4 to Explore: A Northeast Neighborhoods Newsletter

1 Meeting to Connect

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?”  Is it because real estate developers contribute to their political campaigns and favorite ballot measures?

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 Meeting to Connect

H.A.L.A. Open Houses / Community Protests

Booming population. Choking streets. Skyrocketing costs.

Managing growth in Seattle was a key campaign issue this past November as we voted for a new Mayor and both city-wide Councilmembers. Despite some new leadership, City Hall is plowing ahead with the land use and housing policies hatched by disgraced Mayor Ed Murray — his backroom deal with influential real estate developers called H.A.L.A. (Housing Affordability & Livability Agenda).

As part of its plan to up-zone 27 Seattle neighborhoods, the city government released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) on Nov 9, 2017 and is hosting “Open Houses” to tell us all what to expect regarding upzones in our neighborhoods.

According to the City website, “Come and review maps of proposed MHA zoning changes to your urban Village.

District 4 includes the following urban villages:
Eastlake, Fremont, Greenlake, Roosevelt, U-District, Wallingford

Districts 5 + 6 includes the following urban villages: Aurora-Licton Springs, Ballard, Bitter Lake, Crown Hill, Greewood-Phinney Ridge, Lake City, Northgate.”

Unfortunately, the Final EIS fails to adequately address how the city will handle the increased pressures on bus service, school capacity, parks, trees, and other issues. For example, Section 1.43 (page 75 of the 1,050 page document) offers a lame response to how the Seattle Public School (SPS) District would respond to the city government’s 27 upzones: “SPS would respond to the exceedance of capacity as it has done in the past, by adjusting school boundaries and/or geographic zones, adding/ removing portables, adding/renovating buildings, reopening closed buildings or schools, and/or pursuing future capital programs.”  While the upzones will financially benefit many real estate investors, the final EIS has no specifics, timeline, or decision on whether to have those profiting from the upzones forgo some of their Return on Investment by paying Impact Fees — which could help to build schools like they do throughout Washington State and the nation.

Moreover, while City Hall leaders wring their hands about economic inequities, their Final EIS also fails to address the economic displacement of existing residents.

Due to the shortcomings of the City’s massive upzone plans, a coalition of community groups is protesting HALA by formally appealing the Final E.I.S. For information about coalition or to support it, CLICK HERE. For mainstream media coverage of their formal appeal, CLICK HERE.

In addition to the concerns mentioned above, many are upset by the lack of true affordable housing in the so-called “Mandatory Housing Affordability” (MHA) policy that accompanies the upzones. They feel our city government is “giving away the store” to for-profit developers who refuse to set-aside apartment units for low-income tenants. That’s because city government is allowing for-profit developers not only allow to build more market-rate (un-affordable units) than authorized under today’s zoning code, but also to write a check instead of actually building the urgently needed affordable housing onsite — many would agree that excluding low-income families from your new apartment building is not  “welcoming,”  “equitable,” or “progressive values” as touted by City Hall.

It’s important to note that several real estate developers think HALA will not benefit them. Smaller real estate developers, in particular, often generate a smaller return on investment, depending on the project they are building. The blame/burden rests not with for-profit developers who naturally strive to build profitable projects while trying to influence an unpredictable City Hall (as distasteful as that might feel), but rather with the City Hall officials and their inability or unwillingness to rigorously use math, business acumen, and best practices to negotiate a fair deal for the public they serve.

For our previous columns on HALA concerns, CLICK HERE.

This season’s “Meeting to Connect“: H.A.L.A. OPEN HOUSES / COMMUNITY PROTESTS.

NORTH SEATTLE DISTRICT 4 upzones:

  • WHAT: Upzones/Mandatory Affordable Housing (MHA) “Open House”
  • WHEN: Tuesday, Jan 30, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and small businesses fromEastlake, Fremont, Green Lake, Roosevelt, U-District, and Wallingford.
  • HOSTED BY: the City Hall officials pushing H.A.L.A.
  • WHERE: Hamilton Middle School 1610 N. 41st Street, WA 98103.
[UPDATE: There is also an official “public hearing” on Monday, February 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Eckstein Middle School 3003 NE 75th Street, Seattle, WA 98115. For the official city link, CLICK HERE. For an article critical of the upzone plans, CLICK HERE for the Eastlake Community Council and access to their Eastlake Newsletter.  It’s doubtful that the feedback from Jan 30 could be incorporated quickly enough to have a public hearing on a specific proposal, which demonstrates once again City Halls’ bogus process of “engaging” with the communities.

