City to Enhance Support for Businesses along 23rd Avenue Corridor Project

At the direction of Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the Office of Economic Development (OED) announced today project improvements and community financial assistance to support businesses impacted by the 23rd Avenue Corridor Complete Streets Project.

Responding to community concerns about the project, the City of Seattle will reorder its construction schedule to reopen 23rd Avenue between South Jackson Street and East Yesler Way in March, earlier than the currently scheduled April/May re-opening of those blocks. The Office of Economic Development is providing $102,000 of new funding as part of the Only in Seattle Initiative. This builds on recent grants of $220,000 for economic and cultural development projects.

“As we reconstruct 23rd Avenue, we will do more to respond to the needs and concerns of business owners, with marketing assistance, improved signage and individualized consultations. We want all of our Central Area businesses to succeed during the disruption,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “When the project is complete, neighborhood businesses and residents will enjoy a more walkable, active atmosphere with improved access to shops and services.”

To minimize business impacts as much as possible, SDOT will dedicate an inspector to the 23rd Avenue project to closely monitor contractor construction activities, and to hear and respond directly to business concerns. The department will additionally audit its construction closures, detours and signage to ensure impacts to the neighborhood are minimized. To ensure that customers are aware of open establishments, SDOT will create and post street signs specifically tailored for local businesses.

The Only in Seattle Initiative works with businesses, property owners, and other community leaders to organize around a common vision for a business district and attract investment. The $102,000 grant supports a group of business and community leaders that have come together as the Central Area Collaborative to align and expand community focused efforts. Similar efforts in neighborhoods like Pioneer Square have used this funding to bring fun activities to city parks, in Chinatown-International District they supported businesses through the Lunar New Year and Dragon Fest, and in Othello they launched a neighborhood brand that celebrates their international community. In the Central Area, the Collaborative wants to support small businesses with programs like Hack the CD and Black Dot arts and business co-working space.

Additionally, OED has dedicated staff working with businesses impacted by construction. They provide one-on-one consultations and help design business specific plans to help them operate during periods of construction. Additional services include marketing through print and digital sources, if appropriate help with qualifying for the City’s WMBE directory, and assistance with events to draw more traffic to the neighborhood, to name a few.

The City is investing $43 million along 23rd Avenue to upgrade its transportation infrastructure, which will better serve residents and businesses along the corridor. When completed, the corridor will feature new pavement, improved and widened sidewalks, new streetlights, upgraded traffic signals, consolidated bus stops to improve transit speeds, a new water main to replace a 100-year-old water main, public art near 23rd Avenue and E. Union Street, and a new greenway adjacent to 23rd Avenue that will be a safer route for people to bike and walk.

During the project, SDOT and OED have focused on maintaining customer and supplier access to businesses, keeping establishments informed about project developments, encouraging business patronage, supporting community events to bring customers to the neighborhood, and securing a grant to support advertising for local businesses.

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Murray proposes to expand levy to support affordable housing

 

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Continuing a 35-year history of public investment in affordable housing, today Mayor Ed Murray announced his proposal to replace and expand the expiring Seattle Housing Levy with a new 7-year ballot measure that would invest $290 million to preserve and produce affordable housing. The Mayor is seeking public input on the initial proposal and will transmit a recommendation to City Council in early March.

“Expanding the Housing Levy is the most important thing we will do this year to support affordability in Seattle,” said Mayor Murray. “We know what works – build more affordable homes for low-income families, preserve the affordable housing we have, and keep people from falling into homelessness – and we must renew our commitment and expand the levy so we can do even more.”

Responding to a broad range of affordability needs in Seattle, Mayor Murray’s initial 2016 Housing Levy proposal will produce affordable housing for seniors, people with disabilities, low-wage workers, and people experiencing homelessness. The Levy also provides funding for homelessness prevention and homeownership assistance. The program areas include:

  • Rental Production and Preservation ($201 million capital funding; $39 million operating funding): The Levy proposal will produce and preserve 2,150 apartments affordable for at least 50 years, and reinvest in 350 existing affordable apartments. The proposal also provides operating funds to supplement tenant-paid rent in 475 apartments serving extremely low-income residents.
  • Homelessness Prevention ($11.5 million): The Levy proposal will provide short-term rent assistance and stability services for 4,500 families that are at imminent risk of eviction and homelessness.
  • Homeownership ($12.5 million): The Levy proposal will help 200 current low-income homeowners stay in their homes, and help 180 first-time homebuyers with limited income find a stable and affordable home for their family.

