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Black History Month; Hiawatha Play Area; Business Taxes and Preemption; SDOT Report on Delridge Way SW and Bicycle Lanes; Youth Employment Program Application Period is Now Open; In-District Office Hours

Black History Month

If you haven’t already, consider taking time before this month is over to learn about the history and contributions of Black and African Americans in our country and community.  Here are some of our office’s recommendations.  What are yours?

  • You’ve probably heard about Ta-Nehisi-Coates’ The Case for Reparations, published in The Atlantic back in 2014. It explores our country’s history of officially discriminating against Black people in housing, and it’s as urgent and relevant today as it was then.
  • Redlining was the widespread practice of legally restricting people of certain races from living in certain neighborhoods. The Wing Luke Museum’s exhibit, Excluded Inside The Lines, closes this weekend.  It’s an excellent overview of how redlining worked in Seattle, and its impact on Seattleites who grew up here.
  • Did you know that 2019 was the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in our country? The New York Times produced 1619, a podcast series (with transcriptions, if you prefer to read) to explore the “long shadow” of slavery here.
  • Be inspired by Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I a Woman, an homage by artist Hiawatha D. to the “resilience, power and beauty of Black women and Black women history-makers” at the Northwest African American Museum in the Central District.
  • Check out Hair Love, this year’s Short Film Oscar winner, a joyful short that shows an African-American dad learning to care for his daughter’s natural hair. The filmmakers were inspired by the Crown Act in California, which bans discrimination based on natural hairstyles.  Washington lawmakers are currently debating similar legislation – you can learn more here.
  • 1865 – a podcast that tells the story of how the promise of the right to vote and 40 acres and a mule for freed slaves was betrayed. Particularly interesting for me was the role suffragist John Mercer Langston  He recruited thousands of African Americans to fight for the Union Army and promised that their service in the war would earn their right to vote and property ownership. The Freedmen’s Bureau, originally founded to help slaves own property seized from slave owners evolved (after the nation went back on its promise to confiscate land to deed to former slaves) to oversee labor contracts, run a bank, and establish schools for freedmen and their children.

Hiawatha Play Area

Please join Seattle Parks and Recreation on February 27 at the Hiawatha Community Center to learn about the Hiawatha Playfield relocation and renovation, review design options, and provide input to the preferred design that will be presented in May 2020.

Thursday February 27, 2020

11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Tot Gym)

Or

6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Evening Meeting)

Hiawatha Community Center
2700 California Ave SW, Seattle 98116

The project will remove the play area from the north end of the park and provide a new play area just south of the wading pool. The project will provide new play equipment, park amenities and landscaping. The new play area site and features will provide improved visibility and access for all. The project includes restoring the old play area site for nature play.  Learn more here.

Business Taxes and Preemption

House Bills 2907/2948: Last week, I joined my colleagues in expressing strong support for HB 2907 and its companion SB 6669, bills before the state legislature in Olympia, which would give King County the authority to tax businesses, and commit the revenue to addressing our region’s homelessness and housing needs.  This tax would be levied on business payroll for salaries over $150,000; small businesses would be exempt.  As of Thursday, 2907 was replaced by HB 2948, a clean version that will continue to be debated.  In both cases, it’s a truly progressive vision for a tax that impacts only businesses who are benefiting the most from our thriving local economy.

Negotiations have been intense among the bills’ sponsors, business interests, labor, local cities and King County.  One of the biggest questions is about “preemption”: whether Seattle’s own ability to leverage a progressive business tax would be taken away by this bill.  On February 10th, Councilmembers signed a letter to the bills’ sponsors clearly expressing our opposition to pre-empting Seattle from using our own limited revenue options.  Here are some excerpts from that letter:

“We understand that conversations about including preemption continue and we oppose any such additions to the legislation at this time.”

“(W)e cannot currently support attempts that preempt us or strip us of our limited resources and make our city’s tax code even more regressive. The City’s taxation power is already extremely limited and, as it relates to this taxation tool, in many· ways underutilized. To allow preemption in that context, sets up municipalities like Seattle to be on a slippery slope to further limiting our already narrow taxation powers. In the long-term, this would be a mistake.”

“Do not pass legislation that preempts the City of Seattle from using the limited revenue streams we currently have.”

“Preemption” is not the only issue that is of critical importance to the City of Seattle in this legislation.  Our letter also expressed the equally important needs to:

  1. increase the total revenue authority
  2. specifically allocate at least 50% for housing, with the remaining funding allocated for other evidenced-based supports, and
  3. clarify the share of revenue available to Seattle.

Councilmember Sawant’s Resolution 31934:  On Tuesday, Councilmember Sawant introduced a resolution opposing all preemption in the state legislation.   I joined four of my Council colleagues in voting against this resolution, which was much narrower than the letter Council had sent on February 10th.  It only discussed a blanket opposition to preemption and did not include any of the additional concerns referenced above.

I also voted no because I don’t believe the resolution would have strengthened our position in the ongoing negotiations in Olympia, being led by the bills’ sponsor Representative Nicole Macri (who received the Council’s letter last week).  My goal is to give Rep. Macri maximum flexibility to negotiate a package of very important priorities that the Council holds, including and beyond opposing preemption.

