West Seattle, Washington
Two major events at City Hall last night. While we were covering a Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda “focus group” meeting talking about proposed rezoning (story to come), the City Council was listening to public comment about the budget. Among those commenting: A South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) contingent there to ask the city to contribute to expansion of the 13th Year Promise scholarship program. SSC communications director Ty Swenson shares the photo and report:
It was democracy in action at a Seattle City Council public hearing at City Hall as South Seattle College students, faculty, and leadership spoke to the council about the impact of our college’s 13th Year Promise Scholarship, and encouraged passage of a proposal to expand the program to three more high schools.
Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell has submitted a budget proposal that would expand the 13th Year Promise Scholarship to additional high schools over 2017 and 2018 with city support.
Currently offered to all Rainier Beach, Chief Sealth International, and Cleveland high school graduating seniors, the 13th Year Promise Scholarship provides one year of tuition-free college at South along with support services. It has increased access to higher education for area youth, particularly those from underrepresented groups including first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color. The program began in 2008, and to this point has been funded by donations to the college’s foundation.
Speaking on behalf of the proposal to city council were South Seattle College President Gary Oertli, South Foundation Chair (and West Seattle resident) Catherine Arnold, Mathematics Instructor Heidi Lyman, and students Ken Bert and Blanca Olivera, both attending college through the 13th Year Promise Scholarship.
The potential expansion schools include West Seattle High School. The program expanded to Chief Sealth in 2011; CSIHS was the second school, and Rainier Beach was added in 2014.
Two weeks until Election Day arrives, and the vote-counting begins. With King County Elections having sent out ballots last Wednesday, you should have yours by now, and KCE wants to hear from you if you don’t – 206-296-VOTE.
If you do, and you’re ready to vote, a few reminders:
*The new dropbox on SW Raymond outside High Point Library (photo above) is open for business, 24/7. A reader asked us how often it’s emptied; we checked today with KCE, and spokesperson Kendall Hodson replied, “Ballot drop boxes are picked up at least daily. For some higher-volume locations, we’ll actually pick up even more frequently than that.”
*One thing Hodson wanted to add: “Let people know that if they are mailing their ballot they only need a single stamp (there’s been a lot of confusion around this).”
If you’re using postal mail, make sure your ballot is postmarked by Election Day (November 8th). If you are using a dropbox – here’s the full list of locations – you need to get yours there by 8 pm November 8th. Don’t start marking it at 7:55 that night … you have more than three dozen races/issues to decide!
P.S. Voted already? Use the online Ballot Tracker to ensure yours is received.
P.P.S. Not registered? You still have until next Monday (October 31st) to register – but you have to do it in person.
BY THE WAY: That’s an image of suffragist/abolitionist Elizabeth Cady Stanton taped by someone to the front of the box.
… the marquee at The Admiral is already reminding you that the waiting is almost over: King County Elections says it has sent ballots on their way today, so as soon as you get yours, you can vote. You can mail your ballot OR drop it in West Seattle’s new permanent ballot drop box at High Point Library (SW Raymond just east of 35th SW) – deadline is Tuesday night, November 8th. If you don’t see your ballot by next Monday (October 24th), KC Elections says, call them at 206-296-VOTE. In the meantime, you can see exactly what and who is on your ballot by setting up the customized voter guide via the KC Elections website.
P.S. The county has accessible voting centers to help voters with disabilities. Locations and dates are here – the one in Renton opened today.
(Added Wednesday morning: Live feed from Seattle City Council budget meeting)
Two more City Council notes:
TOMORROW’S BUDGET REVIEWS: The City Council reconvenes as the Budget Committee at 9:30 Wednesday morning. We tracked today’s 9:30 am and 2 pm review sessions here; four more departments are up tomorrow during sessions at those same times. Each department name below is linked to the newest briefing memo we found in the system :
The documents include changes proposed by councilmembers. One West Seattle-specific proposal from our area’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold is in the SDOT budget memo:
Add $100,000 for West Seattle Bridge studies – Councilmember Herbold
This proposal would provide one-time funding for two traffic management studies including:
(1) evaluate the feasibility of traffic management modifications to improve the eastbound Spokane St Viaduct connection to I-5; and (2) evaluate the City’s ability to share data with the Federal Railroad Administration to better manage and enforce rules regulating the blockage of public grade crossings by trains.
And from the Parks memo:
Community Planning Process for Myers Way Properties, Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) – Councilmember Herbold
This proposal would request the executive to conduct a community planning process to determine the future uses of the Myers Way Properties. Such uses/purposes would include: green space that can serve to clean the air and water near an environmentally degraded area; protection of wetlands and Hamm Creek Watershed; hill stabilization; natural park space in an under-served area; preschool; expansion of the Joint Training Facility for firefighters to include training for police. In July, the Mayor announced the Myers Way Properties would be retained in City ownership, and that the northernmost portion be used for expansion of the Joint Training Facility. The remainder of the property would be retained and designated for open space and/or recreation purposes, consistent with community input. The Mayor indicated that DPR will conduct further public outreach to determine how best to use the properties.
She and other councilmembers have many other proposed changes you can see in each of the linked memos (usually toward the end), but we’re highlighting those as WS-specific. The budget-review process continues until a final version is passed in November.
