The City Council approved it, the mayor signed it, but the minimum-wage-raising plan isn’t a done deal yet, with counterproposals aiming at the ballot and at least one opponent aiming for court. It’s the big topic at this Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the 34th District Democrats, with Councilmember Kshama Sawant among the guests. Also on the agenda, another big issue: Gun laws, and whether to endorse the background-check ballot measure, Initiative 594. See the rest of the agenda here; all are welcome at the meeting (though only members can vote), 7 pm Wednesday (June 11th), The Hall at Fauntleroy.
6:42 PM: We’re live at American Legion Post 160′s headquarters in The Triangle as the community conversation with Councilmember Mike O’Brien gets under way.
On behalf of the hosting Southwest District Council, Cindi Barker (below left) has just announced that Saturday, June 28th, the Department of Planning and Development will come out for a conversation of its own – time (morning) and location TBA.
Councilmember O’Brien starts off by saying he’d like it to be a productive conversation for both sides. He says, “I never asked to be land use chair … I’m learning a lot. It’s a field that goes from the experience we all completely understand, living our lives, down to all sorts of laws I’m still trying to appreciate.” We’ll be updating as this goes. About 50 people are here and there’s room for more.
First question is from West Seattle developer John Nuler, who asked about the recent action to regulate smaller lots, in light of the city’s encouragement of backyard cottages and other accessory dwelling units. He says the original recommendation was 2,000 square feet, rather than the 2,500-sf lot size, and wonders why the change, which he says resulted in some lots being rendered unbuildable. O’Brien says he doesn’t have all the details on that, but his legislative assistant is keeping track of the questions, so that answers can be procured later.
Second question is from someone who says he considers zoning changes have resulted in “the rape of West Seattle” and wonders how many people can be crammed in here. “I’m not buying this urban-village rationale. … How far is it going to go in West Seattle?”
O’Brien: “I don’t have an answer to ‘how far it’s going to go’.”
Next question: “Is there a citywide movement for reforming land use?”
O’Brien: “There are all sorts of specific aspects of land-use code that specific individuals (&) neighborhoods have concerns about …” He lists the small-lot issue, the low-rise-code issue as examples. “DPD is addressing these issues as they come up, and there are a lot of them.” But, he said, they’re not going to “throw the (zoning) out and start from scratch.” He goes on to mention the Comprehensive Plan and its “major overhaul” that’s under way (aka Seattle 2035). “I think the hope of the city is to take a look at it and really rethink how growth happens, where it happens, how we manage that growth in the city …” more big picture than small details, he said.
At that point, Barker, who is moderating, mentions the next public meeting on Seattle 2035 – Seattle Center, June 24th, regarding its “key directions.” (We’ll have a link for that shortly.)
6:51 PM: Jim Guenther talks about what happens when the city rules change and projects suddenly are allowed such as buildings without offstreet parking, and how it affects “quality of life” for residents who were already there.
“There’s a balance we’re trying to strike between the common good and individual rights,” O’Brien begins. He says that things have evolved as “lots that weren’t interesting to developers became interesting,” in the case of the small lots, for example. “Something like 45 percent of the lots that are zoned single family 5000 are smaller than 5000 square feet.”
“Where do we get heard (when our quality of life is affected)?” Guenther pressed. O’Brien says, “I don’t have a good answer for that,” but mentions that even though, for example, one house was on a lot, the owner might have always known it was really two lots that might qualify for two lots someday. O’Brien tries to say that the city didn’t really change the rules.
