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March, 2013 E-News

Current Issues

Committee on Economic Resiliency & Regional Relations

Random Thoughts

Appointees to the City's new Community Police Commission met Wednesday, March 13, with Councilmembers and received committee-level confirmation.
Appointees to the City's new Community Police Commission met Wednesday, March 13, with Councilmembers and received committee-level confirmation. The CPC will play a crucial role in carrying out court-mandated steps related to reform of use of force policies, supervision, training, oversight and community engagement. You can learn more about this work through the Monitoring Plan.

Current Issues

Hail new Taxi Committee for a ride

Every now and then a visitor will ask me the best way to catch a cab to get to their next meeting. In some cities this seems like an easy question. In Seattle the answer can run longer than the meeting.

"Well, you can try hailing one, but you'd have the best luck if you go to the hotel down the block. And the ones labeled ‘flat rate' or the ones with a King County only license can't pick up fares on the street, so that's why they zoom by like you're not there. Or you could fire up Taxi Magic or use a ride sharing app or broadcast your GPS to get a limo to come straight to you. Or you could..."

On the other side of the equation, life for the taxi driver (metered, can pick up on the street), for-hire driver (flat rate, can't pick up on the street) and limo driver (flat rate, can't pick up on the street, usually an expensive luxury vehicle) can be even more frustrating. Hard working, well intentioned drivers -- folks we want to be able to live, work, and thrive in Seattle -- have to navigate a triple thicket of different rules and regulations from King County, the Port of Seattle, and the City of Seattle.Vehicle owners and drivers battle for a limited number of licenses, operate according to various safety and comportment rules, and face ever changing competition in trying to make a living (accelerated recently by smart phone apps).

The competition isn't necessarily bad and I like Taxi Magic quite a bit. However, my public policy goals are to ensure we have a healthy and safe taxi/for-hire/limo system that provides great service and proves to be good business. I hear from drivers, customers, cab owners and others that our system is out of balance. The taxis without Seattle licenses complain about not being able to pick up in Seattle, the Seattle-licensed taxis complain about the for-hires while the for-hires complain about new ride-share apps. And neither the taxis nor the for-hires seem to like the limos. You and I just want to ride whether we're in Northgate, Belltown or Fauntleroy.

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Upcoming Seattle Events:

Public Safety Civil Service Commission Meeting
March 15
Downtown - Seattle Municipal Tower

Tot Trek -- Puddles and Ponds
March 16
Discovery Park
$4 per person

Best of the Northwest Art and Fine Craft Show
March 24
Smith Cove Cruise Terminal
$6 advance/$7 free (kids 12 and under free)

Ladies Yoga
April 2
Southwest Teen Life Center

Golden Gardens Work Party
April 13
Golden Gardens

The Nature of Green Lake
April 27
Green Lake Bathhouse Theatre

For a complete list of events, check out the City Events Calendar!

To get a better handle on this part of our mobility economy we are establishing a special Council Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations. Yours truly will chair the committee with Councilmember Bruce Harrell serving as vice chair and Councilmember Mike O'Brien serving as the third member.

Taxis on 2nd Avenue, 1914

Our first order of business has been to get research rolling on the current tax/for-hire/limo market dynamics in our area. We've consulted so far with King County (because King County issues licenses for taxi service outside Seattle) and the Port of Seattle (because the Port has big contracts for serving the airport and cruise season swings the market) and will soon begin a market study to look at supply and demand, wait times, service quality, service disparities and more.

This is just the first step. We'll be working closely all along the way with the Seattle Taxi Commission and with other representatives of owners, drivers and customers.

We kick off committee work March 14 at 2 p.m. with a "Taxi 101" presentation. City staff will offer a presentation about the difference between taxis, for-hires, limos, and other new industry additions. They'll present information we have already about the state of the industry and how the industry is currently regulated.The hope is to get us all up to speed and then start to answer those questions we complain about in bars and restaurants or when we need to get to the airport.

