“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

September 11th, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I have received over 38,000 e-mails, including over 2,000 from constituents in Seattle’s District 4 about police accountability, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the police response to protests here in Seattle, and the long history of institutional racism here and throughout our nation.  I am grateful so many engaged constituents have taken the time to contact my office with their grief, their outrage, and their tough questions about police accountability — and budgets. While the communications I receive from constituents offer a variety of views, I see common ground growing for re-imagining what effective and equitable public safety means as we continually seek to achieve healthy communities. Please read my initial thoughts here and I include links to additional information. There is much work to do.

UPCOMING ACTIONS: In July and August, the City Council and our Budget Committee examined our Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget to see how we can best reallocate City revenues and responsibilities to re-imagine public safety and community wellness, especially as we face budget deficits from the COVID pandemic. Many of the details not tackled during the summer can be addressed during our regularly scheduled budget process this Fall (which will impact our City’s 2021 budget). Please see below for the many posts on these vital matters since May 2020:

WEEK OF SEPT 21, 2020 UPDATE:

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

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

My Remarks Delivered When Reconsidering the 3 Budget Vetoes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voted to sustain (support) veto of CB 119825:

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

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

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

Voted to override veto on CB 119862:

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

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

Fixing the Police Contract is the Most Imperative Task:

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.”

# # #

WEEK OF SEPT 7, 2020 UPDATE:

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

WEEK OF AUGUST 17, 2020 UPDATE:

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

WEEK OF AUGUST 10, 2020 UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

“I have received over 35,000 e-mails, including over 2,000 from my constituents in Seattle’s District 4 about police accountability, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the police response to protests here in Seattle, and the long history of institutional racism here and throughout our nation.  I am grateful so many engaged constituents have taken the time to contact my office with their grief, their outrage, and their tough questions about police accountability — and budgets. While the communications I receive from constituents offer a variety of views, I see common ground for re-thinking and re-vamping what effective and equitable public safety means as we strive to achieve healthy communities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEK OF JULY 27, 2020 UPDATE:

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

WEEK OF JULY 20, 2020 UPDATE:

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

WEEK OF JULY 13, 2020 UPDATE:

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

JULY 10, 2020 UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUNE 18 and 19, 2020 Update:

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

photo by Alex Pedersen

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

photo by Alex Pedersen

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

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

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

JUNE 16, 2020 (newsletter excerpt):

Friends and Neighbors,

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

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

LISTENING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world is watching,” Ebony Miranda, chair of the organizing group, Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, told marchers on Friday, June 12, “We are on the precipice of a major shift in the fight for Black liberation,” Miranda said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. … I ask you: What will you do to make sure we sustain this movement?
I observed and participated in several demonstrations and marches, including the Silent March from Judkins Park to Jefferson Park organized by Black Lives Matter on June 12, 2020.
(photo by Alex Pedersen)

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

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

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

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

Future Actions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUNE 15, 2020 UPDATE:

ACTIONS I supported at full City Council today:

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

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

JUNE 11 AND 12, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo by Alex Pedersen

JUNE 10, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUNE 8 and June 9, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUNE 7, 2020 Update:

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

JUNE 5, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

JUNE 4, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAY 31, 2020 (original post):

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

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

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

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

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

MAYOR’S EMERGENCY ORDERS AND REPORT TO COUNCIL:

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER RESOURCES FOR INFO AND ACTION:

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

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


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

September 15th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I will be voting Yes on this Council bill.

Thank you.

# # #

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


Concerns about Scooters

September 9th, 2020
photo from SDOT blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Working for D4 During Council Recess

September 4th, 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

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

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


Ongoing Work to Revamp Public Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Save the Date! Virtual Budget Town Hall October 8

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

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



Transportation and Land Use Updates

West Seattle Bridge Work Continues;
Citywide Bridge Audit Coming Soon

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

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

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

In my Committee on Wednesday, September 16, we will hear the City Auditor present the audit of all City bridges that I requested back in April. In a city surrounded by several waterways, our bridges are the backbone of Seattle’s infrastructure for its residents and local economy and are vital for transit, freight, and other uses. Bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. The rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscores the need for City officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including preventative maintenance investments and practices. Despite budget deficits, City Hall needs to prioritize to make the investments necessary to have safe bridges for everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



More From District 4

Riding along with our Harbor Patrol

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

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

What Harbor Patrol does:

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the statement I issued:

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

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



COVID-19 Updates

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

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

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



We Want to Hear From You At City Hall!

