‘We can build 1,000 homes’ — Sawant eyes $160M from blocked SPD precinct project for affordable housing

Kshama Sawant says blocking the bunker will pay off with $160 million for affordable housing in Seattle — if the city changes the way it uses Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funding.

The Socialist District 3 representative rallied supporters Thursday at the Central District’s Washington Hall for a night to celebrate what Sawant says was a “historic victory” for “anti-racist and social justice activists” after Mayor Ed Murray’s announcement that the $160 million plan to build a new Seattle Police precinct headquarters in North Seattle was being pulled back for a racial equity review. Continue reading

SDOT says nope to plan that would push parking $ back to Capitol Hill, yup to possible late night paid parking

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Across Broadway and Pike/Pine, Capitol Hill generated some 12% of the city’s parking revenue in 2015 (Source: SDOT)

Department of Transportation officials will argue Tuesday afternoon that the city shouldn’t move forward with a plan to create “parking benefit districts” across Seattle that would give neighborhoods a major slice of the revenue generated by pay meters on their streets.

In a briefing planned to be part of Tuesday’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee session at City Council, SDOT officials lay out their case that there are significant logistical and legal concerns about earmarking any of the more than $30 million in paid parking revenue annually collected in the city for neighborhood-specific budgets: Continue reading

City Council passes secure scheduling law, rezone at 23rd and Union

Service industry workers and the unions representing them scored victory at City Hall Monday as the City Council unanimously approved a new secure scheduling ordinance in Seattle.

Workers at some of Seattle’s largest restaurants and retailers will be paid extra for short notice schedule changes and on-call shifts once the law goes into effect in July 2017. Supporters say it will offer a much-needed level of predictability for hourly workers, especially those with children or those attending school.

The law will apply to restaurants and retailers with 500 or more employees in Seattle or nationally. Full service restaurants would also need to have 40 or more locations worldwide.

Employers will be restricted from scheduling “clopenings,” where employees work closing and opening shifts back-to-back, unless an employer requests it. Workers will be required to have at least ten hours between shifts. Employers would also be required to offer existing employees additional hours before new employees are hired. Continue reading

Bunker blocked: After Capitol Hill confrontation, mayor backs off North Precinct plan

Maybe it was already his plan. Or maybe it was the last straw. The heated confrontation between Mayor Ed Murray and a Block the Bunker activist at a Capitol Hill fundraiser Tuesday night has turned out to be a preview to what is being called a reset of the $149 million plan to build a new North Precinct police headquarters and a major victory for efforts to reform the Seattle Police Department.

“I inherited the proposal and I made mistake about not stopping that proposal,” Murray said Tuesday night, admitting in front of the crowd gathered for a fundraiser at Sole Repair for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline that the city did not use its “racial equity toolkit” to evaluate the North Precinct project.

Thursday, the mayor attempted a correction.  Continue reading

Heroin addiction task force recommends Seattle open safe consumption sites

"Ghost" behind QFC had just purchased and cooked up $10 worth of heroin (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

“Ghost” behind QFC had just purchased and cooked up $10 worth of heroin (Image: Tim Durkan with permission to CHS)

Momentum is building in Seattle to open a space where heroin addicts can use their own drugs under medical supervision at so-called safe consumption sites.

A task force of opiate addiction experts, public officials, law enforcement officials, and former addicts released a 99-page report Thursday outlining eight recommendations on what the city and region should do to tackle its heroin epidemic. Among those is opening two “community health engagement locations” — one in Seattle and one in greater King County.

“I believe we should have these sites,” said Mayor Ed Murray, who will be visiting safe consumption sites in Vancouver, BC this week. There is currently no operating safe consumption site in the U.S. and task force members acknowledged there would be legal challenges to overcome. Continue reading

East District Council appears destined to fold as City Hall pulls away

The East District Council met Monday to discuss its fate. (Image: CHS)

The East District Council met Monday to discuss its fate. (Image: CHS)

The first blow to the East District Council happened in July when Mayor Ed Murray made a surprise announcement that the city would begin a process to sever ties with the 13-council system and replace it with a new Community Involvement Commission. A plan is due on September 26th.

The second blow landed Monday night when Seattle neighborhood coordinator and East District Council wrangler Tim Durkan announced he is leaving the Department of Neighborhoods.

With Durkan out of the picture and a City Hall that has been critical of the district councils’ lack of diversity, the group has only one meeting tentatively scheduled for October. Without an influx of energy and focus on a new direction, that meeting could be the group’s last.

