Mayor’s statement on monitor’s findings on Force Review Board

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today issued the following statement after the Federal Monitor Merrick Bobb found the Seattle Police Department’s Force Review Board to be in initial compliance with the court-ordered agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice:

“The federal monitor recognizes a renewed culture of accountability at the Seattle Police Department. We continue to make strides forward thanks to the leadership of Chief O’Toole and the demonstrated commitment of our officers. With new training on de-escalation and use of force, our officers are better equipped to manage tense situations in the field. When an officer does resort to force, SPD has developed additional safeguards to ensure the department is asking the right questions about training, equipment and the individual officer’s decision making. We continue to make headway on my goal to make Seattle a model for urban policing in America.”

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Mayor, Council introduce legislation designating Seattle P-I Globe a City landmark

Today, Mayor Ed Murray, along with Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Jean Godden, and Sally Bagshaw, introduced legislation to formally designate the Seattle P-I Globe a Seattle landmark. City Council’s approval of this ordinance will complete the process that began in 2012

“The P-I Globe is one of our city’s prominent icons, a visible reminder of Seattle’s history,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “With this ordinance, the P-I Globe will continue to greet Seattle visitors and residents with its familiar motto, ‘It’s in the P-I.’”

The P-I Globe was designated a landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Board in April of 2012 when it was nominated by three City Councilmembers – Jean Godden, Tim Burgess and Sally Clark. Once it was designated, City staff worked with the Hearst Corporation, the Globe’s owner, to develop an agreement that specified the features to be preserved and clarified what changes would need review by the Landmarks Preservation Board. Once that agreement was completed in June, the legislative process could go forward.

“This legislation is a step forward in a long journey to preserve and honor a symbol of competitive journalism in Seattle,” said Councilmember Jean Godden and former reporter for the Seattle P-I. “We must continue to seek the right site for this iconic work of art.”

“Following our designation of the P-I Globe, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board is delighted that the significant 1948 structure has become one of the city’s most visible and unique landmarks,” said Jeffrey Murdock, acting chair of the Board. “We look forward to being involved in the structure’s careful rehabilitation and eventual return to its role as a revolving, illuminated beacon for the City and the Sound.”

“I want to thank the members of the Landmarks Preservation Board for their thoughtful review, evaluation, and approval to designate the P-I Globe as a city landmark,” said Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Director Kathy Nyland. “Their expertise and careful assessment is important to the city’s Landmarks process, and the many decisions that come before them each year.”

The P-I Globe is a unique sign, designed and manufactured specifically to advertise the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It’s been considered a Seattle icon since it was installed on the Post-Intelligencer building in 1948. The image of the Globe served as the logo for the newspaper, appearing on its masthead and on each section of the paper. The Globe was later moved to its present location on Elliott Avenue W. in 1986.

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Mayor’s statement on final passage of the 2016 City budget

Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement after the Seattle City Council approved the City’s 2016 budget:

“Today marks the culmination of months of hard work by the Council, the City Budget Office and staff across the City. Thanks to all who contributed to this critical effort, especially to the Council, which continues to balance all of the City’s priorities. This budget will support our efforts to manage our growing population, make the City safer, expand economic opportunity for youth, and respond to the current crisis of homelessness.

“Seattle has long been a leader in recognizing the civil rights of our employees and providing progressive employee benefits. I am pleased the Council is working with us to accelerate and expand our Workforce Equity Action Plan. We recognize that providing enhanced benefits, such as paid parental leave, is one tool to achieve workplace equity. Better recruitment and retention strategies, as well as improved training, could also help us address equity in terms of gender, race and with other traditionally underrepresented groups.  The City will prioritize and fund those activities that will have the greatest impact citywide.”

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Seattle announces new funding for affordable housing near transit

Mayor Ed Murray submitted legislation to the City Council this week to invest an additional $1 million in land acquisition near transit hubs for affordable housing in Seattle. The Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) fund creates a regional pool of resources that will be used to secure land near existing or planned high-capacity transit.

“Supporting an equitable and affordable Seattle means creating housing options near transit that working families can afford,” said Murray. “We must make the smart investment now to acquire land near transit centers, so we can locate convenient, affordable housing as our community grows.”

Implementing the REDI fund is one of the many recommendations made by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee last summer, and exemplifies Seattle’s commitment to strong regional partnerships in housing affordability issues.

“Aside from housing, transportation is a family’s greatest expense,” stated Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who promoted the allocation of City dollars for the REDI fund in the 2015 budget cycle. “Investing early on in affordable housing options near transit centers ensures we are developing our city equitably into the future.”

