Councilmember Pedersen’s Blog is the Place To Be!

November 25th, 2020

Thank you for clicking onto my blog where I post information all about Seattle city government. I focus on the geographic area I was elected in November 2019 to represent: District 4. Our wonderful district is home to over 100,000 people in 20 different neighborhoods from Eastlake to Wallingford to Magnuson Park.

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Ron Sims swearing in new Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, January 6, 2020.

with gratitude,


Strengthening Seattle’s Tree Ordinance

July 15th, 2021
Let’s not allow efforts to update Seattle’s Tree ordinance delay into a never-ending story!

INTRODUCTION:

We call ourselves the “Emerald City” within the “Evergreen State” and yet our City laws have many loopholes that enable the removal of scores of trees each year, including healthy, large conifer trees that city law defines as “Exceptional.”  Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for the City of Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. As it has boomed with development, Seattle has struggled to prevent continued loss of significant numbers of large trees and reduced tree canopy area. Our city government’s oversight to protect trees is not only fractured, but also weak. 

We are still waiting for the Durkan Administration’s Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to deliver an updated tree ordinance to the City Council as required by Resolution 31902. Meanwhile, many constituents have been contacting my office with legitimate concerns about numerous “exceptional trees” being ripped out across our District 4 and our city. My staff and I will be carefully monitoring our City government’s efforts on these important environmental and equity issues – and may take legislative action sooner if we continue to see excuses instead of progress. We will update this ongoing blog post to provide new information as it becomes available in what seems to be a never-ending story.



July 14, 2021 (Update): Delays Continue to Prevent New Ordinance to Protect Trees (Quarterly Report from Durkan Administration)

Today the Durkan Administration, once again, tried to explain the ongoing delay in delivering the promised tree protection ordinance. Following years of delay, the heads of the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) and the Office of Environment & Sustainability (OSE) wrote in a memo to the City Council’s Land Use Committee, “We anticipate that we will complete public outreach in August/September, with the goal to make a draft proposal available for environmental (SEPA) review by the end of Q4 2021.” Similarly, their Powerpoint this week said, “Q4: Goal to issue SEPA decision by end of year.” Yet, their previous quarterly report from March 2021 said, “Q3/Q4: Share public draft of legislation and issue SEPA decision.” Note how the legislation was promised in Q3/Q4, but now there is no mention of legislation — while the SEPA work is clearly pushed into the next quarter. If this were not on the heels of years of delay and the Durkan Administration were not coming to a close, this would seem like a minor delay. But now it appears that they are trying to run out the clock and kick the can into the next Administration while large trees continue to get cut down in the midst of heat waves.

Considering how many complex laws and programs SDCI have advocated for and implemented during the past two years, using the excuse of the COVID pandemic no longer holds water. Outreach could have been conducted years ago and during the past year with social distancing at community meetings, phone interviews, and electronic surveys. When those same departments spoke to our committee in December 2019, they said they were already conducting community outreach and would have recommendations soon — before the pandemic hit. Moreover, the departments should, in a transparent manner, be providing a draft bill now to the public (and to the Council), so that the public knows the specifics on what they are providing input and feedback. An actual piece of legislation is also useful for the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process. In the wake of the record-breaking heat wave and continued loss of our urban forest, it was frustrating to hear the departments say they will not produce an actual piece of legislation before the Mayor delivers her city budget proposal on September 27, 2021.

Many public commenters this week called for a different approach: institute a moratorium on the removal of Exceptional Trees. A temporary (6-month) moratorium — as long as there are exceptions for hazardous trees and the construction of low income housing — would stop the harm of many tree removals and give SDCI the additional time they say they need. For the Durkan administration’s Powerpoint, CLICK HERE and, for their memo, CLICK HERE.


July 11, 2021 (Update): Extreme Heatwave Reinforces Need to Preserve Trees for our Environment and Equity

The record-breaking heat wave recently scorching Seattle was accompanied by renewed evidence of the environmental benefits of a healthy tree canopy – and it exposed the inequitable disparities of lower income households suffering more due to lack of trees. 

Even if you’re not a “tree hugger,” it’s easy to embrace the multiple benefits of trees. Trees capture harmful carbon and provide cooling shade as temperatures rise with climate change. During the rainy season, Seattle’s trees absorb polluted runoff to protect Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Trees deliver public health benefits, including improved mental health. The bigger the tree, the better. The small sticks planted next to new real estate developments cannot provide the many benefits already provided by a decades-old conifer tree.  The benefits of large trees and the harms of overheated neighborhoods were recently confirmed in the Seattle Times, the New York Times, National Geographic, the Nature Conservancy, and scholarly journals. This underscores the importance of protecting the large trees we still have.  Once they are gone, we cannot regain that loss for decades. Yet, for years, we have waited for Seattle’s city government departments to produce stronger rules to protect Seattle’s trees.  As we wait, large trees continue to be ripped out.

Recent evidence about the importance of trees:

  • Environmental Justice

KUOW, (June 23, 2021) “Heat wave could hit Seattle area neighborhoods differently – possible 20 degrees difference”

Seattle Times, (July 5, 2021) “Communities of color are the ‘first and worst’ hurt by climate change; urgent action needed to change course”

New York Times, (Opinion, June 30, 2021) “Since When Have Trees Existed Only for Rich Americans?”

National Geographic, (June 17, 2021) “Los Angeles confronts its shady divide”

National Geographic, (July 2021) “How L.A.’s urban tree canopy reveals hidden inequities”

Hoffman (January 2020): “The Effects of Historical Housing Policies on Resident Exposure to Intra-Urban Heat: A Study of 108 US Urban Areas”

Wolfe, et al. (2020) “Urban Trees and Human Health: A Scoping Review” and Powerpoint presentation summary

  • Climate Mitigation

Seattle Times (July 11, 2021) “Newly discovered fungus spores spurred by heat and drought are killing Seattle street trees”

New York Times, (July 2, 2021) “What Technology Could Reduce Heat Deaths? Trees.”

National Geographic, (June 22, 2021) “Why ‘tiny forests’ are popping up in big cities”

Seattle Times, (July 2, 2021) “Trees save lives in heat, so why aren’t we saving trees?”

NPR piece (2019): “Trees Are Key To Fighting Urban Heat — But Cities Keep Losing Them”)

EPA page: “Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands”

Policy Analysis (Boston, 2020): “A tree-planting decision support tool for urban heat mitigation”

Rottle Presentation (UW, 2015): “Urban Green Infrastructure For A Changing Climate”


April 27, 2021 (from our newsletter):

Earth Day in District 4: A Reminder That a New Tree Protection Ordinance is Long Overdue.

We call ourselves the Emerald City within the Evergreen State and yet our current laws have many loopholes that enable the removal of scores of trees each year, including healthy, large conifer trees that city law defines as “Exceptional.”  Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for the City of Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. As it has boomed with development, Seattle has struggled to prevent continued loss of significant numbers of large trees and reduced tree canopy area. Our city government’s oversight to protect trees is not only fractured, but also weak.  Last fall, I proposed a budget “proviso” to withhold funds from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) if it didn’t deliver an updated tree ordinance to the City Council by mid-2021 as required by Resolution 31902. Unfortunately, not enough of my colleagues supported the proviso and the process for delivering the tree protection ordinance has slowed.

My staff and I will be carefully monitoring the City’s actions on these important environmental and equity issues – and may take legislative action sooner if we continue to see excuses instead of progress.


March 24, 2021 (Land Use Committee):

This required update presented to our Land Use Committee highlighted additional delays and excuses from our Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), with no new tree ordinance in sight. The new ordinance has been delayed for over a year. While the Durkan Administration has cited the COVID pandemic as a key excuse, that doesn’t hold water because SDCI and other City departments — as well as Councilmembers — have obtained public input as well as crafted and adopted dozens of complex bills during the past 18 months.

For the Durkan Administration’s report to the Committee, CLICK HERE and, for their Powerpoint presentation, CLICK HERE.

While there is a new draft Director’s Rule to replace the current Director’s Rule published in October 2018, the proposed draft is merely “to clarify the definition of ‘exceptional tree’ pursuant to Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Chapter 25.11, Tree Protection.” Therefore, it does not officially strengthen existing code. Moreover, even that proposed Director’s Rule remains in draft form — even though comments were due August 17, 2020, according to SDCI’s website of Director’s Rules. [update: At the Land Use Committee on July 14, 2021, SDCI Director Torgelson said the Director’s Rule will require “SEPA review,” which further delays that Rule.]

To watch the video of the Land Use Committee, CLICK HERE.


December 18, 2020 (from our newsletter):

Prodded bureaucracy to speed protections of trees.

Source: Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission

Washington is the “Evergreen State” and Seattle is the “Emerald City.” Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for the City of Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. As it has boomed with development, Seattle has struggled to prevent continued loss of significant numbers of large trees and reduced tree canopy area. It’s oversight to protect trees is not only fractured, but weak.  I proposed two budget provisions to improve Seattle’s management of its urban forest resources: A budget proviso to withhold funds from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) if it didn’t deliver an updated tree ordinance to the City Council by mid-2021 under Resolution 31902, and a request for an important analysis (HERE): “the Executive, Urban Forestry Commission (UFC), and Urban Forestry Interdepartmental Team [shall] evaluate models for consolidating the City’s urban forest management functions and, based on this evaluation, make recommendations on how changes could be implemented.” Unfortunately, not enough of my colleagues supported my tough proviso, but the Executive is aware that the public and councilmembers are impatient and will be demanding action in 2021. Fortunately, the requirement for strategies to better manage our urban forest passed and will delivered to Council by September 15, 2021. My staff and I will be carefully monitoring the City’s implementation of these important quality of life and equity items.


November 23, 2020 (from our newsletter):

Spurring protection of Seattle’s Trees. Washington is the “Evergreen State” and Seattle is the “Emerald City.” Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. During that time, I’m concerned we are seeing a declining tree canopy and loss of numerous large trees. Decentralization urban forestry management had its chance, but it does not work. Our budget action, approved by my colleagues, will have the Executive produce a plan for Council consideration that could rationalize and consolidate protections of Seattle’s trees, with a preference for an agency focused on the environment. To read the official budget action, CLICK HERE.


December 20, 2019 (original post and newsletter):

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Briefing on overdue Tree Protection Ordinance, December 18, 2019 Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee

In the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee on December 18, 2019, I convened neighbors, environmentalists, scientists, and urban forestry experts to discuss the need to implement Resolution 31902 to finalize a stronger ordinance that protects and increases trees in our Emerald City.

I appreciate all the residents from across Seattle who took the time out of their day to attend this briefing on making Seattle’s tree protection ordinance stronger and enforceable — with the goal of expanding the health and environmental benefits of larger trees in our Emerald City. It was informative to hear from a wide array of tree experts. Thanks also to Councilmember-elect Dan Strauss for joining me at the table and for all his work already on this important environmental and social justice issue. I look forward to working with him, my other City Council colleagues, our executive departments, and other stakeholders to enact a tree ordinance in 2020.

Over the past year (2019), I heard from hundreds of concerned citizens who want City Hall to implement stronger protections for our tree canopy in addition to planting more trees throughout our city. In addition to improving the livability and enjoyment of our communities and critical habitat for birds, a robust tree canopy fosters a healthy city by decreasing pollution, sequestering modest amounts of carbon, and cooling homes and buildings – all vitally important for our environment. In fact, the “Green New Deal” Resolution that garnered a lot of attention earlier this year specifically calls out trees:  “Encouraging preservation and planting of trees citywide to increase the city’s tree canopy cover, prioritizing historically low-canopy and low-income neighborhoods.” To hold City Hall accountable on this issue, we need a stronger tree ordinance that is enforced. I heard you, and I am proud to keep the ball rolling on increasing environmental protections across our city. As we eagerly await their next update on the ordinance, you can visit the city’s website on trees by CLICKING HERE.

To read the KUOW news article titled “Seattle tree rules are too lax, critics say. New city council members want to change that,” CLICK HERE.

Excerpt from Dec 18, 2019 KUOW article: “Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen and Councilmember-elect Dan Strauss said they’re committed to passing new legislation in 2020. ‘We’ve heard them in the community that they care about the environmental and health benefits of our tree canopy, and we want to make it stronger with a new ordinance that’s coming next year,’ Pedersen said. ‘The executive department’s very engaged, and we’re very excited about that,’ Strauss said. He said city agencies are engaged in community outreach and will come back with recommendations at the end of January.”

To view my Committee meeting, including the experts on the benefits of trees as well as public comment from those supporting a stronger tree protection ordinance, CLICK HERE for the video. For the materials presented at that Committee meeting, CLICK HERE for the agenda and HERE for the Powerpoint from UW’s College of the Environment.


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I was honored to have the living legend Ron Sims swear me into office to start my 4-year term January 2020. Because I was elected to a seat the previously elected Councilmember left early, I actually started the job at the end of November 2019. This enabled me to chair the previous Land Use Committee in December 2019, with a focus on protecting our Emerald City’s trees. Since January 2020, however, that Committee has been chaired by Councilmember Dan Strauss and I serve as a member (I chair the Transportation, Utilities, Technology Committee instead). While Ron Sims is perhaps known best for serving as our King County Executive and Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development under President Obama, Sims has also been a passionate advocate for the positive health outcomes and other environmental benefits of preserving large existing trees in the Seattle area, especially in low-income areas of our city.

June 3, 2019 (Here’s a KUOW article on trees published before Alex Pedersen was sworn in as a Councilmember, but it provides important background on the long-delayed tree ordinance and Councilmember Pedersen’s rationale for protecting trees:)

They’re treasures’: Advocates want more protections for Seattle’s big trees,” by Amy Radil of KUOW

Efforts to update Seattle’s tree regulations fizzled last year. Now a new effort to protect the city’s trees is under way.

New legislation is expected to be unveiled in coming weeks by the City Council. Advocates say the most important thing Seattle can do now is retain the trees it currently has, especially in more environmentally stressed neighborhoods.

The group Plant Amnesty is encouraging the public to photograph and help map Seattle’s remaining big trees: any tree that is 30 inches wide or more – basically the width of a front door. They believe there are roughly 6,000 left that fit this description in the city.

Dominic Barrera is Plant Amnesty’s Executive Director. He said living near South Park, he’s grateful for trees that provide a buffer from warehouses and Boeing Field.

“Looking at that juxtaposition of the industrial district and then a few trees that protect us from it just really shows how important these trees are for everybody,” he said. “Especially those of us living in those environmentally tarnished areas.”

The City Council proposed a new tree ordinance last year, but tree advocates were disappointed that it appeared to weaken protections for “exceptional” trees – the big trees that help most with cooling, carbon emissions and stormwater. Ultimately nothing passed. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw plans to introduce a new version of tree legislation this summer, with input from the city’s Urban Forestry Commission.

caption: Maria Batayola at El Centro de la Raza says Beacon Hill residents need more trees to help counter air and noise pollution.
Maria Batayola at El Centro de la Raza says Beacon Hill residents need more trees to help counter air and noise pollution. Photo by Amy Radil, KUOW.

Maria Batayola wants Beacon Hill residents to be represented in this effort. She is the Environmental Justice Coordinator for El Centro de la Raza. The Beacon Hill neighborhood is bounded by interstates and airfields. It’s got air and noise pollution and faces additional pressures from upzoning.

Batayola has heard the argument that increased density in cities helps address climate change – but she said people in Beacon Hill need trees and green space for their own health.

“If you really are dealing with and understand environmental justice, then you have to look at the impact on people of low income and people of color,” she said. “I think there is a balance that we’re looking for. And in Beacon Hill, our first responsibility is to the residents.”

El Centro de la Raza recently sent a letter asking Councilmember Bagshaw to support the recommendations of the city’s Urban Forestry Commission “and that for any environmentally challenged neighborhoods and communities such as Beacon Hill, that there be a higher tree canopy goal” to bring them more in line with the rest of the city, Batayola said. The neighborhood scored a victory recently with the preservation of the orchard around the historic Garden House.

caption: Joshua Morris with Seattle Audubon says Seattle's big trees are vital and there is currently no penalty for removing them.
Joshua Morris with Seattle Audubon says Seattle’s big trees are vital and there is currently no penalty for removing them. Photo by Amy Radil, KUOW

In Northeast Seattle, the century-old Douglas Firs around the Seattle Audubon office make visitors feel like they’re deep in the woods. Joshua Morris is the urban conservation manager with Seattle Audubon and serves on the city’s Urban Forestry Commission. He said he’ll be watching for more tracking and protections for existing trees.

“We’ll never see the size of these trees again. So where we do have them, they’re treasures, and hopefully we can convince Seattleites of that, and write something into the tree protection ordinance.”

A 2016 assessment found Seattle had 28 percent canopy cover, short of its 30 percent goal. Morris said current city regulations don’t do enough to protect mature or “exceptional” trees. “There’s a lot of loopholes in it,” he said. “Basically you can just cut down a tree and grind the stump down to the earth and if nobody notices, there’s no penalty whatsoever.”

While these advocates say city protections fall short of what’s needed, Seattle does require permits to remove trees from public rights of way. On developed land, approval from the Department of Construction and Inspections is required to remove an exceptional tree, trees in environmentally critical areas (ECA), or more than three trees six-inches or greater.

“If you are developing your property,” SDCI states, “you have more flexibility to remove trees if they prevent you from using your property.” But it says developers can receive more credit toward tree retention requirements if they retain mature, healthy trees.

Morris said even those existing trees are facing more stress now.

“Our climate is changing. Insect invasions are going to become common. Droughts are going to become extended,” he said. “So where we wouldn’t have had to water trees in August, we will have to start watering.”

But he said the new regulations have to strike the right balance so property owners will adhere to them. “There’s difficulty insuring compliance, getting private property owners to actually comply with a tree ordinance, not making it onerous or too high a permit fee,” he said.

caption: Volunteer Jim Davis demonstrates how to find "majestic trees" for Plant Amnesty: they are 30 in. diamater "at breast height."
Volunteer Jim Davis demonstrates how to find “majestic trees” for Plant Amnesty: they are 30 in. diamater “at breast height.” Photo by Amy Radil, KUOW

Developers will be paying attention to whether new regulations increase the costs of building projects, or restrict what can be built. Pat Foley is a developer with the firm Lake Union Partners.

“As we’re trying to build housing in this city for the demand that’s out there — and especially affordable housing which is in great shortage — any potential ordinance could affect our ability to move these projects forward,” he said.

Foley’s firm is building the Midtown: Public Square project at 23rd and Union in Seattle, which includes affordable housing and a central plaza where the plan is to install a large, mature tree. He said the tree proposal was not welcomed by everyone on the city’s Design Review Board.

“There were a number of people on the board that didn’t like the idea of a tree in there because they thought it would be providing too much shade” or block visibility, he said. “We were sort of perplexed by that given that it was a significant expense” to include it. The tree was ultimately approved.

The City Council’s previous legislative proposal included fees a developer could pay if they do remove a tree, with the money going to plant trees elsewhere. Foley says he’d rather install the trees himself. “I would like to just see us plant more mature trees as part of a new development on a property,” he said. “So Day One they look like they’ve been there a long time.”

He said there’s no requirement now for developers to plant larger or more mature trees, but adding those trees could help Seattle meet its goal to increase canopy.

The suburb of Lake Forest Park requires permits for removing trees. They’ve seen their tree canopy increase in the last few years from 46 percent to nearly 50 percent.

