MAKING IT WORK
Welcome to MAKING IT WORK, Councilmember Conlin's monthly email newsletter. This newsletter is one way that Councilmember
Conlin is seeking to carry out his conviction that fostering citizen participation and engagement is a key task
of elected officials, and is vital to a democratic society. Each issue includes Councilmember Conlin's thoughts
on a key issue, informs you of other major issues in the City, and let's you know how you can influence City decisions.
SEATTLE SAFER STREETS INITIATIVE PROPOSED
On Tuesday, August 19, Councilmember Tim Burgess, Chair of the Public Safety, Human Services, and Education Committee, proposed a twelve point plan, "The Seattle Safer Streets Initiative", to improve public safety in Seattle. The plan is a key step in addressing the Council’s theme of fostering safe, just, and healthy communities for all, and our priority for protecting public safety and challenging gang violence by investing in human services and police resources. While reported violent crime is at its lowest level in Seattle since the 1960s, there are still hot spots around the city. It is also important that we take steps to address the root causes of street crime and social problems.
These initiatives will complement steps already taken to strengthen our police force and change shift and beat parameters to better focus police resources where the most criminal behavior is taking place. Some of these steps require new legislation; others involve new partnerships with King County government and nonprofit organization service providers.
Prevention and Treatment Steps
- Create joint police-mental health professional response teams designed to respond to incidents where alternatives to jail or hospitalization are appropriate, providing rapid support to individuals in crisis while freeing neighborhood patrol officers to maintain basic police services. Establish as a pilot project funded with money from the King County Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) Fund. The King County Regional Policy Committee has recommended this funding, and the County Council will be asked to approve it in the near future.
- Establish safe housing for children involved in prostitution, including transition and support services. A city-funded study of child prostitution in Seattle completed earlier this year found that as many as 300-500 children may be involved in the Seattle area. The study found a severe lack of transition housing for children who want to escape the coercive violence and abuse of prostitution. Nearly all of the children involved in prostitution have chemical dependency and mental health issues requiring extensive treatment and secure housing to escape their pimps. In addition, there is evidence that some child prostitution is gang-organized and managed. Establish housing and wraparound services funded with money from the King County Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) Fund. This has also been recommended by the King County Regional Policy Committee for County Council approval.
- Support funding for a Crisis Diversion Center through the King County Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Fund. This Center is designed as an alternative for individuals in crisis where jail booking or hospital admission is not required or appropriate. A proposal for this Center is being reviewed by the Regional Policy Committee now.
- Add two full time support workers to the Seattle Municipal Court to enhance monitoring and counseling for defendants placed in diversion treatment programs. Large numbers of criminal defendants in Municipal Court have mental illness or chemical dependency issues and expansion of services designed to avoid jail by focusing on long-term solutions is highly desired. This will be considered in the 2009-2010 City budget process.
Policing and Criminal Justice Steps
- Maintain the city’s commitment to hire additional police officers. In 2007, the Council and Mayor agreed to a plan to increase the size of the police department. Various studies, and the experience of other cities, show that the presence of police officers deters street crime and social disorder. This will be part of the 2009-2010 City budget process.
- Encourage more assertive policing to deal with street crime and social disorder. This means additional emphasis patrols—officer presence—in areas with recurring problems. There is no justification for allowing open-air drug markets, street prostitution, graffiti, aggressive panhandling and other social disorder to continue on our streets. Assertive and proactive policing to address street crime and its attendant social disorder improves quality of life and reduces fear in our neighborhoods. Implementation can begin immediately.
- Re-establish one police detective position dedicated to the tracking and analysis of graffiti crime as previously existed in the police department. Equip park and public utilities staff with tools to photograph and document graffiti removal for evidentiary purposes. Removing graffiti and prosecuting those responsible is a key component of gang disruption efforts, even when current gang activity may be less turf-focused and more drug trafficking focused. This can be considered within the existing budget.