The idea for the REDI fund emerged from a 3-year regional planning effort, Growing Transit Communities, which concluded in 2013. The City Council authorized the $1 million in the 2015 budget and asked the Mayor and the Office of Housing to develop a Regional Compact with King County, the State of Washington, and other regional public and private partners to govern expenditure of the fund. A total of $21 million will be invested in the fund – $5 million from public sources and $16 million from private and other sources.

“Seattle, like many metropolitan areas across the country, recognizes that housing affordability is a regional issue as much as a local one,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “Both Denver and San Francisco have created similar tools to acquire land for affordable housing, and have shown that this works.”

The City Council PLUS Committee will discuss the REDI fund on Dec. 1, with a vote scheduled for Dec.15.

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Mayor proposes new rules to strengthen Seattle labor laws

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposed a comprehensive set of amendments to Seattle’s labor standards to remedy and prevent wage theft and other labor standards violations. The legislation is aimed to better protect workers, deter and penalize bad actors while leveling the playing field for businesses that are already in compliance.

“This proposal advances our ground-breaking workers’ rights protections by ensuring the spirit and letter of these laws are upheld,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We’re making reforms that will allow the Office of Labor Standards to better protect our workers, take meaningful actions against bad actors and allow us to help level the playing field for businesses that already are doing the right thing by paying employees their full paycheck.”

The proposed ordinance harmonizes enforcement procedures, remedies key definitions in the Minimum Wage, Administrative Wage Theft, Paid Sick and Safe Time, and Job Assistance ordinances. The Mayor’s proposal provides workers with a private right of action to pursue labor standards claims in court, increases recovery for workers by permitting up to three times the amount owed, and strengthens the Office of Labor Standard’s (OLS) ability to identify businesses that are failing to comply with labor standards requirements, such as paying below the City’s minimum wage, while also granting the Office flexibility in determining penalties to address intentional noncompliance but also ensure that genuine mistakes by employers are not unduly punished.

Additionally, the ordinance creates incentives for employers to resolve investigations quickly to ensure workers receive their owed compensation as soon as administratively possible. Taken together, the new legislation would help workers quickly recover their earned wages when violations occur and streamlines enforcement procedures for OLS, and ensure greater compliance by more employers.

“As a small business owner and early supporter of increasing the minimum wage, I applaud the Mayor’s efforts to strengthen wage theft enforcement,” said Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. “It is important that all businesses, big or small, play by the rules and pay their workers properly. The boost workers saw with the $15 minimum wage law will be wiped out unless we can enforce the promise of a living wage.

Under the proposal, employees can report wage theft and other labor violations to OLS without having their identifying information disclosed, which helps address a fear of potential retaliation to them or their colleagues. Additionally, penalties can be levied against an employer if it’s found it retaliated against employees for reporting violations.

“These amendments provide stronger incentives for employees to report labor standards violations and for employers to comply with labor standards requirements,” said Dylan Orr, the Director of the Office of Labor Standards. “The result will be increased equity and a healthy economy for everyone in Seattle.”

Research continues to show that wage theft by employers is an issue around the country. A seminal study by the National Employment Law Project found that more than two thirds of 4,387 workers surveyed in low-wage industries in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week, amounting to an average loss of 15 percent of weekly earnings. Based on this finding, potentially tens of thousands of the estimated 102,000 low-wage workers in Seattle may regularly experience wage theft.

“Seattle is making history once again by becoming the first large city to develop a comprehensive, first of its kind proposal that harmonizes and strengthens the City’s enforcement of its labor standards,” said Rebecca Smith, Deputy Director of the National Employment Law Project. “This proposal guards against workers being cheated out of their wages by bad-actor employers, ensuring they are paid the wages that they’ve earned.”

Casa Latina, a Seattle-based non-profit organization, reported filing 100 wage theft complaints with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries in an 18-month period from 2010-11, and receiving 250 calls per year from workers who said that they were not getting paid. A comprehensive study of wage theft across the state, authored by a student at UW Evans School of Public Affairs, reported that Washington State Labor and Industries closed 14,799 wage theft claims from 2009 to 2013 adding up to $46 million in claims. The average claim per worker in King County was $3,281.25.[i]

A detailed chart of the changes contained in the proposed ordinance can be found HERE. The full legislation can be found HERE.

In September of this year, Murray and OLS announced $1 million in grants for community organizations to provide outreach, education and technical assistance to Seattle’s workers about their rights under Seattle’s labor standards ordinances.

[i] Issac Sederbaum, “Wage Theft in Washington: An Examination of Labor & Industries Claims 2009-2013,” University of Washington Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, 2014.

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Murray announces new cultural district in the Central Area

This week Mayor Ed Murray sent the Seattle City Council a draft ordinance to create the Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District, the second Seattle neighborhood to be designated an Arts & Cultural District.