Send an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov. We have received tens of thousands e-mails– an unheard-of volume– this summer, so I ask for your patience as we try to respond to those District 4 constituents who asked for a response. Either way, we read your e-mails and they have an impact. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
 
Public Comment by the Numbers
As City Council met remotely during the past four months to rebalance Seattle’s 2020 budget and tackle other issues, over 1,500 residents spoke to us over the special comment line during the Council meetings. I was impressed by the large number of public commenters—sometimes hundreds in a single day. Thank you for making your voices heard and for helping your elected officials make some tough decisions.

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

For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.
We will get through this together, Seattle.
With gratitude,

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


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

August 17th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Archives building update: disappointed by the federal agencies

FEBRUARY 11, 2020 UPDATE:

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

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

SOME NEXT STEPS:

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

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

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

1/25/2020 Statement:

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

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

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

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

1/21/2020 Statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Public Safety and Budget Votes $$$

August 17th, 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

Due to the COVID pandemic, revenues to our City’s treasury have dropped substantially, creating massive budget deficits (an estimated $325 million this year and $325 million next year). Last week your City Council took action to re-balance our 2020 budget and made initial changes to our police budget.

While calling for more collaboration and civility, I voted independently from the majority of the City Council on several key issues:

  • I voted to protect the salaries of Chief Carmen Best and the diverse and experienced staff she hand-picked.
  • I voted to support our “Navigation Team,” which offers services to those experiencing homelessness and cleans up debris. 
  • I voted to support the Mayor’s prudent veto of an additional spending package to acknowledge the need for fiscal responsibility in the face of budget deficits, even as we strive to deliver more COVID relief.

Ultimately, however, we had to approve the overall package to re-balance the budget. I realize some of these budget actions were unpopular. For some of my constituents, the budget actions that start to “defund” SPD did not go far enough and, for others, they went too far, too fast. Many shared my deep concern about Police Chief Carmen Best’s disappointing decision to resign after my colleagues recklessly cut her salary. The concerns I’ve been expressing to my Council colleagues were confirmed by Sunday’s Seattle Times article:

“…Amid the shock of the chief’s departure, some are asking how widely the city has sought input among African Americans. Another big question: As the city answers protesters’ call to defund the police department, does it have a plan?

A coalition of activists and community groups wants police funding cut by at least 50%  immediately. Others, including African American clergy and small business owners, are still sorting through what a re-imagining of public safety might look like — and want city officials to take their time with the matter, too.

‘They don’t bring enough people to the table who actually are going to be affected by the conversations they’re having.’”

Call for Unity: Fortunately, the Mayor and several City Councilmembers seem to share the goal of a more thoughtful community engagement process going forward. I look forward to using my public and private sector experience to collaborate with our Mayor Jenny Durkan, our interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz, and several of my City Council colleagues to tackle these financial and public safety challenges.

Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz when he was receiving an award in 2016. Former Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Chief Carmen Best cheer him on.

This newsletter delves into these budget actions and highlights that even bigger decisions will occur this November and next year.

Recent SPD Budget Votes

It’s important to emphasize that I did not vote to reduce the salaries of Chief Best and her command staff, which unfortunately passed our Budget Committee 6 to 3.  I also did not vote to end the Navigation Team (the City employees who engage with unauthorized homeless encampments) which unfortunately passed our Budget Committee 5 to 4. 

Ultimately, in the face of massive budget deficits and the call to action from ongoing, national protests in the wake of racial injustice, I voted to rebalance our City budget and take reasonable initial steps to reimagine effective policing. This includes initial reallocations from our Seattle Police Department (SPD) of less than 10% combined with increased funding for organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)  to help the City move forward.



