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COVID Vaccines – D1 Updates, Vaccine Equity; West Seattle Bridge Updates; SW Precinct Crime Rates; Consent Decree Update/Less Lethal Weapons; Property Tax Relief for Elders; South Park Community Center Redevelopment Open House; Virtual Office Hours

COVID Vaccines – D1 Updates, Vaccine Equity

Between the West Seattle bridge closure, significant congestion on detour routes off the peninsula, and limited access to the lower bridge, District 1 residents are virtually cut off from vaccine and healthcare providers.  And District 1 residents – especially those 65 and older – are lagging behind other parts of the city in accessing vaccine, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County’s data dashboard:

I’m grateful to District 1 organizations like Villa Communitaria and the Senior Center of West Seattle, which have been doing essential work in identifying and bridging the additional barriers that are keeping the people they serve from getting vaccinated – such as registration that’s only available online, or only in English.   Both organizations, along with El Comite and Seattle Housing Authority, participated in a City-run District 1 vaccination popup clinic that I visited this past week in West Seattle with Mayor Durkan, which is vaccinating 750 eligible local residents in the Latinx community and vulnerable elders.   You can watch our remarks here.

District 1 Vaccine Locations:  As I’ve written before, the City is planning for a District 1 mass vaccination site with an initial capacity to provide 500 doses daily, eventually ramping up to 1,000 doses daily, hopefully by the summer.  Unfortunately, the City is not yet receiving enough vaccine to support any mass vaccination sites.  Once supply from the state increases, the City will open the D1 mass vaccination site within two days.  Sign up here to receive a weekly vaccine newsletter from the City.

Across the County, an estimated 473,000 residents are now eligible to receive the vaccine – but County vaccine providers have only received 275,000 first doses.  In the short term, the state is expected to reserve a higher proportion of vaccine for those who need their second dose within the appropriate timeframe.  This means that over the next few weeks, supply will remain very tight.  As the federal government slowly increases shipments to the states, and begins providing vaccine directly to pharmacies and community health clinics, it will become easier to find a vaccine appointment over the next few months.

I am continuing to advocate to add more vaccine providers in District 1, so that when vaccine supply improves, our unique mobility barriers from the West Seattle Bridge closure do not get in the way of receiving vaccination.

Council Resolution on Vaccine Equity:  The unfortunate reality is that the statewide vaccination rollout has been marked by the institutional inequities already rampant in our healthcare system.  Those most at risk of Covid have been crowded out of the line to receive scarce doses.  It’s essential that the City of Seattle step up to bridge the gaps in the state’s vaccination rollout, and speed vaccine to those most at risk.

On Tuesday, Seattle City Council passed a resolution affirming that vaccine must be prioritized for those most impacted by the pandemic.  The resolution, developed with input from Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Mayor’s Office, includes these guiding principles, along with the specific practices to put the principles into action:

  • Remove barriers that deter access
  • Create an inclusive process
  • Be intentionally anti-racist and accountable to Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color
  • Embrace a multi-modal COVID-19 vaccine delivery strategy

I worked with Council President Gonzalez to ensure that Seattle residents will be able to receive vaccine regardless of their immigration status by adding this language:

Immigration status will not be a barrier to receiving a vaccine. Documentation of immigration status will not be requested during registration, and all locations where vaccinations are provided, including mobile or “pop-up” locations, will proactively communicate this policy.

In addition, I sponsored an amendment that requires vaccine providers to collect and report information about the race of people receiving vaccines, with categories to be defined in collaboration with the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and analyze that data to quickly identify and address disparities.  This data was initially overlooked in the state’s vaccination rollout, leaving public health officials without crucial information about whether vaccine was reaching the people most at risk of death from Covid.  Last week, Council heard from community advocates who spoke passionately about the need to collect and use this data.

City of Seattle Vaccination Efforts:  The City expected to receive 1,500 first doses and 1,000 second doses this past week, but has not yet received all doses due to shipping delays from the severe weather nationally.

Since launching its vaccination effort on January 14, the City of Seattle has administered 4,722 vaccinations to eligible Seattleites.

  • 4,292 vulnerable Seattleites received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
  • 430 Seattleites received a second dose of the vaccine.
  • These vaccinations have occurred at 86 Adult Family Homes, 30 affordable housing buildings with seniors, and six pop-ups.
  • Roughly 70% of those vaccinated by the City identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.

