Domestic Worker Anti-Discrimination, Retaliation, and Harassment Legislation; Move Levy Resolution to Address Implementation Challenges; King County Hotel-Motel Tax Legislation Update; August Break

Domestic Worker Anti-Discrimination, Retaliation, and Harassment Legislation

On Tuesday August 14th in my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee we heard a briefing on a necessary legislative fix to Chapter 14.04, the Fair Employment Practices section of the Seattle Municipal Code.  This change would protect domestic workers who are independent contractors from harassment and discrimination.

The Fair Employment Practices section (Chapter 14.04) of the municipal code currently only covers employees, not independent contractors.  This section of the municipal code is enforced by the Office of Civil Rights (SOCR).  You can watch the full briefing here. You can find a draft of the legislation as discussed in briefings here.

The reason this change is necessary is related to a bill recently passed by the Council, under the leadership of Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights legislation. This historic legislation guarantees that domestic workers earn minimum wage, rest and meal breaks and protects workers from both wage theft and from having their documents withheld.

As a part of the stakeholder engagement and listening sessions led by Councilmember Mosqueda, many domestic workers shared their experiences of harassment and discrimination they are subject to while working.

In exploring how to address the issue of harassment, retaliation, and discrimination legislatively it was discovered that making a change to the Fair Employment Practices section (Chapter 14.04) of the municipal code, enforced by SOCR would be important. Since my committee has legislative jurisdiction over SOCR, Councilmember Mosqueda reached out to my office asking us to collaborate.

In order to ensure that all workers exercising the rights under the new Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will not be discriminated against, harassed, or retaliated against, we will work to amend this section of the municipal code.  We will continue discussing the legislation with interested stakeholders.  A vote on the proposed legislation is scheduled for my committee on Tuesday September 11th.  To track this issue please sign up to receive CRUEDA meeting agendas.

Move Levy Resolution to Address Implementation Challenges

SDOT announced earlier this year that it was reevaluating implementation of the Move Seattle levy. In April, SDOT published a Work Plan Assessment Report. The report noted that of 31 program areas, 23 were on track, while 8 areas needed “further review and adjustment,” meaning potential reductions or downsizing of projects.

This appears to be due to rising construction costs, the reduced opportunity for federal funding under the Trump administration, and overestimation of how much outside funding was realistic. I appreciate the willingness of Interim Director Sparrman to initiate this work, and speak candidly about it.

SDOT plans to propose next steps on August 23 for public comment for the 8 program areas under review, and publish an updated workplan later this year.

SDOT presented an update in the Sustainabilty and Transportation committee August 7, with information about the timeline, process, and recommendations of the Levy Oversight Committee. Also linked on the agenda are reports the Council required re: bridge safety and major corridors.

On August 13 the Council adopted a resolution establishing principles for the revised work plan, to ensure transparency, accountability, and community outreach. The resolution calls for using value engineering to reduce costs, and clear documentation and explanation for any project changes.

As Chair of the committee overseeing Seattle Public Utilities, I believe it’s important to coordinate this work with SPU’s Strategic Business Plan; at times SDOT projects can require or intersect with utility work. The recent SPU Strategic Business Plan included significant rate increases for $201 million in SPU projects related to the Move Levy.  Changes in Move Levy projects could result in changes to the SPU projects related to the Move Levy, and potentially SPU rates as a consequence.  For this reason, I introduced an amendment requiring SDOT to coordinate this work with SPU, specifying and documenting any potential impact on SPU’s rate path, and report to the Sustainability and Transportation committee, and the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee, with an initial assessment due to December 1, and a final report by March 1, 2019.

King County Hotel-Motel Tax Legislation Update

In late June, I wrote about the deliberations at the King County Council regarding the amount of hotel-motel tax that should be devoted toward funding for affordable housing. The bill as introduced would dedicate the legally required minimum of 37.5% toward affordable housing, with $190 million going toward Safeco Field.

In late July, CM Jeanne Kohl-Welles instead proposed to increase the proposal’s investment in affordable housing by $184 million, and reduce the amount of funding directed toward Safeco field to $25 million.

Seattle City Councilmembers Mosqueda, Gonzalez, O’Brien, Harrell and myself recently sent this letter thanking King County Councilmember’s Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Dave Upthegrove, & Rod Dembowski for supporting more of these funds devoted to build affordable housing.

As the letter states, “The investment in affordable housing would mark a major step toward addressing the growing crisis in Seattle and King County and demonstrate the region’s real commitment to the issue.”

The next King County Council hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Wednesday August 29th at 9:30am in which there may be a vote.

August Break

The Council is on break through the day after Labor Day, so this newsletter will be taking a break for the next couple of weeks.

Housing for Tenants with Disabilities; Delridge Multimodal Corridor; One Center City Bike Network; Bike Share Program & Fees; July Constituent Email Report


Amending the Open Housing Ordinance for Tenants with Disabilities

On Monday July 30, 2018 the Seattle City Council passed CB 119309 amending the Open Housing Ordinance in Chapter 14.08 of the Seattle Municipal Code to increase the types of entities with an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities.

This issue was brought to my attention as an area needing new legislation after litigation and a decision from the Washington State Court where a Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) voucher recipient requested a change in her voucher from a studio apartment to one bedroom as a disability related accommodation.  SHA refused to grant her request.  As a result, she brought her complaint to the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR).  Here’s what happened next:

  1. SOCR issued a finding that SHA had unlawfully denied the voucher recipient a reasonable accommodation and the case was sent to the City Attorney’s office for prosecution.
  2. The complaint was filed in the Hearing Examiner’s (HE) office and the HE also issued a finding that SHA unlawfully denied the accommodation request. SHA was then ordered to issue the voucher recipient a one-bedroom section 8 voucher and to pay her $1,500.
  3. SHA filed a writ of review at the county level, and moved to dismiss. The judge denied this motion and ultimately affirmed the HE’s decision.
  4. SHA then appealed to the Washington State Court of Appeals who reversed the lower court’s decision. The Washington Appeals court decided that based on a plain reading of the language in the Seattle Municipal Code and the statutory context supporting legislative intent to cover only the landlord-tenant relationship and did not apply to SHA in its role as a voucher administrator in those cases that SHA isn’t also the landlord.

In its ruling. the Washington Appeals 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 this case and amends the SMC accordingly.

This bill makes several changes to the Seattle Municipal Code including:

  • Separating the obligation to provide reasonable accommodations from the obligation to provide reasonable modifications. These requirements were previously combined in the SMC and in separating the two it is intended to clarify the different responsibilities associated with each definition.
  • Revising the party for permitting reasonable modifications from “landlord” to “person” and including a Section 8 or other subsidy program administrator in the definition of “person.”
  • Defining “Section 8 or other subsidy program administrator” to explicitly ensure the SMC applies in the case of parties who are administrators but not landlords or a party such as SHA who is both landlord and administrator.
  • Adding the term “prospective tenant” to any references to “tenant” to clarify that those applying for units and trying to obtain reasonable modifications are also protected. The Office for Civil Rights currently enforces this law protecting prospective tenants, and this bill will make that protection explicit.


Transportation Actions

The City Council approved three actions on at Monday’s Full Council meeting. Below is a brief summary of each one; I sponsored amendments focused on accountability and oversight.


Delridge Multimodal Corridor

During the 2018 budget process, the Council adopted a restriction on spending on the Delridge Multimodal Project.  The proviso required Council approval for any SDOT spending beyond 10% design. I sponsored this spending restriction to begin use of the “stage-gating” process for large capital projects.   Stage-gating requires regular check-ins with the Council on project status, funding, and public engagement before proceeding.

The Delridge Multimodal Corridor includes improvement to Delridge Avenue SW designed to increase transit speed and access, in coordination with King County’s planned transition to convert Bus 120 into the RapidRide H line in 2021.

The Sustainability and Transportation Committee received a presentation on the 10% design, and on Monday the Council voted to authorize additional spending, with a an amendment I sponsored.

My amendment requires a report to the Sustainability and Transportation Committee on 30% design, and Council approval, before spending additional funds. After getting input from community stakeholders, I included language in the amendment expressing an expectation the Council will receive from SDOT “a clear definition of the sidewalk and bicycle infrastructure improvements in the project scope,” and anticipating that the 30% design package “will reflect continued community engagement and input in the project development.”

This is a good example of how the enhanced oversight and accountability of the “stage-gating” process for construction projects should work, requiring regular check ins on progress and budget status. This also has the benefit of allowing residents and advocates to get their questions answered, and ensure Council hears their concerns early on.

Work on revising  Capital Project Oversight began in 2016 with the North Precinct project cost increases.   It started by first getting several departments to adopt common project terminology and defining approval phases, and quarterly updates to the Council to identify problems early. The enhanced quarterly reports will begin in the 3rd quarter of 2018.


One Center City/ Center City Bike Network

In anticipation of the “period of maximum constraint” Downtown, SDOT has partnered with King County Metro, Sound Transit, and the Downtown Seattle Association in the One Center City group.  They have  been meeting since 2016 to develop a series of planned actions to move people safely and efficiently through the center city from later this year until 2021, when light rail will arrive at Northgate, though a variety of planned actions.

In 2017, only 25% of trips Downtown were in single-occupancy vehicles. The period of maximum constraint will further stress the system, requiring alternative access to Downtown.

Downtown faces a high volume of projects: removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, opening of the SR 99 tunnel, reconstruction of Alaskan Way, all buses vacating the Downtown tunnel for expansion of light rail and expansion of the Washington State Convention Center. The Center City Streetcar project is currently on hold as the study ordered by the Mayor on construction and operations costs is completed.

