Survey on Taxes 💵

July 2nd, 2020

Newsletter: Special Edition on Taxes

As the Councilmember representing our District 4, I typically enjoy organizing topics into groups of 4 to explore. But this group of 4 is more daunting. As we are painfully aware, our city is facing 4 epic challenges:

  1. COVID: The pandemic continues to take lives even though we moved into “Phase 2” of our Governor’s plan to reopen the economy.
  2. DEFICITS: The COVID pandemic has dramatically reduced economic activity and revenues to our City’s treasury, creating a $300 million hole this year (2020) as well as another $300 million hole for next year (2021).
  3. SAFETY: Only eight months ago, several current members of our City Council approved the $400 million police budget that has come under intense scrutiny today. In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests about police misconduct and institutional racism, those Councilmembers and newly elected ones like me are striving to re-imagine public safety and community wellness. This recent process has started with a focus on demilitarizing our Seattle police force and listening carefully to those communities that have experienced disproportionate negative impacts. For more on this, CLICK HERE and HERE. There is much work to do.
  4. INFRASTRUCTURE / BRIDGES: Our Seattle Department of Transportation suddenly closed the West Seattle high bridge (WSB) in March due to safety concerns and it will take several years to repair and/or replace. For more on the WSB, CLICK HERE. As a result of information learned during the WSB closure about inadequate maintenance funding, I launched a citywide bridge audit to review the condition of major bridges and their maintenance needs throughout Seattle. In addition, I believe we must renew our Seattle Transportation Benefit District, which is expiring this year (more below).

During these challenging times, I appreciate the leadership from our Mayor Jenny Durkan, our City Council President Lorena Gonzalez, and our King County Executive Dow Constantine. These elected colleagues and their strong teams are working hard to lead us through unchartered waters.

This Special Edition of our newsletter focuses on some tax proposals that are speeding forward on our City Council agenda and that could benefit greatly from YOUR input.


Take our Survey on City Tax Proposals:

[UPDATE: a majority of the Seattle City Council approved the tax proposed by Councilmember Mosqueda (“Jump Start”) after amendments. Therefore, the survey is no longer live.]

Background:

  • Our city government budget currently spends $1.7 billion for its flexible General Fund and $6.5 billion in total (including for infrastructure / transportation projects, Seattle City Light, and Seattle Public Utilities). Our city continues to face significant challenges such as homelessness and the COVID pandemic.
  • The state government has a notoriously regressive tax structure that limits new options to raise city revenue. Thus far, all efforts to correct this in Olympia have failed.
  • Some City Councilmembers proposed new payroll taxes on large Seattle employers. Among these are (A) Kshama Sawant ($500 million per year with no end date) and (B) Teresa Mosqueda ($200 million per year for 10 years). For context, the 2018 Head Tax that the previous City Council approved — and then reversed after public backlash — would have raised “only” $50 million. The final City Council vote on Councilmember Mosqueda’s proposal could occur as early as this Monday, July 6.
  • As you may recall, I strongly critiqued Councilmember Sawant’s tax proposal in April. I’m concerned about imposing a new tax on Seattle employers during a deep recession if we actually want our employers to stay in Seattle and rehire as many workers as possible. At our July 1 Budget Committee, a majority of Councilmembers voted to move ahead with the Mosqueda “JumpStart” Tax rather than the Sawant Tax.
  • Unfortunately, my colleagues at the July 1 Budget Committee rejected my reasonable amendment to exempt nonprofit organizations from the new tax. In addition, my colleagues conceded to a demand by Councilmember Sawant to remove a sensible 10-year “sunset” provision. As with many taxes in Seattle, a “sunset” is useful because it makes it easier for future City Councils to decide whether and how to renew and improve the tax. The remaining provision to “monitor proposals” from the State or County in case they enact business taxes is weak and unenforceable. Also, the decision was made to strip out Councilmember Mosqueda’s thoughtful spending plan — so now your City Council is put in the position of having to enact a tax without knowing the details of how it would spend the money.  And no matter how we amend Councilmember Mosqueda’s Tax, it targets only Seattle employers; in other words, it’s not a regional tax. I would prefer a regional tax to prevent Seattle employers from relocating.
  • While I have concerns with the “Jump Start” tax proposal from Councilmember Mosqueda, I have not concluded my position because I have been researching and considering it in the context of Mayor Durkan’s proposal to re-balance our 2020 budget and I would like more input from District 4 constituents (see survey below).
  • For the legislation and all the amendments offered for Councilmember Mosqueda’s proposal, CLICK HERE for our July 1 Budget Committee agenda.
  • It’s important to note that the JumpStart package is three ordinances: (1) the new payroll tax, (2) the long-term spending plan, and (3) short-term COVID relief. I have consistently supported COVID relief.

Survey Instructions:

[UPDATE: a majority of the Seattle City Council approved the tax proposed by Councilmember Mosqueda (“Jump Start”) after amendments. Therefore, the survey is no longer live.]

To take the survey, CLICK HERE. The survey is just two questions and will take less than 5 minutes: (1) In which neighborhood do you reside? and (2) this question on the tax proposals:

Pick the ONE statement that best describes your current views on the tax proposals:

  1. Yes on the Mosqueda Tax (“JumpStart”): We need more revenue and Teresa Mosqueda’s plan to raise $200 million a year is better than Kshama Sawant’s larger tax and it’s better than nothing. For example, Mosqueda’s “JumpStart” plan has a more tailored approach that calculates the tax only on higher salaries ($150,000 and above). Mosqueda’s spending plan is also more targeted to the lowest income households in Seattle. The benefits of a new tax on Seattle’s largest employers will likely outweigh any perceived risks.
  2. No New Taxes on Seattle Employers: Do not pass any new tax on Seattle’s employers this year. There are several reasons to vote No, including:  the Mosqueda Tax (“JumpStart”) will make it harder on our employers during this economic downturn. Businesses already pay taxes to the city. These tax proposals are not regional solutions and taxes on payroll are essentially taxes on jobs when we need Seattle employers to stay in Seattle and provide more jobs to recover from this recession. And the Mosqueda legislation will tax nonprofits rather than just large corporations.
  3. Let the Voters Decide. Didn’t the City Council learn from the mess with the Head Tax in 2018 when they tried to impose an unwanted tax on Seattle businesses? Sending the proposal to the November ballot will also provide more time to see how the economy is recovering and/or for the State government to pass a better statewide or regional measure for revenue.
  4. Undecided: I would need to learn more about the tax proposals before deciding.

Political Reality on the Payroll Tax: 

  • I want to shape expectations on payroll taxes: the City Council is likely to pass this payroll tax in July whether I vote for it or against it. This is due, in large part, to who was elected to City Council in 2019 and their general views on taxing larger employers in Seattle. Four other Councilmembers quickly signed on as co-sponsors to Mosqueda’s “Jump Start Seattle” payroll tax: Gonzalez, Herbold, Strauss, and then Lewis. Moreover, our Governor and State legislature have been consistently unable to enact progressive taxes.
  • The Budget Committee vote on July 1 was 7 to 2 to advance the Mosqueda bills to the full City Council (which has the same membership as the Budget Committee). Because some of my amendments to the Mosqueda measure failed, I voted No at the Budget Committee to provide a few more days to conduct this survey and think about the amended proposal.  Councilmember Debora Juarez joined me in Voting No.  (For all the amendments, CLICK HERE.)

Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD)

Next week I am poised to join the Mayor and others to announce a proposal to renew the successful Seattle Transportation Benefit District. I am hopeful that my City Council colleagues will collaborate and, without delay, put the STBD on the ballot for voters to consider this November.

While ridership is down due to COVID, transit remains an affordable transportation lifeline for essential workers and will undergird our economy as it reopens and revitalizes. In the first year of renewal, we also have a tremendous need to increase transportation options for the 100,000 residents of West Seattle until the bridge is repaired or replaced. Increasing transit ridership is also an important solution to address climate change and traffic congestion.

For details on STBD and the proposal to renew it, including Pros and Cons (and more Pros), CLICK HERE or my blog post next Tuesday afternoon, July 7 .


Re-Imagining Public Safety and Community Wellness:
It’s Time for 3-1-1

Most of my previous e-newsletter was dedicated to addressing police accountability issues in the wake of the protests following the police killings of George Floyd and the painfully long history of misconduct and institutional racism negatively impacting countless Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Those challenges remain a priority focus of City Hall as we consider major new policies and actions. For more on that important issue, please CLICK HERE.

In reviewing the recent data on 9-1-1 calls showing approximately half of those calls are NOT emergencies involving potential crimes, it became clear to me that we need to implement something I have been advocating for years: a 3-1-1 Call Center open 24/7 to handle non-emergency calls. These 3-1-1 Call Centers have been working effectively for millions of residents in other big cities across our nation. It’s simply not effective or fiscally responsible to require highly paid, armed police officers to respond to every type of call received on 9-1-1. Here’s what I wrote in Crosscut in 2017:

  • Activate a 3-1-1 Call Center Available 24/7. Do what has worked well for more than a decade in cities from San Francisco to Chicago to New York: enable people to dial an easy-to-remember phone number (3-1-1) to request city services and report concerns, from potholes to policies. The City’s Customer Service Bureau is available ONLY on weekdays and Councilmember office hours for constituents are scant or inconsistent. Few can remember the City’s non-emergency phone number and it provides only minimal services. While the “Find It Fix It” technology works for some, a 3-1-1 Call Center open 24/7 will enable residents without access to fancy iPhones to receive the best customer service. A 3-1-1 Call Center will also make our communities safer by reducing the number of non-emergency calls to 9-1-1 operators. City managers and Councilmembers could use the 3-1-1 software system to track responsiveness and results for their constituents.”

