Fiscal Update:

April 29th, 2020

City government faces budget deficit.

The City Budget Office (CBO) currently estimates an ongoing budget deficit of approximately $300 million out of our $1.7 billion General Fund and related accounts.

For the April 22, 2020 presentation by City Budget Office (CBO) regarding budget deficit, CLICK HERE.

The city government has only $125 million in emergency funds. Therefore, it may be necessary to find cost savings, which could include rolling back the new pay raises for the highest-paid city government workers (except for sworn police officers and firefighters). During these difficult times for our city budget, Councilmembers should considering taking a pay cut, too. Subject to hearing more from constituents and conferring with my city government colleagues, I want to make sure we preserve human services and public safety.

(Note: the entire city government spends $6.5 billion each year, but that grand total includes our utility operations and capital improvement / infrastructure programs, while city budget officials typically focus on the more flexible “General Fund” dollars.)

New funds from federal and state governments focused on COVID relief and economic stimulus.

For the April 28, 2020 presentation by Mayor’s Office, City Budget Office, and Office of Housing regarding federal and state financial aid due to COVID-19 public health pandemic and economic crisis, CLICK HERE.

So far, our City Budget Office has tallied approximately $170 million that our City government would receive. This does NOT include the loans backed by the federal government to small and large businesses or the grants to Washington State government to boost our State’s unemployment insurance benefits paid to those laid off due to the COVID crisis. It also does NOT include grants that our transit agencies will receive from the CARE Act: $243 million for King County Metro (buses) and $166 million for Sound Transit. In addition, we expect the federal government to provide more funding focused on repairing/constructing infrastructure and other stimulus spending.

The federal government is allowed to create and increase its own budget deficits and often increases spending to stimulate the economy (fiscal policy). State and city governments, however, are required to have balanced budgets.


City Council considering whether to reauthorize U District’s Business Improvement Area (BIA) for cleaning, safety, marketing — and an added mission: preventing displacement of small businesses

April 26th, 2020

June 8, 2020 Update:

Today the City Council unanimously approved the legislation co-sponsored by Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle) to reauthorize the Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the University District, which is the heart of District 4. 

Business Improvement Areas are positive, community-driven economic development tools that help keep neighborhood business districts clean and safe throughout our city,” said Pedersen. “The legislation I crafted with the Mayor incorporates many key principles sought by smaller businesses, including better representation, good governance, and the preservation of existing shops and restaurantsDuring and after the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to give our small neighborhood businesses the support they need to thrive.”

For the entire press release, CLICK HERE.

April 26, 2020 (original post):

There are 10 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) throughout Seattle, including one in the University District in our District 4. BIAs are authorized by State law (RCW 35.87A) and enable commercial and multifamily property owners to pay a fee to operate supplemental cleaning, safety, marketing, and other services to maintain and improve their neighborhood business districts.

As with many taxes or fees, concerns have been expressed. In the case of the U District BIA, concerns/questions since the current BIA was established in 2015 include: Are the fees fair? Are the services effective? I’ve consistently communicated my general support for BIAs — including for the U District BIA — while also articulating that certain principles should be incorporated:

  • Fair Representation: Small businesses on triple net leases (meaning the landlord can pass the BIA fees onto the small business owner) must have a meaningful voice in the decisions of the BIA.
  • Good Governance: I believe nearly all contracts (including the “Program Manager” of the U District BIA) should be bid competitively so that we have a public process and an opportunity for more than one organization to compete to provide the services.
  • Prevention of Displacement: BIAs must explicitly make sure their “economic development” activities do NOT contribute to the displacement of existing small neighborhood businesses. A study of the The Ave found that nearly 2/3 are owned by women and people of color.

For a link to the Council Bill 119779 and related docs, CLICK HERE.

For a link to the map of the proposed BIA, CLICK HERE.

For the website of the University District Partnership, the current “Program Manager” of the U District BIA, CLICK HERE.

Note: The legislation was crafted and introduced by the Durkan Administration (her Office of Economic Development and Department Financial and Administrative Services) by modifying the 2015 ordinance. Traditionally the Committee Chair is the “sponsor” of the legislation once introduced. In this case, I asked to be a co-sponsor with Chair Tammy Morales, which gives me additional ability to speak to the legislation during the process because it is in our District 4.

Consideration of the BIA by the City Council will be a six-week process:

  • Monday, April 27: Initiating the process with 2 Resolutions (Reso 31943 and 31944) and the introduction of the Council Bill 119779.
  • Wednesday, May 20: Briefing and Discussion at the Community & Economic Development (CED) Committee;
  • Wednesday, May 27: another discussion at CED Committee AND a public hearing;
  • Wednesday, June 3: possible approval by CED Committee;
  • Monday, June 8: possible adoption by full City Council;
  • Friday, June 19: deadline for Mayor signature;
  • Sunday, July 19: Effective Date (if signed by Mayor June 19).

Let us know your thoughts:


Pedersen launches audit of Seattle Bridges — focus on safety, maintenance.

April 23rd, 2020

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.

# # #


10 reasons to say No to current payroll tax proposal

April 22nd, 2020

Councilmembers Sawant and Morales recently proposed a larger version of their payroll tax (Council Bills 119772, 119773, 119774). I’ve heard from thousands of Seattle residents on various sides of this challenging issue.  Giving voice to many of the concerns expressed by constituents as well as my experience in both government budgeting and private sector financial analysis, I co-authored with a local economist an Op Ed published in the Seattle Times. Here is the link to the Op Ed and I also paste it below for your convenience: https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/10-reasons-to-say-no-to-the-job-killing-sawant-tax/

My Op Ed published in Seattle Times, April 21, 2020:

As Seattle responds to the COVID-19 public-health crisis, we are already suffering from its fallout: An economic crisis the scale of which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. Seattle employers are laying off thousands of our neighbors. We believe that the public officials in charge of city finances should embrace the mantra of front-line medical professionals: Do no further harm. Unfortunately, Councilmember Kshama Sawant is revisiting and expanding a controversial tax proposal that we believe would further harm Seattle.

