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Council Adopts 2022 Budget; Mary’s Place Experiences Internet Fraud; West Seattle Bridge/Reconnect West Seattle Update; Pediatric COVID Vaccine Clinic in High Point – Saturday 11/28 and Sunday 12/19; CSCC Tour; East Marginal Way Federal Grant; CLOSING SOON/SDOT Survey on the Alki Point Keep Moving Street; Virtual Office Hours

Council Adopts 2022 Budget

On Monday the Council acted to adopt the 2022 budget.

We have for the last year and half been working to broaden our city’s definition of public safety to, with intention, a. include traditional public safety investments, b. community safety investments so law enforcement can respond to calls only they are qualified to handle, while also c. increasing funding for critical upstream investments that add to true community safety for all.

Traditional Public Safety

Community Safety

These are critical investments that are building safety in neighborhoods from the ground up, and laying the groundwork for non-law enforcement response to crisis

Behavioral Health Investments

It is clearer than ever that the unprecedented fear, pain, and isolation of the COVID pandemic are leading to negative mental health impacts for all of us.  All data points to the pandemic having a significant impact on our behavioral health – and anecdotally, erupting into self-harm, abuse, assault, gunfire and other forms of violence.  This budget includes significant new investments in both mental health and substance use disorder services, including:

Investments in Human Services

As the pandemic stretches through its second year, we know that we must maintain a baseline of increased support for households who continue to struggle, and the workers we rely on to help.

One last point about the SPD budget, I voted against a motion to eliminate 101 vacant police officer positions that are also unfunded. Though the motion didn’t pass, it would not have, in any way, affected the 2022 budget.

Contrary to what you may hear or read; the budget amendment would not have cut 101 police officers from the Seattle Police Department (SPD). It would have removed 101 unfunded, vacant positions that SPD does not expect to hire next year, nor even the following year.

SPD currently has the authority to employ 1,357 sworn officers. Due to resignations, retirements, other separations and the hiring freeze ordered by Mayor Durhan, during 2020, the department currently has fewer officers than that. In fact, SPD believes next year they can hire and retain a total of 1,223 officers. Council President González’s amendment would have allowed SPD to hire all those positions, with 1,256 sworn officer positions (33 more than SPD’s prediction).

In short, according to SPD’s own projections, the amendment would not have decreased the number of officers at SPD or even limit the possibility of SPD hiring more officers.  What the amendment would have done is ensure that funding which SPD which can’t be used on salaries, is not included in next year’s 2023 SPD budget proposed by the Mayor.   Though I agreed that the amendment was an example of good fiscal policy, I voted against the amendment because there was so much misinformation about its impact and further, I didn’t want to inadvertently send the message to the public that the Council had determined with the amendment that 1,256 officers was the “right number” of officers for SPD.  SCC Insight has a useful explainer on this issue.

Mary’s Place Experiences Internet Fraud

On Thursday, June 24th, the Human Services Department learned of a potential cyber fraud incident involving Mary’s Place, a non-profit that the Human Services Department contracts with to provide outreach, family shelter and other services.  Initial findings indicated that a fraudulent online request was made to HSD, on Mary’s Place’s behalf, for the payments to be made to the fraudulent account.

Upon learning of the incident, HSD immediately filed a report with the Seattle Police Department to launch an investigation of the fraudulent activity, and coordinate with the FBI as necessary.  I was notified the following Monday and I immediately asked whether HSD had made payment in response to the fraudulent request.  I learned that HSD had made payment in response to the fraudulent request and that “SPD is investigating, including the extent of the harm done.”  In addition, HSD appropriately notified the Washington State Auditor of the loss in late July.

The bank account that was associated with Mary’s Place automatic payments from HSD was changed and payments were deposited to an unknown bank account.

The Seattle Times recently reported that a 2020 study from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that about 5% of government agencies’ budgets get lost to fraud each year, amounting to “trillions and trillions of dollars” globally.   I understand that HSD did not use a multi-step, independent verification and authentication process required when vendors request a change to their payment method” and that, now, this verification process has been centralized within Finance and Administrative Services to ensure these policies are followed.