Mayor Murray is committing 60 percent of Rental Production and Preservation funds ($144 million) to serve those who are currently experiencing homelessness and those who earn no more than 30 percent of area median income ($24,250 for a family of three). The remainder of the Rental Production and Preservation funds will be dedicated to serving lower-wage workers who earn less than 60 percent of area median income ($48,420 for a family of three).

The expanded 2016 Housing Levy will increase property taxes by $61 a year on a Seattle home with an assessed value of $480,000.

“Since the early 1980s, Seattle has led the country in making direct investments in public-private partnerships for affordable housing,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess, chair of the Council’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee. “The Housing Levy allows us to extend the value of City funding of construction and preservation projects by leveraging other sources of money, including state and federal funds. The Council will thoroughly review the Mayor’s proposal.”

“The Housing Levy is our most important resource for meeting the housing needs of the most vulnerable people in our community, including seniors and others on fixed incomes, and families and individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Mayor Murray. “Our levy will leverage other county, state and federal investments to support 1,200 new homes for people for Seattle’s lowest-income families.”

In 1981, Seattle voters were the first in the nation to approve a property tax ballot measure to support affordable housing with the passage of the Senior Housing Bond. In 1986, 1995, 2002 and 2009, voters have approved the Seattle Housing Levy, each time renewing and expanding the commitment to build and preserve affordable housing.

Since its inception, the Housing Levy has created over 12,500 affordable apartments throughout the city, helped 800 families purchase their first home, and provided emergency rent assistance to 6,500 families. Each of the four Housing Levies, and one bond measure, have met and exceeded their goals.

“For 35 years, people in Seattle have invested in affordable housing to preserve the diversity and affordability of our city,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “We have learned what works, how to leverage our resources to have the greatest impact, and how to remain adaptable to the changing needs of our city. In partnership with strong community organizations, we will continue to build on this legacy of success.”

“Expanding affordable housing stock is critical for the escalating number of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle,” said Executive Director of Compass Housing Alliance Janet Pope. “As providers of homeless services, we can have great success in helping our clients address their personal barriers to housing, only to find we have absolutely no place for them to go. This levy must pass. It is a cost-effective smart solution that ensures we remain a place of opportunity for all–a city that values the safety and stability of those who are most vulnerable among us.”

“I worked low-income jobs in Seattle for more than 30 years and I had very few options if I was going to stay in Seattle in my retirement,” said Al Korpela, who lives in an affordable building for seniors on Capitol Hill. “The Seattle Housing Levy supported the purchase and preservation of my building, saving me and other seniors from displacement. Because of the levy, I can stay in my neighborhood, access the supports I need to lead a rich life, and enjoy the culture of the city throughout my retirement.”

With the release of this initial Housing Levy proposal, the Mayor will be seeking input from the community before he submits his proposed ballot measure to the City Council in March. Throughout February, the City will hold community conversations to provide information about the Levy, explain the Mayor’s proposal, and offer an opportunity for people to share their thoughts on their priorities for affordable housing investments. Comments can also be submitted online at www.seattle.gov/housing/levy. The conversations include:

  • West Seattle: Feb 3, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) with Southwest District Council
  • East Seattle: Feb 18, 6:00 – 8:00 pm at 12th Ave Arts (1620 12th Ave), with Capitol Hill Community Council and Capitol Hill Housing
  • North Seattle: Feb 20, 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Lamb of God Church, 12509 27th Ave NE with Lake City Neighborhood Association
  • Central Seattle: February 24, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at IDEA Space (409 Maynard Ave S) with SCIDpda, Interim CDA, and CIDBIA
  • South Seattle: 25, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at New Holly Gathering Hall (7054 32nd Ave S) with SouthCORE, Southeast District Council, and Greater Duwamish District Council
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Murray statement on arrests of suspects in Tuesday’s shooting

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the Seattle Police Department announced that it had arrested three suspects in connection with the shooting that killed two and wounded three under Interstate 5 last week:

“This violent crime shocked Seattle. Thank you to the team at the Seattle Police Department for your professionalism in pursuit of this investigation, resulting in these three arrests. Our homicide investigators worked tirelessly to pursue leads and track down these suspects. We are also grateful for the efforts of our partners from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.”

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Seattle, King County unsheltered homelessness continues to rise

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Mayor Ed Murray and over 1,000 volunteers spent the early hours of Friday participating in the One Night Count to survey Seattle and King County, estimating how many people were sleeping outside, in tents and vehicles, without access to shelter.

As expected, the numbers of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are on the rise. In Seattle, volunteers estimated they witnessed 2,942 people sleeping outside, a five percent increase from last January’s count. Across King County, the number has risen to 4,505 unsheltered people, up 19 percent from a year ago.

