long term economic health of the city. Today’s action creates more affordable housing, addresses immediate needs of those living unsheltered and has a five-year sunset so we can effectively measure our efforts. I want to thank my council colleagues for this collaborative effort and for the engagement of non-profit organizations, faith and civic leaders, businesses, labor, affordable housing developers and community members.”

Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5 – North Seattle), and a co-sponsor of the legislation said, “I want to see results from this tax, which means fewer people living on the streets and more people in shelters and permanent housing. Now it is time for regional partners and the federal government to join Seattle in taking bold actions to address homelessness.”    

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Pos. 8 – Citywide), said, “Today, we took an initial step forward to reduce homelessness, build safer communities and toward a City that allows people who work in Seattle to afford to live in Seattle.  We have a homelessness and housing affordability crisis in Seattle, our shelters are at capacity and there is not enough affordable housing for folks to move into. Today’s progressive tax proposal and corresponding spending plan provides a significant down payment toward the housing our community needs. Our City is growing rapidly, and we must respond with urgency, compassion and leadership.  I look forward to continued collaboration with the community and my council colleagues to ensure we build more affordable, sustainable, and equitable housing for our city.”

With no state income tax, Washington is routinely ranked as having the most regressive tax structure in the nation.  Earlier this year, property taxes were dedicated by state lawmakers to fund education shortfalls; a B&O tax would require voter approval and spread the burden across all industries, including small business.  Other taxation options such as a tax on utilities would adversely affect rate payers, many who are on fixed incomes.

The legislation will take effect in January 2019.


Councilmember Juarez Recognizes National Day of Awareness for Missing Native American Women and Girls

Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle), Chair of the Council’s Civic Assets, Public Development and Native Communities Committee, and her Seattle City Council colleagues proclaim May 5 as the Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native American Women and Girls in the City of Seattle.

The council recognized the National Day of Awareness for Missing Native American Women and Girls with a proclamation read during the Full Council meeting April 30.

“I mourn with the families who have had to bury a loved one prematurely and have not received justice. I stand with families in hope that their missing family member will return home. In my elected capacity, I will continue to shine a light on this epidemic that has been doing on for far too long, and be a champion of policies that help solve this problem,” said Juarez.

“The disappearances and murders of Native American women and girls directly correlate to domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native American women and girls between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. It is the fifth leading cause of death for Native women between 25 and 34 years old.

“We know these national statistics are felt on a local level in Seattle. Native Americans make up 2 percent of Washington’s population of 7.4 million people. Yet of the state’s estimated 1,800 people missing, Native Americans make up 5.5 percent.

“I’m thankful we have a strong network of women who have been organizing around this issue for more than a decade. Their work is pushing change, including House Bill 2951, which requires state patrol to work with tribal law enforcement, federally recognized tribes, urban Indian organizations and the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs to come up with better ways to report and identify missing Native American women throughout Washington.

“My hope is together, by shining a light on this injustice, we will inspire and enact real change.”


Councilmember Juarez’s Statement on Trump Administration’s Medicaid Work Rules for Native Americans

‘Morally appalling, deliberately misleading’


Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle), Chair of the Council’s Civic Assets, Public Development and Native Communities Committee, issued the following statement after a story published by Politico April 22 said the Trump administration contends tribes are a “…race rather than separate governments,” and exempting them from Medicaid work rules would be illegal preferential treatment.

Councilmember Juarez and her colleagues sent a letter to Governor Jay Inslee and Washington State’s congressional delegation in response to Trump’s new policy.

“I find it morally appalling and deliberately misleading that the Trump administration maintains tribes are a race and not sovereign governments.

“Native American communities have an unemployment rate three times higher than the U.S. average. Denying unemployed Native Americans access to Medicaid would devastate a population that already disproportionately suffers from high rates of obesity, diabetes, teen pregnancy, mental health issues and drug problems.

“Without those Medicaid dollars, the Indian Health System, which is already underfunded, would be negatively impacted; and, may very well be the end-goal of President Trump.

“In fact, W. Ron Allen, Chair of the Tribal Technical Advisory Group, said in a Feb. 14 letter to Health and Human Services Administrator Seema Verma that without supplemental Medicaid resources, the Indian Health System will not survive.  Knowing this calls into question the motivation behind Trump’s action.

“Tribal governments are tired of the Trump administration’s continued attacks on tribal healthcare. As the Politico story outlines, the Trump administration proposed significant cuts to the Indian health Service’s budget and tried to cut the Community Health Representative program, an essential service connecting tribal communities with primary health care services.

“As an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation, and chair of the Civic Assets, Public Development and Native Communities Committee, I stand with tribal governments and demand the Health and Human Services Department exempt tribal members from Medicaid’s work rules.”

