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Councilmember Bruce Harrell
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Positive Focus E-Newsletter


$907 Million Budget, City Light Rates and a Smart Grid in Seattle

On November 23, 2009, the City Council approved a $907 million budget for 2010. The Council chose to put "people first" and restored $860,000 to Seattle Public Libraries that reestablishes operating hours that would have been lost. Libraries are important, especially in tough economic times. Our libraries are a vital resource for people who need access to computers while looking for work and access to books. Keeping with our commitment to put "people first" the Council also approved $752,000 in Human Services funding.

Continue reading at my personal blog.

In the process of balancing the City's general fund and City Light's budget, the Council approved a 13.8% rate increase for City Light. Rates had not increased since 2003 and we were successful in preventing a rate increase the past two years. The average bill of $44 will see an increase of about $6.00. This increase was required to ensure system reliability by maintaining the system's infrastructure and it was also necessary to fill a $70 million budget shortfall caused by lower wholesale power revenues. While my preference was for a smaller increase, I will remain adamant that people get measurable value for the rates they pay. To that end, I recently had City Light articulate their winter storm plan and I added Customer Service as part of my committee work. I will continue to push for reasonable streetlight repair times. For example, in 2004 the Utility had 23,367 streetlight outages. Based on our policy directives, in 2009 we reduced that number to 12,799 and are on track to achieve a 10-14 day turnaround for streetlight repairs by year's end. In addition, the number of customer power outages has dipped below the Utility's goal of one per year. As its Chair, I will continue to ensure that we get measurable outcomes in customer service. You can read about City Light's other great accomplishments at my personal blog.

In the interest of customer service, efficiency and environmental sustainability, I am calling for the development of a Smart Grid in Seattle. City Light Customers will benefit from a Smart Grid by real time pricing which allows them to adjust their energy use and save money. A Smart Meter component can adapt to the intermittent nature of wind and solar energy which will improve its integration with the grid. In short, a Smart Grid will modernize City Light's basic infrastructure to increase reliability, flexibility, functionality, conservation, operational efficiency and enhance customer choice. In 2005, a $3 billion smart grid system was completed in Italy producing $750 million a year in savings and delivering better services at lower costs. Bottom line: A Smart Grid will help conserve energy and save money. For a detailed description of why I support a Smart Grid at my personal blog. Today I issued a press release calling for a Smart Grid, read it at my personal blog.

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Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI): Let's Keep the Momentum

On November 30, 2009, I introduced an RSJI Resolution to the Full Council which reinforces and energizes efforts to: 1) end racial and social disparities internal to the City; 2) strengthen the way the City engages and provides services to all communities; and 3) lead in efforts to eliminate socio-economic disparities in our city. The policy work of Seattle's Office of Civil Rights will fall under my Energy and Technology Committee for 2010 and 2011. The Council's chambers were filled with RSJI supporters from city departments, the Mayor's office and community leaders. I wrote an op-ed on the subject in the Saturday, November 28th edition of the Seattle Times. You can find the long version of that piece at my personal blog.

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Respecting and Roasting Outgoing Councilmembers McIver, Drago

Surrounded at Seattle's Royal Esquire Club with colleagues, friends and family, on November 5, 2009, Councilmember Richard McIver was honored with a final salute as he retires from the Seattle City Council. Those closest to him thought the best way to say farewell was to "roast" him out of office - and they did!

I had the honor of kicking the program off with help from many honored guests, including outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, PSRC's Bob Drewel, four City Councilmembers, and a host of community leaders -- including Roberto Maestas, Joann Francis, and Bob Santos. The 250 guests learned that one of McIver's highest priorities was to "represent the under-represented."

On December 9, 2009, I attended for outgoing Councilmember Jan Drago, a celebration at the Mayflower Park Hotel where she was recognized for her 4 terms of service. Her theme was "Dance with the one who brung you to the party" and she was surrounded by many guests, colleagues, activists and well wishers, many of whom were instrumental in helping her launch her political career 16 years ago.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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Teaching our Youth by First, Listening

Unprecedented Youth Violence Forum. I was proud to take part in a Seattle Channel sponsored Youth Violence Forum on Tuesday, November 10. C.R. Douglas, Seattle Channel's public affairs host, moderated the lively panel discussion which included youth who have been impacted by violence first-hand. A video was shown where I interviewed youth in the community who were very close to the issue of violence on the streets. I was joined by Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (SYVPI) Director Mariko Lockhart, Police Assistant Chief Jim Pugel, Urban League SYVPI Program Coordinator Jamila Taylor, Royal Alley-Barnes, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Cleveland High School students Maraunjanique "Mook" Smallwood and Janisha "Boug" Sparks, a member of the Seattle Police Department gang unit, and Tony McCane, a former boxer, gang member and now community activist.

Our City's 2009-2010 budget allocated $8 million to the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative to end the killings and assaults among juveniles, ages 12 to 17. Last year about this time, 5 youth were killed in Seattle. This year, that number is reduced to 0, aside from the tragic killing of 18 year-old Aaron Sullivan.

You can view the Youth Violence Forum at Seattle Channel.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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New: 2010 Council Committees Change

Every two years, Councilmembers have the opportunity to decide the committees they want to chair, vice chair or be a member. Using my years of experience as an attorney working with utilities, I have elected to continue chairing the Energy and Technology Committee. However, I have added Civil Rights (Seattle's Office of Civil Rights) and started a new concept for the Council to direct policy - Customer Service. Much of the work I have done in the last two years has focused on the issue: Does the City of Seattle offer outstanding customer service?

I will vice chair Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods and now be in the position to significantly measure and improve "Customer Service" since I will be actively involved with the largest segment of employees charged with providing it.

I will also Chair a new committee, Law and Risk Management. I will sit on the Parks and Seattle Center Committee, and be an alternate on the Public Safety and Education Committee and Transportation Committee.

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In Michigan, a 93-year-old man Freezes to Death: It Cannot Happen Here!

In January 2009, a 93-year-old Michigan man died as a result of freezing indoors just after the local power company restricted his use of electricity because of unpaid bills. As we approach incredible cold weather, our office monitors what occurs in other cities to make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes.

Our Energy and Technology Committee has taken steps to make sure this does not happen here. Recognizing the challenges our lower income residents have, we required the utility to exert stronger advocacy efforts to generate volunteerism in our electric bill assistance program and this resulted in approximately $258,000 in donations. Based on these efforts, I am proud to report that we have achieved a 17 percent increase in donations from 2008. In 2010, the ETC Committee will approve legislation to accept and allocate almost $800,000 from an Enron settlement to be available for low-income energy assistance. In Seattle, we care about our neighbors and we will continue to take measures to make sure the Michigan tragedy does not happen here.

People must be kept warm!

Project Share Website

Thank you for keeping in touch with me. I look forward to serving you in 2010 and please let me know your thoughts and concerns. Happy Holidays!