Lake Forest Park City Council member John Resha said, “Our regulations are focused on the end state of maintaining and growing canopy rather than restricting removal.” But he said, “There is one place where we say no.” That’s the removal of trees that qualify as ‘exceptional.’ “These quiet giants are part of the fabric of our city,” Resha said. He said they’ve successfully grown their canopy by creating a city code “that resonates with its community.”

Editor’s Note : This story has been modified to clarify Seattle’s current restrictions on tree removals. 6/4/2019.

# # #

Additional Resources:

  • Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) “Tree Protection Code” website, CLICK HERE.
  • While there is a new draft Director’s Rule to replace the current Director’s Rule published in October 2018, the proposed draft is merely “to clarify the definition of ‘exceptional tree’ pursuant to Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Chapter 25.11, Tree Protection.” Therefore, it does not officially strengthen existing code.
  • Auditor’s 2009 report on tree management.
  • Auditor’s 2011 report on tree management. P. 29 covers consolidated management issue.
  • Urban Forestry Commission Draft Memo from July 2021 regarding Council’s Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) MO-001-A-002 drafted by Councilmember Pedersen and adopted in November 2020: “Request that the Executive recommend strategies for consolidating urban forestry functions.”


West Seattle Bridge Updates

July 14th, 2021

The sudden safety closure of the West Seattle “High-Rise” Bridge in March 2020 has been a major challenge for Seattle and Washington State. Even though the West Seattle Bridge is not in Seattle’s District 4, Councilmember Alex Pedersen provides periodic updates on the closure, stabilization, repairs, and other issues impacting the bridge because he was appointed to Chair the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee in January 2020. The West Seattle Bridge is an infrastructure asset vital not only to the 100,000 people of West Seattle but also to the entire region, especially as it impacts the economic engine that is the Port of Seattle. After successfully stabilizing the bridge in 2020, the ultimate goal is to complete substantial repairs (“rehab”) in time to restore access to the West Seattle “high bridge” mid-2022. The Spokane Street Swing Bridge (West Seattle “low bridge”) has very limited access. Alternate routes can be found on the website of our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

For SDOT’s website about the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE and, for specifics about the bridge repair, CLICK HERE.

For more information on the urgent need for City Hall to do a better job keeping our bridge infrastructure safe, CLICK HERE. For more about the West Seattle Bridge, please read on…

phase 2 stabilization graphic

July 14, 2021 Update: Community Update

For the presentation to the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force on July 14, 2021, CLICK HERE. There is a broader community meeting online on July 21, 2021; for info, CLICK HERE. According to SDOT’s main website for the bridge, “The West Seattle High-Rise Bridge (high bridge) is on track to reopen in mid-2022.”

Public meeting graphic

June 28, 2021 Update: Federal Grant Awarded

As reported in the Seattle Times, there is good news for Seattle from our federal government with the United States Department of Transportation awarding a grant to help our efforts to restore the West Seattle Bridge. While the dollar amount was less than our request, it is remarkable to have received any of these competitive federal funds. We are grateful to U.S. DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and to our congressional delegation including Representatives Jayapal and Smith and Senators Cantwell and Murray. I’d also like thank our own Seattle Department of Transportation for seizing this and all opportunities to cobble together money to restore the West Seattle High Bridge and to strengthen the lower bridge that has been carrying much of the burden. SDOT submitted an award-winning application which included a letter of support signed by this City Council. I’m hopeful SDOT will put this $11 million to good use for the $175 million restoration project, which includes funding from the City, the Puget Sound Regional Council, and other sources.  For SDOT’s blog post on this award of funding, CLICK HERE.


March 15, 2021 Update:

I asked the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to participate in my Committee on March 17, 2021 to provide another presentation on the West Seattle Bridge. The purpose is to update the public and my Council colleagues on SDOT’s progress to restore the West Seattle High Bridge — and to strengthen the “low-level” bridge (Spokane Street Swing Bridge) which has had to carry a bigger burden during this infrastructure emergency. This update is timely due to SDOT completing 30% of the design for the restoration, a milestone which enables them to firm up total costs and seek competitive bids from general contactors to complete the work by the 3rd quarter of 2022. While the revised total cost estimate is $175 million, much of that total includes the costs of the initial emergency stabilization efforts (which helps with the ultimate restoration work) and the costs of establishing/improving alternative routes (“Reconnect West Seattle”). The actual construction costs for restoration of the West Seattle High Bridge is estimated to be $60 million (out of the $175 million). To cover the total cost, we have set-aside up to $100 million of city government resources, but it would be ideal to secure funds from other sources — which we have been pursuing aggressively: regional (approx $15 million from Puget Sound Regional Council), State (ideally $25 million from the 2021 legislative sessions), and Federal sources (a $20 million “INFRA” grant). Moreover, a portion of the renewed and revamped Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) will assist during at least the next year.

For SDOT’s presentation to my Committee, CLICK HERE. For a Seattle Times article on their 30% design milestone, CLICK HERE. For SDOT’s blog posts with ongoing updates, CLICK HERE. While I’m the Chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, the Councilmember who represents the 100,000 residents of West Seattle, (Lisa Herbold), provides detailed updates for her constituents, which you can review by CLICKING HERE.


January 1, 2021 Update:

To protect the physical integrity of the still-open lower bridge (underneath the closed West Seattle high bridge) and “to keep the Low Bridge clear for emergency vehicles – as well as transit and heavy freight – we’re saying, ‘don’t go low.’ Instead, please use alternate routes for those traveling to and from West Seattle by car to avoid a $75 citation.” For the SDOT Blog post, CLICK HERE. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.


November 19, 2020 Update:

Today Mayor Durkan announced her decision to REPAIR the West Seattle Bridge, which I support after careful consideration. Here is my statement:

After consulting technical experts, Seattle residents, local businesses, and the Port of Seattle, I want to thank our Mayor for her careful and thorough consideration of how best to move forward safely and effectively so we can quickly restore this vital infrastructure,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, appointed earlier this year to chair the Council’s Transportation Committee.  

After studying the various choices, I agree with Mayor Jenny Durkan that immediate repair of the bridge is the best choice so we can quickly and safely restore mobility to our region’s bridge network. Repairing the bridge now still keeps open the long-term solution to plan and fund a methodical replacement in the future and to coordinate with increased transit options. I believe the cracking and closure of the West Seattle Bridge must be a wake-up call to take better care of all our aging bridges with more investment in maintenance to keep transit and freight moving throughout a city defined by its waterways and ravines. After being appointed to Chair our City’s Transportation Committee earlier this year, I remain committed to work with Mayor Durkan, our Seattle Department of Transportation, our Port of Seattle, the rest of the City Council, and Seattle residents to make sure we honor this commitment to our bridge infrastructure and get this done.”  

  • For Mayor Durkan’s decision (press release of November 19, 2020) to immediately repair (rather than replace) the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.
  • For the November 19, 2020 press release from Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle), CLICK HERE.
  • For the initial Seattle Times article on the decision, CLICK HERE.
  • For more about Councilmember Pedersen’s efforts to increase funding to maintain the safety of all Seattle bridges, CLICK HERE.
Councilmember Pedersen with engineers during inspection underneath (and inside) West Seattle high bridge November 17, 2020
Councilmember Pedersen at one of the post-tensioning stabilization locations inside the West Seattle high bridge, November 17, 2020. The stabilization work is necessary for safe repair anyway; therefore, no time is being lost as we move forward to restore the bridge.

November 9, 2020 Update:

Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (as Chair for the Transportation Committee) and Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle) asked the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to provide the City Council and the public with a formal update on the West Seattle Bridge at a “Council Briefing” today.

  • For SDOT’s November 9, 2020 presentation, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of various options for repair and replacement, CLICK HERE.

Now that the West Seattle high bridge is stabilized, the key question is whether to repair or replace it and we have developed several good options for moving forward to restore that vital infrastructure for Seattle residents and our regional economy. I know the Mayor is prudently consulting engineers, stakeholders, and funders so that she can make a strategic decision that prioritizes safety and reliability for our city and our region. I believe this crisis should be a wake up call to our city that we need to do much more to fund the maintenance of our aging bridges, a challenge further demonstrated by the recent audit of Seattle’s bridges.


September 16, 2020 Update:

After the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge in March 2020, Councilmember Pedersen asked the City Auditor to provide an independent assessment of all Seattle Bridges. That report confirmed that Seattle has been under-investing in its bridges and made several recommendations for improvement.

  • For the Auditor’s report and presentation to the Transportation & Utilities Committee, CLICK HERE.

August 19, 2020 Update:

As Chair of the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, Councilmember Pedersen asked SDOT to update his colleagues and the public on the status of the West Seattle Bridge. For SDOT’s presentation, CLICK HERE.


July 16, 2020 Update:

Mayor Durkan issues emergency proclamation and order on West Seattle Bridge, which will encourage federal and state financial assistance for repairing/rebuilding this vital regional asset that connects 100,000 people and freight to the rest of the state. Councilmembers Herbold and Pedersen issue joint statement in support; CLICK HERE.


April 22, 2020 Update:

Councilmember Pedersen joined Councilmember Lisa Herbold to co-host a Town Hall with SDOT on the West Seattle Bridge. For SDOT’s Powerpoint presentation, CLICK HERE.


April 15, 2020 Update:

Councilmembers Herbold and Pedersen Respond to West Seattle Bridge Remaining Closed through 2021

4/15/2020 STATEMENT: SEATTLE – Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle/South Park) and Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle and Chair of Transportation & Utilities Committee) issued the following statement regarding the ongoing and extended closure of the West Seattle Bridge:

“Today we learned from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) that, while the rate of cracking of concrete under the West Seattle Bridge has slowed, new cracking continues even with no vehicles.  Unfortunately, SDOT now estimates the bridge cannot be made safe for traffic for at least the next 21 months (through the end of 2021). Safety will continue to be the top priority during this infrastructure emergency. SDOT is developing plans to shore up the bridge in advance of the likely extensive repairs. SDOT believes, however, that repairs would extend the life of the bridge for only 10 years.

“The impact of this long-term closure on West Seattle cannot be overstated. We will need additional work to manage traffic and mobility for residents. Ensuring access to emergency services and transit will be critical as well. What we are doing now to provide alternate routes will not be sufficient once traffic resumes normal levels.

“We look forward to working with our State and federal governments to identify the funding for both the repairs and the eventual replacement of the bridge, including an expected stimulus package for infrastructure from Congress. This situation also reinforces the importance of renewing the Seattle Transportation Benefit District to provide additional bus service.

“It’s good that SDOT is creating a technical advisory panel to leverage engineering expertise.  The City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee will require timely updates from both SDOT and the technical advisory panel.  We will also pursue Legislative Department participation on the technical advisory panel to increase oversight of the complex solutions.”

Presentation: For SDOT’s April 15, 2020 presentation to update the media on the condition of — and plans for — the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.


March 30, 2020:

For our City Council Resolution immediately adding the sudden major repairs of the West Seattle Bridge to the Watch List for Capital Projects, CLICK HERE. Sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold (representing West Seattle) and me (Councilmember Pedersen), the City Council passed it unanimously.

For SDOT’s March 30 presentation to City Council CLICK HERE.


March 23, 2020 (ORIGINAL POST):

West Seattle Bridge closed by Mayor Durkan (March 23) due to structural issues; safety actions supported by Council leaders

March 23, 2020:

PRESS RELEASE EXCERPT: “Out of an abundance of caution, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced today that it will close the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge effective 7:00 PM tonight (March 23, 2020) to all traffic due to accelerated concrete cracking that was observed during a regular bridge inspection. A comprehensive assessment has already begun with a team of experts to determine the extent of the cracking and put together a plan for a near-term repair. The bridge closure will begin at 7 PM tonight will remain closed until further notice.” (source: Seattle Department of Transportation)

ALTERNATE ROUTES: https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2020/03/24/alternate-routes-for-west-seattle-high-rise-bridge-closure/

March 23, 2020: STATEMENT FROM COUNCILMEMBER PEDERSEN:

“When I learned about this issue today, I immediately supported the Mayor’s decision to temporarily close the West Seattle Bridge because safety should be our top priority,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee.  “As we provide safe travel alternatives for residents, first responders, and public transit, I look forward to hearing not only an analysis from structural engineers but also next steps, including a realistic timeline for solutions from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).”

“As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I’d like to schedule a public briefing in the future so we can all hear the latest structural reports on all Seattle bridges and the plans for repairs and upgrades.  Strategic infrastructure projects that increase safety, move freight, and get thousands of people to their jobs will be vital as we eventually lift ourselves out of the public health and economic crisis.”  

March 23, 2020FULL PRESS RELEASE (from SDOT):

Following Accelerated Growth of Concrete Cracks in West Seattle High Rise Bridge, SDOT to Close Structure This Evening for Assessment

Spokane Street “Low Bridge” to Remain Open Only to Transit, Freight, and Emergency Vehicles

Seattle – Out of an abundance of caution, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced today that it will close the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge effective 7:00 PM tonight (March 23, 2020) to all traffic due to accelerated concrete cracking that was observed during a regular bridge inspection. A comprehensive assessment has already begun with a team of experts to determine the extent of the cracking and put together a plan for a near-term repair. The bridge closure will begin at 7 PM tonight will remain closed until further notice.

Buses, freight and emergency vehicles will be moved to Spokane Street Bridge, which is also called the “low bridge,” and motorists should use the First Ave or South Park bridges.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, the Seattle Department of Transportation has been closely monitoring our critical infrastructure. Last night, our engineers identified safety risks in our West Seattle high rise bridge and are now taking swift action to protect the public by removing traffic from the bridge while next steps are assessed,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Transit, freight and first responders will continue to have access to the Spokane Street bridge to ensure access to and from West Seattle. To the residents and businesses of West Seattle: I want to thank everyone for their flexibility and patience during this challenging time in Seattle’s history. It is a top priority to ensure safety and access to goods and transit, and we will be working as quickly as we can resolve this.”

“We’ve kept a watchful eye on the West Seattle Bridge for years. Recently, a series of closely monitored cracks have grown faster than our team of experts had anticipated. Our engineers saw this acceleration as a clear warning sign that closer inspection is necessary, and complete closure is required to maintain safety as our top priority. As we close the bridge today, we will scale and accelerate a process already underway to determine next steps. Above all else, as the Mayor has made clear, we will make sure our first responders have quick and safe access to and from West Seattle,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said.

“As a West Seattle resident and a citywide public official representing all Seattleites, I believe this is the right decision for the safety of West Seattle bridge users, and the long range transportation demands of my constituents,” said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez (Pos. 9 – Citywide).  “I stand ready to work with Mayor Durkan, Director Zimbabwe, Councilmember Herbold and Chair Pedersen, to address the short-term and long-term impact of this bridge closure.  Keeping people safe is critically important and this closure prioritized the health and safety of the over 100,000 people who use the West Seattle Bridge every day.”

“I support the Mayor’s decision to temporarily close the West Seattle Bridge because safety should be our top priority,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee.  “As we provide safe travel alternatives for residents and public transit, I look forward to hearing not only an analysis from structural engineers but also next steps, including a realistic timeline for solutions from our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).”

At 7PM, all public and private vehicles will be prohibited from crossing the high-rise span of the bridge between I-5 and Fauntleroy Way SW. SDOT is putting signs in place to guide people through the new route. Prohibiting people and vehicles from the structure reduces the load weight and is necessary for public safety.

While the problems have accelerated at a rapid and unanticipated rate, this challenge did not appear out of the blue. The West Settle Bridge was originally designed for three lanes of travel in each direction. As Seattle grew, the bridge grew to three westbound lanes and four eastbound. This added traffic, combined with the significant increase in size and weight of commercial vehicles (including buses), has only compounded the long-term maintenance challenges posed by the West Seattle Bridge. Further, 80 percent of the bridge load is dead load, meaning deterioration is possible even when all traffic is removed. 

In 2019, however, the Federal load rating for this type of bridge changed and the Seattle Department of Transportation assembled a team of engineers and experts from the public and private sectors to begin actively assessing the extent and growth of bridge cracking, create safety recommendations, and a short-term repair plan.  As a component of that review, SDOT has been regularly inspecting concrete cracks in the West Seattle Bridge. During the latest inspection, an SDOT engineer found known cracks in the concrete had worsened at a rate SDOT and the outside specialists found unacceptable.

The City is working with King County Metro and regional transportation, life-safety, and maritime partners today to jointly develop a comprehensive traffic control plan to keep people and goods moving. This plan will include bus reroutes, general traffic detours to alternative streets and bridges, and a street-by-street approach to increase the capacity of detour routes to better carry the traffic using the high-rise bridge today.

The Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, and medical first responders are aware of the closure and planning detours. SDOT’s traffic control plan will use streets that accommodate the emergency response network to connect communities to hospitals as they are today.

King County Metro bus routes that typically travel the West Seattle Bridge include RapidRide C Line, 21 and 21X, 37, 50, 55, 56, 57, 116X, 118X, 119X, 120 and 125. Routes 37 and 125 are not operating during Metro’s temporary reduced schedule, which started March 23. Metro is working to finalize bus reroutes using the Spokane Street lower bridge and surface streets in SODO, and identify whether any bus stops might not be served as a result of the reroutes. Metro customer information staff plan to post service advisories online later Monday.

# # #

MORE INFO ON SEATTLE BRIDGES:

All Bridges:

  • For the audit of ALL Seattle bridges obtained by Councilmember Alex Pedersen in 2020 after the sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.
  • For more information about ALL of Seattle’s bridges, CLICK HERE.

District 4 Bridge work:

  • COWEN PARK: For progress on the seismic upgrades being made to the Cowen Park Bridge (15th Avenue NE between NE 62nd Street and NE Ravenna Blvd) in our District 4, CLICK HERE.
  • FAIRVIEW AVE: For progress on the rebuild of the Fairview Avenue bridge from Eastlake to South Lake Union, CLICK HERE.

West Seattle Bridge:

  • SDOT: For more information on the West Seattle Bridge, please see SDOT’s website by CLICKING HERE.
  • West Seattle Blog: For updates from the detailed West Seattle blog, CLICK HERE.
  • Councilmember Pedersen: For his original March 23, 2020 blog post on closure of West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.


Conquering COVID, Financial Relief, and District 4 updates

June 24th, 2021

June 24, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

Happy Pride Month and Happy Juneteenth!

This month’s newsletter features a Seattle milestone to conquer COVID; financial relief for those who need it the most; updates on public safety; news from my Committee on Transportation, Utilities, and Technology; the re-opening of libraries, farmers markets, and small businesses in District 4; and more!

Hot temperatures are expected this weekend. For ways to stay cool, CLICK HERE and HERE for advice from the City and Public Health and CLICK HERE for advice from the Seattle Times.

Before diving into our June newsletter, here’s some background on last week’s Juneteenth holiday. With a bill recently signed into law by President Joe Biden, June 19 is finally enshrined as a national day to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. For photos of last week’s local events that carried on the Juneteenth tradition here in Seattle, CLICK HERE. To get a head start on next year’s celebrations, check out the extensive activities featured by the South Seattle Emerald (CLICK HERE). For Christine Emba’s thought-provoking Op Ed with context for the holiday, CLICK HERE. On June 19, I visited the Northwest African American Museum / Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District and heard inspirational stories from several owners of microbusinesses including Kayla and Mawande, creators of K+M Homemade Skincare.


