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Today is Juneteenth; Legislation on Crowd Control Weapons, Chokeholds, and Badge Display; West Seattle Bridge Update June 19; Budget Committee Update; COVID Update

Today is Juneteenth

On Wednesday, I joined my City Council colleagues in unanimously approving a proclamation declaring today, June 19th, as Juneteenth.  Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved African-Americans in Texas first learned that slavery had been abolished two and a half years earlier by the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.   The first Juneteenth celebration was held in Texas a year later.  In part, the proclamation reads:

WHEREAS, for Black people in this country, Juneteenth is the closest occasion of a “freedom day” to celebrate;

WHEREAS, the struggle for the total freedom of Black people has not been achieved, the gains toward that freedom deserved to be named; and…

WHEREAS, in Seattle, Juneteenth will be observed in people’s homes, neighborhoods, and hearts; and

WHEREAS, there are still many vestiges of slavery that persist and we as country have a long way to go until we reach full economic and social equity, and an to end anti-blackness;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Seattle City Council, proclaim and recognize June 19, 2020, as JUNETEENTH in Seattle, honoring its historic importance, acknowledging the work still to come, and encouraging all residents to join us in its celebration, because Freedom is worth celebrating.

Legislation on Crowd Control Weapons, Chokeholds, and Badge Display

Last week, I wrote about CB 119804 banning Seattle police from using chokeholds, and CB 119805 banning Seattle police from owning or using crowd control weapons such as teargas and rubber bullets.  On Monday, both bills passed as amended.  I sponsored amendments to ensure that the Department of Justice received notice of the legislation per the requirements of the federal consent decree that the City of Seattle is under; requiring that mutual aid agreements with other jurisdictions include language banning use of crowd control weapons for crowd dispersal; and requesting a formal recommendation on crowd control weapons by mid-August from the City’s police accountability organizations, as required by the Council’s 2017 accountability ordinance.  All three of my amendments passed unanimously.

The Council also adopted legislation I sponsored to require police officers to display the numbers on their badges.

The legislation was drafted in response to constituent outcry from constituents who indicated that officer badge numbers were not visible during recent demonstrations.

People in Seattle have the right to expect that badge numbers are clearly visible. This law requires it.

West Seattle Bridge Update June 19

On Wednesday the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force met for the second time.

SDOT indicated, for the first time, that their analysis to date shows the West Seattle Bridge can be repaired. Right after hearing this, I asked for clarification. SDOT indicated their radar analysis in the ground showed no fatal flaws, though they did note this is their analysis to date, not their final recommendation, and studies with their consultant continue.

At this point, in short, the key questions are:

  1. Can the bridge be repaired?
  2. If so, how many years could it be in use?
  3. How much would it cost?

In other words, if the bridge can be kept in use, whether it makes sense depends on the cost. SDOT’s chart below shows the path toward repair or replacement beginning with a decision point during the summer:

At the Community Task Force meeting next Wednesday, SDOT will present a proposal for expanding use of the lower bridge, currently restricted to freight, transit, and emergency vehicles.

I’ve advocated for additional users being allowed. For example,  general use during non-peak hours such as overnight, and allowing employer shuttles, van pools and school buses during peak times (I.e. treating them as transit).

The Technical Advisory Panel will present to the task force next week as well.

At the meeting this week SDOT noted goals for managing traffic in 2021, when traffic could increase in line with Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Washington phased reopening plan. Here’s a slide showing how people got around in 2019, and the impact of using the same travel patterns without the West Seattle Bridge:

SDOT’s draft approach for the task force’s consideration shows goals for 2021, and the number of commuters that would need to change in order to meet the goals, without the traffic and transit lanes of the West Seattle Bridge:

Below are outstanding questions my office has in to SDOT:

  • Has any investigation of the dimensions and locations of the current bridge elements been conducted and compared to the dimensions and locations of the bridge immediately after it was built to ensure that movement of the bridge foundations did not contribute to the cracking in the box girders? Has SDOT determined the foundation isn’t or hasn’t moved?
  • The May 15th WSP memo describes several potential modes of failure. Is it not possible to protect against loss of the mid-span concrete by installing additional steel reinforcing bars inside the box girder across the cracked concrete and yielded reinforcing steel to compensate for the loss of strength by the existing steel bars?  This would afford, at least, a temporary protection against the effects of a failure of the bridge to support its own weight.  This might also be part of a permanent repair solution.
  • Past technical discussions (HDR 2014) have concluded that the exact cause of the cracking could not be determined analytically. Is it viable to move forward with a solution without reaching a conclusion about the cause of the current problems?

I’ve also asked for an update about weekly growth of cracks on the West Seattle Bridge. SDOT is gathering this data, and indicates context is important for interpreting what it means.

King County Metro announced they will be adding Water Taxi service starting on Monday, and restoring shuttle Routes 773 and 775 that link to the water taxi.

Traffic volumes continue to be high on West Marginal and Highland Park, and moving above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge, and South Michigan Street in Georgetown on the way to I-5:

Travel times are shown below:

Budget Committee Update

On Wednesday the Budget Committee held meetings during both the morning and afternoon.

During the morning session, Councilmembers heard about Budget Chair Mosqueda’s JumpStart Seattle progressive revenue proposal. Here’s a link to the Central Staff presentation with additional information. The legislation presented in committee provides for rate structures for a payroll tax as follows: for total business payrolls from $7 million to $1 billion 0.7% on total employee compensation from $150,000 to $499,999, and 1.4% on employee compensation of $500,000 or more; and for businesses with payrolls of $1 billion, 1.4% tax on compensation from $150,000 to $499,999, and 2.1% on compensation of $500,000 or more.

