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Dear Neighbor,

I hope you are enjoying the great weather for the month of May. There is no better place to be than in Seattle when temperatures are in the 70s and 80s. As Council President and Chair of the Education, Equity, and Governance Committee, we have had a busy and productive first five months. Here are some developments that may be of interest to you: District 2 office hours; Education Summit and Preschool Program improvements; police staffing and crime data update; improving safety by helping people with criminal histories gain employment; and the Graham Street light rail station.

District 2 Office Hours Update

Please join me at these District 2 Office Hours.

  • Thursday, May 19, 3:00 – 5:00 pm 
    (Columbia City Library, 4721 Rainier Ave S.)
  • Thursday, June 9, 3:00 – 5:00 pm 
    (Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Ave S.)
  • Thursday, July 7, 3:00 – 5:00 pm 
    (Rainier Beach Library, 9125 Rainier Ave S.)
If you would like to reserve one-on-one time, please email me at Bruce.Harrell@Seattle.gov.

In the first four-and-a-half months of the year, I have attended or conducted 35 plus meetings on District 2 issues. I most recently participated in the Rainier Beach Town Hall on May 12th and spoke on a community panel discussing gun violence on May 17th.

District 2 Community Relations Liaison

I am excited to welcome Chase Munroe to my office. Mr. Munroe is District 2's Community Relations Liaison for my office. He is a seasoned political professional with a strong background in communications, outreach, and community development. Chase holds a degree in Government and Economics from Eastern Washington University and is currently pursuing his Master's Degree in Public Affairs at the University of Washington Evans School—graduating this June. Chase prides himself in being accessible and for strong follow through. He has worked with my office on different projects for several years.

The size of City Council staff has not changed since 1997. You may have recently read that the City Council passed legislation amending a bill from 1997 that now allows each Council office to hire an additional part-time staffer from the former cap of 3 full-time positions. An additional part-timer was prohibited under current policy. Essentially, all 9 Council offices now have the ability to add a part-time employee at 20 hours per week and be able to rent a City Council District office. I believe one of the major reasons why voters wanted a Council District system was to have an increased political presence of staff in the District—meeting and working closely with residents. Our jobs as Councilmembers did not diminish in that the city-wide demands of our time are still in place. What has increased is the expectation that we better serve our local districts. I want to make it crystal clear that I do not take adding city staff lightly. I see having an additional staff member as a liaison as a prudent community investment. Eight of the nine Councilmembers agreed. As Council President, I wanted to provide each Councilmember the resources to effectively implement their standards of constituent correspondence and outreach; I want them all to succeed and meet the community's expectation. I hope this provides clarification to the information you may have read about regarding Council staff additions.

Education Summit and Improvements to the Seattle Preschool Program

On Saturday, April 30th, the City held a very important education event. I served on the Leadership Team for the Education Summit. This is particularly significant for District 2 because our district has more disparities in its educational outcomes than any other district. The Seattle Times recently published a story that pointed out how abysmal Seattle as a whole is doing regarding the opportunity gap. Students of color meet third grade reading standards at a rate 30% lower than white students; are suspended or expelled at three times the rate of their white peers in grades 6 through 12; and they graduate on-time at a rate 24% lower than white students. The summit itself was the culmination of a series of community conversations throughout Seattle from March-April on how we can collectively address the education and opportunity gap in our public schools.

Very recently, I passed Council Bill 118679 through my committee—legislation to improve the Seattle Preschool Program. Again, this is critical to the long-range goals of District 2 in terms of early and healthy brain development of our children and the reduction of early brain trauma. You can see from this link where we have placed our pilot and focused on children of low performing schools in District 2 as a means to address the opportunity divide. I drafted and passed a number of significant amendments to the Seattle Preschool Program to help the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) recruit higher quality providers. Our goal is to serve 2,000 three and four year-olds in 100 classrooms by 2018. After one year, the City has 256 students enrolled in 15 classrooms.

DEEL conducted extensive one-on-one interviews with 23 eligible preschool providers that chose not to apply to the Seattle Preschool Program. We are now making changes to address these concerns. My amendments ensured that we track critical demographic information from children who are enrolled and to reaffirm the Seattle Preschool Program's mission, which is to narrow the opportunity and achievement gap. When we discuss public safety issues and decipher the root causes that lead to criminal activities, investing in preschool is where the rubber meets the road miles ahead. I don't believe children are born with hate or gang affiliations. It is the failure of parents and families, our K-12 school system, and other institutionalized forms of discrimination that stigmatizes some of these children and so many fall through the cracks. Many have untreated and undiagnosed trauma. If we want to ensure a pathway to opportunity and success for all children regardless of socioeconomic circumstances or race, it will require this type of preschool investment in our 3 and 4 year olds. All evidence points to the importance of giving our children some form of quality early education.

On Feb 8th at South Shore Pre-K-8 School, I had the honor of standing with 200 other men to give high fives and welcome students to class at South Shore Pre-K-8 School. The event kicked off National African American Parent Involvement Day activities at the school. Organizers put out a call for 100, but over 200 showed up. I stood with others to show students we believe in them and their limitless potential. I benefited from people believing in me as a youth and it is one of my greatest privileges to be able to do the same. This would not have been possible without Anthony Shoecraft's leadership. I cannot thank him enough for showing us all what community means. See coverage of this event in the Seattle Times.

