As I write this edition of Point of View, I am reflecting on the diverse issues that have come before the City Council this year. They range from public safety and affordable housing, to downtown zoning changes and the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement.
At the end of this month I will have been on the City Council for three years. I am incredibly grateful for the trust you have placed in me to work on your behalf for the city of Seattle.
Thank you for your continued interest in our city. It has been an honor and privilege to represent you the last three years. I wish you all the best in 2007!
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
After several public hearings and hearing from hundreds of citizens, the City Council adopted the 2007 - 2008 biennial budget. The budget reflects the priorities expressed by the people of Seattle:
Key investments to improve the quality of our neighborhoods.
Funding for the Most Vulnerable
This year the Mayor proposed a budget which strongly supports the City's Human Services programs. The budget presented to the Council included a net increase of $6.5 million which covered inflationary costs for most programs and added funds for such programs as healthcare and housing for the homeless and the City's senior employment program. The Council added funding for services such as senior centers, consumer protection against predatory lenders, and the Meals Partnership program. As a result, the Council invested an additional $750,000 to make meaningful impact in these areas.
The Council's funding for public safety is comprehensive. To address the need for improved public safety, the Council authorized hiring 30 more police officers in 2007 and 2008. This will supplement the 25 new police officers authorized by the Council in recent budget years.
In addition to funding more police officers, the Council added an almost equal amount of funding for public safety intervention and other programs including drop-out prevention, domestic violence services and youth employment programs.
Specialized Parks Programs
One disappointment I experienced in the budget related to a program in the Parks Department. The Seattle Parks Department has a recreation program for people with disabilities including people with severe developmental or multiple disabilities. The Specialized Programs Section provides year-round activities designed and conducted by Parks Department staff.
In recent previous years, the staffing for the Specialized Programs has been reduced, resulting in waiting lists and no programs whatsoever in some neighborhoods.
Seattle can and must do better to provide recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. I sought to add funding to allow the programs to be provided in all sections of the City and to reduce the number of people waiting to participate. Unfortunately, a majority of the Council did not support my proposal to increase funding for this program. But the Council did agree to consider additional funding in 2007 during the supplemental budget process. The Council also requested that the Parks Department submit a proposal by May 1, 2007 to deliver these programs more equitably throughout the city.
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Support for Senior Centers
Historically, Seattle has provided varying levels of funding for senior centers with no clear plan or expectations for how the centers should be serving the community. Most of Seattle's senior centers are operated by private non-profit organizations. Some are having a difficult time due to significant funding challenges.
At my urging the Council added $100,000 to the budget to assist senior centers. In addition, I am focused on identifying and developing options and strategies on how the City can most effectively help our centers serve seniors in the future.
The Council also has a review underway to develop a plan for the City's role in supporting senior centers. The first phase of the review determined that the centers serve a distinctive and unique senior population. Virtually all centers are operating on very limited budgets and most centers have significant capital and equipment needs.
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Condo Conversions: Impact on Renters
As the need for affordable housing increases, with rents and housing costs rising, another housing trend has surpassed all records. During the first six months of 2006, 1,162 apartments were converted to condominiums and, if that trend continues for the balance of the year, total conversions would outpace the 1,551 units that were converted in all of 2005. Contrast these numbers with 2004 when the number of conversions was 358.
Condo conversions can be disruptive and costly to renters. I have assisted individuals who had to move because they cannot afford to purchase their unit. State law prevents the City from passing legislation protecting renters whose apartments are being converted to condos. I am working with Senators Darlene Fairley, Ken Jacobsen, and Brian Weinstein to develop state legislation to strike a fair balance between the rights of property owners and the individuals who are impacted by the conversions. I am seeking to increase the length of time that tenants have to decide to purchase or move; increase the required moving expense payment to low-income tenants from the current $500 and adding a requirement that before construction begins, relocation must occur.
The legislation will be introduced in the 2007 legislative session in Olympia.
