Friends and Neighbors,
While City Hall refers to the past two weeks without City Council meetings as a “recess,” your District 4 office continued to work for you—having more conversations about the role of policing in our community, preparing for the bigger budget process this Fall, and responding to constituent requests. After Labor Day we will jump back into the fast-paced City Council schedule, including a vote on whether to override or support Mayor Durkan’s recent budget vetoes and advancing legislation in the committee I chair: Transportation and Utilities. This fall I look forward to pushing for fiscal responsibility in the 2021 City Budget, a more just and effective approach to public safety, and progress toward Internet for All.
For more information about all these city government topics and other District 4 news, please read on. This newsletter also discusses our upcoming District 4 Budget Town Hall on October 8 and transportation issues such as the West Seattle Bridge, SDOT’s new scooter program, and my upcoming audit of all Seattle bridges. For updates, including efforts to revamp public safety, check my website.
Ongoing Work to Revamp Public Safety
For my ongoing thoughts on Seattle’s historic efforts to revamp public safety by rooting out institutional racism; reallocating ample resources to proven community-driven crime prevention solutions; and pushing for a cost-effective police union contract that saves jobs, improves response times, and deepens police reforms, you can always view my website by CLICKING HERE. If you’re not finding what you need in this newsletter, it’s probably on the website.
We Need a Navigation Team to Address Homelessness
As I’ve shared previously, I voted against defunding our City’s Navigation Team which offers coordinated response services to those experiencing homelessness and cleans up debris from encampments. That was a narrow 5-4 vote on an amendment to a budget bill that the Mayor recently vetoed for good reasons. Because the Navigation Team is made up of dedicated city employees from several different departments, the decision to fund it should not have been crammed into the budget bill impacting our Seattle Police Department (SPD).
I opposed cuts to our city’s Navigation Team because I believe we need to address homeless encampments in a constructive and coordinated manner. While it might take only 6 votes to override the veto, it would take 7 votes to amend any appropriations. Therefore, the decision whether to override or sustain the Mayor’s veto and related negotiations should center, in large part, around what to do with the Navigation Team. To move ahead with the other aspects of the rebalancing package, I am hoping my colleagues who voted to disband the Nav Team will reconsider their votes. Even if a majority of my colleagues still want the Navigation Team to go away, the challenges of homelessness will not.
We must insist that we have a reasonable and responsive replacement plan to make sure we are addressing the critical public health and safety responsibilities of city government, especially during the COVID pandemic. Services must still be provided and this includes connecting those experiencing homelessness to shelter and hygiene services as well as picking up trash/needles and mitigating fire or public health hazards. I look forward to working with the chair of our Committee on Homelessness Strategies, the Mayor, and other colleagues to craft a reasonable and responsive strategy.
Crowd Control Weapons Update
In June, City Council passed an ordinance banning the use of certain less-than-lethal weapons such as tear gas and flash bangs and invited the police accountability organizations to provide their input. Those three entities (the Community Police Commission, Office of Police Accountability, and Office of Inspector General for public safety) have responded with recommendations. A recap of their three reports can be found HERE, as described by SCC Insight. The federal judge overseeing the consent decree for police reforms put the ordinance on hold in July and will decide on next steps to reconcile the various views and actions on this complex public safety matter.
Inquests—and Justice—Delayed Again
King County needs to complete the inquest of the killing of Charleena Lyles by two Seattle Police officers in 2017. Unfortunately, on August 21 a King County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of other King County jurisdictions challenging the reformed inquest process established by our King County Executive. One of the key demands of Lyles family members is to allow the inquest to proceed, as they reiterated at the vigil I attended for her in June. Seattle thankfully withdrew its challenge of the inquest process and I sent a demand letter to the other jurisdictions calling on them to allow the process to proceed. That tragedy also reinforces the need for trained professionals other than armed police officers to respond to those who need help in many situations—a key rationale for re-imagining public safety. I hope the Washington State Supreme Court takes up this case soon and rules to allow the new inquest rules to proceed. For the Seattle Times article, CLICK HERE.
Calling on State Leaders to Help Advance Police Reform
Recognizing that anti-racist public safety and police reform need to take place at all levels of government, I support Mayor Durkan’s recent request to state government leaders to implement statewide police reforms that include:
- Creating a Strict Statewide Licensing & Review System.
