Councilmember Pedersen’s Blog is the Place To Be!

November 25th, 2020

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

Pro Tip: Use the “Search” box on the right side of this post to search for the topics that interest you the most. Just type the key words into that box, such as “public safety” or “budget” or “homelessness,” and click that Search button. Or you can just keep scrolling down and find the most recent content near the top.

More Info: You can also subscribe to my e-newsletter to have key posts emailed directly to you at least once a month by CLICKING HERE. Or just save this link as a favorite on your browser and check it anytime for updates: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/

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

with gratitude,


West Seattle Bridge Updates

December 31st, 2020

The sudden closure of the West Seattle “High-Rise” Bridge in March 2020 has been a major challenge for Seattle and Washington State. Even though the West Seattle Bridge is not in Seattle’s District 4, Councilmember Alex Pedersen provides periodic updates on the closure, stabilization, repairs, and other issues impacting the bridge because he was appointed to Chair the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee in January 2020. The West Seattle Bridge is an infrastructure asset vital not only to the 100,000 people of West Seattle but also to the entire region, especially as it impacts the economic engine that is the Port of Seattle.

January 1, 2021 Update:

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

November 19, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

November 9, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

September 16, 2020 Update:

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

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

August 19, 2020 Update:

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

July 16, 2020 Update:

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

April 22, 2020 Update:

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

April 15, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 30, 2020:

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

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

March 23, 2020 (ORIGINAL POST):

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

March 23, 2020:

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

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

March 23, 2020: STATEMENT FROM COUNCILMEMBER PEDERSEN:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

MORE INFO ON SEATTLE BRIDGES:

All Bridges:

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

District 4 Bridge work:

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

West Seattle Bridge:

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


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

December 31st, 2020
photo by Seattle Times

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.

JANUARY 4, 2021 UPDATE:

Today Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson held a press conference to announce he is filing additional motions in court against the Trump Administration’s attempt to sell this important property and the lack of necessary public process. He was supported at the press conference by leaders of several tribal governments. I joined the press conference for support as well. I support our Washington State Attorney General’s legal actions on multiple fronts against the Trump Administration to stop this sale and to help us keep these vital historical documents here in the Northwest. For the Seattle Times article with more details, CLICK HERE.

JANUARY 1, 2021 UPDATE:

Press release excerpts: “Attorney General Bob Ferguson…announced he will host a remote public meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, so the public can share their comments on plans by the federal government to sell Seattle’s National Archives building and move the records thousands of miles away.

“The federal government did not hold any meetings of its own in the Pacific Northwest, and did not consult with state, local, or tribal leaders in the region prior to announcing its decision to sell the Archives facility…

“The [AG’s] office will record the public comments and forward them to the [federal Public Buildings Reform Board] PBRB. Ferguson will also formally invite the PBRB members to attend the remote public hearing. The public meeting will be held via Zoom from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2021.

Zoom link: https://atg-wa.zoom.us/j/83852186385?pwd=amIvSHA4MHJJdzRVcDgzRSthQjdpQT09

Meeting ID: 838 5218 6385; Passcode: 426894

For AG Ferguson’s Dec 29 press release, CLICK HERE. For the MyNorthwest article on this announcement, CLICK HERE.

DECEMBER 4, 2020 UPDATE: Unfortunately, the small and little-known federal agency charged with disposing of certain properties owned by our U.S. Government has once again taken actions with insufficient transparency and input: the Public Building Reforms Board (PBRB) is bundling the Archives property with other properties across the country to offer for sale. Fortunately, our Washington State Attorney General is planning another lawsuit to try to stop them. I agree with these efforts of our State AG Bob Ferguson as well as the comments supporting the archives made by our U.S. Senators Murray and Cantwell as well as Congresswoman Jayapal (whose congressional district includes the current location of the archives on Sand Point Way NE). Recently re-elected Secretary of State Kim Wyman has also joined local efforts to help the archives remain in Washington State. For more details from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE. For more details from MyNorthwest, CLICK HERE.

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.


Seven Gables Theatre Building and Parcels in University District

December 24th, 2020

located at Southwest corner of NE 50th Street and Roosevelt Way NE

Firefighters battle flames as the old shuttered Seven Gables Theatre burns Thursday in Seattle’s University District. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

December 24, 2020 (original post):

STATEMENT by Councilmember Pedersen:

“I’m very sad to see todays’ devastating fire at the historic and beloved Seven Gables Theatre that has been closed since 2017 in our University District. My chief concern this Christmas Eve is the safety of everyone impacted, including the firefighters who responded to this blaze. I was relieved to confirm from the Fire Chief there were no injuries for firefighters or civilians. This has been a problem property for months and it is important that the owner secure it to prevent people from getting inside this increasingly unsafe structure.”

“As soon as I learned of the fire this afternoon, I went to the intersection to survey the scene, thank the firefighters, and confer with the incident commander. I connected with the Fire Chief to seek next steps on the fire investigation. Looking forward, I reached out to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) for next steps on securing the property as well as redeveloping the building and adjacent parcels in a way that properly preserves what remains of the historic exterior as required by our City’s Landmarks Preservation Board and considers input from the immediate neighborhood. I believe it’s important for that prominent corner near a City library and a City park to return to a vibrant and productive part of our neighborhood.”

More Resources:

  • Seattle Times article, Dec 24, 2020: CLICK HERE.
  • Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board (which coordinates with the City’s Department of Neighborhoods): CLICK HERE.


First Year Highlights for Our District 4

December 18th, 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this final newsletter for 2020 finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy during the winter holidays — and hanging on — as we finally see the light at the end of the long tunnel with the COVID pandemic.  It’s hard to believe we’ve already finished my first year as your City Councilmember for District 4 — and what a year to serve! 2020 was full of unprecedented challenges: a global pandemic, a rapid recession, a racial reckoning, the persistent homelessness crisis, the West Seattle bridge closure, and an antagonistic Trump administration. But I am proud of how our communities have risen to all challenges.

While your local government has provided relief programs quickly, I know many of my constituents are disappointed with this Seattle City Council. As your Councilmember, I have been in a unique position:  I have worked hard to balance the need to get things done, while making key policy decisions different from the majority of the City Council whenever I concluded my colleagues were proceeding without prudent plans.  To read my Seattle Times Op Ed describing both the negatives and positives of our City’s recently adopted $6.5 billion budget, CLICK HERE.

This holiday newsletter reflects on our citywide responses to the unprecedented challenges, as well as some wins for our district during my first year in office. I know we are all looking forward to next year, too! If you have time during this busy holiday season, please email me and my team at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov to let me know what you would like to see from your City Hall in 2021 — I continue to want my priorities to be driven by my constituents here in District 4.

 

FIRST YEAR HIGHLIGHTS IN DISTRICT 4

At the close of such a difficult year, our office wanted to highlight some positive things.  We share these with you in hopes of offering optimism.  Wishing you all a peaceful and healthy holiday season and a 2021 that brings relief and joy!

 

Addressing Homelessness

Set up Regional Homelessness Authority. A year ago, I cast a key vote to support the Regional Homelessness Authority between King County and the City of Seattle. It is clear the status quo has not worked, and a regional response to this regional crisis is needed.  In taking this groundbreaking step, we are honoring the research and advice of experts to end the fragmented approach we currently have. It is my hope that we will now unify in a holistic and aligned manner to achieve better results. Although the selection of a CEO to stand up the organization has been delayed by COVID, we look forward to action in 2021. In addition to establishing the RHA last year, the City budget we recently approved finally sets aside the funds to fulfill the City’s financial commitment to this new regional effort. CLICK HERE for a link to the legislation, CLICK HERE to see King County’s statement on this issue, and CLICK HERE for the website of the new Regional Homelessness Authority.

Funded a Tiny Home Village in the University District. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing homelessness crisis, I agree that well-organized tiny house villages can be a cost-effective intervention in conjunction with case management and a performance-based contract with our City’s Human Services Department.  We have seen a sharp rise in encampments in D4, done the legwork of finding a suitable short-term location for a Tiny House Village, and wish to move expeditiously to address this urgent concern of finding shelter and housing compliant with CDC guidelines. This new Tiny Home Village at NE 45th Street and Roosevelt Way NE will provide shelter (30 to 40 tiny homes) and case management for those experiencing homelessness there. The village will be temporary (1 to 2 years) until the COVID pandemic is completely behind us and the site is developed, most likely with affordable housing.

Photo from nonprofit Low Income Housing Institute

FYI: For 90 of the coldest days, the University of Washington will once again host “Tent City 3,” which will have shelter for between 40 and 70 people experiencing homelessness.  The location is the southern edge of campus behind the Wallace Building at NE Pacific Street & Brooklyn Ave in parking lot W35. For more info from UW, visit their “Addressing Homelessness” website by CLICKING HERE.

Improved accountability for homelessness response. At a time when homelessness appears to be growing, a majority of my Council colleagues unfortunately used the budget to dismantle our city’s interdepartmental Navigation Team that engaged with unauthorized homeless encampments. Instead, I believe we should have allocated more resources to our Human Services Department to track and evaluate the effectiveness of such changes. By a vote of 6 to 3, my colleagues accepted my proposal to require at least some tracking of results of their new model of outreach to homeless encampments. I firmly believe that we should always measure outcomes to make sure we are truly helping people.