Other success stories for 311 Call Centers: Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and at least 75 other major cities.

Creating a robust 3-1-1 Call Center is certainly NOT anywhere close to a solution for our police accountability problems, but it is a partial answer to provide safer, more appropriate responses to residents who request help from their city government. When some folks say, “De-fund” the police,” a 3-1-1 Call Center provides some structure for how we might operationalize that aspirational goal in a way that provides customer service to our residents and community wellness tailored to community needs to supplement 9-1-1. It’s Time for 3-1-1.

For my previous newsletter that covers more facets of the need to reimagine public safety, please CLICK HERE.


Internet for All

co-sponsored by Council President Lorena Gonzalez

My staff and I have been gathering input on the draft Resolution I announced earlier to pursue Internet for All residents in Seattle.

  • A RESOLUTION establishing the City Council’s goal to implement Internet for All Seattle, a vision of enabling all Seattle residents to access and adopt broadband internet service that is reliable and affordable.

We’ve enjoyed connecting with and learning from advocacy groups, national researchers, dedicated employees of our City’s Information Technology Department, and private sector providers of internet services.  Next week we plan to formally introduce my Resolution so we can further address the Digital Divide in our high-tech city. I am very thankful for the support and leadership of co-sponsor Council President Lorena Gonzalez so that we can move forward on this Resolution during these busy times. For more info on the vision and rationale for Internet for All — and to read the Resolution —  CLICK HERE.

King County is officially in “Phase 2” of Governor Inslee’s four-phase approach to reopening our local economy. While we are dismayed to see jurisdictions across the country suffering a spike in COVID cases, we are also seeing troubling numbers in our area — including among UW students. This is a sobering reminder of the importance to take precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing.

MORE UPDATES ON COVID AND RELIEF:


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 206-684-8566.

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.

As I mentioned earlier, we received over 25,000 e-mails – an unheard of volume – in June, so I ask for your patience as we try to respond to those District 4 constituents who asked for a response. Either way, we read your e-mails and they have an impact. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We will get through this together, Seattle.

With gratitude,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Re-Imagining Public Safety and More

June 16th, 2020

Monthly Newsletter:
Protests and Public Safety, Budget Deficits, COVID Updates, Bridges, and More

Photo by Xena Goldman

[Note: please also see other posts, including: https://pedersen.seattle.gov/injustice-anywhere-is-a-threat-to-justice-everywhere/ ]

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. 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.

UPDATES ON COVID PANDEMIC

KING COUNTY APPLYING FOR PHASE 2: King County Executive Dow Constantine has applied to the State to allow us to move from Phase 1.5 to 2.0. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE. “Counties are allowed to progress to the next phase if they have declining infection levels, adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, space in hospitals, ample testing capacity and a contact tracing system in place to try to contain the virus…The second phase — which neighboring Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties are already in — allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barbershops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity.”

MORE FREE TESTING SITES: Thanks for Mayor Jenny Durkan, the University of Washington, and Seattle Fire Fighters, we have more testing sites for COVID. Following King County’s application to advance to a modified phase one in Governor Inslee’s updated “Safe Start Washington” plan, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan opened free Citywide testing at two locations in north and south Seattle. As part of the announcement, Mayor Durkan and University of Washington President Ana Maria Cauce signed a memorandum of agreement solidifying the partnership between the City of Seattle and UW Medicine. The joint effort is expected to increase capacity by my more than 1,600 tests per day.

Mayor Durkan had signed an executive order and transmitted legislation to City Council to lease two former emissions testing sites for testing purposes. The facilities are located in north and south Seattle and will operate Monday thru Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and accommodate drive thru clients who book ahead through the website. These sites are designed and intended for drive-up testing and are not ADA compliant for pedestrians. If you need walk-up testing with ADA accommodations, there are many options for free COVID testing, please visit Public Health – Seattle King County’s website or call 206-477-3977. Most people can access testing through their regular health care provider. In addition, the City is actively looking to add walk-up testing and additional capacity in West Seattle, another high-need area of the City.

Clients at the testing facilities will not be charged for testing and will not receive a bill, regardless of health insurance status. Our Seattle Fire Department (SFD) has developed a cadre of experienced personnel to lead the citywide testing effort by administering tests. Thus far, nearly 70 percent of COVID-19 related deaths in King County are associated with long-term care facilities. The City of Seattle has focused its limited resources on testing our most vulnerable residents in those facilities like nursing and adult care homes.

To help accommodate a safe and seamless testing process, the City urges potential clients to pre-register for appointments at www.seattle.gov/covid-19-testing. SFD estimates pre-registration will allow the testing procedure to take fewer than 10 minutes per test.

SUPPORT FOR GIG WORKERS DURING COVID:
I was pleased to join my colleagues to require premium pay (a.k.a. hazard pay) for essential “Gig Workers” taking risks to deliver food during the COVID pandemic. We also approved an amendment to prohibit corporations from passing along the additional costs to consumers. To read the entire Council Bill 119799, CLICK HERE.

SEATTLE PARKS SLOWLY RE-OPENING:

(photo by YMCA)

Outdoor amenities that are OPEN to groups of five or less with social distancing:

  • Tennis/pickleball courts
  • Basketball courts
  • Golf courses
  • Boat ramps (by June 20)
  • Trails and walking paths
  • Outdoor BBQ grills
  • Picnic tables (not larger picnic shelters)
  • Public restrooms
  • Skateparks
  • Off Leash Areas
  • Volleyball courts
  • Athletic fields (for non-organized use and team practices starting 7/1)
  • Swimming Areas (beginning July 1 at 5 locations)

Amenities that remain CLOSED for now:

  • Play areas and playgrounds
  • Picnic shelters
  • Fire pits
  • Wading pools and indoor/ outdoor pools
  • Spray parks (currently prohibited)
  • Community centers programs

For details, please review the press release from our Seattle Parks & Recreation Department by CLICKING HERE.

MORE UPDATES ON COVID AND RELIEF:

IN DISTRICT 4

DEMONSTRATIONS: Residents from Northeast Seattle held many demonstrations to support police accountability and Black Lives Matter including events in Lake City, Magnuson Park, Maple Leaf, Ravenna-Bryant, Wallingford, and in Wedgwood. In between Council meetings and answering e-mails & phone calls on this same issue, I attended as many as I could — and more are scheduled. For more info on my blog,  CLICK HERE.

Participating in the May 30 march for justice,
organized by students of Nathan Hale High School.
(photo by Alex Pedersen)

U DISTRICT BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT AREA REAUTHORIZED:

On June 8 the City Council unanimously approved the legislation I sponsored to reauthorize the Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the University District, which is the heart of District 4. I thank both Mayor Jenny Durkan’s team for being open to early input from the community and Councilmember Tammy Morales, chair of the Community and Economic Development Committee, for co-sponsoring this important legislation with me for my district. It is one of 10 BIAs across Seattle.

Business Improvement Areas are positive, community-driven economic development tools that help keep neighborhood business districts clean and safe throughout our city,” said Councilmember 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.”

Not all community stakeholders fully approved the ordinance as introduced, so I offered a compromise amendment for a 10-year term, since the original legislation sought to more than double the BIA from a 5-year term to a 12-year term. My amendment also would have started the competitive process for the Program Manager much sooner. That amendment, however, failed with a vote of 3 to 6. I look forward to seeing the changes to assist small business owners and others who are at risk of displacement as they take shape on The Ave and surrounding U District.

For the entire press release, CLICK HERE.

RE-OPENING OUR LOCAL ECONOMY:
I checked with small neighborhood businesses in District 4 and many are taking advantage of King County’s successful request to the Governor to re-open with a partial Phase Two (Phase 1.5). For the official announcement, CLICK HERE. As noted above, King County is applying for Phase 2 and, for that info, CLICK HERE.

Thank you, King County Executive Dow Constantine, for enabling many small businesses to partially re-open more quickly and safely. This includes restaurants: outdoor dining at 50% and indoor at 25, both 6 feet apart. Examples in our own District 4 include Uncle Lee’s Kitchen in Laurelhurst, Big Time Brewery & Alehouse in the U District, 14 Carrot Cafe in Eastlake, Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford, The Bryant Corner Cafe & Bakery in Bryant and scores more in District 4. Bring your mask and appetite.

YOUR CITY COUNCIL

The other eight, independently elected City Councilmembers and I continue to “meet” every week to introduce, amend, and pass legislation and funding proposals — but remotely through Zoom videos. Even though we don’t always agree on things, I believe we miss seeing each other in person, especially now as the challenges increase.

CLOSING OUR BUDGET DEFICITS:

The City Budget Office (CBO) unfortunately estimates an ongoing budget deficit of approximately $300 million out of our $1.7 billion General Fund and related accounts. While the federal government – which can run a deficit unlike city and state governments – will provide money to cities to deal with COVID-related economic downturn, it is not expected to be enough.

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

Council President Gonzalez and Budget Chair Mosqueda have scheduled 10 Budget Committee meetings this summer to consider Mayor Durkan’s proposal to re-balance the 2020 budget, to debate payroll tax proposals (branded inaccurately by some as the “Amazon Tax” even though it would impact hundreds of Seattle employers) and to decide whether to reallocate some public safety funding to better meet community needs.

