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Point of View

August 2005 - Issue No. 15
City Hall perspectives
from Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

Welcome to the August "Dog Days of Summer" edition. "Dog Days" are the hottest days of the summer (generally between July 3 and August 11). The name was coined by celestial observers from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This is when the sun is aligned with the "dog star" Sirius, hence the name. "Dog Days" in Seattle means its time for parades, festivals and summer vacations for many people.

Here at City Hall, we are working through the summer on major issues. I recently launched new initiatives to help low-income seniors and families with their water bills and to assist refugees and immigrants adjust to their new lives in Seattle. I am leading the Council's effort to improve our criminal response to domestic violence. I've also included information on funding the City has awarded to new housing aimed at reducing homelessness. This funding is made available largely through the Housing Levy approved by Seattle voters in 2002.

Finally, I've highlighted a "community cause" to share with you and have included a list of where I'll be in the next couple of weeks.

So, during the "Dog Days" of summer, I hope you are enjoying our beautiful weather and all the wonderful events that remind us why we make Seattle our home.

Warm regards,

Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Councilmember
Chair, Housing, Human Services and Health Committee

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In this issue:

Helping Seniors & Low-Income Families in Emergencies with their Utility Bills

When I was the director of the Mayor's Office for Seniors Citizens, I received calls from seniors who were experiencing great financial difficulties. I could help them locate resources for food and medical assistance and help with their City Light bills, but there were no City resources for people who had received "shut-off" notices because they were behind in paying their water, sewer and garbage bills. I even learned of an elderly woman who was receiving her water from her neighbor by running a garden hose from her neighbor's house through a window to her kitchen sink!

One of my primary goals as a City Councilmember was to solve this problem. I worked with my colleagues on the Council and Seattle Public Utilities to develop a pilot program to provide emergency assistance to low-income individuals, and families.

Now, under a new pilot program eligible low-income individuals (families earning less than 125% of federal poverty level) can receive a one-time emergency credit of up to 50% for a delinquent bill not to exceed $200. This funding will be available until the end of 2005, at which point the pilot program will be evaluated and a more permanent program considered.

The rising cost of living in Seattle impacts seniors and low-income people the most and can lead to homelessness. For a very small investment we help people remain in their homes and independent during times of financial crisis by providing short-term assistance.

I want to thank Councilmember Jim Compton who chairs the Council's Utilities Committee for his support of this project, the Mayor and Chuck Clarke, director of SPU and his staff for their willingness to explore different options to make this program possible.

If you have any questions about this pilot program, please contact my office at (206) 684-8808.

Click here to see the press conference Mayor Nickels and I held announcing this new pilot program.

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$8 Million Awarded to Create 171 New Housing Units for Homeless

Earlier this year I wrote about the Council's adoption of a ten-year plan to end homelessness.

Changing the way we do business at City Hall is an integral part of making real progress toward ending homelessness in our community. The ten-year plan emphasizes developing more permanent housing and supportive services.

This summer the City awarded $8 million to create housing for those who are homeless. These funds (primarily Housing Levy dollars) are awarded through a competitive process twice a year. As a result, 171 housing units will be created for homeless men, women and families.

Below is a summary of the projects:

  • 3rd and Blanchard: 92 units of permanent housing for homeless single senior citizens;
  • 415 10th Avenue: 75 units of permanent housing for homeless adults suffering from mental illness;
  • Woodland Park Apartments: 4 units of permanent housing for homeless families

There are many causes of homelessness. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, one of the main reasons is that a person living in King County must earn $17.75 per hour to be able to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment. That's two and a half times the minimum wage!

This is why it is absolutely critical that the City support and encourage affordable housing development through the housing levy, zoning changes and incentives. I am working with the public, non-profit and private sectors to develop programs and to leverage our resources toward keeping Seattle a place where housing is available for all.

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Assisting Refugees & Immigrants

From left to right: Jasmit Singh, one of the founders of Education for The Sikh Coalition, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, organizer of Council's Immigrant and Refugee Forum, Julio Sanchez, community activist on issues impacting immigrant communities and low income workers, and Pramila Jayapal, founder and Exact Director of Hate Free Zone, WA.

On May 26th, I hosted a City Hall a discussion focused on issues facing Seattle's immigrant and refugee communities. This first of its kind meeting engaged city councilmembers and community leaders at City Hall in a discussion with more than 250 people.

The nature of immigration to Seattle has undergone a vast change in the last decade. Pramila Jayapal, Executive Director of Hate Free Zone Washington shared with us that the 2000 Census tracked an increase of 40% in the ten years between 1990 and 2000 of people living in Seattle whom were born abroad. This amounts to 95,000 people or 17% of the population of the city.

The origin of immigrants to Seattle has changed in the last decade from Europe to Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. There has been a 320% increase in immigrants from Africa since 1990. Other panelists shared the problems that immigrants face in Seattle including workplace discrimination, barriers to work, lack of affordable housing, and especially the problems immigrant children are experiencing in the school system.

Ms. Jayapal highlighted areas that should be addressed in order to facilitate immigrants' adjustment to life in Seattle. These recommendations included; data tracking of immigrant services including analysis of where current funding is and gaps that might exist, establishment of an Immigration & Refugee Advisory Taskforce, creation of a citywide language bank, and providing for workforce support for the immigrant population.

