Take Action Right Now

TrumpWow, what a week we just experienced. The temperament and character of Mr. Trump are on full display; it's not pretty or comforting. In fact, it's downright scary.

A bit unnoticed was the executive order over the weekend reorganizing the National Security Council, the president's most important source of information and counsel on threats to our country. Mr. Trump just removed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military's top command group, from the principal's group and replaced him with Steve Bannon, his political strategist and chief ideologue. Really?  

There are two very specific actions people can take right now to counter the dangerous actions Mr. Trump has taken so far.

First, support organizations that are defending our Constitutional freedoms and rights and those who are helping immigrants and refugees. Here are three nonprofit organizations with strong reputations for effective work. Click on their names to join or provide your financial support.

ACLU of Washington (Legal defense and advocacy in support of the rule of law and constitutional principles.)

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (Direct legal services for immigrants and refugees in Washington state.)

World Relief (The largest resettlement services organization in Washington state; direct services to refugees arriving in USA.)

Second, support an independent, objective and free media. In the face of constant lies from Mr. Trump (click here for an accounting of the lies from his first week in office), and the rise of "fake news," it is imperative that we bolster the news media. Here are three high-quality news media organizations in Seattle worthy of your support.

The Seattle Times (click here to subscribe to our only daily newspaper)

KUOW Radio (click here to provide support to this NPR station, a nonprofit anchor in our community)

Crosscut (click here to provide support to this independent, nonprofit news organization)

These are just a few concrete steps we can take to stand up against this administration's fear-mongering and threats to our basic civil rights, and to make sure our independent news media can continue to highlight the facts.   

 

Supporting the Muslim Community, a Voice for Drivers, Labor Standards, and More

2015 final Full Council meetingYesterday was the last Full Council meeting of 2015 and it was jam packed: 52 agenda items, 3 ½ hours of deliberations.

We started with a resolution expressing our support for Seattle’s Muslim community in the wake of increasing anti-Muslim hate rhetoric and violence. The City of Seattle welcomes and affirms our Muslim residents, both native born and immigrant, and recognizes the enormous value they add to the cultural and economic life of this city. When we respond from fear, we respond from weakness. We all want our community to be safe, but fear does not lead to safety.

The Council then passed landmark legislation that allows drivers of for-hire vehicles to collectively join together and negotiate better working conditions, making Seattle the first city to take this step. We must continue to find ways to protect workers in the new gig economy where the traditional employer-employee relationship is less prevalent.

We approved a thick bill (146 pages) improving and standardizing the enforcement processes for our local labor standards. We debated nuances while updating the Council’s rules and procedures. We made a small change to our business licenses that allows us to more easily revoke these for unlawful businesses. We designated the P-I Globe as a landmark and we created a new Arts & Cultural District in the Central Area.

It was a full, productive meeting. It was also the final Full Council meeting of three of my colleagues, Nick Licata, Jean Godden, and Tom Rasmussen. Between the three of them, we are saying goodbye to 42 years of collective service on the Council. As we get excited about the incoming councilmembers, I will miss the wisdom, dedication, friendship, and passion for service of my exiting colleagues.

Final Decisions on 2016 Budget

2016 general fund budgetThe Full Council voted to adopt the City’s 2016 budget today, incorporating changes Councilmembers have made from the Mayor’s proposal over the last two months.

The Mayor’s proposed budget provided us with a good start, including funding for a hospital-based gun violence intervention program at Harborview Medical Center.

I’m happy to report that all of the items I pushed for were adopted into the Council’s final package. These included funding to study an educational center for immigrants and refugees with foreign professional degrees, increasing dedicated funding for arts programs, support for small manufacturers, advancing a study to incentivize shared parking facilities in private buildings, expanding funds for the reentry and job assistance program Career Bridge, and language to direct City staff to work with Seattle Public Schools on student population growth planning.

I also have been working closely with community leaders and Councilmember Harrell to provide City support for a new “Opportunity Center” in southeast Seattle. This budget will provide nearly $2 million in seed funding for this project, which is expected to include job training, affordable housing, meeting space, or other amenities a community-led process will help determine.

Homelessness

The Council’s budget will increase the amount spent on homelessness prevention and intervention from $40 million to around $48 million next year. This is a massive increase in resources, but as important as how much we spend is how we spend it. City government spends more resources to help our homeless neighbors than any other city in the U.S. except for New York and Los Angeles, but we sadly continue to see the numbers of homeless on our streets rise.

The Human Services Department will develop a plan to spend these additional resources in the most effective way possible, but we must also try to enlist the support of our State and Federal partners. Rising housing costs, rising economic inequality and a severely underfunded mental health system all contribute to this complicated problem.

And the City will soon do much more by awarding more than $40 million in new funds to help build affordable housing projects.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety

This budget also funds new initiatives in juvenile justice reform, including creating a pot of money to be accessed by the communities of color most affected by this system. The City will also help fund a pilot program put forward by King County to provide a safe space to divert juvenile domestic violence offenders prior to booking in juvenile detention. Most juvenile domestic violence involves violence against family members, who often don’t want to book their children into detention but face no good options. This will give them a better choice.

