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Seattle City Council action

The Seattle City Council is the lawmaking body of the city of Seattle. Its nine members are elected to four-year terms in citywide nonpartisan elections. It has the sole responsibility of approving the city’s budget, and also develops laws and policies intended to promote the health and safety of Seattle’s residents. The Council passes all legislation related to the City’s police, fire, parks, libraries, and electric, water, solid waste, and drainage utilities.

Election of City Council members occur on odd-numbered years, with either four or five council members up for election based on position number. All council members’ terms begin Jan. 1. The council positions are officially nonpartisan, and the ballot gives no party designations.

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moneySEATTLE — The Seattle City Council voted Monday to place on the November ballot a measure that would raise homeowners’ property taxes in order to partly finance the campaigns of City Council candidates.

The public financing proposal would only apply to City Council races and would be instituted in the 2015 elections.

“I’m looking forward to the robust debate about the role of money in politics in the months ahead,” Councilman Mike O’Brien said.

Voters would be asked to approve a six-year, $9 million property tax levy to finance the program, which would cost an estimated $2 million per year, or about $5.76 for a home valued at $350,000.

To opt into the program, candidates would first have to qualify by collecting contributions of $10 or more from at least 600 Seattle residents. Once qualified, donations up to $50 would be matched 6-to-1 on the first $35,000 raised.

Candidates who fully utilize the matching system would receive $210,000 in public funds throughout the entire campaign, split between the primary and general elections.

Candidates would have the option to run for office without participating in the public financing program.

nickelsvilleSEATTLE — The city council voted unanimously to allocate $500,000 to relocate residents of Nickelsville in West Seattle.

The monies earmarked with Council Bill 117815 will be used to fund the outreach, engagement, case management, shelter, housing and other services to Nickelsville residents. The Human Services Department will oversee implementation of the program.

After West Seattle residents near Nickelsville complained about public safety and the cleanliness of the encampment, city leaders met to find a solution. A statement from council president Sally Clark’s office said the passage of the bill “underscores a majority of council members’ long-standing position that encampments are not an acceptable response to homelessness in Seattle and that providing housing, treatment services, and shelter are the most appropriate assistance to set homeless individuals on a pathway to ending homelessness.”

The city of Seattle currently invests more than $30 million annually in homeless programs and services throughout the city. In the past two years, the council has provided an additional $1 million for shelter, re-housing and other services.

“Our goal is to provide safe, secure housing, to anyone at the West Marginal Way SW location who is willing to accept it,” Clark said.

Earlier this month, council members requested that Mayor Mike McGinn direct the Human Services Department to prepare a plan that would provide immediate, targeted outreach and services for Nickelsville residents by Sept. 1. Other metropolitan areas such as New Orleans, Baltimore and San Francisco have implemented a similar approach in providing outreach and engagement, along with housing, shelter and services to address homelessness.

The Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee will hold a meeting about alternatives for encampments on June 25 at 5:30 p.m. and will hold another meeting on June 26 at 2 p.m. where the committee may pass legislation that broadens the ability of encampments to locate on public or private property in Seattle.

Local News

Seattle takes bold action on climate change

climateSEATTLE — The Seattle City Council voted unanimously to adopt Seattle’s Climate Action Plan on Monday.

The Climate Action Plan is recommended action to be taken to meet the city’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

The plan is the result of a three-year collaborative effort between the city and community to create a blueprint for a prosperous and climate-friendly city.

“With this bold plan to reduce our carbon emissions now in place, we must now get to work on implementing the actions called for in the plan,” said City Councilman Mike O’Brien.

“In the Energy & Environment Committee, we will begin exploring how to make energy use more visible to consumers and developing the tools we need to improve Seattle’s home and building energy performance,” said O’Brien.

The Climate Action Plan includes specific short- and long-term actions Seattle needs to meet its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

It focuses on on three sectors where the city of Seattle can have the greatest influence in reducing carbon emissions: transportation and land use, building energy and solid waste.

The plan also includes a section outlining how Seattle should prepare for the impacts of climate disruption it expects to occur, as well as a section on actions that individuals can take to reduce emissions through purchasing decisions.