COUNCILMEMBER’S ‘OFFICE HOURS’: Herbold announced today that she’ll be at the Senior Center of West Seattle this Friday (October 21st) for “in-district office hours,” noon-7 pm. Walk-ins welcome, but she says you are also welcome to make an appointment via her scheduler Alex Clardy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(9:43 pm update: What’s above is Seattle Channel video of today’s first Budget Committee session)
9:02 AM: City Councilmembers’ proposed changes to the mayor’s budget start going public today, with the Budget Committee‘s 9:30 am meeting kicking off the “deliberations” phase of the process. Some proposals are summarized in the documents that are published online as part of the agenda. Here are the six departments scheduled to appear before councilmembers today, in agenda order:
Office of Economic Development (OED)
Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL)
Office of Labor Standards (OLS)
Seattle Police Department (SPD)
Seattle Public Utilities (SPU)
Department of Neighborhoods (DON) and Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF)
Each department name above links to the document that’s in today’s agenda; those documents review key budget points, and – generally toward the end in the ones we’ve read – councilmembers’ proposed changes.
Of particular note here, since we are a neighborhood-news publication – the Department of Neighborhoods document mentions proposals from our area’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold that include a few that would somewhat soften the mayor’s proposal to cut all city ties to and support for neighborhood district councils. She is suggesting that the city budget retain the ~$7,000 in support for the 13 district councils; each generally uses its ~$500 share of that to rent meeting space for the year. Herbold also is suggesting keeping an advisory role for the district councils in the review processes for community grants, before they go to the mayor’s new proposed citywide Community Involvement Commission.
In the Department of Education and Early Learning document, Herbold has this proposal, which appears to be inspired by what happened to some West Seattle programs this year, saved by the deal to house them at the currently otherwise-unused Schmitz Park Elementary:
$2 million for both 2017 and 2018 to create a Child Care Space Mitigation fund to address the displacement of before- and after-school child care from Seattle Public Schools’ buildings. In February, the District notified providers at seven schools that they would be displaced for the 2016-2017 school year and, given the trend of increasing enrollment and state reductions in class size, it is expected that additional displacements will occur in future years. The funding would be prioritized for use by the District to make arrangements to keep child care on-site at schools where providers would otherwise be displaced.
LOTS of other proposals are on the table, and the budget process has another month to go, but this is the point where the most changes stand to be made, so it’s good to pay attention – we’re still reading the docs, too. You can watch today’s discussions live on Seattle Channel (online or Cable 21), starting at 9:30 am – we’ll add the video window to this story when it’s live.
P.S. Councilmembers’ contact info is here.
9:38 AM: The morning session has begun, and we’ve added the live-feed window above; budget chair Councilmember Tim Burgess indicates they’ll be going through the first three departments on the list this morning.
11:43 AM: The meeting is in recess until 2 pm, at which time the same “live” video window above should be operable again. The final 3 departments listed above will be in the afternoon discussion.
2:17 PM: The meeting has resumed. SPD is up now, SPU to follow, and then the Department of Neighborhoods.
5:26 PM: Meeting’s over. The council reconvenes as the Budget Committee at 9:30 am Wednesday.
9:43 PM: Seattle Channel’s archived video of today’s first session is available and we’ve substituted it atop this story. We’ll add session two when it appears online, likely tomorrow.
(UPDATED 6:40 PM – Video in box below is now the archived recording of today’s meeting)
9:31 AM: Click the “play” button and you’ll see the Seattle Channel‘s live feed from City Council chambers, where the encampment proposals that have drawn so much attention and discussion this past week are about to be discussed by the Human Services and Public Health Committee.
9:38 AM: Committee chair Councilmember Sally Bagshaw is setting the stage for the discussion, recapping some of what the mayor announced last night (WSB coverage here) and the alternatives she and Councilmember Mike O’Brien proposed earlier in the week (WSB coverage here). You can find all the related documents, including the alternative proposals, in this portion of the agenda for today’s meeting.
“This has been an extraordinarily stressful time for all of us,” Bagshaw then declared. She says the proposal brought in about 5,000 e-mails to council offices. Most were focused on opposition to camping in parks and on sidewalks, and Bagshaw reiterated that the mayor declared last night that he wanted those areas to remain officially off-limits. She also has reiterated that the committee is NOT voting today, but will be discussing the “principles” of what they’re trying to do.
First guest speaker at the meeting is the newly hired city Director of Homelessness George Scarola. (Also note, councilmembers present at the hearing include those who are not members of the committee, including our area’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold.) Scarola recapped what the mayor said last night (again, covered here, with full details promised next week). He’s followed by the mayor’s counsel, Ian Warner, who has reiterated, once more, that the mayor will not support camping in parks, on sidewalks, or on school properties (which aren’t city-owned anyway).
9:53 AM: Now speaking, the mayor’s public-safety director Scott Lindsay. He says that the mayor’s promise of expanding outreach personnel means the city will have the capacity to reach out to every unsheltered person “to bring them indoors,” while the city works “to have a place for them to go.” He says the mayor’s budget proposal includes $2 million for additional trash (and needles) cleanup related to unsheltered living.
Talk turns to those cleanup plans. Herbold asks about the scope and concern about the expansion of what had been a pilot program at four sites. Bagshaw points out that for many of the people from whom the council have heard, the trash is the problem much more than the tents.
