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City View Newsletter

Volume 2, Issue 17  • June 10, 2009
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I've been on the City Council now for 18 months and, yes, I'm still having a blast.

I love this job because I deal with concrete issues, substantive problems, and get to work with people who are genuinely committed to our city. Some individuals have grand ideas for Seattle's future. Others just want their streetlights fixed. Still others are passionate about urban planning or services for our neighbors struggling with poverty. Some are so consumed with their own agenda that they fail to appreciate the common good. Some are cynical and angry. But, all deserve to be heard, to have their ideas and opinions considered.

I've posted recent blogs on my visit to Montreal here and here, police stings here, and Belltown citizen patrols here. My personal blog is the quickest way to stay current with my activitiez.

This is an election year and we will elect a Mayor and four members of the City Council. I'm really glad I'm not running. Believe me, it's a delight to sit on the sidelines and watch. I encourage you to engage, listen to the candidates, read news accounts of what the candidates stand for, and read campaign literature. Be sure to vote in the primary election August 18. Your city government is only as good as the people elected to represent you.

You can manage your FREE subscription to my E-Newsletter by clicking on the link at the end of this page. You can also continue the conversation with me at my personal blog site at www.timburgess.com. Please join the conversation.

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Seattle City Council Town Hall meeting

I am pleased to extend an invitation to you to attend a Seattle City Council Town Hall meeting on June 25 at 6:30 pm at the Hall at Fauntleroy, 9131 California Avenue SW, in West Seattle.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Gary Slutkin, the Executive Director of The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention. Dr. Slutkin is an epidemiologist who worked for many years overseas with the World Health Organization. Since 1995 he has worked on the violence epidemic in the U.S. with Chicago leaders, clergy, community, and law enforcement to develop and implement new strategies for violence reduction.

The Chicago Project designed a new intervention - Ceasefire - that works with community-based organizations and focuses on street-level outreach, conflict mediation, and the changing of community norms to reduce violence, particularly shootings.

We would welcome your participation in this Town Hall conversation. After Dr. Slutkin's presentation on the model used in Chicago and his experience using a public health approach to the problem, there will be an opportunity for audience members to comment on our city's current efforts with the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative.

Click here for more information about The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and Dr. Slutkin, go to http://www.ceasefirechicago.org/cpvp.shtml.

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Shaping Seattle's Central Waterfront: What's Your Dream?

None of us have yet grasped the true import of the decisions we have made-finally-about the major transportation projects underway and how they will forever change Seattle's downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.

Tunnel Bill Signing
Governor Gregoire signing the tunnel legislation

Perhaps the biggest change we will see is along our central waterfront where the 1950s-era double-decker freeway will be replaced with a deep-bore tunnel under First Avenue. All three-the Spokane, Mercer and Alaskan Way Corridor projects-are inter-related; they work together to create the perfect transportation cocktail (I'm stealing that phrase from a Montreal civic leader who used it during our tour of her city last week.) These linked projects will improve traffic flow from West Seattle to Ballard and throughout downtown. Most of the viaduct's traffic will travel underneath downtown through a new tunnel. New bus rapid transit service will serve the west side of the city. A new boulevard will handle surface traffic where the viaduct once towered, and pedestrians and bicycles will enjoy a vast promenade along the waterfront. Some of the city's downtown traffic grid will be changed to facilitate better flow.

It's time to begin imagining what the central waterfront might look like when the work is done. I anticipate pedestrian and bicycle pathways stretching along Elliott Bay, linking Magnolia to Alki Beach, and bringing so many of us back to the waterfront. Spacious parks and open space, clusters of bustling retail shops, restaurants and bars, some with outdoor decks and observation platforms where parents introduce kids to the varied industrial and maritime activities of the waterfront; a diversity of people everywhere, many within walking distance of their homes. Waterfront and downtown streets enlivened by cafes, sidewalk vendors, office workers, tourists, retirees out for a stroll, and kids. This is what our city's central core area might look like when we're done.

What are your dreams for the waterfront and downtown neighborhoods? I would like to hear your thoughts and gain insight from your perspective. Will you share your vision with me?

One very effective way to begin to shape our dreams for the waterfront and our central city is through a neighborhood planning exercise called a visioning charrette, a dialogue among citizens to identify desired design elements for a particular area. Here's the result of a charrette completed last year for the Uptown and South Lake Union neighborhoods. It's not too early to begin a similar process for the waterfront and downtown neighborhoods.

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Ward-Based City Council A Very Bad Idea

Some citizens are circulating petitions to place a Charter amendment on the November ballot that would return Seattle to district or ward-based City Council elections. This is a very bad idea.

Prior to 1910 Seattle experimented with four different methods to elect Council members-at-large, district only, a hybrid system that combined district and at-large members, and even a bicameral legislative body with 25 members. In 1910, city voters finally settled on a nine-member council with all members elected citywide. We will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of that system next year.

Four times during the last 99 years-1927, 1975, 1995, and 2003-voters rejected proposals to modify or eliminate at-large voting in favor of various ward schemes.

Here are several documents that provide good background and perspective on this important issue.