Then, after re-balancing our existing 2020 budget, the Council will start its traditional Fall budget season to consider Mayor Durkan’s proposal for a 2021 budget (which also faces a deficit). I hope to use my extensive budgeting experience (including during Recessions) to help provide sustainable and fiscally responsible solutions. While I may be open to new revenue sources, the details matter.

COMMITTEE WORK

Just six months ago, I was selected to chair our City Council Committee on Transportation and Utilities (and Technology). Here’s an update:

TRANSPORTATION:

Seattle Transportation Benefit District: With hopeful anticipation, I believe City Council colleagues and the Mayor will collaborate to renew the beloved Seattle Transportation Benefit District. While transit ridership has experienced a temporary reduction, transit remains an affordable transportation lifeline for essential workers and will undergird our economy as it reopens and revitalizes. In the first year of renewal, we will also have a tremendous need to increase transportation options for the 100,000 residents of West Seattle until the bridge is repaired or replaced.

West Seattle Bridge:

  • We must fully reconnect the 100,000 residents of West Seattle to the rest of their city as soon as possible. I recently participated in the first Community Task Force for fixing the West Seattle Bridge. This Task Force is vital not only to organize and amplify community voices about this urgent issue, but also to leverage their influence to advocate for the massive funding that will be needed to create safe alternatives to cross the Duwamish River.  It’s co-chaired by former Mayor Greg Nickels (a West Seattle resident) and community leader Paulina Lopez.
  • The creation of the Community Task Force follows the creation of a Technical Advisory Panel that consists of structural engineers and other experts. I continue to work closely with Councilmember Lisa Herbold who represents West Seattle.  For more on the West Seattle Bridge and actions we are taking, CLICK HERE.

  • Bridge Audit Underway:  I’m relieved that the City Auditor and I launched an audit into Seattle’s bridges when we did. For the Seattle Times article confirming the lack of maintenance for our aging bridges, CLICK HERE. We expect to hear an initial report from the Auditor this September.c

UTILITIES:

  • Wastewater Rates (Seattle Public Utilities): Thankfully the CEOs / General Managers of both Seattle City Light (Debra Smith) and Seattle Public Utilities (Mami Hara) share my mission of keeping rates as low as possible for Seattleites. Unfortunately, King County recently passed through to our city a rate increase for wastewater treatment. I appreciate King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, whose district overlaps District 4, responding to our request to fight this increase.  To read CM Dembowski’s May 30, 2020 blog post entitled, “Wrong Time to Hike Sewer Rates on Struggling Residents and Businesses,” CLICK HERE. Unfortunately, his amendment failed to win the day. Wastewater rates are just one piece of our SPU bill so, overall, one’s bill should not increase substantially. Moreover, both SPU and SCL continue to offer payment plans and, thanks to legislation introduced by Mayor Durkan that I was happy to sponsor, they will not charge interest on late payments during the COVID crisis.

TECHNOLOGY:

  • INTERNET FOR ALL: We continue to gather input on the draft Resolution I announced to pursue Internet for All residents in Seattle. I’ve enjoyed connecting with and learning from advocacy groups, national researchers, dedicated employees of our City’s Information Technology Department, and private sector providers of internet services.  After we make more progress on budget discussions to deal with the new deficit in our 2020 budget, we’ll want to introduce my Resolution and get moving to further address the Digital Divide in our high-tech city. For more info on my vision and rationale for Internet for All — and to read the Resolution —  CLICK HERE.
  • TECHNOLOGY MATCHING FUND AWARDS: The City of Seattle Monday, June 15 announced the recipients of the 2020 Technology Matching Fund. With an investment of $345,000, 15 organizations will receive funding for community-led projects which aim to increase access to technology and provide digital skills training for underserved communities. From the press release:

“The current COVID-19 crisis has changed how we interact and connect, magnified disparities in our community, and emphasized the need to bridge the digital divide,” said Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, Chair of the Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes oversight of Seattle IT. “Improving access to technology to achieve digital equity is a major commitment of mine, and I look forward to seeing how these matching grants and other investments will open pathways and improve access to education, job training and other vital services.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan: “The dual crises of COVID-19 and systemic racism in our region and our country are bringing into sharp relief the continued need for meaningful, intentional investments in our low-income communities and communities of color. More and more, our communities are relying on access to the internet and digital literacy skills to engage with their communities and make their voices heard.”

Technology Matching Fund grants are distributed annually as part of the City’s broader Digital Equity Initiative and managed by the Seattle Information Technology Department (Seattle IT). Funded projects improve connectivity and provide devices and technology support to communities that might not otherwise have equitable access, including immigrants, refugees, homeless people, seniors, youth, and people with disabilities.

Below is a list of the 2020 Technology Matching Fund recipients. Read more about the projects here.

  • 206 Zulu, Coolout Academy Digital Literacy Program
  • Boys & Girls Club of King County, Bringing Technology to Northgate Girls & Boys Club
  • Empowering Youth and Families Outreach, Computer Station Upgrade & Youth Laptop Provision
  • Eritrean Association of Greater Seattle, Digital Equity and Advancement Project
  • Filipino Community of Seattle, FCS Innovation Learning Project
  • First Place, The Diversity S.T.E.M. Training Program
  • Garinagu HounGua, Garifuna Technology Literacy
  • Literacy Source, Basic Digital Literacy in North Seattle
  • Low Income Housing Institute, Sand Point Cottage Community
  • PROVAIL, Adaptive Technology Lending Library
  • Seattle Goodwill Industries
  • Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF Education Mobile Youth Workshops
  • Somali Family Safety Task Force, Somali Digital Access and Literacy
  • Year Up Puget Sound
  • Young Women Empowered, Y-WE Code

To learn more about the City of Seattle’s commitment to digital equity and the Technology Matching Fund, go here.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU


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 206-684-8566.

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.

As I mentioned earlier, we received over 20,000 e-mails – an unheard-of volume – in just the past 2 weeks, so I ask for your patience as we try to respond to those District 4 constituents who asked for a response. Either way, we read your e-mails and they have an impact. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

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

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

We will get through this together, Seattle.

With gratitude,

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


Internet for All and City Hall updates 💻

May 21st, 2020

City Hall and Coronavirus Updates

Friends and Neighbors, The month of May has brought a glimmer of hope. Governor Inslee announced a multi-phase plan for reopening Washington state. While King County has been in Phase 1 since May 5, the Governor this week approved 10 other counties to move to Phase 2. Thanks to our reliance on public health experts and the science, King County will shift to Phase 2 soon. We are able to start reopening our economy because we have had success in flattening the curve here in Washington. This great progress can hold only if we continue to do what works: stay home as much as possible, wear a mask if you’re going out in public, and wash your hands. We all want to avoid a resurgence of the coronavirus. This pandemic has reinforced the Digital Divide here in our high-tech city. This week I announced my “Internet for All” Resolution to chart a course for universal access to affordable and reliable internet. For details, keep reading or CLICK HERE. For all the action at City Hall and how to engage, keep reading. Thank you.

UPDATES ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND RELIEF

Even these famous statues in Fremont are wearing masks because they cannot social-distance.

The City of Seattle, in partnership with Seattle-King County Public Health, has issued a new directive effective May 18, 2020 encouraging the public to wear a cloth face covering in any indoor or outdoor space when unable to maintain six feet of distance from people who do not live with you. To read the full press release, CLICK HERE. If you need assistance acquiring a mask or making your own, CLICK HERE.

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

STATE: Phase 1 of Governor Inslee’s phased approach to reopening our economy began on May 5th. We welcome the reopening of state parks and existing construction jobs. For more information about Phase 1, CLICK HERE. Of course, moving into the next phase is dependent on data. The Governor issues risk assessment criteria that dictate when we can fully reopen our state. You can follow the Governor’s Risk Assessment Dashboard by CLICKING HERE. King County has not entered Phase 2 yet. Phase 2 will encompass the reopening of restaurants at <50% capacity, hair and nail salons, retail stores, and professional services/office-based businesses (with telework strongly encouraged). For more information on reopening restaurants for Phase 2, CLICK HERE. In addition, manufacturing, in-home and domestic services, and real estate companies will be able to restart their work. Public gatherings and outdoor recreation with <5 people outside will be permitted weekly. Finally, the Governor announced the restart of all medical services in Washington, including some elective procedures. Each medical and dental practice will assess their own readiness and their community’s COVID-19 activity to determine whether and to what degree to reopen. To read more, CLICK HERE.

Tips for Applying for Unemployment Funds

The state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) is experiencing historically high volumes of people seeking unemployment benefits. To minimize delays, use these links:

CITY:

  • MASKS FOR VULNERABLE: Mayor Durkan announced that the City of Seattle will provide 45,000 cloth face coverings to the most vulnerable Seattle residents, including people experiencing homelessness, low-income older adults, and food bank staff. For more information, CLICK HERE.
  • INTERNET FOR ALL: This week I announced my “Internet for All” Resolution for universal access to affordable and reliable broadband internet. For details, keep reading or CLICK HERE.

FEDERAL:

  • Home Mortgage Deferrals:  Mayor Durkan and my City Council colleagues have been rapidly introducing and adopting emergency measures in the hopes of providing relief and protections to residential tenants in Seattle, yet our local government has little power to mitigate the other end of the equation: the mortgages and other costs of the housing providers. Even those who own just their single home are receiving little local relief except a brief deferral of property taxes and help with utility bills. Fortunately, those with home mortgages backed by FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac (nearly all home mortgages), will be getting additional options to defer payments on mortgages, if they are economically impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, CLICK HERE. This is in addition to a temporary suspension of foreclosures for those types of mortgages. Contact the company that services your mortgage as early as possible.

