Annual Budget Process with City Council: reviewing, amending, and adopting by December 2020 (for 2021)

October 8th, 2020

[NOTE: While public safety is a key component of our city budget and is discussed below, you can also view my separate posts about reimagining and revamping policing in Seattle by CLICKING HERE.]

Fall 2020: It’s Budget Season (again)! While budget season officially kicked off Tuesday, September 29, 2020 when Mayor Durkan transmitted her budget proposal for 2021, your city government has been working on this budget for months, with each of the mayor’s department heads and her budget office determining how best to invest tax dollars for Seattle next year. Now that the Mayor has crafted and submitted to City Council a balanced budget proposal, we have two months to review, obtain input, amend, and adopt a balanced budget for 2021. As is typical for cities across the nation, our city MUST adopt a budget that is balanced. Washington State law requires that we accomplish this by the first Monday in December.

The total (all funds) budget is $6.5 billion. Yes, that’s BILLION. That includes the $1.5 billion General Fund, Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, and transportation and other capital projects. See pie charts and links below. Due to the COVID pandemic, revenues fell by $300 million in 2020 and $200 million for 2021 forcing departments to reduce some programs and projects to balance the budget even as the Mayor’s budget uses the new payroll tax.

My Initial Thoughts on Mayor Durkan’s Budget Proposal (Sept 29, 2020):

Based on my initial review, I believe Mayor Durkan and her team have put forward a thoughtful and responsible balanced budget and I hope my colleagues on the City Council choose to consider it in a collaborative and constructive manner. Nevertheless, instead of spending up to $30 million to increase the salaries of many city government employees, I strongly believe we should invest those dollars to provide housing and case management for people experiencing homelessness and to maintain the safety of our city’s aging bridges. In addition, the City Council and executive branch leaders in charge of labor negotiations should immediately revamp the dysfunctional police union contract that has become a disservice to good police officers and all communities. Rather than distracting everyone by stirring up a budget process high on drama and low on results, those in charge of labor negotiations at City Hall should tackle the real work of redoing that expensive, inflexible, and unjust contract so that we can truly reimagine public safety. I stand ready to support them.

My Remarks on SDOT’s budget proposal, as Chair of the City Council Committee on Transportation & Utilities (Oct 2, 2020):

As we see at all levels of government throughout our nation, the budget for our Department of Transportation is facing the reality of back-to-back budget deficits as transportation revenue sources drop dramatically due to the COVID pandemic and the related economic recession. In light of the budget deficits, I know Director Zimbabwe and his executive team of transportation experts at SDOT have been working hard to prioritize our investments to make the hard choices of where to trim expenses and pause projects while giving extra attention to the West Seattle Bridge. Despite temporary reductions elsewhere, I’m glad to see the Mayor and SDOT striving to maintain funding levels for maintenance of our city’s aging bridges, similar to 2020 investment levels. However, it’s important to remind everyone that our City Auditor’s recent report on all bridges throughout our city calls for substantially MORE spending on bridge maintenance to keep them safe and functional. I appreciate SDOT concurring with the auditor’s recommendation on this need.

Therefore, if there are any increases or changes in SDOT’s budget between now and when the Council adopts it (for example, if the revenue forecast improves or we find savings elsewhere in the City budget), I would expect more dollars to go into bridge maintenance, so that we truly acknowledge the alarming “wake up call” from the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge and the poor condition of several City bridges. While I’ll have questions about SDOT’s budget throughout our budget process, I believe SDOT is off to a sensible and solid start in dealing with our fiscal constraints.  Despite the fiscal constraints, I believe SDOT is overall doing their best to keep people and freight moving, to encourage transit to benefit both our environment and those who rely on transit, and to keep pedestrians safe throughout our city. I look forward to hearing from SDOT today as they summarize their 2021 operating AND capital budget proposal.

My Remarks at “Issue Identification” Overview (Oct 15, 2020):

Thank you, Budget Chair Mosqueda, and thank you to our City Council Central Staff for analyzing all the ideas and comments that we have on this budget. I appreciate Chair Mosqueda identifying some common ground to expand the Health One program with firefighters and social workers. I also appreciate the forward-thinking approach by considering not just 2021, but also 2022. One of the strong points about the spending plan for 2022 from the Jump Start revenues is the focus on creating permanent affordable housing to address homelessness.

Considering the multiple crises we are facing, including back-to-back deficits for 2020 and 2021, I believe Mayor Durkan and her team have put forward a budget that is thoughtful and reasonable and I hope my colleagues on the City Council choose to consider it in a collaborative and constructive manner. Fortunately, we already have laws on the books that govern how we build up our Rainy Day reserves over time. If now is not the time to deploy our Rainy Day funds with a global pandemic and back-to-back deficits, I cannot imagine when that would be. I would, however, like to strengthen the current savings policy so that we build up future reserves faster.

An important critique that I believe we must put on the table for discussion is whether we really want to increase salaries by $42 million — on top of pay raises received by city government employees this year and last year. When so many people are out of jobs and our city has such deep needs, I don’t think it’s the right time to increase the pay of city government employees again. So if you look at page 28 of tomorrow’s Miscellaneous Issues memo, you’ll see a range of options to save anywhere from $15 million to $42 million simply by forgoing those pay increases next year. Let’s reinvest the millions of dollars of pay raises to provide shelter and mental health support for people experiencing homelessness so they are no longer living in our parks. Let’s reinvest the millions of dollars in pay raises to invest further in BIPOC communities. Let’s reinvest the millions of dollars of pay raises to increase the safety of our city’s aging bridges. City government can and should invest more in our most vulnerable populations and our aging infrastructure, instead of putting more money in our own pockets. In addition to helping the homeless and our bridges, forgoing pay raises now could also help to save city jobs and prevent layoffs in the future.

Your Input — Budget Town Hall for D-4, Public Hearings, and More: There are many opportunities to provide input on the city budget throughout the year and especially during this fall budget season when it’s squarely in the court of the City Council:

  • Budget Town Hall for District 4: Thursday, October 8, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. via Zoom hosted by me. The City Budget Director Ben Noble will join us to provide an overview of the proposed budget along with Community Police Commission co-chair Reverend Aaron Williams. We’ll strive to answer as many budget questions as we can. To sign up, CLICK HERE. [Update: Thanks to those who joined us for our Budget Town Hall! For the presentation from the City Budget Office, CLICK HERE.
  • Public Hearings: The entire City Council is also holding two special public hearings on the budget:
    • Tuesday, October 6 at 5:30 p.m. (for the Seattle Times article and video/audio on the first public hearing, CLICK HERE).
    • Tuesday, October 27 at 5:30 p.m.
  • Budget Meetings: You can call into the public comment periods during the budget meetings (for the calendar, CLICK HERE).
  • Contact Us: If you are not able to attend my town hall or a public hearing, you can also e-mail my office Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov and/or e-mail the entire City Council at council@seattle.gov.

Media Reports:

  • Seattle Times
    • Sept 29, 2020 article, “Durkan’s 2021 budget would use cuts, reserves and big-business tax to close revenue hole and invest in communities of color”: CLICK HERE.
    • Sept 30, 2020 article, “Seattle council members raise questions, concerns about Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2021 budget plan” CLICK HERE.
  • Crosscut
    • Sept 29, 2020 article, “COVID-19, unrest shape Durkan’s ‘difficult’ 2021 budget for Seattle”: CLICK HERE.
    • Oct 1, 2020 article, “Union negotiations loom over the future of policing in Seattle”: CLICK HERE.

Resources:

  • City Budget Office website, CLICK HERE.
  • Operating Budget as proposed by Mayor Durkan on September 29, 2020 for the calendar year 2021, CLICK HERE.
  • Capital Improvement Program (budget) proposed by Mayor Durkan for 2021-2026, CLICK HERE.
  • Mayor’s press release and speech when transmitting her budget proposal, CLICK HERE.
  • For this fall’s budget calendar, CLICK HERE.
  • City Council Budget Committee website, CLICK HERE.
  • For Council Bill 119811 (original “JumpStart” spending plan) adopted by City Council on July 6, 2020, CLICK HERE.
  • For the 2020 audit of Seattle bridges that reinforces the need to invest more dollars in bridge maintenance/safety, CLICK HERE.
  • Powerpoint Presentations:
    • Overview from City Budget Office, CLICK HERE.
    • Seattle Police Department Budget (as proposed), CLICK HERE.
    • Reimagining Public Safety (from Mayor’s Office), CLICK HERE.
    • Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), CLICK HERE.
    • Homelessness Response, CLICK HERE.

Related Issues:

  • Summer 2020 Budget “Re-Balancing”: If you’ve been following City Hall activities over the past few months, you’ll recall that we recently finalized some budget actions this year, but those comprised a unique summer effort to re-balance this year’s 2020 budget that fell out of balance from the sudden mid-year drop in revenues due to the COVID pandemic. To learn more about my votes on the previous 2020 re-balancing, CLICK HERE for my blog (and then type the word “budget” in the Search box on the top right corner of that website).
  • Reimagining Public Safety: If you’re seeking more details on efforts to revamp the police department (including the police union contract), address institutional racism, and expand community-led crime prevention and harm reduction solutions in the wake of the unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Charleena Lyles, John T. Williams, and countless other Black, Indigenous, and people of color, please also see my other blog post: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/injustice-anywhere-is-a-threat-to-justice-everywhere/ For a Crosscut news article highlighting the importance of revamping the police union contract — which is needed to make the most meaningful changes to the SPD budget — CLICK HERE.

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Another New Park in our District 4 at Portage Bay

October 19th, 2020

This past weekend I visited the brand-new park that opened at Portage Bay in our District 4. It’s called Fritz Hedges Waterway Park, named after Frederick “Fritz” Hedges who was a long-term Parks professional with the City of Seattle. The new park is located at 1117 Northeast Boat Street. That’s east of the University Bridge at the southern point of the University District, just a block from the Agua Verde restaurant. I saw many families with their children and other residents enjoying this lovely new connection to our waterfront, thanks to our Seattle Parks Department.

More Information:

  • For the Seattle Times article about this new park, CLICK HERE.
  • For our Parks Department official websites about this park, CLICK HERE and HERE. For the original announcement from our Parks Department, CLICK HERE.


COVID at the University of Washington

October 7th, 2020

Media Reports:

From the Office of the President at UW, October 7, 2020:

“Minimizing the spread of COVID-19 is a university priority, and critical to the overall health of our community.  We share your concern and frustration about the recent outbreak in the Greek community.

The University implemented a variety of measures to protect and promote health in our student population as they returned for Autumn quarter.

  • The University announced early that it would be primarily online.  Only 5% of our classes are currently meeting in person.
  • In follow-up to a similar outbreak this summer, Greek chapters now have COVID-19 safety and prevention plans informed by state and local public health requirements.
  • The University offered “move in” testing to the Greek community at the beginning of September, with over 1200 members tested. The University also offers the opportunity for all students to get tested through the Husky Coronavirus Testing program. Nearly 2,000 Greek members are enrolled and have the opportunity to receive testing every 72 hours.
  • The University is working in close partnership with Public Health Seattle King County on contact tracing, isolation and quarantine procedures and ongoing education.  King County and university public health officials meet regularly with the leadership, advisors, and house corps to share information, reinforce expectations, and answer questions.

The majority of Greek students and leadership are taking the pandemic seriously and complying with public health measures.  We recognize, however, that some are not.  Each sorority and fraternity house is privately owned by a board of alumni/ae and the UW does not have the authority to close them.  Suspending university affiliation, as some have suggested, also does not close the facility nor require anyone move out of the residence.  In response to ongoing concerns about continued social gatherings, UW & King County Public Health have recently informed the Chapter Presidents of Residential-based Fraternities and Sororities, Chapter Advisors, House Corporation Presidents, Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association of additional enforcement actions if a student or group of students continue to fail to comply with UW guidance and Public Health guidance. You can read more (here). The Interfraternity Council (IFC) issued a moratorium on all social related activities and any reported will be adjudicated and appropriate sanctions levied.

If you see activities of concern, please do not hesitate to refer those to pres@uw.edu, or to David Hotz, Director of the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, at dhotz@uw.edu. Our highest priority is ensuring the health and safety of our community and working diligently to prevent further transmission of COVID-19.”


Electrifying our Transportation System Supercharges Seattle’s Ability to Tackle Climate Change

October 5th, 2020

Press Release: Celebrating passage of our Transportation Electrification Plan to guide Seattle City Light’s investments in an electrified transportation system 

Seattle City Light’s Transportation Electrification Strategic Investment Plan will guide equitable investments to electrify all forms of transportation

SEATTLE (September 28, 2020) – Mayor Jenny Durkan today applauded City Council’s passage of Seattle City Light’s Transportation Electrification Strategic Investment Plan, an important step in committing resources and making investments to modernize our electric grid and enable a once-in-a-century transformation of the Seattle area’s transportation ecosystem.