10:20 AM: Pressed by Councilmember O’Brien, a mayoral rep says there is “no capability or plan to sweep people off all park property” though the mayor does not support a plan that would not “preserve that capability.”
10:36 AM: Scarola warns that communities might be “nervous” about some of the forthcoming solutions, including the four new authorized encampments, but “we have to work together.”
10:40 AM: Committee vice chair Councilmember Bruce Harrell suggests they get on to details of the various proposals. Councilmember Tim Burgess speaks first, saying of unsheltered people, “They are our neighbors and we want to help them.” He draws applause by reiterating, “I just want to say we should not proactively authorize camping in our parks and on our sidewalks … that violates public trust.” He says he supports what the mayor announced last night, including four new authorized encampments similar to the ones currently open in Ballard, Interbay, and Othello. Burgess also says, “There’s a lot of … trash (in locations) where campers are no longer there” and urges that mayor use “emergency powers” to get that cleaned up. Then he says it’s “not helpful” to use this controversy to “denigrate those who are homeless” in Seattle. A few minutes later, Councilmember Kshama Sawant notes that “homelessness is an absolutely brutalizing experience … nobody chooses that.”
11:09 AM: Bagshaw says 90 people are signed up to speak in the public-comment period they’re trying to get to, and at 2 minutes each, “you do the math.” Harrell asks about O’Brien’s revised proposal for the city to pay a $50 fine if it doesn’t follow through on whatever rules it implements. The latter says he’ll work with Harrell on that offline – and audience members howl. Bagshaw says, “I oppose the idea of having penalties on this kind of legislation.”
11:17 AM: Public comment begins. Bagshaw says she’ll stay until everyone has spoken, even if other councilmembers have to leave.
11:49 AM: So far, a variety of viewpoints have been voiced.
12:10 PM: There’s been opposition, support, alternatives. One person suggested spending tens of millions more on housing. (For context on the investment required, the DESC Cottage Grove Commons building in Delridge, which houses 66 formerly homeless people, cost $14 million to build earlier this decade.)
12:31 PM: There have been emotional speeches from people on multiple sides of the issue, including, just now, a woman who asked “what do you want us to do? Just die? … You want me to be you. I was you. Then, something happened” – mental illness, drugs, job loss, and a variety of things. She was shortly after a man in football gear flanked by kids holding up signs saying “Needle-Free End Zones,” saying they had to chase loiterers off their field (not in WS) every week, and that they had found three needles on the field so far this season.
12:40 PM: Public comment continues – now at #49 of what was announced as a list of 90 who signed up. We’re moving on to other stories but the live feed will continue as long as the meeting does, and when the full recorded video is available later in the day, we’ll then substitute that.
1:03 PM: One more note if you’re not watching … councilmembers still at the hearing right now are Herbold, González (citywide rep and a West Seattleite), Burgess (citywide rep), Harrell, Bagshaw.
1:34 PM: The meeting has just wrapped up. We’ll switch to the archived video when it’s available. Latest info is that a vote wouldn’t be likely before December, because the council has to immerse itself in the budget from hereon out, but we’ll keep watch.
More new developments on the night before a City Council committee next discusses how to shape the city’s rules about where unsheltered people can camp:
That’s the archived video of a media briefing called by Mayor Murray late today. While the announcement said it would be “a press conference ahead of the severe storms expected to impact Seattle (and to) lay out steps the City is taking to protect people experiencing homelessness during the severe weather,” more time was spent on the encampment legislation and the mayor’s plan for a proposal of his own.
A key point he stressed is that he would not allow camping in parks or on sidewalks, period, and that any such campers “will be removed.” He also said that he has city staff looking for sites for four new authorized encampments somewhere in the city (no locations mentioned), “safe alternative locations for people living unsheltered.” He also said that he will address the “trash crisis” related to so many living without shelter or services, including a system for picking up needles, and 10 new “dropoff boxes” for them “around the city.” (Again, no locations mentioned.) And he repeated something he’s said often, that the state and federal governments need to “step up” to help with the homelessness emergency, which he says has been brewing for decades.
Also present at the briefing, in addition to various city department heads, were Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Sally Bagshaw, and Debora Juarez. Bagshaw, who chairs the Human Services and Public Health Committee that will meet at 9:30 am tomorrow to discuss the encampment rules, spoke briefly; she reiterated that her committee will not vote tomorrow, but will discuss the alternatives that are now public, including the divergent bills she and Councilmember Mike O’Brien are offering (covered in this WSB story last night). She also issued this statement.
WHAT COUNCILMEMBER HERBOLD IS SAYING: Our area’s City Councilmember Lisa Herbold has issued an updated statement on the encampment-rules issue. It’s published in its entirety on her blog-format City Council website; she says it’s the reply she sent to people who had contacted her about the issue.
-“There is still much more work to be done before this bill is ready for a vote.”
She says her three goals for the process are:
*Better manage public property and respond to the crisis of public homelessness with the objective of having fewer people living outside in our community
*Ensure that our current encampment removal practices are not barriers to people accessing housing and shelter resources.
*Address the legitimate and immediate public health and safety issues impacting both housed and unhoused residents in our communities
Elaborating extensively on all three points, she notes in reference to the first that: “There are 619 known encampments today, on city owned land, with only vague, ineffective written guidelines for how the city defines and prioritizes its work associated with cleaning areas, or removing people from specific locations.” And that’s why she says the council is trying to write rules/guidelines.