- Creating an Independent Statewide Entity to Investigate & Prosecute Police Officers With Inquest Procedures That Deliver Justice to Impacted Families.
- Statewide Reform of Police Including Deference to Police Chiefs on Termination & Disciplinary Decisions.
- Granting Cities Subpoena Power for Police Misconduct & Civilian Police Oversight Entities.
- Consistent Statewide Policies on use of force, training, body cameras, badge numbers, crowd management, and reporting (while allowing departments to implement or maintain bigger reforms).
I agree that “reform” has not been enough. At the same time, we will still have a police department and so we must continue to advance reforms. We should not need to bargain for those reforms. The more reforms that can be enacted statewide, the less each city government needs to “bargain for” when revising labor contracts with their police officer union.
Police Contract—Impediment to Justice & Fiscal Responsibility
As I pointed out at the beginning of the contentious debate on de-funding police departments, one of the main impediments to cost-effective and constitutional policing is the labor contract. The difficulties of the summer budget re-balancing process made it more clear: both reform and fiscal responsibility require that we redo this complex labor contact to encourage the good police officers to stay in Seattle, to save jobs, to reduce excessive overtime costs, and to fix their disciplinary system so that it no longer impedes justice. CLICK HERE to read a Seattle Times article illustrating the cost of a poorly structured police union contract. I appreciate the good work that many police officers do to serve our city every day and so their labor contracts should focus on fair compensation, employee benefits, and safe working conditions. Police reforms and accountability, however, should not be negotiable.
Save the Date! Virtual Budget Town Hall October 8
Photo from my January town hall in District 4’s Eastlake neighborhood.
Mayor Durkan’s office will transmit her proposed 2021 budget to City Council in late September (both operating and capital). Mark your calendar for a District 4 virtual town hall on the evening of October 8 to hear your views and answer your questions about the $6 billion city budget. (Information on how to register and submit questions will be published at the end of this month on my blog.)
Transportation and Land Use Updates
West Seattle Bridge Work Continues;
Citywide Bridge Audit Coming Soon
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) continues to assess whether to repair or replace the closed West Seattle High Bridge (WSB). Two committees have been set up to advise SDOT: a Community Task Force was created to conduct extensive community engagement, and a Technical Advisory Panel was appointed to provide SDOT with engineering and other expertise. In addition, Councilmember Lisa Herbold and I led efforts to have the City Council retain its own engineering firm to provide oversight and technical guidance to our legislative branch of government for this urgent and costly endeavor.
SDOT is currently working with the numerous stakeholders to decide whether the bridge can be repaired with a long enough life span to make sense. A recommendation is due later this year. The most difficult major issue with respect to the WSB is money: It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to replace the bridge, and even if a repair can be done, it is likely that eventual replacement will not be too far in the future. The Council will soon approve SDOT’s request for financial assistance by authorizing $70 million in “interfund loans” to pay for initial WSB expenses. In the longer term, financial assistance from the federal and state governments, and every other possible source, will be needed.
For more information on the WSB, please see this West Seattle Blog page (numerous articles), District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold’s blog, and this presentation given to the Council in mid-August.
In my Committee on Wednesday, September 16, we will hear the City Auditor present the audit of all City bridges that I requested back in April. In a city surrounded by several waterways, our bridges are the backbone of Seattle’s infrastructure for its residents and local economy and are vital for transit, freight, and other uses. Bridges require relatively large investments to build and maintain to ensure they remain safe for generations. The rapid deterioration of the West Seattle Bridge underscores the need for City officials and the general public to have a clear, thorough, and independent understanding of the condition of major bridges throughout Seattle, including preventative maintenance investments and practices. Despite budget deficits, City Hall needs to prioritize to make the investments necessary to have safe bridges for everyone.
Seattle Department of Transportation Rushes New Scooter Program
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) presented legislation to authorize up to 6,000 electric scooters for city residents to share. I do not believe the Council has had sufficient time to consider the implications of this new mode of transportation on our streets.
I was looking forward to a real pilot project to measure results for scooters as we are seeing elsewhere in King County. Unfortunately, the SDOT legislation and supporting material—some not provided until the day of the committee hearing and vote—is not a detailed pilot program and does not explicitly or sufficiently address safety, financial liability, infrastructure costs, and measures for success. Council Bill 119867 and Council Bill 119868 have few policy details, totaling only a few pages in length.
