[nfbwatlk] FW: Nick Licata's 2008 Annual Newsletter - Nick's Notes

Alco Canfield amcanfield at comcast.net
Wed Jan 14 20:56:09 UTC 2009

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Licata <Nick.Licata at Seattle.Gov>
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 3:01 PM
To: amcanfield at comcast.net
Subject: Nick Licata's 2008 Annual Newsletter - Nick's Notes


I have attached an Adobe PDF version of my annual newsletter Nick's Notes for 2008.  For those of you who do not have a PDF reader program, I have included the newsletter text below.

If you prefer not to receive emails from my office, please reply to this message with your request and I'll have my staff remove your name from my database.  


Nick Licata


Nick's Notes - A Report from Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata
Winter 2008 / Issue No. 9

Published by the Office of Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata
Chair, Culture, Civil Rights, Health, and Personnel Committee

Want to stay informed between printed newsletters? Sign up for Urban Politics, Nick's e-mail newsletter.  To subscribe, send a blank message to urbanpolitics-subscribe at speakeasy.net


When my term as Council President ended in 2008, I took the Chair of the Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel (CCRHP) Committee overseeing issues regarding the Seattle Public Library, Arts, the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, each the Human Rights, Women’s and Sexual Minorities Commissions, as well as health, labor and personnel legislation. What follows here in the first four pages highlights the work of that committee. It is followed in pages 6-9 by examples of other work outside of this committee. 


The sale of the Odd Fellows Hall on Capitol Hill highlighted one of the consequences of Seattle’s urban growth: escalating costs that eliminate affordable spaces for arts and culture. I convened a public forum on this topic at City Hall in early April of 2008. Over 200 people attended to voice both their concern for the situation and their willingness to help find solutions.

Soon after, Councilmembers Sally Clark and Tom Rasmussen joined me in forming CODAC, charged with making recommendations to the Council to help preserve and promote spaces and activities for art, culture, and entertainment throughout Seattle, beginning with Capitol Hill.

CODAC presented its first recommendations to Council in September of 2008, which included two potential budget-related items: creating a new arts coordinator position within the City and rebuilding the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs' SPACEfinder web tool. Because the economic downturn short-circuited support for funding these initiatives, the Council asked the Executive to report this summer on a plan for adding the arts liaison position. In the mean time, CODAC will refine its September 2008 proposals so City staff can draft legislation that the Council will consider in 2009.


2,500 people voted this year to elect the 2009 Seattle Poet Populist. I established the role of Poet Populist in 1999 as an alternative to the more traditional position of Poet Laureate. 27 candidates performed this year at the Seattle Central Library and at Richard Hugo House. Their poems can be read on the Poet Populist web site: http://www.poetpopulist.org/.

The Poet Populist program supports creative thinking, articulate leadership, and the practice of democracy. It also gives dozens of arts organizations a chance to reach out to new audiences citywide.

The winner was Mike Hickey, with 491 votes. Mike is a tenured creative writing instructor at South Seattle Community College and is currently working on a sequel to his first novel, Counterclockwise. He has also published a poetry chapbook, In Defense of Eve, as well as won awards for poetry, teaching, and labor leadership for the American Federation of Teachers. He was announced on November 14th at Richard Hugo House during a rousing reading with his fellow finalists.

A write-in candidate, Ananda Selah Osel, with 391 votes, was the 2nd highest vote-getter. Receiving at least a hundred votes each were: Roseanne Estelle McAleesem, nominated by Youth Speaks; Chelsey Richardson - Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas; Karen Finneyfrock - Arts Corps; Elizabeth Austen - Cheap Wine and Poetry; Judith Roche - Jack Straw Productions; and A.K. “Mimi” Allin – WA Poets Association.


During my last Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel Committee meeting for the year, I presented to John Burgess on behalf of the Committee a special appreciation award for his exemplary service as Words' Worth’s curator during 2008.

