West Seattle politics – West Seattle Blog… http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Fri, 25 May 2018 08:07:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 ELECTION 2018: Who’s in the running as filing week ends http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/election-2018-whos-in-the-running-as-filing-week-ends/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/election-2018-whos-in-the-running-as-filing-week-ends/#comments Sat, 19 May 2018 06:49:04 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=917119 Filing week is over. Here’s who you’ll see on the August primary ballot:

34TH DISTRICT STATE SENATOR – This is the position with no incumbent, since Sen. Sharon Nelson decided not to run again. 11 people have filed:
7 Democrats (Sofia Aragon, Shannon Braddock, Lem Charleston, Lisa Ryan Devereau, Joe Nguyen, Annabel Quintero, Lois Schipper)
2 Republicans (Darla Green, Courtney Lyle)
1 independent (Debi Wagner)
1 “no preference” (Hillary Shaw)

34TH DISTRICT STATE HOUSE – Incumbent Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon both filed to run again; neither has an opponent.

7TH DISTRICT U.S. HOUSE: This appears to be an all-West Seattle faceoff, with incumbent U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal the lone Democrat, repeat candidate and anti-immigration advocate Craig Keller the lone Republican, and nobody else filing.

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FOLLOWUP: Looking ahead and looking back with your state legislators http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/followup-looking-ahead-and-looking-back-with-your-state-legislators/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/followup-looking-ahead-and-looking-back-with-your-state-legislators/#comments Thu, 17 May 2018 06:56:21 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=916271 (WSB photo: Rep. Eileen Cody, Sen. Sharon Nelson, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It might have been the last time we’d talk to them as your 34th Legislative District trio: State Sen. Sharon Nelson and Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon sat down with us for a coffeehouse chat on how the session went, and what’s ahead next time.

We shared a table at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor), where the two House reps had talked with us in January, shortly after the session had begun.

Otherwise, “we don’t get together that often!” they laughed – and certainly there had been big news in the meantime, with Nelson deciding to retire from the Legislature.

So, we asked, what did they see as the biggest successes of this year’s session?

“We were happy to get done on time,” Fitzgibbon offered. “And glad we were able to do a property tax cut – for the 2019 calendar year, couldn’t constitutionally do it for this year. And the capital budget was done, finally.”

“Voting rights,” said Cody.

“Equal pay for equal work,” added Nelson. She also was glad to see several gun-safety bills get passed.

But not everyone thinks the Legislature did enough, Fitzgibbon acknowledged.”After the Parkland shooting, a lot of people wanted us to hurry up and ban assault weapons, but there were not enough votes.” Of the bills that did pass, he said the domestic-violence bill will be particularly impactful: “If there’s an order against you, you can’t get a gun.”

The prosecutorial experience of Sen. Manka Dhingra made a big difference, Nelson noted.

Overall, she said, legislators “got a lot of work done” – 310 bills, and a “robust list at that.” Not so much on environmental issues, though. Fitzgibbon, who chairs the House Environment Committee, elaborated: “We got some decent stuff done but not on climate change. We banned some chemicals from food packaging and from firefighting foam – the first state to ban them.” And there was action on oil-spill-prevention funding and banning net pens.

“That was a big one,” Nelson agreed.

Also along those lines: Funding to enforce the wildlife-trafficking initiative, which they said had long been blocked by Senate Republicans, and the orca task force. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will have more staff to enforce whale-protecting laws such as the required distance for whale-watching vessels.

One big topic back when we talked with Cody and Fitzgibbon four months ago: Sound Transit car-tab taxes, and what the Legislature would do about them.

“Basically everybody agrees we’re using the wrong formula,” Fitzgibbon began. But because there was no agreement on what to do about it, nothing was finalized, and “we’ll keep talking about it next year.”

That aside, he said, constituents should be aware that “in the first year of Democratic control, we cut taxes! The Republicans voted against the property-tax cut (and they) were the ones who insisted on the increase in the first place. We’re working toward fair taxes, we’re not working toward higher taxes.”

On a smaller tax/fee issue, but one related to a big ongoing issue, the legislators mentioned that a fee on real-estate transactions, paying for emergency housing services, was made permanent this year and increased. Fitzgibbon said the capital budget contained $100 million for affordable housing, too.

Cody, who chairs the Health Care Committee in the House, talked about expanded access to mental-health care, and about the movement of non-forensic services out of Western State Hospital (which the governor spotlighted last Friday, the day after our chat with the legislators), into community-based facilities. “A lot more interest now, a lot of beds are under construction,” she said. “We really want to get the smaller facilities spread out across the state so people don’t have to leave their communities.”

Nelson noted that the “conversion therapy” bill was finally passed “with overwhelming support” after it had been held up for years. They worked through a “backlog,” she said, coordinating with the House early on, though that posed some challenges when the flu hit hard.

“We didn’t used to consider 60 days a full session, but it was the most grueling session I can remember,” Fitzgibbon recalled.

“I always say, it’s like childbirth – you try to forget about it!” Cody joked.

But what’s ahead next session remains top of mind, even for Nelson, who won’t be there. “We have to put a lot more work into mental health and homelessness. The more encampments we have, the less empathy.” And she’s worried about an issue on which she scored a major breakthrough years ago, payday lending – with consumer protection eroding in DC, vigilance here will be very important.

As a Maury Island resident, Nelson touts some island legacies too – more public access soon as a fence comes down at the Glacier site; gaps filled in police assistance to keep traffic moving at the Fauntleroy ferry dock.

Looking ahead to next year, Cody foresees a focus on health-insurance affordability, depending on what happens in the “other Washington.” She’s been told next year’s rate increases “will be worse than I want but not as bad as last year – we’ll do better than some other states.”

Fitzgibbon says one of his big projects will be low-carbon fuel standards.

Nelson says, “One thing I hope for my replacement … we have worked as a legislative team.
it really benefits the district – we work so well together and that doesn’t happen in every district.” She says you also have to be “practical” and “work across the aisle” as needed.

“You’re not running for king, you’re running to be one of 147 legislators,” Fitzgibbon notes.

As of this writing, he and Cody both have filed to run for re-election, and neither has an opponent yet. Four have filed for Nelson’s seat, with at least two more expected.

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ELECTION 2018: Lem Charleston announces run for 34th District State Senate seat http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/election-2018-lem-charleston-announces-run-for-34th-district-state-senate-seat/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/election-2018-lem-charleston-announces-run-for-34th-district-state-senate-seat/#comments Thu, 17 May 2018 03:11:32 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=916906 Here’s the fourth official announcement of candidacy we’ve received for the 34th District seat in the State Senate:

Today, Lem Charleston begins his campaign to bring years of community leadership, activism, involvement, and diversity to 34th Legislative District.

I am running to be your next State Senator because I am convinced we can do better. Senator Sharon Nelson did a great job with the tools she had available to her but we need to progressively move her legacy to the next level by doing more in and for our communities here in the 34th district.

I love having a family. I love being a devoted husband and father. I’m a proud union member, a community member, an associate chaplain with Seattle Police Department (SPD). I served my country in the United States Marine Corps. I don’t look like a regular politician because I am not a career politician. I have different experiences than some politicians. I have been working in aerospace for over 30 years. I worked in Everett for 25 years and I am now in Renton and a proud member of District 751 of the International Association of Machinists. I was a Union Steward in the International Association of Machinists for 20 years. I have been a minister since 1992 and was the Pastor at the United House of Prayer For All People, Seattle, WA until 2008. I had a pretty good career as a volunteer soccer coach in the West Seattle Soccer Club (WSSC) as well.

