MAKING IT WORK
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COUNCIL SETS PRIORITIES FOR 2010 WORK
On Monday, February 22, the City Council presented our priorities for 2010. These are the salient issues that the Council will work on, the areas where we will implement specific initiatives by the end of this year. These priorities reflect the Council’s shared interests and our commitment to the people of Seattle. We believe that you should know what we plan to engage on and what the Council should be held accountable for accomplishing.
While every Councilmember has signed off on this priority list, one of the criteria for getting on the list was to have at leasttwo Councilmembers identify the issue as a high priority. Those two – or more – will take the lead as prime sponsors who will focus on that piece of the agenda. Our next step is to start moving forward on the specific implementation steps for each priority.
Not all of us will ultimately agree on the specific steps we take in some areas, but we will try to resolve differences and come up with the best possible policies. And, if we ultimately do have disagreements, we will take the vote without getting into the kinds of arguments and tactics that could make it difficult to move ahead cooperatively on the next issue.
Seventeen priority areas sound like a formidable amount of work. However, we are nine Councilmembers who pull together as a team. It is also important to note that these priorities are by no means all of our tasks for the year. We have already adopted a Council work plan that lists the many action items that will be on our Committee agendas (Resolution 31185, adopted on February 1).
At the top of the list of priorities is the critical area of economic recovery. Getting people job training and jobs and getting business activity back on track are imperative for our community and for everything else we do as a City – including our key task of putting together a budget that is balanced and meets the needs of our citizens. Here’s a sample of what we will do:
- Complete the process of reorienting the Office of Economic Development toward being a proactive advocate for businesses.
- Keep pushing to advance City capital projects, like parks facilities and Fire Stations, to provide employment opportunities – and save taxpayers money in the current favorable bidding environment.
- Help free up the capital markets by getting $60 million in New Market Tax Credits and Recovery Zone Facility Bonds into investments that will create jobs in industry and low income communities.
- Consider creating an Economic Development Commission to guide our work and advise on strategic policies and plans.
- Implement the Buy Local campaign called for in our Economic Recovery Resolution last year – the RFP is out on the street, and we are ready to get this moving.
- Prepare for the ‘Climate Economy’ – with training for green jobs and incentives for green businesses.
The following is a complete list of the Council’s priorities:
BUILD A LIVABLE CITY FOR OUR FUTURE
Revitalize and focus the work of the Office of Economic Development, develop a coordinated strategy to grow green jobs and businesses, and act to improve Seattle’s business climate.
Promote smarter building design, business success, housing affordability, and neighborhood sustainability through revising the Multi-Family Code, effectively implementing the Housing Levy, changing zoning and land use rules in the South Downtown Neighborhoods and around light rail stations, and modifying zoning and adaptive re-use rules in industrial areas.
Strengthen Seattle’s relationships on the regional and state level.
Implement the next stages of the Zero Waste Strategy.
Adopt a carbon neutral goal for Seattle with specific milestones and implementation steps, along with a plan for adaptation to the effects of climate change.
History and Culture
Support and enhance historic, cultural and recreational assets through smarter, more economically attractive preservation efforts and tools such as the Pike-Pine and Cultural Overlay Districts.
FOSTER SAFE, JUST AND HEALTHY COMMUNITIES FOR ALL
Schools and Education
Develop a new partnership strategy with Seattle Schools in preparation for the renewal of the Families and Education Levy in 2011.
Conduct a rigorous and efficient confirmation process for a new Chief of Police, ensure that the Neighborhood Policing Plan is implemented, and support innovative and effective anti-crime programs.
Race and Social Justice
Take action to promote racial and social equity in city government actions and growth management planning.
Implement the Local Food Action Initiative, including making 2010 the "Year of Urban Agriculture", expanding the community garden program, and encouraging local food production and food-related businesses.
Adopt the initial neighborhood plan updates and ensure that updates are community-driven, visionary and pragmatic blueprints for managing growth.
Raise awareness around domestic violence and increase the effectiveness of City programs.
INVEST PUBLIC RESOURCES FAIRLY AND EFFECTIVELY
Adopt a sustainable 2011-2012 budget that continues to put people first by investing in human services and housing, and includes a set of performance measures and financial targets to reduce costs and increase program effectiveness.
Adopt a long-range strategic plan and new financial policies for Seattle City Light to keep focused on conservation and renewable resources for our future while ensuring financial stability and affordable rates.