- Return School Resource Officers to select public high schools and middle schools in Seattle. The presence of uniformed police officers in schools has proven to be a positive and well-accepted practice in Seattle and many other cities in the United States. Seattle withdrew officers from schools several years ago, but the recent increase in gang recruiting and gang-related violence suggests we should return the officers. Seattle Public Schools superintendent fully supports this recommendation. Funding will be considered in the 2009-2010 City budget process.
- Re-establish the City Prosecutor’s High Impact Offender Targeting Program by adding one full-time position to prosecute individuals in the city with more than ten prior misdemeanor or felony convictions. Funding will be considered in the 2009-2010 City budget process.
- Increase financial penalties for patronizing a prostitute and reinstitute peer-support and counseling groups for women involved in prostitution. The current maximum penalty for patronizing a prostitute is $500 in Seattle Municipal Court. This penalty should be raised to $1,000 with the funds used to support the peer-counseling transition groups designed to move individuals out of prostitution. When previously funded by the city, these peer-counseling groups effectively reduced recidivism. The modest funding required can be considered in the 2009-2010 City budget process.
- Enact new legislation that imposes civil and criminal penalties when businesses, property owners or property managers knowingly allow criminal behavior to occur and fail to take steps to stop it. Also, add a regulatory section to the city’s business license that gives the city the authority to revoke a license when a licensee knowingly allows criminal behavior to occur on their premises and fails to take steps to stop it. These “good neighbor” provisions will provide added tools to control and eliminate chronic trouble spots that are the focus of continuing crime and social disorder. This legislation can be developed over the next several months.
- Expand the downtown Metropolitan Improvement District (MID) north to include portions of the Belltown neighborhood. The MID has been tremendously successful in creating cleaner and safer streets and alleyways in the downtown core. Expansion of the MID into Belltown will bring similar services to the north end of downtown. The MID would also pay for four to six off-duty police officers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to establish a stronger police presence in Belltown, a neighborhood with particularly high levels of nighttime disorder. Legislation to establish this will be developed in consultation with the Belltown community.
For further information, contact Councilmember Burgess.
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COUNCIL GIVES THUMBS UP TO SEATTLE CENTER MASTER PLAN
On Monday, August 11, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution approving a new Seattle Center Master Plan. The goal of this plan is to provide a template for future changes and development on the Seattle Center site, and to give guidance to both public and private investments in our City’s gathering place.
The centerpieces of the new Master Plan are increasing the amount of green space on the Seattle Center campus, renovating the Center House, creating a more sustainable set of buildings and developments, and redeveloping the Memorial Stadium site to provide a facility that both continues the current functions and better integrates into the rest of the campus.
The plan envisions the transformation of more than 10 acres of asphalt and underutilized areas into landscaped lawns and outdoor amphitheaters. Highlights of the plan include: creating more entrances and a glass roof for the Center House with a promenade and a destination restaurant with views of the City from the roof; replacing the aging Fun Forest with a new entertainment area for people of all ages; redeveloping Memorial Stadium to meet the needs of the Seattle School District for athletic events and providing an amphitheater for Seattle Center as well as continuing as a memorial to students who died in WWII.
The Master Plan was developed over a two year period by a Citizen Task Force with public input from numerous community meetings. It provides aspirational guidance for larger projects, as there is no finance plan or specific appropriation attached to it, and the total package of investments exceeds half a billion dollars. As with most of the investments in the Seattle Center that have been developed in recent decades, the plan envisions a combination of public and private funding would be used for major projects.
A key uncertainty in this plan is the status of Key Arena. Its future as a sports facility depends on whether Seattle can attract a new professional men’s basketball team or other primary tenant. If that does not happen, Key Arena will need to be re-envisioned to include sports activities (such as the Seattle Storm), but with a greater emphasis on concerts and other non-sporting events. The level of investment and the type of facility that results will have a major influence on the Center as a whole and particularly on the western end of the campus.