SEATTLE — Taxi cab drivers mounted a big protest Monday afternoon at Seattle City Hall, saying city  leaders are not enforcing the law when it comes to protecting their industry against all the competitors that are popping up, including the flat-rate cars and the increasingly popular ride-share programs.

“All we’re saying is wake up,” said Salah Mohamed, who has been driving a taxi for year.  “Do what you’re supposed to do, which is enforce the law.”

Mohamed says only licensed taxis can be flagged by customers on the street or pick up at designated stands. But he argues “for hire” services (which look an awful lot like cabs, but charge only a flat-rate) are breaking those rules.

“I’m losing business,” Mohamed said.  “Make sure that everybody follows the rule of law.”

But operators of “for-hire” vehicles object to the argument being made by the taxi drivers.

“The taxis are the kings on the table,” said Sam Guled.  “They want everything. They don’t want to share with anyone.”

Guled, who owns the region’s largest for-hire company, with pre-arranged, flat-rate service, says it’s time to change the rules.  He says his drivers should be allowed the same rights as taxis, especially given that the city hasn’t issued a new cab license in years and demand is only growing.

“They’re trying basically to make competition illegal,” Guled said.  “For God’s sake!  I mean this is America.  This is what makes this country great.  We want competition.  We want everyone to compete on a level playing field.  That’s all we’re asking, fairness, fairness, fairness.”

Even though the taxi drivers and for-hire drivers are bitter enemies out there on the street, they do agree on one thing:  the new mobile-phone based ride-share programs should be regulated, including inspections, commercial licensing, special insurance, etc.  There are no requirements on them now.

That wouldn’t just level the playing field, the argument goes, but it is very important in terms of public safety for people to know what they are getting is safe and secure.

Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council are looking into the issue.

Indeed, the city is doing a study right now about how much demand there is and how all these services fit into the landscape.  That should be completed in August.

SEATTLE — Angry members of the Nickelsville homeless tent city showed up at City Hall Wednesday to protest the impending closure of their encampment.

nickelsvilleThey say city leaders are abandoning them without adequate alternatives, forcing many of them back onto the street.

“I’m really frustrated about it,” Nickelsville resident Terry Smith said. “It’s just like going up against a brick wall, because, you know, they are not listening to us.”

The protest came about because of a letter earlier this week from City Council members saying Nickelsville must leave its current location on city-owned property on West Marginal Way by Sept. 1.

Smith, who has lived at Nickelsville for a year, says the community it provides is what’s kept him going. “I’m not on the street,” he said.  “Nickelsville has given me a way out.”

But council members argue the time has come to disband the 2-year old homeless encampment.

“We know that there are health and safety concerns,” said City Councilman Tom Rasmussen, who, along with six of his colleagues, signed a letter to the mayor to shut the camp down. “There have been charges of criminal activity going on as well, and, you know, something has to be done to ensure that this doesn’t continue.”

Mayor Mike McGinn disagrees with the council’s decision to shut down the encampment.

“With the council not prepared to provide any other legal alternatives, and with their strong desire to sell the property to Food Lifeline, you know, I just had to accept the inevitable,” McGinn said.

For at least a couple years he has urged lawmakers to officially sanction a permanent spot for Nickelsville.

“September 1 is the date that’s out there. Unless the council wants to change their policy direction, that’s where we’re heading,” McGinn said.

The council members who are pushing to evict Nickelsville say they will provide up to $500,000 in public money to help the 125 members of the encampment find space in other estab

taxiSEATTLE — You’re in a rush to get downtown to that sold-out concert or ballgame and you don’t have a car — do you call a cab or one of the popular ride-share car services? The city of Seattle wants to know.

Surveyors, armed with electronic tablets, will be canvassing Seattle and other parts of King County, asking citizens what their usage and experiences with taxi and for-hire car services has been.

Information from the surveys will go to the city’s Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations Committee to help improve taxi and similar services, the Department of Finance said. Demand will be categorized by the number of street hail trips, prearranged trips by local residents, hospitality (hotel/cruise) trips and hospital/health care trips.

