4 to Explore: A Northeast Neighborhoods Newsletter

2017 September

1 Meeting to Connect

The Debates for Seattle Mayor and City Council

And then there were Two.

Our official prediction for November 7:  Finally a female mayor!

After ongoing blasts from my 8-year old daughter for my prediction that we would celebrate a female President last year, we can finally conclude with 100% certainty that “progressive” Seattle will finally overcome its odd track record of all dude mayors for the past 100 years (though I also love Tim Burgess as mayor.)

This season’s “Meeting to Connect”: THE DEBATES FOR SEATTLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL.

photo of bulldozer at NE 50th Street & Brooklyn on March 7, 2017

CITY COUNCIL:

Option #1

  • WHAT: City Council Candidates Debate
  • WHEN: Wednesday, October 18 at 6:00 p.m.
  • WHO: Jon Grant, Teresa Mosqueda, Lorena Gonzalez, Pat Murakami, and you.
  • HOSTED BY: Seattle City Club and Seattle Public Library
  • WHERE: Central Library 1000 Fourth Ave, Seattle, WA (downtown) or in your living room in Northeast Seattle with neighbors.
  • ATTEND: If you want attend the event live, CLICK HERE to register.
  • SUBMIT QUESTIONS: Complete City Club’s online form by CLICKING HERE.

Option #2:

  • WHEN: Saturday, Oct 14 at 9:00 a.m. (with breakfast!)
  • WHO: Jon Grant, Teresa Mosqueda, Pat Murakami, and you. (Gonzalez declined.) Moderated by C.R. Douglas!
  • HOSTED BY: Seattle Neighborhood Coalition
  • WHERE: 500 30th Ave S, Seattle, WA

MAYOR:

  • WHAT: Mayoral Debate
  • WHEN: Tuesday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m.
  • WHO: Jenny Durkan, Cary Moon, and you.
  • HOSTED BY: Seattle City Club, KING 5, KUOW, and GeekWire
  • WHERE: Starbucks Support Center 2401 Utah Street South, Seattle, WA or in your living room in Northeast Seattle with neighbors
  • ATTEND: If you want attend the event live, CLICK HERE to register.
  • SUBMIT QUESTIONS: Complete City Club’s online form by CLICKING HERE.

And now for our Wet Blanket Commentary:  We are not thrilled with either mayoral candidate regarding a key issue: managing our city’s growth. It was supremely disappointing when Durkan met privately with for-profit developers just before her announcement (were promises made?) and then instantly embraced the disappointing “Housing and Livability Agenda” (H.A.L.A.). While perplexed in 2014 when Ed Murray thought Affordable Housing could be solved in the same way as the Minimum Wage — by hastily hand-picking interest groups to meet in secret — we greeted it with an open mind when announced in 2015. But HALA has morphed into a bad dream speeding into your neighborhood on a bulldozer. It’s heavy-handed implementation by Rob Johnson is fueling displacement of existing residents while requiring embarrassingly little affordable housing (2% to 12%). The candidates must explain how they will put both the “Affordability” and the “Livability” back into HALA a.s.a.p.

We are troubled that Moon wrapped herself into an extreme “urbanist” top-down, “we know what’s best for communities” dogma. More importantly, Moon lacks the deep government administration experience of Durkan. We supported Nikkita Oliver in the primary mainly because SHE LISTENED to all communities. We hope Durkan (the likely winner) will listen and wake up to boost the community engagement and affordable housing of HALA.

For the official list of all candidates in 2017, CLICK HERE.

