West Seattle Blog... » West Seattle politics http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:21:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Amanda Kay Helmick becomes 4th candidate for West Seattle’s new City Council District 1 seat http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/amanda-kay-helmick-becomes-4th-candidate-for-west-seattles-new-city-council-district-1-seat/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/amanda-kay-helmick-becomes-4th-candidate-for-west-seattles-new-city-council-district-1-seat/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:32:15 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=289295 The hottest local political race isn’t on the November 4 ballot you should have received by now – and won’t even be decided for another year.

Four candidates are now running in City Council District 1, which includes West Seattle.

This morning, Amanda Kay Helmick, chair of the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, is announcing she’s in the race.

She joins Chas Redmond, David Ishii, and Tom Rasmussen, the only member of the current City Council living in the District 1 boundaries, which were set when city voters approved Charter Amendment 19 last year, changing the council from nine at-large members to seven by-district and two at-large.

Along with chairing WWRHAH, Helmick co-founded the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, which launched in September 2013 as the WS Transit Coalition and expanded its focus weeks later while emerging as an early voice against proposed Metro cuts.

Helmick also represents Delridge on the City Neighborhood Council, which she says needs to be strengthened and empowered. She is an eight-year West Seattleite whose full bio is on her newly launched website. From her official announcement:

“We have multiple and disconnected plans, and no one in the city is talking about how these plans overlay and affect the people of Seattle,” Helmick said of the city’s current transportation and land use initiatives. “I want to empower the under-served communities of West Seattle and South Park and give them a voice in these plans.”

According to Helmick’s campaign website, she is collecting petition signatures to get onto the ballot. The filing deadline for next year’s council elections is May 1st, 2015.

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Update: West Seattle Transportation Coalition votes to endorse transit-funding measure, but no position on monorail http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-transportation-coalition-votes-to-endorse-transit-funding-measure/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-transportation-coalition-votes-to-endorse-transit-funding-measure/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 04:06:06 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=288713 Two toplines so far from tonight’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting: WSTC voted to endorse the bus-funding measure on the November 4 ballot, officially Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1. And it voted NOT to endorse the monorail measure on the ballot, officially Seattle Citizen Petition No. 1. More to come.

ADDED WEDNESDAY MORNING: More toplines from the WSTC meeting:

Before making endorsement (or non-endorsement) decisions, there was spirited discussion. WSTC’s Chas Redmond suggested a protest vote – yes monorail, no transit funding – to send the message that people are not happy with the way things are going.

Advocates for both sides on both issues spoke as well. Monorail-measure creator Elizabeth Campbell said her initiative, raising money to start planning one again, empowers citizens, in the face of a need for more transit. It would be planned by people outside the usual inner circle that gets called on for transportation issues, she contended.

On the no-monorail side, Jonathan Hopkins from SeattleSubway.org called it a 15-year-old idea that would repeat past failures, with no provisions to build anything after the studies that the tax would fund.

Arguments for and against the transit-funding measure – which has now become a “restore cut service/add more service” campaign, with future Metro cuts shelved – came from City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen on “pro,” WSTC member Michael Taylor-Judd on “con,” as they had done at last week’s Southwest District Council meeting in West Seattle.

Bottom line, Rasmussen contended this measure is the clearest, best shot at transit improvement now; Taylor-Judd says it’s a regressive tax that will hurt those who can least afford it.

Redmond, a declared candidate for next year’s first-ever City Council District 1 (West Seattle/South Park) election – as is Rasmussen – also criticized the regressive nature of Prop 1′s money-raising tools. He also pointed out that West Seattle voters gave the lowest approval margin to the countywide version of this last April.

WSTC chair Joe Szilagyi wondered if approval of this, and potential similar steps by other municipalities, might break the Olympia logjam on transportation funding. Maybe, Rasmussen said, but also consider that if Seattle doesn’t pass this, legislators could draw the conclusion that city voters can’t be bothered, so they won’t worry about it further.

And again, here’s how the votes came out, as summarized later on WSTC’s Facebook page:

The WSTC membership vote on endorsing Petition 1 – monorail, failed 1-10-1. The WSTC does not endorse the monorail vote. The WSTC membership vote on endorsing Prop 1 – bus funding, passed 7-2-1. The WSTC endorses a Yes vote on Prop 1 to fund buses.

ALSO: WSTC’s letter to city leaders – featured here September 28th – was recapped.

NEXT WSTC MEETING: Tuesday, November 11th, 6:30 pm.

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Election 2014: Not registered to vote? Deadline tomorrow http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/election-2014-not-registered-to-vote-deadline-tomorrow/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/election-2014-not-registered-to-vote-deadline-tomorrow/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 03:23:56 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=287932 checkbox.jpgThere’s a lot to decide in the November 4th election, now less than a month away – closer, really, since voting begins when ballots start arriving at mid-month. If you’re not registered and want to sign up online or by mail, tomorrow’s the deadline – here’s how to register (same goes for updating your address if you ARE registered). If you miss that, you’ll be able to register in person at the King County Elections offices in Seattle and Renton on September 27th – but why delay? Easiest way to do it is to sign up right here, right now.