**CLICK AHEAD TO CONTINUE READING AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE** Click to read the rest of As-it-happened: Talking West Seattle development with Councilmember O’Brien…
Tonight’s calendar highlight: Come talk about West Seattle development, land use, zoning with Councilmember Mike O’BrienJune 4, 2014 at 10:27 am | In Development, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 3 Comments
(May aerial looking eastward over Spruce, the ex-”Hole”; photo by Long B. Nguyen)
One more reminder about tonight’s highlight event – City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee, comes to West Seattle for what community advocates are billing as a conversation about development, land use, and zoning. This isn’t about one specific project – this is the “big picture”; O’Brien’s committee has been reviewing major issues/areas of concern – most recently, microhousing, with another discussion just yesterday resulting in a plan to create a new “stakeholders’ group” before new city rules are finalized. What is YOUR biggest concern? What do you think councilmembers could/should do regarding development and land use? Be there, to ask questions, speak out, even just to watch and listen. The event is led by the Southwest District Council, in lieu of its regular monthly meeting, along with the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council, and is at a bigger venue than usual so there’s room for everyone: 6:30 pm, American Legion Post 160/Pershing Hall, 3618 SW Alaska in The Triangle – which by the way is shown in the photo above, top right.
WHAT ELSE IS ON TONIGHT’S CALENDAR, YOU ASK? See it all here.
The minimum wage is just one of the hot topics the City Council‘s dealt with lately. Land use and zoning – as in, the rules regarding development – remain on the front burner. Tomorrow, the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee has another conversation about the proposed microhousing rules/definitions. And then on Wednesday, the councilmember who chairs that committee, Mike O’Brien, comes to West Seattle for a conversation about the broader issues of development, land use, and zoning here. Here’s our most recent preview; it’s at 6:30 pm Wednesday, June 4th, at American Legion Post 160/Pershing Hall, 3618 SW Alaska.
(Video of Monday afternoon’s council meeting, including minimum-wage vote and speeches)
3:42 PM: At a raucous City Council meeting – cheers, jeers, chanting – that is temporarily in recess before councilmembers move on to other business, the minimum-wage-increase bill has just received unanimous approval. It raises the minimum wage in steps – with large businesses at $15 in three years, smaller businesses in seven years.
4:41 PM: Lots of reaction to share, ahead:
$15 minimum wage? City Council vote Monday after committee OK today; you might still vote in NovemberMay 29, 2014 at 8:42 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 33 Comments
City leaders’ version of an ordinance eventually raising Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 goes to a final council vote next Monday. That’s after committee approval and amendments today, as reported by The Seattle Times (WSB partner), which notes that this proposal requires the businesses with the most workers to start paying $15 by 2017, with small businesses not getting there for seven years. See the full ordinance here, not yet updated with the amendments that passed from the long list proposed by councilmembers. Here’s what Councilmember Sally Clark, who chairs the income-inequality-focused committee, wrote after the vote. The 15Now organization, meantime, continues collecting signatures to get a faster-moving version on the November ballot, though its website declares “WE WON!” regarding today’s council vote.
With more than 3,200 new and planned residential units – plus single-family rebuilds and infill – development and land use have been hot topics in West Seattle, to say the least; not just specific projects, but also city policies. This past Wednesday night, we brought you first word of the Southwest and Delridge Neighborhood District Councils‘ plan for a June 4th community conversation about land use and development featuring City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee. Today, the time and place have been announced: 6:30 pm June 4th, which is the regular monthly meeting time for the SWDC, but not the usual place – this will be in a larger space, American Legion Post 160‘s hall at 3618 SW Alaska in The Triangle, so there’s room for anyone and everyone interested. No RSVP needed – just be there.
Local community leaders have been working on more ways to convene discussions about one of our area’s hottest current topics, development. And while covering tonight’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting (full report to come separately), we got semi-early word of an event in the works, and wanted to let you know to save the date: On June 4th, DNDC will join the Southwest District Council on the SWDC’s regular meeting night, to host City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who chairs the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee (which this week alone has handled issues from small-lot development to microhousing). Some details are still being worked out, including the venue/time, but if you want to hear about and talk about where things stand and where they’re going, save the night of June 4th.
(Click image to see the full-size map on the city website)
An emerging city transportation project potentially involves both the West Seattle “low bridge” (officially the SW Spokane Street Swing Bridge) and lower Spokane Street from East Marginal Way eastward. The proposal to create a “heavy-haul corridor” turned up toward the end of this news release sent by Mayor Ed Murray‘s office late Tuesday afternoon about a “Maritime/Manufacturing Summit” held Monday. The news release included a link to the map you see above and noted, “In cooperation with the Port of Seattle, roads along this corridor will be rebuilt to new heavy haul standards” to “enable permitted vehicles carrying overweight loads to travel on designated routes.”