In August, Budget Director Ben Noble wrote to Council about HSD’s longstanding financial capacity constraints within HSD, compounded during the pandemic when HSD received significant new resources.  HSD’s budget has grown from $142M in 2016 to $385M in 2021.  Here are some key excerpts:

“The City has proactively conducted internal and external audits to identify both immediate and long-term challenges and to develop recommendations. While these audits found no systemic issues of fraud or improper spending, these reviews identified the significant need to improve HSD’s billing processes, account reconciliation, and audit/grant review processes.”

“In November of 2018, the City Budget Office (CBO) assigned staff to HSD to conduct an internal assessment of financial and accounting procedures at HSD. Acting upon these CBO recommendations in 2019, HSD began consolidating financial teams and hiring more experienced financial staff.”

“In 2020, HSD hired its first-ever Chief Financial Officer, Joseph Kasperski, which was a key step in strengthening the department’s financial operations. Soon thereafter, HSD hired an external CPA firm, Francis & Company, to further identify challenges and develop solutions to HSD’s financial capacity issues…Francis & Company’s ongoing assessment and HSD’s leadership believes more steps need to be taken to ensure the long-term health of HSD’s financial system…The City has hired a financial advisory firm, Alvarez & Marsal (A&M), to partner with HSD to implement key operational staffing and technical improvements needed to resolve challenges that have been identified.”

After hearing from Budget Director Noble, the Council worked to provide support that was not included in Mayor Durkan’s proposed 2022 budget, for the Human Services Department to address the most immediate needs identified by A&M for “additional personnel, with appropriate expertise, to support a more rigorous set of financial protocols and accounting procedures. Recommendations include filling key vacancies, including a Budget Manager and an Accounting Manager, and the addition of eight new positions. The new positions will provide additional capacity in accounting, procurement, and financial planning.”

HSD has begun the hiring process for the vacant positions.

West Seattle Bridge/Reconnect West Seattle Update

SDOT has begun site preparations for bridge repairs, including loading work shacks and equipment for erosion control onto the high bridge to be ready for construction work.

Upcoming activities will include hydro-blasting to create access for work platforms, as well as more details about those work platforms being assembled and transported to the bridge

Watch for additional updates on the start of repair construction very soon!

SDOT did a comparison of collision data on key District 1 arterials for the 18 months before the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, compared with the 18 months after. As everyone has personally experienced, the increase on West Marginal stands out.

Below are a few of the most recent Reconnect West Seattle traffic mitigation efforts, among hundreds of projects over the last year.

Image on the left: The curb and post island on West Marginal was requested from maritime businesses, who struggled to get out of their driveway.

Middle image:  Some constituents have contacted me about the entrance to 1st Ave S bridge from West Marginal; posts have been added, after SDOT considered another alternative and found it infeasible.

SDOT has also installed speed bumps on 16th Avenue SW near South Seattle College to address speeding. I appreciate SDOT’s ongoing work with the local community coalition of residents, South Seattle College staff, and students.

SDOT recently presented an update on long term replacement concepts for the West Seattle Bridge, to study where a bridge could fit.  A report should be available before the end of the year.  SDOT expects the bridge to last for its original expected life to 2060, once repairs are completed. This report can help guide planning before then.

Of the concepts presented, the On-Line bridge and the Hybrid Bridge were the highest rated. The On-Line bridge is in the right of way of the current bridge, and could be replaced in halves, so half the bridge would be open for vehicle traffic during construction. The Hybrid option would have separate east and westbound bridge spans and could maintain some traffic during construction.


Pediatric COVID Vaccine Clinic in High Point – Saturday 11/28 and Sunday 12/19

Neighborhood House in High Point will be hosting a pediatric-only COVID vaccine clinic on Sunday the 28th, and December 19th (for 2nd shots) for children ages 5-12.  They are seeking to get the word out to BIPOC communities. Below are links to sign in sheets in multiple languages; they are asking to sign up in advance:

English  Spanish  Traditional Chinese  Somali Tigrinya  Vietnamese

Neighborhood House is located at 6400 Sylvan Way SW.

CSCC Tour

I was recently able to meet with our 911 dispatchers and toured the Community Safety and Communications Center where they answer 911 calls.

The Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) was stood up earlier this year after the Council’s budget process last year.  If you recall, the 2021 budget removed our 911 dispatch center from the Seattle Police Department. This was an important step towards creating the foundation for building an alternative response for some 911 calls. 911 dispatch has been called the gatekeeper for the whole criminal justice. 911 training, when housed within police departments, typically emphasizes a police response.  In 2015, 83 of the 153 unarmed people killed by police officers across the nation, came into contact with the police officer that killed them, in response to a 911 call.

With 911 Dispatch moved out of SPD and into CSCC this year I turned my attention to the staffing issues they are experiencing. Mayor Durkan’s proposed budget would have only funded 140 positions, of which 20 are vacant.  An additional 17 positions currently have part-time absences due to situations such as medical and military leave. However, the budget passed by the Council added another $879,000 and position authority for 26 positions to address staffing and operational needs at CSCC. These additions were informed by the 2016 Kimball report, which recommended, based on a workload analysis, that the 911 Call Center should have 169 FTEs.

Here’s an excerpt from a letter I received from our 911 Dispatchers:

We’re desperately in need of reinforcements and additional staffing as we’ve had the worst retention in the past 2 years than we’ve ever experienced in this 9-1-1 center’s history. This amendment will allow the CSCC to mass hire telecommunicators and bring aid to a center on the brink of cracking.

Our current telecommunicators are working endless mandatory overtime, 52-56 hour work weeks, being forced to come in on their days off, and constantly are working understaffed.

Working short-staffed increases workload and delays call answering times, which can be life threatening situationally. Further, these employees are experiencing burnout, PTSD, depression, exhaustion, and a distorted work/life balance.

I want to thank the staff of the CSCC for their dedication to our city’s public safety and for welcoming me, showing me their space, and how they do their work.

East Marginal Way Federal Grant

We’ve learned recently that the City will receive $20 million from a federal grant for the East Marginal Way Corridor Improvement Program. This fully funds the project.  Work is expected to begin toward the end of 2022. The grant funding will enable SDOT to do both the safety improvements and the road reconstruction at the same time. This means that there will be fewer disruptions to freight traffic during construction.

The RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) grant will now help improve operational and safety deficiencies by widening and strengthening the road to accommodate larger and heavier truck traffic, provide access to freight terminals at the Port of Seattle for the trucks that use the corridor each day, and helping to reduce congestion with improved traffic signals.

Below are some of the improvements in the East Marginal Way S Corridor Improvement project:

  • Reconstructing the East Marginal Way S roadway and upgrading the route to Heavy Haul Network standards along a 1.1-mile segment from a point south of S Massachusetts St to S Spokane St to enhance efficient freight flow.
  • Constructing a 2-way protected bike lane along a 1.4-mile segment between S Atlantic St and S Spokane St to increase visibility, protect the approximately 1,000 people who ride bikes on this corridor each day, and work toward our Vision Zero goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
  • Rebuilding the sidewalk on the west side of East Marginal Way S adjacent to the roadway reconstruction to provide a safe, accessible route for people walking.
  • Constructing new traffic signals that will work dynamically together to enhance safety and improve traffic flow at several of the City’s busiest freight intersections.

The East Marginal Way S Corridor Improvement Project was included in the 2015  Levy to Move Seattle approved by city voters.

Last year I organized two letters of support for federal funding for this project from City Councilmembers. The project is a high priority for bike connections between West Seattle and Downtown, to fully separate bicycles from motor vehicle traffic in the SODO industrial area; the closure of the West Seattle Bridge highlighted the importance of these connections.


CLOSING SOON/SDOT Survey on the Alki Point Keep Moving Street

I last wrote about the survey the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is conducting for Alki Point in September. SDOT is still gathering input, on the future of the Alki Point Keep Moving Street. The majority of people contacting me about the Alki Point Keep Moving Street have reported that it provides many benefits including improved safety, accessibility, sustainability, mobility and livability.

On Page 5 of the SDOT survey presents three design options:

  • Option 1: Stay Healthy Street + Neighborhood Greenway
  • Option 2: Neighborhood Greenway + additional pedestrian space
  • Option 3: One-way street with shared walking and biking path
  • Option 1 is the option to make permanent a Stay Healthy Street.