 

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.

DISTRICT 4 UPDATES

Transportation News in D-4

Councilmember Pedersen picking up Sunday brunch for the family at Bryant Corner Café. He cannot mask his enthusiasm for their french toast! For Bryant food, call ahead to order 206-525-1034. Happy to support SDOT in creating additional temporary parking spots for pickup to support neighborhood restaurants and retail.
  • To support safety and access to local businesses, the City is rolling out new curbside priority pick-up zones. We are installing temporary 15-minute loading zones to facilitate reliable customer access for pick-ups. These new zones allow 15 minutes to enable people to quickly and safely pick up purchases, while ensuring frequent parking turnover so the locations remain reliably available for use. This is in addition to the existing 3-minute zones for restaurant take-out.  For more information from SDOT, CLICK HERE.
  • The Cowen Park Bridge seismic retrofit is now complete. 15th Avenue NE will eventually be repaved with bike lanes that I support, after consulting with neighbors and considering the excellent connections to Roosevelt High and 2021 light rail as well as minimal impact on neighborhood businesses. I launched an audit of major bridges in Seattle to provide better info to city officials and the general public. For more info, CLICK HERE.
  • Construction to reconfigure N. Midvale Place is underway in Wallingford. To see the report by Wallyhood, CLICK HERE. I conveyed to SDOT my desire that the trees in the triangle be saved and was assured that only one tree on the Midvale Place side would need to be removed for this project. I am hopeful SDOT will do what is needed to ensure existing neighbors have ample access to the area they call home.
  • The repaving project on NE 50th Street from U District to Wallingford is nearly complete – finally! For more info from SDOT, CLICK HERE.

PARKS in and near D-4

  • GREEN LAKE: While Green Lake is in District 5, many District 4 residents enjoy its breathtaking open space, exceptional trees, and it’s community center and pool. CLICK HERE for the online open house and fill out the survey about possible new locations.
  • MAGNUSON PARK: Through the end of May, the artists of Building 30 West in Magnuson Park will continue their virtual opening of their studios to the public on Facebook and on Instagram at @spaceatmagnuson. To attend this virtual event on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

District 4 Restaurants Look Forward to Partial Reopen

Councilmember Pedersen, protectively holding a full growler, with the co-owners Eamonn and Chelley of Murphy’s Pub on N. 45th Street in the heart of Wallingford.

I masked-up and sat down with the owners of Murphy’s Pub in Wallingford to learn more about the survival struggles they share with neighborhood businesses across District 4. Murphy’s is getting ready to open when the Governor green lights King County for “Phase 2” even though that means 50% capacity and groups maxing out at 5 per table. How YOU can help:  To enjoy Murphy’s beverages, yummy food, and down-to-Earth welcoming spirit, you don’t need to wait until Phase 2 because Murphy’s has mastered the take-out/pick-up routine. Go to their website: https://murphysseattle.com/ then scroll down to order online first. Then go to 1928 N. 45th Street at Meridian Ave N in Wallingford’s business district to pick it up. For Murphy’s menu, CLICK HERE. The same is true for so many eateries throughout our District and our city. For restaurants open for takeout meals in Ravenna, Bryant, and Wedgwood, CLICK HERE for a handy list from a neighborhood group. For a citywide list from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

COMMITTEE ISSUES

My colleagues unanimously appointed me to chair the Council’s Transportation and Utilities (and Technology) Committee. It’s a bulky “workhorse” committee that comprises half the city’s budget. Here are highlights of current committee issues:

Transportation

West Seattle Bridge Update: The West Seattle Bridge continues to deteriorate, with growing cracks. SDOT has prepared for the worst case scenarios of a partial—or even total—collapse of the bridge. Their engineering consultant’s report is titled “Conceptual Modes of Failure” dated May 15; it’s on SDOT’s list of documents here. To read Seattle Times article in which I am quoted, CLICK HERE.) Next steps are numerous:

  • Evaluating whether the existing bridge can be saved and repaired;
  • Determining, if a new bridge is needed, whether it can be combined in some way with Sound Transit’s bridge for the West Seattle Link rail line;
  • Calculating the costs (and finding the money!) and impacts and tradeoffs of all the options.

For SDOT’s website dedicated to the West Seattle Bridge, CLICK HERE. For a list of all coverage by the West Seattle Blog, CLICK HERE.
Bridge Audit Underway:

With the failure of the West Seattle Bridge I launched an audit of all major bridges in Seattle. I formally asked our City Auditor to evaluate the sufficiency of SDOT’s bridge maintenance and monitoring activities, with a preliminary report due in the Fall before the Council considers our City’s 2021 budget. To learn more about the audit of Seattle bridges I launched, CLICK HERE. To read the audit letter, CLICK HERE.
520 Bridge History

Another bridge project affecting District 4 is the “Rest of the West” part of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) new 520 Bridge project. The “West” project is the completion of the upgraded connections between the new Lake Washington Bridge and the I-5 interchange on the edge of the Eastlake neighborhood. A website about the history of the area was created as part of the WSDOT project and is found here.

Technology

“Internet for All”: Seeking Universal Access to Affordable & Reliable Internet

The COVID-19 crisis and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order have magnified the disparities in our city along many lines, including access to reliable internet. I have crafted a Resolution charting the course for universal internet access in Seattle. The Resolution requests the city government, led by Seattle’s Information Technology department, to craft an action plan, expand partnerships, and ensure the implementation of Internet for All, so that all Seattle residents have affordable and reliable internet access. “In a city that prides itself in leading the world in technology, the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustice of the Digital Divide. We can no longer allow limited internet access to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses and nonprofits. It’s time to ensure reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, for education, and for economic development. It’s time for Internet for All.” Increased internet access can provide a vital link to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis. As chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, I look forward to discussing the Resolution when the Governor’s order has been lifted for all local governments to consider non-COVID-19 legislation. My Resolution requests Seattle’s Information Technology Department to provide its first report to the committee by September 16, 2020. For a link to the press release from May 18,
CLICK HERE. For a link to the draft Resolution, CLICK HERE.

YOUR CITY COUNCIL

Payroll Tax Hearings Postponed

Due to concerns about possibly violating Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-28, Council President Gonzalez and Councilmember Mosqueda prudently postponed Budget Committee meetings on the controversial Payroll Tax legislation introduced by Councilmembers Sawant and Morales. Deliberations on this legislation will resume once the order from Governor Inslee is lifted, possibly in June. For my specific concerns with this payroll tax proposal, see my blog post by CLICKING HERE.

Business Improvement Area (BIA) Updates

The University District BIA reauthorization is beings considered now by your City Council. 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. The BIA in the U District is expiring this month, so the City Council is proceeding with this “routine and necessary” legislation. For a link to the proposed BIA Ordinance Council Bill 119779 and related docs, CLICK HERE. For a link to the map of the proposed BIA, CLICK HERE.

Here is the BIA meeting schedule before the Community & Economic Development (CED) committee and full City Council:

  • Wednesday, May 20, 2020: discussion and issue identification;
  • Wednesday, May 27: 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)

Some key issues remain as important aspects to see represented in this legislation:

  • 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. I also believe there should be term-limits so that members of the BIA Advisory Board cannot stay in power for too long.
  • 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. I have some concerns that the current proposal more than doubles the length of the BIA term from 5 years to 12 years.
  • 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 Ave found that nearly 2/3 are owned by women and people of color, ensuring resources for these businesses which are more vulnerable to displacement is important to me.

Those are some of my priorities. I welcome your input; please let us know your thoughts:

Navigation Team Legislation

The Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments will discuss a controversial bill to drastically limit the effectiveness of our City’s Navigation Team and its option to remove dangerous and unauthorized encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic (CB 119796, to see this CLICK HERE.) Much of the discussion around this legislation centers on the Mayor’s recent removal of an encampment at the Ballard Commons. After offers of housing and services, the Navigation Team proceeded with that removal due to immediate and ongoing risks to the public health and safety of the community, including Hepatitis A. Living structures also obstructed public rights-of-way, which created further public health risks. To learn more about this encampment removal, you can visit the City of Seattle’s Homelessness Blog, please CLICK HERE. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis and across Seattle, the Navigation Team has distributed 2,233 hygiene kits, 1,837 Public Health—Seattle & King County (Public Health) COVID-19 and Hepatitis A flyers, 352 meals, and hygiene services maps.  In mid-April, the City opened 95 new shelter beds that are exclusively available to Navigation Team referrals of people experiencing homelessness. The City is focused on using these new resources to bring individuals living unsheltered into safer and healthier conditions. I’m concerned that this proposed legislation will limit the ability of the Navigation Team to protect safety and public health as the main priorities during this crisis. I share the concerns raised by the Mayor:

  • The legislation would hinder our ability to get people into safer conditions due to communicable diseases such as COVID-19 or Hepatitis A.
  • It would hinder the City’s ability to address unauthorized encampments associated with criminal activity.
  • It ignores the impacts on necessary businesses, and their workers and customers.
  • It disregards many types of fire or safety hazards and the impact on our first responders.
  • It would prohibit Seattle Police Department officers from removing encampments that are trespassing on private property.
  • It would prohibit derelict RVs from being removed from City streets.
  • It would drastically impact the City’s ability to address tents that impede sidewalks and public right of way.
  • It creates risk by impacting the City’s ability to enforce existing laws and defend against potential causes of action.
  • It would effectively authorize camping across the city.

