The Mayor of Capitol Hill: Seattle has seen Bruce Harrell before — but not like this

Harrell has started his 2021 run for the mayor’s office with some old fashioned grocery store campaigning (Image: @kunluv)

Bruce Harrell has campaigned here before. First elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007, Harrell would go on to win two more terms and serve as council president before deciding not to run again in 2019.

But campaigning in his month-old mayoral bid for a few hours recently at the Capitol Hill Safeway on E John felt different. Across the street Williams Place is home to one of the neighborhood’s city park encampments as officials — and neighbors — wrestle with how best to provide shelter and services and clear away the camps.

“People are so hungry for, I think, straight talk, not double talk,” Harrell told CHS Tuesday. “And they are hungry for boldness and they see the level of dysfunction in city government unlike they’ve seen it before.”

Harrell, a 62-year-old raised in the Central District who briefly served as the city’s first Asian-American mayor in 2017 after Ed Murray resigned, says they see him as a “voice of reason.”

As the city has faced economic turmoil from the COVID-19 pandemic and was consumed by racial justice protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the past year has taught him how fragile the city is and brought into stark relief existing issues in the city, whether it be inequality or homelessness. Continue reading

City posts sweep notice at Miller Park encampments — UPDATE

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Thanks to reader Chris for the picture

The city has posted notice it intends to sweep Miller Park encampments as early as Friday morning.

Required notices ordering the removal of personal property were posted Wednesday at the Capitol Hill playfield, community center, and school campus. The order provides an “as of” date and time of Friday, April 16th at 9 AM for the.

The date comes five months to the day of the notice to clear another major flashpoint in the city’s homelessness crisis at the camps in Cal Anderson. With activists and protesters joining the camp area at Cal Anderson last December and amid a brief and unsuccessful court battle to stop the process, Seattle Police waited two extra days before leading the sweep so Seattle Parks and city clean-up crews could enter the park.

This time at Miller there is no legal fight for a temporary restraining order and the deadline is driven by the the pandemic-reshaped school year. Monday, students are slated to return for in-person instruction at Seattle’s public middle and high schools, including Meany Middle School on the Miller campus. Continue reading

30,000 doses — Biggest COVID vax week ever in Seattle as 4/15 ‘Phase Everybody’ approaches

Vaccinations underway at the Lumen Event Center (Image: City of Seattle)

The “largest allocation the city has received in a single week thus far” of COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Seattle and the city’s megasite is gearing up to serve thousands of patients:

The City of Seattle and its partners received over 30,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which is the largest allocation the City has received in a single week thus far. This week, the Community Vaccination Site at the Lumen Field Event Center will administer its largest single day allocation to-date, and the Community Vaccination Hub in West Seattle will administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine all week, with a focus on critical workers.

UPDATE: Officials report 7,615 residents received vaccine Wednesday at Lumen.

The increase in supply comes just as demand is set to jump on April 15th when eligibility will be opened to all 6.3 million in the state 16 and older.

Wednesday, the city opened its list for the sites it operates for registration in preparation for the April 15th milestone, allowing those not yet eligible to add their names to the notification process:

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Add your name and contact information to this notification list. We will notify you via email when appointments become available. If you’re receiving Moderna or Pfizer, you will schedule your second dose during the process of scheduling your first dose. You should not expect to be notified every week.

“We encourage you to pursue multiple strategies for securing a vaccination appointment,” the city says. Continue reading

City honors outgoing chief librarian after ten years of Seattle Public Library service

(Image: Seattle Public Library)

The City of Seattle is honoring a decade of service from the Seattle Public Library’s chief librarian and executive director Marcellus Turner as he is stepping down from the position.

The Seattle City Council honored Turner on Monday with a proclamation recognizing his contributions to the city’s literary culture.