While described in the mayor’s news release as having been announced at the summit, the heavy-haul-network concept has been under discussion for a while; we’ve found earlier mentions including a letter of support this past March from the city Freight Advisory Board, pointing out that the “heavy haul” vehicles’ per-axle maximum weights would be below vehicles already using city roads, including trash trucks and Metro buses.
For followup questions, the mayor’s office pointed us to SDOT communications director Rick Sheridan. He says that “rebuil(ding)” the corridor means that “SDOT will assess whether some roads in the heavy-haul network would benefit from an additional layer of paving to account for more frequent use by heavy vehicles and the appropriate time to accomplish that work.” As for where the proposal goes next: “The mayor will submit legislation to the city council this summer to establish a heavy-haul permitting system, to include a fee structure and any necessary terms and conditions of the permit.”
(Added: Seattle Channel video of the Sawant/Licata announcement)
Two Seattle City Councilmembers say they have a different idea for raising tax money to avoid Metro Transit cuts. Less than a week after Mayor Murray unveiled his sales-tax/car-tab-tax plan, Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant have just announced that they are asking city staff to draft a proposal to raise money through a commercial-parking tax and the return of the so-called “head tax,” repealed in 2009 amid claims it hampered job growth. Those taxes could be imposed by a council vote. (They’re among the alternatives listed in the online poll the West Seattle Transportation Coalition is running until tomorrow; parking tax is currently the top vote-getter, head tax second from last.) They would not fully replace Murray’s proposal, though, reports The Seattle Times (WSB partner); they would replace the proposed sales-tax increase, but a car-tab tax would still go to voters. Here’s the official Licata/Sawant announcement:
Councilmember Nick Licata and Councilmember Kshama Sawant and individuals representing working people, elderly, disabled, students, and people of color announced their plan today to address proposed cuts to Seattle Metro bus service. The proposed plan would use a Commercial Parking Tax increase and an Employer Head Tax to prevent devastating cuts to transit.
With the failure of Proposition 1 on April 22, King County Metro will implement the first of four planned rounds of bus service cuts. If all of these cuts happen, 16% of bus service, or 550,000 annual service hours, will disappear.
“If approved by Council, the Mayor’s proposal will go to the ballot in November, but not in time to prevent the first round of cuts. These initial cuts, and the funding that would kick in if ‘Plan C’ were approved, places a burden on poor and working people,” said Licata. “There are other options, and they are options that don’t expose our most vulnerable populations to more regressive taxation. The City Council has the ability to implement an Employer’s Head Tax and increase the commercial parking tax to fund public transportation,” Licata added. “If the City Council moves on this, we can prevent devastating cuts. I have asked our policy staff to research exactly how much revenue could be raised through these means, and to begin drafting legislation to introduce to the City Council.”
If you feel strongly about microhousing – the new wave of mini-apartments that cluster around shared kitchens, usually one per floor – Monday’s your chance to speak to the City Council’s Planning/Land Use/Sustainability Committee about the proposed new city rules/definitions. The meeting agenda circulated today reminds us of the date, which, as reported here, was first announced last month. Here again is the council memo about the proposal; here’s the agenda. The public hearing is at 5:30 pm Monday (May 19th) in council chambers at City Hall downtown. (WSB photo: First West Seattle microhousing project to open, Footprint Delridge)
(WSB photos by Patrick Sand)
11:38 AM: The achievement gap among Seattle students is “unacceptable,” Mayor Ed Murray has just told a gathering at High Point Commons Park’s outdoor amphitheater, starting the official announcement of the Seattle Preschool Program. Materials provided to us and other media reps say they’ll go to voters with a four-year property-tax levy to raise $14.5 million a year, costing “the average homeowner” $3.63 a month. It will be “voluntary for providers and participants and will build toward serving 2,000 chlldren in 100 classrooms by 2018.” Otherwise, “the moral cost is too high,” declared the mayor. More to come.
