Renewing our Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD)

July 7th, 2020

I am hopeful you and your neighbors will get to decide whether to renew the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) at the November 2020 election. I’m honored to chair the City Council Committee on STBD that will be considering it this month.

WHAT IS STBD?

STBD is the Seattle Transportation Benefit District. It’s another way that State law allows cities to raise money for transportation needs.

CURRENT: From the 6-year measure approved by Seattle voters in 2014, we raised about $55 million in 2019 with a combination of a 0.1% sales tax and $80 from car tabs, also known as vehicle license fees ($60 approved by voters plus $20 approved just by the City Council).

PROPOSAL TO RENEW: Many elected officials and I believe we should provide voters with the opportunity to renew the measure for another six years by continuing the 0.1% sales tax we are already paying. Mayor Durkan agrees and she sent that proposal to City Council July 7. State law allows us to ask voters to double it (to 0.2%), but we do not think such an increase makes sense considering current economic challenges. Depending on the sales of goods and services in the coming years, the 0.1% should raise approximately $25 million per year (about half the amount of the current measure because it excludes car tab revenue).

[Note: Tim Eyman’s statewide Initiative 976 approved by voters in November 2019 (even though a majority of Seattle voters rejected it) suspends our ability to collect the car tab dollars, though some localities (including the City of Seattle) are suing to overturn I-976. If the courts overturn I-976, the City Council would have the authority under State law to continue to collect $20 of the car tabs and increase that to $40.]

I hope my colleagues on the City Council will join me in supporting renewal of the Transportation Benefit District for at least three reasons. (For a more detailed Pros and Cons section, see below.)

1. STBD Delivered: The STBD approved by voters in 2014 was very successful and has earned the right for renewal.

2. Transit is Vital: Mass public transit moves the most people in the most affordable and environmentally friendly way.

  • Essential: While transit ridership is down due to COVID, transit remains a transportation lifeline for thousands of our neighbors — it’s essential transportation for essential workers. Moreover, transit will undergird our economy as it reopens and revitalizes. In the first year of renewal, we face a tremendous need to increase transportation options for the 100,000 residents of West Seattle until the high bridge is replaced. 
  • Affordable: Because society smartly subsidizes this public good, bus transit is affordable and helps low and moderate income neighbors get to their jobs, schools, and errands.
  • Environmental: Increasing transit ridership is a key solution to address climate change and traffic congestion. 

3. This Renewal is Reasonable: The renewal simply asks people to pay what they already pay. It is not a stealth increase hidden under the term “renewal” like some ballot measures.

To sum up the benefits, here’s my recent quote on renewing STBD:

I believe we must provide Seattle with the option to renew our successful Transportation Benefit District before it expires because it’s essential, affordable, and green,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee. “Our economy, our workers, and our environment are counting on us to preserve our basic transit services. Continuing this small tax is necessary as our economy reopens to preserve transit subsidies for our low income neighbors, seniors, and students — and to make sure buses get people everywhere they need to go, which includes boosting access to and from West Seattle.”

SCHEDULE:

  • July 1, 2020: Our City Council President creates a temporary “Select Committee on the Seattle Transportation Benefit District” chaired by me (because I chair the Council’s regular Transportation & Utilities Committee).
  • July 7, 2020: Ballot measure language transmitted by Mayor Durkan/SDOT to City Council. City Council.
  • July 6: City Council approves its Introduction and Referral Calendar (to refer the STBD ballot measure to the STBD Committee)
  • Friday, July 10: STBD Committee; presentation by SDOT.
  • Friday, July 17: STBD Committee amends and votes.
  • Monday, July 27: the “Full” (regular) City Council votes.
  • Tuesday, Aug 4: deadline for our City Clerk to transmit the Council-adopted and Mayor-signed measure to King County Elections (for putting on the November 3 ballot for Seattle voters.
  • Tuesday, Nov 3: final day to vote on the STBD measure. Votes of at least 50% + 1 in favor of STBD would approve the measure.

QUOTES FROM KEY STAKEHOLDERS (July 7):

Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, President & CEO Michelle Merriweather: “Transit justice cannot be separated from the right for racial and economic justice. In Seattle, the Black community and other communities of color are more likely to have to commute farther for work, and to live in areas with higher rates of poverty, pollution and other harmful environmental stressors. At the Urban League, we fight for access to lasting opportunity for African American and other underserved communities. Access to safe, reliable, and affordable transit is absolutely critical for our work, and this proposal is a step in the right direction.”

SDOT Transportation Equity Workgroup, Co-Chair Rizwan Rizwi: “I joined SDOT’s Transportation Equity Workgroup to ensure that people had a say in transportation decisions even though they may have very low incomes and be from populations which are not usually represented when policy is being designed. Doing what is right can be difficult especially in periods of economic uncertainty, while the STBD proposal is not perfect, it is the right decision for Seattle and I look forward to helping shape investment decisions alongside the City and its residents.”

Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 587 President Ken Price: “ATU 587 represents the transit workers, who have suffered greatly to keep essential service moving and get Seattleites where they needed to go during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as communities were told to stay home and stay healthy, our bus drivers and other essential workers showed up on the front lines to keep people safe, moving, and healthy. May we forever honor our transit workers who lost their lives. We applaud the Mayor for thinking ahead to the future needs of Seattle and the ongoing mobility struggles. ATU 587 is proud to support this proposal which meets both the needs of our members and all of the working people in Seattle.”

Transportation Choices Coalition, Executive Director Alex Hudson: “Access to safe and reliable transit service is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Transit is essential and we must ensure that those who rely on transit can get where they need to go. If we choose to disinvest in transit now, the consequences will be devastating for generations to come. We can’t let I-976 and the pandemic stop our incredible progress over the last decade. We must keep transit running for the health and future of our city.”

Downtown Seattle Association, President & CEO Jon Scholes: “As we think about an economic recovery from COVID-19 for our downtown core, we must have reliable transit to ensure people can get where they need to go. Investing in our system’s infrastructure and service will be critically important requires a new commitment from all levels of government to ensure access to jobs.”

West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, Co-Chair Paulina López: “A new STBD package can play a key role in our efforts to not only reconnect West Seattle, but mitigate the disproportionate impacts felt by many in the region. With the closure of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge in March, detour routes off the peninsula lead traffic south. The increased traffic along the detour routes disproportionately impact the south end of West Seattle and Duwamish Valley where communities already face higher rates of asthma, air pollution, and congestion...”

MLK Labor, Executive Secretary Treasurer Nicole Grant. “MLK Labor has a long history of supporting transportation benefit district proposals because working class people rely on public transportation to get to work. Now more than ever, essential workers need safe and reliable access to transit so they can perform the jobs that society relies on us for.”

Rooted in Rights, Director Anna Zivarts: “People who are transit-dependent need to be able to access our communities. We will continue to fight for reliable, accessible, and equitable transit that gets us where we need to go.”

PROS AND CONS (AND PROS):

Before I was elected last year, I would often criticize government officials for being “cheerleaders” for tax measures without presenting pros and cons. So, here are some points to contemplate as the City Council considers putting the STBD renewal onto the November ballot:

Pro: SUCCESSFUL: The 2014-2020 STBD delivered on its promises and has earned renewal.

  • Con: After voters approved STBD in 2014, City leaders expanded it in 2018 into other program areas not originally envisioned by the voters.
  • Rebuttal: The changes to the program did not take away from what voters approved, but rather expanded the scope to include free ORCA passes to public school students and other subsidies benefiting those in need.

Pro: CONTROL: A Seattle measure enables Seattle to emphasize the routes it wants when it wants them. This is very important considering the fact that we need to shift more bus service to West Seattle while the West Seattle “high bridge” is out of commission.

  • Con: SHOULD BE REGIONAL: Transportation is a regional issue requiring regional solutions.
  • Rebuttal: Yes AND the systems are regional (King County Metro for buses and Sound Transit for light rail and buses). STBD supplements service within the regional system because Seattleites use it so much. Moreover, Seattle collaborated for months with King County elected officials to consider a regional measure for the ballot. But early this year, the County suddenly needed to focus on the public health response to COVID, which led them to postpone the regional discussions for the foreseeable future. And, frankly, County voters, on average, have been less enthusiastic about supporting transit tax measures than Seattle voters. The current STBD is expiring which requires a decision this year. Those eager for more dollars to go toward transit should know that, in addition to Seattle having the ability to vote for more, King County also has the authority in the future to ask voters to pay up to 0.2% additional sales tax (and Seattle would typically get nearly half the benefit of such a measure). In other words, King County could ask voters throughout the county to approve a measure — in addition to Seattle’s — as the need for transit grows again.

Pro: “AFFORDABLE”: Mass transit for the public provides an affordable transportation option to move people to and from jobs, schools, and other important activities that keep our economy and daily lives moving.

  • Con: It’s affordable if you use it. If you don’t use the transit, you still might be paying for it depending how it’s funded.
  • Rebuttal:
    • We all hate traffic. If more people ride transit, there will be fewer cars on the road — which will reduce traffic for those who need to use a car.
    • To provide some context about cost, mass transit is generally considered a societal benefit (for reasons mentioned throughout this post) and, throughout the U.S., taxpayers subsidize this benefit: fares paid by riders typically cover less than half of the cost to operate a transit system (i.e. the “farebox recovery ratio” is less than 50%. For more info on this, CLICK HERE).

Pro: GOOD FOR THE EARTH. We need to address climate change and most low occupancy vehicles, like cars, are a major source of harmful emissions.

  • Con: There’s not really a con here unless a bus is using gasoline (instead of an electric or hybrid) and is completely empty.

Pro: IT’S JUST A RENEWAL: Instead of imposing a new or higher tax on residents, this is just a renewal of the existing STBD tax.

  • Con: RIDERSHIP IS DOWN: Due to the COVID pandemic with the need for social distancing and the increase in employees working remotely, bus ridership has plummeted — why not just let the tax expire?
  • Rebuttal:
    • Tens of thousands of essential workers are still using transit in the midst of this pandemic and transit will be an affordable transportation option for all workers — especially low-income workers — as the economy reopens and recovers.
    • Moreover, we have tremendous financial needs to deal with our city’s bridge problem — including the need to increase options for 100,000 people in West Seattle until the bridge is repaired or replaced.

Pro: REDUCES TRAFFIC: We all hate traffic (as noted earlier). If more people ride transit, there will be fewer cars on the road which will reduce traffic for those who need to use a car.

  • Con: TAX: It’s a tax.
  • Rebuttal: Even though I’m a Seattle Democrat, I have not been afraid to question and even vote against an occasional tax measure. But, for the reasons noted above, I strongly support this one (STBD renewal). Moreover, the City Council is simply putting STBD onto the November ballot to give that choice to you.

Pro: NOT A TAX INCREASE. We already pay the 0.1% sales tax and would simply continue it under the renewal.

  • Con: REGRESSIVE: A sales tax is regressive (and so are car tabs a.k.a. vehicle license fees) — and regressive taxes are bigger burden to lower income families than to higher income families because lower income families pay a greater portion of their income.
  • Rebuttal: Until our State government provides more progressive options to raise revenue for transit, we have little choice but to use existing State law. Also, the proposal for renewing the STBD is simply to maintain the existing 0.1% sales tax, rather than increasing the tax. From the perspective of the taxpayer, if Tim Eyman’s initiative 976 survives our lawsuit, people will be paying less for STBD because they will no longer pay the $80 car tab ($60 from STBD approved by voters in 2014 and $20 approved by City Council). From the perspective of the city government and transit riders, this loss of revenue to support transit makes STBD’s 0.1% sales tax even more vital.

Pro: FLEXIBILITY: Buses are highly flexible because we can change routes as needed vs. a fixed system such as a streetcar or light rail. Of course Seattle loves its light rail and it’s already a vital spine of our regional transit system that is, thankfully, growing as our population increases. Many of us District 4 residents are looking forward to the new stations opening in the U District (Brooklyn Ave) and Roosevelt neighborhoods, thanks to the Sound Transit 2 measure. It’s important to note, our light rail system relies heavily on buses to move people ‘the first-last mile’ to and from the stations — another reason we should advance STBD renewal to the November ballot.

  • Con: There’s not really a con here; buses are flexible and an essential piece of our regional transportation system. Granted, light rail is cooler, but you need to be able to get to a station. Take a bus!

MORE INFO:

WEBSITES:

PROPOSAL:

  • For the proposed ordinance as submitted by the Mayor to the City Council, CLICK HERE.
  • For Mayor Durkan’s press release (July 7, 2020), CLICK HERE.

ORCA CARDS: To see whether you qualify for the ORCA Opportunity (free for students and public housing authority residents), CLICK HERE or ORCA Lift (50% off if you are in a low income household), CLICK HERE.

EQUITY: For the Transportation Equity Workgroup, CLICK HERE.

NEWS/BLOGS:

Okay, this photo was taken years ago — my son is taller than I am now and King County Metro reallocated the service hours from the #30 bus route around the time Sound Transit opened the light rail at Husky Stadium. But buses continue to connect our neighborhoods and get essential workers to their jobs during the pandemic. If we renew our STBD, buses can serve as the transportation backbone for more and more workers as our economy reopens and continue as an important solution to address climate change and traffic congestion.


Strong concerns about imposing new payroll taxes on Seattle employers during recession

July 6th, 2020

On Monday, July 6, 2020, your Seattle City Council voted 7-2 to approve a new tax on large Seattle employers (Council Bill 119810).  This new tax will be in addition to the Business & Occupation (B&O) taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and business license fees paid by Seattle employers.  This new tax must be paid by any Seattle organization (for-profits and most nonprofits) with payroll of $7 million or more, with the tax rates applied only to salaries above $150,000.  It will generate over $200 million per year in new tax revenue to add to our $6.5 billion budget (all funds) and $1.5 billion “General Fund” budget.