Last week Mayor Durkan announced some of the early actions to implement the One Center City program. Transit enhancements planned before March 2019, when buses will exit the tunnel, include adding bus stops, adding ORCA car readers to allow for pre-paying on all routes, adding real-time arrival signs at all stops, and adding additional bus-only hours on 3rd Avenue. Signal enhancements are planned by March 2019 on 2nd and 4th Avenues, and transit pathway enhancements on 5th and 6th.

In June the Council adopted a resolution directing SDOT to provide quarterly reporting on: a. implementation of the One Center City program, b. the performance of the transportation system with these projects, and c. SDOT’s intended actions to manage for the subsequent quarter. This came after the Council majority unfortunately voted against a motion to not allow buses to leave the tunnel, as necessary for the Convention Center expansion, until September 2019.  I supported not allowing buses to vacate the tunnel until September 2019 as one way to reduce the combined impacts of these projects on commuters.

The success of the One Center City program is especially important for West Seattle commuters.   The removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will require buses that access Downtown on the Viaduct to find another way into Downtown until Alaskan Way is re-built.  Eventually, buses will access Alaskan Way just before the entrance to the tunnel, then turn right onto Columbia onto 3rd Avenue. During the interim period, buses such as the C Line will access Downtown via 3rd Avenue at first, then later on 1st Avenue. More specifics will be available on this later when WSDOT announces their timeline for Viaduct removal.

I’ve also heard frustration from West Seattle bike commuters about the lack of access across Downtown. Without dedicated access through Downtown, reaching areas to the north of Downtown, such as employment centers in South Lake Union, is difficult, and often unsafe. The Downtown bike network is designed to help provide this kind of access to bike commuters.

One result of the One Center City program is that the implementation of the Center City Bike Network included in the Bicycle Master Plan has been delayed. SDOT announced that the 4th Avenue two-way protected bike lane, for example, has been delayed from 2018 until 2021. While noting this, the Council passed a resolution in support of a Center City bike network.

Among other amendments to this resolution, I proposed an amendment to this resolution to clarify the broader context of the One Center City program.  Bike network implementation must not compromise the One Center City goal of moving people safely and efficiently through the Center City.

With all the planning to date, we can’t fully know what will happen when tolling begins on the tunnel next year.  For this reason, some flexibility in implementation and scheduling of actions relate to the Downtown Bike Network may be necessary.


New Fees Passed to Support Free Floating Bike Share Program

After the demise of the ill-fated Pronto system that used fixed bicycle parking docks, Seattle became a focus for “free-floating” privately-funded bike share companies, since Seattle was one of only a few of the 50 biggest cities in the USA without a fixed dock system. Last year SDOT adopted a one-year pilot program under its existing street use authority, and charged the private-sector companies for use of city streets.

The use of these bikes has been much broader than the Pronto system, and the demographics of use have been reflective of the City’s population; a survey found that 36% of Latino and African-Americans have tried the system, along with 32% of Asian and White respondents.

The Council approved fees for use of public right of way for what SDOT terms “free-floating bike share” bicycles. The legislation sets a fee of $250,000 each for up to four companies to provide bike-share bicycles, a similar fee to that the City charges Car2Go and other car-share companies for use of city streets.

Given SDOT’s existing Street Use authority, the legislation by the Council is limited to setting fees. Some of the funds will be used to construct designated bike share parking.  Bike parking will be developed in areas where car parking is currently prohibited, such as the 30-foot zone from stop signs.  This is to ensure both that existing car parking isn’t removed and ensure that bike parking doesn’t block driver’s views.   Some of the funds will be used for enforcement of parking regulations

While the system is providing better citywide access than Pronto, and operates with no public subsidy, I do have concerns about “free floating” bikes blocking sidewalks, with impacts to pedestrians, especially to disabled and elderly persons.

In this spirit, I sponsored amendments to the legislation that:

1) limit the fee approval to bicycles and adaptive cycles to accommodate disabled riders, so that approval will not include other devices such as electric scooters (other devices would have been allowed in the original version);

2) request quarterly updates from SDOT about installation of designated bike parking associated with the free-floating bike share program;

3) request SDOT provide a written plan for sidewalk management and safety, addressing the increasing use of fast-moving electric-motor devices on sidewalks by December 31, 2018. Former WSDOT Director MacDonald has emphasized the need for a clear plan to address pedestrian safety on sidewalks with the rise in electric devices such as electric skateboards, hoverboards and uniwheels.

I strongly believe we need much greater clarity about sidewalk safety before considering approval for other electronic devices.


July Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office.  My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s through getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering.  The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in July, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in June related to policy or legislation the Council is considering.

Housing for Tenants with Disabilities; Delridge Multimodal Corridor; One Center City Bike Network; Bike Share Program & Fees; July Constituent Email Report


Amending the Open Housing Ordinance for Tenants with Disabilities

On Monday July 30, 2018 the Seattle City Council passed CB 119309 amending the Open Housing Ordinance in Chapter 14.08 of the Seattle Municipal Code to increase the types of entities with an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to tenants with disabilities.

This issue was brought to my attention as an area needing new legislation after litigation and a decision from the Washington State Court where a Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) voucher recipient requested a change in her voucher from a studio apartment to one bedroom as a disability related accommodation.  SHA refused to grant her request.  As a result, she brought her complaint to the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR).  Here’s what happened next:

  1. SOCR issued a finding that SHA had unlawfully denied the voucher recipient a reasonable accommodation and the case was sent to the City Attorney’s office for prosecution.
  2. The complaint was filed in the Hearing Examiner’s (HE) office and the HE also issued a finding that SHA unlawfully denied the accommodation request. SHA was then ordered to issue the voucher recipient a one-bedroom section 8 voucher and to pay her $1,500.
  3. SHA filed a writ of review at the county level, and moved to dismiss. The judge denied this motion and ultimately affirmed the HE’s decision.
  4. SHA then appealed to the Washington State Court of Appeals who reversed the lower court’s decision. The Washington Appeals court decided that based on a plain reading of the language in the Seattle Municipal Code and the statutory context supporting legislative intent to cover only the landlord-tenant relationship and did not apply to SHA in its role as a voucher administrator in those cases that SHA isn’t also the landlord.

In its ruling. the Washington Appeals 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 this case and amends the SMC accordingly.

This bill makes several changes to the Seattle Municipal Code including:

  • Separating the obligation to provide reasonable accommodations from the obligation to provide reasonable modifications. These requirements were previously combined in the SMC and in separating the two it is intended to clarify the different responsibilities associated with each definition.
  • Revising the party for permitting reasonable modifications from “landlord” to “person” and including a Section 8 or other subsidy program administrator in the definition of “person.”
  • Defining “Section 8 or other subsidy program administrator” to explicitly ensure the SMC applies in the case of parties who are administrators but not landlords or a party such as SHA who is both landlord and administrator.
  • Adding the term “prospective tenant” to any references to “tenant” to clarify that those applying for units and trying to obtain reasonable modifications are also protected. The Office for Civil Rights currently enforces this law protecting prospective tenants, and this bill will make that protection explicit.


Transportation Actions

The City Council approved three actions on at Monday’s Full Council meeting. Below is a brief summary of each one; I sponsored amendments focused on accountability and oversight.


Delridge Multimodal Corridor

During the 2018 budget process, the Council adopted a restriction on spending on the Delridge Multimodal Project.  The proviso required Council approval for any SDOT spending beyond 10% design. I sponsored this spending restriction to begin use of the “stage-gating” process for large capital projects.   Stage-gating requires regular check-ins with the Council on project status, funding, and public engagement before proceeding.

The Delridge Multimodal Corridor includes improvement to Delridge Avenue SW designed to increase transit speed and access, in coordination with King County’s planned transition to convert Bus 120 into the RapidRide H line in 2021.

The Sustainability and Transportation Committee received a presentation on the 10% design, and on Monday the Council voted to authorize additional spending, with a an amendment I sponsored.

My amendment requires a report to the Sustainability and Transportation Committee on 30% design, and Council approval, before spending additional funds. After getting input from community stakeholders, I included language in the amendment expressing an expectation the Council will receive from SDOT “a clear definition of the sidewalk and bicycle infrastructure improvements in the project scope,” and anticipating that the 30% design package “will reflect continued community engagement and input in the project development.”

This is a good example of how the enhanced oversight and accountability of the “stage-gating” process for construction projects should work, requiring regular check ins on progress and budget status. This also has the benefit of allowing residents and advocates to get their questions answered, and ensure Council hears their concerns early on.

Work on revising  Capital Project Oversight began in 2016 with the North Precinct project cost increases.   It started by first getting several departments to adopt common project terminology and defining approval phases, and quarterly updates to the Council to identify problems early. The enhanced quarterly reports will begin in the 3rd quarter of 2018.


One Center City/ Center City Bike Network

In anticipation of the “period of maximum constraint” Downtown, SDOT has partnered with King County Metro, Sound Transit, and the Downtown Seattle Association in the One Center City group.  They have  been meeting since 2016 to develop a series of planned actions to move people safely and efficiently through the center city from later this year until 2021, when light rail will arrive at Northgate, though a variety of planned actions.

In 2017, only 25% of trips Downtown were in single-occupancy vehicles. The period of maximum constraint will further stress the system, requiring alternative access to Downtown.

Downtown faces a high volume of projects: removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, opening of the SR 99 tunnel, reconstruction of Alaskan Way, all buses vacating the Downtown tunnel for expansion of light rail and expansion of the Washington State Convention Center. The Center City Streetcar project is currently on hold as the study ordered by the Mayor on construction and operations costs is completed.

Last week Mayor Durkan announced some of the early actions to implement the One Center City program. Transit enhancements planned before March 2019, when buses will exit the tunnel, include adding bus stops, adding ORCA car readers to allow for pre-paying on all routes, adding real-time arrival signs at all stops, and adding additional bus-only hours on 3rd Avenue. Signal enhancements are planned by March 2019 on 2nd and 4th Avenues, and transit pathway enhancements on 5th and 6th.

