$7 billion City budget under review — and more

Friends and Neighbors,

September is back to school for our kids and back to budget for our policymakers.

In this newsletter, we celebrate our District 4, I discuss why I voted against doubling the property tax for parks, I provide initial thoughts on the Mayor’s proposal to spend $7.4 billion for the City budget, and more. Click on the links below to zip to the sections that interest you the most:


Cedar Crossing Opens:  More Low-Income Housing in District 4!

Susan Boyd, Executive Director of Bellwether Housing, speaks about opening the new low-income housing and childcare on top of the Roosevelt light rail station. Also speaking were State Rep Frank Chopp, Roosevelt Neighborhood Association land use expert Jay Lazerwitz, and several others.

Northeast Branch of Seattle Public Library

Councilmember Pedersen fielding great questions from neighbors who attended an event at the Northeast branch of the Seattle Public Libraries where Bryant and Wedgwood meet. I was proud to stand with Chief Librarian Tom Fay (pictured on the right) and other library boosters. Neighbors asked several book smart questions about property taxes, public safety, and digital equity. Coming soon to our NE branch: equipment to keep the building energy efficient and cool for greater resiliency in the midst of climate change.

U District/Wallingford:  “The Greatest Of All Time Fire Hazard Chompers”

photo from Rent-A-Ruminant, based in the Puget Sound region

I’ve seen a lot of solutions to urban challenges while working in several places including HUD headquarters in D.C. during the Clinton Administration as well as Baltimore, Oakland, Philadelphia and, of course, Seattle. You can see from this photo one of the most unconventional, yet greatest of all time: goats! When our transportation departments or fire departments need to clear troublesome weeds from treacherous terrain under our vital bridges, goats get the job done efficiently and effectively — all while enjoying a crunchy meal. 

  • For the recent article in the Seattle Times with photos of goats chomping away the weeds under the Ship Canal Bridge in District 4, CLICK HERE.
  • For a piece about the G.O.A.T.S. in Wallingford’s official blog, Wallyhood, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the goats in action in District 4 this month, go to: https://www.facebook.com/RentaRuminant

View Ridge “Party in the Park”

Councilmember Pedersen listening to the head of the View Ridge Community Council Robert Johnson at the return of their annual “Party in the Park” on September 11, 2022. While most party goers were smiling and happy to reconnect as we emerge from the pandemic, I also shared the public safety concerns of several other parents upset by disturbing crimes nearby in what has historically been a relatively safe neighborhood. They want City Hall to prioritize increasing public safety and reducing homelessness.

Wedgwood Community Picnic

Councilmember Pedersen enjoying the music and neighborhood spirit at the return of the Wedgwood “Community Picnic” on September 10, 2022. The annual event was organized, in large part, by the former head of the Wedgwood Community Council, John Finelli. Great to see the current head of the WCC, Per Johnson, who continues to chair the monthly meetings of the community council – for more info, CLICK HERE. Many thanks to the Seattle Firefighters who attended to discuss fire safety with the children. For those who have experienced frustrating and repeated power outages near 35th Ave NE, CLICK HERE for an update from Seattle City Light.

University Heights: Art Gallery Opening

Enjoy the art gallery opening inside the University Heights building on “The Ave” in the heart of the U District on Saturday, October 15 at 7:00 p.m. This free public event celebrates the latest works from the U Heights Artist Collective with free refreshments and libations for purchase. Come see the art, meet the artists, view a live performance piece, and enjoy drinks and light refreshments.

  • To RSVP or learn more about the free art exhibition, CLICK HERE.
  • For other upcoming events at U Heights, CLICK HERE.


Mayor Harrell Nominates Adrian Diaz From Among 3 Finalists for Police Chief:

Adrian Diaz (pictured left) was selected by Mayor Harrell from among the top 3 candidates that included SPD’s Assistant Chief Eric Greening and Tucson, Arizona’s Kevin Hall.

  • For Mayor Harrell’s September 20, 2022 press release nominating Chief Diaz, CLICK HERE.
  • For Mayor Harrell’s September 8, 2022 press release on the 3 finalists, CLICK HERE.
  • To apply to be a Seattle police officer, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times July 22 editorial entitled, “It’s OK to say we’re funding the police,” CLICK HERE.

Office of Police Accountability: New Director Approved!

