MAKING IT WORK
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COUNCIL PRESENTS 2011 PRIORITIES ON JANUARY 10
A year ago the City Council listed 17 priorities that we intended to work on in 2010. We are now ready to report on our achievements and list priorities for 2011. Please join us at 2 PM Monday, January 10, in the Council Chambers for our report: "Promises Made -- Promises Kept" and the work we will undertake this year for the people of Seattle. If you cannot come to City Hall, join us live at www.seattle.gov/councillive
Here is the list of 2010 priorities.
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CITY SETS GOALS FOR 2011 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The City Council and Mayor have adopted a Legislative Agenda for the 2011 Washington State legislative session. The Council began working with the City’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR) in October, and we developed a list of options that were then sent to the Mayor’s office for concurrence. The Mayor had a somewhat different list in mind, but we were able to negotiate an agreement on a joint program for the City. Resolution 31260, setting forth the 2011 State Legislative Agenda, is the result.
Elected officials, of course, can speak for themselves before the legislature, and there may be issues on which the Mayor or a Councilmember might have a different perspective than is contained in this resolution. However, the resolution represents the Seattle agenda, and provides clear guidance for our staff and our Seattle legislators as to what the City supports.
In the past, Seattle has sent the Legislature a long list of agenda items, which included a number of issues that sounded good to Seattle voters but were unlikely to be approved. Our legislators have encouraged us to be more disciplined – to set priorities based on our core values, be succinct, and be realistic. As part of the Council’s commitment to a more collaborative partnership in the region and with the state, we also focused our priorities on issues where we had the best chance to build alliances that would be successful. Councilmembers have each been assigned an area of the State where our job is to get to know the legislators and figure out our common interests, so that we can identify ways to be most effective in Olympia.
Resolution 31260 sets forth six priorities for the 2011 Legislature. It includes a four page attachment that gives more detail on our requests, and also includes a number of items that we believe have little controversy but that would be helpful to Seattle.
The City’s six high priorities are:
- Fully participate in the budget process. Our goal is to strive to protect human services, health, K-12 and higher education, and other critical areas such as the Housing Trust Fund.
- Work with the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) to develop and advocate for a comprehensive package of local options for fiscal flexibility, while protecting all existing revenue sources for local governments.
- Secure sustainable long- and short-term funding options for King County Metro transit, including funding for transit as part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, as agreed to in the three-party agreement of January 2009.
- Defend Seattle and all Washington municipalities against any proposed legislation that would create a legal mechanism to shift the state's responsibility for cost overruns on major state transportation projects to local governments.
- Address the following criminal justice issues: strengthen juvenile gun crime penalties in response to youth gun violence; increase penalties for the crime of vehicular homicide and allow prior vehicular homicide and driving under the influence (DUI) convictions to be used as a basis to elevate current DUI charges to felony DUI; maintain full funding for the Neighborhood Corrections Initiative; and modify the state's "Three Strikes" law to impose a mandatory 15 year minimum sentence instead of a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for offenders with only Class B felony convictions not involving a sex offense or a deadly weapon enhancement finding.
- Support efforts to comprehensively reform education on a statewide basis.
We believe that all of these are realistic and achievable goals, and ones where we can find the partners we need to advocate for legislation. The Council has already scheduled two days when several of us will go to Olympia to lobby as a group, and we will also go there as individuals whenever there are critical votes that we can be helpful with.
Click here for the text of the resolution and the complete legislative agenda.
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E-CIGARETTES? WHO THOUGHT OF THAT?
Philip Morris, among other people. It’s a new gateway delivery system to nicotine addiction. And they are unregulated at the national level – because they are so new that the FDA has not had time to conclusively determine the level of risk and is mired in legal controversy as to whether they should be regulated as a drug delivery system or a tobacco product.
Fortunately, Public Health of Seattle and King County recommended regulations to the Board of Health, which, after considerable discussion, unanimously adopted them at its December meeting. The regulations:
- restrict the sales of e-cigarettes or any other unapproved nicotine delivery devices to people 18 and older;
- prohibit the distribution of free or highly discounted electronic smoking devices or unapproved nicotine delivery products; and
- prohibit the use of e-cigarette devices in places where smoking is prohibited by law.
So, you may be asking, what is an ‘e-cigarette’? They are cool-looking battery-powered devices, invented in China in 2003, many of which mimic the shape and look of cigarettes. The user inhales vaporized nicotine from a cartridge.
There is a rationale for them. The argument is that they are likely less harmful than actual tobacco products, because they do not contain some of the tars and other substances that cause the most damage, and that they can be a better alternative, like nicotine patches and nicotine gum.