We then have four more committee meetings slated for the first phase of work. At least one of these meetings will be a roundtable discussion where representatives of the taxi, for-hire, and limo industries share their concerns and offer suggestions. We'll also talk with consumers -- concierges, the tourist industry, the business community, nightlife -- to talk about what they need from an effective taxi/for-hire/limo network.

In July we'll receive the market study reportfrom our researchers and use the information to set a course of work for the second half of the year.

All of this should help us get smarter about what's happening in the industry and, if appropriate, lead to fixes to make this multi-jurisdiction regulated industry safe, profitable, reasonably priced, and accessible.

If you've got ideas please contact me -- we're just at the beginning of our discussions so I'm eager to hear input.

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Committee on Economic Resiliency & Regional Relations

Seattle's Inaugural Economic Development Commission

Some of you reading this have served on an advisory committee at one point or another. Maybe for school or your neighborhood. City government benefits from advisory committees on everything from building code updates to affordable housing funding to the future of Seattle Center.

Committee on Economic Resiliency & Regional Relations

Until now we've not had a commission dedicated solely to furthering great economic development. That changed this month with final action in my committee and at Full Council appointing members of the new Seattle Economic Development Commission.

Work fashioning the new commission started with Councilmember Richard Conlin who recognized that the recession and the rise of competition between cities for talent and jobs require Seattle to sit up a little taller and get smarter. I took over the initiative last year and in 2012 worked with Mayor Michael McGinn to develop the scope of work for the commission after a series of listening sessions with people from all walks of business and education in our city.

The creativity, tenacity and vision of the people we talked with -- business owners and managers who build things, sew things, weld things, code things, research things, and provide meaningful work for people -- was awesome. We are truly lucky to have the businesses we have in Seattle -- and we can't rely on being lucky.

Based on the feedback we heard we've asked 15 people to serve on the Seattle Economic Development Commission. The group will meet for a year and produce a report back to the Mayor and Council with recommendations on how our city can become economically stronger through innovation, talent development and shared prosperity.

Congratulations and a thank you in advance to the inaugural members of the City of Seattle's Economic Development Commission:

  • Maud Daudon, President & CEO, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
  • Chris DeVore, Partner, Founders' Co-op and TechStars Seattle
  • David Freiboth, Executive Secretary Treasurer, King County Central Labor Council
  • Christine Hanna, Co-Founder/Co-Director, Seattle Good Business Network
  • Tanya Jimale, President and CEO, JTS
  • Rob Mohn, President, RAM Columbia, LLC
  • Alan Nay, Founder, World Famous
  • Sarah Patterson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Virginia Mason
  • Michael Rawding, Principal, Deerhorn Advisors
  • Chris Rivera, President, Washington Biotechnology and Bio Medical Association
  • Dr. Jill Wakefield, Chancellor, Seattle Community College
  • Ken Willman, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary, Russell Investments
  • Brad Tong, Principal, Shiels, Obletz, Johnsen, Inc.
  • Tay Yoshitani, CEO, Port of Seattle
  • Michael Young, President, University of Washington

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Looking into "local hire"

We've all read or heard about "outsourcing," moving jobs to another region or country in order to maximize differences in wages and benefits, worker safety and environmental protection. Think of factory work in Latin America or Asia (though, we see manufacturing rebounding in some parts of this region and the United States overall).

On a smaller scale some jurisdictions are looking at a way to "insource" called "local hire." In the case of publicly-financed construction projects, local hire requires that some percentage of the work be performed by employees from a certain geographic area where too many people have faced challenges to stable, living-wage employment.

Last year when the City Council approved new zoning and development guidelines for Yesler Terrace we took into consideration that Seattle Housing Authority would operate under the federal Housing and Urban Development's Section 3 program. This is a form of local hire where SHA and its construction contractors will recruit and hire a portion of the development workforce from a targeted metropolitan area with higher unemployment and lower education and job skill rates.