With last week’s first doses, the Seattle Fire Department’s Mobile Vaccination Teams are vaccinating residents at five Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) buildings, one new Adult Family Home, and Kawabe House. Thus far, SFD has vaccinated vulnerable older adults in 11 SHA buildings across Seattle.

In addition to the District 1 popup clinic, the City is hosting a second pop-up vaccination clinic in partnership with the Archdiocese of Seattle to focus on vaccinating 350 Latinx older adults in Hillman City.  In King County, Latinx residents make up 24.1% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 17.7% of hospitalizations, despite making up 10% of King County’s population.  In addition, the City is partnering with the Eritrean Community in Seattle & Vicinity, Medhani Alem Church Seattle, and SEIU 775 to convene a pop-up vaccination clinic for approximately 250 Phase 1A and Phase 1B, Tier 1 eligible Seattle residents and workers. The clinic will vaccinate home health care workers and their clients, as well as African American and East African older adults.

West Seattle Bridge Updates February 19

First Avenue South Bridge Lane Closures

WSDOT has announced that southbound lane closures on the First Avenue South Bridge will begin on Thursday, March 4 (they were originally planned to begin in January). Two of the four southbound lanes will be closed so contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation can repair bearings and steel beams that support the structure. Work does not affect the northbound bridge.

The southbound SR 99 Duwamish River Bridge will be reduced from four to two lanes 24 hours a day for 15 consecutive days starting March 4. The work also will require four overnight closures between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. – two early in the project and two at the end.

West Seattle Bridge

One aspect of the West Seattle Bridge project that hasn’t received a lot of attention is the potential use of a community workforce agreement, and use of geographic hiring preferences.

The City’s Department of Finance and Administration is pursuing an exemption from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to allow us to use a Community Workforce Agreement (CWA)/Priority Hire on the project. Early in the Trump administration, USDOT withdrew proposed rulemaking that would have allowed geographic hiring preferences. In light of termination of the pilot program, these type of issues require FHWA’s consultation with the USDOT Office of the Secretary and Office of General Counsel. SDOT says “We will work in partnership with FAS, with Build America, NACTO, other allies, and our congressional delegation to ensure Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg has this issue near the top of his agenda.”

SDOT is continuing work on scoping for a study for replacing the bridge, which will eventually need to happen. They are coordinating with the Sound Transit Engineering Working Group to discuss Sound Transit’s assumed marine navigational clearance requirements as well as how to best align initial screening of alternatives with their DEIS release for the West Seattle to Ballard Link Extension project.

Lower Bridge

Here are a couple of updates about projects on the lower bridge:

Controls Project: The controls system opens and closes the bridge to maritime traffic. SDOT had been planning an upgrade to the system before the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. This work will include routing communications cables through a new conduit under the Duwamish Waterway. They will also upgrade communications lines between parts, and upgrade the computers that control the machinery that moves the spans and activates gates that prevent traffic and people from crossing when the bridge is open.

Lift Cylinder Project: Two large hydraulic cylinders allow the Low Bridge to swing open for marine traffic. SDOT replaced the west cylinder in 2018, and will replace the east cylinder this year.

King County Metro and Reconnect West Seattle

King County Metro will be adding service hours to three routes (Routes 50, 60, and 128) in West Seattle that were experiencing crowding issues with the COVID bus capacity restrictions for the March 2021 service change.

A December review of the pavement conditions along the West Seattle Bridge detour routes identified 29 potholes that were immediately repaired with another about $400,000 additional pavement repairs in design. A speed assessment along detour routes was also conducted and the outcome of the analysis will be the installation of eight new radar feedback signs and two speed cushions to control motorists’ speeds on arterial streets.

For future Reconnect West Seattle projects, SDOT is using the criteria below to prioritize projects. SDOT is asking for suggestions from residents and businesses for Reconnect West Seattle projects for 2022, to help address the closure of the West Seattle Bridge. You can submit project proposals to WestSeattleBridge@seattle.gov.  Project ideas are due by March 31, 2021.

SDOT has developed a West Seattle and Duwamish Valley Travel Options website. You can access the page here.

