MAKING IT WORK
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city. You can request additional information or comment on the newsletter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAMILIES AND EDUCATION LEVY GOES TO BALLOT
On Monday, March 28, the City Council unanimously approved placing renewal of the Families and Education Levy on the November ballot. After extensive review and discussion of the recommendations of the citizen committee that developed the new levy proposal, the Council agreed to propose a levy at the level recommended by the advisory group.
The current Families and Education Levy expires at the end of 2011. The legislation, Council Bill 117103, would collect $231 million in Seattle property taxes over the next seven years, which translates to an approximate cost of $124 to the homeowner of a home at the average assessed residential value of $462,045 in 2012.
We recognize that this is a big ask of our voters. It is a significant increase over the current level of the levy, which was approved by the voters in 1990 and renewed in 1997 and 2004. The City cannot fund classroom activities, as any City money for that purpose would just trigger a corresponding deduction from the State's funding for the School District. Historically, the City funds have been used for health clinics, before and after school programs, assistance for struggling students, and other activities that will support the students in reaching their educational goals.
This levy will fund programs that will help at-risk students and low-performing schools. The programs, directly administered and controlled by the City, supplement the basic academic instruction provided by Seattle Public Schools. The Levy will also provide continued funding for school-based health centers and enhanced early learning opportunities to ensure that young children enter kindergarten ready to learn alongside their classmates. Levy funded programs include clear accountability standards and outcome-based results measurements. The City retains the flexibility to select, modify, and replace programs and contractors if they are not achieving their goals.
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ACTION ON LOCAL FOOD FOR 2011
As we move into the fourth year of implementation of Seattle's Local Food Action Initiative (Resolution 31019), I plan to work on the following actions in 2011:
- Develop additional opportunities for expanding economic activity, marketing, and jobs in the local food economy including exploring how best to support Puget Sound Fresh.
- Increase connections between the city and local and regional farmers and increase ties with small and mid-sized farmers in Eastern Washington.
- Work with food system stakeholders to increase small-scale regional distribution that supports small farms and farmers.
- Continue to strengthen urban agriculture including developing a business directory of urban agriculture related businesses in Seattle, assisting in the development of an urban agriculture business association, and working to improve meeting the needs of emerging urban agriculture businesses.
- Develop additional strategies for preserving farmland to produce food for Seattle residents in partnership with entities such as the Pike Place Market.
- Take the next steps towards a Transfer of Development Rights program to protect farmland.
- Convene community partners, including food banks, working on hunger issues to identify next steps to meet immediate needs. Continue efforts to develop a long-range campaign for healthy food for all and to end hunger and poor nutrition, and a strategy for working with food banks to align their work towards increasing the food self-sufficiency of their clients.
- Develop additional strategies to identify and meet the needs of underserved communities by improving healthy food access and community building related to the food system.
- Ensure that healthy eating is supported in the Families and Education Levy as an important element in ensuring student success.
- Solicit community feedback, approve, and begin implementing a Food System Policy Plan. Work with the Department of Neighborhoods food staff person to identify and write grants and perform community outreach and policy development.
- Support the City's Interdepartmental Team approach in coordinating work by City Departments on food issues.
- Develop indicators of success in transforming the food system.
- Work with immigrants, refugees, and associated organizations to expand opportunities for market gardening and farming.
- Develop a plan for a City-sponsored Community Supported Agriculture program.
- Continue to work with and encourage community—led projects and the CPPW and CFG funded projects, and support emerging project ideas such as the Atlantic Street Nursery farm.
- Update and begin implementation of the P-Patch Strategic Plan.
- Develop and adopt Phase 2 of the land use code changes to encourage food production and urban agriculture.
- Secure approval of state legislation exempting farmers markets from SEPA, defining the relationship between the Pike Place Market and farmers markets, and allowing cottage production of value-added food products.
- Work with OEM and regional partners to strengthen the regional plan for food reserves for emergencies.
