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West Seattle Bridge Update, June 26; Police Accountability Reports and Plans; Council Repeals Drug and Prostitution Loitering Legislation; Select Budget Committee Update; COVID-19 Updates


West Seattle Bridge Update, June 26

At Wednesday’s West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force, SDOT proposed to allow general use of the lower bridge at Spokane Street from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., when traffic levels are lower. School buses will also be allowed anytime. Other types of uses, such as employer shuttles, healthcare workers and maritime users, are recommended for further consideration:

I thank SDOT for proposing this change; I’ve advocated for other uses for the last few months. SDOT noted that for vanpools and employer shuttle, a key consideration is how many users there are in each vehicle, a challenge during the COVID-19 era of social distancing, and expressed interest in getting data from employers about the number of users in shuttles.

Here’s a link to an SDOT blog post about their rationale. SDOT notes the bridge capacity constraints and the need to monitor conditions for potential changes. SDOT noted that they will also continue to explore increased access, which will depend on scalable enforcement solutions such as automated camera enforcement.

SDOT also presented an update on the status of the West Seattle Bridge. SDOT released a blog post earlier this week about repairing the bridge, where they note “we still do not know how long any repairs would last.” The blog post goes into detail about how steel post-tending systems work and testing to date.

Below is a visual of bridge stabilization SDOT plans, showing what carbon fiber wrap and post-tensioning reinforcement could look like:

SDOT also noted shared a visual showing that some work will be performed from barges, with four temporary platforms. This will reduce the maritime clearance for the bridge by seven feet:

SDOT indicated that this stabilization work would be designed to complement a repair, if that path is chosen.

The Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) also presented to the Community Task Force for the first time.

We learned that one of the members has extensive experience in tunnels, including immersed tube tunnels (e.g. in Boston). As this is a proposal with significant community interest, I’m glad to hear this skill set is reflected in the TAP.

SDOT noted that for replacement, which will be needed regardless of whether a repair is done first, a type, size and location study is the first part of the process. It will involve public comment. The consultant selected through the RFQ process will work with SDOT on this; SDOT indicated it’s too early to say what the schedule for this will be.

Below are the key actions for the TAP, the first item is to review and support the decision-making process for type of repair or not to repair:

SDOT also presented an update on their plans for neighborhood traffic and mobility plans, on the following schedule:

SDOT is calling this the Reconnect West Seattle Mobility Action Plan. It will include specific plans for southern neighborhoods on the peninsula: Roxhill/Highland Park/Riverview/South Delridge, as well as for South Park, Georgetown and SODO. As noted in the schedule, community comment and prioritization is requested when documents are shared the week of July 6. An update to the Community Task Force is scheduled for July 8th, and the 22nd.

Below are some of the neighborhood-specific goals for what SDOT has developed to date:

Here’s a link to the SDOT presentation.

A memo received from the City Budget Office indicates significant shortfalls in revenues, especially from the commercial parking tax and school zone cameras. It notes “SDOT estimates 2020 costs for bridge repair to be $22.8 million. To help fund 2020 costs for emergency repair work, SDOT will take on additional debt supported by an interfund loan in 2020. More funding will be required in 2021 and 2022.”

Travel Times

The most recent travel times show heavy traffic on West Marginal, Highland Park Way, with increases above pre-COVID levels on the South Park Bridge and South Michigan Street. Traffic on the 1st Avenue South Bridge is at pre-COVID levels:

Here are the most recent travel times:

 

Police Accountability Reports and Plans

On Tuesday I held a special Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting where we heard from the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG). These are two of the three legs of the “three legged stool” that make up the city’s police accountability framework, the third is the Community Police Commission (CPC) who unfortunately were unable to attend the meeting.

At the meeting the OPA and OIG updated the Council on their 2019 annual reports, you can read the OPA report here, and the OIG report here. Further the committee discussed the progress on their current investigations regarding the demonstrations. The OPA has a dashboard up here so that you can track their progress on these investigations. The OPA has received over 18,000 complaints of police misconduct since the beginning of the demonstrations in late May which have lead to 17 individual investigations all of which are tracked on the previously linked dashboard. The OIG on the other hand looks at systems instead of individual complaints.  In response to the call for a community led investigation into the actions of SPD, the OIG has begun what’s referred to as a Sentinel Event Review. As outlined on the OIG website:

“Sentinel event review is a systems-based, root cause analysis of incidents with significant negative outcome that is of importance and concern to community. The goal of this review is systemic improvement, and we are seeking to ensure it is grounded in community priorities and perspective, and also informed by law enforcement and relevant subject matter experts. The focus is on system improvement that addresses institutional racism.”

While both the OPA investigations and the OIG Sentinel Event Review will take time, both agencies have put aside other work to ensure expeditious conclusions and accountability of the Seattle Police Department for actions taken during these demonstrations.