To see who is contributing $$$ to each of the candidates, CLICK HERE. Both Durkan and Mosqueda are benefiting MASSIVELY from interest group money through nefarious independent expenditures (I.E.’s). Durkan is benefiting from the Chamber of Commerce, which is dominated by for-profit real estate developers and big corporations. Mosqueda is benefiting from labor union dollars. Because Jon Grant is the only candidate with a bold affordable housing plan that does not steamroll neighborhoods, the Chamber of Commerce is certain to set up an I.E. against him, too.

photo from "The Stranger"

While Jon Grant and I have often agreed on how to preserve and increase affordable housing (including our criticisms of Mayor Ed Murray’s HALA proposals), we did not have any reason to speak when Jon ran against my former boss Tim Burgess in 2015. Now with downtown interest groups lining up like sheep behind Teresa Mosqueda — even though she provides few specifics on how she would govern — I realized I should be open-minded about Jon Grant and hear his vision for Seattle. With many of our neighbors yearning for a “community voice” on the City Council, Jon Grant’s answers pleasantly surprised! For our recent interview of Jon Grant, CLICK HERE.

For non-snarky primers on Seattle’s general election, click HERE and HERE.

Drinking Game? We know our readers are mature and serious; therefore, suggesting that you play a drinking game while hosting a Debate Watching Party in your neighborhood falls short of our substantive approach. But here’s how the game would have worked:

  1. Everyone at the party picks a zesty local government word or phrase, like “Growth Management.
  2. Each time a candidate utters those words, Drink.
  3. Want a hangover? Pick words that you’ll hear a lot: “Equity,” “Density,” “Bike Lanes,” “Climate Change,” “I Will Protect You From Trump,” “No, I Will Protect You from Trump.”
  4. Want to stay sober? Pick words that you’ll never hear: “Budget Savings,” “Utility Bill Savings,” “Potholes,” “Pension Reform”, “I Will Charge Impact Fees Day One”, “No, I Will Charge Impact Fees Day One.

Whatever you do, VOTE. Show City Hall that, together, we have a strong community voice here in Northeast Seattle.

1 Issue to Engage

4 Ideas to Make City Hall Listen

As published recently in Crosscut.com

4 IDEAS TO MAKE CITY HALL LISTEN.

Congratulations to the surviving City Council candidates — and listen up! Residents want to know how you will listen to them — rather than to campaign donors and interest groups — if you win.
Here are four ways you can empower the entire City Council to listen more:

1. Hold City Council Meetings at Night.
Should city residents be required to use a vacation day to tell City Councilmembers their ideas and concerns? Of course not. So why does City Council conduct its meetings from 9 to 5 when most residents are working or taking their children to and from school? Typically the only people able to attend Council meetings are lobbyists or activists spurred by those lobbyists. The “Busy Majority” of residents cannot attend because they cannot be away from their jobs or families.  City Council: please hold your meetings at night — and provide child care so parents and guardians can attend.

2. Activate a 3-1-1 Call Center Available 24/7.

Do what has worked well for more than a decade in cities from San Francisco to Chicago to New York: enable people to dial an easy-to-remember phone number (3-1-1) to request city services and report concerns — from potholes to policies. The City’s Customer Service Bureau is available ONLY on weekdays and Councilmember office hours for constituents are scant or inconsistent. Few can remember the City’s non-emergency phone number and it provides only minimal services. While the “Find It Fix It” technology works for some, a 3-1-1 Call Center open 24/7 will enable residents without access to fancy iPhones to receive the best customer service. A 3-1-1 Call Center will also make our communities safer by reducing the number of non-emergency calls to 9-1-1 operators. City managers and Councilmembers could use the 3-1-1 software system to track responsiveness and results for their constituents.

3. Free Councilmembers to Spend More Time with Neighbors.

What’s the easiest way to carve out time for Councilmembers? Free them from time-consuming research required to vote on frivolous or unnecessary Resolutions. The Council should immediately amend its own rules [Section V (A)(2)] to allow abstentions on most Resolutions, except those needed for the city budget, legislative work plans, and related Ordinances. Enable the “Work Horses” in City Council to ignore the “Show Horses.”