“Last night’s count reflects what we all see on the streets of our city – that we have a growing crisis of homelessness in our community,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “While large cities are often the focus of this debate, homelessness is growing in suburban communities and smaller towns across our state. We must pursue a coordinated approach – in Puget Sound, in Washington state and across the country – as we respond to this national crisis.”

On Nov. 2, 2015, Murray declared a state of emergency in the homelessness crisis in Seattle, in coordination with King County Executive Dow Constantine. Within days, the Seattle City Council approved an additional $7 million in emergency funding for additional shelter spaces, safe parking lots for those living in vehicles, and additional outreach services to those living on the street.

Murray has called for more federal and state assistance to respond to the growing need, citing underfunded national and state initiatives for affordable housing, mental health and chemical dependency.

“As homelessness in the Seattle/King County continues to grow, the City’s work to address the immediate need to get people off the street and into stable housing and the longer-term effort to more strategically invest the City’s nearly $50 million in homelessness programs and services is more important than ever,” said Catherine Lester, Seattle Human Services Department Director.  “The City is committed to continuing to coordinate with regional government partners, service providers and the faith community to build a strategy that is focused on an integrated system of early interventions and access to housing which are critical to end homelessness.”

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Murray statement on bill to roll back transgender protections

Today Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the State Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted four to three to advance HB 2589, which rolls back protections for transgender people:

“I am deeply disappointed by this committee vote in favor of a bill that would turn back the clock in our effort to provide equality to transgender people and to support their safety. This vote does not represent Washington state values. Thankfully the likelihood of this measure becoming law is extremely remote.

“We fought for decades to achieve civil rights equality for LGBTQ individuals, couples and families. This debate is over. We must not fight the culture wars all over again.

“Transgender and gender non-conforming people must have the right to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Too often, transgender and gender non-conforming people experience harassment, intimidation, refusal of access and even violence. We must not put more people at risk.

“Since 1999, the City of Seattle has explicitly protected the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people. Last fall, I was proud to sign a new city ordinance that requires all single-occupant restrooms in Seattle businesses to be designated for all genders. Seattle will continue to lead the way to support, protect and celebrate transgender people.”

 

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Mayor Murray calls for end of divisive rhetoric on homelessness

Today Mayor Ed Murray delivered a special, live address to the residents of Seattle to give an update on the City’s efforts to address homelessness since the State of Emergency was declared on Nov. 2, 2015. The Mayor delivered his remarks from Mary’s Place Family Center in North Seattle, a shelter for women and families that currently operates in a City-owned building and was expanded after the emergency declaration.

The full video of Mayor Murray’s speech will be available at http://www.seattlechannel.org/Mayor.

PDF of the Mayor’s remarks HERE.

Key excerpts from Mayor Murray’s speech:

 “Too often we think about this as a Seattle problem with a Seattle solution. But this is a national tragedy. It should be a national emergency and it needs a national response. The reasons for the growing crisis of homelessness are many, and they are complex.”

 “In one tent on our streets, you may find a family that lost their home in a personal financial crisis. Go on down the street to another unauthorized encampment, you will find a person who is struggling in the grips of addiction. In another tent, will be someone who is either dealing drugs or systematically engaging in property crimes to feed his or her habit. There is no single solution to all of these situations. That is why the polarized, one-size-fits-all rhetoric we increasingly hear from both sides is unhelpful.”

 “So part of what I am asking today is that we challenge each other to do better without denigrating each other.  Instead of cooperation and a shared voice, we have seen too much division and extreme rhetoric about who homeless people are and how to solve the crisis.”

 “On a personal note, the most painful part of this discussion has been the vilification and degradation of homeless people — at public meetings, on the radio and in social media — as filthy, drug addicted criminals.  Often these attacks have gone unchallenged…Anyone who has known, as I have, a friend or family member in the grip of destructive addiction, or watched mental illness destroy a person’s life and often the lives of their loved ones, knows just how harsh and dreadful this experience can be for the person we love.”

 “As a City dedicated to racial equity and social justice, we cannot ignore the fact that African Americans and Native Americans are five times more likely to experience homelessness. Four out of five children who experience homelessness are children of color.”

 “I continue to hear from some advocates, joined by some members of the Council, who say that even with our unprecedented level of spending, we are still not doing enough. They seem to believe that we can solve this problem, by ourselves, regardless of the consequences. The reality is, to provide emergency shelter to the almost 3,000 people that remain on our streets would cost us another 49 million dollars a year – or double our current investment.”

