Seattle’s neighborhood fight ‘not about silencing voices’ — And a response from a ‘neighborhood villain’

The future of Seattle's neighborhood council's probably looks more like the People’s Academy for Community Engagement -- now accepting applications

The future of Seattle’s neighborhood council’s probably looks more like the People’s Academy for Community Engagement — now accepting applications(Image: City of Seattle)

Kathy Nyland, director of the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, has responded to the backlash from groups around Seattle that contend City Hall’s push to disconnect itself from the entrenched District Council system is an attempt to silence “neighborhood” voices. Here is the main thrust — the whole thing is posted here in the CHS Community section:

Seattle is a unique city, and we are fortunate to have so many valuable partners currently at the proverbial table. Those partners play an important role and that role will continue. While we are appreciative of the countless hours our volunteers spend making our city better, we recognize and acknowledge there are barriers to participation. There are communities who cannot be at the table, while there are some communities who don’t even know there is a table. This is where theDepartment of Neighborhoods comes in.

This is not a power grab. It is a power share. At the heart of this Executive Order is a commitment to advance the effective deployment of equitable and inclusive community engagement strategies across all city departments. This is about making information and opportunities for participation more accessible to communities throughout the city. Continue reading

New law would ban conversion therapy for minors in Seattle

A message at 2016 Trans* Pride (Image: CHS)

A message at 2016 Trans* Pride (Image: CHS)

City Council member Lorena Gonzalez is proposing an addition to the Seattle Municipal Code to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors.

“Seattle must send a clear message that we stand with children who are currently subjected to or may be at risk of being subjected to conversion therapy,” said Gonzalez. “Research has repeatedly demonstrated that this practice is ineffective and results in negative health outcomes.”

Conversion therapy proponents believe it can make LGBTQ individuals become heterosexual. The practice is opposed by the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and the Human Rights Campaign, among others. Continue reading

Seattle — especially its businesses — falling short of recycling goals

Horse-drawn garbage wagon, 1915

Seattle Public Utilities is preparing a rate hike for the around 1 million tons of garbage, compost, and recycling the city’s citizens and businesses create ever year. But the bigger deal might be that even in green Seattle, we are falling behind recycling goals.

In 2015, the city recycled 58% of its MSW — municipal solid waste — that’s two percentage points short of goals set in 2013, according to a recent presentation to the Seattle City Council.

Tuesday, a council committee will discuss SPU’s proposed rate hikes of 7.2% in 2017, 1.9% in 2018, and 4% in 2019. The city says the monthly solid waste bill for a typical residential customer is currently around $44.85. SPU says the increases are necessary to help offset the costs of its Utility Discount Program for low income residents and to upgrade the recycling center at its South Transfer Station and complete the new North Transfer Station, set to be open by the end of 2017. Continue reading

What’s in Seattle ‘Renting Crisis’ report

Progressive Seattle City Council members unveiled a pair of bills Thursday they say will help protect average residents looking for housing in Seattle’s cutthroat rental market. District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is proposing new legislation to limit move-in costs and “ease moving barriers” for Seattle renters. A measure from District 1 rep Lisa Herbold seeks to prevent landlords from turning down prospective tenants due to their source of income.

To put a finer point on the need for their proposals, the council members were joined by members of Washington Community Action Network, an advocacy organization working on housing justice, who released a ‘Renting Crisis’ report on the challenges faced by renters in Seattle.

Of the 303 renters surveyed, 95% rated housing as unaffordable, more than 70% said poor housing conditions were negatively impacting their health, and the report indicated that minority and LGBTQ tenants were more likely to experience problems with the conditions of their rental units and resulting health problems. Continue reading

‘You have to start somewhere’ — Seattle looks at bias-free policing law

The investigation of William Wingate's arrest showed the importance of some of the new

The investigation of William Wingate’s arrest showed the importance of examining past statement and records of officers accused of biased policing (Images: CHS)

How can you legislate racism? It is a question at the heart of any effort to eliminate biased policing and one that Seattle King County NAACP president Gerald Hankerson was quick to raise Wednesday during a City Council committee meeting on the subject.

The answer came from City Council president Bruce Harrell: “You have to start somewhere.” Over the past year, Harrell and his staff have been working on a series of measures to codify bias-free policing practices in Seattle. On Wednesday, Harrell unveiled the basics of his plan.