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Could Neighborhood Conservation Districts protect neighborhood ‘character’ amid rapid growth? Council discussion Monday http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/could-neighborhood-conservation-districts-protect-neighborhood-character-amid-rapid-growth-council-discussion-monday/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/could-neighborhood-conservation-districts-protect-neighborhood-character-amid-rapid-growth-council-discussion-monday/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:31:02 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=286924 With relatively rapid redevelopment in parts of some Seattle neighborhoods – West Seattle, Ballard, Capitol Hill come to mind – concern percolates about losing “character.” In some cases, neighborhoods have special districts as “overlays” meant as an attempt to preserve some of that character – Pioneer Square, notably, and Capitol Hill’s Pike-Pine area, for example. But what about other neighborhoods, like West Seattle, where the Southwest District Council has been trying for two years to get a historic-resources survey going for part of our area, as a first step?

“Neighborhood Conservation Districts” might be a tool for our area and others, suggests Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who is sponsoring a briefing on the concept tomorrow, during the first part of the City Council’s two-part Monday meeting. Here’s the slide deck they’ll be going through:

The presentation during tomorrow’s 9:30 am Council meeting (agenda here) will not include a vote – it’s just a briefing, and there’s no specific council bill attached to it. But Councilmember Rasmussen tells us, “If my colleagues agree, I will continue to work for legislation to establish a process for neighborhoods to nominate themselves to become Conservation Districts.” Tomorrow’s briefing should start around 10 am and will be live online and on cable via Seattle Channel.

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Election 2014: Tom Rasmussen officially running in District 1 http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/election-2014-tom-rasmussen-officially-running-in-district-1/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/election-2014-tom-rasmussen-officially-running-in-district-1/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 02:40:54 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=287010 Sometime this week, since we last checked the city’s Elections and Ethics website, its list of candidates in next year’s elections switched to show the only City Councilmember living in West Seattle now running for its new council district. Tom Rasmussen had been listed there as “undesignated,” running for either one of the two at-large seats that will remain, or for District 1 (West Seattle/South Park), but now is listed as one of three candidates in that district, along with Chas Redmond and David Ishii. You can see all the declared-so-far council candidates (and city ballot measures) on the right sidebar of this page.

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Election 2014: Gatewood forum Sunday on I-591, I-594 http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/election-2014-gatewood-forum-sunday-on-i-591-i-594/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/election-2014-gatewood-forum-sunday-on-i-591-i-594/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 01:01:05 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=287005 With ballots going out in mid-October, the “November 4″ election is closer than it seems. Just announced by Rev. Erik Kindem from Peace Lutheran Church in Gatewood, a forum this Sunday on two of the statewide initiatives you’ll be voting on:

Peace Lutheran Church is hosting a forum on two firearms-related initiatives that will be on the ballot in November: I-594 (text here) and I-591 (text here).

. I-594 would expand current criminal background-check requirements to include all gun sales and transfers in Washington State with specific exceptions.

. I-591 would limit the circumstances in which firearms can be confiscated and would limit the ability of government agencies to require background checks.

Stacy Anderson from FAN (Faith Action Network) will be leading the forum, which will begin at 12 noon. Peace Lutheran is located at the corner of SW Thistle and 39th Avenue SW in West Seattle. Members of the public are invited to attend.

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Update: Mayor presents budget proposal; West Seattle toplines – miniature-golf course, $ to finish Fauntleroy Boulevard design, keep SPD Mounted Patrol http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/happening-now-mayor-presents-this-years-budget-proposal/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/happening-now-mayor-presents-this-years-budget-proposal/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 21:06:27 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=286554

2:06 PM: Click the “play” button above and you’ll get the live webcast, under way now, of Mayor Murray‘s budget speech to the City Council. We’ll be linking the documents and noting toplines here as it goes (and as we review the docs). **Update: Post-speech, window above now takes you to ARCHIVED video of speech**

BUDGET DOCUMENTS: Find them here. Wondering how to navigate them? That’s explained here. Direct link to the full budget is here.

From our first search for West Seattle mentions in that document:

*On page 28, our area described as a “current construction hub”
*On page 101, a miniature golf course to be installed at the West Seattle Golf Course in about a year
*On page 150, a renovation project is mentioned for the West Seattle (Admiral) Library Branch
*On page 414, $500,000 to finish design for the Fauntleroy Boulevard plan. (Remember, your Q/A/info opportunity is at tomorrow night’s open house – details in our newest update.)

2:22 PM: Those are just the outright “West Seattle” mentions; we’re now going through to look for what are certainly many other points of interest. The mayor, meantime, has spoken of reforming the budget process, of “coordination” in development reviews, of “ending the transportation-mode wars.” Speaking of transportation, more school-zone cameras are on the way (though specific locations are not noted). In public-safety and human services, he is proposing a new office to focus on domestic violence and sexual assault, and he has acknowledged that despite the city’s investment in helping homeless people, homelessness is not ending, and there has to be a better way.

(added) Another West Seattle note, from the SPD budget overview:

In addition, the proposed budget continues funding for maintenance staff and expenses associated with the SPD’s Horse Patrol Unit. Private resources will no longer be available to support the ongoing costs of this unit in 2015. Therefore, General Funds are being provided to continue this valuable public safety service.

The Mounted Patrol, you’ll recall, is based in Highland Park (and just had an open house on Saturday).