DISTRICT 4

We Did It!  Seattle #1 in Nation for Conquering COVID With Over 70% Fully Vaccinated

Seattle Firefighters show me their vaccine pop-up clinic on June 2 at Santos Place in Magnuson Park. In addition to coordinating with King County Public Health to provide vaccinations to vulnerable residents at retirement homes and other housing for seniors, our city government, led by our Firefighters/emergency medical technicians, has sponsored pop-up clinics in several neighborhoods such as Magnuson Park, the University District, and Wallingford. (Please see our COVID section of this newsletter for more info.)

Now hiring for summer jobs at Seattle Parks and Recreation

Our District 4 is blessed with many parks including Gas Works Park, Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, Magnuson Park, and Ravenna Park. As Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) gears up for summer, we’re planning to open some outdoor programs at beaches, sprayparks, wading pools, and day camps. One of the biggest barriers to opening sites, however, is insufficient staffing. SPR needs lifeguards, camp counselors, recreation attendants, parks maintenance laborers, and more. People interested in summer employment are encouraged to apply for available positions, and to pass this information on to family and friends too.

To see all current available SPR jobs, CLICK HERE.

Access to parks and open spaces is essential for our physical and mental health and so parks are going to be very busy this summer. Read more abut SPR’s reopening activities by CLICKING HERE.

 

University District Library Reopened June 24

Our public library in the University District on Roosevelt Way NE and NE 50th Street has re-opened!  While the partial reopening for in-building use is just for Thursdays and Sundays, call the University Branch for the latest details at 206-684-4063. Additional library branches will reopen after June 30. Due to state restrictions, Seattle Public Libraries (SPL) will operate at 50 percent capacity, and services will be limited to holds pick‐up, browsing parts of the collection, basic information service, seating, and technology access (personal computers, Wi‐Fi, rapid charging, and printing/copying/scanning).  For the curbside pick-up times at the Northeast Branch on 35th Ave NE (currently Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday), call 206-684-7539.  To learn more about SPL’s reopening, CLICK HERE. For the locations and hours of all library branches, CLICK HERE.

 

Congratulations to Roosevelt High School’s Jazz Band for earning 7 awards at this year’s 26th annual Essentially Ellington Jazz Festival

The Essentially Ellington Festival celebrates the music of Duke Ellington and other classic jazz composers and has been open to bands west of the Mississippi for decades. Roosevelt High’s Jazz Band has made the finals 21 out of the last 23 years and has won the competition four times! You can hear the award-winning Roosevelt High Jazz Band at THIS LINK or you can see the band live this coming December for their annual Jazz Nutcracker performances. For more info, CLICK HERE.

Wallingford Farmers Market Reopened June 9

Councilmember Pedersen showing up to the first Wallingford Farmers Market of 2021. Meridian Playground behind the historic Good Shepherd Center was popping with passels of people and fantastic fresh foods. To be fair to the other flavors, he can neither confirm nor deny his endorsement of the “Zesty Lime” popsicle.

The Wallingford Farmers Market re-opened June 9, 2021 with a flood of energized neighbors and will stay open every Wednesday evening from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. through the end of September. This is in addition to the University District Farmers Market which is year-round (every Saturday morning). CLICK HERE to read more on Wallyhood and HERE to sign up for the Wallyhood newsletter. They recently asked me some questions about affordable housing and homelessness and you can read my answers HERE.

Tiny Home Village Still Coming Soon in U District/Sound Transit Survey for Future

We still plan to open a new Tiny Home Village called “Rosie’s” in the University District this summer at Roosevelt Way NE and NE 45th Street. Originally, we had hoped the Sound Transit agency, our city government departments, and the nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) could quickly open the new Tiny Home Village in early July, but the opening date is moved to August. We think it was prudent to set an ambitious schedule for opening it with the knowledge it might hit some delays, rather than setting a far-away deadline. My office will continue to work with all parties to provide this vital non-congregate shelter and case management as soon as we can.  To join the effort, contact LIHI at tinyhouses@lihi.org to: (1) donate tiny house building materials, (2) donate supplies or meals to a village, (3) volunteer with your specific skillset and interests.

After the Tiny Home Village, Sound Transit will develop the site (18,000 square feet) and they want to hear from YOU and your ideas! You can take their 10-question survey by CLICKING HERE.  Then scroll down and click on “Please take our survey by July 5th.” The survey is available in several languages. (Sound Transit is also mailing a postcard to neighbors in the area to seek feedback about the future of this site.) Note: Sound Transit is simply looking ahead and asking for input on what kinds of “transit-oriented development” to construct at this site around the Year 2024; in other words the Tiny Home Village will be at this location first.

15th Avenue NE Construction Updates

Work on the 15th Ave NE paving project continues and there will be a few upcoming traffic impacts:

  • June 25-28 and July 9-12, eastbound and westbound traffic at 15th Ave NE and NE 75th and 80th Streets will be restricted. Detours will be in place for people walking, biking, rolling, and driving.
  • Temporary detours will be in place in the coming weeks around 15th Ave NE and NE Ravenna Blvd.
  • Detours will be in place in the coming weeks on the west side of 15th Ave NE between NE 62nd and 63rd

SDOT is hosting monthly virtual office hours on the fourth Thursday of each month between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. For more information, CLICK HERE.

 

ICYMI: Watch the Recording of our District 4 Town Hall

In case you missed our District 4 Town Hall on May 11, you may view it by CLICKING HERE. Professional staff from our Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) generously joined the conversation to share how the City addresses encampments and homelessness outreach.  Thank you, HSD, for working hard on the constantly shifting direction and policy you are receiving from City Hall and the transition of many elements to the new Regional Homelessness Authority so we can finally apply regional solutions to this regional problem. I also answered several questions from constituents regarding transportation, public safety, and land use issues.


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

Internet Access Financial Help

One of the benefits of chairing a Committee that contains the departments focusing on infrastructure is the opportunity to cross-pollinate positive programs. For example, Seattle City Light generously agreed to include this informational insert to all SCL ratepayers about a federal program that helps our Seattle IT Department implement Internet for All: the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

Scam Alert: Beware Scammers Posing as Seattle City Light Seeking Financial Info

Be aware of scams by those posing as Seattle City Light.  Please know that City Light will never call you to pay your bill “immediately” over the phone, by email, or in person at your door. There have been some calls like this, so please do not give your personal or financial information to phone callers. For information on the recent spate of scam calls, you can CLICK HERE.

 

Seattle Department of Transportation Presentation on Vision Zero

Councilmember Pedersen visiting a Seattle Department of Transportation crew installing pedestrian safety improvements earlier in June as part of citywide goals to reduce fatalities and major injuries from traffic collisions.

We know we have much more work to do to meet Seattle’s “Vision Zero” safety goals. While crashes in 2020 decreased compared to 2019, the reduction in fatalities was disturbingly minimal, considering the decrease in vehicles on the road and SDOT’s ongoing work to improve traffic safety. Thank you to SDOT Director Zimbabwe and his team for joining us earlier this month to share more about this effort. In particular, the data show we should focus on making Aurora Ave N (State Route 99) and Rainier Ave S safer. CLICK HERE to review the presentation.

 

Sound Transit Attends Our Committee to Discuss Upcoming Light Rail Stations

The CEO of Sound Transit and his team generously presented to our Committee on  what they call their re-alignment” process for their new transit projects. The Sound Transit Board has 18 members and, while only two are from our city government, our Mayor and Councilmember Debora Juarez are strong and tireless advocates for Seattle and the region.

I share the stance of many in Seattle that the Sound Transit Board should delay any drastic decisions on realignment until the rapidly changing revenues and costs become more clear. Our City Council and its residents and businesses are big supporters of transit, as evidenced most recently by our renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District last year despite the economic recession. We are also excited about the opening this October of three new light rail stations in Northeast Seattle funded by the Sound Transit 2 measure approved by voters in 2008. The ambitious next step is implementation of the Sound Transit 3 expansion, approved by the region’s voters in 2016. Seattle voters were instrumental in making possible the funding for Sound Transit 3 and so we want to make sure it delivers on its promises for Seattle. This includes light rail stations to West Seattle which will impact the Port of Seattle, stations to Ballard which will impact South Lake Union and Seattle Center, additional stations for South Seattle (S Graham Street) and Northeast Seattle (NE 130th Street), and connections important to the entire region in the International District.

I plan to invite Sound Transit to return to our committee later this year to update us on the complex Environmental Impact Statement process.  The EIS is an appropriate platform to raise other issues important to us such as the need for thoughtful input from neighbors and other stakeholders to ensure excellent access to stations and integration in our communities. Let’s deliver a positive experience for transit riders as we encourage more people to move from gasoline-fueled cars to carbon-friendly transit as much as possible to meet our ambitious goals to address the crisis of climate change.

To see Sound Transit’s June 16 presentation, CLICK HERE.

Northgate Pedestrian/Bike Bridge Installed

This gleaming new pedestrian/bike bridge connects the neighborhoods of North Seattle College to the vital Northgate Transit Station on the eastern side of I-5. The new light rail station opens here (and in Roosevelt and in the U District) October 2.  This new bridge is in District 5, represented by Debora Juárez, who worked with many bridge supporters to help secure the funding for this vital connection. Councilmember Juárez has expressed enthusiasm for naming the new bridge after national civil rights leader and longtime member of Congress John Lewis who recently passed away. A defining moment of the legendary “Conscience of Congress” is Lewis’s historic crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 when State troopers violently attacked Lewis and other marchers. John Lewis’s 2017 book “Across that Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America” is an inspiration to a new generation of leaders. To listen to a clip, CLICK HERE.

Ship Canal Water Quality Project: Making Progress on Time and on Budget

Both Wallyhood and my Committee provided an update on this massive public works environmental endeavor: the Ship Canal Water Quality Project stretching from Wallingford to Ballard. For the link to the June 11, 2021 Wallyhood article, CLICK HERE. For the June 16, 2021 presentation to my Transportation & Utilities Committee, CLICK HERE. For details about this mega project on my blog, CLICK HERE.

Two New Light Rail Stations and Bus Service Changes, October 2021

We previously announced the changes King County Metro will be making to bus routes in Northeast Seattle October 2021 with the opening of the two light rail stations (University District on Brooklyn Ave and Roosevelt on NE 65th Street). To assist other transit riders in Northeast Seattle, we have upgraded our blog post with user-friendly information for transit riders including easier access to info on each bus route:  CLICK HERE.


PUBLIC SAFETY

Honoring Our City Government Colleague Lexi Harris

On June 13, 2021, our fellow city government colleague Officer Alexandra B Harris was driving home after finishing her shift when she came upon a multi-vehicle collision on Interstate 5, near South Forest Street.

Committed to the City of Seattle’s values of community caretaking, Officer Harris pulled over to check on the people involved in the collision. While outside her vehicle, another passing motorist struck and killed her.

Officer Harris—known as Lexi by her friends and colleagues— grew up in North Seattle and came from a family dedicated to public service in Washington State.  Lexi leaves behind a tight-knit family, including her fiancé and his daughters.

“Officer Harris embodied everything the Seattle Police Department is working to become,” said Chief Adrian Diaz. “Her dedication to the people of this city is an example to every member of our department, and all those who will come after her.”

 

Hiring a Crime Prevention Coordinator for our North Precinct – Finally!

After continually advocating for this crime prevention position to be filled again, SPD finally posted the job announcement!  If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in serving our North Precinct as a Crime Prevention Coordinator, CLICK HERE.

The North Precinct is the largest of all 5 police precincts in Seattle and needs at least this one position to assist residents and small business with crime prevention and personal safety tips. According to the job posting, the position “closes” for applicants June 29, so that SPD can get someone into the job as soon as possible.  I attended the presentation by the Crime Prevention Coordinator at the Eastlake Community Council June 16 and it was very informative. (Eastlake is part of the “West Precinct” which includes downtown Seattle.)

CB 119981 Did Not Pass

I had previously shared my concerns with Council Bill 119981 and, thankfully, it failed by a vote of 3 to 6. I appreciate the hard work of the sponsors in trying to craft a compromise, but I believe it was not appropriate to cut more from our first responders at this time (as I explain below). Councilmembers who voted against the bill had various reasons for voting NO, as explained in an article by SCC Insight: CLICK HERE. Here are my reasons:

Councilmember Alex Pedersen’s Statement on City Council Rejecting Council Bill 119981 on June 1, 2021:

“I’ve worked hard to be clear and consistent for my constituents: at this time, I cannot support additional cuts to public safety until effective alternatives are in place. This Council Bill is complex but, at the end of the day, it continues to reduce resources from our police department at a time when we are seeing record-breaking attrition of officers, so I will be voting No. I believe it’s premature to label the loss of police officers through attrition as budgetary “savings” that can be immediately scooped away and spent elsewhere. The record-breaking attrition of officers is alarming and response times to priority 911 calls are too long. By the end of the year, I want to be sure the department has the funds it needs to hire more crime prevention officers, to retain good officers, to ramp up recruitment of diverse and progressive officers, to implement the federal consent decree and heed the warnings of the federal judge and his monitor, to increase training, and to return experienced officers to their community policing work instead of working overtime on patrol. Yes, let’s lift the budget provisos to free up some of the dollars, but not by cutting more with the other hand.

“While I believe the intentions of the sponsors of the bill were positive, this bill has become a distraction since its conception six months ago. Despite the hard work of the Committee Chair to craft a compromise and the well-intentioned amendments, I believe this bill not only sends an unproductive and negative message to the remaining city government workers in the public safety field who are already stretched thin, but also steals time and attention away from the most impactful task at hand for justice and reform — and that’s revamping the unjust, inflexible, and expensive contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

Let’s get back to supporting the work of our Labor Relations Policy Committee (LPRC), so they can revise the police contract in a way that is positive for the community, for the officers, for the budget, and for sustainable and systemic justice. Thank you.”


CONQUERING COVID AND
BUILDING BACK BETTER

The “Seattle Rescue Plan” Includes Investments for Addressing Homelessness, Small Business Recovery, and Internet for All

On Monday, I was happy to vote in favor of our “Seattle Rescue Plan” to invest another batch of relief and recovery funds from our federal government — in this case, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). I want to thank our Mayor Jenny Durkan, Council President Gonzalez, and Budget Chair Mosqueda for collaborating on this package so that we can get the money out the door quickly.

  • Homelessness: The largest investment in the plan is for the priorities of homelessness and affordable housing– almost $50 million.
  • Recovery: Our plan dedicates over $23 million to assisting small businesses and community organizations, which have been some of the hardest-hit by the pandemic’s economic impacts.
  • Internet for All: The pandemic reinforced the need to prioritize bridging the gaps in digital equity for Seattleites, and our plan modestly boosts investments in our Internet for All Action Plan — though we need to do much more for technology in our Fall budget process for 2022.

This “Seattle Rescue Plan” is for the rest of 2021. City Council will be undertaking our usual process for the $1.6 billion General Fund budget 2022 this fall. In addition, we will be receiving another $120 million from the federal government’s ARPA package to appropriate for 2022.

I want to thank Councilmember Morales for inviting a national expert from the Brookings Institution as well as local stakeholders  to her Community Economic Development Committee. For their presentations, CLICK HERE. A theme from Brookings was for the city to have a more focused and strategic economic development strategy.  Specifically, we need to connect current Seattle residents to the well-paying jobs already here and to concentrate our economic development efforts not on just any business but on those employers and industries with the best potential  to grow the number of well-paying jobs. This not only helps those promising local employers by reducing their recruitment costs, but also provides more and better job opportunities to the people who already call Seattle home so they are not displaced.

For my Op Ed on an Inclusive Economic Recovery as published in the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

 

Moratorium on Evictions Extended Again

Announced by the Mayor’s Office June 18, 2021: “As state and county funds for rental assistance are distributed in the coming weeks, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced today that she is extending the residential and commercial eviction moratoria [from June 30] through September 30, 2021, through Executive Order 2021-06. The order will also modify additional COVID-related relief measures related to utility assistance. This marks the fifth extension of the eviction moratoria as part of the COVID-19 civil emergency since March 14, 2020.“

“…Throughout the pandemic, city-funded rental and housing assistance total approximately $75 million for tenants, landlords, and city-funded affordable housing providers, in addition to State and County resources.”

As the Mayor stated, “While we continue to be in a state of emergency, this three-month extension will ensure we can provide the cash rental assistance and housing support that is critical to stabilizing the community as we reopen.”

For the Mayor’s full announcement, CLICK HERE.

For my votes on recent residential landlord-tenant regulations, CLICK HERE.

 

Seattle First City in U.S. to Achieve 70% Vaccination Goal!

From Mayor’s June 9, 2021 press release:

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced that Seattle is the first major American city to fully vaccinate 70 percent of its residents 12 years-old and older. Seattle has surpassed the City of San Francisco which had been leading the country in vaccinations and the State of Vermont which is leading all states in vaccination rates. Seattle also exceeded Governor Inslee’s goal in vaccinating 70 percent of 16 and older residents and President Biden’s goal in vaccinating 70 percent of adults who are 18 or older….

“When we launched our vaccination effort earlier this year, I said that I wanted to Seattle to become the first major American city to fully vaccinate 70 percent of its residents. Today, I am incredibly proud that we have reached that goal,” said Mayor Durkan….

City and countywide, COVID-19 case rates and COVID-related deaths are falling. Seattle continues to have the lowest cases, hospitalizations, and deaths of every major city. Countywide, an estimated 95 percent of all new cases are in individuals who have not started their vaccine series….

Now that Seattle has reached a level of community protection needed to keep the majority of our residents safe from COVID-19, the City and its partners will begin to launch new efforts to throughout the summer to support Seattle’s reopening and recovery. ..Residents who have not yet completed the vaccination process can still get vaccinated at the Lumen Field Event Center (closes end of day June 12), Rainier Beach Vaccination Hub (closes end of day June 23), and the SODO Testing and Vaccination Site, which will remain in operation well into summer. In addition, the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) Mobile Vaccination Teams will continue to host pop-up vaccination clinics in neighborhoods throughout Seattle. Residents can also visit https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/ to find a provider near them.

For more information, including how to get vaccinated today, visit the City’s vaccination website at www.seattle.gov/vaccine. The site contains vaccination information in seven languages, and in-language assistance is also available over the phone.

Please continue to follow all public health guidance, including indoor masking for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and visit this website from Public Health – Seattle & King County for more information.

City Council will Reconsider Grocery Worker Hazard Pay in July

When City Council passed temporary hazard pay for grocery store workers of an additional $4/hour in January, there were tentative plans for reconsidering the ordinance based on public health indicators in a few months. The original Council Bill stated, “City Council intends to consider modifying or eliminating hazard pay requirements after four or months of implementation and review of the current health, safety, and economic risks of frontline work during the COVID-19 emergency.”  I’m pleased to report that the Finance Committee, chaired by Councilmember Mosqueda, followed through and hosted a panel to revisit the ordinance earlier this month.

Based primarily on safety data and the experiences of grocery workers, the committee determined that it is time to consider ending hazard pay. I want to thank the ordinance’s sponsor Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, representatives of the employers (grocery store owners), and the grocery workers union UFCW Local 21 for taking the time to have an in-depth discussion. CLICK HERE to take a look at the presentation from Seattle-King County Public Health.

Councilmember Mosqueda plans to have legislation to sunset hazard pay in the Finance Committee on July 9, 2021.

Regarding the beloved QFC store that the Cincinnati-based Kroger Company decided to close in the Wedgwood neighborhood at 35th Ave NE and NE 85th Street, I continue to encourage grocers to expand to that location.