Public Health, however, pointed out that being less harmful than tobacco smoking does not mean that e-cigarettes are safe, either for users or for those who breathe the second-hand vapors. The precautionary principle suggests that we should be cautious about allowing untested products. The World Health Organization and several countries do not consider e-cigarettes to have been shown to be a safe smoking cessation product. And nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known.
In addition to these risks, staff pointed out that permitting nicotine delivery systems that look and act like cigarettes to be used where cigarettes are prohibited runs the risk of both confusing cigarette users and the public about smoking prohibitions, and of creating a new social acceptance standard that easily leads to cigarette use. In addition, they note that the ‘electronic’ cachet is a perfect marketing tool to lure youth into becoming nicotine addicts. The fact that many of the e-cigarettes are sold by tobacco companies and are being given away and heavily promoted in malls and convenience stores is further evidence that this is more of a marketing tool than a genuine attempt to find a smoking cessation aid.
The Board of Health’s has broad powers and responsibility to create policies that foster the health and well being of the community. While at some point, it is possible that our regulations will be preempted by action at the federal level, it is important that we take this action now before this product creates a new generation of nicotine addicts. Several other countries, states, and cities have adopted similar regulations related to e-cigarettes, but the King County regulations are apparently the most comprehensive approach that has been adopted by an American governmental entity.
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REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY COMMITTEE 2010 ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In addition to serving as Council President, I also Chair a Committee we titled Regional Development and Sustainability (RDS). This Committee oversees the Seattle Public Library, the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE), the Office of Economic Development (OED), the Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR), and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Here are some of the key actions taken by the Committee In 2010.
Climate Mitigation and Adaptation. In 2010, the Committee advanced the Council’s new goal to create a carbon neutral city by:
- Hosting a presentation by Van Jones from the Center for American Progress on how green jobs can help Seattle increase employment while reducing climate-changing emissions.
- Following up on the Council’s Carbon Neutrality Community Forum with briefings from community members on developing a carbon neutral food system and green career pathways.
- Discussing a 2010 Council Statement of Intent response by OSE that outlined a work plan for adapting City actions to a changing climate.
- Reaching agreement with OSE and the Mayor to update the City’s Climate Action Plan, starting with technical analysis in 2010.
Eco Industrial Development. The Committee explored opportunities for environmentally sustainable growth in Seattle’s industries, following a model called "eco industrial" development. The Committee tapped the expertise of Andreas Koenig from Eco Industry to convene forums with local industries and identify local opportunities based on experiences in Asia, Europe, and other U.S. cities.
Appointing New OSE and OED Directors. The Committee reviewed and endorsed the appointment of Jill Simmons to lead the Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) and Stephen Johnson to lead the Office of Economic Development (OED).
Business Retention and Expansion. The Committee worked with OED to develop and execute a competitive strategy for awarding $300,000 in annual contracts that support the provision of business retention and expansion services by non-City entities to provide outreach and assistance to 700 businesses per year. Businesses in the following four industry sectors are the primary focus of this work: manufacturing/maritime, central business district, clean technology, and life sciences/global health.
New Markets Tax Credit Program. The Committee reviewed and adopted ordinances and resolutions establishing program policies and procedures, including governance structure, investment criteria, and reporting requirements. The NMTC program is a federal program that provides funding for economic development projects that create new jobs.
Recovery Zone Bond Program. The Committee reviewed and adopted legislation authorizing use of this program in certain designated areas of the City. This program supports low interest financing for public and private capital projects that create new jobs.
Seattle Public Library. In response to a Council Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) the City Librarian worked with the SPL Board, the Executive, the City Law Department and Council to identify and analyze potential funding sources that could help diversify SPL’s funding. The RDS Committee reviewed this work and requested that work continue in 2011 on a property tax Levy that could begin to support the SPL budget in 2013.
Food System Interdepartmental Team. The City Council and Mayor jointly declared 2010 as the Year of Urban Agriculture. The Committee supported creating an Interdepartmental Team to shape the City’s future policy and projects on food.
Interdepartmental Agreements on Using City Land for Urban Agriculture. Reviewed the Statement of Legislative Intent response and encouraged moving forward with specific projects.
Land Use Code Changes related to Urban Agriculture. Approved urban farm and community garden legislation improving access to locally grown food.
Local Food Action Implementation. Established the Regional Food Policy Council at the Puget Sound Regional Council; completed the consultant’s recommendations for a Seattle Food Policy Plan; completed a consultants’ study on the Economic Opportunities for the Local Food; continued work on the $300,000 Community Food Grant for the USDA; continued work on a Transfer of Development Rights agreement with King County; renewed the agreement for a City Hall Farmers’ Market for 2011 and 2012.