 

Supporting District 4 Neighbors

Renewed the Business Improvement Area. This year the City Council unanimously approved the legislation which I co-sponsored to reauthorize the Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the University District, which is the heart of District 4. BIAs are positive, community-driven economic development tools that help keep neighborhood business districts clean and safe throughout our city. The legislation I crafted with the Mayor incorporates many key principles sought by smaller businesses, including better representation, good governance, and as well as a more formal focus on preserving existing shops and restaurants. During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to give our small neighborhood businesses the support they need to thrive. For a link to the Council Bill 119779 and related docs, CLICK HERE. For a link to the map of the proposed BIA, CLICK HERE.

Preserved funds for sidewalk projects benefiting Magnuson Park. We preserved the vital funding to build and enhance sorely needed sidewalks and crosswalks to safely connect Magnuson Park to the surrounding communities along Sand Point Way NE and to the bus stops and Burke-Gilman Trail across from the park. These sidewalks and crosswalks are needed now to meet the goals of three city government initiatives: Vision Zero, our Pedestrian Master Plan, and our Safe Routes to School program helping to safely connect dozens of children to Sand Point Way elementary school.   This is about safety for pedestrians, it’s about safety for cyclists, it’s about connecting 850 low-income and BIPOC Magnuson Park residents to their neighbors, and it’s about safely enhancing access to the regional asset that is Magnuson Park. Funded feasibility study for a new pool at Magnuson Community Center. We secured funding to study the feasibility of a new pool at Magnuson Community Center. Frankly, a new pool there might not be feasible, but the vision of hundreds of low-income kids who call Magnuson Park home taking swimming lessons within a city surrounded by water and having fun year-round in a pool they can walk to is too irresistible not to study the possibilities. Data reveal children of color have less access to parks and recreational programming that enhance self-confidence, maintain health, foster creative expression, and increase social and emotional bonds that strengthen community cohesion.

Funded pedestrian safety improvements on I-5 overpass to connect Wallingford with U District. There are only two east-west crossings of I-5 between 65th/Green Lake and North 40th Street:  NE 45th and NE 50th Streets. Both are heavily traveled by cars, and 45th by many buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Both 45th and 50th are very difficult and dangerous for non-motorized users. As a result, the University and Wallingford communities have advocated for improvements for many years. Unfortunately, the bridge itself is a Washington State DOT asset, making it difficult for our Seattle DOT to implement fixes. Solving the problem has become more urgent as the new Sound Transit Link station in the U District prepares to open in 2021. SDOT completed some initial design work in coordination with WSDOT, but it lacked funding to implement. Community leaders and transportation safety advocates worked with my office to insert $400,000 into the 2021 budget, so that construction of the improvements on the I-5 overpass are possible now. To see the official budget action, CLICK HERE.

Supported additional funding for litter cleanup under the Mayor’s Clean City Initiative. CLICK HERE to read an overview of this $3 million dollar initiative to surge the clean-up of litter and illegal dumping. The City will stand up a rapid response team within Seattle Parks and Recreation to address trash in parks, and make infrastructure improvements in key parks to improve overall cleanliness. The proposal increases the purple bag program, the number of needle disposal boxes in the city and would expand the graffiti ranger program. Funding would also be directed to business districts throughout the city to increase contracted cleaning in their neighborhoods such as the University District. In addition, SPU would more than double the number of trash pickup routes which provide twice weekly collection of trash and bulky items in public rights of way which should greatly benefit District 4. I also took the simple, yet unprecedented step directly imploring the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to pick up the trash along the I-5 greenways they own. WSDOT replied to say they will strive to do a better job to make their I-5 greenways cleaner.

 

Delivering COVID Relief
Supported funding for food vouchers, small business support, and rent relief.  City Council and Mayor Durkan have been working to mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic. This work has included relief for people who could not access federal aid, food support, small business grants, internet and computer access, and assistance with rent, utilities, and other bills. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Reduced utility bills by removing COVID-era late fees. When the COVID pandemic struck early in the year and the economy went south, many utility customers have had difficulties keeping up with their bill payments. Working with both Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, I sponsored a bill to eliminate late fees and interest on both SCL and SPU bills during the crisis. The period of relief under that bill is expiring at the end of 2020, so I led the passage of another bill extending the relief at least through the first half of 2021 (or until the City/State emergency declarations are lifted). The first bill is HERE, and the new one is HERE.

More COVID relief: For more about specific COVID relief programs in Seattle, scroll down to the end of this newsletter for links to key city government and other helpful websites.

 

Prioritizing Equity

Initiated Action Plan for Internet for All. We reaffirmed our commitment to our ambitious Internet for All initiative in the budget document to increase accountability to follow through on the Internet for All Action Plan’s eight strategies. The next report from Seattle’s Information Technology Department to my Transportation & Utilities Committee will be in the first quarter of 2021. The report will summarize progress to increase access and adoption of affordable and reliable internet service, including setting up accountability dashboards to track results.

Requested new relief program for small businesses impacted by transportation construction. During this year’s budget process, in order to address concerns of businesses in the U District and other neighborhood business districts, I advanced a “Statement of Legislative Intent” to have the Office of Economic Development (OED) collaborate with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to propose a strategy for funding and distributing financial assistance to small businesses that are adversely impacted during the construction of City-led transportation projects. This is easier said than done due to constraints of State law, but it’s important to pursue this because vulnerable small businesses are too often impacted by our government’s own construction projects.

Required improved data collection to prevent economic displacement. When adopting major new land use changes or moving ahead with new construction projects, we need to ensure we have a detailed and accurate system to track the potential loss or demolition of existing naturally occurring affordable housing—and the displacement of low-income households. The data on displacement of low-income households needs to include rent levels and supply of naturally occurring affordable housing. We need to better understand the NET impacts. This information will enable us to better quantify our new and existing stock of affordable housing. The Council included in the 2021 budget my request that the City actually obtain the data we need to implement Resolution 31870, section 2.G. and Executive Order 2019.02.  Getting this information will provide a more comprehensive picture of our City’s affordable housing stock, so that we can do more to prevent economic displacement in Seattle. To read the official budget action, CLICK HERE.

Introduced and passed Justice for George Floyd Act Resolution to support police reform at the federal level, too. Despite disagreements on various public safety 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.

 

Getting Back to Basics

Requested analysis of City Government Employees’ Retirement System expenses. While we want city government employees to have access to retirement benefits from a sustainable retirement system, my concern is that Seattle taxpayers continue to pay an increasing amount to support the pension program of our City government employees. My colleagues agreed to my budget request to have the city government clearly quantify and shine a light on these expenses paid by Seattle’s taxpayers, so that the general public and media are more aware of these costs and the upward trend. We want a sustainable retirement system for our employees.  At the same time, we are conscious that every extra dollar paid by City taxpayers to support a government employee lifetime pension is a dollar not provided for other urgent needs, such as housing those experiencing homelessness.  While we cannot change current pensions, we may want to consider providing more sustainable retirement options for FUTURE new city government employees, so that these retirement programs available only to government employees do not unnecessarily drain money from external-facing programs serving our city’s most vulnerable populations and communities. The next generation of younger, new employees who have a more mobile and versatile career path might appreciate other options that do not rely on decades of local government service to provide the most retirement benefits.

Obtained funding for transportation priorities from Vehicle License Fees. After the Supreme Court overturned Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 as unconstitutional, the City of Seattle is able to tap again the vehicle license fees (VLF) as a source for transportation projects and programs, including bridge maintenance. Currently we pay $80 to the City and that was going to drop to only $20 because a $60 VLF approved by voters in 2014 is expiring. As allowed by State law, the Council adjusted it to $40. That incremental $20 VLF will raise $3.6 million in 2021 and $7.6 million per year when there is a full year of funding starting in 2022. We could have immediately dedicated the funds for bridge maintenance (see article below), but a majority of the Council decided to do a public process to decide how to spend the revenue; described in the legislation HERE (last two “Whereas” clauses). Despite the disappointing delay, I am hopeful the additional process will lead to a robust increase in funding for bridge safety from several sources, which was called for by the audit of bridges I initiated and would benefit all modes of travel and keep our economy moving. For a Seattle Times article explaining the renewed VLF fee, CLICK HERE.

Councilmember Pedersen inspecting underneath West Seattle Bridge

Initiated safety audit of Seattle’s bridges and secured additional funding for bridge maintenance. After the Mayor had to close the West Seattle Bridge suddenly in March, I initiated an audit by the City Auditor to review the status of the bridges across Seattle and their ongoing maintenance needs. The audit report concluded that the City should be spending at least $34 million per year on bridge maintenance, but spent about $10 million in 2020 and less in earlier years. This underspending results in deterioration of the City’s infrastructure over time. As I had requested, this audit was delivered to the Council in time to inform the 2021 budget. I worked hard on a number of fronts to increase the City’s commitment to bridge monitoring and maintenance, and succeeded in raising the 2021 figure to about $14 million. While that’s a step in the right direction, we need a larger and longer source of stable revenue. Frankly, I’m disappointed that some of my colleagues did not use this budget as an opportunity to take infrastructure safety more seriously by providing more dollars. My blog posts discussing the bridge audit and related budget items are HERE and HERE. For an editorial by the Seattle Times on this topic, CLICK HERE

Protecting our Environment

Renewed Transportation Benefit District for transit. We are thankful to Seattle voters for approving Seattle Proposition 1 in November 2020 to authorize a six-year 0.15% sales tax for the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), which focuses on supplementing the bus service from King County Metro as well as providing free transit passes for those most in need. Exactly how to spend renewed STBD funds as well as other transportation infrastructure dollars in 2021 will be a major topic for discussion in my Transportation & Utilities Committee — and for many Seattle residents.