Right now there are ZERO African Americans in the State Senate and the 34th Legislative District has never elected a person of color. It’s time for realistic diversity. We have to work together and not just believe in the creed of this district, but bring that creed to fruition.

I’m running be your next State Senator because I believe we can do better because our community members and our city and State needs us to do better.

We have traffic problems, classroom overcrowding problems, bike lane sharing problems. We also have one of the highest homelessness rates in the nation. We have obscene housing prices, and the property taxes that go with them. There is gun violence that is leaving our communities with grief, anger, and fear like never before. We can’t remedy all these things in one day, but working together, looking at our problems and facing them one by one, for what they are, I am confident we will find a remedy to each and every one of them.

Housing: The 34th district is one that has millionaires on the beach on the west end, and people living on the streets on the east end of this district. We can do better. We need to find solutions that cure that disparity. Seattleites and many people throughout the region are working hard to solve this problem, and I’ll work hard at the state level to find solutions to these issues. Housing is becoming a state issue. The Stranger reported in 2017 that, ”The Seattle area is the ninth fastest-growing metro in the nation, gaining about 1,100 residents per week according to population estimates issued this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau.” It’s not my goal to simply have another food bank for the homeless but how about giving them the tools to start a business or get a job so they can get off the streets and be able to provide adequately for their families.

Education: Seattle needs stronger educational resources and we need our schools to be completely funded. The levy’s just don’t get the job done anymore. I’ll work to make sure they have the resources they need to serve all of our community members. A strong community that is built by the people who serve in it, live in it, and love it is bound to prosper. It is my goal to not only expose the achievement gap between white students and students of color as this is important, but to also partner with the appropriate people everywhere reasonable to remedy this problem.

Revenue: We need to stop giving tax breaks to huge corporations with no way to get that money back if they don’t follow through on the deal. And yes, we need to fix our broken and regressive tax system. Taxing big corporations in a fair and equitable manner in a way that will not cost the middle class living wage jobs. We all must research and study to find economic solutions to remedy our concerns so that we build a stable and collective balance, with these corporations and create income equality here in Seattle.

I believe we can do better because I have lived here in the 34th district for over twenty-one years. As a soccer coach, I watched the parents of kids playing soccer teach their kids how to win and how to lose, all with dignity and fairness. Those lessons we learn as children are the ones we need to apply as adults we need to understand our problems and wisely find remedies for them.

Lem Charleston was born in Seattle and has lived in West Seattle for over 21 years. He’s been a pastor and a minister in the community for sixteen years, a volunteer soccer coach for six years, and is currently serving as a volunteer assistant Seattle Police Department chaplain for the past twelve years. He’s been married for 21 years and he and his wife have two children attending West Seattle Schools.

The three candidates from whom we previously received announcements are Shannon Braddock, Joe Nguyen, and Lois Schipper. Official filing week is under way through Friday; here’s who’s turned in paperwork so far. The seat is open because Sen. Sharon Nelson has announced she is not running for re-election.

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VIDEO: What’s in the ‘head tax’ the City Council unanimously passed http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/video-whats-in-the-head-tax-the-city-council-unanimously-passed/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/video-whats-in-the-head-tax-the-city-council-unanimously-passed/#comments Tue, 15 May 2018 03:45:20 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=916728

(Seattle Channel video of this afternoon’s council meeting – public comment at 17:58, tax items at 59:08)

Ample citywide coverage of the City Council’s final vote on the “head tax” this afternoon – but we’re noting it here anyway. For one, the two West Seattle-residing councilmembers – District 1’s Lisa Herbold and citywide Position 9’s Lorena González – led the task force that brought the concept to the council in the first place. From the official news release, details on the compromise that passed in a 9-0 vote:

… The amended proposal establishes an annual tax of $275 per full-time employee on the City’s largest businesses, those with revenues of more than $20 million (about 3% of all businesses). The measure would generate an estimated $47 million annually and end on December 31, 2023.

… Selected highlights of the amended ordinance include:

*Exempt Seattle’s small and medium-sized businesses, only applying to those with at least $20 million or more annually in taxable gross receipts as measured under the City’s existing Business & Occupation tax;

*Apply only to the City’s approximately 585 largest businesses, or approximately 3% of all Seattle businesses;

*Require large businesses to pay $275 per full-time equivalent employee working 1,920 hours per year (or about $0.14 per hour);

*Include an evaluation of the economic impacts, and an independent oversight committee; and,

*Exempt healthcare providers that provide at least 25% of their services to patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid as well as all hospitals. …

You can read the amended plan here. Here’s some of what’s happened in the hours since the council vote:

*Mayor Durkan said, “I plan to sign this bill” (here’s video of her news conference; here’s her statement)

*Amazon said it’s “disappointed” and “apprehensive” (GeekWire.com coverage)

The tax starts in January. But first, as was noted in Q&A at Durkan’s news conference, a spending plan has to be finalized for the money it will raise.

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ELECTION 2018: Lois Schipper announces run for 34th District State Senate seat http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/election-2018-lois-schipper-announces-run-for-34th-district-state-senate-seat/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/election-2018-lois-schipper-announces-run-for-34th-district-state-senate-seat/#comments Sun, 13 May 2018 19:01:49 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=916618 Though five people participated in this past Wednesday’s State Senate candidates’ forum at the 34th District Democrats‘ meeting, we had only received official candidacy announcements from two. Now we have a third:

Public Health Nurse Lois Schipper formally announced she is running for the Washington State Senate. Schipper is a lifelong Democrat.

Schipper said, “Sunday is Mother’s Day. I want to serve in the Washington State Senate because I want to use my decades of experience as a public health nurse to give every mother the gift they most want on Mother’s Day – safe and healthy children.”

This Mother’s Day, Schipper reflects that her priorities in Olympia will always revolve around children and families: fully funding K-12 education, with an emphasis on special education and closing the achievement gap for low income kids and kids from communities of color; fighting the NRA to ban assault weapons and high-capacity clips; and cleaning up our upside-down tax system. “My work in our community has let me see that too many families are struggling,” says Schipper. “I want to take my expertise to Olympia to craft working solutions to these issues.”

Throughout her career, Schipper has led the fight to solve these needs and challenges, managing the King County Public Health Center that serves White Center and Burien. Earlier, Schipper was the first nurse in the 1980s supporting HIV-positive mothers and babies. Now, at Seattle Children’s Hospital, she leads a team helping non-English speaking families navigate the health care system.

“I think what I would bring to Olympia is my on-the-ground experience here in the 34th and in King County; working in the community, implementing programs, looking at what works, building teams across agencies,” said Schipper. “That’s the kind of work that’s necessary. I know how to bring diverse people – who often disagree – together to solve problems.”

Lois Schipper has deep ties to White Center – one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of King County. “Schipper deeply cares about underserved communities of color” according to Sili Savusa, executive director of the White Center Community Development Association. “Schipper understands what underserved communities need and she will deliver results in the legislature!”

In addition, Schipper served as PTSA president in both the Seattle and Highline School Districts, successfully leading school levy campaigns and serving as a PTSA legislative representative in Olympia.