After the committee meeting, following up on my questions during committee about whether the decision for all SPD staff to leave the East Precinct was in accordance with SPD policy and procedures, I sent a request for an OPA inquiry into the questions below:

  • What are the SPD policies and procedures to authorize vacating a precinct?
  • What are the conditions, according to SPD policies and procedures, under which SPD can authorize vacating a precinct?
  • Who, according to policies and procedures, authorizes SPD staff to vacate a precinct?
  • In this instance, who directed SPD staff to vacate the East precinct?
  • In this instance, did the person or persons who directed SPD staff to vacate the East precinct have the authority to do so?
  • In this instance, did the conditions exist, according to SPD policies and procedures, for an authorized SPD personnel to order vacating the East Precinct?
  • The Chief of Police and Mayor Jenny Durkan have stated that they did not direct staff to vacate the East Precinct, if not were either of them aware that staff had been directed to vacate the East Precinct?
  • If there is a determination that no personnel directed or authorized SPD personnel to vacate the East Precinct, what is the violation of policies and procedures of individual officers if they did so without direction or authorization?

Council Repeals Drug and Prostitution Loitering Legislation

On Monday the City Council voted unanimously to repeal the City of Seattle’s drug loitering and prostitution loitering laws.  The bills were sponsored by Councilmembers Lewis, Pedersen, and Morales.

The 2018 Seattle Reentry Workgroup Report, written in response to Council Resolution 31637, recommended that “City Council should remove drug traffic loitering and prostitution loitering from the City’s criminal code.”

The City Attorney has declined to prosecute under these laws since 2018.  Repeal will ensure that a charge of loitering can no longer be a basis for arrest or future prosecution when there is no evidence otherwise of drug trafficking or sex work.

The 2018 report also recommended expansion of pre-filing diversion. The City Attorney recently sent the Council recommendations to expand the pre-filing diversion program for young adults aged 18-24 used by Choose 180, to include adults 25 and over. I support this expansion. I’ll be proposing to add funding for this expansion during the Council’s current reconsideration of the 2020 budget.

During the Council meeting, I read the introduction to the report, which led to the recommendation to repeal these laws, which says,

“We would like to acknowledge and thank the many individuals and organizations who provided support, expertise, and shared their experiences and wisdom throughout this process. We also recognize those who have been supporting folks returning from incarceration and organizing for institutional change for a very long time. We know that much of that work has been done without compensation or acknowledgment yet done with love and an unyielding commitment to family and community strength. We thank you for that work and hope these recommendations support you. We also acknowledge that the individuals most impacted by the recommendations in this report are unable to join us at the City’s tables, as they are still incarcerated. We did this work in your honor.”

Select Budget Committee Update

Progressive revenue

Last week, I wrote about Budget Chair Mosqueda’s JumpStart legislation, which I am co-sponsoring. JumpStart is a finely-tuned progressive tax, specifically requiring the largest employers to pay a tax only on the highest salaries that are driving our city’s affordability problems.  It’s expected to raise about $173 million in 2021, the first year, and about $200 million annually after that.

JumpStart has a clear spending plan that will make significant impacts on affordable housing, homeless services, help for small businesses, and investments in equitable development initiatives.  In 2020 and 2021, it will provide additional resources for Covid relief.

I am sponsoring an amendment that will begin the tax later this year (instead of next year), raising an additional $75 million to fund lifelines like housing and food assistance that Seattleites are relying on right now, especially those most impacted by coronavirus, including BIPOC communities.

Starting in 2022, JumpStart will provide significant annual funding, estimated at $132 million a year, for housing that is affordable and available to Seattle residents struggling on the very smallest incomes, and folks experiencing homelessness.   It will also put $20 million annually into the Equitable Development Initiative, an important tool for community-driven development in communities at risk of displacement. And it includes about $40 million annually to support local businesses and economic activity to spur the recovery.

The legislation has a “sunset clause,” which means the tax will end after ten years.  It also includes a provision that would allow Council to end the tax early if a similar, progressive tax is passed by the County or State.  Next Wednesday, Council will consider amendments to the legislation.

Seattle Police Department budget “inquest”

Seattle City Council continued its deep dive into understanding the Seattle Police Department at Wednesday’s Select Budget Committee meeting.  We heard a presentation from Council Central Staff, and representatives of the City Budget Office and Seattle Police Department, focused on questions that Councilmembers had identified on June 10th.  You can view the presentation here.

City Council submitted numerous questions to the Seattle Police Department about the demonstrations after the death of George Floyd.  Some of these questions are related to funding questions related to SPD’s budget.  Here’s a link to the replies to Council questions.

In the Budget Committee on Wednesday, we ran out of time to be briefed on a presentation I requested about 911 response (presentation can be found at the link) and the categories of work involved in SPD response.  I made this request in a previous budget committee begin the process of identifying what work currently done by police officers might best be done by other types of professionals.

