Representing you on the Seattle City Council is a great honor and I treasure every day of it. I am proud that Seattle continues to be a leader in driving progressive and smart policy–secure scheduling, paid leave for employees, gun responsibility, coordination with city, county and state governments and public health improvements are just a few examples. I am convinced that our local government will continue to lead as we create healthy, inclusive and safe communities—and I will strive to accomplish this in every vote I take.
I worked this year to build a compassionate and safe community for all of us, irrespective of income or neighborhood. Here are some of the ways my office achieved this in 2016.
Pathways Home – A strategy to end the crisis of homelessness in Seattle
As chair of our Human Services and Public Health Committee, one of my primary goals has been to help people who are living unsheltered find safety and stability, so they can move up and on with their lives. I worked closely with the Mayor’s Office and various departments in support of a new approach called Pathways Home. This is a strategy to help homeless people attain stable housing by better coordinating Seattle’s homelessness services system. Our new system will be “person-focused”, so we know –by name – who is being served and the expected outcomes for each. Pathways Home prioritizes placement in permanent housing and expects more for vulnerable Seattleites.
Our human services budget exceeds $50 million to address homelessness issues. In the budget process this fall, I advocated for what would make a clear difference for individuals and neighborhoods.
For example, I supported $300,000 to expand Rapid Rehousing for single adults and $100,000 for flexible funds to divert adults from our emergency shelter system. Rapid Rehousing is a national best practice where unsheltered people are efficiently connected with housing and supported in paying rent for a transitional period.
Flexible funds are used for various services based on a person’s individual needs and are helpful in connecting people with stable housing rather than entering
the shelter system. The City has purchased bus tickets to reconnect a person with family or friends outside Seattle, work boots, and motel vouchers as examples. These programs prioritize stable housing and individualized solutions.
The 2017 budget also includes over $900,000 to assist unsheltered families that are currently on the waitlist for housing. This funding includes Rapid Rehousing and Flexible Funds, as well as case management to help reduce the barriers to housing that these families face. We also put more money in the budget for garbage clean up, and money to assist people with substance abuse disorders. We know that a one-size fits all approach doesn’t work and I believe the investments in Pathways Home will transform our system to be person-centered and focused on improved outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.
Bridging the Gap – An interim action plan to address unsheltered homelessness in Seattle
System transformation takes time, but we must address critical needs now. While Seattle and our partners create the capacity to house people for the long run, people living unsheltered are suffering and cannot be expected to wait. The Bridging the Gap Interim Action Plan on Homelessness, created this past fall, expands Seattle’s capacity to offer safer spaces for people tonight. The plan also improves the City’s response to environmental concerns in our neighborhoods. Here are some specific examples:
As part of the Bridging the Gap plan, the Navigation Center will open in the first quarter of 2017. Since visiting San Francisco’s Navigation Center last May, I’ve been adamant that we need to expand our shelter system to include 24/7, low-barrier shelters that allow people to stay with partners, bring their pets, and store their belongings. “Possessions, pets and partners” are known to be major barriers to convincing people to utilize Seattle’s shelter system.
Our current eleven hour shelters, where people line up at night and must leave by 6:00 or 6:30 the following morning, provide inadequate respite or stability for people living unsheltered. This year, I supported over $2 million in the budget for the Navigation Center and I fought for $200,000 to support storage of personal belongings at 24/7 or low-barrier shelters. I’ve long argued that lockers are essential for people experiencing homelessness so they can safely store belongings at night and take a break from the burden of carrying all their possessions during the day.
Seattle will also open more sanctioned encampments in 2017. While not a homelessness solution, sanctioned encampments provide unsheltered residents with restrooms and garbage service, and connect them with case management services. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with residents of the current Interbay, Ballard, and Othello encampments where neighbors have formed a supportive community for the residents. Sanctioned encampments provide a safer space to camp for some people while we reduce barriers to housing.
