City of Seattle debuts public emergency alert and notification system, AlertSeattle

Be on the lookout on August 4 as Seattle police officers, firefighters and emergency management staff begin spreading the word about AlertSeattle, a new, real-time emergency alert and notification system. With AlertSeattle in place, Seattle now has a way to send out messages to the public with information on what to do when emergencies like earthquakes, explosions, flooding or other disasters happen. This system is free and available to anyone who lives, works, travels through or visits Seattle.

“AlertSeattle will provide real-time emergency alerts and notifications, serving as a unified and official voice from the City of Seattle,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “These notifications will improve safety in our city and help inform city residents and visitors of potentially lifesaving actions they may need to take during emergency events.”

Barb Graff, Director of Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management, encourages Seattle residents and visitors to enroll. “With AlertSeattle, individuals receive official communication directly from the City of Seattle. People can customize what alerts they want to receive and how they want to be notified. Getting good information out quickly is critical during emergencies, and AlertSeattle is an excellent tool for people to stay informed.”

In addition to emergency alerts, the public can also sign-up to receive community notifications about severe weather, safety, health, utility service disruptions, major traffic incidents, preparedness events and more.

To sign up go to: alert.seattle.gov and set up a user profile. All user information is private and will not be distributed in any manner. The service itself is provided by the City of Seattle at no cost; however, message and data rates may apply.

Print Friendly

Mayor announces Claudia Castro Luna as Seattle’s First Civic Poet

Today Mayor Ed Murray announced Seattle’s first Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna. The new Civic Poet post serves as an ambassador for Seattle’s rich literary landscape and represents the city’s diverse cultural community.

Claudia Castro Luna“Claudia brings a fresh perspective and a deep commitment to engaging the community through her poetry,” said Mayor Murray. “We are a literary city and we’re excited to have an accomplished poet that will celebrate and inspire us through her creativity.”

Castro Luna will perform at the 2015 and 2016 Mayor’s Art Awards, in addition to five community performances and workshops throughout the city. She will serve a two year term from August 2015 to August 2017, receiving a $10,000 stipend. The Civic Poet program is administered by the city’s Office of Arts & Culture.

“I thank Mayor Murray and Office of Arts & Culture Director Randy Engstrom for creating Seattle’s Civic Poet program,” said Councilmember Nick Licata, “a post inaugurated by the Poet Populist program in 1999. Claudia’s poems ‘Wake’ and ‘Choking My Vernacular,’ performed during one of the Council’s 2013 Words’ Worth readings, were moving and I am pleased to welcome her as our first Civic Poet. Words can change the world and no one knows the power of words better than a poet.”

Castro Luna was born in El Salvador and came to the U.S. as a young teenager fleeing civil war. Since then she has completed a Master of Arts in Urban Planning, a teaching degree, and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry.

Castro Luna is a K-12 certified teacher with a passion for arts education and teaching immigrants. In 2012, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from Mills College. She was a 2014 Jack Straw fellow and is a recent recipient of a King County 4Culture grant.  Her poems have appeared in Milvia Street, The Womanist, Riverbabble, and forthcoming in the Taos Journal of Poetry and Art.  She has been a featured reader for the Berkeley Poetry Festival and for NPR-affiliate KALW. Castro Luna is also writing a memoir, an excerpt of which appears in the 2014 Jack Straw Writers’ Anthology. She writes and teaches in Seattle, where she gardens and raises chickens with her husband and their three children.

Additionally, Castro Luna will participate in the Seattle Public Library’s Sharing Our Voices project. The Library will commission three original poems, record Castro Luna reading her poems and record an oral interview with her identifying the inspiration and creation process inherent in poetry. The recordings will be added to the Library collection.

Print Friendly

City to step up enforcement against smoking lounges

In response to ongoing instances of crime and violence associated with some smoking lounges, Seattle and Public Health – Seattle & King County are collaborating on enforcement actions against unlawful businesses violating the ban on smoking in places of employment and public places. Additionally, the City is moving forward to file criminal charges against several businesses that have failed to comply with the law and have already been cited for violations.