In June the Council adopted a resolution directing SDOT to provide quarterly reporting on: a. implementation of the One Center City program, b. the performance of the transportation system with these projects, and c. SDOT’s intended actions to manage for the subsequent quarter. This came after the Council majority unfortunately voted against a motion to not allow buses to leave the tunnel, as necessary for the Convention Center expansion, until September 2019.  I supported not allowing buses to vacate the tunnel until September 2019 as one way to reduce the combined impacts of these projects on commuters.

The success of the One Center City program is especially important for West Seattle commuters.   The removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will require buses that access Downtown on the Viaduct to find another way into Downtown until Alaskan Way is re-built.  Eventually, buses will access Alaskan Way just before the entrance to the tunnel, then turn right onto Columbia onto 3rd Avenue. During the interim period, buses such as the C Line will access Downtown via 3rd Avenue at first, then later on 1st Avenue. More specifics will be available on this later when WSDOT announces their timeline for Viaduct removal.

I’ve also heard frustration from West Seattle bike commuters about the lack of access across Downtown. Without dedicated access through Downtown, reaching areas to the north of Downtown, such as employment centers in South Lake Union, is difficult, and often unsafe. The Downtown bike network is designed to help provide this kind of access to bike commuters.

One result of the One Center City program is that the implementation of the Center City Bike Network included in the Bicycle Master Plan has been delayed. SDOT announced that the 4th Avenue two-way protected bike lane, for example, has been delayed from 2018 until 2021. While noting this, the Council passed a resolution in support of a Center City bike network.

Among other amendments to this resolution, I proposed an amendment to this resolution to clarify the broader context of the One Center City program.  Bike network implementation must not compromise the One Center City goal of moving people safely and efficiently through the Center City.

With all the planning to date, we can’t fully know what will happen when tolling begins on the tunnel next year.  For this reason, some flexibility in implementation and scheduling of actions relate to the Downtown Bike Network may be necessary.


New Fees Passed to Support Free Floating Bike Share Program

After the demise of the ill-fated Pronto system that used fixed bicycle parking docks, Seattle became a focus for “free-floating” privately-funded bike share companies, since Seattle was one of only a few of the 50 biggest cities in the USA without a fixed dock system. Last year SDOT adopted a one-year pilot program under its existing street use authority, and charged the private-sector companies for use of city streets.

The use of these bikes has been much broader than the Pronto system, and the demographics of use have been reflective of the City’s population; a survey found that 36% of Latino and African-Americans have tried the system, along with 32% of Asian and White respondents.

The Council approved fees for use of public right of way for what SDOT terms “free-floating bike share” bicycles. The legislation sets a fee of $250,000 each for up to four companies to provide bike-share bicycles, a similar fee to that the City charges Car2Go and other car-share companies for use of city streets.

Given SDOT’s existing Street Use authority, the legislation by the Council is limited to setting fees. Some of the funds will be used to construct designated bike share parking.  Bike parking will be developed in areas where car parking is currently prohibited, such as the 30-foot zone from stop signs.  This is to ensure both that existing car parking isn’t removed and ensure that bike parking doesn’t block driver’s views.   Some of the funds will be used for enforcement of parking regulations

While the system is providing better citywide access than Pronto, and operates with no public subsidy, I do have concerns about “free floating” bikes blocking sidewalks, with impacts to pedestrians, especially to disabled and elderly persons.

In this spirit, I sponsored amendments to the legislation that:

1) limit the fee approval to bicycles and adaptive cycles to accommodate disabled riders, so that approval will not include other devices such as electric scooters (other devices would have been allowed in the original version);

2) request quarterly updates from SDOT about installation of designated bike parking associated with the free-floating bike share program;

3) request SDOT provide a written plan for sidewalk management and safety, addressing the increasing use of fast-moving electric-motor devices on sidewalks by December 31, 2018. Former WSDOT Director MacDonald has emphasized the need for a clear plan to address pedestrian safety on sidewalks with the rise in electric devices such as electric skateboards, hoverboards and uniwheels.

I strongly believe we need much greater clarity about sidewalk safety before considering approval for other electronic devices.


July Constituent Email Report

Constituent correspondence is a very important task in my office.  My staff and I spend time every day helping you improve our community, whether that’s through getting you help from a city department with our constituent case management services or giving you information about legislation that the Council is considering.  The unshaded categories and numbers are problem-solving emails answered in July, what I refer to above as “case management services.”  The shaded categories and numbers are emails answered in June related to policy or legislation the Council is considering.

Happy 2018! And a Look Back on 2017 Accomplishments

Happy holidays and new year from Councilmember Herbold’s Office!

Contents

 

PART 1 // D1 TRANSPORTATION UPDATES


Sound Transit Light Rail

In May, Sound Transit announced a Draft System Expansion Implementation Plan for ST3, including a schedule for light rail to West Seattle, to implement the 2015 ballot measure.  The ST3 scope equals the first two Sound Transit measures (1996 and 2008) combined.

The starting point is the representative alignment in the ST3 plan approved by voters, including stations at Delridge, Avalon, and Alaska Junction, to “connect West Seattle to downtown Seattle via Alaska Street, Fauntleroy Way, Genesee Street, Delridge Avenue, Spokane Street, and the SODO Busway.”

Scheduled to be the first Seattle project completed in ST3, the timetable could involve utility work as early as 2024, in anticipation of construction beginning in 2025. This creates a potential conflict with the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project. In recognition of these challenges, I sent a letter to Sound Transit regarding these issues, and recently received a reply.

In December, the Council approved an agreement between the City of Seattle and Sound Transit to guide cooperation, with clarity to budget and schedule, and with specific points for City concurrence.

The agreement acknowledges “that suggestions to study additional alternatives are likely to emerge during the alternatives development process,” and “The target is to identify options to be investigated as soon as possible during alternatives development to support the goal of early and durable consensus on a preferred alternative.”  The agreement calls for the development of a preferred alternative, with city concurrence, during the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2019.

The Sound Transit Board approves the alignment.  An “Elected Leadership Group” will make recommendations to the Sound Transit Board regarding the alignment and other issues and will include other local elected officials.  As District 1 representative for West Seattle, I’ll be serving on this board.

 


Lander Street Overpass Funding

The Lander Street Overpass project over the railroad tracks in SODO has received $10 million in funding from the Port of Seattle. With this, the long-delayed project attained full funding.

In the City’s successful request for federal funding, I added language emphasizing that the daily closures result in “hindering access to Downtown from West Seattle and South Park.” The West Seattle Transportation Coalition cites a 45% reduction in north/south vehicle lanes over the last eight years through SODO. Closures due to rail traffic average 4.5 hours daily, affecting north/south traffic.

The schedule calls for construction in 2018, and completion in early 2020.  The cost estimate is $125 million, reduced from the $142 million figure listed in the SDOT 2017 capital budget, due to design revisions by SDOT.

 


Highland Park Roundabout

Highland Park Way SW is one of only a few east-west access points for the West Seattle peninsula.  Dating back to 1941, the community has advocated for pedestrian and motorist safety at this intersection, the cite of numerous recent accidents.

During last year’s Neighborhood Street Fund process the community proposed a traffic roundabout (as they had in 2013) at Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street.  It was the highest-rated project of the Delridge District Council, but, due to cost, wasn’t selected.

I supported funding for initial design work, and SDOT dedicated $200,000 of existing funds to advance design for a roundabout. Improving safety and alleviating congestion can also reduce the use of side streets, an increasing safety issue, especially during rush hour.

SDOT applied for funding through a state grant; including a letter of support signed by all nine Councilmembers.  Numerous other elected officials and West Seattle community groups showed their support as well. Unfortunately, the application wasn’t successful; we’ll be considering next steps early in 2018.

 


Mudslides

In February, after a mudslide closed Highland Park Way SW for a few days during heavy rains, I investigated SDOT plans for landslide mitigation, and found that work identified in a 2000 report was not being adequately funded.

I worked with the City Budget Office to increase funding in the 2nd quarter supplemental budget by $1.37 million; the 2018 budget also included an increase. The 2nd quarter funding went to projects at SW Cambridge and California Avenue SW, the 10200 block of 47th Avenue SW, and Highland Park Way SW.

 

PART 2 // PUBLIC SAFETY IN D1


South Park Public Safety Task Force

You may recall that during last year’s budget, Councilmember González and I partnered to create a South Park Public Safety Task Force. South Park had the 3rd highest number of gunshots reported in Seattle neighborhoods during 2016, according to Seattle Police Department data.

The purpose of the task force was to formulate and report to Council recommendations regarding the public safety and vitality of that neighborhood, including strategies that are culturally and linguistically responsive data-driven approaches.

This summer, in response to community requests after a number of nights of vandalism against businesses, I requested that the Chief of Police convene a community meeting. The Department of Neighborhoods stepped in and brought other City departments. High attendance showed just how concerned South Park residents are with the ongoing public safety issues.

In September, the report and recommendations of the  South Park Public Safety Taskforce were presented including funding for a Public Safety Coordinator; Improvements to Pedestrian Safety; Lighting Dark Alleys and Crime Spots; Providing More Frequent Garbage Pickup; and Funding Opportunities for Children and Youth.

The budget balancing package I proposed, with Councilmember Lorena González’ sponsorship, included funding a South Park Public Safety Coordinator and pedestrian and traffic safety improvements. My office is working with Seattle City Light and a local business owner to light the alley between Cloverdale and Donovan.