Here’s why abstentions are so important: Certain City Councilmembers love to spend weeks drafting and lobbying their colleagues to support Resolutions that have nothing to do with city government. But City Council’s own rules require Councilmembers to vote Yes or No. Example: international affairs. Will the United Nations really care what the Seattle City Council thinks about treaties with foreign nations? No. Yet Councilmembers are spending precious hours researching them. Let Councilmembers abstain from these distractions so they can spend more time listening to constituents.  Fewer TED Talks, More Sidewalks!

4. Conduct a Poll Every Year and Share it with the Public:

After all of those community meetings, here’s what City Councilmembers really listen to: polls. Unfortunately, politicians conduct polls only when they are trying to get re-elected – whereas they should have been listening to a wide array of residents during the previous four years. They also hog the polling data for themselves. Worst of all, they are beholden to the campaign contributors who pay the pollsters. So, let’s democratize the data.  Conduct official surveys and release results to the public as cities already do in California,  Missouri, and Canada.

Methodically asking residents across the city what they think can help to prioritize funding, assist journalists, and inform community groups. Surveys would not substitute for deeper debate and discussion with neighborhood groups and vulnerable populations, but gathering information from a well-crafted, professionally conducted phone survey of residents will enhance our public discourse.

Engaging with the residents of Seattle should not be a separate chore or box to check when elected officials need something.  Connecting with constituents is the essence of being a Councilmember.

If you agree, send this website link of our Crosscut column to the City Council and to the candidates:

The link:
http://crosscut.com/2017/09/4-ways-councilmembers-can-actually-listen-to-their-constituents/

City Councilmember and candidate e-mail addresses:
council@seattle.gov,
electjongrant@gmail.com,
info@teamteresa.org,
info@votepatmurakami.org,
info@electlorenagonzalez.com

1 Fun to Enjoy

Caspar Babypants Music (in U District)

Dancing kids, smiling parents, fun music.

If you’ve got infants or toddlers in your family, don’t miss a concert by CASPAR BABYPANTS. This beloved band for babies often sings its way through Northeast Seattle — and they’ll be here again this season.

As described on their Facebook page“CASPAR BABYPANTS is Chris Ballew…making high quality intelligent simple acoustic music for kids and their parents to enjoy together.”

“4 to Explore” wrote about Caspar Babypants back in July 2015 as part of the U Village Sounds of Summer concert series. But they are a Fun to Enjoy all by themselves.

But don’t take our word for it; check out a review of their album “Night Night” by Geek Dad (CLICK HERE) and a review of “Sing Along” by Parent Map (CLICK HERE).

  • WHAT: Kids Concert by Caspar Babypants
  • WHEN: Sat, Oct 14 at 3:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: University Heights at 5031 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105 (on “The Ave” at NE 50th St.)
  • PARKING? Yes.
  • COST? Free
  • KID-FRIENDLY EVENT? Yes, that’s what it’s all about!

MORE: If you want to plan way ahead, the next Caspar Babypants concert in Northeast Seattle will be April 28, 2018 at the Neptune Theatre at 1303 NE 45th St, Seattle, WA 98105.

  • To hear Froggie Went a Courtin’ and other music samples (with animation!), CLICK HERE.
  • To explore their newest album “Jump for Joy” released Aug 2017, CLICK HERE.
  • As the holidays approach, enjoy their “Winter Party” CD which includes favorites Deck the Halls and Jingle Bells (CLICK HERE).

photo of bulldozer at NE 50th Street & Brooklyn on March 7, 2017

NEIGHBORHOOD: Learn more about the U District. Stroll through Farmers Market Saturday mornings. Engage the many groups: University District Community Council, the U District Partnership (formerly the Chamber of Commerce), and the City / University Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC). Fill up at the diverse eateries from Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe to Portage Bay Cafe to Shultzy’s Sausage and Beer. Adore the stores like The Trading Musician to Artist & Craftsman Supply.

Families can find other fun events this summer on the websites of Parent MapRed Tricycle, and Seattle’s Child.