Central to the proposal is making permanent the bias-free policing requirements laid out by a federal monitor as part of Seattle Police Department’s federal consent decree over excessive use of force practices. Collecting demographic data on police interactions is particularly crucial, Harrell said. Continue reading

Sawant unveiling legislation to cap Seattle move-in fees

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is proposing new legislation to limit move-in costs and “ease moving barriers” for Seattle renters.

A representative from Sawant’s office tells CHS the the legislation proposes changes to many small aspects of move-in fees.

“When you take them together, they have an impact,” Sawant staffer Ted Virdone said.

Virdone said that when a new tenant moves in, landlords can currently charge a variety of nonrefundable fees including for pets and cleaning. Continue reading

SPD ‘micro community’ policing survey shows ‘strong level of trust’

On Capitol Hill, the main issues are mental illness, car prowls, and graffiti. The biggest crime issue people had to complain about on First Hill is littering and illegal dumping. Meanwhile in the Central District, people are worried about getting shot, car prowls… and, well, getting shot. This from the results of a Seattle University-run survey on behalf of the Seattle Police Department as part of its ongoing “micro community” policing plan.

Limited results from the survey and a new micro community policing site were announced Thursday:

MCPP are the result of grassroots efforts, with direct collaboration from residents, business leaders, stakeholders, and police officers on the beat. Under the MCPP, community residents work in partnership with their local precinct captain and Community Policing Team to identify problems, analyze existing quality of life and crime data, and design individualized plans to reduce and prevent crime.

Continue reading

Seattle shakes up neighborhood council system to better represent communities, align with District 3

13640789_1003708106412384_301204451005057363_oSome of Seattle’s wisest, wonkiest City Hall watchers were taken by surprise by an announcement from the office of Mayor Ed Murray Tuesday that the current Neighborhood District Council system will be reworked into what the press release called the Community Involvement Commission. The announcement comes days before a consultant hired by the city to evaluate the district council system was set to give recommendations for change.

UPDATE: Murray said Wednesday a process has begun to remove city support and resources for the neighborhood district councils. The councils might live on but they will do so as independent bodies. Focus groups will be formed to determine the best path to dissolving the city’s ties. The aim is to have legislation moving forward by fall to restructure the city’s relationship with neighborhood groups.

“Seattle must, as it was three decades ago, be on the cutting edge of innovation by creating new community engagement processes,” said Mayor Murray at Wednesday’s press conference. Murray said that Seattle needed ways to better engage people not represented by the councils, such as young people, renters, immigrants and minorities. “They shouldn’t be cut out of the discussion of how we as a city make decisions,” said Murray.

The mayor’s executive order instructs city departments to “implement more inclusive and equitable engagement practices.” The initiative will be led by the DON. The city is severing formal and financial ties to the district councils, and resources previously allocated to those councils will be re allocated to engaging with neighborhood community groups more broadly. Officials Wednesday said that part of what the Community Involvement Commission will determine over the coming months will be how and where those resources should be redistributed.

“Suddenly from nowhere the mayor comes out with this announcement,” said the East Neighborhood District Council’s former chair Andrew Taylor. “The two sentences from the press release were all we heard.”

The current review of the district council system was put in place in part to address concerns that the district councils do not fully represent neighborhoods; for example, people who work evening shifts or cannot afford public transportation would find it very difficult to attend the district council meetings. “There were concerns that the East District Council doesn’t fairly represent minorities,” said Taylor. Continue reading

Reminder: Capitol Hill Renter Initiative monthly meeting

(Image: Carlos Ruiz courtesy of Capitol Hill Housing)

(Image: Carlos Ruiz courtesy of Capitol Hill Housing)

Remember how we told you about how renters, Capitol Hill’s silent majority, are getting their political act together?

Renters: Capitol Hill’s silent majority is organizing

Here’s the next chance for you to get involved:

Capitol Hill Renter Initiative – July Meeting

Seattle vigil follows police shootings as city attempts at SPD reform continue — UPDATE

UPDATE 9:53 PM: Around 2,000 people rallied and marched through downtown Seattle Thursday night with a handful of skirmishes with police reported.

