“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

May 17th, 2021

Black Lives Matter

INTRODUCTION:

During the spring and summer of 2020, I received over 38,000 e-mails, including over 2,000 from constituents in Seattle’s District 4 about police accountability, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the police response to protests here in Seattle, and the long history of institutional racism here and throughout our nation.  I am grateful so many engaged constituents have taken the time to contact my office with their grief, their outrage, and their tough questions about police accountability — and budgets. While the communications I receive from constituents offer a variety of views, I see common ground growing for re-imagining what effective and equitable public safety means as we continually seek to achieve healthy communities. Please read my initial thoughts here and I include links to additional information. There is much work to do in 2021 and beyond.

CONTEXT:

  • In July and August 2020, our Budget Committee Chair Teresa Mosqueda decided to have the City Council examine our Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget to see how we could reallocate some City revenues and responsibilities to re-imagine public safety and community wellness, especially as we face budget deficits from the COVID pandemic. Many of the details not tackled during the summer flowed into our regularly scheduled budget process in the Fall of 2020 (to impact our City’s 2021 budget). While I supported several of these important efforts, I did not pledge to defund SPD by a dramatic 50% because I concluded that was an impractical and arbitrary percentage not tied to a community safety plan. I believe the Council’s labor negotiators should have focused on revamping the police union contract to save money and deliver justice. I write more about this throughout my blog.
  • For information on the budget for 2021, CLICK HERE.
  • For a Crosscut news article highlighting the importance of revamping the police union contract — which is needed to make the most meaningful changes to the SPD budget — CLICK HERE.

Please see below for the many posts on these vital matters since May 2020:


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

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

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

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

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

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


JUNE 6, 2021 UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: We still need U.S. Senators to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120). For the Seattle Resolution I wrote to advocate for this, CLICK HERE. This federal bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives, addresses many concerns raised by protesters that are authorized by federal law, such as the need to restrict qualified immunity for police officers across the nation. This week, George Floyd family members visited President Biden and other leaders in Washington D.C. to urge them to adopt this legislation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE COURTS:  On April 20, fired police officer Derek Chauvin was finally convicted by a jury on all 3 criminal charges against him for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  Within our local court system, we need our Washington State Supreme Court to allow our King County Executive’s improved “inquest” process to advance. For the most recent article by the Seattle Times entitled “Families of people killed by police are left without answers while King County’s inquests are stalled,” CLICK HERE. According to the Seattle Times, “The families of at least 36 people who have died at the hands of law enforcement in King County since 2017” are awaiting full inquests to get answers, including the family of District 4 resident Charleena Lyles who was shot and killed by Seattle police officers in 2017. One of the key demands of Lyles family members is to allow the inquest to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June of last year. The City of Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. That tragedy also reinforces the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many situations — a key rationale for re-imagining public safety.


MAY 17, 2021 UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


WEEK OF SEPT 21, 2020 UPDATE:

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

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

My Remarks Delivered When Reconsidering the 3 Budget Vetoes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voted to sustain (support) veto of CB 119825:

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

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

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

Voted to override veto on CB 119862:

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

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

Fixing the Police Contract is the Most Imperative Task:

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.”

# # #


WEEK OF SEPT 7, 2020 UPDATE:

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

WEEK OF AUGUST 17, 2020 UPDATE:

  • MAYOR’S VETOES: On August 21, Mayor Durkan vetoed 3 of the many budget bills that City Council adopted on August 10 to rebalance our City budget: (1) the controversial Council Bill 119825 that impacts our Seattle Police Department (2) Council Bill 119862 to spend $3 million (in addition to the Mayor’s $500,000) for additional community engagement on safety issues, and (3) Council Bill 119863 authorizing a $13 million internal loan for an initial boost to community organizations working to prevent crime.
    • The Mayor’s Aug 21 press release stated: “I respectfully veto the 2020 budget and will continue conversations between my office and the Council on how we can partner to make needed changes in a consistent, thoughtful, and deliberate manner.
    • According to her press release, “The Mayor vetoed these bills, sending them back to Council to address the following issues:
      • “Cuts of 100 officers, including layoffs of 70 sworn officers in 2020 despite legal and labor limitations of “out of order” layoffs; 
      • “The effective elimination of the Navigation Team, including outreach workers in the Human Services Department, without any alternative approach to address hazardous encampments;
      • “Cuts to the salaries of the Chief of Police and her leadership team;
      • “Cuts and changes to SPD that could implicate the City’s obligations under the federal consent decree;
      • “Borrowing $13 million dollars from other City funds for new spending this year when the City faces an unprecedented budget deficit of $326 million; and
      • “Taking an additional $3 million dollars from the Rainy Day fund to increase Council’s budget by 17 percent.”
    • For the Mayor’s official statement (Aug 23) explaining her veto, CLICK HERE.
    • I share our Mayor’s concerns with key pieces of the budget package City Council adopted August 10. For example, I opposed cuts to Chief Carmen Best’s salary (the first Black chief in Seattle’s history) and I opposed cuts to our city’s Navigation Team that we need to address homeless encampments. To help to balance the budget, that bill also included budget reductions equivalent to the salaries of 100 police officers (out of 1,400 officers) for the last two months of this year (less than 10%).
    • Here’s a positive way to view this situation: The Mayor vetoing these budget bills provides more time for our Mayor and City Council leadership to smooth out their differences on the rough edges of the bill and how to proceed productively going forward. I support this collaboration because that will enable us to implement positive results faster.
    • Fortunately, the recent agreement between the Mayor, Council President, and Budget Chair on COVID relief is evidence that the legislative and executive branches can collaborate to find common ground and get things done.  We need that collaboration at City Hall if we are going to put together a detailed action plan to revamp public safety in way that provides positive results and justice. 
    • The residents of my district have a wide range of views, but most agree now is the time for smart changes in how we police our communities and how we pay for safety in a way that eradicates institutional racism, reduces harm to oppressed communities, and prevents crime for all of Seattle.  But instead of rash, ill-informed decisions, people first want to see a sensible and detailed plan to achieve cost-effective public safety.
    • The Council is on a brief “recess” (no meetings) until September 8 (the day after Labor Day) and the Council President will, after we return, schedule a meeting for us to vote to sustain or override the Mayor’s vetoes. (The City Charter requires that we vote on each veto within 30 days. According the City Attorney, it takes 6 votes to override a veto on appropriations and 7 votes to adopt any replacement appropriations bills.)
    • For the initial Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.
  • INQUEST FOR CHARLEENA LYLES:
    • UPDATE FROM FEB 16, 2021: Promising news — Appeals Court Rules Charleena Lyles Wrongful-Death Suite Against Seattle Police Can Proceed. For article, CLICK HERE.
    • ORIGINAL AUGUST 2020 ENTRY: King County needs to complete the inquest of the killing of Charleena Lyles by two Seattle Police officers in 2017. Unfortunately, a King County Superior Court judge August 21 ruled in favor of other King County jurisdictions challenging the reformed inquest process established by our King County Executive. One of the key demands of Lyles family members is to allow the inquest to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June. Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. That tragedy also reinforces the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many situations — a key rationale for re-imagining public safety. I hope the Washington State Supreme Court takes up this case soon and rules to allow the new inquest rules to proceed. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

WEEK OF AUGUST 10, 2020 UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WEEK OF JULY 27, 2020 UPDATE:

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

WEEK OF JULY 20, 2020 UPDATE:

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

WEEK OF JULY 13, 2020 UPDATE:

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

JULY 10, 2020 UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


JUNE 18 and 19, 2020 Update:

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

photo by Alex Pedersen

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

photo by Alex Pedersen

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

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

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


JUNE 16, 2020 (newsletter excerpt):

Friends and Neighbors,

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

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

LISTENING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future Actions:

  • Fix the Police Officer Contract:
    • I will not support a new collective bargaining agreement with our Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) unless it fully implements remaining accountability measures, such as fixing the disciplinary review system in accordance with the 2017 accountability ordinance. For the 8-page document by the Community Police Commission comparing the strong 2017 Accountability Ordinance (Ordinance 125315) to the watered down 2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) covering years 2015 through 2020 – and which has yet to be fixed by Seattle’s Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC) —  CLICK HERE.
    • While most of our police officers strive to do good work and serve our communities well, they operate within a tainted system that requires unprecedented and systemic change.  Officers are also asked to do the impossible when sent into situations that require not a gun, but a social worker, therapist, or educator (see “defunding” concept below).
  • Restructure Public Safety Budgets to:
    • Demilitarize and De-Escalate
    • Reimagine Public Safety
    • Reinvestment in Marginalized Communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JUNE 15, 2020 UPDATE:

ACTIONS I supported at full City Council today:

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

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


JUNE 11 AND 12, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo by Alex Pedersen

JUNE 10, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JUNE 8 and June 9, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


JUNE 7, 2020 Update:

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


JUNE 5, 2020 Update:

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

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

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


JUNE 4, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


MAY 31, 2020 (original post):

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

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

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

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

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

MAYOR’S EMERGENCY ORDERS AND REPORT TO COUNCIL:

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER RESOURCES FOR INFO AND ACTION:

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

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

# # #


Town Hall for District 4 (Spring 2021)

May 12th, 2021

May 11, 2021

Thanks to everyone who attended our District 4 Town Hall!

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

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

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


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

May 10th, 2021
The University Bridge that connects the U District and Eastlake in District 4 was among the bridges ranked in “poor” condition along with the Magnolia Bridge, 2nd Avenue South extension, and the Fairview Avenue Bridge (which is being reconstructed).
Photo: by SounderBruce on Wikipedia

May 10, 2021 Update:

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

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

May 5, 2021 Update:

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

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

April 21 and 26, 2021 Update:

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

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

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

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

April 19, 2021 Update:

PRESS RELEASE:

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

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

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

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

A coalition of construction labor unions support the amendment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media coverage:

# # #

December 21, 2020 Update:

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

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

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

November 19, 2020 Update:

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

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

November 13 and November 17, 2020:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background: 

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

More about the Bridge Audit Results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources (on both VLF and Bridges): 

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

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

# # #


Town Hall, Homelessness, Transportation, and More

April 27th, 2021

April 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

I am excited to invite you to our next District 4 Town Hall on Tuesday, May 11 at 6:00 p.m.! To RSVP, please see below. This month’s newsletter also updates you about opening the new light rail stations in our District, saving the national archives facility, encouraging safety at Magnuson Park, leveraging dollars to boost our aging infrastructure, volunteering to build the new Tiny Home Village for those experiencing homelessness, finding COVID vaccine locations, and more.


DISTRICT 4

Virtual District 4 Town Hall – Tuesday, May 11, 2021 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Please join our District 4 office for our Spring 2021 virtual Town Hall.  We have invited Human Services Department Director Helen Howell to share the City’s strategy for homelessness, even as we shift toward a more effective regional approach to this regional crisis.  We will also dedicate time to answer District 4 questions. To RSVP to this online event (and to submit questions about city government), CLICK HERE.

Light Rail Stations at Roosevelt and University District Opening October 2.

Councilmember Pedersen enjoying a Gyro from Cedars of Lebanon on the refurbished NE 43rd Street at Brooklyn Ave NE with Sound Transit’s new “University District station” in the background. The understated architecture belies the massive engineering project buried deep beneath the neighborhood that is a game-changer for improved mobility in Seattle. Seamless bus transfers will be the main challenge and King County Metro confirmed for me they will be ready to respond to a surge of transit rider feedback.