I am determined that we will see a cleaner city this year. Seattle Public Utilities has been funded to pick up garbage, needles, and improve conditions in our neighborhoods. I was pleased to support over $1 million to expand our capacity to keep our neighborhoods clean and healthy for all our residents, both housed and unhoused. If you see garbage, graffiti or needles in your neighborhood, report it to SPU using the Find it Fix it app or by calling the Customer Service Bureau at (206) 684-2489.
My Human Services and Public Health Committee will hear monthly reports on the Bridging the Gap Interim Action Plan in 2017. Feel free to join us on the second Wednesdays of the month at 2:00 p.m.
Public Health – drug addiction and mental health commitment
Drug addiction and mental health for all in our community continue to be among my top concerns. In October, the Seattle/King County Heroin and Opiate Addiction Taskforce released their recommendations for how to address the addiction crisis our region and nation are facing. Their recommendations are based on national best practices and cover three areas: prevention, treatment, and user health. I wholeheartedly support the Opiate Addiction Task Force’s findings, and commit to working with city and county partners to implement proven best practices throughout our region. The objective is to provide options and support for people to get off drugs and improve their own health. You can read the taskforce’s report here.
I’m particularly drawn to the Task Force’s recommendation to enhance access to buprenorphine, which is a proven effective tool to treat opioid addiction. “Bupe” has been around for over a decade but is just now coming into the public conversation as an option to methadone. That is why I included $105,000 a year to support the expansion of medically assisted treatment services by hiring a social worker to support the Public Health Buprenorphine Clinic in Belltown. The social worker will provide essential case management, outreach, and engagement into harm reduction services tailored to the needs of the client, including connecting them to housing and mental health services. The Buprenorphine Clinic will be the first of its kind in Seattle and will hopefully serve as a model for our city and country to help those suffering from addiction. Read more about Bupe and more goals to combat addiction here.
To further address the rising number of homeless individuals suffering from mental illness, the City Council also allotted $200,000 for outreach to people on our streets. Addiction and mental illness clearly exacerbates the struggles for those seeking to overcome homelessness, and we must improve wrap-around services for those suffering from mental illness. On top of implementing the Heroin and Opioid Addiction Taskforce, I am working to create more mental health beds throughout our county, and partner with local groups to create a mental health day center.
I’ve asked people experiencing homelessness what support the community could provide that would help them move up and on. After stable housing, the answer is often “a place to store my stuff.” I have heard horror stories of people’s shoes and belongings being stolen at night in shelters while they sleep, resulting in many sleepless nights. A good nights’ sleep is critical to our health, and on-site lockers can reduce some of the worries. Lockers also help an individual store belongings during the day, thereby providing space for a person to look for work or look for housing. I have learned that very few people want to be dependent for long; this is one small way we can help. This year, for the first time, we have budgeted $200,000 that will be leveraged for lockers city wide. Read more about lockers here.
The new City Council district system has been a success. It has allowed each Councilmember to focus on our unique neighborhoods and to work more closely with community groups and neighbors. This past year I have enjoyed spending more time out of City Hall and in D7, and we have designated a Community Relations Liaison in my office, Alberta Bleck, who has frequently represented me at meetings across the district and helps spread our reach.
Here are a few examples of new projects underway in our district that will be transformational:
Belltown: We support Belltown’s work to invest in the creation of a Business Improvement, an effort known as Project Belltown.
Downtown: One exciting effort to make our Downtown more welcoming for families is the Downtown School Task Force, a group convened by the Downtown Seattle Association and comprised of Seattle Public Schools officials, staff from the City of Seattle, architects, Downtown residents, design professionals, and others. This Taskforce’s goal is to promote the creation of a Downtown neighborhood school to ensure families who choose to live Downtown can stay as their children grow. I am a strong advocate for an urban elementary school that can take advantage of what our Downtown (think: education connections with the Aquarium, Art Museum, Symphony as examples).
Freeway Park: I have long worked to connect Freeway Park to Yesler Park, with the idea of creating a pedestrian and bicycle friend Green Link. Congratulations to leaders of the Freeway Park Association who won a Move Seattle Levy grant for placemaking improvements for the Park, continuing the important work to create pedestrian connections between First Hill and Downtown.