2:36 PM: The mayor’s speech has ended. We’re continuing to look for toplines. The council is in recess; we’ll substitute the archived video later when it’s available.

3:05 PM: Joe Szilagyi points out in comments that the budget includes money to fix the Schmitz Park Bridge.

3:57 PM: Replaced previous “live video” window above with embedded archived video of mayor’s speech.

5:12 PM: This is not West Seattle-specific, but likely of interest to many – from the Department of Planning and Development budget, page 248-249:

Seattle’s Design Review program is one of the principal opportunities for members of the public to interface with development projects. Design review is intended to influence the design of projects consistent with citywide and neighborhood-specific design guidelines. As development activity has increased, the Design Review program has come under increased scrutiny. A challenge identified during public participation in project review is that many communities are concerned about the direction of certain land use policies and have non design related concerns.

In response to these two issues, DPD will evaluate potential changes to the design review process and will explore new ways to improve public engagement in the planning and land use policy areas. The department will begin this work through surveys and focused public discussions with community stakeholders to gather information about the design review process, and will report on general findings. The department will evaluate, identify, and draft Land Use Code revisions based on this community work. The department will also begin a process to engage communities, provide information about growth and development issues, and provide opportunities for dialogue outside of the design review process. The work will be conducted through public meetings and online engagement, and be targeted toward different neighborhoods and demographics throughout the city. The pilot program will include citywide events with opportunities for dialogue, and will include feedback to community participants. This work will be done in 2015 and 2016 by shifting existing resources and revising the City Planning work program.

WHAT’S NEXT? The entire budget calendar for the next two months, including two major public hearings (neither in West Seattle), can be seen here.

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Video: New partnership plan saves Greenbridge clinic, moves West Seattle Planned Parenthood clinic http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/video-new-partnership-plan-saves-greenbridge-clinic-moves-west-seattle-planned-parenthood-clinic/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/video-new-partnership-plan-saves-greenbridge-clinic-moves-west-seattle-planned-parenthood-clinic/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 23:07:11 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=285800

At the surface, what brought King County Executive Dow Constantine, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, Public Health acting director Patty Hayes, Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest CEO Chris Charbonneau, and others to White Center’s Greenbridge Plaza at noontime was news that a nearby county health clinic won’t have to close.

Their remarks are all featured in our video of the event, above, as well as what a clinic staffer and client had to say about the importance of saving the clinic. But what they explained in the media briefing wasn’t quite that simple:

*Mayor Murray’s proposed budget will include money for Greenbridge clinic operations (this was mentioned briefly in his Friday announcement about human-services and public-safety spending – the $ mentioned in that news release differs from what’s in today’s county news release, so we’re trying to verify which is correct)

*Planned Parenthood of the Great NW will take over family-planning services at the clinic, meaning layoffs for county-employed family-planning staffers unless they find jobs with PP

*As a result, PP will close its current West Seattle clinic (9641 28th SW) and merge its services into the Greenbridge location (9942 8th SW)

*County employees at the clinic will continue providing other services such as maternity support and Women/Infant/Children (WIC) nutrition support

Though Greenbridge is across the city/county line, it serves many Seattle residents, Constantine said, so city funding is appropriate. (The clinic relocated two years ago from its previous site about a mile south.) His plan for the clinic’s future will be in the budget proposal he presents one week from today.

P.S. The full county news release is part of coverage on our partner site White Center Now.

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Video & as-it-happened coverage: Mayor Murray’s public-safety-spending plan, and how he’d address homelessness http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/happening-now-mayor-murrays-public-safety-spending-plan/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/happening-now-mayor-murrays-public-safety-spending-plan/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 19:08:37 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=285409

(Added – archived video of briefing)

-Mayor promises 50 more SPD officers will be on street by end of 2015
-100+ neighborhood “micropolicing” plans in the works
-Re: homeless encampment sweeps, he says policies haven’t changed since before he took office


As-it-happened notes after the jump:

12:08 PM: Click the “play” button to see live Seattle Channel video of Mayor Murray talking about his plan for public-safety and human-services budgeting next year. We’ll add key notes here as it goes, and when it’s over, we’ll replace the “live” window with archived video once it’s available later.

The mayor starts with a lengthy caveat that while city finances are better, they’re still not great.

For the public-safety budget (Chief Kathleen O’Toole is there with him, as is Councilmember Bruce Harrell, current chair of the Public Safety committee), he mentions points including:

*More officers on patrol: He elaborates by saying this will involve reassignment of personnel when necessary, but also says he’ll keep his pledge to increase force by 100 during his term – which means 50 more by the end of 2015
*More data-driven policing
*More civilian experts
*The federal court order will be complied with
*”Micropolicing” plans “to connect police to every neighborhood in the city … Getting officers out of their cars and walking the street” … “to be more visible on our streets and truly create a community-based problem-solving approach.” He says 100+ neighborhood plans are involved.

12:17 PM: He moves on to discuss human services via a stark stat about homelessness – 3,000 homeless children before “The Great Recession,” 27,000 now, statewide. He says the new city budget will “make no cuts” in city spending regarding homelessness. He also mentions that Seattle has 300 homeless veterans and a commitment to end that situation by next year, promising “rapid rehousing” as part of it.