“Far too many smoking lounges attract and sustain illegal, violent activity that has no place in our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “These establishments are unlawful businesses that continue to thumb their noses at the law. We will soon have additional authority to help us clamp down on operations that foster an environment that threatens public safety in our neighborhoods.”

Serious violent incidents have occurred near several smoking lounges, ranging from assaults, shots fired and fatal shootings. Three homicides over 18 months have occurred near smoking lounges, including the murder last month of Donnie Chin outside of King’s Hookah Lounge in the Chinatown-International District. Seattle Police have responded to more than 100 fights and disturbances connected to smoking lounges since 2012.

“In light of the recent shootings around these bars, the stakes are higher now and we need the direct involvement of the city to tackle this matter,” said Ahmed A. Ali of the Somali Health Board. “The SHB fully supports regulations and closures as these bars are detrimental to the health of our youth and the community’s well-being.”

“Hookah lounges are a public safety risk not just for the damage the smoking causes to the patrons and employees, but also as a magnet for public safety threats,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. “My office will pursue charges and code enforcement for all locations that operate outside the law.”

There are currently 11 smoking lounges in the City. Smoking lounges with employees who serve walk-in customers operate in violation of state statutes and county ordinances that ban smoking in places of employment.

Public Health inspectors, working in close collaboration with Seattle inspectors and police officers, have been visiting businesses and issuing smoking ban infractions. The penalty for each violation is a $100 fine.

Under recent amendments to Seattle’s business licensing code related to Cannabis enforcement, the City can revoke the license of any business that is conducting unlawful operations, including violating the ban on smoking in places of employment. The new ordinance goes into effect on Aug. 16. Business owners that continue to operate without a license face penalties of up to $5,000 a day and/or 364 days in jail.

Today, the City is filing criminal charges against the owners of King’s Hookah Lounge for failure to pay business taxes. If convicted, the penalties range up to a $5,000 fine and/or 364 days in jail.

The Mayor and City Attorney will also work with the City Council to draft a future City ordinance that will explicitly prohibit any business that sells tobacco for use on their business premises. The proposed legislation would ensure that no such business is able to obtain a business license or other City permits due to loopholes in local regulations. The legislation would also grant City inspectors the authority to cite smoking violations directly.

“The city government takes very seriously its obligation to enforce our laws fairly and in a manner that promotes public safety. The actions the Mayor is announcing today are part of a strategy to reduce violence and stop violations of public health laws,” said Council President Tim Burgess. “Businesses that operate in Seattle need to follow the rules. If they don’t, they can expect enforcement actions against them.”

“When businesses break the law and contribute to an unsafe environment, we must take measures to ensure the safety and health of the public,” said Councilmember John Okamoto. “The recent terrible murder of our friend Donnie Chin reminds us that we must work harder to protect our community and city.”

“We are listening to the concerns from neighborhoods in closing problematic hookah clubs that are not operating in compliance,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “We understand smoking hookah is part of the culture for many patrons who go to them, but they must operate safely and not be problem areas for the neighborhood.”

“Public safety and public health go hand in hand,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “Many of the hookah bars in our city are violating the public health laws and endangering the health of their workers and patrons. Regulating the bars in accordance with our laws and closing them down if necessary is the right thing to do.”

A summary of the enforcement actions can be found here.

Print Friendly

Mayor Murray’s statement on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Today Mayor Murray issued the following statement following President Obama’s announcement of his new Clean Power Plan:

“I applaud the President’s bold leadership in releasing the Clean Power Plan limiting pollution from power plants.

“The Clean Power Plan will significantly reduce climate pollution while growing a clean energy economy. By creating flexible and achievable standards and a practical timeline, the Plan will not only protect future generations but improve our health and create jobs today.

“Seattle has long been a leader in climate action, committing to carbon neutrality, and our electric utility is the first carbon neutral utility in the nation.  However, cities alone cannot meet the climate challenge. Action at the national scale is necessary.

“As Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical on climate change, ‘the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.’ I am pleased that this Administration, through this action, is taking these words to heart.”