The Long Game:  I am in this for the “long game,” and that requires looking at the bigger picture of progressive revenue options the city may use – not getting hung up on one particular approach.  For instance, an important “long game” principle that HB 2907/2948 will facilitate is regional funding for housing and behavioral health and homelessness services.  A “Seattle only” approach – which CM Sawant has proposed separately – will not accomplish this.

Think of it as a building block.  If suburban cities receive funding from this new regional revenue source and build affordable housing and provide their own behavioral health and homelessness services, they will receive the benefit of those expenditures, and see that it is in their own self-interest to do more locally – such as developing partnerships with low income housing developers, instead of relying on Seattle to do the building.

Upside Down v. Progressive Taxation:  Enshrining the principle of progressive taxation in state law is another critically important “long game” policy objective, which the Seattle-only approach will not accomplish.  Washington is unique in having a constitution that has previously been interpreted to forbid income taxes.  As a result, our state’s tax code is the most regressive in the nation.  Washingtonians struggling on the smallest incomes pay six times more in taxes than those earning the highest salaries.  It’s completely upside down.

Seattle will likely have yet another opportunity to pursue a more equitable tax structure in the near future.  In 2017, City Council passed my municipal tax on high incomes, and in 2019 the State Court of Appeals issued a ruling that challenges the State Supreme Court’s 1930’s-era, 5-4 decision that found a city income tax to be unconstitutional.  The Court of Appeals found the City does have the statutory authority to impose an income tax and ruled it unconstitutional to prohibit cities from enacting net income taxes.

The high earners income tax ordinance identified many priorities for the revenue, including addressing the homelessness crisis, affordable housing, education, transit, mental and public health services, green jobs, and meeting carbon reduction goals.  The State Supreme Court is poised to consider whether to take this up this Spring.  2017 estimates were that this would raise $140 million annually in progressive revenue. If we win this case, my priority will be to use some of the revenue to lessen the impact of our upside down taxes, including sales and property tax and taxes on small businesses.

Strong Champion:  I am heartened that Rep. Nicole Macri is representing the City’s interests in these complex negotiations with a large number of moving parts. Rep. Macri is nationally known as a Housing First expert and for her deep understanding of effective strategies to end homelessness for people living with serious disabilities.  I am confident that Rep. Macri will be vigilant in negotiating to deliver as many of the city’s priorities as possible. She has spent her professional lifetime working on affordable housing and homelessness.  Rep. Macri is as interested as anyone in ensuring that the City of Seattle has the progressive revenue tools we need to adequately address our homelessness and housing crises and help more Seattleites find homes.

SDOT Report on Delridge Way SW and Bicycle Lanes

During the Council’s budget process, I sponsored a budget proviso requiring SDOT to report back to the Council on a number of items before proceeding with the Delridge Way SW – Rapid Ride H Line project.

The Council has received the first report, regarding “Implementation of the Bicycle Master Plan as part of the project, as required by Chapter 15.80 of the Seattle Municipal Code.” SMC 15.80 comes from Ordinance 125902, adopted by the Council in September 2019 to require that “whenever SDOT constructs a major paving project along a segment of the protected bicycle lane network, a protected bicycle lane with adequate directionality shall be installed along that segment.” It states that If the SDOT Director determines that “the characteristics of the physical features or usage of a street, or financial constraints of full compliance prevent the incorporation of a protected bicycle lane,” the Director shall provide a written report to Council detailing the following information:

  1. Why it is impractical for this project to comply with subsection 15.80.020;
  2. That the alternatives analyzed in determining that full compliance with subsection 15.80.020.A are not practical; and
  3. How connectivity of the protected bicycle lane network could be advanced in the absence of a protected bicycle lane including a cost estimate for providing such connectivity.

SDOT has determined that meeting the conditions set forth in the ordinance are not practical for Delridge Way SW RapidRide H Line because, as stated in Section 1(B) of the ordinance, the “physical features or usage of [the] street… prevent[s] the incorporation of a protected bicycle lane with adequate directionality.”  SDOT’s report to Council outlines the technical constraints that influenced the decision-making process, the alternatives considered in determining full compliance is not practical, and how connectivity of the bicycle network is advanced through the project.

Here’s a link to the report, which describes alternatives considered, and SDOT’s decision making process.

SDOT has indicated a report on the remaining items identified in the budget proviso will arrive soon.

Youth Employment Program Application Period is Now Open

The Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP) is open to young people, ages 16-24 for low-income households and communities that experience racial, social, and economic disparities with the goal of increasing their ability to pursue careers that pay well and are meaningful to them.

There are two components to the program, an exploration and learning experience during the schoolyear, and a summer internship where interns will be paid $16.39 for up to 150 hours over six weeks.

Check out the website to see if you’re eligible and are interested in applying. The application period will close on Tuesday, March 17.

In-District Office Hours

My next in-district office hours will be on Friday, February 28 at Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) from 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.  The final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance and receive a confirmed appointment (rather than first come first served for the walk in folks) you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, March 27, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, April 24, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, May 29, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, June 26, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, July 31, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, August 21, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, September 25, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, October 30, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, December 18, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
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