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Woodland Park Zoo Garage
In 2004, when the Council had the opportunity to weigh-in on the siting for the proposed new Zoo garage, I was the only Councilmember who voted against that proposal when Council approval was given. I was concerned about the location, size, cost and appearance of the garage, and its impact on the neighborhood.
During the recent 2007-08 budget discussions, at the urging of some local area citizens, Councilmembers raised questions relating to the new Zoo garage. Some Councilmember's proposed a "budget proviso" which would have essentially frozen funding for the garage in 2007 until the questions were answered. Language in the proviso also raised the possibility of the City taking back the operation of the Zoo from the Woodland Park Zoological Society. The budget proviso was not supported by a majority of the Council.
I voted against the proposed budget actions for several reasons:
- the Zoological Society has spent the past two years relying on the 2004 decision of the City Council and has been planning the garage and the further development of the Zoo, assuming the garage would be built as agreed upon by the City;
- The proviso to freeze the City's contribution to the garage was not adequately discussed with the staff of the Zoo and to be fair, such discussions between the Council and the Zoo staff should have occurred and may have resolved the issues raised;
- I was also concerned that raising the possibility of the City taking back the operation of the Zoo would have undermined the efforts of the Zoological Society to gain further community support for their important work.
The Council has important oversight responsibilities for the planning and construction of the garage. However, the best approach is to work with the Zoo staff and our Department of Finance to review the financial forecasts underlying the proposed Zoo Garage to ensure that the garage can be built within budget as planned and agreed upon with the Zoological Society. If there have been significant changes to the costs or assumptions relating to the garage then the City and the Zoological Society should open discussions regarding possible changes.
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Community Cause: Victim Support Team at the Seattle Police Department
I am very impressed with the great work and assistance of the Victim Support Team, a partnership between the community and the Seattle Police Department.
Victim Support Team volunteers are community members who work with the police by providing crisis intervention and support to domestic violence victims and their children immediately following a domestic violence incident.
Volunteers in the program respond to a secured crime scene in teams of two and assist the police. The following services are available to the crime victims by the support teams:
- Emotional support
- Domestic violence counseling
- Assistance in creating a safety plan
- Assistance in locating emergency resources
- Information about and for the criminal justice system
This program began as a pilot project in 1997 in the East Precinct and expanded to the other precincts. The program now serves the entire city of Seattle. The program currently has two staff members, two JustServe AmeriCorps Volunteers and over 80 community volunteers. The program is supervised by the Seattle Police Department Crimes Services Unit.
Volunteers with the program attend a 50-hour training academy and also complete a patrol officer ride along in addition to a SPD communications 9-1-1 plug in.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with the Victim Support Teams please contact the unit at (206) 615-0892 or http://www.seattle.gov/Police/Involved/Volunteer/default.htm
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Please Welcome Maia Harris to my Staff
One of my top priorities is to be accessible and responsive to your questions, comments and requests for assistance. My staff is critical in helping me respond to your communications and requests.
Maia Harris is the newest member of my office. She worked two years in a local architecture firm and brings Washington State Senate experience and a degree in Political Science from Seattle University. Maia volunteers in the community and also runs in marathons for charity. Maia coordinates my schedule and manages constituent relations. Maia is a great addition to our staff.
Please contact my staff or me if you have questions. Ann Corbitt is responsible for policy work and legislation that falls within the parameters of the committee that I chair, Housing, Human Services and Health. Brian Hawksford is responsible for following the policy work outside of my committee jurisdiction and also coordinates communication efforts and community outreach.
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In Your Neighborhood
- Monday, December 18 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. - West Seattle Community Meeting on pedestrian enhancements to intersection of Admiral Way SW and 47th Ave. SW - Hiawatha Community Center 2700 California Ave. SW
- Wednesday, December 20 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. - Kenney Retirement Center tour - 7125 Fauntleroy Way SW
Because of the holiday season there are fewer community events this month. If you would like me to attend an event or visit your neighborhood, just contact my office at (206) 684-8808 or email me at email@example.com
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