I have received over 37,000 emails in the last four months.  Many constituents called for defunding SPD by at least 50%, some called for abolishing SPD entirely, some called for more police officers, and many agreed it’s time for systemic change — but first want a detailed and thoughtful plan from their city leaders.  Nearly all pointed out this historic moment warrants action now.

I am disappointed that 7 out of 9 Councilmembers prematurely pledged to defund SPD by a specific percentage without a prudent plan. I believe that we first need a plan—the plan should determine the percentage, not the other way around—and I look forward to working with our Mayor, Chief Diaz, and my Council colleagues to craft a detailed plan that prioritizes safety and measures results. Pledges without plans tend to overpromise and let people down, especially young people who are fed up with the systems they have been protesting. I have met with many of the young leaders who have called, emailed, and marched. 

We have much hard work to do. 

FIX THE POLICE CONTRACT NOW:  The hard work includes the hard negotiations needed to fix the police contract as soon as possible. Today’s expensive and inflexible police labor union contract is among the biggest impediments to revamping and boosting public safety in all communities. The current contract also perpetuates an unfair disciplinary system that protects bad behavior while the vast majority of police officers strive to do good work for our community. If we continue to divorce this costly, inflexible labor contract from our city budget discussions, then laying off an unreasonable number of police officers becomes one of the only ways to save or reallocate substantial dollars. But if officer layoffs negatively impact response times when the public calls about dangerous crimes, that hurts long-term public safety. To save jobs, save money, achieve accountability, and revamp community safety, the police union contract must be redone asap.   

You and our neighbors should continue to offer your ideas on how we might improve how we pay for effective public safety in Seattle. In just a few weeks, we will receive our Mayor’s proposed 2021 Budget and that is when we will take up in earnest how best to deliver safety throughout Seattle.

To write your other elected officials, you can send an e-mail to all 9 Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov and cc Jenny.Durkan@seattle.gov and Peter.Holmes@seattle.gov.

My pledge to you is that I will be thoughtful and incorporate a wide range of views so that, together, we can craft a plan delivering equity and justice for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, while enhancing public safety and community health for all. 

 

GEORGE FLOYD JUSTICE IN POLICING ACT

 

Despite disagreements on various issues, City Council unanimously passed my Resolution 31963 which I drafted to voice our support for the national legislation entitled “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”

That federal bill is H.R. 7120, introduced by Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from California and supported by Seattle’s congressional delegation Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives but has yet to advance in the U.S. Senate.  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.

Resolution 31963, which urges immediate passage of H.R. 7120 by the U.S. Senate, was reviewed by our Office of Intergovernmental Relations.

I’d like to thank Malik Davis on my staff for working on this Resolution.

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 that poll, CLICK HERE. (The online survey I attempted to send within my previous e-newsletter to District 4 residents unfortunately bounced around social media with thousands of people outside District 4 and outside Seattle responding. Therefore, the independent poll by EMC is more reliable.) 

 

MY REMARKS AT PASSAGE OF BUDGET RE-BALANCING, August 10:

 

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. We were elected not only to 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 down payment 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 to answer some basic questions: 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, police officers spend  29% of their time 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, along with making sure we do not recklessly jettison the good work done by our Harbor Patrol throughout Lake Union.  We need plans, more than pledges…

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 labor contract 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, rather 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. 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.
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 resolve to work collaboratively with our Mayor and Police Chief to solve problems and make progress for Seattle.”

THOUGHTFULLY FUNDING ALTERNATIVE SAFETY SOLUTIONS:

No matter the topic, some elected officials may try to give away your tax dollars with no strings attached or without demanding and measuring positive outcomes . There are plenty of politicians who can find ways to spend money, spreading it around like peanut butter to make interest groups happy, but not delivering results for the general public. I will continue to demand that your tax dollars are invested effectively — especially when it comes to public safety.  I have useful experience in awarding grants to organizations while at HUD during the Clinton Administration (homelessness and economic development), in Oakland (youth programs), and in Seattle (the evidence-based Nurse Family Partnership, Seattle Preschool Program, and the original gun safety study). As I learned the hard way, not all organizations with well-intentioned, heartfelt missions actually achieve sufficient positive results.