Crafted Climate Note policy to consider climate change and resiliency with new legislation. The Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31933, which I crafted. The Resolution will, for the first time, require the City Council to formally consider the crisis of climate change when reviewing new legislation. For more about climate change and the new Biden Administration, see below.

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

Source: Seattle’s Urban Forestry Commission


2020 IN D4

January: sworn into office as your City Councilmember by a public servant hero, Ron Sims

January: Eastlake Town Hall

January: Kicking off weekly Office Hours at Magnuson Park

February: District 4 Restaurant Roundtable

February: Touring the new Roosevelt Light Rail Station

March: Supporting local business with take-out in our district as pandemic led to restrictions on indoor dining

April 2020 Earth Day: touring Transfer Station in Wallingford, as Chair of Transportation & Utilities Committee

May: visiting Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford and other small businesses to listen to what they need (and to get a growler).

May: joining an early peaceful march in North Seattle with Nathan Hale students, shortly after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd.

August: On a ride-along with Harbor Patrol to see District 4 and its bridges from Lake Union and Lake Washington

October: another D4 Town Hall; this one focused on our City budget

November: Picking up litter in our district with Seattle Public Utilities employees


REVAMPING PUBLIC SAFETY

The budget, as amended by the City Council, unfortunately cuts police officer positions drastically before there is a community-driven plan and proven alternatives in place. While the Council approved my request to study the impact on response times to 9-1-1 priority one emergency calls, this will be after-the-fact, instead of careful upfront planning. I strongly support more police reform and proven alternatives to traditional policing such as sending mental health professionals to help people in mental health crisis. But we need the plans in place first. And how City Hall allocates your tax dollars must be done effectively. Even after a Seattle Times analysis indicated our police department has fewer officers per capita than other cities — and after we learned highly trained officers are leaving at a faster rate — my Council colleagues chose to permanently eliminate police officer positions without first  finishing the formal community input processes created by the Council and Mayor. The budget also sidesteps the real issue: the urgent need to revamp the unjust, inflexible, and expensive police union contract. Redoing that contract is how we can save money, improve discipline, honor good work of first responders, and deploy unarmed professionals for lower priority calls to reduce harm. “Police contracts are one of the keys to police reform,” said Community Police Commission Co-Chair, Reverend Aaron Williams, at my Budget Town Hall. “When you’re talking about changing anything from the discipline of officers to them receiving pay, it all comes back to contracts.”  Moreover, expanding accountability reforms requires ample staffing for supervision and community policing.  Yet Council’s amendments cement in a sharp reduction in officers before proven alternatives are in place.  I’m concerned the remaining officers will be stretched thin and responding late. Our former Police Chief Carmen Best was clear: “I do not believe we should ask the people of Seattle to test out a theory, crime goes away if police go away, that is completely reckless.”

Concerns With Controversial Proposal to Add Defenses for Misdemeanor Crimes

I agree that reimagining public safety should include preventing crime, increasing police accountability, and investing more in community health and wellness. We have made more progress and there is much more work to be done. It also remains the responsibility of policymakers to strike an appropriate balance by assessing whether any proposed policy that is unconventional and untested may, in fact, be unwise and make matters worse.

At this time, I have ten specific concerns regarding my colleague’s proposal to amend our Seattle Municipal Code to add defenses found nowhere else in the nation for those who have committed misdemeanor crimes:

  1. It’s important to have local laws that foster respect among each other, rather than enabling individuals committing crimes to sidestep codes of conduct and avoid consequences for breaking basic laws that set standards for how we interact with each other. I’m concerned that minimizing consequences for breaking our laws will not make our communities safer. While it has made sense to reform laws such as drug possession meant to protect oneself, I’m concerned about weakening laws meant to protect each other and our communities. This proposal seems to create too easy of an excuse for repeated vandalism, trespassing, shoplifting, and other crimes that harm other people.
  2. Let’s first see effects of other big changes: I believe we should wait until we can see the impacts of the recent cuts to the police budget as well as the results of the community-led participatory budgeting process next year, the implementation of alternatives to traditional policing, and the revamping of the police contract to finally put in place the missing reforms. Let’s first see how these other changes work before this Council is immersed in a time-consuming and distracting debate over whether we should be the first city in the U.S. to weaken basic local laws that protect each other. Once again, it seems we would be unwisely proceeding with a controversial proposal without a plan.
  3. Negative impact beyond Seattle: As with the unfortunate incident called C.H.O.P. where Seattle became, in the eyes of many, a national embarrassment, I’m deeply concerned that such a controversial proposal could have a negative impact that reverberates beyond the bubble of City Hall and the boundaries of our city. It could inadvertently impede police reform efforts we want enacted at the state level in Olympia early next year…The Seattle Times recently quoted the concern of State Rep. Roger Goodman, a Kirkland Democrat who chairs the House Public Safety Committee: “Those who are alarmed by this can use this as a talking point to undermine what I believe are responsible justice system reforms on the state level.”
  4. Ignores victims of crimes: The December 7 memo from Central Staff does not discuss any impact to the victims of the crimes, including physical, emotional, or economic harm to the victims.
  5. Ignores input from the general public: We often say proposed legislation must have stakeholder input and, in this case, I strongly believe the general public and small businesses are key stakeholders. While advocates might have the ear of some Councilmembers and offer some commendable ideas, we also need to listen to the general public and small businesses, which is harder to do as communications are limited during the COVID pandemic. Our city cannot afford to have more local businesses leave our city and shrink the tax base we rely on to fund programs to help our low-income neighbors.
  6. Could increase insurance premiums: The December 7 memo from Central Staff does not discuss the cost borne by renters, homeowners, and small businesses to replace stolen merchandise or broken windows or increased insurance expenses. I’m concerned this could give insurance companies an excuse to classify all of Seattle as a high-risk zone which will, in turn, increase the cost of renters insurance, homeowners insurance, and business loss insurance.
  7. The December 7 memo from Central Staff does not say whether any other U.S. cities have experimented with expanding affirmative defenses to misdemeanor crimes. If other cities are doing this, can we review the data of how it actually works elsewhere? If no other U.S. cities are experimenting with this, why should our communities and small businesses in Seattle once again be the national guinea pig?
  8. Would this apply just to Seattle residents? If not, how would this proposal prevent those struggling throughout the region from simply driving into Seattle to shoplift because they know they can claim poverty as a defense?
  9. Not needed now: This proposal is not needed for at least 1 to 5 years because the existing City Attorney who is likely seeking another 4-year term next year has already acknowledged in his October 30th memo that he does not prosecute so-called crimes of poverty.
  10. “Necessity” defense already available: The proposal is not needed because, as the City Attorney already points out in his October 30th memo, defendants can already use the common law defense of “necessity.”

For more on this topic, you can visit my blog post by CLICKING HERE.


COVID RESPONSE AND RELIEF

The Washington State Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County are working to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in our region. Vaccination is currently only available to people in the highest risk groups (such as frontline health care workers), and will become available to more people in 2021 as King County receives more supplies. CLICK HERE to learn more about the vaccine. As people begin to receive vaccines, the rate of new cases in King County is still very high and it remains crucial to social distance, avoid gatherings, and wear a mask.

If you have symptoms or learn that you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, health official recommend that you get tested immediately.

  • Testing is available in North Seattle on Aurora Avenue (register HERE), Neighborcare Health (call 206-296-4990), and Northgate Community Center (register HERE)
  • Free at-home testing by mail is also available—register HERE.
  • Click THIS LINK to see other testing locations in Seattle and King County.

Mayor Durkan and City Council have extended COVID-19 relief efforts.

  • The eviction moratorium for residential, nonprofits, and small businesses will remain in place through March 31, 2021.
  • Late fees on utilities bills remain suspended.
  • A pilot program to lower Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light bills by up to 60 percent will continue operating through June 30, 2021.
  • Enforcement of the 72-hour parking rule remains suspended.
  • Temporary loading zones for restaurants and small businesses have been extended.

King County, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and Greater Seattle Partners are administering a survey of small businesses to understand the economic impacts of the pandemic. If you are a small business owner, nonprofit representative, or independent worker, CLICK HERE to take the Business Impacts Survey before December 23.

CLICK HERE to read more about Seattle’s ongoing response to the public health and economic crises.


TRANSPORTATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Is the climate cavalry coming?

Seattle is not about to let up on its efforts to address climate change, which currently include reducing carbon emissions and increasing our resiliency (“adaptation”) in the face of the negative environmental changes already underway. But as the Chair of the Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, I can tell you it’s a relief that a new federal administration is entering that clearly embraces the science, the national and international efforts required to reverse the global threat, and the environmental and economic benefits of transitioning to a more green economy. This includes President-Elect Biden’s appointments to the U.S. Dept of Transportation, the Dept of Energy, and a new cabinet-level climate advisor.  I believe the climate calvary is coming.

I’m also more hopeful with the Biden Administration and their experience with the U.S. Senate that we could see more funding for infrastructure which would benefit our efforts to repair or replace Seattle’s aging bridges – bridge that we must keep safe and open to support other investments in several modes of transportation, including public mass transit.


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

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

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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


Criteria for Deploying Your Tax Dollars Effectively:

December 13th, 2020

How More Accountability Can Ensure We Do the Most Good for the People Most in Need

I believe our city government can and should be more transparent and thorough when allocating and tracking your tax dollars to ensure we do the most good for those most in need.