11:48 AM: “Every child in our city deserves a fair start … in life,” says Councilmember Tim Burgess, after being called by the mayor “the godfather” of the proposal. He says this would pay for full-day preschool. The announcement notes, “The program will have the ultimate goal of serving all eligible and interested 4-year-olds and all 3-year-olds from families making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level in Seattle.” The classrooms in which they would be served would “be provided through a mixed-delivery system, with classrooms offered by Seattle Public Schools and community providers.” SPS Superintendent José Banda speaks shortly thereafter, saying the district looks forward to being “a partner” in this, and that he expects this will make Seattle “a model” for the rest of the country.
Asked about asking for yet another tax, the mayor acknowledges that “there’s a risk” but also says that if this helps bring a brighter future for more Seattle youth, “it’s going to save us money.”
A few more points:
*Free tuition for families earning less than 200% of federal poverty level
*Sliding scale for families earning more than that, “with at least some level of subsidy for all families”
*”Ongoing, independent evaluation” promised for a “feedback loop” to shape the program as it continues
12:02 PM: Event wrapping up; we have it on video and will add when uploaded. If you watch TV news, you’ll see something about it tonight, as it was a full-scale regional-media turnout. Next step? The council will have to vote by early August to get this on the November ballot. Details here.
ADDED: Our video of the entire event:
Followup: What $ would YOU use to avoid Metro cuts? West Seattle Transportation Coalition launches its pollMay 15, 2014 at 10:44 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 61 Comments
The poll mentioned in our coverage of Tuesday’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting has just launched: WSTC is looking for your opinion on funding sources you think the city should consider before a final decision on how to avoid Metro cuts. The poll will be open until Tuesday morning; find it here. Ahead, the WSTC’s announcement and explanation:
— Marcee Stone (@bluecella) May 15, 2014
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A visit from U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott was top-billed for Wednesday night’s meeting of our area’s largest political organization, the 34th (Legislative) District Democrats, but endorsements stole the show.
Atop that list, the 34th DDs gave their blessing to the August ballot measure that will seek to set up a Seattle Park District, though one pre-vote speaker warned that elected officials should “explain it better” before ballot-casting time arrives.
They also made endorsement decisions in judicial races, with some of the candidates on hand, even an appearance by newly appointed State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu, who arrived at the meeting after her endorsement vote, and thanked the group:
— 34th Democrats (@34dems) May 15, 2014
Other endorsees included Congressmember McDermott, who spoke for a few minutes shortly after the meeting began. Introducing him, 34th DDs chair Marcee Stone-Vekich suggested everybody go look up the video clip of McDermott “swinging a fish in the halls of Congress” with Stephen Colbert. We found it:
Mayor Murray, Superintendent Banda, Council President Burgess coming to West Seattle to announce Seattle Preschool ProgramMay 14, 2014 at 7:45 pm | In High Point, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 29 Comments
Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda will be back in West Seattle tomorrow morning for a big announcement – what’s expected to be a tax levy to raise money for universal pre-kindergarten in Seattle. They will announce what’s described in a media advisory as the “Seattle Preschool Program proposal” during an 11:30 am event at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center, joined by City Council President Tim Burgess (who has been a leading advocate of the proposal), State Rep. Ruth Kagi, and State Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde.
6:09 PM: Want to talk with a city councilmember about how your money is spent – and will be spent? Now until 8 pm, you have a prime chance at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in North Delridge. Three councilmembers are here so far for the Public Safety/Civil Rights-focused workshop looking ahead to the 2015-2016 budget cycle – Nick Licata, who chairs the budget committee; Tim Burgess, who’s the president of the council; and Bruce Harrell, who chairs the public safety/civil rights/technology committee. Tom Rasmussen, the lone West Seattle-residing councilmember, is said to be en route. (Added: He arrived around 6:30.) The presentation hasn’t started yet, but we’re told it’s fairly short, and then it’s your turn to talk. More to come.