I represent a wonderful City Council district blessed with a diversity of views on issues — and that makes many votes difficult as I hear passionate pleas from many angles. I’d like to thank the thousands of constituents who took the time to contact me about this important budget matter. After surveying and listening to constituents in District 4, I decided to repeat at the July 6 City Council meeting my “No” vote from the July 1 Budget Committee. These were not easy votes for me.  The purpose of this post is to explain my votes.

SUPPORTING COVID RELIEF:  For some context, please note I am likely to vote IN FAVOR of the short-term, COVID relief package (Council Bill 119812), which will tap our city government’s Emergency Fund and Revenue Stabilization Fund at amounts higher than proposed by Mayor Durkan.  In fact, I have consistently voted in favor of relief packages and regulatory changes to help those impacted most by the COVID crisis. The Mosqueda Tax, however, is a long-term (20-year) policy that required additional considerations.

BETTER THAN SAWANT TAX:  First, let me say that Councilmember Mosqueda’s “JumpStart” Tax is superior to Councilmember Sawant’s “Amazon Tax.” As you may recall, I strongly critiqued Councilmember Sawant’s tax proposal in April. Thankfully, my Council colleagues agreed to take a different path.  Sawant’s Tax would have taxed nearly 800 Seattle employers and would have oddly made available much of the money for higher income households (up to 100% of area median income). Councilmember Mosqueda is commended for targeting only higher salaries at fewer employers and for proposing to spend most of the funds on the lowest income households.

REASONS FOR VOTING NO:

Even though Councilmember Mosqueda’s Tax is better than Councilmember Sawant’s Tax — and I understand the rationale for most of my colleagues voting Yes — the Mosqueda Tax did not earn my Yes vote for the following reasons:

  • Penalizes only Seattle employers; it’s not a regional solution: The JumpStart Tax targets Seattle employers only. I’m concerned about imposing a new tax just on Seattle employers during a deep recession when employers are shedding jobs. If we want our employers to stay in Seattle and rehire as many workers as possible, why would we impose yet another financial and administrative burden on them?  I’m concerned employers will leave Seattle, fed up with a slew of increasingly anti-business laws from City Hall officials with little to no business experience.  Even though this tax targets larger employers, the small businesses that support them could be negatively impacted if large business within the economic ecosystem depart. While better than the Sawant Tax, I’m concerned this new JumpStart tax could still become the “Bellevue Relocation Act.”
  • Nonprofits must pay the new tax: Unfortunately, my colleagues at the July 1 Budget Committee rejected by a vote of 3 to 6 my amendment to exempt nonprofit organizations from the new tax.  I’m concerned the temporary exemption for nonprofit healthcare providers approved July 6 is too strict and will end up taxing several healthcare providers when we should want all of them to survive and thrive so they can help our residents impacted by COVID.
  • Tax lasts for decades:  Unfortunately, my colleagues conceded to a demand by Councilmember Sawant to remove a sensible 10-year “sunset” provision from the original bill.  (I had introduced an amendment for a shorter 4-year sunset so that a future City Council could more easily re-examine the tax after COVID and after the recession.)  The provision to “monitor proposals” from the State or County in case they enact other business taxes was too weak and unenforceable to offset the removal of the sunset. As a compromise, the City Council today (July 6) passed by a slim 5 to 4 vote an amendment to insert a 20-year sunset (when the tax can be more easily reviewed, renewed, increased/decreased or canceled if other progressive sources are available).
  • Spending plan is vague.  City Council was put in the position of having to enact this new tax without knowing the full details of how it would spend the money because it voted to strip out the details (Council Bill 119811).  I’m concerned there is a high risk the money will not be spent effectively or will be used to sustain the exorbitant salaries being paid to many city government workers – to sustain steep salaries at City Hall, rather than city services to the public. I appreciate my colleagues passing my amendment to require additional focus on “effectiveness” and “evaluation” and to reduce the potential conflicts of interest on the new “Oversight Committee” that will monitor the new tax.  Nevertheless, without the spending plan details, I’m concerned this is “Tax First, Ask Questions Later.”
  • Under-estimating the dollars.  It’s not clear how much money the Mosqueda Tax will raise.  Depending on how we interpret the conflicting estimates and financial assumptions, the $200 million annual prediction is probably low. In other words, the city government will likely extract more money than anticipated without a clear plan on how to spend it and without a sunset date to revisit the tax.  That’s not fiscally responsible.
  • Does Not Give Voters a Choice. The Mosqueda Tax is 4 times larger than the Head Tax the previous City Council reversed just two year ago. Sending the tax and spend proposal to the November ballot would have provided more time to see how the economy is recovering and for our State government to pass a better statewide or regional measure for revenue. Unfortunately, a majority of my colleagues rejected the amendment sponsored by me and Councilmember Debora Juarez to let the voters decide as they do for most taxes.
  • Did Not Look for Costs Savings First:  If our City Council spent as much time investigating how our city government spends its existing $6.5 billion as it has pursuing new taxes, I believe we would have a more balanced, fiscally responsible and sustainable approach to delivering effective government. I see common ground emerging in how we look into our police budget – the large salaries there are also in other city departments, as noted in the recent investigation by Forbes. The lessons learned from the new “inquest” into the police budget (by Councilmembers who approved that same budget in November 2019) could be applied to other city departments so that we expand social services, instead of government salaries.  That’s not “austerity,” that’s Sustainability. I’d also like to join my colleagues in pushing our Governor and State Legislature to pass progressive tax tools that our region can use.  But, with Seattle going on its own with a new business tax, it’s not clear to me why other King County cities would want to impose their own new taxes, when instead they could simply attract the businesses away from the city of Seattle.  

SUPPORT PROGRESSIVE TAXES: I’d like to join my colleagues in pushing our Governor and State Legislature to pass progressive tax tools that our region can use, similar to House Bill 2907 that almost passed earlier this year. I support progressive taxes, we need progressive taxes — and we need our State government to act.

HOPE: For the sake of our city, I hope my concerns about this new tax are just concerns and do not occur. I’ll look forward to working with my colleagues and the Mayor to create a sustainable tax an spend path as part of our Fall budget discussions for the 2021 budget. I also hope that the general public does not see division or dispute with the 7 to 2 vote, but rather the debate and discussion required for a healthy legislative process here at your Seattle City Council.

BACKGROUND:

  • Our city government budget currently spends $1.5 billion for its flexible General Fund and $6.5 billion in total (including for infrastructure / transportation projects, Seattle City Light, and Seattle Public Utilities).
  • Our city continues to face significant challenges such as homelessness and the COVID pandemic.  Federal and State aid, including unemployment insurance, have helped. Nevertheless, the city government faces a temporary budget deficit due to increased costs and decreased tax revenues / economic activity during COVID.
  • The state government has a notoriously regressive tax structure that limits new options to raise city revenue. Thus far, all efforts to correct this in Olympia have failed.
  • Some City Councilmembers proposed new payroll taxes on large Seattle employers. Among these were (A) Kshama Sawant ($500 million per year with no end date) and (B) Teresa Mosqueda ($200 million per year for 10 years). For context, the 2018 Head Tax that the previous City Council approved — and then reversed after public backlash — would have raised “only” $50 million. The City Council approved the Mosqueda Tax on Monday, July 6.
  • For the legislation and all the amendments offered for Councilmember Mosqueda’s proposal, CLICK HERE for our July 1 Budget Committee agenda.

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It’s Time for a 3-1-1 Customer Care Center

July 3rd, 2020

A small, but concrete piece for reimagining public safety that can respond effectively to true community needs

As with over 75 other cities across the nation, Orange County, Florida’s 3-1-1 system handles non-emergency calls to provide a better response to its residents and businesses.

Most of my June 2020 newsletter was dedicated to addressing police accountability issues in the wake of the protests following the police killings of George Floyd and the painfully long history of misconduct and institutional racism negatively impacting countless Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Those challenges remain a priority focus of City Hall as we consider major new policies and actions. For more on that important issue, please CLICK HERE.

In reviewing the recent data on 9-1-1 calls showing approximately half of those calls are NOT emergencies involving potential crimes, it became clear to me that we need to implement something I have been advocating for years: a 3-1-1 Call Center open 24/7 to handle non-emergency calls. These 3-1-1 Call Centers have been working effectively for millions of residents in other big cities across our nation. It’s simply not effective or fiscally responsible to require highly paid, armed police officers to respond to every type of call currently received on Seattle’s 9-1-1. Here’s what I wrote in Crosscut in 2017:

Activate a 3-1-1 Call Center Available 24/7. Do what has worked well for more than a decade in cities from San Francisco to Chicago to New York: enable people to dial an easy-to-remember phone number (3-1-1) to request city services and report concerns, from potholes to policies. The City’s Customer Service Bureau is available ONLY on weekdays and Councilmember office hours for constituents are scant or inconsistent. Few can remember the City’s non-emergency phone number and it provides only minimal services. While the “Find It Fix It” technology works for some, a 3-1-1 Call Center open 24/7 will enable residents without access to fancy iPhones to receive the best customer service. A 3-1-1 Call Center will also make our communities safer by reducing the number of non-emergency calls to 9-1-1 operators. City managers and Councilmembers could use the 3-1-1 software system to track responsiveness and results for their constituents.”

Other success stories for 311 Call Centers: BostonDenverOrange County, FL; PhiladelphiaWashington D.C.; and at least 75 other major cities.

Creating a robust 3-1-1 Call Center to supplement our 9-1-1 system is NOT a complete solution for our police accountability problems, but it can be an important tool toward providing safer, more appropriate responses to residents who request help from their city government. As many demand the “de-funding” of our police department by reallocating substantial public safety resources, a 3-1-1 Call Center provides a practical structure for how we might operationalize that aspirational demand. I believe the shared big picture goal is to deploy our tax dollars in the most effective way to provide customer service responsive to our residents and community wellness tailored to community needs. It’s Time for 3-1-1.

For my previous newsletter that covers more facets of the need to re-imagine public safety, please CLICK HERE.


Re-Imagining Public Safety and More

June 16th, 2020

Monthly Newsletter:
Protests and Public Safety, Budget Deficits, COVID Updates, Bridges, and More

Photo by Xena Goldman

Friends and Neighbors,

While this month’s newsletter discusses the COVID-19 public health crisis, the resulting economic downturn, our sudden $300 million budget deficit, and the need to fix the West Seattle Bridge impacting 100,000 residents, the priority I’ve heard from constituents is about justice. Justice after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and countless other people of color who have been victims of police misconduct, justice after the excessive use of force by police officers against protesters here in Seattle, and justice by accelerating dramatic, systemic improvements to eliminate racism from these institutions. Please read on and check my blog for more updates.

PROTESTS LEAD WAY TO RE-IMAGINING PUBLIC SAFETY AND COMMUNITY WELLNESS

LISTENING:

I reached out to Nikkita Oliver, social justice leader and former mayoral candidate. She emphasized the need to re-imagine public safety and community wellness and she highlighted the King County Equity Now Coalition. For her June 2020 interview in Vanity Fair, CLICK HERE.

I reached out to another newly elected official, Girmay Zahilay, the King County Councilmember whose district overlaps with our City Council District 4. He emphasized the Elected Officials Pledge and walked me through each of the 5 items. With that additional understanding and information, I committed to the pledge. (The pledge was urged by several organizations including Fuse Washington.)

I reached out to my former opponent at the ballot box Shaun Scott and he emphasized accountability of the police during the protests, such as officers who were allowed to cover up the identification on their badges. I supported the Mayor’s directive to fix that and I supported Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold’s legislation to make that permanent.

I observed and participated in several demonstrations and marches, some in our District 4 as well as the Silent March from Judkins Park to Jefferson Park organized by Black Lives Matter on June 12, 2020. There are more to come. I also visited the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” to better understand it.

Ron Sims, who administered the oath of office to me in January, wrote about his life experiences and work on racial justice in a June Op Ed in the Seattle Times. “When hope is elusive, only anger and despair remain. The pent-up anger in the Black community is no longer restrained, particularly when hopelessness prevails. What we are witnessing in these times is the product of profound distrust.” Mr. Sims is lifelong public servant, including a former King County Executive and Deputy Secretary of HUD under President Obama. For his story, CLICK HERE.

I went through over 23,000 e-mails including 1,000 from District 4 residents thus far.  As someone who sorted the incoming e-mails for Councilmembers I used to work for (Burgess in Seattle and De La Fuente in Oakland), the e-mails to this new City Council about police accountability and Black Lives Matter during the past three weeks have been different. The passionate surge has been sustained and their demands have been specific and consistent.

I continue to acknowledge my white privilege and my commitment to using it to listen and collaborate with colleagues and community leaders across the spectrum to implement sustainable changes for true public safety that emphasizes community wellness. Below I attempt to explain concepts like “defunding the police” to those who might not be as familiar, but who want to make things better for everyone.

I will make mistakes along the way and I will not make everyone happy as many constituents may argue that my efforts are too slow or too fast or just plain wrong. But this is not about me or any single politician or organization.  It’s about George Floyd, it’s about Breonna Taylor, it’s about the countless black and brown lives who have been victims of law enforcement systems and institutions built with racism — a racism that became painfully more clear for millions of Americans in a horrible, shameful 8 minutes and 46 seconds. We cannot and should not retreat from this moment; they must not have died in vain.