He presented 14 poets, with readings as varied as Alexandra Oliver’s “For the Sensualist”, about the scent of cloves and Raul Sanchez's “Mexico City Morning Dream,” crawling across town on a Viaduct.

Over 175 readings have been performed at my committee since 1998. Find the Words' Worth poetry and more at: http://www.seattle.gov/council/licata/poetword.htm


Many aspects of police accountability must be bargained with the police labor unions.  Labor negotiations do not allow for public involvement. By law, the public is not a direct party to the process itself. The public interest is represented by the elected officials involved in the process. 

Although no longer Public Safety Chair, I had one bill to pass in 2008 that I had intended to pass in 2007. The passage of Ordinance 122809 now requires 1) a public hearing to hear police accountability recommendations before negotiations begin and 2) that the City consider whether and how to carry forward the interests expressed at the public hearing. 

A number of other changes recommended by a citizen panel of experts were made to Seattle’s approach to police accountability in 2008, the most significant being the expansion of the review board from 3 to 7 members. Of the 29 recommendations of the expert panel, 3 had already been made under my leadership in the previous year (see Nick's Notes Winter 2007).   


Bias Crimes are criminal acts committed because of a person's real or perceived characteristics (race, religion, sexual orientation, etc,), in doing so, victimizing every member of the targeted group. In 2006, Ken Molsberry presented to my Public Safety Committee a Bias Crimes and Incident Report summarizing six years of Seattle Police Department (SPD) data.  

Subsequently, I was one of 3 Councilmembers requesting an audit to identify ways the City of Seattle could improve how it handles bias crimes and incidents. This year in August, my Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel Committee heard the findings and recommendations of the City Auditor relating to Seattle’s Enforcement of Bias Crimes.  

The audit found that SPD was conscientious, still one of the recommendations of the audit is that SPD better track bias crimes and incidents. It's not likely that bias crimes can be properly prosecuted if a police report doesn't identify a bias crime as such. Additionally, the audit found that the City could better coordinate the programs in departments that support anti-bias efforts, could expand outreach and education efforts, could increase the frequency of bias crime training for City personnel, and finally, could expand support services to victims.


In 2003, 58% of Seattle voters passed Initiative 75 requiring the SPD and City Attorney's Office to make investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses, when the marijuana is intended for adult personal use, the lowest law enforcement priority. Initiative 75 required the City Council to appoint a panel to assess and report on the effects of the initiative. 

The panel found that the Seattle Police Department created an internal policy so officers would be aware of their obligations under the law. The panel found that filings with the City Attorney's office dropped by over 50 percent from the previous year. The panel found no adverse impacts as a result of the measure, including none on public health or on crime, and no increased use of marijuana by students surveyed in Seattle Public Schools. The Panel found a noticeable disparity between the percentage of African Americans living in the city and those arrested for marijuana possession. 


I alone voted against the cameras in parks program because there is little evidence that surveillance cameras actually reduce crime or lead to higher convictions. The only evidence that has come to light has come from the vast array of surveillance cameras in London, England. A recent London study shows only 3% of crimes are solved with the help of cameras and little evidence of a deterrence effect. 

It was clear that the Council would approve installing the cameras, so I worked to pass a bill to limit the cameras to a pilot program with tight controls to help protect citizen’s civil rights. This bill replaced the Mayor’s proposal for an administrative policy that could be changed without Council or public review and would not have been legally binding.

During the budget process, the City Council voted to reduce the funds for the program.  The program's future is unclear.


I asked the retirement board to adopt a targeted divestment policy for Sudan in April. When I was invited to present before the board later in the fall of that year, I spoke of the need for the City to do something to address the situation in Sudan, where at that time over 400,000 civilians had been killed and another 2.5 million were forced from their homes. The situation has not improved since then. Targeted divestment is not divestment from all companies that do business in Sudan because doing so can sometimes hurt those one intends to help. Rather a "targeted divestment model" identifies businesses for divestment that meet all of the following:

1. Engage in business with actors or projects that directly or indirectly benefit the government of Sudan's revenue streams, military or capacity to resist international pressure on Darfur.
2. Provide minimal benefit to those outside of government or the small circle of government supporters based mainly in the Khartoum state.
3. Have no significant corporate ethics policy dealing with how a company’s business in Sudan may inadvertently worsen Darfur’s genocide. 