John Welch, the former superintendent of the Highline School District, saw Lois’s efforts first-hand. “Lois got results through collaboration, perseverance and commitment,” says Welch, “I can’t imagine a more qualified and dedicated person to represent the 34th District.”

Schipper, who was a nurse in the Peace Corps, received her nursing degree from the Ohio State University and earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Minnesota.

Schipper has been married to Mark Ufkes for 27 years and they have two sons who are both Eagle Scouts.

In Schipper’s own words, “As a public health nurse, I have dedicated my 30-year nursing career helping families and children live better lives. I want to bring my experience as a children’s health expert to represent you and your family in the State Senate in Olympia. The safety and health of children and families will always come first!”

The weeklong official filing period opens tomorrow. The two candidates from whom we previously received announcements are Shannon Braddock and Joe Nguyen. The seat is open because Sen. Sharon Nelson has announced she is not running for re-election.

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VIDEO: 5 State Senate candidates @ 34th District Democrats forum http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/video-5-state-senate-candidates-34th-district-democrats-forum/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/video-5-state-senate-candidates-34th-district-democrats-forum/#comments Thu, 10 May 2018 18:34:22 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=916268

A month and a half after 34th District State Senator Sharon Nelson announced she wouldn’t run for re-election, campaign season launched in earnest last night as five hopefuls appeared at the first major candidates’ forum. It made up the bulk of last night’s monthly 34th District Democrats meeting. From left are Lois Schipper, Sofia Aragon, Lem Charleston, Shannon Braddock, and Joe Nguyen. Topics included tax reform, health care, education funding, gun safety, and more. No endorsement vote yet; next week is the official filing week, so we’ll know then who else, if anyone, is jumping into the race.

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‘Ballot box at the end of every driveway’: King County Council OKs postage-paid ballot envelopes http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/ballot-box-at-the-end-of-every-driveway-king-county-council-oks-postage-paid-ballot-envelopes/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/ballot-box-at-the-end-of-every-driveway-king-county-council-oks-postage-paid-ballot-envelopes/#comments Tue, 08 May 2018 00:10:43 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=915959 Seven years after our state went to voting by mail, our county is removing the need for you to buy a stamp for your ballot. The announcement from the King County Council this afternoon:

No Stamp? No Problem! The Metropolitan King County Council today approved legislation allowing the Department of Elections to send voters postage-paid envelopes to return their ballots in this year’s primary and general elections.

“Increasing accessibility to free and fair democratic elections is central to all of our civic institutions,” Said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, Chair of the Council’s Budget Committee and prime sponsor of the legislation. “This measure puts a ballot box at the end of every driveway, and I’m excited to be a part of its passage.”

“Voting is the foundation of our democracy. By eliminating the postage ‘poll tax’, King County is taking an important step to dismantle a barrier that keeps some from exercising their right to vote,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, co-sponsor of the ordinance.

Washington became a vote-by-mail state in 2011. While the Council and King County Elections worked to increase the number of ballot drop boxes available to voters throughout the county, approximately half of the ballots received are still sent by mail. Prior to today’s action all voters were personally required to place postage on their ballot.

In prior elections, when a voter forgot to place on stamp on a ballot, some post offices would send the ballot to King County regardless, but would charge the county $1.70—more than three times the current postage rate. Other post offices would not forward the ballot at all.

“We should be doing everything in our power to improve access to democracy countywide and I am confident that prepaid postage will go a long way towards doing just that by breaking down barriers to participation,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, co-sponsor of the ordinance. “I’m confident that our action today will result in prepaid postage on ballots being implemented statewide.”

“Prepaid postage has been proven to increase voting in a cost-effective way,” Said King County Council Vice Chair Claudia Balducci. “I commend our King County Elections Director for continually looking for ways to improve voter participation in our elections, which is so fundamental to our democratic form of self-government.”

The measure is widely expected to increase voter access and participation. Elections conducted a pilot project this winter, sending 65,000 voters in Shoreline and Maple Valley prepaid return envelopes. The percentage of total ballots returned by mail during the pilot was 74-percent. This was a vast increase compared to 43-percent participation in the 2016 General Election.

The legislation now allows election officials to send prepaid return envelopes to all voters, but with the US Postal Service charging King County a rate of 50 cents for those returned by mail. Wise and county election officials estimate a 10 percent increase in the number of ballots returned by mail rather than drop boxes with prepaid postage.

The legislation passed Council with a 7-2 vote. In support of the measure were Councilmembers Upthegrove, Dembowski, Kohl-Welles, Balducci, Gossett, McDermott and von Reichbauer. Councilmembers Dunn and Lambert voted in opposition.

Ours would be the first in the state to provide postage-paid ballot envelopes.

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Mayor visiting South Park tomorrow for community roundtable http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/mayor-visiting-south-park-tomorrow-for-community-roundtable/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/05/mayor-visiting-south-park-tomorrow-for-community-roundtable/#comments Thu, 03 May 2018 01:30:10 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=915542 (WSB photo, February)

Three months after she joined the peace vigil/march in South Park, the mayor returns to SP tomorrow afternoon.

As part of her ongoing effort to bring City Hall to all Seattle communities, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan will host a roundtable with South Park community leaders to discuss ongoing and new City initiatives in South Park. Mayor Durkan will be joined by representatives of the Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle Office of Sustainability and the Environment, and Seattle Police Department, who will be able to answer questions and provide resources to the community.

“South Park is a diverse and vibrant home to many young people, families, and small businesses, but it also demonstrates our City’s need for equitable investment in economic empowerment, public safety, and better basic services,” said Mayor Durkan. “Through collaboration with community leaders, we are going to tackle the tough challenges facing South Park and create more opportunity for our young people.”

She’s scheduled to be at the South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave. S.) at 3 pm Thursday.

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ELECTION 2018: Joe Nguyen becomes second candidate to announce a run for 34th District State Senate seat http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/election-2018-joe-nguyen-becomes-second-candidate-to-announce-a-run-for-34th-district-state-senate-seat/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/election-2018-joe-nguyen-becomes-second-candidate-to-announce-a-run-for-34th-district-state-senate-seat/#comments Mon, 30 Apr 2018 19:19:14 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=915341 We’ve heard from another candidate who has entered the race for our area’s 34th District State Senate seat, open since Sen. Sharon Nelson is not running for re-election. Here’s the announcement from Joe Nguyen‘s campaign:

Joe Nguyen, a Senior Manager at Microsoft who was born and raised in the 34th Legislative District, announced he would run for State Senate. The son of Vietnamese refugees and father of two, Nguyen aims to succeed retiring Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson for the open seat. He is off to a strong start with an early endorsement from Senator Bob Hasegawa.

Nguyen’s involvement in the Seattle area is lifelong, multi-faceted and represents a lived experience that is deeply connected with the values of hard work and service in this community. His mother escaped Vietnam with his sister on her back – and floated for weeks in the Pacific until seen by a Coast Guard plane and picked up by a cargo ship. He was born and raised in White Center/Burien, where his parents settled.

At Microsoft, Nguyen is working to provide accessible job training resources that empowers all people
with the right – often new – skills needed to succeed in this rapidly changing, technologically dependent economy.

“As the father of two young children and husband to an all-star educator, there is no issue more important than education,” said Nguyen. “Our state should be a national leader, not only in providing the kind of education that sets our kids up for success, but in reducing inequity and disparity. Fully funding our state’s obligation for education is essential, but it is not enough. Our teachers need better pay and benefits; our kids need resources in the classroom and beyond – whatever it takes so all students arrive at school ready to learn and thrive.”