The countdown is on! Sound Transit has announced that the University District, Roosevelt, and Northgate light rail stations (funded by the Sound Transit 2 measure enacted by voters in 2008) will open on October 2, 2021. Earlier this month, I toured the reconfigured Brooklyn Avenue and the almost completed re-do of NE 43rd Street which leads into University of Washington’s campus. I continue to share the concern of 20 environmental and community organizations about the decision transportation officials made a few years ago to narrow Brooklyn Avenue which, unfortunately, impedes access for most buses. Ideally, Brooklyn Avenue would have remained wide enough to accommodate most buses and provide seamless transfers from bus to light rail.  As all the light rail stations open, our Seattle Department of Transportation will need to stay tightly coordinated with King County Metro to adjust bus routes based on rider feedback for the thousands who will be transferring from bus to light rail. But, overall, the opening of these stations just 5 months from now is great news and will be a positive game-changer for mobility for our growing city.

Click on the images below to fly above and below District 4 and see the construction!





Winning the Battle: National Archives Sale Canceled – For Now.

Photo from the LA Times

Thankfully, the Biden Administration canceled the sale of the archives facility– for now.

Here is the statement I issued when the good news was announced April 8 regarding the national archives facility located in our District 4 and serving the entire region:

 “I applaud the Biden Administration’s recent decision to cancel the hasty and irresponsible sale of the national archives and records building, a treasure of histories so vital to so many people in the Pacific Northwest. I am thankful for the strong leadership by our Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the many tribal leaders, our congressional delegation, researchers, nonprofits, and other stakeholders who advocated for our shared goal of protecting the histories here where they happened in the Pacific Northwest. Now I hope the Biden Administration and congressional leaders invest the federal dollars needed to preserve the historic archives here in the Pacific Northwest where they belong and, regardless of next steps, we look forward to a proper public process and the required tribal consultation.”

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen

Here’s what happened: President Biden’s Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a letter to the Public Buildings Reform Board today stating, “I am writing to withdraw OMB’s January 24, 2020 approval of the sale of the Federal Archives and Records Center, 6125 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115…Tribal consultation is a priority for this Administration… But the process that led to the decision to approve the sale of the Federal Archives and Records Center is contrary to this Administration’s tribal-consultation policy…Any effort to sell the Federal Archives and Records Center in the future, through any available and appropriate authority, must comply with at least two substantial requirements. First, it must be preceded by meaningful and robust tribal consultation, consistent with the President’s January 26, 2021 Memorandum on Tribal Consultation. Second, it must proceed through the appropriate administrative process, based on a new factual record, and must comply with the attendant substantive and procedural safeguards of that process...”

For a copy of the OMB letter to PBRB, CLICK HERE. For more background from my blog, CLICK HERE.

Magnuson Park Crime Prevention Tour.

On Thursday, March 25, 2021 I was joined by residents and nonprofits who call Magnuson Park home for a public safety-centered tour in response to a recent uptick in crime. We were joined by members of the SPD’s Crime Prevention Unit who shared ideas for mitigating these occurrences. There is much work to do to get our city departments to be more responsive here.

Honoring the Workers at the Wedgwood QFC.

Photo from Seattle Times

Photo from Seattle Times

I was invited by the event organizers to participate and here are my prepared remarks:

  • I want to thank the grocery workers for serving the community for so many years — and especially during this hazardous time during the COVID pandemic.
  • I want to thank both the community leaders who organized this thoughtful event and the union for their ongoing support of these workers.
  • Today’s event is another reminder of how much the community cares about its neighborhood businesses.
  • As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, we need to make sure every neighborhood has businesses that not only thrive, but also care about the community.
  • Thank you, everyone, for being here today.

I think we can all agree we were disappointed by the Kroger company’s decision to shut down the wonderful grocery store. But that out-of-state company made their decision. As someone with business experience, I believe the company’s attempts to blame their decision on a temporary City Hall law that benefits workers during COVID doesn’t hold water. That’s, in part, because that corporation was sitting on $2 billion in cash which is on top of the substantial profits they earned in 2020.

On a positive note, I spoke to QFC earlier this week and they confirmed that there are no layoffs; all the workers who wanted to stay with QFC have a transfer to another store already lined up with no loss in benefits.

I think Kroger’s made a bad business decision to leave this amazing community with its generous customer base and I look forward to welcoming a new store with open arms.

I personally contacted several different grocery store owners to pitch the neighborhood to them. I’m also in contact with the owner of this entire shopping center so they know I’m available to help to attract a new anchor tenant here. Wedgwood is wonderful and it’s open for business! Also check out the other fantastic small businesses near this location (35th Ave NE and NE 85th St): The Wedgwood BroilerVan Gogh Coffeehouse, Wedgwood Hair Studio, Tropical Berry, Blue Poppy Floral, Wedgwood Ale House, and many others.

For the recent Seattle Times article about this QFC location, CLICK HERE.

Sand Point Way Pedestrian Safety Improvements.

I am pleased to share the good news that the critical sidewalk and crosswalk improvements I helped the community fight for along Sand Point Way and Magnuson Park will be underway soon. Thanks to the ongoing community input, led by the Magnuson Park Advisory Committee. To read more, CLICK HERE.

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

Councilmember Pedersen (photo on left) on Earth Day visiting a large conifer tree in North Seattle that our Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection approved for removal, allowed by a loophole in current law.  He then visited another group of 3 large locust trees (or is that his cranky twin brother?). Unfortunately, the real estate developer had already ripped them out and replaced them with tiny trees. It was a good reminder that replacement trees will take decades to grow to produce the same environmental and health benefits of the trees ripped out. So, it’s ideal to do a much better job protecting the larger trees when we can.

We call ourselves the Emerald City within the Evergreen State and yet our current laws have many loopholes that enable the removal of scores of trees each year, including healthy, large conifer trees that city law defines as “Exceptional.”  Trees provide numerous benefits including carbon sequestration, absorption of rainwater to reduce harmful runoff into Puget Sound and Lake Washington, shade for cooling during the warmer months, and proven health benefits. The bigger the tree, the better. As we take a long overdue, serious look at racial injustice issues, we know some communities of color have fewer large trees and are having them removed more often. As far back as 2009, our City Auditor determined that fractionalized management of trees and urban forestry issues was a major problem for the City of Seattle and recommended consolidation. Instead, the City for eleven years has continued to try to make a multi-departmental approach to tree management work. As it has boomed with development, Seattle has struggled to prevent continued loss of significant numbers of large trees and reduced tree canopy area. Our city government’s oversight to protect trees is not only fractured, but also weak.  Last fall, I proposed 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 as required by Resolution 31902. Unfortunately, my colleagues did not support the proviso and the process for delivering the tree protection ordinance has slowed. My staff and I will be carefully monitoring the City’s actions on these important environmental and equity issues – and may take legislative action sooner if we continue to see excuses instead of progress.

New Fire Department/Human Services Mobile Team to Serve University District.

On Tuesday, April 13, 2021 I joined Mayor Durkan and Seattle Fire Department Chief Scoggins to welcome to District 4 a new team called “Health One.”

“We know we need to expand our response to people experiencing homelessness and distress on our city streets and so I applaud the Durkan Administration for expanding this pilot program that combines firefighters and case managers from our Human Services Department to prevent more expensive and dangerous situations throughout Seattle. Our shared goal in the University District and throughout Seattle is a more effective intervention that proactively links each person who is in crisis on our streets to the essential mainstream services they need rather than reacting and sending them to expensive visits to emergency rooms or, worse, the criminal justice system. This new “Health One” mobile team is an important piece of our overall response to homelessness which we need to scale up to deal with the scope of this regional crisis.”

— Councilmember Alex Pedersen


HOMELESSNESS SERVICES

Volunteer to Build the New Tiny Home Village in our District!

Construction on “Rosie’s” village starts mid-May with socially distanced volunteer work parties organized by the Low Income Housing Institute in mid-May. To volunteer or donate, email tinyhouses@lihi.org. If you have questions about the village, email Homelessness@seattle.gov to reach city government staff. To view a recording of our April 15 community outreach meeting, CLICK HERE. The new village, which will be home to 30 to 40 units of shelter, will begin accepting residents in July and remain open for approximately two years. People experiencing homelessness can be referred to the village through the new “HOPE” team, which is the new de-centralized replacement of the Navigation Team. For more, CLICK HERE.

Charter Amendment Proposed. As you may have read in media reports, a proposed amendment to our City Charter was filed by a group that calls itself “Compassion Seattle.” I understand homelessness is a top concern and I am aware of the proposal, the revised version of which is available from the City Clerk’s website. This proposal is led by civic leaders outside City Hall, which means city government employees—including Councilmembers—are limited by ethics rules from using city government resources (including government phones, computers, or offices) from supporting or opposing such citizen-led ballot measures. We are, however, able to analyze the proposal in case voters choose to make the Compassion Seattle measure official city government policy and we may answer questions about the facts. For example, we have been asked about the timing and, if the proponents of this measure obtain enough signatures of support, it would be in front of voters for their decision this coming November. While we cannot support or oppose such citizen-led ballot measures in official government publications, we may make personal statements separately to the public, which may be warranted when more information is available. (Note: This paragraph was approved by the Executive Director of the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission.)

Originally labeled as Charter Amendment 28, the proponents resubmitted it with several revisions (including the addition of a sunset date to end it in 6 years) and the City Clerk re-numbered the proposal as Charter Amendment 29.


PUBLIC SAFETY

State Police-Reform Legislation. As we have reached the end of this year’s State Legislative Session in Olympia, we can finally take stock of which police reform proposals were adopted by our state government officials. Here are several bills awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature:

  • HB 1054 prohibits choke holds, prevents police from obtaining certain military equipment, outlines parameters for car chases and search warrants, and provides strict guidance to no-knock warrants and the utilization of tear gas.
  • HB 1267 creates the Office of Independent Investigations in order to investigate police incidents such as lethal force and sexual assaults separately and without bias.
  • HB 1310 establishes a better standard for when police can use force. It also implements more de-escalation tactics so police do not have to use force in the first place.
  • SB 5051 makes it easier to decertify police officers for bad acts and requires departments to conduct broader background checks for officers before hiring them—including checking with previous departments for any discipline history or misconduct investigations.
  • SB 5066 requires an officer to intervene when witnessing a fellow officer engaging in excessive force.

Best Police Reform Measure Did Not Pass this Year – SB 5134. While it appears there will still be significant statewide police reforms signed into law by Governor Inslee, it is a shame SB 5134 did not advance. At the state and city levels, we need to eliminate a complex arbitration appeal process that has historically allowed police officers who committed misconduct to be reinstated to their jobs. Instead, a much weaker SB 5055 passed which preserves arbitration even though police workers are different because they carry a gun. The Seattle Times published editorials supporting SB 5134. (For the February editorial CLICK HERE and for the April editorial CLICK HERE.) SB 5134 was also supported strongly by the ACLU and me, and I hope to see it back again next year.  If the stronger reform bill SB 5134 had received more support from other State legislators, city officials, and interest groups, then our labor negotiators here in Seattle would be better equipped to revamp our police union contract that expired several months ago.

No More Excuses for Not Revamping the Inflexible and Expensive Police Union Contract. I will continue to implore my colleagues not to cut more from our public safety systems until we have effective alternative plans and programs in place and to focus instead on revamping the inflexible and expensive police union contract that expired in December 2020. We can have more meaningful reform and the same # of officers if the police union contract is revamped.

Community Police Commission Tracker.

I am pleased to share a new police oversight engagement tool this week introduced this week by the Community Police Commission (CPD). The CPC Recommendation Tracker allows anyone to see what recommendations this citizen-driven panel has made to the Seattle Police Department and which have been adopted. This tracker serves primarily to hold the City accountable to the community. Additional purposes include fulfilling the CPC’s legislative mandate, allowing for more informed communication among system partners (CPC, the Office of Inspector General, Seattle Police Department, and Office of Professional Accountability) and the community.

