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January 2020 Newsletter – District 4

January has been a busy month for our team, and we wanted to share what we have been working on to better represent you and the 20 neighborhoods of D-4 at City Hall. The new City Council was sworn in January 6th, and our D-4 team has been hard at work ever since.

Committee Work at City Hall

I was honored to be appointed unanimously by my City Council colleagues to Chair the Transportation & Utilities Committee. This committee oversees the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, and Seattle’s Information Technology department—over half of the city’s budget! We held our first Transportation and Utilities Committee (TUC) meeting of the year on January 15th. In that meeting, we discussed the importance of Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD). Initially, the STBD was funded by a $20 license, or car tab, fee. After King County voters rejected a measure to continue and expand transit, the City Council put a measure on the Seattle ballot in November 2014 to increase the tab fee by $60 more and added a 0.1% sales tax. That measure was approved by over 60% of Seattle voters. This funds not only vital transit services (extra buses), but also most of the City’s pothole budget.

The increased City revenue paid for expanded bus service in Seattle, which has benefited many D-4 residents. The 2014 measure will expire at the end of this year. STBD renewal is complicated by the statewide passage of Initiative 976 (I-976), which would limit car tab fees to $30 in the state of Washington. I-976 was rejected by 60 % of King County voters, and by even higher numbers in Seattle.

King County and the City of Seattle have joined with several local governments and transit to challenge I-976. Fortunately, the Court upheld a preliminary injunction preventing I-976 from taking effect. However, a final ruling on the validity of I-976 is not likely before the voters must be asked to renew the STBD.

The City government must come up with a measure that pays for existing transit service regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit against I-976. This is a challenging task, but I believe an acceptable measure will be passed through the Transportation & Utilities Committee, and put before the voters this year. While several King County officials are interested in attempting a similar transit measure in August, my committee must be ready at the city level with our own ballot measure just in case.

Winter weather is hard on our streets. The next time you go through a puddle that turns out to be a pothole, remember to report it to the “pothole rangers.” You can report potholes that need filling by phone—206 684-7623 (ROAD) or online.

Please let my office know how well the pothole rangers respond to you.

Leaning into their work, “pothole rangers” with the Seattle Department of Transportation fill an unusually large pit on South Kenyon Street.  Last year about 18,000 were filled and the goal of SDOT is to fill them within three days of getting a call. See a pothole? Call the rangers at 206-684-7623. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Photo taken by: Alan Berner, Seattle Times

Both Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light will be updating their strategic plans this summer. These plans guide future capital improvements and maintenance needs, and estimate how much it will cost to continue to provide top quality water, sewer, and solid waste services, in addition to electricity. One my major goals as Chair of the committee overseeing the development of these plans is to reduce regressive utility rates.

Community Connections in D-4

Welcoming Our Youngest Constituents to City Hall

January was a busy month for our office as we remain steadfastly committed to maintaining our direct connection to our D-4 the constituents. After personally doorbelling on 15th Avenue NE to get public input, or going for a ride with commuter cycling advocates to see their perspective, I appeared on the Seattle Channel to discuss my constituent-focused leadership style.

Of course, long hours on the dais have not stopped me from extending my hours at City Hall into the evening if it means connecting with our youngest neighbors. These pint-sized D-4 constituents represent the Cub Scout Arrow of Light Den of Pack 167. This Den’s young cubs are made up of boys and girls who had plenty of questions about sustainability and the environment. I thanked them for spending countless hours each year performing a variety of community service to improve our District 4!

The future of D4 sure is looking bright!

Office hours in Magnuson Park have been quite busy for our office. Each Friday from 3pm-6pm I meet with constituents to respond to your district concerns. Interested residents of District 4 can sign up for an appointment here. Constituents have other ways of reaching out to our office as well, including my phone at (206)684-8804 or by email at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov. My staff and I have attended many public meetings in the district since taking office, including Northeast District Council, Ravenna Bryant Community Association, and the 46th Legislative District town hall this month alone! We also participated in a town hall hosted by the Eastlake Community Council on January 30th, where we brought staff from Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. Thank you to all who attended! We answered questions from Eastlake and nearby D-4 neighborhoods about transportation, zoning, and public safety. I want you to know that I take your concerns seriously, and when you write in or call about potholes, downed trees, or other road and safety issues, I often visit the sites myself to assess the situation.