SDOT believes the legislation is time-sensitive, so I fulfilled my role as Transportation Committee Chair to facilitate discussion, ask tough questions, and enable my colleagues to vote on it. While a majority of my colleagues sent it to the full City Council, I was personally not willing to vote yes for something that lacks so many details.
Even though the legislation turns over all authority to SDOT and does not require a true pilot, I will use my position as chair of the Transportation Committee to require SDOT to report on the outcomes of the first few months of the program to assess whether the program is safe, equitable, and effective in getting people out of their cars—all without requiring your tax dollars to cover injury lawsuits or to build special infrastructure that would subsidize the profits of private companies headquartered outside of Seattle.
For an outsider’s perspective on the issues surrounding the scooter proposal, CLICK HERE to read an article from SCC Insight.
North 34th St and Meridian Ave N intersection Temporarily Closed for Sewer Repair
Your city government is repairing and maintaining streets and utility infrastructure throughout District 4. One example is in Wallingford: the intersection of North 34th St and Meridian Ave N is closed to traffic. A contractor for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has been doing emergency work on a sewer line there. SPU expects the intersection to stay closed as least through September. Please pay attention to detour signs in the area.
Council to Consider ‘Omnibus’ Land Use Bill—Possible Impacts Include Removing Trees and Open Space
The Council’s Land Use Committee heard the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections’ omnibus bill, CB 119835, on August 12. At that meeting some concerns about specific provisions were addressed, including a substitute bill that removed un-needed and confusing language concerning “unit lots.”
Another provision provoked considerable comment and debate: an attempt to relax bicycle parking requirements in new buildings. Agreement on an amendment was reached to soften those changes, keeping more bicycle parking requirements in place.
A third significant change is still in the bill, a provision in Section 17 that would change how landmarked properties are treated during the permitting process. Under current code provisions, the inside of landmark buildings may be altered by permission of Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). Alteration of landmarked sites, meaning grounds and trees, must be approved by the Landmarks Board.
Under the SDCI Omnibus Bill, the power to authorize alteration of sites is transferred to the SDCI. I oppose this change. At the land use committee meeting, I made a simple motion to amend the bill to remove that provision. It failed on a tie 2 to 2 vote, with Councilmember Andrew Lewis (D7) joining me.
It is important for me to articulate why I opposed our city government suddenly relaxing this land use regulation: it shifts authority away from the Landmarks Board (known for preserving assets) to SDCI (known for favoring real estate developers), and it appears to be a special interest bill designed to facilitate the clear-cutting of the landmarked Talaris site in District 4. If development were to proceed here, I believe this site presents another example of where, with continual community input, an innovative and responsive developer/owner could carefully increase density near transit (on the northern portion) while also preserving the trees and open space throughout the landmarked site. These benefits could be achieved without substantially altering the historically significant site, but only if our city government does not carelessly loosen regulations as a giveaway to benefit the private market. Simply put, we need the Landmarks Board to retain sufficient decision-making authority regarding any alterations of such sites. The for-profit real estate developer’s current plans would, unfortunately, rip out a large number of mature urban trees and would essentially remove an open space asset from Northeast Seattle. I believe this legislation, if approved by the full City Council, would facilitate these harmful outcomes.
The development proposal for the Talaris site is under review at the SDCI. You can find information on any project HERE. The Talaris site proposal (MUP No. 3030811) is subject to environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act. SDCI has determined that a full environmental impact statement (EIS) is required. SDCI is holding a public scoping meeting on the issues to be addressed in the EIS on Wednesday, September 15, at 4:00 p.m. SDCI’s notice of that meeting and information on how to participate is HERE (download “Notice of Public Meeting.pdf”). (Webex September 15 meeting link is HERE and phone “Listen Line” is 206-207-1700 – Meeting Access Code: 146 162 3634.)
More From District 4
Riding along with our Harbor Patrol
In addition to talking to Black leaders throughout the City about public safety, sitting down with the new captain of the North Precinct, and joining a seasoned officer for a ride along in and around Wallingford, I had a full tour of our vital Harbor Patrol. This tour with Harbor Patrol enabled me to see all the shores of District 4 from Terry Pettus Park, to Gas Works Park, to Magnuson Park. The waterways surrounding our City reinforce the importance of maintaining this highly trained group of rescue divers for public safety.