The world is watching,” Ebony Miranda, chair of the organizing group, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, told marchers on Friday, June 12, “We are on the precipice of a major shift in the fight for Black liberation,” Miranda said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. … I ask you: What will you do to make sure we sustain this movement?

I observed and participated in several demonstrations and marches, including the Silent March from Judkins Park to Jefferson Park organized by Black Lives Matter on June 12, 2020.
(photo by Alex Pedersen)

ACTION: The new policies proposed and implemented by the Mayor and/or City Council are numerous and increasing each week. By the time you read this newsletter, new policies are likely being considered and implemented, based on community input and/or completed research or investigations.  For up-to-date information going forward, please see my blog by CLICKING HERE or by using this url: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/

Actions Taken Thus Far (consistent with “The Pledge” shown above):

  • Banning Chokeholds.
  • Banning Chemical Weapons.
  • Uncovering Badges (police may still use tape to mourn fallen officers, but can no longer cover identifying information).
  • Keeping on Body Cameras for accountability purposes.
  • Withdrawing Motion on Police Consent Decree (City Attorney).
  • Withdrawing Challenge to Reformed Inquest Process (City Attorney).
  • Restricting Relationship Between School District and SPD.
  • Transforming Fire Station 6 into Central District community center (CLICK HERE)
  • Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis in King County (CLICK HERE).
  • Repealing Loitering Laws that Disproportionately Impacted People of Color (see below).

This Monday, I introduced Council Bill 119808 with Councilmembers Andrew Lewis and Tammy Morales to repeal a law that has had racist outcomes (Section 12A.10.010 of the Seattle Municipal Code). I believe it is vital to support the recommendation of the Seattle Reentry Workgroup to repeal the Prostitution Loitering law, so we eliminate a source of disproportionate harm or jeopardy to people of color from our policing and carceral system. After engagement with community stakeholders, co-sponsoring the repeal of this problematic law is just another initial step I’m taking with my colleagues to help right what has been wrong for too long.

Future Actions:

  • Fix the Police Officer Contract: I will not support a new collective bargaining agreement with our Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) unless it fully implements remaining accountability measures, such as fixing the disciplinary review system in accordance with the 2017 accountability ordinance. While most of our police officers strive to do good work and serve our communities well, they operate within a tainted system that requires unprecedented and systemic change.  Officers are also asked to do the impossible when sent into situations that require not a gun, but a social worker, therapist, or educator (see “defunding” concept below).
  • Restructure Public Safety Budgets to:
    • Demilitarize and De-Escalate
    • Reimagine Public Safety
    • Reinvestment in Marginalized Communities

The City Council has several more meetings to dive into our Police Budget. The first was a breakdown of the budget on June 10. For graphs and data, CLICK HERE. To listen to that first discussion, CLICK HERE (and fast-forward to 2 hours and 22 minutes). This includes not only de-militarizing (which does not generate much financial savings because it’s mostly capital grants already received from the federal government), but also reallocating substantial dollars to community wellness efforts that benefit marginalized communities.

What does “De-Funding” really mean?  There are many articles de-mystifying this term and I provide a few examples below. I encourage those readers who might resist this concept at first to explore it with an open mind as I do over the coming weeks:

(1) For the recently published column in the Washington Post by attorney Christy Lopez, a Georgetown University professor and co-director of the school’s Innovative Policing: CLICK HERE. She writes, “For activists, this conversation is long overdue. But for casual observers, this new direction may seem a bit disorienting — or even alarming. Be not afraid. ‘Defunding the police’ is not as scary (or even as radical) as it sounds, and engaging on this topic is necessary if we are going to achieve the kind of public safety we need.

(2) Ali H. Mokdad, a health specialist at the University of Washington is quoted in a recent New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof:  “Defund the police for certain services and move them to social work” (such as domestic violence, youth offenders, alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, and homelessness). “Having an armed person intervene causes harm sometimes for the person who needs help.” CLICK HERE.

(3) For recent Seattle Times articles exploring the “de-funding” concept, CLICK HERE and HERE.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay.”   — Robert F. Kennedy

You may remember that, during my campaign, I called for more community policing officers. The goal was to improve safety and reduce harm. I understand the goal of true safety — for everyone — can be achieved, however, in different ways. This is part of the “re-imagining” process: to explore how it may be more effective for everyone (including police officers) if professionals other than traditional officers are often called to prevent or respond to certain urgent situations, such as a mental health crisis.

Some colleagues have made passionate statements to defund 50% of the $400 million budget, but I believe we need a more detailed plan before we commit to any specific number.

I agree we need to reallocate dollars in a way that makes a meaningful impact. It’s important to recognize that approximately 80% of the budget is for personnel. Rather than laying off highly trained officers, many of whom joined to serve Seattle, a reallocation could involve re-training of some officers as well as dramatically expanding the recently revived program of un-armed “Community Service Officers.” This would be in addition to finding more dollars for effective community-based programs proven to de-escalate or prevent criminal activity, to keep marginalized people out of the harmful incarceration system, and to treat underlying causes.

LET’S WORK TOGETHER:  I look forward to working in a more collaborative fashion with my fellow elected officials — from our Mayor Jenny Durkan to Councilmembers who have bolder ideas of where to go from here. This is an appropriate time to point out that a big city mayor is one of the toughest jobs in the nation. She manages 40 city departments run by 12,000 employees with a budget of $6.5 billion for over 700,000 people and is juggling several crises at once (including COVID and the failure of the West Seattle Bridge which serves 100,000 people). She was elected to serve for at least four years and her steady presence at the helm is important, despite criticisms along the away. I don’t think it will serve the city well to have our mayor resign in the middle of her term and such request are unproductive and distracting; the election is next year, after all. Interestingly, a King 5 poll published June 16 showed Mayor Durkan with a significantly higher public approval rating than that of the City Council. Regardless, this is not about a single person or a single organization.

[UPDATE: To offer some additional perspective, Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison of Minneapolis, where police brutally and wrongfully killed George Floyd, was a guest at our Budget Committee on June 17 and he was asked about his Mayor. He has had big disagreements with the mayor over policing and budgets, but he disagrees with calls for the mayor to resign there.

Minneapolis Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison told us “I’ve had my disagreements with the Mayor; I’ve been public about them. I’ve had conversations with the mayor about those disagreements, but the truth is that we cannot undercut democracy, and the people of Minneapolis did vote for the mayor.  And so I’m not going to sort of make an executive decision to cut out the people of Minneapolis and their electoral power, their democratic power,  just because I have disagreements with a certain elected official.” 

Certainly, my colleagues who have disagreed with me for many years have never sort of cut me out, knowing full well that my constituents elected me. And so it’s not so much about who I like or whether or not I like their decisions; I could vehemently disagree with their decisions. At the end of the day, this is representative democracy and I cannot disrespect the people of Minneapolis by cutting out an elected [official] that they voted for and selected democratically.  And so we can have those fights, if the mayor wants to disagree on how we move forward, I’m happy to sort of ‘duke it out’ with them, but I won’t cut them out entirely because the people of Minneapolis elected them.

 André Taylor, with his wife, Dove, at left, speaks to community members at the Next Steps rally in Judkins Park in Seattle on Friday. The rally was led by Taylor’s organization Not This Time, formed after his brother Che Taylor was killed by Seattle police in 2016. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Andre Taylor at “Next Steps” event June 19, 2020. Photo by Seattle Times.

At the “Next Steps” rally on June 19, Andre Taylor, the founder of the criminal justice reform organization Not This Time!, “urged the crowd to support Mayor Jenny Durkan…” (per the Seattle Times). Mr. Taylor said of Mayor Durkan, “This powerful woman beside me, we don’t agree all the time. I don’t have to agree 100% of the time to build with you.”

We need more unity, not division.  I believe Seattle will benefit most when people who may start in different places with different ideas choose to work together toward a common goal: a city that feels truly safe for everyone.

UPDATES ON COVID PANDEMIC

KING COUNTY APPLYING FOR PHASE 2: King County Executive Dow Constantine has applied to the State to allow us to move from Phase 1.5 to 2.0. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE. “Counties are allowed to progress to the next phase if they have declining infection levels, adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, space in hospitals, ample testing capacity and a contact tracing system in place to try to contain the virus…The second phase — which neighboring Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties are already in — allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barbershops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity.”

MORE FREE TESTING SITES: Thanks for Mayor Jenny Durkan, the University of Washington, and Seattle Fire Fighters, we have more testing sites for COVID. Following King County’s application to advance to a modified phase one in Governor Inslee’s updated “Safe Start Washington” plan, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan opened free Citywide testing at two locations in north and south Seattle. As part of the announcement, Mayor Durkan and University of Washington President Ana Maria Cauce signed a memorandum of agreement solidifying the partnership between the City of Seattle and UW Medicine. The joint effort is expected to increase capacity by my more than 1,600 tests per day.

Mayor Durkan had signed an executive order and transmitted legislation to City Council to lease two former emissions testing sites for testing purposes. The facilities are located in north and south Seattle and will operate Monday thru Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and accommodate drive thru clients who book ahead through the website. These sites are designed and intended for drive-up testing and are not ADA compliant for pedestrians. If you need walk-up testing with ADA accommodations, there are many options for free COVID testing, please visit Public Health – Seattle King County’s website or call 206-477-3977. Most people can access testing through their regular health care provider. In addition, the City is actively looking to add walk-up testing and additional capacity in West Seattle, another high-need area of the City.

Clients at the testing facilities will not be charged for testing and will not receive a bill, regardless of health insurance status. Our Seattle Fire Department (SFD) has developed a cadre of experienced personnel to lead the citywide testing effort by administering tests. Thus far, nearly 70 percent of COVID-19 related deaths in King County are associated with long-term care facilities. The City of Seattle has focused its limited resources on testing our most vulnerable residents in those facilities like nursing and adult care homes.

To help accommodate a safe and seamless testing process, the City urges potential clients to pre-register for appointments at www.seattle.gov/covid-19-testing. SFD estimates pre-registration will allow the testing procedure to take fewer than 10 minutes per test.

SUPPORT FOR GIG WORKERS DURING COVID:
I was pleased to join my colleagues to require premium pay (a.k.a. hazard pay) for essential “Gig Workers” taking risks to deliver food during the COVID pandemic. We also approved an amendment to prohibit corporations from passing along the additional costs to consumers. To read the entire Council Bill 119799, CLICK HERE.

SEATTLE PARKS SLOWLY RE-OPENING:

(photo by YMCA)

Outdoor amenities that are OPEN to groups of five or less with social distancing:

  • Tennis/pickleball courts
  • Basketball courts
  • Golf courses
  • Boat ramps (by June 20)
  • Trails and walking paths
  • Outdoor BBQ grills
  • Picnic tables (not larger picnic shelters)
  • Public restrooms
  • Skateparks
  • Off Leash Areas
  • Volleyball courts
  • Athletic fields (for non-organized use and team practices starting 7/1)
  • Swimming Areas (beginning July 1 at 5 locations)

Amenities that remain CLOSED for now:

  • Play areas and playgrounds
  • Picnic shelters
  • Fire pits
  • Wading pools and indoor/ outdoor pools
  • Spray parks (currently prohibited)
  • Community centers programs

For details, please review the press release from our Seattle Parks & Recreation Department by CLICKING HERE.

MORE UPDATES ON COVID AND RELIEF:

IN DISTRICT 4

DEMONSTRATIONS: Residents from Northeast Seattle held many demonstrations to support police accountability and Black Lives Matter including events in Lake City, Magnuson Park, Maple Leaf, Ravenna-Bryant, Wallingford, and in Wedgwood. In between Council meetings and answering e-mails & phone calls on this same issue, I attended as many as I could — and more are scheduled. For more info on my blog,  CLICK HERE.

Participating in the May 30 march for justice,
organized by students of Nathan Hale High School.
(photo by Alex Pedersen)

U DISTRICT BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT AREA REAUTHORIZED:

On June 8 the City Council unanimously approved the legislation I sponsored to reauthorize the Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the University District, which is the heart of District 4. I thank both Mayor Jenny Durkan’s team for being open to early input from the community and Councilmember Tammy Morales, chair of the Community and Economic Development Committee, for co-sponsoring this important legislation with me for my district. It is one of 10 BIAs across Seattle.

Business Improvement Areas are positive, community-driven economic development tools that help keep neighborhood business districts clean and safe throughout our city,” said Councilmember Pedersen. “The legislation I crafted with the Mayor incorporates many key principles sought by smaller businesses, including better representation, good governance, and the preservation of existing shops and restaurantsDuring and after the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to give our small neighborhood businesses the support they need to thrive.”

Not all community stakeholders fully approved the ordinance as introduced, so I offered a compromise amendment for a 10-year term, since the original legislation sought to more than double the BIA from a 5-year term to a 12-year term. My amendment also would have started the competitive process for the Program Manager much sooner. That amendment, however, failed with a vote of 3 to 6. I look forward to seeing the changes to assist small business owners and others who are at risk of displacement as they take shape on The Ave and surrounding U District.

For the entire press release, CLICK HERE.

RE-OPENING OUR LOCAL ECONOMY:
I checked with small neighborhood businesses in District 4 and many are taking advantage of King County’s successful request to the Governor to re-open with a partial Phase Two (Phase 1.5). For the official announcement, CLICK HERE. As noted above, King County is applying for Phase 2 and, for that info, CLICK HERE.