Annual Academic Survey of Seattle Residents Regarding Public Safety. The Seattle Times researcher (“FYI Guy”) published results and analysis of the annual public safety survey of Seattle residents conducted by Seattle University’s Crime & Justice Research Center led by Dr. Jackie Helfgott. The article is titled “How confident are Seattleites in their police? Results of the survey surprise lead researcher.”  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Last year’s protests on police violence were largely focused on police mistreatment of people of color. Because of that, you might expect that the lowest score for police legitimacy would be in the South Precinct, which is the most racially diverse section of Seattle. But the police legitimacy score for this precinct was only a fraction below the citywide average, at 57.9.

“In fact, Helfgott’s analysis shows that white respondents rated police legitimacy lower on average than any other racial/ethnic group, at 57.5 (Black respondents rated police legitimacy at 61.3). Younger people also ranked police legitimacy lower than older people, and women gave the police lower scores than men, on average.

“By far, the lowest score was in the East Precinct, at just 50.4. The East Precinct contains the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which was the site of many of the Black Lives Matter protests, and where the autonomous zone’ was established.”

For the full article, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES COMMITTEE

Opportunity to Invest in Our Aging Infrastructure– Including Bridges that Connect Everyone.

As Transportation Chair, Councilmember Pedersen talks with King 5 News on the aging University Bridge in District 4 which carries buses and other vehicles as well as bicyclists and pedestrians — in addition to lifting up and down to allow larger water vessels to pass underneath.

To provide more funding for transportation needs, the City Council approved a $20 vehicle license fee as part of our fall budget process. While four Councilmembers (including me) were ready to invest all of those funds into bridge maintenance to address the disturbing findings of our City Auditor who summarized the deteriorating condition of our city’s aging bridges,  a majority of Councilmembers directed SDOT to establish a process to solicit  ideas from selected stakeholders. I want to extend my thanks to our Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the stakeholders SDOT selected for their ideas on how to invest $7 million each year.

To boost jobs as Seattle emerges from the COVID pandemic’s economic recession and to get more money out the door and into the community faster, Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Andrew J. Lewis, Teresa Mosqueda, and I proposed an amendment to Council Bill 120042 to implement SDOT’s plan for 2021 and then to have SDOT come back in September with a bolder plan to generate $100 million in bonds to help modernize our aging transportation infrastructure in 2022, with an emphasis on multimodal bridges. We issued this joint statement:

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

— Councilmembers Herbold, Lewis, Mosqueda, and Pedersen (April 19, 2021)

More Support: Councilmember Debora Juarez signed on as a co-sponsor of the infrastructure amendment during our discussion at the Transportation Committee last week.

A coalition of construction labor unions strongly support our amendment, including Billy Hetherington (Political Director for Laborers Local 242), Pedro Espinoza (Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters), and Heather Kurtenbach (Political Director for Ironworkers Local 86). Nicole Grant, the head of MLK Labor also announced her support of our amendment at our Transportation Committee April 21:

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

— Nicole Grant, head of the MLK Labor Council (April 21, 2021)

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

The Seattle Times editorial board added their support April 26. For their editorial CLICK HERE.

“The sorry state of many Seattle bridges is an aching infrastructure need deeper than most others. The city ought to take advantage of economic good timing to make a big investment in bridge repair now before more neighborhoods experience West Seattle Bridge-style prolonged emergency closures.

Seattle should leverage the $20 vehicle fee increase the council approved in November to issue bonds for bridge repairs, as City Council members Alex Pedersen, Teresa Mosqueda, Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis proposed. A fifth council member, Debora Juarez, has voiced support too. The rest of their colleagues should agree to this prudent fiscal maneuver.

…the council would be wise to advance the bonding-for-bridges proposal to address these pressing local needs for safety and the economy.”

— Seattle Times editorial board (April 26, 2021)

Leveraging these dollars to generate $100 million in bonds has several advantages over SDOT’s current plan. Rather than allocating the funds in several small pieces each year over several years, bonding will provide a large sum upfront to obtain more of what we need for our city’s infrastructure when we need it – now. Bonding should also protect the VLF from future attempts to cancel the fee, because those future dollars will be encumbered upfront.

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

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

Another Seattle bridge stuck in the up position.

We need your help to pass our infrastructure amendment! If you support our proposal to boost our city’s infrastructure, including bridges that support all modes of travel, please…

  • EMAIL all nine Councilmembers: Council@seattle.gov
  • SPEAK at my Transportation Committee (sign up on the morning of Wednesday, May 5): CLICK HERE.

In your comments, feel free to focus on the following points:

  • We need City Council to modernize our aging, neglected infrastructure — including multimodal bridges that connect our communities.
  • We want City Council to create good jobs for Seattle residents as we emerge from the COVID recession.
  • City Council should secure for Seattle more of what we need now: fixing bridges, new sidewalks, strategic planning for transportation, and more.
  • The amendment still honors SDOT’s process by implementing recommendations from the stakeholders immediately AND by generating tens of millions of dollars for similar projects faster.

Thank you!

CLICK HERE to read our press release and HERE to read a Seattle Times article about our proposal. For the Seattle Times editorial in support, CLICK HERE.

 

Visit to the Iron Workers Apprenticeship Program.

These future Iron Workers will be fixing our bridges in years to come.

During my tour of the Iron Workers Local 86 apprenticeship program, I learned about the four years of training the union provides future Iron Workers. I met with apprentices in each of the four years of their program. With the help of sponsors such as the Urban League, the Iron Workers apprenticeships and other apprentice programs from the construction trade unions are a powerful path to living wage jobs in Seattle and can boost the prospects of many young people struggling with other issues in their lives. It was inspiring to see this program in action and to know that by getting infrastructure dollars out the door faster, we can have jobs ready for them when they become full-fledged iron workers.

Making Metro Buses Accessible for Back-to-School. The Seattle Times recently published an Op-Ed from Terry White, General Manager of King County Metro, on students taking the bus as they return to school. CLICK HERE to read it. I wanted to share some of the General Manager’s excellent thoughts:

  • Plan ahead for your new commute with Metro Trip Planner (CLICK HERE), using Google Maps in transit mode, or calling 206-553-3000 (dial “1” for an interpreter).
  • Keep your mask on at all times at the bus stop and on the bus.
  • Leave some extra time in case your bus is too full for safe physical distancing; you might need to wait for the next bus.

I’ll add one more tip: remember to thank your driver! Thank you, General Manager White and King County Metro, for helping students stay safe on their way to school.

Extending the Clean City Initiative.

We cherish our parks and so I’m pleased to see our Clean City Initiative working hard to remove graffiti, garbage, and needles. Litter and illegal dumping have increased in our beautiful city during the pandemic and we all want to see a cleaner Seattle.  To see the benefits of the Clean City Initiative firsthand, I joined a crew to pick up trash in the heart of our district several weeks ago. The challenge is enormous, but having multiple departments – including Seattle Public Utilities and our Seattle Department of Transportation — working together to clean up our city is the kind of back-to-basics approach Seattle desperately needs. Funding for the Clean City initiative is running out, so I was pleased to support its extension as part of Council Bill 120041, which we adopted this week. Our Parks Department also plays a key role in the Clean City Initiative and so I’m grateful for leadership of both the Durkan Administration and Councilmember Debora Juarez along with our Finance Chair Teresa Mosqueda for making sure we fund this extension to clean our city. For more on the Clean City Initiative, CLICK HERE.

Utility Rates –  Keeping Promises on Affordability.

Source: SPU’s presentation to our Transportation & Utilities Committee, CLICK HERE.

Last month we were happy to report that Seattle City Light, which is overseen by my Committee, is keeping electricity bills affordable by honoring or beating their 2018 promises on rates. This month, I’m happy to report that our other city-owned utility Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is honoring or beating their promises on overall average rates, as well. During April, SPU reported to my committee on their new strategic business plan and “rate path” (future annual rate increases). For details, CLICK HERE.

Our city has become less affordable and utility bills are regressive, with lower income households paying a higher percentage of their household income for their bills. Therefore, our goal is to keep utility rates low.

Thankfully, during COVID, both of our city-owned utilities have managed to increase enrollment in our Utility Discount Program and waive late fees. We should, however, keep an eye, on some cost drivers, especially with SPU which has multiple lines of business including clean water, wastewater, solid waste removal.

Due to our governance structure with King County for wastewater treatment, a majority of the King County Council unfortunately raised their wastewater treatment fee — which is passed directly through to our Seattle ratepayers. We want King County to discourage urban sprawl and make growth pay for growth going forward, especially for real estate development in suburban or rural areas of the County.

Here at City Hall, we also have to be mindful of the “Utility Tax” that our City government’s General Fund takes from ratepayers. Last year, our General Fund took $167 million out of the pockets of ratepayers from City Light and SPU (page 705 of the Adopted Budget for 2021: $210 million minus cable, telephone, PSE). Charging this “utility tax” is a budgeting technique that Councilmember Herbold helped to daylight when she chaired the Committee that oversaw SPU and, thankfully, she increased transparency of our Utility Tax by highlighting it on customer bills. In the future, we should consider reducing the regressive utility taxes that we charge and enable SPU to use the savings to take care of its aging wastewater infrastructure.

In sum, despite the COVID pandemic, despite the high pass-through rate from the King County Council for wastewater treatment, and despite the regressive utility tax that we charge ratepayers to feed our General Fund expenditures, SPU’s laser focus on affordability and equity by keeping its own costs down is a shining example to all city departments and directly benefits hundreds of thousands of ratepayers who, thanks to this Strategic Plan and revised rate path will not need to suffer an average increase above what had already been planned and promised in 2017. It’s important to highlight that the Customer Review Panel for SPU has endorsed this new Strategic Plan AND its corresponding rate path. I want to thank the dedicated volunteers of our Customer Review Panel for their countless hours of service to Seattle as a watchdog and sounding board for this $1 billion city-owned utility enterprise.


COVID-19 VACCINATION LOCATIONS AND MORE

 

Vaccine Locations in District 4. Above is an interactive map of some of the COVID-19 vaccine locations in District 4. Click on an icon in the map to check for vaccine availability and schedule an appointment. CLICK HERE for the interactive version.

In addition to the sites on the map above, the nonprofit Solid Ground reports they’ve finally hosted their first pop up clinic earlier this month at Magnuson Park. In partnership with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, it was a success (211 people were vaccinated) and they are in discussions to host another.

Our region and state continue to make incredible progress on vaccinations. The Durkan Administration reports that, as of April 23, 2021, an estimated 61.5 percent of Seattle residents (16 and over) have begun the vaccination process, and 34.7 percent are fully vaccinated. This week, the City received 52,000 vaccinations from the county, state, and federal level, which is our largest allocation to-date. If this level of supply and demand continues in Seattle, we could vaccinate 70 percent of our workers and residents by summer.

The City can’t end this pandemic alone – we need your help. If you haven’t already been vaccinated, sign up for a vaccination appointment today at any of the four City-affiliated sites at Lumen Field, North Seattle, Rainier Beach, and West Seattle.

Details are below:

  • Registration link for the Lumen Field Event Center, Rainier Beach Vaccination Hub, and West Seattle Vaccination Hub: https://seattle.signetic.com/home
  • Registration link for the North Seattle Vaccination Hub: https://schedule.seattlevna.com/home/3880509b-53a4-eb11-b1ac-000d3a1fea9b
  • If you have already been vaccinated, you could help your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers get vaccinated by sharing this link throughout your communities. To end this pandemic – and soon – we need to share registration opportunities far and wide: to our workforce, our neighborhood, and our friends and families. If you have any questions, the City encourages you to review our “What to Expect” website.
  • And if you know someone 60 or older who hasn’t been vaccinated, you could take them to our hubs in Rainier Beach and West Seattle, and you’ll both get vaccinated without an appointment. You can find more information on our new “Good Neighbor” walk-in program here.
  • Vaccines save lives. With more variants in our community, you can protect your health and the health of your family by getting vaccinated.
  • If you’re unable to book an appointment this week, they can sign up for the City’s notification list and get notified via email as soon as appointments are available at any of the four City-affiliated sites.
  • For more information, including the notification list, visit the City’s vaccination website at www.seattle.gov/vaccine. The site contains vaccination information in seven languages, and in-language assistance is also available over the phone.
  • Even as more residents get vaccinated, public health measures like social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands remain critical. Please continue to follow all public health guidance, and visit this website from Public Health – Seattle & King County for more information.