I have devoted more than half of my 30-year career to public service through government because I want to help people in need and enable cities to thrive. As we know, a key “business model” of government is to impose taxes and fees and then to redeploy those dollars to do good for the public.  Local governments are typically more equitable and fair than the private market, we can impose and enforce laws (including taxes), and our relatively large size can enable cost-saving “economies of scale.” In addition to delivering city government basics like safety, zoning, and transportation, big cities with big needs like Seattle often supplement the social services of other levels of government (county, state, federal) by providing our own subsidies, programs, and projects to help low-income and marginalized communities.

Because governments collect and spend your tax dollars — and we want to do good with those dollars — it should follow that we want to be accountable by carefully deploying the dollars in ways likely to produce positive outcomes. We certainly don’t want to misuse or squander your dollars because that would undermine both the validity and effectiveness of government. This is why it’s always surprising to me whenever governments or their officials do not employ basic due diligence procedures when deciding how to deploy your money. It’s almost as if, some public officials are afraid to ask basic questions for fear of seeming callous or uninformed when, in fact, we need answers to basic questions to make sure we are doing the most good and can continue to do so.

For example, 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 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.

As someone who has worked for the federal government, other local governments, and the private sector in the financial arena, I’d like to share with you the checklists I strive to consider when deciding whether a project or organization should receive your tax dollars. Frankly, legislators rely a lot on the executive branch (with their 12,000 employees vs. our 100 or so legislative staff) to make sure dollars are deployed with accountability. But legislators typically have final approval authority over the budget and we are expected to provide oversight to make sure your tax dollars are doing the good work we intended.

If we simply deploy your dollars to city government executive departments responsible for delivering proven programs and benefits for residents and communities, then that’s a good start for accountability because those employees work for the government. If, however, we are contracting out those dollars to private organizations (including nonprofits), then extra effort is warranted to keep track of your tax dollars and put in place performance-based contracts to keep track of goals and outcomes.

Unfortunately, some public officials allow tax dollars to be deployed without sufficient due diligence upfront or without specifying and measuring positive outcomes. Many politicians are adept at devising ways to spend money — spreading it around to respond to vocal and well-meaning advocacy groups — but they might not be as focused on a methodical, transparent process for deciding who receives the funds or a methodical, transparent process for tracking results. Much of the City’s $6.5 billion budget is already targeted toward those most in need and, during each annual budget season, policymakers strive to do more. Following that desire to direct more dollars should also be the desire to make sure ALL the dollars are actually achieving their goals – to ensure we are truly helping people. I will continue to demand that your tax dollars are invested effectively.

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 sufficiently positive results.

Having worked in this position as a Councilmember for only one year, I’m still assessing whether the existing Seattle ordinances and procedures provide sufficient accountability when deploying your tax dollars.  As with most things in a dynamic organization, I suspect there is room for improvement and will work on this accountability issue in 2021. For example, the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Chapter 20.50Procurement of Consultant Services” may need tightening by closing “loopholes” to ensure greater accountability. In a process critiqued by the independent SCC Insight, four City Councilmembers used an existing Seattle Municipal Code provision to award $3 million directly to organizations, when many (including me) had believed those funds — which we all supported for community-informed participatory budgeting — would instead be awarded through an open Request for Proposals process. (See below for several public benefits of using the best practice of an open RFP process.) In addition, when awarding funds to specific organizations, the City Council may want to beef up our analysis by adding to our Summary/Fiscal Note a clear and consistent due diligence checklist (which could include some of the financial and programmatic criteria discussed in this blog post).

As a partial defunding of our Seattle Police Department (SPD) and other budgeting efforts make available additional dollars available for alternative crime prevention and community wellness programs, we have a tremendous opportunity to put in place smart 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 to empower many promising community-led organizations so they can apply for funds, 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.

Either way, basic accountability is needed to allocate dollars strategically and to ensure positive outcomes. I divide this assessment into two sections:

  1. Deciding who receives your money and
  2. Assessing effectiveness (for both social programs and capital projects):

1. DECIDING WHO RECEIVES YOUR MONEY:

The Process (transparency):

  • Was a public and competitive process used to award the funds?
  • A Request for Proposal (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.

Several city departments have experience running a Request for Proposals process, including the Human Services Department, Office of Planning and Community Development, and Office of Economic Development.  

Conversely, awarding funds in a sole-source manner (providing dollars directly to a single organization without an opportunity for others to compete) should be avoided because it typically lacks rigor and transparency — and might not produce the best results. [An exception to an RFP process may include short-term loans to nonprofit Public Development Authorities (PDAs) because (a) those loans will be paid back, (b) PDAs were created by the City government, and (c) PDAs have limited access to certain other funding sources such as the federal government’s COVID relief Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) program.]

The Recipient (track record):

  • Is the recipient a nonprofit or for-profit?
  • Is the recipient a reputable organization?
  • Does the recipient have a strong track record of delivering results, such as tangible benefits to low-income or marginalized individuals?
  • Does the organization make their financial statements available to the public?
  • Have we examined the organization’s financial statements to verify financial need as well as future solvency?
  • If the organization is seeking funds because it is under financial duress rather than to provide additive services to the public, what evidence is there that circumstances will improve and not require more funding to support the organization?

Their Proposal (either social service program or capital project):

  • Is the money being used to help people in need or just the organization itself? (When donating money to charitable nonprofits, a best practice is often to make sure the organization is using less than 20% of its annual budget for its own overhead, administration, and fundraising. In other words, at least 80% is going “out the door” to help actual people in need outside of the organization.)  This balance should be assessed at both the level of the organization as a whole and at the level of the proposed project seeking government funds.
  • Is it a grant or a loan?
    • If it’s a loan:
      • What is the likely source of repayment? Cash flow? Fundraising?
      • What are the secondary sources of repayment? Refinancing other loans to cash out some resources?
      • What is the collateral of this public loan in case the loan is not re-paid as agreed?
  • Are we permanently giving away public land (not ideal) or providing a long-term (e.g. 99-year) lease so that the public retains ownership of public lands while the organization still benefits and provides its services?
  • More Criteria: See below for the different checklists for effectiveness: Social Service programs vs. Capital Projects…

Technical Assistance: If a promising organization seeking the funding could benefit from technical assistance to craft their application and/or produce the requested documentation, the city government should strive to provide it. For example, some organizations may have vital knowledge (language proficiency, cultural competence, trust in the community, etc.) but lack experience competing during an RFP process and/or tracking and reporting results. For example the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) completed an RFP process in December 2020 and ensured smaller organizations received technical assistance with their applications.  

2. ASSESSING EFFECTIVENESS:

The checklist for assessing a social service program is different than the checklist for a capital project. That’s because constructing a new low-income apartment building (capital project), for example, is very different than targeting income supports for low-income families. Both types of investments are worthy of consideration for your tax dollars to prevent homelessness and both should be appropriately assessed for their effectiveness — as city government should do for all social service programs and capital projects that are seeking your tax dollars.  

A. Social Service Programs:

  • 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 / COMPETITIVE REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFPs): discussed above.
  • 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.

B. Capital (Construction / Infrastructure) Projects (not owned by the City government):

Minimum Docs Needed to Assess a Proposal

Based on my experience, I believe the following documents are needed for any funder (the city government with your tax dollars, in this case) to reasonably understand both the physical and financial parameters of the proposed project.  Having the same information from each proposed project also enables the funder to compare the relative benefits, challenges, and feasibility of each project. 

  1. A detailed description of the proposed project, including the physical structure(s), community engagement, direct beneficiaries of the project, and intended outcomes.
  2. Proposed Sources and Uses of all funds. Where are all of the dollars coming from and how will they be spent? Sources should include the requested City funds and Uses should include the construction / renovation budget (if applicable), any real estate developer profit / fee and any loans (along with financial terms of any loans). Do they need our money and will it be spent wisely?
  3. Certified historical operating statements of the project (if the project already exists) with line item detail of revenues and expenses (including any City subsidies and/or tax exemptions as well as any debt service on any loans). How well has the project been operating?
  4. Projected (proforma) operating statement for at least the next five (5) years with line item detail of revenues and expenses (including any City subsidies and/or City tax exemptions as well was debt service on any loans). We should consider how well the project is likely to operate over the long-term.
  5. The most recently available independent audit of the project and/or organization to be receiving the city subsidy (if the project or organization already exists).
  6. Drawings, diagrams, photographs, and maps of the proposed project, including a site plan.
  7. A detailed list of direct public benefits resulting from the proposed project.
  8. Any other documents pertinent to determining financial need, feasibility, and public benefits.

Note: A City government office adept at assessing capital projects is our Office of Housing. Each year OH issues Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) that enable nonprofit housing organizations to apply for Seattle Housing Levy funding to help build or preserve affordable housing throughout Seattle.

By employing basic accountability checklists like those detailed above, your city government’s policymakers can ensure that your tax dollars are deployed in an effective manner to achieve the positive outcomes we all want for Seattle. Less rhetoric and more results for our city.

# # #


Concerns with Misdemeanor Defense Proposal: unconventional, untested, unwise

December 8th, 2020

December 8, 2020: Here are excerpts of my remarks to the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety Committee:

Good morning, Colleagues.  Under the City Council’s new rules for its committees, I’m able to participate in today’s Public Safety Committee because I am an “Alternate” member and a regular member is absent today.  I appreciate this opportunity to share input on this proposal from my colleague to expand the affirmative defenses available to defendants arrested and prosecuted for misdemeanor crimes within the city of Seattle.