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10 Technology Initiatives for 2010!

True, meaningful and positive change:

As part of my work plan, I committed to optimizing the use of technology to increase transparency, enhance access to City information and improve government effectiveness and efficiency. On September 8, 2009, I released a set of groundbreaking technology initiatives for 2010. News of our release reached the inaugural Gov 2.0 Summit held in Washington, D.C. My staff and I developed the initiatives after a thorough review of the City's technology, governmental systems and protocols. Here they are:

  1. Publish and Release City Data in Open Format Migrate to a system where publishing and release of city data are in an open format that is more readable and favorable for programming. This allows the public to use city data in the most appropriate way and enhance its original purpose by allowing data collaboration and integration through mashups and semantic web technologies.

  2. "Apps for Seattle" Contest Declare an "Apps for Seattle" contest and call upon local web developers to program innovative mobile applications and Internet-based applications using open city data.

  3. Use Mobile Phone Applications to Report City Complaints Provide service for mobile phone applications that allow residents to report a city complaint such as potholes, graffiti, streetlight outages, or abandoned vehicles.

  4. Improve City Meetings by using Technology Use web video conferencing tools for meetings conducted by employees, boards and commissions, resulting in reduced travel time, cost and fuel.

  5. Empower City Residents with Technology for Home Energy Provide residents with new personal conservation management tools that allow them to maximize their home energy efficiency.

  6. Improve our Quality of Life with Smart Grid Provide a suite of applications and products that allow residents and businesses to communicate remotely with their security, heating, cooling, and lighting systems. This will increase consumer utilization and awareness of a smart grid network.

  7. One-Stop Access through "My.Seattle.Gov" Deploy a "My.Seattle.gov" Public Engagement Portal that consolidates the city's multiple sign on accounts and provides single sign-on access with features including a customizable interface, status report checks on problems reported, public polling, and enhanced collaboration with the public using tools such as IdeaScale or Google Moderator.

  8. Track Graffiti and Trees Maximize the use of technology in reporting, posting, and tracking photos of graffiti and tree inventory on Google Maps or the city's Geographic Information System (GIS).

  9. Online Public "Wiki" Website Develop a "Wiki" website format for city information that allows online public collaboration, editing and content moderation.

  10. "Green Software" for City-wide Use Implement new city-wide software to reduce the volumes of wasted printed pages at the end of print jobs from the Internet.

As we review our City's budget, it will be critical to make sure our service and transparency to our citizens heightens, not erodes. What we choose to invest in will be critical for our city's success. My goal is to increase accountability and efficiency in local government, while simultaneously engaging our local high-tech industry and spurring entrepreneurs and business. I believe we have an exciting opportunity in front of us as a city and region.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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The Annual Night Out Against Crime: Good Stuff!

Why is it that a neighbor can live five houses away or on the other side of the street and you don't even know their name? Tuesday, August 4, 2009, marked the annual Night Out Against Crime in our city. Night Out is a national crime prevention event designed to increase awareness of crime prevention and increase neighborhood support of anti-crime efforts. Events were held in parks, parking lots and in neighborhood streets. I attended a Night Out event in Genesee Park and two of my staff members, Jennifer Samuels and Michael Jerrett, attended events in Uptown, Meadowbrook and Ravenna.

To learn more about Night Out, please visit the following link: http://www.seattle.gov/Police/nightout/

Night Out events are coordinated by dedicated community members and are a great tool for neighborhood residents to connect with one another, celebrate the spirit of community and learn more about crime prevention. My staff and I enjoyed great company at the events we attended.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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How do we Reduce the Cost of Using Solar Power?
Seattle Community Solar Initiative: A Great Supplement to Hydro

It is well known that our city is a world leader in technology and innovation. We have an opportunity to broaden that distinction with our innovative use of solar energy. At the August 5, 2009, Energy and Technology Committee (ETC) meeting, I directed City Light to present a briefing on Seattle becoming one of 25 "Solar America Cities" under the Department of Energy's (DOE) Solar America Initiative.

A community solar project is similar to the P-Patch community garden model. Instead of installing a system on their own home, community residents voluntarily purchase a share of a large solar project. Participants receive the electricity produced by their share and may have access to the state's Renewable Energy Production Initiative. Currently, the City of Ellensburg has over 70 customers participating in a 100 kW system. To learn more about Ellensburg's project, click: http://www.b-e-f.org/renewables/ellensburg.shtm..

The first step of the project is for City Light to conduct market research of 600 City Light ratepayers about the feasibility of creating a community solar program. The grant from DOE also includes technical and financial assistance from the agency. Funding for the survey will not come from City Light's budget.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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Pie in the Sky: Solar Pie and PEMCO

On September 2, 2009, I had the pleasure of participating in the "Solar Pie" launch event at the PEMCO Building. As you may know, the PEMCO building is somewhat of a landmark. It is well known because of the digital clock on the outside of the building. Over the years, we have all seen the clock when we drive down I-5 or enter downtown. Now, thanks to the not-for-profit organization "Solar Pie," the digital clock will also display the amount of energy generated and carbon offsets produced by a solar photovoltaic installation on the roof of the PEMCO building. By increasing awareness of how much carbon pollution we are reducing and how much energy we are generating from solar, perhaps we can increase our commitment to environmental sustainability. I began my remarks by saying, "Everyone loves a good piece of pie."

Continue reading at my personal blog

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City Light's Positive Energy Program: A Little Neighborly Conservation Competition

Have you ever wondered how your energy consumption compares to that of your neighbor? For the Wednesday, August 5, 2009, Energy and Technology Committee (ETC) meeting, I placed on my agenda City Light's Positive Energy program. It is one of our latest strategies to educate customers on energy usage and promote conservation. As you may know, last year we adopted accelerated conservation as the major element in City Light's Integrated Resource Plan.

With this pilot project, City Light will randomly select 20,000 single family home customers who will be given the proper tools to help reduce their energy consumption and compare it with their neighbors. Similar programs in other cities have demonstrated that these programs lead to significant savings of money and energy. I look forward to seeing the rollout of this pilot project and the possibility for it to be available to all City Light customers in the future.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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Possible Ways for City Light to Decrease Budget Shortfall

As you know from previous postings, City Light is facing a significant budget shortfall because of less-than-projected wholesale revenue. As part of the budget process, I am directing the Utility to take a hard look at reducing expenses that would minimize the impact on customers and employees.

In a letter to Superintendent Carrasco, I proposed cost cutting and revenue generating ideas for City Light to explore which will decrease the budget shortfall and minimize the impact on customer rates. An example would be requiring City Light to dispose of surplus real estate. The intent of the letter is to make sure the Utility remains creative as they look for solutions.

You can read my directive at my personal blog

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Ballard Volunteer is Recognized by the Seattle City Council

Every now and then, an unsung hero in our city emerges. This year, at the Ninth Annual Ballard High School Golf Classic, Ballard High Graduate Jim Vatn was the honoree. In recognition of his work, I asked the Seattle City Council to sign a proclamation honoring Jim for his hard work and dedication, perseverance and commitment to build Ballard High School's sports and music programs into the strong departments they are today.