 


Alki Public Safety and Health Survey/Budget Action

Since taking office, I have heard concern from residents of Alki and adjacent neighborhoods regarding vehicle noise and other public safety concerns. As a beachside neighborhood and regional destination, there are unique public safety and health challenges from Beach Drive to the West Seattle Bridge. Earlier in 2017, I met with SPD about issues at Alki, and requested additional officers and use of the Mobile Precinct.

Later in the summer, I worked with community members to develop the Alki Public Safety and Health Survey. 1100 people responded. The results showed a high level of concern for vehicle noise; you can see the results here, including by neighborhood.

The survey results informed a budget action I developed with community members, which the Council adopted in November, requiring the Seattle Police Department to identify new enforcement policies and practices with respect to vehicle noise and cruising in the Alki neighborhood that could be used in other neighborhoods, such as Fauntleroy, adjacent to the ferry dock.

 

PART 3 // HOUSING HIGHLIGHTS


Housing Bond Update

You may recall that last year I worked to expand financing for more affordable housing through utilizing the City’s existing bond capacity.  Using the City’s bond capacity for housing was very controversial when the Council approved it in 2016.  In February of 2017, the Affordable Housing Neighborhood and Finance Committee approved two pieces of legislation that helped the city move closer to using the financing.

Then, in July of 2017 the Office of Housing (OH) announced that some of that new funding would be available through its annual competitive Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process.  More than a dozen non-profit developers signaled their intent to bid.  Finally, in December of 2017, the City of Seattle announced $100 million in affordable housing investments.

OH Director Steve Walker said that the availability of $29 million in bonding authority in 2017 allowed the City to “make commitments to two large-scale transit-oriented affordable housing developments at the Roosevelt light rail station and Northgate transit center…In total, the $29 million in bonding authority supports the creation of 300 affordable apartments that otherwise would not have been created.”

In addition to $29 million in bond financing this allocation utilizes the first year of funding from the 2016 voter-passed Seattle Housing Levy, funding from incentive zoning payments, and proceeds from the sale of surplus properties.  Leveraging additional local and federal resources, this will support more than $260 million in investments.

 


Fair Chance Housing

Back in 2012, Councilmembers Licata and O’Brien asked that the Office of Housing (OH) begin to address the barriers created when criminal background screenings are used to select tenants.  The Fair Chance Housing Taskforce was a 2015 Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) taskforce recommendation to increase access to rental housing for people with criminal records.

In February 2016, after announcement of the task force, several Councilmembers joined me in writing to then Mayor Murray about the Fair Chance Housing taskforce, available here.

In May 2017, my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee hosted its first conversation with members of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce.  Through the work of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce and the Office of Civil Rights the Fair Chance Housing legislation was proposed. The final Fair Chance Housing legislation, co-sponsored by myself and Council President Harrell passed unanimously by Full Council on August 14, 2017. This ordinance prevents landlords from screening applicants based on criminal convictions; arrests that did not lead to a conviction; convictions that have been expunged, vacated or sealed; juvenile records; or status of a juvenile tenant on the sex offender registry. The bill also prohibits the use of advertising language that categorically excludes people with arrests or conviction records. The legislation does not apply to people registered as sex offenders who committed their crime as an adult.

The legislation goes into effect in early 2018, allowing the City to implement a new Fair Housing Home Program to help property owners adjust their practices and learn how to implement practices to affirmatively further fair housing by reducing biases in tenant selection.

 


Short-term Rental

In December, the Council took its final vote to complete what was two years of deliberations addressing how Seattle should regulate and tax short-term rentals (STR) out of concern that, with a projected loss of 1,000-1,500 additional long-term units in the next three years, continued growth of multi-listing hosts would undermine Seattle’s long-term housing stock at a time when the market is tighter than ever. My primary goal was to return and maintain as many long-term rental units on the market as possible.

The bills cover each the taxing structure, land-use code, and regulatory structure related to short-term rentals.  CB 119083, pertains to how the City taxes short-term rentals.  CB 119082 addresses how short-term rentals are addressed in the land-use code.  CB 119081 addresses the regulatory structure.  Council will receive an implementation status report in June. The short-term rental regulations will not become effective until January 1, 2019.

 

PART 4 // LAND USE LATEST


MHA rezones

The Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program requires developers in urban villages to contribute to affordable housing by either building it onsite or paying into a City fund for Affordable Housing. The city plans to develop 6,000 affordable units with the implementation of the MHA program. This year the Full Council adopted MHA for each the University District,  Downtown & South Lake Union; 23rd and Union-Jackson Residential Urban Village, the Chinatown International District and Uptown.

You may recall that the broad principles of the MHA program were approved by the Council in the MHA framework legislation, in Fall 2016. This framework legislation laid out how all developers would newly be required to contribute to new affordable housing in all developments in exchange for additional zoning capacity.

I am concerned about the impact that displacement has on existing residents and neighborhoods. In February 2017 I sponsored, and the Council passed, Resolution 31733, to request an analysis of both physical and economic displacement as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in order to evaluate whether the proposed city-wide upzones would: (1) increase or decrease direct displacement due to demolition; and (2) either introduce or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace vulnerable populations. This resolution put the Council on record declaring its “intent to consider strategies to mitigate any loss of subsidized affordable units and naturally occurring affordable units resulting from an increase in development capacity.”  It also made very clear the kind of analysis that the Council expected as part of the of the Displacement Risk Analysis being done for the DEIS.  Because the DEIS was not fully responsive to Resolution 31733, in July 7, I sent a letter to Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), Director Sam Assefa requesting again that this analysis be completed.

The comment period on the DEIS was announced in June and was extended a couple weeks to respond to requests for additional time.  On November 9, 2017 the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was released.   On November 27, 2017 an appeal of the FEIS was filed.  This appeal adds a layer of uncertainty to the timing of future legislative action.  You can follow this issue on the city’s HALA webpage as well as signing up for Planning, Land Use and Zoning committee meeting agendas here.

 


Vacant Building Program

In August of this year, the Council passed legislation to improve maintenance and demolition standards of vacant buildings. The City has experienced a significant increase of complaints about vacant building; between 2013 and 2016 we saw an increase of 58%.  District 1 has the second highest amount of complaints between 2013 and 2016. You can see those here.

I worked to amend this legislation to require development of a Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Vacant building monitoring programs require property owners to register vacant and foreclosed properties. This allows the City to ensure they are maintained and secure and not a nuisance to the public.

The Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) will report in March of 2018 with proposal for an enhanced Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Such a proposal should: (1) establish triggering events for enrollment; (2) strengthen minimum standards for vacant buildings; (3) include a penalty structure for failure to comply; (4) minimize costs to owners when buildings are well maintained (5) allow owners of vacant buildings to have buildings occupied by caretakers.

 

PART 5 // ACCOUNTABILITY IN GOVERNMENT


Police Accountability Legislation

I support strong police oversight, and co-sponsored police accountability legislation to create, among other things, a new Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and making the Community Police Commission (CPC) a permanent body.

The function of the CPC is intrinsic to the success of police accountability reform in Seattle. The 2012 Consent Decree process was begun in 2010 when 34 community groups called on the US Department of Justice to investigate excessive use of force.  It is critical that the community retain a seat at the table.

I worked with the CPC to propose amendments to require 25% of CPC members on the search committees for future Directors of the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). Another amendment expanded the size of the CPC, in order to increase their ability to carry out police accountability work, now enshrined in city law.

Finally, I proposed an amendment to ensure that the CPC retains the authority that the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB), the OPA’s previous civilian review board, had to review closed case files. The OPARB emphasized the importance of this power in a 2014 letter. This kind of oversight power led to the discovery, for example, that SPD was doing criminal background checks on people making misconduct complaints (see 2003 annual report).

Thanks to SPD and Seattle’s police officers for their implementation of reform. The Seattle Police Officers Guild collaborated in the work of the CPC over the last several years, and helped inform their recommendations with practical experience. The Court-appointed federal monitor ruled in April that SPD had reached initial compliance with the use of force reforms.   The monitor will continue review the department for at least two years to ensure compliance.

 


Observer Bill of Rights

In May, the Council passed legislation I sponsored to establish an Observer Bill of Rights for people to observe and record police activity. The bill establishes that, by law, the public has the right to observe police activity. It states that officers may not use physical force to punish or retaliate against observers, and must seek to minimize harm to bystanders when using less lethal tools like pepper spray or tear gas. In addition, if a person brings a claim that the law was violated, the Office of Professional Accountability must be notified.

Observation has always been an important element of accountability.  Mothers for Police Accountability here in Seattle has, for decades, trained community observers to watch the actions of police in detaining suspects.  Most police interactions with the public are fair and professional, but the observation is one way to reduce the chances that people are treated unfairly in their interactions with police. And when people are not treated fairly, or force is used inappropriately, observation ensures there is a witness.

At a time when we have an increasing reliance on cameras that police officers wear or have in their cars, the police activity that the public observes is still important.  A Washington Post article from March noted that in a shooting in Albuquerque, the camera of the police officer who fired the shot wasn’t recording, three missed the crucial moment, and three were either blurred or contained no record.

 


Duwamish Greenbelt Tree Settlement

In April, City Attorney Holmes announced a settlement over the illegal 2016 tree cutting on City property in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt.

Two complaints were filed last fall, including for timber trespass, damage to land, negligence, environmentally critical areas violations, violations of the parks code, and violations of the city’s tree and vegetation management in public places code.

Two couples paid City $440,000 regarding one of the decimated areas. The City’s other suit regarding the other area is ongoing, and unaffected by this settlement.  The Parks and Recreation Department has used the settlement funds for remediation of the property.

Hopefully this settlement—60% higher per tree than the similar 2003 case in the Mount Baker neighborhood—will deter future rogue clearcutting. Those with financial means can’t count on small settlements to pave the way towards increased views and property values. Trees in our greenbelts are precious resources that maintain soil stability, lessen the risk of landslides, and maintain air quality by absorbing carbon. We must protect them.