Finally, getting tested for COVID-19 is now easier than ever. You can be in and out of a test site within a half hour and get your results in as few as 24-48 hours.

We are making major progress, but this is a critical time to act and beat back any variants – let’s join together so we can finally emerge from this crisis!


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 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


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

April 8th, 2021
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.

APRIL 8, 2021 UPDATE: Another Victory!

The Biden Administration canceled the sale of the archives facility for now.

Councilmember Pedersen Statement today: “I applaud the Biden Administration’s decision today to cancel the hasty and irresponsible sale of the national archives and records building, a treasure of histories so vital to so many people in the Pacific Northwest. I am thankful for the strong leadership by our Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the many tribal leaders, our congressional delegation, researchers, nonprofits, and other stakeholders who advocated for our shared goal of protecting the histories here where they happened in the Pacific Northwest. I hope the Biden Administration and congressional leaders invest the federal dollars needed to preserve the historic archives here in the Pacific Northwest where they belong and, regardless of next steps, we look forward to a proper public process and the required tribal consultation. ”

Here’s what happened today: President Biden’s Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a letter to the Public Buildings Reform Board today stating, “I am writing to withdraw OMB’s January 24, 2020 approval of the sale of the Federal Archives and Records Center, 6125 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115…Tribal consultation is a priority for this Administration… But the process that led to the decision to approve the sale of the Federal Archives and Records Center is contrary to this Administration’s tribal-consultation policy, and I am accordingly withdrawing OMB’s approval of the sale of that facility. Any effort to sell the Federal Archives and Records Center in the future, through any available and appropriate authority, must comply with at least two substantial requirements. First, it must be preceded by meaningful and robust tribal consultation, consistent with the President’s January 26, 2021 Memorandum on Tribal Consultation. Second, it must proceed through the appropriate administrative process, based on a new factual record, and must comply with the attendant substantive and procedural safeguards of that process. I appreciate the Board’s commitment towards implementing its duties under FASTA, and I look forward to collaborating with the Board to fully implement the statute, consistent with OMB’s responsibility to ensure the risks to the government posed by the sale of any proposed properties are acceptable to the taxpayer.”

For a copy of the OMB letter to PBRB, CLICK HERE.

MARCH 24, 2021 UPDATE:

U.S. Senator Patty Murray introduced a significant bill to amend the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (FASTA). The bill states, “Before the sale or transfer of a Federal civilian real property under this Act (other than section 24 or 25), if the proposed sale or transfer would affect access to Federal agency services by a federally recognized Indian Tribe, the relevant Federal agency shall consult with all Tribal governments that may so be affected.” It also states, “A Federal civilian real property may not be sold or transferred under this Act (other than section 24 or 25) if the proposed sale or transfer would substantially reduce or eliminate access to Federal agency services by a federally recognized Indian Tribe.” The introduction of this “Archives Act” is a step in the right direction, reaffirms federal Tribal consultation rights, and could help to stop the sale of the vital historical archives. For the bill as introduced in Congress, CLICK HERE.

MARCH 11, 20201 UPDATE:

Congressional leaders from the Northwest sent a letter March 10, 2021 to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget protesting the proposed sale of the archives facility. The 25 Members of Congress (Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray and six senators from the other states, plus 17 representatives) called the sale “legally flawed” and “in violation” of federal policies to consult Tribal leaders. Here is a key excerpt:

“We strongly support the decision made by the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington to temporarily stop the sale of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Federal Archives and Records Center in Seattle, Washington. We ask that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acknowledge the Court’s ruling and support the plaintiff’s position that the Seattle NARA facility cannot be sold and these vital records must remain in the Pacific Northwest. The process leading to the proposed sale of the facility under the Federal Assets and Transfer Act (FASTA) was legally flawed and importantly, OMB failed to consult with Tribal governments and organizations in violation of its own Tribal consultation policies.”

For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

FEBRUARY 12, 2021 UPDATE:

Good news! U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour granted Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s request for a preliminary injunction February 12, 2021 to pause the sale of the National Archives property in Seattle.

U.S. Government agencies originally estimated that bringing the Sand Point facility up to physical standards would cost $52 million to $71 million or it would cost $90 million to build a new facility in the Seattle area. Ferguson, the City, Tribal Nations, and others suing the federal agencies in protest of the sale hope that the new Biden Administration will recognize the benefits of keeping the facility in the area and agree that Trump Administration officials did not follow the law including the required public engagement process. As our congressional delegation already supports keeping the facility in the Northwest, ideally they can find federal resources to pay for the building upgrades to ensure the priceless documents are preserved here for generations to come in its convenient location relatively close to the University of Washington.

For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

JANUARY 19, 2021 UPDATE:

Today 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 in our District 4. Dozens spoke in favor of keeping the precious archives here in the Northwest. Here’s my statement:

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,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who represents the City Council District where the National Archives facility is located. “I am proud to join Attorney General Bob Ferguson, indigenous leaders, nonprofits, and researchers protecting historical records as well as 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.”

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.


Your City Government is Here for You!

April 6th, 2021

Here are some helpful links and phone numbers to handle some common requests:

Call Seattle’s Customer Service Bureau: 206-684-CITY (2489) to get help from your city government’s 40 departments or CLICK HERE.

Use Seattle government’s Find-It, Fix-It App to report issues, including trash and obstructions: CLICK HERE.

Apply for Economic Relief during COVID: CLICK HERE.

File an online Crime Report with SPD: CLICK HERE. For other ways to contact the Seattle Police Department, CLICK HERE.

Locate your Community Council: CLICK HERE.

Speak at a City Council Meeting: CLICK HERE.

Email our City Council office for District 4: Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov

Call our City Council office for District 4 on weekdays: 206-684-8804.

Read Councilmember Pedersen’s website and blog: CLICK HERE.

Sign up for Councilmember Pedersen’s Newsletter: CLICK HERE.

View a map of Seattle City Council’s District 4: CLICK HERE.


Environmental Protection: Ship Canal Water Quality Project Updates

March 28th, 2021

SUMMARY: The Ship Canal Water Quality Project is a “mega project” planned over many years due to the state and federal governments requiring the city and county governments to prevent harmful stormwater and wastewater from polluting our local waterways. With a cost estimated at $570 million (shared with King County), this environmental protection project includes a new tunnel-boring machine starting its work in 2021. This ambitious 2.7-mile long, 19-foot diameter stormwater storage tunnel should be completed by 2025.

In some parts of Seattle, sewage and stormwater (rain) share a set of pipes underneath our city streets; this is called a “combined sewer.” During heavy rains, the untreated water often exceeds the pipes’ capacity (known as a combined sewer overflow), which then dumps portions of the untreated sewage and stormwater into our natural waterways. These polluted overflows can harm our environment, including fish and wildlife. This environmental protection project will enable us to store 29 million gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater during large storm events, until the treatment plant it ready to process it over time. Because every year has multiple storm surges with combined sewer overflows, the storage capacity translates into preventing approximately 75 million gallons annually from contaminating our precious waterways — from Salmon Bay to Lake Union.

Because this is one of the most expensive projects ever undertaken by the City of Seattle and it involves multiple layers of government, additional scrutiny is warranted to ensure the project is on time and on budget. Like most large capital projects, the Ship Canal Water Quality Control Project is on the City’s “Watch List” so that it receives extra attention.

Illustration from Seattle Times

APRIL 12, 2021 UPDATE:

The winner is Mudhoney, with potential new band member Mami Hara 🙂 (photo from Seattle Public Utilities, April 9, 2021)

Astonishingly, over 30,000 people voted to name the tunnel-boring machine for the environmental protection project. The winner is: Mudhoney!

The rock-blasting Mudhoney band was the tip of the spear for Seattle’s grunge music and their namesake on this drilling machine will be the tip of the spear to carve this mega project so important for protecting our city’s waterways,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen who chairs Seattle’s Transportation & Utilities Committee. “Thanks to tens of thousands of people who participated in the contest to name the massive new drill needed for this massive environmental protection project.”

As chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, I joined on April 9 several officials from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), King County government, and the workers constructing the project to see the massive drill up close (it’s certainly not boring :). The new drill (which creates a diameter that is similar in size to the successful Sound Transit tunnels) will be lowered into its starting point in Ballard and drill the new water storage tunnel all the way to Wallingford in District 4.

MARCH 28, 2021 (ORIGINAL POST):

Tim Barker, left, and Keith Ward discuss the assembly of the tunnel boring machine being prepared in Ballard. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
What’s in a name? The tunnel-boring machine ready for assembly.
(photo by the Seattle Times)

To vote on the name of the new 19-inch boring machine, CLICK HERE before April 1, 2021. The five finalists offered by area residents are Boris the Plunger, Daphne, Molly the Mole, Mudhoney, and Sir Digs-A-Lot.

Currently During Storm Surges (before project is completed):

During heavy rain, sewage and stormwater can overflow into a nearby body of water.

After project is completed:

During heavy rain, sewage and stormwater overflows will be held in the new storage tunnel to be sent to the treatment plant at a later time.

More Info:

  • For the official Seattle Public Utilities site on the project, CLICK HERE.
  • For the official website detailing activity in each neighborhood (Wallingford, Fremont, East Ballard, Ballard, and Queen Anne), CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times article published March 27, 2021, CLICK HERE.


Marching Forward: March update on COVID relief $, small biz, homelessness, safety, transportation, and more

March 25th, 2021

March 2021

Friends and Neighbors,

It’s natural to want to vote Yes! While it’s uplifting to vote Yes and, more often than not, I’m joining my colleagues to vote Yes on new legislation, some situations call for a vote of “Nay” to encourage amendments or to register objections to some City Council legislation.  With the diverse opinions throughout our district of over 100,000 residents, I typically get an earful no matter which way I vote on high-profile issues.  I appreciate the engagement and passion about city government among my constituents!  In many cases, I support the spirit of a policy or budgetary proposal, but I might grow concerned with the details (or lack of details), especially after getting input from constituents.  Often, my stance is “Yes, and let’s make it better,” but necessary amendments might not be adopted or there is not enough time to consider all the consequences of adopting permanent changes to citywide policy.  I’m in favor of sensible and sustainable city government policies and budgets and will continue to craft them and support them from colleagues.  This newsletter will highlight legislation I supported and explain a couple of bills I voted against. Hopefully, that’s intriguing enough to get you to read our entire newsletter!

Art by Yvonne Chen

Before delving into this newsletter, my City Hall colleagues and my office stand in solidarity with our diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander neighbors in King County in the midst of a growing rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian racism and xenophobia have shaken and traumatized Asian American communities, as I noted in my newsletter one year ago today on the topic, “Racism — related to COIVD-19 or for any reason in District 4 or anywhere – is unacceptable.” For the recent statement from Mayor Durkan and Police Chief Diaz, CLICK HERE.

Anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise in Seattle. The Seattle Police Department received 14 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, compared to nine in 2019 and six in 2018, according to the SPD Blotter. King County prosecuted 59 hate crime cases against Asians in 2020, a sharp increase from 39 cases in 2019 and just shy of double the 30 cases in 2018. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian American Pacific Islanders, and its partner groups, since March 2020.