Unemployment Relief Requirements Return

State officials announced that Washingtonians collecting unemployment benefits will again be required to actively search for work to keep those benefits, starting July 4.

Gov. Jay Inslee had temporarily suspended the job-search requirement last spring.

“With the economy recovering, the job search requirement is going back into effect,” the Employment Security Department (ESD) noted on its unemployment website. “This means you will be required to look for work and document at least three approved job search activities each week in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.’”

For ESD’s website, CLICK HERE. For the City of Seattle’s COVID relief programs, CLICK HERE.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone 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.

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.  We plan to restart in-person office hours Friday afternoons in September.

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

We are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Find It, Fix It


Updates for King County Metro Bus and Sound Transit Riders

June 15th, 2021

June 24, 2021 UPDATE:

A thorough analysis of the changes coming October 2021 for King County Metro bus lines was published by Stephen Fesler in The Urbanist blog: CLICK HERE.


MAY 27, 2021 UPDATE: Bus Routes in District 4 will Change with Light Rail Stations Opening in October

Some King County Metro bus routes in our district will change when Sound Transit opens the new Roosevelt and University District (Brooklyn Ave) light rail stations on October 2, 2021. We are eagerly awaiting the opening of these new stations and the quick, frequent service they will provide all the way from City Council Districts 4 and 5 to Capitol Hill, Downtown, Sea-Tac airport, and beyond. But many of us will need to adjust our travel patterns to the updated Metro bus routes that are changing to maximize use of this growing regional transit system. For example, riders of the 74 bus will be driven to the new U District light rail station on Brooklyn Avenue instead of directly to downtown and, if your trip originates from Sand Point, you’ll have the option of riding the new 79 bus to the new Roosevelt light rail station. For that example of the 74 and 79 buses, CLICK HERE. For info on other bus route changes, CLICK HERE and then click on “Route Information” at the top of that site (or see list below). More bus information is available at THIS LINK.

To comment directly to King County Metro about your buses, CLICK HERE or call them at 206-553-3000. For Sound Transit, CLICK HERE.

We have been in close contact with King County Metro, Sound Transit, and our own Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and will continue to share your feedback with them.

King County Bus Route changes starting October 2021:

RouteStatusPDF Link
16NewRoute 16 PDF
20New (replacement of Route 26)Route 20 PDF
23No Longer ProposedRoute 23 PDF
25No Longer ProposedRoute 25 PDF
31 and 32RevisedRoutes 31 and 32 PDF
41ReplacedRoute 41 PDF
44RevisedRoute 44 PDF
45RevisedRoute 45 PDF
48RevisedRoute 48 PDF
49RevisedRoute 49 PDF
61No Longer ProposedRoute 61 PDF
62UnchangedRoute 62 PDF
63ReplacedRoute 63 PDF
64RevisedRoute 64 PDF
65 and 67UnchangedRoutes 65 and 67 PDF
68No Longer ProposedRoute 68 PDF
70RevisedRoute 70 PDF
71ReplacedRoute 71 PDF
73RevisedRoute 73 PDF
74 and 79Revised and NewRoutes 74 and 79 PDF
75RevisedRoute 75 PDF
76ReplacedRoute 76 PDF
77ReplacedRoute 77 PDF
78ReplacedRoute 78 PDF
301RevisedRoute 301 PDF
302NewRoute 302 PDF
303RevisedRoute 303 PDF
304RevisedRoute 304 PDF
308ReplacedRoute 308 PDF
309ReplacedRoute 309 PDF
312ReplacedRoute 312 PDF
316ReplacedRoute 316 PDF
320New (previously 361)Route 320 PDF
322NewRoute 322 PDF
331RevisedRoute 331 PDF
345RevisedRoute 345 PDF
346RevisedRoute 346 PDF
347RevisedRoute 347 PDF
348RevisedRoute 348 PDF
355ReplacedRoute 355 PDF
372RevisedRoute 372 PDF
373ReplacedRoute 373 PDF

the changes above will be in effect October 2021

MARCH 2021: Bus Route Changes Starting March 2021 (until October 2021).

Typically, King County announces bus route changes twice a year and these go into effect in the Spring and in the Fall. For the changes in effect starting March 2021, CLICK HERE.


MARCH 20, 2020 (original post): Paying Transit Fares is Optional as COVID Pandemic Worsens

As of Saturday, March 21, 2020 it’s optional to pay fares for both King County Metro and Sound Transit, until further notice

In response to significantly reduced ridership since the emergence of COVID-19, Metro will temporarily move to a Reduced Schedule starting Monday, March 23

The reductions are designed to maintain off-peak hours. Schedules will be posted on Metro’s web page Saturday, March 21.  A few routes are being suspended entirely during the crisis. Alternatives for the temporarily suspended Route 78 (Children’s Hospital to UW/Husky Stadium Link Station) are: Routes 31/32, 65/67, and 75. The best alternative route for the temporarily suspended Sound Transit Route 541 from Overlake to the UW/Stadium Link is Route 542.

Even with these temporary reductions in the frequency of bus service during this crisis, we’re relieved King County Metro will maintain most bus routes throughout Seattle connecting everyone to places of care, to services (including grocery stores), and to jobs for Seattle residents unable to work from home.

Metro’s press release is here: https://kingcountymetro.blog/2020/03/19/reducedschedule/

Route schedule and map page: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/schedules-maps.aspx

Metro info page with links: https://metrocommute.wordpress.com/

Seattle routes: https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2020/03/19/temporary-transit-service-reductions-start-monday-march-23/

King County Executive press release: https://www.kingcounty.gov/elected/executive/constantine/news/release/2020/March/20-metro-covid19-update.aspx

Sound Transit press release: https://www.soundtransit.org/get-to-know-us/news-events/news-releases/sound-transit-to-suspend-fares-all-transit-modes-until


Seattle Policy Changes Impacting Residential Tenants and Housing Providers (Landlords): 2020 and 2021

June 7th, 2021

Introduction: During the past two years, the Seattle City Council has passed several new policies and funding to benefit residential tenants. Some of this legislation I supported and some I did not, depending on the specifics of each proposal. In general, if the proposal was targeted to serve those in financial need during the COVID pandemic and related economic recession, I supported it. If the bill was not linked to the pandemic, not targeted to those in need, not effective in other jurisdictions, and/or posed a significant legal risk to the City, I generally did not support it. The 9-member City Council adopted all of this legislation regardless of my vote. For context, it’s important to note that previous City Councils put in place many other protections for residential tenants prior to 2020 and the State government has recently adopted new protections (and funding) for tenants. This blog post provides key details of the Seattle policies and funding for 2020 and 2021 (with the most recent events listed first). I agree that tenants are still vulnerable to sharp rent increases from their landlords due to the State Law prohibiting rent control. In addition, I believe policymakers should continue to subsidize low-income housing for those in need and should support effective solutions that prevent homelessness. For some additional details on affordable housing and homelessness, CLICK HERE. Thank you.

NOTE: My office will be adding to this blog post other legislative updates (if any) and some financial assistance details (such as the City’s Fall 2020 budget adopted for 2021 and the various funding from the State and federal governments, including “ARPA,” the American Rescue Plan Act). In addition to what is documented here and in addition to the stimulus checks and boosts to unemployment insurance, money from all levels of government should continue to flow to Seattle landlords and tenants in need.


June 21, 2021 UPDATE:

Indicating her overall opposition to Council Bills 120046, 120077, 120090, Mayor Durkan returned them all un-signed (which is consistent with my No vote on those 3 bills). Unlike our U.S. Constitution which requires the chief executive (the President) to sign bills coming from the legislature (the Congress), our City Charter does not require the chief executive (the Mayor) to sign bills from the legislature (the City Council) for them to become law. You may have heard the term “pocket veto” whereby the President does NOT sign a law and it fails to become law. In Seattle, we have what I call “pocket passage” whereby the Mayor does NOT sign a law, but it becomes law anyway. Nevertheless, this decision requires the Mayor to explain her rationale for not signing and express her general opposition, even if she does not exercise her veto authority. For her letter explaining her opposition to CB 120046, 120077, and 120090, CLICK HERE. (Note: to overturn a mayoral veto, the Council needs only 6 votes. Therefore, if a bill received 6 votes during its initial passage, sometimes a mayor would not go through the exercise of vetoing it, because it is likely to be overridden anyway.)


June 7, 2021 UPDATE:

Today the Seattle City Council passed one Resolution and three Ordinances to favor residential tenants. Notably, all three ordinances are permanent, new laws that extend beyond the COVID pandemic.

Resolution 31998: Passed 7 to 0; I voted Yes.

In response to the economic recession caused by COVID, all levels of government have approved additional financial assistance for those struggling to pay for rent, which includes additional unemployment insurance, direct rental assistance, and other funding. We have confirmation from mainstream media reports, however, that it is taking longer than hoped to get the additional dollars for rental assistance out of the door and into the hands of struggling tenants and housing providers. While, ideally, we would not need another 6 months, this Resolution is non-binding, so I will be supporting it. I believe making housing providers whole with the money owed to them is the best path, rather than making permanent regulatory changes. Extending the eviction ban would provide more time as we emerge from the pandemic.

Council Bill 120046: Passed 6 to 1; I voted No.

My remarks: “Colleagues, I offered several amendments at the Renters Rights Committee which I believed would have made this legislation better. I saw it as my role to offer those amendments for consideration at the Committee on which I serve and rather than to retry or rehash them at full Council…

• I agree with the sponsor of the legislation that evictions present hardships for children and families, and no one wants to have this disruption that leads to learning loss and instability for children.
• I have voted in favor of numerous tenant protections during the past year, including the winter ban on evictions for low- and moderate-income residents, free legal counsel for those in need and facing eviction, and the payment plans for those impacted negatively by the COVID pandemic. Today I supported the Resolution to encourage another extension to the eviction moratorium to provide more time to have more rental assistance money flow from the federal and State governments to both housing providers and tenants. Before joining the City Council, I help to build and preserve tens of thousands of units of affordable housing and I worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helping to allocate billions of dollars to address homelessness throughout the country.
• However, I believe the more targeted, direct, and efficient solution is to fund tenant and landlord assistance for those in need rather piling on yet another regulation that could be legally challenged because it leaves one party — the providers of the housing, bearing the brunt of the cost. Regulating rather than funding the solutions is more likely to have a substantial negative impact — not on so-called “corporate landlords” he can absorb these costs imposed by City Council, but on the smallest landlords in our city. For all of the ordinances before us today, my amendments would have exempted small landlords (owning 4 or fewer units in Seattle).
• Regarding this Council Bill 120046, the permanent bill that would single out “educators” for special rental protections,
o one of my amendments would have targeted the bill to assist teachers and substitute teachers (and curriculum specialists) rather than every single employee at the school who might not be involved in the direct education of children. Moreover, my amendment would still have kept the special new protection for the school children and their families.
o Another amendment would have made the bill more like the law from San Francisco which limits the eviction protections to when it is no fault of a tenant who is an Educator. But my amendment would have been broader than San Francisco’s banning those evictions for school children and their families.
o Another amendment would have changed this permanent alteration of landlord-tenant relations to an 18-month pilot program to determine whether it is effective. It’s important for the general public to know that this bill is different from recent COVID relief bills because it would be permanent.

[These amendments, unfortunately, did not pass.]

I believe we should focus on getting the targeted funding to those in need, rather than permanently altering the contractual relationships to put the burden entirely on the housing provider. To be consistent with my votes at Committee, I will be voting No today. Thank you.”

Council Bill 120077: Passed 5-2; I voted No.

My remarks: “For this Council Bill 120077, I offered two amendments at the Renters Rights Committee on May 26: the first amendment would have exempted small landlords; the second would have allowed this regulatory change for 18 months so that it corresponds to the potential lingering effects of the COVID recession. I think we need to be mindful of the financial challenges faced by smaller housing providers who lack the economies of scale to absorb these city-imposed costs. I also do not think it is appropriate to make such regulatory legislation permanent.

Neither of my amendments passed, so I voted NO at Committee and, since nothing material has changed since that time, I will be voting No today. While this legislation says it’s related to the COVID civil emergency, it would be a permanent law.

Rather than making wholesale and permanent regulatory changes to existing contractual relationships that put the entire burden onto the housing provider regardless of their hardship, I believe we should instead get the funding into the hands of the housing providers to make them whole for the tenants who truly need that help.”

Council Bill 120090: Passed 5 to 2; I voted No.

My remarks: “I think I would have been able to support this legislation Council Bill 120090 if a similar State law had not passed. But a similar State Law House Bill 1236 recently passed.

Council Bill 120090 is, in my opinion, pre-empted by State law which includes, but is not limited to the newly State law House Bill 1236.

As I understand it, local laws are generally pre-empted by State laws that conflict on the same subject matter, even if the State law does not expressly include a pre-emption clause.

So, it’s not clear to me why this City Council is proceeding to adopt a City law that could burden the City with substantial legal risk.

Consistent with my vote at the Committee level, I will be voting No on Council Bill 120090 because of the concerns with pre-emption by the State government.”

More Info: For a Seattle Times article on the legislation, CLICK HERE. For an SCC Insight article, CLICK HERE.


March 29, 2021 UPDATE: (excerpt from newsletter)

Mayor Durkan and Governor Inslee Extend COVID-19 Eviction Moratoriums to June 30, 2021

Following last week’s announcement of $23 million of additional rental assistance and the prospect of new rental assistance available to Seattle and King County through the new American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Mayor Durkan extended COVID-19 relief measures, including the eviction moratoriums to protect residential, nonprofit, and small business tenants in the City of Seattle through June 30, 2021. Other COVID-19 relief measures include extending the Utility Discount Program’s Self Certification Pilot Program until June 30, 2021, which can lower Seattle City Light bills by 60 percent and Seattle Public Utility bills by 50 percent for people who meet the eligibility requirements.

Residential tenants who receive an eviction notice during the moratorium should contact the Renting in Seattle hotline at 206‐684‐5700 or go online to submit a complaint. On top of the current proposal for $23 million for rental assistance, the City of Seattle has committed $18 million to rental assistance  in addition to state and King County resources for landlords and tenants. If you’re a small business, see the Office of Economic Development’s COVID-19 Lease Amendment Tool Kit.

The City continues to maintain a comprehensive resource page for residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19.


March 29, 2021 and March 4, 2021 UPDATE (excerpt from newsletter):

Councilmember Sawant’s Bill for Tenants (“Right to Counsel” Council Bill 120007): My No Vote at Committee and Yes at Full City Council

Consistent with the additional $1.9 Trillion in additional federal relief (for a total of $5 Trillion) and our Governor and Mayor extending the eviction moratorium several more months, I agree we must continually prevent evictions whenever possible. This is why I joined the rest of City Hall leaders and…

  • Increased funding for tenant supports, including funds for legal assistance to prevent evictions.
  • Supported reforms at the State legislature to provide tenants with more protections.
  • Banned evictions during the coldest winter months.
  • Prevented evictions throughout the COVID pandemic (and the eviction moratorium is being extended).
  • Adopted the Council President’s legislation to allow for installments of back rent following COVID.

However, Councilmember Sawant’s new legislation (Council Bill 120007) to have city taxpayers foot the bills for free attorneys for anyone being evicted is concerning on a number of fronts, so I voted against it at her Committee on March 4. I will continue to support effective, targeted — and funded — eviction prevention measures, but Sawant’s original bill is seriously flawed, in my opinion, and the analysis put forward in support of it was inadequate.

All of us want to prevent homelessness and we continue to increase those positive efforts; therefore, it’s disappointing and misleading whenever Councilmember Sawant mischaracterizes legitimate concerns with her unfunded bill as somehow destined to contribute to homelessness.

I believe this type of government assistance and intervention to pay lawyers for any residential tenant — regardless of their income or the reason for the eviction proceedings — should be budgeted, rather than dictated or mandated permanently. In fact, we added money for these legal services already in our most recent annual budget process just a few months ago. Even as new federal relief dollars flow, we must continue to monitor the eviction situation for the actual need and then respond accordingly — as we will with all other budget priorities facing our city. Singling out this issue over other needs of our city and its residents is fiscally irresponsible and creates false promises.

I would have been able to vote Yes for this bill if it had been focused and funded. When promising to provide city tax dollars to private individuals, I believe we should:

  • subsidize those who are truly in need (such as low income residents only),
  • target help only to those tenants who cannot afford to pay their rent due to extraordinary circumstances (non-payment of rent rather than other violations of the lease),
  • support fiscal responsibility: instead of creating an unfunded mandate, let’s acknowledge that it can be funded only to the extent our city budget can afford it as we also strive to fund childcare, public safety, supports for those experiencing homelessness, transit subsidies, utility discounts, and the list goes on and on.

But, unfortunately, the current version of Sawant’s bill is un-targeted and un-funded legislation that ties the city taxpayers to unknown (unquantified) financial requirements to pay for lawyers for anyone of any income level — for all time.

Note: Sawant’s bill was scheduled for a vote at the full City Council on March 15, 2021, but six Councilmembers (including me) voted to delay it for two weeks for a variety of reasons, including the Mayor’s extension of the eviction moratorium and a desire by some Councilmembers to amend the bill (something that should have happened when it was in Councilmember Sawant’s Committee). While I have supported and will continue to support eviction prevention and low-income tenant supports, Councilmember Sawant’s bill would need to amended substantially for me to change my vote.  In the meantime, the eviction moratorium remains in place and substantial new dollars will be flowing from the $1.9 Trillion relief package signed recently by President Biden.

Update to this post on March 29, 2021: Later at the meeting of the full City Council, this bill was substantially amended with Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4 and so I was able to vote for the final, amended version. Here are the remarks I made at the full City Council meeting: “To enact laws strong enough to survive scrutiny — so that we can actually help our most vulnerable neighbors — policymakers need the time to think through the various ramifications and, because we took the time in this case, we were able to consider and approve sensible amendments to make this legislation better — and so I am able to update my vote to YES.”  While I remain concerned this bill creates a first-of-its-kind, un-quantified mandate instead of prudently being “subject to budget discussions and available appropriations,” the combination of the four amendments enabled me to update my vote to YES. The amendments (a) target the bill to those who truly cannot afford an attorney, (b) focus the tax dollars on actual legal representation in the courtroom (instead of just vague advocacy), (c) require reports, and (d) prompt the city department to conduct an open, competitive process to allocate the tax dollars to qualified attorney nonprofits.  It will be important to see how this legislation impacts not only tenants but also smaller landlords (those owning fewer than 5 units) because those smaller “mom & pop” landlords provide important housing opportunities to Seattle’s residents.


UPDATE January 28, 2021 (excerpt from newsletter):

Eviction Moratorium Extended by Feds, Governor, and Mayor (to March 31, 2021)

The risk of evictions is concerning to many as we continue to experience the ongoing economic impacts of the pandemic. In the City of Seattle, the Mayor on December 15, 2020 extended her eviction moratorium until March 31, 2021. The Governor’s State eviction moratorium was also recently extended to March 31, 2021. Proclamation 20-19.5 extends state rental assistance programs to incorporate the newly approved federal funding for rental assistance. Furthermore, the stated goal of these rental assistance programs is modified to provide a path for landlords, property owners, and property managers to initiate an application for rental assistance. The proclamation also clarifies that landlords and property owners may communicate with tenants in support of their applications for rental assistance.