12:30 PM: On to Q/A. Much discussion of SPD data, and mayor’s vow that they’ll “get it right,” especially because it’s clearly considered vital to the federally mandated police reform. The department’s newly hired chief operating officer was mentioned earlier as digging into the data situation. Then, in response to a question, he declares that, related to human services/spending, “We have a housing crisis that extends beyond homelessness.” He says the city does not have “the tools in place” to help people who want to stay in Seattle but can’t afford housing.

He then, responding to a question about homeless-encampment sweeps, says the city and nation “are in a massive homeless crisis.” He also says policies have not changed regarding encampments and sweeps since before he took office. But he says “the broad spectrum of what we should do” regarding housing will be examined. Overall, he says the city has a $60 million unmet need regarding human services.

12:40 PM: What about the police’s pilot body-cameras project? Murray says it’s really important to go with the pilot program first before going wider, especially to address concerns about privacy. They are not in use yet, Chief O’Toole clarifies – they’re still working on policies, “to strike that right balance between accountability, civil liberties …” But (later) she says she hopes they’ll be able to “get on with it” soon. Asked next when additional officers will be in service, she says they are in recruiting/training planning but trying to figure out how to accelerate.

12:50 PM: Q/A wanders off the topic, with one involving whether the $15/minimum wage will depress Seattle’s business climate; the mayor pointed to Weyerhaeuser moving its HQ to Seattle, bringing 900 jobs, and said the city will soon be announcing more businesses moving here and opening here. When the questioning moves back to SPD body cameras, the mayor says one consideration is all the video archives they’ll generate, how to deal with them, how to handle requests (including media) for archived video. Then, it wraps up at 12:52 pm. Again, we’re taking down the live-video window, replacing with a screengrab photo, and adding the archived video when it’s available later. If news releases and other docs become available, we’ll link here too.

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Yes on transit tax, yes on city’s preschool proposal, and other 34th District Democrats endorsement votes http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/yes-on-transit-tax-yes-on-citys-preschool-proposal-and-other-34th-district-democrats-endorsement-votes/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/yes-on-transit-tax-yes-on-citys-preschool-proposal-and-other-34th-district-democrats-endorsement-votes/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 22:58:32 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=285204 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It’s just a matter of weeks before your November ballot arrives – and it’s busier than you might think, as was evidenced when last night’s 34th District Democrats meeting in West Seattle, centered on ballot-measure discussions and endorsement votes, began with chair Marcee Stone-Vekich warning, “It’s going to be a long night.”

Here are highlights from the ensuing two hours:

PRESCHOOL PROPOSITIONS: There are two on the Seattle ballot, 1A and 1B, in one measure – you’ll be asked if you think either should be approved, and then, regardless of how you answered that, which one you would prefer. Each one had a presentation at last night’s meeting, followed by both sides sitting down as a panel to answer questions. We recorded video:

First, 1A, also known as Initiative 107 – website at yesforearlysuccess.com – which was pitched by Roslyn and Vincent Duffy, the operators of a successful child-care company based on Capitol Hill, Learning Tree. While their company is non-profit, it’s still very costly to run. And state subsidies for low-income families are low. He believes the $15/wage will lead to center closures. Training is difficult to access, he says, and the field has high turnover – about a third every year. They believe the city proposal ignores the voices of experts. They say its curriculum is limited and that it could lead to a financial windfall for someone. “The city plan unravels our current system,” Roslyn Duffy alleged. Also speaking for Proposition 1A, Karen Strickland, state president for the American Federation of Teachers: “What we’re asking you to do is to take up a position of support, yes on the first question and no on the second one.”

For 1B, City Council President Tim Burgess spoke. 1B is the “Seattle Preschool Plan,” a property-tax-levy-lift first unveiled at an event in High Point earlier this year. Its pilot phase would “get us started on the path to offering high-quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in Seattle.” He said the plan was developed with input from education experts, national, state, and local. It would start with 14 classrooms in year 1 and grow to 100 in year 4, he said, going slow “to get it right.” Its site is qualityseattlepreschool.com. He said it is backed by a wide variety of people and organizations because “for decades now, some of our children have been held behind,” a situation that “should shame all of us,” especially because “we know what to do.”

Questions started with State Rep. Eileen Cody, who pointed out that 1A has no funding mechanism – how would it be paid for? Roslyn Duffy said it was an incidence of proposing policy, and then funding would follow. $3 million is what would be needed for starters, she said, if it passes. Chris Porter asked next about plans for closing the achievement gap. Vincent Duffy said, “There are solutions for this problem without redesigning the entire system.” Councilmember Burgess said that the city program – which is voluntary – is focused on 3- and 4-year-olds, while the other proposal tries to address the entire range, birth to 12.

Other questions ranged from an exhortation for everyone to get together and address a variety of issues and “come back to us next year” with ONE proposal. They did try to work together, both sides said.

The two sides disagreed, as you can see/hear in the video, about how the issue got to the convoluted situation where voters will have to choose one or the other (or neither), and what the message to voters should be. The 1A supporters said they just think voters should show support for early education; Burgess said that in no uncertain terms, 1B “is a great plan” and should be passed to show that all children deserve high-quality early education.

ENDORSEMENTS: In the dueling-preschools measure vote, the 34th DDs endorsed the city-supported measure, Proposition 1B.

