Mayor kills Seattle’s public bike share

By the end of March, Seattle will no longer have a public bike share system. Mayor Ed Murray announced Friday night the city will take $3 million set aside to replace its struggling Pronto system and instead put the money to work making bicycling and pedestrian improvements across Seattle. The $4.4 million budget required to start the system in 2014 and the $1.4 million approved last March to keep the system afloat? Poof.

“This shift in funding priorities allows us to make critical bicycle and pedestrian improvements — especially for students walking and biking to school,” Murray said in a statement. “While I remain optimistic about the future of bike share in Seattle, today we are focusing on a set of existing projects that will help build a safe, world-class bicycle and pedestrian network.” Continue reading

Seattle homelessness update: progress on trash, camp rules but not much else


By Brandon Gustafson, UW News Lab / Special to CHS

The mayor’s homelessness czar gave an update this week on progress made in Seattle’s plans to do more than offer shelter to homeless people  — there wasn’t much to talk about beyond garbage and how best to move campers from spot to spot.

“We have a crisis that we need to address. … We have 3,000 people in the city of Seattle who are sleeping in cars, sleeping in doorways, sleeping in tents outside. Unacceptable,” George Scarola, director of homelessness for the mayor’s office told the Seattle City Council’s Human Services and Public Health Committee.

“The main part is to provide people with 24-hour shelter where they can store their possessions. … We’re setting those kinds of shelters up as we speak.”

Wednesday, Scarola ticked through updates on the the “interim action plan” from Mayor Ed Murray’s office to address new alternatives to homeless encampments in Seattle. Rules about the moving and removal of homeless camping areas are changing. Continue reading

San Francisco and Seattle mayors compare notes on homelessness — ‘We did not plan to grow affordably’

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-3-53-37-pmEach individual needs a different approach when it comes to homelessness, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee agree.

The two mayors discussed what they’re doing about West Coast homelessness during a public forum Wednesday at Seattle University. journalist Joni Balter and Seattle University master of public administration director Larry Hubbell directed the discussion that covered challenges in funding, effectiveness of current and past services and new approaches taken in Washington and California. Though one theme seemed to echo throughout each topic: taking a holistic approach.

“It’s important to talk about how we got here, not just what we do now,” Mayor Murray said. “We did not plan to grow affordably, which is why we’re in this crisis.” Continue reading

Affordable housing, tenant rights advocate running for council on Seattle Democracy Vouchers

Jon Grant ran for the seat in 2015, and this year he’s going for the same City Council Position 8 with a platform focused on affordable housing and tenant rights — and being one of the first publicly financed candidates ever in Seattle.

Grant, former director of the Tenants Union, announced his bid back in November with a challenge to supporters to raise 400 $10 donations in the city’s new Democracy Voucher program. He exceeded that by getting 560 vouchers averaging $16 to fund his campaign.

“We had a tremendous response,” Grant said. Grant has already received more donations for this campaign than his entire 10-month campaign in 2015.

Here’s how the voucher program works. Earlier this month, registered voters began getting four $25 in vouchers in the mail. Seattle residents who are at least 18 years old and are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident can apply online for vouchers. Each voucher has the election year, resident’s name, a voucher identification number, and may have a voter ID number and barcode to help with signature verification. All contributions are public information. Continue reading

Seattle City Council member organizing ‘Resist Trump’ town hall

(Image: Office of Kshama Sawant)

(Image: Office of Kshama Sawant)

Capitol Hill’s representative on the Seattle City Council is holding a town hall to help coordinate and organize a busy month of protests, walkouts, and actions centered around MLK Day and Inauguration Day.

District 3 rep Kshama Sawant will host the Resist Trump Coalition Town Hall January 14th at City Hall:

Brothers and Sisters,

We don’t have a moment to waste in getting organized against Trump’s racist, misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, anti-lgbtq rhetoric, proposals, and cabinet members.

Join the Resist Trump Coalition and my office at City Hall to help build the biggest possible protests against Trump on January 20th and 21st.

Detailed information about the agenda for this meeting will be provided asap.


A Sawant staffer tells CHS the Socialist Alternative councilor is focused on Seattle’s response to the incoming Trump administration and the threat she feels it poses to constituents.