However, I recognize that federal and state action must also occur to prevent foreclosures. The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will extend their moratorium evictions until February 28, 2021. The federal government has extended its moratorium protecting mortgages under jurisdiction of HUD (FHA-insured) to March 31st . Unfortunately, these foreclosure moratoriums apply only to mortgages on single-family homes. We also need a foreclosure moratorium for multifamily housing (apartment buildings), which can be done only at the state and federal levels, according to banking laws. A multifamily housing foreclosure moratorium is needed to enable apartment owners to survive which can, in turn, help renters. We have asked our Office of Intergovernmental Relations to track this possibility.


May 11, 2020 UPDATE:

Council Bill 119788: Payment Plans for Residential Tenants (COVID-related). I voted Yes. Bill Title: “AN ORDINANCE relating to residential rental agreements; allowing residential tenants to pay rent in installments when the tenant is unable to timely pay rent; declaring an emergency; and establishing an immediate effective date; all by a 3/4 vote of the City Council.”

Council Bill 119787: Preventing the use of eviction history to be considered during — and up to 6 months after — the Mayor’s Civil Emergency period I voted No. Bill Title: “AN ORDINANCE relating to the use of eviction records; regulating the use of eviction history in residential housing; prohibiting landlords from considering evictions related to COVID-19 during and after the civil emergency; amending the title of Chapter 14.09 and Sections 14.09.005, 14.09.010, 14.09.020, and 14.09.030 of, and adding a new Section 14.09.026 to, the Seattle Municipal Code; declaring an emergency; and establishing an immediate effective date; all by a 3/4 vote of the City Council.

Excerpt of my prepared remarks: “I’m becoming increasingly concerned that we are seeing bills that invoke the emergency legislative clause of our City Charter (which enables legislation to take effect immediately) for time periods that last well beyond the declared emergency. [City Charter, Title IV, Section I (i)]

I have supported the eviction restrictions in two ground-breaking bills recently adopted by this City Council. I am, however, voting No on this bill because I believe…

_its far-reaching impacts are rushed with only 7 days to consider it;

_ it does not, in my opinion, to meet the test that it is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety;

_it does not exempt smaller landlords;

_ I am in favor of fairness about eviction records during this COVID crisis. The legislation in front of us today, however, covers a longer time period well into the future. To be clear, this legislation would be not just for a few months after the Mayor’s eviction moratorium ends, but after the declared “emergency” ends. This is an important point.  The emergency as declared by the Mayor is likely to stay in place for several months — if not for more than a year — AFTER the eviction moratorium ends. The Mayor is likely to keep her emergency declaration in place long after the eviction moratorium ends because we may need it in place to maximize funding and reimbursement from the federal government.  We just do not know for how long it will last and yet today we are setting in stone a specified time frame for additional, hyper-specific regulations and top of previous regulations.”


May 4, 2020 UPDATE: Additional Defense from Eviction (COVID-related)

City Council approves additional defense from eviction for renters suffering financial hardship for one-time, 6-month “ramp down” following COVID (Council Bill 119784; I voted Yes.)

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

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

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

Here is additional background on the approved legislation:

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

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

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

I proposed three amendments:

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

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

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

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

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


March 3, 2020: CIVIL EMERGENCY ORDER, CITY OF SEATTLE, MORATORIUM ON RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS

Note: This moratorium was extended several times, in concert with Governor Inslee’s moratorium, until June 30, 2021.

A. Effective immediately, a moratorium on residential evictions is hereby ordered until the earlier of the termination of the civil emergency declared in the Proclamation of Civil Emergency dated March 3, 2020 or 60 days from the effective date of this Emergency Order. The decision to extend the moratorium shall be evaluated and determined
by the Mayor based on public health necessity;
B. A residential landlord shall not initiate an unlawful detainer action, issue a notice of termination, or otherwise act on any termination notice, including any action or notice related to a rental agreement that has expired or will expire during the effective date of this Emergency Order, unless the unlawful detainer action or action on a termination notice
is due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members. Further, no late fees or other charges due to late payment of rent shall accrue during the moratorium; and
C. It shall be a defense to any eviction action that the eviction of the tenant will occur during the moratorium, unless the eviction action is due to actions by the tenant constituting an imminent threat to the health or safety of neighbors, the landlord, or the tenant’s or landlord’s household members. For any pending eviction action, regardless if the tenant has appeared, a court may grant a continuance for a future hearing date in order for the eviction action to be heard after the moratorium a court may grant a continuance for a future court date in order for the matter
to heard at a time after the moratorium is terminated; and
D. Effective immediately, the Sheriff of King County is requested to cease execution of eviction orders during the moratorium.”

For the full Civil Emergency Order temporarily banning most residential evictions during the COVID emergency, CLICK HERE.


February 11, 2020 (copy of original post):

My vote to limit winter evictions during our homelessness crisis (Council Bill 119726; Ordinance 126041)

In a surprising 7-0 vote this afternoon, the City Council passed an audacious ordinance prohibiting larger landlords from evicting low and moderate income tenants in Seattle during the 3 coldest months of December, January, and February, with exceptions for criminal and unsafe activities and other just causes for eviction.

The vote was surprising because I voted in favor of it, even though I had signaled my substantial concerns.

Why? The short answer is that the original legislation was improved substantially by a slew of amendments from various Councilmembers, including me. Moreover, in the midst of our deliberations, it was clear this legislation had overwhelming support to pass — so I believe it was then my job to make the inevitable legislation better, rather than be the lone ”no” vote on worse legislation.

I was relieved that the Council approved my amendment to exempt “small landlords,” defined as those with an ownership interest in four or fewer units. Small landlords were literally excluded from the table during Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s committee, but those “mom and pop” local landlords got their message through regardless: they are able to offer rental units to the housing market only if they can collect the rent needed to pay their mortgage, utilities, insurance, taxes, and maintenance. I heard over and over in person and by email from constituents that this was their main concern, and I tailored my amendment to address this concern. I could not stop the legislation but, in a close 4-3 vote, I was able to make it more reasonable.

While the Committee rejected my amendment to apply the winter eviction moratorium just to very low-income tenants in housing that received city-government financial assistance, the Council approved an amendment to limit it to low and moderate income people (those earning the area median income or less).

What’s next? I appreciate the valid concerns raised by Mayor Durkan and her key department heads. If Mayor Durkan vetoes the legislation, it would return to the City Council, which would need to muster at least 6 votes to overturn it. I welcome further discussion, especially about the additional funding needed to prevent evictions and our mutual desire to avoid a successful legal challenge. The point, after all, is to prevent evictions to stop exacerbating our homelessness crisis during the coldest months, rather than to engage in long and expensive legal battles.

To watch the video on Seattle Channel, go to minute 57:51: https://www.seattlechannel.org/FullCouncil/?videoid=x111178

Here is a link to the Seattle Times article: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-city-council-approves-legislation-protecting-renters-from-wintertime-evictionsme-evictions/ Here’s an excerpt from that article: “Before voting 7-0, the council trimmed the period covered by the legislation from five months to three months; limited the rule to low- and moderate-income tenants; and exempted landlords with four or fewer housing units. The legislation is meant to prevent most evictions during the coldest months for people behind on their rent. Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who sponsored the legislation, expressed disappointment with the amendments, calling them loopholes…”

# # #

More Information:

For relevant City of Seattle guidance and regulations impacting renters and landlords, CLICK HERE.


Honoring George Floyd, Conquering COVID, and more for D4

May 27th, 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

It’s been a year since George Floyd launched an overdue racial reckoning when a Minneapolis police officer murdered him. This monthly newsletter honors George Floyd’s legacy and acknowledges there is much more to do for justice and community safety.  Our May newsletter also includes a link to our District 4 Town Hall video and updates you on addressing homelessness, increasing internet access, tackling utility bills, and conquering COVID. Thank you.


DISTRICT 4

Spring 2021 Town Hall for our District

Thank you to everyone who participated in our District 4 Town Hall on May 11!  Professional staff from our Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) generously joined the conversation to share how the City addresses encampments and homelessness outreach.  Thank you, HSD, for working hard on the constantly shifting direction and policy you are receiving from City Hall and the transition of many elements to the new Regional Homelessness Authority so that we can finally apply regional solutions to this regional problem. I also answered several questions from constituents regarding transportation, public safety and land use issues. You can view the Town Hall by CLICKING HERE.

In the Heart of the Our District: University District

Councilmember Pedersen in our University District supporting the COVID Vaccine Pop-Up Clinic May 7, 2021.

The University District continues to undergo massive changes even as we emerge from the pandemic. While visiting a pop-up vaccine clinic on NE 43rd Street near the new Brooklyn Ave Sound Transit station, I was able to say Hello to several board members of the Business Improvement Area (BIA). Many thanks to the University District Partnership (the nonprofit that manages the BIA) for activating that street after months of construction.

Community Councils: Get Involved!

In addition to hosting our district-wide Town Hall, my office attended several community council meetings this month. My Legislative Aide Malik Davis attended the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association meeting as well as the University District Community Council. I was able to attend the Wallingford Community Council meeting when they elected new officers.  Community Councils offer an important platform for neighbors to get involved with local government issues. To explore your community council, CLICK HERE.

Congratulations to Eastlake News and Eastlake Community Council for 50 Years!

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to the Eastlake Community Council and Eastlake News! The Eastlake Community Council and its publication, Eastlake News, have been community treasures for decades. Both are vital parts of the community providing some of the most thorough information about local government to inform residents and small businesses throughout the dynamic Eastlake neighborhood. (CLICK HERE for both). I hope they continue to benefit the Eastlake community with their activities and publications for another 50 years.

Bus Routes in District 4 will Change with Light Rail Stations Opening in October

Roosevelt Station Plaza

Some King County Metro bus routes in our district will change when the new Roosevelt and University District (Brooklyn Ave) light rail stations open October 2. We can’t wait for the new stations to open and the quick, frequent service they will provide all the way from Districts 4 and 5 to Capitol Hill, Downtown, and beyond, but we know some constituents will need to adjust their travel patterns with the different Metro bus routes. We have been in close contact with King County Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and will continue to share your feedback with them. More information is available at THIS LINK. To comment directly to King County Metro about your buses, CLICK HERE or call them at 206-553-3000.

Remembering UW’s Thaddeus Spratlen

Thaddeus Spratlen, a professor emeritus of marketing at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, died May 18 at the age of 90. A memorial service will take place on the UW campus at a later date; contact Michael Verchot (mverchot@uw.edu) for more information. If you would like to honor Dr. Spratlen’s extraordinary life and work, his family requests that you make a donation to the Thaddeus H. Spratlen Endowment for the Consulting and Business Development Center, in lieu of flowers. For a UW biography honoring Dr. Spratlen’s life, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION, UTILITIES, AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE

(the City Council committee I chair)

New Potential Funding Source for Seattle’s Bridges

Our Transportation Committee unanimously passed and the full City Council adopted Council Bill 120042 which invests the new dollars from the additional $20 in vehicle license fees (VLF) for 2021 (annualized amount would be approximately $7 million). But first the Committee modestly amended our original amendment while still adhering to our overall objective to get the information needed to issue bonds in 2022 to generate $100 million to accelerate the fixing of our City’s aging infrastructure, including our multi-modal bridge network. The final amendment not only increased flexibility by removing some of the more rigid language from the original amendment, but also required additional info on the timing of projects from SDOT when they deliver their $100 million list of capital projects to the Council in September. For the final amendment that passed, CLICK HERE.  The Council is actually making final decisions on this as part of our 2021 Fall budget process (which will impact 2022). This enables a more holistic approach so that both SDOT and the City Council can consider the recent feedback from stakeholders within the context of SDOT’s entire $600-$700 million annual budget (including potential bonds) rather than just isolating the small $7 million from the VLF.

Here are my prepared remarks from the Committee discussion: “Thank you for bringing forward this amendment, which I consider as friendly toward our overall efforts to punctuate the priority of Seattle’s aging infrastructure. I am pleased to have a collaborative legislative process among Councilmembers whenever possible so we ultimately build out transportation priorities we all can support. Incorporating ANY amendment to SDOT’s plan that prioritizes Seattle’s aging infrastructure and considers how to leverage more money faster is a strong step toward stronger bridges, so that we can address the alarming audit of our bridges. I think this revised amendment still successfully intensifies our commitment toward the safety and sustainability of multimodal bridges that connect our communities and keep our economy moving. I look forward to making sure SDOT follows through on the recommendations from our City Auditor and gets bridge projects ready faster, so we can take advantage of federal dollars and finally address the dangerous backlog for our bridges that we rely on to connect our communities and keep our economy moving.”

CLICK HERE to read more on my blog.

Seattle IT Update on Internet for All Efforts

Seattle’s Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) updated my Transportation & Utilities Committee on efforts to implement our Internet for All Action Plan.

In a city that prides itself as a world leader in technology, the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustice of the Digital Divide. We can no longer allow limited internet access to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses and nonprofits. It’s time to ensure reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, for education, and for economic development.

For Seattle IT’s report, CLICK HERE, and for their presentation, CLICK HERE. The theme is that both government and the private sector worked hard to provide additional subsidies and connections to lower income households negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic, but it’s unclear whether those gains will be maintained beyond 2021. Moreover, Seattle IT still has not yet set up a dashboard (Action Plan recommendation 7.1) to track progress toward implementing Internet for All. “What gets measured, gets done” is a truism that argues for setting up this dashboard sooner rather than later. My office will continue to encourage Seattle IT to set up the all-important dashboard so everyone can see whether progress from early 2021 continues.

I will be seeking to double the funding for programs that help low-income Seattle residents access and adopt high-speed internet.  I believe we can achieve this with a small investment from the incoming “ARPA” funds from our federal government by boosting community-based organizations that have applied previously to our Technology Matching Fund. For more on Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund, CLICK HERE.

Apply Now for the FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) is a temporary FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford broadband internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides:

  • Up to $50/month discount for broadband service; and
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider (if the household contributes more than $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase price).
  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

Eligible low-income households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail in application. Click on this link getemergencybroadband.org/do-i-qualify/ to see if you qualify and to learn more about these programs, visit GetEmergencyBroadband.org or call the national support line at 833-511-0311.

Seattle-specific information: Home and mobile internet service providers offering the EBB discount locally include Comcast (Xfinity), CenturyLink, Wave, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, PCs for People, and Human I-T.

  • Current Comcast Internet Essential customers automatically qualify for the EBB program and can enroll directly through the Comcast EBB site.
  • Wave Simply Internet and Internet First customers have to first confirm their eligibility through the GetEmergencyBroadband.org national verifier and then have Wave apply the discount. More information is at the Wave EBB site.
  • New internet subscribers – or those with other existing services – need to apply to through the GetEmergencyBroadband.org national verifier to confirm eligibility and then work through participating internet providers.
  • The internet providers that are offering a laptop, desktop or tablet include T-Mobile, PCs for People, and Human I-T.

To learn more, see this Consumer FAQ or watch this video. Additionally, the Broadband and Digital Equity team in Seattle IT has posted info and links on the City’s low-cost internet page.

For a Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE. For the FCC’s main website on this program, CLICK HERE.

 

Free Public WiFi Locator Tool: One effort I was happy to see come to fruition with our Internet for All Action Plan was the WIFI locator tool website. It is an interactive site of public facilities which offer free Wi-Fi.  Clicking on a location in the map will bring up details, including whether it is set up for interior and/or exterior use.

Seeking Applicants for Solid Waste Advisory Committee

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), one of our two City-owned utilities, is recruiting community members to join Seattle’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC). SWAC members work with SPU’s Solid Waste team to provide recommendations, feedback, and share community insights into programs, policies, and outreach objectives around recycling, compost, garbage, and waste prevention. SWAC members also assist in the review of programs and policies concerning solid waste handling and disposal. In addition, members review and comments upon proposed plans, rules, policies, or ordinances prior to their adoption.

SWAC members attend monthly meetings held on the first Wednesday of each month and may be asked to serve on additional committees or attend special events. In general, SWAC members commit approximately five-six hours per month to SWAC business, including meetings, pre- and post-meeting surveys, and discussions.

SPU is actively seeking a diverse candidate pool to help inform SPU’s Solid Waste Division on its work and vision to become a community-centered utility. Consider joining the Solid Waste Advisory Committee. If it is not the right fit for you, please help us spread the word! Download SPU’s recruitment packet and learn more about the SWAC’s work here: www.seattle.gov/utilities/swac.


COMMUNITY SAFETY

Photo by Xena Goldman, May 2020

Progress, But We Have Much Work Left to Do at All Levels of Government

I believe our shared goal is for everyone to be healthy, safe, and thriving in Seattle. A year after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, we have seen progress, but there is much more work to do at all levels of government.

STATE GOVERNMENT:  For a summary of positive actions impacting the entire State of Washington as described by the recent Seattle Times article titled, “A year after George Floyd’s death, Washington state lawmakers pass police accountability, equity bills,” CLICK HERE. At the state and city levels, I believe we still need to pass State Senate Bill 5134 to eliminate the complex arbitration appeal process that has historically allowed police officers who committed misconduct to be reinstated to their jobs. I appreciate State Senator Jesse Salomon’s leadership on SB 5134.  Instead, the legislature passed a much weaker SB 5055 which, unfortunately, preserves arbitration for officers — even though police officers are unique workers because they carry a gun and a license to kill. The Seattle Times published editorials supporting SB 5134: for their February editorial CLICK HERE and for their April editorial CLICK HERE. SB 5134 was also supported strongly by the ACLU and me, and I hope to see it back again next year.  If the stronger reform bill SB 5134 had received more support from other State legislators, city officials, and interest groups, then our labor negotiators here in Seattle would be better equipped to revamp our police union contract that expired several months ago.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: We still need U.S. Senators to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120). For the Seattle Resolution I wrote to advocate for this, CLICK HERE. This federal bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives, 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. This week, George Floyd family members visited President Biden and other leaders in Washington D.C. to urge them to adopt this legislation.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: While I am thankful for state-level police reform, I strongly believe we must support those serving on our city’s Labor Relations Policy Committee to revamp the unjust, inflexible, and unjust police union contract, which expired months ago. Revamping the police contract will be more effective than additional defunding because additional defunding would exacerbate the negative impacts of longer 9-1-1 response times, overworked officers in the field, and impediments to sustain the consent decree accountability reforms. Moreover, we cannot expect a different police force if we do not change the terms upon which policing is done in Seattle. While Seattle will continue its strong support of Labor, I believe we should be able to treat this labor contract differently because no other such group carries a gun with a license to kill. For a summary of local government actions described by a recent Seattle Times article entitled “Seattle, King County wrestle with promises for change that politicians made after George Floyd’s murder,” CLICK HERE.

Regarding local government actions and our local accountability structure, I would like to share my initial thoughts about Police Chief Diaz’s recent actions  regarding the infamous “pink umbrella” case regarding the June 1, 2020 protest on Capitol Hill (Case 2020-OPA-0334). I know many of us were alarmed by the Chief’s initial action to overturn the conclusion of the Office of Police Accountability for one of last summer’s most serious incidents against protestors. While I believe we should support the good work of our police officers and work harder to retain our good officers here in Seattle, whenever police misconduct is confirmed, SPD officials must be held accountable.  In fact, by holding officers accountable, I believe we build trust and encourage good officers to stay.

The people of Seattle have a right to march – and I joined several of them – to protest the injustice to George Floyd and to generations of black and brown Americans. Many of my constituents and I condemned last summer the misguided use by SPD of tear gas and blast balls against constitutionally protected protests.