 


Socially Responsible Banking Legislation/Fair Business Practices

In February, the Council voted to adopt Fair Business Practices for contracting, including banking.  To give local, in-state banks a better chance to compete for the City’s banking services, I sponsored an amendment increasing from 15% to 20% the amount used in scoring for socially responsible banking and fair business practices.

The City manages nearly $4 billion annually; during 2016 the average daily balance in the City’s account with Wells Fargo was approximately $56 million. Integrating social responsibility with the City’s banking needs, and relevant state law, is challenging. State law limits the use of credit unions to $250,000, which means the City can’t use them for general-purpose banking.

My staff researched which banks are eligible for the City’s banking services under state law. Of the 63 banks are registered with the state, it appears only between 8 and 11 banks are eligible, depending on whether the minimum threshold for managing City deposits is set at $450 million, or $300 million. Between 4 and 7 of those banks are in-state.

Bank of America and US Bank, as well as Wells Fargo, all received significant fines from the Department of Justice for mortgage fraud. This points to the challenges we face in selecting a City bank in alignment with the City’s values.

The City will re-bid its banking services. The contract proposals include smaller chunks, to increase the likelihood of smaller banks being able to apply.

PART 6 // ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND EQUITY FOR A BETTER SEATTLE


OLS Funding

The Office of Labor Standards (OLS) is responsible for administering and enforcing six local labor laws: $15 Minimum Wage, Paid Sick and Safe Time, Fair Chance Employment, Wage Theft, Secure Scheduling, and the Hotel Employees Health and Safety Imitative.

The work of the OLS is vital to employer and worker education. A University of Washington study from April 2016, found that 72 percent of workers, including 91 percent of immigrant workers, did not know about or had only a vague understanding of their rights to a minimum wage. Outreach to workers is crucial for employees and employers alike because when all employees know their rights, businesses who do not adhere to our laws do not have an unfair business advantage over those good employers that adhere to our labor standards.

Early this year the Council passed a bill that I co-sponsored to ensure that the OLS would have a dedicated fund to support the operations and activates of the office. This revenue supports enforcement activities, including the investigation of complaints and directed investigations, as well as the education and outreach to employers and employees.

 


Priority Hire

Two and a half years ago, the City adopted Priority Hire. The program works to maximize the City’s investment in public infrastructure by helping local residents secure employment opportunities on City funded public works project contracts totaling $5 million or more.

Specifically, Priority Hire requires a minimum percentage of works being local residents from economically disadvantaged zip codes, and sets a minimum requirement for apprenticeship utilization from pre-apprenticeship programs. These requirements improve opportunities for un/underemployed workers and gives them access to living-wage careers.

In July of this year, my Civil Rights, Economic Development, and Arts Committee took up recommendations from the City Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), and another report from the Priority Hire Advisory Committee. The Council voted to approve legislation I sponsored to a. increase hiring through the Priority Hire hiring process and b. improve participation by open-shop and Women and Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE) contractors.

 


Legacy Business Program

You might remember that in the 2017 budget I sponsored a budget initiative to include funding for the Office of Economic Development (OED) to conduct a legacy business study.  In September of this year the Legacy Business Study was published and included several recommendations on how Seattle could further support this work, including:

  1. Refine or expand existing OED programs to better support legacy businesses.
  2. Create new business assistance specifically targeted towards legacy businesses.
  3. Work to create a comprehensive legacy program.

In continuing to move forward this important work, I made sure that the 2018 budget contains funding to develop and implement a new Legacy Business Designation Program and support for business entrepreneurs who are women and people of color.

 


UDP Expansion

In October 2016, a constituent let my office know that Medicare Part B premiums were being included as a source of income towards qualification to the Utility Discount Program (UDP).  The UDP is a City program for low-income customers and offers a 60% discount on your Seattle City Light (SCL) bill, and a 50% discount on your Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) bill for eligible customers.  The result of including Medicare Part B premiums as a source of income is that people who should have access to the UDP were being deemed ineligible.

Medicare Part B premiums are automatically withdrawn from Social Security and Social Security Disability income checks; residents never even see the funds.

I worked with both utilities and the Mayor’s Office to remove the requirement to count Medicare Part B premiums as income. Both utilities implemented the new rules on June 1, 2017.  SPU estimated that the change added an additional 1,1015 households to the UDP.

 


Eliminating the Subminimum Wage

In July, the City announced an intent to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities. Seattle’s current law mirrors Washington State law which allows employers to pay less than minimum wage. The Commission for People with DisAbilities (PwD) voted unanimously, in June, to end this exemption.

After conducting a review of Seattle’s policy, the PwD held a public comment session to hear from the community and organizations. Additionally, they reached out to all the businesses that currently utilize the subminimum wage. The PwD Commission received no comment opposing the elimination of the subminimum wage certificates.

All subminimum wage certificates which the Director had previously signed will laps at the end of 2017. The Council will codify this decision in 2018.

 


Fixing Our Broken Tax Structure

Washington State has the most regressive tax structure in the nation. People earning $20,000 a year devote two months of pay to their yearly tax bill, while the 1% pay their entire annual tax bill in only 6 days. Economist Dick Conway reports that across five different measures – fairness, transparency, adequacy, stability, and economic vitality – Washington State’s tax structure is the worst of all the states in the nation.

Besides placing a greater burden on those least able to afford it, and straining the middle class, the dependence on property taxes makes it harder for fixed-income seniors to remain in their homes.   We need a fairer tax system. To address this, I co-sponsored legislation for a tax on high incomes.

The tax of 2.25% is on only the income of Seattle residents over $250,000 for single filers, or income above $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. For a single filer with income of $300,000, only the $50,000 over $250,000 would be taxed, for a total of $1125, or 0.038 percent of their total income.

The legislation was designed to minimize the cost of implementation and reporting. Residents with qualifying incomes will file their income as listed on line 22 on IRS form 1040; early estimates indicate it would raise approximately $140 million from about 11,000 tax payers.

An earlier resolution noted that legal viability would be the primary consideration in developing the tax structure.  The legislation is currently under legal challenge.

The tax revenue will be used to: (1) lower the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes, including the business and occupation tax; (2) replace funding lost through federal cuts or respond to changes in federal policy; (3) provide services, including housing, education, and transit; (4) create green jobs and meeting carbon reduction goals; and (5) and implement the tax.

I proposed, and the Council passed, a follow-up budget measure requiring a report by the City Budget Office on use of potential revenues, including future consideration of reduction or elimination of property tax levies.

 

PART 7 // ARTS MATTERS


Why Art Matters

The 2018 federal budget released by Donald Trump earlier this year proposed elimination of federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

In response, the Office of Arts and Culture, KUOW, and I co-hosted a forum in April, Why Does Art Matter, to bring awareness to this issue, and to call on federal representatives in Congress to not pursue this path.

The NEA supports numerous local arts groups, both large and small. One such group is the Creative Advantage arts education program in Seattle Public Schools, which has programs in District 1 schools such as Arbor Heights Elementary, Concord International Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Roxhill Elementary, Sanislo Elementary, West Seattle Elementary, Louise Boren STEM K-8, Denny International Middle School, and Chief Sealth International High School.

The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are vital for our community’s well-being. The President’s proposed budget would have eliminated federal funding for these agencies, and brings up questions about how to continue this important work. Thankfully, Congress acted to not cut this funding.

 


Cultural Arts Spaces

Along with the crisis in affordability in housing, we have a crisis on maintaining arts and cultural spaces in Seattle. The Office of Arts and Culture released the CAP report: 30 ideas for the Creation, Activation & Preservation of Cultural Space.  When the report was released, I requested an implementation plan.

Through the budget process, I secured funding to incentivize cultural uses in older buildings, where three-quarters of cultural spaces in Seattle are located, and space tends to be less expensive.

Secondly, I secured funding for a half-time liaison between The Office of Arts and Culture and the Department of Construction and Inspections to support nonprofit cultural organizations in the permitting process.

Finally, a budget action requires a report on creating a cultural spaces public development authority, to lease, develop, and purchase real estate to maintain cultural uses.

 


Sound Transit Busker Program

Last year I asked Sound Transit to allow buskers to perform at stations, similar to the successful program at Sea-Tac Airport, and to work with the Seattle Music Commission to establish this program.

They established a six-month pilot program at the Capitol Hill and University of Washington stations, and a performance policy, and followed up with a survey of transit riders and street performers, and researched other cities such as New York, Vancouver and the Bay Area.

In September, Sound Transit expanded the program, adding Beacon Hill, Columbia City, Othello, Tukwila International Boulevard and Angle Lake.   Approved performance sites are designated by a silver star, to prevent performers and audiences from blocking station traffic. Performer guidelines and photos of silver star locations are linked here.

Prior to the program, Sound Transit didn’t allow street musicians to perform at light rail facilities; thanks to Sound Transit for supporting buskers!

 


Film in Seattle

During the budget process, I secured funding from admissions tax revenues for the Office of Economic Development’s Office of Film and Music (OFM) to support advancement of the film and media production sector during 2018. This is a core economic development funding of the office. However, due to management of the City’s Special Events program moving from Parks to this OFM, they have been able to carry out only a small amount of this work.

 

PART 8 // BUDGET WRAP UP – D1 SPOTLIGHT

In November, the Council adopted the 2018 City budget, and 2018-2023 Capital Improvement Plan.

As Chair of the Budget Committee, I assembled a final balancing package.  Together, my Council colleagues and I passed several important amendments to the city budget that will meaningfully impact the lives of everyday people in Seattle, all while maintaining current service levels.

In addition to items mentioned elsewhere, here are a few of the highlights; a longer description is here.