Sawant has led her party’s call for “global days of protest” on January 20th and 21st.

$15 now — As workers at Seattle’s biggest chains hit milestone wage, Hill’s small biz owners make 2017 adjustments

The new year means another wage hike for Seattle workers and some workers have finally hit the $15 goal of the phased-in plan. For 2017, employees of businesses with more than 500 workers who don’t pay toward medical benefits now must earn at least $15 per hour, a $2 raise from 2016. While most Capitol Hill small business owners don’t have to worry yet about a Starbucks-level minimum wage, they’re still navigating yet another year of raises in the city’s multi-year phase-in process.

“Our fear is pricing people out of the neighborhood,” Meinert said. “… We don’t want to keep raising prices, but we have to.”

While other large employers who put dollars toward their workers’ medical benefits will be paying $13.50 per hour, a $1 increase from 2016, workers at small businesses — those with 500 or fewer employees — are now guaranteed $13 per hour, up $1 from 2016. Employers will either hit that by paying $13 per hour or by paying $11 hourly and either at least $2 per hour toward medical benefits or ensuring their employees get at least $2 hourly in tips.

That tip credit toward the $15 wage is scheduled to end by 2025. A small number of Seattle restaurants have already moved away from tips to service charges in part because of the rising minimum wage.

Some restaurant owners such as David Meinert, who is part of the ownership at a large family of businesses including Lost Lake Cafe, Comet Tavern, Grim’s and Big Mario’s, have regrets about how Seattle’s wage hike is being phased in. Continue reading

Seattle homeless ‘navigation center’ delayed

Participants in San Francisco’s navigation center pilot program

When Seattle Mayor Ed Murray first announced plans for the city’s 24-hour homeless Navigation Center in June, the goal was to launch the center by the end of the year. That 2016 goal will be missed.

Human Services director Catherine Lester responded to CHS about the delay with an email statement:

The City has secured providers for the Navigation Center and is actively working to secure a facility. Should the process of preparing the facility delay its opening, we will work with (the Downtown Emergency Service Center) and Operation Sack Lunch to begin providing services in the interim.

“Identifying a site has taken longer than we had originally considered,” Jason Johnson, division director of the Human Services department told a committee meeting with City Council members before the Christmas holiday. Continue reading

Seattle City Council veteran Burgess won’t seek reelection

Burgess -- and friends -- celebrating Prop. 1's election night victory in August (Image: CHS)

Burgess — and friends — celebrating Prop. 1’s election night victory in August (Image: CHS)

Seen by some as one of the few mature adults on the Seattle City Council and by others as one of the body’s most conservative voices, Tim Burgess has announced that he’ll serve his final year in the council chambers in 2017 and will not be part of the campaign for his seat next fall.

Burgess posted about the decision Monday:

After considerable and, frankly, agonizing thought, and after multiple conversations with my family, I’ve decided not to seek re-election to the City Council in 2017. In the end, it was clear to me and Joleen that its time for someone else to fill my seat. I’ve been elected citywide three times and will have served 10 years at the end of this term next December. When my term ends, I will be just a couple months short of 69. Time turn my focus to the next chapter for Joleen and me.

“What an honor is has been to serve the people of Seattle,” his statement concludes. “I look forward to continuing that service for another year and beyond in some capacity.”

So far, potential replacements for Burgess haven’t yet emerged though housing advocate Jon Grant has launched an exploratory campaign he hopes will be powered by the city’s new campaign voucher program.

Burgess began his time on the council before the change to the new district system and ran a successful campaign for one of the two at-large seats in the new structure in 2015. After serving as the council president, he has chaired the committee responsible for affordable housing, neighborhoods, and finance this year. Burgess has occasionally found himself as one of the lone voices in committee sessions opposing more progressive attempts at creating affordable housing solutions including the recently passed $29 billion housing bond plan. Still, he was with the crowd hooting inside Optimism Brewing this summer as Prop. 1 to renew and expand the city’s housing levy rolled to a landslide victory.

Fellow Burgess adult (to some) voice of the establishment (to others) Ed Murray has already begun fundraising and campaigning for a second term as mayor. Candidates in that race won’t yet be eligible to take part in the new voucher fundraising, by the way.