As a partial defunding of our Seattle Police Department (SPD) makes dollars available for crime prevention and community wellness programs, we have an opportunity to put in place performance measures ahead of time, so we can make sure we actually deliver the positive results we all say we want. We can also fund technical assistance for promising community-led organizations so they can track results, measure their effectiveness, and implement continuous improvements . Performance measures also enable us as policymakers to collect and review the information needed to scale up the most successful prevention and intervention anti-carceral programs proven to work so that we help more people. To truly help people in need and improve our city, here are some of the factors I would ask my Council colleagues, the Executive departments awarding the funds, and the community groups seeking the funds consider:

  • NEED: What is the specific problem we are trying to solve? Is there data that demonstrates how big the problem really is so we know how much further we need to go? (“needs assessment”). Will solving this particular problem have a positive multiplier effect to improve other aspects of society?
  • PROGRAM DESIGN: Is the program clearly designed to succeed?
    • Theory of Change: How does the program propose to make things better? What is the “theory of change”? Before providing money, we must ensure each program is designed with a clear and logical theory of change that explains how a particular intervention will directly result in the outcomes sought, rather than just hoping for results because the need is great or the program’s organizers have political connections to City Hall.
    • Targeted Impact: Is the program targeted to those who need it the most and/or will the proposed dollar amounts proposed be sufficient to make a meaningful impact? Are we going upstream to prevent the problems from occurring rather than spending ineffectively on problems that already occurred.
  • MEASURED OUTCOMES: Does the program define outcomes rather than just “inputs” and “outputs”? Rather than measuring only the “inputs” of dollars spent or the “outputs” of number of youth served, we must measure also the most relevant final outcomes (meaningful long-term goals) such as how many of those youth go on to get their high school diploma, obtain/keep a good-paying job, and/or stay out of the criminal justice system.
  • BEST PRACTICE: Does the program already have a track record of achieving positive outcomes, as verified by others (rather than just self-reporting success)? Is there is evidence (yet) of it working here or in other similar cities? A “best practice” or “evidence-based” program has a greater chance of truly helping people. Potential sources for 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.
  • PUBLIC REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFPs): While Councilmembers have publicly named specific organizations, required by State law to deploy tax dollars using a competitive  process.
    • The RFP process has the benefit of having organizations think through how they would best use these tax dollars which, if successful, will give the general public more confidence to make more investments. An RFP can incorporate the other points raised here. It can also ask for things such as the budget of the organization and the proposed budget of the program(s)/project(s). This basic info helps to confirm the organization is solvent and our City dollars would not be backfilling or solving organization problems, but rather providing additive direct services to benefit city residents in need.
    • An RFP would need to be affirmatively marketed so that BIPOC-led and culturally competent organizations are aware of the opportunity and have the information and time they need to submit competitive proposals.
    • Those reviewing the RFP should place substantial weight on Race & Social Justice outcomes.
  • PERFORMANCE-BASED CONTRACTS: Does the organization see the benefits of performance-based contracts? The contract can provide an agreed-upon framework for measuring results, feedback, and continuous improvement. If the organization does not achieve outcomes, the City could provide technical assistance or eventually move those funds to other organizations that can achieve the results for residents in need. As the funder, I believe the city government’s focus should ultimately be on achieving positive outcomes for Seattleites, rather than on sustaining the organizations with tax dollars.
  • EVALUATIONS: Are there process evaluations and outcome evaluations set up at the beginning to track and report results and provide feedback? The more money we are investing in a particular, untested intervention, the more it might warrant a higher quality evaluation.

While presented in much more detail above, the approach above is consistent with my amendment on “effectiveness” approved by City Council to the JumpStart spending bill (CB 119811) and similar to the process in awarding funds for the Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative. It’s also consistent with the funding checklist in our proposed revisions for a Fiscal & Environmental Note—a Resolution that I will work to pass soon.