“We envision a future Seattle where the movement of people, goods and services in and around the city is electrified,” said Mayor Durkan. “This is an essential piece of Climate Action Plan, Drive Clean Seattle Initiative and the Green New Deal. With this plan, Seattle will lead the way to a healthy future that is carbon-neutral, equitable and modern, while supporting customer choice and fostering new economic and workforce opportunities.”

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 1512, granting public utilities the authority, already established for investor-owned utilities, to offer incentives and services to their customers to electrify transportation. Development and adoption of the Transportation Electrification Strategic Investment Plan, required by the law, ensures City Light can capitalize on that new authority to use these future offerings,  our prior learnings and stakeholder engagement to ensure the benefits of transportation electrification are accelerated and maximized for all the communities we serve.

The plan sets the priorities for future programs and services and describes how the utility will bolster and modernize our electric grid to enable public transit charging, support freight and commercial fleets and provide flexibility for personal mobility. City Light centered this plan on three key values:

  • Equity – to ensure benefits are focused to support and uplift underserved communities.
  • Environment – to improve air quality and public health.
  • The grid – operating the electricity delivery system as a community asset to deliver public good.

It reflects City Light’s engagements with the cities in its service area, with communities it serves, and with partner agencies to further its modernization- and customer-focused missions, including ensuring that investment in transportation infrastructure results in equitable outcomes.

Seattle must continue the hard work to address climate change, and owning Seattle City Light enables us to expand opportunities to use clean hydroelectric power to decarbonize our economy, including throughout our transportation systems,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, chair of the Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee. “Adopting this thoughtful Electrification Strategic Investment Plan also builds upon the collaboration between Seattle’s executive and legislative branches of government, including the Green New Deal resolution and the new ‘Climate Note’ that requires us to consider all new legislation through the lens of climate change.”

A quickly growing electric vehicle (EV) market offers an opportunity for City Light to play an important role in reducing the climate and environmental impacts of our transportation sector, the region’s largest source of hazardous air pollutants. However, while personal vehicles – including cars, bikes and e-scooters – make up one part of the EV market, the largest benefits of transportation electrification are expected to accrue from modes that move large numbers of people – electrified transit buses and ferries – as well reduced emissions from vehicles that drive a large amount of miles, including commercial fleets, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and other high-mileage vehicle drivers.

City Light’s planned strategic investments fall in two categories: program offerings, including customer-facing incentives, services, education and promotions; and electrification enablement, including the development of future-focused infrastructure needed to support transportation electrification.

“At Seattle City Light, we are redefining electricity services to meet the evolving demands of our customers and our rapidly growing metropolitan area,” said Debra Smith, City Light General Manager and CEO. “City Light envisions a utility of the future that is responsive to the wants and needs of community members most impacted by environmental inequities, operates a modernized grid that enables real-time smart technology interaction and provides economic opportunities through infrastructure investments and upgrades. A modernized electric grid will accelerate electrification of transportation and other sectors, allow for resource optimization and prepare the region to withstand growing climate impacts.”

City Light has been working on transportation electrification over the past five years, conducting in-depth transportation electrification analyses as well as piloting public and residential EV charging, partnering with regional public transit agencies, and launching time-of-day electricity rates to better understand potential impacts of this growing market. Based on these analyses, City Light anticipates both financial cost and benefit from the transition to transportation electrification. As more EVs charge within the service area, the utility sells more electric power. The retail revenue from the new sales are expected to be greater than the costs required to procure and deliver the additional electricity, eventually stabilizing rates and providing overall benefit to customers.

Transportation electrification also offers significant opportunities to address the environmental inequities that exist in our region. Neighborhoods where marginalized populations are a relatively large share of residents are more likely to be located near the city’s major transportation routes, especially the city’s high-volume freight routes. City Light’s Transportation Electrification Strategic Investment Plan is a component of the City’s work to address these inequities and City Light will focus on the wants and needs of environmental justice communities, which includes Black, Indigenous, and people of color as well as immigrants, refugees, persons experiencing low incomes, English language learners, youth, and seniors, in advancing the transportation electrification plan.

In developing this plan, City Light engaged with more than 40 community leaders and stakeholder groups to align investment priorities with community needs, with a focus on environmental justice communities. This strategic plan defines the process for how City Light will collaborate with customers and communities to develop a portfolio of transportation electrification offerings, and develop metrics for success reflective of our customers. Following approval of the plan, City Light will do additional work with communities to co-create program offering designs.

City Light has closely collaborated with several other City departments – Office of Sustainability and Environment, Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, Seattle Department of Transportation, Office of Planning and Community Development, Office of Economic Development, Department of Neighborhoods, Finance and Administrative Services – in development of this plan and a broader citywide transportation electrification strategy.

“City Light’s strategic investment plan is a critical component of the citywide transportation electrification strategy.  In order to achieve our ambitious climate goals, it is essential that the utility have authority to offer customer incentives and services for transportation electrification, as well as the authority to promote electric vehicle adoption and advertise the utility’s services,” said Jessica Finn Coven, Director, Office of Sustainability and Environment.

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Results and Budgets during challenging times

September 24th, 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this newsletter finds you looking forward to the season of Fall — here at City Hall that means budget season.

Despite sometimes expressing policy perspectives different from several of my City Council colleagues, I have enjoyed crafting important measures to benefit our district and our city–and then working with those colleagues to adopt those measures including:

  • an Internet for All action plan focused on achieving equity,
  • an audit of Seattle’s bridges focused on safety, and
  • a vital analysis focused on addressing climate change.

These accomplishments are in addition to the basic work we need to do as chair of our Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, which includes next steps to repair and replace the West Seattle Bridge.

These professional relationships with my Council colleagues and our Mayor are important as we head into a difficult discussions on how to close the growing gaps in our city government’s budget which, due to the economic recession, will likely include reductions for government programs and projects. As the Mayor transmits her budget proposal for 2021 on September 29, I hope to use my extensive financial management experience to help our city navigate these troubled fiscal waters. We recently previewed how challenging it can be to agree on policies and budgets.

This past Tuesday, the City Council reconsidered the three pieces of budget legislation that our Mayor vetoed last month: Council Bills 119825, 119862, and 119863. Mayor Durkan explained her vetoes in a letter to the City Council. The City Council discussed the vetoes on September 21 and 22 and ultimately overrode the vetoes on all three bills. While I joined my colleagues on two of the bills, new information about the negative impacts of Council Bill 119825 convinced me (and Councilmember Debora Juarez) to vote to sustain (support) our Mayor’s veto on that particular bill.

Council Bill 119825 was concerning to me and many constituents because it contributed to the early retirement of our city’s first and only Black police chief Carmen Best and it deleted funding for our city’s “Navigation Team” for those experiencing homelessness. It has become even more clear that we need this interdepartmental team of dedicated city employees who offer housing and services to people living in unauthorized encampments. I know many of us are eager to hear from my colleagues who voted to defund the Navigation Team about how they intend to replace the organized and coordinated efforts we had to address homelessness. We also need a better understanding of how the changes proposed in this legislation, combined with the accelerated attrition (loss) of police officers, will impact response times from our police department and our ability to adhere to the consent decree for police reforms.

This entire budgetary battle, unfortunately, avoided the hard work of what we really need to revamp public safety: City Hall must revamp the inflexible, expensive, and unjust labor contract with the police union (which I discuss more below).

The remarks I made at the City Council meeting explain my rationale for my various votes and you can review them on my blog: pedersen.seattle.gov. My blog also provides details of this historic issue of revamping public safety and the various votes and events stretching back to May.

Read on for more updates about my recent work for District 4 and other news.

City Council Unanimously Adopts Councilmember Pedersen’s Climate Change Policy

 
Presenting the climate change analysis to my Council colleagues.

This past Monday, the City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31933, which I crafted and introduced. My Resolution will, for the first time, require City Hall to formally consider the crisis of climate change when crafting new legislation. The recurring wildfires that choked Seattle’s air with harmful smoke were an ominous backdrop as Councilmembers recognized the urgent need to contemplate all new legislation through the lens of climate change.

Currently, all Council legislation requires a “fiscal note,” which summarizes the financial implications to the City. Resolution 31933 expands this analysis by asking City departments to assess whether new legislation would increase or decrease carbon emissions and whether it would strengthen or weaken Seattle’s resiliency to climate change. By the end of March 2021, the City Budget Office and the Office of Sustainability and Environment will be reporting on how well the new reporting requirement is working. Thank you to everyone who called and emailed City Council in support of the resolution, and especially to Dr. Cathy Tuttle, a climate activist and policy expert who ran for City Council in 2019 and whose “Carbon Note” concept inspired this new policy.

CLICK HERE to read the resolution and HERE to read a statement from Dr. Tuttle in support of it.

Mayor Durkan Transmits her Budget to City Council Tuesday, Sept 29

Due to the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, we must be prepared for significant reductions to Seattle’s $6.5 billion budget. In the face of these reductions necessary to balance the city’s budget as required by State law, I will still be working hard to secure funding for projects that will serve the over 100,000 constituents who call District 4 home. I hope you’ll join me at a virtual town hall to discuss the Mayor’s budget, its impacts on District 4, and to voice your priorities for our city government budget process. City Budget Director Ben Noble will be with us to provide an overview and to answer questions. RSVP HERE to receive the Zoom call-in link and submit your questions. See you on October 8 for the virtual Budget Town Hall for our District 4 !

We Must Revamp the Police Union Contract to Revamp Public Safety

The 100-page labor contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) is an expensive, inflexible, and unjust document that has become a disservice to both good police officers and all Seattle communities and it is the #1 impediment to reallocating additional resources to BIPOC communities, improving public safety, expanding police reforms, and ending institutional racism in policing.  While that dysfunctional contract expires in only 90 days, both the Executive and Legislative branches of city government have, unfortunately, spent months dramatically tinkering with the police budget when we must first attack the root cause of the problems: the SPOG labor contract. I hope we can all encourage those in charge of labor policy for City Hall to roll up their sleeves to rebuild a better contract so that we have the flexibility and funding to revamp public safety in Seattle. For the entire contract, CLICK HERE.

New Police Reform Monitors Appointed by Federal Judge Robart

I am grateful for the years of hard work by Merrick Bobb and look forward to the efforts of the new police reform monitors Antonio Oftelie and Monisha Harrell. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE. No matter the size of our police department budget or number of police officers, we need to sustain and expand the reforms, such as improving the disciplinary process. The monitors provide important independent oversight and analysis in addition to the Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and Inspector General (for Public Safety).

City Auditor Completes the Bridge Audit I Requested and Concludes—We Need More Funding to Keep Our Bridges Safe

 
The University Bridge that connects the U District and Eastlake in District 4 was among the bridges ranked in “poor” condition along with the Magnolia Bridge, 2nd Avenue South extension, and the Fairview Avenue Bridge (which is being reconstructed). Photo: by SounderBruce on Wikipedia

As a result of the closure of the West Seattle Bridge in March, I requested a review by the City Auditor of the rest of Seattle’s City-owned bridges to determine their condition and ongoing monitoring and maintenance status.

In a city defined by its many waterways, our bridges connect us and this audit report proves city government must do a better job investing in this basic infrastructure,” said Councilmember Pedersen. “Vital for transit, freight and our regional economy, bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. I requested this audit of our bridges because the rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscored 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 the adequacy of the City’s preventative maintenance investments and practices.

The auditor’s staff did a remarkable job and produced the audit report in mid-September. It is published HERE. In addition to identifying the serious shortage of funding for needed bridge maintenance, the auditor recommends several changes to how SDOT assesses the condition of each bridge, including the importance of evaluating individual components of each bridge. The auditor also recommends that SDOT bridge crews spend less time helping other agencies and jurisdictions, so that SDOT can stay focused on Seattle’s bridges.

The Seattle Times editorial on the audit said, “New City Councilmember Alex Pedersen deserves kudos for requesting the audit after the West Seattle Bridge closure. It gives the council facts and improvements to consider, and has already prompted change at the Department of Transportation.”

SDOT has agreed with almost all of the audit’s conclusions and recommendations. I will continue to monitor SDOT to improve its care for our bridges and to encourage my Council colleagues to get City Hall back to the basics of our city’s infrastructure.

You can read more about the bridge audit HERE.

Concerns About SDOT’s New Scooter Rentals

 
Photo from SDOT blog

On September 8, 2020, I voted against scooters in Seattle and here’s why:

I support improved mobility options by encouraging environmentally friendly alternatives to gas-powered, single occupancy vehicles.  Ideally, electric scooters (e-scooters) would provide an alternative for some trips for some travelers. At the same time, the City government is essentially authorizing a new mode of transportation — thousands of scooters traveling within our streets and other rights of way. This is big change that warrants a careful tracking of the results.

I had been looking forward to a standard ‘pilot project’ on scooters that would measure results as we are seeing elsewhere in King County but, unfortunately, this SDOT legislation is not a real pilot project. The legislation transmitted by SDOT to the City Council did not explicitly and fully address safety, financial liability, infrastructure costs, or measures for success.