1 Store to Adore

Audubon Nature Shop in Wedgwood

As cooler air breezes through Northeast Seattle, you may notice flocks of birds migrating South (wishing you could join them), while other birds gather sticks to fortify nests. Winter is Coming. (We could insert a “Three Eyed Raven” joke here, but we don’t think many of our readers watch “Game of Thrones“).

Curious about which local birds are staying and which are going? Explore all of the answers in this season’s “Store to Adore”: SEATTLE AUDUBON NATURE SHOP.

Occupying a quaint building tucked away off 35th Ave NE (just below NE 82nd Street) in the Wedgwood neighborhood, the Seattle Audubon Nature Shop is filled with books and binoculars and, most importantly, knowledgeable staff whose love of birds contagious.

As they say more eloquently on Seattle Audubon’s website, “The Seattle Audubon Nature Shop is your complete source for bird- and nature-related merchandise, providing essential funding through its profits for the activities and programs of Seattle Audubon.” And here’s the mission statement: “Seattle Audubon leads a local community in appreciating, understanding, and protecting birds and their natural habitats.”

You don’t need to be an avid bird watcher to adore this store, just fly in and browse. From here you can walk North to the other winners of our “Store to Adore” contest at the Wedgwood Community Council Picnic: Cafe Javasti, Fiddler’s InnWedgwood Broiler, and Wedgwood Ale House.

But don’t take our word for it; check out their reviews on YELP.

  • LOCATION: 8050 35th Ave NE 98115
  • HOURS: Mon thru Sat 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • To shop Seattle Audubon online: CLICK HERE.

LEARNING:  Seattle Audubon sponsors a lecture for beginning birders called “10 Gateway Birds of Seattle and How to Find Them.” Next lecture is Monday, October 23rd at 7:00 p.m. at Phinney Neighborhood Center. For details, CLICK HERE.

EVENTS:  For other events, such as “The Bird Ball” fundraiser on October 21, CLICK HERE.

ORIGIN:  It’s named after John James Audubon (1785-1851) an ornithologist and painter who first published The Birds of America in 1827. The first statewide Audubon Society was formed in Massachusetts in 1896. The National Audubon Society formed in 1905. And, to answer your next history question, Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” was released in 1963.

SERIOUSLY: Just when you thought you could escape a “Store to Adore” article without a downer: City Hall’s reckless policy to fuel unfettered real estate development is rapidly endangering our city’s “Tree Canopy,” which is — you guessed it — bad for birds. Endangering our city’s long-cherished, hard-earned tree canopy is worse for many other reasons, including The Environment that politicians say they want to protect. Learn more about the issue by CLICKING HEREHEREHERE, and pages 85-88 of HERE.  For an example of the destruction being repeated all over our city, read the Seattle Times article about City Hall refusing to help a North Seattle neighborhood save a precious 100-year old cedar tree from a developer’s ax: CLICK HERE. The root of the problem: City Hall needs to reign in real estate developers from chopping down trees in order to Build, Baby, Build.

NEIGHBORHOOD:  To explore more of Wedgwood, subscribe to Wedgwood View and the Wedgwood Echo.  We have featured a lot of cool stuff in Wedgwood, including Wedgwood Arts Festival (every July), Veraci Pizza, and the Wedgwood Ale House.  4 to Explore is in Wedgwood a lot (it’s where our P.O. Box is located) so, for the latest on the neighborhood, be sure to “like” 4 to Explore on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. You can also attend the Wedgwood Community Council monthly meetings.