Print Friendly

Seattle to enhance Traffic Incident Management

Today the City of Seattle announced it is implementing a series of recommendations for enhancing traffic incident management practices. The changes are based on nationwide best practices for incident response and will enable City departments to better manage on-street collision scenes and help improve traffic flow around these scenes.

“We must do better to clear major collisions because they can create lasting traffic impacts on our city’s road network,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “The steps we are taking will help improve our response time and get traffic flowing after incidents as quickly as possible.”

“I want to see these incident response improvements adopted by year’s end,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “Traffic collisions will happen, and that shouldn’t mean the entire city comes to a standstill for hours on end.  We can and will do better.”

To improve its response efforts, the City engaged two consultants with extensive expertise in traffic incident management, the former chief engineer/first deputy commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation, Sam Schwartz, and the former chief of the Washington State Patrol and former administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Annette Sandberg. The consultants were tasked with reviewing the City’s collision response practices, surveying best practices around the country, and providing actionable recommendations for improving the City’s policies and procedures.

Their recommendations, which the City has already begun implementing, include:

  • Establishing a citywide Traffic Incident Management (TIM) program by creating a citywide TIM Policy Manual, a formal memorandum of understanding between departments, and detailed clearance policies and procedures for each department.
  • Conducting comprehensive TIM training for all individuals involved in collision response, to include holding regular multi-agency tabletop exercises and providing Traffic Incident Management training for all Seattle Police Department (SPD) patrol officers.
  • Utilizing nationwide TIM best practices by leveraging the State of Washington’s expertise and joining the state’s TIM Network for best practices and better coordination.
  • Standardizing and enhancing at the scene response by developing a field guide for patrol and traffic officers, conducting training on legal liability and upgrading equipment for response staff.

“The Seattle Police Department is committed to road safety and traffic management,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “Our new policies, training and collaborative relationship with SDOT will produce better results and ensure that incidents are cleared faster.”

The City is also implementing the consultants’ recommendations to:

  • Upgrade traffic management operations by creating “Gridlock Alerts,” installing additional traffic cameras and improving the tracking of collision related impacts.
  • Improve towing operations by integrating the towing company into regular TIM training, and creating a “Tow Officer” position within SPD.
  • Enhance commercial vehicle enforcement (CVE) through updated policies for CVE officers on commercial vehicle collisions, deployments of CVE officers to all commercial vehicle collision scenes, and mandatory post-crash inspections of commercial vehicles involved in major incidents.
  • Upgrade data collection on collision response, establishing clearance benchmarks and evaluating performance, and conducting six-month and one-year reviews of TIM practices.

As part of these recommendations, Mayor Murray will submit a resolution to the City Council highlighting the state’s “Steer It, Clear It” laws, which requires motorists to clear vehicles from the roadway after a collision, provided they are able. The resolution will also include reference to the “Hold Harmless” law found in the Revised Code of Washington 46.52.020 (2) (b) to reinforce that SPD responders, and those on scene directed by SPD, will not be held liable for private property damage as they work to restore roadway mobility.

“The hourglass shape of our city, its water crossings, moveable bridges, and limited detour routes around crash sites make collisions problematic for Seattle,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly. “We are focused on minimizing collisions and, through these improvements, limiting the impact when they occur.”

In March 2015, a commercial vehicle roll-over incident blocked traffic on SR-99, resulting in delays that impacted the city’s entire road network. The Seattle Department of Transportation and the Seattle Police Department collaborated on an after-action report, which recommended that the city engage external consultants to ensure the City implements best practices, and that the City also convene an inter-departmental team to develop an action plan for implementing the consultants’ recommendations.

Print Friendly

Mayor Murray releases action plan to support LGBTQ safety

LGBTQ Task Force Press ConferenceToday Mayor Ed Murray, along with members of the LGBTQ Task Force appointed in March, announced an action plan to support a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for LGBTQ people in Seattle.

