Posts Tagged ‘Seattle City Council’

New Political Landscape For November Election Seattle City Council Districts

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

By Sarajane Siegfriedt, Member of PSARA’s Executive Board

Electing Seattle City Councilmembers by district had failed in three previous attempts, so it was no sure thing when it ran on the November 5, 2013 ballot. The ballot sponsors were an eclectic group, but most of the funding (about $200,000 of $296,000 raised) was contributed by the main sponsor, Aurora Avenue businesswoman Faye Garneau.

Asked why she sponsored it, Garneau said it was money well-spent if it forces future council members to prioritize and be more responsive to neighborhood concerns outside the downtown core. “It’s my city. I love it,” she told the Seattle Times. “I want to leave it better than when I entered it. And I think it will be.”

Garneau was joined by Seattle Displacement Coalition’s John Fox, Fremont land use activist Toby Thaler, Fremont business leader Susie Burke, Ellen Taft, Jim Coombes, and City Hall aide James Bush.

For the first time, the proposal included its map, leaving nothing in doubt. The district map was created by Richard Morrill, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Washington. He said federal rules prohibit diluting minority voting blocs, and Seattle doesn’t have the minority population to create two strong minority districts, so he created one in South Seattle. They each contain approximately 88,000 people and the citywide positions represent 600,000 constituents.

The Seattle Times endorsed the districts model: “All but three of the country’s 50 largest cities have changed from at-large elections to district or hybrid models—for good reason. Seattle should do the same.”

The sponsors explained the need for election by districts: “We currently elect all nine Seattle City Councilmembers ‘at large.’ This means our Councilmembers…are not responsible to voters in any specific district. Seattle is only one of three [of the top 50 cities] that do elect our legislative branch in an ‘at large’ fashion.”

Calling their hybrid proposal “7-2”, sponsors said, “The other two will be elected to ‘at large’ positions.” When the map was applied to the current councilmembers, it was immediately apparent that there was no incumbent in District 5, the area north of 85th Street that was annexed in 1954 and, according to local legend, was promised, but never received sidewalks.

The sponsors explained, “We will begin the transition to the 7-2 system at the next city election in 2015. In 2015, all nine Councilmembers will be up for a vote. The seven districted Councilmembers will be elected to 4-year terms. The two atlarge Councilmembers will be elected to two-year terms. In 2017, the two at-large seats will be elected to four-year terms. This places the at-large Councilmembers on the same election cycle as the Mayor and City Attorney. The goal is to allow residents to vote on at least part of the Council at each city election.”

Seattle Districts Now was favored by 65.92% of the voters, and opposed by 34.08%.

Councilmembers averaged 10 years’ seniority when the proposal passed. Kshama Sawant in District 3, as of this writing, has three challengers. Tom Rasmussen of West Seattle’s District 1 is not running in November. Neither is Sally Clark, faced with another city-wide race. Nick Licata, at 17 years the Council’s senior member, has also decided to retire.

The advantages of incumbency — fundraising and name familiarity — seem to be balanced against the desire for a fresh face and a less downtown-centric agenda. Because of low turnout, districts may be won by running a credible campaign and knocking on just 12,000 doors, and acpaign funds of $75,000 to $100,000, whereas a citywide race takes far more fundraising to pay for cable TV ads and all those oversized postcards that fill our mailboxes around election time (upwards of $350,000).

As of March 20th, we have 39 candidates registered in the nine Council races, from 11 in West Seattle’s District 1 to Sally Bagshaw, who is unopposed (so far) in District 7. There are five candidates for AtLarge Position 8, including Tim Burgess, and three candidates running for Position 9, which has no incumbent. Filing week ends May 15th.

In the May Advocate, we will list the candidates and give as much information as we can.

What’s in the New Seattle City Budget…and What’s Not

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

By Mike Andrew

By the time you read this, the Seattle City Council will have passed the budget they crafted in a November 14 Budget Committee meeting involving all nine Council members.

Acting on the recommendations of Council Budget Chair Nick Licata and Council members Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien, the Council added $8.5 million to Mayor Ed Murray’s draft budget, for a total $4.8 billion two-year package.

Licata, Sawant, and O’Brien were backed up by a People’s Budget hearing held October 30. The purpose of the People’s Budget hearing was for community and labor activists to give input on what their constituencies actually need from a City budget.

