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               Point of View

July, 2006 - Issue No. 19

For Previous Editions Click Here

Dear Friends,

Earlier this month, my nephew graduated high school. I'm always fascinated observing how things change from generation to generation in my own family.

Like my family, Seattle is growing and changing. Yet, the issues we face have remained largely the same since my nephew was born 18 years ago: we care about the safety of our neighborhoods, the well-being of our elders, and we continue to be challenged by significant transportation problems.

The last few months I've worked on these continuing challenges. In this month's newsletter, you'll learn more about a creative new public safety initiative that Council President Nick Licata and I launched in June. I initiated a review of our senior centers and I will provide you a preview of what I'm learning and possible recommendations that I may bring to the council. The Council is evaluating the Mayor's 20-year, $1.8 billion proposal for a local transportation improvements and I am wrapping up work on an emergency assistance program for Seattle Public Utilities customers having trouble paying their bills.

As always, I welcome your feedback on Point of View articles as well as on any other city issues.

Best wishes,

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

Councilmember Rasmussen In this issue:

  • Helping Rainier Beach, Miller Park and Downtown Tackle Crime
  • Reviewing the Needs of our Senior Centers
  • Asking Voters to Support Local Transportation Improvements
  • Making Emergency Assistance Available to Low-Income Utilities Customers
  • Community Cause
  • In Your Neighborhood

    Helping Rainier Beach, Miller Park and Downtown Tackle Crime

    One concern expressed to me time and again from communities around the city is that while our overall crime rate is at an all time low, people want to feel safe in their home and neighborhoods. It is one of the most important issues I work on.

    Some neighborhoods are plagued by crime on the streets near their homes. It is important to me that our city be as safe and livable as possible. Especially since we expect to see our population increase with greater density and new economic development.

    I spent the last year meeting with community groups, Seattle police officers, human service providers and my colleagues to plan how we can improve public safety around the city. All agree that traditional law enforcement efforts alone do not get at the root cause of criminal behavior. Neighborhoods see the same offenders on the same street corners committing the same crimes day after day. Law enforcement officers tell me that we cannot arrest our way out of these problems. We have to address the underlying causes of crime. Many repeat criminals are jobless, addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, or mentally ill. Arresting and incarcerating these people only takes them off the streets for a few months and then they are back on the streets engaging in the same behavior.

    This is why Council President Nick Licata and I led the effort to include $400,000 in the budget to create the Law Enforcement/Human Services Public Safety Pilot Program. This innovative new program funds three distinct pilot programs in three crime "hotspots" around the city. The sites are Miller Park, Rainier Beach and Downtown with an emphasis on Pioneer Square. Our objective is to have the three pilots up and running by the end of summer.

    In each of these neighborhoods, law enforcement officers will work with various outreach workers and human service providers to reach out to the people on and around the streets who may need services before they either commit a crime for the first time, or re-offend. The outreach workers will offer case management and assessment, housing, treatment for addiction and mental health, job counseling and other core services that many offenders do not access.

    For the first time, we are giving potential offenders the chance to turn their lives around before they commit crimes. There are existing programs in our court systems to defer punishment and incarceration and instead provide counseling to offenders charged or convicted of crimes. It was time that we address the issue of potential offenders who we know are engaging in behaviors that are harming life in neighborhoods and likely to land them in jail and in the court system. Our goals are to improve our neighborhoods and the lives of the people on the streets. We could also save taxpayer dollars that now go towards our jails and courts. Toward the end of 2006, we will evaluate the pilot programs. I hope to see a win-win for our neighborhoods, the residents who live with public safety issues each day and those in need of services and jobs.

    For more information about the pilot program, click here to read council bill 115600.

    Return to Index

    Reviewing the Needs of our Senior Centers

    I am concerned about the future of our senior centers in Seattle. Many are struggling financially and I've written about my interest in exploring what the city's role might be in their future (Investing Today for Tomorrow's Seniors).

    In May, I began to gather information on every senior center in the city. In early August, a final report will be prepared and presented before a special meeting of the Housing, Human Services and Health Committee which I chair. I intend to hold a public hearing on the report and get feedback on some preliminary recommendations for City action after Labor Day.

    Though the report is not final, there are some interesting information and observations. Here are a few preliminary findings:

    • Virtually all the centers are operating on shoestring budgets.
    • Almost every senior center has capital and equipment needs.
    • Several centers are becoming more entrepreneurial.
    • Our senior centers are serving a very limited and unique segment of the senior population.

    This is a two part review: phase one, is the review of the current state of our centers. It will lead to some interim recommendations to maintain their viability. Phase two will be a much broader process that will include stakeholders and the community in developing a vision and concrete strategies for how senior centers should serve Seattle's seniors in the future.

    This comprehensive effort will help us develop an appropriate role for the City. Over time, the needs of older adults in our community will change. I want to ensure that we have a welcoming and supportive environment for older adults in Seattle for generations to come.

    Return to Index

    Asking Voters to Support Local Transportation Improvements

    Mayor Nickels recently announced a 20-year, $1.8 billion transportation funding package. The plan seeks to address Seattle's half billion dollar backlog of street and bridge maintenance brought about by anti-tax initiatives, the end of the street utility tax and a shortfall in state gas tax revenues. The plan also invests dollars in several major transportation projects.

