With the first quarter of 2013 now in our rear-view, here is a report on some of the things I have been working on.
City Light and Energy Efficiency: Our efforts to help the poorest Seattleites with their energy bills—through bill reduction, energy efficiency work in their homes, or both—have really ramped up. We have increased the number of low-income residents enrolled in City Light’s bill assistance program and sponsored a bill to streamline the enrollment process. City Light and the Office of Housing have also combined forces to identify the best candidates for HomeWise, our weatherization program for low-income homeowners.
Today, the Office of Sustainability & Environment issued a Request for Qualifications to find the next program administrator for Community Power Works, the popular weatherization program for Seattle homeowners. With average energy savings of 30% or more, Community Power works has helped over 2,000 homeowners perform energy remodels. The outcome: more comfortable living spaces, reduced energy bills, increased construction activity, and lower carbon emissions. With a waiting list and hundreds more homeowners signing up for the program, we have high hopes for CPW’s long-term future.
Transit-Oriented-Development and affordable housing: The Council is nearing final decisions on the South Lake Union Rezone. Throughout the process, I have been working to ensure there are adequate provisions for work-force housing in the package. You can read more on the details from my blog here and here. If you have questions or want to weigh in on the issue, it isn’t too late. The next discussion (affordable housing and urban form) will be Monday 4/15 in the afternoon.
We also learned last week that work is underway for planning a cultural center in Little Saigon. I worked with Councilmember Licata to secure funds in the 2012 budget in an effort to help anchor the Vietnamese community in their historic neighborhood as new development in SODO and Yesler Terrace make Little Saigon a more expensive place to live and do business.
Local Hire: I recently attended a community kick-off event held by Got Green and the Construction Jobs Equity Coalition with over 120 people in attendance sharing stories about what Local Hire would mean for them. Council President Clark and I are working to co-sponsor an event here at the Council later this spring to further explore the issue and what it would look like for the City of Seattle. For more background and links to San Francisco’s policy, which we are looking at, check out my recent blog post.
Public Financing of Elections: Recently, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission endorsed a public financing proposal that would provide a 6:1 public match for small dollar fundraising by candidates in City Council races. To qualify, a candidate would need to raise $30,000 from at least 600 donors. In turn, they would receive a 6:1 match, or $180,000, resulting in a $210,000 campaign budget, which would be enough to be competitive in a typical Council race. You can read more background on Seattle’s history with public financing on my blog.
The Council hosted two public forums on this issue in January and February where we heard from other jurisdictions with public financing systems and researchers in the field. While public financing isn’t a silver bullet, there is evidence that these programs encourage more small-donor participation in the elections process and reduce barriers to entry for candidates. The Council will pick up discussion of the issue in April, and, if we advance the proposal, you’ll see it on the November ballot for voter approval.
Climate Action Plan: Many of you joined us for public forums on the Climate Action Plan in January and February—thank you! The Office of Sustainability and Environment is developing a final draft that they will deliver to the Council on Earth Day (April 22). I’m looking forward to moving from planning to implementation on this aggressive new plan.
The City is also currently solicit applications for Community Climate Projects from community groups and neighborhood organizations for grants of up to $10,000 to reduce the climate impacts of personal and household choices. Applications here are due on April 22.
Safe Parking Pilot and Homelessness: The Safe Parking Pilot program continues to have success and our office is exploring options to expand it city-wide this year. Stay tuned for more on this program over the summer. The 2013 One Night Count of Seattle’s homeless found that one-third of the unsheltered population, or about 600 people, are living in vehicles. Clearly, we need to do more to help people living in their cars.
Criminal Justice and Background Checks: An amended version of the job assistance legislation that would reduce the use of criminal background checks to pre-screen job applicants will be back in front of the Public Safety Committee in April. I am hopeful Council passes the bill, as I think it is an important step to help reduce recidivism and provide a real shot at a second chance for someone with a record.
In addition to these priority areas, I have helped to:
- Appoint the Community Police Commission to advise the city on police department reforms mandated by the Department of Justice.
- Approve Seattle Car 2 Go, a cool new car-sharing program that has quickly expanded beyond its initial boundaries into South and West Seattle.
- Announce a Green Stormwater Infrastructure plan that sets big goals for “green” rather than “gray” treatment of stormwater citywide.
In the next three-quarters of the year, we have much left to do, so please be in touch if you have additional ideas, issues or questions for me or my office.