PSARA President Robby Stern participated, along with Council member Sawant; Council member Licata’s legislative assistant Newell Aldrich; Sharon Lee of the Low Income Housing Institute; Paul Bigman, representing the Martin Luther King County Labor Council; Juan Jose Bocanegra of El Comite; Carino Barragan of Casa Latina; Katie Wilson of the Transit Riders Union; John Fox representing the Seattle Displacement Coalition; and Julia Ismael and Steve Dashle from Seattle Human Services Coalition.

Perhaps the biggest change to the Mayor’s proposal was the addition of budget items to help low-wage workers.

First, the City Council added funding to raise the wages of the lowest-income City workers to $15 per hour in 2015, rather than making them wait to be phased-in with private sector workers.

Second, the Council voted to provide minimum-wage funding for the City’s non-profit social services contractors, so that workers who provide necessary services for Seattle’s most vulnerable residents can also see their wages rise more rapidly.

Finally, the Council added funding to support the new Office of Labor Standards, which will enforce the City’s minimum wage, paid sick days, and wage theft ordinances. One million dollars was added for community outreach to inform workers of their rights, and almost $200,000 was allocated for investigators, to start in 2015.

The council also voted $400,000 to fund Career Bridge, an Urban League program that links men of color – including those who may have been incarcerated – with jobs and assistance. Last year, the council declined to fund the project.

An additional $500,000 was added over the two-year budget to implement a paid parental leave policy for City workers of any gender.

The Council added more than $1.2 million over the two years of the budget for homeless services, including additional services for encampments – the first time the City Council has embraced homeless camps as a viable stopgap for our poorest residents. The Council also added funding for a year-round low-barrier women’s shelter.

Council members also added an additional $150,000 for Youth Care, for outreach and services to homeless youth. The money will be used in part to pay an outreach manager to be present fulltime at Westlake Park downtown, and/or Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill where many homeless youth congregate.

To pay for the dozen or so additions to Mayor Murray’s budget, the Council agreed to investigate – but not yet act on – Council member Sawant’s proposal for a millionaire tax. Sawant’s idea of cutting salaries for the City’s elected officials and upper level managers went nowhere, however.

While the City’s new budget is clearly progressive, and certainly an improvement over the Mayor’s draft proposal, not all the ideas put forward at the October 30 People’s Budget hearing made it in. On behalf of PSARA, Robby Stern set out a number of concerns that still need to be addressed by the City:

  • Sidewalk and other infrastructure repair.
  • Increased budgets for the city’s Senior Centers.
  • Assistance for low-income people to pay for utilities and transit service.
  • Ending Seattle Housing Authority’s so-called Stepping Forward plan to increase rents on SHA’s low-income housing units by as much as 500% over the next six years.

“It’s outrageous, and we have a lot of seniors in Seattle housing,” he said about the plan. “We’ve got to stop that plan. The City Council should be taking that pledge [to not reappoint SHA board members who support Stepping Forward]. We’ve got to change who is on that board.”

Local Progress: Towards a National Municipal Network

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

By Nick Licata, Seattle City Council and a PSARA member 

Urbanized areas of 50,000 or more people account for 71% of nation’s population. Many of the most exciting, innovative and progressive legislative initiatives emanate from these cities. And yet, I have found that while serving on the Seattle City Council for 15 years, there is no national network connecting elected public officials to exchange and promote progressive legislation.

In March of 2012, 30 people representing a handful of cities and a dozen national grassroots organizations met to discuss the need for creating a progressive national municipal network. Representatives from Progressive Majority and the national office of SEIU encouraged the elected officials there to pursue this effort. With the additional assistance from the Center for Popular Democracy, we met again in November.

At that meeting 41 elected officials from 32 towns and large cities, including three other Washington State municipal officials, Greg Taylor from Renton, Ryan Mello from Tacoma and De’Sean Quinn from Tukwila, came together and founded a new national organization, Local Progress, a national municipal policy network www.

Our goal is to create more just and equitable cities to counter the increasing disparity in income and wealth that our nation has been experiencing. We have seen huge cuts in programs designed to maintain infrastructure, provide basic health and safety services, and sustain local economies. These regressive policies do not happen by accident. They are reinforced by the growing influence of money in politics, through groups that work in a coordinated way to weaken health and safety regulations, roll back civil rights, lower taxes on moneyed interests, and demonize, privatize, and eliminate public programs and services.

