MAKING IT WORK
Welcome to MAKING IT WORK, Councilmember Conlin's monthly email newsletter. This newsletter is one way that Councilmember
Conlin is seeking to carry out his conviction that fostering citizen participation and engagement is a key task
of elected officials, and is vital to a democratic society. Each issue includes Councilmember Conlin's thoughts
on a key issue, informs you of other major issues in the City, and let's you know how you can influence City decisions.
ZERO WASTE STRATEGY
The consultant report on the Zero Waste strategy proposal has been completed, and over the next month the Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee will consider legislation adopting new goals and policies for Seattle's solid waste, waste reduction, and recycling strategies.
A public comment meeting will be held on Thursday, June 7, at 5:30 PM in the Council Chambers, to consider the policy options, and all interested parties are encouraged to attend. The policy options under consideration and the background documents, including the consultant reports, can be accessed via my website at http://www.seattle.gov/council/conlin/.
The goal of this strategy is to move Seattle towards a more sustainable policy by radically reshaping our approach. The fundamental premise is that waste is a resource rather than something to be disposed of. This means that we should focus on reducing the amount of waste disposed of and emphasize the highest and best use of resources through waste reduction and recycling. I am recommending that we redefine our goals, from emphasizing the percentage of the waste stream recycled to reducing waste, with a long-term goal of 0% growth in tons of garbage disposed of, and of striving to steadily reduce tonnage in future years, in environmentally and economically sustainable ways.
To implement that, the City should apply zero-waste principles which entail defining waste as a resource; conserving natural resources through waste prevention and recycling; turning discarded resources into jobs and new products instead of trash; promoting products and materials that are durable and recyclable; and discouraging products and materials that can only become trash after their use. This also entails pursuing actions that reuse materials for their original purpose or recycles them into the highest and best use, and that minimize the environmental impacts of disposed waste.
For our customers, that means that we initiate actions that offer new services on a voluntary basis along with rate restructuring or other incentives to encourage participation, and pursue product stewardship approaches to avoid waste or remove waste from the City waste stream. After voluntary efforts and incentives have set a pattern for most customers, we should then move to prohibit disposal of the targeted materials as garbage in order to bring laggards into compliance.
There are several actions that could be implemented relatively quickly, including:
- Organics services for multi-family residences: Provide yard waste and organics (non-meat, non-dairy food waste) pick-up for apartments and condominiums.
- All-foods recycling for residences: Expand existing residential curbside pick-up of yard waste and organics to include meats and other foods.
- Construction and demolition (C&D) recycling facility incentives: Provide grants or other incentives to encourage private companies to develop facilities for sorting and recycling C&D waste.
- Electronics recycling: Allow drop-off of computers and other electronics at City transfer stations, with the possibility of adding curbside electronics pick-up and coordination with producer take-back programs.
Many other actions are possible, and we would value comments and information on their desirability and feasibility. These include:
- Expanded education, inspection, and enforcement: Increase efforts to provide information and education, inspect garbage, provide waste audits, and enforce requirements (when necessary) to reduce intermingling of recyclables with garbage.
- Salvage and reuse swap sites: Establish neighborhood-based sites where customers could donate, exchange, or purchase used materials and items.
- Expanded large events/parks service: Expand recycling services available at large events and parks, with the ultimate possibility of banning recyclables in trash at these venues.
- Residential Recycling/Garbage Frequency: Shift residential recycling to a weekly pick-up and garbage pick-up to a bi-weekly schedule.
- Multi-family waste audits and incentives: Offer a service to audit recycling collection approaches and facilities at multi-family buildings and provide education and incentives to improve practices.
- Performance contracts for collection and disposal: Compensate waste contractors based on performance in achieving waste reduction goals (instead of amount of waste disposed) including achieving target C&D recycling levels.
- Stewardship Planning Group: Establish a group to plan for new City recycling and producer responsibility programs, and to review disposal options for residual waste.
- Regional Solid Waste Advisory Committee: In cooperation with other governments in Central Puget Sound, create a committee representing various solid waste interest groups to offer advice on new programs and help coordinate efforts across jurisdictions.
- Solid Waste Matching Grants: Create a program that provides $1 of matching grants for every $1 provided by the community for innovative neighborhood-based recycling projects.
- Biofueled collection trucks: Require waste contractors to deploy a collection fleet that uses biofuels.
- City maximum recycling policy: Ensure that City operations exceed all waste reduction and recycling requirements placed on SPU's residential and commercial customers.
- Commercial organics recycling rates: Use advisory group input to amend commercial rates to encourage organics recycling through measures such as raising the variable rates for garbage can sizes and decreasing the per-unit organics charge as quantities of organics increase.