As a result of this discussion, I am introducing legislation to improve the delivery of city services to immigrant and refugee communities. The resolution calls for a review of cultural competency in the city's service delivery, supporting educational programs, and establishing measurable goals on our progress toward assisting new immigrant families in Seattle.

Shortly after this forum, Mayor Nickels' announced changes to the City's website that will include a new "language portal" to help non-English speakers navigate public services in 26 different languages. Residents can access this information by clicking here.

These are only the first steps to address the concerns of this burgeoning population in our city. Immigrants are a vital aspect of our city, offering their hope, vitality, creativity, hard work, and unique cultural heritage to Seattle. I will work toward removing barriers to their successful transition into our community.

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Working to stop Domestic Violence

Each year, Seattle police respond to more than 12,000 domestic violence related 911-calls and roughly 3,000 domestic violence related physical assaults. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury for American women between the ages of 15 and 54. Domestic violence affects all of us and its cost to society is far too significant to ignore.

In 2002, the City's Domestic Violence Prevention Office conducted an assessment of Seattle's response to domestic violence cases, with a focus on the criminal justice system. The information gained from this review served as a basis for developing a new domestic violence strategic plan, which is now before the City Council for approval. This plan will represent a framework for how the City works toward dramatically reducing domestic violence in our community.

Our strategy will be to make service for victims of domestic violence and their children more accessible, to hold batterers more accountable and build stronger coordination of criminal justice agencies and their partners in local government and the community to address violence in domestic relationships. Click here to view the draft plan.

On July 19th I convened a stakeholder panel discussion to focus on three key areas that have garnered interest from the community and healthy debate. These included the following:

  • Prosecution Plan - Emphasize and focus on victim safety and prosecution that serves the best interest of victims and their children. Some members of the public have questioned whether too much focus on the victims will lead to a reduction of prosecutions. Their concern is that the policy would encourage batterers to pressure victims to drop charges and send the wrong message about how domestic violence cases will be treated.
  • Effectiveness of Batterers' Treatment - Analyze current practices for batterers' treatment given that there are questions from the social-scientific research community about the effectiveness of treatment. Providers of batterers' treatment have pointed out that treatment is not offered in a vacuum but must involve the entire network of services and criminal justice response mechanisms to be effective (which in most instances, are outside of the provider's immediate control).
  • Domestic Violence Response Coordination - Drive public and private agencies to work in concert to prevent and respond to cases of domestic violence. With so many organizations and agencies involved in this effort, increased coordination is a cornerstone piece of improve our strategic response.

You can view this forum via streaming video by clicking here.

The Council will continue its review of the Domestic Violence Strategic Plan in August and possibly into early September. If you have questions or comments about the plan, please contact me by email or phone at (206) 684-8808.

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Happy Birthday Seniors Digest!

Seniors Digest, a local on-line magazine for older adults and their families, celebrated its first birthday in July. The eMagazine, which is sponsored by the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging, was launched in an effort to provide a reliable and trusted way for local seniors to access news and aging related resources on-line.

"We are celebrating one year of using Seniors Digest," says Timmie Faghin, Chair of the Advisory Council. "We are able to provide great information to seniors and caregivers in our community quickly and easily, and the Digest encourages older adults to learn computer skills. Our readership continues to grow, and we value the program as a part of our ongoing communications program."

Each monthly issue of Seniors Digest includes:

  • News about events and opportunities of special interest to older adults, their families and cargivers
  • Tips for smart, successful aging and eldercare
  • Fun features to remind us that healthy aging isn't "all work and no play"
  • Quick, free access to a wide array of local and national resources for older people and their families

Each edition is supported by the Seniors Digest companion website, where readers can find forms, links, and online courses. I'm extremely pleased with the work the Advisory Council has done in creating this resource for seniors in our community.

To subscribe to Seniors Digest, select the "Don't Miss an Issue" link on the Digest menu. For more information, send an email to:

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In Your Neighborhood

Upcoming Events

Below is a partial list of community meetings and events that I will attend. I look 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!

  • Thursday, August 11, from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. - Rainier Vista Ribbon Cutting at 4410 29th Avenue South
  • Friday, August 12, from 6:00 - 10:00 p.m. - Seattle Men's and Women's Choruses Benefit Art Auction
  • Saturday, August 13, from 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. - Housing Justice Forum at the Rainier Community Center
  • Monday, August 15, from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. - Social Security Rally at Westlake Park
  • Wednesday, August 17, from 4:30 - 8:30 p.m. - Seattle Chinese Garden Groundbreaking and Dinner at 6000 16th Avenue SW
  • Friday, August 19, from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. - Greater Seattle Business Association - Western Alliance Leadership Conference at the Columbia Tower Club
  • Tuesday, August 23, from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. - Senior Picnic at Woodland Park Zoo
  • Friday, August 26, from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. - Women's Political Caucus - Equality Week Celebration
  • Monday, September 5, from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. - King County Labor Council - Labor Day Celebration at Lower Woodland Park
  • Wednesday, September 7, from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. - Sierra Club Event at 8556 Dayton Avenue North
  • Saturday, September 10, from 9:00 a.m. - Noon - AIDS Walk on Capitol Hill
  • Saturday, September 10, from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. - InterIm/ICDA Benefit Dinner and Auction at Goldie's Restaurant
  • Sunday, September 11 from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. - "A Feast Where Farmers are the Stars" - food tasting event celebration showcasing over 20 local farmers and their products at the West Seattle Farmers Market

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