The City Council recently confirmed the appointment of Gino Betts, Jr. As director of the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). The OPA is a vital cornerstone of accountability put in place in 2017 along with two other foundational reform institutions for Seattle in the wake of the 2012 federal consent decree (OIG and CPC, see below). These reform institutions are IN ADDITION TO City Hall’s efforts to implement alternative emergency responses to some less dangerous 9-1-1 calls and to update police officer labor contracts required to operationalize reforms beyond those already put in place since 2012.

As described on OPA’s website, “The Office of Police Accountability (OPA) has authority over allegations of misconduct involving Seattle Police Department (SPD) employees relating to SPD policy and federal, state, and local law. OPA investigates complaints and recommends findings to the Chief of Police. OPA is led by a civilian director and supervisors, while its investigations are carried out by a mix of SPD sergeants and civilian investigators.

Because OPA still has a link to SPD, primarily to have complete and immediate access to police reports for its investigations, Seattle established a fully independent Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG). As described on OIG’s website, “The City of Seattle Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established to “help ensure the fairness and integrity of the police system as a whole in its delivery of law enforcement services by providing civilian auditing of the management, practices, and policies of the [Seattle Police Department (SPD) and Office of Police Accountability (OPA)] and oversee ongoing fidelity to organizational reforms implemented pursuant to the goals of the 2012 federal Consent Decree.”

Furthermore, community leaders have a vital role as well with the Community Policing Commission (CPC). As described on CPC’s website, “We envision our communities and Seattle’s police aligned in shared goals of safety, respect, and accountability…The Community Police Commission listens to, amplifies, and builds common ground among communities affected by policing in Seattle. We champion policing practices centered in justice and equity.”

For the Mayor’s July 19, 2022 press release introducing Gino Betts as his nominee, CLICK HERE.


Fiscal Responsibility:

When your local governments craft tax increases to address various issues, the full picture of the cumulative burden on residents (homeowners, renters, and small businesses that pay property taxes through triple net leases) is often NOT made clear in the moment. See the list above that displays the full range of what comprises your Seattle property taxes. (Landlords can pass these onto renters.) You can find out more at the Tax Assessor website by CLICKING HERE

Because we need to charge taxes and fees for safety, streets, utilities, parks, libraries, affordable housing, and other services and programs, I believe government leaders have a fiscal responsibility to manage their costs and produce the best outcomes in the most efficient manner. Policymakers also need to balance the various needs, rather than simply doubling each tax each year for each issue. Moreover, when our economy experiences higher than average inflation, the government should not automatically foist those additional costs onto the backs of the people of Seattle because the people are already suffering from that same inflation. The people of Seattle should not be an ATM machine for City Hall. This sentiment is something I heard a lot from constituents on their doorsteps in 2019. It’s important to point out that most of the operating costs of local government are not in direct services to those most in need in our communities, but rather in the compensation of local government employees. We need many hard-working, dedicated public servants in local government to administer important programs fairly and with accountability, though policymakers need to do a better job managing how much we allocate to administration costs. It’s not “austerity budgeting” when city government desk jobs pay, on average, more than $100,000 a year with guaranteed annual pay increases, comprehensive medical benefits, a generous allotment of paid vacation days, and lifelong pensions. City budgetmakers should minimize their “Administration” costs, which have increased at a disturbing rate from 14% in 2015 to 21% in 2022 for all funds. I believe a fair question is not, “What program do you want to cut?” but rather, “How much do we really need to pay to administer the services needed to help those most in need in our city?” When we deliver a program more efficiently, we can help more people.

How I view fiscal responsibility for my constituents explains, in large part, why I voted No this month on two cost increases transferred from City Hall to you and your neighbors: (1) I voted No on increasing your electricity bills beyond what Seattle City Light had promised just last year and (2) I voted No to double the amount you pay in property taxes for parks. Unfortunately, both increases passed.

Why I Voted Against Doubling the Property Tax for Parks

We all want our parks to be safe and clean again and so I supported many elements of the proposal to increase investments in our Parks District, including the proposal to hire more than 25 park rangers even though some activists criticized that modest alternative response for public safety in our parks.  I also supported major upgrades to community centers in Green Lake and Lake City, which can be enjoyed by many District 4 residents as well as plans to convert many other community centers into cooling centers to build up our resiliency as we battle climate change. A more modest 50% increase of this property tax might have been reasonable, especially if the investments could truly make our parks safe and accessible. But a whopping 100% increase was unnecessary (in my opinion) and breaks the bank for many residents, especially with more property tax increases on the way for other important issues.