Here’s how:

  1. new tax during a recession is bad economics. Employers are shedding jobs at an unprecedented rate. Seattle’s labor market is on life support, and the final scale of the problem remains unknown. It’s a basic economic principle that governments cannot tax their way out of recessions, especially if the key to revitalizing the local economy is to encourage employers to rehire workers.
  2. It’s the “Bellevue Relocation Act”: Thanks to the heroic work of state Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, Olympia nearly passed a smart bill to raise revenue from local businesses. It was smart because regional problems require regional solutions. Under House Bill 2907, businesses in Seattle would have paid the same tax in Bellevue, whereas the Sawant Tax only targets businesses in Seattle. Imposing a new tax only in Seattle incentivizes employers to relocate or start up anywhere but Seattle.
  3. It’s false advertising. Journalists, public officials and advocates should stop calling the Sawant Tax an “Amazon Tax” because that fails to acknowledge the additional 799 businesses ensnared by this job-killing employer payroll tax. For-profit employers with annual payrolls exceeding $7 million would be subject to this new Seattle tax that would collect an estimated $500 million a year — this is 10 times more than the “Head Tax” which was canceled during healthier economic times only two years ago.
  4. It fails to analyze consequences. How many Seattle employers targeted by this tax are currently bleeding jobs or facing bankruptcy? How many are donating millions to charities or, like the Polyclinic, providing medical care on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis? Will Councilmember Sawant’s proposal to provide one-time cash payments disqualify some low-income families from accessing state or federal social-service programs that have strict income limits?
  5. It uses COVID-19 as cover. Councilmember Sawant has been pursuing this tax for years, so it seems disingenuous to link it to the pandemic. While taxes or fees targeting profitable businesses have merit during normal times because of the limited tools of our regressive state tax system, the Sawant Tax is misleadingly labeled as an “emergency” when, in fact, her tax would never end.
  6. There are strong relief packages from federal and state governments and Seattle City Hall. All levels of government are providing multiple financial-relief packages with fiscal support totaling more than $2 trillion and likely to increase. As detailed by The Seattle Times, the boost in assistance is substantial for those who became unemployed due to COVID-19.
  7. Interfund loans are risky. Councilmember Sawant’s tax would borrow $200 million from other programs, such as education, affordable housing, transportation and parks, with a risky promise — that these programs will be paid back by new tax revenues — even though the tax could ultimately be overturned by the courts.
  8. It wastes money. The cost to administer this new tax is a whopping $100 million in the first five years. For perspective, that’s how much City Hall currently spends on its homelessness programs in one year.
  9. State legislators can do more. The pandemic has underlined a compelling rationale for our legislators in Olympia to craft additional regional tools for progressive sources of revenue.
  10. There’s a fiscally responsible way to close our city’s deficit. City Hall faces a shortfall currently estimated at about $200 million for its $6.5 billion budget (including its $1.5 billion General Fund). To close the gap, City Hall can tap into its two emergency funds of $120 million, trim at least 10% of its General Fund (in part by removing pay raises for the highest-paid government workers) and deploy relief funds from the federal government, which include clean-energy programs to improve our environment. To accelerate vital infrastructure projects like the West Seattle Bridge, we can redirect funds away from money-losing projects like the Center City Connector streetcar through downtown.

Until Seattle’s economy fully recovers, the City Council should reject the Sawant Tax — or Mayor Jenny Durkan should veto it. We urge Seattle residents to email their thoughts to: council@seattle.gov and jenny.durkan@seattle.gov.

Alex Pedersen is a Seattle City Councilmember representing District 4, which includes many Northeast Seattle neighborhoods and Eastlake.

Matthew Gardner serves on Gov. Jay Inslee’s Council of Economic Advisers and is the chief economist for Windermere Real Estate.

For a supportive letter to the editor from a District 4 constituent published April 22, 2020, CLICK HERE.

For a rebuttal to my Op Ed from Councilmember Sawant published April 23, 2020, CLICK HERE.

For the official, original 6-page summary of the payroll tax proposed by Councilmembers Sawant and Morales, CLICK HERE.


Social Distancing Is Working

April 17th, 2020

City Hall and Coronavirus Updates

Friends and Neighbors, It’s working. I’m so grateful for the sacrifices we have made collectively for each other and for Seattle. With both pain and purpose, we have canceled schools, sent workers home, closed businesses—because it saves lives. New evidence confirms it’s working and our progress is gaining national appreciation. As our curve begins to flatten we must remain diligent in our efforts to protect public health. This glimmer of hope doesn’t mean we can cease social distancing just yet, but it’s a heartening look at how our sacrifices are starting to pay off.

On behalf of our district, thank you.


UPDATES ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND RELIEF

Announcements from Governor Inslee, Mayor Durkan, and D.C.

STATE: Governor Jay Inslee, along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, has extended school closures for the remainder of the school year.

The Governor also announced the formation of the WA Food Fund, a statewide food relief fund that will help feed communities across our state. The number of individuals relying on food banks has doubled in recent weeks, and this relief effort is much needed. To donate to the WA Food Fund, visit www.wafoodfund.org.

Furthermore, Governor Inslee announced that Washington, California, and Oregon would form the Western States Pact, which includes a shared vision for reopening our economies and controlling COVID-19 moving forward.

Governor Inslee also “extended and expanded his moratorium on evictions and has imposed a new freeze on increases of residential rents.” For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.

CITY: To further reduce the spread of coronavirus in our community, Mayor Durkan last weekend announced the full closure of some city parks where social distancing recommendations were not being followed. Parks closed in and around District 4 include Green Lake, Magnuson Park, Gas Works, and Woodland Park. SPR and SPD deployed staff to encourage social distancing at these highly frequented parks.

FEDS: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). This is to slow the spread of the virus and prevent people This is to slow the spread of the virus and prevent people who may have the virus (but not know it) from transmitting it to others. For more info about making your own mask, CLICK HERE.

Flattening the Curve

Recent data suggests that the Seattle area is doing a great job of decreasing the spread of coronavirus. Though it’s challenging to stay home, data shows that our efforts are working.  We continue to heed the guidance of Dr. Jeff Duchin, our region’s Public Health Officer, to determine when is the appropriate time to lift restrictions on social distancing.