Antonio M. Oftelie, executive director of Leadership for a Networked World at Harvard University who served on the Commission on the Future of Policing, wrote an Op Ed in Crosscut about why we must measure results for any new community safety programs. He wrote, “To be transparent and accountable, they [the community-led alternatives to cops] will need systems to track incidents, analyze data and report outcomes to the public. So, while we reinvent policing, we must also rebuild human services.” For the full Op Ed, CLICK HERE.

IN THE NEWS:

KUOW Radio:

  • “While the communications I’ve received from constituents offer a variety of views, I see common ground for rethinking and revamping what effective and equitable public safety means as we strive to achieve healthy communities,” Pedersen said.

Seattle Times about need for a plan first, CLICK HERE.

  • Councilmember Alex Pedersen, one of two council members who has not committed to the 50% defunding goal, said he supports shifting duties away from the Police Department, but his colleagues were doing the process backward.
  • “To do a percentage in advance is the cart before the horse, first you need a plan then the percentage will be known after that plan is finalized,” Pedersen said.

Seattle Times about SPD Budget and Chief Best: CLICK HERE.

  • “Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who voted last week to protect Best and her command staff from the pay cuts proposed by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, said he objected to the choice that a majority of his colleagues made.”

Northwest Asian Weekly appreciating Chief Best’s public service: CLICK HERE.

KOMO TV News calling for unity in Seattle: CLICK HERE.

  • “We’re about to go into a more robust budget discussion this fall. It’s a chance to reset with the Mayor, and to collaborate and show the City of Seattle we’re about solutions not sniping,” said Pedersen.

KOMO TV News about supporting Mayor’s Budget Veto: CLICK HERE.

  • With current COVID-19 impacts to city tax revenue, Council Member Alex Pedersen expressed concern about the repayment. “We don’t know what the bottom is yet (and) it’s going in the wrong direction,” Pedersen said. “So, I’m concerned about draining down the rainy-day fund.” Pedersen and Councilman Andrew Lewis voted to sustain the mayor’s veto, saying more time is needed to work out a deal with Durkan’s office to find common ground.

Updates on COVID Pandemic

Governor’s latest orders:

  • CLICK HERE for the newest guidance on indoor fitness and religious services.
  • CLICK HERE for the newest guidance for long-term care facilities.
  • CLICK HERE for the newest guidance for restaurants and summer camps.
  • CLICK HERE to learn more. 

City Hall:
Mayor Durkan signed an Executive Order to extend the moratorium on residential, nonprofit, and small business evictions in the City of Seattle until December 31, 2020. The Office of Economic Development (OED) has also provided an additional 72 small businesses impacted by COVID-19 with $10,000 grants through the third round of the Small Business Stabilization Fund. To date, OED has provided 469 small businesses with $10,000 grants through the fund.  For the Mayor’s press release and more details, CLICK HERE.

More COVID updates:

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU AT CITY HALL

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 smartphone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782 (Meeting ID 586 416 9164).

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

As I mentioned earlier, we received over 37,000 e-mails– an unheard-of volume– since June 1, so I ask for your patience as we try to respond to those District 4 constituents who asked for a response. Either way, we read your e-mails and they have an impact. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We will get through this together, Seattle.

With gratitude,

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Re-Balancing Seattle’s 2020 Budget to Address the COVID-related Deficits

August 12th, 2020

AUGUST 12, 2020 UPDATE:

SUPPORTING MAYOR’S VETO AND RESPONSIBLE COVID RELIEF: Today, our City Council responded not only to our Mayor’s veto of Council Bill 119812 but also to new information about a slower economic recovery and a larger budget deficit than expected. Our forecast of revenues dropped substantially since we unanimously passed our original COVID relief package (CB 119812). I am strongly in favor of a compassionate response to the public health and economic crisis, which is why I voted in favor of the original relief package and other COVID relief measures. At the same time, our budget deficit has grown.