Nguyen serves as the Associate Board Chairperson at Wellspring Family Services, which partners with families experiencing homelessness. This year, he helped Wellspring promote and advocate for legislation that will incorporate training in trauma-informed child care for early learning providers in Washington. This legislation was signed by Governor Inslee in March.

Nguyen is committed to finding solutions, so our residents can afford to stay here. “Seattle grows more unaffordable every day. People are worried they will no longer be able to live in their homes because they can’t afford the taxes. Health care costs, property taxes and rents are rising faster than wages. Despite Washington having one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, many residents right here in the 34th, don’t have any access to that prosperity.”

Nguyen was appointed by the King County Council to the Community Advisory Committee for the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO). He serves as a bridge between the community and the King County Sheriff’s Office in efforts to hold law enforcement accountable for providing fair and just police services to the public. “Along with law enforcement de-escalation resources and training,” Nguyen said, “Washington must implement solutions to decrease the epidemic of gun violence. There were nearly 700 firearm-related deaths last year in the state. We need stronger gun laws and policies to protect our children and save lives.”

Nguyen attended Highline Public Schools, John F. Kennedy High School in Burien, and graduated from Seattle University, where he was a two-term student body President. He lives with his wife Tallie, a former Highline Public School teacher who taught for a decade, and their two children near the West Seattle Junction.

“I am excited for the opportunity to amplify the voices and ensure a seat at the table for all our
neighbors, community members, business owners, teachers, immigrants, union workers and families that make our community such a special place to live.”

America is made greatest by its immigrants and refugees. If elected, Nguyen would be the first legislator of Vietnamese heritage in Washington and despite being one of the most diverse communities in the state, he would also be the first legislator of color from the 34th district.

The first candidate to announce in the race was Shannon Braddock, earlier this month. Formal filing happens the week of May 14th; the primary election is on August 7th.

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HEAD TAX: Where the proposal stands and what happens next http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/head-tax-where-the-proposal-stands-and-what-happens-next/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/head-tax-where-the-proposal-stands-and-what-happens-next/#comments Sat, 28 Apr 2018 06:15:24 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=915183 (WSB photo from April 19th WS Chamber-convened ‘head tax’ discussion)

One week ago today, four City Councilmembers, including West Seattle/South Park’s Lisa Herbold and WS-residing/citywide-representing Lorena González, officially unveiled their proposal for the so-called “head tax,” a business tax to raise money they say would be used mostly to build housing for people who are homeless. That was one day after Herbold and González had made their case to a gathering convened by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce (WSB coverage here).

If you haven’t already read it, the proposed legislation is here; the resolution establishing how the money would be spent is here; a proposal with specifics for the first five years is here.

Three days after the proposal went public, there was an at-times-contentious three-hour public hearing at City Hall on Monday night:

On Wednesday, the council’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee discussed the proposal, including a plan for how the money would be spent:

On Thursday, Councilmember González sent a survey to “business leaders.” One West Seattle recipient forwarded it to us anonymously. In the e-mail, González addresses the recipients, “In an effort to create an additional tool to engage with you regarding the proposed Employee Hours Tax/Payroll Tax, the Council has developed an online survey which allows business owners to give direct feedback to the Council and express any specific concerns.” Going through the survey, we note that it asks for opinions about housing and homelessness before asking for opinions on the potential head tax and the payroll tax that is proposed to follow it in three years. The survey is here.

Today in her weekly update, Councilmember Herbold went through a copious amount of backstory on the tax proposal and explanation why she supports it. If you aren’t already on her mailing list, you can read it on the city website. She wrote in part:

… The structural cause of homelessness in high cost cities like Seattle is that there is a growing unmet need for more affordable housing created when new workers, earning new high wage jobs, and low-income workers are in competition for limited housing. Lower income workers lose out and the result is that the explosive growth and rising rents that Seattle is experiencing has increased homelessness even as we, each year, exit more than 3,000 people out of homelessness and into permanent housing. A progressive tax on businesses most benefiting from this growth is our best option because we already rely heavily upon regressive property and sales taxes that hit everyone equally. …

Along with Herbold and González, the tax proposal is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda (citywide) and Mike O’Brien (northwest Seattle’s District 6).

The next scheduled official discussion is back before the Finance and Neighborhoods Committee at noon Wednesday (May 2nd), with “issue identification” to be included; then the committee is scheduled to vote on it a week later, at 2 pm May 9th, including consideration of any amendments. If that schedule is kept, the full council would vote at 2 pm on Monday, May 14th. All three of those meetings would have public-comment periods; you also can reach councilmembers via e-mail or phone – contact info is here.

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Change at the top for city’s Department of Neighborhoods http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/change-at-the-top-for-citys-department-of-neighborhoods/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/change-at-the-top-for-citys-department-of-neighborhoods/#comments Fri, 27 Apr 2018 20:58:49 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=915146 Since taking office five months ago, Mayor Durkan has made many who’s-staying-and-who’s-going announcements, but hadn’t said whether she would keep Kathy Nyland as director of the Department of Neighborhoods. Though Nyland – appointed almost exactly three years ago by then-Mayor Ed Murray – had a background in neighborhood-group leadership, she drew some fire for championing Murray’s plan to cut the city’s ties with neighborhood-district councils. This afternoon, Durkan announced that she’s moving Nyland out of DoN:

Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that Andrés Mantilla will serve as Interim Director of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, effective May 16, 2018. Mantilla currently serves in the Mayor’s Office as the Director of External Relations and Outreach. Kathy Nyland will continue working in the Durkan administration as a senior advisor at Seattle Parks and Recreation focused on community and neighborhood outreach.

“From day one, I committed to bringing City Hall directly to neighborhoods, and the Department of Neighborhoods plays a critical role in building strong partnerships directly where people live and work. Kathy has worked tirelessly to help communities across Seattle have a strong voice in their government, and her leadership has helped to foster more coordinated, citywide outreach on Seattle’s most urgent challenges. We will build on her important work to bring more equitable engagement to our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Durkan. “As we address growing disparities and make our City more affordable, Andrés will be instrumental in elevating the voices of community members throughout Seattle. His commitment to equity and communities of color will elevate the work of our City.”

Mantilla has deep roots in communities across the City. Prior to his role in the Mayor’s Office, Mantilla worked on community and small business outreach at the Department of Neighborhoods and Office of Economic Development as well as on the Community Outreach Team for Mayor Greg Nickels.

(WSB photo of Andres Mantilla: 2011, when he visited WS as a representative of the Department of Economic Development)

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VIDEO: Questions, answers, numbers @ West Seattle Chamber of Commerce homelessness forum http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/homelessness-questions-answers-numbers-west-seattle-chamber-of-commerce-forum/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/homelessness-questions-answers-numbers-west-seattle-chamber-of-commerce-forum/#comments Mon, 23 Apr 2018 05:03:40 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=914574

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“These are our neighbors.”

One of the participants in Saturday’s West Seattle Chamber of Commerce-presented forum on homelessness used that simple statement in the hope of debunking various myths about people experiencing it.

The almost-two-hours event also addressed frequently asked questions, such as where the city’s homelessness-related spending is going.