My amendment to the summer rebalancing package requires a report not only on how budget reductions would impact response times of the entire police department, but also how all harbor patrol functions would be handled if authority is transferred from SPD to the Seattle Fire Department. Like so many actions the Council has taken recently, the plan is not clear: how would the Fire Department take on all the necessary functions handled by Harbor Patrol?
What Harbor Patrol does:
- Provides marine law enforcement, rescue and assistance
- Investigates water-related accidents and collisions
- Manages and performs surface and dive search and rescue
- Ensures boater safety by removing debris and water hazards
- Performs boat safety inspections
- Provides marine fire response and suppression
- Manages marine special events including: Opening Day of Boating Season, 4th of July celebration on Lake Union, hydro races during Seafair, and other traditional Northwest regatta and racing events
- Provides US Navy exclusion zone protection and enforcement
- Provides service for disabled boats, boating accidents, and tows
While Harbor Patrol is well-known for its presence around Lake Union benefiting City Council Districts 3, 4, 6, and 7, it also serves Districts 2 and 5 in Lake Washington.
Litigation Filed Against U.S. on National Archives Building Closure Decision
The National Archives on Sand Point Way has been under threat of closure and sale since late last year. With no public process, an obscure federal committee decided the archives needed to be moved to other states (Missouri and California), and the land sold for development. Most people were taken by surprise by the decision, and by the purported finality of the decision.
Fortunately, many people and interest groups in the area—including a numerous Native American Tribes and both of our U.S. Senators—strongly oppose the decision, as do I. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson threatened litigation and filed document requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The four involved federal agencies stonewalled or ignored the state’s requests. Last month the State of Washington filed FOIA lawsuits in U.S. District Court against all four.
Here is the statement I issued:
“I strongly support our Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s actions to compel Trump’s agencies to produce the documents underlying their problematic decision to sell the federal archives building on Sand Point Way in Northeast Seattle. I was previously very clear with these federal agencies that their public engagement process was woefully inadequate, particularly for key stakeholders, including the over 200 tribes in the Northwest, researchers, and my constituents. Having Attorney General Ferguson suing the agencies is a strong and positive step.”
Read current and past reports on the national archives issue at my blog, Seattle Times, and MyNorthwest.
Need masks? King County has partnered with Safeway and UFCW Local 21 to distribute masks from all the Safeway stores in King County. In District 4, head to the Roosevelt, Wedgwood, University Village, or University District store to pick up a free mask. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Teen Resource Hub at Magnuson Community Center: Seattle Parks and Recreation will open a resource hub to offer an internet connection, virtual learning support, and referrals to other resources. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Childcare at Ravenna-Eckstein Community Center, Wedgwood Elementary School, and Montlake Community Center: Children ages 5-12 can enroll in all-day childcare through Parks and Recreation. There will be Wi-Fi, support for online learning, and recreation activities. To learn more and enroll in programs in and near District 4, click HERE for Montlake, HERE for Wedgwood, and HERE for Ravenna-Eckstein.
We Want to Hear From You At City Hall!
Send an e-mail to me at Alex.Pedersen@seattle.gov or to all 9 Councilmembers at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have received tens of thousands e-mails– an unheard-of volume– this summer, so I ask for your patience as we try to respond to those District 4 constituents who asked for a response. Either way, we read your e-mails and they have an impact. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
Public Comment by the Numbers
As City Council met remotely during the past four months to rebalance Seattle’s 2020 budget and tackle other issues, over 1,500 residents spoke to us over the special comment line during the Council meetings. I was impressed by the large number of public commenters—sometimes hundreds in a single day. Thank you for making your voices heard and for helping your elected officials make some tough decisions.
Virtual Meetings with Your Councilmember Pedersen
I continue to schedule virtual in-district office hours, so we can chat by telephone or video call. Please continue to sign up through my website or by CLICKING HERE so I can hear your ideas, concerns, and requests. You can also just send an e-mail to email@example.com
For previous e-newsletters, visit my blog by CLICKING HERE.
We will get through this together, Seattle.
Councilmember Alex Pedersen
Seattle City Council, District 4