To provide our City Council and our Mayor with a few additional days to collaborate and craft a concrete compromise that provides additional COVID relief to Seattle — while balancing our budget — I voted to sustain (support) the Mayor’s veto.  It was a difficult decision because I voted in favor of the original bill, but we have disturbing new economic data and I do not think it’s prudent to nearly deplete our cash reserves until we understand the fiscal challenges we are facing. Our revenues – from all sources — are on a downward trend and we do not know the bottom yet.  Councilmember Andrew Lewis joined me in this fiscally responsible approach, while six other Councilmembers voted to override the Mayor’s veto. Fortunately, a handful of Councilmembers had also prepared a major amendment (CB 119860) to reduce the original $86 million relief package to $57 million, thereby covering a key amount of the new deficit. While I would have preferred the Council and the Mayor to reach a firmer accord, this was a step in the right direction to get additional COVID relief to those in need while making a dent in the additional budget deficit. I appreciate the leadership of both the legislative and executive branches of our city government for their good intentions and for acting in good faith for Seattle with both urgency and care in this situation. Larger discussions are required to deal with our city’s deficit for 2021 and I look forward to leveraging my budgeting experience to make sure we adopt an effective and balanced budget for Seattle.

SPD REDUCTIONS: For budget re-balancing actions for 2020 impacting the Seattle Police Department (SPD), CLICK HERE.

PAYROLL TAX: For concerns about the JumpStart Payroll Tax adopted by a majority of the Seattle City Council, CLICK HERE.


Renewing our Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD)

July 7th, 2020

JULY 27, 2020 UPDATE:

After a lengthy debate on several amendments — your City Council unanimously approved a 6-year transit measure with a 0.15% sales tax to send to the November ballot, giving voters the option to renew funding for our Transportation Benefit District. The current measure is funded by a 0.1% sales tax (the 0.1% of the 10.1% total sales tax in Seattle). To keep promises I previously made about not  increasing the sales tax, I voted against the amendments to increase the Mayor’s across-the-board renewal. But, in the spirit of compromise and unity that City Hall so desperately needs during these tumultuous times, I ultimately joined all of my colleagues to make sure we put this important transit measure on the ballot for voters to decide.  

As chair of the Committee that initiated this transit legislation to get it done on time, I believe it was healthy for our city government to have a robust, yet respectful debate on the tradeoffs of the various details and then to compromise to move it forward for voters to decide. 

My comments at the conclusion of the City Council debate: 

“This is a good day for public transit. Many were concerned that, with the turmoil and uncertainty of the COVID pandemic and economic recession, we might not be able to renew the funding for the Transportation Benefit District. In fact, our colleagues at King County had to abandon a regional measure, as they shifted their attention to the public health crisis. It was up to us, here in Seattle, to beat the clock before the money for transit expired. Fortunately, we share common ground that public transit is an essential and affordable option to move the most people in our region, as we look forward to a vibrant economy and a healthy planet.   

And, despite the divisions and conflicts that many people see reported in the media, the Mayor and the City Council can pull together and row in the same positive direction — when we direct our energy toward the hard responsibility of governing.  

My statement as Council adopted the measure for voter consideration:  

Because public transit is an essential and affordable option to move the most people in the most environmentally friendly way as our economy recovers, I’m thankful the Mayor and a unanimous City Council agreed to provide Seattle voters with the option this November to renew funding for the successful Seattle Transportation Benefit District during these challenging and uncertain times.” 

For more information: 

JULY 17, 2020 UPDATE: I chaired the City Council’s Committee on Seattle Transportation Benefit District Funding and we unanimously passed Council Bill 119833 to renew funding for that important transit measure. Prior to passage, we voted on all 7 of the published amendments.

A theme of the amendments was to emphasize transit service over roadwork.  This included my Amendments #1 to allocate more money to transit service and #4 to ensure that the measure uses at least a majority of its funding for transit. Both amendments passed unanimously.

Another key amendment shortened the length of the renewal from six years to four years, which I opposed because I believe the six years provides a more reliable, longer-term funding source and gives Seattle leverage when negotiating with King County for a future regional measure. There was a lengthy and cordial debate on the pros and cons of six years vs. four years, which I believe shows how our City Council can work together on tough decisions with mutual respect.  A final amendment that would have doubled the amount of the sales tax (from 0.1% to 0.2%) was walked on by Councilmember Tammy Morales, discussed at length, and ultimately withdrawn due to lack of immediate support.