Jim Vatn graduated from Ballard High School in 1962 and has lived in Ballard all of his life. Through the years, Jim has worked to improve his community and served as a member and chair of Seattle Seafair, the Rotary Club of Ballard, The Swedish Medical Center Board of Governors, Seattle's 17th of May Committee, the University of Washington Department of Scandinavian Studies, the Nordic Heritage Museum, and the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce. Jim also served as an original member of the Seattle Mariners RBI Club.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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Comcast Digital Switch

Now that the over-the-air digital television transition has occurred throughout our country, many of you have become aware of another switch. To better understand this issue, I invited the City's Office of Cable Communications and Comcast to the Energy and Technology Committee on August 5, 2009. The purpose was to brief the Council on the upcoming digital switch for Comcast expanded basic cable customers. Expanded basic cable customers are defined by an analog channel lineup of 30-70 in addition to the limited basic channel lineup. Some 50,000 households in Seattle with Comcast expanded basic cable will need to get a digital adapter (DTA). Similar to the federally mandated over-the-air digital television transition back on June 12, 2009, I want to see this switch go as smoothly as possible.

Bottom line: As the transition date approaches this fall, my office, along with the Office of Cable Communications, will work with Comcast to make sure all customer service representatives are providing the right information and assistance to its valuable customers. If you need to know whether you will need to take action, let me know or you may find the information on the following link: http://www.seattle.gov/Cable/

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New City Communication Tools and Updates to Access Information

We are proud to introduce to you the following tools the City of Seattle is now using to keep you in touch:

  1. Council Facebook Page: Become a fan and get Council news on your wall.


  2. City Council Webpage Update: Minor changes to the Council's homepage to improve readability and navigation.


  3. Seattle CityLink
  4. : Your web portal for city news about the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle City Light, Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, and other departments. The news is published in RSS, so sync it to your RSS reader to automatically get instant updates.

  5. Seattle Twitter Pages: Another tool to receive city information and news from the City Council , Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, and Seattle City Light


  6. Seattle City Clerk Page Update: City Clerk's website to improve readability and navigation.

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Shared Leadership: A Voice from the Past

(Note: Some word play in the title to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 2009.)

On July 20, 2009, I presented legislation before the Full Council to approve $250,000 in Technology Matching Funds for 19 technology based community projects. These funds will help seniors, the disabled, youth and families without resources, members of the immigrant community and others being left behind in the "digital divide." By the 67 applications submitted this year, you can see that there is significant demand by non-profits to improve their technology infrastructure. In most cases, this infrastructure benefits people who would otherwise not have access to computers. Since the inception of the program in 1998, the Technology Matching Fund has awarded over $1.6 million for 134 projects. Funding provided this year will raise the total to $1,850,832 and 153 projects. Only the recipients, as shown in the picture above, could articulate the power of this kind of work. I am honored to be a part of it.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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One Small Step for Digital Inclusion!

(Note: Some word play in the title to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 2009.)

On July 20, 2009, I presented legislation before the Full Council to approve $250,000 in Technology Matching Funds for 19 technology based community projects. These funds will help seniors, the disabled, youth and families without resources, members of the immigrant community and others being left behind in the "digital divide." By the 67 applications submitted this year, you can see that there is significant demand by non-profits to improve their technology infrastructure. In most cases, this infrastructure benefits people who would otherwise not have access to computers. Since the inception of the program in 1998, the Technology Matching Fund has awarded over $1.6 million for 134 projects. Funding provided this year will raise the total to $1,850,832 and 153 projects. Only the recipients, as shown in the picture above, could articulate the power of this kind of work. I am honored to be a part of it.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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City Light Rates Review: Expect Thorough, Detailed Process

As Council begins to examine the City of Seattle's budget, including that of City Light, it has become clear that City Light believes some form of an increase in your electric rates is necessary to sustain its operations. To prevent a rate increase in 2009, we reduced City Light's O&M costs by $20 million and capital spending by $40 million. Currently, we are in the midst of assembling a Rate Advisory Committee which will be a key element to our thorough analysis of City Light's rates. On June 16, 2009, I sent a strong policy letter to Superintendent Carrasco clearly stating my position. I expect a thorough process with conclusions built on sound analysis. City Light is proud to provide the lowest residential and commercial electrical rates amongst comparably sized cities in the United States and my goal as Chair is to keep this competitive advantage for our city. The policy directions we are sending to the Utility are intended to do precisely that.

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A Place for your Mother-in-Law?

Currently, the City Council's Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee is discussing the possibility of allowing Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs), commonly known as backyard cottages, throughout the city. In 2006, the City Council approved legislation that permitted backyard cottages only in Southeast Seattle. To date, only 17 have been built. The proposed legislation will limit them to 50 per year. While I did express some policy concerns regarding the impact that unlimited construction of backyard cottages could have on neighborhoods zoned only for single families, the ones I toured were pretty cool and a great addition to the housing inventory for our city. I am supportive of the approach used by the City to embrace smart and limited construction on underutilized space and at the same time, preserve the beauty of single family residences.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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City Light and Microsoft: A Tool to Conserve Energy and Save YOU Money

I am thrilled to tell you about Seattle City Light's recent partnership with Microsoft which provides City Light customers with a free online application called Hohm. Hohm analyzes users' energy data, home features and appliances, then provides personalized energy saving recommendations. I know that many of you are conscientious about your energy usage and I believe this tool can assist you in that effort. A part of my platform has been to find and use the smartest software applications to conserve energy, improve customer service and run government operations more efficiently. I believe the Hohm application takes us in the right direction.

To sign up or learn more about Hohm click here.

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Commencement for Seattle's High School Graduates!

Academic achievement is the cornerstone to success in our country. I take great heed in its progress. I was honored to speak at Ingraham High School and Garfield High School commencement ceremonies. I was proud and humbled to stand with these new graduates and I look forward to the opportunity to push for and demand that we raise our academic sights even higher. It is amazing that many of these young kids understand environmental sustainability, technology applications and embrace a sense of community; that they are part of something bigger than themselves. The City Council was recently given a briefing on the graduation rates of Seattle School District students. It was fascinating how, using the exact same data and representative class, the graduation rate significantly changes depending on the methodology used to track it. By examining the right graduation rates, it can allow us to effectively identify the early indicators and tipping points for failing students. According to the data, race, gender and free lunch status are not the indicators.

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Sound Transit's Light Rail Opening: People Will Come

After decades of debate, light rail has finally opened and Seattle can proudly list it as one of its transportation choices. I rode on its maiden voyage. The opening of the new 14-mile segment is a great start to what I hope will be an expansive system that moves people efficiently. I believe that light rail will be the back-bone of our continued growth. The average cost per adult is approximately $69 per year through the duration of construction. I believe this is a sound investment for the way our children will be traveling in the future.