Economic Development for the Local Food Sector. The City was awarded funding through Seattle King County Public Health to participate in program to deliver healthy foods to low-income neighborhoods that may be lacking fresh fruits, vegetables, etc. This will be accomplished by working with existing neighborhood grocers and other retailers in interested in providing such products. The Office of Economic Development is the lead on this program for the City. The Committee received several briefings from OED on the proposed program and timeline for implementation.
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NEW URBAN FARMS IN PARKS LEVY OPPORTUNITY FUND
The Citizen Oversight Committee for the Parks and Green Spaces Levy has issued its recommendations for the first phase of the Opportunity Fund. Fifteen projects were recommended to receive $7 million in funding, including two innovative major urban agriculture projects. Parks and Green Spaces is a $146 million, six-year levy approved by the voters in November, 2008. The Opportunity Fund consists of $15 million that was designated in the Levy to be available for new and emerging projects.
The recommendations of the Committee will now proceed to the City Council, which will consider them for approval in March of 2011. Historically, the Council does not change the recommendations of a Committee like this one, and I expect that all of these projects are likely to be approved and can go forward this summer.
The project for an Urban Farm in Southeast Seattle was initially proposed in 2009. Planning funds were included in a grant from the US Department of Agriculture that was secured after I presented the Council’s Local Food Action Initiative at a meeting with USDA in March of that year. After considering several possible locations, this year community members and Seattle Parks agreed on the Atlantic City Nursery site. The Atlantic Street Nursery is owned by the City, and has been used by the Parks Department for growing landscaping plants, but is no longer used for this purpose.
The Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands project will establish a unique green infrastructure development project transforming the Atlantic City Nursery into a working organic urban farm and demonstration wetlands restoration site. The Citizens Oversight Committee proposes to award this project $500,000. The Parks Department is expected to approve the project in the near future.
Sustainable Puget Ridge is a community-based initiative in West Seattle that plans to develop the SW Puget Ridge Edible Park. The Committee awarded $520,000 to this project, which will create an urban community farm that will be a neighborhood meeting place, a community food garden and a test site for environmentally conscientious sustainability.
These two farms will join the existing Marra Farm in South Park as large-scale models for engaging communities in growing food.
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CITY LIGHT PURCHASES RENEWABLES
Well, sort of. Actually, City Light has agreed to purchase what are called Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from two Idaho projects to help meet our obligations under Initiative 937. I-937, which was approved by the voters in 2006, requires all electric utilities in the state to serve 3% of their load with ‘eligible resources’ by 2012, 9% by 2016, and 15% by 2020.
I-937 creates great policy, and will really push the development of new renewable resources, but, oddly, it is very challenging for City Light. City Light’s energy is already both 100% carbon neutral and almost entirely renewable. We operate several dams (all of which are fish-friendly – managed to maintain and enhance salmon runs), and buy most of the rest of our power from Bonneville Power Administration, a share of a wind farm, and a few other renewable resource contracts. A small amount of fossil fuel energy is used at times, mainly as part of a market purchase to meet peak demands, but City Light buys offsets for all of that modest amount. City Light, including long-term contracts, is also energy surplus – a policy that was set after the debacle of the 2001 experience, when being dependent on California energy purchases sent rates through the roof during the energy market manipulations by Enron and its cronies.
The problem is that I-937 does not count the existing resource portfolio, does not count hydro as a renewable resource, and limits the amount of conservation that can be counted against the targets. It was designed to stimulate the growth of the renewable resource industry, which is an appropriate long-term goal. City Light’s demand, however, is growing relatively slowly, and our policy has been to meet this with conservation, phasing in new renewables as a supplement.
The drafters of the initiative recognized this problem, and provided a partial, if rather abstruse, solution. They allow the renewable ‘attribute’ of a resource to be marketed separately from the actual energy. Utilities like City Light that don’t need any actual energy, can buy the attributes in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates. For City Light, this is cheaper than buying actual energy that the utility cannot use, and it provides capital that the developers of renewables can use to finance new projects. So, while not exactly a win-win, it’s kind of a consolation prize-sort of win.
City Light is in the market for RECs, and has agreed to purchase 65,000 MWH worth from a geothermal project from 2011 to 2017, and another 65,000 MWH of RECS from a wind farm from 2015 to 2029. The annual cost for each of these contracts will be about $1 million.
The REC concept is one of the interesting new ways in which markets are being used to promote environmental goals. This use of markets has been very successful in addressing some pollution issues, and the use of carbon credits has been a strategy promoted to address climate change. The I-937 example shows how difficult it is to figure out a fair way to manage market approaches. City Light is in the odd position of having to pay because of its leadership – but RECs allow it to pay less than it would otherwise. Fortunately we are confident that our voters support renewable development and want us to invest in them. The Council unanimously endorsed these agreements.