*They also endorsed the Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition, which would add a car-tab fee and increased sales tax so that Seattle could “buy back” the transit service inside its city limits that King County plans to cut. City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen spoke briefly before the vote.

*They voted to recommend “no” on gun-related Initiative 591. (The 34th DDs already have endorsed the other gun-related measure on the ballot, Initiative 594.)

*They didn’t support any position on Initiative 1351. Much emotion in the speeches for and against this – it makes a statement about class size, said supporters; there’s no funding, argued opponents/skeptics, so find the funding, bring it back.

Other items of business, and discussion, during the meeting:

SHOULD KING COUNTY JAIL HONOR DETAINMENT REQUESTS FROM ICE? County Councilmember Joe McDermott presented an update on the topic, telling the 34th DDs that the county will NOT honor those requests (ICE = Immigration and Customs Enforcement) without a federal judicial warrant, and he says that’s even a stronger stance than a proposal he introduced last year. He said that makes people feel safer talking to law enforcement, in any context/situation. (Added – here’s some backstory.)

DELRIDGE GROCERY: Board member Brian told the 34th DDs that DG is now planning to open its co-op grocery store in summer 2015 and now has more than 250 members. You can pay $25 for starters to become a member and keep making payments – you don’t have to pay the full $100 lifetime-membership sum up front – “anyone can be a member,” he said. There are three different levels of membership/ownership, he added. And he noted that people will be able to shop there regardless of whether they’re members, once the store opens. Will membership have benefits? he was asked. That’s not quite worked out yet. He said they have a project manager working with them now, and will start building out their reserved space on the ground floor of the DESC Cottage Grove Commons building once they hit a funding milestone. Find out more at delridgegrocery.coop.

HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOND MEASURE: The district south of Seattle is taking a bond to voters this fall for the first time in 12 years (see the full text here). Campaign chair Lois Schipper spoke of why the district needs the bond – it would rebuild and relocate Des Moines Elementary, “the last remaining elementary school that has not ben rebuilt,” would rebuild Highline High School, and two middle schools – the latter is vital because Highline is moving sixth grade to middle school soon. The new middle schools will be on sites known as Glacier and Manhattan. (We’ll have video of Schipper’s pitch a bit later today on partner site White Center Now.)

RECAP OF THIS YEAR’S GARDEN PARTY: This year’s Garden Party gala – a luau theme, at the TAF Bethaday Community Space in White Center (covered on our partner site WCN), the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year – has netted more than $14,000, accounting shows so far.

ELECTED OFFICIALS AT THE MEETING: State Rep. Eileen Cody, State Sen. Sharon Nelson, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, City Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Tom Rasmussen.

For other toplines on last night’s meeting, check out the 34th District Democrats’ website at 34dems.org, where you can also keep up to date on upcoming meetings – second Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, The Hall at Fauntleroy – and other events.

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Video & as-it-happened coverage: ‘Impact fees’ for development? City Councilmembers discuss possibly doing what 80 other WA cities already do http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/happening-now-impact-fees-for-development-city-hall-talk/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/happening-now-impact-fees-for-development-city-hall-talk/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 19:05:14 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=285140 (UPDATED WEDNESDAY NIGHT with archived Seattle Channel video of meeting added below, document links added inline, new Rasmussen quote at end)

-Council told that 80 other WA cities have impact fees
-State law doesn’t allow them to be imposed for transit service, though
-Councilmember Rasmussen suggests creating a ‘working group’ to look at it
-Most public commenters say ‘long overdue’

-Above, full video of meeting
-Meeting documents, provided by Rasmussen’s office *adding*
-Added quote at end of story – we asked him “what next?” post-meeting

AHEAD: Our as-it-happened chronicling of what was said during the meeting:

12:05 PM: If you see this before 1:30 pm or so, hit the “play” button in the video window above and you’ll see the live Seattle Channel feed of what just started in the City Council chambers – the Transportation Committee-hosted discussion “Impact Fees 101.” (Once the meeting ends, we’ll take down the video window until the archived video is available later.) We’ll be noting toplines as it goes, in case you can’t watch live or don’t see this until later. As committee chair Councilmember Tom Rasmussen (a West Seattle resident) said while opening it, ours is the fastest-growing city in the country, but growth stresses the transportation system and infrastructure among other things, so, how to pay for them? Many citizens have told him, he said, “let the developers pay” – and that would mean “impact fees.” The panel includes council staffers, a consultant, a rep from Bellevue to talk about what they do, and a rep from the Association of Washington Cities, to talk about who does what in other places around the state.

12:15 PM: Though this is a long-running topic, the meeting didn’t come with much advance notice, and a council assistant is mentioning a chart is incorrect because he put it together “hastily.” They’ve moved on to the consultant, Randy Young, who has put together almost 200 studies about “impact fees.” (EXPLANATORY DOCUMENT ADDED) They are one-time fees, in most cases, he explains, and they are only paid by “one sector of the economy” – developers. They are charged for “capital facilities” – building things like sidewalks or streets, but not for, say, machinery like street sweepers or services like pothole-fixing, transit, etc. And they have to be charged for things that the new development require – they can’t be charged for existing problems. The state’s Growth Management Act cites four areas in which impact fees can be charged – transportation (roads – even a sidewalk can’t be added unless there’s nearby road construction), parks/recreation, fire protection (building or expanding stations/equipment), schools.