Toward the third point, Herbold says, “No one working on this legislation intends to create a ‘right to camp’ much less a ‘right to camp anywhere.’ The reality is that people are and will, for the near term, be living outdoors and that no one has a magic wand to change that reality overnight.”
Again, you can read her entire statement here.
(UPDATED THURSDAY AFTERNOON with council staff analysis of the differences between the two alternatives)
6:52 PM: Two city councilmembers’ alternative versions of the camping-in-public-places proposal are now part of the agenda for Friday morning’s committee meeting. One is by the Human Services and Public Health Committee’s chair Sally Bagshaw, and the other is by Mike O’Brien, who is sponsor of the original bill. We’re reading them right now but wanted to publish them so you can read them too. First, from Bagshaw:
In hers, the expanded definition of “unsuitable” areas starts at page 6, so if you’re just going to skim, that’s where to start.
And from O’Brien:
Toplines to come. Though the committee is NOT expected to vote on Friday, the 9:30 am meeting at City Hall is still on, and will include a public-comment period.
10:15 PM: After reading both, here’s a quick summary of the differences: Besides, as mentioned earlier, a more expansive definition of what’s an “unsuitable” location – including all areas of parks, not just the “improved” ones – her bill does not mention vehicles, as the draft we obtained last week did. O’Brien’s alternate bill does mention, as did the draft, coming up with rules about vehicle camping within a few months. Meantime, his mentions setting up an advisory committee to oversee implementation of whatever new rules are passed; Bagshaw’s does not. And finally, hers includes this:
Unsuitable Location Options – Within 30 days of the effective date of this ordinance, the City shall set up additional sanctioned, or managed encampments or spaces where people can safely camp. Such identified spaces and sites shall be numerous and large enough to accommodate the reasonably estimated unsheltered population in need of such outdoor living spaces.
Again, the 9:30 am Friday committee meeting at City Hall is now NOT set to include a vote, but this will be discussed, and there will be public comment. It’ll be live on Seattle Channel, online and cable 21.
ADDED 1:32 PM THURSDAY: If you haven’t thoroughly compared the two alternatives yet, this council-staff memo, just added to the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, does exactly that.
11:28 AM: While much of the City Council-focused talk right now deals with the proposal regarding where unsheltered people can camp (WSB coverage here), that’s mostly outside the scope of the biggest task with which councilmembers are dealing right now: Reviewing, and potentially changing, the mayor’s proposed 2017-2018 budget.
Today, two of the departments we cover most often, Police and Transportation, are bringing their overviews before the council’s Budget Committee. As we publish this at 11:15 am, SPD is up (watch live here). Here’s the overview document SPD provided the council:
Besides adding 72 officers in the next two years, the overview document also points out that SPD proposing something that will make a difference in our area – a fulltime Crime Prevention Coordinator for each precinct; right now, Southwest CPC Mark Solomon also serves the South Precinct, and he is one of two doing double duty.
At 2:30 pm today, the review includes SDOT. Here’s their overview, including the proposal to expand the controversial bike-share program:
You should also be able to view the afternoon meeting live via seattlechannel.org.
After SDOT, it moves to the Office of Planning and Community Development, whose overview you can download here (PDF). Its focus is on planning, like the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan, and possible community-planning projects, including, the document mentions, a possible project for “Westwood-Highland Park and the North Highline potential annexation area.” The document also asks a question that is related to the city’s apparent initiative to reduce use of the term “neighborhood,” asking, “Is the Council comfortable with a shift away from ‘neighborhood planning’ toward ‘community planning’?”
If there is anything you want to tell the council about adding to or taking out of the budget, let them know ASAP – according to the budget timeline that our area’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold shared, tomorrow (Tuesday) is the deadline for councilmembers to propose changes “for the first round of budget deliberations.” Her contact info, and that of the other eight councilmembers, can be found here.
12:20 PM UPDATE: The SPD review is over and it’s public-comment time.
2:57 PM UPDATE: The council just finished a short business meeting and will resume Budget Committee business with SDOT and OPCD shortly.
3:34 PM UPDATE: SDOT is up now.
11:55 AM: Once again on the eve of a presidential debate (6 pm our time on Sunday), we’re being asked about West Seattle venues planning to view it. So we’re again putting the question out to you, in case you’ve heard of one … so far we have Admiral Bird (California/Admiral), a debate-watching fixture, and Sound & Fog (4735 40th SW). Anywhere else? Comment, or e-mail us – email@example.com – so we can add. Thanks!
ADDED 5:22 PM: Parliament Tavern (4210 SW Admiral Way) is showing the debate, adding “Happy Hour extends throughout the proceedings featuring $4 micros and well drinks, as well as $2.50 Rainiers and PBRs.” Afterward, it’s the John Lennon Birthday Bash.
ADDED SUNDAY AFTERNOON: OutWest Bar at California/Brandon – 2 screens!
ORIGINAL 10 AM REPORT: This morning, the City Council’s Budget Committee is taking a closer look at what the mayor proposes the city spend on homelessness in the next two years.
But it’s just a briefing – no vote.