The Central Area is a center of African-American heritage and history, as well as a neighborhood undergoing rapid change. The Arts District designation recognizes the culturally rich neighborhood and seeks to preserve its character, while stimulating a growing arts environment in the Central Area.

“The Central Area is has made enormous contributions to Seattle’s cultural identity, from the music of Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute,” says Mayor Murray. “The neighborhood’s arts heritage is felt far beyond our city boundaries. This designation honors our history and nurtures the Central Area arts community for the next generation.”

“This is the first step in preserving our legacy and officially designating the Central Area as a hub for black art and culture,” says Vivian Phillips, co-chair of the Central Area coalition and director of marketing and communications for the Seattle Theatre Group.

The Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District designation is dedicated to:

  • Preserving an African-American legacy in the Central Area.
  • Sustaining and strengthening the physical identity and sense of place for cultural relevancy.
  • Establishing continued support of artistic creation, economic vibrancy, livability, affordability, desirability, and artistic vitality.

The arts district designation includes access to the Creative Placemaking Toolkit, a suite of tools designed to preserve, strengthen, and expand arts and cultural spaces. The district will have access to $50,000 to be used towards the toolkit’s programs and resources for right-of-way identifiers, wayfinding, busking and plein air painting, art historic markers, pop-up activation and parklets. The toolkit was designed to support artists, art spaces, and neighborhoods in maintaining and investing in their cultural assets.

Central Area

The Central Area is Seattle’s historically African-American neighborhood and a center for art, business and culture. The Central Area has been home to some of the world’s most respected arts and cultural organizations and artists, including the Northwest African American Museum, Africatown, the Seattle Black Arts Alliance, Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Theaster Gates, James Washington, Vitamin D, Ernestine Anderson, Ray Charles, Art Chantry, Black Heritage Society of Washington, CD Forum, Pratt Fine Arts Center, Coyote Central, RBG the CD, James and Janie Washington Foundation, and others.

Arts & Cultural Districts

The creation of Arts & Cultural District program stems from the recommendations of the Cultural Overlay District Advisory Committee’s June 2009 report, which was accepted and endorsed by Seattle City Council with Resolution 31155 in August 2009. City Council found that a district plan benefits the city because arts and cultural activities serve as a major economic engine for Seattle, and provide an invaluable quality of life that other activities cannot duplicate. The program launched in November of 2014 with the adoption of City Council Resolution 31555 and the creation of the Capitol Hill Arts District.

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Mayor’s statement on Syrian refugees

Today Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement on Seattle’s tradition of welcoming immigrants and refugees:

We join with the people of France, of Lebanon, and other countries across the world in mourning the victims of the Paris and Beirut attacks. While I am heartbroken by the recent tragic events, I feel as Americans, we cannot give in to the fear and hatred that are often the end goals of such heinous acts.

“I stand with Governor Jay Inslee in welcoming Syrian refugees into Washington State and the City of Seattle. It is the right thing to do and a practical response to a global refugee crisis. The foundation of America includes the values of freedom and opportunity. And it is our responsibility to provide safety to families fleeing attacks on their homes and children.

“Some have given into fear and suggested we close our borders to those needing our help. I disagree. The federal government reaffirms that refugees go through the highest level of security screening of any category of traveler to the U.S. This process can take up to two years and involves multiple federal agencies.

“Seattle is home to many who have fled violence in war-torn lands. Our long history of integrating new refugees and immigrants continues to benefit our vibrant, multi-cultural city.”

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Murray nominates Austin’s Larry Weis as City Light CEO

Today Mayor Ed Murray nominated Larry Weis, general manager of Austin Energy, to become the next general manager and CEO of Seattle City Light.

“Larry stood out among our many applicants from across the country,” said Murray. “He is an accomplished and recognized leader in the nation’s utility industry. In Austin, he demonstrated strong financial management skills and deep concern for the welfare of his employees. Under Larry’s leadership, City Light will continue to support a vibrant economy as the nation’s greenest utility, while providing access to affordable service to all of Seattle families.”

“I was attracted to City Light’s tremendous record as a national leader in delivering affordable, reliable, renewable energy to its customers,” said Weis. “City Light has a long heritage of developing and operating hydroelectric projects and a robust energy distribution system. As a Northwest native, I look forward to returning to Seattle.”

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction. For a recent progress report from Seattle City Light, see Power Lines.

Weis was born in Seattle, raised in Central Washington and received a B.S. in Electrical and Mechanical Technology at Western Washington University. After starting his career at Snohomish County PUD, he served as general manager at Pend Oreille PUD, Turlock Irrigation District in California and finally at Austin Energy, the nation’s third largest municipally owned utility.

Austin Energy serves 1.6 million Texas residents, employs 1,800 people and has a strong reputation for supporting energy efficiency, environmental sustainability and worker safety.