“You can pay for ‘system improvements’,” he says, explaining that state law describes that as “providing for transportation network, the streets that the community as a whole uses – a neighborhood street would not meet that description.” An internal street in a development can’t be paid for by an “impact fee.” And you can’t pay for “repair, renovation – (whatever you’re charging impact fees for) has to add capacity.” Could an alley improvement be paid for? Maybe, consultant says, since Seattle does count alleys as part of the transportation network. 4 rules for impact fees: #1 – you can’t make new development pay for an existing deficiency; #2 – connection has to be made between development and benefits received (number of trips it generates, for example); #3 – no double-dipping – if another source of revenue is already paying for what you want the impact fee to cover, or part of it, you’d have to figure out what part of the impact fee is offset by the money that’s already being used; #4, state law says you cannot rely solely on impact fees – they can’t cover the entire cost of something.

12:30 PM: So, why would a city want to do this? Young asks rhetorically. He suggests: City’s making a policy approach, developers should pay part of the way. Or, it’s a quality-of-life issue, the city needs to get money for preserving it even as it grows. Otherwise, you could raise local taxes, or settle for a reduced level of service. Next, he addresses myths, such as, the suggestion that growth brings new taxes that cover the costs of new infrastructure; it does bring more money, he said, but generally not in the area that would fund the impacts it causes. He mentions again that the city does have impact fee-type charges in South Lake Union and Northgate, related to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), but they are voluntary. Another myth, he said, is that the developers and builders are the ones paying it and it will stop development. Not true, he said – if it stops growth, then why are 80 cities in Washington charging impact fees? He shows supporting charts (UPDATE: here’s the map he showed). Do impact fees affect the affordability of housing? Generally, no – they’re a very small percent of the total cost, he says. What about the city’s competitiveness? Again, he says, 80 cities are charging them, and the development did NOT go somewhere else. “We’re not picking on developers (with impact fees), we’re asking them to join the party” since others already are paying, he concludes.

(ADDED DOCUMENTS: What types of fees those 80 cities charge, and what the rates are, per city; also, from consultant Young, comparison examples of how the fees shake out in some of those cities)

12:41 PM: Councilmember Rasmussen promises the docs and slides will be available on the committee website soon. Now, on to the Association of Washington Cities rep, Dave Williams, who gives some history about how this all started in 1990. He says the jurisdictions that started adding impact fees in the ensuing years were mostly suburban. Spokane has impact fees; Tacoma does not, he notes – and then consultant Young interrupts Williams to say that Tacoma has just started the process of looking into them. Builders have been politically pressing to change them or get rid of them, the AWC rep notes. The consultant interjects shortly thereafter that developers still want to be in thriving cities, and there’s been more of it even in the cities with impact fees.

On the point of how impact fees might affect affordable housing, Williams said the law was changed so that “up to 80 percent of the costs for low-income housing can be exempted” without raising the fees for other types of development. Could transit costs be included in impact fees? Williams says they’ve been lobbying for that but “haven’t gotten very far.”

12:56 PM: On to Eric Miller, from the city of Bellevue’s Transportation Department, which does charge transportation impact fees, that feed into their capital-improvement plan and the funds that pay for it. (ADDED DOCUMENT HERE) Over the next 12 years, they have 18 “fully funded impact-fee projects,” he says, showing a map. Over that time, they expect to get about $82 million in development impact fees, about a fifth of their overall funding. The Bellevue Council “adopted a stepped impact-fee approach” in 2009, according to Miller, who says they’re now in “step 2.” And he adds, during Q/A, they’ve had some court challenges – not to the sum so much as to, for example, the city’s determination of how many new trips a project will generate. He says affordable-housing developments and child-care facilities are among the categories that are exempt from impact fees in Bellevue.

1:14 PM: Rasmussen says he thinks the information “has potential for Seattle – I think we should discuss this among ourselves, creating a working group to look at the potential for adopting an impact fee in Seattle in some form.” But, he notes, “we have not heard from developers yet … or from the community.” 14 people have signed up to comment, he notes, and it’s public-comment time now.

First to speak, frequent commenter/council critic Alex Zimmerman, who accuses corporations of stealing money from the city. Second, Eden Mack from the local PTSA Council, who points out that school enrollment is back on the upswing, and more schools and safer transportation routes are, and will be, needed. Third, Roger Valdez from the developer-backed group Smart Growth Seattle, who starts with a list of recent council actions regarding development. He says the idea of an impact fee “makes (him) laugh. We already pay numerous fees and charges for infrastructure replacement. There isn’t a development in the city that doesn’t pay fees … for numerous infrastructure improvements.” He says the fees figure into higher rents. Fourth, Selena Carsiotis, who says she has worked for development firms/projects but is “actually here to defend impact fees.” She says the impact fees for projects she was familiar with on the Eastside helped create infrastructure that made it easier for the projects to be sold and inhabited. Fifth, Linda Melvin, identifying herself as a Ballard resident, says the discussion was long overdue and that it “was amazing to me.”

