4 to Explore: A Northeast Neighborhoods Newsletter

2018 January

1 Issue to Engage

How to Make a Real Difference in City Government

As published recently in The Seattle Weekly.


As Tim Burgess’s service as an elected official came to an end a few weeks ago, I heard many city officials expressing gratitude for my former boss. They listed his many accomplishments during his brief service as mayor and during his leadership on the Seattle City Council. During the bittersweet farewell event, I believe I was not the only person there reflecting on what it means “to make a real difference” in city government. The answer could be a powerful guide for our new mayor as she enters the New Year.

Today, too many local officials speechify about national issues as if they were running for Congress.  They seem focused on anything other than the core mission of city government. That’s a shame because, as Tim Burgess said at the event honoring his public service, city government is where you are closest to the people. Keeping them safe, providing clean water, keeping the lights on, fixing the roads – a “high calling” of serving your neighbors.

So what makes a real difference?

First, City Hall needs to listen to residents rather than lobbyists. For more on that, you can CLICK HERE to read our piece called “Listen Up, City Hall!”  Then, each proposal needs to meet these tests:

  • The city program or policy must be proven to work based on the evidence. It’s not just throwing money at a problem because an interest group lobbied.
  • The improvement is institutionalized, meaning that it is codified and not easily undone by the next budget cycle.
  • The improvement changes a system or creates a ripple effect, positively impacting other programs.

Here are 4 recent changes that did not last in the headlines but are making a lasting difference:

1. Requiring Results For Homeless Programs.  While city leaders increase funding for homeless programs every year, it was the city staff committed to effectiveness and positive outcomes that made a real difference. This year they convinced city leaders to require results through performance-based contracts. House the homeless or we will reinvest the money in organizations that can. As Burgess said, “Business as usual is no longer an option. The scale of the human crisis that we face requires that we set high standards for accountability.” While some criticized certain homeless strategies receiving funds this year, that’s the beauty of requiring performance:  if a program doesn’t work, reinvest the tax dollars into other best practices.

2. Empowering the Police Chief to appoint her own Assistant Chiefs. Appointing Kathleen O’Toole as Police Chief was the best personnel decision in the last 4 years. But people leave. The more lasting change was codified by Burgess, a former police officer. Burgess recognized that a 35-year old policy preventing Police Chiefs from hiring their own command staff repelled the best candidates and handcuffed any chief’s ability to implement reforms.  So Burgess fixed the law by quietly crafting Ordinance 124415. Whoever becomes our new Police Chief will benefit and so will our city.

3. Demanding Efficiency from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). For the first time in recent memory a Councilmember (Lisa Herbold) made a city agency reduce costs in order to benefit regular people. She also made those profiting from the city’s growth pay their fair share to connect to utility services, adopting the best practice seen in cities throughout the country.  While the effort fell short because utility rates are still increasing too quickly and the city still makes ratepayers (the people) inappropriately subsidize other government agencies, the Councilmember set a positive precedent for other city officials to find savings within the city’s $5 billion budget.  Freeing up dollars from inefficient or ineffective programs enables us to invest in what works and/or to reduce financial burdens on city residents.

4. Creating the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL). Crafting the Seattle Preschool Program, with its commitment to high-quality, was a nationally recognized accomplishment and is improving the lives of low-income children. But it was the creation of a new city department (DEEL) that forged a powerful continuum of learning programs to benefit Seattleites from cradle to college. The creation of DEEL smartly shifted the focus away from just supplementing a family’s income to providing life-long benefits through education. To thrive instead of survive. And the DNA of DEEL is a model for city government: DEEL measures and produces outcomes and sticks to high-quality, evidence-based programs.

Here are 4 more changes city leaders should implement to make a real difference:

  1. Expand the high-quality Seattle Preschool Program to close the achievement Gap.
  2. Charge reasonable Impact Fees (already authorized by State law) to help build public elementary schools and relieve overcrowded classrooms.
  3. Revive grassroots Neighborhood Planning so that residents have a real voice in our growing city.
  4. Reform the retirement system for new city government employees to free up dollars for public safety and homelessness prevention.

City government does not need to be hip or loud or ideological to make a difference; it just needs to work well.

1 Meeting to Connect

Forum on School Funding

Overcrowded classrooms make it harder to teach and learn. Schools in North Seattle continue to burst at the seams even as regressive taxes keep rising.  Yet our Seattle Mayors and City Councilmembers consistently dodge a key source of money for our schools:  Developer Impact Fees.

Although we are accustomed to blaming our State officials in Olympia for poor policy and funding decisions for our public schools (much of which is still warranted), our city officials also have tools they refuse to use.

