Herbold’s Bill Broadens Definition of ‘Reasonable Accommodations’ for People with Disabilities

City Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park), and Chair of the Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee, issued the following statement today following the unanimous passage of Council Bill (CB) 119316, a bill to broaden the responsibility for providing reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities:

“Thank you to my Council colleagues who saw the pressing need to amend the Open Housing Ordinance (Chapter 14.08 of the Seattle Municipal Code) for the betterment of tenants everywhere who are living with disabilities.

“Earlier this year, a tenant of Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) was eligible for a voucher to cover 30 percent of the rent for a studio apartment, and had requested a voucher with a subsidy appropriate for a one-bedroom apartment based on the need for a disability related accommodation. SHA refused to grant the request.

“The tenant claimed that the refusal denied her a reasonable accommodation to which she was entitled and in doing so, violated Section 14.08.040.D, which prompted litigation and a decision from the Court of Appeals for the State of Washington.

“In its opinion, the Court noted that ‘if the City wishes to extend the unfair practice requirement of SMC 14.08.040.D to include a requirement that Section 8 program administrators like SHA make reasonable accommodation…it can amend the SMC accordingly.’ This legislation is in direct response to the case and makes two significant changes to the SMC.

“First, CB 119316 separates the obligation — of, in this instance SHA — to provide reasonable accommodations from the obligation to provide reasonable modifications. Second, the legislation amends the SMC by revising the responsible party for permitting reasonable modifications from ‘landlord’ to ‘person’, thereby ensuring that anyone who can grant a reasonable accommodation is covered by the law, not just landlords.

“Moving forward, City law will require SHA and any other voucher program administrator to provide reasonable modifications to persons with disabilities as appropriate.  Above all, today’s vote both balances the perspectives of both landlord and tenant, and restates the importance of fair housing practices to both promote and ensure the availability and accessibility of housing to all.

“We can all agree — tenants and landlords alike — that accommodations may be necessary to afford people with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy any dwelling. Alternatively, to refuse to allow a person to make alterations or additions to existing premises occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability which are necessary to make the rental property accessible by people with disabilities, is unfair.”

Councilmember Herbold Responds to Janus v AFSCME Supreme Court Decision

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today in the Janus v. State, County and Municipal Employees (16-1466), Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle, South Park) released the following statement echoing the frustrations and concerns of workers everywhere that this ruling will have long-term detrimental effects on public sector unions:

“The Court’s stunning reversal of the 1977 Abood decision today shows that ideology rather than legal principle have guided the Court’s decision.

“The unanimous decision of the Abood case established that membership dues cannot be used to pay for political activity; however, it allowed that unions could still collect membership dues in exchange for collective bargaining and other ‘apolitical services.’

“Right-to-work laws create an inequitable ‘free-rider’ problem where some unfairly benefit from the union-negotiated contract without contributing to the costs associated with those negotiations.  The Janus decision erodes our unions’ ability to negotiate on behalf of their workers for better pay, benefits, working conditions, and a host of other issues impacting workers doing critical work contributing to the public good.

“I stand in solidarity with my union sisters and brothers against this ruling and against right-to-work laws which require workers to bargain in an inequitable, ineffective, and unsustainable manner.”

Council Sponsors of Proposed Progressive Tax on Business Respond to Seattle “Construction Pause”

Councilmembers M. Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Teresa Mosqueda and Mike O’Brien issued the following statement in response to the “construction pause” announced earlier today:

“Collectively we – the primary sponsors of the business tax currently being discussed in Council –  represent 750,000 people who call Seattle home.

“Under our plan, called the Progressive Tax on Business, $75 million would be generated annually from approximately 585 of the City’s largest businesses, with three-quarters of that going toward additional affordable housing.

“This was never a proposal targeting one company, but Amazon made the conversation about them when they expressed their intentions to pause construction on their new office tower pending a vote on our Progressive Tax on Business.

“The company recently reported record-breaking profits of nearly $2 billion dollars in one quarter.

“We estimate that under our plan, Amazon would pay about $20 million annually toward this new tax.

