VIDEO: Mayor Jenny Durkan visits West Seattle, report #1

(Added 4:52 pm, full video)

Just wrapping up at the Senior Center of West Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s first “town hall” event – part speech, part Q&A, part resource fair with multiple city departments tabling. She took half a dozen questions, but heard even more about local concerns during a pre-event walking tour of Junction businesses:

That photo is from Virago Gallery (on Alaska west of California but moving soon) – we’ll have a separate full report on the walking tour later. We’ll also have full video from the Senior Center event, at which center director Lyle Evans introduced Durkan as the “first woman mayor elected in Seattle in more than 100 years.” He also lauded her for choosing this location and shining a light on the “Silver Tsunami.” (Later she joked that she had a solution for what she re-termed the “gray tsunami” – “Don’t go gray.”)


The mayor sounded the themes of her State of the City address – including her concern that the city is in danger of losing its soul if issues such as affordability are not addressed. She also touted the Seattle Promise program for two free years of community college for all graduates of Seattle Public Schools, and the ORCA cards that will be provided to all public-school students.

She brought up the “shock” delivered with the new property-tax bills, acknowledging that too is adding to the affordability crisis, and that landlords will be passing the increases on to renters.

Problems won’t be solved overnight, she warned, and she knows people will be frustrated.


Transportation – “you can’t come to West Seattle without talking about transportation,” she acknowledged. She mentioned Sound Transit 3 and light rail, and hopes of speeding it up. She then mentioned the impending d “Traffic in West Seattle is going to get much, much worse in the next three years and it’s not the mayor’s fault – you look at what’s coming online – the viaduct’s being torn down, 1st Avenue’s being torn up for the streetcar, the Convention Center (is resulting in) buses coming out of the (transit) tunnel and onto the street … we’re going to have to look at innovative solutions to get past this time.” That will include transit. “We’ll work with Metro,” she promised. “We’ve got to get people out of single-occupancy vehicles out of this time … we have more cars than we have room on the streets.” But as she had done in her State of the City Address, she declared that Seattle is “the best city anywhere” – in no small part because of the “eclectic nature of the individual neighborhoods … Every one of our communities has its own feel, and that’s what we’ve got to preserve.”

Yes, the demolition of the viaduct will lead to what she sees as temporary traffic trouble, but she envisions a “collective gasp” when people see the viaduct-less waterfront.

She acknowledges concerns about HALA – “we’re not going to undo HALA and upzoning because we have to have growth and density … but I (also) don’t believe ‘one size fits all’ … so we’re going to listen to you … (and will) have a process that’s meaningful.” She says that in some places she asks people who wishes growth would just stop – a lot of hands go up – and then she asks how many people were born here, and most hands go down. (Note – she did not ask that here.)

Then to Q&A. First person to speak is from Highland Park Action Committee co-chair Gunner Scott. He mentions that they have been asking for transportation infrastructure improvements “for 70 years – 70 years.” There is a plan for density, but no plan for improving that infrastructure. He also mentions that Highland Park is hosting a third encampment. And he invites her to visit Highland Park. She accepts the invitation, also says SDOT can look at the improvements (editor’s note, which they have), and says that Camp Second Chance – the third encampment Scott mentioned – seems to be successful and that encampments are needed because there’s no place for

Next question: How will the Seattle Promise college plan be funded? There’s no more room for added property taxes, the questioner asks, because “we’ll break.” Durkan says that she is aware of the tax burden, but “if we don’t do right by our kids … we will have to spend more time on them in other systems.” She says many people who are frequently booked into jail “are discharged into homelessness.” She says that “full buildout” of the college program would be about $7 million a year – “not only can we afford to do it – we’ll look at some of it in the family levy” and other unspecified places. “I know we’ve got to make choices.” And she says she’s asked all her department directors to provide budgets with potential cuts.

Next question: David Toledo brings up a work-readiness/arts program that started in 2011 that was initiated by Mayor Mike McGinn and cut by Mayor Ed Murray. Durkan says it’s “critical to have kids exposed to the arts” and promises “additional programs like that.” She mentions her pre-Town Hall walk and the apprentice who she met at Virago Gallery. She says arts are vital to “the soul of the city.”

Next question: Diane Vincent, identifying herself as a lifelong renter whose Social Security barely covers half of her rent, and she’s been on a waitlist for a senior apartment for three years. The mayor’s Office of Senior Citizens is being shut down, she says, but she needs retraining because she has to work “to survive.” Her Social Security went up $12 – her rent went up $200. The city isn’t offering help for senior jobs, she said.


The mayor’s reply included a mention that she is asking the state for tax breaks for landlords in affordable rentals – so that tax increases don’t automatically mean rent increases. Vincent follows up about jobs. Durkan mentions job losses imminent because of automation and uses “self-driving vehicles” as an example.

Next: What about free college for adults to help with retraining? Durkan reiterates the success of the Seattle Promise’s predecessor program, 1 free year at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) for graduates of certain high schools’ graduates, and says she hopes it might eventually be more than that.