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The Definition of a Fighter and Advocate: Bob Markholt

We lost one of my heroes on July 19, 2009. Bob Markholt passed away from complications of lymphoma at age 72. Bob was a tenured faculty member at the Seattle Vocational Institute (SVI) and head of the Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training Program (PACT). The success of the program Bob built made it a model for similar programs nationwide.

On May 6, 2009, as Bob was battling lymphoma, he testified before my Energy and Technology Committee. He was there to advocate for one of his graduates who he felt was being treated unfairly by City Light's Line Worker Apprenticeship program.

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Stimulus Funds: The Smartest Way to Use Them

As our country continues to explore new ways to emerge stronger from this economic downturn, the lens through which I view the use of stimulus funds prompts the inquiry: is it sustainable? I do not want Seattle set up for failure in 2 or 3 years because of an unwise reliance on stimulus money. To that end, I am excited about uses of stimulus funds that promote sustainable jobs, cost saving and energy saving measures. Light Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights are a good example of using stimulus money to fund a project which will save the City money and decrease our carbon footprint.

Thanks to the efforts of our Executive Department, our City was allocated $6.1 million in stimulus funds as part of the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program. The Mayor initially considered using $500,000 for two LED pilot projects on non-residential arterial roads. Based on open, transparent and meaningful discussions regarding the $6.1 million, I continued to advocate for monies to be used for residential LED streetlights. I believed this use of stimulus funds would also fit nicely into our other work to improve city streetlight services, such as repairing lights in groups or phases instead of replacing them only when they fail. The final package describing our use of EECBG funds will now include funding for LED residential streetlights in the amount of $1 million! I believe this is a good investment and I am confident it will be the catalyst to ensuring all of our streets will be illuminated by LED streetlights in the not-too-distant-future. I am grateful that the Mayor has chosen to invest in LEDs more aggressively and our city will be better for this choice.

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Streetlights: Defining the health, culture and vibrancy of a community

Have you ever called in a burned out or flickering streetlight to City Light and were told that it would take six to eight months to repair-even a year? Have you called and were told the light would be repaired in a certain timeframe and it took much longer than expected or wasn't fixed at all? For the last month, we have communicated with hundreds of residents who have told us their stories.

To fix the problem, on May 27, 2009, I announced my support of a solution to speed up streetlight repair by using $2.1 million that was allocated in the 2009-2010 general fund budget and allow for it to be spent earlier. By accelerating the work and assigning more crews on regular time to repair streetlights, City Light's goal by the end of 2009 will be to respond to reported outages within 10 days.

Operation and maintenance of streetlights is a basic service that the City of Seattle pays City Light from its general fund. Seattle is basically a large customer and it pays a tariff rate designed to cover the costs to maintain and repair streetlights in a timely manner. The cost to light streets represents one of the largest components of a city government's utility bill and, simply put, the bill has been paid.

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One on One with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke

On June 3rd, I attended the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD) conference in Washington D.C. The conference served as an opportunity for community groups across America to engage in roundtable discussion with congressional staff, discuss the President's initiatives, and the impact and direction at the local level. Our work on Seattle's Housing Levy was of interest to many community development leaders across the country.

I also scheduled and attended a meeting with former Governor and current Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke. One of the main operating functions of the Department of Commerce is economic development and minority business development-these are two issues that have been an integral part of my work plan. In my meeting with Secretary Locke, I introduced the concept of our Minority Business Toolkit. Also, on June 16, 2009, I announced the toolkit at the 14th Annual Report to the Community Luncheon presented by the UW Foster School of Business and Economic Development Center. As chair of the Prosperity Partnership Performance First Committee, I worked with the University of Washington's Business Economic Development Center to develop the Minority Business Toolkit. This toolkit allows large businesses to have the "tools" to do business with smaller, minority businesses. It also makes the "business case" of profitability to support our proposition that doing business with minority businesses should be a core strategy to leverage the diverse marketplace, workplace and changing demographics of our world. Secretary Locke and I had a great working discussion about how we can leverage our work to create jobs, opportunities and prosperous partnerships.

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The Perfect Storm: The Seattle Storm

The Seattle Storm embarked on their tenth season on Saturday, June 6th, with a victory over the Monarchs in Sacramento. SWEET! On Sunday, June 7th, I had the opportunity to read a proclamation before the tip-off of their home opener, declaring it Seattle Storm Day. I was joined on the floor by my colleague, Councilmember Jan Drago. The energy in the Key was electric as the Storm went on to win the game 80-70. More than 9,000 people attended the game. They let their voices be heard, as they expressed their adoration for the team. When I watch the Storm, I am always very impressed with their selfless style of play and the crowd's die-hard enthusiasm.

I cannot say enough about the impact sports has in Seattle. Let's not underestimate its importance on morale, business generation, mentorship, revenue and our sense of community. It was my pleasure to honor the Storm. I look forward to another exciting, successful season. Go Storm!

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The 2009 Housing Levy: Now Let the Voters Speak

The Seattle City Council has been working diligently on finalizing legislation that would put a 7-year, 2009 Housing Levy on the November 2009 ballot. The goal: Affordable housing. We held 8 public meetings and many of us reviewed enormous amounts of written materials to develop, what we believed was a great package to place on the November ballot. On June 15th, the Full Council unanimously approved legislation supporting the final package for the voters. This is not a new levy. It is a renewal of a levy which voters have approved since 1981 (three levies and one bond). I want to thank Councilmember Richard McIver for chairing the Housing Levy Committee of the Whole and for his leadership in shaping a good package. The $145 million proposal will pencil out to about $79 annually in cost to the average homeowner. A recent survey shows that 73 percent of our citizens support continued investment in housing. This demonstrates the generous nature of our city. We have done our part on the Council. In November, it will be up to the voters to decide.

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No to Wasteful Spending: Snow response consultant

At the May 26, 2009, Full Council, I opposed legislation that would allow the Seattle Transportation Department (SDOT) to spend between $100,000 - $200,000 to hire a consultant to look into the December snow storm response and our overall emergency preparedness in SDOT. I believed the one time outside consultant cost of $200,000 should not be necessary because this scope of work should be part of the core function and business at SDOT. The Seattle Times reported SDOT paid a consultant over $515,000 to investigate workplace issues dealing with its employees, many of whom do snow response work. That consultant interviewed over 114 people. How does that improve service to you?

I want SDOT to have the internal expertise and develop the algebra behind a smart plan. Even though these severe winter storms only hit Seattle once in a decade, I have been blunt in saying, "This is not brain surgery." Regardless of the limited experience to snow storm responses in this region, staff at SDOT and Emergency Management Operations should be working with other jurisdictions on an annual basis to study residential plowing policies, use of salt, use of carbide blades, communication and coordination plans, and other procedural and operational functions during a snow storm response at no additional cost to the City. As I stated repeatedly during committee discussions and council briefings, this type of work should already be part of each Councilmember's committee and department work plan. As chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, I worked closely with Seattle City Light and the Department of Information Technology to review emergency management policies this past year. I have suggested to my colleagues that as they oversee their respective committees, they should include emergency management reviews that are appropriate to the departments they oversee and include it as an annual item on their work program.