“Turner led the Seattle Public Library during two successful levies in 2012 and 2019. He prioritized equality by eliminating overdue fines and allowing people without proof of residence access to library materials,” the announcement of the proclamation reads. “Additionally, Turner led pioneering programs such as adding wi-fi hotspots to circulation so more households have access to the internet, and installing a social worker at the Central Library to better serve Seattle’s homelessness communities.” Continue reading

‘Compassion Seattle’ proposal would provide housing, services — and, backers say, a city ‘open and clear of encampments’

The eastern entrance to the Miller Park playfield (Image: CHS)

A group of “diverse civic and community members, business and neighborhood leaders” including business groups like the Downtown Seattle Association, homelessness service providers like the Chief Seattle Club, plus the Public Defender Association, Evergreen Treatment Services, United Way King County, and the Housing Development Consortium are backing a plan to provide what they say the mayor’s office and city council cannot: a comprehensive strategy of housing, services, and clearance resources to address Seattle’s longrunning homelessness crisis.

Led by former councilmember and mayor Tim Burgess, the Compassion Seattle coalition is backing a charter amendment that would fundamentally change Seattle’s governmental structure around managing homeless services and create a separate $200 million fund to back it.

The proposal would back up its efforts to provide housing and services with a requirement that “city parks, playgrounds, sports fields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets” remain “open and clear of encampments” once the programs are available.

From Compassion Seattle’s announcement: Continue reading

State Supreme Court rules Sawant recall can move forward — UPDATE

(Image: Kshama Solidarity)

(Image: Kshama Solidarity)

The recall of Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant can go forward, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday. A spring and summer of signature gathering, rallying, and campaign flyers awaits.

Organizers outlined four acts they say that warranted sending the recall to the ballot. Most of the charges were from 2020 and relate to her response to protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

The court did not uphold all of the allegations made by the recall effort, arguing that one of the acts outlined was legally insufficient.

In September, the King County Superior Court certified a recall petition against the socialist council member on the four allegations, which was simply ruling on whether the charges outlined could be grounds for removal. That court was not ruling on whether or not the allegations were true. Two allegations from the original proposed petition relating to Sawant’s involvement in protests at the East Precinct and the formation of CHOP were dropped by the recall group’s attorneys.

With the court denying Sawant’s appeal, the recall proponents will have up to 180 days to gather a little over 10,000 signatures — or 25% of the nearly 43,000 votes cast in her November 2019 race — to send the issue to the ballot.

Sawant’s political fate will now move into the hands of District 3 voters.

“The recall law in Washington State is inherently undemocratic and well-suited for politicized use against working people’s representatives, because there is no requirement that the charges even be proven true,” Sawant said in a statement following the decision. “In effect, the courts have enormous leeway to use recall elections as a mechanism to defend the ruling class and capitalist system. It is no accident that Seattle’s last elected socialist, Anna Louise Strong, was driven out of office by a recall campaign for her links to the labor movement and opposition to World War I.”

“Big biz and the right wing are furious about the impact of socialist politics and social movements in Seattle & how we have inspired working people around the country,” the campaign formed to defend Sawant against recall posted on Twitter after the decision. “They are now trying to use the courts & their deep pockets to overturn Councilmember Sawant’s 2019 re-election and the historic victories she has spearheaded.”

After facing a deficit on Election Night 2019, Sawant clawed back to defeat Broadway Business Improvement Area leader Egan Orion by around 4% — or less than 2,000 votes — and now sits as the longest serving member of the city council.

The recall effort argues Sawant misused her office and flouted coronavirus social distancing restrictions in opening City Hall to hundreds of protesters one night last June. Continue reading

Seattle City Council approves Sawant plan to fund lawyers for tenants facing eviction

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved “right to counsel” legislation Monday that will entitle residential tenants facing eviction to an attorney at no cost.

The vote on this legislation, sponsored by District 3 Councilmember Kshama Sawant, was originally scheduled for two weeks ago, but was delayed via council vote to sort out possible legal concerns. The original bill could have faced a lawsuit since it looked to give everyone the right to legal counsel regardless of income. Washington’s state constitution prohibits cities from giving money to people “except for the necessary support of the poor and infirm.”

Sawant hailed the “historic renter and socialist movement’s ‘Right to Counsel’ victory” in a press release from City Hall after Monday’s vote.