Hygiene Stations

During this health crisis, the ability for the unsheltered to attend to their hygienic needs is a critical issue. I support the recent actions of Councilmember Lewis as Chair of the Select Committee on Homelessness, and share his concerns regarding increased access to additional hygiene stations through the city to improve public health during the pandemic. To view our recent meeting CLICK HERE.

After conferring with social service providers in District 4, I recently asked the Mayor’s Office to deploy more temporary hygiene stations in the U District. Here’s a map of the current facilities.

Relief from Federal Government

The Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR) provided a briefing to Council this week to review the $2 trillion federal COVID relief bill.

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act:

  • Individuals making up to $75,000 (or married couples making $150,000) are eligible for the full $1,200 (or $2,400 if married) check.
  • $150 billion will be allocated to states and localities to use for expenditures related to COVID-19.
  • For bigger unemployment benefits and more help for small businesses, keep reading.

Where to Find Updates on COVID and Relief

The Seattle City Council continues to update its COVID-19 webpage which includes resources supporting workers, childcare, small businesses, and tenants/landlords. You can also visit Mayor Jenny Durkan’s centralized COVID-19 webpage, as well as the Mayor’s blog for additional  updates. Additionally, our Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs has been translating and sharing information on COVID-19 in several languages. For links to OIRA’s fact sheets and other translated materials, go to their blog: https://welcoming.seattle.gov/covid-19/

And for the latest from Public Health Seattle-King County you can visit their website to track our region’s response to the virus.

Unemployment Benefits Boosted

  • The federal stimulus package boosted existing unemployment benefits for those laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic – in addition to emergency cash payments that will be disbursed to low and moderate income families. People who qualify for unemployment insurance can receive an additional $600 per week from the federal government for up to 13 weeks (that’s on top of the unemployment payments from the State government). For more information on the substantial relief for those suffering job losses, CLICK HERE.
  • For Seattle Times article “What to do if you get laid off or furloughed,” CLICK HERE.

Income Tax Deadline Extended

The deadlines to file and pay federal income taxes are extended from to July 15, 2020. For a helpful link to the IRS website regarding Economic Impact Payments and other timely news, CLICK HERE.

SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT

Bigger and Better Support for Small Businesses

The most recent stimulus package from the federal government included forgivable loans for small businesses that retain employees (the new “Paycheck Protection Program”). This is new program is more generous than the low-interest “disaster loans” from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  The demand for the program has been overwhelming and at the time we were printing this, Congress was debating how/when to provide more funding for PPP. To apply for this variety of financial relief on the SBA website, CLICK HERE. Because relief packages are frequently improved and updated as all levels of government try to respond, you can sign up for SBA updates by CLICKING HERE.

For the Seattle Times article that answers key questions, CLICK HERE.

Small Business Stabilization Grant Awardees Announced

Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle Office of Economic Development announced the first round of COVID relief grants for 250 “micro businesses.”  Many businesses throughout Seattle applied and I’m glad to see several in District 4 will be receiving these grants, including Cafe Racer on Roosevelt Way. Microbusinesses can apply for the second round of the Stabilization Fund by visiting OED’s website.  (Micro businesses are defined as 5 or fewer employees, as required by the source of this particular federal CDBG funding.) To view an interactive map with the 250 small grantees, click here. For Frequently Asked Questions about the City’s $10,000 grants for businesses with 5 or fewer employees, click here.

Additional Relief for Small Businesses

There have been many efforts to assist small businesses at the City, State and Federal government level. This link from the Mayor’s Office is a good place to start if you’re looking for resources. For a comprehensive up-to-date guide for assistance, you can also visit the Office of Economic Development’s website for businesses impacted by COVID-19, which also includes information on utility payment relief, B&O tax deferment, and other tax filing extensions, stabilization funds, weekly webinar registration info, unemployment and benefit information, toolkits and technical assistance, and links to private and philanthropic funds as well.


DISTRICT 4 UPDATES

5-Car Safe Lot Pilot Program for Homeless

Councilmember Pedersen attended a virtual forum hosted by U Heights, the Urban League, and University Temple Methodist Church to hear the nonprofits’ plans for a 5-person, overnight safe lot pilot program for individuals or families living in their vehicles located in the University District. You can still watch the public forum online by CLICKING HERE. You can also write to safelotinfo@uheightscenter.org for more information or visit their Safe Lot FAQ page. The City’s Human Services Department will administer the contact to measure and report progress on moving those experiencing homelessness into permanent housing.

Beware of Unscrupulous Real Estate Speculators

Renters are hurting a lot during the economic fallout of this public health pandemic and, thankfully, the Mayor and City Council have been enacting relief for both residential renters as well as nonprofits and small businesses renting their spaces. For a summary of assistance for renters, click here and here.

As documented in a recent article in the Seattle Times, homeowners on fixed incomes such as senior citizens are vulnerable to economic displacement from the city we all love, especially at the hands of unscrupulous real estate speculators.  When I knocked on doors on every block of our District 4, I heard countless stories of anxiety from older homeowners surviving on fixed incomes in the face or rising taxes and utility bills being harassed by unsolicited offers to buy their homes. I’d like to make homeowners aware of the relief that can help them survive financially:

  • Foreclosure Moratorium: If your mortgage is backed by FHA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the bank cannot foreclose through at least May 17 and payments can be deferred for a year. Contact your mortgage loan servicer/ bank if you need help. I crafted a letter with Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, asking Governor Inslee to implement a statewide ban on banks from foreclosing.
  • Utility No Shut Off and Payment Plans: Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light (SCL) will keep utility services on during the COVID-19 Civil Emergency in Seattle. This will provide immediate utility relief for customers, both residential and commercial, financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Effective immediately, all SPU and SCL customers can set up deferred payment plans if their financial stability has been jeopardized by COVID-19. Utility service will stay on as their deferred payment plans are developed and implemented.
  • Utility Discount Programs: SPU and SCL have created a Utility Discount Program (UDP) self-certification form for income-eligible customers.
  • Property Tax Deferral: King County has postponed April 30 property-tax payments for many homes until June 1.

