Committee on Economic Resiliency & Regional Relations
Five things you wrote about in 2012
Council President Clark visits with FIUTS Youth Leadership students from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Constituents are usually the first people to alert me to issues. Headlines are helpful, too, but residents, business owners, cyclists, dog walkers, English ivy haters, bus drivers - you all know what’s going right or wrong first.
I get hundreds of e-mails every week on everything from missing road signs to advice on how Seattle should prepare for natural disasters to pro/con on the issue of the day (the seawall, bike lanes, freight lanes, apodments, the arena, budget cuts, the Department of Justice consent decree, octopi). The following list details five items that captured your attention, generated stress and worry or otherwise motivated you to write me in 2012. These aren’t necessarily the top email subjects by volume, but they give a flavor for the range of topics. I’m leaving out the obvious big email draws like the 2013 city budget and the spectrum of animal subjects people email about each week.
Thanks for all your e-mails on every subject. You really do help me and other councilmembers make better decisions when you write. Please keep writing in 2013.
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5. Ziplines. I’m all for creative and innovative ways to increase enjoyment of Seattle Parks while bringing in a little money, but not every revenue generator is the right one. In June West Seattle residents told us the proposal to run a zipline in Lincoln Park wasn’t going to fly. We received e-mails and calls relating community concerns with traffic, appropriate use of Lincoln Park, and disturbing the wildlife. As a result, we decided Lincoln Park could do without tree-top zipping and unzipped the zipline idea. My legislative aide Jesse, who lives in West Seattle, still thinks a zipline from the Junction to Downtown Seattle could work for commuters.
4. Police reform. I received plenty of thoughtful suggestions from you about our new relationship with the U.S. Department of Justice, reforming use-of-force policies and opportunities to build a more effective community-police relationship. E-mails highlighted neighborhood public safety hot spots, detailed conflicts between officers and community members, and gave great examples of police going above and beyond the call. With the court’s appointment of Merrick Bobb as monitor of the City’s agreement with the DOJ, I think we are moving in the right direction. I expect to receive a lot of email in this area in 2013.
3. Marijuana. Everyone has an opinion on what will happen as a result of Initiative 502’s approval by voters. I was busy enough before Nov. 6 working with Councilmember Nick Licata and staff on zoning and business regulation of medical marijuana shops. Now what? Well, for now we press on with that zoning and business regulations framework for medical cannabis to deal with what we have in neighborhoods today and we participate in the state’s year-long work on what production, processing and sales of recreational marijuana will look like in the future. Watch for the medical marijuana shop zoning legislation in the first quarter of 2013.
2. Getting Around. Here are a few recent subject lines from my inbox about how we get around Seattle:
- “We need measurable and ambitious goals in the updated Bicycle Master Plan”
- “Seattle is becoming anarchy city”
- “Seattle Transit: Buses and Trolleys”
- “New street lights!!!!!!!!!!”
This was a year with a lot of change and continued downpayment on more change. Metro shuffled more service than ever before in its big September changes (including the launch of the Rapid Ride C line from West Seattle). New street car tracks run up First Hill and part of the way down Broadway. In the budget for 2013 we put markers down on a central Downtown cycletrack and on greenways for walkers and “regular people” cyclists in neighborhoods north and south.
1. Arena. In emails regarding the proposed new arena I received everything from pictures of infants and old men in Sonics green and gold to sincere testimonials from life-time Port workers concerned for their livelihood. This was a tough issue for councilmembers and involved debate and negotiation regarding land use, public finance, public-private partnerships, asset management, and transportation investment priorities. I remain confident the agreement we reached on the arena is a good one. A review of sites for the arena is currently underway and Chris Hansen has released early sketches of what an arena might look like. In related news, the Port of Seattle has just finalized a contract extension that will keep mega-shipper Hanjin at Pier 46 through 2025. This is a huge win for our city and the region.
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Committee on Economic Resiliency & Regional Relations
13th Year? Bonus Year? Tipping Point Year?
Whatever you call it, there’s a renewed effort brewing to secure a better future for more high school grads and it’s all about the year just after you leave high school. For many kids goint to college is the assumed next step and that’s great (as long as they’re a Husky). However, we still have too many kids - typically low-income or first generation -- who get serious about college or career training too late in their high school time to get on track.
