City View Newsletter
Yesterday was an emotional rollercoaster, my 196th day on the job as your council member.
It started like any other day at the office, but ended with two powerful illustrations of human emotions.
Emotional Rollercoaster: Cancer, Legislating, Mezzo Soprano, Death in the Street
Yesterday got off to a fairly typical start - returning phone calls, answering email, reading proposed legislation, meeting with staff members. The emotional rollercoaster started at lunch.
I walked north on 5th Avenue from City Hall and met a dear friend of nearly 30 years for lunch. He wanted to talk about one of his friends who recently died after a valiant struggle against cancer. It was the beginning of what I'm sure will be a long, difficult, yet hopefully rewarding conversation. It's difficult to talk about death, but for an hour or so we were able to talk about what really matters in life - friendships, family, memories, and our purpose for being on this planet.
Then, back to City Hall and a meeting of the Council's Public Safety, Human Services, and Education Committee. We heard public comments on police oversight and then worked through various amendments to legislation that codifies changes to Seattle's system of police accountability. It was the kind of work legislators do, highly detailed, technical, and impacting a lot of people. It was gratifying.
The full Council will vote on this legislation next Monday at 2 p.m. The changes are extremely significant and strengthen civilian oversight of police misconduct allegations. With passage, we will turn the page and begin a new era in police accountability that is defined by transparency, cooperation, fairness for everyone, and justice. I really believe we can establish a new way that moves beyond the typical squabbles, finger pointing, and acrimony.
Part of my optimism is based on the new citizens who have been nominated for the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board. These individuals are highly qualified, respected, and will do an outstanding job as the Council's representatives. Our Committee will consider their nominations on August 5, 2008 at 2 p.m.
I rushed from the Committee meeting to the Seattle Opera Annual Meeting at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center. I got there just in time to participate in the presentation of the Chairman's Award which was presented to Governor Chris Gregoire, Mayor Greg Nickels, and the City Council for our support of the arts, and specifically the new agreement with Seattle Opera that allows them to renovate Mercer Arena and consolidate all of their administrative offices, set design and construction facilities, and rehearsal and education spaces at absoluetly no cost to taxpayers. Councilmembers Jan Drago, Tom Rasmussen, and I represented the Council.
But, the highlight of the meeting was a special musical tribute by Stephanie Blythe. She sang “Empio, diro, tu sei” from Julius Caesar and "Habanera" from Carmen. Wow! The range of her voice, the passion that was evident, the suburb talent, it was stunning. Stephanie communicated what is best about the relationship between people and the arts, that vital and inextricable link that restores the human spirit and allows us to express our deepest emotions. It was glorious!
Sadly, I experienced another side of human emotions at a community meeting last night in Rainier Beach. About 200 people gathered in the sanctuary of a local church to vent their anger, ask questions, and confront their feelings about the tragic death of James Paroline, the 60 year old man killed while tending to flowers in a traffic circle across from his home. Police officials briefed the audience on the progress of their investigation.
I'm so sorry this homicide happened. And I apologize to those residents who reported last night that they had called 911 on numerous occasions over the past few months to report criminal activity but got no response. I've heard these complaints before. And I apologize that our city has seemingly allowed criminal behavior to go unchecked in some neighborhoods; I'm referring here to the constant stream of citizen complaints we receive each week about open-air drug trafficking, petty thefts, public urination and defecation, drinking in public and aggressive panhandling. These complaints come from across the city.
We have taken some specific steps that will help address these complaints. The police department has adopted a new Neighborhood Policing Plan that will deploy more officers where and when they are needed and we are aggressively hiring new officers. We are on pace to achieve this year's goal of hiring 98 new officers. Hopefully, the new labor agreement with the officers' union will also reduce the attrition of officers who are leaving fo better-paying positions with other cities.
But, there is really no excuse for the low-level criminal activity that seems to flourish on some of our streets and sidewalks. This is a topic worthy of a robust discussion over how assertive we want our police officers to be, how we deal with the many social ills that plague us, and what kind of city we really want down at the sidewalk level where we work, live, and play. I intend to advance this discussion over the coming months.
Return to the top
Plastic Bags and Styrofoam
We will also take action on legislation proposed by Mayor Nickels, Council President Richard Conlin, and myself to impose a "use fee" on disposable plastic bags and ban styrofoam. Key votes on this initiative will occur next week and on July 28, 2008.
Return to the top
Pike Place Market Levy on November 4 Ballot
The Council voted last week to place a ballot measure on the November 4 ballot to fund repair and maintenance at the Pike Place Market.
Just over 100 years ago, in 1907, the leaders of our city had the foresight to establish a farmers' market. It's known today as the beloved Pike Place Market, one of the jewels of the city that attracts approximately 10 million visitors each year.
The last major maintenance work was completed nearly 30 years ago and was paid for with Federal grant money.
The people of Seattle, including the City Council, are the stewards of the Market. That's why I supported this legislation and why the voters will now decide whether to fund these repairs and maintenance work through our property taxes.
If adopted in November, the Levy funds will be used to upgrade Market electrical systems; replace the various heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems with a new energy-efficient central system; repair the plumbing systems and install new sanitary pipe drains; improve accessibility for people with disabilities including two new elevators; install new restrooms; and, provide for miscellaneous repairs to the roof, windows, and awnings.
Return to the top