Following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and other tragic and unjust deaths at the hands of law enforcement, City Hall has been responding to public calls for restorative justice, reinvestment in marginalized communities, and the development of public safety alternatives. Earlier this year, our city government has taken numerous policy and budget actions to reimagine and revamp public safety. Regarding the reform of our Seattle Municipal Code, I was proud to co-sponsor and vote for changes that repealed misdemeanor loitering laws that had racist outcomes (Section 12A.10.010 of the Seattle Municipal Code). We have much more hard work to do.

I agree we must continue to craft public policies that are compassionate and data-informed. We must continue to address the long-standing stigmas that demonize our neighbors experiencing homelessness, addiction, and poverty — and the disproportionate negative impacts on communities of color.

It also remains the responsibility of policymakers to strike an appropriate balance by assessing whether any proposed policy that is unconventional and untested may, in fact, make matters worse or cause harm to others in our communities.

Just as I appreciate the good intent in which your proposal is being floated, I hope you appreciate the good intent of my wanting to share the serious concerns of many constituents who have contacted me in recent weeks. Big picture, I’m very concerned that the analysis thus far is framed as HOW to enact this unconventional, untested policy rather than WHETHER to enact it. At this time, I have 10 specific concerns:

  • First, I agree that reimagining public safety should include preventing crime, increasing police accountability, and investing more in community health and wellness. It’s important to have local laws that foster respect among each other, rather than enabling individuals committing crimes to sidestep codes of conduct and avoid consequences for breaking basic laws that set standards for how we interact with each other. I’m concerned that minimizing consequences for breaking our laws will not make our communities safer. While it has made sense to reform laws such as drug possession meant to protect oneself, I’m concerned about weakening laws meant to protect each other and our communities. This proposal seems to create too easy of an excuse for repeated vandalism, trespassing, shoplifting, and other crimes that harm other people.
  • Let’s First See Effects of Other Big Changes: I believe we should wait until we can see the impacts of the recent cuts to the police budget, the results of the community-led participatory budgeting process next year, the implementation of alternatives to traditional policing, and the revamping of the police contract to finally put in place the missing reforms. Let’s first see how these other changes work before this Council is immersed in a time-consuming and distracting debate over whether we should be the first city in the U.S. to weaken basic local laws that protect each other. Once again, it seems we would be unwisely proceeding with a controversial proposal without a plan.
  • Negative Impact Beyond Seattle: As with the unfortunate incident called C.H.O.P. where Seattle became, in the eyes of many, a national embarrassment, I’m deeply concerned that such a controversial proposal could have a negative impact that reverberates beyond the bubble of City Hall and the boundaries of our city. It could inadvertently impede police reform efforts we want enacted at the state level in Olympia early next year…The Seattle Times recently quoted the concern of State Rep. Roger Goodman, a Kirkland Democrat who chairs the House Public Safety Committee: “Those who are alarmed by this can use this as a talking point to undermine what I believe are responsible justice system reforms on the state level…” [Update 1/6/2021: Thankfully, both Democratic candidates won the U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia; my concerns about that turned out to be wrong.]
  • Ignores the Victims of the Crimes: The December 7 memo from Central Staff does not discuss any impact to the victims of the crimes, including physical, emotional, or economic harm to the victims. (Watering down a law and then creating a “restitution” fund for victims is like saying you can run red lights if you’re late for work and worried you’ll lose your job, but we’ll use tax dollars to create a fund for the car crash victims.)
  • Ignores Input from General Public: We often say proposed legislation must have stakeholder input and, in this case, I strongly believe the general public and small businesses are key stakeholders.  While advocates might have the ear of some Councilmembers and offer some commendable ideas, we also need to listen to the general public and small businesses which is harder to do as communications are limited during the COVID pandemic. Our city cannot afford to have more local businesses leave our city and shrink the tax base we rely on to fund programs to help our low-income neighbors.
  • Could Increase Insurance Premiums: The December 7 memo from Central Staff does not discuss the cost borne by renters, homeowners, and small businesses to replace stolen merchandise or broken windows or increased insurance expenses.  I’m concerned this could give insurance companies an excuse to classify all of Seattle as a high-risk zone which will, in turn, increase the cost of renters insurance, homeowners insurance, and business loss insurance.
  • National Guinea Pig? The December 7 memo from Central Staff does not say whether any other U.S. cities have experimented with expanding affirmative defenses to misdemeanor crimes.  If other cities are doing this, can we review the data of how it actually works elsewhere? If no other U.S. cities are experimenting with this, why should our communities and small businesses in Seattle once again be the guinea pig?
  • Inviting Trouble? Would this apply just to Seattle residents? If not, how would this proposal prevent those struggling economically throughout the region from simply driving into Seattle to shoplift because they know they can claim poverty as a defense?
  • Not Needed Now (City Attorney): This proposal is not needed for at least 1 to 5 years because the existing City Attorney who is likely seeking another 4-year term next year has already acknowledged in his October 30th memo that he does not prosecute so-called crimes of poverty.
  • Not Needed Now (Can Use “Necessity” Defense): The proposal is not needed because, as the City Attorney already points out in his October 30th memo, defendants can already use the common law defense of “necessity.”

I urge the Chair and members of this City Council Public Safety Committee to table this controversial idea until after our Washington State legislature concludes its Spring session in 2021.  Thank you.

More Information:

Note: While Councilmember Lisa Herbold, the Chair of the Public Safety & Human Services Committee, presented a rough draft detailing how the Seattle Municipal Code could be amended, an actual Council bill has not been formally introduced. The original proposal from October included behavioral health and substance use disorders but, as of December 7, 2020, the proponents seem to have scaled this back to only “crimes of poverty” (also known as “immediate basic need”) .

  • City Council Central Staff memo, December 7, 2020: CLICK HERE.
  • For an article from SCC Insight, November 1, 2020: CLICK HERE.
  • City Attorney Holmes public memo, October 30, 2020: CLICK HERE.
  • Seattle Times editorial, October 29, 2020 against original proposal: CLICK HERE.
  • CM Herbold’s original proposal (“duress legislation”) via the Fall budget process which was withdrawn (insufficient nexus with the budget), October 2020: CLICK HERE.
  • King County Department of Public Defense original rough draft proposal: CLICK HERE.
  • Criminal Code sections of Seattle Municipal Code (SMC): CLICK HERE.


Councilmember Pedersen Statement on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s decision not to seek re-election

December 7th, 2020
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan during a news conference on Sept. 2.  (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
photo by Associated Press, published in Seattle Times

I was saddened to hear that our Mayor Jenny Durkan has decided not to seek re-election as the Chief Executive of our City. 

Mayor Durkan’s smart, balanced, and compassionate leadership of Seattle has been vital for guiding and sustaining our city through an unprecedented combination of crises: a pandemic, a recession, a racial reckoning, homelessness, the West Seattle bridge closure, and an antagonistic Trump Administration.

Mayor Durkan and her talented team have steadily managed 40 city government departments through her hard-working department heads, investing $6.5 billion each year to improve our city and the lives of its 750,000 residents. Getting things done in public office — despite such a divisive political landscape — Jenny Durkan and her family should be commended for the generous sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our city.

Thankfully, Jenny Durkan is still our Mayor for another full year and I plan to continue my constructive work with her and her team for positive results that benefit all of Seattle, including the Equitable Communities Initiative task force, enhancing the response to homelessness, supporting small businesses impacted by COVID, achieving Internet for All, and improving the safety of Seattle’s bridges.

  • For Mayor Durkan’s original video announcement, CLICK HERE.
  • For Mayor Durkan’s statement to the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

# # #


Final Budget – Positives and Negatives 💵

November 23rd, 2020

[NOTE:

  • More on the Budget: The blog post below discusses the final results of the Fall 2020 budget process (for 2021). For the separate blog post that details the beginning and middle of the process, CLICK HERE.
  • Public Safety: While public safety is a key component of our city budget and is discussed below, you can also view my separate posts about reimagining and revamping policing in Seattle by CLICKING HERE ]

Friends and Neighbors,

On Monday, November 23, 2020 your City Council adopted the 2021 budget for city government.

In a statement released to the media shortly after our Budget Committee last week, the other eight Seattle City Councilmembers celebrated amendments made to Mayor Durkan’s $6.5 billion proposal. Finalizing a budget feels like an achievement, especially given this year’s challenges: a pandemic, a recession, a racial reckoning, the homelessness crisis, the West Seattle bridge closure, and an antagonistic Trump Administration.

However, I do not feel like celebrating. I believe the amended budget has substantial negatives: it shortchanges our bridge infrastructure, fails to revamp public safety with a plan, and reduces accountability for our response to homelessness—all while giving city government a pay increase instead of investing more in our most marginalized communities. Ultimately, I voted Yes for the final package in this historic moment for reasons I’ll discuss in this newsletter. I believe it’s important to acknowledge both the positives and negatives of this year’s budget.

I appreciate the hard work the Mayor, our City departments, our City Council staff, and our Budget Chair have invested into this 2021 budget. The law requires us to craft a balanced budget covering 40 departments and 12,000 government employees under a tight deadline and we had difficult choices to make. People are yearning for functional government. If the budget does not pass, nothing gets done. No budget is perfect, and this budget is no exception. My constituents have diverse and conflicting views. A budget with positives and negatives is a natural result.

Despite the drama during each Fall budget season, the Council typically leaves intact over 90% of the budget exactly as proposed by the Mayor. This budget is no different, re-allocating less than 10% of the more flexible $1.5 billion General Fund. (When including the $6.5 billion from all budget funds, the Council’s changes amount to less than 3%.)  Many of the changes are made possible by a new revenue forecast received in the middle of the process (another common occurrence) that enables the Budget Chair to dole out additional dollars to the various Councilmember requests. To her credit, the Budget Chair transferred much of the additional funding to rebuild our Rainy Day Funds.