(L-R, Michael Maddux, Paul Lambros, Annie Blackledge, Sola Plumacher)

The speakers were, in order, Sola Plumacher from the city’s Human Services Department, which oversees its homelessness-related spending and initiatives; Michael Maddux, a local activist/advocate (who is also a City Council staffer but made it clear he was participating as a private citizen); Paul Lambros, executive director of nonprofit housing provider Plymouth Housing; Annie Blackledge, executive director of The Mockingbird Society, which is focused on ending youth homelessness and advocating for foster children. The Seattle Police Department was planning to send a speaker but canceled at the last minute. Introducing the forum was Chamber CEO Lynn Dennis; emceeing it, Chamber government-affairs chair Rik Keller. We recorded it all:

If you weren’t there and don’t have time to watch, here’s how it went:

Plumacher started by noting that her department is about to change leadership, as director Catherine Lester is leaving after next month. She explained the department’s priorities, including six “priority action items” from the Pathways Home discussion – starting with “commitment to families living unsheltered.” She had a side note, that the city is now trying to rebrand “sanctioned encampments” as “villages.”

Job loss, housing challenges, and alcohol/drug abuse are the main factors contributing to homelessness, she said, before noting that “for every $100 rent increase” – according to the Urban Institute – “there’s a 15 percent rise in homelessness.”

“It’s not true that every single person who’s homeless is a drug addict,” Plumacher said, but outreach teams estimate 80 percent of the people they encounter have substance-use disorders. She also showed the One Night Count (now Count Us In) numbers, saying 14,281 people in the most-recent count were experiencing homelessness.

To reach “functional zero” homelessness by 2020, 3,212 households would need to be housed each quarter, Plumacher said. The current rate is about a quarter of that.

93 percent of the people they surveyed “would move inside if it was safe and affordable.” (Note: We’re hoping to get a digital copy of her slide deck and will add it to the story when we do. MONDAY UPDATE: Here’s the full slide deck (PDF) shown by Plumacher. )

So what the city says it needs right now is “more and the right mix of housing options.” She also went through what the city is doing now, which includes the “six encampment villages” including Camp Second Chance on Myers Way in West Seattle, as well as the Navigation Team talking with people one-on-one who are “living in encampments throughout the city.” When there are sweeps, the city offers to store people’s belongings for up to 60 days. And she mentioned “cleaning the city” (though she didn’t specifically mention it, this would include operations such as the recent cleanup on Myers Way).

What they want to do next is “create a seamless system,” Plumacher said. And they need to improve results, according to this slide:

The most striking discrepancy between current and desired results – in 2016, less than 10 percent of people exited emergency shelter to permanent housing, and they want to increase that to “50 to 80 percent.”

Regarding funding, Plumacher said the numbers on her slide weren’t up to date but the percentage still applies – half of it goes to emergency services (see slide atop this story).

Questions for Plumacher: First, what caused the dramatic recent increase in homelessness, as shown on the next slide, as opposed to no real change ’08-’14?

Plumacher said “people were able to hold on for a long time … I think there are some other factors this slide doesn’t go into such as the abysmal failure of our mental-health system …” and youth who experience homelessness having a higher percentage of it recurring in adulthood.

Other cities have higher success rates, the questioner observed. Plumacher said she was just back from a trip to the East Coast and that Seattle does look at other cities for ideas and inspiration. Also, “homelessness is the finest sieve in the safety net … when all other systems fail, homelessness picks up where people fall through all those cracks.”

Next question was “about affordable housing … and what is considered affordable housing when a studio goes for” the kind of high rents they go for now? At that point organizers decided to hold off on further attendee questions until all the speakers were done.

That brought housing advocate Michael Maddux to the stage, seeking to directly refute some common contentions.

Maddux said he had personally experienced homelessness. Most of the people experiencing homelessness have it happen because job loss or something else causes them to become unable to stay in their home, he said, and everything spirals from there. Yes, many on the street are drug users … self-medication, like “every day of your life is the worst day of your life,” multiplication of the way a housed person might go home from an unpleasant day and have a drink or a joint.

Some residents in encampments are working fulltime but can’t find someplace affordable to live, Maddux noted. He also talked about people choosing options for survival if going into a shelter would mean they’d have to leave loved ones or pets.

He also noted that 70 percent of local homeless people say they’re from King County. “These are our neighbors, these aren’t people moving people here to get our services … when I hear people talk about ‘Freattle,’ that’s not a real thing … our services are incredibly maxed out,” housing, health care, etc., and difficult to obtain. People need to know that, he said. And, they need simple things, like “being able to access a restroom. … It’s a basic thing that we all have to do … Nobody wants feces on the sidewalk; the best way (to ensure that) is for it to go somewhere else,” like a restroom accessible to anyone.

Maddux also lauded nonprofits such as the West Seattle Helpline for helping people avoid becoming homeless. He urged “advocacy for meaningful solutions” … “it’s a lot easier to have screaming matches … but that doesn’t get us anywhere.” He acknowledged that “everybody wants to feel safe in their neighborhood, everybody deserves to feel safe in their communities,” and that goes for unhoused people as well as housed. Overall, he said, “all of these numbers you are going to hear about … are people. … Anybody can become homeless.” But “with the support necessary, if we are willing to provide that, anybody can come out of” homelessness/extreme poverty.

Next speaker, Annie Blackledge from The Mockingbird Society, explained that her organization’s mission is to “improve foster care and end youth homelessness.” They are in Seattle, Everett, Spokane, Tacoma, Yakima, and Olympia, each headed by two youth “with lived experience” who are employees of the organization. Fifty percent of youth exiting foster care become homeless within 18 months, she said, “and we’re allowing them to exit state systems of care into homelessness.”

A recent trend: “Older adolescents aren’t coming into foster care the way they used to” – some simply become homeless. “Think about when you leave foster care and have to rent your own apartment” – former foster children “really, really struggle” with no parents to help them, among other things they don’t have. Getting driver licenses – especially important in low-transit areas – needed special advocacy. And the list went on. She also spoke about education being a “key factor in success” for young people, and needing access to scholarships.

For families – there is a “crisis” with young people “sleeping in motels because thee is not a foster home for them … These are children. They are our children. There are not enough people stepping up wanting to do foster care.” She acknowledged that foster parents need support because the children they care for may have behavioral problems stemming from the difficulties in their lives – so her organization has set up “respite care” for those who need it and other kinds of support. “Nobody can do this work alone – we need each other.” At that point, she disclosed that she grew up in foster care, and had spent time homeless: “There are so many things that go into surviving the foster care system and surviving poverty.” She urged people to not look at homeless/low-income people as “lazy” – she said the work it takes to worry, to find services, is hard work.

She also talked about students experiencing homelessness in our state – no permanent home- 73 percent of them are “doubled up,” 14 percent live in shelters, 7 percent are unsheltered, 6 percent live in hotel/motel situations. The concept of any children “without a roof over their head … kind of feels like a crime to me,” she said. Statewide, 3.5% of all students are “identified as experiencing homelessness” – a relatively equal distribution across grade levels until a sharp rise at 12th grade.

Next up, Paul Lambros, executive director of Plymouth Housing Group, which provides permanent supportive housing, more than 1,000 people in 14 buildings, in and around downtown. He’s been with the organization for 25 years, and has been on the One Night Count “for many, many years.” In the past five years, they’ve noticed many more car campers. “I’ve never seen so many car campers in my life, people who just dropped out of our rental system, people who are working” but can’t afford housing, he said.