How did we get here? A process that starts by asking passionate advocates how much we should spend on their favorite issue (in this case Parks) typically results in requests for major increases in spending on that issue. This process produces a “wish list” that lacks a comprehensive and balanced consideration of the City’s other needs (such as transportation, affordable housing, education, libraries, and now mental health).

Related to the sticker shock of the inflated price tag, the Seattle Times editorial board recently made an excellent point on how to improve the good governance process: “The Seattle City Council…should put the brakes on a massive spending increase until it has the full picture of parks priorities and future operations…It’s important that the parks department uses its money efficiently and effectively. As it stands, the City Council is trying to figure out how to spend about 30% of the estimated total on parks without a clear plan for the other 70%. There is a better way. Wait for all the information and make informed decisions about taxes and park operations that are in the best interest of parkgoers as well as residents picking up the tab.”

Unfortunately, the original wish list delivered by the Parks Dept and the volunteer Parks Commissioners to the Mayor and City Council was a pricey package, exceeding the financial breaking point for many constituents, especially those struggling on fixed incomes. I believe it’s up to City government officials to focus and right-size those recommendations based on the totality of Seattle’s priorities, being mindful of those other needs. By the time the package came to the City Council, with even more additions proposed, I concluded the only way to address the situation was to vote No — hoping that the entire package could be re-examined and right-sized. On September 27, 2022, a majority of the City Council doubled that tax, despite my single vote. 

While many of the tax and spend increases endorsed by the Mayor and my colleagues are valid and I appreciate their rationale, I have not forgotten the many people I met doorbelling every block of our district. When people generously opened their doors to me to tell me their opinion of City government, a top request from residents (just behind safety/homelessness) was to better manage property tax increases, because they are struggling to stay in Seattle on their fixed incomes.  When I attended an event earlier this month at the Northeast branch of Seattle Public Libraries, constituents also noted that assessed values have also increased substantially – so they could be hit with higher tax bills from both the higher assessed value of their property AND the higher tax rates from their local government.

  • For the Seattle Times editorial “Seattle City Council needs full picture before doubling park taxes,” published September 22, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times September 29, 2022 article on the final vote taken September 27, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Central Staff presentation on the Parks District from September 19, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For the spreadsheet comparing the Mayor’s proposal to Councilmember Lewis’s Proposal, CLICK HERE. Both proposals essentially double that portion of the property tax for Seattle’s Parks District, with CM Lewis’s slightly higher.
  • For the original Parks District approved by 53% of Seattle voters in August 2014, CLICK HERE (page 89).

Mayor Harrell’s $7.4 Billion Budget Proposal:

Mayor Bruce Harrell delivering his budget remarks, on September 27, 2022, at a key city government facility for vehicle maintenance. Photo courtesy of Mayor’s Office.

Just two days ago, Mayor Harrell unveiled his first budget as the City’s chief executive. The actual numbers within the budget are what matters most, but I appreciated the important symbolism of the Mayor delivering his speech at the Vehicle Maintenance Facility to emphasize his focus on the essentials of city government. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

After two very long pandemic years, today we stand at a pivotal moment in our city’s history. It’s at this intersection of change and challenge where we know the investments we make in this One Seattle budget proposal can chart Seattle’s course for years to come. Our guiding principle is how best to meet the urgent needs of our communities and empower our employees to deliver essential services. I’m proud to say that we’re able to propose a budget that sustains the high-quality City services our residents expect, protects critical staffing, and makes smart funding decisions to address community priorities including safety, homelessness, access to opportunity, and more...” 

— Mayor Bruce Harrell, delivering his first budget proposal as chief executive, September 27, 2022

To review Mayor Harrell’s full remarks with links to the actual budget documents, CLICK HERE.

It’s too early to say whether I fully support the Mayor’s $7 billion proposals for 2023 because I still need to read the budget and get input from constituents.

  • To Zoom into our District 4 Budget Virtual Town Hall scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, Oct 19, CLICK HERE to RSVP. For a map of District 4 (Northeast Seattle, Eastlake, Wallingford), CLICK HERE.

The City Council has an obligation to thoroughly review the 1,451-page budget proposal (744 pages for the main operating budget book and 707 pages for the Capital Improvement Program). My colleagues and I will spend October and November reviewing, amending, and adopting the budget documents and related legislation. Typically, City Councils alter less than 10% of a mayor’s proposal, but that 10% ends up being very important to projects receiving – or NOT receiving – support, as the money is shifted around. A revised revenue forecast in October sometimes produces additional funds to make that part easier, but not always.

