The Master Home Environmentalist program, which addresses childhood asthma in low
There were, of course, other programs cut, including some important Council
initiatives. However, the Council did an excellent job of safeguarding critical human
services: only $374,000 of the cut (less than 4%) came from human service programs, a
lower cut than many other Departments.
An amendment that would have re-added some $200,000 in human service programs failed,
7 to 2. Councilmembers recognized that we had negotiated a tough, but fair, agreement,
and that approving such an amendment could potentially have put many more programs at
risk. The Executive did not support the amendment, would most likely have refused to
spend the money in the amendment, and might have chosen to continue to freeze other
important programs as well.
This agreement with the Executive was vital to releasing the several million dollars
in funds for the important programs detailed above. Although it was difficult, it was a
good and fair agreement, and I hope that the spirit of cooperation in this process will
extend to the tough process of preparing the 2005-2006 budget this fall.
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NUCOR FINAL VOTE
On Monday, March 15, the Council voted 6 to 3 to approve the special electric rate
for Nucor Steel. I joined Councilmembers Licata and Steinbrueck in opposing the
proposal. I am very concerned that this unprecedented step of providing a subsidy for
a particular company through the rate structure sets the City on a course that we will
regret in the future. More background can be found in the previous two newsletters.
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MULTI-FAMILY TAX EXEMPTION PROGRAM
On Monday, March 15, the council adopted a revised version of the Multi Family Tax
Exemption program (MFTE) by a vote of 6 (Conlin, Compton, Drago, Godden, Rasmussen,
Steinbrueck) to 3 (Della, Licata, McIver).
The MFTE provides a ten-year reduction in property taxes for new construction of
multi-family units that are affordable to people earning between 60% and 70% of median
income. The units must stay affordable at that income level for the ten-year life of
the tax reduction. The program is designed to help create "workforce" housing, for
people who do not qualify for subsidized low-income housing but who are often priced
out of Seattle's housing market.
This vote reestablishes the program, but does not automatically authorize any tax
exemptions. The Council will have to approve each such exemption as projects are
proposed. This provision and an annual review clause will allow the Council to
effectively monitor the program and ensure that it is actually serving a public purpose
and meeting real community needs.
The previous MFTE program did not stimulate many new affordable housing units because
it allowed tax exemptions for too broad a price range, did not appropriately require a
range of unit sizes, and had a complex administrative structure. Thus, only a few
buildings were granted exemptions, and an evaluation suggested that the program did not
effectively meet its goal.
The new program targets a narrow range of affordability, requires including a range
of unit sizes in each building, and simplifies the administrative structure.
While I have reservations about the potential effectiveness of the program, the new
design addresses some deficiencies of the previous program, and can potentially stimulate
housing production for people who would otherwise not be able to afford to live in the
City. The review procedures allow us to pursue this experiment with limited risk.
In previous resolutions, the Council had expressed concern about the availability of
workforce housing in the University District, Northgate, and South Lake Union. It is
important for the Council to follow up on its commitments to these neighborhoods and see
if this tool is helpful.
While some statistics indicate that the affordability range this program targets is
currently being provided by the market, most new developments are more expensive. When
the rental market tightens as the economy improves, the units provided under this
program will not increase in rent, and will be available for ten years into the future.
Since new units built under this program will not come on line for at least a year or
two, this program may be timed appropriately to help moderate the impacts of future
decreases in affordability.
Finally, and because of factors like those noted above, the proposal was endorsed by
a coalition of low income housing providers, labor unions, and environmental
organizations. These organizations indicated that they do believe that this will
potentially provide an important addition to our affordable housing supply.
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"Living things evolve in variety, resilience, and intelligence; they do this not by
erecting walls of defense and closing off from their environment, but by opening more
widely to the currents of matter-energy and information. They integrate and
differentiate through constant interaction, spinning more intricate connection and
flexible strategies. For this they require not invulnerability, but increasing
responsiveness. Such is the direction of evolution."
-- Joanna Macy
"Life is not lost by dying, life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all
the thousand small uncaring ways."
-- Stephen Vincent Benet
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, and
useful. And please forward it along to friends who might be
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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