 

NORTH SEATTLE DISTRICTS 5 & 6 upzones:

  • WHAT: Upzones/Mandatory Affordable Housing (MHA) “Open House”
  • WHEN: Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.
  • WHO: you, your neighbors, and small businesses fromAurora-Licton Springs, Ballard, Bitter Lake, Crown Hill, Greewood-Phinney Ridge, Lake City, and Northgate
  • HOSTED BY: the City Hall officials pushing H.A.L.A.
  • WHERE: Whitman Middle School gym, 9201 15th Ave NW Seattle, WA 98117

For the full calendar from City Hall, CLICK HERE. For the maps, CLICK HERE.

IDEOLOGUES / LOBBYISTS / INTEREST GROUPS WARNING: The audience might be swarming with activist members of single-issue interest groups — many of whom are funded by the for-profit developers pushing the upzones — and other ideologues encouraged by city officials and lobbyists to attend in order to insulate City Hall from the criticism of the residents and neighborhood businesses skeptical of the upzones. So, find your neighbors and don’t be shy about asking questions of city officials. It’s complicated stuff, requiring overlapping maps and “insider-baseball” land use terminology. Be persistent — the city officials work for you and this is your community.

Like the many Seattle residents who want to grow affordable housing and impede urban sprawl, we have been extremely frustrated with H.A.L.A. because it falls short on both affordability and livability. And, while the changes forced by H.A.L.A. benefit several real estate developers, landowners, and land speculators, City Hall is imposing H.A.L.A. in an undemocratic and divisive manner — pitting well-meaning people against each other and demonizing or steamrolling long-time Seattle residents who express skepticism or concern. Bullying residents is bad policy — it’s not sustainable in Seattle, it’s not scalable to other cities, and it’s just not right.  Without the H.A.L.A. bulldozers revving their engines, the same neighborhood leaders, interest groups, and residents barking at each other over Twitter would probably be enjoying a beer or coffee together, discussing how best to manage growth within Seattle and how to stem the harmful development sprawl spreading rapidly in areas east of the Cascades and throughout the U.S.

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

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 Meeting to Connect

The Last Forum for Seattle Mayor

21. While 21 is the drinking age, it’s also the number of candidates running to become Seattle’s next mayor — which could lead some observers to drink, as they try to keep track of them all.

This season’s Meeting to Connect is THE LAST FORUM FOR SEATTLE MAYOR.

You’ll receive your ballots soon, so it’s time to make up your mind to VOTE.

  • WHAT: Last Mayoral Debate before August 1 primary
  • WHEN: Monday, July 17 at 6:00 p.m.
  • WHO: the leading Mayoral candidates and you.
  • HOSTED BY: Seattle City Club, KING 5, KUOW, and GeekWire
  • WHERE: your living room in Northeast Seattle with neighbors
  • ATTEND: If you want attend the event live at the Impact Hub in Pioneer Square, CLICK HERE. If sold out, attend free viewing party at nearby Flatstick Pub.
  • SUBMIT QUESTIONS: Complete City Club’s online form by CLICKING HERE. Or ask via Twitter by CLICKING HEREand using hashtag #SEAMayor.
  • MORE INFO: There are not many debates left, so attend whichever you can. Another upcoming debate is sponsored by CIRCC for July 15: CLICK HERE.

To catch up on the race for mayor with articles from the Seattle Times, CLICK HERE.

There are only a handful of candidates who have a chance to win and www.4toExplore.org is pleased to provide an exclusive interview with one of the leading contenders:  Nikkita Oliver.  (See below for our interview with her.) For an even more incisive interview of Nikkita Oliver, see Erica Barnett’s blog “The C is for Crank,” CLICK HERE.

Newspapers and TV stations have ignored several compelling candidates including Harvey Lever and Greg Hamilton. This upcoming candidate forum will also ignore many of them. But you can connect to all of their websites by CLICKING HERE.

