Dear Neighbor,

As we approach the holidays and New Year, I hope you can spend time with family and friends. This is a jam-packed newsletter highlighting some of the major issues we have worked on this year: 1) City Budget, 2) Select Committee on Homelessness and Affordability, 3) NHL & New Arena at Seattle Center, 4) New Police Chief Carmen Best & SPOG Contract, 5) SODO Business Improvement Area, 6) Updated Surveillance Legislation, and 7) Information regarding the upcoming Viaduct closure.

City Budget

On November 19th, the Council voted to approve the City’s $5.9 billion budget after a three-month process to reach a balanced budget. Of the $5.9 billion, $1.4 billion is the general fund; where investments such as public safety and homelessness services are appropriated. Public Safety services account for 53% of the general fund. I fully understand the sentiment of residents who claim they want more for their taxes and fees and are not getting the level of service or responsiveness they want. The fact remains we have experienced unprecedented growth in terms of population and reemphasized the point that we HAVE TO DO more with less. We HAVE TO be more efficient and respect our taxpayers. While the budget is certainly complex, please see the two high-level charts below describing total expenditures and revenue.

With respect to District 2 and my commitment to combat displacement and pursue equity, here are a few highlights I obtained with the help of my Council Colleagues:

  • $1.3 M for resources to develop a land-banked site in North Rainier into a public park;
  • $500,000 for Phase 3 of the Rainier Safety Project in the Vision Zero CIP Project; this investment strategy beginning a few years ago has now proven to save lives and reduce accidents;
  • $255,000 to provide homelessness enhanced outreach services in the Chinatown-International District, including Little Saigon, Capitol Hill and First Hill neighborhoods; this is intended to improve lives of the homeless and improve the geographical areas as well. 
  • $250,000 to Department of Neighborhoods for historic preservation seed funding for acquisition of historic resources by Historic Seattle, a Public Development Authority; this is a strategy to keep historical gems with cultural significance in our community;
  • $250,000 to support Seattle’s strategies to help those recently released from prison and attempting to reenter society. We will pilot new strategies to help facilitate reentry for individuals with criminal histories resulting in a better and safer society for all;   
  • $100,000 to support feasibility study for a new Central Area Community Preservation and Development Authority intended to establish community control and job training for Seattle’s SVI building complex;
  • $50,000 in 2019 and 2020 to support the Northwest African-American Museum in their efforts to combat cultural displacement through education and celebration; and
  • $50,000 in 2019 and 2020 to support greater economic stability, security and growth for small and minority owned businesses, such as the Equity Empowerment Center at Tabor 100.

Select Committee on Homelessness and Affordability

Not a day goes by where the City’s efforts on addressing the homelessness is not criticized and not a day goes by where we don’t take those criticisms to heart. We have retained national experts; identified best practices; tailored an investment strategy and policy framework around those practices and yet the issue is not resolved. As Council President, I decided to enact a new Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability comprising of all nine Councilmembers, as opposed to our standard committees of three members. My goal was to harness the energy of the Full Council behind this effort and make sure ALL OF THE City departments better coordinate their approach to addressing this issue. Our first meeting was on September 13th and the presentation discussing the overall state of the City’s response can be viewed here.
This has been one of the most difficult and complicated problems Seattle has ever been asked to solve. We hear from advocates who say that because we don’t have the affordable housing resources, camping should be tolerated given the fact that there is no place for the homeless to go. Conversely, we hear from property and business owners saying they pay a large portion of the city’s taxes and expect the City to enforce the existing laws and keep the streets, right of ways and other public areas free from camping, tents and the like.
I wanted a more centralized policy approach to articulate a clear policy strategy. I was compelled to change what I believe was a somewhat fragmented approach where we are coordinating and sending policy signals to over 16 departments. While we have made progress with our regular standing committees of at least three Councilmembers that oversee the Human Services Department, Seattle Public Utilities, Parks and Recreation, and the Seattle Department of Transportation, the public is demanding a stronger and more expedient response. This is clear.
While there are clearly differences of opinions on homelessness enforcement and taxation to generate additional resources, I believe we will continue spinning our wheels if those differences only result in grandstanding, causing stagnation, and perpetual hand-wringing. My expectation of the Select Committee is to have a transparent and accountable committee working indefinitely to track progress, examine policies, investment decisions, and enforcement strategies. The next Select Committee will be held in January.
Based on some comments I have heard from the public, I want to make it clear that Council has not recently enacted any changes to existing law around unauthorized encampments. Unauthorized encampments are illegal. The issue is one of enforcement and an effective system to prevent reoccurrences. It is vital during the process of removing unauthorized encampments that these individuals are made aware of the available programs and services. We call this the Navigation Team; a specially trained group of outreach workers and Seattle Police officers who talk with these individuals about their situation and the barriers preventing them from moving indoors. This is tough and challenging work. Removing an unauthorized encampment without tenable options to housing will likely lead to the return of the encampment. Thus far in 2018, the Navigation Team has made approximately 8,000 contacts with people living unsheltered and were able to refer almost 1,000 to safer indoor shelter. And yes, we can do more.   
The encampment cleanup process overview document can be viewed here.
We also know that the City’s encampment cleanup process has not always been as expedient or responsive as many of you have wanted. The Navigation Team, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) are the primary responders to keep public spaces clean and address hazardous conditions. The City has approximately 400 unauthorized encampments. The Navigation Team prioritizes encampments for removal based on the totality of the conditions within and around an encampment. They examine site conditions like the presence of human waste and excessive garbage, public safety conditions, criminal activity, and whether the encampment is in a slide zone or placed too close to moving vehicles. Since 2017, the team has removed approximately 450 unsanctioned encampments. Through July of this year, 131 unsanctioned encampments with 72-hours advance notice have been removed. For 2019, we have budgeted for the permanent expansion of the Navigation team.
The most recent accountability and performance measures show the following. Housing placements are up 35% for people experiencing homelessness in the first six months of 2018. The report stated: “These results represent activity from January 1 through June 30, 2018 and show agencies receiving city funds served 18,356 households and helped 4,459 households exit to permanent housing (2,644) or maintain their housing (1,815). The 2,644 households exiting to permanent housing represent an increase of 35% (692 households) over the same time in 2017. In all of 2017, city funds helped 5,456 households exit to permanent housing or maintain their housing, which the city is on track to surpass.
Bottom-line: I understand the frustration of residents and businesses who contact the City about an unauthorized encampment or RVs near their home or business, wait weeks for the City to address, only for the encampment/RVs to return. The information and stats I presented above are not intended to show we have found the panacea to our homelessness situation. It does mean that we are fully aware of the issues; are monitoring our progress; have dedicated and committed employees doing the work; and remain committed to implementing solutions that clearly get results.

