Let’s row together for economic recovery



Friends and Neighbors,

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2021! As we continue to tackle the COVID crisis, I believe Seattle can emerge from this pandemic stronger — if we all row together.

I outlined what our city can do to achieve an inclusive economic recovery in the Seattle Times last week. Below you can read my Op Ed on economic recovery as well as updates on the pressing priorities of public safety, homelessness, COVID vaccines and, of course, our dynamic District 4.


NATIONAL REFLECTION

Amanda Gorman’s poem at the presidential inauguration, January 20, 2021.

To honor the national holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I joined thousands of Seattleites in the annual march from Garfield High School to the King County Administration Building. Later that day, I watched the recent PBS documentary “Against All Odds: The Fight for a Black Middle Class” by journalist Bob Herbert (CLICK HERE)  and listened again to the last speech of Dr. King, which you can listen to by CLICKING HERE. Having participated in MLK marches starting decades ago as a student, it can be discouraging to think how far we still need to go as a nation and, yet, this month’s march in solidarity during these tumultuous times seemed to strengthen everyone’s resolve.

The inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on January 20, 2021 was an important turning point for our nation and our city. In case you missed it, I hope you can listen to the inspiring poem by Amanda Gorman delivered on the steps of our U.S. Capitol Building.


ACHIEVING AN INCLUSIVE ECONOMIC RECOVERY

Photo from ENR Northwest, June 2020: NOT Councilmember Pedersen underneath West Highrise Seattle Bridge. The bridge stabilization work is done, which enabled the long-term repair work to begin. There’s much more work to do on bridges throughout Seattle — which can create jobs for our economic recovery.

Here is my complete Op-Ed published in The Seattle Times on Friday, January 22:

Economic Recovery Requires Rowing Together

Dear potential candidates for mayor of Seattle,

Are you seeking to bring Seattle together for a post-COVID economic recovery? Do you seek solutions from data instead of Twitter? Do you have what it takes to manage 40 departments with 12,000 employees investing $6.5 billion? Do your stump speeches encourage good jobs to stay, instead of chasing them away? If yes, please toss your hat into the ring.

Whatever you think of Mayor Jenny Durkan, she has been keeping city government afloat despite the colliding tidal waves of pandemic, recession and racial reckoning.

What’s on the horizon? A choice: Sink into dysfunction or row together toward an inclusive economic recovery.

Policy experts at The Brookings Institution — outside our City Hall bubble — examined smart strategies for an equitable recovery, which inspired much of this Op-Ed. Big picture: If City Hall wants to steer clear of an unfair K-shaped recovery that will harm our residents, it must work with — instead of against — Seattle’s employers. Priorities include:

Prioritize common ground at City Hall. If a mayor asks all council members to list their priorities, I believe they’ll find common ground in key areas. For example, we all agree we must revamp the expensive police union contract to address institutional racism and to reimagine public safety. Yet City Council is sucking up precious time flirting with a divisive proposal to give legal defenses to those who commit misdemeanor crimes. Mayors and council members should advance shared goals, rather than doubling down on division. Employers require stability and effectiveness from their government as a stable foundation upon which to risk their investments and expand their quality jobs for the Seattle residents who need them the most.

Admit government cannot do it alone. Local government must continue its leadership during the COVID-19 crisis, but it cannot alone achieve an inclusive economic recovery. Government spending comprises only one-third or so of the economy. Only the private sector has the potential to provide widespread upward mobility that the public sector wants for more Seattle residents.

Protect Seattle’s tax base. We need tax revenues from the business community to fund the basics (safety, roads, etc.) and subsidies (food, affordable housing, etc.). Yet when elected officials demonize “business” and devise divisive proposals for public safety and homelessness, they alienate the same employers who form our tax base. With so many employees already working remotely, 2021 is the fork in the road for many employers to decide where to recover and rehire. To help all residents recover, we cannot afford to provoke employers to relocate to the suburbs.

Radically reset recruitment. Seattle’s high cost of living requires that we retain and expand high-paying jobs. An equitable recovery requires more of those jobs for marginalized Seattleites. The next mayor must have the skill to encourage employers not only to stay within our city, but also to tap the talents of Seattle residents. Seattle companies, especially in our growing tech and real estate industries, must do better in recruiting and retaining women and people of color from Seattle. Requiring a four-year college degree for most jobs perpetuates the privilege of those with intergenerational wealth. Building on Mayor Durkan’s Promise Program, companies can work with community colleges on two-year degrees that provide the skills needed to enter upwardly mobile professions. Local tech companies and venture capital firms also need more diversity among their boards and managers which, in turn, hire more diversity. This is in everyone’s best interest because studies prove diverse companies do better.

