MAKING IT WORK
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city.
ZERO WASTE STRATEGY APPROVED
On July 16, the City Council unanimously adopted Resolution 30990, establishing the parameters for a Zero Waste Strategy for Seattle. The Zero Waste Strategy is based on a policy framework that treats waste as a resource. Under this program, the City will rebuild its existing transfer stations and not invest $50 million or more in a new waste transfer facility adjacent to the Georgetown neighborhood. The Zero Waste Strategy defines goals and policies that will increase waste reduction and recycling, with new targets of reducing the amount of waste sent to be landfilled and increasing recycling rates to 70% by 2025 (see Making It Work, Issue 6, or http://www.seattle.gov/council/conlin/ for details).
One amendment to the draft resolution was adopted by my Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee. The amendment specifies that Seattle Public Utilities must complete its review of possible restrictions on Styrofoam and plastic bags by the end of this year, so that the Council can take up possible action on those issues early in 2008.
In addition to this early implementation action, the City will also begin work on rebuilding the two existing transfer stations, redesigning them to facilitate recycling of materials. The South Transfer Station will go into design this year, with work on the North Transfer Station to follow.
The City will also begin designing the expanded residential food waste recycling, including the container system and frequency of collection. The residential food waste collection outlined in the new legislation includes an exemption for people who compost at home and do not have food waste to dispose of through the City. The current yard waste service with the opportunity to include food waste will be continued. Customers who currently have yard waste bins will not have to add an additional bin for food composting. The new program makes it possible to add meat and dairy scraps to the yard waste bins, with no additional charge. Because more food waste could go into the yard waste, some customers could reduce the size of their current garbage cans and save money.
The Zero Waste Strategy also includes extending food waste collection to multifamily and commercial customers, and program design on that will begin as well, along with regulatory measures and incentives to improve the recycling of construction and demolition waste. Together, food waste and construction debris are the two largest opportunities to improve the City’s recycling rate and reduce landfilling.
Another early implementation step will be to design pilots for alternatives to individuals using the transfer stations, such as scheduled home pickups or community swap sites. The hope is that programs like this will discourage individuals from going to the transfer stations with relatively small loads, because that generates air pollution and traffic around the sites, and it might be more efficient to have home pickup routes or community centered events. The City will not eliminate the self-service option, but hopes to limit its use by offering other, more convenient alternatives.
Back to Contents
RESTAURANT MENU LABELING AND TRANSFAT BAN
On Thursday, June 19, the King County Board of Health approved two regulations that we hope will make a major difference in the health of our residents. The Board unanimously approved a plan to require nutritional labeling on menus and display boards in chain restaurants, and voted 10 to 1 to ban artificial trans fats from all food establishments regulated by the Health Department. I supported both regulations.
Together, these regulations put Seattle and King County in the forefront of the effort to combat the epidemic of obesity, and to protect the nutritional health of our residents. No other entity in the country has adopted both of these measures, although New York City has adopted a form of menu labeling and a number of jurisdictions have adopted trans fat bans. The long-range goal is to have enough local governments take action that either national regulation or voluntary action on the part of the restaurant industry in the interests of standardization make these the norm all over the United States. The State of California is among the entities currently considering action, and the size of the California market might be the tipping point that leads to this national change.
The restaurant menu labeling provision will go into effect on August 1, 2008. It will require chain restaurants with more than ten national locations to display calorie, fat, sodium and carbohydrate information on menus. If the restaurant uses a menu board, the calories will be posted on the board in the same size and font as the price information. The remaining nutritional information will be provided in a plainly visible format at the point of ordering. Only standard menu items will need to be labeled - occasional "specials" will be exempt.
Trans fats will be eliminated in all King County restaurants in two phases. Fry oils and shortenings with artificial trans fats will not be permissible after April 1, 2008. Restaurants must find alternatives for margarine and all other products containing trans fats by February 1, 2009. Many restaurants have already made the switch to trans fat free alternatives, but the new rules will ensure that the remaining restaurants will make the change as well.
Artificial trans fats have been used widely in the restaurant and processed food industries because they have a high smoking temperature and they keep food stable over a long shelf life. Industry trends have been to find alternatives to the use of trans fats, so there are non-trans fats options available from distributors and in processed products.
These regulations were developed by a special committee led by Board President and King County Councilmember Julia Patterson. Councilmember Sally Clark represented the City in this process. Councilmembers Patterson and Clark, along with the excellent staff support from the Health Department, deserve full credit for this important initiative.
The Board heard almost four hours of testimony before taking action on the two measures. Most of the testimony supported the regulations, including statements in support representing the AARP, the American College of Preventive Medicine, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association. The Restaurant Association and a number of restaurant owners raised questions about the regulations, arguing that voluntary efforts to eliminate trans fats would be effective, and that menu labeling would be too burdensome.
The Board recognized that these regulations have to be carefully drawn to aggressively promote the goals while understanding the cost to restaurants. Several amendments were adopted to make the regulations more flexible, including allowing alternative menu labeling proposals that are substantially similar to those required in the regulation, and staggering the implementation date for the trans fat ban to recognize the lag time in bringing alternative products into general availability.
The Board also noted that almost half of fast food restaurant chains had already developed the required nutrition information, and that many restaurants have voluntarily reduced or eliminated their use of trans fats. These regulations reward those who have already incurred costs by acting voluntarily by leveling the playing field and requiring the laggards to comply, rather than allowing them to get away with continuing to use cheaper, less healthful trans fats and denying their customers nutritional information.