Final question is from someone who identifies herself as a “second-generation landlord” who also says she was on one of the HALA focus groups and she is happy about the upcoming upzoning, but she also wants to see permitting sped up. She also wants to see more mental-health and addiction services, saying her brother was homeless because he needed help “and it took us two years to get him help … (the system is) broken. Addiction and mental health go hand in hand. .. We wait for people to (seek help) but if someone is (unwell) they are not going to come to a rational decision.”

Durkan says everyone in the room likely has been touched by the problem. Overall, she says, she is a “data-driven person” but knowing the numbers doesn’t assist in solving the problem. “There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for homelessness. … They all need the same solution, a home, but how you get them there … is different.” She then notes the city/county/regional group that’s convening to “work and coordinate better” to try to find solutions. “It’s a longer-term (solution) … it took a long time to get where we are.” She does get to one solution for some – methadone for heroin addiction, but Seattle has one provider, she says, and they are maxed out at 1,400 people. She says she’s in favor of increasing services but “we’re going to have to do it together” and urges the community member to continue advocating.

“Seattle’s only Seattle if people like you show up not only in these rooms but (in their personal lives) and not only demand a better city, but work for a better city.” She promises to “listen … and we’ll do what we can.” And she wraps at 1:45 pm. The resource fair continued on for another 20-plus minutes.

Full video and more photos to come!

25 Replies to "VIDEO: Mayor Jenny Durkan visits West Seattle, report #1"

  • Peter February 24, 2018 (6:08 pm)

    That’s nice that Ms. Honor acknowledged the “shock” that the new property tax bills delivered and I realize the mayor is not directly responsible for all things property tax related, but it’s ludicrous to decry the lack of affordable housing (as all of our “esteemed” leadership seemingly does) while 18% tax increases are simultaneously being doled out.  Which is exactly what my 2 small rental properties got hit with.  My personal residence received a 22% bump.   I have little choice but to pass most, if not all of that along, because that still leaves me nothing to absorb the usual maintenance and insurance expense increases.  Let alone anything for the increases to the roof over my own head. 

    I haven’t settled on a final amount yet, but it’ll be the biggest rent increase my tenants have ever received.  Lest anyone wants to flame me for being greedy, I’m way under-market with what I charge even with the upcoming bump and my tenants know it.  They’re good people and I want them to stay, so I make the rent very attractive. I’d have no problem finding replacements for more money, but I don’t want to.

    Between this and all the other new regulations (first-come-first-served, background check limitations, RRIO, etc.), I’m seriously considering selling out.  Doing so would be emotionally painful for several reasons, but I have to ask myself how long I want to stay in this relationship with the City of Seattle, which is starting to feel abusive.  If I sell, the properties are ripe for development and two more “affordable” residences will be permanently gone.  That’ll solve the problem.  /sarc

    • Kadoo February 25, 2018 (7:48 am)

      I share your frustration with Seattle’s war on landlords. I’m hanging in there for now but agree that the city appears to want to force us out of the business of providing affordable housing even now when Seattle is in desperate need of it. 

      • MarkB February 25, 2018 (9:39 am)

        Well I dumped my duplex that I bought in 1991 and the stupid Landlord laws were part of the decision.  The buyer is a Microsoft guy who will make it into a residence (after he tears it down).   My rents were under market too.  Good job Seattle City Council two less affordable units in Seattle.

    • H February 25, 2018 (3:43 pm)

      I too am dismayed by the Landlord laws. I was fortunate to still have some choice in my tenants as I live in a MIL on the property but I was looking at selling prior to finding that ‘grey area’.

  • MJ February 24, 2018 (6:28 pm)

    Peter

    I remember renting a place from a school teacher who operated a couple rental homes.  He kept the rents reasonable, did most of the maintenance himself.  

    Years ago I was looking at a fourplex, I inquired with an attorney the first thing he asked what City, I said Seattle he said run!

    Things are worse now with all the added regulations, enough already.

    Peter I understand your aunx.

    MJ

  • Fire Ball February 24, 2018 (6:57 pm)

    I don’t know why people are so upset with the raise of property taxes and RTA…,  You did it to yourself!

    • Melissa Westbrook February 25, 2018 (8:56 pm)

      No, the Legislature created a state property tax to pay for McCleary – that’s where this large raise came from.

      And, you will pay more but Seattle Schools does not get all of it.  They also decided that property-rich districts have to subsidize property-poor districts.  SPS will get more money but not all of it.

  • Plf February 24, 2018 (9:52 pm)

    Little or no discussion about seniors and the increase in proptery taxs, focus on renters, wish I had someone to pass the increase on to,  for me I’m close to foodbank status, I’m still paying for my home, but imagine in the next two years I will be forced out with 22% increase proptery taxes, time to stop thinking just about renters 

  • NSAlki February 25, 2018 (6:06 am)

    I’d be more than happy to get rid of my “single occupancy vehicle” if our buses ran reliably and longer than a few times in the morning and the evening. The reason I even own a car is because I have to be in the city with an hours notice and there is nothing that will take me there after 9am except expensive ride shares. Half the time, route 56 doesn’t run on time or buses get canceled. Please fix metro if you expect people to get out of their cars. People don’t intentionally like paying car tabs or deal with parking.