SDOT, however, said this legislation was time-sensitive, so I fulfilled my role as Transportation Committee Chair to facilitate discussion, ask questions, and enable my fellow Councilmembers to vote on it. While a majority of my colleagues approved it at my Committee on August 19 and at the full City Council on September 8, I was personally not willing to vote yes for something that, in my opinion, lacked details. “

Both Council Bill 119867 and Council Bill 119868 totaled only 2 pages in length. To retain some oversight role and to encourage a more standard pilot program that evaluates initial results, as Chair of the Transportation Committee, I sent a letter asking our SDOT Director to return to our Committee by next June and next December to report on specific metrics from the first 6 months and 12 months of the new program.  To view my letter to the SDOT Director, CLICK HERE.

West Seattle Bridge Closure Assessment and Mitigation Continue

 
Photo: SDOT

Impacts from the West Seattle Bridge closure in March continue, with no near-term replacement of the lost capacity. Numerous measures have been put in place to reduce the impacts of traffic flowing through Georgetown and South Park. Engineering work to assess the best paths forward continues. The City Council also retained an engineering firm to provide input. After a cost-benefit analysis, we are expecting the Mayor to announce a decision on SDOT’s preferred path forward in October. The two likely choices: repair with replacement in about 15 years or begin replacement as soon as possible.

For more information on the status of the West Seattle Bridge, please see SDOT’s West Seattle Bridge page. District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold also posts insightful articles on the bridge on her blog, and the West Seattle Blog contains regular and in-depth reporting.

 

Internet for All Plan, Called For By Councilmembers Pedersen, Gonzalez, and Juarez, Now Available

I was pleased to hear the details of the Internet for All Seattle report at my Committee, including the Gap Analysis and Action Plan presentation at my Transportation & Utilities Committee on Wednesday, September 16; the recording of the presentation is available on the Seattle Channel. Our Internet for All Resolution requested Seattle’s Information Technology Department to provide its first report last week, followed by subsequent reports for the longer term, sustainable solutions of the Action Plan. For our original Resolution (31956) that launched Internet for All, CLICK HERE. For the presentation, CLICK HERE and for the Action Plan report, CLICK HERE.

The Resolution, which I crafted and sponsored with Council President Gonzalez and Councilmember Juarez, was adopted unanimously by the Council in July. It outlined a vision and requested a plan to make broadband internet service accessible, reliable, and affordable to all residents. 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.

Seattle is a city that rightfully prides itself on world-class technology, but the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustices of the Digital Divide. I called for this action plan with my colleagues to achieve Internet for All because we can no longer allow limited access to the internet to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses. It’s time to provide reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, education, and economic development. This ambitious report from the Mayor and her team, in collaboration with the City Council, spurs Seattle’s long-term efforts to provide affordable and reliable internet to low-income, BIPOC, and all communities, so that we can finally achieve Internet for All.

Building on the strong foundation created by the Mayor and her team, Seattle’s IT Department worked diligently to establish strategies and objectives as concrete steps toward universal internet access and adoption. As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated and exacerbated inequities in society, including the digital divide with disparate outcomes for low-income and BIPOC communities. Especially during the pandemic, access to the internet has become a fundamental way people participate in society and this shift may have longer term impacts on how and where we conduct business, attend school, and participate in civic life.

For the joint press release on the Internet for All report from the Mayor’s Office and City Council CLICK HERE, and for more on previous Internet for All efforts, please see my blog post by CLICKING HERE.

Seattle Channel Honored with Excellence Awards for Government Programming in National Competition

 
In an appearance on the Seattle Channel show “Council Edition” with Councilmember Herbold, Host Brian Callanan, and Councilmember Strauss during happier times before the COVID pandemic.

As Chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, which includes Technology, I’m proud to share the news that the Seattle Channel was recently named among the best municipal television stations in the nation when it received the prestigious Overall Excellence award for government programming from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. As I hope you all know, Seattle Channel is a local, public TV station that reflects, informs and inspires the community it serves. Seattle Channel presents programs on cable television–channel 21 on Comcast (321 HD), Wave (721 HD) and 8003 on CenturyLink (8503 HD)–and via the internet to help residents connect with their city. To access Seattle Channel online, CLICK HERE. Programming includes series and special features highlighting the diverse civic and cultural landscape.

Whether it’s increasing access to City Council meetings or producing original in-depth content focused on Seattle’s diverse people and places, Seattle Channel is an important resource. Seattle Channel provides transparency and accountability in city government, sparks civic engagement and helps deepen understanding of local issues. Congratulations to everyone at the channel, whose hard work and dedication led to these prestigious awards.

I’m grateful that the Seattle Channel broadcasts the City Council briefings and City Council hearings every Monday at 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. so that people across the city can see what is happening in their government.

 

New in D4: Christie Park is Open!

Photo: Seattle Parks & Recreation

Seattle Parks and Recreation is happy to announce the Christie Park renovation is complete and open to the public. SPR purchased land directly adjacent and south of Christie Park, 4257 9th Ave. NE, in 2012 to increase the open space for the University District urban village.

As noted on the Park’s website, “The larger renovated park features an open lawn, plantings, trees, a multi-use plaza with donated art, a loop trail, and a fitness area. The Friends of Christie Park, formed by the Taiwanese American Community in Greater Seattle, provided the funding for the “Explorer Voyage” art piece by Paul Sorey. The three stainless steel art boat sculptures celebrate the explorer spirit and friendship between the people of Seattle and Taiwan. The park art includes Paul Sorey’s boats modeled after Taiwanese Aboriginal’s boats “Tatala”, that offer seating areas, cultural tiles installed at the entrance to the park and decorative lighting for the boats. The word “EXPLORE” is written in different languages around the entry circle reflecting many cultures all sharing the same values and steel “ribbon” in the concrete represent water.

The opening celebration will occur next July during the Tribal Canoe Journey along Pacific Northwest coast when many Taiwanese Native Tao people come to Seattle and can join the celebration.”

For more information about the project please visit seattle.gov/parks/about-us/current-projects/christie-park-addition.

UPDATES ON COVID PANDEMIC AND RELIEF

Eviction Moratoria and Rent Relief

Moratoria on evictions are currently in place through the rest of 2020 at both the city and federal levels. More information is available HERE about the nationwide order and HERE about Mayor Durkan’s order for Seattle. Governor Inslee’s eviction moratorium for the state is currently in place until October 15. Additionally, King County has a new Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program which you can learn more about HERE.

New Round of Help for Small Businesses

During this time of COVID-19 impacts, our small businesses are especially impacted and yet we need them to thrive to provide jobs for our neighbors, vitality for our neighborhoods, and products and services for all of us. The Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, which serves as the King County Associate Development Organization, opened a new round of grant funding Monday to ensure that $580,000 in federal funding reaches King County small businesses and 501 (c)(6) non-profit business service organizations (e.g. neighborhood chambers of commerce and tourism bureaus).

I hope that eligible D4 businesses with 20 or fewer full-time employees apply for awards of $5,000, $7,500 or $10,000 through the program, called the Federal CARES Act Small Business Emergency Grant Program.  The Chamber estimates that it will be able to make grants to 60-115 businesses/organizations within King County and is accepting applications through Monday, September 28 at 5:00 p.m. Please view full details about business eligibility and the application form are available HERE.

Priority will be given to applications that fall within these categories:

Internet Access Opportunities

I wanted to share some resources for helping secure internet access. For those with students in Seattle Public Schools, CLICK HERE for the District’s internet assistance program. And the City of Seattle website has information on low-cost options HERE.

Where to Find More 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.

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 by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

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.

We are still receiving a very high volume of e-mails (for example, over 1,000 e-mails about the Mayor’s recent vetoes), 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 Find It, Fix It  


“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

September 21st, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I have received over 38,000 e-mails, including over 2,000 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 — and budgets. While the communications I receive from constituents offer a variety of views, I see common ground growing for re-imagining what effective and equitable public safety means as we continually seek to achieve healthy communities. Please read my initial thoughts here and I include links to additional information. There is much work to do.

UPCOMING ACTIONS:

  • In July and August 2020, the City Council and our Budget Committee examined our Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget to see how we can best reallocate City revenues and responsibilities to re-imagine public safety and community wellness, especially as we face budget deficits from the COVID pandemic. Many of the details not tackled during the summer can be addressed during our regularly scheduled budget process this Fall (which will impact our City’s 2021 budget).
  • For information on the budget for 2021, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Crosscut news article highlighting the importance of revamping the police union contract — which is needed to make the most meaningful changes to the SPD budget — CLICK HERE.

Please see below for the many posts on these vital matters since May 2020:

WEEK OF SEPT 21, 2020 UPDATE:

JUSTICE DENIED TO BREONNA TAYLOR IN KENTUCKY: I join millions across the country outraged by the decision in Kentucky to exonerate the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor. This reinforces the need to overturn the federal / State / county laws and redo the local police union contracts that enable these injustices to continue. For one of the many news articles on that court case, CLICK HERE.

VETO RECONSIDERATION: Ultimately, the City Council overrode the 3 Council budget bills vetoed by Mayor Durkan. The first bill (CB 119825) was overridden with a vote of 7 to 2 (with Councilmember Debora Juarez and me voting to sustain that particular veto). The other two bills (funding for community organizations) were overridden unanimously. For my amendment to restore (increase) funding for BIPOC-led organizations, CLICK HERE. For my remarks at the vote, please keep reading…

My Remarks Delivered When Reconsidering the 3 Budget Vetoes:

“As we know, our Mayor vetoed three of the Council bills we adopted to help rebalance this year’s 2020 budget with an emphasis on our Police Department.  I would like to explain how I’m planning to vote today and the reasons for the variety of my votes today.

First, let me paint the broader picture.  In the middle of a persistent pandemic, ballooning budget deficits, and even the cracking of our West Seattle Bridge stranding 100,000 of our residents – in the middle of these crises — I believe we are all striving to seize this historic moment in the wake of the brutal and wrongful killing of George Floyd and countless Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, so that we root out institutional racism by revamping our police department and revitalizing community health and safety.  

As we have seen with the recent back-and-forth on these complex issues, this is not a neat or easy process to reach consensus. It’s messy, it’s difficult, and it’s uncomfortable, but it is necessary.  Even as I speak now, I am getting e-mails and phone calls from constituents who want me to override the Mayor’s vetoes and those who want me to sustain or support the Mayor’s vetoes. I’d like to thank all the voices who spoke up to contact me by e-mail and phone and for the many Black leaders who had conversations with me about their viewpoints on public safety in Seattle — from young, new leaders to small business owners to those who have been fighting this fight for decades, including the Reverend Harriet Walden of the Community Police Commission and many others.

We were elected not only the synthesize the various viewpoints and address the concerns of our constituents but also to craft thoughtful plans on how to do things better. We also have to recognize that the City Charter shares decision-making authority between the Mayor and the City Council and, from a practical standpoint, we get more done, faster and in a more sustainable way when we work together. I believe we can and should lean into the common ground that we share today.

Fortunately, we have quickly reached consensus that the status quo of policing is not acceptable. Reforms are not enough. Now the question is how do we move ahead with meaningful change.

Voted to (1) override (reject) the Mayor’s veto on CB 119863 and (2) amend the alternative Council Bill 119900 to increase funds to BIPOC-led crime prevention organizations:

I was not part of the ongoing discussions some Councilmembers and the Mayor’s team had to craft the potential replacement legislation, Council Bill 119900.  I’d like to thank both Council President Gonzalez and the Mayor’s Office for putting that legislation on the table yesterday so that we could all read it and have a public discussion about it today. I believe it is a well-intentioned and reasonable start to reach a compromise, but I’m concerned about a key portion of that alternative bill:  the reduction of money to community organizations run by Black, Indigenous, and people of color leaders. I would prefer that this Council stick to its promise to allocate the full $14 million rather than reducing it $2.5 million. I hear the concerns that it will be difficult to get $14 million out the door during the remaining 3 months of this year and that an Interfund Loan structure is far from ideal.  I also understand that the Mayor is likely to propose even larger investments in BIPOC communities when she unveils her budget proposal next week which will impact the next calendar year, 2021.  But I believe it’s imperative to honor the commitment we made as a City Council to provide MORE money to the many effective organizations run by Black, Indigenous, and people of color leaders who operate successful programs that prevent crime, reduce harm, and deliver justice.  Therefore, while I respect the Mayor’s decision, I also intend to vote to override the 3rd bill the Mayor vetoed, which is Council Bill 119863. Coupled with my override of that bill, I circulated my amendment to the replacement bill (Council Bill 119900), so that we can immediately re-authorize the full $14 million to those organizations.

It’s time to scale up community safety programs proven to work here in Seattle and proven to work in other similar U.S. cities.  Overriding Council Bill 119863 will restore the interfund loan as a potential source of funds for these BIPOC organizations because we cannot afford to wait and I believe we need to honor that promise. Let’s do this today because time is running out.

Voted to sustain (support) veto of CB 119825:

At the same time, I have made it clear that I was disappointed with the results of the first Council Bill 119825.