Seattle will be the twenty-first city to adopt a divestment policy from Sudan.


In 2000 the City Auditor evaluated downtown developers' compliance with policies providing opportunities to earn “bonus” floor area in exchange for certain public benefits, such as public plazas. One of the findings was that regulations require developers to identify each bonused public space with “the City’s public open space logo” even though the City does not have a logo. Without such signage, the property that is intended to benefit the public can be treated as private property. My office received complaints of free speech rights being breached when private security required some individuals to leave the privately-owned public property.

The audit recommended development of a unique public open space logo, with the City asking building owners to post it at these open spaces. That was more than 8 years ago and although DPD has developed a logo and notified 30 property owners of the regulation, to date, only 5 signs have been posted at 4 properties. DPD has told me that they are committed to enforcement of this obligation and that they have “sufficient resources to complete enforcement.” I hope to begin to see evidence of this commitment in 2009.


RCW 70.05.035 requires that King County have a single board of health. Previously the King County Council served as the Board of Health (BOH) for the County; the Seattle City Council served as a separate Board of Health for Seattle.

In 2008, I became the Vice Chair of BOH, representing Seattle along with Councilmembers Sally Clark and Tom Rasmussen.  The functions of the Board are to set county-wide public health policy, enact and enforce local public health regulations.  I chair the Injury Prevention Committee with a focus on pedestrian safety. 

King County Board of Health enacted a regulation that goes into effect in 2009 requiring restaurants to display information about calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium in food served. This regulation is a model for other jurisdictions, and now for the entire country with options being considered for implementation nationally. 

In the face of State cuts to public health spending, the King County Board of Health has proposed how the Washington State Legislature can provide public health programs with the long-term, stable funding source they need to operate.  I look forward to working with the State Legislature in 2009 to develop and implement local option revenue authorities and statewide revenue sources.


About two dozen of the City workers' labor unions contracts with the City were passed by the CCRHP committee in 2008. This is important nuts and bolts of City government. 

The Mayor proposed a new pay zone ordinance for 2009. A “pay zone” ordinance sets salary ranges for City employees, including minimum and maximum salaries for job titles. The Mayor’s proposal included both a new job title and a higher salary ceiling.

During the current economic climate, I didn’t feel that creating this new pay level was appropriate. The bill passed unanimously by the Council did not include the new job title or the higher salary ceiling.  


This year, the Council created a new committee that I chair, the Labor Policy Committee. RCW 42.30.140(4)(b) requires that the substantive portion of Labor Policy Committee meetings be closed to the public because they address collective bargaining, professional negotiations, and grievance or mediation proceedings.

Members of the City Council's Labor Policy Committee and the Mayor's appointees make up the Labor Relations Policy Committee (LRPC).  LRPC plans and adopts the strategy or position to be taken by the City to fulfill its obligations during the course of any collective bargaining, professional negotiations, or grievance or mediation proceedings.


2008 was the second year of the Council's ad hoc Pedestrian Safety Committee, which I co-chair with Councilmember Jan Drago.  Here are some highlights of the work of that committee.

- I co-sponsored a pedestrian safety forum with Safe Walks, a group seeking an equitable solution to the problem of providing safe pedestrian passageways throughout the city, especially in neighborhoods in the north and south ends.  The forum helped identify sidewalk needs citywide.  40% of Seattle Streets do not have sidewalks on both sides of the streets, 30% have no sidewalks at all.  It would cost $19.9 million in public funds annually for 50 years to construct sidewalks for all of the streets that lack them.