    • The King February 25, 2018 (1:38 pm)

      I’m in the same boat. I need to be at work all hours of the night or day when I get a call. So waiting for the 21 at 2:30 in the morning isn’t going to work. “We have more cars than room in the streets”, I feel if they keep taking lanes from Seattle this self induced problem will get worse. This is what we do nowadays, create a crisis, expand gov’t and raise taxes to study it. Not fix, study. 

    • H February 25, 2018 (4:00 pm)

      I dumped my car in favor of public transit in an effort to patronize our public transportation and to force myself to walk more. After a year, I have to admit that it is not convenient nor is it comfortable. Why? Because a majority of time I’m waiting for a delayed or “arrived too early” (I have to catch the next) bus, or a transfer bus even when using tracking apps. It is bitterly uncomfortable waiting in the cold, rain and/or wind (dressed appropriately) any longer than 10 minutes. I rely more on uber than I’d intended. 

  • anonyme February 25, 2018 (6:27 am)

    PLF, I’m in the same boat.  I’m a senior, and my mortgage payments are reasonable compared to rents.  However, with Social Security stagnant and everything else (including property taxes) seeing double digit increases, survival is impossible.  I’m taking some classes now as I’ll have to work until I die.  Good timing, as all of these programs are being eliminated, along with the Office for Senior Citizens and most other programs that help seniors.  The writing is on the wall.

    Unfortunately, I did not see a single solution offered by Ms. Durkan to any of the questions asked.

  • they February 25, 2018 (6:32 am)

    I’m so glad we worked hard to payoff our home, because now our current property tax is higher than the house payment was. You can make this stuff up!

  • Lagartija Nick February 25, 2018 (9:22 am)

    LOL, every single comment so far has made an excellent argument for why we should switch to an income tax … and they don’t even know it!

    • ScubaFrog February 25, 2018 (5:33 pm)

      Exactly Nick lol.  I was going to mention it too.

      Good call!

    • Concerned February 26, 2018 (4:22 am)

      Why? So we can have an income tax on top of these ridiculous property taxes we have now? Yeah, good call

      • Lagartija Nick February 26, 2018 (8:31 am)

        Did you miss the part where I said “switch” to an income tax?

        • Concerned February 26, 2018 (12:28 pm)

          Do you really think they’re going to simply repeal all the hikes in the property tax simply because they implemented an income tax?

          Also, does it make you feel better to simply change the name of the tax in which this city/state is gouging you? 

  • MJ February 25, 2018 (11:33 am)

    LN

    Another option is for government to spend less money.  As a long time resident I have never seen taxes go up so much in so little time. 

    The economy is booming now but recessions happen, and then what?

    MJ

    • WSB February 25, 2018 (11:55 am)

      I believe I mentioned in the story that she had reiterated what she said in her State of the City address (which we featured earlier in the week) – that she’s asked city departments to submit budgets with cuts for this year’s budgeting round.

  • they February 25, 2018 (11:40 am)

    LOL, my circle also agrees that an income tax would be the way to go, problem is though it wouldn’t be a switch it would be an addition. No matter what were told… 

  • anonyme February 25, 2018 (12:19 pm)

    We’ll never get an income tax as long as most people buy the myth that it can or will only be implemented as an additional tax on top of all others.  The law could be written so that sales and property taxes will simultaneously be reduced as the income tax is implemented, and with exemptions in certain categories.  I understand the mistrust in government, but as long as people continue to vote against their own best interests nothing will improve.  Doing nothing is exactly what “they” (the wealthy, and the politicians they control) want you to do.  Follow the money…

  • TJ February 25, 2018 (12:57 pm)

    MJ is spot on. The state in general, and the puget sound area in particular, have taken in a lot of extra revenue because of our economy alone. For those touting a income tax, the question that is never answered is why have taxes gone up so much in the last 3 years, no matter who should be paying? It is a money grab, plain and simple, taking advantahe of a good economy to rake in as much money as possible. These current taxes aren’t sustainable, let alone any more that they want (Inslee’s ridiculous carbon tax). The politicians here are filled by crusaders and ideologists who have their own agenda and do not care how much we have been taxed by another agency. Anyone think the city council cares how much we have been taxed by the county, state, and Sound Transit? They have their own agenda.

  • Nigel February 26, 2018 (5:07 am)

    The state legislature could always eliminate the tax exemptions to businesses. 

  • anonyme February 26, 2018 (5:56 am)

    I also wonder about the role of charter schools in the public school budget deficit.  As charter schools are a further drain on the public school system, won’t the school deficit continue to grow – and our taxes with it? In essence, aren’t we paying extra for charters, despite the rhetoric to the contrary?

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