- Find a new home for the Certificate in Urban Agriculture program, which will no longer be housed at Seattle Central Community College.
- Publish the Seattle Farm Bill Principles and work with local, regional, and national partners to encourage local governments and others to support them and advocate for appropriate policy in the renewal of the Farm Bill.
- Incorporate food system policies, goals, and implementation strategies in the Comprehensive Plan, revised Climate Action Plan, Neighborhood Plans, and Transportation planning.
- Work with the Board of Health to adopt healthy food guidelines for vending machines.
- Work with WSU to identify opportunities for partnership and connecting the work of WSU to urban agriculture.
- Assist in developing and implementing the work program for the Regional Food Policy Council and secure funding for the Council.
- Coordinate actions and policies between the City and King County.
- Consider how to take local food work to scale in transforming the local food system.
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2010 ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL YEAR FOR ACTION ON LOCAL FOOD
The Seattle City Council adopted Resolution 31019, the Local Food Action Initiative, in 2007. Here's what we accomplished in 2010:
- Declared 2010 as the Year of Urban Agriculture and organized a series of events and public engagement programs to provide resources and encourage people to grow food and increase the number of gardens in Seattle.
- Launched a web portal to provide information and coordinate activities.
- Adopted land use code changes that define ‘Community Garden' and allow them outright in all zones, define ‘Urban Farm' and allow specific appropriate models in each zone, allow people in residential zones to grow and sell unprocessed produce on their property, implement urban agriculture as an accessory use through the Living Building pilot program, expand the Seattle Green Factor requirements (including a food production bonus) to low-rise zones, review the Land Use Code to ensure the encouragement of small and mid size grocery stores in NC and C zones, and define Farmers' Markets as an outright permitted use with zoning incentives for permanent markets.
- Established a Regional Food Policy Council at the Puget Sound Regional Council, and assisted in developing a state Food Policy Interagency Team.
- Worked with the Health Department on "Communities Putting Prevention to Work" (CPPW) grant to support community kitchens and market gardens and take steps to provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables in ‘food deserts'.
- Continued the work on the $300,000 Community Food Grant (CFG) from the US Department of Agriculture in support of actions to provide local, healthy foods in low income neighborhoods of SE and West Seattle, including a Healthy Corner Store initiative in Delridge, developing a new food bank garden at Seattle Housing Authority's Rainier Vista housing development, and supporting the Clean Greens Farm and Farmers Market in the Central Area.
- Exchanged letters with King County starting negotiations on a Transfer of Development Rights program to protect farms that provide produce for Seattle's Farmers Markets.
- Authorized pilot programs to collect food waste in multi-family buildings and committed to universal collection for multi-family buildings in 2013.
- Moved a Food System Policy Plan for the City of Seattle to final draft stage.
- Launched teaching gardens and more community kitchen projects at Community Centers and worked with the Parks Department to consider a community greenhouse project in Rainier Beach.
- Used Parks Levy and other funding to expand the P-Patch program to serve additional households, and began work on a new P-Patch Strategic Plan.
- Worked with the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture to organize an Urban Agriculture conference.
- Assisted neighborhoods to include community food planning in the neighborhood planning process with encouragement and planning tools.
- Worked with community –led projects to coordinate and strengthen their effectiveness.
- Continued to operate the City Hall Farmers' Market and encourage the expansion and location of other Farmers' Markets around the City. Signed agreement with Pike Place market to continue City Hall Market.
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APPRECIATING PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
Events in Wisconsin and other states threaten the rights of hard-working public employees. On Monday, March 7 the Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31271 supporting the right of public employees to collective bargaining (essentially, the right to join and be represented by labor unions)*. The resolution also declared March 8 as "Public Employee Appreciation Day" in Seattle.
In the resolution we noted that labor unions and public employees in Seattle and around the country have stepped forward to voluntarily participate in wage and benefit reductions, furloughs, and other cost saving measures to preserve the jobs of their fellow employees. They also assist in managing the impacts of the recession on governmental budgets, and have developed creative ways to reduce costs.