He addressed the common criticism that the city is spending more and more on homelessness with little to show for it – that’s because the federal government has dropped what it’s spending (as Plumacher had shown). He also had warm words for Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who was in attendance, saying that if you care about the issue of homelessness, she’s the best councilmember on the issue.

Plymouth works with “men and women who have experienced chronic homelessness,” he continued, about 2,000 people in King County:

*Average income $8,400/year (mostly via some kind of disability payments)
*87 percent disabled
*56 percent mentally ill
*49 percent seniors
*51 percent addicts
*More than 150 of the 2,000 are veterans

Many of those statuses overlap, Lambros noted.

“Services lead to stability,” one of his slides was headlined. That includes “intensive support for the most vulnerable residents during their first 12 months in housing.” Their front desks are 24/7, and they have individualized support and on-site nursing. And he further explained “Housing First.”

He also talked about the “Familiar Faces Program,” which works with the county to “provide people who cycle in and out of the jail system – and also experience mental health or substance-use challenges – with a path out of homelessness.” This program utilizes space at the Pacific Apartments.

Their program saves money – saves public dollars – and has a study to provide it – “in the 12 months before entering (a Plymouth building), 29 “high utilizers” of public services accrued nealy $2.4 million in public costs at the jail, hospital, sobering centers, and medical respite. In the 12 months after move-in, $585,000 in public costs.

Plymouth just opened its 14th and newest building on First Hill and has set aside 30 apartments in that building too – it’s near Harborview and they are partnering with the medical center to provide nursing care for those 30 residents as well as others in the building. He said his organization also has the Langdon & Anne Simons Senior Apartments, with 90+ seniors who have been homeless. Some of them, he said, had been homeless for more than 25 years before getting permanent housing.

They’re breaking ground soon on a new building at Rainier & King in the International District, with “105 permanent supportive housing studio apartments” and some commercial space. Another new project, a First Hill high-rise (up to 16 stories) site owned by Sound Transit – 300+ units working with Bellwether Housing, homeless senior units and “workforce housing.” Also on First Hill, at 12th and Spruce, they’ll be building 90 studio apartments for formerly homeless individuals.

According to Plymouth Housing’s most-recent annual report, almost half its annual revenue comes from “public grants.”

Q&A started with someone asking about animals in encampments. (We took this photo during the recent cleanup on the side of Myers Way where people are camping illegally:)

Plumacher said the city “knew this was going to be a challenge” so the Navigation Center – a city-funded shelter-and-more facility serving ~75 people – allows people to come in with “pets, partners, and possessions.” She said the Seattle Animal Shelter has had some pilot health-care programs, and also mentioned that the city-sanctioned encampments allow pets.

Aren’t developers required to provide afforable housing? asked someone. Lambros mentioned the forthcoming HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning proposal, and also the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program. (Here’s the 2017 report for the MFTE program, which gives participating owners/developers a 12-year break on paying taxes on the residential construction in their projects – not on the land itself or commercial space. The report includes a list of participating projects.)

Maddux said that MFTE requires setting aside some units for people making up to 80 percent of area median income – it’s not low-income housing. He mentioned several other programs, including the newly unveiled “head tax” proposal, with a spending plan that would allot 75 percent of the tax dollars to building affordable housing.

Lambros added, “The need’s great at every level.”

Also asked: How many people are transitioning out of this kind of housing and opening spaces for more people?

“For us,” Lambros said, “people are in permanent supportive housing for the long run.” Some of them can’t even get into nursing homes – but they did open a building for people to “graduate to” if they were not as much in need of services – 70 people, and that opened supportive-housing spots for people who needed more service. But overall, “there’s not enough of ANY time of housing right now,” he emphasized.

The Mockingbird Society person said everyone who’s been working with them is housed.

Plumacher said about a third of people are able to get into permanent supportive housing from emergency shelter. “It’s important to understand …the small amount of transitional housing we continue to have, and supportive housing … there are 12 units that become available on a monthly basis,” and the demand vastly outstrips the availability.

Maddux mentioned the stat that 25,000+ lower-income households are paying more than half their income for housing, and cited another stat: If the city could pay for housing to be built for everyone who needed it, that would be $5 billion to do it all at once.

Plumacher, in response to another question, talked about the authorized encampments and the current two-year limit. There are six encampments now (including C2C in West Seattle), a seventh is in the works (in North Seattle), two more are being pondered. Right now, the two-year limit still stands, she said (there’s been talk of changing that, as discussed at the most recent C2C Community Advisory Committee meeting). She said the “dispersion through the city has not been defined by the current administration … so there’s lots of consideration to be had about what this administration wants to see.” (We asked her for clarification after the event ended, and she confirmed that while there’s “talk” of changing the time-limit ordinance, it’s in a very early stage of discussion.)

Maddux said that two of the encampments – not including C2C – are on sites being looked at for permanent housing.

Another question: Is there anything specific being done regarding housing for youth experiencing homelessness? Maddux mentioned one on Capitol Hill and another in the U-District.

Last question, Rik Keller from the Chamber asked: What, as concerned citizens, can people do?

Plumacher: Take this message and share it with all your friends and family … volunteer with (an organization) or understand how to gather resources or items for (organizations). Also, “give an undesignated gift to any one of our nonprofit organizations.”

Blackledge: Speaking personally, not as Mockingbird’s head: “We have to talk about revenue in this state. … I think we need to re-evaluate our social contract with each other … People should not be sleeping in motel rooms with social workers. … Be willing to provide respite to a foster parent … there’s Treehouse, where you can donate things to their warehouse.” Mockingbird always appreciates volunteers, and accepts very little government money.

Lambros: Our state is almost at the bottom regarding mental-health funding – advocacy (to change that) is really important. Also: “Our current mayor and council members are really gung-ho about (the homelessness) issue,” so look for ways to support them.

Maddux: “The number one thing to remember is that we are talking about our neighbors, we are talking about people. … We are moving forward with providing revenue streams to provide services that we know work.” Regarding Seattle spending more, he repeated that the city spends more because the federal government and state goverment are spending less. He also said that this should be an issue in the upcoming local State Senate race (with 34th District Sen. Sharon Nelson not running for re-election). “What can you do in your own neighborhood? Make a contribution to an organization” that is helping with people who are homeless, or helping to prevent homelessness. Donate to WestSide Baby, West Seattle Food Bank, West Seattle Helpline, and be respectful of recipients – when you donate food, don’t donate expired food that you wouldn’t eat.

Blackledge: Our young people say people won’t look them in the eye … if you see someone on the street who is struggling, look them in the eye and say hello.

The forum was to wrap there – but one person said he had been waiting a while to ask something important:
He described himself as a retired teacher and a volunteer at Union Gospel Mission, and explained: “I have a new best friend, his name is Gary. He lives on Harbor Avenue in his van,” with his dog Princess. “He has no chemical dependency issues, he’s 57 years old, he lost his home through no fault of his own.” Gary wants to work – but needs to find training. “What would be your advice for helping find a job and housing?”

Plumacher suggested Recology – a heavy labor job, she warned – and UPS, both of whom she said are particularly interested in hiring people who are experiencing, or recently experienced, homelessness. Lambros said short-term work might be available via the Millionair Club in Belltown or at Fare Start, as well as day-labor work “cleaning the stadiums.”