Meantime, the council is getting closer, outside the budget process, to voting on a controversial proposal that we are told is continuing to take shape, but “changing daily” according to one source – a new city policy regarding people camping on city-owned property, when and where it will and won’t be allowed, and for how long.
Some have described the evolving proposal as “opening” city-owned public property to camping. At one recent meeting, as reported here, Councilmember Lisa Herbold said 40 percent of city parks, for example, already have campers, so what they are trying to do is codify what to do about that beyond pushing campers from one place to another.
One councilmember, Tim Burgess (one of two current councilmembers elected to citywide “at large” spots), declared this week that he thinks the general concept goes “too far.” The proposal doesn’t just address parks as potential campsites. It includes sidewalks.
Here is what our source says is the newest version of the proposed legislation (if you look at the PDF, you’ll see how it’s been changing).
Its definition of public areas:
“Public space” means any area within the City limits which is owned, leased, maintained, controlled, or managed by the City, and does not include Public Development Authorities, privately owned land, public schools and colleges, the University of Washington, or the Port of Seattle.
And it includes this definition of public areas that would be “unsuitable” for camping:
“Unsuitable location” means a public space that has a specific public use that is substantially impeded as a result of an outdoor living space in that location. Improved areas of City parks, including restored natural areas or natural areas actively undergoing restoration, and public sidewalks in front of houses and dwelling units are per se unsuitable. Sidewalks in commercial areas are prohibited to sitting and lying during certain hours under SMC 15.48.040.
“Specific public use” is defined, in turn, as “lawful, appropriate use that benefits, assists, or is enjoyed by members of the public more than incidentally and occasionally.”
So, that all said, two maps are in circulation related to this. Note that since this is all evolving, they are not definitive “here’s where camping would be allowed” maps – and note that the park map shows parks that have what, under the definition above, could be considered “unimproved” areas; while Lincoln Park is entirely shaded in, for example, the “unsuitable” definition above would seem to rule out camping in much of its space. Here’s the citywide map of parks and greenbelts that have some “unimproved” areas (click it for a full-size PDF version):
If it’s determined that campers should be moved, the proposal includes a long list of rules regarding notification, proof of it, what has to be offered in terms of services/shelter – you can read the current proposal for rules starting on page 5 of the current draft legislation.
Also worth noting: This would be followed, under a proposed change in the legislation this week, by a followup process to determine where vehicle camping would be allowed:
Section 7. Individuals Using Vehicles as Residences. The 2016 one night count of unsheltered homeless identified over 900 people using vehicles as residences. The unsheltered population living in vehicles faces similar instability to those who reside in outdoor living spaces and risk impoundment of their vehicles and loss of personal property. The Human Services and Public Health Committee and the Gender Equity Safe Communities and New Americans Committee of the Council shall draft, consider, and introduce to the full Council legislation in 2017, based on the same principles contained in this ordinance, coupled with a long-term goal of providing adequate housing for those individuals living in vehicles. The legislation should address the multiple ordinances and laws that govern parking throughout the City with the goal of providing stability and protections for those people using vehicles for shelter commensurate to those established in this ordinance. To achieve that goal, the legislation will provide to people living in their vehicles protected areas for parking and modifications of parking standards, provide for outreach to address the reasons for homelessness, and establish standards for notice and safeguarding personal property, including impounded vehicles, equivalent to those established in this ordinance. The Committees named above shall be tasked with proposing legislation that meets these purposes to the Full Council by April 30, 2017.
Back to the proposals about camping, the current version of the proposal suggests a two-year limit:
In keeping with the recognition that public camping as a substitute for permanent housing is detrimental to the health and safety of all, and that these measures are an interim response to a situation the City is expected to resolve through other policy measures, this ordinance shall expire two years after its effective date unless expressly extended by the City Council. The Mayor shall report to the Council every six months in the interim on implementation of this ordinance.
Now the big question: When will this be voted on, whatever shape it finally takes?
We checked with City Council communications staff just before publishing this. The reply: “Too soon to tell.” While there’s nothing related to it on next week’s calendar, something could be added with just a few days’ notice.
SOMETHING TO SAY? City councilmembers’ contact info is here.
ADDED 11:38 AM: The Seattle Green Spaces Coalition has sent city officials this letter expressing opposition. An excerpt:
We oppose funding for temporary, outdoor “solutions,” which leave homeless people exposed to increasingly severe weather as winter approaches. Instead, we urge you to find indoor shelter, which is available in city-owned vacant and underutilized buildings, and make that your preferred option going forward.
Meantime, the City Council Twitter account has now confirmed a committee hearing on the proposal next Friday (October 14th) at 9:30 am. It’s also been added to the council calendar since we first published this story.
Got a strong sentiment about what you do, or don’t, want the city to do with your money? Tomorrow is a big night to step up and speak your mind, as the City Council‘s first budget hearing happens Wednesday night. It’s at City Hall downtown, but traditionally, people come from all over Seattle for a moment in the spotlight as they voice their thoughts about the budget.