In February 2013, Burgess opened his campaign headquarters on E Pike as he made a short-lived bid to challenge Murray for the mayor’s office.

Sawant, community groups ask City Council not to water down Seattle move-in fee cap — UPDATE: Approved

No, District 3 rep Kshama Sawant hasn’t joined the NASCAR circuit. Those 26 logos she is sporting this week represent what she says are “the 26 community, labor, and faith organizations” calling on the rest of her City Council colleagues and Mayor Ed Murray to pass legislation capping move-in fees in Seattle, the political battle Sawant has put most of her local muscle behind in the final months of 2016.

The bill again worked its way out of committee and will be in front of the full city council Monday afternoon. UPDATE: The bill has passed — along with an amendment described below. New renters can expect the restrictions to be in place sometime early in the new year.
Continue reading

Lowell Elementary S Path remains ‘temporarily closed’ as officials weigh options

img_9619A self-imposed deadline for Seattle Department of Transportation officials to sort out a plan with Seattle Public Schools for what happens next to the “S Path,” the curving public sidewalk between Federal and 11th Ave E that has been fenced off since the start of adjacent Lowell Elementary’s school year, has come and gone.

SDOT’s Genesee Adkins, chief of staff for the department, tells CHS that city representative have met with schools officials and heard the district’s requirements for reopening the route to the public right of way:

We met with the school district a little more than a week ago to understand what they want to do going forward. Now we’re working internally at the city to see how quickly we can make some of those options happen on the ground. I know I’m not giving you too much specificity, but we’re still in flux at this moment. We had hoped to have a long-term solution identified by the end of November, and I don’t think we’ll be too far off of that, but I’m afraid we’re not quite there yet today.

CHS reached out to the school district to learn more about its requirements. A SPS spokesperson said district representatives met on Friday to discuss proposals but we haven’t yet heard back on specifics. Clearly, they have bigger issues to sort out.

Lowell Elementary serves children from across Central Seattle and is home to the district’s program for medically fragile students. Parents said they have been cleaning up garbage and dangerous needles from addicts and homeless campers left along the path for months. Adkins said that the situation had reached an “acute” level and the closure to start the school year was the only prudent course of action to take while longer term solutions were addressed.

City officials met with community members and school parents this fall to hear from some their concerns about the path’s dangers and other’s their desire to restore the public route near the school.

Seattle’s ‘sanctuary city’ status can’t protect immigrants against the feds — but it’s a start

City of Blinding Lights

On Thanksgiving, Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order reaffirming policies including a 2003 ordinance prohibiting city officers or employees to ask people about immigration statuses.

But city policies, orders and the label “sanctuary city” don’t put immigrants in Seattle in a protected bubble, which is why Matt Adams, legal director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, doesn’t use the term “sanctuary city.”

“This place doesn’t protect you from our current federal immigration laws,” he said, adding that he still feels it is important for city leaders to do what they can to support all community members.

The city supports its immigrants by not reporting them to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Seattle Police Department exists to serve and protects all community members, he said.

“Some cities and police departments go out of their way to spend their resources to enforce immigration laws,” Adams said. Immigrants then become afraid to work with police or be witnesses. Continue reading

Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program opens for local 2017 campaigns

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-7-09-23-amNow that the 2016 election cycle is over, it’s time for Seattleites to start thinking about the local election in 2017.

On Thursday, the Democracy Voucher Program opened for Seattle residents apply for four $25 democracy vouchers to give to candidates running for Seattle City Council or city attorney next year.

“Seattle is the first city in the nation to put democracy vouchers in the hands of its residents,” Wayne Barnett, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission said. “The goal is to give all of our city’s residents a greater say in our democracy.”

Registered voters in Seattle will automatically receive $100 in vouchers in the mail after January 3rd. Seattle residents who are at least 18 and are either a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or a lawful permanent resident can apply for vouchers here.

Voters can immediately start giving the vouchers to qualifying campaigns for the November election. The new program means Seattle’s first publicly financed election season is about to begin. In his announcement of an exploratory campaign for a possible run for a citywide seat on the City Council, housing advocate Jon Grant cited the vouchers as part of his decision to run.  Continue reading