I agree with former Governor Gary Locke when he says: “It’s really great that you have so many groups all across the country, that are focused on civil rights and civil liberties, from the Anti-Defamation League to the NAACP, all coming out in solidarity, and support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” Locke said. “Quite frankly, all groups need to join together because victimization, harassment, discrimination, acts of violence against one group is really an attack and violence against every group.


IN DISTRICT 4

Touring our funky U District this March with Don Blakeney, the new Executive Director of the University District Partnership (the local nonprofit that manages the Business Improvement Area we recently renewed).

The new light rail station opening September 2021 on Brooklyn Ave (between NE 45th and NE 43rd Streets) and the construction spurred by the upzone approved in 2017 by the previous City Council are changing the U District neighborhood rapidly. While many are excited about the potential upsides such as increased vibrancy, City Hall needs to do a better job mitigating any material downsides of sudden large changes when local government grants new benefits to the private market. Negative impacts (which are already occurring) include the displacement of nonprofits and small businesses that relied on lower rents, demolition of naturally occurring affordable housing, over-stressing of our existing infrastructure (such as fire stations, sewer lines, schools, and bridges).  Over 65% of U District businesses are owned by woman and people of color and should be supported by their city government or — at the very least — not put at financial risk by future city government decisions.  We want to ensure we don’t lose the charm and diversity of The Ave to out-of-town chain stores.

Wallingford Business District

The relocated and reopened Octopus Bar, better than ever, in Wallingford.

Councilmember Pedersen enjoying a pint of Guinness (for Strength!) at Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford, March 2021, as we thankfully enter the Governor’s Phase 3.

Our e-newsletter has focused a lot on our University District lately and so I’d like to highlight other neighborhood business districts here in City Council District 4. This month, let’s walk Wallingford. First, if you don’t already subscribe to the neighborhood’s main newsletter, CLICK HERE for Wallyhood.  Wallyhood recently listed the businesses that have opened and closed during the pandemic (CLICK HERE).  Wallyhood also featured the re-opening on the Octopus Bar and implied you can Irish step-dance your way to Murphy’s Pub. (I confirmed this last week by conducting in-person research that included at least one pint.)

  • Murphy’s Pub: Opens at 50 percent capacity at 4:00 pm Monday through Friday and noon on the weekends. Kitchen closes at 10:00 pm.
  • Octopus Bar: Re-opened in a bigger space; can hire more people back!

Also worth a visit near those two Wallingford establishments is Fainting Goat Gelato. Recently the victim of vandals who smashed their storefront window, Fainting Goat, as with so many existing small and diverse businesses, needs our help.  The time-tested benefit of clustering small businesses together is that shoppers can take care of multiple errands with one trip and will make purchases to help more small businesses during that trip than if the businesses were scattered. So no matter where you are in Seattle, head on over to Wallingford’s business districts to explore N. 45th Street from I-5 to Stone Way and Stone Way from N 45 Street down to Lake Union. For the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce, CLICK HERE.

Speaking of our neighborhood small business districts, we are blessed with many of them in addition to the U District and Wallingford:  Eastlake Avenue, Ravenna (NE 65th Street), Roosevelt, and Sand Point Way NE (at Princeton Ave), Wedgwood (35th Avenue NE), and more. For a list of many small businesses open throughout D4 and Seattle, you can explore this website https://intentionalist.com/ “to find and support local businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop.” Focusing our attention and encouraging customers to shop among these existing small businesses is important to ensure they reoccupy, recover, and rehire — and those are among the main reasons I voted against Council Bill 120001 on “home occupations.”

Explaining my “No” Vote on CB 120001 (“Home Occupations”)

The year-round University District Farmers Market. Photo from The Seattle Times.

I worked hard last year to renew the neighborhood business improvement area (BIA) for the University District in the heart of our City Council District 4. For small businesses throughout Seattle, I supported several financial and regulatory relief and recovery programs throughout the COVID pandemic.  In addition, my recent Op Ed points to many ways government can work with local employers to get people back to work and achieve an inclusive economic recovery. I also bring to the table significant private sector experience. After studying the issue, CB 120001 was, in my opinion, not an effective answer and could do more harm than good.

Recently a single, home-based alcohol business located in residential zoning in North Seattle ran into problems with the Seattle Department of Construction and Land Use over a retail service business they decided to launch in their garage by the sidewalk. In response to this, other councilmembers proposed legislation to relax the home based business section of the land use code (SMC 23.42.050) to allow retail businesses anywhere in the City.  After analysis and consulting constituents, I determined that the bill was not likely to provide net benefits for Seattle.

In addition to the direct impact on unexpecting neighbors throughout the city such as increased traffic and disturbances during the day, I am concerned about impacts on existing small businesses and neighborhood business districts that are struggling like those in our District 4 listed above.

Here are 10 reasons why I voted against the bill:

  1. Home-based businesses already allowed, per Seattle Municipal Code Section 23.42.050
  2. Questionable need for citywide changes
  3. Could hurt small business districts/clustering businesses together is better
  4. U District business district needs undivided attention to protect its diversity
  5. Cloaked in COVID, but lasts for at least another year
  6. Distracts key City department from other important work
  7. Impacts to other neighborhoods
  8. Other cities have not removed so many guardrails
  9. Other unintended consequences
  10. More appropriate solutions available

For a longer explanation of my reasons for not supporting this bill, please see my blog article: CLICK HERE. Nevertheless, the Council adopted the bill.

The City will be conducting a study over the next few months. Constituents with an interest are encouraged to read the study plan and engage with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) and to provide comments. The study plan is section 4 of the bill, CLICK HERE.

Lower Speed Limit on Sand Point Way, NE 45th St, and Montlake Blvd NE

Map from SDOT. Solid blue line indicates new, lower 30 MPH speed limit negotiated with our State government (the dashed blue line indicates existing 30 MPH limit).

After alarming data showing that traffic collisions killed 24 people in Seattle in 2020, a year in which the number of traffic fatalities was unacceptably high all over the country, I’m proud that SDOT is partnering with the Washington State DOT to lower speed limits on some state routes in Seattle. Reducing speed limits is one of the proven ways we can reduce fatal crashes. In District 4, part of State Route 513 (including Sand Point Way, NE 45th St, and Montlake Blvd NE) now has a lower speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Signs indicating this change from the previous 35 MPH limit have been installed. Read more HERE and thank you for driving carefully and helping keep everyone safe.

Expanding Public Green Space in Eastlake

Proposal for the public plaza in Eastlake.

After we passed this community-driven proposal unanimously out of the Transportation Committee, the full City Council granted conceptual approval to create a small public path and plaza in Eastlake (at Fairview Avenue E). A partnership among the neighborhood, local business, and the city government led the process for this expanded and public open space and to better identify a handful of parking spaces. I visited the site recently to see it firsthand and we had a thorough presentation in my Committee. The project is an improvement the neighborhood has been working on with the Department of Neighborhoods and SDOT for several years and I’m glad to see it finally moving forward. For more in Council Bill 31988, as adopted, CLICK HERE. For the Eastlake Community Council, CLICK HERE.

Murals at Magnuson Designed by Kids

Visitors to Magnuson Children’s Garden will soon be welcomed by two new murals. The theme of the art is “All Are Welcome,” a principle that has been at the foundation of the garden since its inception. The murals are being designed and built by teams of children who attend youth programs in Magnuson Park or live in the park’s residential housing and surrounding neighborhoods. The project is supported by the City’s Neighborhood Matching Fund. For more info on the mural project, CLICK HERE.

Wedgwood Grocery Store Update

A federal judge tossed out the lawsuit by the grocery industry, which attempted to block Seattle’s COVID-era requirement to pay $4 an hour in hazard pay to frontline grocery workers. (Council Bill 119990 is now Ordinance 126274 and it went into effect February 3, 2021.) For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE. (Note: King County followed Seattle and passed a nearly identical law for unincorporated areas.) While Seattle’s win in court confirms the legal authorization for the city government’s relief requirements for low-wage grocery workers, it does not help to keep open the beloved QFC that Kroger company has cynically vowed to shutter on April 24. My focus continues in two areas:  (1) do whatever I can as the District City Councilmember to help secure a good grocery or similar store in that location (on the border of District 4 and District 5) and (2) make sure City Hall honors its promise “to consider modifying or eliminating hazard pay requirements after four [sic] months of implementation and review of the current health, safety, and economic risks of frontline work during the COVID-19 emergency,” as stated by the temporary, new law (which I voted for). We need to make sure the sponsors of the legislation keep their word to conduct that review and we need to speed vaccines to all front-line workers, including grocery workers — who the Governor recently prioritized.  If City Hall does not eventually phase out or sunset new taxes or regulatory changes pitched to
the public as “necessary due to COVID,” then I believe what credibility exists between City Hall and the public will erode.

The QFC will remain open at least through April 24 and, while not a permanent substitute for those shopping in person, nearby grocery stores include Safeway on 35th Avenue NE at NE 75th Street, the larger University Village QFC store, the PCC Market on 40th Avenue NE and NE 65th Street, and the Metropolitan Market at 5250 40th Avenue NE. The Traders Joe’s in the University District (5555 Roosevelt Way NE) is probably too far away for most Wedgwood residents, though fans of that store will often go the extra mile.

In addition to support from the grocery workers labor union (UFCW, Local 21), I’d like to thank the community for creating a “Go Fund Me” effort with 100% to benefit the grocery workers, especially those who are not able to be transferred to other QFC stores in the area.  At the same time, I would hope that Kroger company updates its plans and decides to stay for at least the rest of its long-term lease at the current site.

Speaking of Wedgwood, the Wedgwood Community Council has been back in business for the past few months. My office attended their most recently monthly meeting on March 2 (they meet on the first Tuesday of each month). For the WCC’s website and new blog posts, CLICK HERE.


SAFETY

Next Steps for Police Funding

Our concerns about longer response times to emergency 9-1-1 calls were validated by SPD’s latest data presented March 9, 2021 (CLICK HERE).

People calling 9-1-1 for emergencies need a rapid response, but the disturbing data shows response times going in the wrong direction in the wake of Seattle police officers departing our department in droves. This newly released data, which I requested as part of our budget process last fall, demonstrates how important it is to consider all the potential consequences before making major policy and budget changes. I believe this troubling trend is another reason City Council should postpone further cuts to the department until effective emergency response alternatives are in place and the police union contract is reformed to save money while retaining more officers.

This past Tuesday, March 24, the Council’s Public Safety Committee voted for a substitute version of Council Bill 119981 which would cut another $3 million from SPD. The majority of the Committee seems to be framing this as a “compromise,” arguing that cutting an additional $3 million is smaller than the original proposal of cutting an additional $5 million. But I have two concerns:

#1: this myopic framing misses the full picture: the City Council already cut $70 million just a few months ago and proposes to cut more – even as we are confronted with disturbing new data: a record number of officers have left the department and response times to 911 calls have slowed significantly.

#2: the time spent debating these additional cuts continues to distract from the hard work and the real path to justice: revamping the expensive and inflexible police union contract.  Let’s stop fiddling with their budget and fix the contract!

Overall, I share the concerns published by the Seattle Times editorial board last week (CLICK HERE) and I detailed my position in my previous e-newsletters (CLICK HERE).

  • For Councilmember Pedersen’s November 2020 request for a report on 9-1-1 response times, CLICK HERE.
  • For Council Bill 119981 proposing to cut another $5 million from SPD, CLICK HERE.
  • For Councilmember Pedersen’s 12 reasons to oppose Council Bill 119981, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Durkan Administration’s full PowerPoint report on 9-1-1 response times and police officer attrition delivered at the March 9, 2021 Public Safety & Human Services Committee, CLICK HERE.


Building Capacity for Community Organizations to Reduce Violence

Many of you know that reimagining public safety should include effective and appropriate alternatives to traditional policing when responding to certain emergencies such as dispatching mental health providers and/or our Health One Fire Dept units to neighbors experiencing a mental health crisis.