As someone who started my career at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help reduce homelessness during the Clinton Administration, I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of those who are most vulnerable. I also support the Navigation Team’s efforts to connect people with available shelter resources and effectively move people into permanent housing. I look forward to the executive departments clarifying further what is a true “obstruction,” so that local government is not removing encampments unnecessarily during the COVID crisis. On a more positive note, this week the Regional Homelessness Authority held its first meeting to discuss regional solutions to this regional crisis of homelessness. Just as our City and County have worked closely to address COVID, we must rely on evidence-based, proven solutions to address homelessness. For more about the Regional Homelessness Authority, read my blog post shortly after I voted to create it by CLICKING HERE.

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 here, or listening on your phone by calling 206-684-8566. Commenting: You can also submit public comment by emailing your comment to council@seattle.gov to reach all 9 Councilmembers. 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.

How to Participate in Your Community Council

Our District 4 is home to over 20 neighborhoods. I believe community councils and other neighborhood-based organizations play an important role in Seattle. It may seem ill-timed during the COVID crisis to promote participation in community groups, but we hear from constituents that they are yearning to reconnect with neighbors and many groups are already hosting “virtual” meetings online using software applications like Zoom and Skype. As more people participate in community groups, the groups can become even more diverse and effective in dealing with larger institutions like your city government. Community councils are a great way to amplify issues that residents in the community want to see addressed. Community councils give residents a space to air opinions, ideas, grievances, and announcements of interest to you and your neighbors.  In addition, they organize residents to work towards common goals identified as priorities by the community and to spearhead events that benefit the community. Here are some community organizations that represent residents in District 4:

Eastlake Community Council (ECC)

Fremont Neighborhood Council

Hawthorne Hills Community Council

Laurelhurst Community Club

Magnuson Park Advisory Committee

Maple Leaf Community Council

Ravenna-Bryant Community Association

Roosevelt Neighborhood Association

Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance

University District Community Council

University Park Community Club

View Ridge Community Council

Wallingford Community Council

Wedgwood Community Council

For more info, CLICK HERE.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to have 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,

 

 

 

Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4

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


City Council unanimously passes “Internet for All” to expand affordable internet access in Seattle

May 18th, 2020

Resolution sponsored by Councilmembers Gonzalez, Juarez, and Pedersen

COVID crisis reinforces need for universal broadband access to address inequities

September 16, 2020 UPDATE:

Today my Committee heard the presentation on the Internet for All Gap Analysis and Action Plan, which the City Council requested when we adopted Resolution 31956. For the full report CLICK HERE and for the PowerPoint summary, CLICK HERE. To view the video of the Committee meeting, CLICK HERE.

Here’s the press release Council President Gonzalez, Councilmember Juarez, and I distributed with Mayor Durkan:

NEWS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR

Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council Release Internet for All Gap Analysis Report with Action Plan to Increase Access to Internet and Close the Digital Divide

SEATTLE (September 16, 2020) – Following up on the Internet for All Initiative announced earlier this summer, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez, Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez announced the release of the initial Internet for All Report and Action Plan. Building off of the information gathered as a part of the City’s 2018 Technology Access and Adoption study, this initial Internet for All Report includes a gap analysis of internet, technology and device needs and an Action Plan with eight strategies to close these gaps.  The Internet for All Initiative elevates citywide digital equity strategies to increase access to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis. 

“We know that access to technology is a race and social justice issue, and the pandemic has further magnified the digital inequities with many in our community lacking the technology and devices need for school or work. The Internet for All Initiative provides the City of Seattle a new roadmap and tangible action plan to close the digital divide and meaningfully increase to both Wi-Fi and devices at this critical time for our City,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “I appreciate the leadership of Councilmember Pedersen, Council President Gonzalez, and Councilmember Juarez who co-sponsored the Internet for All Resolution, the full commitment from City Departments, and collaboration with community partners, internet service providers, as well as the business and philanthropic community who have all come together to support this initiative.”

The Internet for All Initiative was launched early this summer to address internet and technology needs and disparities that have been amplified by the COVID-19 crisis. The report includes eight strategies to address this gap in internet skills and access, including recommendations to strategically deploy more public Wi-Fi in digital equity areas by 2021, and foster up to 20,000 internet connections and devices for underserved individuals by 2023. The City will continue to pursue private sector and philanthropic partnerships to expand access to reliable internet and partnering with organizations to deliver culturally relevant digital inclusion programs. 

“COVID19 has made it clear that access to the internet is an essential for every household. A lack of internet access exacerbates the challenges of this pandemic: students and their families need reliable connections to participate in virtual classrooms, laid-off workers need internet access to apply for unemployment benefits or search for jobs, and many of our social connections keeping us healthy and connected are primarily online for the foreseeable future,” Said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez. “Seattle’s elected leaders hold the shared priority of creating more access and equity when it comes to our residents connecting to the internet, and this report lays out a path forward to do so.”

“Seattle is a city that rightfully prides itself on world-class technology, but the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustices of the Digital Divide,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes technology matters. “I called for this action plan with my colleagues to achieve Internet for All because we can no longer allow limited access to the internet to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses. It’s time to provide reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, education, and economic development. This ambitious report from the Mayor and her team, in collaboration with the City Council, spurs Seattle’s long-term efforts to provide affordable and reliable internet to low-income, BIPOC, and all communities, so that we can finally achieve Internet for All.”

“Internet for All affects everyone,” said Councilmember Debra Juarez, co-sponsor of the Internet for All resolution. “A lack of a quality internet connection affects frustrated schoolchildren missing instruction time and compounds the isolation of our seniors. Our city’s economic recovery from this recession will slow if our workforce does not have access to training, cannot research new careers and opportunities, and cannot easily apply to a job. Today’s report further solidifies my commitment to partner with the co-sponsors Councilmembers Pedersen and González and Mayor Durkan to bridge the digital divide.” 

“Demand for high-speed broadband has soared to new heights. In today’s digital world, access to affordable internet has become as essential as clean water and electricity. Seattle is leading the way when it comes to digital equity, but there is room for improvement. Through the Internet for All Initiative, Seattle IT is committed to ensuring that there is an equal digital opportunity afforded to every resident in the City of Seattle,” said Saad Bashir, Chief Technology Officer, City of Seattle.

While the City’s 2018 Technology Access and Adoption Study found that 95% of Seattle households are connected to the internet, it also showed that 45% of lower-income households reported that access to the internet in their household was not adequate or only sometimes adequate for their needs. With more and more essential functions moving online, like applying for jobs, searching for healthcare, and attending online classes, access to reliable internet and the skills to use it are more important than ever. The COVID-19 crisis, along with the local and national Black Lives Matter protests, has amplified the need to address digital inequities by increasing access to affordable internet, low-cost devices, and digital skills training.

Additionally, the report finds that rather than being spread out across the City, internet disparities are concentrated geographically in certain areas of the City. The areas of Seattle representing the largest portions of the 5% gap in internet adoption are:

  • South Central Seattle (Pioneer Square, Yesler Terrace, and International District)
  • South Seattle (New Holly, Rainier Valley, and Beacon Hill)
  • West Seattle (High Point and South Park)
  • Areas of downtown
  • Lake City

You can explore the full report here.

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July 27, 2020: UPDATE:

Press release after unanimous approval of Internet for All Resolution:

SEATTLE – Reinvigorating efforts to pursue universal access to the internet, the City Council approved today the “Internet for All” resolution introduced by Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez (Position 9, Citywide), Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4), and Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5).

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders magnified the disparities in our city along many lines, including access to the internet. The resolution adopted by the Council outlines its vision of making broadband internet service accessible, reliable, and affordable to all residents and nonprofits. Increased access to the internet will increase access to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis.

“While Seattle is proud to be a global center of technology and innovation, The COVID-19 pandemic, once again, exposes the reality of extensive, inequitable, and detrimental gaps of the haves and have nots. This time it is manifested via internet access with significant detrimental impact for our students and families at Seattle Public Schools, our seniors, and low-income households,” said Council President M. Lorena Gonzalez. “I’m pleased to be a co-sponsor on the Internet for All resolution to reinvigorate the city’s commitment to closing the digital access gap so everyone can stay connected in an increasingly virtual, online world.”

“Seattle is a city that rightfully prides itself on world-class technology, but the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustices of the Digital Divide,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, which includes technology. “We can no longer afford to allow limited access to the internet to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses. It’s time to provide reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, for education, and for economic development. Passing our resolution today amps up Seattle’s long-term efforts to achieve Internet for All.”

“Today we took a solid step forward,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez. “Inequities in internet access and affordability can lead to disparate outcomes during a crisis, such as reduced access to relief programs for individuals and small neighborhood businesses as well as barriers preventing students from participating in remote learning due to the closures of our schools, libraries, community centers and workplaces. I have long advocated for equity in access by working with groups such as Literacy Source and am pleased to have been a cosponsor on this Resolution.”

While a Technology Access and Adoption Study in 2018 found that 98 percent of households with at least one child who attends Seattle Public Schools have at least one capable internet device, often that access is often only a cell phone. During the COVID pandemic, media reports noted a lack of sufficient access, adoption, reliability, and/or affordability, especially when multiple family members were required to work or study from home. Moreover, seven percent of respondents in that study said they relied on free/public access internet at places such as libraries and community centers, yet those have been closed during the COVID pandemic.