Councilmember González, Search Committee Nominate Seattle’s First Inspector General for Public Safety

Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), along with members of the Office of Inspector General Search Committee, announced the nomination of Lisa A. Judge to be the City of Seattle’s first Inspector General for Public Safety (IG). The Office of the Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG) was created by the full Council in May of 2017 as part of the city’s reformed civilian, police accountability framework. The IG is subject to the City Council’s appointment and confirmation.

The IG’s primary purpose is to provide systemic oversight of the management, practices, and policies of the Seattle Police Department and the Office of Police Accountability and oversee ongoing fidelity to organizational reforms implemented pursuant to the goals of the 2012 federal Consent Decree in United States of America v. City of Seattle, 12 Civ. 1282 (JLR).

Ms. Judge is a civilian and will join the City of Seattle following two decades of work as the Legal Advisor to the Tucson Police Department (TPD). Her work there put her on the forefront of many issues that communities in Seattle face today, including innovations in interactions with people suffering with mental illness or in crisis. Ms. Judge also oversaw officers prioritizing treatment over incarceration. The TPD has both a Critical Incident Review Board and Force Review Board that include and are centered around transparency and community participation.

In accepting this position, Ms. Judge said, “This is a very exciting time for law enforcement reform, and this endeavor provides an important opportunity to do work of real value in furtherance of that reform. I am eager to work for the community of Seattle, and I look forward to a fruitful partnership with the Community Police Commission, the Office of Police Accountability, and the Seattle Police Department that is equal parts respect, trust, and healthy skepticism.”

“As the City of Seattle enters into a two-year sustainment period, the hiring of the first Inspector General and establishment of the Office of the Inspector General represents a major milestone in advancing the City’s commitment to ongoing police reform,” said Councilmember González. “After a 10 month, nationwide search, the OIG Search Committee identified Lisa Judge as our final nominee. Ms. Judge has a background in police reform, an understanding of police culture and policing, a commitment to procedural justice, and an articulated vision on how accountability and community coexist.”

Isaac Ruiz, co-chair of the Search Committee and a co-chair of the Community Police Commission, stated, “Lisa rose to the top of a strong and diverse group of candidates. During the search process, we were impressed by Lisa’s appreciation of the essential role of community in police oversight and reform.  She has a proven record of working collaboratively with stakeholders to address important, but difficult and often divisive issues.”

Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle) noted that, “The IG is a critical part of our system. The person in this position must understand SPD policies and have independent leadership to ensure compliance and elevate performance expectations. Her experience working both within police departments and with organizations like the ACLU and the Innocence Project show that she will be able to utilize best practices to emphasize systemic compliance with current policies and make recommendations to improve our accountability system over time.”

The Search Committee was representative of various stakeholder interests, including the Seattle Police Department. Assistant Chief Lesley Cordner said, “I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve on the OIG Selection Committee. It was a thorough and robust process and I believe that the City has found the ideal Inspector General for Seattle. I am confident that Ms. Judge will work collaboratively with all parties, while remaining independent, fair and balanced, and respectful of both the Seattle community and of the police community.”

“On behalf of the Seattle Police Department, I’m happy to welcome our new Inspector General,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. “She understands what Seattle has done to achieve ‘full and effective’ compliance, and our commitment to meaningful and lasting reforms. We wholeheartedly support Ms. Judge in her role, and are confident that she will lead the Office of Inspector General with integrity and professionalism, promoting accountability and engagement.”

“As our City’s first Inspector General for Public Safety, Lisa Judge’s first job is to continue the hard work of building trust between our community and our Seattle Police Department,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan, who negotiated the consent decree as U.S. Attorney.  “The Inspector General’s role is critical in ensuring that we achieve lasting reform, particularly as we enter this critical next two years. This is an important step in delivering accountability and lasting reform for all who call Seattle home.”

Lisa Judge is Latina and identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.  She will appear on April 25th before Councilmember González’s Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans and Education committee to begin her confirmation process at 9:30 a.m. in Council Chambers. A public hearing notice complete with her resume was published today for those seeking further background information on the candidate.

Seattle Asian Art Museum Expansion is approved

I am pleased to announce that today, January 22nd, the Seattle City Council passed Council Bill 119150 and Council Bill 119146 to authorize the expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. The beautifully designed Art Deco building in which the SAAM is housed has been a fixture of Volunteer Park and the SAM for over 85 years, but extensive renovations and an expansion have been needed for a long time. Today’s vote was the finalization of plans 10 years in the making to renovate the SAAM and increase its education and exhibit capacities. The public benefits of this expansion will include:

  • A partnership with Seattle Public Schools which includes 7 in-school education programs and 75 free school group field trips annually.
  • Eight workshops, 3 day-camps, and 15 free lectures and panel discussions
  • A $50,000 scholarship assistance fund with annual escalation
  • An annual public cultural event

I and my peers on the Council are proud to support public art and art education, and I hope you will join me in my excitement for the future re-opening of the beautifully renovated and expanded SAAM. Thank you for your correspondence and support for this bill and I hope you will continue to speak up on matters that are important to you.

See you at the re-opening!