- Mandated restaurant food collection space: Adopt a Seattle/King County Health Department regulation requiring all restaurants to have space dedicated to food waste collection and handling.
- Residential organics rates: Provide residential curbside organics pick-up at no charge.
- Ban organics disposal in garbage: Once an organics recycling service is established, prohibit disposal of all residential and commercial yard waste and food waste in the garbage.
- Self-haul rates and fees: To increase recycling and reduce transfer station traffic, amend self-haul rates and tipping fees to cover the full cost of self-haul services.
- Alternatives to self-haul [voluntary]: Identify and implement alternative services (such as on-demand curbside pick-up) to minimize self-haul customer traffic at City transfer stations.
- Alternatives to self-haul [mandatory]: Once services to provide alternatives to transfer station self-haul have been established, discontinue transfer station access for self-haul customers with small loads.
CONSTRUCTION AND DEMOLITION (C&D) WASTE
- C&D disposal/recycling rate differentials: Increase tipping fees for disposal of mixed C&D waste while decreasing the fee for transfer station drop-off of source-separated recyclable C&D materials.
- Mandatory carpet take-back: Require manufacturers and/or retailers to take back used carpet and provide tax incentives or other business development incentives to promote local carpet-recovery markets.
- Building and demolition permit fees/recycling plans: Require a recycling plan and fee deposit when issuing building and demolition permits, with a portion of the fee refunded based on the amount of C&D waste recycled.
- C&D disposal ban: If City recycling goals cannot be met using other voluntary measures, adopt an ordinance that prohibits recyclable C&D materials from being dumped as garbage at City transfer stations.
- C&D flow control: Using advisory group input, first evaluate, and then implement if justified, an ordinance to require that all C&D waste be handled through the City system.
- C&D recyclables market development: Provide grants, tax breaks or other incentives to encourage businesses that reuse C&D materials (such as roofing and drywall) or reprocess them into new products.
- Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)-type incentives: Provide incentives and requirements for larger development projects to promote recycling of C&D waste and use of recycled materials in construction.
- Mandated C&D recycling percentage: Adopt a City requirement that a given percent of C&D waste from each construction site be recycled.
- Plastic shopping bag strategy and ban: Identify steps toward reducing non-reusable and non-compostable shopping bags, with the possibility of banning non-compostable plastic shopping bags.
- Paint producer take-back: Work with paint producers to implement a producer take-back and reprocessing program.
- Household Hazardous Waste (HHW): Reevaluate the City's HHW system including the mix of products accepted and implement system adjustments as needed.
- Styrofoam strategy, take-back and ban: Identify steps toward reducing styrofoam food packaging including producer take-back programs, with the last step (if needed) being a ban on styrofoam food containers.
- Mercury-containing product recycling/take-back: Identify steps toward recycling mercury-containing products such as florescent light bulbs and thermometers, including producer take-back programs.
- Reusable/exchangeable coffee cups: Distribute to coffee shops around the City an inventory of durable cups that can be returned and reused at any other coffee shop.
- Carbon-neutral solid waste policy: Establish a carbon-neutral City purchasing policy that expands use of recycled products and products that can be sent back to the producer for reuse or reprocessing.
- Commercial incentives: Develop a package of incentives addressing the current barriers to commercial recycling, so that businesses can move more quickly toward the City's recycling goal.
A number of other ideas are reviewed in the consultant study, which can be accessed at my website, as noted above.
The Zero Waste strategy sets the policy direction for future management of the waste stream. The Committee also has to determine what mix of facilities will be optimum to ensure that this can happen smoothly and efficiently, including the possible configuration of transfer stations. There is general agreement that the two existing transfer stations are poorly designed and obsolete. The key questions are:
- Should truck delivery and garbage compacting continue to be done at the existing two transfer stations, or should this function be moved to a new facility located on Corgiat Avenue near Georgetown?
- Should system redundancy requirements and geographic equity principles eliminate facility options that concentrate services and impacts at one location?
- Should the City seek to phase-out small self-haul loads from transfer stations in order to minimize facility expansion needs?
- If increased recycling and phase-out of self-haul traffic reduce facility expansion needs, should facilities be down-sized to minimize cost or should the space instead be used to respond to future service needs?
- Should the City continue to rely on private contractors or purchase a new City site to provide rail loading of compacted waste and to assemble waste trains?
While input on facilities questions will be accepted at the June 7 meeting, the facilities options will also be the subject of a second meeting at 5:30 PM on June 19 in Georgetown (specific location to be posted on the Council website by June 8).