 “With expanded services, long-term system reforms and an aggressive approach to housing affordability, Seattle is stretched to our limits.  Yet, this is a crisis driven by forces larger than this City, and responding will require resources from more than just this City.  This is why I declared a State of Emergency.  We cannot afford to wait.”

 “The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has looked at how Seattle spends its money. For years, they have urged us to adopt an approach that is person-centered, uses data to invest in what works, and is aligned with our federal partners. But our City has been unable for decades to gather the political courage to make this shift. I will propose that the city enact these recommendations, creating a new strategy based on outcomes, rather than our current method of simply funding projects and agencies in a fragmented way that does not result in a reduction of homelessness.”

 “I will engage Council, if they believe that Seattle should solve this crisis on its own, to propose how we should cut 49 million dollars from our existing budget. But we must ask ourselves: Should we ignore our community centers in low-income neighborhoods that need more programming? Do we halt construction of sidewalks in neighborhoods without them? Do we cut enforcement of our newly-won worker protections? Should we not extend paid parental leave? And do we lay off hundreds of City employees? Either we believe Seattle is doing our part and we advocate together for more state and federal resources, or we begin this exercise to cut $49 million dollars from other priorities in order to fund basic emergency shelter — that will still not move people out of homelessness. Now is the time for us to make this decision and to end this argument.”

Full text of Mayor Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“Good evening and thank you for joining me.  Tonight I want to speak to you, the people of Seattle, about the growing crisis of homelessness, but also about public health, public safety and the disorder that we see on our streets.

 “This is a difficult conversation that we as a city have been engaged in, not just in recent months, but for several decades.

 “The reasons for homelessness are complex and ending homelessness will not be solved easily or quickly. There are no simple solutions. It will take time.

 “I am speaking to you tonight from Mary’s Place, which serves 200 women, men and children in a warm and caring environment. These families find a safe harbor from domestic violence, from extreme poverty, from addiction, and from the dangers of the street.

 “This shelter is located temporarily on City property. It is here because we engaged in creative problem-solving with Mary’s Place to respond to this growing need.

 “The director, Marty Hartman, and her team here at Mary’s Place are working miracles, saving lives every day.

 “Homelessness is a crisis – a growing crisis – not just here in Seattle, but in cities across the nation, up and down the West Coast, from San Diego to Portland. And it’s not just a crisis of our largest cities, but also a crisis of our suburbs and smaller towns: places like Bellingham, Eugene and Santa Cruz.

“Tonight in America, more than half a million people are homeless. And nearly 200,000 go to sleep without any shelter.

 “Before the Great Recession, there were 13,000 children in Washington state who were homeless. Today, that number has grown to 32,000 children statewide. This year, in Seattle alone, the number of homeless school-age children in our public schools has risen to 3,000.

 “As a City dedicated to racial equity and social justice, we cannot ignore the fact that African Americans and Native Americans are five times more likely to experience homelessness. Four out of five children who experience homelessness are children of color.

 “Too often we think about this as a Seattle problem with a Seattle solution. But this is a national tragedy. It should be a national emergency and it needs a national response.

 “The reasons for the growing crisis of homelessness are many, and they are complex.

 “It is caused by 35 years of federal cuts to affordable housing. In the last 5 years alone, we have lost one-third of our federal funding for affordable housing.

 “Last year, 19,000 Seattle households applied to be on the waitlist for a federal housing voucher.

 “Federal financial support for housing assistance has plummeted by more than half since 1980.

 “Over that same period, there has been a five-fold increase in federal tax breaks for higher-income homeowners.

 “For some, homelessness is caused by a mental health crisis. Our state has the second highest rate of mental illness, yet ranks near the bottom in access to treatment. We rank 46th in the nation in access to in-patient psychiatric care. This itself is a disaster and must be addressed.

 “Sometimes, homelessness is caused by drug addiction. We are in the midst of one of the largest heroin epidemics in our country’s history. Addiction is on the rise in every community across the nation – urban, rural and suburban – in New Hampshire, in Kentucky, in Oklahoma and across the Pacific Northwest.

 “In King County, in the past two 2 years, deaths by heroin overdose have risen 60 percent.

 “Homelessness is also caused by the rising cost of housing. Nationwide, we need more affordable housing options, and we fail to do enough to prevent people from falling into homelessness. According to the Urban Institute, there is no county in America that has sufficient affordable housing.

 “And, finally, homelessness is only made worse by our own broken system of how we deliver services to those who experience homelessness. We have some extraordinary programs, but our approach is fragmented and not achieving the impact we need.