  • Hiring more police officers: the budget adds 35 additional police officers positions, to stay on track to hire 200 additional officers by early 2020
  • Funding to implement police accountability legislation; the Council added two and a half positions and contracting funding for the Community Police Commission, and two positions for the Office of Police Accountability.

District 1

  • Expand the Ready to Work project into District 1:  There are unique challenges facing immigrants and refugees living in SW Seattle. The Ready to Work model is designed to support English learners with an intensive centralized and neighborhood based support.  The Ready to Work expansion is slated to open in April of 2018.
  • Funding to plan and design a walkable, bikeable path uniting the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods to enhance walkability between Georgetown and South Park’s historic “Main Streets” and connect the heart of the Duwamish Valley.
  • Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD): expansion of LEAD to North Precinct, and to begin taking referrals from the Southwest Precinct.
  • Addition of $1 million for participatory budgeting which, in 2017, funded projects in, Delridge, Westwood/Highland Park, High Point and South Park.
  • Vacant Building Monitoring Program Funding (written about above re: District 1 having the second highest number of complaints).

 

PART 9 // CONSTITUENT CONTACTS

This year I hosted in-district office hours on nine separate occasions. There are three locations that I rotate between to help make it easier for constituents to meet with me in their own neighborhood. These nine meetings constituted a total of 43 hours where I met with 111 constituents. Issues ranged from traffic and sidewalk issues, to zoning and housing issues. Multiple groups utilized this time to connect with me about specific issues their organization or neighborhoods were facing.

In-District Office hours will continue again in 2018; please keep an eye out for my emails and on the blog to know when I will be in your neighborhood.

This year we received thousands of emails from constituents all over the city. By our rough count, we received and responded to nearly 7,000 individual emails on topics ranging from transportation, land use, utility, parks, and public safety, and other issues.  Next year we will have a better ability to report on the number emails received according to topic, as well as the average time taken to respond.

This number does not include emails received and responded to where the Council was the subject of an organized email campaign.  When we receive hundreds of emails on the same topic, we note every issue raised in each piece of correspondence, and then craft a reply that was responsive to all issues raised.  While some folks express disappointment upon receiving an “auto-reply” to these, I hope to assure everyone that my staff and I read all of the correspondence I receive and I take the perspective and opinions expressed into account when a reply is carefully crafted.

Happy 2018! And a Look Back on 2017 Accomplishments

Happy holidays and new year from Councilmember Herbold’s Office!

Contents

 

PART 1 // D1 TRANSPORTATION UPDATES


Sound Transit Light Rail

In May, Sound Transit announced a Draft System Expansion Implementation Plan for ST3, including a schedule for light rail to West Seattle, to implement the 2015 ballot measure.  The ST3 scope equals the first two Sound Transit measures (1996 and 2008) combined.

The starting point is the representative alignment in the ST3 plan approved by voters, including stations at Delridge, Avalon, and Alaska Junction, to “connect West Seattle to downtown Seattle via Alaska Street, Fauntleroy Way, Genesee Street, Delridge Avenue, Spokane Street, and the SODO Busway.”

Scheduled to be the first Seattle project completed in ST3, the timetable could involve utility work as early as 2024, in anticipation of construction beginning in 2025. This creates a potential conflict with the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project. In recognition of these challenges, I sent a letter to Sound Transit regarding these issues, and recently received a reply.

In December, the Council approved an agreement between the City of Seattle and Sound Transit to guide cooperation, with clarity to budget and schedule, and with specific points for City concurrence.

The agreement acknowledges “that suggestions to study additional alternatives are likely to emerge during the alternatives development process,” and “The target is to identify options to be investigated as soon as possible during alternatives development to support the goal of early and durable consensus on a preferred alternative.”  The agreement calls for the development of a preferred alternative, with city concurrence, during the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2019.

The Sound Transit Board approves the alignment.  An “Elected Leadership Group” will make recommendations to the Sound Transit Board regarding the alignment and other issues and will include other local elected officials.  As District 1 representative for West Seattle, I’ll be serving on this board.

 


Lander Street Overpass Funding

The Lander Street Overpass project over the railroad tracks in SODO has received $10 million in funding from the Port of Seattle. With this, the long-delayed project attained full funding.

In the City’s successful request for federal funding, I added language emphasizing that the daily closures result in “hindering access to Downtown from West Seattle and South Park.” The West Seattle Transportation Coalition cites a 45% reduction in north/south vehicle lanes over the last eight years through SODO. Closures due to rail traffic average 4.5 hours daily, affecting north/south traffic.

The schedule calls for construction in 2018, and completion in early 2020.  The cost estimate is $125 million, reduced from the $142 million figure listed in the SDOT 2017 capital budget, due to design revisions by SDOT.

 


Highland Park Roundabout

Highland Park Way SW is one of only a few east-west access points for the West Seattle peninsula.  Dating back to 1941, the community has advocated for pedestrian and motorist safety at this intersection, the cite of numerous recent accidents.

During last year’s Neighborhood Street Fund process the community proposed a traffic roundabout (as they had in 2013) at Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street.  It was the highest-rated project of the Delridge District Council, but, due to cost, wasn’t selected.

I supported funding for initial design work, and SDOT dedicated $200,000 of existing funds to advance design for a roundabout. Improving safety and alleviating congestion can also reduce the use of side streets, an increasing safety issue, especially during rush hour.

SDOT applied for funding through a state grant; including a letter of support signed by all nine Councilmembers.  Numerous other elected officials and West Seattle community groups showed their support as well. Unfortunately, the application wasn’t successful; we’ll be considering next steps early in 2018.

 


Mudslides

In February, after a mudslide closed Highland Park Way SW for a few days during heavy rains, I investigated SDOT plans for landslide mitigation, and found that work identified in a 2000 report was not being adequately funded.

I worked with the City Budget Office to increase funding in the 2nd quarter supplemental budget by $1.37 million; the 2018 budget also included an increase. The 2nd quarter funding went to projects at SW Cambridge and California Avenue SW, the 10200 block of 47th Avenue SW, and Highland Park Way SW.

 

PART 2 // PUBLIC SAFETY IN D1


South Park Public Safety Task Force

You may recall that during last year’s budget, Councilmember González and I partnered to create a South Park Public Safety Task Force. South Park had the 3rd highest number of gunshots reported in Seattle neighborhoods during 2016, according to Seattle Police Department data.

The purpose of the task force was to formulate and report to Council recommendations regarding the public safety and vitality of that neighborhood, including strategies that are culturally and linguistically responsive data-driven approaches.

This summer, in response to community requests after a number of nights of vandalism against businesses, I requested that the Chief of Police convene a community meeting. The Department of Neighborhoods stepped in and brought other City departments. High attendance showed just how concerned South Park residents are with the ongoing public safety issues.

In September, the report and recommendations of the  South Park Public Safety Taskforce were presented including funding for a Public Safety Coordinator; Improvements to Pedestrian Safety; Lighting Dark Alleys and Crime Spots; Providing More Frequent Garbage Pickup; and Funding Opportunities for Children and Youth.

The budget balancing package I proposed, with Councilmember Lorena González’ sponsorship, included funding a South Park Public Safety Coordinator and pedestrian and traffic safety improvements. My office is working with Seattle City Light and a local business owner to light the alley between Cloverdale and Donovan.

 


Alki Public Safety and Health Survey/Budget Action

Since taking office, I have heard concern from residents of Alki and adjacent neighborhoods regarding vehicle noise and other public safety concerns. As a beachside neighborhood and regional destination, there are unique public safety and health challenges from Beach Drive to the West Seattle Bridge. Earlier in 2017, I met with SPD about issues at Alki, and requested additional officers and use of the Mobile Precinct.

Later in the summer, I worked with community members to develop the Alki Public Safety and Health Survey. 1100 people responded. The results showed a high level of concern for vehicle noise; you can see the results here, including by neighborhood.

The survey results informed a budget action I developed with community members, which the Council adopted in November, requiring the Seattle Police Department to identify new enforcement policies and practices with respect to vehicle noise and cruising in the Alki neighborhood that could be used in other neighborhoods, such as Fauntleroy, adjacent to the ferry dock.

 

PART 3 // HOUSING HIGHLIGHTS


Housing Bond Update

You may recall that last year I worked to expand financing for more affordable housing through utilizing the City’s existing bond capacity.  Using the City’s bond capacity for housing was very controversial when the Council approved it in 2016.  In February of 2017, the Affordable Housing Neighborhood and Finance Committee approved two pieces of legislation that helped the city move closer to using the financing.

Then, in July of 2017 the Office of Housing (OH) announced that some of that new funding would be available through its annual competitive Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process.  More than a dozen non-profit developers signaled their intent to bid.  Finally, in December of 2017, the City of Seattle announced $100 million in affordable housing investments.

OH Director Steve Walker said that the availability of $29 million in bonding authority in 2017 allowed the City to “make commitments to two large-scale transit-oriented affordable housing developments at the Roosevelt light rail station and Northgate transit center…In total, the $29 million in bonding authority supports the creation of 300 affordable apartments that otherwise would not have been created.”

In addition to $29 million in bond financing this allocation utilizes the first year of funding from the 2016 voter-passed Seattle Housing Levy, funding from incentive zoning payments, and proceeds from the sale of surplus properties.  Leveraging additional local and federal resources, this will support more than $260 million in investments.

 


Fair Chance Housing

Back in 2012, Councilmembers Licata and O’Brien asked that the Office of Housing (OH) begin to address the barriers created when criminal background screenings are used to select tenants.  The Fair Chance Housing Taskforce was a 2015 Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) taskforce recommendation to increase access to rental housing for people with criminal records.

In February 2016, after announcement of the task force, several Councilmembers joined me in writing to then Mayor Murray about the Fair Chance Housing taskforce, available here.