6:19 PM: City budget director Ben Noble is leading the presentation. He explains that right now the process of making the next budget plan is “in the executive phase” – departments send in their proposals this month and next, then the mayor reviews them over the summer, and a proposed budget goes to the council this fall. The current city budget is $4.4 billion; utilities and transportation spending comprise more than half that. But, Noble explains, most of the decisionmaking focuses on just $1 billion of that $4.4 billion – the “general fund.” More than half of that, in turn, goes to public safety – $576 million in the current cycle, says Noble. (Some of the information he’s presenting is on this two-page doc from the city website; we’re promised a copy of the slide deck, to come; ADDED – here it is.) Of that, a bit more than half – $289 million – goes to SPD. $175 million goes to SFD.
How much in the SPD budget goes to items related to the Department of Justice settlement? asked local community activist Pete Spalding. Hard to break that out, city staff said; Councilmember Harrell picked it up by saying, “You’ll hear different numbers,” noting that it’s led to the creation of new units, for example, such as Force Investigation (which was launched by now-Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske before his assignment to the local precinct, by the way).
6:43 PM: Questions so far include how budget items relate to, for example, SPD officers’ union and contract. Councilmember Harrell offered the example that the council might budget money for, say, body cameras, but if they weren’t written into the contract as a change of terms of employment, the money might sit there unspent, though “we’d find a way to use it,” Harrell added. West Seattle Be Prepared‘s Cindi Barker asked how much of the city budget goes toward preparedness; city staffers said they’d look it up. We have to move on to another meeting – but again, if you have questions/ideas, drop in at Youngstown, 4408 Delridge Way SW, until 8, and tell city reps about your public-safety-budget priorities (or send them via e-mail – lots of contact info on the right side of this page).
It’s been a recurring theme lately – the money that local government gets from you already, the money it’s asking for beyond that, and how that money is being and would be spent. Tomorrow night, West Seattle is the site of a meeting entirely about how the city spends your money. It’s the last in a round of city-budget workshops looking ahead to 2015-2016 spending; this one has a special focus on public-safety (police, fire) and civil-rights programs. So especially if you have an interest in how those programs are funded – this meeting’s for you. It’ll start with a short presentation and then move into conversation, with City Councilmembers there. Also planning to be there: Reps of the Seattle Privacy Coalition, whose spokesperson Jan Bultmann says is joining with the Human Rights Commission “to request funding for a formal privacy review process.” They’ve drafted a letter they plan to make available tomorrow night, spelling out why they think it’s time to have a process like that in place. All are welcome at tomorrow’s meeting, 6-8 pm at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW). Want more details on the process? Go here.
Money for Metro: King County Executive Dow Constantine says he’s creating ‘clear path’ for cities to buy more transit-service hoursMay 12, 2014 at 3:58 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 33 Comments
King County Executive Dow Constantine has just outlined a three-part plan regarding Metro‘s future, ranging from a way for cities to avoid service cuts within their borders, to a way to counter the claims that Metro doesn’t spend its money wisely, to a way to figure out how to improve customer satisfaction.
First, Constantine said he remains “fully committed to a regional transportation solution.” And he says a statewide package remains “desperately needed … but doing nothing while we wait on Olympia” is not an option. So, he says he’s “creating an enhanced Metro program for cities … to have a clear path for” buying additional hours of Metro service. He says this is intended as “a bridge” until a permanent funding solution is found: “Until the Legislature acts, I cannot ask cities to accept cuts that they are willing locally to prevent.” He says this won’t prevent the first round of Metro cuts this fall but if cities choose, might be able to hold off subsequent rounds. (The four West Seattle bus routes slated for “deletion” aren’t scheduled to go away, for example, until September of 2015.)
He says he’s also calling for “new transparency” in how Metro spends and is run, to “clear the air” and “get the right information” to people to refute a perception that Metro doesn’t spend its money well. He says Metro’s costs are 99 cents per mile, while the industry standard is 98 cents per mile, and “growth in Metro costs is now well below the national coverage, 19th out of our 30 peers.” Constantine says he’s calling for a financial audit of Metro’s reserves and capital-spending plans. He says Metro spends cash on buses rather than go into debt.
Exec calls for peer review and financial audit of Metro's operations, and establishes new Customer Service Panel to make recommendations.