More importantly, to see who is contributing $$$ to each of the candidates, CLICK HERE. Of course, the contributions from individuals directly to the campaigns are drops in the bucket compared to the massive Independent Expenditures that the Chamber of Commerce and their profit-motivated allies are pouring into the campaign of Jenny Durkan. We can only hope that Durkan will surprise her donors with her independence if voters select her.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MAYORAL CANDIDATE NIKKITA OLIVER

PRIORITIES: What do you want to accomplish in your first 100 days in office as Mayor?

Nikkita Oliver: “The first thing – the most important thing — is a comprehensive housing plan. This affordable housing and homelessness crisis that we’re in…needs a plan that has a lot of foresight and a vision to address both immediate and long term concerns: Building housing, addressing rent stabilization, speculative capital, [and] a progressive income tax. Some will take years; some can be immediate. There are city properties we could leverage for transitional housing. We need to have conversations with people in encampments to ask about solutions that will work for them. Our city is at a really important time. Housing is connected to many other things: transportation, human services, revenue, density and development. One thing our city is really missing is a long term vision of where we want to go.”

NEIGHBORHOODS:  Last summer, Mayor Murray stopped supporting the 13 Neighborhood District Councils that represent every neighborhood in Seattle. Do you plan on restoring that support and/or the District Council roles in distributing information to community councils, making recommendations for the city budget, and making recommendations for grants for neighborhood projects or will you keep his current policy in place?

Nikkita Oliver: “I want to say first that community input is incredibly invaluable. Without community input, bureaucracy just functions from top down…The neighborhood councils, while a good idea in some ways, were inherently flawed because they did not necessarily reach across constituencies… And so, while I do intend to have some sort of structure that creates very necessary and important space for neighborhoods and communities  to directly to impact both policy development and implementation, I’m not sure going back to that model is going to be the most effective for the sort of input that our city most needs…So how can we learn from what happened from the neighborhood model in terms of what populations are accessing those models and then how can we evolve it and use preexisting networks to build ones that actually gather across constituencies to build better policy and implementation…I think we need to figure out how we leverage relationships, which is something I have the skills to do, I am a grassroots organizer and I’ve worked with nonprofits, I’ve worked with community centers and so I have a ton of relationships to bring to the table to develop a more equitable way to ensure neighborhoods have direct connection to the Mayor’s office and I think that’s important. I think the other thing is, as a Mayor, I will make myself accessible to communities. And that is about not simply doing town halls or “State of the City” addresses where I get to say and present my ideas, but it also means just going and sitting in spaces and listening to what communities are talking about and being available for the questions…”

REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT and GENTRIFICATIONDuring your campaign kickoff, you said, “We must stop giving developers a free ride…We have to counteract displacement…including our seniors — we have to take care of our seniors…Input must be included in a meaningful way…”  Tell us more about this.

Nikkita Oliver: “When we look at how the ‘Grand Bargain’ was developed, when we consider who was at the table, it was mostly people who have corporate interests. It didn’t necessarily include homeowners. It didn’t necessarily include renters. It didn’t necessarily include people who have been pushed out of our city…The “Grand Bargain” allows developers to come in and build without considering their impact upon our community, and without actually investing in our community… It also means the City leveraging its resources to get involved in building housing and it means dealing with issues like speculative capital which are driving the market up. So I think we need a multifaceted response, but also meeting with people who live in the zones that are single family zones. Folks who tend to get called things to NIMBY, which I think puts folks in a box that doesn’t actually knowledge their real concerns. Which are, I bought my home here, I invested here, and my hope was that I could live here and my children could live here for the next 30 to 40 years. And, if you are a senior who bought your home 30 years ago and you’re living on a fixed income and property taxes are going up each year, you are actually very likely to be pushed out of your home. And we have to consider what that means for someone who has spent their entire life working to have a place to live and a place to retire. The flip side of that, we also have to deal with the fact that people are going to get paid to come into our city and with that means we need more density and we need more housing…And so what I’m hoping we can come to a consensus around putting the density more equitably around our city but also doing it smartly and, by smartly, I mean putting it in places that ecologically make sense, putting it in places that make sense transportation-wise, but also putting it in places that does not exacerbate the gentrification that’s already happened…So I think the developers who want to be in our city have a responsibility to our city and we need to be willing to ask them to be accountable…”

IMPACT FEES: Do you support having real estate developers pay “Impact Fees” as allowed by State law to help to fund new schools, fire stations, and parks? 