While we await the results from the Mayor’s Equitable Communities Task Force and specifics on emergency response alternatives from community-informed research, I am pleased the Council followed through on promises to approve $10 million in investments for experienced organizations to build additional community safety from the ground up to reduce violence and reduce crime in Seattle neighborhoods. This support builds on the $4 million awarded last year to the Seattle Community Safety Initiative, led by Community Passageways, which built community safety hubs and wraparound services to reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals back into community. The new legislation made it possible for our city’s Human Services Department to structure an open and competitive Request for Proposals process to provide opportunity to organizations throughout Seattle to provide their expertise and services.

The Harvard Kennedy School of Government Performance Lab report on “Improving Government Vendor Diversity” concluded what is widely known among government professionals who award contracts:  “An expanded pool of bidders can lead to greater competition for government procurements, more innovative proposals from vendors, and lower costs and better outcomes for taxpayers.”

Applications are due April 9; to apply for the open, competitive opportunity, CLICK HERE.


New Executive Director of Community Police Commission Sworn into Service

Last week, I was pleased to vote in favor of Brandy Grant (on right in photo above) as the new Executive Director for the Community Police Commission (CPC).

The CPC, the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), and Office of Inspector General for Public Safety (OIG) pursue ongoing accountability for policing in Seattle in addition to the independent monitor appointed by the federal judge to watchdog implementation of the federal consent decree. The consent decree was put in place to stem excessive force and bias policing (though the existing police union contract continues to impede full progress). 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 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. The Executive Director role is important to keep the work on the appointed commissioners moving forward.


HOMELESSNESS

As I wrote last month, I want to acknowledge the many concerns my office has been hearing from constituents about the rise in homelessness they are seeing in the parks, greenways, and sidewalks (unsheltered homelessness). As some of you may know, the COVID pandemic has made things worse for our homelessness crisis, partly because the shelters had to be “de-intensified” to create social-distancing space, which resulted in their capacity decreasing dramatically.  In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued guidance during the COVID pandemic that said, “If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”  This is on top of the 2018 9th Circuit Court case (Martin v. Boise, Idaho, but affecting West Coast) that many believe reduces the ability of public agencies to move those living unsheltered unless there are clear housing alternatives for them.

Currently City Hall is knitting together various interventions (which I detailed in last month’s newsletter), but ultimately we need everyone vaccinated so that we can maximize the use of our shelter space and we need more supportive services for behavioral health challenges (mental health and substance use disorder/addiction) as we strive to create a sufficient amount of affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness.

Clean City Initiative provides added support to Business Districts throughout the City

Starting last month, Clean City funds have enabled business associations and districts, including the University District BIA, to increase their efforts to clean up trash and graffiti for clean streets and sidewalks. You may not notice the difference but crews are, in fact, hauling away tons of trash including in District 4. Ultimately, the effort is not sustainable; we need to bring people inside as they get vaccinated and as more shelter and permanent housing becomes available.

If litter, trash, needles, or other materials are illegally dumped near you, you can always report via the City’s Find It, Fix It app, or call (206) 684-CITY (2489). The Clean City Initiative provides a surge of litter pick-up and maintenance that will continue through April 2021 and I hope my colleagues vote to extend it. To learn more and follow along with these efforts, please visit seattle.gov/clean-city

Speeding More Dollars for Shelter

Earlier this week, we approved Council Bill 120019 to appropriate an additional $12 million dollars for non-congregate shelter services in hotel rooms, tiny home villages, or enhanced shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness who are at increased risk for contracting COVID or having severe outcomes from COVID. We will pursue Federal and State funds to offset the cost of these services. Thank you to Mayor Durkan for her support and to Homelessness Chair Andrew Lewis for advancing this legislation.

New Director for King County Regional Homelessness Authority

Our first CEO Marc Dones  (photo from the new Regional Homelessness Authority)

I was heartened when Marc Dones, formerly with the National Innovation Service, accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer for the new Regional Homelessness Authority. As I have emphasized repeatedly, I believe we need regional solutions to this regional problem. Now that we have a leader for this new and necessary regional organization, we can finally move ahead for better results for those experiencing homelessness and for all our communities.

“I am honored to accept the role of CEO of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority,” said Dones. “The work ahead of us will not be easy, but I am confident we will come together as a region to end homelessness. It is critical that as the Authority advances this work, we do so with a focus on racial justice and the voices of those who are most impacted. Those tenets will be the foundation for the Authority, and I look forward to working with leaders across King County to make that vision a reality.”

For a Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.


COVID RELIEF AND RECOVERY

Finally in Phase 3 for our Economy!

Nurse Myesha Williams injects Gliceria Abrenilla with her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. (photo by The New York Times)

Effective earlier this week (March 22), Gov. Inslee announced a new third phase of his economic recovery roadmap.

The new phase also allows for up to 400 people maximum to attend OUTDOOR activities, as well as events in indoor facilities — so long as 400 people does not exceed 50% capacity for the location, and physical distancing and masking protocols are enforced. Larger venue events are capped at 25% occupancy, or up to 9,000 people, whichever is less, and must follow spectator guidelines. Sports guidance will change in Phase 3 to allow in-person spectators at events for the first time in a year.

Additionally, Phase 3 will allow up to 50% occupancy or 400 people maximum, whichever is lower, for all INDOOR spaces. This applies to all industries and indoor activities currently allowed; restaurants, gyms and fitness centers and movie theaters, among others, may all increase their capacity.

“Because of the progress we’ve made by decreasing our case rates and hospitalizations, as well as our tremendous efforts to get more people vaccinated, our reopening plan is once again based on counties, not regions,” said the Governor.  This is good news as we cautiously and prudently move forward into a changed world.  For more info, CLICK HERE.

Vaccinations update: eligibility, locations

Additionally, the governor announced that everyone in Phase 1B, Tier 2 is eligible for their COVID vaccine. On March 17, eligibility will expand further to an estimated 244,000 King County residents eligible under Phase 1b2, including:

  • high-risk critical workers in congregate settings (including agriculture, food processing, grocery and food banks, corrections and courts, public transit, first responders, and early learning programs)
  • people who are pregnant, and
  • residents with a disability that puts them at higher risk from COVID-19.

All Phase 1A, Phase 1B, Tier 1, and Phase 1B, Tier 2 eligible members of the public can sign up now for the City’s vaccination appointment notification list. Once eligible members of the public sign up for the City’s notification list, they will receive an email notification when vaccination appointments become available at any of the City’s three fixed sites in Rainier Beach, West Seattle, and the Lumen Field Event Center. The notification list is available here, and residents can also contact the Customer Service Bureau at 206-684-2489 from Monday through Saturday, between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. for assistance completing this form. In-language assistance is available over the phone.

For more detail about who is eligible, see the guidance from WA State Department of Health. For more information about COVID-19 vaccine, see our vaccine website.

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

Even as more residents get vaccinated, public health measures like social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands remain critical. Please continue to follow all public health guidance, and visit this website from Public Health – Seattle & King County for more information

COVID Indicators for King County

 

The latest indicators on new COVID cases show how important it is to continue our vigilance in wearing masks and social-distancing even as the vaccines are more widely administered. To view them, see the most recent graphs below or CLICK HERE.

More Federal Dollars on the way: the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021

After already approving multiple relief packages, the federal government once again delivered:  The American Rescue Plan will provide direct relief to the American people, help the economy, and, importantly, roll out concrete plans to beat the virus. The plan includes a whopping $1.9 trillion to provide additional relief to address the continued impact of COVID-19 on the economy, public health, state and local governments, individuals, and businesses.  That brings the total from the federal government thus far to an unprecedented $5 Trillion.

Since the Federal government can spend more money than it collects in revenue (“deficit-spend”), this infusion of financial relief can help all cities, including Seattle, which are required by law to balance their budgets. I was pleased to see that it accelerates the national vaccination program by investing about $160 billion to provide the supplies, emergency response, testing, and public health workforce to stop the spread of COVID-19. It will also provide $130 billion to help schools serve all students, no matter where they are learning, and help achieve President Biden’s goal to safely open the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his Administration. These investments include set asides at the local and state level to ensure states and districts address the learning loss and social and emotional needs of students disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities.

In addition, there are several beneficial tax credits in the plan:

  • For those without children, the American Rescue Plan increased the Earned-Income Tax Credit from $543 to $1,502.
  • For those with children, the American Rescue Plan increased the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child for children over the age of six and $3,600 for children under the age of six – and raised the age limit from 16 to 17.
  • The American Rescue Plan also increased and expanded the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, making more people eligible and increasing the total credit to $4,000 for one qualifying individual and $8,000 for two or more.

Sign up here for an update when the U.S. Department of Treasury announces more information on how tax credits will work.

Mayor Durkan and Governor Inslee Extend COVID-19 Eviction Moratoriums

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

Residential tenants who receive an eviction notice during the moratorium should contact the Renting in Seattle hotline at 206‐684‐5700 or go online to submit a complaint. On top of the current proposal for $23 million for rental assistance, the City of Seattle has committed $18 million to rental assistance  in addition to state and King County resources for landlords and tenants.

If you’re a small business, see the Office of Economic Development’s COVID-19 Lease Amendment Tool Kit.

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

Councilmember Sawant’s Bill for Tenants (“Right to Counsel”): My No Vote at Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Seattle Preschool Program Applications Open

Tim Burgess, the architect of the nationally acclaimed Seattle Preschool Program (and literally the adult in the room), happily visiting a high-quality preschool in South Seattle, 2013.

There was already a great need for high-quality child care and preschool  before COVID and, as we emerge from the pandemic the need is even greater when more parents get back to work. Applications for the Seattle Preschool  Program are now open for 2021-2022, with 14 new classrooms opening this fall. The new additions boost the total number of SPP classrooms to 129, with capacity to serve up to 2,054 preschoolers!  For the news release from Seattle’s Department of Education & Early Learning, CLICK HERE.  It’s heartening to see this nationally acclaimed program (which I helped to craft as a Legislative Aide for Tim Burgess) enabling thousands of our youngest Seattleites to thrive.  When they are high-quality and evidence-based, early learning programs such as the Seattle Preschool Program not only enable kids to enter kindergarten ready to learn, but also send them on a life-long trajectory of success by building foundations proven to keep them out of the criminal justice system and lead healthier, happier lives. The real stars are the preschool teachers and the little learners.  To apply, CLICK HERE.


TRANSPORTATION, UTILITIES, AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE

From The Seattle Times: “Gov. Jay Inslee speaks Friday on the shore of Portage Bay in Seattle to call for more state spending on highway, bridge and ferry maintenance. Behind him are MLK Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Grant, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay and Port of Seattle Commissioner Fred Felleman. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)”

Supporting Our Bridge Infrastructure

I continue to champion the cause of fixing our city’s aging bridges at every opportunity.

  • March 5 – Governor Inslee visited District 4 to bring attention to infrastructure needs. With our aging University Bridge as a backdrop – a bridge ranked poor by our recent audit of Seattle’s bridges – Governor Inslee spoke about the need to invest in transportation infrastructure: “Now we need to get our roads, bridges and ferries,” Inslee said. “All of these things are necessary for the rebuilding of Washington state’s economy. We need to make the investments first, and I emphasize first, in maintenance of our existing transportation system. “It is woefully underfunded.” Read the Seattle Times coverage of his visit
  • March 11 – I called on the Mayor and my City Council colleagues to prioritize bridge infrastructure jobs as we invest the federal funding we’ll receive in economic recovery. Read more HERE.
  • March 17 – Transportation reporter Mike Lindblom highlighted the millions of dollars in maintenance needs for Seattle’s drawbridges, including my work on this topic. Read the article HERE.
  • March 19 – Our efforts to support bridges even earned a write-up in The Architect’s Newspaper: CLICK HERE .
  • April 21 – I have invited the City Auditor and SDOT to my Transportation Committee for an update on the implementation status of the recommendations from the bridge audit I requested.