“Today’s historic vote in the City Council to approve our movement’s Right to Counsel legislation from my office is a huge step forward for renters rights in our city,” Sawant said in the press release. “No longer will renters have to fear going to eviction court without the legal aid that they desperately need and justly deserve.”

She thanked several groups for helping push for the legislation including Socialist Alternative, Be:Seattle, the Tenants Union of Washington, UAW 4121, and the ACLU despite “calls from Democrats on the City Council to water down our bill.”

Sawant also filled the public comment session prior to Monday’s full council meeting with speaker after speaker in support of the legislation.

To satisfy concerns about possible legal challenges, the council overcame objections from Sawant and added an amendment to exclude tenants who are not “indigent.” Legislation from 2017 defines “indigent” as a person who is “unable to pay the anticipated cost of counsel… because the person’s available funds are insufficient for the retention of counsel.”

“I believe that this language is going to minimize legal risks of having this law survive the legal challenge, which again I believe is almost going to certainly happen, while also providing access to a right to counsel to those who need it,” said Council President Lorena González, the sponsor of the amendment.

Sawant was the only council member to vote against the González amendment, arguing that it makes tenants “jump through some kind of hoop before they qualify.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s streets filling with pandemic-era restaurant patios — Will they stay?

Plum’s “greenhouse” seating on 12th Ave

As Washington’s reopening speeds, there are signs that getting “back to normal” too quickly could be part of a new uptick in the spread of the virus. For Capitol Hill’s restaurants lucky enough to have a safe stretch of pavement nearby and the foresight to invest in some creative solutions, street patios have been a business lifeline allowing what officials say is a safer approach to reopening in the food and drink economy.

Across the Pike/Pine nightlife area, CHS found a diversity of designs and solutions in place across the neighborhood. But we also heard the same thing again and again from owners facing the uncertainty of a drawn out pandemic future.

“We would love to have this long term but the special permitting is set to stop in October unless the city changes something,” the folks at Cafe Pettirosso tell us. “We will have this as long as possible, it has helped tremendously.” Continue reading

Durkan’s office responds to call for housing and services — not sweep — to clear Capitol Hill’s Miller Park

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office has responded to a call for emergency action to provide housing and services to clear tents and encampments at Miller Park playfield before the mid-April return of in-person instruction at the campus’s Meany Middle School.

A statement from the mayor’s office says Durkan is seeking “additional resources” from FEMA but says “removal” of encampments will happen “if individuals do not accept shelter or the resources offered.”

“The City has been using every federal dollar possible to move more people inside, and the Mayor spoke with the White House today to ask for additional resources,” the statement sent Tuesday night from Durkan’s office reads. “Encampment removals have been limited over the last year due to COVID-19, but the City believes we have to address encampments on sidewalks, playfields, and parks as we open new shelter spaces like the Executive Pacific Hotel and Kings Inn operated by Chief Seattle Club.”

“Individuals will be offers (sic) shelters at these locations from parks and encampments across the City,” the statement reads. Continue reading

Stymied on right to counsel legislation, Sawant opens up new fronts in fight for Seattle tenants rights over ‘just cause’ loopholes and credit checks

Sawant’s fight for renters has ramped up as Seattle expands its reopening — and as the recall effort against the councilmember awaits the state Supreme Court (Image: Kshama Solidarity Campaign)

With her tenant right-to-counsel legislation delayed at the Seattle City Council pending legal questions, Councilmember Kshama Sawant announced Tuesday a slew of new measures she hopes to pass to aid renters.

The centerpiece would look to strengthen the city’s just cause eviction ordinance, which requires landlords to give a reason for kicking a tenant out. Sawant argues that it has stopped a lot of evictions since its passage in 1980, but needs to be strengthened to further protect renters.

The loophole with the current law, Sawant says, is that landlords do not have to renew a six-month or year long lease, effectively evicting tenants. The current just-cause protections shield renters from no-cause evictions in the middle of their lease, but not when it expires.

“The legislation that my office wants to bring forward will contain no loopholes, no exceptions,” Sawant said during a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the council’s Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee. “Every tenant should be covered by just-cause protections.” Continue reading