After reviewing this particular incident from June 1st of last year (2020), I agree with our Community Police Commission which said last week on May 12 (2021), “We are concerned by Chief Diaz’s decision to overturn the [Office of Police Accountability] findings in this case, the justice denied to peaceful protesters, and the harm this decision will do to trust in the Seattle Police Department and Seattle’s entire police accountability system.”

I connected directly with Chief Diaz to express my concerns and he informed me that, while he disagreed with the OPA’s finding that blamed a lower ranking officer, he was pursuing the case further to determine who would be held accountable for the actions on June 1, 2020. I encouraged the Chief to complete that investigation expeditiously.

This week (May 26, 2021), Chief Diaz held the Incident Commander accountable and demoted that Assistant Chief to Captain, as reported in the Seattle Times (CLICK HERE). Holding an individual accountable is a positive step and helps to mitigate initial concerns over the Chief’s action to overturn OPA, but I would like to echo the concerns of some colleagues: we should have the OPA or other independent confirmation of that incident AND consider whether wider operational changes are needed for future protests.

Even as this incident is being resolved with accountability and lessons learned, City Hall labor negotiators should redouble efforts to revamp the expired police union contract which is the sustainable solution to deliver long-term justice. Revamping the unjust, inflexible, and expensive police union contract will enable us to retain enough good police officers, to address police misconduct, and to deliver true safety to all communities.

THE COURTS:  On April 20, fired police officer Derek Chauvin was finally convicted by a jury on all 3 criminal charges against him for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  Within our local court system, we need our Washington State Supreme Court to allow our King County Executive’s improved “inquest” process to advance. For the most recent article by the Seattle Times entitled “Families of people killed by police are left without answers while King County’s inquests are stalled,” CLICK HERE. According to the Seattle Times, “The families of at least 36 people who have died at the hands of law enforcement in King County since 2017” are awaiting full inquests to get answers, including the family of District 4 resident Charleena Lyles who was shot and killed by Seattle police officers in 2017. 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 of last year. The City of 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.

Community-Police Dialogues in North Precinct (District 4). The Seattle Public Safety Survey – Community-Police Dialogues will take place on May 27, July 1, and August 5 at 5:30 pm. Seattle University has collaborated with the Seattle Police Department since 2015 to conduct the annual Seattle Public Safety Survey as part of the Micro-Community Policing Plans (MCPP). This year, Seattle University will be hosting online conversations between community members and Seattle police personnel about concerns and themes raised in the 2020 Seattle Public Safety Survey. The purpose of the conversations is to give individuals who live and work in Seattle the opportunity to engage with Seattle police to discuss current concerns about public safety and security at the precinct and micro-community (neighborhood) level. For more info, CLICK HERE.


ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS

New Regional Homelessness Authority (RHA) has Approved its First Budget

The Governing Board of the Regional Homelessness Authority (RHA) unanimously approved the $2.3 million requested by new CEO Marc Dones. The funding is for administrative costs to get the RHA up and running for the remainder of 2021 but contracts won’t be assumed until later in the year. To learn more, visit the RHA website’s Governing Committee agenda on hiring and budget: CLICK HERE.

“This is a watershed moment,” said our Mayor Jenny Durkan, who participated in the meeting. In my own one-on-one conversation with CEO Dones last week, I reiterated my support and I offered to reach out to colleagues throughout King County to solidify regional relationships and get positive results as we launch regional solutions to this regional problem.

On May 6, our City’s Human Services Department (HSD) updated the City Council’s Committee on Homelessness about the “HOPE Team” outreach and shelter for those experiencing homelessness. CLICK HERE for the full presentation.

 

Through the interim Director Howell and other HSD presenters, we learned the HOPE team is providing referrals to a range of shelter options including hotels and Tiny House Villages, as diagrammed above. As we emerge from the pandemic, I strongly support moving quickly to find housing solutions as well as mental health, drug treatment, and other critical supports for those who have experienced hardship and loss of housing during the pandemic. On May 26, the Select Committee heard presentations from another outreach effort called JustCARES which is currently focused on downtown Seattle. For  those presentations, CLICK HERE.

Making Progress on U District Tiny Home Village

We are making progress opening the Tiny House Village in the University District (called “Rosie’s Village”) and look forward to launching this summer! Unsheltered homelessness in our streets, greenways, and parks has increased during the COVID pandemic and we need action to help those in need. I believe that well-organized tiny house villages as part of the Durkan Administration’s shelter surge can be a cost-effective intervention when coupled with professional case management and performance-based contracts.  Rather than just talking about it, we did the legwork to find a suitable short-term location and funding for the new Rosie’s Tiny House Village and I’m pleased we are able to stand up this organized shelter quickly thanks to Sound Transit, our City’s Human Services Department, and caring neighbors and small businesses.

Contact the Low Income Housing Institute at tinyhouses@lihi.org for more info on: (1) Donating tiny house building materials, (2) donating supplies or meals to a village, (3) offering your specific skillset or interests as a volunteer.


SEATTLE TREES: TIME TO PROTECT THEM

As we noted in our April newsletter, we call ourselves the “Emerald City” within the “Evergreen State,” yet our City laws have many loopholes that enable the removal of scores of trees each year, including trees that city law defines as “Exceptional.”  Healthy large trees, often in the category of “exceptional”—especially native conifers like Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar—provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful storm water runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven physical and mental health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better.

As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for the City of Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. As it has boomed with development, Seattle has struggled to prevent continued loss of significant numbers of large trees and reduced tree canopy area. Our city government’s oversight to protect trees is not only fractured, but also weak.

We are still waiting for the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to deliver an updated tree ordinance to the City Council as required by Resolution 31902. Meanwhile, many constituents have been contacting my office with legitimate concerns about numerous “exceptional trees” being ripped out across District 4 and our city. My staff and I will be carefully monitoring our City government’s efforts on these important environmental and equity issues. We will update you through this newsletter and my blog.

In the meantime, we encourage you to write to the executive department taking the lead on this (SDCI) to urge them to do what they can now to protect trees, increase enforcement of the existing rules, issue a final Director’s Rule with stronger tree protections, and finally deliver to the City Council as soon as possible the tree protection ordinance promised many months ago. Email the Director and he can distribute it to his team: Nathan.Torgelson@seattle.gov


CONQUERING COVID

Seattle Voluminously Vaccinating

Good news from the Durkan Administration: “More than 76 percent of Seattle’s residents 12 and older have begun the vaccination process, and more than 60 percent are fully vaccinated.”  For more information, including how to get vaccinated today, visit the City’s vaccination website at www.seattle.gov/vaccine. The site contains vaccination information in seven languages, and in-language assistance is also available over the phone.

Wallingford Pop-Up Vaccine Clinic June 1:

The neighborhood news blog Wallyhood announced this good news: “The Seattle Fire Department will host a FREE pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Tuesday, June 1, 10am-1pm at 1501 North 45th Street, in the south parking lot behind the Library. The clinic will have Moderna and J&J vaccines available. If you are coming for a second Moderna shot, remember to bring your vaccination card. No reservations are required, you do not need to bring an ID or proof of insurance. Everyone 18 years old and older is welcome! Please wear a mask. The clinic is co-sponsored by Solid Ground and FamilyWorks.” For more info, CLICK HERE.

University of Washington will Require Vaccines for Fall Quarter

The University of Washington announced it will require all students on all three of its campuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the start of the autumn quarter. UW is encouraging students to get vaccinated as soon as possible, wherever they are living. Vaccines that have been proven safe and highly effective — including through clinical trials in which the UW’s own faculty were involved — are now readily available.  If students can’t get vaccinated where they currently live, the University will provide vaccinations to students once they arrive on campus. Currently, vaccinations are provided free of charge to individuals at UW Medicine hospitals — including at the UW Medical Center – Montlake on the Seattle campus — as well as at mass vaccination sites in Seattle and in Pierce and Snohomish counties.

“Widespread vaccination is the only real way we can put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us and return to a more normal way of living, learning and working,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce wrote in a message to the University community. “Our community is one that cares — about each other and about the state and society we serve. For your health, and for the health of us all, please get vaccinated as soon as you can.” President Cauce’s complete message to campus can be found at uw.edu/coronavirus.

Extending Relief from Utility Bills (Again)

At next Tuesday’s June 1, 2021 City Council meeting, the Council will consider Council Bill (CB) 120089, a bill sponsored by the Durkan Administration and me that would extend the temporary suspension of interest charges on delinquent utility account balances for customers during the COVID-19 emergency.

This bill, if approved, would be the third extension of this pandemic relief policy. The three previous actions are summarized below, all of which I sponsored:

  • Ordinance 126058 – passed March 19, 2020 – suspended interest charges until August 1, 2020
  • Ordinance 126182 – passed September 29, 2020 – suspended interest charges until January 1, 2021
  • Ordinance 126254 – passed December 14, 2021 – suspended interest charges until June 30, 2021

This bill would extend the suspension of interest charges through the earlier of: January 1, 2022, or the termination of the COVID-19 civil emergency.

As with most public policies, there are trade-offs and costs to well-intentioned legislation and we are making a lot of exceptions during the extraordinary times of the COVID pandemic.  In terms of financial impacts to our publicly owned utilities, the bill passed last December estimated the 2021 financial impacts to total approximately $3.4 million ($2.9 million for SCL, $525,000 for SPU). The updated estimate for extending the policy through the end of 2021 increases the 2021 revenue impact to approximately $8.5 million ($6.2 million for SCL, $2.3 million for SPU). The associated impact to the General Fund (via reduced utility taxes) is estimated to total $643,000, an increase of $406,000 over the prior estimate. We need to be mindful of not imposing costs onto our publicly owned utilities that then translate into increased utility bills for everyone because utility bills are regressive with lower income households paying a greater percentage.

To get other assistance with your utility bills, including the Utility Discount Program, CLICK HERE.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone 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.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

Email: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov
Find It, Fix It

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City Council unanimously passes “Internet for All” to expand affordable internet access in Seattle (updated)

May 17th, 2021

Original Resolution sponsored by Councilmembers Gonzalez, Juarez, and Pedersen; Action Plan delivered by Seattle’s Information Technology Department

COVID crisis reinforced need for universal broadband access to address inequities

INTRO to “Internet for All”:

This ongoing blog post provides updates on the implementation of the Internet for All Action Plan which was launched the Resolution 31956 adopted by the City Council.

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

– Councilmember Alex Pedersen


MAY 19, 2021 UPDATE:

Seattle’s Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) updated my Transportation & Utilities Committee on efforts to implement the Internet for All Action Plan. For Seattle IT’s report, CLICK HERE, and for their presentation, CLICK HERE. The theme is that both government and the private sector worked hard to provide additional subsidies and connections to lower income households negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic, but it’s unclear whether those gains will be maintained beyond 2021. Moreover, Seattle IT still has not set up a dashboard (Action Plan recommendation 7.1) to track progress toward implementing Internet for All. “What gets measured, gets done” is a truism that argues for setting up this dashboard sooner rather than later. My office will continue to incentivize Seattle IT to set up the all-important dashboard so everyone can see whether progress from early 2021 will continue.


MAY 13, 2021 UPDATE:

The COVID-19 crisis magnified the disparities in our city along many lines, including access to reliable internet. Last year, my colleagues and I crafted the Internet for All Resolution charting the course for universal internet access in Seattle, so I’m pleased to share news about the FCC’s program which started May 12, the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB).  

The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) is a temporary FCC program to help families and households struggling to afford broadband internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides:

  • Up to $50/month discount for broadband service; and
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider if the household contributes more than $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase price.
  • The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail in application. You may be eligible if you:

  • Participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider;
  • Are a Lifeline subscriber (including those that are on Apple Health (Medicaid) or accept SNAP benefits);
  • Have children receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grand during the current award year; or
  • Lost your job and had an income reduction in the last year.

More eligibility information: getemergencybroadband.org/do-i-qualify/ to see if you qualify and to learn more about these programs, visit GetEmergencyBroadband.org or call the national support line at 833-511-0311.

Seattle-specific information: Home and mobile internet service providers offering the EBB discount locally include Comcast (Xfinity), CenturyLink, Wave, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, PCs for People, and Human I-T.

  • Current Comcast Internet Essential customers automatically qualify for the EBB program and can enroll directly through the Comcast EBB site
  • Wave Simply Internet and Internet First customers have to first confirm their eligibility through the GetEmergencyBroadband.org national verifier and then have Wave apply the discount. More information is at the Wave EBB site.
  • New internet subscribers – or those with other existing services – need to apply to through the GetEmergencyBroadband.org national verifier to confirm eligibility and then work through participating internet providers.
  • The internet providers that are offering a laptop, desktop or tablet include T-Mobile, PCs for People, and Human I-T.

To learn more, see this Consumer FAQ or watch this video. Additionally, the Broadband and Digital Equity team in Seattle IT has posted info and links on the City’s low-cost internet page.

For a Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE. For the FCC’s main website on this program, CLICK HERE.


April 1, 2021 UPDATE:

The City of Seattle today announced the recipients of the 2021 Technology Matching Fund. With an investment of $343,000, 15 organizations will receive funding for community-led projects which aim to increase access to technology and provide digital skills training for underserved communities. The grants range from $11,000 to $25,000, and organizations have pledged a total of $480,795 to match City dollars with at least 50 percent in cash or in-kind contributions of labor, professional services, and donated hardware and software. This year’s recipients will reach more than 2,100 Seattle residents with creative solutions for accessing technology devices, internet connectivity, and digital literacy training. For the annual report on the Technology Matching Fund, CLICK HERE.

“The COVID crisis laid bare the disparities in our communities and magnified the need to bridge the digital divide as called for by our City’s bold Internet for All Action Plan,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the City’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes technology. “Even as we expand access to the internet throughout Seattle, our Technology Matching Fund continues as a cornerstone of our efforts to connect all our city’s residents to education, jobs, and other vital services.”


September 16, 2020 UPDATE:

Today my Committee heard the presentation on the Internet for All Gap Analysis and Action Plan, which the City Council requested when we adopted Resolution 31956. For the full report CLICK HERE and for the PowerPoint summary, CLICK HERE. To view the video of the Committee meeting, CLICK HERE.

Here’s the press release Council President Gonzalez, Councilmember Juarez, and I distributed with Mayor Durkan:

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR

Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council Release Internet for All Gap Analysis Report with Action Plan to Increase Access to Internet and Close the Digital Divide

SEATTLE (September 16, 2020) – Following up on the Internet for All Initiative announced earlier this summer, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez, Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez announced the release of the initial Internet for All Report and Action Plan. Building off of the information gathered as a part of the City’s 2018 Technology Access and Adoption study, this initial Internet for All Report includes a gap analysis of internet, technology and device needs and an Action Plan with eight strategies to close these gaps.  The Internet for All Initiative elevates citywide digital equity strategies to increase access to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis. 

“We know that access to technology is a race and social justice issue, and the pandemic has further magnified the digital inequities with many in our community lacking the technology and devices need for school or work. The Internet for All Initiative provides the City of Seattle a new roadmap and tangible action plan to close the digital divide and meaningfully increase to both Wi-Fi and devices at this critical time for our City,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “I appreciate the leadership of Councilmember Pedersen, Council President Gonzalez, and Councilmember Juarez who co-sponsored the Internet for All Resolution, the full commitment from City Departments, and collaboration with community partners, internet service providers, as well as the business and philanthropic community who have all come together to support this initiative.”

The Internet for All Initiative was launched early this summer to address internet and technology needs and disparities that have been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis. The report includes eight strategies to address this gap in internet skills and access, including recommendations to strategically deploy more public Wi-Fi in digital equity areas by 2021, and foster up to 20,000 internet connections and devices for underserved individuals by 2023. The City will continue to pursue private sector and philanthropic partnerships to expand access to reliable internet and partnering with organizations to deliver culturally relevant digital inclusion programs. 

“COVID19 has made it clear that access to the internet is an essential for every household. A lack of internet access exacerbates the challenges of this pandemic: students and their families need reliable connections to participate in virtual classrooms, laid-off workers need internet access to apply for unemployment benefits or search for jobs, and many of our social connections keeping us healthy and connected are primarily online for the foreseeable future,” Said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez. “Seattle’s elected leaders hold the shared priority of creating more access and equity when it comes to our residents connecting to the internet, and this report lays out a path forward to do so.”

“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,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes technology matters. “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.”

“Internet for All affects everyone,” said Councilmember Debra Juarez, co-sponsor of the Internet for All resolution. “A lack of a quality internet connection affects frustrated schoolchildren missing instruction time and compounds the isolation of our seniors. Our city’s economic recovery from this recession will slow if our workforce does not have access to training, cannot research new careers and opportunities, and cannot easily apply to a job. Today’s report further solidifies my commitment to partner with the co-sponsors Councilmembers Pedersen and González and Mayor Durkan to bridge the digital divide.” 

“Demand for high-speed broadband has soared to new heights. In today’s digital world, access to affordable internet has become as essential as clean water and electricity. Seattle is leading the way when it comes to digital equity, but there is room for improvement. Through the Internet for All Initiative, Seattle IT is committed to ensuring that there is an equal digital opportunity afforded to every resident in the City of Seattle,” said Saad Bashir, Chief Technology Officer, City of Seattle.

While the City’s 2018 Technology Access and Adoption Study found that 95% of Seattle households are connected to the internet, it also showed that 45% of lower-income households reported that access to the internet in their household was not adequate or only sometimes adequate for their needs. With more and more essential functions moving online, like applying for jobs, searching for healthcare, and attending online classes, access to reliable internet and the skills to use it are more important than ever. The COVID-19 crisis, along with the local and national Black Lives Matter protests, has amplified the need to address digital inequities by increasing access to affordable internet, low-cost devices, and digital skills training.

Additionally, the report finds that rather than being spread out across the City, internet disparities are concentrated geographically in certain areas of the City. The areas of Seattle representing the largest portions of the 5% gap in internet adoption are:

  • South Central Seattle (Pioneer Square, Yesler Terrace, and International District)
  • South Seattle (New Holly, Rainier Valley, and Beacon Hill)
  • West Seattle (High Point and South Park)
  • Areas of downtown
  • Lake City

You can explore the full report here.

# # #


July 27, 2020: UPDATE:

Press release after unanimous approval of Internet for All Resolution:

SEATTLE – Reinvigorating efforts to pursue universal access to the internet, the City Council approved today the “Internet for All” resolution introduced by Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez (Position 9, Citywide), Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4), and Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5).

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

“While Seattle is proud to be a global center of technology and innovation, The COVID-19 pandemic, once again, exposes the reality of extensive, inequitable, and detrimental gaps of the haves and have nots. This time it is manifested via internet access with significant detrimental impact for our students and families at Seattle Public Schools, our seniors, and low-income households,” said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez. “I’m pleased to be a co-sponsor on the Internet for All resolution to reinvigorate the city’s commitment to closing the digital access gap so everyone can stay connected in an increasingly virtual, online world.”

“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,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes technology. “We can no longer afford to 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, for education, and for economic development. Passing our resolution today amps up Seattle’s long-term efforts to achieve Internet for All.”

“Today we took a solid step forward,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez. “Inequities in internet access and affordability can lead to disparate outcomes during a crisis, such as reduced access to relief programs for individuals and small neighborhood businesses as well as barriers preventing students from participating in remote learning due to the closures of our schools, libraries, community centers and workplaces. I have long advocated for equity in access by working with groups such as Literacy Source and am pleased to have been a cosponsor on this Resolution.”