  • NAV TEAM: This was the Council Bill that deleted the city government’s Navigation Team – the hard-working team made up of dedicated city government employees who engage unauthorized homeless encampments throughout our city to offer housing and services. The decision on whether to keep or delete the Nav Team should have never been part of that Council Bill, which was supposed to be about rebalancing the budget and the police department. After we adopted that bill, it became painfully clear that we did not have at the ready an organized and comprehensive and effective replacement for the Navigation Team. I believe we need a city-run team that coordinates efforts to engage with encampments and deal with fire risks, obstructions, and public health hazards. Private nonprofits do not pick up the trash or coordinate efforts. We need to restore the Navigation Team. The replacement bill that is before us today (Council Bill 119900) can improve the situation by authorizing $3 million more for shelter – that nearly doubles the amount we authorized originally — so we can move more people off the greenways and into housing. The replacement bill also adds $500,000 for behavioral health services that are imperative for helping those most in need.
    • Amendment on Nav Team (preserve Data Analysts): I have an amendment to the replacement legislation (Council Bill 119900) which will make sure that we preserve the Data Analyst positions on the Navigation Team.  The Data Analyst position was added to the Navigation Team to improve data collection and transparency.  We need to continue to gather data and to measure results so that we have greater accountability and a focus on positive outcomes. As we enable more nonprofits to assist with engagement, the Data Analysts can also provide support to them so that all organizations are collected he same types of data.  I hope my colleagues will support my amendment to make sure we preserve the Data Analysts on the Navigation Team.
  • REFORMS: Council Bill 119825 was also the legislation that tried to remove positions and funding necessary to adhere to the federal consent decree that we must keep in place to sustain police reforms. The federal judge overseeing the consent decree has made it clear that major changes to the police department that impact the consent decree must be approved by him.  This includes areas such as training, data collection and crisis response. No matter how much we adjust the size of our police force, we will still have a police force and we need to make sure the reforms are not only preserved but also expanded.  The reforms require sufficient staffing.
  • ATTRITION:  In addition, the rate of attrition — the natural reduction of officers on the police force due to retirements or them leaving for other police departments – has accelerated. Therefore, the recent reductions in officers due to attrition must be combined with the reductions proposed by this bill so that we have the full picture and know the true impact on response times. We have already seen the new Chief reallocate community policing officers away from the neighborhood business districts and communities they know so well to the patrol positions – indicating a shortage we must be mindful of.
  • CHIEF BEST:  In addition, one of the most impactful consequences of this Council Bill 119825 is that it led to the resignation of our City’s first Black police chief and recklessly cut salaries of her hand-picked and diverse command staff.

Per our City Charter, the Mayor has a right to veto, which she exercised, and I appreciate the reasons she outlined in her veto letter and, for this piece of legislation (Council Bill 119825), I plan to vote to sustain the Mayor’s veto.

Voted to override veto on CB 119862:

The other Council Bill is 119862, which would provide $3 million for a 9-month community engagement process, as we decide how best to invest even more in BIPOC communities. The replacement bill on the table today (Council Bill 119900) will still provide sufficient funding to start the community engagement process this calendar year.  I believe we need a broader, more methodical community engagement process which should include more BIPOC leaders at the table than we had during the summer. We also need a more coordinated engagement approach with the Executive departments of our city government, so that we do not have a separate process that competes and conflicts. Therefore, I am willing to override the Mayor’s veto of the $3 million bill so that we can start that process now and have a more detailed discussion about this during the 2021 budget process. I’m also open to discussing this further today.

So, in summary, I plan to vote to override two of the bills and sustain one of them.

Fixing the Police Contract is the Most Imperative Task:

I want to close my remarks by highlighting for those listening in today that the most sustainable and meaningful way to reallocate dollars to the BIPOC communities, to root out institutional racism, to improve community safety, and to deliver justice is to fix the deficient police union contract. The police union contract is the chief roadblock because it legally governs and supersedes nearly all aspects of what we are trying to achieve. 

To revamp this unjust, inflexible, and expensive system, we need to marshal our resources toward rebuilding the police union contract. Rebuild that contract so that we have the flexibility and resources to do what we need to do. Every progressive and well-intentioned move is met by the brick wall of that contact. The example of how we would expect Seattle leadership to reduce police officer positions out of order is hobbled by a long, uncertain process due to the inflexibility of the police contract. I believe it would be better for both our communities AND our police officers if we fix the police contract now.

It’s as if we are being asked to re-build a house and instead of getting the concrete for the foundation and the lumber for the frame and the shingles for the roof, we are fixated on the interest rate of the mortgage. While the interest rate on the mortgage is, like the budget of the police department, an important piece, we first need to rebuild the underlying foundation and structure that is causing the decay — and THAT is the police union contract. I would like to respectfully implore my colleagues on the Labor Relations Policy Committee – which officially represents the management of all city employees and includes the Mayor’s team and 5 members of this City Council — to meet every week until the until the police contact is fixed – fix that employment contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) to remove excessive and costly overtime, fix the police contact to correct the unjust disciplinary system, fix the police contract to expand the reforms, and fix the police contract to enable the City Council reallocate budgets and the Police Chief to redeploy police officers in ways that finally remove institutional racism and deliver effective public safety.

Finally, while we are here arguing with each other, let’s remember that the real enemy to our city and our future is the current President Donald Trump.  Calling Seattle an “anarchist” city is as absurd as calling him a good President.  His potential re-election is only weeks away and his generational damage to the U.S. Supreme Court is only days away.  Here in Seattle, we must lead by example by doing a much  better job working together and getting things done for the over 700,000 people of our city.

Collaboration between the executive and legislative branches on these public safety efforts can show the people of Seattle that we have common ground and we are committed to moving ahead on our shared policy goals and community investments to make Seattle better during this historic civil rights moment.

Thank you.”

# # #

WEEK OF SEPT 7, 2020 UPDATE:

  • New Police Reform Monitors Appointed by Federal Judge Robart: I am grateful for the years of hard work by Merrick Bobb and look forward to the efforts of Antonio Oftelie and Monisha Harrell. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.
  • Police Accountability Organizations Present Their Recommendations on Crowd Control Methods: As described elsewhere in my blog, Council passed a bill in June with the goal of limiting crowd control weapons. Section 2 of that bill asked for the input from these accountability organizations. For the link to the presentations from the Community Police Commission, Office of Inspector General, and Office of Police Accountability, CLICK HERE.
  • City Council will officially reconsider our Mayor’s vetoes of 3 of the Council Bills during week of September 21, 2020. (More on the vetoes are discussed elsewhere in this blog post.)

WEEK OF AUGUST 17, 2020 UPDATE:

  • MAYOR’S VETOES: On August 21, Mayor Durkan vetoed 3 of the many budget bills that City Council adopted on August 10 to rebalance our City budget: (1) the controversial Council Bill 119825 that impacts our Seattle Police Department (2) Council Bill 119862 to spend $3 million (in addition to the Mayor’s $500,000) for additional community engagement on safety issues, and (3) Council Bill 119863 authorizing a $13 million internal loan for an initial boost to community organizations working to prevent crime.
    • The Mayor’s Aug 21 press release stated: “I respectfully veto the 2020 budget and will continue conversations between my office and the Council on how we can partner to make needed changes in a consistent, thoughtful, and deliberate manner.
    • According to her press release, “The Mayor vetoed these bills, sending them back to Council to address the following issues:
      • “Cuts of 100 officers, including layoffs of 70 sworn officers in 2020 despite legal and labor limitations of “out of order” layoffs; 
      • “The effective elimination of the Navigation Team, including outreach workers in the Human Services Department, without any alternative approach to address hazardous encampments;
      • “Cuts to the salaries of the Chief of Police and her leadership team;
      • “Cuts and changes to SPD that could implicate the City’s obligations under the federal consent decree;
      • “Borrowing $13 million dollars from other City funds for new spending this year when the City faces an unprecedented budget deficit of $326 million; and
      • “Taking an additional $3 million dollars from the Rainy Day fund to increase Council’s budget by 17 percent.”
    • For the Mayor’s official statement (Aug 23) explaining her veto, CLICK HERE.
    • I share our Mayor’s concerns with key pieces of the budget package City Council adopted August 10. For example, I opposed cuts to Chief Carmen Best’s salary (the first Black chief in Seattle’s history) and I opposed cuts to our city’s Navigation Team that we need to address homeless encampments. To help to balance the budget, that bill also included budget reductions equivalent to the salaries of 100 police officers (out of 1,400 officers) for the last two months of this year (less than 10%).
    • Here’s a positive way to view this situation: The Mayor vetoing these budget bills provides more time for our Mayor and City Council leadership to smooth out their differences on the rough edges of the bill and how to proceed productively going forward. I support this collaboration because that will enable us to implement positive results faster.
    • Fortunately, the recent agreement between the Mayor, Council President, and Budget Chair on COVID relief is evidence that the legislative and executive branches can collaborate to find common ground and get things done.  We need that collaboration at City Hall if we are going to put together a detailed action plan to revamp public safety in way that provides positive results and justice. 
    • The residents of my district have a wide range of views, but most agree now is the time for smart changes in how we police our communities and how we pay for safety in a way that eradicates institutional racism, reduces harm to oppressed communities, and prevents crime for all of Seattle.  But instead of rash, ill-informed decisions, people first want to see a sensible and detailed plan to achieve cost-effective public safety.
    • The Council is on a brief “recess” (no meetings) until September 8 (the day after Labor Day) and the Council President will, after we return, schedule a meeting for us to vote to sustain or override the Mayor’s vetoes. (The City Charter requires that we vote on each veto within 30 days. According the City Attorney, it takes 6 votes to override a veto on appropriations and 7 votes to adopt any replacement appropriations bills.)
    • For the initial Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.
  • INQUESTS DELAYED AGAIN. King County needs to complete the inquest of the killing of Charleena Lyles by two Seattle Police officers in 2017. Unfortunately, a King County Superior Court judge August 21 ruled in favor of other King County jurisdictions challenging the reformed inquest process established by our King County Executive. One of the key demands of Lyles family members is to allow the inquest to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June. Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. That tragedy also reinforces the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many situations — a key rationale for re-imagining public safety. I hope the Washington State Supreme Court takes up this case soon and rules to allow the new inquest rules to proceed. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

WEEK OF AUGUST 10, 2020 UPDATE:

  • COUNCILMEMBER PEDERSEN STATEMENT ON DEPARTURE OF POLICE CHIEF CARMEN BEST: “I am deeply saddened by the resignation of our Police Chief Carmen Best. Chief Best has served Seattle faithfully and honorably for decades and happens to be the first Black woman to serve as our City’s police chief. While a majority of City Council voted on August 5 to cut Carmen Best’s salary, it’s important to note that Councilmembers Juarez, Lewis, and I did NOT vote to cut her salary. I did not support suddenly cutting the salary of the first Black police chief in Seattle’s history and the diverse, experienced team that she picked. While I believe we should take a hard look at reducing excessive city government pay during budget deficits, the entire City Council should be more thoughtful and methodical so we avoid unintended consequences.  There are few leaders better equipped than Carmen Best to help lead the hard negotiations needed to fix the police contract — today’s expensive and unreasonable police contract is among the biggest impediments to revamping and boosting public safety in all communities.  I will continue to work collaboratively with our Mayor and other colleagues to seek and implement solutions for Seattle, even though the road today is much more difficult. People deserve to see less sniping and more solutions.
  • BUDGET LEGISLATION ADOPTED: A DOWN-PAYMENT TOWARD DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENTS FOR COMMUNITY SAFETY
    • Key Council bills — including CB 119825 which makes reasonable, initial reductions to the budget and staffing levels of our Seattle Police Department for the rest of 2020, in light of the growing budget deficit and the need to rethink community safety, CLICK HERE.
    • Resolution 31962 for a future Community Safety Department, CLICK HERE. If implemented, a streamlined, refocused, and reformed police department would remain, while effective community-led crime prevention and community wellness programs are ramped up. The Resolution calls for concrete plans.
    • Resolution 31961 to protect journalists during protests and demonstrations, CLICK HERE.
  • COUNCILMEMBER PEDERSEN REMARKS AT PASSAGE OF BUDGET RE-BALANCING:
    • In the middle of a persistent pandemic, ballooning budget deficits, and even the cracking of our West Seattle Bridge stranding 100,000 of our residents – in the middle of these crises — your elected officials are also striving to seize this historic moment in the wake of the brutal and wrongful killing of George Floyd and countless Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, so that we address systemic racism by rethinking policing and revitalizing community health and safety.  
    • It is not a neat and easy process. It’s messy, it’s difficult, and it’s uncomfortable, but it is necessary.  Even as I speak now, I am getting e-mails and phone calls from constituents who want us to do more now and other constituents who want us to slow down and think it through more. We were elected not only the synthesize the various viewpoints and address the concerns of our constituents but also to craft thoughtful plans on how to do things better. We need to apply our own critical thinking and plan ahead rather than just reacting.
    • I am cautiously optimistic that the legislation today is a prudent mix of all these goals. It leverages the few tools in the toolbelt of this City Council to make a downpayment toward a bigger, broader discussion and bigger, bolder changes as part of the long, more thoughtful Fall budget process. 
    • I thank my colleagues for incorporating my amendment earlier today to answer some basic question: with the reasonable initial reductions approved today, what will the impact be on the ground in every neighborhood?  How will the Chief choose to re-deploy her resources and what will the impact be on response times?  According to the most recent data, only 71% of the time spent by police officers is for Priority One and Two calls.  That means 29% of the time is spent on non-priority calls – there is an opportunity there for community-led solutions. 
    • With the reductions we are making for 2020 that will likely carry on to 2021, I believe adjustments can be made so that response times do not get worse. For example, the remaining officers would respond to fewer types of non-criminal calls. This report will get those details that we need for further decision-making.  We need plans, more than pledges.
    • These reports will also make sure we do not recklessly jettison the good work done by our Harbor Patrol throughout Lake Union.
    • The reports we are asking for as part of this legislative package can be combined with the planning efforts of our Mayor and our Police Chief as they craft their budget proposal for next year. These reports and planning documents are an opportunity — a 2nd chance — for this City Council to work authentically and proactively with our Mayor and our Chief of Police to rethink and revamp public safety and healthy communities.
    • We also need to recognize that we cannot do it all through the budget. We need to discuss what has not been discussed enough: the need to re-do the police union contact.  This complex contact needs to be redone to encourage the good police officers to stay in Seattle, to reduce excessive salaries and costs, to fix their disciplinary system so that it no longer impedes justice. We need a good contract, more than good slogans.
    • Even as this City Council partially defunds our police department, we will still have a police department as part of a broader public safety strategy that involves more community-led solutions. Are the police reforms implemented since the federal consent decree enough? No. Reforms are not enough when there is systemic and institutional racism. But should we toss aside the progress made by the Community Police Commission, the Office of Police Accountability, and the Office of Inspector General. No. We need both real reforms AND reinvestment.
    • And when we reinvest tens of millions of dollars, we need more black-led organizations at the table. From the Every Day Marchers to the Urban League deserve a seat at the table, too. And we need to make sure those investments are smart and effective and that we measure results to show the general public whether we are achieving the positive outcomes that we all want.
    • This legislative package today is not perfect.
      • I do not support ending the Navigation Team –  a team created so that we had a coordinated response — a team of dedicated city government employees (public servants from our Human Services Department and Parks Department) who have been engaging those experiencing homelessness and who work for the public health of all city residents.  By a narrow 5 to 4 vote, a majority of this Council, unfortunately, took that hasty action without a replacement plan.  Business Improvement Areas across the city that represent hundreds of small businesses that employee thousands of our residents are disappointed and concerned.  Even if the Navigation Team goes away, the challenges of homelessness will not.  I look forward to working with our chair of our Committee on Homelessness Strategies to piece together a reasonable and responsive replacement strategy.
      • I also do not support suddenly and with no analysis cutting the salary of the first Black police chief in Seattle’s history and the diverse team that that she picked. Yes, we should take a hard look at excess pay through city government, but it should be more thoughtful and methodical.
    • But here we are today facing a massive deficit and we must balance the budget. We are required by law to balance our budget. Just like all appropriation bills at all levels of government, there are items in the bill that each of us might not prefer.
    • But the big picture is that we need to row together — both the executive and legislative branches — to give the general public confidence that we can function and move forward for their benefit. Let’s approve this budget package today and resolve to work collaboratively with our Mayor and Police Chief to solve problems and make progress for Seattle.  Thank you.

WEEK OF AUGUST 3, 2020 UPDATE:MARCHING WITH THE MARCHERS: I appreciate the youth leaders of the “Every Day March” being willing to converse with me recently via conference calls on Zoom. These calls enabled us to start to understand each other’s positions and perspectives and to seek common ground regarding policing in Seattle. When I learned that protesters were coming to my home again Wednesday night, I decided to meet them at their starting point on UW’s campus. I asked whether I could march in solidarity with them and was greeted with an enthusiastic Yes! While I believe it’s unproductive and inappropriate for anyone to protest at the personal residences of government employees and other public officials when other venues are available (Zoom chat, phone, e-mail, weekly public comments at Council meetings, etc.) — and I believe graffiti, profanity, threats, and trespassing are unacceptable — the right to protest peacefully is vital. It was a moving and energetic experience for me that evening. The reaction from neighbors that night was mixed and seemed to include support (some were able to join the march), concern (especially for families with children who had been sleeping), and curiosity — the range you might expect from a vocal march suddenly taking over the streets at night. Each person’s experience is unique and not all marches are the same. At the end of this particular march, we sat down together and I had answer some tough questions about police budgets and accountability. Many of the marchers bravely shared their lived experience of negative interactions with law enforcement, of being misled by government officials, and of government’s overall failure to deliver on its promises for education, healthcare, and other basics. While we may not always agree on the details (for example, I believe Mayor Durkan and Chief Best are professionals deserving respect, acting in good faith, and striving to do their best), I have been advocating for these youth leaders to have a seat at the table (along with other Black-led organizations) as our city government makes more decisions on revamping public safety in Seattle.

NAVIGATION TEAM: During the Budget Committee on August 5, we voted on several amendments to the 2020 budget for our Seattle Police Department. It’s important to note for my constituents that I did NOT support the amendment that narrowly passed with a 5-4 vote to defund our City’s Navigation Team. The Nav Team is a group of city employees from various city departments who work together to engage unauthorized homeless encampments and clean up trash/needles. While I voted for the reasonable amendment to reduce police involvement with the Nav Team, the controversial amendment to defund the Nav Team was, I believe, outside the scope of our meetings to rebalance the 2020 budget. From my colleagues who voted for this hasty move, I look forward to hearing their clear and detailed plan to make sure the functions of the Nav Team are covered and coordinated. We must insist that we have a reasonable and responsive replacement plan to make sure we are addressing the critical public health and safety responsibilities of city government, especially during the COVID pandemic. This includes connecting those experiencing homelessness to shelter and services. In the meantime, my staff is reaching out to these nonprofits and the city employees who pick up the trash/needles to determine how efforts will be coordinated going forward.

POLL SHOWS PEOPLE WANT CONCRETE PLAN PHASED IN: An independent poll of Seattle voters conducted at the end of July by the reputable firm EMC showed 53% support “a defund the police law that would permanently cut the Seattle Police Department’s budget by 50% and shift that money to social services and community-based programs.” But when drilling down, 64% wanted to either “give affected communities more time to weigh in on how we build a better police department together,” with “concrete plans” and reallocations phased-in over time (43% of voters responding) or no cuts to SPD at all (21% of voters responding). I don’t govern by polls, but the information is helpful. For more on the poll, CLICK HERE.

REVAMPING PUBLIC SAFETY: A “DOWNPAYMENT.” It’s important to preface my remarks by noting that, at the Budget Committee on August 5, I voted against cutting the salaries of Police Chief Carmen Best and her command staff. I also voted against defunding our Navigation Team. Here are my remarks at the Budget Committee:

“I have received over 35,000 e-mails, including over 2,000 from my 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 — and budgets. While the communications I receive from constituents offer a variety of views, I see common ground for re-thinking and re-vamping what effective and equitable public safety means as we strive to achieve healthy communities.

“I believe we all feel the urgency of the moment. This is an historic opportunity. We cannot go back.

“I support the Mayor and City Council establishing a participatory budgeting process; let’s bring more groups to the table: from the leaders of the “Every Day March” to the leaders of the Urban League and Community Police Commission.  Together we can make even more progress.

“As we reimagine public safety, we must simultaneously build up community organizations to prevent crime and achieve healthy communities.

“There is also another perspective on how to view these changes: The necessity of fiscal responsibility.  Our City government departments, including our police department, are spending more money than they are receiving. That’s why we are here in the Budget Committee to re-balance our 2020 budget. We will also have a large budget deficit next year.  SPD has a budget deficit. SPD has already spent their entire overtime budget. Some reductions from SPD are simply necessary both this year and next year.

“The City Council has limited tools on how to impact any department. We can reduce or increase the budget and certain high-level line items, but the City Charter and the labor contracts do not allow the Council to unilaterally make targeted personnel decisions. Instead we can only make very pointed suggestions on where to cut.

“Regarding the new recruits to the police department (Amendment #16),  I would rather reduce positions through attrition instead of letting go of new, progressive talent.

“I have confidence that our Chief Carmen Best can manage the budget reductions that we are making. After we make these reductions, I also believe it’s vital for Chief Best to provide a report to City Council to hear exactly how she will redeploy officers and what the impact will be on response times. Ideally, response times do not get worse; instead ideally police would respond to fewer types of calls. To noncriminal calls, we can send other professionals who are NOT armed. But we need to see that operations plan from the Chief; as policymakers we need to see those details and the general public deserves to see those details.  I’m bringing forward an amendment Monday to make sure we get a report on redeployment and response times.

To many residents of my district, the budget re-balancing amendments this week may seem too big — and to many others, they may seem too small.  After much consideration and listening to many from all angles, I believe these are significant downpayments toward bigger changes, as we use our Fall budget process (October + November) to craft a more thoughtful, sustainable plan for improved community safety.

“There are constraints of both labor law and the staffing requirements of the consent decree. Regarding the labor issues, I look forward to a complete re-working of the collective bargaining agreement with police officers so that we can reduce excessive costs to taxpayers and fix the disciplinary system. Even as the City Council reallocates substantial dollars, there will still be many police officers and we need to make sure their labor contract is fair and effective for the people of Seattle.

“I want the police officers who are listening today to know that I appreciate the good work that so many of you do. At the same time, you are asked to do too much. You are sent into complex situations that other professionals from our community may be better equipped to handle. You are also part of a system born out of racism and, despite progress on reforms, that institutional racism of police departments here and across the nation continues to have disproportionate negative impacts on people of color. By rethinking what public safety really means; by centering Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; and by taking a thoughtful approach — we can seize this historic opportunity to disrupt institutional racism AND achieve real community safety.

“In addition to the important budget actions today, I am introducing a Resolution for this coming Monday to support the national effort to pass “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” which is H.R. 7120 introduced by Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from California and supported by our own Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. This federal bill addresses many concerns raised by protesters that are authorized by federal law, such as the need to restrict qualified immunity for police officers across the nation. Today, however, we are appropriately focused on improving things here in Seattle.

“CALL FOR COOPERATION: I am hopeful that both the Mayor and City Council have been acting in good faith and with good intentions on these complex issues. We are both appropriately exercising our authority granted by the people under our City Charter. This is a classic and appropriate policy debate. Our two branches of government, for the good of our city, are simply considering and weighing different factors with limited information on the dramatic changes we are going to make.   Let us see the common ground:  we both want to reimagine public safety. We are both dedicated to public service and striving to respond to this historic, unprecedented moment. Will the City Council go further than the Mayor? Certainly. But, because we both care about the people, we want them to have confidence in their local government. The people expect us to deliberate, to debate, and yes, sometimes, to disagree. But the people do not want us to divide or demonize.  I did not return to City Hall to watch us dismantle the functional fabric of our local government. The real enemy is the person who has only 5 months left in the White House, so let’s stop the sniping at City Hall. Let us disagree respectfully, seek common ground, and solve problems for Seattle.”

WEEK OF JULY 27, 2020 UPDATE:

  • On Friday, July 31, our Budget Committee walked through 38 amendments to the 2020 Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget adopted by the previous City Council. As previously reported, the Mayor was already planning to reallocate $20 million from this year’s 2020 budget and has identified another $76 million to reallocate in 2021. A majority of the City Council (including me) plans to go further, once we dive into the 2021 budget process this Fall.
  • Notably, the Councilmembers who originally tweeted they would “defund SPD by 50%fell well short of that arbitrary percentage, due to the need to honor labor law, the federal consent decree for police reforms, and practical constraints of amending budgets midyear. However, Councilmembers Herbold and Lewis introduced a promising Resolution with a draft road map to move further in that direction. The Resolution includes principles to reallocate additional dollars from traditional law enforcement to other city government departments and to BIPOC-led organizations. I look forward to the discussion on this new Resolution next week because I continue to believe we need to demilitarize our police, go beyond the current reforms, and reallocate substantial resources to BIPOC-led organizations. For the Seattle Times article on this, CLICK HERE.
  • I joined several of my colleagues to co-sponsor the reallocation of millions of dollars as an initial downpayment toward greater reinvestments in BIPOC communities:
    • $3 million for community-led research as suggested by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now (the Mayor had already set aside $500,000 for community engagement that she can deploy rapidly to inform her 2021 budget to be transmitted in September);
    • $4 million to our Human Service Department’s Community Safety Initiative: a partnership among four BIPOC-led programs, including Community Passageways, Urban Family, SE Safety Network Hub Boys & Girls Club, and the Alive & Free Program – YMCA; and
    • $10 million to the Human Services Department (HSD) for scaling up community-led organizations, including technical support and capacity building to increase public safety.
  • I reached out to the youth leaders of the “Every Day Protests” / “Seattle Evening March” who have led vocal protests at the personal residences of nearly all Seattle City Councilmembers. We had a ZOOM conference call to discuss their concerns, hopes, and demands — demands rooted in their lived experience and their strong desire not to let this historic moment slip by without disrupting the institutional racism in our law enforcement systems and reinvesting in Black communities. In addition to wanting to defund SPD, they cited the negative gentrification of Seattle’s Central District. When envisioning the best ways to reinvest dollars, they emphasized schools, health care, and homeownership. Discussions will continue with them and a wide array of BIPOC-led organizations.
  • As we work to reallocate these and additional dollars, I would like the Council to have open lines of communication with our Chief Carmen Best, the Community Police Commission, our other police accountability organizations, and BIPOC-led organizations — including both newly formed groups AND those who have been fighting this fight for decades including the Urban League. No matter how much the City Council “defunds” our police department, we need to make sure that the remaining officers and criminal justice systems continue with the reforms. We should also provide sufficient resources and technical assistance to community-led organizations so they can use data to track results, measure effectiveness, and implement continuous improvements to achieve the positive outcomes we all seek and so policymakers have the information needed to scale up the most successful prevention and intervention anti-carceral programs proven to work. A potential source of evidence-based programs proven to reduce crime and harm are highlighted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University, and other independent, non-partisan research.