Meanwhile, Chief O’Toole has “directed officers to work in pairs as much as possible,” according to the Seattle Times, after Dallas officers were killed and injured in an ambush style attack during an anti-police violence march in that city.

UPDATE 7/8/2016 1:55 PM: Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole has issued a statement on the Dallas shootings and confirmed that SPD officers will work in pairs. The chief also touched on the department’s use of force reform efforts in her statement. “The Seattle Police Department will continue to work with all of our city’s communities to ensure that police officers do not use unnecessary force, that children are safe on their streets and in their schools, and the brave men and women of the SPD all go home to their loved ones at the end of the day,” O’Toole said.

Original report: Black Lives Matter activists have called for a vigil and rally in Seattle’s Westlake Park Thursday night to mark the latest in a continuing string of police killings of black men across the nation:

#BlackLivesMatter Stand with Andre Taylor and Not This Time against the rash of police shootings against Americans who are detained or in custody; the most recent death: Alton Sterling. Demonstrate to Seattle and WA State Government that the citizens of this city and State, will no longer tolerate country-wide the continued homicides by police officers without independent investigation and with indeterminate accountability. The Community speaks!

Seattle Police officials and Seattle City Hall have so far been silent on the two latest deadly shootings that have sparked a wave of protest after being caught on video and widely shared around the world. UPDATE: The mayor’s office has scheduled a 3:30 PM media conference to “deliver remarks on the recent officer involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.”

UPDATE 3:50 PM: Flanked by members of his cabinet, Mayor Ed Murray spoke on the pain and sadness of the deadly police shootings and defended his office’s dedication to reforming the Seattle Police Department and deploying body cameras across the entire force.

“I know that the black community is walking with a heavy heart, and with a sense of outrage, a sense of injustice, and fear. Had (Philando) Castillo and Sterling been white, I believe that they would be alive today,” Murray said. Coming days are “not going to be easy as a result of these shootings,” Murray said before turning his attention to the problems of race and policing in his own city.

Continue reading

Proposed business tax changes would boost Seattle Police

Two proposed ordinances that will increase costs for Seattle businesses to raise funding for growing the Seattle Police Department are scheduled for discussion Wednesday by a Seattle City Council committee. Both ordinances have the objective of increasing revenue for the city to help defray the cost of resources needed for SPD, including 200 more police officers and 911 staffing center needs that a City Hall rep tells CHS have been neglected for some time.

The first ordinance proposes a 3.2% increase in tax rates for most Seattle businesses over a two-year period. City Budget Office director Ben Noble said the proposed tax increase would raise approximately $8 million of more than $20 million total needed to pay for the SPD resources. Continue reading

Political scandal, Seattle style: SDOT director admits bike share ethics violations

Mayor Murray and his SDOT director check out a new Pronto bike before the system's launch (Image: SDOT)

Mayor Murray and his SDOT director check out a new Pronto bike before the system’s launch (Image: SDOT)

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 5.38.52 PMLeave it to Seattle to have a political scandal involving a bike share.

Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly has admitted that he failed to obtain permission before working with his former employer on Seattle’s bike share system.

Kubly has agreed to a $10,000 fine for participating in a matter in which his prior employer had a financial interest and failure to file a disclosure about that participation. Half of the fine will be suspended as long as no new violations occur, according to the settlement agreement.

The Seattle Bike Blog reports that Kubly’s relationship with Alta Bicycle Share was no secret:

The problem isn’t that he hid previous work connections from the public. His experience helping to launch bike share systems in Washington D.C. and Chicago as well as his six-month stint as President of Alta Bicycle Share from January through June of 2014 were publicly lauded when he was hired to become SDOT Director in July 2014. Since Puget Sound Bike Share was set to launch a system in Seattle months after Kubly was hired, his bike share experience seemed like a good thing for the city. However, city ethics rules state that city employees are not to do business with a previous employer for a year after their employment ends without first obtaining a waiver. That did not happen. Kubly admitted this violation and agreed to be fined.

Kubly joined SDOT in 2014 with a reputation as “a transportation visionary” with “a proven track record in Chicago and Washington, D.C. of advancing innovative solutions that address the full range of transportation needs of residents and businesses.” In March, the City Council approved the city’s takeover of the Pronto bike share system which was mired in debt and insolvent after its launch under the nonprofit Puget Sound Bike Share.