Based on the priorities I continue to hear consistently from constituents, I want a City budget that allocates ample funding to increase public safety and reduce homelessness. As the Councilmember representing District 4, I want to make sure our district gets what it needs, even as we balance priorities across Seattle. In addition, I would expect to see more investments in transportation safety, including bridge safety and pedestrian safety (especially in South Seattle where the highest percentage of fatal collisions occur). As you may recall, I joined many people who were disappointed when the executive branch turned down the $100 million in bridge safety bonds provided by City Council. Therefore, it will be important for the budget to demonstrate that City Hall takes seriously its infrastructure — especially in the wake of the West Seattle bridge repairs, the disturbing 2020 audit of our bridges, and hopes from some City Hall officials to ask Seattleites to renew a property tax for transportation that’s, thus far, failing to deliver on several promises for bridges.  It’s also important to follow-through on the 2020 “Internet for All” digital equity action plan. Ideally, the budget would minimize overhead costs (“Administration”) and would minimize regressive “Utility Taxes.” (To subsidize our Seattle’s General Fund budget, the city government taxes our publicly owned utilities which, in turn, puts pressure on the utility bills paid by Seattle residents and businesses.)

(Note: “Public Safety” includes the 9-1-1 Call Center, the Emergency Operations Center, Firefighters, the City Attorney’s Office, and Seattle Municipal Court, as well as police).


  • To Zoom into our District 4 Budget Virtual Town Hall scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, Oct 19, CLICK HERE to RSVP. For a map of District 4 (Northeast Seattle, Eastlake, Wallingford), CLICK HERE. (Next year, we hope to do a budget town hall in person!)
  • To call into the City Council’s public budget hearings on October 11 (5:00 p.m.), November 8 (9:30 a.m.), and November 15 (5:00 p.m.), go to: https://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment. You can sign up two hours in advance of the meeting start time. There is also a public comment period at each meeting of the Budget Committee.
  • Write anytime to all 9 City Councilmembers using this email address: Council@seattle.gov. Or you can write just to me at Pedersen@seattle.gov. Our Budget Committee Chair is also one of your citywide Councilmembers Teresa.Mosqueda@seattle.gov. (Your other citywide CM is Sara.Nelson@seattle.gov.)


  • For Mayor Harrell’s budget proposal for calendar year 2023, CLICK HERE. For the Mayor’s September 27, 2022 press release, CLICK HERE. To read his speech as originally written, CLICK HERE. To watch his speech (the mayor speaks from the heart and often ad-libs :), CLICK HERE. For the lengthy budget documents, CLICK HERE.
  • For the City Council Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda’s September 27, 2022 press release directly after receiving the Mayor’s budget proposal, CLICK HERE.
  • For the City Budget Office’s September 28, 2022 overview, CLICK HERE. Note that CBO’s pie chart for the $1.6 billion General Fund on page 4 of the Powerpoint doesn’t match the pie chart on page 43 of the CBO’s online Budget Book; I have asked our Central Staff to reconcile this important discrepancy.
  • For the existing City budget adopted November 2021 for calendar year 2022 and previous budgets, CLICK HERE. The Powerpoint says “Administration” costs are 20% ($310 million) whereas the Budget Books says they are “only” 15% ($232 million.)
  • For a Seattle Times editorial September 27, 2022 asking local governments to better manage their administrative costs and property tax revenue, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Seattle Times article from August 23, 2022 about our Budget Chair’s flexibility on temporarily sharing the City revenues, CLICK HERE.
  • Regarding our current budget situation, our City Council Central Staff provided an exhaustive analysis for our 8/17/2022 Finance Committee. For a video of their presentation, CLICK HERE. For their PowerPoint summary, CLICK HERE. For their detailed memo, CLICK HERE.

Internet for All: Closing the Digital Divide with Digital Equity

With the pandemic reminding Seattle of its unacceptable digital pide two years ago, Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31956 to establish the path for ALL Seattle residents to access and adopt broadband internet service that is both reliable and affordable: “Internet for All Seattle.” Everyone needs access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet for education, jobs, housing opportunities, and even medical care. As required by our resolution, Seattle’s Information Technology Department (Ip) unveiled a citywide Internet for All Action Plan. As part of Phase 1 (actions for immediate implementation), Ip proposed Action 7.1: “the development of an online dashboard, along with GIS mapping, to show progress towards universal internet adoption” (page 48 of the plan). This is consistent with the adage, “What gets measured, gets done.”  After two years, Ip finally soft launched these GIS dashboards on Seattle IT’s website.

