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                  Point of View

May, 2007 - Issue No. 22
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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 recently. 

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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Housing Site Acquisition Fund $2 million for Low-Income Housing

Numerous articles have been written about the difficulty the average person has in being able to afford to buy a home.  One of the reasons that housing is so costly is the escalating cost of land.  What hasn’t been reported is that private non-profit organizations who build low and moderate income housing report they are also having a very difficult time building affordable housing due to increasing land costs.

Real estate purchasing opportunities sometimes occur before the non-profits have all of their finances together for a project.  They have a difficult time competing against the private for-profit developers who can often respond more quickly and build more expensive housing.

Two years ago, I proposed that the City explore creative ways to help non-profit developers purchase land and thereby limit the increasing costs of acquisition.  At my urging, the City Council requested our Office of Housing to develop a program to help the non-profits acquire real estate before all permanent financing for a project was secured.

After considering many alternatives, it was determined that up to $2 million in the current housing levy fund program are available annually for loans to acquire land.  I recommended to the Council that the City create a new two-year pilot loan program to enable non-profit developers to receive loans, sometimes called “bridge” loans”, to buy land while they develop permanent financing for the entire project.  The City’s funds will be protected because the loans will be secured by deeds of trust and the City will be paid back with interest after permanent financing is secured.

Some have called this a “land-banking program” because the cost of the land is set at the time of purchase even though the project may not be ready to be built for up to five years.

I have been working on this for two years and I am thrilled!  Now, we have one more tool to help meet the challenge of building affordable housing in Seattle!

As chair of the Council’s Housing, Human Services and Health Committee I am always looking for creative ways to help combat the rising costs of housing.  Any ideas you have will be most welcome.

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City Light Street Light Outages - City Light Reports Repair Backlog

At first I thought it was my imagination. I travel around the city from one neighborhood meeting to another in the evening. It seemed that a significant number of street lights are not working. This is especially a problem when I am looking at map trying to determine where I am supposed to be next!

When I brought my concerns to City Light I learned that since 2001 City Light does not have a program to replace bulbs on a regular schedule. They wait until they receive reports of outages. After December's major windstorm, City Light has had to repair many more streetlights. Before the storm, the department had been averaging 1,300 bulb replacements a month. After the December storm hit the number of bulbs needing replacement increased steadily, culminating in over 2,200 repairs in March. Some of this increase is due to the severe winds of that storm when the bulbs were shaken with enough force to break the filaments or the bulbs. Because all of the City Light line crews were assigned to repairing the power grid that was destroyed, streetlight replacement work has been delayed.

City Light has assured me that they are working to reduce the backlog of outages by the end of this month. They are hiring temporary employees from the ranks of retired line workers.

City Light would like your help in reporting any streetlight outages. If you spot a non-functioning streetlight, please call City Light at (206) 684-7056 or go to their website where you can complete the form to provide them with the location details.

Let’s get the lights back on and let’s end that old 2001 policy and replace the bulbs on a more regular basis!

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Tree Topping and Cutting Damage and Theft From Public Property

Some people are continuing to break the law and are topping trees on City property including in our parks and our greenbelts to improve their views.  This happened in my neighborhood where someone cut off at least 15 feet in a City greenbelt on a very steep slope.  My neighbors are upset and so am I.

There are many state laws and city ordinances that prohibit the damaging of other people’s property including the City’s trees.  When a report of illegal cutting is called in to the Parks Department they immediately report the matter to the Seattle Police Department.

City Light SPD conducts its investigation, and seeks evidence to turn the case over to the King County Prosecutor for prosecution. The City also can file a civil suit to recover the costs of replacing the trees which many times can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

I encourage all of you to make people aware that in Seattle we value trees and our environment.  Cutting of other’s trees including the City’s will not be tolerated. If you see or learn of damage call the Urban Forestry desk at the Parks Department at 206-684-4113.  Rest assured that I have called upon the Police Department and the Parks Department to find out who ruined the trees in the greenbelt near me.

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Community Cause - Deaf-Blind Center of Seattle

I recently met with Jelica Nuccio, the Executive Director of the Deaf-Blind Service Center located in Seattle. Their mission is to assist Deaf-Blind people in reaching and maintaining their highest possible quality of life and degree of personal autonomy.

DBSC offers services to residents of the state of Washington over the age of 16 who experienced an initial severe loss of hearing and/or vision prior to the age of 65 and who are now Deaf-Blind or have a condition which will result in Deaf-Blindness. Partial funding for DBSC is currently provided by the City of Seattle and through subcontracts with the State of Washington. Funding also comes from grants, private donations and fees for some professional services. Most services of DBSC are available at no cost to residents of the state of Washington.

Because the Deaf-Blind Service Center believes that communication is crucial to providing quality services to Deaf-Blind people the organization provides the following services and benefits:

  • Information is provided in the desired communication mode of the person being served, whether that is Braille, close vision or tactile communication;
  • The staff possesses a complementary set of language and communication skills, to meet the broadest possible spectrum of language and communication needs;
  • The organization provides qualified interpreters for larger meetings;
  • All advocacy and case planning is provided with the fullest possible participation of the Deaf-Blind individual.

If you would like to volunteer as a Support Service Provider or learn more information about The Deaf-Blind Service Center send an email to info@seattledbsc.org or call 206-323-9178.

City Light

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In Your Neighborhood

  • Wednesday, June 6 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. – Bitter Lake neighborhood walking tour – Bitter Lake Community Center
  • Friday, June 8 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Seattle Aquarium Dinner to Inspire Conservation of the Maritime Environment – Seattle Aquarium
  • Sunday, June 10 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Allied Arts annual gala – Foster/White Gallery 220 3rd Avenue S
  • Tuesday, June 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Downtown Seattle Association annual meeting – Westin Hotel
  • Friday, June 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. – Forum on LGBT Health and Aging – UW Kane Hall
  • Wednesday, June 20 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. – Fremont Chamber of Commerce Picnic in the Park – Gasworks Park
  • Friday, June 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. – Seattle Aquarium – Puget Sound Hall dedication ceremony  – Seattle Aquarium
  • Saturday, June 23 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. – Seattle Front Runners 4K/10K Walk-Run – Annual Run With Pride – Seward Park
  • Monday, June 25 from 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Food Lifeline Distribution Center tour and lunch – 4011 6th Avenue S

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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