Thank you, King County Executive Dow Constantine, for enabling many small businesses to partially re-open more quickly and safely. This includes restaurants: outdoor dining at 50% and indoor at 25, both 6 feet apart. Examples in our own District 4 include Uncle Lee’s Kitchen in Laurelhurst, Big Time Brewery & Alehouse in the U District, 14 Carrot Cafe in Eastlake, Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford, The Bryant Corner Cafe & Bakery in Bryant and scores more in District 4. Bring your mask and appetite.

YOUR CITY COUNCIL

The other eight, independently elected City Councilmembers and I continue to “meet” every week to introduce, amend, and pass legislation and funding proposals — but remotely through Zoom videos. Even though we don’t always agree on things, I believe we miss seeing each other in person, especially now as the challenges increase.

CLOSING OUR BUDGET DEFICITS:

The City Budget Office (CBO) unfortunately estimates an ongoing budget deficit of approximately $300 million out of our $1.7 billion General Fund and related accounts. While the federal government – which can run a deficit unlike city and state governments – will provide money to cities to deal with COVID-related economic downturn, it is not expected to be enough.

For the April 22, 2020 presentation by City Budget Office (CBO) regarding budget deficitCLICK HERE.
(Note: the entire city government spends $6.5 billion each year, but that grand total includes our utility operations and capital improvement / infrastructure programs, while city budget officials typically focus on the more flexible “General Fund” dollars.)

Council President Gonzalez and Budget Chair Mosqueda have scheduled 10 Budget Committee meetings this summer to consider Mayor Durkan’s proposal to re-balance the 2020 budget, to debate payroll tax proposals (branded inaccurately by some as the “Amazon Tax” even though it would impact hundreds of Seattle employers) and to decide whether to reallocate some public safety funding to better meet community needs.

Then, after re-balancing our existing 2020 budget, the Council will start its traditional Fall budget season to consider Mayor Durkan’s proposal for a 2021 budget (which also faces a deficit). I hope to use my extensive budgeting experience (including during Recessions) to help provide sustainable and fiscally responsible solutions. While I may be open to new revenue sources, the details matter.

COMMITTEE WORK

Just six months ago, I was selected to chair our City Council Committee on Transportation and Utilities (and Technology). Here’s an update:

TRANSPORTATION:

Seattle Transportation Benefit District: With hopeful anticipation, I believe City Council colleagues and the Mayor will collaborate to renew the beloved Seattle Transportation Benefit District. While transit ridership has experienced a temporary reduction, transit remains an affordable transportation lifeline for essential workers and will undergird our economy as it reopens and revitalizes. In the first year of renewal, we will also have a tremendous need to increase transportation options for the 100,000 residents of West Seattle until the bridge is repaired or replaced.

West Seattle Bridge:

  • We must fully reconnect the 100,000 residents of West Seattle to the rest of their city as soon as possible. I recently participated in the first Community Task Force for fixing the West Seattle Bridge. This Task Force is vital not only to organize and amplify community voices about this urgent issue, but also to leverage their influence to advocate for the massive funding that will be needed to create safe alternatives to cross the Duwamish River.  It’s co-chaired by former Mayor Greg Nickels (a West Seattle resident) and community leader Paulina Lopez.
  • The creation of the Community Task Force follows the creation of a Technical Advisory Panel that consists of structural engineers and other experts. I continue to work closely with Councilmember Lisa Herbold who represents West Seattle.  For more on the West Seattle Bridge and actions we are taking, CLICK HERE.

  • Bridge Audit Underway:  I’m relieved that the City Auditor and I launched an audit into Seattle’s bridges when we did. For the Seattle Times article confirming the lack of maintenance for our aging bridges, CLICK HERE. We expect to hear an initial report from the Auditor this September.c

UTILITIES:

  • Wastewater Rates (Seattle Public Utilities): Thankfully the CEOs / General Managers of both Seattle City Light (Debra Smith) and Seattle Public Utilities (Mami Hara) share my mission of keeping rates as low as possible for Seattleites. Unfortunately, King County recently passed through to our city a rate increase for wastewater treatment. I appreciate King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, whose district overlaps District 4, responding to our request to fight this increase.  To read CM Dembowski’s May 30, 2020 blog post entitled, “Wrong Time to Hike Sewer Rates on Struggling Residents and Businesses,” CLICK HERE. Unfortunately, his amendment failed to win the day. Wastewater rates are just one piece of our SPU bill so, overall, one’s bill should not increase substantially. Moreover, both SPU and SCL continue to offer payment plans and, thanks to legislation introduced by Mayor Durkan that I was happy to sponsor, they will not charge interest on late payments during the COVID crisis.

TECHNOLOGY:

  • INTERNET FOR ALL: We continue to gather input on the draft Resolution I announced to pursue Internet for All residents in Seattle. I’ve enjoyed connecting with and learning from advocacy groups, national researchers, dedicated employees of our City’s Information Technology Department, and private sector providers of internet services.  After we make more progress on budget discussions to deal with the new deficit in our 2020 budget, we’ll want to introduce my Resolution and get moving to further address the Digital Divide in our high-tech city. For more info on my vision and rationale for Internet for All — and to read the Resolution —  CLICK HERE.
  • TECHNOLOGY MATCHING FUND AWARDS: The City of Seattle Monday, June 15 announced the recipients of the 2020 Technology Matching Fund. With an investment of $345,000, 15 organizations will receive funding for community-led projects which aim to increase access to technology and provide digital skills training for underserved communities. From the press release:

“The current COVID-19 crisis has changed how we interact and connect, magnified disparities in our community, and emphasized the need to bridge the digital divide,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes oversight of Seattle IT. “Improving access to technology to achieve digital equity is a major commitment of mine, and I look forward to seeing how these matching grants and other investments will open pathways and improve access to education, job training and other vital services.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan: “The dual crises of COVID-19 and systemic racism in our region and our country are bringing into sharp relief the continued need for meaningful, intentional investments in our low-income communities and communities of color. More and more, our communities are relying on access to the internet and digital literacy skills to engage with their communities and make their voices heard.”

Technology Matching Fund grants are distributed annually as part of the City’s broader Digital Equity Initiative and managed by the Seattle Information Technology Department (Seattle IT). Funded projects improve connectivity and provide devices and technology support to communities that might not otherwise have equitable access, including immigrants, refugees, homeless people, seniors, youth, and people with disabilities.

Below is a list of the 2020 Technology Matching Fund recipients. Read more about the projects here.

  • 206 Zulu, Coolout Academy Digital Literacy Program
  • Boys & Girls Club of King County, Bringing Technology to Northgate Girls & Boys Club
  • Empowering Youth and Families Outreach, Computer Station Upgrade & Youth Laptop Provision
  • Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle, Digital Equity and Advancement Project
  • Filipino Community of Seattle, FCS Innovation Learning Project
  • First Place, The Diversity S.T.E.M. Training Program
  • Garinagu HounGua, Garifuna Technology Literacy
  • Literacy Source, Basic Digital Literacy in North Seattle
  • Low Income Housing Institute, Sand Point Cottage Community
  • PROVAIL, Adaptive Technology Lending Library
  • Seattle Goodwill Industries
  • Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Education Mobile Youth Workshops
  • Somali Family Safety Task Force, Somali Digital Access and Literacy
  • Year Up Puget Sound
  • Young Women Empowered, Y-WE Code

To learn more about the City of Seattle’s commitment to digital equity and the Technology Matching Fund, go here.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU


Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 206-684-8566.

Commenting: You can also submit public comment by sending an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

As I mentioned earlier, we received over 20,000 e-mails – an unheard-of volume – in just the past 2 weeks, so I ask for your patience as we try to respond to those District 4 constituents who asked for a response. Either way, we read your e-mails and they have an impact. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or via Skype. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.

We will get through this together, Seattle.

With gratitude,

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Phone: (206) 684-8804
Find It, Fix It


“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

May 31st, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I have received over 25,000 e-mails, including over 1,000 from constituents in Seattle’s District 4 about police accountability, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the police response to protests here in Seattle, and the long history of institutional racism here and throughout our nation.  I am grateful so many engaged constituents have taken the time to contact my office with their grief, their outrage, and their tough questions about police accountability. The calls from our communities grow stronger for leaders to re-imagine public safety and community wellness. Please read my initial thoughts here and I include links to additional information. There is much work to do.

June 18 and 19, 2020 Update:

I participated in the Juneteenth Freedom March sponsored by the King County Equity Now coalition, the Africatown Community Land Trust, and other black leaders with ties to Seattle’s Central District, which marched from Madison Street to Jimi Hendrix Park on June 19. For an article covering both this event and the “Next Steps” event organized by “Not This Time!” focused on criminal justice reform, CLICK HERE.

photo by Alex Pedersen

Attended the community vigil for Charleena Lyles at Magnuson Park, the three-year anniversary of when two Seattle police officers tragically killed her in front of her children. Councilmember Kshama Sawant spoke at the event; I did not feel it was appropriate for additional elected officials to take up space or distract from the solemn vigil. I heard the demands of Katrina Johnson. For a news article on the event, CLICK HERE.

photo by Alex Pedersen

June 15, 2020 Update:

ACTIONS I supported at full City Council today:

  • Banning Chokeholds (CB 119804)
  • Banning Chemical and Other Weapons Against Protesters (CB 119805)
  • Uncovering Badges for Clear Identification of Police Officers (CB 119803)

INTRODUCED REPEAL OF PROBLEMATIC LOITERING LAW: In addition, we introduced legislation I am co-sponsoring with Councilmembers Lewis and Morales (Council Bill 119808) to cancel a problematic law that has had racist outcomes. (Section 12A.10.010 of the Seattle Municipal Code). I believe it is vital to support the recommendation of the Seattle Reentry Workgroup to repeal the Prostitution Loitering law, so we eliminate a source of disproportionate harm or jeopardy to people of color from our policing and carceral system. This is just another initial step I’m taking with my colleagues to help right what has been wrong for far too long. For a link to the press release on the repeals proposed for both loitering laws, CLICK HERE.

June 11 and 12, 2020 Update:

JOINED MARCH OF SILENCE LED BY BLM: I joined 60,000 other Seattleites in the March of Silence organized by Black Lives Matter (Seattle-King County) during the afternoon on Friday, June 12. For more info from BLM, CLICK HERE. For King 5 news coverage, CLICK HERE.

The world is watching,” Ebony Miranda, chair of the organizing group, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, told marchers, “let our silence speak volumes.” “We are on the precipice of a major shift in the fight for Black liberation,” Miranda said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. … I ask you: What will you do to make sure we sustain this movement? What can you do in your jobs, in your schools?”

JUDGE CONFIRMS EXCESSIVE FORCE BY SPD OFFICERS: Per the Seattle Times on June 12, “A federal judge in Seattle has found evidence that the Seattle Police Department [SPD] used excessive force and violated the free-speech rights of thousands of demonstrators, and has issued a temporary restraining order preventing officers from using pepper spray, tear gas, foam-tipped projectiles or any other force against peaceful protesters.”

MAYOR INITIATES TRANSFER OF FIRE STATION 6 TO CENTRAL DISTRICT FOR COMMUNITY CENTER: This was one of the key requests from the King County Equity Now Coalition. For the news story, CLICK HERE.

RACISM DECLARED PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS: One of the demands of the local Black Lives Matter organization was to declare racism as a public health crisis. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Public Health Director Patty Hayes followed through on June 11 saying they “are committed to working in stronger and better resourced partnerships with community organizations and leaders to disrupt and dismantle racism and protect the health and well-being of Black, Indigenous People and People of Color.” For their declaration, CLICK HERE.

CHAZ / CHOP: I visited the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) Thursday evening, June 11 after several constituents contacted me with questions and concerns about it. (Recently renamed CHOP which stands for Capitol Hill Organized Protest.) Here’s what I observed: peaceful crowds, mourning, community, and passionate demands for re-imagining public safety. The blossoming street mural on Pine Street is beautiful and powerful. I believe we can craft a sustainable path to create more long-term community space in the area and ensure there is true safety for everyone. For initial articles on CHAZ/CHOP by the first Seattle Times, CLICK HERE and HERE. For the discussions between organizers and our Fire Department and Seattle Department of Transportation, CLICK HERE.

photo by Alex Pedersen

June 10, 2020 Update:

POLICE BUDGET: Today we started to examine the budget of our police department at the Budget Committee chaired by Teresa Mosqueda with questions led by Public Safety & Human Services Committee chair Lisa Herbold. For a link to the informative presentation by our City Council analysts, CLICK HERE. I made it clear that I heard from my constituents that we must de-militarize our police force. In addition, we’re overdue to re-imagine public safety. We have nine more budget committee meetings to close the COVID-caused budget deficit of over $300 million for this calendar year.

What does the term “de-funding” mean?  There are many articles de-mystifying this term and here are a few examples:

(1) For the recently published column in the Washington Post by attorney Christy Lopez, a Georgetown University professor and co-director of the school’s Innovative Policing: CLICK HERE. She writes, “For activists, this conversation is long overdue. But for casual observers, this new direction may seem a bit disorienting — or even alarming. Be not afraid. ‘Defunding the police’ is not as scary (or even as radical) as it sounds, and engaging on this topic is necessary if we are going to achieve the kind of public safety we need.

(2) Ali H. Mokdad, a health specialist at the University of Washington is quoted in a recent New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof:  “Defund the police for certain services and move them to social work” (such as domestic violence, youth offenders, alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, and homelessness). “Having an armed person intervene causes harm sometimes for the person who needs help.” CLICK HERE.

(3) For recent Seattle Times articles exploring the “de-funding” concept, CLICK HERE and HERE.