WEEK OF JULY 20, 2020 UPDATE:

  • Federal Law Enforcement in Seattle: Regarding President Trump threatening to send in federal agents to protect federal buildings, Mayor Durkan held a press conference on July 24 and Council President Gonzalez and Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold issued a statement with a similar message: “’Seattle leaders have made it abundantly clear that federal local law enforcement intervention is unwanted and unneeded…Our offices will continue to monitor the federal agents’ presence in Seattle, and we will work with Mayor Jenny Durkan, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Governor Jay Inslee, and our congressional representatives to halt any actions by federal authorities that violate our residents’ constitutional rights.‘ On June 8, 2020, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Resolution 31948 condemning the use of military force in jurisdictions such as Seattle that have not requested and do not intend to request federal interventions.”
  • Crowd Control Weapons: The ordinance introduced June 8 and passed unanimously June 15 by our City Council has been impacted differently by 3 different judicial rulings, with the net effect that only some prohibitions currently remain on SPD’s ability to use tear gas, flashbangs, and other crowd control weapons against peaceful protesters. Ultimately, updated policies are likely after the City’s police accountability organizations complete their analysis and federal Judge Robart determines whether the new law conflicts with the consent decree.
    • July 24: “In an emergency hearing Friday night, a federal judge blocked Seattle’s new law prohibiting police from using tear gas, blast balls and similar weapons, even as it was scheduled to go into effect Sunday and as the city awaits a potentially tumultuous weekend of protests with federal agents in the area. U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a request from the federal government to block the new law, which the Seattle City Council passed unanimously last month. The U.S. Department of Justice, citing Seattle’s longstanding police consent decree, argued that banning the use of crowd control weapons could actually lead to more police use of force, leaving them only with more deadly weapons. Robart said the issue needed more discussion between the city and the Justice Department before the change went into effect. Ruling from the bench, just before 9 p.m. Friday night, Robart said the temporary restraining order he granted would be “very temporary.” For the full Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.
    • July 23: “U.S. District Judge James Robart, in a brusque eight-page order, said he would not stop the ordinance from taking effect and was sharply critical of the city [government executive’s and City Attorney’s] efforts to convince the court to issue an injunction, saying it didn’t attempt to meet the legal burden necessary… The ordinance passed unanimously June 15 after criticism of SPD’s use of tear gas, blast balls and other nonlethal weapons against mostly peaceful protesters rallying against police racism and violence downtown and on Capitol Hill.” For the Seattle Times July 22 article, CLICK HERE.
    • June 12: U.S. District Judge Richard Jones issued a temporary restraining order that is still in effect.

WEEK OF JULY 13, 2020 UPDATE:

  • I reached out to the Co-Chair of the Community Police Commission, Reverend Harriet Walden, to discuss the various proposals for reimagining public safety and “defunding” SPD such as the “blueprint” from Decriminalize Seattle. (For some others consulted, please see other entries from this post.) As someone who has been fighting for police reform for years with organizations like Mothers for Police Accountability, there was a recognition that, even after a majority of City Councilmembers reallocate a meaningful portion of funds from SPD to community-based safety programs, there remains a vital need to continue with the reforms of our police department and adhere to the federal consent decree.
  • Councilmember Debora Juarez issued a statement on her commitment to combat racism and proceed thoughtfully when reallocating public safety dollars: “We need a plan, not a percentage.” Councilmember Juarez wrote, “We need to know:  1. What is being cut or reassigned? (2) What and where are such funds being reallocated to? (3) What is the overall allocation plan and implementation timeline? and (4) Most importantly, what are the impacts on our sworn duty to uphold public safety?” For her full statement, CLICK HERE.
  • I was sickened by the police union president saying he believes the police killing of Charleena Lyles in 2017 was “suicide by cop.” These harmful comments reinforce the need to complete the inquest of her wrongful death, which is being blocked by other King County jurisdictions challenging the reformed inquest process established by our King County Executive. One of the key demands of Lyles family members is to allow the inquest to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June. Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. That tragedy also reinforces the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many situations — a key rationale for reimagining public safety.
  • Mayor Durkan announced her plan to remove at least $76 million from the Seattle Police Department (approximately 20% of SPD’s $400 million budget). For the Seattle Times article, which includes various reactions to the Mayor’s announcement, CLICK HERE.

JULY 10, 2020 UPDATE:

I hear from constituents with a variety of views: those who support defunding SPD by at least 50% and those who do not. Those who are loudly demanding a 50% reduction of the police budget should know that a veto-proof majority of the City Council has already pledged to defund at least 50%. Moreover, each Seattle resident has 3 Councilmembers who represent them: their district Councilmember and their two citywide (“at-large”) Councilmembers: President Lorena Gonzalez and Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda have already both pledged to defund SPD by at least 50%. Because my single vote is not needed to achieve that specific goal, those focused on implementing that numerical goal may find it most productive and meaningful to ask the other Councilmembers to deliver the details, budgets, and legislation that enabled them to commit to their 50% pledge. I am committed to continuing to collaborate with my colleagues to implement a solid, sensible, and equitable budget plan that addresses institutional racism while reimagining public safety.

While I hear from constituents with a variety of views, I also hear a lot of common ground. I continue to agree we should reallocate substantial dollars to re-imagine public safety and achieve community wellness and — once the City Council votes on actual budget legislation — we would know the precise percentages that will be moved to other city departments or nonprofits to be reinvested in other types of emergency responses and proven prevention programs. For example, I agree we should dispatch mental health providers to those experiencing a mental health crisis. I hope that what matters most at the end of the day is not a specific percentage that’s “defunded” and reallocated, but that marginalized communities feel 100% safe and are stronger after City Hall demilitarizes our police department and delivers the services people are demanding to improve lives. I was not part of the City Council that approved the $400 million police budget less than a year ago. But our current City Council has already taken some concrete actions and there is a lot of common ground for positive next steps.

Acknowledging the long and terrible history of structural racism in American society and the wrongful killings of George Floyd, Charleena Lyles, and countless other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color at the hands of law enforcement, I have taken this pledge:

These positive principles are consistent with the 4 principles from the group Decriminalize Seattle:

Regarding elected officials who have already promised a specific percentage to defund, I am eager to review their line item budget details and the results of labor negotiations they must be using to arrive at that number. I hope my colleagues will also incorporate my suggestion to create an alternative to 911 — a community-focused 311 call center that everyone can call with confidence for whatever city services they truly need.  A 311 Call Center could be IN ADDITION TO a 911 Emergency Call Center also run by civilians. (Having 311, too, is not meant to be a complete solution, but rather one practical piece to reimagine public safety. Reforms must continue in our police department so that 911 is used properly.) I also look forward to working with the Mayor as she conducts her broad outreach throughout Seattle and crafts her budget proposals for City Council amendments and votes.

Our Police Chief Carmen Best published her concerns with the 50% figure on SPD’s website; CLICK HERE.

JULY 6, 2020 UPDATE: My City Council colleagues and I condemned the killing of protester Summer Taylor and the injury of Diaz Love.

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 17, 2020 UPDATE: An alliance of Black women leaders launches a new fund to support Washington State’s Black community. From their press release:

The Black communities across Washington state have long done the work to uplift our communities without appropriate funding and resources. The Black Future Co-op Fund will ensure that we have a strong infrastructure and network for sustainable progress,” said Angela Jones, CEO of Washington STEM. Jones is one of the architects of the Fund alongside Michelle Merriweather, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle; Andrea Caupain, CEO of Byrd Barr Place; and T’wina Nobles, President and CEO of Tacoma Urban League. All of the Fund’s architects are women with long histories of supporting Washington’s Black community.

The Fund will invest in a range of areas including health, housing, education, youth development, art and history, economic and land development, and advocacy and civic engagement. According to Andrea Caupain of Byrd Barr Place, the Fund is an acknowledgement of the harm that systemic racism has done to the Black community in Washington state. “The world has leveraged Black people for profit for centuries. This fund begins to turn that tide,” said Caupain. For more info, CLICK HERE.

JUNE 16, 2020 (newsletter excerpt):

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.

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.


My remarks prior to passage of City Council Bill 119891, authorizing legal assistance to Councilmember Sawant during the initial stage of the recall petition against her.

September 15th, 2020

My remarks prior to passage of City Council Bill 119891 authorizing legal assistance to Councilmember Sawant during the initial stage of the recall petition against her:

I would like to thank my constituents who took the time to contact me and my office with their strong feelings about this issue — both for and against it — since it was reported widely in the media over the past month.

I’d like to offer 3 reasons for the vote I am about to take:

#1:  I passionately disagree with many actions and positions of Councilmember Sawant (and she certainly disagrees with me). Yet the decision and the specifics of law before us today are not about our disagreements over politics or personalities.  And, during these tumultuous times with a public health pandemic and economic recession — when our current President in the other Washington has cheapened our democracy by demonizing his opponents with personal attacks on their character — we here in Seattle must do a better job respecting our differences, finding common ground, and staying focused on what we were elected to do.

Today’s decision is not about personalities or politics, but about the provisions in our State government laws and the relevant provisions of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) say:

  • The elected official has to make the request for assistance: She requested it.
  • The City Attorney has to approve it. He approved it.
  • And the City Council has to vote on it. That’s why we’re here today.

In deciding the most prudent path, I would normally consult our City Attorney for advice. In this rare case, our City Attorney has already indicated his approval. In other words, our elected City Attorney supports having us pay for the legal assistance and to have his office provide that legal assistance going forward. The fact that our elected City Attorney already approved this is very compelling to me.

#2:  While this situation is unfortunate and unusual, it is not unprecedented. In fact, there is a very compelling precedent.  In 2011, just one year before I joined the City Council as a bright-eyed Legislative Aide for Tim Burgess, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved nearly identical legislation to defend Councilmember Richard Conlin against a recall position. The recall petition accused Councilmember Conlin of taking various unauthorized actions, which included signing important documents he was not supposed to sign. In the end, the courts wisely rejected the recall attempt. When he was exonerated, Councilmember Conlin said, “disagreement over a policy issue is not grounds for removal from office.” He was right. Ironically, he later lost his reelection narrowly to newcomer Kshama Sawant. And the voters again re-elected Councilmember Sawant less than a year ago.

And, finally, #3:  The laws governing the recall of elected officials in Washington State are complex and the facts of this case are not clear. All the more reason that adequate legal counsel should be available to the duly elected official defending against a recall petition — a right to an attorney in their defense, whether or not they can afford it.

I realize this is not necessarily a popular position in my district and many supporters of mine will be asking for a long time, How could you support Councilmember Sawant on this? But I would like to assure ALL my constituents that what I am actually supporting and honoring are the facts as I know them, the thoughtful approval of our elected City Attorney, and the crystal clear precedent set by a previous City Council which approved this same accommodation for a previous Councilmember.

Today’s action, if approved, would merely provide legal assistance to the duly elected official who is the subject of the recall petition. Ultimately, this matter will be decided by voters in Seattle’s District 3 — sooner if the courts allow the petition to advance or later, if we simply allow the elected official to finish the term she was elected to serve.

Today I will be voting Yes on this Council bill.

Thank you.

# # #

Other Information:

For Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat’s take on the various recall efforts, CLICK HERE. Mr. Westneat writes, “My two cents, as someone who lives in Sawant’s 3rd District, is that Sawant’s penchant for grandiose, activist stunts hardly comes as a news flash to the people. We had an election less than a year ago when Sawant could have been recalled, but the voters, eyes wide open, chose to rehire her anyway. Sorry, but there’s no democracy do-over for buyer’s remorse.”