West Seattle Bridge Achieves 30% Design Milestone

I asked SDOT to update my Transportation Committee March 17 on the West Seattle Bridge. SDOT updated the public and my Council colleagues on the City’s progress toward restoration of the West Seattle “High” Bridge — and to strengthen the “low-level” bridge (Spokane Street Swing Bridge), which has had to carry a bigger burden during this infrastructure emergency. SDOT is now at 30% design for the restoration of the high bridge, a milestone which enabled them to solidify their total cost estimate, and publish a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for bids from general contractors who will be hired to complete the work and re-open the bridge by the 3rd quarter of 2022.

SDOT’s revised total cost estimate is $175 million, which includes the costs of the initial emergency stabilization efforts as well as the costs of establishing/improving alternative routes (“Reconnect West Seattle”). The actual construction costs for restoration of the West Seattle High Bridge is estimated to be $60 million (out of the $175 million). To cover the total cost, we have set aside up to $100 million of city government resources, but it would be ideal to secure additional funds from other sources. The City has been pursuing funding aggressively: Including regional (approximately $15 million from the Puget Sound Regional Council), State (ideally $25 million from the 2021 legislative session), and Federal sources (a $20 million “INFRA” grant). A portion of the renewed and revamped Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) will assist during at least the next year.

Here are some additional links with more information:

  • SDOT’s presentation to my Committee: CLICK HERE.
  • Seattle Times article on the 30% design milestone: CLICK HERE.
  • SDOT’s blog posts with ongoing updates: CLICK HERE.
  • While I’m the Chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, the Councilmember who represents the 100,000 residents of West Seattle—Lisa Herbold—provides detailed updates for her constituents: CLICK HERE.
  • West Seattle Bridge updates on my blog: CLICK HERE.

Electrification for the Environment

We have been implementing important policies to improve our environment, including a renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District to boost transit, a new requirement to review all legislation through the lens of carbon emissions and resiliency in the face of climate change, and new building and energy codes.

On March 17, the City released its framework plan for increasing the clean energy “electrification” of transportation infrastructure. To see the Mayor’s Office announcement, CLICK HERE; for the departments’ plan, CLICK HERE. This important work to de-carbonize our transportation systems builds on previous work, including the opening this fall of two Sound Transit Link stations in District 4 (Brooklyn Ave in the U District and NE 65th Street in Roosevelt).

Overall, the Mayor’s plan is ambitious and aspirational. But the implementation may be challenging, especially when some of the same executive departments seem unable to produce the overdue ordinance to protect trees (carbon-sequestering conifers) within our Emerald City, after years of being told that the conservation of our urban tree canopy is vital not only to mitigate the impacts of climate change but also to achieve community healthy and equity. Our office will be closely monitoring the development and implementation of electrification plans (and the needed tree ordinance).

My Committee Passes Ordinance to Keep Seattle City Light Rates Steady

I appreciate both of our city-owned utilities (Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities) sharing my commitment to focus on affordability for our residents, especially during the pandemic and economic recession.  The City Light ordinance for electricity rates, as proposed in Council Bill 120015, strives to balance City Light’s goal to provide customers with stability and predictability in the amounts of their electric bills while enabling our municipally owned utility to recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic over the next couple of years.  The watchdog City Light Review Panel concurred.

On March 17, my Committee unanimously passed Council Bill 120015 and the full Council will vote on the bill next Monday, March 29. The bill re-affirms electricity rates for Seattle City Light. Our electricity bills are composed of various base electricity rates, pass-through power rates, and surcharges and — though a combination of actions — we can continue to prevent an increase in bills this year.  In addition, Seattle City Light will be keeping their promise for next year (2022) by sticking with the original rate path agreed to back in 2018 and possibly achieving a smaller increase if the pass-through rate from the Bonneville Power Administration comes in lower.

I believe this utility legislation is a success story and I’m pleased that City Light has managed to prevent an increase to customers’ bills this year and to keep or beat their promise for next year.

 


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 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 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


Councilmember Pedersen follows through on the audit he ordered on Seattle’s Bridges — need more investments in our bridges for safety, regional economy.

March 11th, 2021
Councilmember Pedersen viewing the seismic retrofit of the 15th Ave NE bridge connecting Roosevelt and the U District at Cowen Park in District 4.

March 11, 2021 UPDATE:

I have asked the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to participate in my Committee in April of 2021 to report on their progress implementing the bridge audit. In the meantime, I issued this press release:

Prioritize Bridge Infrastructure Jobs When Investing New Federal Dollars for our Economic Recovery

Stop kicking the can down the road – fix our aging bridges now,” urges Transportation Chair and Seattle Councilmember Alex Pedersen

SEATTLE – With President Biden this week signing legislation to speed $1.9 Trillion in additional federal dollars to the nation, Transportation Committee Chair Alex Pedersen is calling on city leaders to invest millions more to create jobs by repairing Seattle’s aging bridges as part of our relief and recovery efforts. 

With Seattle expected to receive over $230 million this year from just this single piece of federal legislation, Councilmember Pedersen believes this is an historic job creation opportunity for City Hall to finally address the growing maintenance backlog for our bridges, several of which are ranked in poor condition or in urgent need of seismic retrofitting

“The next time a Seattle bridge is cracked, stuck, or closed, the people of Seattle will look back to this decision point when we had additional funds and ask, who failed to fix our bridges?”said Councilmember Pedersen.“As Transportation Chair, it’s my responsibility to keep sounding the alarm and encouraging the Mayor, transportation officials, and a majority of City Council to step up and fund this vital infrastructure that connects our communities and keeps our economy moving.”

“It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and over the bridge,” Councilmember Pedersen continued.“In a city carved by waterways and ravines, we rely on safe bridges to support all modes of transportation that connect us and keep our regional economy moving. Let’s hear the wake up call of the West Seattle Bridge and seize this historic opportunity of additional federal dollars to invest a substantial portion toward creating jobs that finally repair our aging bridges.”

Since the premature cracking of the West Seattle Bridge required its shutdown a year ago, Councilmember Pedersen has made several attempts to get City Hall leaders to invest more in Seattle’s brittle bridges. After successfully securing funds for most of the West Seattle Bridge restoration, several opportunities to invest more in the aging bridges across Seattle have encountered too many excuses and too little action.

  • During last year’s budget deliberations in October 2020, Councilmember Pedersen sought $24 million more for bridges, but received only $4 million while individual transportation projects received more additional funds than all Seattle’s other bridges combined. 

With Seattle about to receive hundreds of millions more in cash from the federal government, there are no more excuses available to ignore our aging bridge infrastructure.  In addition to the dollars needed to restore the West Seattle High Bridge, Seattle’s aging bridges have the following immediate needs:

  • $20 million to $88 million more annually for bridge maintenance. (Annual maintenance needed is $34 million to $102 million, per the City Auditor’s report on bridges. Mayor Durkan’s proposed budget for 2021 provided only $10 million among four line items and yet Council amended Councilmember Pedersen’s request down to $4 million for a total of only $14 million.)
  • $8 million for our City’s older bridges that have aging moveable parts (such as the University, Ballard, Fremont, and Spokane bridges). Why not replace those old components right now before they fail?  When draw bridges / bascule bridges / swing bridges get stuck, they prevent all modes of transportation — including buses and bikes — which could impede Seattle’s fragile economic recovery. (Councilmember Pedersen ventured inside the aging University Bridge on February 4, 2021 to see its maintenance challenges firsthand.)
  • Millions to start the seismic retrofits of 16 Seattle bridges, including $32 million for Ballard, $29 million for Fremont, and millions to seismically upgrade the 100-year old University Bridge.
  • Millions to replace the 90-year-old Magnolia Bridge before it collapses. (Tolls could be part of the solution to pay for a new bridge there, but that might not cover the entire cost and dollars are needed upfront to complete the design of a new bridge.)

Fixing our bridges is consistent with the strategic direction from our Governor and the new U.S. Transportation Secretary. Just days ago, Governor Inslee was in our District 4. With aging University Bridge as a backdrop – a bridge ranked poor by our recent audit of Seattle’s bridges – Governor Inslee spoke about the need to invest in transportation infrastructure: “Now we need to get our roads, bridges and ferries. All of these things are necessary for the rebuilding of Washington state’s economy. We need to make the investments first, and I emphasize first, in maintenance of our existing transportation system,” Inslee said. “It is woefully underfunded.”  Similarly, Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg last week punctuated preservation: “’Fix it First’ is going to be a very important mantra for us…It doesn’t always have the same sizzle as doing something new, but we’ve got to be doing both. You just look at the condition of so many roads and bridges in this country. We can’t allow that backlog to continue.”

  • For the recent audit of Seattle’s aging bridges that shows bridge maintenance has been neglected by City officials, CLICK HERE.
  • For recently missed opportunity to invest newly approved Vehicle License Fees for bridges, CLICK HERE.
  • For the recent SDOT memo about the increased costs of seismic retrofits for Seattle’s bridges, CLICK HERE.
Councilmember Pedersen inspecting underneath the University Bridge, February 2021.

November 2020 UPDATE:

For a opportunity to use new funds to help our bridges, CLICK HERE. I’d like to thank Councilmembers Herbold, Juarez, and Lewis for supporting this effort with me to dedicate new funding to support our bridges but, unfortunately, this effort was waylaid by the rest of the Councilmembers.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2020 PRESS RELEASE:

Council Transportation Chair Pedersen Announces Delivery of Audit of Seattle Bridges 

SEATTLECouncilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle), Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee announced the delivery of the audit report on Seattle’s bridges with a focus on the efficacy of the City’s infrastructure maintenance program.

“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 Pedersen. “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, Councilmember Pedersen is pleased to report the completion of the audit report on schedule. The auditor’s report will be presented to the City Council at its Transportation Committee to be chaired by Pedersen this Wednesday, September 16 at 9:30 a.m.

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 solve the insufficiency of funding. “I am hopeful that Mayor Durkan and the City Council will pay close attention to this audit report and respond appropriately during the 2021budget 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: 

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.”

The aging University (bascule) Bridge that connects much of District 4 to downtown Seattle.

# # #

May 31, 2020: For a thorough article by the Seattle Times about bridge maintenance needs — which mentions my audit of city bridges — CLICK HERE.

April 25, 2020: For the Seattle Times editorial supporting our launching of the bridge audit, CLICK HERE. “One step to restoring trust is an audit of citywide bridge maintenance, requested last week by new City Councilmember Alex Pedersen.”

April 23, 2020: To read the initial article by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

April 23, 2020: Here’s the press release:

SEATTLECouncilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – Northeast Seattle), and Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee, today asked the City Auditor to complete an audit to assess the conditions and maintenance of Seattle’s bridges.

“In a city surrounded by several waterways, our bridges are the backbone of Seattle’s infrastructure for its residents and local economy and are vital for transit, freight, and other uses,” said Pedersen. “Bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. The rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscores the need for City officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including preventative maintenance investments and practices.”

Pedersen’s letter to the City Auditor states the purpose is “to request, as chair of the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, that the Office of City Auditor complete an audit report to assess the physical conditions and maintenance investments for the major bridges owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)…”

“We look forward to performing this important and valuable body of work,” said David G. Jones, the City Auditor.

“I appreciate SDOT’s recent transparency, responsiveness, and proactive sharing of information regarding the West Seattle Bridge.  I want SDOT to remain focused on the immediate needs of the West Seattle Bridge and I am therefore, flexible on the Auditor’s final completion date for reviewing the other bridges,” said Pedersen, who has also requested an interim summary of the maintenance investments on bridges by mid-September to inform the City Council’s fall budget process.