Under the Internet for All Seattle Dashboards link, there are five topics that the City is prioritizing:

  • Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): The ACP is a federal broadband affordability program that provides a discount of $30 per month for eligible households;
  • Internet Connectivity: Prioritizing ways to connect residents to free or affordable internet to supplement the federal ACP efforts;
  • Devices: expanding efforts to distribute devices for Seattle‘s goal of distributing 20,000 devices;
  • Digital Skills & Technical Support: strengthening community partnerships to deliver digital skills training and technical support with culturally relevant, in-language support; and
  • Outreach & Assistance: sharing vital digital literacy resources for low-income inpiduals, older adults, and BIPOC residents furthest from digital equity.

Each of these topics includes a brief metric summary of the City’s efforts to expand broadband accessibility and affordability, as well as a link to the corresponding dashboard at the bottom of each description.  Understandably, year-to-date 2022 numbers appear much lower than the full year 2021 numbers because 2022 is currently through just July 2022. We expect to see the full year 2022 numbers improve over 2021. Dashboard results will be updated quarterly.

While the dashboards show metrics for inpidual years, the Internet for All Seattle: Before and After paints a more holistic picture of the City’s efforts to achieve progress on bridging the digital pide thus far. These indicators imply that internet access and adoption have increased after Ip implemented elements of the Action Plan, but we won’t know for certain until Seattle IT conducts a 2023 Technology Access and Adoption study (typically done every 5 years to update community data). The 2018 Technology Access and Adoption Study’s findings have been used to help the City understand how to address the gaps and barriers to access and adoption of internet technology.  My office continues to advocate for the universal adoption of internet access to all residents in the City. We will be dissecting the Mayor’s budget to find ways to bridge the digital pide which could include expanding the  Seattle’s Technology Matching Fund (TMF). Only 14 organizations out of 53 applicants were recently awarded TMF funds (up to $25,000 each).

  • For Internet for All Seattle Dashboards, CLICK HERE.
  • For Internet for All Seattle Dashboard Definitions, CLICK HERE.
  • For Internet for All Seattle: Before and After, CLICK HERE.
  • To learn more about the ACP and apply, CLICK HERE.
  • To learn more about Seattle Public Library hotspot devices and place a hold, CLICK HERE.
  • To explore the City of Seattle’s low-cost home internet options, CLICK HERE.


(This is the Committee currently chaired by Councilmember Pedersen, so we provide extra information on its issues.)

New Director of Seattle Department of Transportation: Approved!

The Transportation Committee that I chair and the entire City Council recently approved Greg Spotts, Mayor Bruce Harrell’s nominee, to become the next Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). In light of the two-year closure of the West Seattle bridge and the disturbing audit of all Seattle bridges, I am anxious to see Director Spotts rapidly rebalance Seattle’s transportation focus on maintenance and upgrades to our City’s aging bridges.

With a new mayoral administration starting 9 months ago, this has been a big year for vetting new department leaders, as required by City law. Earlier this year, my committee reviewed and approved the new CEO and General Manager of Seattle Public Utilities: Andrew Lee. Then we took up the mayor’s nomination to head the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT): Greg Spotts. Together, those two departments comprise nearly 30% of the entire City budget ($2 billion out of $7 billion).

Here are my remarks at the City Council meeting when we officially confirmed Mr. Spotts as the new Director of SDOT:

“Thank you, Council President. Colleagues, in a moment we will finally vote on final confirmation of the Mayor’s nomination of Greg Spotts to become the new director for the Seattle Department of Transportation.

The Mayor’s nominee to lead and manage the Seattle Department of Transportation, its $700 million budget, and its 1,000 employees will dramatically shape how people and freight travel throughout our city safely and efficiently as we battle climate change.  Seattle deserves a department director with a balanced and practical approach to urban transportation as well as a focus on safety and mobility that includes improving our city’s aging bridges.  I am grateful to the Mayor, his team, and his search committee for putting forward a nominee with impressive credentials who can keep Seattle moving forward.
For the benefit of the viewing public, here’s some quick history on this nomination: As with all recent nominees from the mayor, the City Council has been following the vetting process outlined in Resolution 31868.

On July 27th, Mayor Harrell announced Greg Spotts as his nominee to be the new director of SDOT.