All of those steps have been taken in Seattle, and we have built a great partnership with our labor unions and employees to deliver good services to the public at a reasonable cost. We continue to engage our unions and employees in working through issues, such as our current partnership effort to reinvent community center operations to be able to deliver more hours of service at a lower cost to the taxpayer.
The actions of the Wisconsin governor and his Republican allies in the state legislature have exacerbated the wrong-headed national backlash against labor unions. Wrong-headed because the labor movement created the middle class in America – the engine of our economy. Labor efforts brought us laws ensuring workplace safety, and living-wage jobs, and the weekend. The attack on public servants and their representatives is an assault on all of us who believe in a society that works for all. This resolution affirms our commitment to those values and our dedicated employees. The City of Seattle employs more than 10,000 public employees, many of whom are union members.
The attacks on public employees are really attacks on public service. The fact is that government provides vital services -- teachers, doctors, scientists, firefighters, police officers, nurses, laborers, social workers and countless other occupations. Many public employees have lost their jobs in this recession, just like those employed in the private sector.
Many Americans are suffering in this economic downturn, but public employees and labor unions are not the source of the problem and vilifying them will only lead to more economic instability. The far right-wing's divide and conquer strategy of pitting public and private sector employees against each other is a distraction from what real economic recovery demands: to lift up those among us who are unemployed, lack health care or are not part of sound pension systems. That's the American way, and we must all pull together to restore our economy and make it happen.
Notes: *The right to collectively bargain is recognized through international human rights conventions. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies the ability to organize trade unions as a fundamental human right. In June 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada (Facilities Subsector Bargaining Association v. British Columbia, extensively reviewed the rationale for regarding collective bargaining as a human right. Even Ronald Reagan said, "where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." (Labor Day Speech at Liberty State Park, 1980)
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ANNEX NORTH HIGHLINE/WHITE CENTER?
On Monday, March 28, the Council adopted Resolution 31283, postponing a decision on a North Highline annexation vote until early 2012. I had recommended sponsoring a vote in the neighborhood in 2011, as has been requested by a number of people in North Highline, but the majority of the Council believed that there are too many financial uncertainties to be able to move forward this year. It is not clear what the Council will decide next year.
Epitomizing the ambivalence on the Council, the lone opposition vote on the resolution was cast by Councilmember Godden, who had been one of the strongest supporters of annexation in the past, but whose concern about finances outweighed her previous feelings.
I support annexation because the benefits are many and well worth the manageable costs. It makes sense from an environmental and policy perspective.
A core principle of growth management is that unincorporated areas should become part of cities. Experience from other urban areas indicates that the larger percentage of the metropolitan population that is in the center city, the more successful the metro area is in making good decisions about transportation and land use. This is Seattle's last opportunity to add an increment to our population by annexation.
The people of White Center are just like the people of Seattle. There's an artificial boundary, which many would like to see removed. They are like the immigrants whom we all welcome to our country – and just like immigrant populations, we should let them in, knowing that they will contribute to the wonderful mix that Seattle is, just like we brought in Georgetown and South Park, or Broadview and Ballard, in years past.
It's a wonderful community, with a tremendously diverse population, the rebuilt Greenbridge (a mixed income community like our SHA projects), some great parks, a multicultural business district, the new home of the Technology Access Foundation, and a major investment by the Casey Foundation.
Public safety and business development issues are harder to address because Roxbury is an artificial boundary that divides this business district. Policing resources are dramatically less on the south side of Roxbury and southward, putting the safety of Seattle residents at greater risk. Law enforcement in white Center as a whole would be much more effective if it were uniform throughout the neighborhood. Arbor Heights will get better fire service from the North Highline fire station than it currently gets from our Seattle fire station. The many immigrant communities in North Highline will be in the same governmental unit as the other members of their community in Seattle.
In addition to being another great neighborhood for Seattle, this area has great potential for development and/or redevelopment. The business district could become another Ballard or Lake City, with mixed use buildings and vibrant business activity.