We know that juvenile detention is not a healthy, rehabilitative place, and we must make every effort we can to lower the numbers of youth placed in detention.

Internet Access

Access to the Internet is becoming more and more essential to economic, cultural, and social life. The lack of access to technology for some communities also presents a huge equity issue. I believe in not many years s we will view Internet access like we view electricity or water now, an essential public utility. And there is no question that the private companies providing this service leave much to be desired.

What is more unclear, however, is the most appropriate path forward for possible City investments. A recent analysis showed that a City-funded municipal broadband network would not be sustainable without large subsidies from the City’s general fund. As technologies continue to evolve rapidly, I have not been convinced this is the best course.

In the meantime, I voted to provide funding for WiFi hotspots to be provided in low-income neighborhoods where access is more limited. I also supported increasing the number of WiFi hotspot devices available from the Seattle Public Library.

Workforce Equity

The City Council sped up completion of a workforce equity assessment for city government employees and asked the Mayor to report no later than July 1 with specific recommendations, along with a budget and timeline for implementation. This work began earlier this year when the Council awarded four weeks of paid parental leave for city employees, the first of several steps we have taken this year to create a more equitable workplace.

The Mayor also formed an equity taskforce with city employees to guide these efforts. We completed a compensation equity evaluation. And we identified other steps we could take to ensure gender and racial equity among city employees. This is good, important work. By July we will have identified the additional necessary steps and developed a specific plan for implementation.

Transportation

Thank you voters for approving the new Move Seattle property tax levy! This gives us a much needed dedicated source of funds for street and transit improvements that will move people and freight more effectively around our city. I know this was a big ask and property taxes are not an ideal funding source, but they are one of the only major sources we have as a City government.

The Council also responded to community calls to fund transit passes for some low-income youth in Seattle Public Schools. I added language into the Council’s budget action to state our desire that the County consider giving free transit passes to children of adults who qualify for the ORCA Lift program. As our city continues to grow in population but not in square mileage, we must continue to encourage the next generation of city residents to be transit riders.

Big Picture

Those are some of the highlights.

I should note that while the City’s general fund is $1.1 billion dollars, much of the budget is taken up by mandatory spending on personnel costs for City employees. The amount of discretionary funding available to move around is much smaller; the Council’s actions center on these discretionary funds.

I believe this budget reflects the priorities and values of the people of Seattle.  It funds many important new and innovative government programs, not to mention the basics like emergency response, electricity and other utilities, and transportation. However, its heavy reliance on short-term funding sources may make maintaining this spending in upcoming budget seasons more difficult for future Councils.

Round 1 Budget Proposals

2016 general fund budgetBudget deliberations have kicked into high gear here at City Hall. The first deadline for proposals to secure a baseline support of three councilmembers comes this Wednesday. After a couple more rounds of discussion over the next three weeks, the proposals that receive majority support will be put together in a balanced budget package.

Earlier I wrote about what I liked in the Mayor’s budget. Here are some additional proposals I’m excited to advance for further consideration by the Council:

  • Many parking lots in private buildings across the City are underutilized at different points during the day; finding a way to maximize these resources in our neighborhoods makes good sense. Therefore I am putting forward funding for a study that would identify regulatory and incentive barriers to shared parking, develop design guidelines for new off-street parking that enables sharing, and advance the implementation of a district shared parking pilot in the Pike/Pine Urban Village.
  • A request that the Department of Transportation study the concept of a Parking Benefit District and pilot one in the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict. A Parking Benefit District is where a portion of paid on-street parking revenue from a neighborhood goes back to that specific neighborhood to improve the sidewalk and street environment, including lighting, signage, improved sidewalks, landscaping, and other similar improvements.
  • The expansion of funds for Career Bridge, a successful city-funded program that provides job skills for individuals reintegrating into society after a period of incarceration. While this program experienced some bumps in its initial implementation, the Urban League has since provided better structure and support to the program and its participants. The added funds would allow Career Bridge to expand participation to women and to 18- to 24-year-olds.
  • Further City support for Seattle Made, a local initiative that encourages small manufacturing start-ups. One of the challenges for our city moving forward will be encouraging the creation of middle-wage jobs and this program steps into this need.
  • A feasibility study for the creation of a program that would help immigrant and refugee professionals assess their skills, develop and navigate educational and credentialing pathways, develop social networks and access necessary supports like interview coaching, ESL instruction and transportation. There are currently similar programs housed at Edmonds Community College and Highline College.
  • Legislative language that assigns the new Office of Planning and Community Development to develop planning strategies that support the School District’s public school facility needs for existing and estimated residential development. As the City Council’s representative on the Growth Management Planning Council of King County, I voted earlier this year for an amendment to the Countywide Planning Policies that requires local jurisdictions and school districts to conduct joint planning efforts.

Of course, many of my colleagues have also put forward worthy proposals. I have co-signed many of these relating to public safety, economic development, juvenile justice and human services.

We will likely not have enough funds to advance all of the Council’s Round 1 proposals. I look forward to a healthy discussion and the tough decisions ahead of us. You can stay engaged via the Council’s 2016 budget web page.