MAKING IT WORK
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city.
IMPROVING EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE
The Council has initiated a three-month process of setting a direction for the City to improve our emergency response system in the light of lessons learned from the December windstorm. This began with a joint meeting between the Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee and the Energy and Technology Committee on Friday, March 2, where we heard a panel of emergency responders from outside the city describe their experiences and reviewed the After Action Report compiled by City Departments.
In addition to the formal report, we also received responses to our first set of questions to Emergency Management and Department heads, and gave them a second set of questions in response to the report.
The Joint Committee will next meet on Friday, April 7. At that time, we plan to complete our assessment of the After Action Report and propose a draft work program for the Departments. Our final meeting is scheduled for Friday, May 4, at which we plan to complete action on the work program and review the report of a consultant study of City Light’s work on the windstorm. A fourth meeting could be scheduled if we are not satisfied with City Light’s responses.
The After Action Report clearly and candidly discussed the City’s actions, noting that staff worked hard and with success to address many of the challenges, but that there were a number of issues that require action, mainly in communication with the public and among Departments. Major changes to be made include:
- significant improvements in public information and response to phone calls;
- better coordination between Transportation and City Light;
- better training, direction, staffing, and equipment for Seattle Public Utilities;
- providing generators and more emergency supplies to all Fire Stations;
- taking a clearer and more proactive outreach in human services, including integrating community based providers more effectively;
- making major changes in the information systems, public communications, and operations at City Light.
City Light bore the brunt of this disaster and much of the next stages of this review will focus on that Department. It is important to note that in an earthquake (the most likely major disaster that exceeds the windstorm experience in severity), City Light’s overhead lines could be the least of our utility worries. In that situation, water, gas, sewer, and drainage pipes, as well as City Light’s underground system, could be broken, and repairing buried systems is much more difficult than overhead lines.
My Committee will continue to work on emergency management issues throughout the year. In March, we will update the City’s Disaster Readiness and Response Plan, and in April review the Seattle Neighborhoods Are Prepared (SNAP) outreach program. During the summer we will review the Regional Disaster Plan, check in on the City’s Pandemic Flu Strategy, and begin work on a mitigation plan that will identify investments to reduce the impact of future disasters.
Later in the year we will begin to develop a program to address issues around vulnerable populations, poverty, and emergency preparedness that I am calling the Resilient City Strategy. Another step to prevent problems in an emergency will be creating a Food Security Policy to increase the supply of and access to locally-grown food. Finally, we will also initiate a Disaster Recovery Plan that will identify strategies for reconstruction and recovery after a major earthquake or incident of similar scope.
Back to Contents
NIGHT CLUB LEGISLATION
The Mayor’s office has forwarded legislation to the City Council that would create a new “Nightclub Premises License” to address the conflicts between club operations and residents that have become problematic in several Seattle neighborhoods. The new licensing process would set standards for noise control, litter, and other neighborhood impacts, and would allow suspension of the right of clubs to operate if they do not comply with these standards.
While there are genuine issues that must be addressed, creating a whole new bureaucratic process and licensing system may not be a very efficient way of getting them resolved. Further, the process for developing this legislation, which was supposed to have been created by an advisory group representing key stakeholders, appears to have broken down, and there is no agreement on the content or process for the legislation among these stakeholders. The music community is concerned that setting up a new procedure through which clubs could be closed (in addition to the Liquor Control Board) could cause potential owners to consider investing in a club operation as too risky.
I and other Councilmembers are skeptical about this legislation for those reasons. The Council will thoroughly dissect the proposal before moving legislation forward. The review by Councilmember Sally Clark’s Economic Development and Neighborhoods Committee will begin on March 1, will include a public hearing, and is expected to conclude in June.
There are three issues that have emerged as most salient:
- Noise impacts from club operations on nearby residential properties. Rather than setting up a new licensing process, it may make more sense to provide a clear and enforceable noise ordinance with appropriate fines. There should also be a mechanism that would assist club owners in designing and insulating their facilities so as to minimize possible impacts.