Options 2 and 3 allow cars back onto the street but may prohibit cars from using some parts of the street. Supporters of keeping the street closed to cars, excepting local access, recommend option 1.  Some people (myself included) were unsure, because of the reference to “driving in the street,” whether the first option under questions 12-14 referenced the current condition the Keep Moving Street designation.  SDOT confirmed that it did because “as a Keep Moving Street, people driving who need to get to homes and destinations along Keep Moving Streets are still able to drive on these streets. The first option under each of the three questions is referring to the existing condition which allows local access vehicles.”  SDOT says that they want to know if people are comfortable with a Stay Healthy Street design that “allows mixing of people walking, biking, using mobility devices, and driving, or if people are more comfortable with a separation of people walking and people biking from people driving.”

The survey is still open until the end of November, so please click here to take the survey.

The comments section will allow you to describe any additional changes or improvements you would like to see.

Previously, last summer SDOT conducted a broader survey on all Stay Healthy Streets with more than  9,000 total responses; 1,000 responses specific to the Alki Point Keep Moving Street.

Here is a presentation from stakeholders supporting maintaining the Keep Moving Street designation on Alki Point.

They report some of their main findings to be:

  • The results were overwhelmingly positive for this Stay Healthy Street with positive responses outnumbering negative responses 4 to 1.
  • 81% of positive responses said that they either felt “Safe” on the street or mentioned safety as a benefit of the Alki Beach KMS somewhere in their response or both.
  • 37% of positive responses suggested improvements or issues that could be addressed through improvements. Top suggestions/issues included:
    • Too many cars coming onto the street not complying with the “Local Access Only” signs and driving onto the street. This compromised safety, access, sustainability and more.
    • Ways to separate people from cars or noting that cars and people were not always clear about where to drive, walk, roll or bike.
    • Request for signage to address speeding, better, explain “Local Access Only”, park access, parking, etc.
  • Those with positive responses did not ask for more cars on the street. They made suggestions to further limit cars and traffic.
  • Positive respondents liked the street because it was safer, more accessible, more sustainable, more livable, improved community, etc.
  • 1,919 of ALL survey takers, when asked, “Would you like to see any of these locations considered for a Stay Healthy Street?”, cited Alki Point.

Virtual Office Hours

On Friday December 10, I will be hosting my final virtual office hours of the year between 2pm and 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm. This is a change from the previously anticipated date of 12/17.

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

Expressing Thanks

There’s something this time of year that unites us all. It doesn’t matter whether you observe Thanksgiving or whether you think of the fourth Thursday of November as an idealized myth obscuring genocide and imperialism. It doesn’t matter if you are on your own for Thanksgiving or whether you are with friends and family. What unites us this week is that we all take stock of the reasons we have to be thankful. The act of thankfulness is more than just gratitude, it is mindful gratitude. It is remembering to, with intention, tell ourselves and others why it is that we have gratitude.

I’m a person who often forgets to practice mindful gratitude. For me, the fourth Thursday of November is a good time to practice. I have the regular reasons to be thankful: family, friends, work, my health. But I want to use this space today for my mindful gratitude for the people who work with me each and every day to serve the residents of District 1.

Newell Aldrich: I’m thankful to have worked side by side with Newell since 1997. I’m thankful for his work in this year’s budget deliberations to expand a successful law enforcement diversion program, find savings in SPD’s budget, get good fiscal oversight measures in place over SPD and the West Seattle Bridge repair project. I’m thankful that he staffs the issues most challenging and among the most important to D1 residents – Transportation and policing. I’m thankful for his attention to detail and his careful, thorough analysis.

Alex Clardy: I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to watch Alex get married this year. I’m thankful for Alex’s work in the 2022 budget to help me secure funding for staffing for firefighters and 911 dispatchers, the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps, and an expansion of Camp Second Chance. I’m thankful that Alex is so generous in offering help to others before they even ask.

Christena Coutsoubos: I’m thankful that Christena staffed approximately $17.5 million in 2022 budget victories that will serve people’s greatest need.  She worked with eleven separate advocacy groups to get it all done. I’m thankful that her many skills and focus are serving so many so well.

Elizabeth Calvillo Dueñas: I’m thankful that Elizabeth started working with Team Herbold this year. I’m thankful for her patience. I’m thankful for her willingness to serve the public at an especially challenging time to do so.

Here’s a great read about how to tell the Thanksgiving Story on Its 400th Anniversary.

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