— Dow Constantine (@kcexec) May 12, 2014
And he says he’s forming a new customer-service panel to find out “how to make the experience of riding Metro, even better.”
The first part of his announcement would seem to pave the way for Mayor Ed Murray‘s expected announcement tomorrow of a Seattle-only tax-increase proposal. Voters in the city approved Proposition 1, though it was defeated countywide because of a strong “no” vote outside the city; that was pointed out by City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who was among those joining Constantine at the news conference that has just ended.
4:13 PM: Here’s the full county news release. And Mayor Murray’s office has just sent word that his announcement is set for 9 am tomorrow.
5:18 PM: And carrying over the footnote from our earlier item previewing this story – you’ll be able to follow up on the county news today and the city news tomorrow morning, by hanging out with the West Seattle Transportation Coalition tomorrow night.
Election 2014: Final Prop 1 results; looking ahead to I-118; mayor to announce ‘proposal to save Metro’May 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 27 Comments
The final results are in from the April 22nd vote on transit/roads-money Proposition 1:
No – 239,834 – 53.95%
Yes – 204,734 – 46.05%
The county says that’s a 39 percent turnout – a bit more than the predicted 38 percent. The final precinct-by-precinct breakout is out too
(not mapped yet), earlier than expected. (Added 9 pm, a map by Oran Viriyincy, who gave us permission to use it – you’ll have to grab it and drag it to get West Seattle centered up, and from there you can zoom all the way in to your precinct – mouse over a precinct to see its vote results:)
(back to original report) Earlier breakouts showed Prop 1 would have won if it had been a Seattle-only vote, which has heartened supporters of what is now Seattle Initiative 118, a property-tax increase to raise money for Seattle bus routes. They have four weeks to gather enough signatures to get it onto the ballot, and today they announced a list of endorsements, including West Seattle’s two state House reps, Rep. Eileen Cody and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. If they get enough signatures, they’re aiming for the November ballot, which still could leave enough time to stave off planned bus cuts; for example, the four routes that Metro says it will “delete” in West Seattle are not proposed for that “deletion” until September of next year.
ADDED 7:21 PM: After The Stranger reported that Mayor Ed Murray asked a legislator to pull his support for I-118, the mayor’s office tweeted that Murray is getting ready to announce his own plan:
@dominicholden the mayor is putting forth his own proposal to save metro later this week.
— SEA Mayor's Office (@OfficeofMayor) May 7, 2014
Mayor Ed Murray has just gone public with his minimum-wage-increase proposal. The City Council will start its review on Monday; meantime, the full details are in this news release from the mayor’s office. The toplines:
Small businesses (businesses with fewer than 500 employees) will reach a $15 per hour minimum wage in seven years. Also established is a temporary compensation responsibility of $15 per hour to be met within the first five years, which can be achieved by combining employer-paid health care contributions, consumer-paid tips, and employer-paid wages.
Large businesses (businesses with 500 or more employees, either in Seattle or nationally) will reach $15 per hour in three years. The wages of employees who receive health care benefits will reach $15 per hour in four years.
The proposal will be heard by the council’s Select Committee on Minimum Wage & Income Inequality on Monday (May 5th) at 2:30 pm. It’s already drawn opposition from the group 15 Now, which (as reported here two weeks ago) proposes a city charter amendment phasing in $15 over three years, less than half the phase-in time of the mayor’s plan.
Create a Park District to raise more money for Seattle Parks? Council approval today means you’ll vote in AugustApril 28, 2014 at 7:46 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle parks, West Seattle politics | 26 Comments
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A month and a half after Mayor Murray came to Hiawatha Community Center to announce the proposal to create a Park District to raise extra money for Seattle Parks and Recreation in the years ahead, it’s ballot-bound.
That’s because, during their meeting this afternoon (archived Seattle Channel video above), the City Council voted unanimously (8-0, with West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen absent) to send it to voters.
This will replace – now and into the future – the more-recent pattern of sending ballot measures to voters every few years, levy or bond, to raise extra money for Parks. Most recent one was the five-year Parks and Green Spaces Levy approved in 2008. It was set to raise $146 million over six years, ending this year. Before that, the Pro Parks Levy approved by voters in 2000 raised $198 million over eight years.