On August 4th, my office circulated the mayor’s August 3rd confirmation packet to all Councilmembers.

On August 16, we had Mr. Spotts and his nomination packet before our committee for an initial introduction.

We gathered more than 30 written questions from Councilmembers for the nominee to answer and, on August 23, my office circulated Mr. Spotts’ responses to all Councilmembers. We also posted those questions and answers on our Legistar website as part of his appointment packet, which is Appointment 02333.

My office checked in with some of his former colleagues on the Los Angeles City Council, all of whom provided very positive feedback about him.

On September 6, Mr. Spotts came back to our committee for a Q&A session and then our committee unanimously recommended that the Council confirm his appointment.

I have personally been very impressed with Mr. Spotts throughout this vetting process. I know many of us appreciated his thoughtful answers to our questions on Vision Zero safety, on bridge safety, on collaborating with transit agencies, and on the transportation needs within our Council districts. I think it’s fitting that, as our new SDOT Director, one of Greg Spott’s first official acts will be reopening the West Seattle bridge this weekend.”
I hope you will join me in voting Yes for Mr. Spotts TODAY. Thank you.”

West Seattle Bridge Finally Reopens!

In this photo, you can see in the background the recently restored West Seattle High Bridge (and the workhorse “low” bridge). Of all the key public servants involved in restoring the West Seattle High Bridge, monitoring the low bridge, and creating alternative routes during this transportation crisis, we’d like to applaud Heather Marx (standing 3rd from the left in this photo from September 16, 2022). Since the sudden closure of the bridge for safety reasons in March 2020, Heather and her team served as the steady hands at SDOT to oversee all aspects of the emergency stabilization and substantial renovation needed to save and re-open the bridge that serves more than 100,000 Seattle residents. Thank you, Heather! As Transportation Chair, I also greatly appreciated the close working relationship with West Seattle’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold, whose district was most impacted. For more thank-you’s, CLICK HERE. Thankfully, SDOT completed the project UNDER budget, so we’ll have SDOT return to our Transportation Committee in December to reconcile the final numbers.

I share the relief of 100,000 neighbors that we are finally reopening this vital regional bridge that connects all of us. This long-awaited re-opening is less of a celebration and more of an expression of gratitude to the engineers and construction workers who carefully repaired this vital regional bridge to make it strong and safe again. While we are all grateful to see the bridge repaired and re-opened after two and a half years of repairs, I believe this must serve as a wake-up call to reprioritize and reinvest in all Seattle bridges.  In a growing city carved by waterways, forged by the harsh experience of the West Seattle Bridge closure, and armed with the audit we obtained to assess our aging infrastructure, I look forward to new SDOT leadership prioritizing proactive improvements to Seattle’s aging bridges, because the people and businesses of Seattle cannot afford another bridge closure.”   

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of Seattle’s Transportation Committee.

For a link to the pre-opening event on September 16, 2022, CLICK HERE.

For my September 16, 2022 press release with West Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold, CLICK HERE.

Free Transit For Seattle Youth (18 years and younger)!

Our Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), funded by a Seattle sales tax, had been at the forefront of providing free ORCA cards to students at public high schools, but our State legislature recently expanded this with their own funding statewide for ALL youth 18 and under. This includes all buses and light rail. To learn more, CLICK HERE

Autonomous Vehicle Testing: Reasonable Rules Needed for Seattle Safety

A “Zoox” autonomous vehicle test car seen in downtown Seattle on August 22, 2022 near a busy pedestrian intersection.

I believe we need to make sure pedestrians, cyclists, and everyone using our streets and sidewalks are safe whenever private companies want to test their emerging technologies for autonomous vehicles. To balance our interest in the future benefits promised by autonomous vehicle technology with our immediate responsibility to keep everyone safe today, it would be sensible for Seattle to require companies seeking to test autonomous vehicles on our public streets to comply with reasonable rules for safety, notification, reporting, indemnification, and insurance. For example, requiring companies to obtain Street Use Permits before testing their emerging autonomous vehicle technology on our public streets would be a positive step toward basic transparency and accountability. Stay tuned for more on this emerging issue.