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We Did It! A Successful Digital Transition: One down, one more to go!

Similar to the Y2K bug almost a decade ago, the switch at 9:00 a.m. on June 12th from analog to digital television passed by without any significant issues. This switch to digital was the biggest change to television since color television in the 1960s. We are only a few weeks removed from the transition and there are still a few folks out there who still need our help. But the lack of calls requesting help coming into the City is a sign that Seattle was ready for the digital television transition. The outreach and coordination by my office in the last 500+ days with local community groups, the City's Office of Cable Communications, federal agencies, and my colleagues on the Council proved to be significant and successful in making sure that the ten percent of households in this area that receive over-the-air broadcasts made the appropriate preparations to continue receiving their over-the-air television signal. Access to TV is not just about watching the Price is Right in the morning or Jeopardy at night. It is about being able to receive the news, weather, community information, current cultural events, and emergency information. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the countless individuals who made this transition go smoothly.

Now, while I would like to say we are done with the words digital and transition, there is another upcoming digital transition occurring separately from the federal digital television transition. In October, Comcast will upgrade a set of channels to digital and will provide digital transport adapters to those affected in the Seattle area.

Continue reading at my personal blog

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Would You Like Your Kung Pao in a Compostable Container?

Last year, as part of the plastic bag fee legislation, the City Council passed a bill which prohibits food service businesses from serving food in containers made of expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam). The legislation was created because the disposal of Styrofoam creates a burden on the city's solid waste system and is harmful to the environment. While the environmental aspect is cause for concern, I am also uneasy about the economic burden that food establishments face as they switch to compostable products. I have advanced an idea for the City to consider: Establishment of a buying co-op where local food service businesses could combine their collective buying power to reduce the cost of compostable products.

Continue reading on my personal blog.

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Open Government: No Closed Door Meetings

For the record, I never participated in any four-person meetings that became the subject of recent headlines regarding private budget meetings. Five is the magic number in a nine-member council. As Councilmember Sam Smith would say, "Five makes policy." However, I believe establishing a "rolling quorum" by rotating smaller groups below five is unlawful and a breach of public trust. That is why I agreed to Co-Chair the Council's Special Committee on Open Government. The goal of this committee is to ensure that all City departments implement best practices for open meetings and public-records disclosures.

Continue reading on my personal blog.

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Landfill Methane Gas = Turning Waste Into Energy

Recently, I was successful in getting legislation passed that allows Seattle City Light to enter into a 20-year renewable power purchase agreement with Waste Management Renewable Energy LLC (WM). The passage of this legislation adds another element to City Light's renewable energy portfolio which is required by I-937 to show that 15 percent of all power is generated by new and renewable sources by 2020.

WM plans to build, own and operate a 6.4 MW electric generating facility at the Columbia Ridge landfill site in Arlington, Oregon. Energy is created by the decomposition of waste in landfills which produces methane gas. In turn, the gas is used to fuel engine or turbine driven electricity generators. This new energy is expected to be online by October 2009.

Continue reading on my personal blog.

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The Countdown to the Digital Television Transition on June 12th

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How can you not know about the digital switch to over-the-air television signals occurring in our country on June 12th? You would be surprised. About 20,000 households in Seattle are still not prepared. On May 13th, 2009, I held a press conference with members from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the City's Office of Cable Communications and Information Technology. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a media release in the U. S. Department of Commerce News stating, "The Department of Commerce is aggressively reaching out to the most unprepared communities across the country, including Seattle, to help them get ready for the June 12th national switch. I commend Councilmember Bruce Harrell and the entire Seattle City Council for their work to help educate Seattle residents about the upcoming digital transition."

Continue reading on my personal blog.

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Seattle City Light Financial Situation: It is Time to Get Creative

You may have tuned in to the Energy and Technology Committee meeting of April 1, 2009, and heard the presentation and ensuing discussion with City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco. The presentation painted a dire picture. In my opinion, the Utility's proposed solution to cut some core customer service elements were presented as a precursor to a request for a rate increase. On April 9th, 2009, Council President Richard Conlin and I co-wrote a letter to the Superintendent, requesting that the Utility re-examine many of their cuts. I believe some may be ill-advised and could possibly produce unintended consequences. For example, cutting costs in tree trimming—which is designed to reduce the frequency of power outages—may not produce the actual savings we desire. The costs of increased outages may offset the savings. Also, City Light's proposed cuts to conservation may not recognize the value of conservation by the freeing up of energy and therefore may overstate the net savings to the Utility. When making budget cuts, I would like the net savings to be measurable, predictable, quantifiable...and, most of all...real.

Continue reading on my personal blog.

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Recycling CFLs: An Update and what to do with your old TV and Computer

In my March 10, 2009, E-newsletter, I informed you of an idea I am working on where citizens would be able to properly recycle their used CFL bulbs at Seattle Public Library locations. Our initial meeting with representatives from the Library and Seattle Public Utilities resulted in some initial concern. The discussion surrounded whether libraries are equipped to handle the disposal issue, as well as whether the effective marketing of the current disposal sites could solve the issues. We are currently drafting a written response to those concerns and our letter will be posted to my website for your convenience. The bottom line: The current system is not working and industry experts believe that nationwide, only 2 percent of us correctly dispose of CFLs. Our office will conduct its own field research and work with the City's departments to get in front of this issue. Stay tuned and remember, those twisty bulbs have mercury in them!

And while we are on the subject of proper disposal, when you purchased your new digital television, chances are, your old TV found a new home in your basement or garage. When your old desktop and monitor or laptop was pushed aside by new units, they probably met up with your old TV in the basement or garage. Since then, you have probably been wondering how you can dispose of them in a responsible manner. Well, I have good news for you. Most area Goodwill stores are now accepting these items. All items in good working condition will be resold in the store. Items which do not work will be recycled. The net proceeds from sales will be utilized to support Goodwill's free job training and education programs.

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Expanded Utility Bill Assistance

The day after my March 10th, 2009, E-newsletter was dispersed, Mayor Greg Nickels announced changes to the City's utility rate assistance programs. More citizens will become eligible to receive assistance with their electric and water bills. The changes in the program are expected to increase participation by approximately 1,000 residents. I have been very supportive of this effort, as demonstrated by my successful advocacy of $100,000 to promote an electric bill assistance program.

Specifically, under the Low-Income Rate Assistance program, families of four with a yearly income of $53,124 or less are eligible for a 50 percent reduction on their utility bills for up to 18 months.

To find out more about this and other programs, click here.