In May 2017, my Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts (CRUEDA) Committee hosted its first conversation with members of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce.  Through the work of the Fair Chance Housing Taskforce and the Office of Civil Rights the Fair Chance Housing legislation was proposed. The final Fair Chance Housing legislation, co-sponsored by myself and Council President Harrell passed unanimously by Full Council on August 14, 2017. This ordinance prevents landlords from screening applicants based on criminal convictions; arrests that did not lead to a conviction; convictions that have been expunged, vacated or sealed; juvenile records; or status of a juvenile tenant on the sex offender registry. The bill also prohibits the use of advertising language that categorically excludes people with arrests or conviction records. The legislation does not apply to people registered as sex offenders who committed their crime as an adult.

The legislation goes into effect in early 2018, allowing the City to implement a new Fair Housing Home Program to help property owners adjust their practices and learn how to implement practices to affirmatively further fair housing by reducing biases in tenant selection.

 


Short-term Rental

In December, the Council took its final vote to complete what was two years of deliberations addressing how Seattle should regulate and tax short-term rentals (STR) out of concern that, with a projected loss of 1,000-1,500 additional long-term units in the next three years, continued growth of multi-listing hosts would undermine Seattle’s long-term housing stock at a time when the market is tighter than ever. My primary goal was to return and maintain as many long-term rental units on the market as possible.

The bills cover each the taxing structure, land-use code, and regulatory structure related to short-term rentals.  CB 119083, pertains to how the City taxes short-term rentals.  CB 119082 addresses how short-term rentals are addressed in the land-use code.  CB 119081 addresses the regulatory structure.  Council will receive an implementation status report in June. The short-term rental regulations will not become effective until January 1, 2019.

 

PART 4 // LAND USE LATEST


MHA rezones

The Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program requires developers in urban villages to contribute to affordable housing by either building it onsite or paying into a City fund for Affordable Housing. The city plans to develop 6,000 affordable units with the implementation of the MHA program. This year the Full Council adopted MHA for each the University District,  Downtown & South Lake Union; 23rd and Union-Jackson Residential Urban Village, the Chinatown International District and Uptown.

You may recall that the broad principles of the MHA program were approved by the Council in the MHA framework legislation, in Fall 2016. This framework legislation laid out how all developers would newly be required to contribute to new affordable housing in all developments in exchange for additional zoning capacity.

I am concerned about the impact that displacement has on existing residents and neighborhoods. In February 2017 I sponsored, and the Council passed, Resolution 31733, to request an analysis of both physical and economic displacement as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in order to evaluate whether the proposed city-wide upzones would: (1) increase or decrease direct displacement due to demolition; and (2) either introduce or accelerate a trend of changing socioeconomic conditions that may potentially displace vulnerable populations. This resolution put the Council on record declaring its “intent to consider strategies to mitigate any loss of subsidized affordable units and naturally occurring affordable units resulting from an increase in development capacity.”  It also made very clear the kind of analysis that the Council expected as part of the of the Displacement Risk Analysis being done for the DEIS.  Because the DEIS was not fully responsive to Resolution 31733, in July 7, I sent a letter to Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), Director Sam Assefa requesting again that this analysis be completed.

The comment period on the DEIS was announced in June and was extended a couple weeks to respond to requests for additional time.  On November 9, 2017 the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was released.   On November 27, 2017 an appeal of the FEIS was filed.  This appeal adds a layer of uncertainty to the timing of future legislative action.  You can follow this issue on the city’s HALA webpage as well as signing up for Planning, Land Use and Zoning committee meeting agendas here.

 


Vacant Building Program

In August of this year, the Council passed legislation to improve maintenance and demolition standards of vacant buildings. The City has experienced a significant increase of complaints about vacant building; between 2013 and 2016 we saw an increase of 58%.  District 1 has the second highest amount of complaints between 2013 and 2016. You can see those here.

I worked to amend this legislation to require development of a Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Vacant building monitoring programs require property owners to register vacant and foreclosed properties. This allows the City to ensure they are maintained and secure and not a nuisance to the public.

The Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) will report in March of 2018 with proposal for an enhanced Vacant Building Monitoring Program. Such a proposal should: (1) establish triggering events for enrollment; (2) strengthen minimum standards for vacant buildings; (3) include a penalty structure for failure to comply; (4) minimize costs to owners when buildings are well maintained (5) allow owners of vacant buildings to have buildings occupied by caretakers.

 

PART 5 // ACCOUNTABILITY IN GOVERNMENT


Police Accountability Legislation

I support strong police oversight, and co-sponsored police accountability legislation to create, among other things, a new Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and making the Community Police Commission (CPC) a permanent body.

The function of the CPC is intrinsic to the success of police accountability reform in Seattle. The 2012 Consent Decree process was begun in 2010 when 34 community groups called on the US Department of Justice to investigate excessive use of force.  It is critical that the community retain a seat at the table.

I worked with the CPC to propose amendments to require 25% of CPC members on the search committees for future Directors of the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). Another amendment expanded the size of the CPC, in order to increase their ability to carry out police accountability work, now enshrined in city law.

Finally, I proposed an amendment to ensure that the CPC retains the authority that the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board (OPARB), the OPA’s previous civilian review board, had to review closed case files. The OPARB emphasized the importance of this power in a 2014 letter. This kind of oversight power led to the discovery, for example, that SPD was doing criminal background checks on people making misconduct complaints (see 2003 annual report).

Thanks to SPD and Seattle’s police officers for their implementation of reform. The Seattle Police Officers Guild collaborated in the work of the CPC over the last several years, and helped inform their recommendations with practical experience. The Court-appointed federal monitor ruled in April that SPD had reached initial compliance with the use of force reforms.   The monitor will continue review the department for at least two years to ensure compliance.

 


Observer Bill of Rights

In May, the Council passed legislation I sponsored to establish an Observer Bill of Rights for people to observe and record police activity. The bill establishes that, by law, the public has the right to observe police activity. It states that officers may not use physical force to punish or retaliate against observers, and must seek to minimize harm to bystanders when using less lethal tools like pepper spray or tear gas. In addition, if a person brings a claim that the law was violated, the Office of Professional Accountability must be notified.

Observation has always been an important element of accountability.  Mothers for Police Accountability here in Seattle has, for decades, trained community observers to watch the actions of police in detaining suspects.  Most police interactions with the public are fair and professional, but the observation is one way to reduce the chances that people are treated unfairly in their interactions with police. And when people are not treated fairly, or force is used inappropriately, observation ensures there is a witness.

At a time when we have an increasing reliance on cameras that police officers wear or have in their cars, the police activity that the public observes is still important.  A Washington Post article from March noted that in a shooting in Albuquerque, the camera of the police officer who fired the shot wasn’t recording, three missed the crucial moment, and three were either blurred or contained no record.

 


Duwamish Greenbelt Tree Settlement

In April, City Attorney Holmes announced a settlement over the illegal 2016 tree cutting on City property in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt.

Two complaints were filed last fall, including for timber trespass, damage to land, negligence, environmentally critical areas violations, violations of the parks code, and violations of the city’s tree and vegetation management in public places code.

Two couples paid City $440,000 regarding one of the decimated areas. The City’s other suit regarding the other area is ongoing, and unaffected by this settlement.  The Parks and Recreation Department has used the settlement funds for remediation of the property.

Hopefully this settlement—60% higher per tree than the similar 2003 case in the Mount Baker neighborhood—will deter future rogue clearcutting. Those with financial means can’t count on small settlements to pave the way towards increased views and property values. Trees in our greenbelts are precious resources that maintain soil stability, lessen the risk of landslides, and maintain air quality by absorbing carbon. We must protect them.

 


Socially Responsible Banking Legislation/Fair Business Practices

In February, the Council voted to adopt Fair Business Practices for contracting, including banking.  To give local, in-state banks a better chance to compete for the City’s banking services, I sponsored an amendment increasing from 15% to 20% the amount used in scoring for socially responsible banking and fair business practices.

The City manages nearly $4 billion annually; during 2016 the average daily balance in the City’s account with Wells Fargo was approximately $56 million. Integrating social responsibility with the City’s banking needs, and relevant state law, is challenging. State law limits the use of credit unions to $250,000, which means the City can’t use them for general-purpose banking.

My staff researched which banks are eligible for the City’s banking services under state law. Of the 63 banks are registered with the state, it appears only between 8 and 11 banks are eligible, depending on whether the minimum threshold for managing City deposits is set at $450 million, or $300 million. Between 4 and 7 of those banks are in-state.

Bank of America and US Bank, as well as Wells Fargo, all received significant fines from the Department of Justice for mortgage fraud. This points to the challenges we face in selecting a City bank in alignment with the City’s values.

The City will re-bid its banking services. The contract proposals include smaller chunks, to increase the likelihood of smaller banks being able to apply.

PART 6 // ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND EQUITY FOR A BETTER SEATTLE


OLS Funding

The Office of Labor Standards (OLS) is responsible for administering and enforcing six local labor laws: $15 Minimum Wage, Paid Sick and Safe Time, Fair Chance Employment, Wage Theft, Secure Scheduling, and the Hotel Employees Health and Safety Imitative.

The work of the OLS is vital to employer and worker education. A University of Washington study from April 2016, found that 72 percent of workers, including 91 percent of immigrant workers, did not know about or had only a vague understanding of their rights to a minimum wage. Outreach to workers is crucial for employees and employers alike because when all employees know their rights, businesses who do not adhere to our laws do not have an unfair business advantage over those good employers that adhere to our labor standards.

Early this year the Council passed a bill that I co-sponsored to ensure that the OLS would have a dedicated fund to support the operations and activates of the office. This revenue supports enforcement activities, including the investigation of complaints and directed investigations, as well as the education and outreach to employers and employees.