2011 article in The Stranger on case of Richard Colin: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/06/03/council-bill-would-direct-city-to-pay-all-costs-of-defending-conlin-against-recall

The Council Bill that set a precedent in 2011: http://clerk.seattle.gov/search/council-bills/117195

2011 Seattle Times article on the winning case of Richard Conlin: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/judge-throws-out-petition-to-recall-seattle-council-president/


Concerns about Scooters

September 9th, 2020
photo from SDOT blog

On September 8, 2020, I voted against scooters in Seattle and here’s why:

I support improved mobility options by encouraging environmentally friendly alternatives to gas-powered, single occupancy vehicles.  Ideally, electric scooters (e-scooters) would provide an alternative for some trips for some travelers. At the same time, the City government is essentially authorizing a new mode of transportation — thousands of scooters traveling within our streets and other rights of way. This is big change that warrants a careful tracking of the results.

I had been looking forward to a standard ‘pilot project’ on scooters that would measure results as we are seeing elsewhere in King County but, unfortunately, this SDOT legislation is not a real pilot project,” said City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee. “The proposed legislation transmitted by SDOT to the City Council did not explicitly and fully address safety, financial liability, infrastructure costs, or measures for success.”

SDOT, however, said this legislation was time-sensitive, so I fulfilled my role as Transportation Committee Chair to facilitate discussion, ask questions, and enable my fellow Councilmembers to vote on it. While a majority of my colleagues approved it at my Committee on August 19 and at the full City Council on September 8, I was personally not willing to vote yes for something that, in my opinion, lacked details.

Both Council Bill 119867 and Council Bill 119868 totaled only 2 pages in length. The legislation essentially cedes ALL details of the program to the Executive branch. To retain some oversight role and to encourage a more standard pilot program that evaluates initial results, as Chair of the Transportation Committee, I sent a letter asking our SDOT Director to return to our Committee by next June and next December to report on specific metrics from the first 6 months and 12 months of the new program.  To view my letter to the SDOT Director, CLICK HERE.

https://pedersen.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/CM-Pedersen-letter-to-SDOT-Director-on-scooter-pilot-metrics-2020.09.08-FINAL.pdf

Having SDOT report back to the Council Committee on specific metrics of success – that would be standard with a pilot program — will enable SDOT to report consistently and thoroughly to the Councilmembers and to the general public on the pertinent details and results so that, together, we can evaluate this new program. In my conversations with Director Zimbabwe, I have been assured the Durkan Administration also wants to measure the results of this new scooter program.

I believe we need to measure the results so that we can truly assess whether the program is safe, equitable, and effective in getting people out of their cars—all without requiring tax dollars to cover injury lawsuits or to build special infrastructure that would subsidize the profits of private companies headquartered outside of Seattle.

I want to thank Dr. Fred Rivara, founding director of the Harborview Injury and Prevention Center,  for his compelling letter in August expressing his concerns about the scooter safety by providing several studies from around the country showing scooters to be dangerous. To view his letter, CLICK HERE. To view an interview with Dr. Rivara, CLICK HERE.

I’d also like to thank the City Council blogger Kevin Schofield of SCC Insight.com  for providing such comprehensive coverage of the scooter proposal on his website.

For one of the many news articles about the Council adopting SDOT’s scooter program, CLICK HERE.

For SDOT’s September 11, 2020 blog post about the 3 vendors they quickly selected, CLICK HERE. For SDOT’s scooter website, CLICK HERE.


Working for D4 During Council Recess

September 4th, 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

While City Hall refers to the past two weeks without City Council meetings as a “recess,” your District 4 office continued to work for you—having more conversations about the role of policing in our community, preparing for the bigger budget process this Fall, and responding to constituent requests. After Labor Day we will jump back into the fast-paced City Council schedule, including a vote on whether to override or support Mayor Durkan’s recent budget vetoes and advancing legislation in the committee I chair: Transportation and Utilities. This fall I look forward to pushing for fiscal responsibility in the 2021 City Budget, a more just and effective approach to public safety, and progress toward Internet for All.

For more information about all these city government topics and other District 4 news, please read on. This newsletter also discusses our upcoming District 4 Budget Town Hall on October 8 and transportation issues such as the West Seattle Bridge, SDOT’s new scooter program, and my upcoming audit of all Seattle bridges. For updates, including efforts to revamp public safety, check my website.


Ongoing Work to Revamp Public Safety

For my ongoing thoughts on Seattle’s historic efforts to revamp public safety by rooting out institutional racism; reallocating ample resources to proven community-driven crime prevention solutions; and pushing for a cost-effective police union contract that saves jobs, improves response times, and deepens police reforms, you can always view my website by CLICKING HERE. If you’re not finding what you need in this newsletter, it’s probably on the website.

My first day on the job, I visited city government employees from various departments to thank them for their work on the Navigation Team. Every day they engaged with people experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, a majority of my City Council colleagues cut their funding last month. Will the Mayor’s veto enable us to work out a compromise?

We Need a Navigation Team to Address Homelessness
As I’ve shared previously, I voted against defunding our City’s Navigation Team which offers coordinated response services to those experiencing homelessness and cleans up debris from encampments. That was a narrow 5-4 vote on an amendment to a budget bill that the Mayor recently vetoed for good reasons. Because the Navigation Team is made up of dedicated city employees from several different departments, the decision to fund it should not have been crammed into the budget bill impacting our Seattle Police Department (SPD).

I opposed cuts to our city’s Navigation Team because I believe we need to address homeless encampments in a constructive and coordinated manner. While it might take only 6 votes to override the veto, it would take 7 votes to amend any appropriations. Therefore, the decision whether to override or sustain the Mayor’s veto and related negotiations should center, in large part, around what to do with the Navigation Team. To move ahead with the other aspects of the rebalancing package, I am hoping my colleagues who voted to disband the Nav Team will reconsider their votes. Even if a majority of my colleagues still want the Navigation Team to go away, the challenges of homelessness will not. 

We must insist that we have a reasonable and responsive replacement plan to make sure we are addressing the critical public health and safety responsibilities of city government, especially during the COVID pandemic. Services must still be provided and this includes connecting those experiencing homelessness to shelter and hygiene services as well as picking up trash/needles and mitigating fire or public health hazards. I look forward to working with the chair of our Committee on Homelessness Strategies, the Mayor, and other colleagues to craft a reasonable and responsive strategy.
 
Crowd Control Weapons Update
In June, City Council passed an ordinance banning the use of certain less-than-lethal weapons such as tear gas and flash bangs and invited the police accountability organizations to provide their input. Those three entities (the Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Inspector General for public safety) have responded with recommendations. A recap of their three reports can be found HERE, as described by SCC Insight. The federal judge overseeing the consent decree for police reforms put the ordinance on hold in July and will decide on next steps to reconcile the various views and actions on this complex public safety matter.
 
Inquests—and Justice—Delayed Again
King County needs to complete the inquest of the killing of Charleena Lyles by two Seattle Police officers in 2017. Unfortunately, on August 21 a King County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of other King County jurisdictions challenging the reformed inquest process established by our King County Executive. One of the key demands of Lyles family members is to allow the inquest to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June. Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. That tragedy also reinforces the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many situations—a key rationale for re-imagining public safety. I hope the Washington State Supreme Court takes up this case soon and rules to allow the new inquest rules to proceed. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

Calling on State Leaders to Help Advance Police Reform
Recognizing that anti-racist public safety and police reform need to take place at all levels of government, I support Mayor Durkan’s recent request to state government leaders to implement statewide police reforms that include:

  1. Creating a Strict Statewide Licensing & Review System.
  2. Creating an Independent Statewide Entity to Investigate & Prosecute Police Officers With Inquest Procedures That Deliver Justice to Impacted Families.
  3. Statewide Reform of Police Including Deference to Police Chiefs on Termination & Disciplinary Decisions.
  4. Granting Cities Subpoena Power for Police Misconduct & Civilian Police Oversight Entities.
  5. Consistent Statewide Policies on use of force, training, body cameras, badge numbers, crowd management, and reporting (while allowing departments to implement or maintain bigger reforms).

I agree that “reform” has not been enough. At the same time, we will still have a police department and so we must continue to advance reforms. We should not need to bargain for those reforms. The more reforms that can be enacted statewide, the less each city government needs to “bargain for” when revising labor contracts with their police officer union.
 
Police Contract—Impediment to Justice & Fiscal Responsibility
As I pointed out at the beginning of the contentious debate on de-funding police departments, one of the main impediments to cost-effective and constitutional policing is the labor contract. The difficulties of the summer budget re-balancing process made it more clear: both reform and fiscal responsibility require that we redo this complex labor contact to encourage the good police officers to stay in Seattle, to save jobs, to reduce excessive overtime costs, and to fix their disciplinary system so that it no longer impedes justice. CLICK HERE to read a Seattle Times article illustrating the cost of a poorly structured police union contract. I appreciate the good work that many police officers do to serve our city every day and so their labor contracts should focus on fair compensation, employee benefits, and safe working conditions. Police reforms and accountability, however, should not be negotiable.



Save the Date! Virtual Budget Town Hall October 8

Photo from my January town hall in District 4’s Eastlake neighborhood.

Mayor Durkan’s office will transmit her proposed 2021 budget to City Council in late September (both operating and capital). Mark your calendar for a District 4 virtual town hall on the evening of October 8 to hear your views and answer your questions about the $6 billion city budget. (Information on how to register and submit questions will be published at the end of this month on my blog.)



Transportation and Land Use Updates

West Seattle Bridge Work Continues;
Citywide Bridge Audit Coming Soon

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) continues to assess whether to repair or replace the closed West Seattle High Bridge (WSB). Two committees have been set up to advise SDOT: a Community Task Force was created to conduct extensive community engagement, and a Technical Advisory Panel was appointed to provide SDOT with engineering and other expertise. In addition, Councilmember Lisa Herbold and I led efforts to have the City Council retain its own engineering firm to provide oversight and technical guidance to our legislative branch of government for this urgent and costly endeavor.

SDOT is currently working with the numerous stakeholders to decide whether the bridge can be repaired with a long enough life span to make sense. A recommendation is due later this year. The most difficult major issue with respect to the WSB is money: It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to replace the bridge, and even if a repair can be done, it is likely that eventual replacement will not be too far in the future. The Council will soon approve SDOT’s request for financial assistance by authorizing $70 million in “interfund loans” to pay for initial WSB expenses. In the longer term, financial assistance from the federal and state governments, and every other possible source, will be needed.

For more information on the WSB, please see this West Seattle Blog page (numerous articles), District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold’s blog, and this presentation given to the Council in mid-August.

In my Committee on Wednesday, September 16, we will hear the City Auditor present the audit of all City bridges that I requested back in April. 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. Bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. The rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge 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. Despite budget deficits, City Hall needs to prioritize to make the investments necessary to have safe bridges for everyone.

Seattle Department of Transportation Rushes New Scooter Program
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented legislation to authorize up to 6,000 electric scooters for city residents to share. I do not believe the Council has had sufficient time to consider the implications of this new mode of transportation on our streets.

I was looking forward to a real pilot project to measure results for scooters as we are seeing elsewhere in King County. Unfortunately, the SDOT legislation and supporting material—some not provided until the day of the committee hearing and vote—is not a detailed pilot program and does not explicitly or sufficiently address safety, financial liability, infrastructure costs, and measures for success. Council Bill 119867 and Council Bill 119868 have few policy details, totaling only a few pages in length.

SDOT believes the legislation is time-sensitive, so I fulfilled my role as Transportation Committee Chair to facilitate discussion, ask tough questions, and enable my colleagues to vote on it. While a majority of my colleagues sent it to the full City Council, I was personally not willing to vote yes for something that lacks so many details.

Even though the legislation turns over all authority to SDOT and does not require a true pilot, I will use my position as chair of the Transportation Committee to require SDOT to report on the outcomes of the first few months of the program to assess whether the program is safe, equitable, and effective in getting people out of their cars—all without requiring your tax dollars to cover injury lawsuits or to build special infrastructure that would subsidize the profits of private companies headquartered outside of Seattle.

For an outsider’s perspective on the issues surrounding the scooter proposal, CLICK HERE to read an article from SCC Insight.

North 34th St and Meridian Ave N intersection Temporarily Closed for Sewer Repair

Your city government is repairing and maintaining streets and utility infrastructure throughout District 4. One example is in Wallingford:  the intersection of North 34th St and Meridian Ave N is closed to traffic. A contractor for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has been doing emergency work on a sewer line there. SPU expects the intersection to stay closed as least through September. Please pay attention to detour signs in the area.
 
Council to Consider ‘Omnibus’ Land Use Bill—Possible Impacts Include Removing Trees and Open Space
The Council’s Land Use Committee heard the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections’ omnibus bill, CB 119835, on August 12. At that meeting some concerns about specific provisions were addressed, including a substitute bill that removed un-needed and confusing language concerning “unit lots.”

Another provision provoked considerable comment and debate: an attempt to relax bicycle parking requirements in new buildings. Agreement on an amendment was reached to soften those changes, keeping more bicycle parking requirements in place.

A third significant change is still in the bill, a provision in Section 17 that would change how landmarked properties are treated during the permitting process. Under current code provisions, the inside of landmark buildings may be altered by permission of Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). Alteration of landmarked sites, meaning grounds and trees, must be approved by the Landmarks Board.

