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January 2012 (Volume 1, Issue 1)

Hello and Happy New Year!

Mike O'Brien

Welcome to my new e-newsletter, City Beat. With this newsletter, I aim to share periodic updates on what is going on in City Hall and across Seattle.

In 2012 my staff and I will be working with Seattle's diverse and vibrant communities to build a Seattle that works for our people and our environment.

My staff and I always welcome your calls (206-684-8800) and emails ( and we encourage you to share your suggestions, comments or questions. You can also join the online conversation at my Council Blog and on Twitter (@CMMikeOBrien) and my Facebook page (don't forget to "like" my page).


Looking Back: 2011 Review

I am proud of the work we accomplished in 2011, my second full year in office. Below are some highlights from a great year.

Zero Waste Agenda – As Chair of the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee, I worked with the environmental community in Seattle to promote a strong Zero Waste Agenda.

    Stopping unwanted yellow pages – We started 2011 by implementing the ordinance passed in 2010 that would create an opt-out registry for residents and business to stop unwanted yellow pages deliveries. In May, the registry went live and has been a huge success. From May through December, more than 71,000 households and business opted out of 394,400 unwanted yellow pages books, helping Seattle prevent more than 360 tons of paper from entering our waste and recycling stream.

    Plastic bag ban – We ended the year as strongly as we started, passing an ordinance to protect Puget Sound and marine wildlife by banning plastic carry-out bags. In addition to our partnership with environmental organizations like Environment Washington, Surfrider Foundation, People for Puget Sound, Sierra Club, and Zero Waste Washington, we also worked with grocery stores, retail businesses, and labor unions to develop a solution that works for consumers and businesses to the problem these plastics pose for our environment.

Promoting workers' rights and protecting public health – In the summer of 2011, Seattle became only the third city in the country (along with San Francisco and Washington, DC) to adopt a Paid Sick Leave ordinance that ensures that people working in Seattle have access to paid time off when they are sick or caring for sick family members. These new worker protections will go into effect September 1, 2012.

Immigrant and refugee issues – In collaboration with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights and Councilmember Bruce Harrell, we passed a resolution to improve translation and interpretation services for Seattle's immigrant and refugee communities, now 17% of Seattle's population and growing. This fall City Council also approved funding for the creation of a new Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Together, we are working to make a more accessible and responsive City Government for everyone in Seattle.

Transportation issues – I'm working to bring more transportation choices and improved mobility to everyone in Seattle. To do so, in 2011, I voted to put Proposition 1 on the November ballot to expand funding for road maintenance as well as pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure. While I was personally disappointed in the outcome of the election, we face many transportation challenges ahead and I will continue work with my colleagues to improve mobility and transportation choices for everyone in Seattle.

2012 Budget – In the fall of 2011, City Council went through a six-week process to adopt the 2012 Budget for the City of Seattle. I am proud that while we had to make millions in cuts to balance the books, we protected our investments in health and human services. In fact, in areas like homelessness and health care for the poorest among us, we actually provided some new funding to meet the increased need from the lingering impacts of the Great Recession.

I am particularly proud that in the 2012 Budget we also provided funding for a new pilot program I spearheaded with the Ballard Safe Homes for All Coalition. The Ballard Safe Parking Pilot Program is a partnership with three to five faith-based organizations in the greater Ballard area to provide a safe place to park and access to hygiene facilities for people living in their vehicles. In addition, a housing caseworker will work with the residents to help them transition out of their vehicles and back into permanent housing. This pilot program kicks off at the end of January with our first church, Our Redeemers Lutheran Church.

Income inequality and corporate power – The Occupy Movement in Seattle and around the country has captivated many of us with its messages about economic inequality and corporate abuse of power. I worked with Councilmember Nick Licata to pass a resolution recognizing the important First Amendment rights of the Occupy movement as well as asking city departments to begin exploring the ways in which Seattle can address corporate influence and economic inequality at the local level. My family and I also participated in Bank Transfer Day, joining more than 650,000 other Americans in moving our money away from Big Four Banks to a local credit union.

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Looking Ahead: 2012 Preview

Beginning in January of 2012, I will be Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee. Every two years, City Council changes committee assignments. In addition to the new committee I will chair, I serve as Vice-Chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee and a member of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. I am also an alternate member on the Government Performance and Finance Committee.

In my first year as Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, I plan to focus on three aspects of Seattle City Light: (1) adopting and implementing Seattle City Light's new strategic plan, (2) improving customer service and access to the utility, and (3) strengthening the good work already underway in conservation and energy efficiency. In addition, I will continue working with the Office of Sustainability and Environment to adopt a Climate Action Plan that will put Seattle on a path towards meeting our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

One of my greatest responsibilities as an elected official is to make sure we are creating communities where everyone has an opportunity to meet their basic needs. In 2012, I will continue my engagement with the implementation and evaluation of the Ballard Safe Parking Pilot Program. If the pilot proves effective in helping people living in their cars get back into housing, we could look at expanding the pilot to other neighborhoods in the city. I also will support work underway to promote access to affordable, nutritious food in our neighborhoods.

The Public Safety and Civil Rights Committee will present significant challenges as we work with the Mayor's Office, the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle Police Officer's Guild, and the people of Seattle to implement the changes called for in the Department of Justice report and to being restoring public faith in our police department.

In the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee I look forward to advancing a conversation on equitable transit-oriented development. With the Yesler Terrace redevelopment and South Lake Union rezones that the Council will consider in 2012, I see opportunities for creating healthy, safe, vibrant communities that also help us meet our climate and affordability goals.

In 2012, I will continue working to improve transportation choices and mobility in Seattle, while making sure that we are also creating transportation infrastructure that is not dependent on fossil fuels. This work will include the completion of the transit master plan, an update of the bicycle master plan and advancing projects focused on transit oriented development.

Finally, I plan to take a look at accessibility and fairness in city elections. In 2012, I plan to start a community discussion about steps the city can take to ensure that running and winning a race for elected office in Seattle is accessible to a broad and diverse group of citizens. We also plan to examine how campaigns are funded to ensure that our system does not give undue influence in the political process to people and businesses with greater financial resources.

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Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last Monday (1/16/12) was our nation's holiday to celebrate the life and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Living in Martin Luther King County, I think it is especially important we all take some time to reflect on Dr. King's legacy, which serves to both inspire us and give us something to aspire to. He committed his life to fighting for racial and economic justice, and while we have made great progress we have much work left to do.

I am sharing three videos below, since my words cannot do justice to the life and legacy of Dr. King. The first video is a short MiniBio on Dr. King from the Biography Channel. The second video is from the History Channel another short clip on the 1963 "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" where King delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech. The final video is from YouTube and includes Dr. King's full speech from that hot August in 1963 (17 mins).

February is Black History Month and a time for us all to honor the incredible contributions and struggles of African Americans in the history of our country. If you haven't been there before, I recommend visiting the Northwest African American Museum on Massachusetts and 23rd Ave, in the Central District. They have a great Journey Gallery that "takes visitors on a fascinating journey through space and time, introducing the history, culture, and art of the region's African American Community."

MLK MiniBio


History Channel "King Leads March on Washington"


I have a dream speech


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