Public Safety Update

Gunshot Locator System:
 There are few things more disturbing than gunfire and gun violence in District 2. We are working closely with the Mayor's office and SPD on implementing an Acoustic Gunshot Locator System at Rainier and Henderson. An Acoustic Gunshot Locator System detects the exact location where guns are fired and law enforcement authorities are immediately notified and dispatched to the area. The system will be paired with a video camera that is only activated when a gunshot is detected to help authorities investigate the crime. At almost every community meeting where I have discussed installing an acoustic gunshot locator system, I have received overwhelming positive feedback. I want to make it crystal clear we will work thoroughly with privacy advocates on the operational and data management protocols to ensure the public's privacy and civil liberties are protected.

Police Staffing and Crime Data Update: At the end of April, the City and Mayor Murray announced a plan to add an additional 100 police officers in our hiring plan to get to a net total of 200 new officers from 2014 to 2020. As Public Safety chair from 2012-2015, I worked to initiate the hiring of 120 police officers beginning in 2012. For the 2016 year, we funded 1404 police officers, the highest ever for the police department. From 2014 to 2017, we will reach 120 total new officers—a record hiring pace. Remember, the period of time to translate budget action to real officers on the street does take significant time. It takes approximately 16 months for a new recruit to complete basic training, advanced training, field training and probation. The City is growing rapidly and we need to continue hiring more officers. Approximately 100 officers account for an ongoing cost of $15 million per year. We are also making improvements to our 911 call center. Calls have increased by 13% since 2010 and it is continually trending upwards. We are proposing to hire an additional 40 staff for 911 over the next 3 years. Additional technology upgrades are also being made at the 911 call center to improve responsiveness. The City is hearing you loudly and clearly about adding more police and a better 911 call center.

In our efforts to be more transparent and improve access to crime data, please look at the new Crime Dashboard. You can now easily view major crimes broken down by year, precinct, and neighborhood. It will always be a battle to stay in front of public safety with short term solutions and long term solutions and I will never be satisfied with the state of public safety. However, I want to point to the major crime data. At the end of 2015, major crimes were down 12% compared to the average total from 2010-2014. When comparing 2015 to 2014, major crimes went down by 21%. If you look at the line graphs above, major crimes in the first four months are lower than 2015. While the data points to lower major crimes, I know the perception is sometimes different in our neighborhoods. In the first quarter of this year, I have met with many groups in District 2 to discuss built environment improvements. I am open to any ideas the neighborhood would like to implement for the built environment—send those my way and I will coordinate with the departments to make those changes.

Community Building: In an effort to improve community relations, the South Precinct hosted the first annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament, joining area youth with officers. I was proud to help sponsor this event. It was a tremendous success and was held last Friday, May 13th at the Rainier Beach Community Center. I want to thank our local youth for participating, the Seattle Police Department, Parks Department, Dwane Chappelle (Director for the Department of Education and Early Learning), Talia Walton, Slick Watts, Detective Cookie, Sina Walton, Monica Osborn, and all the community sponsors. I look forward to making it even bigger next year!

Enhanced 911: With my background on public safety and technology, I was selected to be on the leadership group for the King County E-911 Strategic Planning Committee. The Enhanced 911 (E911) system provides emergency dispatch services to over two million county residents and is funded by excise taxes paid by all telephone customers. Throughout King County, the more than 1.7 million calls received annually are routed to the King County Enhanced 911 office or the 12 emergency dispatch centers called Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Seventy-seven police and fire agencies are part of this system. One aspect of the strategic planning is to implement Next-Generation 911—allowing the public to transmit text, images, video and data to the PSAPs. The committee is tasked with developing a 10-year technology investment strategy; developing a 10-year sustainable financial plan; and defining an ongoing decision-making and governance structure for the regional E-911 system.

 

Helping People with Criminal Records Secure Jobs:

You may recall that last year I drafted and passed Resolution 31637, affirming the City's support for the Certificate for Restoration of Opportunity Program (CROP) and calling on City departments to convene a prisoner and community corrections re-entry work group to coordinate and strengthen the City's efforts to assist re-entry. I drafted and passed legislation supporting the concept of a Certificate for Restoration of Opportunity. I am happy to announce that during the last State Legislative session, an important bill addressing public safety and jobs was enacted. SHB 1553 passed with a unanimous vote and creates a process to help people with criminal histories gain access to jobs that require a vocational license. Currently, a person with a criminal record cannot attain jobs in more than 90 career paths that require vocational licenses, including barbers, commercial fishers, or dental hygienists. The bill will establish a statewide program (Certificate for Restoration of Opportunity Program (CROP)) allowing an individual to file for a civil motion certifying that the required time had passed without any new arrests or convictions, and had met all the terms of their sentence. I thank our State Representatives and Senators, Merf Ehman of Columbia Legal Services, Bill Hinkle of Rental Housing Association, and the strong coalition of community leaders for their dedication and hard work on the bill.

Graham Street Light Rail Station in Sound Transit 3 Package:

Bottom line: the Graham Street Light Rail Station will be part of the Sound Transit 3 package that will go before voters. I have been working with my colleagues, Councilmember Rob Johnson (member of the Sound Transit Board) and Councilmember Mike O'Brien (chair of the Sustainability and Transportation committee), to ensure the Graham Street infill station is included in the Sound Transit 3 package and delivered at an earlier date. I want to thank them both for listening to the needs of District 2. The community is strongly behind this project and all things are pointing in the right direction to make this happen.

Take care and stay tuned for the next District 2 update.

Bruce A. Harrell
President, Seattle City Council - District 2
Chair: Education, Equity, & Governance Committee
206-684-8804

seattle.gov/council/harrell | Office: 206-684-8804 | PO Box 34025 Seattle, WA 98124-4025

Copyright © 2016 Seattle City Council, All rights reserved.


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