But this time around, city leaders decided to go for a permanent way to raise extra money, instead of a fixed-term levy. The Park District would be accountable to the City Council, sitting as its board, but would have its own taxing authority. As laid out in this memo, councilmembers want the Park District to raise about $48 million a year for the first six years, 11 percent less than the $54 million the mayor had suggested. So what about the money Parks gets from the city budget now? According to the mayor’s website: “The City will continue to use City revenues to fund Parks and will continue to allocate a minimum of $89 million per year of General Fund revenues (2014 level of funding) to support Parks’ services and facilities unless the City Council by a three-fourths vote determines that a natural disaster or exigent economic circumstances prevent the Council from maintaining this level of General Fund support.”
Meantime, here’s the bill councilmembers passed to ask voters whether they will approve creation of the Park District.
In public comment before the vote, they heard from several critics who expressed concerns about accountability and about the fact that unlike the levies, citizens won’t be voting on how much they will be taxed – they will be instead voting to give the Park District taxing authority. One critic suggested few citizens had heard about this and accused the council of being “in an insulated bubble.”
Councilmembers disagreed with that. They also said an “interlocal agreement” between the city and the proposed district – set up in a second bill they passed today – would increase accountability.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, who chairs the Parks and Neighborhoods Committee, said it would help solve the problem of Parks’ huge unfunded maintenance backlog, estimated at more than $260 million, because 60 percent of the money raised would be spent on that. She said that over three years of trying to figure out what’s next for Parks funding, she had looked at and listened to thousands of comments.
Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant both acknowledged the Park District proposal wasn’t perfect, but considered it to be acceptable.
Councilmember Sally Clark described it as a tool to be used “without the council going all evil and using it for unintended purposes.”
Mayor Murray said in his announcement last month that the Park District would be able to tax up to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The slightly larger funding package he was supporting at the time would have used about 42 cents of that authority, so the one the council is supporting would be a few cents less than that. After today’s council vote, he issued a statement saying the principles of his proposal “remain intact.” The mayor’s website has Q/A with more details on how the district would work.
If you’re a Seattle voter, you will be part of the final decision in the August 5th election.
Post-election last week, you’ll recall, King County leaders announced the official plan for Metro bus cuts to cover the money gap that the voted-down ballot measure Proposition 1 was intended to cover. At the time, they promised nighttime meetings to answer questions about the proposed cuts. Locations and dates have just been announced for three meetings – one in Seattle, one in Bellevue, one in Renton. According to the county announcement, “Each evening meeting will include an open house staffed by Metro to provide specific details about the changes and answer questions.” Here’s the schedule:
· Tuesday, May 13, Union Station, Ruth Fisher Boardroom, 401 South Jackson Street, Seattle
· Thursday, May 15, Bellevue City Hall, City Council Chambers , 450 110th Avenue NE, Bellevue
· Tuesday, May 20, Renton Pavilion Event Center, 233 Burnett Avenue South, Renton
5:30 p.m. sign in/open house; 6:00 p.m. public testimony
The county is not planning live streams from the meetings, but says video will be available online and via cable the day after each one. The cut plan is expected to be voted on by the County Council next month, and cuts/changes would be rolled out starting next September and continuing in phases through September 2015.
ADDED 12:56 PM: We doublechecked with Councilmember Joe McDermott‘s office to see if there would be any other hearings in Seattle. Response: “There will also a public hearing when the measure goes to the Full Council. Most likely, this will be on June 2nd at the regularly scheduled council meeting from 1:30-4pm. This meeting will be at the King County Courthouse.”
4:23 PM: “Yes” on Metro/roads-money Proposition 1 gained a bit of ground in the second round of results just released but “no” is still leading, now by nine percentage points. Current tally:
No – 224,441 votes, 54.51%
Yes – 187,324 votes, 45.49%
5:22 PM: County leaders have issued a news release saying that they’re now making plans for Metro cuts. County Executive Dow Constantine is quoted as saying, “We gave the voters a choice, and presented a proposal for saving Metro Transit and maintaining our roads. They have chosen a reduced level of service, and we will carry out the will of the voters. Tomorrow I will transmit legislation to the King County Council to reduce service by 550,000 hours and eliminate 72 bus routes.” The County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment committee will have public hearings on the plan before taking final action by the end of May. The draft version of the 550,000-hour reduction is in our election report from last night.