Nikkita Oliver:  “Absolutely. That infrastructure is essential to our city functioning well. It’s essential to the people who live in their buildings – to be able to live in a well –functioning city and I think that the developers are interested in having a city that functions well. And so impact fees are just a part of that…”

(For more on Impact Fees, CLICK HERE.)

RESPONSIVE GOVERNMENT: Do you believe city government leaders are focusing too much on national issues instead of the basics of local government?

Nikkita Oliver:  “There are some national issues that have very real hyper-local impact. And I think those are the ones we should be focusing on.”

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: To produce new affordable housing, Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) relies on upzones that require real estate developers/investors to pay into a fund for affordable housing (or to build a percentage of the housing onsite). The Mayor calls this “Mandatory Housing Affordability” (MHA).  Percentages that must be set-aside range from 2% downtown to 9% in the U District. The affordable housing does not need to be built in the same neighborhood where the fees are paid. Do you feel that the 2% set-aside for affordable housing downtown and the 9% set-aside in the U District were sufficient? 

Nikkita Oliver:  “No, I don’t think it’s sufficient. That’s an area where lots of students live and I don’t think it is enough set-aside to ensure that students can live by their school.

“When I think about the 2% [set-aside] in [South Lake Union / downtown]…I want to see more of our city more equitably accessible than that. South Lake Union is a beautiful area. Wouldn’t we want more of our families, more of our people to have access to that housing?..We’re also seeing the city become more and more segregated where the center of our city is whiter and wealthier and the farther reaches of our city are browner and lower income. And that’s a problem…”

HOMELESSNESS: While the reportsfrom the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (under President Obama) show a decrease in homelessness in many cities throughout the country, it has increased in Seattle and King County.  Why do you think homelessness is rising in Seattle while it is decreasing elsewhere? 

Nikkita Oliver: “I think it goes back to the economic, equity issue…There are a lot of families who are homeless in the city – a lot of families who are constantly trying to find housing because of the constant rent increases. There are a lot of veterans. There are also a lot of mental health needs in our city.  And so all of these things I think contribute to rising issues around homelessness. We have a major human services gap. And so when you have this kind of economic equity issue that we’re seeing here in Seattle, where the gap is not being met…I think we really need a holistic strategy. We need to think about jobs and opportunity. We need to think about educational opportunities. We need to think about housing. At one point in time, Boeing worked well with the city and our educational institutions to ensure there were pathways to jobs in Boeing, that there were pathways for low income folks, the people who might otherwise wouldn’t have accessibility to find ways to get into work. And when we look at how our city is growing, many of the jobs that are coming here are being filled by people who don’t live in the city. So I think the city needs to figure out how we broker relationships with Amazon and Microsoft and Google to ensure that our young people who are here have solid trajectories into those jobs and that our families have trajectories into those jobs…”

GOVERNMENT SPENDINGDo you have any ideas for reducing city government expenses / finding savings?

Nikkita Oliver: “Yeah, absolutely. We have a huge budget. $5.6 billion. We spend a lot of money on courts and police. And, in the court area, when it comes to Seattle Municipal Court. I don’t know how much you know about ‘quality of life crime’; these are crimes that are things that people get criminalized for simply because they’re poor. Say you get a parking ticket that you’re not able to pay and, over time, that turns into a suspended license. And then you’re not able to pay the ticket, the suspended license and then maybe you get a ticket for [driving with] a suspended license – over time these turn into criminal issues that a person was not able to address in the first place because they did not have the money to pay the ticket in the first place. And we’re becoming a city where cash-poor folks have to drive. If you’re being pushed to the far reaches of the city and transportation is not moving in lock step with development, then you’re driving and it’s very easy to get a ticket in Seattle. So figuring out how we cannot prosecute “quality of life crimes” is huge… Regardless of whether or not those charges resulted in conviction, just the charging process, and calling that person into court, filing of the paperwork, adds up to a substantial amount of money over time. I think sweeps [of unauthorized homeless encampments] — the number of sweeps we do, how we do the sweeps; if provided more services and services that people in encampments wanted and provided trash, water, places to dispose of needles to those encampments instead of doing these constant sweeps and focused on having 24/7 storage, and getting transitional housing together. We could actually decrease the amount we spend on sweeps and transfer it over to human services. When it comes to “quality of life crimes” those funds could go into a lot of other places to ensure that those people don’t end up in those situations because if we keep out those cycles of poverty, we’re actually going to make our city healthier – those are two places that we could cut.