John Wilson, the King County Tax Assessor “urged homeowners who receive unsolicited offers during the pandemic to contact his office or file a complaint with the state attorney general’s consumer-protection division.”

How to Help Food Banks in D-4

Grateful to the big-hearted team at University District Food Bank for letting me experience their joy in fulfilling the food wishes of neighbors struggling to find their next meal — a fundamental fear that has spread during the COVID crisis. Our local foodbanks are working overtime to respond to the urgent needs of our community. What food banks need most right now are financial donations rather than volunteers or food donations. During the COVID crisis, the required social-distancing limits and the extra time it takes to train volunteers makes it difficult to deploy more volunteers. Financial donations, on the other hand, enable food banks to leverage their buying power to obtain lower-cost bulk quantities and to pivot to items people need most right now. You can support the two food banks in our District 4 by donating to Family Works in Wallingford or the University District Foodbank. For a list of additional  food banks to support, please CLICK HERE or
HERE.

Eastlake Residents Can Provide Input on Terry Pettus Park

Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) invites the community to participate in the future renovation of Terry Pettus Park, a waterfront pocket park on the shore of Lake Union at 2001 Fairview Ave. E.

Public input is essential for the success of this project to improve the health and safety of the existing park and its new addition directly south of the park. While we cannot conduct in-person meetings at this time, you can take this short survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TerryPettusParkRenovation–and participate in the future of Terry Pettus Park.

The new parcel, purchased with approval of the City Council, will add 4,000 square feet of shoreline property to the existing park, at its south side. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Mayor Opening Farmers Market This Weekend With Caution and Cauliflower

After receiving many e-mails from constituents in District 4 and throughout the city about the importance of access to healthy foods, this weekend the Mayor is reopening two popular Seattle farmers markets — University District and Ballard — but with new rules and a request that shoppers take an oath of “strict distancing, routine sanitation, and extended health measures at our food access points…to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”  The U District Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For a Seattle Times article with details, CLICK HERE.


YOUR CITY COUNCIL

Bridge inspection April 14, 2020 with SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe, SDOT Roadway Structures Director Matt Donahue, West Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold, and Chair of Council Transportation & Utilities Committee Alex Pedersen

Concerns About New Payroll Tax Proposal

Your City Council voted to assign the controversial payroll tax bills from Councilmembers Sawant and Morales to the Budget Committee, rather than to Councilmember Sawant’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights committee.

Although I am still evaluating the details of Councilmember Sawant’s proposal and I am hearing the views of my constituents, I have major concerns. I’m concerned it’s ill-conceived and ill-timed. That’s why I wanted to make sure we referred it to the Budget Committee on which all nine Councilmembers serve. I will provide more thoughts before our Budget Committee discusses the bills on Wednesday, April 22.

Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times recently concluded their proposal is falsely advertised as an “Amazon Tax” even though it would impose a new tax on over 700 Seattle employers. For Mr. Westneat’s April 10 column, CLICK HERE. For the April 5 Seattle Times editorial against the proposal, CLICK HERE.

For Councilmember Sawant’s explanations in favor of her proposal, CLICK HERE.

The tax proposal is actually 3 bills and you can learn more by perusing them:

  1. For the tax bill, Council Bill 119772, CLICK HERE.
  1. For the spending bill, Council Bill 119744, CLICK HERE.
  1. For the “interfund loan” bill, Council Bill 119773, CLICK HERE.

For a 6-page summary, CLICK HERE.

Commercial Rent

The City Council passed legislation this week to assist Seattle’s small businesses and nonprofits hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. I supported Councilmember Herbold’s bill  to help prevent displacement of small businesses and nonprofits.

The legislation follows Mayor Jenny Durkan’s order prohibiting the eviction of a small business or nonprofit tenant for non-payment of rent or because an existing lease terminated during the civil emergency period.

“Struggling small businesses, which make up the heart and soul of our neighborhoods, are struggling to stay afloat and we want them to be able to relaunch successfully as soon as it is safe to do so” commented Alex Pedersen, District 4.

The legislation applies to nonprofits and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees that have been closed due to emergency orders or suffered loss due to COVID-19.

Enhancing Fiscal Accountability

Last week I voted in favor of Resolution 31941, which creates a working group to develop recommendations to enhance the Office of the City Auditor. As we face an economic recession in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever we need to look for cost savings in our budget so the City can function more efficiently.

Performance Audit of Seattle City Light’s Billing Systems

As a result of major changes by Seattle City Light to its meter and billing systems starting in late 2016, customers throughout Seattle began receiving extremely high bills. This pattern of erroneous overbillings of Seattle City Light customers was especially harmful to low income customers. In response to complaints in August 2018, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda requested a performance audit. After extensive research, the Auditor’s Office published its report on April 3, 2020.

As the chair of the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, I will make sure SCL expeditiously implements the Auditor’s recommendations and this oversight will include requiring progress reports from SCL both before and after the busy Fall budget season.

The Auditor identifies the causes of the problems and makes 16 recommendations. Among the problems were allowing too many “estimated” meter readings before confirming actual usage, insufficient training and authorization of staff to deal with problems, better outreach and communication with the public, and the need for better internal controls and monitoring. According to the audit report, “City Light has taken steps to reduce unexpected high bills but could further reduce them” by streamlining their dispute resolution process and empowering frontline staff to provide solutions to customers (page 2).

While Seattle City Light already stated that it agrees with the City Auditor’s recommendations and will be implementing by December 2020 all the remaining recommendations not already implemented, the Seattle Times editorial board published April 12 an editorial calling for swifter action during the COVID crisis to assist ratepayers. SCL published April 14 a blog post reiterating the relief and other supports SCL, the Mayor, and City Council been providing to customers, including no shut-offs, waivers of late fees, and expansion of the utility discount program.

  • For the full performance audit, CLICK HERE.
  • For relief from utility bills due to financial hardship from the coronavirus pandemic, including our policy of “no shut offs,” CLICK HERE for the City Council info and HERE for related info from Mayor’s info.
  • For a link to our blog post with more information, CLICK HERE.