Even before the second vote count comes out this afternoon for Metro/roads-money measure Proposition 1, a new ballot measure is in the works, says a group calling itself Friends of Transit, seeking a property-tax increase to be used only for bus service inside the Seattle city limits. The announcement received via e-mail:
Friends of Transit today announced it will file an initiative for the November 2014 ballot that would save bus service within Seattle city limits. The measure could raise up to $25 million a year for the next six years, enough to reverse most cuts to King County Metro routes that serve Seattle.
“Seattle will grind to a halt if we don’t act fast to save buses,” said Ben Schiendelman, founder of Friends of Transit and proponent of the ballot measure. “Seattle voters want better transit. We will not rest until we have reversed these cuts and begun making the investments we need to provide Seattle with the transit system it deserves.”
8:13 PM: Tonight’s results have just been made public for Proposition 1, the Metro/roads money measure, and it’s 55 percent no, 44 percent yes. More to come.
8:28 PM: This is the only vote count we’ll get tonight, with another to come tomorrow. The details, from the county website:
No – 200887 votes, 55.28%
Yes – 162508 votes, 44.72%
In addition to your thoughts in the comment section, we’re watching for other reaction around the net. Metro is a county service; from King County Executive Dow Constantine:
Dow Constantine "the voters have spoken" , not rejecting metro, rejecting this proposal to fund metro. pic.twitter.com/HvAKj1MsQf
— Alison Grande (@Alison_Grande) April 23, 2014
9:09 PM: So what happens now? The vote-counting usually takes a few weeks. If the measure is indeed defeated, the West Seattle-specific cut list would have to be reshuffled, because it included an extra cut that was averted two months ago, when the state agreed to continue providing “mitigation money” related to Highway 99 construction for at least another year. (And that was BEFORE Monday’s news that the Highway 99 tunneling machine won’t get moving again for almost a year.)
Metro did recently make a slight reduction in the number of service hours it said would be necessary if no new funding became available – 550,000 instead of 600,000; that draft revision included this route-by-route table.
It leaves more routes unchanged than the original proposal, and would be phased in between September 2014 and September 2015. Still on the list of routes to be eliminated: 21, 22, 37, 57. Route 113 was on the deletion list in November but is on the “would be unchanged” list now.
Four more hours to get your ballot in for the Proposition 1 (Metro/roads money) special election, and if you’re not mailing it, the ballot-dropoff vans in West Seattle and White Center will take it for free. Above, Taylor and Benjamin were on duty at the West Seattle Stadium van when we stopped by around noon; they already had received more than 150 ballots in two hours at that point. The other nearby van is in Greenbridge, 8th SW south of Roxbury. P.S. The other voting option is an accessible voting center – explained here; three locations – Renton, Bellevue, and Union Station downtown, also until 8 tonight. (Tonight’s round of results will be made public shortly after that, and we’ll have them here as soon as they’re available.)
IF you haven’t yet marked and returned your ballot – just one issue, Proposition 1 for Metro and roads money – you have two more days; it’s due Tuesday night (April 22nd). Last-minute campaigning continues – dozens of “No on Prop 1″ signs turned up along West Seattle arterials overnight; Prop 1 supporters say King County Executive Dow Constantine plans to campaign for it tomorrow morning at the California/Alaska RapidRide stop in The Junction before catching the bus to downtown, where he and Mayor Ed Murray plan a 9:30 am rally in the Benaroya Hall lobby.
Whichever way you’re voting, you can either put a stamp on your ballot and drop it in the mail, or you can drop it off – no stamp required – at the West Seattle or White Center ballot vans 10 am-5 pm tomorrow, 10 am-8 pm Tuesday. (There are dropoff locations elsewhere – maybe one close to someplace else you’ll be – locations are listed here.)
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