The new Master Plan is not likely to be static for the next twenty years. It can change over time, and will likely have to based on what can be afforded as well as the new opportunities and possibilities that emerge in the future.
The new Master Plan can be reviewed here.
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GREEN TAXIS, MORE TAXIS, FAIRER TAXI LEASES APPROVED
On Monday, August 11, the City Council unanimously approved legislation improving customer service for taxicab users and requiring the taxi industry to invest in environmentally sensitive “green” cabs in the future. The legislation requires new cabs to get 30 miles to the gallon by 2013, increases the number of taxicab licenses from 667 to 850 within the city of Seattle with up to 35 new licenses issued per year and provisions for more handicapped accessible taxis, requires that individuals who are issued licenses drive a minimum of 30 hours a week, 40 weeks a year, for 5 years or more before the license may be sold or transferred, and establishes caps on the amount that owners may charge to lease their cabs, in order to help achieve greater equity and fairness between the drivers who lease taxicabs and the owners who hold the licenses.
Past taxi regulations have focused on controlling the quality of cab service and limiting the number of cabs in service. The primary goal was to ensure the economic viability of the cab owners while providing high quality service, especially to tourists and visitors.
In recent years, however, the taxi industry has prospered, while becoming a key point of entry for many new immigrant communities. Fleets of taxis owned by individuals or families have become a key way to generate capital and establish prosperity for these owners. Drivers have had a smaller share in these benefits.
This legislation recognizes that taxis must become a more versatile, flexible, and cost-effective part of the transportation system in the future. By increasing the number of licenses while regulating the terms of leases, the legislation will spread the profits from taxicab operation more widely. At the same time, the increased competition and moves towards more rational division of service will make taxis more efficient and affordable.
The Council will continue to work to untangle the maze of taxicab legislation to create a more functional system. We have already started the next step by opening negotiations with the Port of Seattle to eliminate arcane regulations that limit the ability of Seattle taxis to pick up new passengers at the airport and force them to deadhead back to Seattle.
Council Bill 116210 can be reviewed here.
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COUNCIL SETS CRITERIA FOR AQUARIUM MANAGEMENT
On Monday, August 18, the Council approved a resolution taking the first steps towards developing an agreement between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Aquarium Society for the Society's long-term lease, management and operation of the Seattle Aquarium. The City already has a similar agreement with the Woodland Park Zoological Society for managing the Zoo, and the Aquarium Society has been working on this idea for several years.
The agreement with the Zoo Society was developed by the Executive, with limited Council input, and when it came to the Council there was little flexibility to consider and possibly modify its provisions. The Council is reluctant to reject agreements that have already been negotiated, and we have been looking for a way to create a better process for including Council objectives and criteria in future negotiations. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen has suggested developing criteria in resolutions such as this one, which will give the Executive guidance, while also providing some assurance that an agreement that conforms to these criteria will likely be approved by the Council.
This resolution notes that nationally it is an established best practice to maintain public ownership of aquariums while contracting for management with non-profit aquarium specific organizations and seeking increasing private-sector support and contributions. The Aquarium Society recently completed a private capital fundraising campaign of $17.2 million and then successfully managed the construction of two new exhibits and substantial other capital improvements, demonstrating its capacity to administer large, complex business efforts. For those reasons, the City is prepared to begin the process of negotiating an agreement for Society management of the Aquarium.
The Council therefore asked the Executive to begin this process, and to report back when the Society has hired a competent and reputable Chief Executive Officer and prepared a sound business plan. At that time, expected to be sometime in 2009, the Council will consider a long term agreement with the Society.
This agreement should include a series of principles, beginning with a commitment to maintain the Aquarium's primary focus on marine conservation and education, with an emphasis on Pacific Northwest and/or Puget Sound aquatic ecosystems, and including ensuring the highest standard of care for Aquarium animals, living exhibits and specimens for the duration of the Agreement, following Aquarium-industry best practices in all aspects of animal care, and complying with any applicable aspects of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Council also asked that the agreement maintain the Aquarium's public-service mission and ensure that the Aquarium continues to be affordable to Seattle residents and that low-income residents of Seattle, including school-age children and students, have opportunities to visit and experience the Aquarium. The Council put special emphasis on analyses which evaluate the continuing affordability of Aquarium admissions and membership rates for middle-income families.