West Seattle Bridge – closed through 2021

On April 15, we learned from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) that, while the rate of cracking of concrete under the West Seattle Bridge has slowed, new cracking continues even with no vehicles.  Unfortunately, SDOT now estimates the bridge cannot be made safe for traffic for at least the next 21 months (through the end of 2021). Safety will continue to be the top priority during this infrastructure emergency. SDOT is developing plans to shore up the bridge in advance of the likely extensive repairs. SDOT believes, however, that repairs would extend the life of the bridge for only 10 years.

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

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

I support SDOT creating a technical advisory panel to leverage engineering expertise.  As the chair of the City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, I will require timely updates from both SDOT and the technical advisory panel.  We will also pursue Legislative Department participation on the technical advisory panel to increase oversight of the complex solutions.

Here in District 4, we are fortunate that SDOT is seismically upgrading the 15th Avenue NE bridge next to Cowen Park. The closure of the West Seattle Bridge, however, underscores the need to get back to the basics with our transportation budget.

Councilmember Pedersen inspecting seismic retrofit of 15th Ave NE bridge near Cowen Park in District 4.

SDOT’s Bridge Group Supervisor Matt Donahue recently “pointed out that SDOT dramatically under-funds ongoing maintenance for fixed assets such as bridge structure; the standard for budgeting for annual maintenance is 1-3% of the value of the structures being maintained. Donahue’s department manages $8.3 billion of bridge structures; if fully funded, that would equate to an annual maintenance budget of at least $83 million. In contrast, his maintenance budget is only $7 million. It should be no surprise that there is a substantial amount of deferred maintenance in the city’s bridges and other transportation infrastructure.”

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

SDOT: For more information on the West Seattle Bridge, please see SDOT’s website by CLICKING HERE.

West Seattle Blog: For updates from the detailed West Seattle blog, CLICK HERE.

Councilmember Pedersen: For his original March 23, 2020 blog post on closure of West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.


We Want to Hear From You

CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ON THE INTERNET: 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 here, or listening on your phone by calling 206-684-8566. You can also submit public comment by sending a fax to 206-684-8587, or emailing your comment to council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments.

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

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

Hunker down, chin up — and soap up your Seattle hands.  We will get through this together, Emerald City.

With gratitude — and community fortitude,

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


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

April 15th, 2020

UPDATE 4/22/2020: Councilmember Pedersen joined Councilmember Lisa Herbold to co-host a Town Hall with SDOT on the West Seattle Bridge. For SDOT’s Powerpoint presentation, CLICK HERE:

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

SDOT: For more information on the West Seattle Bridge, please see SDOT’s website by CLICKING HERE.

West Seattle Blog: For updates from the detailed West Seattle blog, CLICK HERE.

Councilmember Pedersen: For his original March 23, 2020 blog post on closure of West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE.


City Council Audit Completed to Resolve Billing Problems at Seattle City Light

April 3rd, 2020

April 15, 2020 UPDATE: While Seattle City Light already stated that it agrees with the City Auditor’s recommendations and will be implementing by December 2020 all the remaining recommendations not already implemented, the Seattle Times editorial board published April 12 an editorial calling for swifter action during the COVID crisis to assist ratepayers. SCL published April 14 a blog post reiterating the relief and other supports SCL, the Mayor, and City Council been providing to customers, including no shut-offs, waivers of late fees, and expansion of the utility discount program. The City Council’s Transportation & Utilities Committee, which I chair, will make sure SCL expeditiously implements the Auditor’s remaining recommendations and this oversight will include requiring progress reports from SCL both before and after the busy Fall budget season.

April 8, 2020 UPDATE: For the Seattle Times article about the audit of Seattle City Light’s billing systems (which appeared in their April 8, 2020 print edition), CLICK HERE.

April 3, 2020: A performance audit initiated by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda was published this evening (April 3, 2020) by the City Auditor to investigate and resolve problems with extremely high bills customers throughout Seattle suddenly received from Seattle City Light when the City-owned utility was implementing major changes to its meter and billing systems. According to the audit report, “City Light has taken steps to reduce unexpected high bills but could further reduce them” by streamlining their dispute resolution process and empowering frontline staff to provide solutions to customers (page 2).

Last year, in response to a large number of calls and emails to my office from City Light customers who reported unexpected large bills and difficulties with the utility’s customer service response, I requested this audit of City Light’s customer care and billing systems,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. “Thank you to the customers who reached out—your advocacy and stories are informing real policy changes. I have appreciated City Light’s collaboration on proactive updates to their billing and communication practices to make sure that no customers are receiving shutoff notices, standing up a Customer Advocacy Team for outreach to customers with large unpaid balances to resolve their accounts and connect low-income households with resources like the Utility Discount Program, suspending shutoffs, and waiving late fees for customers who make payments towards their balance for 6 months. Particularly now during these stressful and uncertain times, no one should live in fear that their electricity will be shut off. There is more work to be done to make sure our low-income households have access to the supports they need to keep the lights on while City Light further updates its billing practices and rate design later this year, and I look forward to working with the new Council Chair of City Light, Councilmember Pedersen, and the utility to build on this work and follow up on the recommendations of the audit.”

Accountability and getting back to the basics of local government are important to me as the new Chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee and few things are more basic than being able to turn on the lights without being overwhelmed by your electric bill,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen. “We welcome the City Auditor’s Office report analyzing Seattle City Light’s former problems with unexpectedly high electric bills burdening customers, and I’m happy to hear that the Auditor’s recommended solutions are already being implemented. The shocking billing problems started in 2016 after City Light implemented complex new meter and billing systems and City Light is thankfully working to address these under the leadership of General Manager and CEO Debra Smith, who was appointed by Mayor Durkan in 2018. I look forward to tracking the Auditor’s recommendations and potential impacts on the utility’s budget.”

For the full performance audit, CLICK HERE.

For relief from utility bills due to financial hardship from the coronavirus pandemic, including our policy of “no shut offs,” CLICK HERE for the City Council info and HERE for related info from Mayor’s info.