“Seattle has long been a place where everyone can find an accepting and tolerant home,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We celebrate our history of advancing equity for the LGBTQ community and we will support efforts to make Seattle even more inclusive. Thank you to the task force for identifying these actions to reduce the violent attacks and verbal harassment experienced by LGBTQ people.”

In the first seven months of this year, there were 41 anti-LGBTQ hate-based crimes or incidents reported to Seattle police — a 46-percent increase over the 28 reported in first seven months of 2014.

The mayor’s action plan is organized into four areas: Public Safety, LGBTQ Youth, the Built Environment, and Public Understanding. The Mayor has begun to implement many of the recommendations of the task force, and will act on several more:

  • Seattle Police Department will continue the Safe Place program to identify local businesses that will shelter victims of harassment until officers arrive.
  • The Department of Neighborhoods will use Neighborhood Matching Funds to support projects that promote LGBTQ safety.
  • The City will direct more resources to support Project EQTY and other social service providers that work with LGBT youth.
  • The Human Services Department will improve rapid rehousing and access to hotel vouchers for transgender homeless youth who experience a disproportionately high risk of violence.
  • Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the Department of Transportation will address dark alleys and other physical environments on Capitol Hill that provide cover for criminals.
  • Install additional rainbow crosswalks near the new Capitol Hill light rail station.
  • Adopt a new City ordinance to require that single-person restrooms in public accommodations and city facilities be signed for all genders.
  • The Seattle Office for Civil Rights will launch a public campaign to educate all Seattle residents about the concerns and rights of their LGBTQ neighbors.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in five transgender people experience homelessness at some point in their life.

“We want to thank Mayor Ed Murray for bringing together a broad cross-section of LGBTQ community leaders to address these important issues,” said Monisha Harrell, Chair of Equal Rights Washington and Co-Chair of the LGBTQ Task Force. “Although diverse in experience, perspective and opinion, each task force member was committed to achieving our end goal of improving public safety. The Mayor and his team have done a terrific job of bringing all of the voices at the table to develop a plan that is realistic in making a difference. We greatly appreciate their commitment and work.”

Print Friendly

Murray to focus on housing affordability in denser neighborhoods

 

Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement announcing he will not recommend pursuing a Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee recommendation that could have changed 94 percent of single-family zones in Seattle. Instead, he is calling for renewed public dialogue on how best to increase affordable housing in denser neighborhoods:

“The Council and I created the HALA process because our city is facing a housing affordability crisis. In the weeks since the HALA recommendations were released, sensationalized reporting by a few media outlets has created a significant distraction and derailed the conversation that we need to have on affordability and equity.

“Fundamentally, this is a conversation about building a Seattle that welcomes people from all walks of life — where working people, low-income families, seniors, young people and the kids of current residents all can live in our city.

“We also must not be afraid to talk about the painful fact that parts of our city are still impacted by the intersection of income, race and housing. Look at a map and take a walk through our neighborhoods. We can move beyond the legacy of the old boundaries of exclusion that have remained largely unchanged since nearly a century ago when neighborhood covenants were used to keep people of color south of Madison Street.

“I have always believed that Seattle can step up and have a difficult conversation about our history of racial discrimination and economic inequality. Our shared vision for Seattle includes affordable housing and diversity in all our neighborhoods.

“To advance the broader conversation about affordable housing and equity, I will no longer pursue changes that could allow more types of housing in 94 percent of single-family zones. Instead, we will refocus the discussion on designing denser Urban Centers, Urban Villages and along transit corridors that include more affordable housing.”

 

Print Friendly

City of Seattle awards $467,000 for neighborhood projects

The City of Seattle is awarding $467,562 in matching funds to support neighborhood-initiated projects across Seattle. Twenty-eight community groups received awards from the Neighborhood Matching Fund for a variety of events, cultural festivals and projects.

“These projects are the result of neighbors working together to better their community,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “The entire city benefits from their volunteerism and talent as they create, plan and implement these projects. The Neighborhood Matching Fund is there to support their efforts, whether it is an exhibit, a documentary or a playground.”