“The lack of affordable housing is a crisis for our entire community. We simply don’t have the revenue necessary to fill the gap. Why? In large part it’s thanks to Washington’s upside-down tax code that puts an inequitable accumulation of wealth ahead of the needs of everyday people.  This is what leads to greater and greater income disparity. Not only does Washington State have the most regressive tax structure in the nation, but Seattle’s taxation is the most regressive in the state. The cost of providing services to a City that has grown by 100,000 people in the last 10 years, in a region that continues to grow by 1,000 people a week, is vastly outpacing our revenue in this booming economy.

“Seattle has become the nation’s biggest company town. We’ve shifted to a service-based economy; only a handful of services are taxed, and they are virtually all provided by blue-collar workers. Washington State doesn’t tax income or capital gains, and at the city level, we’re left with very few options to raise the resources we need.

“Our charter requires us, as elected officials – as a city, to protect and enhance the general welfare of people.  We’ve added hundreds of new shelter spaces in the last couple years and moved more than 3,000 people out of homelessness and into permanent housing just last year, yet more than 3,800 people sleep outside in Seattle every night.  Thousands more compete for shelter and temporary housing. We have an opportunity to treat Seattle residents humanely and with dignity.

“Many employees of large businesses in Seattle are paid so little that their families qualify for state-funded Medicaid. Whether it’s Amazon (~1,100 employees across Washington – costing the state over $7.5 million per year,) McDonalds (~3,900 WA employees costing $17 million per year) or Home Depot (~1,200 WA employees costing $7.4 million per year), big business often leaves many people behind and expects taxpayers to pick up the bill.

“While Amazon didn’t single-handedly cause this problem, they have contributed to the growing income inequality, displacement and housing affordability issues facing our City. That is precisely why — in their visits with 20 other cities — Amazon has sought to speak with elected officials about plans to proactively address those consequences.  It seems only fair that as so many struggle to make their way through a tax system that’s rigged in favor of large corporations, that we ask those same corporations to financially contribute to the public health and housing solutions designed to address those consequences.

“Greater shared responsibility equals greater shared prosperity for all, businesses and residents alike.”


Seattle City Council Proposes a Progressive Tax on Business

Task Force Co-Chairs González, Herbold Explain Details of Legislation Intended to Help Seattle Structurally Address Homelessness


Seattle, WA — Following more than four months of deliberation and stakeholder engagement, Council introduced legislation and a companion spending plan resolution today outlining the details of a progressive tax on business, which would generate additional revenue necessary to further address homelessness and housing affordability in Seattle.

The legislation and resolution are the combined result of initial work conducted by members of the Progressive Revenue Task Force.  Earlier this year, Councilmembers M. Lorena González (Pos. 9 – Citywide) and Lisa Herbold (Dist. 1 – West Seattle & South Park) convened the Task Force intended to identify progressive sources of revenue to assist people who are experiencing homelessness or at high risk of becoming homeless.  

About 29,000 Seattle households earning less than 50 percent of the area median income are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent and utilities. Recognizing that housing affordability is a key component in the complex causes of homelessness, the legislation, released today, will address the homelessness emergency by creating more affordable housing.

The Progressive Tax on Business will:

  • 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;
  • Applies only to the City’s approximately 500 largest businesses (or approximately 3% of Seattle’s business owners);
  • Large businesses included will pay just about a quarter ($0.26) per hour per employee working in Seattle;
  • All nonprofit businesses in Seattle are exempt;
  • The employee hours tax will be replaced by a business payroll tax on January 1, 2021;
  • For those same approximately 500 largest businesses, the replacement business payroll tax will be calculated as 0.7 percent of all payroll related to work done in Seattle.

About 75% of the revenue generated will be allocated to the Office of Housing and used to fund the additional construction of deeply affordable housing units; and, 20% of the revenue generated will be allocated to the Human Services Department to purchase critical direct services, such as emergency and temporary shelter services for people experiencing homelessness.  This additional revenue will allow the City to build an additional estimated 1,780 housing units during the next five years while also funding additional basic services to nearly 100 households living in their cars; enhance public health by expanding hygiene centers and expanding citywide sanitation and garbage service; create 100 tiny homes at sanctioned encampments; and add 362 more shelter beds.