  • For my brief Op Ed on this budget process published by the Seattle Times, November 23, 2020, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Budget Committee meetings with votes on key amendments and final packages:
    • penultimate Budget Committee on Thursday, November 17, 2020, CLICK HERE.
    • final Budget Committee on Monday, November 23, 2020, CLICK HERE.
    • full City Council meeting Monday, November 23, 2020 that adopted the final budget for 2021, CLICK HERE.

Before we delve deeper into some negatives of this budget, here are some of the positives:

  • Funding for a Tiny Home Village in the University District and more dollars to the Regional Homelessness Authority. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing homelessness crisis, I agree that well-organized tiny house villages can be a cost-effective intervention in conjunction with case management and a performance-based contract with the Human Services Department (HSD).  We have seen a sharp rise in encampments in D4, done the legwork of finding a suitable short-term location for a Tiny House Village, and wish to move expeditiously to address this urgent concern of finding shelter and housing compliant with CDC guidelines. In addition, this budget finally transfers substantial sums away from city government operations to the new Regional Homelessness Authority. Regional problems require regional solutions and, considering the City of Seattle’s spotty track record in responding to homelessness, the forthcoming regional operation is a welcome change.
  • Clean Cities Initiative. CLICK HERE to read an overview of this proposal to surge the clean-up of litter and illegal dumping. Since the beginning of the pandemic, through a combination of increases in trash at parks, reduced staffing due to COVID-19 safety, and a lack of volunteer opportunities for residents, the City faced significant challenges addressing litter and illegal dumping remediation. Data from Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) Illegal Dumping program shows a 195% increase in the volume of material collected from Q2 to Q3 2020. Departments, including SDOT, Parks & Recreation, Office of Economic Development, and SPU, will create a comprehensive plan to address the increase of waste challenges across the City which would stand up a rapid response team within Seattle Parks and Recreation to address trash in parks, and make infrastructure improvements in key parks to improve overall cleanliness. The proposal increases the purple bag program, the number of needle disposal boxes in the city and would expand the graffiti ranger program. Funding would also be directed to business districts throughout the city to increase contracted cleaning in their neighborhoods such as the University District. In addition, SPU would more than double the number of trash pickup routes which provide twice weekly collection of trash and bulky items in public rights of way which should greatly benefit District 4.
  • Funding to benefit Magnuson Park. We preserved the vital work on the sorely needed sidewalks and crosswalks to safely connect Magnuson Park to the surrounding communities along Sand Point Way NE. These sidewalks and crosswalks are needed now to meet the goals of three city government initiatives: Vision Zero, our Pedestrian Master Plan, and our Safe Routes to School program helping to safely connect dozens of children to Sand Point Way elementary school.  It will also help to connect the scores of cyclists biking from the Burke-Gilman Trail to Magnuson Park. This is about safety for pedestrians, it’s about safety for cyclists, it’s about connecting 850 low-income and BIPOC Magnuson Park residents to their neighbors, and it’s about safely enhancing access to the regional asset that is Magnuson Park. These are community-driven projects supported by all those neighborhoods there as well as the Magnuson Park Advisory Committee. In fact, diverse and collaborative groups have been advocating for these pedestrian safety projects for years–I first learned about this project years ago when I was a Legislative Aide. We also secured funding for a feasibility study for a new pool at Magnuson Community Center. Data reveal children of color have less access to parks and other recreational alternatives that enhance self-confidence, allow for creative expression and the development of social and emotional bonds that strengthen community cohesion.
  • Initial funding for bridge maintenance. While we faced setbacks, my office successfully used data to champion this back-to-basics priority and secured $4 million in additional funding to benefit the entire city despite the budget deficits. In our District 4 the 15th Ave NE bridge (over Cowen Park) was seismically strengthened and Fairway Ave Bridge is being rebuilt. But the City’s bridge audit noted that the University Bridge, connecting the U District to Eastlake and downtown, is among the four worst bridges in the city in terms of its physical condition. I expect SDOT to use some of the additional dollars to examine the University Bridge and craft a plan to keep it safe. To see our audit on bridges, CLICK HERE. For our proposal to allocate even more funding to bridge maintenance that was narrowly rejected by other Councilmembers, CLICK HERE.
  • Internet for All. We inserted our Internet for All initiative into the budget document to increase accountability to follow through on the Internet for All Action Plan’s eight strategies. The new section of the budget book will highlight for the general public that we unanimously adopted Resolution 31956, which was co-sponsored by Council President Gonzalez and Councilmember Juarez, in July 2020. This Resolution led to the Executive’s presentation to City Council last month of the Internet for All Action Plan. The next report from Seattle IT to the Transportation & Utilities Committee will be in the first quarter of 2021 and will summarize progress to increase access and adoption of affordable and reliable internet service, including setting up dashboards to track results.

  • Spurring protection of Seattle’s Trees. Washington is the “Evergreen State” and Seattle is the “Emerald City.” Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. During that time, I’m concerned we are seeing a declining tree canopy and loss of numerous large trees. Decentralization urban forestry management had its chance, but it does not work. Our budget action, approved by my colleagues, will have the Executive produce a plan for Council consideration that could rationalize and consolidate protections of Seattle’s trees, with a preference for an agency focused on the environment. To read the official budget action, CLICK HERE
  • Using data to prevent displacement of Seattle residents. I support creating more affordable housing throughout Seattle and, in addition to supporting new construction, we also want to ensure a net GAIN in the total amount of affordable housing. So we need to track and measure both new and existing affordable housing. When adopting major new land use changes or moving ahead with new construction projects, we need to ensure we have a detailed and accurate system to track the potential loss or demolition of existing naturally occurring affordable housing—and the displacement of low-income households. This will enable us to better quantify our new and existing stock of affordable housing. This action is needed to make sure we actually get the data we need to implement Resolution 31870, section 2.G. and Executive Order 2019.02. The data on displacement of low-income households needs to include rent levels and supply of naturally occurring affordable housing. We need to better understand the NET impacts. My colleagues adopted my budget action requiring a report on these important issues next year. Getting this information will provide a more comprehensive picture of our City’s affordable housing stock, so that we can do more to prevent economic displacement in Seattle. To read the official budget action, CLICK HERE.
  • Keeping utility rates as low as possible: SPU and Seattle City Light continue to work hard to forgive late fees and defer rate increases (except for the unfortunate wastewater rate increase from the King County Council). Council approved my request to study wastewater rates and changes in the rate-setting process, including the costs and benefits to the City and its ratepayers of various changes in wastewater treatment governance, such as potential City ownership of treatment facilities to control costs to you, the ratepayers. To read the official budget action, CLICK HERE.
  • 45th Street I-5 overpass pedestrian and bike safety improvements. There are only two east-west crossings of I-5 between 65th/Greenlake and North 40th Street:  NE 45th and NE 50th Streets. Both are heavily traveled by cars, and 45th by many buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Both 45th and 50th are very difficult and dangerous for non-motorized users. As a result, the University and Wallingford communities have advocated for improvements for many years. Unfortunately, the bridge itself is a Washington State DOT asset, making it difficult for our Seattle DOT to implement fixes. Solving the problem has become more urgent as the new Sound Transit Link station in the U District prepares to open in 2021. SDOT completed some initial design work in coordination with WSDOT, but it lacked funding to implement. Community leaders and transportation safety advocates worked with my office to insert $400,000 into the 2021 budget, so that construction of the improvements on the I-5 overpass are possible now. To see the official budget action, CLICK HERE.


The University Bridge which connects the U District and Eastlake in District 4 was among the bridges ranked in “poor” condition along with the Magnolia Bridge, 2nd Avenue South extension, and the Fairview Avenue Bridge (which is being reconstructed). This budget has both positives and negatives for bridges.

I also want to enumerate my concerns with this budget. Overall, I believe the City Council deviated too far from our Mayor’s original, sensible proposal and also failed to invest sufficiently in our city’s aging infrastructure.