Impact Fees, already authorized by State law, enable cities to charge for-profit developers a fee to help construct and renovate schools, fire stations, parks, and nearby streets to mitigate the impact the new real estate developments have on communities. Impact Fees could help relieve overcrowded classrooms. Savvy city leaders collect Impact Fees throughout Washington State (including other Puget Sound cities) and the nation.  Why not in Seattle?

Asked at the December 6, 2017 meeting of Wallingford Community Council about charging developers Impact Fees, Councilmember Rob Johnson replied lamely, “I don’t know the status of impact fees.” Yet he’s the chair of the City’s land use committee that would craft such fees. He suggested checking in with Councilmember Mike O’Brien. O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw surprised supporters of impact fees by penning an Op Ed in the Seattle Times along with affordable housing expert Lisa Herbold called “Seattle is Overdue for Developer Impact Fees.” But that was back in July 2017 and nothing has happened — even with the opportunity to direct policy or research funding during the Oct-Nov budget process.

This season’s “Meeting to Connect” is a FORUM ON SCHOOL FUNDINGorganized by local Parent-Teacher-Student Associations (PTSAs).

  • WHAT: School Funding Forum
  • WHEN: Wednesday, Jan 3, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
  • WHO: you, your fellow parents, grandparents, guardians and others in the neighborhood passionate about fully funding public schools
  • HOSTED BY: local PTSAs
  • WHERE: Hamilton Middle School 1610 N. 41st Street, WA 98103.

At this meeting, we need to collectively ask, “Why have city leaders failed to collect $$$ from Developer Impact Fees?”

Here is the official invitation to the meeting from the PTSAs: “You may have heard rumors of recent new funding for Washington state’s schools and restrictions by the state on the use of local levies. At the same time, Seattle Public Schools forecasts a budget shortfall, with increasingly overcrowded schools and even basic projects like refurbishing Lincoln High School remaining underfunded.

Join us at 7:30pm on January 3rd in the Hamilton International Middle School library to hear from our local legislators on how Seattle will be impacted by recent and upcoming legislation, and what you can do about it.

Panelists will include:

  • Washington State Senator Jamie Pedersen (District 43)
  • Washington State Representative Nicole Macri (District 43)
  • Seattle Public Schools Director Rick Burke (District 2)
  • Seattle City Councilman Rob Johnson (NE Seattle)

We’ll hear from each member of the panel as well as take questions from parents…”

For budget news and views from the Seattle School District, CLICK HERE.

Later this year, city leaders will be asking voters to renew the property taxes that fund both the Families & Education Levy and the highly successful Seattle Preschool Program. Before asking existing homeowners AND renters to increase regressive property taxes again, City Hall should enact Impact Fees to show that we are leveraging all available resources. It’s an equity issue:  investors benefiting from the city’s growth should contribute their fair share. As Nikkita Oliver deftly framed the issue earlier this year, real estate investors are people, too, and of course they should care about education and infrastructure. Investors should want the people for whom they build their buildings to enjoy healthy communities. It’s good for business and it’s the right thing to do. Moreover, it’s important to note that the blame/burden rests not with for-profit developers who naturally strive to build profitable projects while trying to influence an unpredictable City Hall. The responsibility rests with City Hall officials — those serving the public must show the political will to craft a fair deal for the public.

MORE “MEETINGS TO CONNECT”:  Upzoning Your Neighborhood. As mentioned in our Holiday Edition, City Hall plans to upzone your neighborhood whether you want it or not. To tell City Hall how you feel about it, CLICK HERE for our article. The upzone meetings are Jan 30, 2018 at Hamilton Middle School and Feb 28, 2018 at Whitman Middle School, both at 6 p.m. Engage with your neighbors!

1 Fun to Enjoy

Cultural Fest 2018 at UW

Want to travel the world in a day? This February you can — and without leaving Northeast Seattle.  This season’s “Fun to Enjoy” is CULTURAL FEST 2018 at the University of Washington’s main campus.

Cultural Fest is sponsored by the Center for Global Studies and organized by the Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS).

CulturalFest is really two related events: (1) the free Expo and (2) the Performances.

(1) The International Expo at UW “features activities, arts and crafts, games, and hands-on learning opportunities for everyone. International students and volunteers share insights into their cultures and countries...Visitors have a unique chance to experience booths representing over 35 cultures through music, dance, food, conversation and interactive activities. CulturalFest booths are developed and staffed by student volunteers from all over the world, and free and open to the public. CulturalFest is the largest multicultural student event at the University of Washington and truly allows visitors to travel the world in a day!”  

(2) The Performance Showcase “brings the best University of Washington artists, musicians, singers, dancers, and choreographers from around the world together onto the Meany Theater stage to celebrate the diversity and talent of the international community in our region.”