Uncategorized

Interview of Jon Grant for City Council 2017

Introduction:  While Jon Grant and I have often agreed on how to preserve and increase affordable housing (including our criticisms of former Mayor Ed Murray’s H.A.L.A.), we did not have any reason to speak when Jon ran against my former boss Tim Burgess for City Council in 2015. Now in 2017, Jon Grant is competing again for that City Council seat.  With downtown interest groups lining up like sheep behind Teresa Mosqueda — even though she provides few specifics on how she would govern — I realized I should be open-minded about Jon Grant and hear his vision for Seattle. With many of my neighbors yearning for a “community voice” on the City Council, Jon Grant’s answers pleasantly surprised. Here is our interview of Jon Grant:

 

1. Community EngagementInterest groups are shoveling money toward your opponent Teresa Mosqueda  in the form of “independent expenditures.” This is concerning to many voters that Mosqueda will be beholden to those interest groups rather than to regular residents.  How will you, Jon Grant, if elected as an at-large City Councilmember, engage with and listen to residents rather than to lobbyists?

Jon Grant: I think that one of the big questions facing our city is whether or not there will be a strong community voice on Seattle City Council in the next couple of years. I think when we talk about the future growth that our city is envisioning, I think it’s important that community members be a part of these conversations and the kind of top down approach we have seen from former Mayor Ed Murray’s office, it doesn’t give folks at opportunity to make sure that growth is going to happen in an equitable way. And I think that we see this in all part of Seattle. We saw this in the recent upzone proposal in the Chinatown International District where there were residents that were rightly concerned about the upzones without strong affordability mandates could result in the cultural and economic displacement of their community. And I think that many community members are very familiar with the current approach to guiding growth: the city puts together a stakeholder group. They tell you that the stakeholder group is representative of you and your interests. They come up with a plan behind closed doors and then they implement the plan in your neighborhood and you find out about it after the fact. And then after the plan is already – the ink is already dry on that plan – then they ask you for input after the fact. And I think that that is a real problem in terms of making sure that we get to good outcomes with the growth and explosive development that we’re seeing happening in our city. And in terms of the Chinatown International District, what we saw there is that there were many community leaders and longtime trusted organizations like InterIm, a nonprofit housing developer, saying to the city, hold on now, can we have a little bit of an opportunity to look at whether or not that we’re getting the best deal. And I think that my pint of frustration starts and I think what I hear from a lot of folks in the community is that when this growth occurs we don’t ask enough from the private sector to pay its fair share. And part of the reason that that happens, part of the reason that we get these raw deals is that we don’t have a community voice at City Hall, certainly not with our former Mayor. And part of the reason is that we have developers and large interest groups and big corporate interests funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy these elections. And until we really have a shift or a change in that balance of power, we’re going to continue to see these inequitable outcomes in these development decisions.

So, for my part, I’ve taken a pledge not to accept any money from any developers or corporations so that way the community knows that I’ll be a voice for the community, that I will be accountable to them and no one else. And I think that until we get more candidates to take that pledge and to push back against these elections getting bought, we’re going to continue to get more of the same.  And I also think it’s important to point that, for full transparency, I was on the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee. And the process that I just described earlier; it was exactly that, right? It was a closed door meeting of stakeholders, but it’s important to point out that over half of that committee was represented by downtown developers. 50% of the committee and I don’t that that is actually representative of our communities.  Now I was the one vote on the HALA committee of the 28 people who convened to abstain on the final proposal and to abstain on the Grand Bargain in particular because I feel it did not go far enough in asking more from developers and more accountability. And that’s why for our campaign, we’ve put out a call for 25% of all new development to be affordable to working class and low-income people. Because if neighborhoods are going to accept the upzones in their community, they need to get something back out of it, right? The public should get something out of those upzones because developers are going to be making millions, if not billions of dollars, hand over fist with these upzones and the public should get something back. If they’re going to be accepting growth in that community. But that’s not what we’re going to get. Instead the Grand Bargain” in some parts of town only requires as little of 2% of each building to be affordable to a working class person and 2% is just not enough.

2. Managing Growth: Managing Growth has become a key issue of the 2017 campaign. With Mayor Ed Murray leaving office in disgrace, City Councilmembers no longer need to fear retribution from questioning his so-called “Housing Affordability & Livability Agenda” (HALA).  As one of the earliest and most vocal skeptics of HALA, what will you do to encourage your Council colleagues to revamp HALA by injecting actual Affordability and Livability? 

