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Councilmember Tim Burgess
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City View Newsletter

Volume 2, Issue 21  •  December 2010
Newsletter Archives

2009 in Review

My first two years on the City Council are coming to an end soon. People keep asking me if I’m still having fun and the answer is a resounding “Yes!” I can’t think of a better job, even with the challenges and disappointments. I’m just very grateful the people trusted me with this honorable work.

So, as we face a new decade, here are a few thoughts, impressions, accomplishments and goals for the next year. (You can see a detailed listing of accomplishments here.)

Public Safety

Crime and policing issues take a lot of my time as chair of the Council’s public safety committee. Several crime-related projects in particular are worthy of mention. After receiving a special report documenting the prevalence of prostituted children, I pressed for funding for a residential recovery program where 14- to 17-year-olds could find a safe haven and receive the specialized services they need to escape a life on the streets. When King County’s budget crisis hit the funding was withdrawn, but we have pressed on. This important and urgently needed safe house—only the fourth in the country designed for prostituted children—will open in late March. Today’s Seattle Times has an editorial urging the public’s support of this effort.
(Read my earlier writings, in my personal blog, on this topic.)

In the past few weeks, the Council unanimously passed two important public safety measures. The Chronic Nuisance Property law (my personal blog) provides the city with another tool to use against property owners who knowingly allow criminal activity to continue. A separate measure (my personal blog) allows homeowners to tear down abandoned single-family residences faster than previously allowed. These derelict houses often become magnets for crime and other undesirable activity.

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We continue to focus on youth violence and the City’s response, but more importantly we must tackle the challenge of violence prevention. One of the best steps we can take is to keep kids in school. This year I convened several informal meetings with some of my colleagues and school board members. These conversations have been very productive and they will continue, especially as we face a renewal of the City’s Family and Education Levy in 2011. I’m a product of Seattle Public Schools, as is Joleen and all three of our daughters. We received a good education, but that’s not true for all of Seattle’s children. Building a stronger and more effective public school system is central to our city’s success.

From my personal blog

In the news

On my desk

Through the lens

  • Watch as I express to our new city auditor my hope that his office will work to improve performance levels of city departments.

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In our budget decisions for 2010, I pressed for continued funding for anti-crime programs designed to end the typical pattern of arrest-prosecution-jail-release we see so often with repeat offenders. Many of these low-level offenders have mental health and chemical dependency problems and need more attention. The CURB, GOTS, and Co-STARS efforts are worthy alternatives to jail; we need to bring more accountability to these programs and keep improving them.

Another innovative alternative-to-jail program is the Drug Market Initiative (my personal blog), a collaboration of police, prosecutors and the community that gives street drug dealers the choice to accept training, treatment and education services or face the more typical prosecution route. Most importantly, the program brings the community and police together in a common cause. The first DMI in Seattle targeted the open-air drug market that has thrived for years along 23rd Avenue between East Union Street and South Jackson Street. Of the 18 individuals invited to a special community meeting, 8 have accepted alternative services, 5 are currently in jail and the others are exploring their options with service providers. But, more importantly, the community has their neighborhood back. Drug dealing along 23rd Avenue has been significantly reduced. I successfully pushed for more funding to allow for a second DMI in 2010 in another neighborhood.

In other budget work, I urged full funding of our libraries and cut non-essential expenses so our “rainy day fund” could be held at $10 million instead of the Mayor’s proposed $5 million.

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Safer Neighborhoods

In recent months, I started a conversation about street crime and disorder, something I hear about in nearly all sections of the city. Residents are frustrated they can’t walk down the street without being accosted by an aggressive panhandler or watching someone urinate in a doorway or complete a drug deal. There are no easy answers to these challenges, for sure. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to tackle them.

This issue is obvious in Pioneer Square where merchants have long complained of street disorder. Step four of this piece published at earlier today defines the problem well.

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2010 Goals

Here are a few projects I’ll be tackling starting in January.

Education reform. The planned renewal of the Families & Education Levy in 2011 can be a catalyst for change. The work on what levy dollars will be used for will start in 2010 and the dialog between city leaders and school officials will also continue.

Police Chief confirmation. Mayor-elect McGinn will nominate the next Chief of Police in the late spring. My committee will review that nomination and confirm or reject the appointment.

Transportation. We face multiple people and freight moving challenges, including finishing the Spokane Street improvements and the SR99 and Mercer corridor projects. Add to this list SR520, the need for more transit service and bicycle and pedestrian needs and you can see that our plate is very full. I will serve on the Council’s transportation committee beginning in January.

Youth Commission. I will introduce legislation early in the year to formalize the Seattle Youth Commission, a group of high school students who have in the past served as the Mayor’s Youth Council. The new Youth Commission will be given a more formal voice on city policy and be more connected to both the Mayor and the Council.

Free Scooter Parking. The use of less polluting and less congesting two-wheel vehicles should be encouraged, so I’ll introduce legislation soon that will allow these vehicles to park free in Seattle. The devil is in the details and, believe me, this topic is complicated and a bit controversial. Scooter riders unite! (Full disclosure, I ride a Vespa.)

City Auditor. I would like to strengthen the office of our city auditor, so I will propose creation of an audit committee made up of city officials and outsiders with specialized audit experience. I would also like to see our auditor shift more toward program performance measurement so we can determine the value of our investments. As President Obama has said, it’s not necessarily the size of government that should be our primary focus, but whether what we do is effective for our citizens. To do that we need to beef up our internal evaluation capabilities.

PI Globe. All three of the former journalists on the Council (Jean Godden, Sally Clark and I) will soon nominate the PI Globe for historic designatin.

It is really a fun time to be working in Seattle politics. I look forward to partnering with you on many of these issues soon, and I wish you a Happy New Year!

Tim's signature
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