I want to grab the attention and ambition of those kids early and get them on course for a 13th year, an extra year of what should be basic and expected education or training for all kids. And I want it to be paid for them.
Not so long ago a high school diploma could still get you a job with a decent wage. Those days are gone. In our increasingly competitive economy, companies want to hire people who require little training if any, and employees need even more sophisticated training than before.
That was one of the points underscored by a panel of experts who came to discuss 13th year style programs with Councilmembers Godden, Harrell, O’Brien and me at a Council forum. (Go to the link for 11/16/2012 to see the video.)
I organized this forum after hearing statistics that indicate getting that first year of college or training can mean a world of difference in life-long earnings. This fall I spoke to an incoming class of 13th Year students at South Seattle Community College where a special 13th Year program is being spearheaded by the SSCC Foundation. They work to get high school students thinking about college early, get them matched up with support and make sure students successfully complete the federal financial aid form, as well as apply for other scholarships.
SSCC and the SSCC Foundation participated in our forum along with representatives of the Washington Student Achievement Council, College Bound and Husky Promise - all programs that work to get young people on tack for college and get at least that first year’s tuition covered.
We’re fortunate in Washington to have numerous tuition-assistance and college-encouragement programs that, when viewed together, work as a strategy to help kids get a post-high school education. Some programs focus on pre-K through 3rd graders. College Bound works with low-income 7th and 8th graders, promising four years of tuition if they graduate with at least a 2.0 GPA, have no felony convictions and are admitted to one of 68 eligible Washington state institutions. Husky Promise and Cougar Commitment cover tuition for Washington state high school grads from low-income families if they’re accepted into the UW or WSU respectively. Each of these commendable programs is working to make a difference in the lives of our future leaders - especially those from low-income families.
So, we had a forum. Now what? Currently, SSCC and the SSCC Foundation work with students from Cleveland and Chief Sealth High Schools during their senior years, helping them apply to colleges or find the right career training program, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and sending them to a college-prep boot-camp to help them complete their requisite coursework.
My goal is to have every Seattle public school student have the option of a paid 13th year. Like I said at the top, many kids go on their way to a four-year school (or the military) and don’t need help, thanks to their own resources (or their family’s) or thanks to work and scholarships. Maybe that scholarship comes via Husky Promise or Cougar Commitment. For the kid for whom a Seattle community college is the right next step, we as a community should be able to say tuition will not be a barrier.
We’ll need the help of our generous local philanthropy community and corporate citizens. Our success as a city requires we all succeed in an increasingly competitive job market. A comprehensive 13th year initiative encompassing every Seattle high school grad invests wisely. And that 13th year's tuition is covered.
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New legislative session, new governor, many of the same priorities
Starting January 14 our state elected officials will spend four (maybe more) intense months in Olympia hammering out new laws and a budget for state operations. It’s a huge job this session with yet another gap between revenue and spending; a court mandate to more effectively fund basic education; widespread demand for transportation funding to both complete big projects (like the 520 bridge and the Columbia River Crossing) and to support transit; renewed energy around rational gun regulation; and the general excitement and drama that come with a crop of newly-elected lawmakers (including a new governor) and a fiercely divided State Senate.
Together with the Mayor, department staff, partner advocates and the city’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations, we’ve put together a legislative priority list for this year. Adopted by the Council on Dec. 17, the agenda starts with high priority items our lobbyists will dive into full-force, followed by items we’ll support or oppose as allies of other lead groups. While it might seem like a long list, the legislative session will cover a lot of ground and the City’s interests are varied.
Council President Sally J. Clark and State Representative Pat Sullivan (D-47) met for coffee earlier this month in Covington to talk about the upcoming session.
Through the summer and fall councilmembers met up with or connected by phone with many state legislators from Seattle and elsewhere, and with officials in other cities to share priorities and concerns. This is part of the ongoing Seattle For Washington effort working to ensure we’re in synch (or at least highlight where we’re not in synch) with allies around the state. During the legislative session, we’ll work with City staff, the Association of Washington Cities (check out the AWC legislative agenda, and other advocacy groups to weigh in on issues that impact us in Seattle. If you see an issue come up in Olympia you care about, please contact me so we can keep tabs on it.
