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                  Point of View

March, 2007 - Issue No. 21
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Dear Friends,

Thank you for your continued interest in the issues facing our City and my work to meet today’s challenges and to create a great city for future generations.

In this newsletter, I will highlight some of the key issues I have been working on during this first quarter of 2007. 

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,



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

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Condo Conversion Protections Update - Legislation still pending in Olympia

I have previously written about my commitment to help ensure that people of all income levels are able to work and live in our city. An increasing pressure point in the rental housing market is the conversion of apartments to condominiums. During the past two years Seattle has experienced a significant loss of rental housing due to condo conversions. 

Seattle does not control its own destiny on condo conversions; state law governs much of what the City can do. I am working to strike a common sense balance between the rights of property owners and the individuals who are impacted by the conversions. 

Last year I approached key members of the state legislature and asked for support in crafting a new law to increase protections for tenants whose apartments are scheduled to be converted to condominiums.   The proposed law will strengthen renters’ protections in three key areas:

  • Increase the time required for notice of conversion from three to four months;
  • Increase the amount of relocation assistance payments to low income tenants; and
  • Prohibit construction inside the building until the tenants move out.

If approved, the state law will have been significantly improved. Seattle is not the only community affected by condominium conversions and I urge those that care about the plight of people who must relocate -- due to the conversion of an apartment -- to contact their state senator and state representatives in support of this important legislation.

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Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian Safety Sigh The City Council made pedestrian safety improvements a high priority for 2007. A Special Council Committee on Pedestrian Safety was created to guide the Pedestrian Safety Legislative Initiative.

The Council also voted unanimously to develop a Pedestrian Safety Master Plan. This will include education, engineering, and enforcement elements and participation from the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Department of Transportation. Further, it directs the Seattle Department of Transportation to develop an education and enforcement campaign in 2007, to increase awareness regarding rights and responsibilities for both pedestrians and drivers. Finally, the Plan will prioritize improvements for pedestrian safety, mapping the locations and producing cost estimates where work is needed.

The plan will track the results of the City's first red-light cameras project, which I initiated within the Council.  This initiative was launched to improve traffic safety through red light cameras that photograph the license plates of vehicles running red lights and then send notice of violation to the owners.

In addition to the Red Light Camera project, past Council achievements to increase pedestrian safety have included:

  • increased penalties and jail time for negligent drivers;
  • placing the successful transportation funding measure called “Bridging the Gap” before Seattle voters which allocates $11.2 million in the first year of the program to sidewalks, trails, walkways, stairways, bike paths; pedestrian safety measures; and
  • $1 million in funding for new traffic lights at high priority intersections.

These efforts are important steps to saving lives and making our streets safer.

A Reminder: Pedestrian Safety Tips –

  • If crossing a multiple lane roadway, pedestrians should visually clear each lane as they proceed.
  • Look LEFT - RIGHT - LEFT prior to entering the street.
  • Always hold a child by the hand while crossing the street and remember, WALK don't run.

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One Night Count: Encouraging Results

I am a strong proponent of the region’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness and I am focused on continuing to make important strides to increase affordable housing in our community.

I participated in the One Night Count again this year in January to count the number people living on the streets in Seattle and other communities throughout King County.  I was assigned to a team that walked the Pike Place Market area. It’s important to note that the annual count of people in our region who are living outside is only a snapshot in time and the numbers from year to year can be impacted by many factors.

We conducted the count in the very early morning hours throughout the County.   Although this year’s numbers decreased by 5% from last year’s count, we still found 2,140 people in tents, cars, or on the streets.

The count is organized by the Seattle/King County Coalition for the Homeless in partnership with Operation Nightwatch, the Committee to End Homelessness in King County and King County Housing and Community Development. I am very appreciative of the hundreds of volunteers who take part in this annual effort.

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Speaker Series: Housing Our Future

housing The City of Seattle and ULI Seattle (the Urban Land Institute) launched a speaker series on February 15, 2007 called "Housing Our Future."  This series focuses on the increasing challenge that many workers have in finding affordable housing within close proximity to their jobs.

Former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Henry Cisneros gave the inaugural presentation, outlining the importance of available housing for our workforce -- and its impact on our economy.

The next two speakers in the series include:

  • Robin Snyderman - Housing Director, Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago, IL

Employer Assisted Housing for a Competitive Workforce

Ms. Snyderman will outline how her council has worked successfully with a variety of regional stakeholders to increase the range of quality housing options near jobs and transit.

April 17, 2007, 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. Free Admission
Seattle City Hall – Bertha Knight Landes Room

RSVP: HousingSpeakers@seattle.gov

  • Ron Terwilliger – Chairman and CEO of Trammell Crow Residential – Atlanta

Housing Our Workforce:  Why Business Leaders Should Care

Mr. Terwilliger will address an increasing national crisis: a huge number of fully-employed people, from teachers to hospital workers, who are not able to live close to where they work.  He will provide a roadmap to change this pattern in a way that benefits both workers and communities.

September 18, 2007, 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.
Seattle location: TBD

RSVP: Coordinator@seattle.uli.org
Pricing and additional information: http://www.seattle.uli.org

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Community Cause: Simple Measures – Chamber Music in the neighborhoods

I was excited to recently learn of a wonderful chamber music concert series.

Simple Measures offers a new kind of concert-going experience producing themed, high quality chamber performances with audience interaction, in intimate, informal neighborhood locales.

One program is called “Cultural Routes” which includes music of several different nations, each with its own distinct national character. The concert will sample Chinese, South American, Hungarian and other cultures. The concert program will be presented at the following dates and locations:

  • Friday, April 20, 2007 7:30PM
    Mercer Island Congregational Church
     
  • Simple Measures
  • Sunday, April 22, 2007 7:00PM
    Golden Gardens Bathhouse - Ballard
     
  • Monday, April 23, 2007 7:30PM
    Shoreline Unitarian-Universalist Church
     
  • Tuesday, April 24, 2007 7:30PM
    Mt. Baker Community Club

Please visit the Simple Measures website for further information and tickets: www.SimpleMeasures.org

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In Your Neighborhood

  • Thursday, March 29 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. – Habitat for Humanity benefit breakfast – Washington State Convention Center
  • Thursday, March 29 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. – Horace Mann Awards dinner – Washington Athletic Club
  • Tuesday, April 3 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. – Taiwanese Senior Citizens Association – Chinese Cultural Center 5th & Jackson
  • Saturday, April 7 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. – West Seattle Universalist Fellowship – Kinney Hall
  • Thursday, April 19 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. – City of Seattle annual Sister Cities Reception – City Hall – Bertha Knight Landes Room
  • Tuesday, April 24 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. – Bike To Work breakfast – Grand Hyatt Hotel
  • Thursday, April 26 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. – Municipal League of King County Civic Awards – Space Needle
  • Friday, April 27 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – IDHA (International District Housing Alliance) 30th Anniversary celebration – Westin Hotel – Cascade Ballroom
  • Sunday, April 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – West Seattle Water Taxi Re-Opening – Seacrest Park

I hope to see you at one of these events. 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 tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov

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