Audit Report Highlights

WHY WE DID THIS AUDIT

We conducted this audit in response to Seattle City Councilmember Mosqueda’s request to review Seattle City Light’s billing and customer services practices. We were asked to examine how City Light:

· Prevents erroneous and/or unexpected high bills

  • · Communicates with customers about unexpected high bills
  • · Resolves customer complaints and appeals
  • · Provides payment options, and
  • · Reimburses customers who have been overcharged.

HOW WE DID THIS AUDIT

To accomplish the audit’s objectives, we:

  • · Analyzed City Light data
  • · Interviewed City Light managers and staff
  • · Researched promising practices
  • · Surveyed other utilities
  • · Conducted case studies

Background

Seattle City Light (City Light), the City of Seattle’s public electric utility, serves about 461,500 customers in Seattle and surrounding communities. In September 2016, City Light implemented a new billing system, the Customer Care and Billing System (CCB) and in October 2016 began installing advanced meters. These two factors resulted in many City Light customers receiving unexpected high bills due to delayed and estimated bills. In response to numerous concerns from City Light customers about alleged over-billing, Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda asked our office to review City Light’s billing and customer service practices.

What We Found

We found that City Light’s implementation of a new billing system and advanced meters resulted in customers receiving an increased number of unexpected high bills due to estimated and delayed bills. City Light has taken steps to reduce unexpected high bills but could further reduce them by changing two key system parameters. City Light’s dispute resolution process can involve multiple hand-offs to resolve customer complaints and lacks controls to ensure customers are informed that their issue has been resolved. City Light also limits who can authorize payment arrangements.

Recommendations

Our report contains 16 recommendations that address ways City Light could decrease the number of unexpected high bills received by customers, improve handling of customer complaints, make greater use of technology to help customers manage their payments and energy use, apply lessons learned from City Light’s temporarily expanded escalation team, and make it easier for customers to set up payment arrangements.

Department Response

In their formal, written response to our report Seattle City Light stated that they generally concurred with the report findings. Appendix A contains City Light’s written responses to our findings and recommendations.

About the City Auditor’s Office

Seattle voters established the City Auditor’s Office by a 1991 amendment to the City Charter. The office is an independent department within the legislative branch of City government. The City Auditor reports to the City Council and has a four-year term to ensure the City Auditor’s independence in deciding what work the office should perform and reporting the results of this work. The Office of City Auditor conducts performance audits and non-audit projects covering City of Seattle programs, departments, grants, and contracts. The City Auditor’s goal is to ensure that the City of Seattle is run as effectively, efficiently, and equitably as possible in compliance with applicable laws and regulations

NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, this report is being released to the public online rather than having a separate Committee meeting.

For the complete performance audit of Seattle City Light’s Billing, CLICK HERE.


City Hall and Coronavirus Updates

April 3rd, 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

Hello again from our (virtual) District 4 office! As we enter into our office’s 4th week of working from home, I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to all the essential workers in our district who don’t have the ability to work from home during this difficult time. Thank you for risking your safety every day to staff our hospitals, keep our grocery stores stocked, drive our buses, and serve the community during this crucial time.


More Updates on COVID-19 Pandemic and Relief

Announcements from Governor Inslee

Stay Home, Stay Healthy Extended to May 4

Governor Inslee took another critical step to protect the health and safety of our communities and prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The Governor extended the statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order until May 4. The order was first announced on March 23, and bans all gatherings, closes all non-essential businesses unless employees can work from home, and requires all Washingtonians to stay home unless they are engaging in an essential activity. Grocery stores, doctor’s offices and other essential businesses will remain open. People can still participate in activities such as bike rides, gardening, and dog walking — as long as they follow social distancing rules.” To read the Governor’s order (“Proclamation 20-25”), CLICK HERE and for the list of exemptions, CLICK HERE. For good news about expanded unemployment benefits, see below.  For more info from our State government, please visit the Governor’s blog.

This week, Governor Inslee also announced guidance for state and local enforcement of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. The state has created a one-stop online form for reporting businesses potentially violating orders and is providing guidance to local law enforcement on enforcing bans on gatherings of individuals.

Governor Inslee also urged Washington business leaders and manufacturers to consider producing medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) to combat the coronavirus.

Help for Hospitals

This week, US Army offered our team a tour of the new field hospital at CenturyLink Field Events Center. The field hospital will provide 200 hospital beds, 72 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, and will have three operating rooms. This site will serve non-COVID patients only, which will alleviate the burden on our hospitals and allow them to free up beds elsewhere for COVID patients. It will be entirely staffed by soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado, in addition to soldiers from Joint Base Lewis McChord, who plan to stay in Seattle for at least 60 days.

Our region’s elected officials, including Mayor Jenny Durkan and Governor Jay Inslee, gave a press conference from inside the site earlier this week.

Where to Find the Latest Information

The Seattle City Council continues to update its COVID-19 webpage which includes resources supporting workers, childcare, small businesses, and tenants/landlords.

You can also visit Mayor Jenny Durkan’s centralized COVID-19 webpage, as well as the Mayor’s blog for additional  updates. Additionally, our Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs has been translating and sharing information on COVID-19 in several languages. For links to OIRA’s fact sheets and other translated materials, go to their blog: https://welcoming.seattle.gov/covid-19/

And for the latest from Public Health Seattle-King County you can visit their website to track our region’s response to the virus.

Safety at Home

While we stay home to stay healthy, we know that home is not always a safe place for everyone. For victims of violence or abuse, these new guidelines can mean extended time with an abuser, as confirmed by the Seattle Police Department in a recent Seattle Times article.

If you are experiencing violence in your home and need to locate a Domestic Violence Shelter, call the phone numbers below or dial 2-1-1. And if you’re in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.

Domestic Violence:

New Beginnings (Seattle/N. King County): 206-522-9472

Sexual Assault:

(KCSARC) wants the community to know they are continuing full operations during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This includes their 24-Hour Resource Line for help and information, as well as therapy, family education, legal advocacy and other supports for survivors and their families. You can also visit www.kcsarc.org/gethelp for more information. All services are available in both English and Spanish.

The stimulus bill passed by our federal government included $45 million for sexual assault services, and $2 million for hotline services. Our office will continue to monitor funds allocated for domestic abuse and sexual assault in the next stimulus package.