- Impacts on the nearby environment from litter and other damage to public spaces by attendees, which often affects businesses and residents in the neighborhood the next morning after the club has closed. Recognizing that the business owner has a limited ability to influence the behavior of patrons when they are not in the premises, part of the cost of doing business in a community may need to include taking responsibility for cleaning up the grounds adjoining their business.
- Impacts, ranging from noise to violent altercations, of groups of patrons leaving the premises, especially at closing time, when people often linger in the street. The combination of alcohol and testosterone can be problematic. This is probably the most difficult problem to address, combining the challenge of dealing with off-premises behavior with impacts that can range from minimal to very serious. Only procedures for early intervention in tense situations, more proactive security guards, or additional police enforcement could actually make a difference in these situations.
Living in urban areas requires developing relationships among neighbors that blend tolerance for a wide range of activities and other people and respect for the basic needs of all community members. Regulation must strike this balance by recognizing that a vibrant and lively music and nightclub environment is a positive attribute for a city, and that this can and must be fostered in a way that addresses valid concerns of residents and other business owners. This is not an easy task, but it is one that merits and requires hard work and thoughtful stakeholder engagement to reach appropriate solutions.
Back to Contents
CREEK DAYLIGHTING PLAN
On Tuesday, February 27, Seattle Public Utilities presented a briefing paper on daylighting creeks in Seattle to the Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee. The paper was in response to my Resolution 30850, establishing the City's intent to develop a prioritized list for daylighting pipes and culverts where this would benefit salmon and to analyze resources that could be used to encourage property owners to daylight pipes and culverts. Resolution 30850 was approved unanimously by the Council last April.
While there are a number of reasons why communities support daylighting creeks, the resolution recognized that salmon recovery is a clear legal mandate that justifies either investing utility funds or requiring private owners to take action.
SPU reviewed twenty-eight pipes from seven urban creeks to determine which of these would address higher priority factors limiting salmon production (primarily altered hydrology and water quality), address fish passage, or restore floodplain, marine shoreline, and lakeshore connections. They concluded that there were four areas that could be identified as high priority, twenty that were medium priority, three that have low priority, and one that was infeasible. The highest priority stretches were on Thornton and Longfellow Creeks.
The next step will be for these rankings to be scientifically reviewed for accuracy and completeness, and then for a final listing to be submitted to the Council by the end of 2007. The Council will take this list and have the opportunity to recommend that design and engineering proceed to determine the cost and financial feasibility of the projects, and then to craft a daylighting plan that can guide investments in the future.
The second part of Resolution 30850 called for developing incentives for private land owners to daylight creeks on their properties. The draft report inventories existing incentives and recommends considering additional incentives such as streamlined permitting and tax reductions for restored urban habitat. The final report will assess these and other options, identify gaps and potential new incentives, and include a matrix that comprehensively lists currently available opportunities.
Back to Contents
VIADUCT, OF COURSE
Can’t have a newsletter without talking about the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The advisory vote on March 13 is likely to inform the next steps in this discussion. Most observers suggest that both measures are likely to receive a majority of no votes, although much depends on the turnout for the election. Discussions are beginning with other elected officials in the region to see if the Council’s Resolution 30959 can provide guidance in the next phase towards actually getting the project underway. This resolution (see Making It Work, Volume IX, Issue 1) calls for proceeding with implementing the ‘thousand little steps’ that are needed to manage traffic during viaduct construction, beginning work on the section south of King Street on which there is design agreement and which will take care of almost half of the elevated structure at risk, and convening a mediated interest-based summit to try to work through differences on the Central Waterfront.
The contretemps over the Alaskan Way Viaduct project has exposed deep flaws in our decision making process and is a serious distraction from the task of building a sustainable and comprehensive transportation system for the region. We cannot repeat this experience on other projects, and we only have a few weeks to take decisive steps towards a solution that can be implemented. If the stalemate continues, the Regional Transportation Investment District and Sound Transit votes scheduled for this fall are in serious jeopardy, and other critical projects (such as replacement of the SR 520 Bridge) will be further delayed and become more expensive.
Back to Contents
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do
the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
- Marianne Williamson
Your Seattle City Councilmember
Back to Contents
Back to MAKING IT WORK Newsletters