While a Technology Access and Adoption Study in 2018 found that 98 percent of households with at least one child who attends Seattle Public Schools have at least one capable internet device, often that access is often only a cell phone. During the COVID pandemic, media reports noted a lack of sufficient access, adoption, reliability, and/or affordability, especially when multiple family members were required to work or study from home. Moreover, seven percent of respondents in that study said they relied on free/public access internet at places such as libraries and community centers, yet those have been closed during the COVID pandemic.

According to 2018 study, those with incomes of less than $25,000 a year are more than three times as likely to rely on a cell phone data plan for internet service. There is low awareness of the discount programs developed for low-income populations — only half know about them and just 23% of low-income households that would qualify for these programs actually use them.

Residents, who are low-income, senior citizens, living with disabilities, or for whom English is not their primary language lag other groups when it comes to access, according to the City’s most recent Digital Equity Progress Report (based on the Technology Access and Adoption Study). The “key risk factors” the report identifies for lack of home internet access are:

  • Living in poverty: 5 times less likely to have internet access;
  • Household member with a disability: 3 times less likely to have internet access;
  • Primary language other than English: 2 times less likely to have access;
  • Older adults (65 years old or more): 1.8 times less likely to have access;
  • Non-white residents: 1.6 times less likely to have internet access.

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

“This Internet for All Resolution will speed up chipping away at digital divides that persist in Seattle caused by affordability of home internet, devices, and tech support. Digital inclusion hasn’t yet been fully woven into Seattle’s social support systems and community institutions. Our organization supports on-the-ground practitioners, like the staff of Seattle’s Digital Equity Program. I’m proud that my community has been a leader in the digital equity field for decades. Unlike most cities, Seattle has a digital equity plan. This Resolution opens up that discussion so that the city can reimagine what digital inclusion looks like right now during the pandemic in various departments and act. Now is the time.” said Sabrina Roach, Program Director at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance

“I’m happy to see the City adopt the Internet for All resolution because this is a social justice issue,” said Cat Howell, Educational Director for Literacy Source, an organization providing free learner-centered basic education to low-income adults in the Seattle area. “We see every day the impact of no or limited internet access on the Literacy Source students’ access to education, services, civic participation, employment and many other important parts of our current lives in COVID-19 times.”

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

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

# # #


July 13, 2020 UPDATE:

Joining Council President Lorena Gonzalez and me as a co-sponsor of our “Internet for All” Resolution is Councilmember Debora Juarez.


July 2, 2020 UPDATE:

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

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

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

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


May 18, 2020 (ORIGINAL POST):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the draft Resolution, CLICK HERE.

# # #


“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

May 17th, 2021

Black Lives Matter

INTRODUCTION:

During the spring and summer of 2020, I 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 in 2021 and beyond.

CONTEXT:

  • In July and August 2020, our Budget Committee Chair Teresa Mosqueda decided to have the City Council examine our Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget to see how we could reallocate some 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 flowed into our regularly scheduled budget process in the Fall of 2020 (to impact our City’s 2021 budget). While I supported several of these important efforts, I did not pledge to defund SPD by a dramatic 50% because I concluded that was an impractical and arbitrary percentage not tied to a community safety plan. I believe the Council’s labor negotiators should have focused on revamping the expensive and unjust police union contract to save money and deliver justice. I write more about this throughout my blog.
  • 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:


JULY 16, 2021 UPDATE: State Supreme Court Ruling on Inquests Supports Justice for Lyles Family and Others

Good news from the Seattle Times: “The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday [July 15, 2021] reinstated sweeping changes made to the King County inquest procedures in 2018, providing an expanded avenue for the families of people killed by police to seek answers and establish culpability.”

“In a unanimous, 49-page opinion the justices struck down most challenges by several county law enforcement agencies, including the King County Sheriff’s Office, which had argued successfully in superior court last year that King County Executive Dow Constantine had overstepped his authority in making the changes. The justices overturned the lower court ruling, authored by Judge Julie Spector, on almost every point.”

“More significant, however, is that the justices sided with the families of three people killed in 2017 by police — Damarius ButtsCharleena Lyles and Isaiah Obet…”

We needed our Washington State Supreme Court to allow our King County Executive’s improved “inquest” process to advance. According to an earlier article by the Seattle Times, “The families of at least 36 people who have died at the hands of law enforcement in King County since 2017” are awaiting full inquests to get answers, including the family of District 4 resident Charleena Lyles who was shot and killed by Seattle police officers in 2017. One of the key demands of Lyles family members has been to allow the inquest in that case to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June of 2020. The City of Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and, over a year ago, I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. The decision by the Washington State Supreme Court was needed to break the log jam and move things in a positive direction. The Lyles tragedy and many others also reinforce the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many behavioral health situations — a key rationale for re-imagining public safety.

For the Seattle Times article on the Washington State Supreme Court decision, CLICK HERE.


JUNE 6, 2021 UPDATE:

Here is an Op Ed published today in the Seattle Times by DeVitta Briscoe: “A lesson from my losses: We cannot afford to completely dismantle the policeCLICK HERE.

DeVitta Briscoe, her son Donald McCaney and her brother Che Taylor in about 2004. Her son was killed in 2010 by another teen and Taylor was fatally shot in 2016 by two Seattle police officers. (Courtesy of  DeVitta Briscoe Family)
DeVitta Briscoe, her son Donald McCaney, and her brother Che Taylor in about 2004. Her son was killed in 2010 by another teen and Taylor was fatally shot in 2016 by two Seattle police officers. (photo, as published in Seattle Times, courtesy of DeVitta Briscoe Family)

JUNE 1, 2021 UPDATE: Seattle City Council Bill 119981 Does Not Pass (for a variety of good reasons). For more on that police budget bill considered outside of the normal Fall budget process, CLICK HERE.

MAY 25 and 27, 2021 UPDATE: George Floyd’s legacy still unfolding after 1-year anniversary: Progress, But We Have Much Work Left to Do at All Levels of Government (newsletter excerpt):

I believe our shared goal is for everyone to be healthy, safe, and thriving in Seattle. A year after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, we have seen progress, but there is much more work to do at all levels of government.

STATE GOVERNMENT:  For a summary of positive actions impacting the entire State of Washington as described by the recent Seattle Times article titled, “A year after George Floyd’s death, Washington state lawmakers pass police accountability, equity bills,” CLICK HERE. At the state and city levels, I believe we still need to pass State Senate Bill 5134 to eliminate the complex arbitration appeal process that has historically allowed police officers who committed misconduct to be reinstated to their jobs. I appreciate State Senator Jesse Salomon’s leadership on SB 5134.  Instead, the legislature passed a much weaker SB 5055 which, unfortunately, preserves arbitration for officers — even though police officers are unique workers because they carry a gun and a license to kill. The Seattle Times published editorials supporting SB 5134: for their February editorial CLICK HERE and for their April editorial CLICK HERE. SB 5134 was also supported strongly by the ACLU and me, and I hope to see it back again next year.  If the stronger reform bill SB 5134 had received more support from other State legislators, city officials, and interest groups, then our labor negotiators here in Seattle would be better equipped to revamp our police union contract that expired several months ago.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: We still need U.S. Senators to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120). For the Seattle Resolution I wrote to advocate for this, CLICK HERE. This federal bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives, 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. This week, George Floyd family members visited President Biden and other leaders in Washington D.C. to urge them to adopt this legislation.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: While I am thankful for state-level police reform, I strongly believe we must support those serving on our city’s Labor Relations Policy Committee to revamp the unjust, inflexible, and unjust police union contract, which expired months ago. Revamping the police contract will be more effective than additional defunding because additional defunding would exacerbate the negative impacts of longer 9-1-1 response times, overworked officers in the field, and impediments to sustain the consent decree accountability reforms. Moreover, we cannot expect a different police force if we do not change the terms upon which policing is done in Seattle. While Seattle will continue its strong support of Labor, I believe we should be able to treat this labor contract differently because no other such group carries a gun with a license to kill. For a summary of local government actions described by a recent Seattle Times article entitled “Seattle, King County wrestle with promises for change that politicians made after George Floyd’s murder,” CLICK HERE.

Regarding local government actions and our local accountability structure, I would like to share my initial thoughts about Police Chief Diaz’s recent actions  regarding the infamous “pink umbrella” case regarding the June 1, 2020 protest on Capitol Hill (Case 2020-OPA-0334). I know many of us were alarmed by the Chief’s initial action to overturn the conclusion of the Office of Police Accountability for one of last summer’s most serious incidents against protestors. While I believe we should support the good work of our police officers and work harder to retain our good officers here in Seattle, whenever police misconduct is confirmed, SPD officials must be held accountable.  In fact, by holding officers accountable, I believe we build trust and encourage good officers to stay.

The people of Seattle have a right to march – and I joined several of them – to protest the injustice to George Floyd and to generations of black and brown Americans. Many of my constituents and I condemned last summer the misguided use by SPD of tear gas and blast balls against constitutionally protected protests.

After reviewing this particular incident from June 1st of last year (2020), I agree with our Community Police Commission which said last week on May 12 (2021), “We are concerned by Chief Diaz’s decision to overturn the [Office of Police Accountability] findings in this case, the justice denied to peaceful protesters, and the harm this decision will do to trust in the Seattle Police Department and Seattle’s entire police accountability system.”

I connected directly with Chief Diaz to express my concerns and he informed me that, while he disagreed with the OPA’s finding that blamed a lower ranking officer, he was pursuing the case further to determine who would be held accountable for the actions on June 1, 2020. I encouraged the Chief to complete that investigation expeditiously.

This week (May 26, 2021), Chief Diaz held the Incident Commander accountable and demoted that Assistant Chief to Captain, as reported in the Seattle Times (CLICK HERE). Holding an individual accountable is a positive step and helps to mitigate initial concerns over the Chief’s action to overturn OPA, but I would like to echo the concerns of some colleagues: we should have the OPA or other independent confirmation of that incident AND consider whether wider operational changes are needed for future protests.

Even as this incident is being resolved with accountability and lessons learned, City Hall labor negotiators should redouble efforts to revamp the expired police union contract which is the sustainable solution to deliver long-term justice. Revamping the unjust, inflexible, and expensive police union contract will enable us to retain enough good police officers, to address police misconduct, and to deliver true safety to all communities.

THE COURTS:  On April 20, fired police officer Derek Chauvin was finally convicted by a jury on all 3 criminal charges against him for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  Within our local court system, we need our Washington State Supreme Court to allow our King County Executive’s improved “inquest” process to advance. For the most recent article by the Seattle Times entitled “Families of people killed by police are left without answers while King County’s inquests are stalled,” CLICK HERE. According to the Seattle Times, “The families of at least 36 people who have died at the hands of law enforcement in King County since 2017” are awaiting full inquests to get answers, including the family of District 4 resident Charleena Lyles who was shot and killed by Seattle police officers in 2017. 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 of last year. The City of 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.


MAY 17, 2021 UPDATE:

Statement by Councilmember Alex Pedersen regarding Chief Diaz’s decision to overturn the Office of Police Accountability for Case 2020-OPA-0334

I know many of us were alarmed by the Chief of Police’s action to overturn the conclusion of the Office of Police Accountability for one of last summer’s most serious incidents against protestors.

[I’d like to thank Councilmember Herbold as Chair of our Public Safety Committee for quickly asking the Chief the tough and key questions about this.]

While I believe we should support the good work of our police officers and work harder to retain our good officers here in Seattle, whenever police misconduct is confirmed, SPD officials must be held accountable.  In fact, by holding officers accountable, I believe we build trust and encourage good officers to stay.

The people of Seattle have a right to march – and I joined several of them – to protest the injustice to George Floyd and to generations of black and brown Americans. Many of my constituents and I condemned last summer the misguided use by SPD of tear gas and blast balls against constitutionally protected protests.

After reviewing this particular incident from June 1st of last year (2020), I agree with our Community Police Commission which said last week on May 12 (2021), “We are concerned by Chief Diaz’s decision to overturn the [Office of Police Accountability] findings in this case, the justice denied to peaceful protesters, and the harm this decision will do to trust in the Seattle Police Department and Seattle’s entire police accountability system.”

I connected directly with Chief Diaz to express my concerns and he informed me that, while he disagreed with the OPA’s finding that blamed a lower ranking officer, the Chief is pursuing the case further to determine who will be held accountable for the actions on June 1, 2020. I encouraged the Chief to complete that investigation expeditiously. I also want to echo the remarks of Councilmember Lewis today when he said the Office of Police Accountability should be the organization to confirm additional investigations (rather than just the Chief).

After this incident is resolved and we finally have accountability, City Hall should get back to the work of revamping the expired police union contract which is the sustainable solution to deliver long-term justice. Revamping the unjust, inflexible, and expensive police union contract will enable us to retain a sufficient number of good police officers, to address police misconduct, and to deliver true safety to all communities. Thank you.


APRIL 20, 2021 UPDATE (Chauvin guilty verdicts in Minneapolis):

Councilmember Alex Pedersen: “While George Floyd’s family received some justice today, America’s history of structural and institutional racism must remain on trial.  I am relieved justice was rendered by the jury in the court case today in Minneapolis and yet we all know the real work ahead is demanding and ensuring all police officers administer public safety in a fair and just manner. We must go beyond reform to restructure how policing is done in our country and it can begin here in Seattle, with the overdue task of revamping the unjust, inflexible, and costly police union contract so that we deliver true public safety for all.”


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.
  • INQUEST FOR CHARLEENA LYLES:
    • UPDATE FROM FEB 16, 2021: Promising news — Appeals Court Rules Charleena Lyles Wrongful-Death Suite Against Seattle Police Can Proceed. For article, CLICK HERE.
    • ORIGINAL AUGUST 2020 ENTRY: 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. For the 8-page document by the Community Police Commission comparing the strong 2017 Accountability Ordinance (Ordinance 125315) to the watered down 2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) covering years 2015 through 2020 – and which has yet to be fixed by Seattle’s Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) —  CLICK HERE.
    • 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.

# # #


Town Hall for District 4 (Spring 2021)

May 12th, 2021

May 11, 2021

Thanks to everyone who attended our District 4 Town Hall!

I’m grateful to the professionals at our City’s Human Services Department who participated to answer many of our constituent questions about the city government’s approach to homelessness in 2021 and the upcoming shift to the new Regional Homelessness Authority. In case you missed this Town Hall, you can view the recorded event by CLICKING HERE.

April 27, 2021 RSVP (from our e-newsletter)

Virtual District 4 Town Hall – Tuesday, May 11, 2021 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Please join our District 4 office for our Spring 2021 virtual Town Hall.  We have invited Human Services Department Director Helen Howell to share the City’s strategy for homelessness, even as we shift toward a more effective regional approach to this regional crisis.  We will also dedicate time to answer District 4 questions. To RSVP to this online event (and to submit questions about city government for this event, CLICK HERE. [Note: After the Town Hall, please send comments or requests to Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov. The RSVP form is not monitored after the Town Hall event. Thank you!]


New Funding Option to Increase Protection of Seattle’s Aging Bridges

May 10th, 2021
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

May 10, 2021 Update:

The full City Council adopted Council Bill 120042 as we had amended it in my Transportation Committee. The Seattle Times requested a statement from me and here is what I provided:

The legislation we adopted today is a strong step toward stronger bridges and can boost the aging infrastructure that connects our communities and keeps our economy moving. The sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge and the audit of all bridges I ordered last year should be a wake-up call for everyone who cares about mobility for all modes of transportation. Our bridges are not going to fix themselves – we need to stop kicking the can down the road and instead think bigger and bolder to build back better with bonds as we emerge from the COVID pandemic. I look forward to our Seattle Department of Transportation stepping up to produce the information my colleagues and I unanimously requested so that we have concrete options to issue bonds to produce the tens of millions of dollars for our city’s bridges and other aging infrastructure important to buses, freight, and other modes of transportation.”

May 5, 2021 Update:

Our Transportation Committee unanimously passed Council Bill 120042 which invests the new dollars from the additional $20 in vehicle license fees (VLF) for 2021 (annualized amount would be approximately $7 million). But first we amended our original amendment on potentially issuing bonds to generate $100 million to accelerate the fixing of our City’s aging infrastructure, including our multi-modal bridge network. The final amendment not only increased flexibility by removing some of the more rigid language from the original amendment, but also requires additional info on the timing of projects from SDOT when they deliver their $100 million list of capital projects to the Council in September. For the final amendment that passed, CLICK HERE. For a Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE, though please note that the Council is actually making final decisions as part of our 2021 Fall budget process (which will impact 2022). This enables a more holistic approach so that both SDOT and the City Council can consider the recent feedback from stakeholders within the context of SDOT’s entire $600-$700 million annual budget (including potential bonds) rather than just isolating the small $7 million from the VLF.

Here are my prepared remarks from the Committee discussion: “Thank you for bringing forward this amendment, which I consider as friendly toward our overall efforts to punctuate the priority of Seattle’s aging infrastructure. I am pleased to have a collaborative legislative process among Councilmembers whenever possible so we ultimately build out transportation priorities we all can support. Incorporating ANY amendment to SDOT’s plan that prioritizes Seattle’s aging infrastructure and considers how to leverage more money faster is a strong step toward stronger bridges, so that we can address the alarming audit of our bridges. I think this revised amendment still successfully intensifies our commitment toward the safety and sustainability of multimodal bridges that connect our communities and keep our economy moving. I look forward to making sure SDOT follows through on the recommendations from our City Auditor and gets bridge projects ready faster, so we can take advantage of federal dollars and finally address the dangerous backlog for our bridges that we rely on to connect our communities and keep our economy moving.”

April 21 and 26, 2021 Update:

Our Transportation Committee heard SDOT’s proposal (CB 120042) for how to spend $7 million a year of the newly approved Vehicle License Fees, while several Councilmembers supporting a bolder leveraging of those dollars to generate $100 million to boost our infrastructure had an opportunity to present our amendment. During the Committee meeting, Councilmember Debora Juarez announced her support for our bonding amendment and joined us as a co-sponsor.

The Seattle Times editorial board recently endorsed our infrastructure amendment! CLICK HERE.

Nicole Grant, the head of the MLK Labor Council, announced her support for the $100 million in bonds at our Transportation Committee, adding her strong voice to the many labor unions who joined us in the original press release.

Nicole Grant, the head of MLK Labor told our Transportation Committee April 21, “I want to weigh in in favor of the bonding to fund our bridges here in the city of Seattle. I know it’s expensive; it’s among the prices we pay for having a beautiful city full of hills and waterways. It’s not something we can ignore. We are lucky also to have the best Targeted Local Hire policy in the country to make sure that the employment to repair / to replace this infrastructure gives back to the community and hires people that could really use a strong career advantage — including formerly incarcerated workers — and to make sure that everybody has health insurance for their family and apprenticeship to learn a skill that’s going to last their whole life. So support it, I think it’s a good decision, a good use of the money. Thank you.” 

April 19, 2021 Update:

PRESS RELEASE:

Councilmembers Pedersen, Herbold, Lewis, Mosqueda Propose $100 Million in Bonds for Multimodal Bridges and Other Transportation Infrastructure Needs to Create Jobs Sooner by Leveraging the New $20 Vehicle License Fee

SEATTLE, WA – To boost jobs as Seattle emerges from the COVID pandemic’s economic recession, Councilmembers Alex Pedersen, Lisa Herbold, Andrew J. Lewis, and Teresa Mosqueda are proposing $100 million in bonds to fix our aging multimodal bridges and modernize transportation infrastructure in 2022, after implementing the Seattle Department of Transportation’s spending plan for the additional $20 Vehicle License Fees for 2021.