  • Public safety: The budget as amended by Council unfortunately cuts police officer positions drastically before there is a community-driven plan and proven alternatives in place. While the Council approved my request to study the impact on response times to 9-1-1 priority one emergency calls, this will be after-the-fact instead of careful upfront planning. I strongly support more police reform and effective alternatives to traditional policing such as sending mental health professionals to help people in mental health crisis. But we need the plans in place first. Even after a Seattle Times analysis indicated our police department has fewer officers per capita than other cities, and after we learned highly trained officers are leaving at a faster rate, the Council chose to permanently eliminate police officer positions without first  finishing the formal community input processes created by the Council and Mayor. The budget also sidesteps the real issue: the urgent need to revamp the unjust, inflexible, and expensive police union contract. Redoing that contract is how we can save money, improve discipline, honor good work of first responders, and deploy unarmed professionals for lower priority calls to reduce harm. “Police contracts are one of the keys to police reform,” said Community Police Commission Co-Chair, Reverend Aaron Williams, at my Budget Town Hall. “When you’re talking about changing anything from the discipline of officers to them receiving pay, it all comes back to contracts.”  Moreover, expanding accountability reforms requires ample staffing for supervision and community policing.  Yet Council’s amendments cement in a sharp reduction in officers before proven alternatives are in place.  I’m concerned the remaining officers will be stretched thin and responding late. Our former Police Chief Carmen Best was clear: “I do not believe we should ask the people of Seattle to test out a theory, crime goes away if police go away, that is completely reckless.”
  • Reduced accountability for homelessness response: At a time when homelessness appears to be growing, a majority of my Council colleagues unfortunately used the budget to dismantle our city’s interdepartmental Navigation Team that engages with unauthorized homeless encampments. Instead, I believe we need to allocate more resources to our Human Services Department to track and evaluate the effectiveness of such changes, so we can ensure we are truly helping people.
  • Pay increases to city government rather than funding other priorities: While thousands of people live in tents and tens of thousands are unemployed during this pandemic-driven economic recession, your city government is giving itself $40 million in pay increases. Future city government contracts should encourage a sensible renegotiation of planned pay increases whenever City Hall faces recessions and deficits, so we have the flexibility to redeploy more dollars to the most marginalized communities.
  • Funds supervised drug consumption services. I voted against this funding because it will have the net impact of funding a safe drug consumption site, even though it would be housed in an existing facility. After researching this issue and touring the injection facility in Vancouver, BC, I believe we should instead provide more resources for rehabilitation and prevention services.
  • Neglect of Seattle’s bridges: I am thankful to voters who approved transit funding to maintain extra bus service. Now let’s protect the bridge network those buses rely on to safely connect us. The cracking and closure of the West Seattle Bridge should have been a wake-up call. The audit of all Seattle bridges I requested confirmed many bridges connecting our communities need much more maintenance. Yet this budget includes far less than the minimum dollars needed to maintain our city’s bridges. I had submitted a request to fund another $24 million, but the Budget Chair’s package added only $4 million. Councilmember Herbold, Councilmember Lewis, and I (supported by Councilmember Juarez) put forward a proposal to fund bridge maintenance with Vehicle License Fees, but the other five Councilmembers voted to delay this urgent investment. In a city defined by waterways and ravines, another forced bridge closure will stall multiple modes of transportation and our local economy. You can read the Seattle Times editorial that critiques the Council’s action by CLICKING HERE.

TRANSPORTATION SOLUTIONS

As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I ventured inside the West Seattle “High” Bridge last week to view the stabilization solutions being installed by SDOT’s engineers and contractors. Mayor Durkan recently announced plans to repair the bridge, which has been closed since March due to cracking.

Each of the nine councilmember chairs a committee so we distribute the responsibilities of overseeing different parts of your city government and its $6.5 billion budget. Appointed as chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee in January 2020, I often provide updates on that committee’s activities.

West Seattle Bridge Decision:
Repair Option Wins

Last week, Mayor Durkan announced her decision to REPAIR the West Seattle Bridge, which I supported after careful consideration. The sudden closure of the West Seattle “High-Rise” Bridge in March 2020 has been a major challenge for Seattle and Washington State. Even though the West Seattle Bridge is not in Seattle’s District 4, I provide periodic updates on the closure, stabilization, and other issues impacting that vital bridge. It is an infrastructure asset vital not only to the 100,000 people of West Seattle but also to the entire region, especially as it impacts the economic engine that is the Port of Seattle.

Here is the statement I released after the Mayor’s decision to repair now (instead of the more costly and time-consuming option of replacing the bridge).

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

For more info and to check ongoing updates on the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.

Funding for Transportation Solutions

On the theme of the city budget—and your tax dollars—we are fortunate to have many sources of funds to support all modes of transportation in Seattle. In addition to benefiting from Sound Transit light rail (two more stations opening up in District 4 thanks to the 2008 Sound Transit 2 measure) and King County metro (buses), Seattle has the following sources of transportation dollars:

  • City Budget: Each year, your City government allocates hundreds of millions of operating and capital dollars from various sources for improvements to Seattle streets and sidewalks to benefit all modes of transportation. This includes funding from the voter-approved  Move Seattle Levy (2015-2024).
  • Reserves from the former 6-year Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) measure approved in 2014 (approximately $25 million). We will get input from the Transit Advisory Board, Transportation Equity WorkgroupMove Seattle Levy Oversight Committee, and other city residents concerned about reliable transportation in order to spend these reserves responsibly.
  • New 6-year STBD approved by voters November 2020: approximately $32 million for 2021 and $41 million for 2022. While the numbers have changed for the first year — with more money recently allocated to transit service — this bar graph from the Seattle Times provides a picture of how dollars could be allocated in future years (not including the reserves from the former STBD mentioned above):


Source: Seattle Times, November 3, 2020

The Council adopted my budget action to ensure the allocation of the $5 million shown in the graph for 2021 to “infrastructure maintenance and capital improvements” as authorized by the measure approved by voters. The allocation toward capital drops in future years so that we can allocate more toward transit service as we recover from the pandemic and recession and demand increases. The Council’s budget action is available HERE.

  • Vehicle License Fees: After the Supreme Court overturned Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 as unconstitutional, the Council was able to tap again the vehicle license fees (VLF) as a source for transportation projects and programs, including bridge maintenance. Currently we pay $80 to the City and that was going to drop to only $20 because a $60 VLF approved by voters in 2014 is expiring. As allowed by State law, the Council this week adjusted it to $40. That incremental $20 VLF will raise $3.6 million in 2021 and $7.6 million per year when there is a full year of funding starting in 2022. The reasonable decision this week by our Mayor to repair and maintain the existing West Seattle bridge underscores the need for more steady funding for bridge maintenance throughout Seattle to honor our recent audit of bridges. We could have immediately dedicated the funds for bridge maintenance. Unfortunately, a majority of the Council had supported the decisive proposal to use the VLF dollars that Councilmembers Herbold, Lewis, and I advanced with the support of Councilmember Juarez. Despite the disappointing delay, I am hopeful the additional process will lead to a robust increase in funding for bridge safety from several sources, which would benefit all modes of travel and keep our economy moving. For a Seattle Times article explaining the fee, CLICK HERE.

Street Upgrades in District 4

NE 43rd Street and University Way (”The Ave“): The intersection of The Ave and NE 43rd Street is scheduled to be closed November 21-26 as part of the 43rd Street Improvement Project by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). The Ave between NE 42nd and NE 45th Street will be local access only, with no through traffic. Customers should still be able to access all businesses, and the sidewalks will be open to pedestrians. Metro buses 45, 73, and 373 will be rerouted off The Ave for the duration of the closure. Contact SDOT at 43rdimprovements@seattle.gov with any questions. I know these closures have been hard on our local small businesses and I have asked our Office of Economic Development to develop a financial assistance program when SDOT projects cause substantial disruption to struggling small neighborhood businesses. In the meantime, there is a COVID stabilization grant program with applications due Nov 30 (CLICK HERE).

15th Ave NE Repaving/Bike Lane/Bridge Project:

Completing the seismic retrofit of the Cowen Park Bridge (15th Avenue NE) earlier this year made it possible to invest in all the street improvements above, so that buses, bikes, cars, and pedestrians can travel safely across. When we first keep our bridges safe, as recommended by our City Auditor, we can make multimodal transportation investments that are sustainable.

This multi-modal project in the heart of our District extending from Lake City Way down to NE 55th Street will not only repave this deteriorating arterial but also install bike lanes to benefit safe routes to school and the new light rail station opening at Roosevelt next year – all without negatively impacting small businesses. SDOT’s project page (CLICK HERE) contains regular updates. Currently (as of November 19) utility work will be happening between NE 70th and NE 75th Streets, with work crews also moving north toward NE 80th Street. One of the key transportation improvements made for this 15th Avenue NE project was the seismic retrofit of the aging Cowen Park Bridge, which will now enable all modes to travel from Maple Leaf and Roosevelt to the U District and downtown across a stronger, safer path. This enables the rest of the costly improvements along 15th Avenue NE to make financial sense for the long-term benefit of all and highlights a key rationale for investing more in the maintenance of our city’s bridge infrastructure as recommended by our City Auditor.

IN DISTRICT 4


Picking up litter in District 4 last weekend with our Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) crew. I’m glad the Mayor and Council are putting more money into litter pickup for 2021 and we’re getting more service in our District!

Listening to BIPOC small business owners in D4

Before masks were needed several months ago, I visited Pam’s Kitchen in Wallingford (formerly in the U District). Recently, she shared her thoughts with me again, along with other BIPOC business owners in District 4.

After the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and subsequent protests and strong calls for revamping public safety and community wellness, I consulted with over 25 Black leaders thus far from academia, advocacy, government, faith organizations, and business.

I also interviewed BIPOC owners of small businesses in our District. I heard views that were both diverse and complex. The cautionary comments of several Black leaders about drastic “defunding” were coupled with concerns about police misconduct, racial profiling, and systemic racism that must be addressed with stronger reforms and effective community programs.

The views expressed were strikingly similar to a June/July Gallup poll:

Most Black Americans want the police to spend at least as much time in their area as they currently do, indicating that they value the need for the service that police provide. However, that exposure comes with more trepidation for Black than White or Hispanic Americans about what they might experience in a police encounter. And those harboring the least confidence that they will be treated well, or who have had negative encounters in the past, are much more likely to want the police presence curtailed.

In Gallup’s polling published in August, they found similar results:

While Black Americans overwhelmingly support major changes to law enforcement, their greater need for security in their own community helps explain the complexity of their relationship with the police in their neighborhood. It is possible to both have less positive experiences with police and desire a police presence for safety and security.”