Sixth, John Fox, of the development-limit-supporting Coalition for an Affordable Livable Seattle and Anti-Displacement Coalition, says “the fees that Mr. Valdez was talking about account for only a tiny, tiny fraction of the infrastructure” impacts by developments. He contends that even a fee of a few dollars per square foot of office development could have reduced the burden on the city’s taxpayers. Seventh, Tony Provine of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association says he feels this is “long overdue” and that people in his community “feel they have been unfairly burdened with the cost of” new development. Eighth, a woman whose name we didn’t catch, says it seems a little late for this. “Along with all this growth, and increasing jobs, we seem to have forgotten that … all this growth is cutting a lot of people out of homes, and transportation.” Ninth, Ballard resident William Parsons asks, why did it take the Seattle Council so long to take this up, especially considering 80 other cities have impact fees already – “it boggles my mind.”

1:33 PM: West Seattle resident Deb Barker, a retired land-use planner, speaks 10th, first West Seattleite that we know of. The city where she worked as a planner, Federal Way, had impact fees from the start, and says she saw them work well, from SEPA-based fees to Traffic Impact Fees (TIF), as well as school-impact fees. “In my experience, impact fees create predictability,” she said, urging the council to implement them. Another West Seattleite, arborist Michael Oxman, speaks 11th, and starts by talking about street trees. The city has six crew members maintaining 40,000 trees, he notes, and says that roads are benefited by trees whose branches reach over them, keeping them in shade. Asked by Councilmember Rasmussen how that relates to impact fees, he says the crews are “grossly underfunded” and could benefit from impact-fee-type funding. Final speaker is Sarajane Siegfriedt of Lake City, who says she wants to emphasize the growth in need for school facilities, especially north of the Ship Canal, and the fact the Legislature hasn’t been alloting money to help with this. “Everyone knows what the facts are, the myths will wither away, and we thank you for doing this,” she concludes.

Rasmussen then moves, at 1:39 pm, to wrap up the meeting, declaring it “very, very interesting” and saying he doesn’t think growth is going to stop any time soon, so this kind of fee may be an “important source … particularly for our schools.”

ADDED WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Via e-mail after the meeting, we asked Rasmussen about a timetable for next steps. His reply:

As to next steps, I intend to begin working toward a City Council decision on enacting impact fees. This could be part of the work of the Finance Committee or a special committee. I will be meeting with my colleagues to organize our work on this and develop a process and schedule.

I will make sure that they are public meetings in the Council Chambers or other public location where they can be broadcast or recorded if the Chambers are in use and that the public is kept fully involved and informed.

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Mayor proposes new city department: Education & Early Learning http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/mayor-proposes-new-city-department-education-early-learning/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/09/mayor-proposes-new-city-department-education-early-learning/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:24:32 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=284396 Announced by Mayor Murray this afternoon:

As parents ready their kids for the first week of school, Mayor Ed Murray today unveiled his plan to reorganize of the city’s education and support programs into a new Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), the first of several proposals the mayor will make in his first city budget.

The new structure will enable the city to better coordinate existing work and resources on behalf of students of all ages, improve collaboration with Seattle Public Schools, colleges and child-care providers, and increase performance measurement of the city’s work to support educational outcomes.

“Equity in education is the foundation of our democracy and the future of our city,” said Murray. “The City already supports programs across the continuum from birth through college, but we must do better to align resources for better outcomes for education. We will sharpen our focus on achieving great outcomes for all, so that none of Seattle’s students are left behind. We want Seattle to be the first city in America that eliminates the achievement gap.”

Economic disparities contribute to a persistent achievement gap here, as it does across the nation, between the educational attainment of students of color and white students:

· 90 percent of white 4th graders are reading at grade level compared to 56 percent of African American students.
· One third of African American and Latino students—and half of American Indian students—don’t graduate on time, compared to 14 percent of white students.

Research has shown that students with higher educational attainment have higher average earning power over a career, but also live healthier lives.

“All of Seattle’s children must have the same opportunity to succeed in school and in life,” said Brianna Jackson, Executive Director of the Community Day School Association. “By improving coordination across the entire system, from Early Learning to our universities, and by working together as an education community, we know we can achieve better outcomes for all students.”

Last fall, the City Council adopted a budget action asking the mayor to develop a proposal to elevate the city’s emphasis around education. The council voiced interest in aligning the city’s education and early learning programs, preparing for a universal preschool program, and improving collaboration with the school district.

“Twenty babies are born in Seattle each day and each one deserves a strong and fair start,” said City Council President Tim Burgess. “We know that high quality education empowers children of all backgrounds to lead healthier and happier lives and their success makes our city stronger. To enable our cradle to career programs to work better, the Council called for the creation of this Department and I applaud the Mayor and his team for doing the hard work to get the job done.”

For the last several months, the Murray Administration has been working to shape the new department responsible for supporting early learning, K-12 and higher education in Seattle. Most of the positions in the new department would be filled by existing city employees moving from Seattle’s Human Services Department, Office for Education and other organizations. Existing functions consolidated into DEEL will include:

· Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, Comprehensive Child Care Program and other early learning services and initiatives
· Elementary, Middle School, and High School academic and social support programs
· School-based health services operated by the city
· Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative
· All Families and Education Levy programs

Nine new positions would be created to step up coordination with area colleges and universities, ensure the quality of city child care programs and pre-schools, and increase data collection to track the effectiveness of the department’s activities.