According to 2018 study, those with incomes of less than $25,000 a year are more than three times as likely to rely on a cell phone data plan for internet service. There is low awareness of the discount programs developed for low-income populations — only half know about them and just 23% of low-income households that would qualify for these programs actually use them.

Residents, who are low-income, senior citizens, living with disabilities, or for whom English is not their primary language lag other groups when it comes to access, according to the City’s most recent Digital Equity Progress Report (based on the Technology Access and Adoption Study). The “key risk factors” the report identifies for lack of home internet access are:

  • Living in poverty: 5 times less likely to have internet access;
  • Household member with a disability: 3 times less likely to have internet access;
  • Primary language other than English: 2 times less likely to have access;
  • Older adults (65 years old or more): 1.8 times less likely to have access;
  • Non-white residents: 1.6 times less likely to have internet access.

Inequities in internet access can lead to disparate outcomes during a crisis, including reduced access to relief programs for families and reduced access to remote learning for students,” said Caitlen Daniels, President & Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit Solid Ground whose mission is to “end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions.” “Access to the internet has become a fundamental way people participate in society and civic life. This proposal will move us closer toward equitable internet access. The alternative is reinforcing an immovable barrier thousands of our neighbors face to full participation in communities and full access to community resources.”

“This Internet for All Resolution will speed up chipping away at digital divides that persist in Seattle caused by affordability of home internet, devices, and tech support. Digital inclusion hasn’t yet been fully woven into Seattle’s social support systems and community institutions. Our organization supports on-the-ground practitioners, like the staff of Seattle’s Digital Equity Program. I’m proud that my community has been a leader in the digital equity field for decades. Unlike most cities, Seattle has a digital equity plan. This Resolution opens up that discussion so that the city can reimagine what digital inclusion looks like right now during the pandemic in various departments and act. Now is the time.” said Sabrina Roach, Program Director at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance

“I’m happy to see the City adopt the Internet for All resolution because this is a social justice issue,” said Cat Howell, Educational Director for Literacy Source, an organization providing free learner-centered basic education to low-income adults in the Seattle area. “We see every day the impact of no or limited internet access on the Literacy Source students’ access to education, services, civic participation, employment and many other important parts of our current lives in COVID-19 times.”

This challenging budgetary environment demands an update to the assumptions about financial risk, competitive challenges, economic development benefits, and partnership opportunities to achieve universal broadband. The Internet for All Resolution seeks a comprehensive update, cost estimates, lessons learned from other jurisdictions that have attempted municipal broadband, infrastructure needs, a Race and Social Justice analysis to ensure equitable distribution of the affordable access, and partnerships that can accelerate implementation of the Internet for All Action Plan.

The Resolution requests Seattle’s Information Technology Department to provide its first report to the City Council Transportation & Utilities Committee by September 16, 2020 with existing and short-term solutions to increase access equitably, followed by subsequent reports for the longer term, sustainable solutions of the Action Plan.

# # #

July 13, 2020 UPDATE:

Joining Council President Lorena Gonzalez and me as a co-sponsor of our “Internet for All” Resolution is Councilmember Debora Juarez.

July 2, 2020 UPDATE:

City Council President Lorena Gonzalez joined Councilmember Pedersen to co-sponsor and introduce the Internet For All Resolution. To read the updated Resolution (#31956) as officially introduced, CLICK HERE.

From Councilmember Pedersen: My staff and I have been gathering input on the draft Resolution I announced earlier to pursue Internet for All residents in Seattle.

  • A RESOLUTION establishing the City Council’s goal to implement Internet for All Seattle, a vision of enabling all Seattle residents to access and adopt broadband internet service that is reliable and affordable.

We’ve enjoyed connecting with and learning from advocacy groups, national researchers, dedicated employees of our City’s Information Technology Department, and private sector providers of internet services.  We are formally introducing the Resolution now. I am very thankful for the support and leadership of co-sponsor Council President Lorena Gonzalez, so we can move forward on this Resolution during these busy times and further address the inequitable Digital Divide in our high-tech city.

May 18, 2020 (ORIGINAL POST):

Councilmember Pedersen Announces Resolution to Launch “Internet for All” to Ensure Affordable Internet Access Throughout Seattle

May 18, 2020 Press Release: SEATTLECouncilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4, Northeast Seattle), as Chair of the Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee, has crafted a Resolution charting the course for universal internet access in Seattle. The Resolution requests the city government, led by Seattle’s Information Technology department, to craft an action plan, expand partnerships, and ensure the implementation of Internet for All, so that all Seattle residents have affordable and reliable internet access.

In a city that prides itself in leading the world in technology, the COVID crisis has laid bare the inequities and injustice of the Digital Divide,” said Pedersen, whose committee includes oversight of Seattle’s Information Technology department). “We can no longer allow limited internet access to prevent learning, to impede our workers, or to hinder our small businesses and nonprofits. It’s time to ensure reliable and affordable access to the internet as part of our city’s vital infrastructure for social justice, for education, and for economic development. It’s time for Internet for All.”

The COVID-19 crisis and the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order magnified the disparities in our city along many lines, including access to broadband internet. Pedersen’s resolution outlines the vision of making broadband internet service accessible, reliable and affordable to all residents and nonprofits. Increased access to the internet will increase access to key services and opportunities such as education, job training, unemployment assistance, and resources for those seeking relief during times of crisis.  

Inequities in internet access can lead to disparate outcomes during a crisis, including reduced access to relief programs for families and reduced access to remote learning for students,” said Caitlen Daniels, President & Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit Solid Ground whose mission is to “end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions.” “Access to the internet has become a fundamental way people participate in society and civic life. This proposal will move us closer toward equitable internet access. The alternative is reinforcing an immovable barrier thousands of our neighbors face to full participation in communities and full access to community resources.”

While the Seattle’s Technology Access study in 2018 showed overall improvements in internet access, residents who are low-income, senior citizens, living with disabilities, or for whom English is not their primary language, significantly lag other groups when it comes to access. The “key risk factors” the study identifies for lack of home internet access are:

  • Living in poverty: 5 times more likely to not have internet access,
  • Household member with a disability: 3 times more likely to not have internet access,
  • Primary language other than English: 2 times more likely to not have access,
  • Older adults (65 years old or more): 1.8 times more likely to not have access,
  • Non-white residents: 1.6 times more likely to not have internet access.

According to the same 2018 study, there is low awareness of the discount programs developed for low-income populations — only half know about the programs and just 23% of households that would qualify for them actually use them. Of those 23%, more than half said that the service was too expensive, while 34% cited issues with the quality or speed of their service.

Recent statements in the media reinforce the need to address the digital divide:

  • Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said, “Access to internet is an equity issue for our students and educators, and it is intensified by this crisis.” (Source: Washington State Department of Commerce, May 7, 2020.)
  • Seattle Times editorial board writer Jennifer Hemmingsen wrote, “This is a clarifying moment. The closure of schools, workplaces, public libraries and private businesses has pushed the technology gap into stark relief.” (Source: Seattle Times, May 8, 2020).

As we enter a challenging budgetary environment, Pedersen wants to update the assumptions about financial risk, competitive challenges, economic development benefits, and partnership opportunities to achieve universal broadband.  Pedersen’s Resolution seeks cost estimates, lessons learned from other jurisdictions that have attempted municipal broadband, infrastructure needs, a Race and Social Justice analysis to ensure equitable distribution of the affordable access, and partnerships that can accelerate implementation of the Internet for All Action Plan.

The Resolution requests Seattle’s Information Technology Department to provide its first report to the City Council Transportation & Utilities (and technology) Committee by September 16, 2020 with existing and short-term solutions to increase access equitably, followed by subsequent reports for the longer term, sustainable solutions of the Action Plan.

Pedersen’s proposed Resolution can be heard in his Transportation & Utilities Committee when the Governor’s order has been lifted for all local governments to consider non-COVID-19 legislation.

For the draft Resolution, CLICK HERE.

# # #


Participating in your Community Council

May 16th, 2020

Our District 4 is home to over 20 neighborhoods. Councilmember Pedersen believes community councils and other neighborhood-based organizations play an important role in Seattle.

It may seem ill-timed during the COVID crisis to promote participation in community groups, but we hear from constituents that they are yearning to reconnect with neighbors and many groups are already hosting “virtual” meetings online using software applications like Zoom and Skype. Even if you don’t log into a community council meeting, it’s a good time while we’re stuck at home to explore the options — so you can hit the ground running as soon as possible.

As more people participate in community groups, the groups can become even more diverse and effective in dealing with larger institutions like your city government. Participating in your local neighborhood group can provide a wide range of benefits for individuals and the community as a whole. These include opportunities to meet more of your neighbors, access information and events that help with community building, and organize neighborhood activities. Some people also participate to help keep their communities safe with crime prevention awareness and activity. If issues of concern arise, your community council may follow up and organize activities to address the issues. Often community councils are able to advise residents on ways to respond in the most effective ways, which can include contacting your local elected officials at all levels of government.

Community councils are a great way to amplify issues that residents in the community want to see addressed. Community councils give residents a space to air opinions, ideas, grievances, and announcements of interest to you and your neighbors.  In addition, they organize residents to work towards common goals identified as priorities by the community and to spearhead events that benefit the community.