Admittedly, most of the Black leaders with whom I spoke had long-standing histories and relationships across Seattle. So I knew it was important to hear from Black youth in Seattle, particularly those who marched nightly the past several months. I hear their frustration with — and distrust of — elected officials who, for years, have voted to expand police budgets without ensuring that bad cops are held accountable for unjustly harming Black and Brown people. They also want more investments in prevention programs and the vitals of affordable housing, education, and health care. They are right.

To reconcile these various viewpoints, I continue to believe Seattle political leaders can find common ground in dismantling the institutional racism embedded in the 100-page contract with the police union and save money, rather than focusing solely on the police budget and staffing levels. If that inflexible contract is revamped, we can maintain adequate levels of police staffing, save money to reinvest in BIPOC communities for the long-term, and expand existing reforms. My votes on the budget this week include support for additional investments in Seattle’s BIPOC communities. But the hard work–and longer-lasting benefits–will come when the city government labor negotiators actually revamp the police union contract.

Public Safety Survey

As part of the ongoing effort to gauge community perceptions on public safety, I encourage you to take Seattle University’s Public Safety Survey (CLICK HERE). For an Op Ed about the public safety survey, CLICK HERE.

Join D4 Community Councils and Groups

Especially in these trying times, community connections are critical to a functioning and vibrant District 4. I encourage folks to join their Community Council to connect. For a list CLICK HERE.

D4 Neighborhood Matching Grant Awardees

I am pleased to share the District 4 Neighborhood Matching Fund Awardees for 2020:

  • $13,552 to Friends of Picardo Farms P-Patch for Accessibility Improvements at the Picardo P-Patch to rebuild and enlarge existing accessible garden beds, add specialized garden tools and storage, and enhance critical pathways to increase accessibility.
  • $43,000 to Eli’s Park Project for Phase 3 of Burke-Gilman Park Renovation to design and fabricate custom bike stations, sculptural elements, and educational panels. The park renovation will create an accessible, inclusive, nature-based park for people of all ages and abilities.
  • $20,819 to Magnuson Children’s Garden All Are Welcome Mural to work with youth residents of Magnuson Park housing and surrounding neighbors to design and create murals that create a strong ‘All are Welcome in the Garden’ message.
  • $30,095 to The U District Partnership for U District Mural Program to install three new works of public art in different areas of the neighborhood.

 Eat, Drink, and Shop at the 43rd Street Junction!

Come explore the future home of the U District light rail station and support your local businesses! From artisan ice cream to authentic Lebanese cuisine, the NE 43rd Street Junction has a yummy variety. Consider getting a 43rd Street Junction punch card today! During this upcoming holiday season, shop local and visit the University District Partnership’s new website: udistrictseattle.com.

Seattle Parks and Recreation invites community to review conceptual design for new Green Lake Community Center and Pool

Seattle Parks and Recreation invites the community to review the conceptual design for the new Green Lake Community Center and Pool. Please join the Online Open House between November 16 and December 4, 2020 at glcc.infocommunity.orgBy visiting the Online Open House, you can provide feedback to the design team and share what activities/amenities you would like to see in the center and pool. SPR is working to secure funding for the facility and anticipates the new community center and Evans Pool could start construction in 2025. (While Green Lake is in District 6, we know it also serves residents from Districts 4 and 5.) For more information CLICK HERE. While we’re excited about Green Lake, we also want to make sure our Parks Department gives our Magnuson Park Community Center more support — especially to benefit the low-income children who call Magnuson Park home.

City of Seattle seeks volunteers for Community Technology Advisory Board 

The City of Seattle is looking for volunteers to join the Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB). The 10-member board and its committees help guide city strategies and investments in information and communications technology. CTAB members advise Seattle’s Information technology department, the Mayor and City Council on a range of issues, including broadband, digital equity, mobile and web based city services, privacy, community engagement, small cell/5G deployment, and access to technology for students, families, and underserved residents. The Transportation Committee that I chair includes oversight of the City’s Information Technology Department, which is overseeing our Internet for All Action Plan. To apply by the deadline of November 30, 2020 CLICK HERE.

COVID-19 UPDATES AND RELIEF

The troublesome spike in new COVID cases increases risk to health, safety, and economic recovery. I know it also deepens the sadness and worries we have already experienced. I remain upbeat about our long-term future and I want to share some information from Governor Inslee’s office as we enter the holiday season:

We know the holiday season this year will look different. Check out these ideas for safer gatherings, including virtual options and a checklist to help plan a safer outdoor gathering.

At this time, gathering with people we don’t live with—even friends and family—may spread COVID-19. The more people we interact with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk of becoming infected or infecting others. The safest action is to avoid gatherings and find different ways to celebrate this season. But if you are considering a gathering, here is a helpful guide to have an (awkward, but important) conversation with family or friends:

The Governor established new statewide restrictions last week.

  • Indoor social gatherings are prohibited with people outside your household unless you quarantine for 14 days prior OR seven days with a negative COVID-19 test
  • Restaurants and bars are closed for indoor service. Outdoor dining and to-go service are permitted. Table size is limited to five people.
  • Fitness facilities and gyms are closed for indoor operations. Outdoor activities are permitted, but limited to five people.
  • Religious services are limited to 25% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer. No ensemble performances or congregational singing, and face coverings are required at all times.

Where to Find More Updates on COVID and Relief

Source: King County Public Health

The Seattle City Council continues to update its COVID-19 webpage which includes resources supporting workers, childcare, small businesses, and tenants/landlordsYou can also visit Mayor Jenny Durkan’s centralized COVID-19 webpage, as well as the Mayor’s blog for additional updates. Additionally, our Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) has been translating and sharing information on COVID-19 in several languages. For links to OIRA’s fact sheets and other translated materials, go to their blog. And for the latest from Public Health Seattle-King County, you can visit their website to track our region’s response to the virus.

  • Learn more about safer holiday celebrations at HERE;
  • Washington State’s new restrictions at HERE; and
  • COVID-19 statistics for Seattle and King County at HERE.
  • If you experience any symptoms, sign up for a free COVID-19 test HERE.

City of Seattle Opens Applications for $4 Million in Small Business COVID Relief

The City is now accepting applications for Small Business Stabilization Fund grants provided by the Office of Economic Development (OED). The Small Business Stabilization Fund will accept applications until Monday, November 30, 2020. To be eligible for a grant, a small business or non-profit must have 25 or fewer employees, be located within Seattle city limits, and have an annual net revenue at or below $2 million. For more information on all eligibility requirements, visit OED’s website. Learn more about the Small Business Stabilization Fund, or CLICK HERE to begin the application.

Seattle City Light COVID Relief for Small Businesses

City Light is helping small businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19 with the following services:

  • Bill deferral
  • Free virtual energy assessment
  • Limited time: Free energy efficient equipment installation

Complete the City Light Small Business Support Form or you can also contact our Business Customer Service Advisors for assistance at (206) 256-5200 or SCL_BusinessServices@seattle.gov. Notice: If you have closed your business and need to permanently cancel your service, you must close your City Light account, or you will continue to receive bills. Please contact them to send notification.

The Seattle Public Library Launches Tutor.com During COVID

The Seattle Public Library is launching Tutor.com! Tutor.com has over 3,000 highly vetted expert tutors, who can help youth with schoolwork, tutoring and academic coaching in a variety of subjects in a safe and secure online classroom. 1-1 help is available in math, writing, science, history, foreign languages, college essay writing, Advanced Placement (AP) courses and more.
Go to www.spl.org/VirtualTutoring and log in with your library card or your Library Link number to connect!  Here are links to the English Flyer, Spanish Flyer, and additional instructions on how to connect.

 

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Listening: Even though City Council is not currently holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone by CLICKING HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.

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

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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


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

November 13th, 2020

December 21, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

November 19, 2020 Update:

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

  • For the Seattle Times coverage of the City Council vote, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times editorial criticizing my colleagues’ disappointing decision to delay my proposal for immediate bridge maintenance funding, CLICK HERE.
The University Bridge that connects the U District and Eastlake in District 4 was among the bridges ranked in “poor” condition along with the Magnolia Bridge, 2nd Avenue South extension, and the Fairview Avenue Bridge (which is being reconstructed).
Photo: by SounderBruce on Wikipedia

November 13 and November 17, 2020:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background: 

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

More about the Bridge Audit Results:

The Ballard Bridge needs work.
Magnolia Bridge, another bridge ranked by the 2020 Audit as “poor.”
West Seattle “High” Bridge: The sudden closure of the West Seattle “High” Bridge in March 2020 has been a major challenge. This is infrastructure is vital not only to the 100,000 people of West Seattle but also to the entire region, especially as it impacts the economic engine that is the Port of Seattle.
The University Bridge that connects the U District and Eastlake in District 4 was among the bridges ranked in “poor” condition along with the Magnolia Bridge, 2nd Avenue South extension, and the Fairview Avenue Bridge (which is being reconstructed). Photo: by SounderBruce on Wikipedia

In a city defined by its many waterways, our bridges connect us and this audit report proves city government must do a better job investing in this basic infrastructure,” said Transportation Chair Pedersen who requested the citywide bridge audit. “Vital for transit, freight and our regional economy, bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. I requested this audit of our bridges because the rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscored the need for City officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including the adequacy of the City’s preventative maintenance investments and practices.”

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources (on both VLF and Bridges): 

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

From the Seattle Times editorial: “New City Councilmember Alex Pedersen deserves kudos for requesting the audit after the West Seattle Bridge closure. It gives the council facts and improvements to consider, and has already prompted change at the Department of Transportation. Yet the situation demands more, including a new mindset at City Hall and an authentic effort, starting with the next budget.”

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