With Weis at the helm at Austin Energy, the utility made dramatic increases in renewable energy generation, acquiring the largest solar projects in Texas, as well as several wind energy projects. Wind, solar and other renewable sources now represent about one-quarter of the utility’s power generation, and by 2025, half the utility’s energy will come from renewable resources.

A search committee representing Seattle energy experts, environmental organizations, energy assistance non-profits and labor unions provided input during the selection process.

“Larry’s track record as a utility executive, both here in the Northwest and down in Austin, has been impressive,” said Ash Awad, Vice President of McKinstry. “He’s led with innovation, especially on smart grid technology and energy efficiency, and I look forward to him bringing that same level of innovation here to Seattle.”

“We appreciated the opportunity for organized labor to be involved in the selection process,” said Joe Simpson with IBEW Local 77. “We are very interested in working with Larry to support the health and safety of City Light’s high-voltage workers.”

“It’s not too often that Seattle looks to Texas for environmental leadership, but under Larry Weis, Austin Energy has been among the nation’s leaders in renewable energy development, energy efficiency and electrifying the transportation system,” said Michael Mann, board chair of Emerald Cities Seattle and former director of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment. “We are excited to have attracted a leader like Larry Weiss to Seattle City Light.”

Weis will start at City Light on Feb.1. His starting salary will be $340,000. The Seattle City Council must confirm the nomination.

Jim Baggs, a senior leader at the utility for nearly 5 years, has served as interim general manager at City Light since last spring.

“I want to extend my thanks to Jim for his dedicated service as interim general manager,” said Mayor Murray. “Whether it was his thoughtful, caring response to a recent workplace injury or his active leadership during the windstorm last August, I could always count on Jim.”

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Murray on the 2016 City budget

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today issued the following statement after the Seattle City Council Budget Committee, which includes all 9 members of the Council, advanced the City’s 2016 budget to final approval, expected next Monday:

“Many thanks to the Council for their very hard work on the City budget. I appreciate their thoughtful debate on our City’s priorities. Given that 25 percent of our sales tax revenue is currently generated by our construction boom, they have wisely preserved our reserve funds. Throughout the budget process, the Council has demonstrated a careful and deliberative approach.

“Thanks to Council, we will launch our new Office of Planning and Community Development to help manage our city’s growth. We will have the resources available to fund body worn cameras for every patrol officer. And we will expand our Youth Employment Initiative for hundreds more Seattle young people.

“Most of all, I appreciate the Council’s approach to our work to address our current state of emergency on homelessness. We are a generous City, as the Council has shown yet again. But Seattle cannot do it alone. The state and federal governments must step up and do more as well. This issue must once again be a national priority.”

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Seattle Preschool Program seeks additional partners for 2016-17 expansion

The Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) is seeking additional preschools to join the program for 2016-17 school year. The Department of Education and Early Learning, which launched SPP’s first cohort of 15 classrooms this fall, will be accepting applications from providers to nearly triple the program to 39 classrooms next year.

“Quality preschool is changing the lives of three- and four-year-olds,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We will continue to expand this opportunity for more kids, opening the door to preschool for all Seattle families, regardless of income.”

Approved by voters in 2014, the Seattle Preschool Program is a levy-funded universal preschool demonstration project currently serving 280 children. SPP preschools receive funding from the City, intensive instructional coaching and training for their teachers, and access to teacher education and facility improvement funding in order to offer high-quality early learning opportunities to Seattle’s youngest students. SPP classrooms provide well-paid and highly trained teachers, offer a research-based curriculum and is free or affordable for families.

“We are pleased that a group of such dedicated preschool practitioners joined us this year as pioneers in the Seattle Preschool Program,” said Monica Liang-Aguirre, director of the Department’s Early Learning Division. “Together we have learned a great deal about how to make this program work for providers and families and we look forward to an even better experience in our second year. SPP is a wonderful opportunity for improving educational opportunities for all of our students and we look forward to welcoming a new cohort of preschool providers to SPP to further develop our program.”

Preschool centers and schools interested in participating must be able to dedicate at least two classrooms to the program, be located within Seattle city limits, licensed by the State of Washington, and rated a three or higher under the State’s Early Achievers rating system.

A panel of early learning experts, City staff, and community education advocates will review the applications and determine which preschools will be selected to join the Seattle Preschool Program in the fall of 2016.

Applications for becoming an SPP preschool will be available on the Department of Education and Early Learning’s website: The deadline for submitting applications is December 14, 2015. Selected providers will be announced in early 2016.

City staff will be available to explain the application process and answer questions at information sessions on November 17 at the Seattle Public Library at 10548 5th Avenue NE and on November 20 at the library at 2821 Beacon Avenue South.

Applications for families with preschoolers interested in participating in next school year will be available by March.

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