 “We cannot continue to fund programs simply because they have political support, even if they do not work.

 “We are allowing temporary shelter to be a dead end for too many families and individuals. Some people spend months or years living in a shelter, without a path to permanent housing. This is unacceptable.

 “We see the tents under the freeway. Run down RVs parked in our neighborhoods. People with signs on our sidewalks that read, ‘Disabled veteran. Anything helps.’

“This is what income inequality looks like. This is what a disappearing middle class looks like. This is what happens when the federal government inadequately funds affordable housing, addiction treatment, and other critically needed support services. This is what happens when we fail to reform our broken service delivery system.

 “It shouldn’t surprise any of us that after 3 and a half decades of declining federal investments and a shrinking middle class, that it would result in the crisis that we see on our streets.

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“In November, I declared a state of emergency because 66 homeless people died on Seattle streets last year. This was an extraordinary action to take, and King County Executive Dow Constantine and I took it because we are dealing with an extraordinary crisis.

 “The City Council agreed, and using emergency powers together, in just a few days, we dedicated over seven million dollars in new one-time funding. That is in addition to the more than 40 million dollars in ongoing funding for homelessness.

 “Since the emergency declaration, we have opened more than 300 additional safe spaces – in Downtown for couples, in Queen Anne for senior men, in Greenwood for women, and two sanctioned tent encampments in Ballard and Interbay that serve individuals and families.

 “Just last week, we expanded here at Mary’s Place, to provide emergency shelter for up to 100 women and children.

 “And to assist people living in their vehicles, we announced last week that we will open 2 safe lots for cars and RVs — where individuals and families can find a safer place to sleep, and have access to sanitation and social services, as we transition them into housing.

 “As a City, we now provide a safe space for nearly 2,000 people every night, an increase of over 20 percent in just one year.

 “We are also bringing new services to the streets. Starting this month, a mobile medical van is moving throughout the city to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, and access to medical care.

 “And this week, we are requesting that the state take even greater responsibility for reaching out to homeless people on underpasses and on-ramps of state highways that pass through our city. This is an area where we can continue to strengthen our partnership with the state.

 “But emergency responses, alone, are not the answer. Too much of the debate, energy and resources have been focused on these short-term strategies. We must shift that focus to longer-term solutions.

 “The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has looked at how Seattle spends its money. For years, they have urged us to adopt an approach that is person-centered, uses data to invest in what works, and is aligned with our federal partners.

 “But our City has been unable for decades to gather the political courage to make this shift.

 “I will propose that the city enact these recommendations, creating a new strategy based on outcomes, rather than our current method of simply funding projects and agencies in a fragmented way that does not result in a reduction of homelessness.

 “I will propose that we shift more resources toward diverting families and individuals from ever becoming homeless.

“We must shift from simply putting mats on the floor in shelters to funding services that move people out of shelters and into permanent housing. I will propose that we invest in providers that succeed in doing this.

 “We know very little about each person living in those tents – what causes them to become homeless and what is keeping them there. Unless we understand the problems affecting each individual, how can we provide an effective solution? We will collect better data without threatening individual privacy or service provider funding. And I ask our service providers to work with us on this.

 “With King County Executive Dow Constantine, we will convene all public partners and our non-profit providers to align our resources to better support outcomes.

 “And as we address the underlying causes of homelessness, we must continue to focus on housing affordability. Part of the solution to ending homelessness is getting affordability right.

 “Our region has already made significant investments in affordable housing, especially through the Seattle

Housing Levy. Our region is third in the nation, behind only New York and Los Angeles, in providing 8,300 homes for people who were homeless.

 “But this is not enough and we will do more.

 “Beginning tonight at City Hall, we are holding community meetings across Seattle to share our city’s vision for how we bring affordable housing to every neighborhood.

 “And in just a few weeks, I will lay out my vision for the renewal of Seattle’s Housing Levy. I am proposing that we double the levy so that we can do much more — including permanent housing for those who are homeless. 

 “Perhaps as a city, there is nothing more important that we can do this year than pass this levy.

 “With expanded services, long-term system reforms and an aggressive approach to housing affordability, Seattle is stretched to our limits. 

 “Yet, this is a crisis driven by forces larger than this City, and responding will require resources from more than just this City.  This is why I declared a State of Emergency.  We cannot afford to wait.

 “If there had been an earthquake, if there had been a flood that had killed 66 people, the City would ask for and expect aid from the State and Federal government.  And while this crisis has developed over time, the effects have been equally devastating.