“What would you bring to this group that you wouldn’t bring to community council?” district council chair Lindy Wishard wondered aloud during Monday’s meeting at the Capitol Hill Library. “This isn’t where the action is, so what do we do?” said another member. Continue reading

City fleet’s 30% goal puts Seattle electric car initiative into first gear

Mayor Ed Murray and City Council member Mike O’Brien test drove an electric vehicle this week to celebrate progress on Seattle’s electric car initiative, a plan that includes improving the infrastructure for EVs, electrifying the city’s own vehicle fleet, and continuing Seattle’s ongoing conquest to cut carbon emissions and pollution from transit.

In the video of the stunt, we learn Murray does the driving in this relationship, neither of these guys drive very often, Murray owns a Subaru Forester, and O’Brien can spout EV trivia like Rain Man. We also learn that the City Council’s Transportation and Sustainability committee Wednesday approved a resolution “which sets a goal to have 30% of all light-duty vehicles in Seattle operate under electric power by the year 2030.” The EV champions Murray and O’Brien also “announced their intention to significantly expand electric vehicle infrastructure in Seattle, such as charging stations, to encourage and serve the electric vehicle demand.” Continue reading

Mayor Murray grilled about SPD’s North Precinct project at Capitol Hill event

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Mayor Ed Murray may have faced his toughest challenge yet to his controversial $149 million plan to build a new police precinct in north Seattle.

In a heated exchange caught on video with a Block the Bunker activist Tuesday night, Murray said it was a mistake that the city did not use its “racial equity toolkit” to evaluate the project.

“I inherited the proposal and I made mistake about not stopping that proposal,” Murray said of the decision to not analyze the racial implications of building the new precinct. He said the city would conduct the analysis going forward, but nevertheless made a passionate case for why the city needed upgraded police facilities. Continue reading

Mayor’s reports: Seattle homeless funding should shift from transitional to permanent housing

Amid the hundreds of pages of data heavy, jargon-laden new reports on Seattle’s homeless crisis, there is a consensus that the city needs to dramatically shift how it spends some $50 million in annual homeless prevention funding to a so-called “housing first” strategy.

Mayor Ed Murray embraced the findings of the two consultant reports released Thursday in a plan that he says will set a new course for how the city approaches homelessness (all three documents are posted here).

“We can no longer wait to take action, so today, we are changing course,” he said. “These reports represent both a dramatic challenge to our City, and an urgent call to action.”

In addition to bolstering programs that focus on housing people before providing additional services, Murray’s plan, called Pathways Home, calls for the city to prioritize services towards those who have been homeless the longest, improve rapid re-housing programs to get recently homeless people into available market-rate housing, and require service providers to use a common database to better connect people to housing. Continue reading

City Council to consider proposal regulating Seattle homeless encampment sweeps

(Image: @Homeless2Housed via Twitter)

(Image: @Homeless2Housed via Twitter)

As Seattle’s City Hall approaches the one-year mark since Mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency for homelessness, the City Council has agreed to take up legislation that could be the driver of the most significant change people living on Seattle’s streets will have seen since.

Tuesday, the council voted 7-1 to accept legislation drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington for consideration at the committee level, adding a proposal that would put structure around how the city removes homeless encampments and forcing officials to provide alternatives to people displaced by the sweeps.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, who co-sponsored the proposal, said it is time for action and that the recent sweep of a camp in The Jungle greenbelt below I-5 was “an illustration of the complete ineffectiveness and inhumanity of sweeps,” that move “homeless people from one street corner to the next.” Continue reading

SPD: Better training, reporting has cut ‘crisis intervention’ use of force

Training officers to end mental health crisis situations without force or arrest has been a major focus of reform at the Seattle Police Department in recent years. Those trainings now appear to be paying off in a big way. According to a report released by the department this week, officers rarely use force when responding to calls involving people in some form of mental health crisis.

With approximately 9,300 crisis responses reported last year, only 149 (1.6%) involved any use of reportable force, and of these, only 36 (0.4% of crisis responses overall) involved greater than a low-level, Type I use of force.

SPD credited its increased training and data collection for the encouraging trend — reforms that were part of the department’s response to a 2011 federal consent decree over excessive use of force by officers. Continue reading

More meetings or something new? Seattle asking how you want to connect with City Hall

City Hall has announced its intention to, among other acts of creative destruction, disassemble its support network for the old District Neighborhood Council system with officials saying the old ways weren’t representative enough and depended too much on white homeowners with time to be part of tedious public proceedings. As part of the changes to come to usher in a glorious new era when EVERYONE can find a way to be part of tedious public proceedings, the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods is surveying citizens about how best to get them in the loop:

The City of Seattle is shifting our approach to outreach and engagement. We need your ideas on how the City can keep you better informed about City projects, events, opportunities, and issues. Tell us how you want to participate, and what we can do to make it easier

You can take the Engage Seattle survey here and answer questions like these: Continue reading