SCHOOL DISTRICT RE-EXAMINES OFFICERS AT SCHOOLS: “The Seattle School Board advanced a proposal Wednesday calling for a one-year moratorium on a partnership between Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the Seattle Police Department, an arrangement that provides five armed police officers across five city schools.” For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

WALLINGFORD RESIDENTS SUPPORTING BLACK LIVES MATTER: I joined Wallingford residents Wednesday night at their peaceful demonstration on the sidewalks at Stone Way and N. 45th Street to support Black Lives Matter. Good conversations with the organizers. Lots of support from cars and cyclists. Will be participating in the citywide march this Friday, too.

June 8 and June 9, 2020 Update:

I JOINED THE PLEDGE: After consulting with County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay (whose district overlaps District 4) who crafted this pledge from community input and — after listening to hundreds of my constituents who contacted me over the past several days — I have signed this pledge:

While I typically do not sign pledges (in order to give more time and flexibility to conduct research, listen to more constituents, consult other stakeholders, and allow for deliberations among my elected colleagues), these are extraordinary times. I also signed the related letter to Mayor Durkan circulated today by Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold at the City Council meeting.

IMMEDIATE LEGISLATIVE FIXES: There will be legislation for our City Council to vote on within the next week that I plan to support:

  • Ban chokeholds.
  • Ban chemical agents.
  • Fix how mourning badges are used, so that the identification information remains visible.

But that is just a start on the legislative front. There will be in-depth discussions on the budget, for example, and how best to allocate resources to benefit our communities. For my remarks at the City Council Briefing (June 8), CLICK HERE.

DE-ESCALATING CAPITOL HILL: Mayor Durkan ordered removal of street barricades near the East Precinct police station on Capitol Hill in an attempt to de-escalate. For the Mayor’s announcement, CLICK HERE.

BODY CAMS: Mayor Durkan issued an Executive Order requiring police officers to keep on their body cameras during demonstrations. (Issued June 8 and signed June 10). For a long-term solution that balances this important accountability tool with individual privacy rights, the Mayor has asked “the City of Seattle’s Police oversight entities – the Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Inspector General…to immediately work with City Council and convene a stakeholder engagement process that invites: Black Lives Matter of Seattle-King County, ACLU of Washington, the King County Department of Public Defense, and any other organizations interested in participating in a civic engagement process to develop a recommendation on policy to submit to City Council regarding the use of body-worn cameras during demonstrations, and particularly the privacy and First Amendment concerns and Public Records Act.” For the Mayor’s entire order, CLICK HERE.

CITY ATTORNEY WITHDRAWS INQUEST CHALLENGE: As explained in the Seattle Times, “…Seattle would withdraw a legal challenge against King County’s revamped rules for inquests into police killings. The rules would bar officers from testifying about their state of mind and would allow inquests to delve into their disciplinary histories. The city’s challenge, which has come under added scrutiny in the past week, opposed those changes and others.” Pete Holmes announced, “After hearing from community voices and our Seattle City Councilmembers, and after conferring with our police chief, I intend to withdraw the City of Seattle from the lawsuit challenging the revised King County inquest process.” For the City Attorney’s press release, CLICK HERE.

June 7, 2020 Update:

With reports of the Seattle Police Department using tear gas on protesters in Capitol Hill last night (Saturday, June 6) — despite the Mayor’s earlier directive not to use tear gas — I believe legislative fixes are warranted sooner rather than later. I look forward to working with my City Council colleagues to take stronger action this week.

June 5, 2020 Update:

TEAR GAS: Mayor Durkan says tear gas should no longer be used at these public protests, as recommended by police accountability officials: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/watchdog-groups-to-seattles-mayor-and-police-chief-spd-should-stop-using-tear-gas-on-demonstrators/ [See update where some police officers fail to follow this directive.]

CROWD CONTROL: Mayor Durkan requested accountability organizations to produce additional recommendations to update crowd control techniques previously approved by consent decree monitor and federal judge. For the Mayor’s letter, CLICK HERE.

DEMONSTRATIONS: Meanwhile, I joined District 4 neighbors who poured onto Ravenna sidewalks and into Maple Leaf Reservoir Park this afternoon to show support for Black Lives Matter.

June 4, 2020 Update:

WITHDRAWING MOTION ON CONSENT DECREE; ENDING CURFEWS: In response to requests from peaceful protesters, community leaders, your City Council, and their own assessments of quickly evolving events, the City Attorney withdrew the City’s controversial motion to the federal judge on the police consent decree and Mayor Durkan ended the controversial curfews.

CITY COUNCIL STARTS TO WEIGH IN: For my comments about the need for police accountability at the June 3 Public Safety & Human Services Committee, CLICK HERE. Go to 3:34:43 (3 hours, 34 minutes, and 43 seconds into the listening session with community members, the Mayor’s Office/Police Chief, and police accountability officials). I’m glad I was able to deliver these same remarks to the Wallingford Community Council in District 4 where I was a guest at their virtual meeting the same evening.

This past weekend, I joined neighbors in the peaceful march in Northeast Seattle, organized by passionate students of Nathan Hale High School, to show Black Lives Matter and to decry the wrongful killing of George Floyd and the history of institutional racism.  Monday night, after our City Council meeting, I observed for several hours the restraint and professionalism exercised by several Seattle police officers from the North Precinct who communicated with protesters to keep events as peaceful as possible in Northeast Seattle.  I would also like to commend our city’s firefighters and other first responders who helped to extinguish fires started by a small subset of protesters.

However, I also watched several deeply disturbing videos of how some police officers reacted to protesters in downtown during the past few evenings. These disturbing events are why I supported efforts by our City Council President and Public Safety Committee Chair to have the Mayor’s Office and Police Chief come before the City Council this week, even as new protests were underway.

The relatively new, civilian-led Office of Police Accountability has already acknowledged in a formal statement posted on their website that they are investigating the facts to get to the bottom of many questions, including the manner in which police officer badges were covered, why officer body cameras were kept off, how police rifles were stolen, why crowds of Seattle residents were engaged and dispersed by some police officers using disturbing tactics that made things worse, and whether any peaceful protesters arrested or charged can be released/have their records cleared. 

I believe immediate improvements can be made. For example, the police chief could require officers, who respectfully use dark tape to mourn officers who died in the line of duty, to affix the tape in a manner that does not cover up their name or badge number. (UPDATE: SPD listened and updated their policy on mourning badges, which can be viewed by CLICKING HERE. )

Many constituents – ranging from those who highly value our professional police officers to those who have had  negative experiences with police departments — want to know whether Seattle’s evolving system of accountability – which now includes the Community Police Commission, the Office of Inspector General, and the Office of Police Accountability — can make sure any police officers who engaged in misconduct (including excessive force) face justice. Many constituents want to know whether the federal consent decree can remain in place for longer, whether the new labor contract with our 1,300 police officers will incorporate additional police reforms, and whether City leaders will thoroughly re-examine how we allocate our city budget dollars to ensure we do no further harm.

Many people wrote to say they would like their city government to “defund” our Police Department by sharply redirecting their annual tax dollars toward human services programs. I definitely believe we should reconsider the dollars previous City Councils approved to obtain and maintain military-style weapons in our city. We should also look hard at reallocating what we can toward effective community-based programs. At the same, I believe we need to retain funding sufficient to recruit and retain properly trained police officers from diverse backgrounds, to reduce response times for neighborhoods, to expand community policing, to reduce overtime expenses (so that police officers are not overworked), and to support reviving the Community Service Officer program of unarmed officers. The City Council’s Budget Committee will be reviewing, debating, and adopting the City budget in the Fall.

I have a strong track record of supporting effective programs for marginalized communities including tens of thousands of units of low-income housing for people who had been experiencing homelessness and culturally competent preschool and childcare programs, including the nationally acclaimed Seattle Preschool Program and Nurse Family Partnership. 

There is much work to do.  The systemic and institutional racism that prompted these protests needs to be addressed and the way some police officers reacted to protesters needs to be addressed. This is going to take sustained effort and I am prepared to support additional reforms and improvements based on the results of investigations into these troubling incidents. At the same time, I believe in a wonderful future for Seattle and our nation and I am hopeful we can come together as a compassionate and committed community; advance and solidify public safety reform and accountability; and secure peace, equity, and justice here in Seattle.

May 31, 2020 (original post):

Black Lives Matter. The call to action from Martin Luther King, Jr. decades ago — that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” — sadly rang true once again as we protested the wrongful killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis follows the long history of police accountability problems and institutional racism throughout our nation.

On Saturday, May 30, community members across Seattle came together to grieve, protest, and commit themselves to the cause of justice. Coming together is a constitutional right our nation has honored and cherished for centuries.

From the morning to the afternoon, individuals marched and gathered peacefully. They pledged that George Floyd will not have died in vain. They called upon police officers and policymakers to do more to advance police reforms and accountability here and throughout our fragile nation.

I participated on foot in the peaceful march and caravan in Northeast Seattle, organized that morning by students of Nathan Hale High School. As with the afternoon protesters downtown, we were building community with our collective concern and action, which is so necessary during these terrible times.

However, late Saturday afternoon, some demonstrations downtown swiftly turned violent with rogue protesters setting multiple fires and throwing objects not only harming our first responders and local businesses already stretched and struggling during the pandemic, but also endangering peaceful protesters. The disturbing events also generated many questions and concerns about whether some police officers reacted with unnecessary or excessive force.

MAYOR’S EMERGENCY ORDERS AND REPORT TO COUNCIL:

Due to the dangerous circumstances downtown Saturday evening — including fires — I understand the rationale for our Mayor Jenny Durkan to institute a temporary curfew for public safety (for evenings of Saturday, May 29 and Sunday, May 30). Any future use of curfews should be carefully scrutinized and with sufficient advanced warning.

This weekend I also supported the call by our City Council President Lorena Gonzalez and Public Safety Committee Chair Lisa Herbold for City Council to receive a full report from the Mayor’s Office during a public Council meeting that we are scheduling for Wednesday, June 3. The Council must get answers to several concerns raised by the general public. In addition, the relatively new, civilian-run Office of Police Accountability has received thousands of complaints that it will be investigating.

Here is a link to the Mayor’s press releases, including details about the temporary curfew: http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/newsroom

Here’s a link to the Mayor’s temporary weekend curfewhttps://durkan.seattle.gov/…/u…/sites/9/2020/05/0899_001.pdf

Here is a link to the Mayor’s Proclamation of Civil Emergencyhttps://durkan.seattle.gov/…/u…/sites/9/2020/05/0897_001.pdf

OTHER RESOURCES FOR INFO AND ACTION:

  • For a timeline from the Seattle Police Department, CLICK HERE.
  • To sign up for alerts from your city government, CLICK HERE.

I believe in a wonderful future for Seattle and our nation and I am hopeful we can come together again as a compassionate and committed community, so we can advance the gains we have made for police reform and accountability here in Seattle. There is much work to do.


Internet for All and City Hall updates 💻

May 21st, 2020

City Hall and Coronavirus Updates

Friends and Neighbors, The month of May has brought a glimmer of hope. Governor Inslee announced a multi-phase plan for reopening Washington state. While King County has been in Phase 1 since May 5, the Governor this week approved 10 other counties to move to Phase 2. Thanks to our reliance on public health experts and the science, King County will shift to Phase 2 soon. We are able to start reopening our economy because we have had success in flattening the curve here in Washington. This great progress can hold only if we continue to do what works: stay home as much as possible, wear a mask if you’re going out in public, and wash your hands. We all want to avoid a resurgence of the coronavirus. This pandemic has reinforced the Digital Divide here in our high-tech city. This week I announced my “Internet for All” Resolution to chart a course for universal access to affordable and reliable internet. For details, keep reading or CLICK HERE. For all the action at City Hall and how to engage, keep reading. Thank you.

UPDATES ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND RELIEF

Even these famous statues in Fremont are wearing masks because they cannot social-distance.

The City of Seattle, in partnership with Seattle-King County Public Health, has issued a new directive effective May 18, 2020 encouraging the public to wear a cloth face covering in any indoor or outdoor space when unable to maintain six feet of distance from people who do not live with you. To read the full press release, CLICK HERE. If you need assistance acquiring a mask or making your own, CLICK HERE.

Announcements from Governor Inslee, Mayor Durkan, and D.C.

STATE: Phase 1 of Governor Inslee’s phased approach to reopening our economy began on May 5th. We welcome the reopening of state parks and existing construction jobs. For more information about Phase 1, CLICK HERE. Of course, moving into the next phase is dependent on data. The Governor issues risk assessment criteria that dictate when we can fully reopen our state. You can follow the Governor’s Risk Assessment Dashboard by CLICKING HERE. King County has not entered Phase 2 yet. Phase 2 will encompass the reopening of restaurants at <50% capacity, hair and nail salons, retail stores, and professional services/office-based businesses (with telework strongly encouraged). For more information on reopening restaurants for Phase 2, CLICK HERE. In addition, manufacturing, in-home and domestic services, and real estate companies will be able to restart their work. Public gatherings and outdoor recreation with <5 people outside will be permitted weekly. Finally, the Governor announced the restart of all medical services in Washington, including some elective procedures. Each medical and dental practice will assess their own readiness and their community’s COVID-19 activity to determine whether and to what degree to reopen. To read more, CLICK HERE.

Tips for Applying for Unemployment Funds

The state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) is experiencing historically high volumes of people seeking unemployment benefits. To minimize delays, use these links:

CITY:

  • MASKS FOR VULNERABLE: Mayor Durkan announced that the City of Seattle will provide 45,000 cloth face coverings to the most vulnerable Seattle residents, including people experiencing homelessness, low-income older adults, and food bank staff. For more information, CLICK HERE.
  • INTERNET FOR ALL: This week I announced my “Internet for All” Resolution for universal access to affordable and reliable broadband internet. For details, keep reading or CLICK HERE.