(1) EXPO:

  • WHAT: International Expo booths, food, and activities
  • WHEN: Thurs, Feb 8 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • WHERE: University of Washington, Husky Union Building (the HUB) in the middle of the main Seattle campus.
  • PARKING? Yes.
  • FIELD TRIP FRIENDLY? Yes, teachers! To arrange, CLICK HERE.


  • WHAT: International dances and music on stage
  • WHEN: Sat, Feb 10 (pre-show at 5:30 and performances at 7 p.m.)
  • WHERE: University of Washington, Meany Hall, just off 15th Ave
  • PARKING? Yes. For directions, CLICK HERE.
  • KID-FRIENDLY EVENT? Yes (kindergartners and older)
  • COST? Yes, to buy tickets CLICK HERE (Kids under 10 Free, but need ticket.


  • Caspar Babypants Music:  For fun for the tiny music lovers in your family, CLICK HERE for a concert at the Neptune Theatre in the U District on April 28, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.
  • We first learned about Cultural Fest online at Parent Map. Families can find other fun events this winter on the websites of Parent MapRed Tricycle, and Seattle’s Child.

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), the alternative Small Businesses Directory (associated with Save the Ave and the U District Square campaigns), and the City / University Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC). Fill up at the diverse eateries such as Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, Persepolis, and Portage Bay Cafe. Adore stores such as The Trading Musician, Gargoyles Statuary, and Artist & Craftsman Supply as well as the Henry Museum and Burke Museum.

1 Store to Adore

Bulldog News on The Ave

When it’s cold outside on The Ave and you need a cozy escape with news and coffee, there’s no more informative sanctuary than BULLDOG NEWS, your neighborhood “Newsstand of the World.”

Founded 35 years ago in 1983 when Ronald Reagan was in his first term as President and the Seattle Seahawks entered the football playoffs for the first time, Bulldog News quickly became an anchor retail store in the U District.

During the dark months of Jan / Feb / March, explore this season’s illuminating “Store to Adore” Bulldog News in the U District.

  • LOCATION: 4208 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105 (the Ave)
  • HOURS: Mon-Fri 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Sat/Sun 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

As described more eloquently on Bulldog’s website, “Our stores create an open and welcoming environment…By providing a comprehensive selection of periodicals and a gathering place for coffee and conversation, Bulldog News encourages a convening of perspectives…When the public space is illuminated by our shared values, we become visible to one another as individuals, rather than potential antagonists or allies. We also gain both the opportunity and the obligation to be our best selves. This is why we ask you to help make Bulldog News the place where your neighborhood meets the world.”

If the weather is too yucky to venture outside at all, Bulldog News is still there for you.   You can order your favorite publications online from them – even just single issues  – by CLICKING HERE.

As many of you know, The Ave in the U District is under assault by City Hall’s narrow-minded obsession with upzones, fueled by profit-motivated developers and landowners who donate to political campaigns. While it makes sense to increase density around the forthcoming light rail station (scheduled for 2021 on Brooklyn Ave), it does not make sense to destroy the funky charms of The Ave by knocking down existing buildings or jacking up rents on small businesses (to pay for higher property taxes caused by the upzones). City Hall should protect, not destroy. City Hall should listen, not dictate. City Hall should embrace, not displace.

Unfortunately, City Hall is bulldozing ahead with the worst aspects of the backroom “H.A.L.A.” deal hatched by disgraced former Mayor Ed Murray, rather than collaborating with communities. City Hall is in full propaganda mode, encouraging lobbyists to demonize existing residents who raise legitimate concerns.

Fortunately, communities are fighting back. Small businesses formed “Save the Ave” which funded a study by former City Council President Peter Steinbrueck. For his presentation to City Council, CLICK HERE (and scroll to item #8). For the entire 40-page report, CLICK HERE. Based on the key findings, City Hall should NOT upzone the buildings fronting both sides of The Ave (University Way NE): 

  • 90% of the small businesses on The Ave rent their space from the landowner.
  • 65% of small businesses on The Ave are women or minority owned.
  • 56% have been operating on The Ave for more than 10 years.
  • The top concern of the business owners: “rent is high/increasing” and “gentrification”.
  • Only 22% have a positive view of the proposed upzone.

Disturbingly, The Ave is in the hands of City Councilmember Rob Johnson who never met an upzone he didn’t like. For more about concerns over Rob Johnson’s land use schemes, CLICK HERE.

NEIGHBORHOOD: See the “Fun to Enjoy” article in this 4 to Explore newsletter for more info on the funky U District. In short, you can spend an entire day exploring the U District, starting your morning with espresso at Bulldog News and ending it with beer & pizza at Big Time Brewery. To Save the Ave, contact info@bigtimebrewery.com and write all 9 of your City Councilmembers at council@seattle.gov .

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