Obesity is a major health problem in King County, as it is in the country as a whole. The Board of Health is committed to acting to encourage physical activity and to improve the nutrition of our residents. We can do that through education, encouragement, and enforcement. The labeling regulation is a great example of education and encouragement, arming consumers with needed information, and reminding them of the cost of their decisions. The trans fat regulation takes direct action to restrict substances that have no nutritional value, and only contribute to nutritional problems.
There are no magic bullets in the campaign for better health, but together, these regulations will make a difference in people’s health and in their lives.
Back to Contents
A report by the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) Review Board submitted to the Council in June has raised questions about the effectiveness of the City’s accountability system for police officers. In response to this, the Mayor has appointed a balanced and diverse task force to review the current system and see if there are any changes that should be recommended to strengthen or clarify the procedures. In addition, Councilmember Nick Licata, as Chair of the Public Safety Committee, is continuing to review the OPA Board’s suggestions, and is also consulting with other experts on police accountability.
The Seattle system is complicated, and has not been revisited since the adoption of the ordinances establishing the Office of Professional Accountability and the Review Board in 1999. It makes sense to consider whether any changes are warranted. We should undertake these reviews carefully and thoughtfully, and seek recommendations that are based on substantive, evidence-based analysis.
Unfortunately, much of the discussion has focused on evaluating actions taken by Chief Kerlikowske. The question that requires examination is whether the system is well-designed or functional, not whether or not any particular action taken by the Chief was appropriate. Having reviewed all of the relevant documents, I concur with the assessment of the OPA Director that there is not evidence that the actions of the Chief were inappropriate in the case reviewed by the OPA Board. But, however one evaluates that case, the system must be designed so that it works no matter who is involved.
It is clear that one change that would improve the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of the accountability system would be to institute a formal procedure for the Chief to explain his actions in writing when he changes a disciplinary recommendation from OPA. Having that kind of written documentation would greatly assist in clarifying why changes are made, and help the Council and Mayor in considering whether there are flaws in the system that lead either OPA or the Chief to take actions that are inconsistent with appropriate accountability.
The Council and Mayor may have other ideas for other changes that would be appropriate, and I will look forward to the recommendations of the reviews that are currently underway and carefully examine any recommendations.
Back to Contents
SEATTLE CENTER SKATE PARK
The Parks, Education, Libraries, and Labor Committee voted unanimously to site the replacement for the skatepark in the area between the VERA Project All Ages Music Venue and the Key Arena, at a location currently occupied by the Dupen Fountain. The Council is expected to vote on an ordinance approving continued funding for Seattle Center projects that includes the skatepark site on Monday, August 13. I support this ordinance.
When the City negotiated an agreement with the Gates Foundation to sell the Foundation the parking lot and skatepark east of Seattle Center for the Foundation’s new headquarters, part of the agreement was that the Foundation would pay for the cost of relocating the skatepark. Despite the popularity of skateboarding, Seattle now has only one major public site (the Ballard Bowl), many fewer facilities than comparable cities. On June 11, the City Council responded to the requests of the estimated 20,000 Seattle skateboarders by unanimously adopting a formal plan for expanding skatepark facilities, which calls for a score of facilities of various sizes throughout the City.
Unfortunately, it has been very difficult to relocate the Seattle Center site, and the former park has been torn down already without a new site in place (contrary to the expectations when the property was sold). Virtually every location suggested has been problematic to some constituency. The skateboard community and the City advisory group have sought a site that is visible (to promote safety), has access to facilities, and is readily accessible and safe for underage users. They endorsed the Broad Street Green as the preferred location, with a design that integrated skateable terrain with the existing trees and green space. Unfortunately, the Seattle Center and nearby property owners opposed this, and offered other sites that were much less suitable. After years of work and analysis, the Seattle Center ultimately identified the Dupen site as the location that best met the needs of the Center, other users, and the skateboarding community.
The Dupen site has been endorsed by the various Seattle Center organizations. The adjacency of the VERA Project is an important consideration, generating much youth/pedestrian activity, and this safe and fairly accessible location is expected to lead to increased multi-generational use and family viewing.
The Dupen art will be relocated to another area of the Seattle Center if the skatepark is approved, or could potentially be integrated into the skatepark design, which is not intended to be a concrete bowl, but a much more complex design that relates to the landscape around it. My kids have enjoyed playing in the Dupen Fountain, and I regret the necessity of changing the use at that site. I am, however, not sure that it is well situated for ‘contemplative’ experience, with two active facilities immediately adjacent, and perhaps a better location can be found.
Interests and activities that are primarily youth-oriented are often given short shrift in City planning, in the interest of constituencies that have more wealth and political power. The delay in siting a replacement skateboard facility at Seattle Center is a classic example of this. The Dupen site is not perfect, but it is a compromise that meets the concerns and interests of the parties who have been involved in this issue. Displacing another established use will always raise some heartache. However, the City is already woefully behind in implementing both the adopted skateboard park plan and the relocation ordinance. It is difficult to see how another feasible location could emerge that had not been exhaustively studied in the last several years. I hope that the Council will proceed with this site, while recognizing that the Dupen artwork must be suitably accommodated and preserved.
Back to Contents
“We ought to plan the ideal of our city with an eye to four considerations. The first, as being the most indispensable, is health.”
“When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people.”
Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected
officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together
we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting,
Your Seattle City Councilmember
Back to Contents
Back to MAKING IT WORK Newsletters