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Marriage, Guns and Money
Council suspends formal meetings for the last two weeks of this year and revs up again starting Mon., Jan. 7. It’s a much needed break at the end of a productive year. I’ll send out a message in early January reporting how we did compared to the goals we set at the top of 2012. For now, I want to reflect on two emotional points in December and wrap up with one pitch.
First, I admit to being nervous about City Hall hosting weddings on Dec. 9, the first day same-sex couples could marry following the approval of Ref. 74 and the incredible leadership of our State Legislature and Gov. Gregoire. We do roads, water, public safety, garbage pick-up, park mowing…. Weddings just seemed a little out of our wheelhouse. And The Stranger would be coordinating the artists for the “chapels”? I admit it. I was afraid.
And I was proven so wrong! After the initial word about City Hall hosting weddings buzzed out into the world, everyone here sobered up, realizing this would be a huge organizing challenge with people from all over the world watching. Registration, time slots, primp areas, judges (lots of judges), flowers, podiums, photographers, water, and lots of volunteers.
A lot of couples have waited a long time to be married. They deserved a dignified, joyous day and by all accounts that’s what couples experienced. My partner and I came down to help out in the first part of the day. I congratulated couples and thanked them for choosing City Hall for their ceremony, but for the most part I lingered around the edges of the ceremonies as a sort of official crasher smiling and crying little with each set of vows. The City staff, volunteers, artists and cupcake makers (thanks, Cupcake Royale), the people who came down to cheer outside on the Fourth Ave. plaza, and last, but not least, the couples made this an incredible, historic experience and one I’m so glad City Hall hosted.
Fast forward to Fri., Dec. 14 in Newtown, CT, where a mentally challenged young man took the guns his mother kept in the home they shared and, for reasons we’ll never know, killed his mother before firing repeatedly into each of 20 children and six adults before killing himself.
A lot of people have said it’s past time to assure access to effective mental health services and rational regulation of guns. And they’re right. The tragedy in Newtown demands both.
If you go to the Brady Campaign’s website (http://www.bradycampaign.org/) you can check out how all 50 states rate in terms of gun regulation. Washington rates 15 out of 100 possible points on the Brady scale. We have the “gun show loophole” -- anybody can buy guns at the equivalent of a gun tag sale without a waiting period or background check. We have no requirement to report a lost or stolen gun. We have no limit on bulk gun purchasing. We allow the purchase of assault weapons and we allow the purchase of clips holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. We do not require safety training.
I took a gun safety class many years ago at an indoor range near Mukilteo as a reporter and wrote about the experience for The Daily. It was a beginner’s class for women and a great reminder for me about life beyond college. The other women in the class either wanted to feel competent and safe with a gun in their bag going to and from work or wanted to skill-up for shooting with their husbands. The truth is I liked shooting the guns and was pretty good at hitting the targets. While owning a gun may not be for me, I don’t begrudge someone else owning a gun - as long as the way they manage that ownership (including the type of gun) doesn’t imperil me or my community.
I think our failure to have a consistent, rational approach to gun regulation imperils my community. Yes, any of the broken young men responsible for the mass killings in Newtown, Aurora, CO; Fort Hood, TX; Tucson, AZ; Oak Creek, WI; and others places that fade too quickly from memory likely could have been stopped by a mental health intervention. They weren’t, though. They had easy enough access to weapons that shoot a lot of bullets in quick succession, weapons that far exceed any rational person’s definition of a personal defense or hunting gun.
Newtown seems to have pushed even the most hardcore opponents of enhanced gun regulations to soften a bit. Year after year, the City of Seattle’s list of state legislative priorities includes adopting the Brady list points I mentioned above and year after year nothing happens. No one’s surprised when liberal Seattle advocates for enhanced gun regulations. Twenty six-year-olds and seven adults in Newtown may be the tipping point. Maybe we’ll start to see the “strange bedfellows” coalition these changes will require. I hope so.
Finally, many thanks to the Gates Foundation for awarding $400,000 to the Pride Foundation for a four-year effort aimed at stemming homelessness among LGBTQ youth. “Alignment” is a buzzword in the policy-service-funding worlds these days, and a fantastic amount of alignment is happening among funders in this region who believe we can slash the number of homeless youth in the greater Seattle area. The Gates funding through Pride will focus on preventing homelessness for LGBTQ kids and providing effective ways to get these youth off the streets if they do end up homeless. To learn more go to www.pridefoundation.org.
Happy New Year!
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