An online version of the survey is available in Chinese, English, Korean, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese and can be accessed at

SEATTLE — Seattle is considering spending $1.5 million a year to publicly fund City Council campaigns.  Supporters argue it’s about getting more people into the process.

citycouncil“This will basically get money out of politics,” said City Councilman Nick Licata, a sponsor of the measure.

He argued the goal is clear:  “To allow for more candidates, perhaps more diversity of candidates, but they will have to work for the public campaign financing,” Licata said. “It will not be just given away.”

The proposal would provide up to $210,000 in public money per candidate for a City Council position ($105,000 for the primary election and $105,000 for the general election).  To be eligible, a candidate would be required to raise money in small amounts. Every $50 contribution would be matched 6-to-1 with public funds. So, a $50 private check would mean a $300 public match.

“By having many smaller contributions, you end up with interests and issues that maybe are a little more neighborhood-oriented, maybe oriented towards groups that don’t really often have a voice,” Licata said.

But opponents aren’t convinced of the need.

“You have to ask yourself if this a really good investment of public dollars,” said Bill Maurer, executive director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter, which engages in constitutional litigation in the areas of economic liberty, private property rights, educational choice and freedom of speech.

He argued that Seattle already has competitive elections.

“We have a better record of voting incumbents out of office than most of the cities than have public financing systems,” he said.

Maurer said that the average contribution to Seattle City Council campaigns now is $223, which, he argues, is not a problem.

“$223 is not big money,” Maurer said. “If we have politicians that are capable of changing their positions because of a $220 contribution, then we have a lot bigger problems than what public campaign financing can solve.”

This plan would be voluntary. Candidates wouldn’t have to participate if they felt they could do better on their own. But for those who do opt in, they would be limited to spending $250,000 on their campaign.

Voters are expected to have the final say.

Council members are proposing a property tax levy, to pay for this, on the ballot this November.  To raise $1.5 million annually, the levy would cost the average Seattle homeowner about $5.75 a year.

city council felon billSEATTLE — The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a new law Monday, 9-0, that will prevent employers in Seattle from rejecting convicted felons outright without any clear connection between the crime they committed and the work they are seeking.

The bill also prohibits employers from posting advertisements, including online ads, that ask candidates with a criminal record to not apply.

“When employment rates increase, crime reduces,” said City Councilman Bruce Harrell, sponsor of the legislation. “This is a means to reduce recidivism and make our streets safer.”

While the proposed law drew the ire of some, supporters said it will give people who have done their time a second chance.

“We are grateful to council member Bruce Harrell who took a chance on this bill way back when it was not popular at all but who saw the need for justice nonetheless,” Chris Stearns chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission said. “The new law gives all people looking for work, including those who have made mistakes, the chance to be considered on the basis of their strengths not their weaknesses.”

Nickelsvill PicSEATTLE — The Seattle City Council wants Nickelsville shut down.

Seven council members signed a letter to Mayor McGinn that said one Seattle’s oldest homeless encampments should be closed by September 1.

In the letter, council members said they believe a public health and safety emergency exists in the Nickelsville encampment and they believe city time and resources would be better utilized with increased outreach, case management and proven programs that provide the best pathway to long-term or permanent housing for the people who live in Nickelsville.

“We’re going to help them find another place, but it would be in a shelter and permanent housing rather than another camp. We can’t keep moving tents and camps around the city thinking that’s going to solve the problem with the people who live there — it doesn’t. It’s only a very temporary measure and it doesn’t result in any permanent help for people who are living in the camps,” councilman Tom Rasmussen said.

Council members also want to spend h$500,000 from the city’s general fund to help with the transition. It would be a one-time funding for the effort.

Aside from these concerns, the city owns the land Nicklesville is situation on and it appears to be leaning toward leasing or selling the land to Food Lifeline, an organization that supports food banks, meal programs and shelters throughout western Washington.

Residents of the camp said they just need a good place to live like everyone else.

“I’d like to see my family be able to move to an environment where we can stay for at least up to two years, have electricity, have sewer, have water — all of those things that my family needs,” Nickelsville resident Teresa Sides said.

“We know there are health and safety concerns. There have been charges of criminal activity going on as well, and you know something has to be done to ensure that this doesn’t continue,” Rasmussen said.

There is no word yet on when a final decision will be made.