Rebuild infrastructure with union jobs. Make it easier for construction unions to apprentice more Seattle high school graduates and employ them to rebuild Seattle’s infrastructure. As an example of common ground, I worked with the mayor and council colleagues to renew Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District to reduce the cost of transit and fund infrastructure improvements, which will enable more people to get to jobs downtown as the recovery takes off. Let’s put people to work in well-paying jobs, fixing our aging bridges to make sure no more bridge closures interrupt our recovery.

Close the digital divide. Build on common ground by implementing our “Internet for All” action plan to expand high-speed, affordable internet so everyone has access to online education, training and jobs.

Address the gender wage gap. The pandemic has worsened the gender wage gap. Coupling the high quality Seattle Preschool Program and our other early learning programs with the recent rezoning to allow more child-care space, the mayor can incentivize large employers to aggressively expand on-site child-care to help lower income parents (disproportionately women) who dropped work hours to pick up additional household burdens during the pandemic.

Expand ownership opportunities with condos and small business. To deliver upward mobility and a deeper stake in the community, a mayor can incentivize the rapid creation of condominiums in all neighborhoods with transit to enable thousands of Seattleites to become homeowners. Let’s incentivize larger Seattle businesses to buy more goods and services from women-owned and minority-owned small businesses. Let’s incentivize local universities to expand efforts to incubate new microbusinesses owned by people of color. A Brookings study confirms that investing in Black businesses would provide the double benefit of an inclusive recovery and expanding the economy of the entire city.

Tap private-sector savvy for solutions. Build on Mayor Durkan’s Innovation Advisory Council that leverages Seattle’s tech sector to craft solutions for urban problems through a lens of race and social justice. Tap their tech savvy to enable city government to provide real-time data on shelter availability for those experiencing homelessness and to distribute COVID-19 vaccines faster.

Invest in Seattle’s Office of Economic Development. Seattle has been spoiled by not having to fight to attract, retain and expand local businesses as other cities must do. Now Seattle is a high-cost city with growing urban challenges. The next mayor needs to empower our Office of Economic Development to focus on nurturing and expanding those sectors of our local economy best poised to provide well-paying jobs to the most people from marginalized communities. Regardless of what the City Council does, the mayor must methodically and extensively survey businesses to ask what they need to renew their leases, recover and grow our tax base in an inclusive way.

If we chart a course with many of these strategies, Seattle can speed toward an inclusive recovery.


PUBLIC SAFETY UPDATES

Concerns About Proposal to Cut More from Seattle Police Before Community Safety Alternatives Ready

Number of Police Officers in Seattle: graph from City Council Central Staff, January 2021

Burglaries are up 34% in our North Precinct when comparing 2020 and 2019, as shown in this City of Seattle Crime Dashboard. To view the dashboard (and use the dropdown menus to look at different years, crimes, and areas of the city), CLICK HERE.

Graph: Seattle Police Department, January 2021

After last year defunding the Seattle Police Department by approximately 20% (which is more than even the Minneapolis Police Department), some Seattle Councilmembers are disturbingly proposing to cut more. On January 26, 2021 the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee was scheduled to discuss CB 119981, which would cut $5.4 million more from our police department’s 2021 Budget. I have several concerns about additional cuts at this time.

This cut proposed by other Councilmembers would come not only on top of the 20% cut by a majority of City Council in 2020, but also after we received new data showing attrition of SPD officers leaving the department at an all-time high. As more officers depart, there are concerns about an increase in 911 response times and a lack of response to some Priority 2, 3, and 4 calls.

Additional impacts of these proposed cuts could also include: difficulty in hiring diverse officers, long-term reassignment of Community Policing Officers away from crime-solving work, reduced ability to hire civilian support like Crime Prevention Coordinators, and reduced enforcement of speed limits that keep pedestrians safe, especially as schools and stores re-open.  Moreover, we need to face the unfortunate reality that, with so many more officers leaving SPD than expected, overtime funds are needed temporarily to make sure all shifts are filled 24/7.