One issue of particular interest to community advocates: The resolution that would formalize what Mayor Murray announced in July – his hopes of cutting off city support for neighborhood-district councils (of which West Seattle has two), moving much of it to a new citywide Community Involvement Commission. Below, you can read the resolution that spells out how that group would be formed, among other things – one member from each of the seven City Council districts, seven more members to be appointed by the mayor, and two to be chosen by the commission, with mayoral and council approval required:
This is one of many budget topics the council is likely to hear about Wednesday night. The entire 841-page proposed-budget document is here; what the council wants to hear most at this stage, as explained by our area’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold (read her budget-process explainer/timeline here), is what you would like them to change, or NOT change, in the mayor’s proposal. We featured a few other toplines the day it was made public.
HEARING INFO: The hearing starts at 5:30 Wednesday at City Hall downtown (600 4th Ave.). Child care will be available – scroll down this page to see where to go and when.
6:39 PM: Admiral Bird is among the West Seattle spots where people are gathered right now to watch the first Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump presidential debate. From TV to YouTube to Twitter, in the words of one anchor, this might just be the “biggest electronic event in history.” It’s scheduled to continue until 7:30 our time; if you missed this one and want to see rounds 2 and 3 – here’s the schedule – October 9th and 19th, with the one and only VP debate on October 4th.
7:41 PM: Debate’s over. Just in case you weren’t watching it, but were wondering.
(5:19 PM NOTE: The video window now has the mayor’s speech as archived by Seattle Channel.)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 2:03 PM: Click “play” above and you’ll see, via Seattle Channel, the live feed from City Hall downtown as the City Council begins its weekly full-council meeting by hosting Mayor Murray’s presentation of the city budget proposal for 2017-2018.
While listening, we’re going through the just-released budget documents and will add highlights to this story.
*$440 million budget proposed for 2017, $561 million for 2018
*Not many West Seattle specifics, but the Fauntleroy Boulevard project is in for $7 million in 2018, so it looks like that’s the year projected for construction
In his speech, the mayor also called out the Lander Street Overpass project in SODO, of interest to many here, as it gets closer to full funding. (An “online open house” continues this week.)
Next, public safety.
Here’s the Seattle Police Department breakout. Overall, the budget says SPD would “hire 72 new officers [35 in 2017, 37 in 2018] and hire 25 new 911 communication center staff” for the entire city.
*Southwest Precinct (West Seattle/South Park) mentions: The patrol budget actually drops a bit over the next two years (as do the other precinct budgets). The number of full-time equivalents at the SW Precinct stays the same, at 124.
Here’s the Seattle Fire Department breakout. Its primary challenge is to keep up with attrition: ” As in previous years, the proposed budget adds funding for 35 additional recruits, for a total of 60 new recruits in 2017. The additional recruits, once trained, will fill existing positions that have been vacated as a result of retirements or other attrition.”
Since we’re on a peninsula, this excerpt from the SFD budget is notable:
Another programmatic area in which the Fire Department is making improvements this year is water rescues. SFD owns two large fire boats and several smaller rescue boats that are used primarily for fighting marine fires. Responses to water rescues are limited given that the City has one fireboat crew and one technical rescue/dive team. To address this, SFD proposes piloting a Surface Water Rescue Program to provide a greater level of water rescue capability. The proposed Surface Water Rescue Program will train up to 40 firefighters as technician level rescue swimmers and deploy them city-wide, allowing them to respond more quickly to water rescues.
3 PM: The mayor’s speech has just ended. Some had wondered whether protesters would disrupt it, as had happened to the City Council last week, but many would-be attendees were kept out of the chambers. Councilmember Kshama Sawant made a motion at the meeting’s start to let more people in, but the motion did not pass.
Speaking of participation – we have now started reviewing the Department of Neighborhoods‘ budget breakout.
This includes components of the mayor’s plan to cut city support for Neighborhood District Councils, hailed in a city document just a few years ago as a “nationally significant model of grassroots democracy, being Seattle’s only advisory committees whose members are entirely selected at the grass roots, rather than appointed top-down by elected officials or City agencies.”
This is further addressed:
Expanding Outreach and Engagement
In 2016, through Executive Order 2016-06, the Mayor tasked DON with leading an effort to implement equitable outreach and engagement plans and practices across all City offices and departments. Also in 2016, DON added two positions that will now be made permanent: one to oversee the re-envisioning of DON’s Outreach and Engagement Division and lead Citywide response efforts, and another to work with other departments to coordinate and leverage opportunities for effective outreach and engagement efforts.
DON is also reallocating and deploying resources, including staff, within the department to prioritize the
application of the community outreach and engagement principles that reflect the Mayor’s vision of inclusive participation. This vision is articulated in Executive Order 2016-06 and the proposed resolution on equitable community involvement practices submitted to the City Council as part of the Mayor’s 2017-2018 Proposed Budget. As part of this effort, DON will reallocate nine Neighborhood District Coordinator positions to meet this scope of work and the department’s business needs.
Those positions, which have provided city-staff support to the 13 district councils (two of which are in West Seattle – Southwest and Delridge), are still funded in the budget plan at a level similar to what’s budgeted now. Part of the “reallocation” is detailed in one budget line item:
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will fund positions in DON for outreach and engagement. Two existing Neighborhood District Coordinator positions will be reallocated to Strategic Advisor 1 positions. These positions will work closely with SDOT and the Office of Economic Development on improving outreach and engagement to neighborhoods and communities affected by large-scale infrastructure improvement projects.
4:19 PM: This mass e-mail from Neighborhoods director Kathy Nyland has more detail on the “reallocation.”