The resource hotline 211 was mentioned, too.

MISSED THIS FORUM? ANOTHER ONE’S COMING UP: Fauntleroy Church is organizing a forum titled “Drilling Down on Homelessness” for May 3rd – details here.

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‘Why are we taxing jobs?’ West Seattle business owners challenge Councilmembers González and Herbold on ‘head tax’ plan http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/why-are-we-taxing-jobs-west-seattle-business-owners-challenge-councilmembers-gonzalez-and-herbold-on-head-tax-plan/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/why-are-we-taxing-jobs-west-seattle-business-owners-challenge-councilmembers-gonzalez-and-herbold-on-head-tax-plan/#comments Thu, 19 Apr 2018 23:10:37 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=914343 (WSB photos by Patrick Sand)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Though the details of a city “head tax” proposal haven’t been finalized yet, city councilmembers are trying to make the case for it, and that’s why two of them talked with West Seattle Chamber of Commerce members this morning.

West Seattle-residing Councilmembers Lorena González and Lisa Herbold co-chaired the task force that came up with the idea,

About 50 people were at the Disabled American Veterans hall in Delridge to hear them out and ask questions. And there were multiple mentions of the letter that Mayor Jenny Durkan has sent to the council, urging some caution:

The chamber offered the councilmembers a chance to speak beforetaking questions. Herbold opened by thanking attendees:

“This is really important … and really appreciated … that you took out this extra time in the week for this conversation.” She offered background on how the proposal had evolved, starting with the one that the council rejected last year during the budget process before expressing “an intent to enact such a proposal at a later date” after a “more deliberative process.”

The task force formed in late 2017, started meeting in January, and made recommendations in March, for $150 million in new revenue, half to be collected through the head tax – “employee hours tax” as it’s formally known. Herbold mentioned that the One Table regional task force meantime was looking at how to “make a dent in (the homelessness) crisis.”

She noted that 80 percent of the head tax revenue is to be “devoted to building affordable housing.” Why isn’t current spending “making a difference”? Herbold said they’re often asked. It’s because that money is “providing emergency services for people,” not going toward permanent housing, so that, she said, is why the new money would go thee.

She said the task force recommended potential ways to structure the tax, which she said would only affect about five percent of businesses. “We know sometimes large businesses with many employees don’t sometimes have that much profit,” she acknowledged, so they’ve tried to be cognizant of that.

Herbold recapped the three options proposed for the tax (above, from page 15 of the report), and also talked about the particularly controversial “skin in the game” fee that was proposed for all businesses bringing in more than $500,000 to pay – “a moral statement,” but Herbold said many found that term offensive “because as business owners, you all have skin in the game.”

The task force’s first briefing for councilmembers was just a month ago, on March 14th. An April 23rd public hearing in Council chambers is one of the next major steps; draft legislation is expected to be available before then, Herbold says. (ADDED: It was made public the day after this event.)

González said the recommendations from the task force “are not the starting place, they are the landing place. … What we’re hoping to be able to do through this process and processes at City Hall are to dig into details of what the recommendations are, how they will impact businesses, what kind of difference (the money could) make in terms of visible homelessness through the city.” She insisted “we truly are here open and receptive to your feedback.”

After the councilmembers’ statements, the floor was opened for that feedback. First to speak was a manager for VCA West Seattle Veterinary Hospital, which, while it’s part of a large company, “operates as a small business,” she said. “We don’t get bailed out with our big company behind us, and if you do another 24 cents (an hour) to us, our hospital may have to close.” They have 12 employees.

Dave Montoure of West 5 asked flat out, “Why are we taxing jobs?”

“This isn’t intended to be a tax on jobs,” insisted Herbold. “We are looking to move toward a payroll tax instead of a per-hour tax … ” but she said that would take some time to “transition.”

González added, “I think really, Dave’s question makes me think about issues around accountability and impact and untintended consequences … I want to make it clear we are thinking about these things.” She mentioned other cities with similar taxes and that she’s been asking for data to see if “this type of tax results in the loss of jobs.” But she said she’s been told that kind of data doesn’t exist.

Herbold recalled the “head tax” that used to be in effect in Seattle. “That existed, it was on all businesses in the city … the reason it was removed was not because it was a tax on jobs but because of the complexity around it and its connection to transportation.. it was a difficult tax to administer.”

Gary Potter from Potter Construction (WSB sponsor) then asked, “Once you build these low-income houses, is this tax going to go away?”

Herbold said the concept of “a sunset” has been discussed – it’s in the mayor’s aforementioned letter, too – and that “there is interest in reducing the tax over time” but the money is expected to go toward 20- to 30-year housing bonds that will require revenue for all those years. “We may not need the full 75 million dollars a year in the future… 10 years is the framework we’ve been looking at … we may be able to dial (it) down but we will still need a revenue source to pay off about $10 million a year.”

González said “figuring out how we reform our tax system at the state” would be a priority in the meantime and noted the oft-cited status of Washington as having one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation.

Some in the audience said they would be happy to see the B&O tax go away. González said their discussion with the mayor includes how small/medium businesses could get some relief from that and that they hope to develop “creative/innovative ways” to provide that relief. Herbold added that the mayor’s letter included some “good ideas.”

Another local businessperson said that he is a landlord and they are bearing the brunt of a lot of “public good” measures – the council says “this is good for everyone” but “they just tax the landlords,” he said. “With this tax in that bucket as well … if it’s good for everyone, why are just businesses being taxed? If it’s a greater good cause, then everyone should be taxed.” A smattering of applause greeted that. He accused them of making an “easy” move by taxing just businesses.

Herbold replied, “The idea behind this tax is … we already have a regressive taxation system, so the people who earn the least are paying the most under our ‘everybody pays the same’ system … We are trying to construct a task that, just a little bit, rights that.”

Next question was from a local lawyer. “We keep hearing this phrase … I hear this a lot from my clients … that this is a ‘homelessness crisis’ … I think (it’s) more (that) we’ve had a local government crisis … not the current City Council, this goes back 15 years. I want to thank you for stepping up … to actually (try to) solve those problems. But … those before you have made serious policy mistakes in how to handle the homelessness crisis and the budget for that.” He said he believes people have been encouraged to come here and “rather than throw more money at the problem, I want to know how you’re changing the existing policies … and specifically what you’re doing to enforce existing laws,” such as allowing camping in parks.

“There’s a lot to unpack there,” González observed. She referred to complaints such as “(homeless people) were offered shelter but they wouldn’t go.” She said, “We have a lot to reform in (the shelter system) …” saying people choose not to go because they feel unsafe in shelters. “So over the past couple years … we have undergone an effort to improve conditions” in local shelters, “to incentivize people to move from the outside to the inside. We have a lot of work to do in that area,” but she said last year’s RFP process was the first of its kind. “We now have attached to that, performance metrics, accountability metrics … I think we are moving in that direction … trying to unwind, frankly, decades of not getting it right. … It’s going to take a while before we see the impacts on the street. … We get that we need to see outcomes.”

Second, she said, the city Human Services Department “has never had a wholesale audit of its homelessness-services department,” and while she said she has “confidence” in the department, auditing it would make sense, and figuring out how to improve the city’s contracts. The audit is being “scoped out” right now.

After Herbold said that they were working on outcome-based rules for service providers, one audience member pointed out that some organizations that had funding pulled had it restored.

