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Point of View

April 2005 - Issue No. 12
City Hall perspectives
from Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the April edition of Point of View.

In this month's newsletter I will update you on work to protect open space, an important forum that I'm hosting at City Hall next month, ways we can use new technology to improve pedestrian and traffic safety and progress on developing a regional plan for homelessness.

Also included are some of the events I will attend in May. In addition, I wanted to introduce you to an organization that is doing important work to improve our community that a Point of View reader shared.

Thank you so much for your continuing interest in the issues that face Seattle. The most exciting and interesting aspect of being a member of the City Council is the new individuals I meet each week focused on improving life for citizens of Seattle.

Please let me know if you have questions about any of the topics in this month's newsletter. As always, I appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Warm 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:



Protecting Open Space in Seattle

For decades I have worked to protect our city's open space and greenbelts. Today I feel a greater sense of urgency as our City grows and as the price of land increases. Too often, opportunities are missed and the chance for preservation is lost.

Last fall, Mayor Nickels presented the Council with a plan to sell seven acres of City-owned land called "Soundway West." Back in the 50's, the City acquired vacant property in West Seattle as part of plan to build a bridge to Vashon Island. This plan was ultimately shelved, leaving the city with more than 20 acres of surplus property. The City already designated a portion of this land for open space. But, as part of an effort to balance the budget last year, the Mayor proposed to sell Soundway West for residential development.

Community members and the Nature Consortium urged the Council to keep Soundway West as open space because its existing vegetation provides habitat for several bird species and native plants and for its proximity to the West Duwamish Greenbelt. I visited the site and was impressed with its uniqueness. During the budget deliberations I worked with several of my Council colleagues to craft a compromise plan that would allow the community an opportunity to purchase the property by September of this year. This approach essentially gives the community a right of first refusal to buy the land.

Last week, the community learned it might receive a big boost. In both the State House and Senate, $500,000 was earmarked in the capital budget for Soundway West. This would be a significant step toward securing the estimated $1.3 million required to purchase the property. It is exciting to see progress on this tremendously important work to preserve open space. If you'd like more information about Soundway West, Susan Paynter wrote a recent column in the Seattle PI and you can read it by clicking here.

Soundway West is an outstanding example of where neighborhood organizations play a critical role in helping to identify property that the City should retain in order to provide wildlife habitat and create new open space.

On occasion the City moves forward with the sale of property before providing community groups and neighborhood organizations with adequate advance notice about the possible sale of property in their own backyards. To solve this I, along with Councilmember Jean Godden, have initiated a review of our surplus property policies and procedures. We intend to propose legislation that will require City Departments to provide much broader public notification to non-profits, community associations, environment groups and local chambers of commerce. This will be an important step in working to retain much needed open space and wildlife habitat in our rapidly growing urban environment.

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Issues Facing Today's Immigrants and Refugees

Seattle's immigrant and refugee communities are growing. According to the 2000 census, more than 95,000 people in our city (nearly 17% of the population) are born abroad. This represents a 40% increase over the previous decade. What are the challenges facing these communities and the City which is trying to meet their needs?

I'm interested in learning how effective the services and types of assistance the City currently funds are in meeting the needs of new immigrant and refugee families. For instance, Seattle's growth rate of people from Africa has increased by 320% since 1990. As our demographics change, we must review and consider changes in the delivery of services.

On Thursday, May 26th from noon to 1:30 p.m. at City Hall (600 4th Avenue), with the help of Hate Free Zone Washington I am hosting a panel discussion on the changing face of Seattle's immigrant and refugee communities. We will learn about the issues facing these communities and how we can address the challenge of making Seattle a welcoming home for new members of immigrant communities.

I hope you will be able to join us or watch the broadcast on the Seattle Channel (channel 21) on Thursday, May 26th. For more information about this forum, contact me at (206) 684-8808.

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Legislative Updates

In this section of the newsletter, I will update you on issues that I've written about in previous editions of Point of View. If you have questions about a topic in previous newsletters or are wondering what happened with specific Council legislation you've heard of, just send me an email at tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov.

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Working to end Homelessness

Since 2001, representatives from faith based groups, foundations, business leaders, government and non-profit organizations have met to identify strategies and approaches to end homelessness in our community. I began participating with this group last year.

While we invest more than $25 million each year of public dollars to offer assistance to help those who are homeless, there are still more than 8,000 people who are homeless on any given night. In King County, 74% of women who are homeless have children living with them. We need to do a better job at getting at the root causes of homelessness and helping individuals before they end up on the street.

In March, the work-plan titled, "A Roof Over Every Head in King County: Our Community's Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness" was finalized and released. The three primary objectives are:

  • Focus on homelessness prevention by helping people before they become homeless.
  • Immediately house those who experience homelessness. Develop new housing and improve connections to supportive services including mental health and substance abuse treatment, employment and job training. This entails an ambitious goal of sustaining 9,500 units of affordable housing countywide and creating 4,500 new units within the next ten years.
  • Raise public awareness and the public will to end homelessness in our community.