As is well-known, I did not pledge to “defund” SPD by the arbitrary 50%. Instead, after researching the issues, I recognized that the true path to delivering justice, enhancing safety, and redeploying savings is to revamp the unjust, inflexible, and expensive police union contract — which expired last month!  While I voted in favor of reallocating tens of millions of dollars from SPD to other crime prevention strategies, many of those community-driven alternatives are not fully crafted or have not had time to grow to scale. Therefore, for the safety of all communities, I believe we should not further cut our police staffing before these alternative supports are in place and working well.

A second hearing on CB 119981 is scheduled for February 9, 2021. To call in to provide comments at that 9:30 Public Safety & Human Services Committee, CLICK HERE to register online. You can also email all 9 Councilmembers at any time at Council@seattle.gov.

For recent memos on this from both the City Council’s public safety analyst and from our Seattle Police Department’s budget director, CLICK HERE.

 

The Importance of our Community Policing Commission

Our D4 budget town hall last year welcomed the co-chair of the Community Policing Commission (CPC) the Reverend Aaron Williams.  We recently checked in with the staff of the CPC to discuss the most pressing police accountability issues.  The vision of the CPC: “communities and Seattle’s police aligned in shared goals of safety, respect, and accountability.” The mission of the CPC: It “listens to, amplifies, and builds common ground among communities affected by policing in Seattle. We champion policing practices centered in justice and equity.”  Here are some key links to learn more:

The City of Seattle established the CPC by ordinance and it began work in 2013. Under landmark Accountability Legislation adopted in 2017, the CPC was made permanent, its scope of responsibilities and authority broadened, and the number of Commissioners increased. While it continues to be responsible for its obligations related to the Consent Decree, it now is mandated also to provide ongoing, community-based oversight of SPD and the police accountability system. Thank you, CPC!

 

State-Wide Police Accountability and Reforms to Help Seattle

You can help support police accountability and reform across our state by tracking key bills addressing arbitration reform. While some claim Senate Bill 5055 (CLICK HERE) is “reform,” it’s clear that Senate Bill 5134 (CLICK HERE) is the strongest version, especially for disciplining police misconduct. CLICK HERE to contact your State Representatives and encourage them to pass the strongest police reform measures. I commend our State Senator Jamie Pedersen (43rd legislative district) for the strong reforms he has crafted, including his leadership on SB 5134. For some additional background on key reform measures, CLICK HERE.

In addition to fixing the disciplinary system statewide AND making it easier to decertify police officers for misconduct, we need the state government in Olympia to raise the standard for accountability so that we no longer need to negotiate or pay for common sense baseline reforms with the Seattle Police Officers Guild. For example, while officers in Seattle already wear body cameras, body cameras are not required statewide. That means we need to spend time in Seattle negotiating to keep body cameras and providing expensive “premium pay” to officers who wear them. If body cameras are required everywhere in the State, then we don’t need to negotiate them in the next police contract and can redeploy those “premium pay” dollars to prevent crime with upstream programs such as behavioral health services and affordable housing.

 

Transportation Safety: Much More Work Needed for “Vision Zero” Goals

While crashes in 2020 decreased compared to 2019, the reduction in fatalities was disturbingly minimal considering how few vehicles were on the road since the March 2020 COVID shutdowns and how much SDOT has been doing to improve safety, such as lowering speed limits and improving crosswalk signals. For a Seattle Times article analyzing the initial results, CLICK HERE. For SDOT’s blog that contains the data and several graphs attempting to explain it, CLICK HERE. The Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee will explore this more in 2021 and we all look forward to SDOT continuing to install safety improvements at dangerous locations, including Rainier Avenue South and State Highway 99 (Aurora).


HOMELESSNESS UPDATE

Even though the annual One Night Count of homelessness is not happening this year due to the public health risks of the COVID pandemic, I share the concerns of District 4 residents that unsheltered homelessness in our streets, greenways, and parks has increased. As the Durkan Administration works to implement a surge in shelter funded by the City Council, as deeply affordable housing units are built by nonprofits funded by our Office of Housing, and as we move full speed ahead with another Tiny Home Village in District 4, we need more action and results,  I was glad to see two recent efforts by Councilmember Andrew Lewis, the Chair of our Homelessness Strategies and Investments Committee:

  • Council Bill 119975: This proposed ordinance is being debated over the next couple of weeks and seeks to speed the construction of “permanent supportive housing” that is not only deeply affordable (serving those from 0% to 50% of the area median income), but also provides wrap-around services for residents with the greatest needs. My office is working on an amendment to ensure the legislation contains this critical connection to services for those experiencing homelessness.
  • “It Takes a Village”: This initiative works with the private sector to raise the capital funding to create more Tiny Home Villages throughout Seattle. But Tiny Home Villages work only when operated by successful organizations and staffed by competent and compassionate case managers who connect the temporary residents to services and into permanent housing as it becomes available. How well these new villages are operated will be vital for the success of the people who move from their tents to the tiny homes. For more on Councilmember Lewis’ proposal, CLICK HERE.

In addition to more temporary shelter and permanent affordable housing, I believe we need stronger efforts from our region to address the behavioral health challenges engulfing so many people experiencing homelessness. The current efforts from King County government are clearly not sufficient to address the scale of mental health and addiction disorders. More emphasis is needed to scale up evidence-based strategies proven to work, so that those suffering the most get what they need in addition to housing to stabilize their lives and connect back to families, education, and jobs as our economy recovers from the COVID pandemic.


IN DISTRICT 4

North Precinct Advisory Council

The North Precinct Advisory Council (NPAC) is a community organization devoted to promoting partnership between residents, schools, businesses, and the Seattle Police Department to effectively address public safety issues in North Seattle. On January 6, 2021 I participated in the NPAC meeting. You can review their meeting minutes by CLICKING HERE.

NPAC meetings are held remotely with Zoom on the first Wednesday of the month at 7pm. Learn more from their website by CLICKING HERE.

 

Fighting to Keep our Vital National Archives Here in the Northwest

Last week I participated in the public forum hosted by our Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson regarding the Trump Administration’s attempts to sell the national archives facility located on Sand Point Way in our District 4. Dozens spoke in favor of keeping the precious archives here in the Northwest and in support of Bob Ferguson’s litigation to prevent the sale proposed by the federal agencies. Here’s the statement I made at the public forum: “We must not allow the last gasps of the Trump Administration to cause any more harm and that means we must work together to save the archives by preserving these priceless historical records here in the Northwest. I am proud to support Attorney General Bob Ferguson, indigenous leaders, nonprofits and researchers protecting historical records, and fellow public officials including Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, and Councilmember Debora Juarez. Together we must stop the sale of the vital facility and  demand proper public process on how best to preserve these irreplaceable regional histories.”

For more information on the archives, CLICK HERE.

Councilmember Pedersen on January 19, 2021 joins Attorney General Bob Ferguson and dozens of others speaking in favor of preserving the archives here in the Northwest.

 

Continue to Help the Hungry in District 4 and Throughout Seattle

Councilmember Pedersen volunteering at FamilyWorks food bank in Wallingford during holiday season.  More at THIS LINK.

Even after the holiday season ends, food insecurity continues in our communities. In District 4, during the week of Christmas, I volunteered at the food bank FamilyWorks, which is located in Wallingford. Earlier in the year, volunteered at the U District Food Bank. I mention this because food banks continue to see high demand during the pandemic. This need was highlighted Saturday in a Seattle Times article entitled “Need for free food in Washington state has doubled, many groups report, as COVID-19 rips away jobs and security.”  I was humbled by witnessing the perseverance of those struggling in poverty to feed themselves and their loved ones.  I also appreciate the generous volunteers for allowing me to help and the leadership of those nonprofits for the essential work they provide to our communities.  Many thanks also to our own city government employees at our Human Services Department and Office of Sustainability & Environment for the work they do to provide food security to those most in need throughout Seattle. Even though the traditional season of giving has passed and the terrible year of 2020 is behind us, the number of families seeking assistance to avoid hunger continues to grow. If you are willing and able to help, please Google “Seattle food banks” to find a nonprofit near you that needs help, such as FamilyWorksSeattle.org or udistrictfoodbank.org.  Thank you.

 

Historic Blue Moon Tavern Featured in National Documentary “American Portrait.”

For a timely and close-to-home story of a historic District 4 business grappling with the COVID pandemic, see this Seattle Times article.


COVID VACCINES: THE SHOT IN THE ARM WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!

Essential medical workers in the COVID-19 ICU at Harborview Medical Center are among those receiving the first vaccinations. Photo by Mark Stone/University of Washington, Dec 15, 2020.