- The City Council, with the recommendation of the Pedestrian Safety Committee, passed legislation implementing the Speed Enforcement Van in School Zones Pilot Program as a 2008 budget initiative.  The use of cameras for traffic law enforcement can be controversial; their use to keep children safe around schools is among the most accepted uses.  Multiple speeding vehicles can be ticketed because the officer remains in the van and does not pull over the subject motorists. Additionally, the van can be moved to different speeding hot spots, as long as they are in school zones. Research shows mobile speed vans reduce vehicle speeds and crashes in the areas they are used.

- Following a successful one-year pilot, in 2008 the City installed an additional 24 red light cameras at 19 intersections, bringing the total to 30 red light cameras in use at 22 intersections citywide. An evaluation report was completed in December of 2007. It found that red light running was reduced by 50%, 16,000 citations were issued and just over $1 million collected in fines over the 12-month study period. While the frequency of auto crashes or angle collisions has not necessarily decreased, their severity has been reduced as evidenced by the fewer number people injured. The ticket revenue goes into the City's general fund but I would like to see it earmarked for pedestrian safety efforts.  A majority of Council oppose earmarking these funds.

- In 2007, Councilmembers Richard Conlin, Tom Rasmussen and I asked the City Auditor to do an audit to see if Seattle Department of Transportation's (SDOT) was doing enough to minimize the impact of street and sidewalk closures on pedestrians and cyclists and whether, given the current construction boom, there were any alternative solutions for better pedestrian access to sidewalks during construction.  The 2008 audit recommendations are to 1) develop a set of preferred and alternative methods for pedestrian protection based on best practices that prioritize maintaining pedestrian sidewalk access during construction whenever safely possible, 2) enforce Americans with Disabilities accessibility standards for pedestrians, 3) dedicate a street use inspector to coordinate multiple construction projects in the same area, 4) develop a policy to use resources to prioritize inspections that involve public safety and inspections that involve permanent improvement to the right-of-way, 5) require applicants to submit a public notification plan, and 6) make information on sidewalk closures and alternative routes available on SDOT's website. I look forward to reviewing SDOT's implementation of these recommendations in 2009.

- The Pedestrian Master Plan Advisory Group (PMPAG), established by the Council in 2007, continued its work in 2008.  Seattle's Pedestrian Master Plan will define the actions needed to make Seattle the most walkable city in the nation. As a precursor to the development of the pedestrian master plan, in 2008 the PMPAG released “The State of the Pedestrian Environment Report.”  This report is an overview of existing opportunities and constraints to walking along and across roadways in Seattle, and sets the stage for the master plan which will include a more in-depth analysis and recommendations for areas such as funding, education and enforcement. 

- In 2008, I launched a first-of-its-kind web feature for the Council. The site is called Critical Crossings. I invite residents to submit photos along with descriptions of crosswalks and traffic intersections you believe are critical to pedestrian safety. I share the submissions with staff at SDOT, who then study and respond to each one. I was pleased to see SDOT implement pedestrian improvements at several Critical Crossings locations. To submit your own crossing or intersection, to view those others have submitted, or to submit comments for any of the postings you find there, visit http://www.cityofseattle.net/council/licata/crossings.htm.


The saga of the Alaskan Way Viaduct continued in 2008. The state has committed $2.8 billion to the project, of which $2.4 billion is in hand. $1.1 billion of this is being spent for work in the south end of SR 99, beyond the current viaduct structure.

A Stakeholder Advisory Committee has been meeting since 2007, with WSDOT, SDOT, and KC-Metro coordinating work that produced eight surface, tunnel and elevated options in November. In December they reduced the options to two “hybrid” options, one a surface street, the other a 4-lane elevated replacement, consisting of two side by side two-lane viaducts. 

Both options include improvements to I-5 and changes to City streets, as well as more bus service and a First Avenue streetcar. The total packages are $3.5 billion for the elevated, $3.3 billion for the surface. Because the surface option reduces vehicle capacity, it includes $200 million more for transit.

It is expected that the Governor, Mayor and County Executive will make a joint recommendation in late December. I believe the most important criteria are cost, travel times, environmental impacts, open space, construction time and economic impacts. I‘ve supported the elevated option in the past.  I'm reviewing all the latest information.