Ensure that Seattle interests are effectively represented in the planning and implementation of the replacement of SR 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct, while developing a funding plan for the City’s work on the Seawall and Waterfront.
Identify funds for bicycle and pedestrian facilities, work towards an all electric transit system, including light rail, streetcars, and electric trolley buses, and strive for a fairly allocated source of funds for bus service connecting Seattle neighborhoods and connecting Seattle with job centers in other parts of King County.
Access and Transparency
Implement new technology measures to provide increased citizen access to government through the public engagement portal and constituent relations management system, and explore a Smart Grid for electricity and expanded Broadband access.
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SR 520 MOVES TO NEXT STAGE
On February 23, the Mayor and Council announced that they have engaged the consulting firm of Nelson/Nygaard to work on design issues relating to completing the planning for the SR 520 Project. Nelson/Nygaard will undertake two sets of tasks: a review of the Westside interchange options to help the Council find an interchange configuration that will maximize transit connectivity and protect neighborhoods and the Arboretum, and a review of the possibility of incorporating light rail on SR 520 as part of the current construction project, as proposed by the Mayor.
The Council is already engaged in working with the State to identify the best possible solution for Seattle, the Westside interchange, and the regional transportation system. A bill is currently moving through the Legislature which includes legislative agreement with the Council’s proposal. The Council’s plan includes this consultant study and an intensive work effort with State and local Transportation officials to find a better alternative than that proposed by the Legislative Work Group in December. The approach supported by a large majority of the Council acknowledges and confirms our agreement with decisions that have been made and incorporated into state law. Those decisions specify a 4 + 2 lane configuration with the new lanes dedicated to carpools and transit and a design that is capable of accomodating light rail in the future. The project also includes a bicycle and pedestrian path across the Lake.
The large majority of Councilmembers have expressed their opposition to the so-called A+ Westside interchange, which does not work for transit connectivity, neighborhoods, the Arboretum, or the environment. We are in agreement that a better design is possible. There has been some confusion about what the "A+" identifier means. "A+" refers to an interchange on the Westside that is in the same location as the current interchange, and that includes a second Montlake Bridge and ramps in the Arboretum. Those are the issues that we will address in our current work. Some media accounts and participants in this discussion have mistakenly used the A+ moniker to refer to the configuration for the whole project from I-5 to Redmond.
The ultimate decision on the SR 520 project will be made by the State of Washington. The City can influence the Westside interchange by working with the State, and State leaders have made that commitment to the Council.
It is important to acknowledge that there is no perfect solution that will be painless for Seattle. The bridge is jammed for a reason – the economy and population continue to grow and will do so in the future, and any changes will have neighborhood and environmental impacts. But we do have a chance to find the best combination that is as positive as possible, and that prepares for an increasingly transit-oriented future. Such a solution will meet the needs and interests of the tens of thousands of Seattle residents who use this important transportation artery, as well as meeting the core interests of our neighborhoods and protecting the health of the Washington Park Arboretum and Seattle’s environment.
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CITY BUDGET AND STRATEGIC ADVISORS
Mayor McGinn has proposed cutting a number of positions called ‘Strategic Advisors’ as a way to address the City’s budget problem. The budget problem is real, and the Mayor and Council are going to have to review the City’s staffing and likely make some unfortunate and painful reductions. They will be difficult for those who may be laid off, and will result in reductions in service levels to our citizens.
However, the classification of ‘Strategic Advisor’ covers a wide range of actual tasks, which have been developed over time and provide a variety of services to the public. There are likely a few positions in the City that could be eliminated and result in a more efficient and cost effective personnel structure, but the vast majority of City employees work hard and will be missed if their positions are cut. Strategic Advisors are no exception – many of them are exceptionally skilled and effective public employees who are performing important work.
While there is no question that hard decisions will have to be made about City staffing, personnel changes should be done selectively and with great care, with an acknowledgment that most such changes mean that the City is losing important functions. Setting priorities and making tough decisions is part of the task that elected officials must undertake. It will work best if it is done deliberatively and carefully and as part of a systematic process that looks at the best ways to manage our budget in a time of limited resources while continuing to deliver critical services in a cost-effective manner.
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"Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice."
-- Nelson Mandela
"Politicians like to panic, they need activity. Itís their substitute for achievement."
-- Sir Humphrey, character in "Yes Minister", Popular BBC TV Programme
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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