The Councilmembers issued this joint statement: “We appreciate the Seattle Department of Transportation convening community partners to offer ways to invest the expected funds from the $20 vehicle license fee authorized by the City Council. They have crafted a thoughtful 2021 spending plan that we should implement immediately. At this critical juncture, when we seek to build back better after the Covid-19 crisis, we must also think bigger and bolder with this opportunity. We should supercharge the VLF dollars by financing $100 million in bonds in 2022 and take on the too-long-delayed task of fixing our city’s aging multimodal bridges and modernizing Seattle’s transportation infrastructure while creating good, living wage jobs. Our bridge audit showed so many bridges in poor condition and illustrated the economic benefits of frontloading government resources. By leveraging these dollars we can finally commit to a strategy of significant timely investments rather than piecemeal fixes. In a city carved by waterways and ravines, we rely on bridges to support all modes of transportation that connect us and keep our economy moving. We have a duty to stop kicking the can down the road, and now we have an opportunity to go bigger and bolder to build back better.”

The Councilmembers are introducing an important amendment to SDOT’s bill (Council Bill 120042) to fund the stakeholder plan for 2021 and then to generate $100 million in 2022, with at least 75% of the bonds going to fix multimodal bridges. The rest of the funds can be used to leverage other federal or state dollars for other transportation infrastructure such as those proposed in SDOT’s spending plan.

A coalition of construction labor unions support the amendment.

Billy Hetherington, Political Director for Laborers Local 242, added, “We know that in this world of COVID-19, the movement of goods and services have been essential to our daily lives as we try our best to work from home and social distance from our fellow citizens. We have seen the impacts a shutdown of a major bridge can have on the lives of Seattle’s residents. The West Seattle bridge is nowhere near the oldest in the city nor was it considered in “Poor” condition at the time of its shutdown. The Auditor’s reports calls for $34 million to $100 million to adequately fund the preservation of SDOT’s bridge infrastructure, so this amendment is needed to address the backlog faster. Fixing our roads and bridges, throughout the region, has been overlooked for decades so I am happy to see Councilmembers making a stand to show this is a priority now.”

Pedro Espinoza of Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters said, “May 23, 2013, was a perfect example of how bridge closures can impact our lives: a span of the bridge carrying Interstate 5 over the Skagit River collapsed, severely impacting the movement of Washington State goods and services. We need more funding to fix our bridges in order to avoid events like this in the future.”

Heather Kurtenbach, Political Director for Ironworkers Local 86, said, “Seattle’s bridges are in need of extra care and attention. Leveraging the funds from Vehicle Licensing Fees will allow the city to make a bigger and bolder investment in our bridges without delay.”

Local business leaders also support the amendment. Executive Director Erin Goodman of the SODO Business Improvement Area said, “SODO is the industrial heart of Seattle, and during COVID-19 we have seen how many essential businesses are located here including food and supply distribution, PPE manufacturing, and more vital activities. Increased funding to fix our bridges now is necessary to support these essential businesses and their operations throughout our region.

Most drivers were previously paying $80 for their annual VLF, but that decreased briefly to $20 until City Council adopted this new $20 for a total of $40. The additional $20 (which drivers will start paying this July) is expected to generate $3.6 million in 2021 and $7.2 million in 2022 and each year thereafter.  A City Council spending plan was delayed until after more stakeholder engagement.  Bonding has several advantages over SDOT’s current plan. Rather than allocating the funds in several small pieces each year over several years, bonding will provide a large sum upfront to obtain more of what we need for our city’s infrastructure when we need it – now. Bonding should also protect the VLF from future attempts to cancel the fee, because those future dollars will be encumbered upfront.

In addition to the dollars needed to restore the West Seattle High Bridge, Seattle’s aging bridges have the following immediate needs:

  •   $20 million to $88 million more annually for bridge maintenance. (Annual maintenance needed is $34 million to $102 million, per the City Auditor’s report on bridges. Mayor Durkan’s proposed budget for 2021 provided only $10 million among four line items and Council increased it to $14 million.) Bridges ranked poor by the audit include the 2nd Avenue South extension bridge.
  •  $8 million for our City’s older bridges that have aging moveable parts (such as the University, Ballard, Fremont, and Spokane bridges). When draw bridges / bascule bridges / swing bridges get stuck, they prevent all modes of transportation — including buses and bikes — which could impede Seattle’s fragile economic recovery.
  • Millions to start the seismic retrofits of 16 Seattle bridges, including $32 million for Ballard, $29 million for Fremont, and millions to seismically upgrade the 100-year old University Bridge.
  •  Millions to replace the 90-year-old Magnolia Bridge, which is part of the Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation (BIRT) corridor.

The Seattle City Council approved the $20 vehicle license fee as part of its fall budget process. At the time, Councilmembers Pedersen, Herbold and Lewis proposed legislation (supported by Councilmember Juarez) to use Vehicle Licensing Fees to boost maintenance of multimodal bridges throughout Seattle. An amendment narrowly adopted by other Councilmembers in November 2020 directed SDOT to establish a stakeholder process to recommend ideas for spending the funds. Since that time, there have additional reports of immediate needs for bridges and confirmation that issuing bonds would be possible to create jobs.

Assuming an interest rate of 3.5% fully amortized over 20 years, the approximately $7 million in VLF annually will support the issuance of bonds totaling at least $100 million.

The Seattle City Council will consider and ultimately pass a spending plan over the coming weeks, with legislation going through its Transportation and Utilities Committee. The first briefing on the spending plan is planned for April 21, 2021. 

Media coverage:

# # #

December 21, 2020 Update:

Today’s Seattle Times article on the costs to make earthquake-resistant improvements to Seattle’s bridges is additional evidence that the 4 Councilmembers (Pedersen, Herbold, Juarez, Lewis) who voted to immediately designate these additional dollars for bridge maintenance were correct: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/seattle-scales-back-earthquake-work-on-city-bridges-as-costs-soar/

From the article: “After promising Seattle voters [in 2015] that the city would reinforce 16 bridges to better withstand earthquakes, the Seattle Department of Transportation now says that work would cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than once expected. Instead of 16 bridges, the city plans to complete seismic retrofits on 11, leaving notable and costly locations like the Ballard and Fremont bridges off the list. Costs for some bridges increased by several million dollars, like a span along 15th Avenue in Ballard now set to cost about $5 million instead of $1 million. Other estimates rose by far more...”

Councilmembers who voted against designating the funds immediately for bridges were Gonzalez, Morales, Mosqueda, Sawant, and Strauss. As the 5-person majority, they unfortunately prevailed to delay that decision.

November 19, 2020 Update:

The reasonable decision this week by our Mayor to repair and maintain the existing West Seattle bridge underscores the need for more steady funding for bridge maintenance throughout Seattle to honor our recent audit of bridges. We could have secured an immediate and dedicated source for bridge maintenance if a majority of the Council had supported this week the decisive proposal that Councilmembers Herbold, Lewis, and I advanced with the support of Councilmember Juarez. Despite the disappointing 5 to 4 vote to delay a decision on funding more bridge maintenance, I am hopeful the additional process will lead to a robust increase in funding for bridge safety from several sources, which would benefit all modes of travel and keep our economy moving.

  • For the Seattle Times coverage of the City Council vote, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times editorial criticizing my colleagues’ disappointing decision to delay my proposal for immediate bridge maintenance funding, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Council Bill 119951, CLICK HERE. Please note that the Council’s Legistar system is limited in that it does NOT display all amendment votes; therefore, the unfortunate (yet pivotal) 5 to 4 vote to reject investing the funds directly into bridges (Council Budget Action BLG-042-A-001) and to delay the decision on how to spend the money (Council Budget Action BLG-042-B-001) after consulting advocacy groups can be found only by watching the November 18, 2020 Budget Committee meeting on Seattle Channel (start at 1:18).

November 13 and November 17, 2020:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We have an important opportunity during the remaining week of our annual budget process to support our city’s bridge infrastructure. Our Budget Committee is meeting again November 18 and 19.

In a city defined by its many waterways and ravines, our bridges connect us and we must ensure they are maintained to stay safe and strong. Vital for all modes of travel and our regional economy, bridges require ample maintenance not only to ensure they remain safe but also to avoid costly and disruptive shutdowns and replacements.

The recent independent audit of Seattle’s bridges proves city government must do a better job investing in this basic infrastructure, including bridges that serve public transit. The audit concluded that our city government has been substantially under-investing in the maintenance of our bridges. The result of underfunding our bridge infrastructure increases the risk of harm and disruption — failing to invest at adequate levels today means taxpayers might have to bear even larger replacement costs later. Pay now or pay more later. The sudden closure of the West Seattle Bridge should be a wake up call that we must take care of our city’s infrastructure to keep our residents and our local economy moving.

During our budget deliberations in November, City Council received broad input from residents, business leaders, and labor unions (including Laborers, Carpenters, and Ironworkers) calling for more maintenance of our vital bridges.

While the Mayor’s budget team worked hard to preserve the amount of spending for bridge maintenance despite budget deficits, we should do more as additional funding options become available.

For both 2020 and the Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget, the bridge maintenance items identified by the City Auditor total approximately $12 million, though approximately $2 million is for reimbursable work on other projects resulting in a current net investment of only $10 million.

To achieve the increased spending levels for bridge maintenance recommended by the City Auditor’s 2020 report, Councilmembers Pedersen, Herbold, and Lewis proposed adding $24 million to the 2021 budget (“Form B”: Council Budget Action SDOT-008-A-001) which gained initial support from Councilmembers Juarez, Sawant, and Strauss on October 30, 2020.

The $24 million increase for bridge maintenance would have achieved a total of $34 million for 2021, which is still on the low-end of the City Auditor’s recommendation of $34 million to $102 million annually (equivalent to 1% to 3% of total replacement costs).

While the Budget Chair’s balancing package was able to restore or fund several transportation projects including those for transit, pedestrians, and bikes, it added only $4 million from the $24 million request for bridge maintenance.

More funding options are needed now to address the bridge maintenance gap with the urgency it deserves.

Vehicle License Fees (VLF) (a.k.a. car tabs)

Thanks to the Supreme Court overturning the harmful Initiative 976, the City Council now has the flexibility to adjust the Vehicle License Fee (VLF) to $40 as authorized by RCW 36.73.065 and RCW 82.80.140. While residents currently pay $80 which would otherwise drop to $20 in 2021, the RCW permits the Council to “increase” it by another $20 (for a total of $40) in 2021. 

Councilmembers Alex Pedersen (Chair Council’s Transportation Committee), Lisa Herbold (West Seattle) and Andrew Lewis (downtown, Queen Anne, Magnolia) have introduced Council Bill 119951 to adjust the vehicle license fee to $40. (Residents currently pay $80 for the city portion each year, but it is scheduled to drop to $20.)

or at least 2021, the additional vehicle license proceeds can be focused on the maintenance of Seattle bridges that support high-capacity transit or multiple modes of travel with a focus on our Frequent Transit Network.

Underfunding our bridge infrastructure increases the risk of harm and ends up costing taxpayers more later, so let’s listen to the independent audit and increase bridge maintenance now to keep our people and economy moving,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

The impending decision whether to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge highlights the importance of ongoing investment in maintenance of Seattle’s bridges,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (West Seattle). “Bridges are critical not only to residents and local businesses, but also to our regional economy.”

District 7 is stitched together by bridges we depend on for reliable bus service and freight mobility for our working waterfront,” said Councilmember Andrew Lewis (downtown, Queen Anne, Magnolia). We need to step up our commitment to this critical infrastructure.”

To read their press release from Nov 13, 2020, CLICK HERE.

The adjustment of the underlying vehicle license fee (VLF) to $40, if adopted by the City Council, is anticipated to raise an additional $3.6 million in 2021, and an additional $7.2 million in subsequent years. (The difference in amounts is explained by the fact that it will take the Washington State Department of Licenses six months to update the new fee in 2021.) Therefore, the additional $20 VLF ($3.6 million in 2021) could nearly double the Council’s additive investment to $8 million for 2021, with more dollars available in later years. That would bring the grand total for 2021 bridge maintenance to nearly $18 million for 2021.

Seattle will need additional sources of revenue to support our network of aging bridges, but dedicating a portion of additional Vehicle License Fees is an immediate downpayment that responds to the time-sensitive concerns raised by the recent bridge audit.

To support our environment and address climate change, it is also critical to continue to prioritize transit and related projects that ensure the reliability of transit:

  • We are thankful to Seattle voters for approving Seattle Proposition 1 in November 2020 to authorize a six-year 0.15% sales tax for the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), which focuses on supplementing the bus service from King County Metro as well as providing free transit passes for those most in need.
  • IN ADDITION TO that new 6-year STBD measure (approximately $30 million in 2021 increasing to $41 million in 2022), the City Council Budget Chair was able to work with colleagues to restore funding for several transit/bike/ped projects for 2021.
  • IN ADDITION, there are still over $23 million in reserves remaining for transit from the 2014 STBD measure, all of which will benefit from input from the Transit Advisory Board.
  • IN ADDITION, our proposal for the VLF for bridge maintenance will focus on bridges serving our Frequent Transit Network.

Billy Hetherington, Political Director for Laborers Local 242, said “We know that in this world of COVID-19, the movement of goods and services have been essential to our daily lives as we try our best to work from home and social distance from our fellow citizens. We have seen the impacts a shutdown of a major bridge can have on the lives of Seattle’s residents. The West Seattle bridge is nowhere near the oldest in the city nor was it considered in “Poor” condition at the time of its shutdown. The Auditor’s reports calls for $34 to $100 million to adequately fund the preservation of SDOT’s bridge infrastructure, so this measure represents the bare minimum. Preservation and maintenance of our roads and bridges, throughout the state, has been overlooked for decades so I am happy to see Councilmembers making a stand to show this is a priority moving forward.”

Heather Kurtenbach, Political Director for Ironworkers Local 86, said, “Seattle’s bridges are in need of extra care and attention. Using funds from Vehicle Licensing Fees will allow the city to begin reinvesting in the maintenance of our bridges.”

Pedro Espinoza of Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters said, “May 23, 2013, was a perfect example of how bridge closures can impact our lives. A span of the bridge carrying Interstate 5 over the Skagit River collapsed, severely impacting the movement of Washington State goods and services. We need more funding for bridge maintenance in order to avoid events like this in the future.”

Erin Goodman Executive Director of the SODO Business Improvement Area said, “SODO is the industrial heart of Seattle, and during COVID-19 we have seen how many essential businesses are located here including food and supply distribution, PPE manufacturing, and more vital activities. Increased funding for bridge maintenance is necessary to support these essential businesses and their operations throughout our region.”

Background: 

  • The specific budget line items identified by the City Auditor as “bridge maintenance” include Bridge Load Rating (capital), Bridge Painting (capital), Bridge Structures Engineering (operating), and Bridget Structure Maintenance (operating). It may make sense to add a new line item for Structures (for capital improvements).
  • Chapter 36.73 RCW provides for the establishment of Transportation Benefit Districts (TBD) by cities and counties and to levy and impose various taxes and fees to generate revenues to support transportation improvements within the TBD. In 2010, the City Council passed Ordinance 123397 which established the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (“District”). The District imposed an initial vehicle license fee of $20 pursuant to RCW 36.73.065 by adopting Seattle Transportation Benefit District Resolution 1.
  • In 2014, Seattle voters approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1, which imposed an additional $60 vehicle license fee pursuant to RCW 36.73.065 and resulted in a combined vehicle license fee of $80. In 2016, the City Council passed Ordinance 125070 which absorbed the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, and vested the City Council with the District’s duties and authority, including the authority to collect a $20 vehicle license fee and the voter-approved $60 vehicle license fee. The voter-approved $60 vehicle license fee expires on December 31, 2020.
  • The needs for improvement, maintenance, and protection of public ways within the boundaries of Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District have grown, as evidenced by the Seattle Department of Transportation’s shut down of the West Seattle Bridge in March 2020 for public safety and the City Auditor’s 2020 report on bridge maintenance.
  • For 2021, the additional vehicle license proceeds could be used for maintenance activities on Seattle bridges that support high-capacity transit or multiple modes of travel, specifically bridges serving our Frequent Transit Network (see map below). Bridges support all modes of travel. For those who are concerned that bridges are “car-centric,” all the more reason that car drivers should help to pay for added maintenance through the car tabs (vehicle license fees).

More about the Bridge Audit Results:

The Ballard Bridge needs work.
Magnolia Bridge, another bridge ranked by the 2020 Audit as “poor.”
West Seattle “High” Bridge: The sudden closure of the West Seattle “High” Bridge in March 2020 has been a major challenge. This is infrastructure is vital not only to the 100,000 people of West Seattle but also to the entire region, especially as it impacts the economic engine that is the Port of Seattle.
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

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 Transportation Chair Pedersen who requested the citywide bridge audit. “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.”

After an extensive document review and numerous exchanges by the auditor’s office with the Seattle Department of Transportation’s engineers and managers, the audit report was completed on schedule. The auditor’s report was presented to the City Council at its Transportation Committee chaired by Councilmember Pedersen Wednesday, September 16.

Pedersen initiated the audit with an April 23 letter to the City Auditor asking his office “to assess the physical conditions and maintenance investments for the major bridges owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).” Pedersen’s letter requested a report from the Auditor by mid-September to inform the City Council’s fall budget process.

The audit concluded the city government’s annual spending is far below what is needed to maintain its bridges and SDOT confirmed this: “SDOT estimates its annual spending is tens of millions of dollars less than what is needed to maintain its bridges.”

The audit report makes 10 recommendations for improving the City’s bridge maintenance and investment policies. According to the report, SDOT generally concurs with the report’s recommendations and plans to implement them. However, it will take action from the Mayor and City Council to fill the gap in funding. “I am hopeful City Hall will pay close attention to this audit report and respond appropriately during the 2021 budget discussions to ensure that critical infrastructure does not continue to deteriorate with potentially disastrous consequences,” said Councilmember Pedersen.

City Auditor David G. Jones added, “Our report shows that there is a large gap between what is budgeted for bridge maintenance and what is needed to keep them in good condition. Our recommendations are for activities that SDOT should do now to better inform where investments are made, and more effectively use the resources they currently have.”

Additional Resources (on both VLF and Bridges): 

  • Council Bill 119951 to adjust the car tab fee to $40.
  • Council Budget Action to dedicate the funds to bridges (supported by Pedersen, Herbold, Juarez Lewis, but failed 4 to 5), CLICK HERE.
  • Replacement Council Budget Action 042-B-001 to delay decision on the $3.6 million for 2021 and impose a “stakeholder engagement process” (supported by Gonzalez, Morales, Mosqueda, Sawant, Strauss; passed 5 to 4), CLICK HERE.
  • Press release (Nov 13, 2020) from Herbold, Lewis, Pedersen to focus additional $20 VLF on bridge maintenance, CLICK HERE.
  • The bridge audit report, from the City Auditor, CLICK HERE.
  • Transportation & Utilities Committee website, CLICK HERE.
  • Media reports on focusing additional $20 VLF on bridge maintenance:
  • Media reports on the citywide bridge audit:

From the Seattle Times editorial: “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. Yet the situation demands more, including a new mindset at City Hall and an authentic effort, starting with the next budget.”

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