Both DV and SA:

  • Peace In the Home Helpline (help available for DV and SA in multiple languages): 1-888-847-7205

Additional Emergency Childcare for Essential Workers

On March 27, Mayor Durkan announced an emergency order to fund child care services for first responders and essential workers. UHeights in our University District also has 35 more spots open for emergency childcare. University Temple Children’s School in partnership with the University Heights Center is working to provide childcare for parents that are on the front lines of the COVID crisis and parents deemed “essential” workers under the Governor’s emergency order.

For resources about child care, please visit the Emergency Child Care page. The link for essential personnel who didn’t get a form directly from their employer is on that page. Here is the form that partners (Seattle Police and Fire Departments, Northwest Healthcare Response Network, employers in pharmacy and grocery, etc) are sending out to their networks/employees.

If you or people you know need childcare, please share this form with them.


Helping University Students with Housing 

While higher education institutions are converting in-person classroom instruction to remote and online instruction, many students will remain in student housing locally. Students may not be able to travel back home (abroad or domestically) due to travel restrictions, may not have permanent homes to return to, or may be concerned about returning to homes where families members at high risk of severe illness may reside. This information provides guidance to student housing managers and students to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Temporary Closure of West Seattle Bridge

(photo provided by SDOT)

The West Seattle Bridge (WSB) carries more traffic than any other Seattle bridge. While minor cracking of structural concrete is common, it calls for increased monitored. Fortunately, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) conducts routine monitoring. Unfortunately, the cracks began to grow larger and the integrity of the bridge became threatened.

While I support the Mayor’s decision to close the bridge for safety, we need SDOT to prioritize fixing it so that people and freight can move along its span again. In addition, my colleagues and I are concerned about SDOT’s slow communication with the City Council about this issue. This article has more details on the engineering assessment of the WSB’s cracks. SDOT’s presentation to the Council on March 30 is here; it summarizes SDOT’s plans for dealing with the closure.

In response to the bridge closure, Councilmember Herbold and I proposed legislation to add the WSB to the City’s “watch list” of capital projects needing heightened oversight by the Council. This action was passed by the Council unanimously (9-0) on March 30. The Council’s resolution can be read here.

Looking forward, I called for a joint Council / SDOT working group to ensure increased scrutiny in the development of repair plans, the mitigation of traffic disruption, and accountability in future budget decisions — which should prioritize basic infrastructure like bridge safety. As chair of the Transportation and Utilities Committee, my focus beyond the WSB crisis will be to ensure that monitoring, maintenance, and safety of all the City’s existing infrastructure is a high priority.

For more details, please view my blog post on the bridge.

For SDOT’s website on the West Seattle bridge, CLICK HERE.


Bigger and Better Support for Small Businesses

Good news to keep thousands of workers employed at Seattle small businesses: The most recent stimulus package from the federal government includes forgivable loans for small businesses that retain employees (the new “Paycheck Protection Program”). This is new starting this week and is more generous than the low-interest “disaster loans” from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  To apply for this variety of financial relief on the SBA website, CLICK HERE.

Because relief packages are frequently improved and updated as all levels of government try to respond, you can sign up for SBA updates by CLICKING HERE.

For the Seattle Times article that answers key questions, CLICK HERE:

Here is a great new tool called the #SupportSeattleSmallBiz map, where you can look up restaurants in your area to see if they are offering take out or delivery. It even provides links so you can order online!

If you’re a neighborhood restaurant and you’d like your information added to this map, send an email to supportsmallbiz@seattle.gov

There’s also a Takeout and Delivery Directory published by the local nonprofit “Intentionalist”: CLICK HERE.


Enjoy Arts & Culture from Home

Even as we continue to follow Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, there is still plenty to do and see from the comfort of our own home. Thanks to the partnership of Google and over 2500 museums and galleries, you can stand in some of the most renowned  museums in the world and be “home” in time to make dinner. Consider taking a virtual tour of some of the most renowned art in the world without leaving your couch.

Did you know that our parks are home to over 100 pieces of publicly owned art? Use the City’s interactive map to take a virtual tour of park artwork, and learn about art near you!

Seattle Opera is lending a hand in the effort to produce more masks to help our local medical providers. A small group of costume shop staff will be working at the Opera Center under the direction of Providence Saint Joseph to help ramp up production of masks in our region. BRAVO!


Your City Council

Facilitating Philanthropy: This week I voted to create a COVID-19 Relief Fund that could directly receive philanthropic donations to support our COVID-19 relief efforts. Monies from this fund would be prioritized for:

  • Food assistance
  • Financial assistance to small businesses
  • Assistance with child care costs

Loan guarantees for small businesses or individuals
Rent assistance for small businesses or individuals

  • Operating assistance to cultural or nonprofit organizations
  • Emergency housing and homelessness supports

Increasing Access to Food:  I also voted to allocate $5 million to provide emergency grocery vouchers to 6,250 families who are currently enrolled in City-supported child care programs and food-assistance programs. The $800 vouchers can be used at any Washington state Safeway grocery store. The City is looking into extending this benefit to local grocers, including ones that have union workers.

Fighting Foreclosures: As rent payments are due again this month, I want to reiterate that both residential and small business evictions are banned under the emergency orders in place. In addition, the federal governments stimulus funding can be used to help with rent. One of the missing pieces, however, is the fact that mortgages are still due and there is currently no lasting protection against foreclosure, especially for commercial properties that provide apartment units or the space for small businesses and nonprofits.  That’s why Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and I drafted a letter (signed by the rest of the City Council) imploring Governor Inslee to use his authority to prevent banks from foreclosing.  To read the letter, please CLICK HERE.

Here’s a key excerpt from our letter to the Governor about foreclosures:

“While we have heard about temporary efforts from some financial institutions to delay foreclosures…we remain concerned that these voluntary efforts are not enforceable, and they do not cover all residential mortgages or commercial properties, including apartment buildings and buildings renting to small businesses. We, the undersigned members of Seattle City Council, respectfully request that you use your authority under State law to order a moratorium on foreclosures and we stand ready to help in any way possible.”


Contacting Our Office and Thank You

As the Chair of the City’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, I created this video to thank everyone at King County Metro for their hard work during this crisis. Thank you.