“Also, I know that [Mayor] Murray had proposed hiring 200 more police. I could think of so many other things to do with that money that would actually decrease crime in our city and increase safety for everybody. I think it’s about looking at the places where we are spending money in ways that we don’t have to. Not only would it be more effective but, in the long run, it would be basically more responsible and amount to more efficient processes that benefit humans over systems.”

EDUCATION: Do you support expanding the high-quality Seattle Preschool Program so that it is available to all 4 year olds (universal preschool) and, if so, how would you pay for it and how quickly would you make it universal?

Nikkita Oliver:  “Absolutely. Preschool is incredibly valuable for the development of every young person in our city. It’s also important for families to be able to become economically stable. If they know that there is high-quality preschool available to them. I think, in providing that, I think we need to think about how we pay our child care workers. We do not ensure that our child care workers are paid at the rate that they deserve. And if we’re saying that preschool education is important, we need to make sure we take care of our workers so that they effectively take care of our children. But, in the long run, supporting high quality preschool for all people in our city, is going to make our city much healthier.”

EXPERIENCE: When Mayor Murray was running for Mayor, he was criticized for his lack of experience as an executive running a large organization. Can you speak to your own experience and management style? 

Nikkita Oliver: “I think what people fail to acknowledge about the role of an executive or anyone in the executive branch is that they’re only as good as their team. While they are the face of the decision and make the ultimate decision on a lot of things, our mayor is dependent upon having the most brilliant team possible because delegation is essential to running our city. Over 10,000 employees and a $5.6 billion budget, the mayor cannot know everything but [she] can know exactly, who they put in what places to do what jobs and can know that each of those people have the credentials and have the work experience to make that happen. You have to be able to trust your team. If you don’t trust your team what you’re going to end up doing is micromanaging your team. And people just simply don’t function well when they’re micromanaged… And part of what we’re seeing right now is that the mismanagement is really a micromanagement issue…they also don’t have the trust…their leash is too short. So my style of leadership and my style of management is really about ensuring I have the right people doing the right job with the right resources – and then trusting them to do that job and having a process of accountability and very high expectations and goals and metrics and vision to make that happen. And when those goals, those metrics, and that vision is actually served or not met, then you have to move into a conversation of accountability, which we are lacking in our current government structure…”
CONCLUSION: Is there anything else you’d like to add, specifically for the residents of Northeast Seattle?

Nikkita Oliver:  “The only other thing I’d want to say to the people of Northeast Seattle: I want the communities there to know that I’ve heard quite a few people tell me how, especially the upper regions of our city feel at times they get ignored. And particularly around things like certain types of infrastructure — sidewalks, streets — human services…And I have heard many residents in Northeast Seattle say that they feel overlooked. And so I would love to do a listening post there. …I would love to sit with any neighborhood group and literally just listen…and allow communities to develop our platform…We’re actually in an incredible position to have these dynamic conversations that really develop the vision and community with people and we want to do that including with our neighbors and our communities in Northeast Seattle.” # # #

1 Meeting to Connect

Follow on Facebook and Twitter for Spring Meetings

For the Spring Season this year, the best way to learn of “Meetings to Connect” is to follow 4 to Explore on Facebook or Twitter. Follow the 3 easy steps below and enjoy exploring.

Facebook:

  1. Go to www.facebook.com
  2. Search for AlexPedersenSeattle
  3. Click Like/Follow Page.

Twitter:

  1. Go to www.twitter.com.
  2. Type our “handle” into Search box: @alexpedersensea .
  3. Then click “Follow.”

Some of the best meetings occurred already such as the “Save the Ave” fundraiser March 31, 2017 for small, neighborhood businesses under duress from City Hall’s pro-developer policies. To “Save the Ave,” CLICK HERE.

Also, shaking up the race for mayor of Seattle, Nikkita Oliver launched her bid on April 2, 2017.  Could Nikkita Oliver become the first woman mayor in 100 years? Washington Hall was packed with people from across the city, including from Northeast Seattle. Nikkita Oliver is nicknamed “K.O.” like “Knock-Out”.  She earned her law degree from the University of Washington. She had clearly done her homework on the issues. In her speech, Nikkita Oliver said a lot for neighborhoods to cheer:

  • “We must stop giving developers a free ride…We have to counteract displacement…including our seniors — we have to take care of our seniors…Input must be included in a meaningful way…”  
  • Ms. Oliver also advocated strongly for permanent and humane solutions to homelessness like the best practice Housing First, rather than encampments.