“We look forward to working with the Mayor and the new Department of Education and Early Learning to partner on behalf of our Seattle students,” said Dr. Larry Nyland, Interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. “As we head back to school tomorrow, our teachers, principals and staff are getting ready to ensure every student has the opportunity to graduate prepared for college, career and life. We cannot do this work alone. We are pleased the city will partner with us to meet our goals for student success.”

The new department would house 38 employees and manage a budget of $48.5 million, including $30 million each year from the voter-approved Families and Education Levy.

The mayor’s proposal will be included in his budget submission to the City Council on Sept. 22nd.

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2 nights away: ‘Luau at the Lake’ with the 34th District Democrats http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/two-nights-away-luau-at-the-lake-with-the-34th-district-democrats/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/two-nights-away-luau-at-the-lake-with-the-34th-district-democrats/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 16:53:43 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=282376 We’ve had some tropical weather this week – warm, muggy – and sunshine should return in time for a tropical-themed event Friday night: The 34th District Democrats‘ annual Garden Party dinner/auction. This year, it’s the “Luau at the Lake,” in honor of its new location: The Technology Access Foundation‘s new Bethaday Community Space in Lakewood Park (605 SW 108th). The 34th DDs are advertising the event on WSB for one last ticket-sales push. See “10 reasons to go” here. Auction items include a flotilla of vacation possibilities on which you’ll be able to bid, including one week on Maui or Kauai; if you’d like to stay closer to home, how about three nights at Long Beach, Washington, or a getaway to Whistler, or even a quick jaunt over to Vashon Island for lunch with local legislators? The party starts at 6 pm Friday (August 15th) and you can RSVP online by going here, or call Karen Chilcutt at 206-935-3216.

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Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Another discussion, this time @ City Hall http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/sound-transit-light-rail-for-west-seattle-another-discussion-this-time-city-hall/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/sound-transit-light-rail-for-west-seattle-another-discussion-this-time-city-hall/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:48:36 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=282295

Cup-half-full version: West Seattle could have light rail as soon as 2026.

Cup-half-empty version: West Seattle won’t get light rail any sooner than 2026.

That was the bottom line of a briefing that was part of the City Council Transportation Committee‘s meeting this morning. Potential West Seattle light rail wasn’t the only topic – in fact, it was the last part of the Sound Transit guest appearance, which in turn was only part of a busy agenda (above is Seattle Channel‘s video of the entire meeting – the briefing starts 35 minutes in). The briefing followed the order of the slide deck. And however you view that potential date, it would depend on West Seattle being written into Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan when it’s updated later this year; it didn’t make it into the plan previously, ST reiterated today, because of the since-scrapped plan for monorail service between West Seattle and downtown.

The slide deck itself didn’t contain the potential 2026 date – West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the committee, asked for a date, and all ST reps would give him was that 2016 would be the earliest a “Sound Transit 3″ measure could go before voters. Perhaps a “board member” could speculate further, they said, with all eyes turning to Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a board member who happened to be right there at the table.

He then said that in the most optimistic of scenarios, it would take another 10 years to build potential West Seattle service, if it was on the plan, then on a ballot measure, and approved.

Making it clear he wasn’t just describing West Seattle but also including other not-currently-served communities, O’Brien said, “we know people out there are screaming for it.”

When they got to the WS possibilities, ST briefers again went over the scenarios that have been presented in recent months, dating back to this Executive Committee briefing and two briefings in West Seattle, including the WS Chamber of Commerce luncheon we covered last month. As pointed out at those discussions, if there is a West Seattle proposal, it wouldn’t necessarily be one of these scenarios, but could combine elements of them. And ST is considering “bus rapid transit” as well as light rail (LRT). Routes for LRT could just go into West Seattle and White Center, transferring people to buses to get to Burien, Tukwila, and Renton from there, or might go all the way to Renton, stopping in eastern West Seattle along the way – or options inbetween.

Rasmussen asked how the city could request that ST be sure to include West Seattle; staffers at the table verified that they already had sent a letter to ST asking it to include Seattle corridors including ours “and others that are consistent with” the city’s transit plan.

Once the Long-Range Plan is updated – with or without West Seattle – ST would be in a position to “move into system planning,” in other words, coming up with a proposal that then could go to voters for funding, and that process would be expected to run through most of 2015. ST also called attention to King County launching its own long-range planning and a directive from County Executive Dow Constantine – who currently chairs the ST Executive Board – to make sure that Metro and ST plans are “not just coordinated, but deeply integrated.” A report on that, it was mentioned, is expected to be out next month.

P.S. The meeting also included the committee’s first guest appearance by SDOT director nominee Scott Kubly, as part of his confirmation process. A vote isn’t expected until next month. (Among other things, Kubly asked Councilmember Rasmussen to give him a guided tour of West Seattle sometime soon.)

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Election 2014: 2nd vote count widens lead for Park District measure http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/election-2014-2nd-vote-count-widens-lead-for-park-district-measure/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/08/election-2014-2nd-vote-count-widens-lead-for-park-district-measure/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 23:44:57 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=281802 Quick note in case you’re wondering: The second ballot-count update is out for the August 5th election, and the proposal to create a Seattle Park District has widened its lead a bit. Last night, the yes vote was 52.4 percent; today, it’s 52.7 percent. Next ballot-count update will be out by this time tomorrow.

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