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Electronic Billing: Save some green and keep us green!

computer screen

For the last two years, I have pushed our City to reduce its expenses by using paperless billing systems as an option for those customers who want it. We can reduce labor, postage cost, paper use and time. This will save some green and keep us green. Last month, the new Electronic Billing and Payment System was rolled out online for all Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities customers. I was involved in the beta testing prior to its launch. To sign up, please click here.

My review of the data from 2007 showed that Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities sent out 3.6 million bills over postal mail annually, costing approximately $875,000 in postage. Originally, an older E-Billing system allowed customers the option to continue receiving their paper bill. This is no longer an option. Once you enroll into E-Billing, you will no longer receive a paper bill. The reason for the opt-in, paper opt-out alteration was that the trend in E-Billing showed that less than 10 percent would opt out of paper billing after signing up for E-Billing. For both small and big businesses and building managers, managing bills just got easier and maybe less expensive, because multiple accounts can be managed from this E-Billing system.

Continue reading about E-Billing on my personal blog.

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Return Your Books, Recycle Your CFLs: A New Idea and Approach

light bulb

Consumer use of Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) is on the rise and it is a safe bet to say that the increase is going to continue. As you may already know, each CFL has a small amount of mercury in it, which makes convenient, safe disposal an emerging problem. I am examining the feasibility of utilizing Seattle Public Library sites as places where citizens can dispose of their used CFL bulbs. My goal is to take advantage of the fact that most citizens know the location of their neighborhood public library and we can forego the expense of purchasing new disposal sites. In addition, by acting in a preventative manner, we can avoid spending money in the future to clean up the problem. I will examine the feasibility of this policy and keep you informed.

For more details on CFLs and my disposal idea, please visit my personal blog.

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Calling All Citizens: Jail is not a pretty word or concept

jail

Seattle should be known for building castles for education--not jails for crime. What structures we build reflect on how we see our growth. We have a problem. Yes, Seattle is continually listed as one of the most desirable places to live in our country. We are known for our great people, entrepreneurial spirit, great neighborhoods, commitment to environmental sustainability, and beautiful natural environment. We have a low rate of crime and, as of mid-2008, the frequency of major crime was 11 percent lower than the previous year. In addition, while Seattle's population has increased by 8 percent over the last 10 years, the municipal misdemeanor jail population has decreased nearly 40 percent during that same period. Despite this decline, King County is requiring that Seattle and other cities discontinue their use of King County Jail for misdemeanor offenders by December 31, 2012.

The County has based its decision on a King County Jail population study which found that King County will need all of the space in its jail facilities to house their own felony offenders by 2015. Also, there are significant concerns raised about the racial and socio-economic disparity connected to the arrest, prosecution and sentencing during the criminal process. As Seattle faces these challenges, I am at the planning table forcing an open discussion regarding our priorities and our values. Nobody should be proud of building a jail and my job is to make sure that all of our planning visualizes the success of our citizens, not their failure.

To learn more about my work on this issue, please visit my personal blog.

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Seattle Trees Can Rest Easy-Open Season is Over

trees

On February 23, 2009, the Full Council passed Council Bill 116404, better known as the Emergency Tree Ordinance. I voted in favor of this legislation. However, I expressed my reservations about the legislation as I voiced my vote. I fully agree that our declining tree inventory is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. However, local legislation that dictates what individuals can and cannot do with their private property needs to be balanced with the utmost of caution. When a permanent tree ordinance is discussed in 6 months, I plan to initiate discussion of tree planting incentives which I believe will be more effective than a complaint driven, unmonitored, punitive measure. I would like to increase our tree canopy. I remain concerned that legislation regarding tree inventory, when triggered by a complaint process, is not inventory control since no monitoring takes place until a complaint is filed. Inventory control is achieved by first conducting a count, then crea ting incentives to plant, coupled with a count of what trees have been lost. This legislation does not quite get us there yet.

To learn more about my position on the Emergency Tree Ordinance please visit my blog posting from December 22, 2008 on my personal blog.

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Would it Stop Snowing Already! An Update on the City's Winter Storm Response Plan

report cover

On February 20, 2009, Council held another briefing regarding the December 2008 Winter Storm response. The briefing was the last of 4 scheduled briefings as a result of the "illegal procedure penalty" by the City (excuse my football reference). The "After Action Report" and "Corrective Action Plan" was presented and discussed by Council. Each department with a role in the snow storm submitted a "Corrective Action Plan." Implementation of all the new policies in the action plan will be completed by September 2009. The action plan included 68 areas for improvement covering 12 agencies and departments.

As mentioned in an earlier blog posting, there was an overarching problem of determining the severity and duration of the storm and the lack of measures in place for different snow advisory conditions (from low to severe). More specifically, I saw two major problems in the City's and County's snow response: (1) snow plowing and (2) lack of communication among agencies. There should be a common sense approach in identifying the different response plan if 12 inches of snow falls over a 14-day period compared to the average 2 inch accumulation. While this winter storm was the most severe snow storm in the last 20 years, the City should not use it as an excuse for not adequately addressing their ability to clear the city streets in the interest of public safety and movement of people and goods. The Executive and Council's main function is to be preemptive and review all possible scenarios.

Continue reading my update on the City's winter storm response on my personal blog.

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A Proposed Water Rate Surcharge of 143%? I don't think so!

fire hydrant

The following is an excerpt from my blog posting which describes my opposition to proposed legislation that in effect, charges the water ratepayers for ALL of the costs of a legal liability. I proposed a different approach which Councilmembers referred to as the "Harrell proposal". I was very pleased that many of my colleagues appeared as supporting my proposal, demonstrating their commitment to you as a ratepayer. Ultimately my colleagues chose to go with "Option A" which refuses to examine their own city budget and imposes a 10.2% surcharge on water rates, pushing all the costs to its citizens. I did not support this option because it exhibits "business as usual." I advocated looking for creative ways to correct this problem.

History: Until January 1, 2005, the City did not pay for its fire hydrant services through its general fund. Instead, the City paid for these emergency services through water rates administered by Seattle Public Utilities. On March 1, 2005, the City was sued in Lane v. City of Seattle. The court determined that the City's method of charging Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) customers for fire hydrants through water bills was improper. The Court ordered over $20 million in refunds to water ratepayers. In order to pay for the refund, the Mayor proposed increasing the rates 143% with a temporary surcharge. In addition, the Mayor proposed increasing the utility tax rate from 15.54% to 24.75%. This would, in effect require the public to pay for all of the legal liability.

My Position and Concern: While it is clear the City is trying to creatively address a legal liability that was not the fault of its ratepayers, the proposed legislation in effect pushes the full brunt of the liability to the ratepayers. For individuals, retirees, homeowners, renters, small businesses, large businesses, non-profits, and others, this raises the issue as to when we recognize that taxing these captive "customers" who need water services as the least desirable option. I proposed the City examine SPU's budget, the City's budget and make adjustments to pay for the refund and only impose a surcharge and tax to the extent it equals the refund. This would equal a surcharge of 7.3%, not the 10.2% supported by the Council. This approach was intended to avoid an increase in your existing water rates and utility tax, while still paying for the liability. Read my complete position on my personal blog.