For all of the candidates running for Mayor, CLICK HERE. Nikkita Oliver seems to be the only challenger of Ed Murray with real potential, thus far. Meanwhile, Mayor Murray has raised a considerable war chest. Hopefully there will be a mayoral debate in Northeast Seattle so that we can engage in a meaningful discussion about the future of our neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, many Meetings to Connect on the horizon this Spring in Northeast Seattle are sponsored by City Hall and designed to spoon-feed City Hall propaganda, such as the HALA “Open Houses“.

There is at least one upcoming AND meaningful Meeting to Connect: the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition meeting on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. at “The Central” at 500 30th Avenue South. While the SNC meeting is not held in Northeast Seattle, Bill Bradburd is conducting training for neighborhood groups across the city on how to stay informed and engaged as City Hall attempts to implement its profit-fueled HALA upzones. All are welcome. For a map to the event, CLICK HERE.

When meaningful community-driven Meetings to Connect emerge in Northeast Seattle during the Spring months, we’ll post them on Facebook and Twitter for you. That’s why you should connect with us on Facebook and Twitter today.

For our “Meetings to Connect” over the past 3 years, CLICK HERE.

Enjoy Exploring!

# # #

1 Meeting to Connect

Concerns Raised with Upzones on Steroids

When communities realize City Hall is not listening, they turn up the volume. When City Hall refuses to compromise, communities have little choice but to oppose an entire policy, even when it has some positive attributes.

This is becoming true with the Mayor’s backroom bargain for developers (H.A.L.A.) and the related upzones of the U District and surrounding Northeast Seattle neighborhoods.

Trust is lacking for good reason. First, Mayor Ed Murray dumped the all-volunteer Neighborhood District Councils that questioned his aggressive land use changes. Then City Hall tried to dupe neighborhoods into developing more accessory dwelling units. While some elements made sense (e.g. more affordable housing and softening the parking space requirement), City Hall refused to budge on its most controversial proposal: not requiring the owner to live there. Here was another backdoor, backroom giveaway to developers and land speculators that City Hall tried to steamroll over neighborhoods. Thankfully, the City’s Hearing Examiner exposed the damaging giveaway as detailed by the Seattle Times editorial entitled, “Ruling Calls Bluff on City’s Misguided Housing Policy on Backyard Cottages” (CLICK HERE).  If a community had not risen up to voice concerns and challenge officials, City Hall’s misleading proposal to benefit developers would, according to the City Hearing Examiner, “accelerate gentrification, driving up home values and reducing the number of entry-level single-family residences available to immigrant populations, thereby diminishing the City’s diversity.”

City Hall ideologues, with Councilmember Rob Johnson as the new front man, are using the same cynical steamrolling strategy with its upzones: pretend it has heard feedback but give for-profit developers (who donate to their political campaigns) what they want. While some attributes of the upzone are laudable, the downsides need to be addressed first.  Hello! Our city government’s mission should be preventing economic displacement, not rushing to fuel profits for developers and landowners.

In a piece they co-wrote for the Seattle Times, former City Councilmember Jean Godden and Taso Lago astutely urged City Hall, “Don’t Let the U District Become the Next South Lake Union.”  (CLICK HERE.)

If you want to turn up the volume, attend this season’s “Meeting to Connect”: VOICE YOUR CONCERN OVER POORLY PLANNED, PROFIT-DRIVEN UPZONES. 

  • WHAT: Upzone meeting. City Counci’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (P.L.U.Z.) Committee. For a link, CLICK HERE. Sign up to speak when you arrive.
  • WHEN: Fri, Jan 6 at 9:15 a.m. and Thurs, Jan 19 at 1:45 p.m. (Update: City Council inexplicably cancelled the Jan 6 meeting, but the Jan 19 meeting is still on.)
  • WHERE: City Hall at 600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
  • WHO: You, neighbors, lobbyists for developers, and City Councilmembers.
  • WHY: Because you care about your neighborhood and city.
  • OTHER: If you cannot attend, write your City Councilmembers. You can send an e-mail to all 9 at this e-mail address:  council@seattle.gov. For other contact info, CLICK HERE.