SW Precinct Crime Rates

Earlier this year Interim Chief Diaz spoke to the 2020 citywide homicide rate, which increased from 31 homicides in 2019 to 50 in 2020. As he noted, this is the highest number of homicides in 26 years, and it disproportionately affects young black men. He also spoke to the importance of work with external partners about addressing gun violence, which is a public health issue.

Here is crime data specifically for the Southwest Precinct, which has the same boundaries as District 1. Below is data for crime rates in the SW Precinct for 2018, 2019 and 2020, for violent crime and property crime.

Below is a map showing 2020 crime rates, with darker locations having a higher total in the different Micro-Community Policing Plans (Alaska Junction, Alki, Commercial Duwamish, Commercial Harbor Island, Fauntleroy, High Point, Highland Park, Morgan, North Admiral, North Delridge, Pigeon Point, Roxhill/Westwood/Arbor Heights, South Delridge and South Park).

One difficulty in interpreting this map is that population varies significantly in the plan areas. For example, South Delridge and Pigeon Point are small areas with significantly fewer residents than, for example, the Alaska Junction or Roxhill/Westwood/Arbor Heights.

That’s why I worked with SPD to get per capita crime data totals for the SW Precinct. Here’s the December 2017 data.  I have, in subsequent years, requested additional per capita analysis. SPD has been understandably hesitant to repeat this exercise until new census data is available. The basis of the 2017 estimate was 2010 census data, and the further away from a census, the less reliable the data is.  Once 2020 census data is available, we’ll have finely-grained data that will allow for clear per-capita figures.

While overall crime rates were down in the SW Precinct from 2019 to 2020, the monthly rates were higher toward the end of 2020 compared to the same months in 2019. Similarly, rates for January 2021 were higher compared to January 2020, and the highest in January since 2017. The trend is concerning, and I’ll continue to pursue city investments in evidence-based crime prevention and violence disruption strategies.

Consent Decree Update/Less Lethal Weapons

You very likely know that the City of Seattle and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have been under a Consent Decree and MOU since 2012, after the DOJ found excessive use of force in the Seattle Police Department in 2011. The finding was issued in response to a 2010 request letter from a number of community groups.

A court-appointed Monitor oversees work, and reports to the US District Court Judge Robart. The Monitor has issued ten systemic assessment reports on topics such as use of force, stops, search and seizure, early intervention, crisis intervention, community confidence, and other reports on the use of force.

During late 2020, the Court appointed a new Monitor, Antonio Oftelie. Earlier this month, he submitted to the Court a 2021 workplan and schedule. The workplan focuses on four key areas: 1) Evaluating Status of Compliance with the Consent Decree; 2) Improving accountability; 3) Providing technical assistance to support SPD innovation and risk management; and 4) Providing technical assistance to support re-imagining public safety.

Under the Consent Decree, any policy-making areas included in the Consent Decree must be sent to the Monitor and Department of Justice for their review within 45 days. If the Monitor objects to the substance of the policy,  there is a 14 day period to consult with the Monitor, after which the relevant parties can petition the Court.

That’s the process the Public Safety and Human Services Committee followed for legislation regulating the use of less lethal weapons. The committee voted 4-1 in support of a motion to recommend that a draft less lethal weapons bill “be sent to the Court-appointed Monitor and the US Department of Justice, in line with the process described in the Consent Decree.”

This is an unusual motion; normally, Councilmembers move to approve legislation by vote.  We did not vote on the draft bill itself and instead, the motion recognizes the Consent Decree, and the authority of the Monitor and Court, and role of the DOJ.

Or put another way, the normal process in the City Charter doesn’t apply for legislation that involves subjects covered by the Consent Decree. We tend to take these procedures for granted in our democracy at local, state, and federal levels, whereby a legislative body acts, and a bill becomes a law. Under the Consent Decree however, this extra step is required.

For the less lethal weapons legislation, in June after the murder of George Floyd and local protests with heavy use of less lethal weapons, the Council unanimously adopted legislation sharply restricting their use, prohibiting all use in most cases. In July, before the legislation went into effect, District Court Judge Robart approved a restraining order against the bill going into effect, brought by the DOJ, due to the need to follow the Consent Decree process.

The Court also stated, regarding the legislation and the Chief’s Directive to implement it, “Further, the court agrees that by removing all forms of less lethal crowd control weapons from virtually all police encounters, the Directive and the CCW Ordinance will not increase public safety. This is so particularly because neither the CCW Ordinance nor the Directive provide time for police training in alternative mechanisms to de-escalate and resolve dangerous situations if the crowd control implements with which the officers have been trained are abruptly removed.”