Here are some community organizations that represent residents in District 4. Please click on the group’s name for more information.

Eastlake Community Council (ECC)

CLICK HERE to contact ECC.

Fremont Neighborhood Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Fremont Neighborhood Council.

Hawthorne Hills Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Wallingford Community Council.

Laurelhurst Community Club

CLICK HERE to contact the Laurelhurst Community Club.

Magnuson Park Advisory Committee

CLICK HERE to contact the Magnuson Park Advisory Committee.

Maple Leaf Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Maple Leaf Community Council.

Ravenna-Bryant Community Association

CLICK HERE to contact the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association.

Roosevelt Neighborhood Association

Click here to contact the Roosevelt Community Council.

Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance

CLICK HERE to contact the Roosevelt Neighbors’ Alliance.

University District Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the University District Council.

University Park Community Club

CLICK HERE to contact the University Park Community Club.

View Ridge Community Council

Click here to contact the View Ridge Community Council.

Wallingford Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Wallingford Community Council.

Wedgwood Community Council

CLICK HERE to contact the Wedgwood Community Council.

If you do not currently participate in a community group, but have an issue you need addressed by your city government,

Call the Customer Service Bureau at 206-684-CITY (2489) or use the “Find-It Fix-It” application from your phone. Alternatively, you can click on the specific links below to fill out the information:

To learn more about your District Councilmember, CLICK HERE.

To request a meeting with the Councilmember Pedersen, CLICK HERE.

To see a map of our City Council District 4, CLICK HERE.

You can always contact Councilmember Pedersen’s office by writing to us at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or CLICK HERE.


City Council approves additional defense from eviction for renters suffering financial hardship for one-time, 6-month “ramp down” following COVID

May 4th, 2020

May 4, 2020: Today the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 119784, introduced by Council President Lorena Gonzalez to provide residential renters facing financial hardship with an additional defense against eviction for 6 months after the Mayor’s eviction moratorium ends.

The Mayor extended her evictions moratorium — which is a stronger outright prohibition on evictions — to June 4, to align with the Governor’s COVID-related policies. Today’s new — and temporary — policy adopted by the City Council is not a moratorium or ban on evictions, but rather another option tenants can use as a financial defense if a landlord attempts to evict them during the following six months. Think of it as a “ramp down” or “phasing out” of the stronger protections for tenants during this extraordinary time.

What follows below is A LOT of words to explain my “Yes” vote, but my decision ultimately boils down to one thing: COVID. I believe no one wants to see vulnerable people evicted during a homelessness crisis compounded by a pandemic.

Here is additional background on the approved legislation:

  • This temporary evictions law is a time-limited (one 6-month period) option during this extraordinary public health and economic crisis for renters who also certify their financial hardship to a judge. The rent is still owed and, if not paid, that debt will accumulate and should ultimately be paid.
  • Fortunately, all levels of government are adding money to programs for eviction prevention and rental assistance, which should reduce financial hardship and the need for the eviction defense.
  • Moreover, landlords can still evict tenants for several legitimate reasons other than failure to pay rent during this period, pursuant to the City’s Housing Code (see Title 22 of the Seattle Municipal Code, Section 22.206.160).

Note: Because the legislation was introduced and approved as an “emergency” ordinance, it becomes law only if/when Mayor Jenny Durkan signs it. (Under our City Charter, a typical Council bill becomes law unless the Mayor vetoes it. In other words, if the Mayor refuses to sign a typical Council bill, it becomes law anyway. Not so with an “emergency” ordinance, which requires not only 7 votes from Council instead of 5, but also an affirmative signature from the Mayor.) According to the Seattle Times May 4 article, Mayor Durkan “‘believes people should be able to stay in place‘ and intends to sign González’s bill, spokesman Ernie Apreza said.”

My office received many e-mails in favor of the proposal and many e-mails against it. To reconcile these opposite views, I conducted additional research and proposed amendments (see below). As with the moratorium on evictions during the coldest winter months adopted by the City Council this past February, this vote on CB 119784 was a difficult policy decision for me. The vote was challenging not only because of the differing views of my own constituents, but also because the Council was again breaking new ground to go beyond what other cities have tested. While breaking new ground might sound exciting to some, I prefer a methodical approach that analyzes data along the way to make sure we are not overreaching in a way that creates unintended consequences or attracts costly lawsuits that overturn our policy.

I proposed three amendments:

  1. Exempt Small Landlords (Failed): My amendment to exempt the smallest landlords (4 or fewer units) was rejected 8-1. I have heard from many smaller landlords in my district who are suffering their own financial hardships with mortgage payments, real estate taxes, property insurance, utility bills, and repairs. Unlike the City Council’s approval of my exemption for small landlords in February 2020 for the moratorium on evictions during the winter months, today my colleagues argued that COVID makes the situation extraordinary and today’s bill is temporary (just the 6 months in 2020; not every year).
  2. Require Tenants to Certify Financial Hardship (Passed!): One of the concerns with the original bill introduced by Council President Gonzalez is that renters might be able to pay rent, but choose not to pay rent. My amendment requires tenants to certify to a judge that they cannot afford it. “The tenant has submitted a declaration or self-certification asserting the tenant has suffered a financial hardship and is therefore unable to pay rent.”
  3. Receive Reports on the Law’s Implementation (Failed): While statistics were put forward by proponents of the legislation, when I asked to amend the proposal to require the city departments to report back to us on the data and effectiveness of the proposal, my colleagues voted 8-1 to reject my amendment. Their rationale was that this law will be for only 6 months and that the city government does not already collect data on evictions. Very disappointing!

The amendment accepted by my Council colleagues (for tenants to certify their financial hardship to a judge) combined with the one-time, short-term nature of the ordinance — during the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID public health and economic crisis — led me to join my Council colleagues and vote for the amended bill.

  • For the press release from Council President Gonzalez, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Seattle Times article covering the Council’s discussion and vote, CLICK HERE.

There is more legislation on the way from my colleagues to regulate landlord-tenant relations that will attempt to supersede existing rental agreements already in place. I’m concerned that this new legislation will use a crystal ball to cover longer time periods too far into the future, will not provide corresponding relief to the housing providers (such as helping them to pay their mortgages, property taxes, property insurance, etc), and will ignore the boost in unemployment insurance payments and rental assistance programs.

It’s important for me to emphasize that, while I have supported legislation specifically targeted to reduce evictions during hard times, I absolutely oppose the irresponsible calls for a “rent strike.” For the Seattle Times article on that, CLICK HERE. Rent is still due. If you’re having trouble paying your residential rent, CLICK HERE and HERE. If you’re a housing provider (landlord), CLICK HERE.


COVID Stay Home Extended and City Hall Action

May 1st, 2020

City Hall and Coronavirus Updates

Friends and Neighbors, It’s been a busy two weeks since our last update. In addition to plenty of activity at City Hall and in District 4, Governor Inslee announced today he is extending Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order to May 31st and outlined a four-phase plan for reopening the economy.  For more information, CLICK HERE and HERE. The Governor is also relaxing some COVID-related restrictions, including reopening our state parks and allowing hospitals to resume non-urgent procedures. Our Governor, King County health officials, and Mayor agree we must continue social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks when social-distancing cannot be maintained, and taking other steps to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. With our region making great strides to reduce the spread of COVID in our community, now is not the time to become overly confident. It’s hard on everyone but our Seattle success in using scientific data to determine our response has been lauded recently in both The Washington Post and The New Yorker magazine. More importantly, maintaining sharp focus now could prevent a second disease peak and save more lives later in the year. Like you, I look forward to re-starting our dynamic economy, getting folks back to work and school, and reconnecting with neighbors. Thank you for
all your hard work to keep our community safe.


UPDATES ON COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND RELIEF

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

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle has been fortunate to have the steady leadership of Mayor Jenny Durkan (pictured here) as well as King County Executive Dow Constantine and Governor Jay Inslee.

CITY:

  • Deficit: Due mainly to less revenue from less economic activity, our 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 presentation by CBO, CLICK HERE. The city government’s emergency funds are only $125 million. Cost savings, such as rolling back the new pay raises for the highest-paid city government workers, may be necessary. 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.)
  • Aid from Federal and State: City Council invited the City Budget Office to detail the initial $170 million Seattle is receiving from the federal and state governments so far. For the April 27 presentation, CLICK HERE. This amount 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 federal CARES 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. As a piece of the $170 million, Mayor Durkan transmitted legislation to the City Council deploying $14 million for food assistance, rent relief, investments in shelter and services for those experiencing homelessness, and additional funding for our City’s Small Business Stabilization Fund. To read more, CLICK HERE.
  • Restaurant Relief: In conjunction with the Mayor’s office, City Council has passed an emergency order to support local restaurants by capping commissions charged by for-profit food delivery companies. To read more, CLICK HERE.

STATE: As stated earlier, Governor Inslee announced today he is extending Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order to May 31st and announced a four-phase plan for reopening the economy.  For more information, CLICK HERE or HERE or HERE for the various news articles. The Governor also announced he is relaxing some COVID-related restrictions, including reopening our state parks and allowing hospitals to resume non-urgent procedures. To follow Governor Inslee’s updates, CLICK HERE.

FEDERAL: Last week Congress passed the 4th coronavirus relief bill, which allocates $484 billion in funds to small businesses and hospitals. $75 billion will go toward hospital funding and $25 billion toward increasing coronavirus testing. Of the remaining funds, $321 billion will be infused into the Paycheck Protection Program and $60 billion will be provided for economic disaster loans for small businesses. For more information, CLICK HERE.