    The Mayor has proposed that this package be funded through a combination of taxes:

    • A property tax that would amount to $195 per year for the average Seattle home
    • A $25 per employee head tax for Seattle businesses with revenues over $50,000 per year
    • A new 10% commercial parking tax

    The City Council is currently reviewing this proposal and holding public hearings before deciding what final package will be placed on the fall ballot.

    I am concerned that the property tax is too great a burden on Seattle families. I would like to see the property tax significantly reduced. I also believe that 20 years is too long to tax people without returning to them for consideration. I will advocate that we return to voters for a renewal of the taxes after six or seven years.

    I know that the residents of Seattle are feeling the pressure of the cost of living including taxes. I also hear over and over again that the City needs to fix our roadways and transportation infrastructure. This package, with the appropriate adjustments to lighten the load on the taxpayers, should be an effective way to address our local needs.

    Return to Index

    Making Emergency Assistance Available to Low-Income Utilities Customers

    As Chair of the Housing Human Services and Health Committee, it is a priority to help Seattle's most vulnerable residents. I am developing new policies and programs that will help those in the greatest need in our communities.

    One example is the Seattle City Light Low-income Assistance Program (ELIA). This program provides low-income customers a once per year break on their energy bill. The assistance provides a helping hand to customers who are unable to pay and are in danger of losing their power service. It is often the one time boost that a family needs when they have fallen on hard times and are stretched too thin for the month.

    I saw the success of this program as an opportunity to help those in danger of having their water shutoff. In September of 2004 at my request, Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the Human Services Department all worked together to study the possibility of extending rate assistance programs to help people with water, sewer and solid waste bills charged by Seattle Public Utilities. This led to the creation of the Emergency Assistance Pilot Program at Seattle Public Utilities. The six-month pilot set out to gather data to help shape a long term program.

    The six-month pilot was a resounding success. Assistance was provided to over 300 customers in need. Customers who applied had to have incomes of $16,500 or less (based upon a two-person household) in order to receive an average one time grant of $183.The results of the pilot were so successful that Seattle Public Utilities plans to continue the program permanently. In one year, they expect to serve 600-700 low-income applicants. Significant percentages of these applicants are expected to be disabled or elderly.

    It was exciting to work cooperatively with our utilities to create such a beneficial program. No longer will many low-income customers fear water shut off or past due bills they cannot pay. This successful effort shows the dedication our City utility departments have to providing exceptional customer service that supports projects which provide a social and public benefit to the community.

    For more information about this program, please click here.

    Return to Index

    Community Cause

    Occasionally I write about a community project or event to highlight community activism and cooperation - the Community Cause. This month I want to share a story from the Alki neighborhood of West Seattle.

    The residents along 59th Avenue SW, near the very busy and popular Alki Beach were worried about speeding traffic. The Alki Elementary school, the Community Center, tennis courts a playfield and children's play area are located on or near 59th.

    The neighborhood contacted me and we worked with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to develop plans for two sets of speed cushions to slow traffic. Speed cushions are less obtrusive forms of speed bumps and are more suited for arterial streets that handle higher speeds, more traffic, buses and emergency response vehicles. After winning approval from SDOT, the neighborhood was required to pay $6,000 for the project, roughly half of the cost of the cushions.

    Quickly, residents set out fundraising. The Alki Advisory Council donated $2,000 and the Alki PTA donated $500. Randie Stone, a local real estate agent, also gave a sizeable donation. After hearing about the Alki neighborhood efforts, the Magnolia Advisory Council, through the efforts of their president Darrell Drew, decided to help another neighborhood and donated $2,000!

    This kind of cooperation and community spirit is what makes Seattle such an special place to live and work. Thanks Magnolia Advisory Council and thanks to all the people in Alki and SDOT for working to make better and safer streets for all!

    Return to Index

    Councilmember Rasmussen In Your Neighborhood

    I hope to see you at one of these events. If you would like me to visit your neighborhood, just contact my office at (206) 684-8808 or email me at

    • Thursday, July 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - West Seattle Business Owners Discussion About Western Corridor Transportation Issues - 3614 A California Avenue SW
    • Saturday, July 15 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. - North Precinct Picnic at 10049 College Way N.
    • Sunday, July 16 from Noon to 1:00 p.m. - Bastille Day Festival at Seattle Center
    • Thursday, July 20 from Noon to 1:00 p.m. - Seattle Men's and Women's Chorus Concert at City Hall Plaza
    • Friday, July 21 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. - Woodland Park Zoo Carousel Opening at Woodland Park Zoo N5 parking lot near north entrance on 59th
    • Sunday, July 23 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. - Chinatown Seafair Parade
    • Wednesday, July 26 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. - Maple Leaf Summer Social at Maple Leaf Playground NE 82nd & Roosevelt Way NE
    • Saturday, July 29 from Noon to 3:00 p.m. - King County Democrats Picnic at Lower Woodland Park Shelter #1
    • Saturday, July 29 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. - Pacific Asian Empowerment Program Awards and Fundraiser at the Filipino Community Center

    Return to Index

    We have 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 or call (206) 684-8808.

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