According to the City of Seattle’s adopted 2020 operating budget (page 411) and SDOT’s 2019 Capital Roadway and Structures report (page 19), there are 124 bridges owned and operated by the City of Seattle. The City Auditor’s report will focus on SDOT’s bridge maintenance program for the major bridges in the City’s portfolio and may discuss other non-bridge assets managed by SDOT.  While SDOT already obtains and monitors much of this underlying information on our City’s bridges and the federal government and state government also provide important oversight, the audit will gather, summarize, and analyze that information for review by the City Council.

For the proposed scope of the audit, use the following website link: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/CM-Pedersen-letter-to-Auditor-on-Seattle-bridges-2020.04.23-to-Auditor-.pdf

In addition to summarizing key information on all major bridges, the report should include a deeper analysis of a sampling of major bridges across our city including, but not limited to, the Ballard Bridge, Magnolia Bridge, Montlake Bridge, University Bridge, and West Seattle Bridge.

The Auditor will discuss the final scope with SDOT, which could include a description of other major non-bridge infrastructure assets owned by the City to provide context for SDOT’s broader asset management portfolio.

# # #


Reasons for Voting NO on Home Occupation Bill (CB 120001)

March 10th, 2021
The year-round University District Farmers Market, photo by Seattle Times

March 12, 2021 Update:

ALERT: The full City Council is voting on this land use bill this coming Monday, March 15, 2021. I’m disappointed this bill was rushed to the full City Council by invoking an exception to our parliamentary procedure rules which state, “If a committee recommendation is not unanimous: Unless otherwise authorized by the President and the committee Chair, the committee report shall be reported to the second regular City Council meeting after the date of the recommendation” (page 25). Therefore, Council President Gonzalez and Chair Strauss (both co-sponsors of the bill) unfortunately decided to use their powers to skip the additional week of public review time to speed it to a full vote. (I appreciate that Chair Strauss provided ample time in his Committee for me to articulate my strong track record for small business as well as my concerns with the bill. I wish there had been more time, however, for more input from existing small businesses and communities.)

March 10, 2021 (original post): Many of us are grateful for the small businesses in our neighborhood business districts that provide not only jobs, goods, and services but also fun, flavor, and funkiness. I have consistently supported small businesses throughout Seattle. In fact, my concern for the recovery of EXISTING small businesses, our neighborhood business districts that support them, and the potential unintended consequences of yet another change to Seattle’s complex land use codes are my primary reasons for voting No on Council Bill 120001.  I expand on the reasons for my vote below.

(For the original press release from the sponsors in favor of the bill, CLICK HERE.)

Despite my concerns about the bill, I would like to thank the original sponsor, Councilmember Dan Strauss, for providing enough time to consider this legislation in an era when bills are often rushed too quickly through the Seattle City Council.  While the bill was discussed quickly after it was introduced, Chair Strauss provided ample time and grace in his Committee to air the concerns and to provide staff time to analyze it. Ultimately, though, the subsequent memo from our Central Staff analyst, conversations with the department that will implement this, and, most importantly, my outreach to small businesses did not alleviate the concerns I raised during the previous Committee meeting on February 24.  In fact, many business districts had not heard of the legislation and offered additional concerns.

I worked hard last year to renew the neighborhood business improvement area (BIA) for the University District in the heart of our City Council District 4. For small businesses throughout Seattle, I supported several financial and regulatory relief and recovery programs throughout the COVID pandemic.  In addition, my recent Op Ed for an inclusive economic recovery points to many ways government can work with local employers to get people back to work and achieve an inclusive economic recovery. I also bring to the table significant private sector experience. After studying the issue, CB 120001 is, in my opinion, not an effective answer and could do more harm than good. Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. HOME-BASED BUSINESSES ALREADY ALLOWED: Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Section 23.42.050
  2. QUESTIONABLE NEED FOR CITYWIDE CHANGES
  3. COULD HURT SMALL BUSINESS DISTRICTS / CLUSTERING BUSINESS TOGETHER IS BETTER
  4. U DISTRICT BUSINESS DISTRICT NEEDS UNDIVIDED ATTENTION TO PROTECT ITS DIVERSITY
  5. CLOAKED IN COVID, BUT LASTS FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER YEAR
  6. DISTRACTS KEY CITY DEPARTMENT FROM OTHER IMPORTANT WORK
  7. IMPACTS TO OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS
  8. NOT TO THIS EXTENT IN OTHER CITIES
  9. OTHER UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES (see below)
  10. MORE APPROPRIATE SOLUTIONS AVAILABLE

For details on each, please read on…

  • HOME-BASED BUSINESSES ALREADY ALLOWED: First, it’s important to reiterate that you can already operate a business out of your home. Our Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Section 23.42.050 CURRENTLY states, “A home occupation of a person residing in a dwelling unit is permitted outright in all zones as an accessory use …” subject to various requirements. The requirements essentially require the business to keep a low profile externally and minimize impacts to neighbors. (CB 120001 would remove some of those requirements to benefit the home business.)
  • QUESTIONABLE NEED FOR CITYWIDE CHANGES: We have not heard from home-based businesses requesting these proposed regulatory changes, except for the popular Yonder Bar business which has since secured a location near other businesses. According to the Seattle PI news site, “Yonder Cider and Bale Breaker Brewing to open Ballard taproom this summer.” While we received e-mails in support of CB 120001, it appears that most were spurred by an e-mail campaign launched by Yonder Bar in northwest Seattle, rather than arriving organically from a diverse or citywide effort. Neither our Central Staff analyst working on this bill nor the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspection (SDCI) that would implement the bill has a list of home-based businesses seeking or needing the proposed changes. While it’s possible there are some aspiring home businesses that could benefit, I do not think it’s appropriate to make citywide land use changes based on anecdotes or conjecture.  In short, this bill could currently be considered more of “a solution in search of a problem” than addressing an urgent specific or widespread need. Allowing for one-off exceptions, rather than blanket, citywide changes would be more targeted and appropriate.
  • COULD HURT SMALL BUSINESS DISTRICTS / CLUSTERING BUSINESS TOGETHER IS BETTER:  I am very concerned that suddenly lifting restrictions to allow retail food and alcohol businesses on any block in our city will draw customers away from existing neighborhood business districts and their struggling small businesses.  In addition to the 10 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) spread throughout our city, there are many other small business districts that rely on foot traffic generated by several shops clustering together – more customers are attracted to each area to efficiently take care of their daily needs for goods and services. In addition to the University District BIA, there are many neighborhood districts just in our District 4 such as:  Eastlake Avenue, Ravenna (NE 65th Street), Roosevelt, and Sand Point Way NE (at Princeton Ave), Wallingford (North 45th Street and Stone Way), and Wedgwood (35th Avenue NE). Much of the outreach I conducted directly with owners of small businesses yielded serious concerns. These small neighborhood businesses are struggling today to bring back customers and workers. They are in the middle of multi-year commercial leases for their storefront space and some of them have made substantial investments for outdoor dining to meet public health requirements. Having the city government suddenly toss aside the current rules to let anyone run a retail, food, or alcohol operation out of their homes or garages, will drain customers away from the existing small businesses we say we want to help emerge from the pandemic. Let’s instead first help businesses to stay in business and re-hire their workers. (Other ideas for incubating new micro businesses are below)
In addition to the 10 Business Improvement Areas, there are scores of neighborhood business districts throughout Seattle that rely on the clustering of other small businesses to generate foot traffic of customers.
  • U DISTRICT BUSINESS DISTRICT NEEDS UNDIVIDED ATTENTION TO PROTECT ITS DIVERSITY:  Approximately 65% of small businesses in the heart of the U District business improvement area are owned by women and people of color. Let’s focus first on supporting these existing businesses – especially those that have had to shed jobs — so that we don’t lose them and so they can rehire all their workers and emerge successfully from the COVID pandemic. [For a list of many small businesses open throughout D4 and Seattle, you can explore this website https://intentionalist.com/ “to find and support local businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop.”]
Many small businesses have recently spent thousands of dollars for new “streeteries” and other outdoor dining areas
  • CLOAKED IN COVID, BUT LASTS FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER YEAR:  Here’s the title of the proposed law:  “AN ORDINANCE relating to land use regulation of home occupations; adopting interim regulations to allow home occupation businesses to operate with fewer limitations during the COVID-19 civil emergency, amending Seattle Municipal Code Section 23.42.050, and adopting a work plan.”  But the Council Bill is NOT actually tied to the COVID pandemic or even to a “civil emergency.” The memo from our Central Staff analyst states, “Because CB 120001 would be adopted pursuant to RCW 36.70A.390, which allows jurisdictions to approve interim development controls, the bill includes a work program for the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to analyze and propose more PERMANENT changes to home occupation regulations” (emphasis added). In other words, these changes would be put on track to become permanent.  

(I believe the City Council should soon start transitioning away from using COVID as the reason for new legislation and we should instead have proposals stand on their own merits as we take a post-pandemic, long-term view.)

  • DISTRACTS KEY CITY DEPARTMENT FROM OTHER IMPORTANT WORK:  Our Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) is already behind on improving permits and delivering an overdue ordinance to protect our trees. Saddling the city government staff to develop and monitor this new program — and enforce future inquires or complaints about it — could delay other priorities.
  • IMPACTS TO OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS: Policymakers need to be careful NOT to stop legislation just because it might alter neighborhoods — as long as the people impacted have ample opportunity to provide input and policymakers genuinely consider that input, as long as the city will be receiving ample public benefits for anything the city government gives away to the private market, and as long as the changes are prudent, sensible, and reasonable. So, while I believe we have a sufficient number of other concerns about why this legislation might not be prudent, it’s important to recognize what I’ve heard from some neighbors who might not be happy with the increased traffic, reduced parking, new retail signage, and nearby activity of employees and customers coming and going in their residential neighborhood.
  • NOT TO THIS EXTENT IN OTHER CITIES: To avoid unintended consequences, it’s often helpful to see whether other cities have adopted the legislation. Before pioneering risky experiments with Seattle residents and businesses, we can learn from other cities and their false starts, sharp edges, and outright mistakes. Our Central Staff analysts did not find other cities with such loose regulations on home businesses.
  • OTHER UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES:  Granting the business rights to single family structures could increase their value and make them less affordable. Moreover, aspiring businesses may choose to buy a house and convert it to a business which would further draw away customers from the neighborhood business districts. In addition to drawing away customers, it could draw away small business tenants that are renting commercial spaces, thereby decreasing the value of those properties as costs rise for homes. 
  • MORE APPROPRIATE SOLUTIONS AVAILABLE:
  • INCUBATING TOGETHER:  Moreover, incubators typically work best when they cluster together in — you guessed it — existing business districts. The new startups share space where they not only benefit from cheaper rent and shorter leases, but also learn from each other, receiving technical assistance together, and attract customers together. 
  • FARMERS MARKETS: Those hoping to make and sell food and drinks (using local farm ingredients) could use Farmers Markets to sell their products rather than trying to attract enough customers to their house. For U District, West Seattle, and Capitol Hill Farmers Markets, CLICK HERE. For other Farmers Markets in the Seattle, CLICK HERE or HERE.
  • EXCEPTIONS RATHER THAN BLANKET CITYWIDE CHANGES:  As mentioned earlier, the legislation does not seem to be addressing an urgent specific or widespread need. Therefore, allowing for one-off exceptions, rather than blanket, citywide changes would be more targeted and appropriate.
A rare opening of a new store DURING the pandemic (on The Ave in the University District).

Let’s continue to encourage shoppers to come back to our existing neighborhood business districts!

More Info:

_ Links to Council Bill 120001 and an analyst memo, CLICK HERE.

_ For the press release supporting CB 120001, CLICK HERE.

_ For an article by the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.


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