Yard Signs Available: If you want to voice your concerns with a yard sign, send an e-mail to yard-sign@wallingfordcc.org or order one through their website by CLICKING HERE.

Here are some good ideas that City Hall has ignored:

  1. RETHINK BOUNDARIES: The upzones for Wallingford across I-5 make no sense; City Hall should just admit that and reduce that upzone until the Wallingford neighborhood receives sufficient transit services and public school capacity to handle the increased growth. For more info on Wallingford upzone, published by the Wallyhood blog, CLICK HERE and HERE.
  2. PREVENT DEMOLITIONS and DISPLACEMENT: Prevent economic gentrification by requiring One-For-One Replacement of affordable housing units demolished. (Helping to prevent displacement is the Seattle Displacement Coalition. For their coverage of Mayor Murray’s visit to the U District CLICK HERE and for their report estimating displacement, CLICK HERE. For City Hall’s “Displacement Report,” CLICK HERE. For a recent Seattle Times article on both “sides,” CLICK HERE. )
  3. KEEP IT FUNKY: Save the eclectic Stores to Adore (think Scarecrow Video, Gargoyles, and hardware stores). Funky stores that keep the neighborhood fun and vibrant cannot afford high rent. The U District upzone will encourage landlords to sell out to developers eager to demolish and build more expensive buildings whose rent only chain stores and banks can afford. Learn the lessons from Jane Jacobs in her seminal work, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” (CLICK HERE).
  4. WIDEN SIDEWALKS: Increase the width of sidewalks (by increasing the “setbacks” of new buildings), so that families can stroll both ways without spilling into traffic.
  5. IMPACT FEES: Make developers pay their fair share of the cost of growth. By charging Impact Fees (as wise leaders do in jurisdictions throughout Washington and the nation), for-profit developers in Seattle would finally contribute to the building of new schools or fire stations. If the City had started charging Impact Fees 10 years ago, it would have generated enough money to build at least 5 new elementary schools.
  6. AFFORDABLE HOUSING: BUILD IT IN U DISTRICT: Require the affordable housing units to be built in the same neighborhoods as the upzones. The irony of labeling neighborhood activists (who actually welcome affordable housing) as racist NIMBY’s is absurd when it’s the for-profit developers who explicitly refuse to put the affordable housing in their own developments.
  7. AFFORDABLE HOUSING: REQUIRE MORE: Increase the amount of affordable housing that must be built. The current percentages (under 10%) are too low. And downtown and South Lake Union are getting away with even lower numbers — shameful.  While supporters of HALA say, increasing the amount of affordable housing will make it harder to build any housing, City Hall refuses to make public the numbers on how much profit it is generating and giving away to developers.

HEIGHTS: Our concern is not with the proposed building heights or more density in the U District. Our concern is with the downsides that have not been mitigated and the existing residents who have been ignored. Dramatically and suddenly increasing heights — when owners can already build higher per EXISTING zoning — provides a monetary windfall (increased value) for landowners that, in turn, fuels land speculation / demolitions — AND yet our elected officials are driving this upzone at the behest of for-profit developers and the UW, rather than listening to residents or prioritizing the prevention of economic displacement.

A sad example is the PUBLIC PLAZA idea. While we were not huge fans of the proposed public plaza over the new light rail station at Brooklyn Ave, clearly neighbors wanted it. Yet, as usual, the City, Sound Transit, and UW ignored them. Once a building is constructed on that space, we forgo the option of the plaza. So why not do what the people want and try out the plaza first? The monied interests control the agenda, not the residents.

For a map showing how new zoning changes impact your neighborhood, CLICK HERE.

Progressives in Seattle need to wake up and stop being duped by the developer-politician coalition posing as environmentalists, journalists, or affordable housing advocates. Follow the money. If someone pushes a policy, ask, “Are they paid or employed to be here? Who funded their campaign? Who is paying their salary?” The fact that regular families need to spend hundreds of hours just trying to get their elected officials to listen and do their jobs is maddening. Communities have little choice but to demand that City Hall turn off the bulldozers, fold up the cranes, and start over before they harm neighborhoods just to benefit for-profit developers.

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