Read the 2003 report of a 16-member citizens' advisory group that included neighborhood activists, two former elected officials, academics, attorneys, minority representatives, and government reform advocates.

Read the 2003 recommendations from the Municipal League.

Read the 1995 recommendations to voters from the Municipal League.

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Protecting Our Children: Community Conversations on Youth Violence

My office has been organizing a series of community conversations on youth violence that are co-sponsored by the Council and Mayor, the Seattle School District, the King County Council, the University of Washington School of Public Health, and the Thomas C. Wales Foundation.

The first two events in the series have already been held. The first was at the University of Washington and featured a discussion about the effectiveness of adopting an approach that models a public health type of response to youth violence. The second was a forum with local and national leaders at City Hall sponsored by the Thomas C. Wales Foundation which was attended by over 240 concerned citizens.

Other events, which will occur later this month and throughout the summer, include Seattle visits by two nationally known authorities on curbing gun and youth violence. Gary Slutkin, M.D., director of Chicago Ceasefire, and David M. Kennedy from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice will make public presentations later in June. To get more information about these and other programs in the series, call my office at 206-684-8806.

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Town Hall Meetings Coming Soon

My colleagues and I want your advice and ideas on key issues facing the City.Two Town Hall Meetings are scheduled later this month and will focus on:

  • How can we best address the challenge of youth violence?
  • What can the City do to help ensure that Seattle's public schools work?
  • What can we do to protect and increase trees and the urban forest?

Town Hall Meeting #1
Monday, June 15, 7-9 p.m.

Eckstein Middle School
3003 NE 75th Street

Town Hall Meeting #2
Thursday, June 25, 7-9 p.m.

The Hall at Fauntleroy
9131 California Avenue SW

Dr. Gary Slutkin from Chicago Ceasefire will be the featured speaker at the June 25th Town Hall Meeting.

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Economic Growth: Removing Obstacles

In 2007, the City began collecting what's called an Employee Head Tax on employees. The tax was designed to offset the costs of transportation improvements, so employees who use transit, walk, carpool, or ride a bicycle to work were exempt from the tax. Complaints about how to compute the tax have poured in to City Hall; even the City has had difficulty administering the tax.

During my campaign for Council in 2007 I spoke out against the Head Tax as a disincentive for job creation. Beginning last year, I encouraged my colleagues to consider repeal of this tax which has a negative impact on economic growth. Over the past couple of months, as the Council and Mayor worked to identify obstacles to a strong economic recovery, discussions about the merit of repealing the Head Tax intensified. I'm confident we will reach a conclusion soon, and the Head Tax stands a good chance of being repealed effective January 1, 2010. Read news coverage of this issue here. More on this important topic later.

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City Police a Reflection of Diversity

The Seattle Police Department hired 111 new officers in 2008, exceeding its recruiting target and wiping out a recruiting deficit from 2007.  The aggressive hiring-which continues this year-is part of the City's strategy to increase the size of the police department and implement a new Neighborhood Policing Plan (NPP) which promises to deploy uniformed patrol officers when and where they are needed most. 

One part of the NPP has been implemented already.  The boundaries of some of the city's five police precincts have been adjusted and patrol sectors and officer districts have been modified.  These changes are designed to more accurately reflect common geographic boundaries and workloads.  Still to be implemented are an increase in patrol shifts-from three to six-and deployments that will let individual officers spend much more time in proactive policing instead of only responding to 911 call dispatches. 

My office received a breakdown of the 2008 new hires and I thought the race/ethnicity of these officers was interesting.  By and large, our police department reflects the diversity of our city.

  2008 SPD Hires by Race

Total SPD Officers by Race

Total Seattle Population
by Race

White

76.60%

78.90%

68.90%

Black or African American

6.30%

9.00%

8.20%

AmericanIndian or Alaska Native

2.70%

2.10%

1.20%

Asian

10.30%

8.30%

14.40%

Hispanic/Latino

5.40%

5.10%

6.30%

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A City for the Arts

Legislation that Councilmember Sally Clark and I advanced, and Mayor Nickels signed into law, provides some tax relief for small, live music venues in the city by exempting them from Seattle's admissions tax. This tax relief is designed to encourage and support vital cultural events in our city.

Garfield Jazz Ensemble
Members of the Garfield Jazz Ensemble perform in City Hall

Under the exemption, venues that hold fewer than 1,000 people but have live music at least three times a week won't pay a 5% admissions tax. An estimated 65 music venues qualify for the exemption which is expected to save in total as much as $300,000 per year.

City Hall got a glimpse of the amazingly talented Garfield Jazz Band this past Monday. Four members of the jazz ensemble performed a nearly hour-long lobby concert. Afterward, the Council and Mayor recognized Garfield and Roosevelt victories at the Essentially Ellington Jazz Competition in New York. Eckstein and Washington Middle Schools were also recognized for their regional jazz victories.

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Join me online!
Blog me at my personal blog. Join the conversation. Share your opinions, thoughts, questions, and criticisms. All postings at my blog are moderated.
We'll talk again soon.

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