While it’s a starting point, I’d like to include work beyond just 911 calls, and a clearer sense of what officer work could best be done by others. Here’s an article with a high-level chart for how officers typically spend time in other cities that’s a useful illustration of what will be helpful for policymakers in Seattle.

Mayor’s 2020 budget rebalancing package

On Tuesday, Council received from the Mayor a package of legislation to help address the expected $300 million shortfall in tax revenue due to COVID19 in 2020.  It’s a complex process that will take up much of Council’s energy through the month of July.  On Wednesday, we received an initial, high-level briefing from Director Ben Noble of the City Budget Office on the rebalancing package; you can view that presentation here.

Particularly at a time when Seattle residents are using their voices and bodies to call attention to the way that SPD investments have increased disproportionately over time, and calling on City Council to reshape our community safety function and make investments in Black and brown communities that have suffered and died from overpolicing – we have to resist the urge to cut without intention, and instead choose investments in Seattle residents and communities that will spur the health of our economy, as well as our neighbors and communities.

COVID-19 Updates

Mandatory face masks starting Friday

You’ve likely heard that the Governor has mandated wearing face masks starting on Friday.  Here’s what you need to know.

Governor Inslee has issued a statewide order requiring individuals to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices and restaurants. The order also requires face coverings outdoors when you can’t stay 6 feet apart from others.  A face covering is not needed outside if you are able to regularly stay 6 feet away from other people who do not live with you.

Use cloth face coverings. Do not use medical masks.

Wear fabric face coverings, such as cloth face masks, scarves, and bandanas. The face covering must fit over your nose and mouth. Instructions on making cloth masks

It is important to save medical-grade surgical masks and N95 respirators for healthcare workers and people who have special health needs.

Some people do not need to follow this directive, including:
  • Children ages 2 years and younger. Babies and toddlers under age two should never wear cloth face coverings.
  • Children ages 3-5 are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when possible.
  • Anyone with a disability that makes it hard for them to wear or remove a face covering.
  • Anyone who is deaf and moves their face and mouth to communicate. Check out this guidance for community members who are deaf, hard or hearing, or blind.
  • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional to not wear a face covering because of personal health issues.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or unable to remove the face covering without help.

If you see someone without a face covering, please extend the benefit of the doubt and respect others’ decisions. No one should be subjected to stigmatization, bias or discrimination for wearing or not wearing a face covering. Default to understanding rather than judgement.

In addition to face coverings, the most important things we can do to protect our health and that of others are:

  • Maintain six feet of distance from others
  • Stay home when ill
  • Practice frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette (cough in your elbow, not the air)
  • Disinfect surfaces often.

These all work together to slow the spread of COVID – especially when the majority of people participate.

Extension of Moratorium on Rental Evictions

On June 18 the Mayor issued an Executive Order to extend the relief policies that have been put into place during the Covid-19 public health crisis. The Executive Order extends the moratoriums on residential, nonprofit, and small business evictions through August 1. This means that unless there’s an immediate threat to health and safety of the community, landlords cannot move to terminate or evict a tenant. If you’ve received a termination or eviction notice, please reach out to Renting in Seattle at 206‐684‐5700 or go online to submit a complaint. For additional resources available to renters, please see this link.

Tired of social isolation?  The City has new resources for seniors

Social isolation is a major problem for older people in the best of times, and worse during COVID19. The City’s Aging & Disability Service (ADS) serves residents who fall squarely within the high-risk category for COVID-19—age 60+; those with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease; people with compromised immune systems; and people with health disparities.

ADS and partners have taken steps to address social isolation, including:

  • ADS produced printed cards for food and meal deliveries that promote Community Living Connections and AARP’s Friendly Voices service
    • Any older adult or caregiver can call Community Living Connections to access resources. All calls are free and confidential: 1-844-348-5464.
    • Friendly Voices arranges calls between older adults and trained AARP volunteers for social connection. Request a call at https://aarpcommunityconnections.org/friendly-voices/ or 1-888-281-0145.
  • Age Friendly Seattle now offers a weekly online program, Thursdays 10:30 a.m.  Log in at https://bit.ly/AgeFriendlyLive.
    • Programs are either a virtual Civic Coffee Hour or a new series called Close to Home: Stories of Health, Tech & Resilience.
    • Live events are fully auto-captioned in English and six other languages, using MS Teams. The captions remain options for anyone who views the programs later on the ADS YouTube channel. This helps serve people who are hard of hearing as well as people with limited English.
  • Look for new programming called “AgeWise TV” on Seattle Channel at http://www.seattlechannel.org/feature-shows/agewise-tv. ADS supported a partnership between the Pike Market Senior Center, Seattle Channel, and other senior centers and community organizations to develop ten one-hour programs for older people.
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