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2009 Work Plan for Seattle City Light: A New Beginning

Seattle City Light

As a policy leader for City Light, I view this organization as more than a public power Utility. These times demand that we adjust our thinking. I am suggesting that we view the public Utility as a regional strategic tool for a green economy; an economic driver; a job creator; and as a competitive advantage for Seattle in the world economy. An element of the 2009 work plan is to examine and improve City Light's Strategic Plan by developing a prioritization of capital projects with the intent to create a predictable rate schedule. I am suggesting that the City take a new approach to strategic planning by taking a critical look at how Capital Improvement Projects have been historically approved. City Light's Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is a $2 billion document and is a vehicle for maintaining, upgrading, and expanding on the Utility's infrastructure. The 2009 work plan will examine the CIP and set criteria as to how projects are approved. The bottom line is that the approach I am taking should result in the savings of huge amounts of money and decrease wasted time. The end result will be cost effective, reliable and predictable rates and service.

Read about the 2009 SCL work plan in greater detail on my personal blog.

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Inauguration of President Obama: My Experience and Thoughts

January 20, 2009, Washington D.C.

President Obama and Councilmember Harrell

On the morning of January 20, 2009, my wife, Joanne, and I awoke at 4:00 am, in a relative's home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. We arrived at the Park and Ride (which is also known as a "Kiss and Ride") at 5:00 a.m. to get on the one hour rapid transit system known as "Metro." The other riders were all excited about the events of the day and the only topic of conversation was the inauguration. We made about 10 friends who were sitting around us when they found out Joanne and I were from Seattle. When we arrived around the Capitol, we immediately found a Starbucks close by for our obligatory coffee and oatmeal and then we headed for the Purple section to see patrons who were already in line. The ground control and organization of the lines were incredibly bad or more accurately stated, nonexistent, which required some strategy and confidence to find out how to position myself and Joanne for, what can only be described as a determined posture of entrance. We were literally smashed with Americans on every side of each other, but we held hands to avoid separation. When in line, we ran into Deborah Horne from KIRO TV and shared some thoughts with her. We finally got inside the gates and passed security and positioned ourselves with new-found friends to experience a "once in a lifetime" celebration.

Read more about this wonderful experience on my personal blog.

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Digital Television Transition Update

On Thursday, February 5, 2009, Congress delayed the digital television transition until June 12, 2009. The bill allows broadcasting stations to cease analog transmission at any date between Feb. 17th (original date) and June 12th (new date). Many of the major broadcasting stations have made the decision to cease analog broadcast on June 12th instead of the original Feb. 17th date, allowing more time for those who are not prepared.

The latest estimate for unprepared Seattle residents was 31,000 households.

For those who are still not ready, read about the history and a summary of the why, what, and how of DTV on my personal blog.

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Youth Mentoring Update

Seattle Mentoring Movement

I am asking the City to accept a major role in coordinating and promoting a city-wide effort to use mentoring as a strategic tool to increase the effectiveness of its young citizenry. This has not been done before. The purist may demand strict obedience to the City's charter regarding the provision of essential services such as police, fire and roads. But even the purist cannot refute the business proposition that having more capable and productive young adults is cheaper than arresting, prosecuting, and criminalizing youth, as well as providing legal redress to the unfortunate victims.

I am in the process of developing a city-wide database for all organizations capable of providing competent mentoring services. I expect this database to be complete by the first quarter of 2009. This spring, I will convene several elected officials and organizational leaders in a one-day workshop where we will develop a plan to coordinate our efforts city-wide. I will explore how the City can best use its technology platform to complement some of the on-line mentoring services that exist today. The City will coordinate (not replicate) the fine organizations that exist with the intent that, through a combined and coordinated effort, we will recruit and encourage more adults willing to mentor and most importantly, more young adults mentored. The City will make sure that every mentor has the tools to succeed in their mentoring relationship. For the many organizations whose core mission is to mentor, they will know they have the Mayor, Council, and the City's workforce behind them.

Read more and learn how mentoring changed my life on my personal blog.

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Electric Rates will not increase in 2009!

As chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, I have direct oversight of Seattle City Light, with the goal of ensuring low, stable rates, excellent customer care and the highest standards of reliability.

I have implemented policies that ensure your rates remain the lowest among comparably sized cities. My most recent action was leading the Council's work on City Light's proposed 2009-2010 budget. I believe City Light can be the best public utility in the nation and my policy decisions are made with the intent to see that goal fulfilled. In July 2008, J.D. Power and Associates showed that City Light is ranked number five among midsize west coast public power utilities. The entire department must be commended, from the Executive Team on down to the invaluable employees, for their work on making City Light an industry leader. Taking this into consideration, the Utility's budget presented me with some tough decisions. The Council identified approximately $18 million in capital expenses and operating costs that we did not approve. I advocated for these reductions without jeopardizing the Utility's execution of its strategic plan or its 5-year conservation plan. For example, I am pleased to announce that in 2008 we exceeded our energy savings goal by saving enough energy to power 8,500 homes for one year. We recently secured a long term contract with the Bonneville Power Administration to maintain our ability to acquire 40 percent of City Light's energy load with clean, low-cost hydroelectric power for the next two decades. We are working hard to keep rates low, conserve resources and maintain reliable service to your homes.

In addition to being strategically and fiscally responsible with City Light's proposed budget, I advocated for the aforementioned 5-Year Conservation Plan and the Integrated Resource Plan which emphasizes accelerated conservation as its main element. The goal of these plans is to increase conservation efforts and emphasize the utilization of renewable and alternative forms of energy. Both of these plans are designed to reduce customer energy bills and promote environmental sustainability.

The conservation efforts underway at the Utility will save customers nearly $5 million per year. In the next 5 years, City Light will invest $185 million to help customers double their energy savings. This investment is seven times the national per capita average and will save customers at least $310 million over the duration of the programs and create approximately 1,000 green jobs.

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Strategic Partnership

Seattle City Light

At the September 17th meeting of the Energy and Technology Committee, the Committee took BOLD action to vote down the passage of Seattle City Light's "Strategic Partnership policy." Legislation was proposed to the Committee which would have authorized City Light to execute a contract with an Indiana-based company to perform significant elements of its surplus or wholesale energy trading functions. This trading activity can result in over $125 million of City Light's revenue. City Light currently performs these functions in-house. However, Committee members Richard Conlin, Jean Godden, and Richard McIver and I expressed significant reservations with the proposal and this became very evident as the meeting progressed. As Committee Chair, I advocated that the Utility and its customers would be better served by building this function in-house with its own employees and thus owning the institutional knowledge and systems that will result from this investment. This "think-long" approach, I believe, is critical to sustaining a high-performance organization.