Next, a rep from Quail Park Memory Care Center of West Seattle (WSB sponsor) wondered “how does de-incentivizing employment help the current job stability and homeless problem?” He also mentioned that Chicago had tried and repealed a similar tax.

Herbold said that one of the things that make a city livable, that make an employer want to bring people there, is funding for important things … such as people not sleeping in doorways, not having garbage and human waste in the streets. “I don’t agree that this (tax) is going to dis-incentive this being a place people want to bring employees.”

“All those things are the result of current city policy not to interfere with the homeless people,” the questioner said.

“There is no current policy not to interfere with the homeless people,” Herbold countered, saying there are 400 unauthorized encampments in the city but city employees are out dealing with them all the time.

He followed up, “How does de-incentivizing payroll hours not contribute to unemployment … ?”

Herbold replied, “When we implement new laws, we will evaluate the outcome of those laws,” noting that the mayor has recommended an oversight committee and having an economist look at whether the tax would have unintended consequences.

Next, an alternative was proposed by Anne Higuera of Ventana Construction (WSB sponsor). She said that as a landlord she had been hearing from renters saying they had to move because their homes were being sold. She wondered if a real-estate tax had been considered, because it could “yield huge dollars and not make a different in the profit of people selling them.” Those sales are leading to homelessness, she said, so that’s what should be taxed, “not all businesses.”

Herbold said real-estate excise taxes currently can’t be used for housing.

“If you can tax drinks within the city, why can’t you tax real estate?” Higuera followed up.

Herbold blamed the state constitution, saying “we have a little more authority to tax things we want to discourage the use of.”

“Like jobs,” someone called out.

Next, Keith Hughes of West Seattle Electric and Solar said he hadn’t heard anyone discussing the infrastructure of the city and its “ability to manage any of this … if I wrote you a $75 million check right now, how long would it be until any of these houses were standing up? … The first two years would be wasted going through the DPD” (now the Department of Construction and Inspections). He said that the problem isn’t going to be helped by doing something now that won’t manifest results for five years. “Get DPD under control so you can actually build housing.”

González said that while she hasn’t ever had to seek a permit to build something, she has gone through the permitting process, related to her condo in The Junction, and understands the complaint, adding that there is work under way “to get rid of a lot of red tape for nonprofit housing developers.” She also mentioned 2,300 housing proposals are “waiting in the pipeline” already – waiting for funding.

Final question: Dan Austin of Peel & Press wondered “what study backs that $75 million is going to be the magic number” that solves the crisis. He also voiced concern that the membership of the task force developing the tax included people who stand to make money from it. And as a restaurateur, he said, he can’t just keep endlessly raising prices, though the city seems to be able to endlessly raise taxes. “This is a regressive tax – this is going to come down to the people who buy goods and services.”

“$75 million is the target for this revenue source,” Herbold said, but reiterated that $150 million was the overall funding need cited by the task force. “We’re looking at One Table to make up the other $75 million. … Even that $150 million is not going to solve the problem … the number of units needed …” is larger than what that will fund, but she contended “it will make an appreciable difference.” Meantime, task-force participation “routinely” involves experts in the field, and she countered that the people who participated “are not going to personally profit.” What about their organizations, since low-income-housing developers were represented? “There is nothing untoward about” the composition of a task force, Herbold said. The questioning about that grew a little more acrimonious and González interjected that “maligning each other” wasn’t going to help anything. Regarding task-force members, she added, “I don’t think these folks came to the table because they are looking to make a buck … (they) have spent their lives dealing with human services, human suffering,” González countered. Overall, “the programs that are being recommended for funding … are very popular in our community.”

Chamber board chair Pete Spalding closed by reading part of the mayor’s letter aloud – the parts in which she urged the council to not harm small businesses.

To continue tracking the tax proposal, follow agendas for the council’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee. (González is a member of that committee and Herbold is not, though all councilmembers are allowed to participate in all committees if and when they choose.) The public hearing on April 23rd will be at 5:30 pm in City Council chambers downtown.

P.S. As for the crisis that the new revenue is supposed to ease – the West Seattle Chamber is sponsoring a discussion about that too, this Saturday (April 21st), 1 pm at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW), as previewed here.

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Families, Education, Preschool, Promise Levy: What the mayor is asking you to pay for http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/families-education-preschool-promise-levy-what-the-mayor-is-asking-you-to-pay-for/ http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/families-education-preschool-promise-levy-what-the-mayor-is-asking-you-to-pay-for/#comments Wed, 18 Apr 2018 23:34:18 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=914256 (WSB photo: November 2017, South Seattle College)

When Mayor Jenny Durkan came to South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) on her second day in office last November, she signed an executive order to expand the free-college program that’s brought hundreds of students to SSC in recent years, but it wasn’t clear at the time where the money would come from. Now it is. Today she announced that funding her Seattle Promise plan – free community college at more campuses, for more students – would be part of a levy this fall that also will replace two expiring levies, the Families and Education Levy (passed in 2011) and the Seattle Preschool Program levy (passed in 2014). From the announcement:

Under Mayor Durkan’s plan, homeowners of a median assessed value property ($665,000 in 2019) would pay approximately $20.75 a month or $249 a year. For the first time, qualified low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans with a service-connected disability will be eligible for an exemption.

So what exactly would that get you? Not just college – that’s actually only a fraction. More than half the money would go to the preschool program. Here’s the full plan (PDF). Page 9 in that report has this breakdown of what percentage of the levy money would go to which programs:

The mayor is proposing that the levy go to voters on the November ballot.

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Native leaders to speak at Bethaday Community Learning Space tomorrow http://westseattleblog.com/2018/04/native-leaders-to-speak-at-bethaday-community-learning-space-tomorrow/ Tue, 10 Apr 2018 18:51:57 +0000 http://westseattleblog.com/?p=913583 Just found out about this event set for tomorrow afternoon at Bethaday Community Learning Space in White Center:

The Racial Equity Team (RET) – a People of Color-led group of lobbyists of color and community organizations focused on helping communities of color – invites you to our Tribal Lunch and Learn where Native leaders will speak on Native issues in Washington.

Many folks have taken for granted the original people of this land. The genocide of Native peoples continues through widespread discrimination and systematic lack of resources. As we strive to help our brothers and sisters in the Native community, we must first better understand their communitywide needs from those who have firsthand knowledge.

Senator John McCoy (left), one of the few Native American legislators currently serving
Former Senator Claudia Kauffman (right), first Native American woman in WA legislature
Aren Sparck, Cup’ik, Government Affairs Officer of Seattle Indian Health Board
Eir Cheeka, Early Native Learning Coordinator, WCCDA

When: April 11, 12-1:30 PM

Where: Bethaday Community Learning Space, 605 SW 108th St

This legislative session, the RET watched several bills pertaining to Native communities: HB 2267 – Indigenous Peoples Day; SB 6384 – Wanaput Band at Priest Rapids; SB 6131 – Providing tuition waivers equal to 50% cut to students who are enrolled members of a federally recognized Tribe; $150k budget request for Native Action Network; and HB 2761 – Improving child placement stability that includes Indian Child Welfare Act.

It is tremendously important that we work together to better understand and serve our Native communities in Washington state. Hearing from Native leaders is the first step in this process. We hope to see you there.

Thanks to Mark Ufkes for forwarding the announcement.

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