The Council articulated a commitment to including provisions recognizing the right of Aquarium employees to engage in collective bargaining with the Society, as well as a detailed Employee Transition Plan which recognizes the professional contributions of Aquarium employees by ensuring fair treatment for those employees who choose at the time of transition to retire, to remain with the City of Seattle at the Parks or other departments or to transfer to the Society.
The Council included a series of other requirements, including consistency in future phases of Aquarium development with the Central Waterfront Master Plan, City Council approval of any major Aquarium development, renovation, expansion or new construction, clear definition of any City commitments or obligations for this new construction, limits on City commitments of funds for maintenance and operations, and provisions for ensuring conformance to appropriate public records and open meetings requirements for Society Board meetings and records.
With this resolution, the Council has begun a process for considering this transition in an open and deliberative process. We expect to have full and continued engagement of the Council and public as the agreement is developed, and to only ultimately approve an agreement that is in accord with the public interest as articulated in this resolution.
A complete copy of Resolution 31080 can be reviewed here.
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CITY LIGHT CONSERVATION AND RENEWABLES PLAN ENDORSED
On Monday, August 11, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution approving a new City Light 2008 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for future conservation and power resources. The IRP is designed to meet Seattle’s needs for future reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible electric power, and to meet the standards approved by the voters under Initiative 937 for encouraging conservation and renewable resource development by Washington utilities. The Council also adopted an implementation work plan for 2008-2010.
An initial draft of the IRP was submitted to the Council more than a year ago, but was rejected by the Council because it did not endorse the alternative that relied on maximum energy conservation as the first priority for City Light. The new Integrated Resource Plan puts conservation first, and then relies on renewable generating resources for all other needed capacity. It is consistent with Seattle City Council Resolution 30144, approved in 2000, which calls for meeting as much load growth as possible with conservation and renewable resources, and also conforms to the State of Washington's I-937 requirements for conservation and renewable resources.
The Council added provisions that clearly state our expectation that City Light will emphasize accelerated conservation and inter-regional exchanges between now and the next update of the Plan in conformance with the finding that those will be the most cost effective actions in these early years. The Council also asked that City Light update the Integrated Resource Plan and present its findings and recommendations to the Council by March 2010 for the next biennium, so that the Council will be able to make deliberative decisions on opportunities for new renewable resources that could be cost effective in the 2010-2012 period.
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HEARING ON MEGAHOUSE LEGISLATION SEPTEMBER 18
Councilmember Sally Clark’s Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday, September 22, at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers on my proposed Megahouse legislation, which seeks to address Seattle residents concerns about out-of-scale, out-of-character houses seemingly plunked into neighborhoods, overshadowing houses around them.
Speakers can sign up starting at 5 p.m. outside Council Chambers. Comments will be limited to two minutes. A summary of the legislation can be found here.
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LOCAL HARVEST GALA OCTOBER 20
Local food activists will host a celebration of the growing abundance of our local food economy on Monday, October 20 at 5:30 PM at the Palace Ballroom in Belltown. Chef Tom Douglas will present a locally crafted 5-course menu, and speakers (I will be one of them) will briefly talk about the opportunities taking place in our region.
This is an opportunity to enjoy connecting with local farmers, community organizations and policy makers who are helping to revive local food and put initiatives forth to protect our farmland. It’s also a chance to share your ideas and learn how you can participate in the growing local food movement.
Seating is limited. Please purchase your tickets early to secure your reservation at Brown Paper Tickets. Tickets are $75 each.
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"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."
-- Edgar Allan Poe
"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence – success is sure to follow."
-- Mark Twain
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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