I’m grateful to local journalists for raising this issue. For an article from the Seattle Times, “Amazon’s self-driving cars are coming to downtown Seattle; Safety advocates are not pleased,” CLICK HERE

Help Students Stay Safe:  Become a Seattle Crossing Guard

Seattle needs more crossing guards! Our City Council Transportation Committee recently heard the 2021 annual report from the volunteer School Traffic Safety Committee and a major point was the continuing shortage of crossing guards. According to the Seattle Public Schools website, crossing guards are needed at 30 elementary schools throughout Seattle including these schools from our own District 4: Bryant Elementary, the John Stanford International School, and Thornton Creek Elementary School. Our beloved crossing guards work approximately 2 hours each school day and are “safety superheroes” to the next generation. To apply, CLICK HERE, call 206-252-0900, or email transdept@seattleschools.org


Urge City Departments to Phase Out Gasoline-Powered Leaf Blowers

Our victory at the City Council with the unanimous adoption of Resolution 32064 to rid Seattle of harmful, gasoline-fueled leaf blowers could be short-lived. Why? Because it’s unclear whether City departments are going to implement it.

Why would our City departments not quickly implement this pro-worker, pro-environment, low-cost measure to remove the excessive noise and toxic fumes in the face of this climate crisis?  Unfortunately, we did not see mention of phasing out gas-powered leaf blowers in the Executive’s City budget proposal unveiled on September 27, 2022. Here are some possible excuses — and we offer several can-do rebuttals: 

Potential Reason #1: We need more time to figure it out and get it done.

Rebuttal: Ten months ago (in November 2021), the Council unanimously adopted an official budget requestthat the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE), Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), and other departments as needed, develop a plan to phase out the use of all gas-powered leaf blowers in Seattle within two years. Following implementation of the two-year plan, the goal would be for the City to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.” When the City departments reported back on September 2, 2022, their 5-page response acknowledged, “Gas-powered leaf blowers (GPLBs)…can contribute to several significant public health and nuisance issues: toxic emissions, greenhouse gases (GHGs), particulate matter, noise, and vibration. The localized air pollution and noise can impact the health of the operator as well as bystanders, during operation.” Their response goes on to state, “City departments recognize the transition away from GPLBs is good for people and the environment.”  The City departments acknowledge the problem and have had many months to think about it, well before the Council reinforced the request with Resolution 32064.

Potential Reason #2: We’re not sure how to do it. We don’t know how to more quickly transition to electric leaf blowers or other means of addressing falling leaves — and what about those heavy, wet leaves?

Rebuttal: More than 100 other cities are banning gas-powered leaf blowers and cities thrived before those nasty machines were invented. Our City Council committee recently had an expert from the nation’s capital walk us through how their city got it done. Moreover, the Resolution asks the departments to “Evaluate their current practices related to the use of leaf blowers and explore options to reduce reliance on leaf blowers, both gas-powered and electric, either by allowing leaves to naturally decompose or clearing them using non-motorized methods.” It’s not rocket science; let’s learn from the other cities that are more progressive on this public health and environmental issue.

Potential Reason #3: It will cost too much to transition to greener electricity.

Rebuttal: There was much fanfare made recently about Seattle’s “Green New Deal” investments and, while removing toxic leaf blowers was not included in that batch of investments, the good news is that the cost is very low and well worth it!  In response to the Council, the City departments said their “goal is to have 50% of our blowers be electric by 2026. Currently battery-powered blowers account for about 10% of our inventory. This transition is estimated to cost about $30,000 per year over the next four years.”  The Parks Department currently owns and operates about 65% of the City’s 418 gas-powered leaf blowers. Using this information, we can extrapolate the cost to convert all (100%) of the City government’s 418 from gas to electric within only two years (by January 2025, per the unanimous Resolution). (This assumes City departments do not upgrade their protocols to need fewer leaf blowers.) Extrapolating their estimate results in a grand total cost of approximately $400,000, which would be only $200,000 in 2023 and $200,000 in 2024. Even that seems excessive ($1,000 per leaf blower) because high-powered electric leaf blowers should not cost more than $500 each and the City would by them in bulk; therefore, the Parks estimate must also include charging stations, extra batteries, etc.

Because the City’s Executive is the first to craft the City budget, ideally they would have included this modest cost to get it done in their budget proposal (in conjunction with updating their policies to reduce when/where they truly need to remove leaves rather than just composting leaves in place and/or raking). The entire City Budget is over $7,000,000,000 (that’s 7 Billion dollars), so I think we can find $120,000 (which is only .0017%) under the City Hall’s budget couch cushions if we want to reduce harm to workers and the environment.