For details on the amendments and votes at the July 17 committee, review this article by SCC Insight by CLICKING HERE.

Our full City Council will vote on this important transit measure NEXT Monday, July 27. The deadline is Aug 4 to put it onto the November ballot for voters to consider.

JULY 7, 2020 (Original Post):

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

WHAT IS STBD?

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

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

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

[Note: Tim Eyman’s statewide Initiative 976 approved by voters in November 2019 (even though 76% of Seattle voters rejected it) suspends our ability to collect the car tab dollars, though some localities (including the City of Seattle) are suing to overturn I-976. If the courts overturn I-976, the City Council would have the authority under State law to continue to collect $20 of the car tabs and increase that to $40.]

For at least three reasons, I hope my colleagues on the City Council will join me in putting onto the November ballot the opportunity to renew Transportation Benefit District funding:

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

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

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

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

(For a more detailed Pros and Cons section, see below.)

Here’s my recent quote on renewing STBD:

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

SCHEDULE:

  • July 1, 2020: Our City Council President creates a temporary “Select Committee on Seattle Transportation Benefit District Funding” chaired by me (because I chair the Council’s regular Transportation & Utilities Committee).
  • July 7, 2020: Ballot measure language transmitted by Mayor Durkan/SDOT to City Council.
  • Friday, July 10: STBD Funding Committee; presentation by SDOT.
  • Monday, July 13: City Council approves its Introduction and Referral Calendar (to refer the STBD ballot measure to the STBD Funding Committee)
  • Friday, July 17: STBD Funding Committee amends bill and votes.
  • Monday, July 27: the “Full” (regular) City Council votes.
  • Tuesday, Aug 4: deadline for our City Clerk to transmit the Council-adopted and Mayor-signed measure to King County Elections (for putting on the November 3 ballot for Seattle voters).
  • Tuesday, Nov 3: final day to vote on the STBD measure. Votes of at least 50% + 1 in favor of renewed STBD funding would approve the measure.

AMENDMENTS:

One outstanding issue is how much STBD money should be invested in “infrastructure maintenance and capital improvements” that support the transit system. This bar graph from the Executive’s presentation to the July 10 meeting of the STBD Committee shows these expenditures in orange:

The bill, as introduced, actually allows for more ‘orange’ expenditures than shown on this graph—up to $9 million per year. The graph is based on SDOT’s planned 2021 budget proposal and future estimates. I am open to calls for further limiting the amount of STBD dollars invested in infrastructure, so that we increase the amount allocated to transit service.

QUOTES FROM KEY STAKEHOLDERS (July 7):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POTENTIAL PROS AND CONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Con: I could not think of a negative here. Buses are flexible and an essential piece of our regional transportation system. Granted, light rail is cooler, but you need to be able to get to a station. You can take a bus!

MORE INFO:

INFORMATIONAL WEBSITES:

  • For STBD’s current website, CLICK HERE.
  • For SDOT’s blog post on STBD: CLICK HERE.
  • For our City Council’s Committee website, CLICK HERE.
  • For a video of our STBD Funding Committee from July 10, 2020, CLICK HERE.

PROPOSAL:

  • For the proposed ordinance as submitted by the Mayor to the City Council, CLICK HERE and as officially introduced as Council Bill 119833, CLICK HERE.
  • For the presentation to the STBD Committee on July 10, 2020, CLICK HERE.
  • For the memo from our City Council Central Staff for the July 10, 2020 STBD Committee, CLICK HERE.
  • For Mayor Durkan’s press release transmitting her proposed STBD legislation to the City Council on July 7, 2020, CLICK HERE.

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

EQUITY: For the Transportation Equity Workgroup, CLICK HERE.

NEWS:

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


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

July 6th, 2020

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

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

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

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

REASONS FOR VOTING NO:

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

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

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

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

BACKGROUND:

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

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

July 3rd, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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