FEDERAL:

  • Home Mortgage Deferrals:  Mayor Durkan and my City Council colleagues have been rapidly introducing and adopting emergency measures in the hopes of providing relief and protections to residential tenants in Seattle, yet our local government has little power to mitigate the other end of the equation: the mortgages and other costs of the housing providers. Even those who own just their single home are receiving little local relief except a brief deferral of property taxes and help with utility bills. Fortunately, those with home mortgages backed by FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac (nearly all home mortgages), will be getting additional options to defer payments on mortgages, if they are economically impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, CLICK HERE. This is in addition to a temporary suspension of foreclosures for those types of mortgages. Contact the company that services your mortgage as early as possible.

 

Where to Find Updates on COVID and Relief

The Seattle City Council continues to update its COVID-19 webpage which includes resources supporting workers, childcare, small businesses, and tenants/landlords.

You can also visit Mayor Jenny Durkan’s centralized COVID-19 webpage, as well as the Mayor’s blog for additional updates. Additionally, our Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs has been translating and sharing information on COVID-19 in several languages. For links to OIRA’s fact sheets and other translated materials, go to their blog: https://welcoming.seattle.gov/covid-19/

And for the latest from Public Health Seattle-King County, you can visit their website to track our region’s response to the virus.

DISTRICT 4 UPDATES

Transportation News in D-4

Councilmember Pedersen picking up Sunday brunch for the family at Bryant Corner Café. He cannot mask his enthusiasm for their french toast! For Bryant food, call ahead to order 206-525-1034. Happy to support SDOT in creating additional temporary parking spots for pickup to support neighborhood restaurants and retail.
  • To support safety and access to local businesses, the City is rolling out new curbside priority pick-up zones. We are installing temporary 15-minute loading zones to facilitate reliable customer access for pick-ups. These new zones allow 15 minutes to enable people to quickly and safely pick up purchases, while ensuring frequent parking turnover so the locations remain reliably available for use. This is in addition to the existing 3-minute zones for restaurant take-out.  For more information from SDOT, CLICK HERE.
  • The Cowen Park Bridge seismic retrofit is now complete. 15th Avenue NE will eventually be repaved with bike lanes that I support, after consulting with neighbors and considering the excellent connections to Roosevelt High and 2021 light rail as well as minimal impact on neighborhood businesses. I launched an audit of major bridges in Seattle to provide better info to city officials and the general public. For more info, CLICK HERE.
  • Construction to reconfigure N. Midvale Place is underway in Wallingford. To see the report by Wallyhood, CLICK HERE. I conveyed to SDOT my desire that the trees in the triangle be saved and was assured that only one tree on the Midvale Place side would need to be removed for this project. I am hopeful SDOT will do what is needed to ensure existing neighbors have ample access to the area they call home.
  • The repaving project on NE 50th Street from U District to Wallingford is nearly complete – finally! For more info from SDOT, CLICK HERE.

PARKS in and near D-4

  • GREEN LAKE: While Green Lake is in District 5, many District 4 residents enjoy its breathtaking open space, exceptional trees, and it’s community center and pool. CLICK HERE for the online open house and fill out the survey about possible new locations.
  • MAGNUSON PARK: Through the end of May, the artists of Building 30 West in Magnuson Park will continue their virtual opening of their studios to the public on Facebook and on Instagram at @spaceatmagnuson. To attend this virtual event on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

District 4 Restaurants Look Forward to Partial Reopen

Councilmember Pedersen, protectively holding a full growler, with the co-owners Eamonn and Chelley of Murphy’s Pub on N. 45th Street in the heart of Wallingford.

I masked-up and sat down with the owners of Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford to learn more about the survival struggles they share with neighborhood businesses across District 4. Murphy’s is getting ready to open when the Governor green lights King County for “Phase 2” even though that means 50% capacity and groups maxing out at 5 per table. How YOU can help:  To enjoy Murphy’s beverages, yummy food, and down-to-Earth welcoming spirit, you don’t need to wait until Phase 2 because Murphy’s has mastered the take-out/pick-up routine. Go to their website: https://murphysseattle.com/ then scroll down to order online first. Then go to 1928 N. 45th Street at Meridian Ave N in Wallingford’s business district to pick it up. For Murphy’s menu, CLICK HERE. The same is true for so many eateries throughout our District and our city. For restaurants open for takeout meals in Ravenna, Bryant, and Wedgwood, CLICK HERE for a handy list from a neighborhood group. For a citywide list from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

COMMITTEE ISSUES

My colleagues unanimously appointed me to chair the Council’s Transportation and Utilities (and Technology) Committee. It’s a bulky “workhorse” committee that comprises half the city’s budget. Here are highlights of current committee issues:

Transportation

West Seattle Bridge Update: The West Seattle Bridge continues to deteriorate, with growing cracks. SDOT has prepared for the worst case scenarios of a partial—or even total—collapse of the bridge. Their engineering consultant’s report is titled “Conceptual Modes of Failure” dated May 15; it’s on SDOT’s list of documents here. To read Seattle Times article in which I am quoted, CLICK HERE.) Next steps are numerous:

  • Evaluating whether the existing bridge can be saved and repaired;
  • Determining, if a new bridge is needed, whether it can be combined in some way with Sound Transit’s bridge for the West Seattle Link rail line;
  • Calculating the costs (and finding the money!) and impacts and tradeoffs of all the options.

For SDOT’s website dedicated to the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE. For a list of all coverage by the West Seattle Blog, CLICK HERE.
Bridge Audit Underway:

With the failure of the West Seattle Bridge I launched an audit of all major bridges in Seattle. I formally asked our City Auditor to evaluate the sufficiency of SDOT’s bridge maintenance and monitoring activities, with a preliminary report due in the Fall before the Council considers our City’s 2021 budget. To learn more about the audit of Seattle bridges I launched, CLICK HERE. To read the audit letter, CLICK HERE.
520 Bridge History

Another bridge project affecting District 4 is the “Rest of the West” part of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) new 520 Bridge project. The “West” project is the completion of the upgraded connections between the new Lake Washington Bridge and the I-5 interchange on the edge of the Eastlake neighborhood. A website about the history of the area was created as part of the WSDOT project and is found here.

Technology

“Internet for All”: Seeking Universal Access to Affordable & Reliable Internet

The COVID-19 crisis and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order have magnified the disparities in our city along many lines, including access to reliable internet. I have crafted a Resolution charting the course for universal internet access in Seattle. The Resolution requests the city government, led by Seattle’s Information Technology department, to craft an action plan, expand partnerships, and ensure the implementation of Internet for All, so that all Seattle residents have affordable and reliable internet access. “In a city that prides itself in leading the world in technology, the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustice of the Digital Divide. We can no longer allow limited internet access to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses and nonprofits. It’s time to ensure reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, for education, and for economic development. It’s time for Internet for All.” Increased internet access can provide a vital link to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis. As chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, I look forward to discussing the Resolution when the Governor’s order has been lifted for all local governments to consider non-COVID-19 legislation. My Resolution requests Seattle’s Information Technology Department to provide its first report to the committee by September 16, 2020. For a link to the press release from May 18,
CLICK HERE. For a link to the draft Resolution, CLICK HERE.

YOUR CITY COUNCIL

Payroll Tax Hearings Postponed

Due to concerns about possibly violating Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-28, Council President Gonzalez and Councilmember Mosqueda prudently postponed Budget Committee meetings on the controversial Payroll Tax legislation introduced by Councilmembers Sawant and Morales. Deliberations on this legislation will resume once the order from Governor Inslee is lifted, possibly in June. For my specific concerns with this payroll tax proposal, see my blog post by CLICKING HERE.

Business Improvement Area (BIA) Updates

The University District BIA reauthorization is beings considered now by your City Council. BIAs are authorized by State law (RCW 35.87A) and enable commercial and multifamily property owners to pay a fee to operate supplemental cleaning, safety, marketing, and other services to maintain and improve their neighborhood business districts. The BIA in the U District is expiring this month, so the City Council is proceeding with this “routine and necessary” legislation. For a link to the proposed BIA Ordinance Council Bill 119779 and related docs, CLICK HERE. For a link to the map of the proposed BIA, CLICK HERE.

Here is the BIA meeting schedule before the Community & Economic Development (CED) committee and full City Council:

  • Wednesday, May 20, 2020: discussion and issue identification;
  • Wednesday, May 27: discussion at CED Committee AND a public hearing;
  • Wednesday, June 3: possible approval by CED Committee;
  • Monday, June 8: possible adoption by full City Council;
  • Friday, June 19: deadline for Mayor signature;
  • Sunday, July 19: Effective Date (if signed by Mayor June 19)

Some key issues remain as important aspects to see represented in this legislation:

  • Fair Representation: Small businesses on triple net leases (meaning the landlord can pass the BIA fees onto the small business owner) must have a meaningful voice in the decisions of the BIA. I also believe there should be term-limits so that members of the BIA Advisory Board cannot stay in power for too long.
  • Good Governance: I believe nearly all contracts (including the “Program Manager” of the U District BIA) should be bid competitively so that we have a public process and an opportunity for more than one organization to compete to provide the services. I have some concerns that the current proposal more than doubles the length of the BIA term from 5 years to 12 years.
  • Prevention of Displacement: BIAs must explicitly make sure their “economic development” activities do NOT contribute to the displacement of existing small neighborhood businesses. A study of The Ave found that nearly 2/3 are owned by women and people of color, ensuring resources for these businesses which are more vulnerable to displacement is important to me.

Those are some of my priorities. I welcome your input; please let us know your thoughts:

Navigation Team Legislation

The Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments will discuss a controversial bill to drastically limit the effectiveness of our City’s Navigation Team and its option to remove dangerous and unauthorized encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic (CB 119796, to see this CLICK HERE.) Much of the discussion around this legislation centers on the Mayor’s recent removal of an encampment at the Ballard Commons. After offers of housing and services, the Navigation Team proceeded with that removal due to immediate and ongoing risks to the public health and safety of the community, including Hepatitis A. Living structures also obstructed public rights-of-way, which created further public health risks. To learn more about this encampment removal, you can visit the City of Seattle’s Homelessness Blog, please CLICK HERE. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis and across Seattle, the Navigation Team has distributed 2,233 hygiene kits, 1,837 Public Health—Seattle & King County (Public Health) COVID-19 and Hepatitis A flyers, 352 meals, and hygiene services maps.  In mid-April, the City opened 95 new shelter beds that are exclusively available to Navigation Team referrals of people experiencing homelessness. The City is focused on using these new resources to bring individuals living unsheltered into safer and healthier conditions. I’m concerned that this proposed legislation will limit the ability of the Navigation Team to protect safety and public health as the main priorities during this crisis. I share the concerns raised by the Mayor:

  • The legislation would hinder our ability to get people into safer conditions due to communicable diseases such as COVID-19 or Hepatitis A.
  • It would hinder the City’s ability to address unauthorized encampments associated with criminal activity.
  • It ignores the impacts on necessary businesses, and their workers and customers.
  • It disregards many types of fire or safety hazards and the impact on our first responders.
  • It would prohibit Seattle Police Department officers from removing encampments that are trespassing on private property.
  • It would prohibit derelict RVs from being removed from City streets.
  • It would drastically impact the City’s ability to address tents that impede sidewalks and public right of way.
  • It creates risk by impacting the City’s ability to enforce existing laws and defend against potential causes of action.
  • It would effectively authorize camping across the city.

As someone who started my career at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help reduce homelessness during the Clinton Administration, I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of those who are most vulnerable. I also support the Navigation Team’s efforts to connect people with available shelter resources and effectively move people into permanent housing. I look forward to the executive departments clarifying further what is a true “obstruction,” so that local government is not removing encampments unnecessarily during the COVID crisis. On a more positive note, this week the Regional Homelessness Authority held its first meeting to discuss regional solutions to this regional crisis of homelessness. Just as our City and County have worked closely to address COVID, we must rely on evidence-based, proven solutions to address homelessness. For more about the Regional Homelessness Authority, read my blog post shortly after I voted to create it by CLICKING HERE.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone here, or listening on your phone by calling 206-684-8566. Commenting: You can also submit public comment by emailing your comment to council@seattle.gov to reach all 9 Councilmembers. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

How to Participate in Your Community Council

Our District 4 is home to over 20 neighborhoods. I believe community councils and other neighborhood-based organizations play an important role in Seattle. It may seem ill-timed during the COVID crisis to promote participation in community groups, but we hear from constituents that they are yearning to reconnect with neighbors and many groups are already hosting “virtual” meetings online using software applications like Zoom and Skype. As more people participate in community groups, the groups can become even more diverse and effective in dealing with larger institutions like your city government. Community councils are a great way to amplify issues that residents in the community want to see addressed. Community councils give residents a space to air opinions, ideas, grievances, and announcements of interest to you and your neighbors.  In addition, they organize residents to work towards common goals identified as priorities by the community and to spearhead events that benefit the community. Here are some community organizations that represent residents in District 4:

Eastlake Community Council (ECC)

Fremont Neighborhood Council

Hawthorne Hills Community Council

Laurelhurst Community Club

Magnuson Park Advisory Committee

Maple Leaf Community Council

Ravenna-Bryant Community Association

Roosevelt Neighborhood Association

Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance

University District Community Council

University Park Community Club

View Ridge Community Council

Wallingford Community Council

Wedgwood Community Council

For more info, CLICK HERE.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to have virtual in-district office hours so we can chat by telephone or via Skype. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.