The Court further indicated it wanted to hear the recommendations of the Community Police Commission, Inspector General, and Office of Police Accountability. The Council also requested these recommendations.

Consequently, the Public Safety and Human Services Committee heard the recommendations of the three accountability bodies, and later held a roundtable discussion with them and SPD, and considered a decision agenda based on the recommendations of the CPC, IG, and OPA leading to the legislation draft sent to the Monitor and DOJ. The starting point for the legislation draft was the consensus recommendations of the CPC, OIG and OPA.

In addition, given the Court’s previous statements about the bill Council passed in June, it appeared impossible that Judge Robart would authorize the legislation the Council previously adopted, that prohibited almost all use of less lethal weapons and in almost all circumstances. So changes seemed certainly needed in order to satisfy the Court. The draft legislation sent to the Monitor and DOJ isn’t as restrictive as what the Council unanimously adopted in June of 2020, but given that we are under a Consent Decree, the perspective of the Court and Monitor are of paramount importance, and must be considered.   The draft legislation maintains an absolute ban, with no exceptions, in crowd control instances on blast balls, flash bangs, and launchers that launch chemical irritants like pepper spray.

The  draft bill allows tear gas and pepper spray use in crowd control settings during a violent public disturbance in narrow circumstances.

  • Tear gas: Deployed under direction of or by officers who have received training for its use within the previous 12 months; and 2. Used with a detailed tactical plan developed prior to deployment; and 3. Use is reasonably necessary to prevent threat of imminent loss of life or serious bodily injury.
  • Hand Held Pepper Spray: may be used only in circumstances in which the risk of serious injury from violent actions outweighs the risk of harm to bystanders.

The draft bill defines violent public disturbance as “any gathering where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten to use unlawful violence towards another person or group of people and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.”

The exclusions in the draft bill allows less lethal weapon use in non-crowd control settings like hostage or sniper situations, including:

  • 40mm launchers that deploy chemical irritants (only SWAT officers can use)
  • 40mm launchers that deploy projectiles other than chemical irritants
  • Noise flash devices (only SWAT officers can use)
  • Pepper spray (in circumstances in which the risk of serious injury from violent actions outweighs the risk of harm to bystanders)

Any legislation would be introduced formally for a vote only after conclusion of the Consent Decree process.

The legislation adopted by the Council in June, 2020, has never gone into effect, due to the Court’s ruling. Restrictions on less lethal weapons during first amendment activity are as a result of the Black Lives Matter/ACLU lawsuit, and rulings by Judge Jones. His initial June 17 order is linked here.

SPD has sent revised policies regarding use of force and crowd control, as part of its annual requirement regarding policies under the Consent Decree. The City’s filing notes SPD last used blast balls at a protest on September 26, and pepperballs on October 3.

Property Tax Relief for Elders

The Washington State Legislature has made major changes in the Senior Citizens Property Tax Relief program, and King County has made it easier to apply for this program.  The income limit is now indexed to 65 percent of the median household income in King County. The new limit is $58,423. This allows more people to be eligible for savings.  King County Assessor John Wilson shares more about eligibility criteria and how to get assistance with applying in the online article.

You can apply online or visit TaxRelief.KingCounty.gov any time. For more information, or assistance with your online application, you can e-mail exemptions.assessments@kingcounty.gov or call 206-296-3920.

South Park Community Center Redevelopment Open House

Seattle Parks and Recreation invites the South Park community to participate in an Online Open House on Wednesday, February 24,  2021 at 4 pm. This is an opportunity for the neighborhood to learn about the final design and construction schedule for the South Park Community Center and Sitewide design. Register online here. Interpretation in Spanish will be available.

Virtual Office Hours

On Friday February 26, I will be hosting virtual office hours between 2pm and 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, you will need to contact my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time.

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours which will continue as virtual office hours until indicated otherwise. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, March 26, 2021
  • Friday, April 30, 2021
  • Friday, May 28, 2021
  • Friday, June 25, 2021
  • Friday, July 30, 2021
  • Friday, August 20, 2021
  • Friday, September 24, 2021
  • Friday, October 29, 2021
  • Friday, December 17, 2021
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