The Mercer project would convert Mercer into a two-way six lane boulevard from I-5 to Dexter, one block east of Aurora, and convert Valley into a two-lane road adjacent to Lake Union Park. I have opposed funding this project, as I believe it does not pencil out as a transportation project.

Over time, the rationale for this project has changed. First it was promoted it as a transportation fix. Once revealed that travel times and congestion would increase, it became an urban development project.  The latest rationale is that it's part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Project.

Cost estimates increased from $119 to $200 million from mid-2007 to 2008, leaving a large funding gap. In April, SDOT presented a revised funding plan that increased bond funding from $30 to $70 million, to be financed from parking tax revenues beyond original projections. The cost to finance the bonds is an additional $38 million.

In May, Council voted 8-1 to provide $14 million in additional 2008 funding; I voted no. To the Council’s credit, the legislation listed conditions for future funding, including documentation of progress toward securing $52 million in state and federal funding, and a contingency plan with alternate funding sources in the event full funding was not obtained. These conditions are roughly in line with the City Auditor's recommendations on funding for major projects.

At my insistence, SDOT released a report that concluded overall that the project would not improve travel times, and some, such as eastbound in the evening, would increase significantly. Increased travel times accompany increased idling of traffic and greater auto emissions.

The Mayor began to promote Mercer as a solution to future disruption caused by the Viaduct project, despite SDOT's study which also concluded Mercer would serve only 2% more traffic by 2030. Council staff found no evidence that a two-way Mercer provided any discernable mitigation. The Mayor has also promoted two-way Mercer from Dexter to Elliott west of Queen Anne Hill, without studies, plans or cost estimates.

On October 6, I hosted a forum to present a proposal to reallocate the over $40 million in funds planned for Mercer to pedestrian, bicycle, sidewalks, and freight mobility needs, as well as a less expensive option for Mercer that includes pedestrian and bicycle improvements. Councilmembers did not support my proposal. 

The Mayor's proposed 2009 budget requested authority to spend money for all needed property acquisition without providing the information the Council required in the May ordinance. I put forward a budget condition that the Council would not provide funding in 2009 without a response. My motion failed 7-2.  The $30 million appropriation for property acquisition passed 8-1; I voted in opposition. A non-binding motion stated the Council’s intent that the money not be spent for property acquisition, and requested a report back by January 15.

The proposed plans released in December for the viaduct replacement include a two-way Mercer to Elliott. 


In February, the Council voted to approve a Streetcar Network Concept and work program for SDOT to determine its viability. I was not planning to support it, since there was no evidence that a streetcar network can be cost effective in improving transit in Seattle, but I was able to work with the sponsors to amend the legislation to include a provision that SDOT would need to show how a streetcar network would provide measurable progress toward providing better transit service. The proposed streetcar routes are mostly well served by buses, yet most other bus routes don’t currently meet the City’s goals for service.

This issue is vital, because the agreement with Metro King County for the South Lake Union (SLU) streetcar uses potential hours of bus service to fund the cost. Operating that streetcar costs significantly more than buses, so we are getting less total transit service. 

In May SDOT released a four line streetcar network report, costing an estimated $600 million with property owners funding half the costs, as with the SLU streetcar. In response I proposed a resolution, supported by Councilmember Rasmussen, stating that the information presented did not justify moving forward (excepting the First Hill line funded by Sound Transit). This resolution was voted down 7-2. 

I finally voted for the competing pro-streetcar network resolution because in doing so I could get amendments requiring the Executive to prove that streetcars are cost-effective before the Council would spend money. I also wanted to require that the Executive demonstrate there is funding for construction, provide a plan to limit City funding for operations, determine whether neighborhoods would receive an increase or decrease in transit hours, and reach agreement with Metro about any changes in bus routes. I vote yes in order to have these conditions included. 