NHL & New Arena at Seattle Center

On December 4th, we celebrated the announcement by the NHL to expand a new team to Seattle in 2021. I was excited to Co-Chair the committee overseeing this work. I am excited and look forward to the energy the NHL will bring to the Seattle Center and this region. What name do you like best – Sockeyes, Totems, Metropolitans, or Steelheads? The NHL announcement comes on the heel of the comprehensive work done earlier in the year. On September 24, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Council Bill 119344 and Council Bill 119345, green lighting Oak View Group’s (OVG) plan to privately finance and fully renovate the 56-year-old arena at Seattle Center. While the City has gone through many twists and turns for a new civic arena, our patience and determination has led us to a project that is best for the city. We have one of the strongest arena agreements you will find in the country—protecting our taxpayers and the City. The community benefits and private investments are unprecedented. At the end of the day, this project moves the Seattle Center Campus into the 21st century and sets out a future for a premier urban gathering place for our city. It is my hope that one day in the near future we will make a similar announcement for the return of the Sonics. We are now best poised to head down that path.

New Police Chief Carmen Best & SPOG Contract

On November 13th, Council passed Council Bill 119368, authorizing the execution of a collective bargaining agreement between the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild. Officers have been without a contract and a cost of living adjustment or pay increase since 2014. As Chair of the Labor Relations and Policy Committee (LRPC), I issued the following statement after passage of the legislation:

“This agreement allows us to move forward with a level of certainty that will put the Seattle Police Department and Chief Carmen Best in the best position to improve public safety, hire and deploy more patrol officers, and advance police reforms. Most importantly, the new contract ensures full implementation of body worn cameras by front-line police officers. I believe this is the ultimate tool for police accountability, public safety, and as a training tool to improve policing performance.

“Ultimately, U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is overseeing our reform efforts, will have final say on the contract and accountability legislation. I expect Judge Robart to hold the City accountable and issue orders, if the agreement is out of compliance with the Consent Decree. Police reform is not a destination, but a continuous commitment for a learning organization to review and improve training, policies, and police conduct. At the end of the day, we must support and give Chief Best and the Seattle Police Department the resources to succeed and we do that with the passage of the agreement today.”

Chief Carmen Best was confirmed unanimously as Chief of Police on August 13th. The confirmation process was rigorous and I stated at the meeting where the final vote took place, “you’ve earned this.” Supported by the community and a fixture in the community as a 26-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), Chief Best is the right person to lead SPD. I co-signed a letter of expectations that can be viewed here.

