City View Newsletter
Im in my seventh week as your city councilmember, and Im having a blast. This job is more fun, more rewarding, and more challenging than I thought possible. I thoroughly enjoy working with every one of my colleagues, wrestling with various issues and hammering out solutions for the common good of our city.
This is the first edition of my E-newsletter. Ill keep you informed on what Im doing, important issues, and upcoming events. Let me know what you think.
Singing for Seattle Center
The City Council unanimously approved a sweeping new lease for the old Mercer Arena (originally the civic ice arena) yesterday afternoon with the Seattle Opera. The Opera will take over the arena, which has been closed for safety reasons since 2003, and renovate it for administrative offices, scene construction and storage, and rehearsal space. And it wont cost city taxpayers a dime!
There is strong public benefit here, too. In exchange for the 30 year lease, with an option for a second 30 years, the Opera will revitalize the Mercer Street side of the arena by creating an engaging walkway for pedestrians between the CTS studios on one side and McCaw Hall on the other.
The Opera also agreed to identify specific ways other arts and education groups could use the renovated arena and McCaw Hall for community benefit. This is an excellent example of a public-private partnership thats good for everyone in Seattle. A rundown and dangerous building is renovated, pedestrians are relieved of a blank wall along the south side of Mercer Street and other arts and education groups have a new venue for their activitiesall at no cost to taxpayers. Plus, the Opera gets new space to consolidate its important support functions right next door to its premier performance hall.
Last week, the Council unanimously approved a resolution asking the director of Seattle Center to negotiate a new lease for use of Key Arena with the soon-to-be locally owned Seattle Storm basketball team. I co-sponsored this resolution to help support womens basketball in Seattle. Its another example of how elected officials can work effectively with private interests to adv ance the common good.
All in all, a great two weeks for Seattle Center.
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Urban State of Affairs
The Mayor gave his State of the City address to the Council yesterday. A couple of things were on my mind as I listened.
Cities matter! According to research by the Brookings Institution, 75% of Americas gross national product comes from our largest 100 metropolitan areas, including Seattle, and 42 of our largest cities would rank in the worlds top 100 economies if viewed as nations. Sixty-five percent of Americas population lives in our largest 100 metro areas. Cities drive the American economy. Too bad we dont have a national agenda for cities. Too bad our presidential candidates arent discussing and debating this agenda. Yesterdays New York Times made this point editorially.
Cops matter! The Mayor touched on Seattles statistically declining crime rate. But, he also mourned the gang violence that has taken the lives of several young men in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, UW students talked with me about continuing violence in their neighborhood. Neighborhood business owners who run the restaurants, bars, coffee and boutique shops, gas stations, and groceries around town complain bitterly about misdemeanor crime that disrupts their business and turns customers away. As the Mayor said yesterday, when it comes to crime, perception matters. And thats why I keep talking about our need for more police officers. Our police force is seriously understaffed and the officers we do have spend time racing from one 911 call to another. They have very little time for the community interactions that are the bedrock of good police workwalking their patrol beats, meeting store owners, getting to know the kids down the block.
Police under-staffing is a major focus of my Council work this year and Ill have more to say about this in coming weeks.
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More Open, More Transparent
I will soon co-sponsor with some of my colleagues legislation that will require the registration and expenditure reporting of professional lobbyists in our city. My first exposure to this issue came ten years ago when I served as a Commissioner on the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.The Commission raised the idea of lobbyist registration, but backed away in the face of stiff opposition from neighborhood activists and labor unions. The legislation now being considered is narrower in scope and would apply only to paid lobbyists. The federal government, the state of Washington, and King County all have similar registration laws, as do many cities across the country.
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Heavy Hearts, Lost Youth
As I mentioned above, we have experienced a sharp increase in youth homicides this year, nearly all related to gang activity. City police officials have dedicated additional resources to this problem and have reactivated a special task force that includes surrounding jurisdictions and federal agencies. Mayor Nickels and the Council have been holding a series of community meetings with youth leaders, pastors, social service providers, and others to get a handle on the scope of the problem and to identify solutions. Clearly, this is complicated and important work.
Several young people and adults testified about this issue before the Council yesterday during the public comment period. These individuals spoke to my heart.It was an emotional reminder that people in our communities are crying out for help, asking others to stand with them and help find solutions. An article in todays Seattle Times touches on this testimony. Every child deserves to grow up safe and have alternatives to gangs. Every parent should know their children will be safe and that the citys elected officials are committed to protecting their children.