Hunker down, chin up — and soap up your Seattle hands.  We will get through this together, Emerald City.

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Phone: (206) 684-8804
Find It, Fix It


Councilmembers Gonzalez and Pedersen Introduce Resolution to Launch “Internet for All” to Ensure Affordable Internet Access Throughout Seattle

May 18th, 2020

COVID crisis reinforces need for universal broadband access to address inequities

July 2, 2020 UPDATE:

City Council President Lorena Gonzalez joined Councilmember Pedersen to co-sponsor and introduce the Internet For All Resolution. To read the updated Resolution (#31956) as officially introduced, CLICK HERE.

From Councilmember Pedersen: My staff and I have been gathering input on the draft Resolution I announced earlier to pursue Internet for All residents in Seattle.

  • A RESOLUTION establishing the City Council’s goal to implement Internet for All Seattle, a vision of enabling all Seattle residents to access and adopt broadband internet service that is reliable and affordable.

We’ve enjoyed connecting with and learning from advocacy groups, national researchers, dedicated employees of our City’s Information Technology Department, and private sector providers of internet services.  We are formally introducing the Resolution now. I am very thankful for the support and leadership of co-sponsor Council President Lorena Gonzalez, so we can move forward on this Resolution during these busy times and further address the inequitable Digital Divide in our high-tech city.

May 18, 2020 (ORIGINAL POST):

Councilmember Pedersen Announces Resolution to Launch “Internet for All” to Ensure Affordable Internet Access Throughout Seattle

May 18, 2020 Press Release: SEATTLECouncilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle), as Chair of the Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, has crafted a Resolution charting the course for universal internet access in Seattle. The Resolution requests the city government, led by Seattle’s Information Technology department, to craft an action plan, expand partnerships, and ensure the implementation of Internet for All, so that all Seattle residents have affordable and reliable internet access.

In a city that prides itself in leading the world in technology, the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustice of the Digital Divide,” said Pedersen, whose committee includes oversight of Seattle’s Information Technology department). “We can no longer allow limited internet access to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses and nonprofits. It’s time to ensure reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, for education, and for economic development. It’s time for Internet for All.”

The COVID-19 crisis and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order magnified the disparities in our city along many lines, including access to broadband internet. Pedersen’s resolution outlines the vision of making broadband internet service accessible, reliable and affordable to all residents and nonprofits. Increased access to the internet will increase access to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis.  

Inequities in internet access can lead to disparate outcomes during a crisis, including reduced access to relief programs for families and reduced access to remote learning for students,” said Caitlen Daniels, President & Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit Solid Ground whose mission is to “end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions.” “Access to the internet has become a fundamental way people participate in society and civic life. This proposal will move us closer toward equitable internet access. The alternative is reinforcing an immovable barrier thousands of our neighbors face to full participation in communities and full access to community resources.”

While the Seattle’s Technology Access study in 2018 showed overall improvements in internet access, residents who are low-income, senior citizens, living with disabilities, or for whom English is not their primary language, significantly lag other groups when it comes to access. The “key risk factors” the study identifies for lack of home internet access are:

  • Living in poverty: 5 times more likely to not have internet access,
  • Household member with a disability: 3 times more likely to not have internet access,
  • Primary language other than English: 2 times more likely to not have access,
  • Older adults (65 years old or more): 1.8 times more likely to not have access,
  • Non-white residents: 1.6 times more likely to not have internet access.

According to the same 2018 study, there is low awareness of the discount programs developed for low-income populations — only half know about the programs and just 23% of households that would qualify for them actually use them. Of those 23%, more than half said that the service was too expensive, while 34% cited issues with the quality or speed of their service.

Recent statements in the media reinforce the need to address the digital divide:

  • Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said, “Access to internet is an equity issue for our students and educators, and it is intensified by this crisis.” (Source: Washington State Department of Commerce, May 7, 2020.)
  • Seattle Times editorial board writer Jennifer Hemmingsen wrote, “This is a clarifying moment. The closure of schools, workplaces, public libraries and private businesses has pushed the technology gap into stark relief.” (Source: Seattle Times, May 8, 2020).

As we enter a challenging budgetary environment, Pedersen wants to update the assumptions about financial risk, competitive challenges, economic development benefits, and partnership opportunities to achieve universal broadband.  Pedersen’s Resolution seeks cost estimates, lessons learned from other jurisdictions that have attempted municipal broadband, infrastructure needs, a Race and Social Justice analysis to ensure equitable distribution of the affordable access, and partnerships that can accelerate implementation of the Internet for All Action Plan.

The Resolution requests Seattle’s Information Technology Department to provide its first report to the City Council Transportation & Utilities (and technology) Committee by September 16, 2020 with existing and short-term solutions to increase access equitably, followed by subsequent reports for the longer term, sustainable solutions of the Action Plan.

Pedersen’s proposed Resolution can be heard in his Transportation & Utilities Committee when the Governor’s order has been lifted for all local governments to consider non-COVID-19 legislation.

For the draft Resolution, CLICK HERE.

# # #


Participating in your Community Council

May 16th, 2020

Our District 4 is home to over 20 neighborhoods. Councilmember Pedersen believes community councils and other neighborhood-based organizations play an important role in Seattle.

It may seem ill-timed during the COVID crisis to promote participation in community groups, but we hear from constituents that they are yearning to reconnect with neighbors and many groups are already hosting “virtual” meetings online using software applications like Zoom and Skype. Even if you don’t log into a community council meeting, it’s a good time while we’re stuck at home to explore the options — so you can hit the ground running as soon as possible.

As more people participate in community groups, the groups can become even more diverse and effective in dealing with larger institutions like your city government. Participating in your local neighborhood group can provide a wide range of benefits for individuals and the community as a whole. These include opportunities to meet more of your neighbors, access information and events that help with community building, and organize neighborhood activities. Some people also participate to help keep their communities safe with crime prevention awareness and activity. If issues of concern arise, your community council may follow up and organize activities to address the issues. Often community councils are able to advise residents on ways to respond in the most effective ways, which can include contacting your local elected officials at all levels of government.

Community councils are a great way to amplify issues that residents in the community want to see addressed. Community councils give residents a space to air opinions, ideas, grievances, and announcements of interest to you and your neighbors.  In addition, they organize residents to work towards common goals identified as priorities by the community and to spearhead events that benefit the community.

Here are some community organizations that represent residents in District 4. Please click on the group’s name for more information.

Eastlake Community Council (ECC)

CLICK HERE to contact ECC.

Fremont Neighborhood Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Fremont Neighborhood Council.

Hawthorne Hills Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Wallingford Community Council.

Laurelhurst Community Club

CLICK HERE to contact the Laurelhurst Community Club.

Magnuson Park Advisory Committee

CLICK HERE to contact the Magnuson Park Advisory Committee.

Maple Leaf Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Maple Leaf Community Council.

Ravenna-Bryant Community Association

CLICK HERE to contact the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association.

Roosevelt Neighborhood Association

Click here to contact the Roosevelt Community Council.

Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance

CLICK HERE to contact the Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance.

University District Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the University District Council.

University Park Community Club

CLICK HERE to contact the University Park Community Club.

View Ridge Community Council

Click here to contact the View Ridge Community Council.

Wallingford Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Wallingford Community Council.

Wedgwood Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Wedgwood Community Council.

If you do not currently participate in a community group, but have an issue you need addressed by your city government,

Call the Customer Service Bureau at 206-684-CITY (2489) or use the “Find-It Fix-It” application from your phone. Alternatively, you can click on the specific links below to fill out the information:

To learn more about your District Councilmember, CLICK HERE.

To request a meeting with the Councilmember Pedersen, CLICK HERE.

To see a map of our City Council District 4, CLICK HERE.

You can always contact Councilmember Pedersen’s office by writing to us at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or CLICK HERE.


City Council approves additional defense from eviction for renters suffering financial hardship for one-time, 6-month “ramp down” following COVID

May 4th, 2020

May 4, 2020: Today the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 119784, introduced by Council President Lorena Gonzalez to provide residential renters facing financial hardship with an additional defense against eviction for 6 months after the Mayor’s eviction moratorium ends.

The Mayor extended her evictions moratorium — which is a stronger outright prohibition on evictions — to June 4, to align with the Governor’s COVID-related policies. Today’s new — and temporary — policy adopted by the City Council is not a moratorium or ban on evictions, but rather another option tenants can use as a financial defense if a landlord attempts to evict them during the following six months. Think of it as a “ramp down” or “phasing out” of the stronger protections for tenants during this extraordinary time.

What follows below is A LOT of words to explain my “Yes” vote, but my decision ultimately boils down to one thing: COVID. I believe no one wants to see vulnerable people evicted during a homelessness crisis compounded by a pandemic.

Here is additional background on the approved legislation:

  • This temporary evictions law is a time-limited (one 6-month period) option during this extraordinary public health and economic crisis for renters who also certify their financial hardship to a judge. The rent is still owed and, if not paid, that debt will accumulate and should ultimately be paid.
  • Fortunately, all levels of government are adding money to programs for eviction prevention and rental assistance, which should reduce financial hardship and the need for the eviction defense.
  • Moreover, landlords can still evict tenants for several legitimate reasons other than failure to pay rent during this period, pursuant to the City’s Housing Code (see Title 22 of the Seattle Municipal Code, Section 22.206.160).

Note: Because the legislation was introduced and approved as an “emergency” ordinance, it becomes law only if/when Mayor Jenny Durkan signs it. (Under our City Charter, a typical Council bill becomes law unless the Mayor vetoes it. In other words, if the Mayor refuses to sign a typical Council bill, it becomes law anyway. Not so with an “emergency” ordinance, which requires not only 7 votes from Council instead of 5, but also an affirmative signature from the Mayor.) According to the Seattle Times May 4 article, Mayor Durkan “‘believes people should be able to stay in place‘ and intends to sign González’s bill, spokesman Ernie Apreza said.”

My office received many e-mails in favor of the proposal and many e-mails against it. To reconcile these opposite views, I conducted additional research and proposed amendments (see below). As with the moratorium on evictions during the coldest winter months adopted by the City Council this past February, this vote on CB 119784 was a difficult policy decision for me. The vote was challenging not only because of the differing views of my own constituents, but also because the Council was again breaking new ground to go beyond what other cities have tested. While breaking new ground might sound exciting to some, I prefer a methodical approach that analyzes data along the way to make sure we are not overreaching in a way that creates unintended consequences or attracts costly lawsuits that overturn our policy.

I proposed three amendments:

  1. Exempt Small Landlords (Failed): My amendment to exempt the smallest landlords (4 or fewer units) was rejected 8-1. I have heard from many smaller landlords in my district who are suffering their own financial hardships with mortgage payments, real estate taxes, property insurance, utility bills, and repairs. Unlike the City Council’s approval of my exemption for small landlords in February 2020 for the moratorium on evictions during the winter months, today my colleagues argued that COVID makes the situation extraordinary and today’s bill is temporary (just the 6 months in 2020; not every year).
  2. Require Tenants to Certify Financial Hardship (Passed!): One of the concerns with the original bill introduced by Council President Gonzalez is that renters might be able to pay rent, but choose not to pay rent. My amendment requires tenants to certify to a judge that they cannot afford it. “The tenant has submitted a declaration or self-certification asserting the tenant has suffered a financial hardship and is therefore unable to pay rent.”
  3. Receive Reports on the Law’s Implementation (Failed): While statistics were put forward by proponents of the legislation, when I asked to amend the proposal to require the city departments to report back to us on the data and effectiveness of the proposal, my colleagues voted 8-1 to reject my amendment. Their rationale was that this law will be for only 6 months and that the city government does not already collect data on evictions. Very disappointing!

The amendment accepted by my Council colleagues (for tenants to certify their financial hardship to a judge) combined with the one-time, short-term nature of the ordinance — during the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID public health and economic crisis — led me to join my Council colleagues and vote for the amended bill.

  • For the press release from Council President Gonzalez, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times article covering the Council’s discussion and vote, CLICK HERE.

There is more legislation on the way from my colleagues to regulate landlord-tenant relations that will attempt to supersede existing rental agreements already in place. I’m concerned that this new legislation will use a crystal ball to cover longer time periods too far into the future, will not provide corresponding relief to the housing providers (such as helping them to pay their mortgages, property taxes, property insurance, etc), and will ignore the boost in unemployment insurance payments and rental assistance programs.

It’s important for me to emphasize that, while I have supported legislation specifically targeted to reduce evictions during hard times, I absolutely oppose the irresponsible calls for a “rent strike.” For the Seattle Times article on that, CLICK HERE. Rent is still due. If you’re having trouble paying your residential rent, CLICK HERE and HERE. If you’re a housing provider (landlord), CLICK HERE.


COVID Stay Home Extended and City Hall Action

May 1st, 2020

City Hall and Coronavirus Updates

Friends and Neighbors, It’s been a busy two weeks since our last update. In addition to plenty of activity at City Hall and in District 4, Governor Inslee announced today he is extending Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order to May 31st and outlined a four-phase plan for reopening the economy.  For more information, CLICK HERE and HERE. The Governor is also relaxing some COVID-related restrictions, including reopening our state parks and allowing hospitals to resume non-urgent procedures. Our Governor, King County health officials, and Mayor agree we must continue social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks when social-distancing cannot be maintained, and taking other steps to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. With our region making great strides to reduce the spread of COVID in our community, now is not the time to become overly confident. It’s hard on everyone but our Seattle success in using scientific data to determine our response has been lauded recently in both The Washington Post and The New Yorker magazine. More importantly, maintaining sharp focus now could prevent a second disease peak and save more lives later in the year. Like you, I look forward to re-starting our dynamic economy, getting folks back to work and school, and reconnecting with neighbors. Thank you for
all your hard work to keep our community safe.