The legislation exempts grocery stores and some other entities the city does not have authority to tax.

The overall spending plan includes $86 million in 2020 from the emergency and revenue stabilization funds for COVID-19 relief. The revenue stabilization fund is for revenue shortfalls, which Seattle is experiencing; the emergency fund allows for use in response to epidemics.

This is a finely-tuned progressive tax that specifically requires the largest employers to pay only on the highest salaries that are driving our city’s affordability problems, with spending to addressing affordable housing, homeless services, help for small businesses and investments in equitable development initiatives.

The afternoon session included a discussion with City Councilmembers from Minneapolis, New York City, Austin, and San Francisco about other cities’ approaches to police budgets, and potential cuts, or proposals to lay out a new path for public safety.

COVID Update

King County is Now in Phase 2 – What does that mean?
Limited social gatherings may be held with five or fewer people outside your household. Restaurants, retailers and other businesses can once again serve customers. Most businesses will be required to operate at reduced capacity and hours, and all will be required to follow state guidelines designed to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers. These call for social distancing, regular hand washing and, with few exceptions, wearing cloth masks.

King County Public Health has a helpful webpage that can answer your questions.  And if you’re a business owner confused about the rules you must follow, you can call the King County COVID-19 Business and Community Information line: (206) 296-1608.

New Parks Guidance & Amenities Reopening

Visiting your neighborhood park this weekend?  Seattle Parks and Recreation has issued new guidance to “Keep It Small and Simple.”  Park visitors may enjoy trails, walking paths, and lawns, but must refrain from large gatherings, large sport games, or parties.  Some amenities are reopening.  Here are additional details:

Reserving athletic fields: You can make your field reservations now for practices starting July 1.  Organizations must commit to operating consistent with the Governor’s guidance.

Boat ramps: All boat ramps will be open to the public by June 20. Social distancing at boat ramps and when out on the water is still critical. Additional details on boat ramps here.

Swimming: Select swimming areas will reopen with lifeguards present daily starting July 1.  Indoor and outdoor pools, wading pools and spray parks will remain closed for the summer. While the Governor has permitted pool use in phase 1.5 with very limited capacity, Seattle Parks and Recreation previously decided to focus staff resources to provide outdoor lifeguarded swimming areas for summer 2020. Fall aquatic programming will be announced in August.

Amenities: Outdoor tennis and basketball courts, disc golf, community gardens and skate parks are now open for public use. Maintenance crews will be reinstalling nets and hoops over the next few weeks. No more than five people should be on the court at a time, players should refrain from sharing sports equipment, and give each other six-feet of social distance while recreating.

Facilities that remain closed:

  • Play areas and playgrounds
  • Picnic shelters
  • Fire pits
  • Wading pools and indoor/ outdoor pools
  • Spray parks (currently prohibited)
  • Community centers programs
  • For a full list visit the blog

And as always, these are the most important things you can do to keep us all safe and healthy:

  • practice physical distancing of 6 feet or more
  • frequent hand washing or sanitizer use
  • use of cloth face coverings in public for those who are able
  • avoiding group gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces.

 

Premium Pay for Food Delivery Drivers

I wrote about this premium pay for essential workers a couple of weeks ago – this Monday the Council passed the legislation. The final version of the legislation grants a $2.50 per drop off fee to food delivery drivers in the city of Seattle after negotiations Councilmember Lewis and I led with stakeholders. These workers are essential much like grocery store workers, and yet they were not being compensated for the risk they are taking in doing this work during this pandemic. Furthermore these workers were not being compensated for their time or for the supplies necessary to clean their vehicles between trips.

This legislation was passed under the authority of the Mayor’s emergency proclamation and goes into effect immediately and will remain until that emergency proclamation is rescinded.

Speak up for the arts

Calling all arts and culture champions:  The Inspiration League is a simple and quick way for individuals to amplify the voice of the cultural community for lawmakers to hear as they are developing public policy and appropriating relief funding. Across the state, valuable science, heritage, and arts organizations are struggling to survive and many cultural workers are unemployed. Get involved here to ensure the voices of the cultural communities are heard, and resources are invested in long term recovery.

 

Public Meeting July 1st for Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook Seawall Project

The Seattle District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $3 million contract September 27, 2019 to Redside Construction to replace an existing, 500-foot-long seawall Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook, 4503 Beach Dr. SW, Seattle, WA 98116, that was constructed in the 1920s and has experienced significant erosion and damage from storm events.

You can attend a public meeting on Wednesday, July 1st at 4pm, via your phone or online.  Learn more and find instructions to join the meeting here.   The West Seattle Blog covered the first public meeting earlier this week.

The construction contractor, Bainbridge Island-based Redside Construction, will begin staging equipment soon. It’s anticipated pre-staging will help avoid delays caused by the West Seattle Bridge closure. Redside Construction could start pre-staging equipment and close public access to the park as early as June 22. Construction is still set to begin early-July.

In the first week of staging, residents will see the installation of no parking signs and detours as well as fencing around the construction site. Temporary office trailers and steel piles for the seawall construction will also begin to arrive. Additional construction materials and a crane will be delivered by the end of the third week.

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