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COMPLETE STREETS ORDINANCE
On Monday, May 7, the City Council unanimously adopted Council Bill 115861, formally committing Seattle to a 'Complete Streets' policy. The legislation was developed and sponsored by Councilmember Jan Drago, the current Chair of the Council's Transportation Committee. This policy requires that transportation improvements are planned, designed and constructed to encourage walking, bicycling and transit use while promoting safe operations for all users.
The ordinance is the final step in adopting this policy approach, which I initiated several years ago as Chair of the Transportation Committee at the request of pedestrian and bicycle advocates. The Council declared its intention to adopt such a policy in Resolution 30915 last September, which enunciated guiding principles for the funds requested from the voters to enhance the City's transportation network, the 'Bridging the Gap' proposal. This ordinance formally adopts those principles as legal requirements.
'Complete Streets' principles have been adopted by a number of other cities around the United States, and are basically designed to remedy a policy perspective that has dominated street design by emphasizing automobile traffic flow, sometimes at the expense of other users. The goal of our transportation policy is to ensure that effective alternatives to the automobile are available. This goal is important to meet the mobility needs of the large percentage of the population who cannot drive because of age or disability or because they do not own cars. It is also, of course, part of our policy intent to promote better health by encouraging non-motorized transportation, promote safer neighborhoods by reducing automobile traffic, reduce pollution, resource depletion, and carbon emissions by reducing the use of the car, and promote economic development by reducing congestion and enhancing the essential movement of freight and people.
While the principles are simple and straightforward, the practice is much more complicated. What this will require is assessing the opportunities to change the right-of-way each time a major improvement or maintenance project is designed, and making decisions that are consistent with this policy approach. In practical terms, this means that sidewalks and bicycle lanes will be incorporated routinely into future transportation projects, and that streets that will likely have transit access are designed to make this operate smoothly and efficiently.
It is important to stress that 'Complete Streets' involves a balancing act. Freight mobility is called out as a priority on designated truck streets, and automobiles are likely to remain the primary users of most streets for the foreseeable future. However, these design requirements will make a major difference as we move into a future in which pedestrians, bicycles, and transit users have better and more guaranteed facilities in the transportation network.
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SCHOOL DISTRICT SURPLUS PROPERTIES
In adopting the 2007-2008 budget last November, the Council approved my proposal to set aside funds in the 2008 budget to support investing $5 million in securing the future of the buildings currently housing University Heights and Phinney Neighborhood Centers. These buildings are schools that are no longer being used by the Seattle School District and have been operated under lease by community organizations for the last two decades.
Recognizing their value to the community (and strong support for continuing these community facilities in the respective neighborhood plans), the Council wanted to ensure that the organizations would have the first right to acquire the buildings if the School District, as expected, decided to surplus the buildings.
The School Board's Finance Committee has now formally recommended that the District declare 5 of its 19 currently unused buildings as surplus, and the full Board is expected to approve that recommendation in June. In addition to the Phinney and University buildings, these include the former Crown Hill, Webster, and Fauntleroy Elementary Schools. All five will clearly not be needed as school facilities for the foreseeable future, have been leased to community-based organizations, and have become valuable community institutions. The Finance Committee is recommending that the current community leaseholders be given the first opportunity to come up with a financial proposal to acquire the building. Under state law, the School District must receive full and fair value for any property that it sells. If any of the organizations are unable to come up with the resources or negotiate a mutually agreeable financial arrangement, the School District will then offer the buildings to other possible purchasers.
In addition to the buildings, Webster and Fauntleroy Schools also have land that has been used by Seattle Parks as recreation and open space, and this land could be sold to the City under a separate financial arrangement.
The Phinney and University Heights organizations have been working for the last several years to develop operating and financial plans for acquiring the buildings. It is likely that they can put together community fundraising that can be combined with the City's funds to make this happen. The School District, City, and organizations are all now moving towards a negotiation that hopefully will conclude the arrangements for these two sites in 2008.
Each of the five sites has its own unique configuration of community institutions and site characteristics, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I will encourage the City Council and Mayor to develop a set of criteria that would allow us to make decisions on the other three sites that are consistent with the proposal for the first two. This would basically mean that City support must be matched with community fundraising, along with a clear organizational and financial plan that would not require the City to take responsibility for the ongoing operations and maintenance of the sites. I hope that we can do this over the next few months so that the organizations have some certainty about their future and the Council can consider the criteria and determine what financial commitment it would be willing to make during the next budget cycle.
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The primary economic conflict is between people whose interests are with already well-established economic activities, and those whose interests are with the emergence of new economic activities.
-- Jane Jacobs
Every visa officer today lives in fear that he will let in the next Mohammed Atta. As a result, he is probably keeping out the next Bill Gates.
-- Fareed Zakaria
Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected
officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together
we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting,
Your Seattle City Councilmember
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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