Back to the Basics: Winter Wrap Up

Seattle experienced several days of snow in January, and we can expect slippery road conditions again this winter. During such times, please check my website, blog, or  Facebook where I have been alerting my constituents to pertinent and timely information, such as links to Seattle Public Schools, King County Metro Transit, and, as Chair of the Transportation & Utilities Committee, to the Seattle Department of Transportation’s winter weather alerts.

I want to extend my thanks to Mayor Jenny Durkan and her department heads for keeping us apprised of the preparation and actions to keep us moving during the snow storms, which reinforced the importance of local government in our daily lives. A special thanks to the workers in the field at Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle City Light, and King County Metro Transit. Additionally, I commend the expansion of available shelter during the severe winter weather by Seattle Human Services.

If more snow hits our region, please remember to do your part to clear the sidewalks near your homes or business to keep everybody safe and moving. Check out this informative video from Seattle Department of Transportation and Rooted in Rights for why this is important for those with impaired mobility.

https://cossdotblog-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/little-shoveler.jpg

Photo from SDOT blog

January Legislation

Fiscal and Environmental Note:

On January 2nd I announced that I would be introducing a resolution to include climate change and carbon footprint considerations as part of an expanded “Fiscal Note” the City Council uses to review legislation. I am excited to announce that I have finished writing this resolution and it will be introduced at full Council on February 10th. I want to thank former District 4 candidate Dr. Cathy Tuttle for originating the idea for a “carbon note,” which was the basis for this legislation.

In a statement Tuttle said, “While climate action requires global solutions, right now American cities and large companies need to take the lead on decarbonizing our transportation, building, and utility sectors. By adding Carbon Impacts to Fiscal Notes, Seattle Council will give decision-makers and the public good information about how to reduce greenhouse gases as we grow our economy and build healthy communities. I’m optimistic this bold proposal from Councilmember Pedersen and the Seattle Council will lead to greener, cleaner legislation and funding decisions.

The Washington State Director of Climate Solutions, Vlad Gutman-Britten, said, “Seattle must act with urgency to cut our climate pollution and accelerate the clean energy transition we need. We must ensure that future policies our city adopts cut climate pollution, and so adding climate considerations to Fiscal Notes is a good first step to better understanding how City policies impact the climate–and thereby our health, finances, safety, and more. We look forward to working with Councilmember Pedersen and the rest of the city council as this proposal evolves.”

Resolution on Resolutions:

I promised the residents of District 4 that if I were entrusted with the opportunity to serve as Councilmember for our district, I would focus on the basics of local government. That includes increasing public safety, improving transportation in our city, and addressing regressive utility fees. Instead, we spent our Council meeting on January 21st debating international policy for which the Council has no authority to enforce binding legislation. To address this, I introduced my resolution to reaffirm our city as a welcoming city because I’ve noticed this theme come up time and time again on many other resolutions. Rather than spending hours crafting, researching, reviewing, debating, and voting to express our concern with international events outside of the Council’s control, my resolution affirms our values as a caring city, which can enable Councilmembers—if they choose—to refocus efforts on passing legislation to directly help our constituents. The Council passed my Resolution 31928 on January 27th.

Tree Ordinance:

I have heard from hundreds of District 4 residents that the City’s tree ordinance needs improvement. A report in response to a Council resolution last fall to get the process moving is due soon from the City Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). The next meeting of the Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee on February 12th will consider that report and how we can move forward. I support conservation and expansion of Seattle’s tree canopy—and exceptionally large trees—and will be working closely on the new ordinance with Councilmember Strauss (who Chairs the Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee). We know our City has the means to preserve our tree canopy, as other cities in the US are doing the same. To read about what Louisville, Kentucky is doing to study the effect of an expanded tree canopy, please visit this link.

You can also view the Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee which I Chaired in December to address why we should strengthen our tree ordinance here.

Concerns About Proposed Landlord Restrictions

Councilmember Sawant introduced Council Bill (CB) 119726 to the Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee meeting on the evening of Thursday, January 23rd, which addresses winter evictions. Sawant’s ordinance would dramatically alter our city’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance (SMC) 22.206.160. It would prohibit evictions between November 1 and April 1 and would be the first in its kind in the United States, based on a program from France. A landlord could still pursue an eviction order in court during this time, but the physical eviction would be delayed until April 1. Councilmember Sawant passed the bill passed out of her committee on January 23rd, and I was the only Councilmember at the committee to raise concerns about her proposal. 