5:19 PM: The archived Seattle Channel video of the mayor’s speech has now replaced what had been the “live” video window above. Also – if you missed it in earlier stories – Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s explanation of how the budget process goes from here, with specific dates, is in her newest online update.
Before we get to what’s happening in West Seattle today/tonight – a reminder that the city-budget process moves out into the public arena starting this afternoon. At 2 pm, the City Council’s regular weekly full-council meeting starts with Mayor Murray’s budget speech. And that’s when his plan will go public – not just a long list of dollar amounts, but also a road map to what he’s proposing to do regarding a variety of issues and projects. For example, as noted in our coverage of last Wednesday’s Delridge District Council meeting, the budget is where he would have to officially execute his proposal to cut off city support for district councils.
What the mayor delivers today will have City Council-led changes by the time it goes to a final vote on November 21st. And this will be the first budget process since the City Council was changed to seven district reps and two at-large, so that’s a new dynamic in the mix. Our area’s City Councilmember Lisa Herbold included a timeline of the process in her latest online update – see it here. The first major public hearing – “an opportunity to request that Councilmembers sponsor changes (or not make changes) to the Mayor’s proposed budget,” as Herbold explains it – is next week, 5:30 pm Wednesday, October 5th, at City Hall. Her timeline explains other key points for commenting. (Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
You can watch the mayor’s budget speech today at 2 pm via Seattle Channel, online or cable channel 21. We’ll be covering it for the local specifics, of course, so check here for those.
6:42 PM: If you know of an open-to-the-public viewing party for the first presidential debate tomorrow, we’d love to hear about it – we’ve been asked multiple times today! Bar, restaurant, political group, whomever/wherever, as long as it’s in West Seattle, White Center, or South Park. E-mail us at email@example.com or comment below – thank you.
9:40 PM: Here’s what we have so far:
Admiral Bird (California/Admiral)
The Skylark (3803 Delridge Way SW), pre-trivia
House party in North Admiral that is also a campaign fundraiser for Secretary of State candidate Tina Podlodowski and Lands Commissioner candidate Hilary Franz, suggested donation $100/person – if interested, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details/RSVP
9:57 PM: Another one just in:
Parliament Tavern (4210 SW Admiral Way): “We’ll have the two parties represented on the big screen, but the REAL party falls smack during happy hour, which will carry through the end of the debate! $4 draft micros! $4 wells! $2.50 Rainier’s and PBR tallboys!”
ADDED MONDAY MORNING: OutWest Bar (California/Brandon) too.
Anyplace else? We’ll keep adding whatever comes in. (The debate is set for 6-7:30 pm Monday, our time, by the way.)
(Seattle Channel video of today’s meeting. “Secure scheduling” starts at 51:22)
3:59 PM: “Heck, yeah!” exclaimed City Councilmember Lisa Herbold during the roll call less than an hour ago that brought unanimous approval to her “secure scheduling” bill for large companies’ employees.
She’s been working on it in a unique manner for almost seven months, with open “stakeholder” discussions during meetings of the committee she chairs, Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, & Arts, and with the partnership of the council’s other West Seattleite, at-large Councilmember Lorena González.
Businesses are only covered if they have 500+ employees (and 40 locations for full-service restaurants)
14 days advance notice for schedules
Written good-faith estimate of hours at time of hire
10 hours right to rest between closing and opening shifts (similarly to overtime, this can be voluntarily waived for time and a half wages for the time less than 10 hours)
Predictability pay of one hour of wages only for non-employee requested schedule additions
Half time pay for involuntary reduction in scheduled work hours and on-call shifts
Access to additional hours for existing employees before outside recruitment and hiring
Exceptions for diversity and seasonal hiring
Read the legislation here. Its provisions will take effect July 1st of next year.
10:38 PM: We’ve added the Seattle Channel video of this afternoon’s meeting, which ended about 10 minutes after this vote, because of an unrelated protest.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With 54 days until Election Day, our area’s largest political organization, the 34th District Democrats, endorsed State Sen. Pramila Jayapal tonight in her run for the 7th Congressional District.
While the endorsement vote was the night’s marquee event, along with the “mini-forum” with Jayapal and opponent State Rep. Brady Piñero Walkinshaw that preceded it, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s appearance made some headlines, so we’ll recap that first:
CITY COUNCILMEMBER LISA HERBOLD: First thing – the East Duwamish Greenspace tree-cutting investigation, which has now been under way for almost six months.
With less than two months until Election Day, the 34th District Democrats are due to decide tomorrow night (Wednesday, September 14th) who they will endorse in the 7th Congressional District race, since the candidate they endorsed in the primary, County Council president Joe McDermott, did not make it into the top two. Before the vote, they’ll have a mini-forum with the candidates who did – State Sen. Pramila Jayapal and State Rep. Brady Piñero Walkinshaw. While the endorsement vote is only open to members, the meeting is open to everyone – 7 pm at The Hall at Fauntleroy (9131 California SW). See the full agenda here.
While overall voter turnout wasn’t so great, there were some positive numbers associated with this month’s primary election – including the number of voters using the new permanent ballot dropbox by the High Point Library. A King County Council committee got a briefing from KC Elections today on how the new dropboxes – this was one of 19 in the county – did; here’s the resulting news release:
…Nearly 36 percent of voters (more than 160,000 voters) cast their primary ballots via drop boxes. This is a substantial increase compared to the 2015 general election, in which 26 percent of ballots were returned via drop boxes. This year, over 100,000 primary ballots were returned to drop boxes on Election Day, 20,000 more than any previous Election Day total….