The goal is extraordinarily ambitious. It will require a strong commitment from both the public and private sectors. In April, I introduced legislation to officially endorse the goals of the ten-year plan. My colleagues joined me in unanimously supporting the efforts identified in the plan and we intend to work toward these objectives in the coming months and years. Mayor Nickels has concurred with this resolution as well.

Our first opportunity at matching up the ten-year plan goals with our City policies will occur this summer when the Human Services Department issues a new Request for Proposal for shelter and transitional housing services in Seattle. This is a process where the City establishes guidelines, goals and outcomes for agencies that wish to apply for City funding. I intend to carefully review the department's criteria and evaluate if it is consistent with the principles of the ten-year plan. I'll share with you more information on this topic later this summer.

If you'd like to read more about the plan, visit http://www.cehkc.org/. You can view the Council's resolution endorsing the plan by going to http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/RESN1.htm and typing in Resolution number 30758.

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Improving Pedestrian and Traffic Safety

I am deeply concerned about pedestrian and traffic safety. Earlier this year I shared with you my interest in the use of automated traffic enforcement to improve public safety at busy intersections and school crosswalk zones in the city (click here to read previous article).

Fortunately this month, the State Legislature passed a bill that allows local jurisdictions to implement red-light cameras. Until now, Seattle has had only limited authority to implement a pilot demonstration project.

Councilmember Nick Licata and I lobbied members of the legislature to approve this bill. I will work this summer on a thorough examination of an automated method of discouraging running of red lights - one of the most dangerous illegal practices. This is just one of the tools we can use to improve traffic and pedestrian safety in Seattle.

I look forward to working with the Police and Transportation Departments on a proposal in the coming months.

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In Your Neighborhood

Earlier this month I was honored to be invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of the new Ben & Jerry's store in Ballard on April 9th. The franchise will be operated by Friends of Youth.

I am very impressed with the work of Friends of Youth, a local non-profit organization, which partnered with Ben & Jerry's to become a franchisee. Ben and Jerry's has a program which focuses on helping non-profit agencies operate stores to create new jobs and generate funding for these organizations. The Ballard store is the second one to open under this program on the west coast. Friends of Youth provides services for homeless people and at-risk youth.

In the photo, Beth Williamson Miller, the Executive Director of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, is in the middle and Ben Cohen one of the founders of Ben and Jerry's is on the right. He flew out from Vermont just for this. Really a great guy! Howard Finck the former Executive Director should also have helped cut the ribbon and get the credit for all of this but we couldn't find him in the crowd of people eagerly waiting to get in for free ice cream. For more information, visit http://www.friendsofyouth.org.


Upcoming Events

Below is a partial list of community meetings and events that I will attend. I'm looking forward to learning more about the neighborhood projects and activities all across the city. Please call my office at (206) 684-8808 if you would like more information or have an event you would like me to attend. I hope to see you soon!

  • Tuesday, May 3 from 7:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. - Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center Breakfast at the Westin Hotel;
  • Thursday, May 5 from 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. - King County Conservation Voters Auction at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in the Montlake Neighborhood;
  • Saturday, May 14 from 11:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. - Homer Harris Park opening at 24th and E. Howell Street;
  • Saturday, May 14 from Noon - 1:00 p.m. - Ballard Library Opening;
  • Saturday, May 14 from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. - City Hall Plaza Grand Opening;
  • Tuesday, May 17 from 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - 11th District Democrats Meeting at the Carpenter's Hall, 231 Burnett N.;
  • Thursday, May 19 from 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 - 46th District Democrats Meeting at Olympic View Church, 425 NE 95th St.;
  • Saturday, May 21 from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. - SW Seattle Historical Society Homes: Tour and Ceremony at Kenyon Hall, 7903 35th Avenue SW;
  • Tuesday, May 24 from 7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. - Community for Youth Breakfast at the Madison Renaissance Hotel

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Making a Difference in our Community

"Friend to Friend"

Last month, one of our Point of View readers shared information about a program called, "Friend to Friend." This national program was founded here in Seattle to match volunteers with elderly and disabled residents from nursing homes, retirement and assisted living facilities. In 1974, "Friend to Friend" started with ten nursing and retirement homes in Des Moines, WA. Today, nearly 300 facilities are working with the organization and nearly half are located in King County.

Many people as they get older end up living far from family and friends. This can lead to isolation and loneliness which can contribute to physical and mental health deterioration. Volunteers agree to visit a resident twice a month and make at least a one year commitment. Programs such as "Friend to Friend" can make an extraordinary and meaningful difference in people's lives.

If you would like to volunteer of to learn more about "Friend to Friend," visit their website at http://www.friendtofriendamerica.org or contact them by phone at (888) 383-7818.

Thank you for sending me your ideas and suggestions for organizations making a difference in our community. If you have a neighborhood 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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