 “With our State of Emergency, my hope was that we would come together, marshalling our resources to help where we can, recognizing the limits of what we can achieve alone, and working together to develop a unified call to Olympia and to Washington, DC. 

 “With our new emergency funding, the City of Seattle will spend nearly 50 million dollars this year to serve our homeless neighbors – more than at any time in our city’s history.

 “Yet I continue to hear from some advocates, joined by some members of the Council, who say that even with our unprecedented level of spending, we are still not doing enough. They seem to believe that we can solve this problem, by ourselves, regardless of the consequences.

 “The reality is, to provide emergency shelter to the almost 3,000 people that remain on our streets would cost us another 49 million dollars a year – or double our current investment.

“I will engage Council, if they believe that Seattle should solve this crisis on its own, to propose how we should cut 49 million dollars from our existing budget.

 “But we must ask ourselves: Should we ignore our community centers in low-income neighborhoods that need more programming? Do we halt construction of sidewalks in neighborhoods without them? Do we cut enforcement of our newly-won worker protections? Should we not extend paid parental leave? And do we lay off hundreds of City employees?

 “Either we believe Seattle is doing our part and we advocate together for more state and federal resources, or we begin this exercise to cut $49 million dollars from other priorities in order to fund basic emergency shelter — that will still not move people out of homelessness.

 “Now is the time for us to make this decision and to end this argument.

 “To me, those are unacceptable trade-offs. We are a city of over 650,000 residents, and we must serve them all. 

 “There is much work to be done. Working together, there is much we can accomplish.

 “I believe that we can come together to build a new federal agenda to support affordable housing and to address homelessness in America. I have seen this done before.

 “As a young man, I watched my friends die from HIV AIDS. I also saw a community come together, build a coalition and go to Olympia and to Washington, D.C.

 “We successfully pushed federal and state governments to change policy and fund programs that are still saving lives today.

 “I believe we can do it again.

 “So part of what I am asking today is that we challenge each other to do better without denigrating each other.

Instead of cooperation and a shared voice, we have seen too much division and extreme rhetoric about who homeless people are and how to solve the crisis.

 “In one tent on our streets, you may find a family that lost their home in a personal financial crisis. Go on down the street to another unauthorized encampment, you will find a person who is struggling in the grips of addiction. In another tent, will be someone who is either dealing drugs or systematically engaging in property crimes to feed his or her habit.

 “There is no single solution to all of these situations. That is why the polarized, one-size-fits-all rhetoric we increasingly hear from both sides is unhelpful.

 “Some say that we are conducting inhumane “sweeps,” where all we do is force people out of unauthorized encampments, leaving them nowhere else to go.

 “Others claim that we are doing nothing, and tolerating dangerous criminal behavior, including open drug dealing and property crimes.

 “Neither of those views describe our efforts. We have adopted a middle approach, one that treats homelessness humanely, but also doesn’t shy away from doing what we must to address the public health and safety risks that a small number of people are creating in our city. 

“Our approach has been to enter unauthorized encampments, to connect those living there with shelter and services, and a substantial number are beginning to accept that offer.  We are cleaning up garbage, human waste and needles, as any City should, to avoid a public health crisis.

 “I do not believe it is humane to allow someone to camp on a freeway on-ramp where they easily could be struck and killed by a car. Or above a freeway where some have fallen to their deaths. Or in encampments where some have been murdered or raped. Instead, we go in and we offer services to get them out.

 “Is it humane to allow someone to struggle in the grips of addiction without professional help? We must reach out and offer access to the treatment that could save their lives.

 “We must acknowledge that in some cases, when people are struggling with addiction, some engage in criminal activity that harms our community and threatens the safety of those living in our neighborhoods.

 “I understand why some residents in our neighborhoods are upset about incidents of property crime and criminal activity. But some are also perpetuating a myth that we have ordered our police officers not to enforce existing laws. This is untrue.

 “This administration inherited a demoralized police force that had a declining number of officers and was stuck in cycle of de-policing. Crime was going up in our city. But under the leadership of Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, morale has been restored and crime is now coming down across this city.

 “We are pursuing those who are engaged in open drug dealing or property crimes. We have more officers on the street and increased emphasis in neighborhoods with the highest rates of crime.

 “We have added officers, and are on track to meet our goal of increasing our police force by at least 100 additional officers by the end of 2017.

 “Let me give you another example of the hurtful rhetoric. Some advocates have recently been making outrageous claims that our efforts to clean up unauthorized encampments are a plot to drive people who are unsheltered farther into the shadows, so they won’t be captured in the annual One Night Count later this week.