 


Priority Hire

Two and a half years ago, the City adopted Priority Hire. The program works to maximize the City’s investment in public infrastructure by helping local residents secure employment opportunities on City funded public works project contracts totaling $5 million or more.

Specifically, Priority Hire requires a minimum percentage of works being local residents from economically disadvantaged zip codes, and sets a minimum requirement for apprenticeship utilization from pre-apprenticeship programs. These requirements improve opportunities for un/underemployed workers and gives them access to living-wage careers.

In July of this year, my Civil Rights, Economic Development, and Arts Committee took up recommendations from the City Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS), and another report from the Priority Hire Advisory Committee. The Council voted to approve legislation I sponsored to a. increase hiring through the Priority Hire hiring process and b. improve participation by open-shop and Women and Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE) contractors.

 


Legacy Business Program

You might remember that in the 2017 budget I sponsored a budget initiative to include funding for the Office of Economic Development (OED) to conduct a legacy business study.  In September of this year the Legacy Business Study was published and included several recommendations on how Seattle could further support this work, including:

  1. Refine or expand existing OED programs to better support legacy businesses.
  2. Create new business assistance specifically targeted towards legacy businesses.
  3. Work to create a comprehensive legacy program.

In continuing to move forward this important work, I made sure that the 2018 budget contains funding to develop and implement a new Legacy Business Designation Program and support for business entrepreneurs who are women and people of color.

 


UDP Expansion

In October 2016, a constituent let my office know that Medicare Part B premiums were being included as a source of income towards qualification to the Utility Discount Program (UDP).  The UDP is a City program for low-income customers and offers a 60% discount on your Seattle City Light (SCL) bill, and a 50% discount on your Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) bill for eligible customers.  The result of including Medicare Part B premiums as a source of income is that people who should have access to the UDP were being deemed ineligible.

Medicare Part B premiums are automatically withdrawn from Social Security and Social Security Disability income checks; residents never even see the funds.

I worked with both utilities and the Mayor’s Office to remove the requirement to count Medicare Part B premiums as income. Both utilities implemented the new rules on June 1, 2017.  SPU estimated that the change added an additional 1,1015 households to the UDP.

 


Eliminating the Subminimum Wage

In July, the City announced an intent to end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities. Seattle’s current law mirrors Washington State law which allows employers to pay less than minimum wage. The Commission for People with DisAbilities (PwD) voted unanimously, in June, to end this exemption.

After conducting a review of Seattle’s policy, the PwD held a public comment session to hear from the community and organizations. Additionally, they reached out to all the businesses that currently utilize the subminimum wage. The PwD Commission received no comment opposing the elimination of the subminimum wage certificates.

All subminimum wage certificates which the Director had previously signed will laps at the end of 2017. The Council will codify this decision in 2018.

 


Fixing Our Broken Tax Structure

Washington State has the most regressive tax structure in the nation. People earning $20,000 a year devote two months of pay to their yearly tax bill, while the 1% pay their entire annual tax bill in only 6 days. Economist Dick Conway reports that across five different measures – fairness, transparency, adequacy, stability, and economic vitality – Washington State’s tax structure is the worst of all the states in the nation.

Besides placing a greater burden on those least able to afford it, and straining the middle class, the dependence on property taxes makes it harder for fixed-income seniors to remain in their homes.   We need a fairer tax system. To address this, I co-sponsored legislation for a tax on high incomes.

The tax of 2.25% is on only the income of Seattle residents over $250,000 for single filers, or income above $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. For a single filer with income of $300,000, only the $50,000 over $250,000 would be taxed, for a total of $1125, or 0.038 percent of their total income.

The legislation was designed to minimize the cost of implementation and reporting. Residents with qualifying incomes will file their income as listed on line 22 on IRS form 1040; early estimates indicate it would raise approximately $140 million from about 11,000 tax payers.

An earlier resolution noted that legal viability would be the primary consideration in developing the tax structure.  The legislation is currently under legal challenge.

The tax revenue will be used to: (1) lower the property tax burden and the impact of other regressive taxes, including the business and occupation tax; (2) replace funding lost through federal cuts or respond to changes in federal policy; (3) provide services, including housing, education, and transit; (4) create green jobs and meeting carbon reduction goals; and (5) and implement the tax.

I proposed, and the Council passed, a follow-up budget measure requiring a report by the City Budget Office on use of potential revenues, including future consideration of reduction or elimination of property tax levies.

 

PART 7 // ARTS MATTERS


Why Art Matters

The 2018 federal budget released by Donald Trump earlier this year proposed elimination of federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

In response, the Office of Arts and Culture, KUOW, and I co-hosted a forum in April, Why Does Art Matter, to bring awareness to this issue, and to call on federal representatives in Congress to not pursue this path.

The NEA supports numerous local arts groups, both large and small. One such group is the Creative Advantage arts education program in Seattle Public Schools, which has programs in District 1 schools such as Arbor Heights Elementary, Concord International Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Roxhill Elementary, Sanislo Elementary, West Seattle Elementary, Louise Boren STEM K-8, Denny International Middle School, and Chief Sealth International High School.

The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are vital for our community’s well-being. The President’s proposed budget would have eliminated federal funding for these agencies, and brings up questions about how to continue this important work. Thankfully, Congress acted to not cut this funding.

 


Cultural Arts Spaces

Along with the crisis in affordability in housing, we have a crisis on maintaining arts and cultural spaces in Seattle. The Office of Arts and Culture released the CAP report: 30 ideas for the Creation, Activation & Preservation of Cultural Space.  When the report was released, I requested an implementation plan.

Through the budget process, I secured funding to incentivize cultural uses in older buildings, where three-quarters of cultural spaces in Seattle are located, and space tends to be less expensive.

Secondly, I secured funding for a half-time liaison between The Office of Arts and Culture and the Department of Construction and Inspections to support nonprofit cultural organizations in the permitting process.

Finally, a budget action requires a report on creating a cultural spaces public development authority, to lease, develop, and purchase real estate to maintain cultural uses.

 


Sound Transit Busker Program

Last year I asked Sound Transit to allow buskers to perform at stations, similar to the successful program at Sea-Tac Airport, and to work with the Seattle Music Commission to establish this program.

They established a six-month pilot program at the Capitol Hill and University of Washington stations, and a performance policy, and followed up with a survey of transit riders and street performers, and researched other cities such as New York, Vancouver and the Bay Area.

In September, Sound Transit expanded the program, adding Beacon Hill, Columbia City, Othello, Tukwila International Boulevard and Angle Lake.   Approved performance sites are designated by a silver star, to prevent performers and audiences from blocking station traffic. Performer guidelines and photos of silver star locations are linked here.

Prior to the program, Sound Transit didn’t allow street musicians to perform at light rail facilities; thanks to Sound Transit for supporting buskers!

 


Film in Seattle

During the budget process, I secured funding from admissions tax revenues for the Office of Economic Development’s Office of Film and Music (OFM) to support advancement of the film and media production sector during 2018. This is a core economic development funding of the office. However, due to management of the City’s Special Events program moving from Parks to this OFM, they have been able to carry out only a small amount of this work.

 

PART 8 // BUDGET WRAP UP – D1 SPOTLIGHT

In November, the Council adopted the 2018 City budget, and 2018-2023 Capital Improvement Plan.

As Chair of the Budget Committee, I assembled a final balancing package.  Together, my Council colleagues and I passed several important amendments to the city budget that will meaningfully impact the lives of everyday people in Seattle, all while maintaining current service levels.

In addition to items mentioned elsewhere, here are a few of the highlights; a longer description is here.

  • Hiring more police officers: the budget adds 35 additional police officers positions, to stay on track to hire 200 additional officers by early 2020
  • Funding to implement police accountability legislation; the Council added two and a half positions and contracting funding for the Community Police Commission, and two positions for the Office of Police Accountability.

District 1

  • Expand the Ready to Work project into District 1:  There are unique challenges facing immigrants and refugees living in SW Seattle. The Ready to Work model is designed to support English learners with an intensive centralized and neighborhood based support.  The Ready to Work expansion is slated to open in April of 2018.
  • Funding to plan and design a walkable, bikeable path uniting the Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods to enhance walkability between Georgetown and South Park’s historic “Main Streets” and connect the heart of the Duwamish Valley.
  • Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD): expansion of LEAD to North Precinct, and to begin taking referrals from the Southwest Precinct.
  • Addition of $1 million for participatory budgeting which, in 2017, funded projects in, Delridge, Westwood/Highland Park, High Point and South Park.
  • Vacant Building Monitoring Program Funding (written about above re: District 1 having the second highest number of complaints).

 

PART 9 // CONSTITUENT CONTACTS

This year I hosted in-district office hours on nine separate occasions. There are three locations that I rotate between to help make it easier for constituents to meet with me in their own neighborhood. These nine meetings constituted a total of 43 hours where I met with 111 constituents. Issues ranged from traffic and sidewalk issues, to zoning and housing issues. Multiple groups utilized this time to connect with me about specific issues their organization or neighborhoods were facing.

In-District Office hours will continue again in 2018; please keep an eye out for my emails and on the blog to know when I will be in your neighborhood.

This year we received thousands of emails from constituents all over the city. By our rough count, we received and responded to nearly 7,000 individual emails on topics ranging from transportation, land use, utility, parks, and public safety, and other issues.  Next year we will have a better ability to report on the number emails received according to topic, as well as the average time taken to respond.

This number does not include emails received and responded to where the Council was the subject of an organized email campaign.  When we receive hundreds of emails on the same topic, we note every issue raised in each piece of correspondence, and then craft a reply that was responsive to all issues raised.  While some folks express disappointment upon receiving an “auto-reply” to these, I hope to assure everyone that my staff and I read all of the correspondence I receive and I take the perspective and opinions expressed into account when a reply is carefully crafted.