Our constituents are not just the people who happen to be in Seattle at any one time. Most families move every few years, and, if they stay in the area, may shift from Seattle to Renton to Redmond to White Center. We have to think about making the region successful and working to secure a better life for all of the people in the Seattle area.
We should be clear that none of our residential neighborhoods pay for themselves. If money is our only concern, we should immediately start deannexing many of our neighborhoods. Georgetown, Lake City, Broadview, Beacon Hill, they are all money pits.
Seattle works because we take the revenues generated by downtown and the Duwamish Manufacturing Center and use them in other places. We know we have many things we would like to do, but that we also are a relatively wealthy city with a stronger budget than most.
While I respect the concerns of my colleagues, in the long run costs are manageable. Our Central Staff review noted that ". . . the City could manage to the annual operating expenses indicated on the lower-end of the range. . ." of approximately 1.8 million per year. Given the level of variability in our budget and the likelihood of overall economic improvement by 2013-2014, this is a manageable number.
I hope that we do have more certainty in 2012, and that Seattle does move forward with this unique opportunity. We will never know what the people of North Highline want unless we give them the chance to vote on their destiny.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: GM NAMEPLATE KEEPS 500 JOBS IN SEATTLE
This month GM Nameplate, Seattle's largest manufacturing employer, announced that it will keep its headquarters and primary manufacturing location along 15th Avenue West between Queen Anne and Magnolia. This is good news for Seattle, as it keeps 500 jobs in the City.
Despite its name, GM Nameplate is not affiliated with the General Motors Corporation. It is a custom manufacturing company that makes "brand identity and user interface components, from labels to touch screens, overlays to complex membrane switch assemblies, injection molded bezels to insert mold decorated interfaces". It also makes nameplates for some automobiles, but the GM in its name comes from the initials of the company founders.
The company has eight manufacturing facilities, in California, North Carolina, Oregon, Seattle, Canada, China, and Singapore. It has been headquartered in Seattle since 1954, but sold its Seattle properties two years ago and announced that it was looking for a new location where it could consolidate operations and expand. It was speculated that it was looking to move to Kent and was unhappy with Seattle's business climate.
Since this announcement, Seattle's Office of Economic Development (OED) worked hard to identify the company's concerns and to find a new location in Seattle. This month the company announced that it had decided on its new home – and bought back the property they had sold two years ago.
This is good news for jobs for Seattle, good news for the employees and our transportation system, since they will remain in an area easily accessed by public transit, and a shot in the arm for our continuing work to improve Seattle's economy.
We know that Seattle is a great place to do business – a great workforce, a healthy community, and a competent government. And many national studies have validated that belief. But there are still legitimate questions about our business climate, often fueled by the length of time it takes us to process permits and make decisions.
We are working hard to provide the kind of responsive government that makes decisions in a timely manner and assists those who want to do business in Seattle. At the same time, we are also committed to protecting and enhancing the great neighborhoods and environment that are key parts of our strength as an economy and a community. The decision by GM Nameplate suggests that we are making progress – and I called the President of the company to thank him for staying in Seattle and offer to listen to any future concerns he might have.
Congratulations and thanks for the good work of our staff at OED!
PS In more good news for Seattle, "TechFlash" reports that social game maker Zynga (which created FarmVille and Mafia Wars) will open an office in Pioneer Square. Not clear how many jobs will be involved, but this is a boost both for Seattle and for Pioneer Square.
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BIOCIDADE ("BIOCITY") CURITIBA: THE URBAN FOREST IN CURITIBA, BRAZIL
Seattle has adopted a goal of restoring and increasing our urban forest. We have created an Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) that is reviewing current policies and developing new approaches. I would like to see developed a new set of policies that will emphasize native vegetation, habitat restoration, and the benefits of trees in natural drainage. I am looking forward to working with the UFC on this, and will post future blogs as we come up with new ideas and solutions.