The City of San Francisco has had a local hire program for almost two years and claims to have had good success moving people into good paying, long-term jobs. They currently require 25% of all contracted construction employees to come from the local area and a quarter of those must be what the program terms "disadvantaged."

Before you think this is simple, it's more complicated than it sounds. We pay for major road projects with a share of federal dollars that don't come with the HUD requirements and, in fact, come with altogether different goals for spending. Also, "local hire" requirements can conflict the fairness rules developed over years in the hiring halls of many unions. And then there's figuring out what "local" really means. Seattle only? Seattle and South King County? What about Kitsap?

We'll be diving into the subject of local hire this year in the Committee on Economic Resiliency and Regional Relations. Watch for more information in my newsletter or feel free to contact David Yeaworth at or (206) 684-5328 in my office if you're interested.

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Why no college in Southeast Seattle?

Talking with neighborhood residents at Deo Valente at Othello Station

I don't want to sound super parochial about this (being a Southeast Seattle resident), but is Southeast Seattle the only major sector of the city without a college? I suppose you could argue Northwest Seattle is lacking, except that North Seattle Community College sits adjacent and just west of Interstate 5.

With the growth projected for Rainier Valley and the number of people in need of barrier-less connections to higher ed and job training, we should give serious thought to establishing a college in Rainier Valley. If you're a student living near the Othello light rail station, the fact is you're a fair distance away from any postsecondary school. According to the Metro Trip Planner, you're about 40 minutes away from the UW, Seattle U or Seattle Central CC and you're an hour away from South Seattle CC.

Another good reason to root for a Rainier Valley college is the economic boost students, faculty and staff bring to daytime businesses. I understand the Rainier Chamber of Commerce thinks so too and is in conversations with South Seattle CC and Renton Technical College to see if one of them might like to set up a campus in the Valley. Southeast Seattle Community College? University of Washington@McClellan Station? At Othello Station? At Rainier Beach?

Feel free to let me know if you have thoughts about this. If we do get something rolling you can be sure I'll write about it in a future newsletter.

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Random Thoughts

South Lake Union decisions near

As we get closer to a final vote on the proposed rezone and new development standards for South Lake Union, the pressure to vote quickly and without making changes to the proposal continues. I'm looking forward to approving a package soon that largely confirms the work of zillions of advocates and staff over what feels like one billion years -- with a few tweaks to improve the proposal.

The "vote now, no changes" position of some has been a little odd. Maybe this is colored by what I do for a living presently, but I don't think any package arrives at Council in perfect form. Every proposal is a compromise of sorts. My job is to check the premise, the driving principles, the details and the projected outcomes.

In South Lake Union we have an amazing hub of commerce, research, education and, lagging a bit, urban-residential living. We have an awesome trio of parks (Denny, Cascade and Lake Union). We have landmark buildings that both stand alone and make up parts of new developments. We have old brick apartment buildings and the tilted glass planes of the new University of Washington biomedical research building at the north end of Eighth Ave.

Zoning and development standards set the ground rules for new development, but they don't settle the question of what kind of community will result. That's up to the people who choose to and can afford to live in the area. These zoning changes must be in support of the kind of community we want to be. That's why the incentive elements of the proposal are so important.

To build higher, developers will have to provide public benefit, in the form of purchasing development rights off farm lands in other parts of the county and by providing (in some fashion we're still debating) housing affordable to people who work the lower paying jobs in South Lake Union and other parts of the city. The volatile question we're wrestling is how that housing should be provided and at what price.

I believe we'll come to a rational answer before we vote on the South Lake Union rezones and development standards. We've had a price per square foot in place in other parts of the city, but analysis shows that figure is far too low to meet the test of true public benefit. While the Mayor has announced the formation of an affordable housing study panel, the work of that panel won't be complete for a year. We should make at least a provisional decision on a more appropriate way to provide workforce housing in South Lake Union now, concurrent with the rezone vote.

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