Even though City Council is not holding meetings in person in order to follow public health guidelines, you can still follow along by listening on your computer or phone here, or listening on your phone by calling 206-684-8566. You can also submit public comment by sending a fax to 206-684-8587, or emailing your comment to council@seattle.gov. Please remember to add “For City Council Meeting” in the comments.

I’m still holding in-district office hours so we can chat by telephone or via Skype. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests.

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

With gratitude — and community fortitude,

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Mortgage Relief: Imploring Governor to Prevent Banks from Foreclosing

April 1st, 2020

My City Council colleagues and I hear you — the people, small businesses, and nonprofits of Seattle are stressed and struggling financially, especially as the coronavirus pandemic and our public health response stretches on. The Governor, our Mayor, the Seattle City Council, and now our congressional delegation have taken major steps to protect safety and provide financial relief over the past several weeks.  For a list of the current relief packages for people, small businesses, and nonprofits, CLICK HERE (Governor), HERE (Mayor) and HERE (federal government). 

As rent payments are due again this month, I want to reiterate that both residential and small business evictions are banned under the emergency orders in place. In addition, the federal governments stimulus funding can be used to help with rent. One of the missing pieces, however, is the fact that mortgages are still due and there is currently no lasting protection against foreclosure, especially for commercial properties that provide apartment units or the space for small businesses and nonprofits.   On March 20, the Governor issued “guidance” to companies servicing mortgages, but that was merely a non-binding list of suggestions to the private sector.

That’s why Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and I drafted a letter (signed by the rest of the City Council on March 30) imploring Governor Inslee to use his authority to prevent banks from foreclosing.  To read the letter, please CLICK HERE.

Here’s a key excerpt from our letter to the Governor about foreclosures:

While we have heard about temporary efforts from some financial institutions to delay foreclosures…we remain concerned that these voluntary efforts are not enforceable, and they do not cover all residential mortgages or commercial properties, including apartment buildings and buildings renting to small businesses. We, the undersigned members of Seattle City Council, respectfully request that you use your authority under State law to order a moratorium on foreclosures and we stand ready to help in any way possible.”

So, as we take concrete actions with our emergency orders and ordinances to provide relief, we are also pushing other levels of government. In addition to this letter to the Governor to prevent foreclosures using his authority under State law, my Council colleagues proposed an aspirational Resolution (31940) this week asking for additional relief from rent and mortgages. The Resolution was rushed (introduced and passed on essentially the same day) and I raised serious questions about whether it would be legally sustainable or even practical. I felt that our policy to prevent evictions and our letter to the Governor are more effective.  Nevertheless, it was a non-binding Resolution that expressed the sentiment conveyed by hundreds of constituents writing to my office.  While I decided to vote Yes to support the aspirational sentiment, I believe the Resolution was mischaracterized and misinterpreted and, therefore, created false hopes. 

Rent and mortgages are still due.  So if you’re a tenant or landlord, please consider this guidance from the Mayor’s office: http://www.seattle.gov/rentinginseattle

On March 31, Governor Inslee announced guidance to assist homeowners struggling to pay their monthly mortgage. Clicking through the Governor’s announcement gets you to his website with this info:

  • If you do not have enough money to cover your mortgage payment, contact your lender immediately.
  • Homeowners in distress may call DFI’s toll-free number 1-877-RING-DFI (746-4334) to talk to a member of our team and to get assistance in how best to contact their mortgage servicer, and to learn more about their options.
  • Don’t wait until you’re behind on payments. Lenders may work with you to waive late fees, set up a repayment plan or offer loan forbearance.
  • If you would like to talk to a housing counselor, call the Washington Homeownership Hotline at 1.877.894.HOME.
  • Assistance for Washington Homeowners: Coronavirus mortgage assistance available to Washington homeowners.
  • List of Housing Counseling Agencies in Washington: Housing counselors may be able to assist you with your needs. Contact a housing counselor near you.

On April 1 (online) and April 5 (print edition), The Seattle Times published a helpful article “Paying Your Mortgage When Money is Tight” that also explains how lenders cannot foreclose during the pandemic if home mortgages are backed by FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac and how to find out if your home mortgage is covered: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/its-april-1-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-paying-your-mortgage/

For more information about the various relief packages (for utilities, small business assistance, etc., go to: https://www.seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19 or review the rest of my City Council blog. Thank you.


Additional Parking Created to Enable Hospital Workers to Stay Healthy While Reaching Patients

March 29th, 2020

I was proud to announce with Mayor Jenny Durkan a new Hospital Staff Parking Permit program  which will allow access to free on-street parking around hospitals and testing sites for health care workers. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Seattle Police Department (SPD), and Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) worked urgently to meet the increased need for employee parking near these critical locations as health care workers drive to work in order to minimize their exposure to COVID-19. The new permit program will be initially available to staff at Harborview Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Swedish Medical Center (Cherry Hill and First Hill campuses) and Virginia Mason Medical Center. 

I commend Mayor Durkan and our Seattle Department of Transportation for listening to health care workers and offering parking solutions that improve the ability of essential personnel to access Seattle’s medical facilities, including the hospitals in our own District 4 such as Children’s Hospital,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4 – NE Seattle).  “Prioritizing transportation options, including parking, for our brave health care workers who risk their own health and safety makes it easier for them to get where they need to be to care for our most vulnerable neighbors.”

After hearing from Harborview Hospital and Seattle Children’s Hospital on the need to allow their staff to park on-street near their facilities, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Seattle Police Department (SPD), and Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) developed and implemented a temporary 30-day hospital-staff-only permit program on designated streets around hospitals and testing sites. Employers will distribute these temporary permits to their employees.

The temporary parking zones for health care employees will begin at select locations Monday, March 30, 2020. SDOT is working directly with representatives from these institutions to issue the permits.

To build additional capacity, SDCI temporarily suspended the parking restrictions on health care providers and essential staff necessary to health care institutions. This applies to parking garages and lots on an institution’s grounds as well as parking leased in nearby garages and lots for the same purpose.

For the Mayor’s press release, CLICK HERE.


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