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STRATEGIC APPROACHES FOR CARBON NEUTRALITY
Moving from a carbon based economy to a carbon neutral economy requires a sophisticated array of strategies. There is no magic bullet – no single simple solution – that will get us there, and every approach has limitations. There are a variety of ways to characterize the types of strategies – I will try to draw from several different approaches to paint a picture of what I see as the six options.
- Efficiency improvements. This is the most readily accessible, and builds on many technologies that we already have experience with. At its simplest, it involves taking steps like insulating buildings and improving the mileage performance of vehicles. These are often so cost effective that we save money by implementing them, and yet our legacy of cheap energy has caused us to neglect them. Let’s take automobile gas mileage as an example of the steps that could be taken.
For many years, the American automobile fleet actually decreased its fuel efficiency. Partly this is due to shifting to larger cars, but there was also a basic neglect of easy technological fixes – and this is one of the reasons that the American auto companies lost so much market share to leaner overseas competition. The easy fixes must be followed by a more sophisticated approach, including moving towards smaller vehicles, hybrids, and all electric vehicles. There’s no reason we can’t cut vehicle carbon emissions in half or more and save money too.
- Redesign. Improving efficiency necessarily involves design improvements, but at some point a threshold is crossed requiring redesign of both the component part and the system it operates in. Shifting to electric cars is an example – while the vehicle operations may dramatically reduce the emissions, it is also necessary to set up charging stations and generate the needed electricity. If we can implement a charging network and develop renewables as the source for the electricity, the carbon benefits of moving to this technology could be enormous. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that even electric cars will generate carbon emissions in their manufacture, in maintaining the roads they travel on, and in developing and operating even a renewable based energy system. Again, there is no panacea, but there could be very substantial benefits with the right system design.
- Shifting modes. Keeping with the automobile as the example, another step towards reducing emissions would be to reduce the number of automobile trips people take. Shifting to bicycles, walking, and transit will greatly reduce carbon emissions (although not eliminate them, especially the embedded carbon in developing and operating transit systems). In addition, reducing the necessity for trips at all can be an even more productive option. Telecommuting generates much less carbon than actually going to a workplace; delivering a quantity of packages to a neighborhood is much less carbon intensive than everyone going to the store and returning home. And developing compact communities, where employment, housing, shopping, and recreation can be accessed with greatly reduced transportation miles, can be very effective.
Unlike efficiency improvements, which are often invisible to the user, or even redesign, which usually requires system changes, mode shifts can require both changes in individual behavior and changes in social and economic systems. And these can be easy (liking walking a short distance instead of driving), or very complex (like redesigning urban areas and adding transit systems, or reconfiguring work and school assignments and patterns to reduce travel).
- System thinking. Redesigning whole systems is the most challenging change strategy, but this kind of rethinking will be necessary. A good example is the food system. The food system and agriculture generate somewhere between 15% and 20% of America’s carbon emissions (depending on the study and what it counts). American food travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to plate. Then there is the processing, storage, marketing, and shopping involved, not to mention the embedded carbon in each element of this system. Growing food at home can reduce a whole array of emissions; emphasizing local food has similar impacts; no-till and organic practices generate other reductions. But none of these by itself will achieve a dramatic reduction in carbon in the food system – there has to be a complex array of approaches that looks at the system as a whole, takes apart each component, takes into account the social,
environmental, and economic dimensions of change, and slowly turns the ship around towards a less carbon intensive system. The carbon reduction comes, not from a single element, but from all of the changes being done together.
These four types of strategies must all be implemented in order to achieve significant carbon reduction. We must work on all of them, and all will take time to achieve. But even together, they will not reach the carbon neutral goal. That will likely require a fifth strategy – sequestration of carbon, taking it out of the atmosphere. Some scientists are working on sequestration strategies like injecting carbon into underground storage that have all kinds of issues or risks, but there are also very practical sequestration strategies around agricultural practices and forest restoration that can be implemented, and will have to be.
Finally, let me mention a sixth strategy – carbon offsets. Essentially this involves buying someone else’s carbon reduction in order to balance the carbon we are generating. Offsets can be helpful in the near term, by supplying capital for energy conservation measures that would otherwise not be realized, but in the long run they are not going to solve the problem. Unless they truly involve buying sequestration, offsets cannot be part of a long range carbon neutrality strategy.
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The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alteration of old beliefs.
-- John Dewey
The world isn't logical, it's a song.”
-- David Byrne
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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