With these amendments, the Council is now on record supporting a streetcar network, but with the caveat that it won’t provide funding until the case is proven. 


In late 2007, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in City of Pasco v. Shaw that a mandatory city housing inspection program based on periodic inspections and certifications by landlord-selected private sector inspectors, does not violate state or federal constitutional protections from unreasonable searches or invasions of privacy. With the legal issues settled, I commissioned a study of possible alternatives to improve the condition of rentals in Seattle. The recommendations of Cedar River Group's 2008 report, Study to Determine Options for Improved Rental Housing Conditions are to “work to pass legislation in Olympia that would create the ability to obtain civil inspection warrants. The city does not currently have that authority. This authority would allow the city to go to court and show a judge documentation that there is probable cause that code violations exist and pose a danger to the public health, safety and welfare.  As part of the program, the city should expand outreach to educate landlords and tenants about their rights and responsibilities under the Housing Code.  Some changes to the system of collecting penalties and fines may hasten compliance by property owners.” I will seek in 2009 to have this report and its recommendations heard by the Council and to work towards development of a program to improve rental housing conditions based upon the Council's direction on options in this report. 


The Council made changes in 2008 to this affordable housing program, referred to often as MFTE.  

Of the renter households in Seattle lacking affordable housing, 13,000 are households that earn less than 30% of median income, 4,500 of these households earn between 31%-50% of median income and 2,000 households earn between 51%-80%.  No one has established that there are any renter households earning more than 80% of median income who can not find affordable rentals, which for a one bedroom apartment would mean rent under $1,221 to a person earning $45,600/year.

Nevertheless, the proposal that was passed by the Council requires that 1 in 5 units be affordable to renters at 80% or 90% of median income, with one bedroom rents being $1,221 or $1,374. I voted against these changes and introduced amendments to keep the subsidy levels as close as possible to those set in the expiring 2004 MFTE program.  

The program passed in 2004 forgave developers from paying their property tax on buildings that have set rent on 20 - 30% of all the units, at rent levels affordable to people earning between 60 - 70% of median income. This means rent for a one bedroom would be, at $916 or $942, significantly lower than that subsidized by the new MFTE program passed by the Council.  


In Seattle, about 6,000 apartments have been converted to condominiums since 2004, resulting in a net loss in rental housing. The Seattle 2007 and 2008 State Legislative Agendas sought changes to the state law that permits cities to pass laws that grant certain rights to renters living in housing that is to be converted to condominium ownership. Those efforts were successful in 2008. The old state law limited low-income renters' relocation assistance to $500. The law passed this year allows local governments to set the amount of relocation assistance up to three times a tenant's current monthly rent. The new law also increases the notice of impending conversions from the current 90 days to 120 days. The City Council subsequently passed enabling legislation to enact the provisions authorized by this new state law.


For several years now one of our City’s State legislative priorities has been “enhanced, stable funding for arts in public education.” Arts are a core academic subject area for basic education in Washington State. Young people who regularly participate in the arts are 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.

Prior years' bills would have redirected designated lottery revenues to arts education purposes. As of this writing, the state legislature’s bipartisan task force on education funding is preparing recommendations for its 2009 session. I’d like to see a new arts education bill re-focused on King County. 

A King County culture and arts fund could combine a school arts education program with funding for artists workforce housing.  Development often displaces arts presenters and arts organizations. And, the loss of affordable housing for working artists, which requires a design different from other types of low-income housing, is increasing. An example of housing built for artists is the Tashiro Kaplan Artists Lofts built in 2004 on property acquired from King County. It offers 50 units of affordable housing and work space for artists and their families, commercial space for arts organizations and arts-related businesses. The goal of a King County focused arts bill would be to fund the artist housing program partially beginning in 2011, when baseball stadium admissions tax revenue becomes available.  

2009-2010 CITY BUDGET 

The Council passed the 2009-2010 Budget in November, with a focus on human needs.

I was able add $300,000 in 2009 and in 2010 to allow computers to be added to the library so that those without home internet can look for work online

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