By City Councilmember Nick Licata.
With assistance from my L.A. Lisa Herbold
Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.
SMART & EQUITABLE GROWTH
“Can We Achieve Social Equity Using Smart Growth?”
I want to remind Urban Politics readers of my Monday, 5:30 PM forum in City Council Chambers about whether we can pursue equitable development together with promoting smart growth.
Equitable development creates healthy communities of opportunity. Equitable outcomes come about when intentional strategies are put in place to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color participate in and benefit from decisions that shape their neighborhoods. With the economic recession and the Obama administration support for equitable development principles, communities are organizing to use recovery dollars to promote communities that empower those who have been hurt first and worst.
One of our challenges in Seattle has been to envision a comprehensive approach to development that prevents displacement and creates community benefits from private investment. We have several of the tools available to us in Seattle, but rarely are they talked about as an interlocking strategy. The goal of this event is to inventory the tools in our Seattle tool kit and to figure out which ones we don’t have and need to add.
After the panel discussion with 3 national experts in the field of equitable development and a short question and answer session, we’ll split into 3 groups, led by our own local housing leaders. One group will focus upon how to generate new resources to meet the spectrum of housing needs. A second group will discuss how to promote affordability in private developments. The third group will focus upon protecting tenants and preserving affordability.
We’ll rap up with each of the groups making their recommendations to the Councilmembers in attendance. After this forum, my hope is to introduce a resolution that will recognize the recommendations coming out of the forum and identifying a timeline for consideration of their implementation.
In the Public Safety and Education Committee this week, I proposed two amendments to two separate bills relating to the public safety of Seattle residents. Both amendments passed and will be voted upon by the Full Seattle City Council on Monday, September 20.
1. BioSafety Lab Legislation
The first action I sponsored was an important amendment to the Fire Code. This amendment establishes a new requirement for annual notification to the Seattle Fire Department of the location of BioSafety Laboratory (BSL)-3 and BSL-4 containment operations within laboratory buildings. Also required is an annual certification that the BSLs are in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. BSL-3 labs do clinical, diagnostic, teaching, research work, or production with biological agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease, but for which vaccines or treatment exists, such as tuberculosis and SARS. BSL-4 labs work with biological agents that cause severe to fatal disease in humans for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Ebola and smallpox.
I raised this issue in 2008 to respond to concerns brought to me by community groups. Successful regulation can reduce uncertainty for both the biotech industry and the public at large, by increasing public trust and promoting public health in the operation of such laboratories. At a briefing about this issue at a 2008 committee briefing I learned that the Fire Department had established a voluntary registry of laboratories conducting research on the most potentially dangerous agents maintained so that personnel responding to emergencies at registered laboratories are aware of the agents they might encounter.
In June of this year, I urged the Council to pass Resolution 31217, requesting that the State take action to establish consistent statewide standards for biosafety laboratories. A final action is yet to be taken, that is a City land use code amendment to clarify that for purposes of regulation where these facilities can be sited, and where they cannot, the definition of research and development laboratories includes biosafety laboratories.
2. Sex Industry Victims Fund
A large majority of sex industry workers are victims of sexual abuse who believe that they have few or no alternatives and have complex problems that require comprehensive services. In 2002, the City Council passed Ordinance 120907, establishing the Care and Treatment of Sex Industry Victims Account, and designated that account to be used to pay for services designed to provide care and treatment to sex industry workers. This account has come to be known as the “Sex Industry Workers Fund.” It is funded with a $1000 fee on those charged with patronizing a prostitute.
When this legislation was passed it allowed the court to suspend payment of all or part of the fees when it believes that the person does not have the ability to pay. Earlier this year I was alerted to the fact that the amount of funds going into the SIVF had diminished over the previous year. When I inquired, I learned that one reason for this might be that the Court was waiving the requirement to pay the fee with only an affidavit of indigency. I was shown copies of affidavits that asserted that the defendant has absolutely no income at all as well as affidavits of indigency claiming that the defendant not only had no income, but no expenses either. I found these claims difficult to believe and became concerned about a possible pattern of leniency in enforcing the payment of this fee which may have a direct impact on the availability of much needed services for adult sex industry workers and youth who are being commercially, sexually exploited.
This bill allows the court to suspend payment of all or part of the fee only if the person presents documentary evidence, such as a tax return, wage receipts or bank statements, showing that the person’s annual income before taxes is less than the poverty guidelines. Many might argue that since patronizing prostitute costs money, the requirement to pay the fee should never be waived. This amendment will at least inject some level of honesty into the determination whether the Sex Industry Victim’s Fee (SIVF) fee should be waived by the court because of a defendant who claims indigency.
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