Magnolia: Community leaders have spearheaded a project called the Magnolia Trail Community, with the goal of creating a bike trail between 32nd Ave W & Elliott Bay Marina—a connection from the neighborhood to Smith Cove.
Queen Anne: Our Queen Anne Greenways group held their very first Play Street on 1st Ave West and it was a smashing success, allowing kids to take over the street on a sunny July afternoon.
Pioneer Square: Working with Pioneer Square leaders including Leslie Smith, Jeff Lilley and Colleen Echohawk is always a pleasure. I am delighted to see Occidental Square coming alive again, and the neighborhood flourishing with new buildings, new businesses, and hopefully a new restroom in 2017!
South Lake Union and Cascade Neighborhood: the efforts of my good friend, John Pehrson, are coming to fruition. John is the originator
of the remarkable project called Market to MOHAI, a kit of parts and markers to guide pedestrians between Pike Place Market and MOHAI in a way that honors our city history and brings us together on the streets.
Uptown: Congratulations are in order for the Queen Anne Shelter on Roy Street and the community members who have helped to welcome the residents to Uptown. Soon the shelter will be adding lockers, a need identified by the residents at a community breakfast one year ago.
Visioning for Downtown to Capitol Hill: I am also pleased to be supporting the exciting vision of the Lid I-5 Campaign, a group whose goal is to pursue the construction of a freeway lid over the highway that has divided our neighborhoods for so long. Imagine linking Pike Place Market to Melrose Market with pedestrian green spaces and improved transportation lanes. This is a 20-year effort but well worth starting now.
I am blessed with a fabulous legislative support team. When you call my office you will get a chance to talk with Amy Nguyen, Lily Rehrmann, Alyson McLean, and Alberta Bleck. Please reach out to us if you have questions, or want to schedule a meeting during my District Office Hours. Contact us here to discuss your concerns and vision for our community.
Gun violence is on the rise nation-wide. In Washington alone more than 175 people have been killed to date in 2016 from firearm related deaths. As a former King County Prosecuting Attorney, I have had decades of legal experience working to protect our communities and children, and support common sense solutions that will save lives from gun violence. In June I championed a resolution that allows Seattle to use its purchasing power to ensure that firearm distributors are following nation-wide best practices.
Furthermore, during the budget I advocated for $110,000 to create and implement uniform protocols with our City Attorney, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, police and our courts to mandate the forfeiture and ultimate return of firearms for domestic violence perpetrators who have been served protection orders. These protocols will be essential in implementing the recently passed I-1491, which provides a new option to law enforcement and family members to petition courts to remove firearms from a home BEFORE a bad situation becomes worse. We will be able to protect families and make our community safer.
Waterfront and tunnel connections (Go Bertha!)
For the past several months, the Tunnel Boring Machine known to all as Bertha has been steadily digging underneath our city. In July, Bertha successfully bored under my home on First Avenue. As of this writing, the machine reached the 2/3mark, tunneling under Belltown and having dug 6496’ of its expected 9270’. Bertha is starting to climb back toward the surface now, digging through softer soils again. At this rate, tunneling is set to be completed in the summer of 2017, with final installations and testing moving into 2018, and opening to take place in early 2019. You can track Bertha here!
As Bertha digs, the progress on our Waterfront continues at a rapid pace. I recently looked back at what was promised two years ago, and am delighted to see it’s been done. Here’s an inspiring link to what is coming next in the construction phase. Take a walk along the Waterfront –even in this windy weather — and see what’s happened.
The Office of the Waterfront has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement for planning along the Alaskan Way Corridor. Although under appeal from multiple sources, this document was drafted with the input from innumerable public meetings and comments It reflects the City’s commitment to keeping the future Alaskan Way safe and accessible, while meeting the transportation needs of a diverse number of users, from freight, walkers and bikers, commuters and visitors, to people accessing Colman Dock and the Port. This plan will ensure the corridor successfully balances the variety of transportation needs on our waterfront.