These awards are part of the Small and Simple Projects Fund, one of three funds offered by Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. It provides cash awards of up to $25,000 in matching funds to community organizations committed to fostering and building a better community. The 2015 June awards range from $4,000 to $25,000, and the organizations pledge to match the City’s $467,562 investment with $600,132 of locally raised money, donated materials and volunteer labor.

“There is a reason the Neighborhood Matching Fund has existed for 27 years. It’s been a valuable resource for communities to turn their visions into reality,” said Kathy Nyland, director of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. “Plus, for every dollar awarded, the community leverages the funds by matching the award. And this round of projects shows the diversity of ideas and creativity, proving once again how resourceful communities are throughout this city.”

In addition to the Small and Simple Projects Fund, the Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) has two other programs: the Large Projects Fund which provides matching funds of up to $100,000 and the Small Sparks Fund which provides funds of up to $1,000. Since 1988 more than 5,000 projects have been completed by neighborhoods and communities with the help of NMF, and its investment in neighborhoods can be seen across the city. For more information about all of the funds visit seattle.gov/neighborhoods/nmf/.

The Small and Simple Projects Fund opens again for applications in September with a deadline of October 5. To learn more visit seattle.gov/neighborhoods/nmf/smallandsimple.htm.

2015 June Small and Simple Projects Fund Awardees

Citywide Projects

  • $8,927 to Seattle-Sihanoukville Sister City Association to produce an event to provide education and share stories of Cambodian refugees during the Khmer Rouge Genocide and their resettlement in the United States. (Community match: $13,365)
  • $25,000 to Center for Linguistic and Cultural Democracy to produce a Seattle Caribbean Festival sharing cultural performances and cultural exchange to unite members of the diverse Caribbean community. (Community match: $20,480)
  • $10,000 to Gay City Health Project to solicit public input to create a database of health care providers to ensure the LGBTQ community has access to high quality, competent healthcare. (Community match: $7,220)

South Seattle Projects

  • $11,830 to Cheasty Greenspace at MountainView to finish elements to the Valley View trail’s trailhead connection, install wayfinding, and host a celebration. (Community match: $12,000)
  • $23,500 to Colman Park Restoration Project to develop a vegetation plan with community input for the west slope of Colman Park. (Community match: $12,260)
  • $5,110 to Othello Park Alliance to plant a hillside at Othello Park with 100% low native plants and involve the community in the selection and process. (Community match: $5,150)

West Seattle Projects

  • $24,400 to Chief Sealth Indoor Tennis to conduct a feasibility study and develop a conceptual plan for an indoor tennis center at the former Denny Middle School site. (Community match: $14,720)
  • $25,000 to South Park Area Redevelopment Committee to create a design with public input, construction documents, and cost estimates to improve Duwamish Waterway Park. (Community match: $45,575)
  • $21,395 to the West Seattle Time Bank to host 20 community events and workshops to promote timebanking and increase participation in West Seattle. (Community match: $22,840)
  • $15,000 to Circulo de Mamas Seattle to convene 20 Latina mothers and community members to further develop their community leadership through culturally relevant training. (Community match: $25,550)

North Seattle Projects (north of Ship Canal)

  • $12,000 to Low Incoming Housing Institute to produce a free event series that feature the people and topics relating to the Ballard neighborhood. (Community match: $6,320)
  • $24,400 to Ballard Historical Society to conduct a historic inventory of the Ballard community and utilize a visual and interactive GIS mapping component to engage volunteers and the public. (Community match: $32,400)
  • $15,000 to Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth to perform outreach within Ballard to garner interest in a proposed Business Improvement Area (BIA) to serve the needs of the neighborhood. (Community match: $17,820)
  • $11,500 to Troll’s Knoll P-Patch community garden to build and outfit a tool shed, create pathways, purchase equipment, and build accessible raised beds. (Community match: $12,550)
  • $4,000 to Friends of the Lake City Fred Meyer Garden Project to lead a community design process to beautify and activate a parcel of land owned by Fred Meyer for community benefit. (Community match: $2,240)
  • $25,000 to Freedom Project to organize a serves of free workshops to address racial inequity by engaging in collective learning, dialogue, and action. (Community match: $21,730)
  • $12,000 to Lake City Future First to improve a website and use it as a place to post volunteer opportunities and projects needing support, connect Lake City to resources, and encourage posts by community members for broad community engagement. (Community match: $13,260)