Jon Grant: I think that I would really encourage a citywide conversation in each community across the city to really get input first before we form policy on what livability means. What does it mean to have a fully connected basic bicycle plan in your community? What does it mean to have sidewalks funded so that kids can actually get to school safely? The number that I remember is that 80% of school children are within a walkable distance to their schools. But if you’re in South Seattle or North Seattle, there are no sidewalks to safely get from their home to their school and I think that is a huge problem. So when we talk about livability, it’s important to point out that the city has not ever fully funded the livability issues and it’s been kind of a second thought. And a lot of it is because it’s the influence of downtown interests on City Hall because growth should pay for growth and I’m a very vocal supporter of Impact Fees because we need to actually have the money to make sure that these livability plans can actually succeed and come into fruition, but we will never have the money – we can’t simply pass a property tax to pay for better sidewalks – the backlog is simply too huge. What we need to do is have the private sector pay their fair share. That’s why I fully support Impact Fees to pay for our infrastructure needs so that growth is paying for growth. Now if we continue to ignore the livability issues, it’s a real concern because we need to have that community voice at City Hall that’s going to push that perspective. For my part, as the citywide candidates, I would want to be going into every neighborhood from South Park to Lake City to every end of the city to make sure that it’s actually going to be not just affordable but somewhere where people want to live in the first place.

3. Basics of City Government: Many residents of Northeast Seattle are frustrated that City Councilmembers seem to focus on everything but city government. Meanwhile the streets are in disrepair, trash & graffiti are growing, the city budget has ballooned to over $5 billion, and the effectiveness of the police is once again being questioned. Recently Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) announced that they need to increase their rates AGAIN.  If elected, what will you do to focus on the basics of city government and please state your position on the SPU rate increases?

Jon Grant: I think that the Seattle Public Utilities rate increase is a great example of local government gone wrong. There has been decades of growth and development and new apartment buildings, new facilities coming into our city to accommodate the growth and it’s been taxing on our utility system. But we have never imposed a growth-related fee on developers to help pay for our utility costs. And for replacing old pipes and for replacing old facilities. And, again, this is because we are one of the few cities in the Puget Sound that does not require developers to pay for those kinds of impacts on our infrastructure and now the public is going to get it in the shorts because of our not just failed planning (because that would suggest we did not know what we were doing) but because of the intentional decision to not require developers to pay their fair share. And the consequence of that is that now we’re getting these rate hikes, where if 10 or 20 years ago if we had had these Impact Fees on the books, the private sector would have been paying a larger portion of those cots rather than bouncing it on the public to make up the difference now. And so I think that really speaks to so many issues that are so pressing in City Hall, not just utilities but also about affordable housing or police reform or about all of these issues. There powerful interest groups that are more than happy to kind of tap the brakes on addressing these issues and creating progress on these issues that are most important to Seattle constituents because those are the folks who are lining the pockets of these running for office or currently in office. So I think having a politician or a candidate say that they are pledging not to take money from any of these interest groups is so important.

4. More: Any additional comments for the residents of Northeast Seattle?

Jon Grant: Yes, there is. When we talk about these issues, I think that this is a big difference between my opponent and myself. Both of us are participating in the Democracy voucher program, but over 90% of our funds come from the publicly sourced voucher program. That means we’re going to be accountable to the community. There were hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on my opponent by outside expenditure groups. I think people are tired of having their elections being bought. We need to get Big Money out of politics. So, for my part, I’m proud of the fact that we don’t have those kinds of outside spending that kind of tips the scales. And I’m very proud of the fact that over 95% of our donors live right here in Seattle. That means we have brought grass roots community support and that’s the kind of accountability that people should expect from their elected officials when they go to the ballot box in November.

 

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