You may be asking why does City Light engage in the activity of power trading? By the very nature of its power portfolio, City Light has no choice but to be an active participant in the wholesale power market. Revenue from that activity typically accounts for 20 to 25 percent of its total revenue annually and offsets revenue that would otherwise have to come from ratepayers.

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Looking Out for the Less Fortunate

Seattle City Light

You may know of a Seattle City Light program called Project Share. I will explain the program to you and describe why I took action to ensure a greater awareness of it.

Project Share is a donation driven program designed to assist low income citizens with their electric bills. When City Light customers pay their bills, they can include a donation within the bill to assist low income citizens. During the peak season of 2008, the funds that had been donated to Project Share were not able to keep pace with the need for assistance. As of March 2008, the number of pledges was below normal levels. During the budget process, I took the action of adding $100,000 to City Light's budget to fund promotional activities that will garner awareness of Project Share and increase donations. During a cold winter, it will be critical to make funding available to citizens who, for one reason or another, are not able to meet their basic human needs. In the coming months, I will be exploring methods of promoting Project Share. I believe in tapping the power of citizens to help others less fortunate.

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Citizen Engagement Portal Initiative

In September of 2007, I announced the Citizen Engagement Portal initiative. With the Mayor and Council working together, I WAS SUCCESSFUL IN GETTING FUNDING for this initiative. I am driving this initiative under the premise that as a governing body we have not prioritized a communication strategy or policy that truly captures the preferences of our citizenry. This concerns me, because there are many citizens who do not participate in the process and therefore, their voices are not heard. Often, many initiatives are driven by a vocal minority. The Citizen Engagement Portal will cultivate a culture of greater transparency and get more people involved. With more than 83% of Seattle residents on the Internet, Seattle is one of the most wired cities in the U.S. We must maximize our ability to directly communicate with each citizen and better understand their opinions. This will give the Council a better understanding of where citizens stand on major policy issues affecting our city. Development of the project is on track by first implementing a "single-sign-on' feature at Seattle.Gov. This will allow citizens of Seattle to create an online account and more easily access city services online. Expansion to an online-polling system and additional services will come later. Stay tuned.

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Youth Mentoring Initiative

Youth Mentoring Initiative

The headline on the morning of Monday, November 24, 2008 read "11 shot, one stabbed; three dead, no arrests: Only thing in common is young age." Granted, a weekend this violent is not the norm, but it is indicative of a year where we have seen a significant rise in youth violence in our region. My concern does not end with stopping violence. I am also concerned for the kids who are labeled as "at risk" and for kids who are underperforming. I also believe kids have an absolute right to be safe at all times and in particular, when they are walking to and from school. So many Seattle kids are in danger of being undereducated, unemployable, or falling through the cracks, many walk in fear. They need help from city leaders. I am driving the Youth Mentoring Initiative, because I believe in the power of mentors and the effect of helping kids change their self-image and building their self-esteem. As city leaders, we will provide the framework for a city-wide, coordinated strategy to help these future adults increase their effectiveness and become productive members in Seattle. We will take blame out of the equation and our City's policies will rely on the strength of a city-wide mentoring community.

Our City's 2009-2010 budget allocates $8 million for the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, of which, $264,000 is set aside for Youth Mentoring. Statistics show that kids who are involved in a Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program are 52 percent less likely to skip school, 46 percent less likely to start using illegal drugs, 33 percent less likely to use violence to solve problems, and 97 percent less likely to be involved with juvenile-justice authorities. If a solution is proven to be 97 percent effective, shouldn't it be widely supported? Along with Tina Podlodowski, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, I am calling for the citizens of Seattle to work together to enhance the goal of reducing violence and to add the goal of producing empowered, responsible young men and women through mentoring. By taking a proactive approach, we can help ensure at risk youth are not exposed to the influence of the local drug dealer or gang member, but are given a greater opportunity to have positive influences in their lives. The high school graduation rate in our city is at approximately 67 percent, the national average is 70 percent. I believe that as a city, together we should set a goal to surpass the national average by 5 percent. With a strong mentoring program, I believe this is entirely possible.

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Funding For Seattle Flood Areas

King County

I am proud to represent the City of Seattle on the King County Flood Control Zone District Advisory Committee. This committee works on flooding issues in King County, of which, Seattle is included. I am pleased to announce that under my advocacy and leadership, the City of Seattle will receive approximately $5.3 million next year for flooding projects. The projects include $2.25 million for the South Park Pump Station; $2.35 million for the Thornton Creek confluence project; $700,000 for the mouth of the Tolt River.

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We will Use Technology to Save Money and Create Efficiencies: City Consolidates Desktop Software

After evaluating the City's use of network technology, email, file storage, and other technology functions, we passed an ordinance to streamline the City's desktop software and move its operations to a uniform, common platform. In the near future, we will be working closely with the City's Department of Information Technology to upgrade its software on a predictable schedule. In addition to switching vendors, the City will now be using products and services that better serve the City's technological and economical interests.

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I Won't Support Nanny Politics: I Have Begun a Citizen Engagement Initiative

I recently released an initiative calling for the development of a "Citizen Engagement Portal". As a Councilmember, an important part of our job is communicating with constituents by e-mail, telephone, meetings, and public hearings to understand the concerns of our citizens. However, even with this outreach, I have concluded that we have not prioritized a communication strategy or policy that captures and quantifies the preferences of the vast majority of citizens who do not historically participate in the public process. This tool can be incorporated into the City's website and will solicit and quantify feedback from the public to help shape and enhance public policy and major initiatives. Eighty-three percent of Seattle residents use the Internet and have a computer at home. Seattle is one of the most wired cities in the United States. As follows, Seattle should continue to be at the forefront of how municipalities use technology to engage its citizens. Through this portal, the Council will be able to quantify citizen feedback on major City initiatives and citizens will have the option to receive legislative notices and information that may affect their neighborhood or interests.

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Demonstrated Commitment to Low Electrical Rates!

Based on my commitment to pursue and maintain policies that ensure low, consistent, and predictable rates for City Light customers, I passed the Integrated Resource Plan for Seattle City Light which emphasized accelerated conservation as its predominant resource with subsequent alternative sources such as wind and geothermal. I advocated for a Five-Year Conservation Plan which is a cost-effective energy resource that reduces customer energy bills and promotes environmental sustainability. Also, my committee recently passed a "risk management" policy that optimizes City Light's ability to trade surplus power in an increasingly complex open market. In order to serve customers, City Light must generate more power than it needs and also be prepared to meet customer load requirements in the event of a very low water year in City Light's hydro system. The asence of this policy was a major factor that led to the financial crisis and subsequent rate hikes that customers faced in the early 2000's. These initiatives are imperative to ensure that rates remain stable. I will continue to drive policies that are financially responsible for you. My goal is to employ a customer service approach to the City's utility policies.

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