In many cities there is a counterforce: progressives working in coalitions of elected officials, community groups, labor unions, and advocacy organization. Working together, we have adopted legislation at the local level to advance progressive policies. Living-wage laws make sure that public dollars don’t pay for poverty jobs. Cities, like Seattle, are leading the effort to make sure that all workers can take paid sick days, instead of choosing between their jobs and their health. Inclusionary housing policies create affordable housing in diverse neighborhoods. Responsible banking acts make sure that banks use the people’s money to meet community needs. Municipal campaign finance reforms return government to the people.

The success of Local Progress depends on three elements working together: elected officials, national progressive organizations and a useable, reliable database of municipal legislation. City Councilmembers and Mayors pass legislation, organizations mobilize citizens and a database allows both of these groups to share information and to find one another to pursue coordinated campaigns.

As the new chair of this organization I look forward to sustaining this effort and producing results.

PSARA Actions – Mayor & City Council

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

PSARA meets with Mayor McGinn

Members of PSARA meet with Seattle mayor Mike McGinn

Photo by PSARA member Garet Munger

Seattle City Council supports Caring Across Generations campaign

Seattle City Council supports Caring Across Generations campaign

Photo via Flickr user seiuhealthcare775nw

More than 100 supporters, including a number of PSARA members, gathered in the Seattle City hall after the Seattle City Council passed unanimously the resolution in support of the Caring Across Generations (CAG) campaign. The passage of the resolution means that the city of Seattle will lobby at the state and federal level for policies and legislation that will implement the five point program of the CAG campaign and will encourage other political jurisdictions to adopt the same position.

Seattle Council votes support for ‘Care’ campaign

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Susie Levy

Seattle made history June 25, becoming the first U.S. city to formally endorse the national Caring Across Generations campaign.  More than a hundred supporters packed the City Council chambers to witness the unanimous vote.

Seattle caregiving advocates had launched their supporting campaign in February at a Care Congress at the Greenwood Community Senior Center.

Led by Casa Latina, Washington CAN, Service Employees Local 775 and PSARA, the Seattle Care Council brought the resolution to the offices of every City Council member.  To support the campaign, they collected over 3,000 postcards.

Council members Nick Licata and John O’Brien spent a day with SEIU caregivers and their clients to experience first hand the importance and the challenges of caregiving.

When the resolution was heard in committee June 13, Robby Stern of PSARA, Kassandra Gonzalez of Casa Latina, Jeannette Wenzl of Washington CAN and Sylvia Liang of SEIU 775 joined committee members at the table.  Moved by the personal stories told by the coalition leaders, Council members shared their own experiences with caregiving.

The resolution notes that as baby boomers age, the need for affordable and accessible home and community-based care will continue to grow.  At the same time, many of those providing care will lack the supports they need.  The resolution proposes to transform the care industry by:

  • Creating two million new, good quality jobs in home care.
  • Developing training and career advancement models and a path to legal status for care workers.
  • Making home and community-based services accessible and affordable to all who need them, so that our elders and family members with disabilities can stay in their homes and continue to be a part of our communities.  Adding a long-term care benefit to Medicare would be an important way to achieve this goal.

The resolution directs the Seattle Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR) to promote the campaign with local, regional, state and federal governments, including the National League of Cities.  The coalition now has the formal support of Seattle and its lobbyists as the campaign is carried to Olympia and Washington, D.C.

“The active support of our PSARA members helped make his historic achievement possible.” President Robby Stern said. “From signing and circulating postcards to helping pack city hall, our voices have helped move this campaign forward.”

(Susie Levy is an organizer for Washington Community Action Network and a PSARA member.)

Seattle City Council supports Caring Across Generations campaign

Friday, July 6th, 2012
Seattle City Council supports Caring Across Generations campaign

Photo via Flickr user seiuhealthcare775nw

More than 100 supporters, including a number of PSARA members, gathered in the Seattle City hall after the Seattle City Council passed unanimously the resolution in support of the Caring Across Generations (CAG) campaign. The passage of the resolution means that the city of Seattle will lobby at the state and federal level for policies and legislation that will implement the five point program of the CAG campaign and will encourage other political jurisdictions to adopt the same position.