“In 2017, our city-funded programs exited 3,400 people from homelessness into permanent housing. Yet, we continue to see people living and sleeping in public spaces. The causes for homelessness are varied but the result is the same: unsheltered people are unable to find their way into affordable housing because it does not exist at the needed scale,” said González, chair of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans and Education Committee.“ The answer to our homelessness crisis is not as simple as being austere and shuffling existing budget priorities. There is no question that additional resources are needed to fund housing and services that are working. This new revenue is targeted towards building deeply affordable housing and funding services that allow a person to become healthy, stable and independent.”

“Since the homelessness civil emergency was declared, no additional federal funds have been provided. The federal government isn’t going to solve the crisis of 4,000 people sleeping outdoors on our streets, in vehicles, and in our parks,” said Herbold, chair of the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts committee. “The structural cause of homelessness in high cost cities like Seattle is that there is a growing unmet need for more affordable housing created when new workers, earning new high wage jobs, and low income workers are in competition for limited housing.  Lower income workers lose out and the result of the explosive growth Seattle is experiencing has increased homelessness. A progressive tax on businesses most benefiting from this growth is our best option because we already rely heavily upon regressive property and sales taxes that hit everyone equally. Homelessness is a regional problem and one that extends beyond our City’s limits. As our partners in combating a crisis, we look forward to One Table’s recommendations and fully expect the County and others to engage in addressing it, too.”

“This is a common sense solution to a public health crisis. We’ve seen an uptick in our neighbors experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity and the impact that it has on our entire community. This progressive revenue stream balances the needs of our small business community, while ensuring we have the funding we need to provide critical housing and health services,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Pos. 8 – Citywide and chair of the Housing, Health, Energy and Workers Rights committee. “With more and more people coming to Seattle each day, and rents skyrocketing, this approach will help make sure that everyone in Seattle will have the opportunity to call a place a home.”

“Seattle’s small businesses, about 97 percent of all businesses in the city, will not be taxed by this proposal. Just the opposite, this proposal does much of what many small businesses want to see in responding to the crisis – create more safe and appropriate places for people to go, said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, District 6, Northwest Seattle, who introduced a similar measure last year. “Local government provides services and housing to thousands of people experiencing homelessness each year, but the need is growing faster than we can keep pace. With this investment, we will jumpstart a regional and sustained approach to homelessness that will make a difference for our unsheltered population, and our businesses.”

The Council is set to continue deliberation on the Council bill and resolution in the following manner:

  • Monday, April 23 Introduction of Legislation
  • Wednesday, April 25 Finance Committee Meeting 2:00 p.m. Discussion of Investments
  • Wednesday, May 2 Special Finance Committee Meeting 12:00 p.m. Issue Identification
  • Wednesday, May 9 Finance Committee Meeting 2:00 p.m. Discussion of Amendments, Possible VOTE

The Full Council vote is scheduled to occur on Monday, May 14 at 2:00 p.m.  The legislation will take effect in January 2019.

View an infographic about the Progressive Tax on Business, thumbnails below:


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Seattle City Council meetings are cablecast and Webcast live on Seattle Channel 21 and on the City Council’s website. Copies of legislation, Council meeting calendar, and archives of news releases can be found on the City Council website. Follow the Council on Twitter and on Facebook.

Councilmember Herbold Praises Halting of Streetcar Project

SEATTLE – Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & Highland Park), issued the following statement regarding this afternoon’s announcement from Mayor Jenny Durkan to “stop work” on the Center City Streetcar:

“I thank Mayor Durkan for pressing the ‘pause’ button on the Center City Streetcar through her executive order to stop work.

“This step is necessary to ensure that the independent review ordered by the Mayor is meaningful. Had work proceeded as scheduled-especially in awarding a construction contract- it would be more difficult to integrate the results of the independent review, or delay or stop the project. I had begun working on legislation to cease spending until after the review was complete; with the Mayor’s executive order, it appears that won’t be necessary.

“I remain concerned about potential unsustainable operations shortfalls, which could be millions annually, even under the most optimistic ridership and farebox recovery scenarios.”