 “In other words, that we are trying to minimize the scope of the problem, when in fact we are doing just the opposite. 

 “I made the emergency declaration precisely because I know the problem is growing, and I want all of us to come together to solve it by seeking additional aid.

 “I believe that we can make progress. We can do better with what we have. We can fix the broken parts of our service delivery system. We can put aside the polarizing rhetoric and our outdated thinking. We can come together to find common ground.

 “As a Seattle Times columnist wrote this week, the reality of the problem we face means that we must address both sides of the same coin — enforce the laws, but also provide a path out.

 “As we work to address this crisis, I hear the frustration coming from all sides. 

 “I hear your frustrations when we locate shelter services in your neighborhood.

 “I hear your frustrations with our slowness in addressing unsafe and unsanitary conditions in some unauthorized encampments.

 “I hear your frustrations that we are not delivering the right mix of services to those living on our streets.

 “I hear your frustrations, and I share them. I know we are not always getting it right.

 “But the fact is, we are in the midst of a growing national crisis of homelessness. People are dying on our streets.

 “We are working on a complex problem in real time.

 “I ask that you work with us, so that we can create positive change.

 “On a personal note, the most painful part of this discussion has been the vilification and degradation of homeless people — at public meetings, on the radio and in social media — as filthy, drug addicted criminals.

 “Often these attacks have gone unchallenged.

 “Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, who spent her life among homeless people in New York City, often quoted Dostoevsky, who wrote, ‘Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.’

 “Anyone who has known, as I have, a friend or family member in the grip of destructive addiction, or watched mental illness destroy a person’s life and often the lives of their loved ones, knows just how harsh and dreadful this experience can be for the person we love.

 “The hurtful language we hear is devastating not just to the people who are homeless but to any of us who know similar struggles of those we love.

“The reality is the people on the streets of our city are living harsh and dreadful lives.

“Ending homelessness will be as difficult as any challenge we face as a city.

“I believe Seattle can do this, by listening to each other, by challenging each other, by collaborating with each other. And above all, by respecting those who are suffering.

“Thank you and good night.”

 

 

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The Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee is Seeking Candidates

The Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee seeks candidates to apply for service on the Committee. Candidates will be selected and appointed by the Mayor and City Council.

The Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee serves as a vital mechanism of accountability on how Move Seattle levy revenues are spent. The Oversight Committee is an advisory body that monitors revenues, expenditures, and program and project implementation. The Oversight Committee advises the City Council, the Mayor, and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) on responding to program and project cost savings or overruns.

In addition, the Oversight Committee reviews SDOT’s program and project priorities and financial plans, and makes recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council regarding the spending of levy proceeds.  SDOT staffs the Oversight Committee and provides all of the required background and reference materials.

Oversight Committee members are appointed for four years and all appointments are subject to confirmation by the City Council. One member is required to be a licensed engineer with bridge and structures experience.

The Oversight Committee is interested in applicants with diverse backgrounds, including transportation, management, bridge and structures engineering, public policy, advocacy, social services, and business. Oversight Committee members serve without compensation. Members must be residents in the City of Seattle.

To be considered, email a letter of interest and resume to elliot.helmbrecht@seattle.gov by February 7th, 2016. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

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Council approves RV safe lots, third encampment

Today Seattle Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the Seattle City Council unanimously approved the mayor’s emergency order issued on Tuesday that establishes two safe lots for families and individuals living in recreational vehicles and cars, as well as the third permitted tent encampment within the city:

“Thanks to the Council for the quick approval of emergency order that will provide a safer, cleaner environment for some of those who are homeless. By organizing better sanitation and centralizing the delivery of human services for those in need, we will work to move them to permanent housing as quickly as possible. While these aren’t long-term solutions, they do allow us to respond to more of the impacts of unpermitted parking and tents in neighborhoods around the city.”

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Murray convenes first meeting of national Mayors and Police Chiefs Task Force

Today Mayor Ed Murray is in Washington, D.C. attending the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he convened the first Mayors and Police Chiefs Task Force meeting to share best practices and policies regarding police reform. Today’s discussion focused on ways departments can improve police interactions with people in mental health and chemical dependency crisis. Mayor Murray also discussed the Seattle Police Department’s progress towards compliance under a federal consent decree through progressive reform efforts led by Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole.

“The Seattle Police Department has made remarkable progress in the past two years,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Our efforts have been noted by the federal monitor, who has provided our department with appreciable support as we make significant changes to policies, de-escalation training, and oversight of policing activities. Under the leadership of Chief O’Toole, it is my hope Seattle can serve as a national model of urban policing and reform.”