SODO Business Improvement Area (BIA)

Through a comprehensive process and three committee hearings, I chaired the Governance, Equity, and Technology committee examining legislation to establish a Business Improvement Area (BIA) in South of Downtown (SODO). BIAs are economic development funding mechanisms that allow property and business owners to assess themselves to fund enhanced services, programming, and management for a business district. Service programs include: 1) Transportation; 2) Safety; 3) Cleaning; and 4) Advocacy, marketing, communications, and business community development within existing zoning. All such activities are supplemental to street maintenance and law enforcement provided by the City and are not intended to displace any services regularly provided by municipal government. The service area extends roughly from S Royal Brougham Way to S Hudson St and I-5 to the Port of Seattle and the new BIA will last for ten years beginning January 1, 2019.

Updated Surveillance Legislation

On September 24th, Council passed Council Bill 119218, amending the Surveillance Ordinance (Council Bill 118930) which was passed by Council in 2017. I sponsored the updated legislation and continue to concern myself with your right to privacy as it relates to surveillance technology used by the government and third-party companies.
The 2017 Surveillance Ordinance outlined requirements that included: 1) surveillance technology review and approval by City Council before acquisition, 2) Council review and approval via ordinance for retroactive technologies, and 3) reporting about surveillance technology use and community impact. The Chief Technology Officer was required to compile a Master List of surveillance technologies in use by City departments. Twenty-eight technologies were identified in four departments: City Light, Department of Transportation, Seattle Fire Department, and Seattle Police Department.
Council Bill 119218 updated the previous Surveillance Ordinance by adding a Community Surveillance Working Group and updated several deadlines to ensure a workable and timely filing of several reports to Council. The Surveillance Working Group would provide a privacy and civil liberties Impact Assessment for each Surveillance Impact Report (SIR), which is a report that documents and identifies how surveillance technologies will be used and how data will be securely stored, retained, accessed and audited by departments. My goal is to ensure you that the City is committed to the privacy and security of your personal information. We have worked to strike the right balance between protecting your personal information, providing services and being transparent with the public. Technology changes rapidly and Council has been responsive in updating our policies. 

Hing Hay Park

In a previous budget, I worked with my colleagues to allocate $300,000 in funding for public improvements to Hing Hay Park in the Chinatown-International District. On October 1st, we passed legislation to authorize the use of the funds to design and construct a public restroom to serve users of Hing Hay Park and other members of the public.

Grand Street Commons Redevelopment Opportunity Zone

Council passed Resolution 31836, designating 16 parcels totaling approximately 3.2 acres located between Rainer Avenue South and 23rd Avenue South, and South State Street and South Holgate Street in the Mt. Baker/North Rainer neighborhood—close to the future Judkins Park light rail station—as a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone. This is known as a brownfield property, requiring an environmental cleanup. The designation allows the Mount Baker Housing Association (MBHA) to cleanup and redevelop the site for housing and leverage grant funding from the Department of Ecology. In total, 700 housing units are planned. MBHA plans to build 150 units for households earning below 60% of Area Median Income. Lake Union Partners will build 550 units and is allocating 25% of those units to be affordable with the remainder market rate housing.

Viaduct Closure on January 11, 2019

The Alaskan Way Viaduct closes on January 11, 2019 and the new SR 99 tunnel will open three weeks later. We held a briefing update last week on Monday, December 10, with staff from the Seattle Department of Transportation, Washington State Department of Transportation, and King County Metro. As the closure approaches, please make sure to review the following links.
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Al Sugiyama Way

On July 23rd, the City Council passed Resolution 31827 to honor the legacy of community activist Alan “Al” Sugiyama. Fifteen Avenue South between South Nevada Street and South Columbian Way will have an honorary designation of “Alan Sugiyama Way.” Mr. Sugiyama, a life-long Seattle resident, community activist, and educator lived over 40 years in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. He founded the Asian Family Affair newspaper in Seattle in 1972. In 1989, Sugiyama was the first Asian American elected to the Seattle School Board where he served two terms, advocated for educational equity, and honorably served as President of the Seattle School Board. Sugiyama established the Center for Career Alternatives in 1979, an organization that provided free education, employment and career training for disadvantaged youth and adults in King and Snohomish counties. He later served as executive director of the Executive Development Institute.  He was a friend and we will miss him, but will not forget him.

Franklin High School Mock Trial

I was honored to host students from Franklin High School here at City Hall on June 25th. These were no ordinary high school students, but students from the 2018 National High School Mock Trial Championship team. We recognized the achievement with a proclamation and welcomed the team, students, coaches and members of the community at our regularly scheduled 2pm City Council meeting.

NW Asian Weekly Life Achievement Award

I was honored to receive the Life Achievement Award at Northwest Asian Weekly’s Top Contributors Awards on Friday, December 7th. Thank you Northwest Asian Weekly for this recognition. Local journalism and the role of local community newspapers are absolutely important in this day and age and are important pillars in our community. 

Take care, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Bruce A. Harrell
President, Seattle City Council - District 2
Chair: Governance, Equity, and Technology Committee
206-684-8804 | Office: 206-684-8804 | PO Box 34025 Seattle, WA 98124-4025

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