Central Seattle Projects

  • $25,000 to Leschi Community Council to install Fitness Zone equipment in Powell Barnett Park to increase the neighborhood’s access to health and fitness. (Community match: $39,500)
  • $25,000 to Friends of Cayton Corner Park to prepare construction documents for a neighborhood pocket park on Capitol Hill. (Community match: $12,630)
  • $11,500 to 23rd Avenue ACT (Action Core Team) to produce the Central Area Block Party in September to highlight the history and culture of the community. (Community match: $10,712)
  • $12,000 to the MLK Family Arts Mentoring Enrichment Community Center to conduct a planning study and prepare a master plan to renovate the facility’s kitchen. (Community match: $23,400)
  • $15,000 to Friends of Cathay Post Oral History Project to produce a documentary and publication of the stories of Chinese American WWII and Korean War veterans. (Community match: $33,700)
  • $12,000 to The Art of Alzheimer’s to organize a free art exhibition featuring paintings by people living with dementia to deepen community understanding of the disease. (Community match: $25,280)
  • $25,000 to Friends of Alley Gallery to develop recommendations to transform the Bell Street Park alleys into assets for ongoing creativity. (Community match: $14,100)
  • $15,000 to Growing Vine Street to increase capacity and engage the community in a dialogue about green space needs, neighborhood history, and other topics through two events. (Community match: $23,100)
  • $12,000 to Capitol Hill Housing Foundation to engage renters living in the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict in voter registration and a 2016 Renters Summit. (Community match: $30,980)
  • $16,000 to Sustainable Capitol Hill to create a community tool library and fixer’s collective to provide items to check out or use in the workshop. (Community match: $42,100)
  • $25,000 to Lawton Elementary School PTA to complete construction-ready documents to modernize the playground and redesign the surrounding space for the neighborhood. (Community match: $59,150)
Print Friendly

Statement on Monfort sentencing

Mayor Ed Murray and Chief Kathleen O’Toole issued the following statements this afternoon after a King County jury sentenced Christopher Monfort to life in prison for the murder of Seattle Police Officer Tim Brenton, the attempted murder of Officer Britt Kelly and Sergeant Gary Nelson, and the arson of a city facility:

“Today’s sentencing of Christopher Monfort ends a horrifying chapter in the history of Seattle and its Police Department. I pray Officer Timothy Brenton’s family and loved ones can find some solace now that the sentencing phase has ended. I thank the men and women of the Seattle Police Department for their dedication and for putting themselves at risk every day to serve and protect the people of this city. I also commend the jury for its service.”

Additionally, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole also issued the following statement:

“Today’s verdict and life sentence of Christopher Monfort is a small measure of justice for our fallen brother, Officer Timothy Brenton. We will never forget Tim’s smile, dedication, and friendship – and will hold these qualities dear as we protect and serve our city and each other.”

Print Friendly

Statement on death of Donnie Chin

Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the shooting death of Donnie Chin:

“Donnie was a great community leader and his tragic death is a tremendous loss to Chinatown-International District, the broader Asian-Pacific Islander community, all of Seattle, and to me personally. As co-founder of the International District Emergency Center, he dedicated his life to making the Chinatown-International District – the neighborhood he loved – a safe place for all. I had the opportunity to work with Donnie over the years, including at our Find It, Fix It walk in the neighborhood last summer. His focus was always on the health and safety of others.

“On behalf of the entire city, I want to express my deepest sympathies to Donnie’s family, friends and the community.”

Additionally, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole also issued the following statement:

“I was shocked and saddened to learn of Donnie Chin’s death. He was a wonderful friend to the SPD and will be sorely missed. We join his family and friends in mourning this terrible loss. We will also work tirelessly to bring his killer to justice.”

Print Friendly