UPDATES ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND RELIEF

Announcements from Mayor Durkan, Governor Inslee, and D.C.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle has been fortunate to have the steady leadership of Mayor Jenny Durkan (pictured here) as well as King County Executive Dow Constantine and Governor Jay Inslee.

CITY:

  • Deficit: Due mainly to less revenue from less economic activity, our City Budget Office (CBO) currently estimates an ongoing budget deficit of approximately $300 million out of our $1.7 billion General Fund and related accounts. For the April 22 presentation by CBO, CLICK HERE. The city government’s emergency funds are only $125 million. Cost savings, such as rolling back the new pay raises for the highest-paid city government workers, may be necessary. Subject to hearing more from constituents and conferring with my city government colleagues, I want to make sure we preserve human services and public safety. (Note: the entire city government spends $6.5 billion each year, but that grand total includes our utility operations and capital improvement / infrastructure programs, while city budget officials typically focus on the more flexible “General Fund” dollars.)
  • Aid from Federal and State: City Council invited the City Budget Office to detail the initial $170 million Seattle is receiving from the federal and state governments so far. For the April 27 presentation, CLICK HERE. This amount does NOT include the loans backed by the federal government to small and large businesses or the grants to Washington State government to boost our State’s unemployment insurance benefits paid to those laid off due to the COVID crisis. It also does NOT include grants that our transit agencies will receive from the federal CARES Act: $243 million for King County Metro (buses) and $166 million for Sound Transit. In addition, we expect the federal government to provide more funding focused on repairing / constructing infrastructure and other stimulus spending. As a piece of the $170 million, Mayor Durkan transmitted legislation to the City Council deploying $14 million for food assistance, rent relief, investments in shelter and services for those experiencing homelessness, and additional funding for our City’s Small Business Stabilization Fund. To read more, CLICK HERE.
  • Restaurant Relief: In conjunction with the Mayor’s office, City Council has passed an emergency order to support local restaurants by capping commissions charged by for-profit food delivery companies. To read more, CLICK HERE.

STATE: As stated earlier, Governor Inslee announced today he is extending Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order to May 31st and announced a four-phase plan for reopening the economy.  For more information, CLICK HERE or HERE or HERE for the various news articles. The Governor also announced he is relaxing some COVID-related restrictions, including reopening our state parks and allowing hospitals to resume non-urgent procedures. To follow Governor Inslee’s updates, CLICK HERE.

FEDERAL: Last week Congress passed the 4th coronavirus relief bill, which allocates $484 billion in funds to small businesses and hospitals. $75 billion will go toward hospital funding and $25 billion toward increasing coronavirus testing. Of the remaining funds, $321 billion will be infused into the Paycheck Protection Program and $60 billion will be provided for economic disaster loans for small businesses. For more information, CLICK HERE.

The federal government can create and increase its own budget deficits and often increases spending to stimulate the economy (fiscal policy). State and city governments, however, are required to have balanced budgets.

Additional Support for our Small Businesses

I have heard from small businesses facing economic harm and I am actively looking for ways to get extended relief to those who have suffered financial losses or have been otherwise negatively impacted by COVID-19. As part of these efforts, the City will direct $1.5 million more to the Office of Economic Development’s (OED) Small Business Stabilization Fund. This will allow OED to provide $10,000 grants to 150 more micro-businesses (with 5 or fewer employees) financially impacted by COVID-19. During the first round, City Hall awarded grants to 250 small businesses from our original $2.5 million allocation. For the 2nd round OED will select awardees from the thousands of applicants that did not receive funding in the first round. Our Stabilization Fund is funded and supported by the private sector, philanthropic partners, and economic relief from flexible funding from federal government and is in addition to the aid the federal government is providing through its SBA loans, including Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), SBA Express Bridge Loans, and SBA Debt Relief. Any small business has an opportunity to apply for these federal loans, free of charge. OED offers free
SBA technical assistance Call OED at (206) 684-8090 from Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email OED at oed@seattle.gov anytime. When you call, you can ask for an interpreter. Predatory scams tend to target immigrant- and refugee-owned businesses, taking advantage of either language barriers or misinformation. If contacted by a scammer, OED recommends businesses report scams to the Washington State Office of Attorney General, by calling 1-800-551-4636 from Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or by completing a claim.

Where to Find Updates on COVID and Relief

The Seattle City Council continues to update its COVID-19 webpage (CLICK HERE), which includes resources supporting workers, childcare, small businesses, and tenants/landlords.

You can also visit Mayor Jenny Durkan’s centralized COVID-19 webpage by CLICKING HERE, as well as the Mayor’s blog for additional  updates. Additionally, our Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs has been translating and sharing information on COVID-19 in several languages. For links to OIRA’s fact sheets and other translated materials, go to their blog: https://welcoming.seattle.gov/covid-19/

And for the latest from Public Health Seattle-King County  you can visit their website to track our region’s response to the virus by CLICKING HERE.


DISTRICT 4 UPDATES

D-4 Community Council “Presidents Summit”

On April 29, I held a virtual meeting with over 20 District 4 community council leaders representing our neighborhoods in District 4  from Eastlake to Wallingford to Magnuson Park. Priorities discussed included crime prevention, pedestrian safety, public input on real estate development projects, COVID-19 response, homelessness in our parks, the U District BIA (business improvement area), the city budget and future economic needs, bus service and future bus lines, and concerns about upzones and other City Hall policies that can lead to commercial and residential displacement if mitigants are not put in place first. Normally, our office attends community council meetings in person each month, but the social distancing requirements of the COVID-19 emergency led many community councils to cancel their meetings. Our D-4 Presidents Summit enabled these leaders not only to convey their current priorities but also to learn about the priorities of their fellow leaders throughout District 4. Often there is common ground across neighborhoods for how they can increase participation and get results from City Hall. Attending community council meetings in your neighborhood is a great way to stay engaged. To participate, e-mail me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov and my office will connect you to your community council. While participation in a larger group like a community council can amplify your voice and help you keep track of the many city government issues, there are many other ways to communicate your views. Please see the end of this e-newsletter for other ways to engage with your Councilmembers.


TRANSPORTATION

Councilmember Pedersen’s Citywide Bridge Audit

When rapidly expanding cracks forced the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, I raised questions about the condition and maintenance of other bridges owned by the City of Seattle as Chair of our City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee. I called upon our independent City Auditor, David G. Jones, to assess the condition of our City’s major bridges and the funding and policies for preventive maintenance. The auditor has agreed to produce a preliminary report on our bridges by September 2020 to inform the Council’s 2021 budget decisions. For my full press release, CLICK HERE, and here’s an excerpt:

In a city surrounded by several waterways, our bridges are the backbone of Seattle’s infrastructure for its residents and local economy and are vital for transit, freight, and other uses,” said Pedersen. “Bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. The rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge</a > underscores the need for City officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including preventative maintenance investments and practices.”

To read the April 23 audit letter, CLICK HERE. The Seattle Times published an article about the audit request; to read it, CLICK HERE. The Seattle Times editorial board wrote, “One step to restoring trust is an audit of citywide bridge maintenance, requested last week by new City Councilmember Alex Pedersen.” To read their editorial, CLICK HERE.


UTILITIES

Utility Rate Relief for 2021

When I was appointed by my Council colleagues to serve as Chair of our Transportation and Utilities Committee, I announced my top priority was to keep utility rates as low as possible for Seattle residents. We are fortunate that our city government owns and operates the two major utility operations: Seattle City Light (SCL) for electricity and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) for fresh water, sewer, and solid waste (including recycling). As utility fees imposed by our city government can contribute to Seattle’s affordability crisis, we have a responsibility to keep costs and rates low to help our residents afford their bills and to prevent economic displacement. During the COVID pandemic, we have been quick to reaffirm our no-shut-off policy, pass an emergency ordinance to get rid of late fees during the pandemic, and to make it easier to benefit from the Utility Discount Program. While both SCL and SPU were planning to complete their strategic plans and revise rates again for 2021, both departments have agreed to keep rates steady for 2021 for both electricity and tap water. (SPU rates for sewer, garbage collection, and recycling services are on a separate schedule, with sewer rates subject to King County actions on waste water treatment.) For more on the relief from utility bills during the COVID emergency, CLICK HERE.

Recycling in District 4

I spent part of Earth Day with the essential workers at Seattle Public Utilities who tackle the compost and garbage at the City Of Seattle North Transfer Station in Wallingford.

We need YOU to help us recycle locally and effectively. For the website on how best to recycle, CLICK HERE and for brochure called “Where Does It Go?” on what to recycle, CLICK HERE. (Seattle Public Utilities mails this to customers each year.) The challenges and future of recycling in Seattle and beyond were highlighted recently by a Seattle Times article. Sustainable recycling requires all of us to dispose of recyclables “Empty, Clean, and Dry.” We also need the companies that sell the products to take more responsibility for the disposal, which they can do by manufacturing more environmentally friendly materials, contributing funds to defray the cost of clean up, and developing other means to mitigate the problem.


YOUR CITY COUNCIL

Opposing Councilmember Sawant’s New Tax on Seattle Employers

This week Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda chaired the Budget Committee to discuss the controversial proposal from Councilmembers Sawant and Morales to impose a new tax on over 800 employers, which I believe has been falsely advertised as an “Amazon Tax.” After conducting research and consulting with many constituents, I have been vocal about why I oppose a new tax on jobs as our local economy heads into a deep recession. Partnering with an economist from Governor Inslee’s Council of Economic Advisors, I published an Op Ed in the Seattle Times outlining the top 10 reasons why this tax should be rejected. Mayor Durkan also recently reinforced her opposition to the tax, which is significant because this version of the legislation cannot take effect without the Mayor’s signature. For links to the legislation, my Op Ed, and Councilmember Sawant’s reasoning, CLICK HERE.

Land Use Issues

Striving to Preserve Public Input on Real Estate Developments (CB 119769)

Thank you to everyone who contacted me about Council Bill (CB) 119769 regarding public input on proposed real estate developments throughout Seattle. Under State of Washington and City of Seattle emergency declarations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s design review boards stopped meeting in March. In response to the delay, the Durkan Administration proposed CB 119769 to skip the oversight of the design review boards, so that Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) can temporarily use a watered-down version called “administrative design review.” For a link to bill and the many amendments, CLICK HERE.

After listening to various sides of the proposal, I voted No on the bill. Here are the remarks I delivered at the Council meeting on Council Bill 119769:

  • “…I’d also like to thank the many constituents who have written with their views on the legislation.  Whether they are for or against this Council Bill, they clearly care about land use policies, real estate projects, their neighborhoods, and our city.
  • I also appreciate the various amendments from my Council colleagues to try to make the legislation better.
  • To be consistent with my vote last week and, based on my many years of experience in the field of commercial real estate finance, I will be voting No again because:
  • I don’t think it meets the requirements of an emergency.
  • I’m concerned that it reduces input and discussion from the general public.”

While the bill initially failed to get the 7 votes need to pass as an “emergency” on April 20, there was an unusual “motion to reconsider” and Councilmember Tammy Morales switched her vote on April 27 to pass the bill. Councilmember Lisa Herbold and I voted against the bill both times.  I will do my best to monitor projects in District 4 to make sure SDCI considers public input, even without the benefit of the citizen design review boards.

Reauthorization Coming for U District Business Improvement Area (BIA):

As a Legislative Aide to City Council in 2013, I participated in the annual clean up for the University District with community council leader Ruedi and other residents. The BIA is a neighborhood tool for a massive increase in cleaning and other services.

The University District Business Improvement Area, known as “BIA” for short, is up for reauthorization in June because the current BIA is expiring. The U District BIA imposes a fee to provide cleaning, safety, and marketing services and, if reauthorized, will have an added mission of preventing displacement of the neighborhood’s funky small businesses. On Monday, April 27, the City Council passed two Resolutions launching the BIA renewal process with Resolution 31943 and Resolution 31944 and introduced the Council Bill 119779. Here is the proposed meeting schedule:

  • Wednesday, May 20: Briefing and Discussion at the Community & Economic Development (CED) Committee
  • Wednesday, May 27: another discussion at CED Committee AND a public hearing
  • Wednesday, June 3: possible approval by CED Committee
  • Monday, June 8: possible adoption by full City Council

Please note the May 27th public hearing (likely to be held remotely due to COVID-19 social distancing). I encourage your input and welcome your feedback. Additionally, the City has set up a dedicated email address to handle comments: udistrictbia@seattle.gov. For instructions on how to register and call in for the Committee meetings or public hearing, CLICK HERE. For the map of the impacted area, CLICK HERE, and for my blog post with more details, CLICK HERE.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone here, or listening on your phone by calling 206-684-8566. Commenting: You can also submit public comment by emailing your comment to council@seattle.gov to reach all 9 Councilmembers. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments. Now you can also phone into the meeting to speak directly to the Council live. For the instructions on how to register and call in, CLICK HERE.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to have virtual in-district office hours so we can chat by telephone or via Skype. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to alex.pedersen@seattle.gov

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.

Hunker down, chin up — and soap up your Seattle hands.  We will get through this together, Emerald City. With gratitude — and community fortitude,

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Phone: (206) 684-8804
Find It, Fix It


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