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) has taken meaningful steps to enhance public trust and carry out reforms to address excessive force and biased policing since being placed under a federal consent decree in 2012. Mayor Murray named Kathleen O’Toole police chief in 2014 to lead the SPD and has been credited by the federal monitor for moving the department forward in its reform efforts. Patrol officers throughout the department have been equipped with enhanced training in de-escalation and in interacting with individuals in crisis due to mental health or chemical dependency. These trainings provide police with vital skillsets that can be used to reduce incidents of use of force. The White House recently recognized SPD’s reform efforts, and invited Chief O’Toole to attend the State of the Union as First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest.

“SPD has made great progress toward reform and our efforts are paying off, but we recognize there is still work to be done,” said Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole.  “We will continue to work collaboratively with the community, our federal partners and the monitoring team to enhance public trust and further professionalize the SPD.”

Chief O’Toole also addressed the task force, along with U.S. Department of Justice’s Ron Davis, director of Community Oriented Police Services, and Dr. Antonio Oftelie of the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.

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Mayor Murray and City Attorney Holmes announce support of state legislation creating pathway for legal marijuana delivery

Mayor Murray and City Attorney Pete Holmes announced today their support of House Bill 2368 sponsored by Rep. Chris Hurst (D-Enumclaw) that creates a pilot program for legal marijuana home delivery service in Seattle. Despite current state law prohibiting delivery of marijuana, various online operations have been offering illegal delivery services, undercutting Washington state’s voter-approved legal marijuana market.

“We must address illegal delivery services that are undermining I-502 and allow responsible businesses to offer delivery service in Seattle,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “The proposed pilot delivery program, along with increased enforcement of existing marijuana laws, will better protect customers, patients and business owners, while strengthening the legal marijuana industry.”

Since voters approved I-502 in 2012, 19 legal recreational marijuana retail stores have opened in Seattle. However, the number of illegal delivery services has outpaced legal retail stores, growing to an estimated 24 services and operators. The Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) has found that these services primarily use websites, such as Craigslist, Weedmaps and Leafly, to deliver illegally to customers. Often these online services attempt to present themselves to customers as if they were legal businesses.

“The goal of I-502 was to create a legal system for producing, processing and selling marijuana to adults in Washington state,” said City Attorney Holmes. “I support our proposals to legalize and regulate marijuana delivery, but businesses that currently deliver marijuana undermine our efforts to demonstrate that there is a regulatory alternative to marijuana prohibition. All current delivery services are engaged in nothing less than the felony distribution of a controlled substance and must be closed.”

To better protect the legal marijuana industry, the Seattle Police Department and FAS will increase targeted enforcement of laws prohibiting delivery services. Couriers and owner-operators of illegal delivery services may face penalties that include civil infractions, civil forfeitures of vehicles, misdemeanors and possible felony charges in egregious circumstances. The City Attorney’s Office will support these efforts by considering both civil enforcement through its Regulatory Enforcement and Economic Justice Section and criminal prosecution. Illegal marijuana delivery businesses that want to avoid prosecution must stop their operations immediately.

Legal recreational and medical marijuana business owners have requested the City take action against these illicit services.

“I know first-hand how illegal marijuana delivery is hurting the legal market,” said Oscar Valasco-Schmitz, owner of Dockside Medical Co-Op. “There is a great opportunity here for innovative, efficient and legal delivery services in Seattle. I applaud this statewide legislation and the City’s enforcement strategy to rein in delivery services operating outside of the law.”

The pilot program proposed by state legislators would allow five existing licensed recreational marijuana stores in Seattle to offer delivery services to Washington state residents over the age of 21. The pilot program would also provide a framework for delivery requirements, employee training and enforcement.

Mayor Murray and City Attorney Holmes are also endorsing House Bill 2494 this legislative session. HB 2494 eliminates criminal penalties for the non-commercial sharing of small amounts of marijuana between adults over the age of 21. It also reduces criminal penalties for possession of marijuana amounts that fall just outside of legal limits. Current law disproportionately impacts people of color and minority communities across the state, and is inconsistently enforced.

In July of 2015, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Mayor Murray’s proposal aimed at addressing the rise of unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries and created a pathway for dispensaries to join the fully licensed and legal marketplace. Following notification of the law’s requirements through letters and on-site visits to businesses, the City has confirmed closure of 60 dispensaries. City inspectors acquired search warrants and seized products from three dispensaries after inspectors were sold marijuana illegally without medical authorizations. No arrests of staff or owners were made in these cases, but owners may face misdemeanor charges for operating without a regulatory business license.

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