The federal government can 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.

Additional Support for our Small Businesses

I have heard from small businesses facing economic harm and I am actively looking for ways to get extended relief to those who have suffered financial losses or have been otherwise negatively impacted by COVID-19. As part of these efforts, the City will direct $1.5 million more to the Office of Economic Development’s (OED) Small Business Stabilization Fund. This will allow OED to provide $10,000 grants to 150 more micro-businesses (with 5 or fewer employees) financially impacted by COVID-19. During the first round, City Hall awarded grants to 250 small businesses from our original $2.5 million allocation. For the 2nd round OED will select awardees from the thousands of applicants that did not receive funding in the first round. Our Stabilization Fund is funded and supported by the private sector, philanthropic partners, and economic relief from flexible funding from federal government and is in addition to the aid the federal government is providing through its SBA loans, including Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), SBA Express Bridge Loans, and SBA Debt Relief. Any small business has an opportunity to apply for these federal loans, free of charge. OED offers free
SBA technical assistance Call OED at (206) 684-8090 from Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email OED at oed@seattle.gov anytime. When you call, you can ask for an interpreter. Predatory scams tend to target immigrant- and refugee-owned businesses, taking advantage of either language barriers or misinformation. If contacted by a scammer, OED recommends businesses report scams to the Washington State Office of Attorney General, by calling 1-800-551-4636 from Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or by completing a claim.

Where to Find Updates on COVID and Relief

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

You can also visit Mayor Jenny Durkan’s centralized COVID-19 webpage by CLICKING HERE, 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 by CLICKING HERE.


DISTRICT 4 UPDATES

D-4 Community Council “Presidents Summit”

On April 29, I held a virtual meeting with over 20 District 4 community council leaders representing our neighborhoods in District 4  from Eastlake to Wallingford to Magnuson Park. Priorities discussed included crime prevention, pedestrian safety, public input on real estate development projects, COVID-19 response, homelessness in our parks, the U District BIA (business improvement area), the city budget and future economic needs, bus service and future bus lines, and concerns about upzones and other City Hall policies that can lead to commercial and residential displacement if mitigants are not put in place first. Normally, our office attends community council meetings in person each month, but the social distancing requirements of the COVID-19 emergency led many community councils to cancel their meetings. Our D-4 Presidents Summit enabled these leaders not only to convey their current priorities but also to learn about the priorities of their fellow leaders throughout District 4. Often there is common ground across neighborhoods for how they can increase participation and get results from City Hall. Attending community council meetings in your neighborhood is a great way to stay engaged. To participate, e-mail me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov and my office will connect you to your community council. While participation in a larger group like a community council can amplify your voice and help you keep track of the many city government issues, there are many other ways to communicate your views. Please see the end of this e-newsletter for other ways to engage with your Councilmembers.


TRANSPORTATION

Councilmember Pedersen’s Citywide Bridge Audit

When rapidly expanding cracks forced the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, I raised questions about the condition and maintenance of other bridges owned by the City of Seattle as Chair of our City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee. I called upon our independent City Auditor, David G. Jones, to assess the condition of our City’s major bridges and the funding and policies for preventive maintenance. The auditor has agreed to produce a preliminary report on our bridges by September 2020 to inform the Council’s 2021 budget decisions. For my full press release, CLICK HERE, and here’s an excerpt:

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</a > 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.”

To read the April 23 audit letter, CLICK HERE. The Seattle Times published an article about the audit request; to read it, CLICK HERE. The Seattle Times editorial board wrote, “One step to restoring trust is an audit of citywide bridge maintenance, requested last week by new City Councilmember Alex Pedersen.” To read their editorial, CLICK HERE.


UTILITIES

Utility Rate Relief for 2021

When I was appointed by my Council colleagues to serve as Chair of our Transportation and Utilities Committee, I announced my top priority was to keep utility rates as low as possible for Seattle residents. We are fortunate that our city government owns and operates the two major utility operations: Seattle City Light (SCL) for electricity and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) for fresh water, sewer, and solid waste (including recycling). As utility fees imposed by our city government can contribute to Seattle’s affordability crisis, we have a responsibility to keep costs and rates low to help our residents afford their bills and to prevent economic displacement. During the COVID pandemic, we have been quick to reaffirm our no-shut-off policy, pass an emergency ordinance to get rid of late fees during the pandemic, and to make it easier to benefit from the Utility Discount Program. While both SCL and SPU were planning to complete their strategic plans and revise rates again for 2021, both departments have agreed to keep rates steady for 2021 for both electricity and tap water. (SPU rates for sewer, garbage collection, and recycling services are on a separate schedule, with sewer rates subject to King County actions on waste water treatment.) For more on the relief from utility bills during the COVID emergency, CLICK HERE.

Recycling in District 4

I spent part of Earth Day with the essential workers at Seattle Public Utilities who tackle the compost and garbage at the City Of Seattle North Transfer Station in Wallingford.

We need YOU to help us recycle locally and effectively. For the website on how best to recycle, CLICK HERE and for brochure called “Where Does It Go?” on what to recycle, CLICK HERE. (Seattle Public Utilities mails this to customers each year.) The challenges and future of recycling in Seattle and beyond were highlighted recently by a Seattle Times article. Sustainable recycling requires all of us to dispose of recyclables “Empty, Clean, and Dry.” We also need the companies that sell the products to take more responsibility for the disposal, which they can do by manufacturing more environmentally friendly materials, contributing funds to defray the cost of clean up, and developing other means to mitigate the problem.


YOUR CITY COUNCIL

Opposing Councilmember Sawant’s New Tax on Seattle Employers

This week Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda chaired the Budget Committee to discuss the controversial proposal from Councilmembers Sawant and Morales to impose a new tax on over 800 employers, which I believe has been falsely advertised as an “Amazon Tax.” After conducting research and consulting with many constituents, I have been vocal about why I oppose a new tax on jobs as our local economy heads into a deep recession. Partnering with an economist from Governor Inslee’s Council of Economic Advisors, I published an Op Ed in the Seattle Times outlining the top 10 reasons why this tax should be rejected. Mayor Durkan also recently reinforced her opposition to the tax, which is significant because this version of the legislation cannot take effect without the Mayor’s signature. For links to the legislation, my Op Ed, and Councilmember Sawant’s reasoning, CLICK HERE.

Land Use Issues

Striving to Preserve Public Input on Real Estate Developments (CB 119769)

Thank you to everyone who contacted me about Council Bill (CB) 119769 regarding public input on proposed real estate developments throughout Seattle. Under State of Washington and City of Seattle emergency declarations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s design review boards stopped meeting in March. In response to the delay, the Durkan Administration proposed CB 119769 to skip the oversight of the design review boards, so that Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) can temporarily use a watered-down version called “administrative design review.” For a link to bill and the many amendments, CLICK HERE.

After listening to various sides of the proposal, I voted No on the bill. Here are the remarks I delivered at the Council meeting on Council Bill 119769:

  • “…I’d also like to thank the many constituents who have written with their views on the legislation.  Whether they are for or against this Council Bill, they clearly care about land use policies, real estate projects, their neighborhoods, and our city.
  • I also appreciate the various amendments from my Council colleagues to try to make the legislation better.
  • To be consistent with my vote last week and, based on my many years of experience in the field of commercial real estate finance, I will be voting No again because:
  • I don’t think it meets the requirements of an emergency.
  • I’m concerned that it reduces input and discussion from the general public.”

While the bill initially failed to get the 7 votes need to pass as an “emergency” on April 20, there was an unusual “motion to reconsider” and Councilmember Tammy Morales switched her vote on April 27 to pass the bill. Councilmember Lisa Herbold and I voted against the bill both times.  I will do my best to monitor projects in District 4 to make sure SDCI considers public input, even without the benefit of the citizen design review boards.

Reauthorization Coming for U District Business Improvement Area (BIA):

As a Legislative Aide to City Council in 2013, I participated in the annual clean up for the University District with community council leader Ruedi and other residents. The BIA is a neighborhood tool for a massive increase in cleaning and other services.

The University District Business Improvement Area, known as “BIA” for short, is up for reauthorization in June because the current BIA is expiring. The U District BIA imposes a fee to provide cleaning, safety, and marketing services and, if reauthorized, will have an added mission of preventing displacement of the neighborhood’s funky small businesses. On Monday, April 27, the City Council passed two Resolutions launching the BIA renewal process with Resolution 31943 and Resolution 31944 and introduced the Council Bill 119779. Here is the proposed meeting schedule:

  • 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

Please note the May 27th public hearing (likely to be held remotely due to COVID-19 social distancing). I encourage your input and welcome your feedback. Additionally, the City has set up a dedicated email address to handle comments: udistrictbia@seattle.gov. For instructions on how to register and call in for the Committee meetings or public hearing, CLICK HERE. For the map of the impacted area, CLICK HERE, and for my blog post with more details, CLICK HERE.


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 here, or listening on your phone by calling 206-684-8566. Commenting: You can also submit public comment by emailing your comment to council@seattle.gov to reach all 9 Councilmembers. 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.

Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen

I continue to have 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


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:


Councilmember Pedersen announces completed audit of Seattle Bridges — need more investments in our bridges for safety, regional economy.

April 23rd, 2020
Councilmember Pedersen viewing the seismic retrofit of the 15th Ave NE bridge connecting Roosevelt and the U District at Cowen Park in District 4.

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.”

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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.

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