We have come so far since I started working on the waterfront project with Allied Arts a dozen years ago. I am frankly thrilled at our progress, and am delighted to be working with our Office of the Waterfront and waterfront stakeholders, be they families, businesses, and community members, to ensure our vision of a great civic space is realized.
In September, I had the pleasure of joining a community conversation entitled Seattle Center – What’s Next? Our purpose was to discuss what the future holds for one of our iconic public spaces. A key turning point in the City’s relationship with Seattle Public Schools was highlighted at this meeting. Superintendent Larry Nyland and several SPS staff joined this day-long event and expressed a strong interest in collaborating with the City to site a High School in the northeast quadrant of the Seattle Center. This would be a full-size high school, on par with Garfield, Roosevelt, and Ballard—it’s about time we had a High School in this growing neighborhood.
We literally got our pencils out and drew our visions for new opportunities for Seattle Center with leaders such as Seattle Center’s Director Robert Nellams, Councilmember Debora Juarez, Director of the Seattle Opera Aidan Lang, Co-chair of the Uptown Alliance Rick Hooper, and many others. It was an honor to join these thoughtleaders in discussing how we can leverage Seattle Center’s unique location and history to create a new global cultural center showcasing the best of our city. I believe Seattle Center’s potential is enormous, and I look forward to supporting efforts to revitalize and grow this center of our City.
This year also saw important advances in pedestrian and bicycle connections in our district. In the first 100 days of the Move Seattle Levy enactment, we saw the 2nd Avenue Safety Project conduct public outreach and design initiation for extending the 2nd Ave Protected Bike lane, transit improvements to facilitate the Rapid Ride C line restructure, new marked crosswalks and curb ramps at BF Day Elementary, and many more projects furthering safety goals. I continue to ride my e-bike regularly, and advocate for “all ages and abilities” bicycle investments to separate bicycles from cars and trucks in our Downtown core. This will encourage more bicyclists like me to ride when we feel safer on our streets.
I am keenly aware of the ongoing challenges of trying to squeeze thousands of cars, trucks, buses, bikes, and pedestrians into and through our growing city, and am engaged in the resulting tensions about limited transportation real estate. Getting around the Waterfront and Downtown is challenging at best. All the construction and increased number of people who are living and working here are great for our economy, yet, we all know that driving is no fun Downtown.
In response, I appreciate that the Seattle Department of Transportation has brought the Center City Access Strategy back to the forefront. Now called the One Center City Advisory Committee, we are working with businesses, residents, freight and urban planners to improve transportation into and through our Downtown. If you want to see something hopeful, check out this Street Film about Vancouver BC’s progress. We are building on many of their best practices.
Paid Family Leave Symposium
In August I co-hosted with several my council colleagues and the University of Washington a symposium on Paid Family Leave. We considered what the city of Seattle and Washington State can do to bring paid family leave to our workers across the city and the State of Washington. We as a city are ahead of many in terms of offering eight weeks of paid family leave plus vacation and sick leave, but we continue to lag behind the progressive Europe countries.
State and city elected officials, academics, advocacy groups, labor organizations, policy analysts and business representatives joined me on the UW campus to discuss nationwide best practices, evidence supporting the benefits of paid family leave, the workers’ needs, and the hurdles employers face. Many state legislators joined us and conversations are underway to improve the conversation and fund paid family leave on a state level.
Only 13% of United States’ private workforce has access to paid family leave through their employer, and most of those employees have comparatively well-paying jobs.
For people making low wages, they are penalized for being poor. They suffer and their families suffer. Paid family leave should be fixed through a national program. However, until we have a President and Congress that will act on social fairness and family needs, we must work locally to ensure our babies have time to bond, and our families are healthy.
Lastly, to the voters across the city and region and state, I say thank you for supporting some very important measures including, our Housing Levy, Sound Transit 3 and I-1491 regarding extreme protection orders to protect vulnerable people from those who would use guns against them. Thank you for helping make 2016 such an impactful year! I very much look forward to working with you in 2017.