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Point of View

March 2005 - Issue No. 11
City Hall perspectives
from Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the March edition of Point of View.

In this month's newsletter, I highlight issues currently being considered in Congress and our State Legislature that affect key programs and policies that touch almost everyone in Seattle. I'll describe what the Council is doing to call attention to these issues and oppose proposals at other levels of government that could harm Seattle's residents and neighborhoods.

In late February the Council made a final decision with regard to the siting of a new homeless service center in Downtown Seattle. I led this process and will share the outcome and next steps for moving this project forward. I'll also update you on a unique Seattle program, the Housing Levy, and let you know where I'll be in the community in the next few weeks.

I am honored to represent you on the Seattle City Council. As always, I look forward to hearing from you about any topic or issues of interest.

Best regards,

Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Councilmember
Chair, Housing, Human Services and Health Committee
http://www.seattle.gov/council/rasmussen


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In this issue:



Fighting to protect federal funding for working families and small businesses


More than 200 people gather at City Hall to
rally against President Bush's proposed cuts
to critical local programs.

Each year, the City of Seattle receives nearly $15 million in what's called "Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG)" funding from the Federal Government's Department of Housing and Urban Development. These dollars allow the City to fund programs that help people develop new skills and find jobs, pay for shelters, provide affordable housing, support child care and health services for low-income families, and assist neighborhood improvements and small business with loans and infrastructure improvements.

President Bush proposed to cut $1.8 billion from the CDBG budget beginning in 2006. Ironically the Administration is calling this proposal "Strengthening America's Communities Initiative". Locally, we could lose as much as 50% of our funding, crippling our ability to fund critical services for our community.

The President's plan is deeply misguided and will only push more families into poverty and homelessness. Beyond supporting the social services safety net, these funds have played a major role in improving the livability and economic vitality of our neighborhoods. CDBG dollars support the neighborhood farmer's markets, fund park and open space improvements and make loans available for building faade improvements to small businesses.

On Thursday, March 10, the City Council and more than 50 community organizations held a public rally to "sound the alarm" on the Bush budget cuts. More than 200 people joined us at City Hall to send a message to Congress, to oppose these funding reductions. We heard many stories from people who have been able to get back on their feet to support themselves and their families because of CDBG funded programs.

But a successful rally is not enough. We must make the devastating impacts of these cuts known to lawmakers in the other Washington. To learn more about the block grant program and how you can help to protect this funding. For more information call my office at (206) 684-8808.

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Legislative Updates: In this section of the newsletter, I will update you on a few issues that I've written about in previous editions of Point of View. If you have questions about a topic in previous newsletters or just wondering what happened with some specific Council legislation you've heard of, just send me an email.

New homeless service center at the Morrison Hotel


Councilmembers hold a press conference
announcing the selection of the Morrison Hotel as
Seattle's first comprehensive homeless services center for men.

Earlier this month, by an 8-1 vote, the City Council supported my recommendation to select the Morrison Hotel on 3rd and Yesler as site of a comprehensive homeless service center for adult men. I want to thank all of you who emailed me and other councilmembers in response to last month's article on this issue. Your comments helped inform this process.

After evaluating all of the options I became a strong advocate for the Morrison site as opposed to the original location because:

  • It will open and be operational a year earlier;
  • It will save the City $1.1 million in construction costs;
  • It offers nearly 4,000 additional square feet;
  • It leverages the outstanding work of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, which currently provides critical services to homeless men and has strong track record of delivering positive results.

This center is an important step in developing resources to help homeless individuals find jobs and locate permanent housing. I am committed to working with Pioneer Square residents and property owners to identify improvements that will help integrate this center into their neighborhood. We are going to make this project work for everyone in our community.

To learn more about the homeless service center, visit my website at http://www.seattle.gov/council/rasmussen/innews.htm

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2002- 2009 Housing Levy: Delivering Results

In 2002, Seattle voters approved an $86 million, 7-year property tax levy to fund affordable housing. I am focused on delivering outstanding services from these voter approved tax dollars. Following are some of the highlights of your tax dollars at work.

The levy is divided into five programs areas:

  • Creating new and rehabilitated rental housing;
  • Investing in projects to achieve targeted neighborhood development goals;
  • Supporting housing units serving people earning below 30% of median income;
  • Providing down-payment assistance to low - moderate income homebuyers; and
  • Offering one-time emergency funds to families in need of rental assistance

In 2004, 9 new rental projects received more than $8 million in levy funds to help with the capital costs of construction or rehabilitation of housing units for seniors, low-income families and people with chronic illness or physical disabilities. What is important to bear in mind is that Levy dollars leverage other public and private funds to make these new housing units possible. Many of these projects are underway or will begin soon. Here's a list of the projects funded this year:

Project & Location Brief Description
Plymouth on Stewart in Downtown 84 units of supportive housing for homeless people
Stoneway Apartments in Wallingford 70 new housing units
St. Paul Senior Homes in the Rainier Valley 12 units of community-based housing for seniors
Cooper School in Delridge Rehab and reuse project with 36 live & work spaces above arts and cultural center and public alternative school
Broadway and Pine Apartments on Capitol Hill 44 new housing units above a new Walgreen's Drug Store and space for Seattle Central CC
Highline Supported Living in West Seattle 24 units of housing for people with chronic and mental illness
LaSalle Apartments in Downtown 63 units of senior housing
Belltown View Apartments 35 units of housing above a new neighborhood center
West Seattle Community Resource Center 34 units of housing built in conjunction with a food bank and other social services facilities

The levy is an absolutely critical and unique tool in maintaining affordable housing in our city. Other cities have asked "how Seattle does it" in terms of funding and supporting affordable housing. As chair of the Council's Housing, Human Services and Health Committee, I am focused on implementation of the levy's goals and assuring we are delivering on the commitments we made in 2002. It is exciting that we are exceeding the original expectations.

In the next several weeks the City will be reviewing possible changes to financial and administrative polices for the Levy. This is not as dry as it may appear! This is the opportunity to fine-tune the program and the opportunity to propose creative ways to increase affordable housing opportunities. Your suggestions and recommendations are most welcome.

If you'd like to learn more about the Housing Levy and its progress to date, more information is available at http://www.seattle.gov/housing.

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Seattle action triggers statewide consumer protection legislation

Last year I successfully sponsored consumer protection legislation regulating tax refund loans. These loans carry high interest rates and hidden fees. In some cased the information relating to the loans can be misleading. Low-income families and seniors needing their IRS tax refunds quickly to help make ends meet are the people who most often borrow against their tax refunds. Seattle's law requires companies offering "refund anticipation loans (RALs)" or similar products to abide by a list of disclosure requirements that help ensure that customers can make informed decisions about these products.

Seattle is one of the few cities in the US to have this consumer protection law. The loans are offered everywhere across the state and legislators in Olympia have taken notice of our local law. Earlier this month, both the State House and Senate passed measures to regulate refund anticipation loans. Both bills bring the enforcement of new requirements on companies offering these loans under the jurisdiction of the State Attorney General's Office. By including "RALs" under the regulatory arm of the AG's office, consumers will have the ability to file complaints and seek legal remedies for damages. The House version would also require companies offering "RALs" to obtain a license from the state before being able to market this product. This would give the state an opportunity to ensure up-front that businesses will adhere to any disclosure requirements before they allow them to offer "RALs" to customers.

The bottom line is that these loans need to be regulated because too many people are unaware of the high costs or the alternatives that exist for getting their tax refunds quickly (i.e. electronic filing). I'm glad that Seattle's law has led to consumer protection for taxpayers all across Washington State.

For more information about these tax refund loans, visit my website at http://www.seattle.gov/council/rasmussen/innews.htm and scroll down to "Refund Anticipation Loans."

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In your neighborhood

I hope to see you at one of the following events. Please call my office at (206) 684-8808 for more information.

  • Tuesday, March 29 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. - Yesler Terrace Community Coalition Meeting on Seattle Housing Authority Redevelopment Plans at Yesler Terrace Community Center
  • Thursday, March 31 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. - Museum of History and Industry Lewis and Clark Exhibit Preview at 2700 24th Avenue East
  • Friday, April 1 from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. - Tour of Goodwill facility at 1400 South Lane Street
  • Saturday, April 2 from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Speaking at the Queer Youth Forum at Meany Middle School
  • Saturday, April 2 from Noon - 1:00 p.m. - Arboretum Trail Dedication at 2300 Arboretum Drive East
  • Tuesday, April 5 from 7:30 - 9:00 a.m. - Habitat for Humanity Benefit Breakfast at the Red Lion Hotel in downtown Seattle
  • Thursday, April 7 from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. - Food Lifeline Celebration at the Central Library
  • Saturday, April 9 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. - Mt. St. Vincent Black Tie Bingo at the Rainier Golf and Country Club
  • Tuesday, April 12 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. - Yesler Terrace Community Council Meeting at the Yesler Community Center
  • Wednesday, April 27 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. - Sister Cities Reception at City Hall in the Bertha Knight Landes Room
  • Friday, April 29 from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. - Seattle Firefighters Award and Promotion Night at City Hall in the Bertha Knight Landes Room - City Hall
  • Saturday, April 30 from 9:00 - 10:30 a.m. - Celebrating Authors of Color - Ribbon Cutting at the Chinatown/International District Community Center

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Community causes

On February 17, 12-year old Nick Messenger was struck by a vehicle while crossing 15th Avenue NW in the Crown Hill neighborhood. Our thoughts are with Nick and his family while he remains in a coma at Harborview Medical Center. As the City moves to address pedestrian safety issues at this busy intersection, I want to remind Point of View readers that family and friends have established a fund in Nick's name. Donations can be made at any Bank of America branch to help the Messenger's with medical expenses resulting from this tragedy.

If you have a "Community Cause" or event you would like listed here please let me know.

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In August, we updated our newsletter distribution list and created a listserv to automate subscription and removal requests. If you have received this newsletter in error, I apologize for any inconvenience. Point of View subscription and removal requests may be found at the end of this newsletter.

Other questions or comments about Point of View? Please email tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-8808.


 
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