I’ve received many constituent calls and emails on this issue and I have considered the passionate input provided by those who want to prevent evictions during inclement weather and those who are considering the economic and legal ramifications for those who provide tens of thousands of rental units, in particular small landlords. I believe we must balance our goal to prevent evictions while acknowledging that those makig the units available cannot go for months without rental income to cover their mortgage, insurance, and property taxes.

Sawant’s bill applies to all renters throughout the city regardless of their income; it is not limited to those most vulnerable to becoming homeless. To target the help to tenants we know to be low income, first I proposed an amendment to launch the ban for only low-income housing that has been supported financially by the City of Seattle I’m seeking to tailor the legislation to what the City government does rather than to the entire private market at this time to 1) avoid unintended consequences and 2) to target this regulation to people we know to be low-income or at risk of homelessness .

My position is a balanced approach that on-ramps a policy change in a thoughtful, methodical fashion to help those we know to be vulnerable. If you would like to comment on this proposal before it is heard before the full City Council in February, please write to my office at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov. I welcome your feedback and insights. For the City Council calendar, click here.

My key priorities continue to be expanding affordable housing near transit and reducing homelessness. I was proud to vote to create the Regional Homelessness Authority last month.

January Media Coverage

I sat down with Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog this month to share my priorities for the 2020 Transportation & Utilities Committee. We talked about my proposal for an updated Fiscal and Environmental Note, and how we can do a better job of tracking carbon emissions in future legislation proposed by the City:

Currently, all Council and Mayoral resolutions and ordinances are required to include a ‘fiscal note’ outlining what impact if any the legislation would have on the city budget. The environmental note would do the same. Both notes are merely informative. They shouldn’t be something that delays projects or adds red tape, and they aren’t considered part of the legislation itself. They are just memos to Council to help inform their decisions. The idea is that every decision the city makes should have the environment in mind.

And perhaps safe streets advocates can also look at Pedersen’s decision to prioritize one of Tuttle’s ideas and “enact her vision” as something of an olive branch. We’ll see soon enough when the exact language comes out whether it gathers support from transportation and environmental advocates or not. Pedersen said he hopes to have it ready to go by Valentine’s Day ‘because we love our planet,’ he said, laughing at how cheesy that sounds.”

I also sat down with Brian Callanan, the host of City Inside/Out at the Seattle Channel, alongside Councilmembers Herbold and Strauss, to discuss what we can do this year to strengthen Seattle’s tree ordinance, as well as the important task of renewing the Seattle Transportation Benefit District this year.

Recently it was brought to my attention that federal agencies are trying to sell the Seattle National Archives building on Sand Point Way NE, despite a lack of public engagement from the community on this decision. Please read coverage of this District 4 issue on my blog for more information as our federal elected representatives work to mitigate this.

And finally, I know we are all saddened by the news of the January 22nd mass shooting on 3rd and Pine. I want to echo the thoughts of Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, and Andrew Lewis, Councilmember of the district where the shooting occurred, who released a joint statement. Our city has not kept pace with the number of police officers called for in the 2016 Berkshire study and yet our city’s population continues to grow. Our police department ended 2014 with 1,355 police officers (full-time equivalents) and five years later ended 2019 with only 1,413 officers. In other words, the Berkshire study 2016 called for 175 more officers, but we have only 58 more officers – that’s 117 officers short of the 2016 goal while our population has increased.  The additional spending on SPD is not sufficient if we’re not hiring enough officers for community policing in communities throughout the city. As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I was disturbed to see reporting of extraneous “surge” pricing by ride share companies while people attempted to flee this crisis. I sent a letter to Uber and Lyft asking them to confirm the veracity of this reporting, in addition to clarifying their policy on pricing during emergency and safety incidents. You can read my letter here.

Thank you so much for reading! Our team hopes you enjoyed our January 2020 newsletter. For more information or if you have any questions, please send to me and my team an email at alex.pedersen@seattle.gov or call our office at (206) 684-8804.

As always, I hope to see you Fridays in 4!

Alex Pedersen

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