Vaccine Info Is Here

On Monday, Governor Inslee announced Phase 1B, Tier 1 of their vaccination plan:  people 65 and older (and people 50 and older who live in a multigenerational household) are eligible to be vaccinated now. The City is working with the state and other partners to increase our vaccine allocation so that we may stand up more vaccination sites.

  • You can go to Washington State’s Phase Finder online tool to confirm your eligibility.
  • If you have a doctor / health care provider, visit their website or call to see if they have vaccination appointments.
  • If you don’t have a provider or if your provider doesn’t have the vaccine available, the state’s website will provide you with a list of possible vaccination locations.
  • If you can’t use Phase Finder and have no one to assist you, call Washington state’s COVID-19 Assistance Hotline: Dial 1-800-525-0127, then press #. The hotline is available Monday-Friday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturday/Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

You can stay informed on what the Mayor and the City are doing with vaccines and rapid stand up of vaccination sites at THIS LINK.  For a Seattle Times article entitled, “What to do if you think you qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine — and what to do after you receive it,” CLICK HERE. To track how many vaccines have been administered, CLICK HERE (and scroll down) for the Department of Health COVID dashboard.

COVID Testing Is Still Crucial and Available Now in our District 4!

While we are excited that vaccines were developed so quickly, testing is still important. Great news to start the year for D4 residents: The City of Seattle in conjunction with the University of Washington (UW) recently opened a NO SYMPTOMS self-swab COVID-19 testing site as a drive up from vehicles, right in the E-1 parking lot off Montlake Blvd (north of Husky Stadium). The hours are 8:30am-5:30pm. It is FREE, but photo ID is required with date of birth. Insurance card and info is not required, but if a person has it, the insurance will be billed and pays 100%, with no charge to the recipient of the test. Preregistration is REQUIRED, and results are 24-72 hours. The registration form is on the City’s COVID-19 testing website: CLICK HERE. Thank you to Mayor Durkan’s team for offering this more convenient service, especially as we hear about the new variant which spreads more “efficiently” among the population. Please continue to wear masks and practice social distancing!

 

Eviction Moratorium Extended by Feds, Governor, and Mayor

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

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

 

Small Business Stabilization Fund for Restaurants and Bars

On December 14, 2020, City Council unanimously passed a joint proposal with Mayor Durkan to provide an additional $5 million in grants to support small businesses and workers in the hospitality industry. Seattle’s Office of Economic Development has committed $2.25 million in Small Business Stabilization Fund grants to restaurants and bars. Application period closes on February 15, 2021.

OED has partnered with Scholarship Junkies to award this funding to eligible restaurants and bars that applied to the Small Business Stabilization Fund in November. Eligible businesses must be current on their business license and Business and Occupation Tax. For more information, CLICK HERE.

The City of Seattle’s Human Services Department contracted with Wellspring Family Services to administer and distribute the $2.17 million in direct cash assistance in partnership with the Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund for hospitality workers. Through this fund, hospitality workers that have experienced economic distress caused by job or income loss due to COVID-19 may be eligible to receive up to $2,000 per family. To learn more and apply, please CLICK HERE.

The City also has a number of relief programs for working people, including emergency grocery vouchers, rental assistance, and support for immigrants and refugees. The City’s Disaster Relief Fund for immigrants recently distributed $7.94 million to 3,730 applicants.

Residents and businesses can find a list of existing COVID-19 relief resources and policies by CLICKING HERE.

 

Renewed Federal Resources for Small Businesses

The newest federal stimulus package has renewed and expanded financial support for small businesses across sectors. Key changes include:

  • $284 billion for the renewed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including added flexibility. The PPP offers forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and other expenses during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is extended to December 31, 2021. EIDL programs offer low-interest working capital loans to help small businesses meet financial obligations and cover operating expenses.
  • $20 billion has been added for additional Loan Advance grants.
  • $15 billion grants for shuttered live venues.

The City’s Office of Economic Development provides free technical assistance to businesses applying for the PPP, EIDL, and Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. This includes helping businesses navigate the application process. For general inquiries, please email OED@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-8090. If you need language assistance enter the number for the corresponding language (Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Somali, Amharic), leave a voicemail in your preferred language and a bilingual staff member will call back.


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. 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 WebEx. 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
Find It, Fix It

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