Potential Reason #4: We have bigger problems to focus on such as public safety and homelessness

Rebuttal: I agree that public safety and homelessness should be a priority for top officials AND our city government has more than 10,000 employees and departments that can implement the resolution. That’s one of the reasons the proposal is in the form of a Resolution stating the City’s policy:  it asks the executive branch to leverage its personnel power and expertise to finalize the ordinances and implement them because the executive branch has more than 10,000 employees, including a special Office of Sustainability & Environment (OSE), a Parks Department, and Financial & Administrative Services (FAS) Department — all with hard-working employees, whereas the Legislative Department has just 90 or so employees serving all 750,000 residents of Seattle. While public safety and homelessness must continue as priority issues, City Hall has sufficient bandwidth to address this public health and environmental issue, too.

Potential Reason #5: What’s the rush? The Resolution seems to allow plenty of time, stating “By January 2025, or later if necessary, the City and its contractors will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers; and By January 2027, or later if necessary, institutions located in Seattle, businesses operating in Seattle, and Seattle residents will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.”

Rebuttal: But the Resolution also states, “Nothing in this resolution should be construed to preclude or impede the City’s ability to more quickly phase out gas-powered leaf blowers.” The City has acknowledged the problem for both workers and the environment, and other cities are leap-frogging (leaffrogging?) Seattle, so why wait? Phasing out these harmful gasoline-fueled machines may require a multi-year process, but we must start now because we’re already behind several other cities. We will get the best results when engaging with local groups along the way, such as environmental organizations, Laborers (Local 242) for parks maintenance, the Latino Chamber of Commerce (which includes landscaping companies as members), and other solution-oriented stakeholders. The Resolution asks the City departments to explore incentives, such as a buyback program or rebates on replacement purchases for landscaping businesses that might need support to transition from gas-powered to electric-powered leaf blowers. But nothing is stopping your City government from leading by example and getting rid of its stockpile of these harmful machines.  Let’s get it done, Seattle!

  • For the adopted Resolution 32064, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Summary / Fiscal Note, CLICK HERE.
  • For our press release when Council unanimously adopted the Resolution on September 6, 2022, CLICK HERE.
  • For my blog posts documenting the recent history of this effort and an extensive list of information sources, CLICK HERE.
  • For video of the committee meeting, including the testimony from Washington, D.C., CLICK HERE.
  • For testimony from the group “Quiet Clean Seattle,” CLICK HERE.
  • For our Central Staff’s memo, CLICK HERE and for their Powerpoint, CLICK HERE.
  • For additional information sources used in our research, including the scientific evidence, CLICK HERE.

My office is very grateful to 2nd year graduate students earning their master’s in public administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance who assisted in the research of this important topic.

COVID Case Update

For the latest official data from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE or use this website: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/data/daily-summary.aspx

  • To register to receive the vaccine or booster in Seattle, CLICK HERE. Information is also available in Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
  • For the most recent information on combating COVID from King County Public Health, CLICK HERE.
  • If you need language interpretation, help finding a vaccination or testing site, or ADA accommodation, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • For the latest COVID pandemic coverage from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

Ways to Provide Input

City Council Meetings on the Internet

Viewing & Listening: You have a few options to view and hear Seattle City Council meetings. To view Council meetings live on Seattle Channel, CLICK HERE. You can also listen on your phone by calling 253-215-8782.  To view the recordings of City Council meetings that have already occurred, CLICK HERE.

NEW IN 2022:  Our City Council meetings moved to Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. Even after returning to in-person meetings, the public will still be able to call in their comments at City Council meetings – this is an important upgrade for public input. I would have supported moving our main Council meeting to the evenings to make it easier for people with day jobs to visit us, but the technological upgrades now enable anyone to call into the public comment periods. We also updated our City Council Rules and parliamentary procedures to improve the efficiency of the City Council by enabling Councilmembers to focus their work on city government business rather than on Resolutions on other issues such as international affairs.

Commenting: You can submit comments to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at Council@seattle.gov. For the instructions on how to register and call in to a meeting, CLICK HERE. Sign up begins two hours prior to the meeting start time.

Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen: In Person Again!

Hurray! I’ve restarted in-person office hours on Friday afternoons and, as anticipated, we moved them to the Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center (6535 Ravenna Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98105) to be more centrally located and within walking distance of light rail.  Note: On some Friday afternoons, the community center needs that space and so, on those days, I’ll continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours to connect with constituents via phone or Webex. Either way, 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 are getting through this together, Seattle!

With gratitude,

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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

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