In January I had the opportunity to visit Curitiba, Brazil, which has a bold and far reaching policy to restore its trees, built on many of the same values. Their participation model, political climate, and municipal finance system are all very different from ours, and I am not suggesting that we could replicate their policies. However, we may be able to use their experience to help us imagine new ideas and policies, and I thought it would be interesting to report on their strategy.
Curitiba, a city of 2 million inhabitants in southern Brazil, is famous for its innovative sustainability programs – including inventing an extraordinarily successful model for a Bus Rapid Transit system. In 2007, Curitiba launched the next stage of its sustainability work, a comprehensive program to integrate parks, river and drainage basins, the urban forest, and other environmental initiatives around the theme of "Biocity – the Urban Biodiversity Program."
Environmental preservation is one of the strategic pillars of the planning process that the city of Curitiba has been conducting for over 40 years. With Biocity, this focus is expanded to include reintroducing native plants, eradicating invading exotic plants, environmental education, revitalizing rivers, and encouraging the preservation of private natural areas.
The Projeto Plantas Nativas Ornamentais (Ornamental Native Plants Project) seeks to rescue urban biodiversity via the use of the regional native flora. The Guabirotuba Municipal Garden produces some 80,000 native plant seedlings annually, and the City plants them in parks, woodlands, the Botanical Garden, streets, avenues and small gardens, the Linha Verde (Green Line) and Municipal Schools. Over 1000 exotic invasive trees have been removed from the groves and parks of the city, and replaced by native araucaria forest species. The goal is to replace exotics throughout the City, including among the 300 thousand street trees (through the Street Arborization Master Plan). There are also a set of incentives, including the transfer of development rights, offered to owners of forested properties if they preserve them. The City has a CO2 equivalent inventory of trees, and a calculation of its carbon stock based on the number of hectares in forest and the biomass per hectare.
The program is integrated with a formal plan to enhance biodiversity for animals as well, including special efforts to eradicate invasive animals, protect and enhance native ones, and breeding programs at the zoo for local endangered species.
Some schools have adopted nearby groves as outdoors laboratories, where the children interact with nature and take home the basic notions of environmental responsibility, while teachers, parents and students landscape the school with native ornamental plants. The City reports that about 7,000 people annually participate in lectures on topics related to the environment, and engage in over 600 tree and native flower plantings and 31 community cleaning actions, collecting almost 10 tons of garbage.
275 small rural properties occupy about 3% of Curitiba's area, and are encouraged to remain in agriculture production. Curitiba also has 1,200 community organic gardens that involve 6,000 people. In 2009, Curitiba opened the first Organics Market in Brazil, where 22 stores offer over a thousand kinds of products certified pesticide-free and sustainably grown and processed.
The Projeto Viva Barigui (Project for the Living Barigui) seeks to reverse degradation in the Barigui River basin by relocating 657 families that live in houses located in flood zones (many of which are illegally occupying public land), planting native vegetation in a Permanent Protection Area, and improving the management of the sewage and drainage systems. The Projeto Olho D'Água involves the community in monitoring water quality and undertaking community plantings and other actions.
In the Botanical Garden, the City has created the Jardim Demonstrativo de Plantas Nativas (Native Plants Demonstration Garden), and the Jardim das Sensações (Sensations Garden), which people visit blindfolded to touch, smell and interact with the plants.
The philosophy of Curitiba is that parks and forests are part of the city's memory and history. Curitiba means "lots of pines" (araucaria) in the language spoken by the natives who inhabited the region where the city is presently located. Green areas are designed to encourage each citizen to feel connected to the natural cycles, and to restore the essence of cities, the opportunity for interactions between people. For more information, go to www.biocidade.curitiba.pr.gov.br
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The important thing for Government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better or a little worse; but to do those things which at present are not being done at all.
-- John Maynard Keynes
Our goal should be not to be the best in the world but the best for the world.
-- The Committee to Pull Tomorrow Together
Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting, and useful. You can get more information or send me feedback at email@example.com
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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