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                  Point of View

August, 2007 - Issue No. 23

Dear Friends,

I am in the dog house in my family. My partner’s sister received a traffic citation in the mail for allegedly running a red light at one of Seattle’s intersections where a new red light camera is installed. She partly blames me because I was one of the Councilmembers who led the effort to purchase the cameras. She claims that there is some mistake and she did not run the red light.  My response?  'Sorry dear, tell it to the judge'.

In this issue of Point of View you will read about the success of the red light cameras, an affordable housing discussion with developers and an innovative computer training program for senor citizens which has just received national recognition.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Best wishes,

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

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Improving Safety - Red Light Cameras

In 2004 Councilmember Nick Licata and I began working to begin a “red light camera” pilot program in Seattle.  We are seeking more effective ways to make our streets safer both for drivers and pedestrians.   Beginning in June 2006, four intersections in Seattle had cameras installed.  These intersections were chosen because they have some of the highest number of collisions caused by drivers who run red lights.

The cameras take still photos and a video clip of vehicles running red lights.  After careful review of the photos and the video a citation is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle if a violation occurred.  We are closely monitoring the results and have received a draft report on the first 10 months of the pilot program.

We learned that in the “red-light camera intersections” there has been a one-third decrease in the number of red light running violations and a total of 14,000 citations have been issued.  That is 14,000 citations at only four intersections!

Also the fines received for the violations have far exceeded the cost of the program.  I am very pleased with the results so far and I expect that over time the severity of injuries and even fatalities will decrease as fewer drivers run red lights and cause accidents.

As a result Councilmember Nick Licata and I will be sponsoring legislation in the 2008 budget that the program be expanded to other dangerous intersections around Seattle.

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Focused on Building Affordable Housing

On Friday, July 20th my colleagues and I held an Affordable Housing Forum at City Hall.  We invited for-profit housing developers, the Office of Housing, and Council staff to present information and ideas on one of the most challenging issues facing Seattle - the development of affordable housing. While we usually hear from non-profit developers whose mission is focused on the need for affordable housing for lower incomes, it is important that we also engage for-profit developers by creating public/private partnerships to create more housing for residents at all income levels.

We learned that some of the biggest challenges in developing affordable housing are high land prices, escalating construction costs and increased government regulations.

The panel also shared several specific ideas on what actions the City could take to enable more affordable housing to be built. The ideas that we heard included making changes to programs or policies such as tax incentives, zoning codes, parking requirements, State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requirements, permit costs and processing time, seismic code land-banking, the importance of adding attractive amenities such as parks, and the importance of good schools to attract family housing development.

I intend to follow up and begin working on an affordable housing action agenda including implementing some of the recommendations we heard, as well as recommendations from non-profit housing developers and housing advocates.

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Immigrants & Refugees – Nominees sought for new Advisory Board

Seattle has experienced significant growth in its foreign-born population since the 1980s. Today 17% of Seattle’s resident’s were born overseas.  It is important to provide immigrants and refugees every opportunity to be successful citizens.

In July, the City Council adopted my recommendation to create the Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Board. The creation of this board was called for in the recently released Immigrant and Refugee Report and Action Plan. This new board will advise the Mayor and Council on issues affecting immigrant and refugee communities.

When I meet with representatives of refugee and immigrant communities, I am impressed with their eagerness to thrive and be self-sufficient and to contribute to our community.  But language and cultural differences can be real barriers to success. This board will give a much needed voice to our newest residents.

To apply for appointment to the Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Board, submit a resume and a letter of interest by Friday, Aug. 31, 2007. In lieu of a resume, applicants may submit a summary document with name, address, contact information, employment history, volunteer experience, and a statement of why they want to serve on the advisory board.

Applications should be sent by Aug. 31, 2007, to:
Haddis Tadesse
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Ave, P.O. Box 94749
Seattle, WA 98124-4749
Or via e-mail at

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Street Light Outages – Progress to Report from City Light

In the last edition of Point of View, I wrote about the high number of street lights that were not functioning. After last winter’s major storm, damage to the system was substantial and backlogs increased.  In response, temporary employees were hired from the ranks of retired line workers. Street light repairs have increased steadily over the last several months. City Light reports that it has made substantial progress in repairing the outages. The current backlog of lights waiting for replacement is down to approximately 200 and the average wait for repair is seven days.

Please continue to help City Light by reporting any street light outages. If you spot a non-functioning street light, 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.

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Community Cause: Seniors Training Seniors wins national recognition

Seniors Training Seniors in Technology, a City program that provides opportunities for older adults to learn computer skills, received a 2007 Aging Achievement Certificate at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging conference in San Francisco earlier this month. As a result, the national Best Practices Clearinghouse will feature Seniors Training Seniors on the Web. I was thrilled to learn of this award.

In 2000, while I was director of the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens (MOSC), we designed a pilot program to teach computer skills to people age 50 and older. Ten senior volunteers taught computer classes to other seniors.  They introduced their peers to the keyboard and mouse, e-mail and the Internet.   I heard many amusing stories of the first attempts at using computers, such as the senior who ran the mouse over the monitor screen thinking that was how it worked!

The pilot program was successful, but there were no plans to continue.  I thought it had great potential and in 2001, the program moved to the MOSC.  Now Seniors Training Seniors has grown to 35 volunteer instructors and more than 850 older adults sign up for training each year.

Seniors Training Seniors offers classes at training sites throughout Seattle in everything from basic keyboard and mouse skills, to intermediate-level office skills and photo editing. Most classes are eight hours, taught over two or four days. Because the program uses volunteer instructors, most classes cost only $15 per person.

New instructors are always welcome. If you or someone you know has an entrepreneurial spirit, a sense of humor, and lots of patience plus a strong working knowledge of computers, Seniors Training Seniors is a good place to volunteer. Following an initial orientation, volunteer instructors (leads and assistants) participate in 12–16 hours of training, learning to teach a course curriculum without a lot of technical jargon.

Seniors Training Seniors also seeks partnerships with community-based organizations that serve older people and would be interested in becoming a training site in 2008.

To register for classes, volunteer or get more information about serving as a training site, contact Patti-lyn Bell at (206) 684-0639 or

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