Under the SDCI Omnibus Bill, the power to authorize alteration of sites is transferred to the SDCI. I oppose this change. At the land use committee meeting, I made a simple motion to amend the bill to remove that provision. It failed on a tie 2 to 2 vote, with Councilmember Andrew Lewis (D7) joining me.

It is important for me to articulate why I opposed our city government suddenly relaxing this land use regulation: it shifts authority away from the Landmarks Board (known for preserving assets) to SDCI (known for favoring real estate developers), and it appears to be a special interest bill designed to facilitate the clear-cutting of the landmarked Talaris site in District 4. If development were to proceed here, I believe this site presents another example of where, with continual community input, an innovative and responsive developer/owner could carefully increase density near transit (on the northern portion) while also preserving the trees and open space throughout the landmarked site. These benefits could be achieved without substantially altering the historically significant site, but only if our city government does not carelessly loosen regulations as a giveaway to benefit the private market. Simply put, we need the Landmarks Board to retain sufficient decision-making authority regarding any alterations of such sites. The for-profit real estate developer’s current plans would, unfortunately, rip out a large number of mature urban trees and would essentially remove an open space asset from Northeast Seattle. I believe this legislation, if approved by the full City Council, would facilitate these harmful outcomes.

The development proposal for the Talaris site is under review at the SDCI. You can find information on any project HERE. The Talaris site proposal (MUP No. 3030811) is subject to environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act. SDCI has determined that a full environmental impact statement (EIS) is required. SDCI is holding a public scoping meeting on the issues to be addressed in the EIS on Wednesday, September 15, at 4:00 p.m. SDCI’s notice of that meeting and information on how to participate is HERE (download “Notice of Public Meeting.pdf”). (Webex September 15 meeting link is HERE and phone “Listen Line” is 206-207-1700 – Meeting Access Code: 146 162 3634.)



More From District 4

Riding along with our Harbor Patrol

In addition to talking to Black leaders throughout the City about public safety, sitting down with the new captain of the North Precinct, and joining a seasoned officer for a ride along in and around Wallingford, I had a full tour of our vital Harbor Patrol. This tour with Harbor Patrol enabled me to see all the shores of District 4 from Terry Pettus Park, to Gas Works Park, to Magnuson Park. The waterways surrounding our City reinforce the importance of maintaining this highly trained group of rescue divers for public safety.

My amendment to the summer rebalancing package requires a report not only on how budget reductions would impact response times of the entire police department, but also how all harbor patrol functions would be handled if authority is transferred from SPD to the Seattle Fire Department. Like so many actions the Council has taken recently, the plan is not clear:  how would the Fire Department take on all the necessary functions handled by Harbor Patrol?

What Harbor Patrol does:

  • Provides marine law enforcement, rescue and assistance
  • Investigates water-related accidents and collisions
  • Manages and performs surface and dive search and rescue
  • Ensures boater safety by removing debris and water hazards
  • Performs boat safety inspections
  • Provides marine fire response and suppression
  • Manages marine special events including: Opening Day of Boating Season, 4th of July celebration on Lake Union, hydro races during Seafair, and other traditional Northwest regatta and racing events
  • Provides US Navy exclusion zone protection and enforcement
  • Provides service for disabled boats, boating accidents, and tows

While Harbor Patrol is well-known for its presence around Lake Union benefiting City Council Districts 3, 4, 6, and 7, it also serves Districts 2 and 5 in Lake Washington.
 

Litigation Filed Against U.S. on National Archives Building Closure Decision

The National Archives on Sand Point Way has been under threat of closure and sale since late last year. With no public process, an obscure federal committee decided the archives needed to be moved to other states (Missouri and California), and the land sold for development. Most people were taken by surprise by the decision, and by the purported finality of the decision.

Fortunately, many people and interest groups in the area—including a numerous Native American Tribes and both of our U.S. Senators—strongly oppose the decision, as do I. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson threatened litigation and filed document requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The four involved federal agencies stonewalled or ignored the state’s requests. Last month the State of Washington filed FOIA lawsuits in U.S. District Court against all four.

Here is the statement I issued:

“I strongly support our Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s actions to compel Trump’s agencies to produce the documents underlying their problematic decision to sell the federal archives building on Sand Point Way in Northeast Seattle. I was previously very clear with these federal agencies that their public engagement process was woefully inadequate, particularly for key stakeholders, including the over 200 tribes in the Northwest, researchers, and my constituents. Having Attorney General Ferguson suing the agencies is a strong and positive step.”

Read current and past reports on the national archives issue at my blog, Seattle Times, and MyNorthwest.



COVID-19 Updates

Need masks? King County has partnered with Safeway and UFCW Local 21 to distribute masks from all the Safeway stores in King County. In District 4, head to the Roosevelt, Wedgwood, University Village, or University District store to pick up a free mask. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Teen Resource Hub at Magnuson Community Center: Seattle Parks and Recreation will open a resource hub to offer an internet connection, virtual learning support, and referrals to other resources. CLICK HERE to learn more.   

Childcare at Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center, Wedgwood Elementary School, and Montlake Community Center: Children ages 5-12 can enroll in all-day childcare through Parks and Recreation. There will be Wi-Fi, support for online learning, and recreation activities. To learn more and enroll in programs in and near District 4, click HERE for Montlake, HERE for Wedgwood, and HERE for Ravenna-Eckstein.



We Want to Hear From You At City Hall!

Send an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. We have received tens of thousands e-mails– an unheard-of volume– this summer, 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.
 
Public Comment by the Numbers
As City Council met remotely during the past four months to rebalance Seattle’s 2020 budget and tackle other issues, over 1,500 residents spoke to us over the special comment line during the Council meetings. I was impressed by the large number of public commenters—sometimes hundreds in a single day. Thank you for making your voices heard and for helping your elected officials make some tough decisions.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen
I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or video call. 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
Find It, Fix It


Vital, but aging National Archives Building on Sand Point Way NE at risk of sale by federal government

August 17th, 2020

Since 2019, federal government agencies have been advancing the sale of this important historical asset located at 6125 Sand Point Way NE here in Northeast Seattle, which has been very disappointing to many of us. As someone who taught history, majored in history, and worked for the Clinton Administration, I recognize the value of these historic archives being located nearby. I will continue to support the efforts of our congressional delegation, tribal governments, and State Attorney General to challenge the sale due to lack of notification, transparency, and public engagement as well as unanswered questions about the fiscal impact to the federal government.

If, however, the U.S. government agencies prevail in pushing a sale of the 73-year old building, then I would expect our city government to use our authority to ensure the impacted communities and other stakeholders are more fully engaged, the priceless archives end up in the most accessible location possible, and the site is re-purposed in ways that synthesize diverse opinions and honor our local priorities.

AUGUST 17, 2020 UPDATE: Bob Ferguson, our Washington State Attorney General, today launched lawsuits against three of the four federal agencies that have been pursuing the sale of the archives building in Northeast Seattle. The lawsuits demand that the federal agencies produce copies of documents requested months ago by Attorney General Ferguson.

Key excerpt from the article by MyNorthwest: “…the Office of Management & Budget and the National Archives and Records Administration have not responded, period, to the Attorney General’s requests. The General Services Administration, who oversees the real estate and would be responsible for selling the facility, initially responded, and told Ferguson’s office they had documents that they would begin to share, but then went silent months ago…Ferguson says he’s confident a judge will find in favor of the State of Washington and that the agencies will be forced to produce the documents, but that the timeline remains to be determined.”

I strongly support our Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s actions to compel Trump’s agencies to produce the documents underlying their problematic decision to sell the federal archives building on Sand Point Way in Northeast Seattle,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen whose district includes the neighborhoods surrounding the archives building. “I was previously very clear with these federal agencies that their public engagement process was woefully inadequate, particularly for key stakeholders, including the over 200 tribes in the Northwest, researchers, and my constituents.  Having Attorney General Ferguson suing the agencies is a strong and positive step.

For the entire article by Feliks Banel of MyNorthwest, CLICK HERE.

AUGUST 2, 2020 UPDATE: For the Seattle Times update entitled, “6 months later, National Archives closure still set for Seattle” CLICK HERE.

MARCH 9, 2020 UPDATE: The Seattle Times publishes an editorial entitled “State should help save Washington’s National Archives access”: CLICK HERE.

Our State Attorney General joins efforts to try to save the National Archives on Sand Point Way

FEBRUARY 25, 2020 UPDATE: Hearing our community constituents and stakeholders throughout the region who want to preserve the priceless archives housed currently at 6125 Sand Point Way NE near the neighborhoods of Hawthorne Hills, Belvedere Terrace, Windermere, View Ridge, and Magnuson Park, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter February 25, 2020 informing “federal officials that his office is prepared to sue if the move is not ‘reconsidered and reversed,'” according to a Seattle Times article today. For the full article, CLICK HERE.

National Archives building update: disappointed by the federal agencies

FEBRUARY 11, 2020 UPDATE:

CONVEYING OUR DISAPPOINTMENT WITH THE FEDERAL AGENCIES: Federal agencies involved in pushing the sale of the national archives building at 6125 Sand Point Way NE in our District 4 finally met with me today (February 11, 2020). Specifically, I met with officials from the Public Buildings Reform Board (the agency that officially recommended the sale), the National Archives and Records Administration (the agency that operates the archives building), and the General Services Administration (the agency that would sell the property — if a sale moves forward). Our City’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations also attended. I conveyed my disappointment with their process and disagreement with their conclusions.

WOEFULLY INADEQUATE PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: I was very clear with these federal agencies that their public engagement process was woefully inadequate, particularly for key stakeholders, including the over 200 tribes in the Northwest, researchers, and my District 4 constituents in general. To have a local meeting after they already decided to sell the property was extremely deficient. They argued, however, the law under which they are operating (the 2016 FASTA law) does not require comprehensive community engagement prior to a sale. (This is, however, in dispute; see below). The officials from the National Archives reiterated their contention that the archives are not safe in the aging facility, it is too expensive to rebuild an appropriate facility, and digitizing the records is the most economical way to preserve and expand access to these priceless documents.

SOME NEXT STEPS:

  • Congressional Delegation: Thankfully — and in contrast to the federal executive agencies pushing for a sale — our congressional delegation and the delegations of other states in the Northwest opposed the sale in a letter to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) dated January 24, 2020. I will continue to monitor whether they can get their questions answered about whether the agencies complied with the relevant laws.
  • State Attorney General: I look forward to seeing whether our Attorney General Bob Ferguson will succeed in delaying or blocking the sale.

MEDIA: For media coverage of the separate February 11, 2020 meeting between those federal agencies and several local tribal leaders, CLICK HERE for the Seattle Times and CLICK HERE for MyNorthwest.

Councilmember Alex Pedersen Statements on federal agencies proposing to sell archives property in NE Seattle

1/25/2020 Statement:

“I am very frustrated and disappointed with the federal agencies advancing the sale of this important historical asset here in Northeast Seattle.

As someone who taught history, majored in history, and worked for the Clinton Administration, I recognize the value of these historic archives being located nearby.

I will continue to support the efforts of our congressional delegation to challenge and question the sale due to lack of notification, transparency, and public engagement as well as unanswered questions about the fiscal impact to the federal government.

If, however, the U.S. government agencies prevail in pushing a sale, then I would expect our city government to use our authority to ensure the impacted communities and other stakeholders are more fully engaged, the priceless archives end up in the most accessible location possible, and the site is re-purposed in ways that synthesize diverse opinions and honor our local priorities.”

1/21/2020 Statement:

“Thank you to Feliks Banel at KIRO for originating this news story about a federal agency that is recommending the sale of the Federal Archives and Records Center located at 6125 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

This 73-year old building is located in the congressional district of U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal and my City Council District 4 near the neighborhoods of Hawthorne Hills, Belvedere Terrace, Windermere, and Magnuson Park.

I was contacted by the federal government for the first time on Monday, January 13, 2020, specifically by the Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB). According to the PBRB, this was the first time they had reached out to local government regarding the sale of this property, though they stated they had already contacted Congresswoman Jayapal’s office as well as the staff of U.S. Senators Murray and Cantwell.

Over the past week I alerted community leaders, the University of Washington, the City of Seattle’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations, the Mayor’s Office and, the Mayor’s Office of Housing. I also requested a briefing by the PBRB, which they are offering to provide in mid-February. As Mr. Banel has accurately noted, this is after the January 26th deadline for which the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will decide to approve or reject the plans for this property. My office let PBRB know that this timeline is unacceptable and we are in the process of scheduling a phone call with their office before January 26th. I also told PBRB I am concerned about what appears to be a lack of public engagement for the proposed sale of the property. As I understand it, the law which is the basis for the proposed sale (the Federal Asset Sale and Transfer Act of 2016) requires public engagement as well as local public hearings sponsored by the federal agency.

My team will continue to follow this issue closely and bring much needed accountability, transparency, and public discourse to this process.”

MORE INFO: For a recent Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE. To track this story, consider following local historian Feliks Banel by CLICKING HERE.

VIEWS: For a February 2, 2020 Seattle Times editorial titled “Don’t send Seattle’s federal archives across the country,” CLICK HERE.


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