…In December 2015, the King County Council passed a motion asking King County Elections to develop a plan to improve access and convenience of ballot drop-off locations throughout King County. A primary aim of the motion was to lower barriers to voting. The Elections Division’s plan, which was approved by the Council on May 2nd, 2016, adds 33 additional ballot drop-off locations in King County for a total of 43 locations.
For the August primary election, a total of 29 ballot drop box locations were ready for voters. The remaining locations will be open in time for this fall’s general election. Once the plan is completed later this year, more than 90 percent of King County residents will live within three miles of a ballot drop box.
Among the most used new locations are the Lake City Library, University of Washington – Schmitz Hall, and High Point Library drop boxes, all located in areas that scored highest in the evaluation for key equity demographic characteristics. Scores were based on an Equity and Social Justice metric that considered a combination of diversity, household income, and English proficiency. Strong return rates at these locations signal progress for King County’s ongoing efforts to lower barriers to voting and strengthen the ability for all citizens to exercise the right to vote.
We followed up to get the West Seattle-specific numbers: 5,548 ballots were turned in via the High Point drop box for this year’s primary. King County Elections spokesperson Nancy Standifer tells WSB more than 4,300 of them were dropped off on Election Day (August 2nd). While it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison given that ballot vans only were sent over for a few days and limited hours each election, we asked for those numbers: August of 2015, 1,725 ballots at the West Seattle Stadium dropoff van; August of 2016 (two days) at the HP Library dropbox, 4,912 ballots.
Just in from City Hall – while it’s not West Seattle-specific, it deals with a citywide challenge, so we thought you might be interested. Mayor Murray has just filled the announced-last-April cabinet-level position of “director of homelessness.” The news release:
Mayor Ed Murray today announced that George Scarola will serve as the City’s first ever cabinet-level director of homelessness. Scarola will be responsible for leading the City’s homelessness efforts across departments, providing oversight and evaluation of outcomes, strategic guidance, and leading community engagement.
“Homelessness is a national epidemic, leaving cities like Seattle stepping in to fill the large gaps left behind by state and federal agencies,” said Mayor Murray, “We have made unprecedented investments in homelessness prevention and services. Because of the growing scope of work around homelessness, Seattle needs a proven manager to ensure we are achieving our desired outcomes. I have known George for many years, working alongside him in Seattle and Olympia, and know him as a unifying leader that excels at creating successful results through community engagement.”
Scarola is an experienced public affairs and community relations manager having led advocacy organizations in Seattle and Olympia for over 25 years.
A tumultuous City Council meeting this afternoon (Seattle Channel video added above) included a passionate packed house at City Hall opposing the proposed Seattle Police North Precinct project, currently proposed at $149 million, $61 million over a previous estimate (page 10, here), nicknamed “The Bunker” by those who want it scrapped. The council didn’t kill it, but didn’t give it final approval, either. Earlier in the day, this and other recent overbudget and/or behind-schedule projects led our area’s Councilmember Lisa Herbold and one a colleague to propose a new oversight committee. Here’s their announcement:
Councilmembers Rob Johnson and Lisa Herbold called for creation of a special Council committee to oversee City-funded capital projects following recent capital expenditures that exceeded initial budgets, including the North Precinct Police Station, the downtown waterfront Seawall, and the New Customer Information System which handles billing issues at the City’s utility departments.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park) said, “It’s been frustrating when large projects go millions over budget, or are years behind schedule – such as Fire Station #32 in the West Seattle Junction. In creating this committee, Councilmembers can more closely monitor large projects, so we’re not faced with no-win options when presented with updates late in the process.”
The Council Capital Projects Oversight Committee would share characteristics with capital oversight best practices, such as the Sound Transit Capital Committee oversight process, which creates a series of systematic check-ins as projects progress, both through planning and construction. The Council committee’s oversight work would establish a baseline level of transparency to help ensure City capital projects remain on budget and the public remains informed along the way.
Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) said, “‘Transparency’ should be the name of the game as we develop our capital facilities. As Sound Transit develops their projects, staff seeks Board authorization at eight points throughout the process, including for preliminary engineering, final design, and baseline budget, which includes total project costs and construction. As a Seattle City Councilmember, I expect the public to hold me accountable for delivering our capital projects on time and within budget, but we need the tools necessary for proper oversight. If City facilities are projected to run over-budget, the Council should have plenty of lead time to develop alternatives or contingencies.”
The Council receives annual reports on all City capital investments, but they can be of limited utility because of the volume of information provided. A Council Capital Projects Oversight Committee would likely identify characteristics of projects they wanted to review, including large projects or projects that are at least 10% over initial budgets.
Councilmembers will work with their colleagues to develop oversight committee legislation for introduction at a later date.
Herbold’s comment refers to the new West Seattle fire station that, as we first reported last fall, is running more than 9 years behind the original schedule. Construction of the new Fire Station 32 in The Junction finally began with demolition four months ago; the original estimate, with the 2003 fire levy that funded it, was for a 2007 completion – now, it’ll be 2017.