Mayor Murray and Chief O’Toole issue statements on May Day violence

Today, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray released the following statement after five Seattle police officers were injured during violent May Day protests:

“I want to thank the Seattle Police Department for its extraordinary work today to protect the safety of people and property during this year’s May Day events,” Mayor Murray said. “It is unfortunate and deeply regrettable that in a City that goes to incredible lengths to respect First Amendment rights, there are some who disregard our values and engage in senseless acts of violence and property destruction. This City condemns any acts of physical violence against our police officers, and my thoughts are with the officers who were injured.”

Nine people were arrested after windows were broken, and protesters lit fireworks, and threw rocks, flares and several Molotov cocktails at police officers.

“Seattle Police Department supports peaceful protest, but has zero tolerance for any acts of violence towards persons, police and property,” said Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “While we hope for peaceful demonstrations, we need to be prepared for the unexpected. Officers underwent enhanced crowd management training and developed a comprehensive preparation plan for May Day, and the numerous protests that take place in our city year round. We will review today’s events in order to continue to improve our crowd management practices. I want to thank all of officers for their service, particularly the five who were injured. My thoughts are with you.”

Mayor Murray and Chief O’Toole visited the injured police officers at Harborview Medical Center this evening.

Seattle first Northwest city to achieve national Emergency Management accreditation

The City of Seattle’s emergency management program was accredited by the national Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) Commission at their spring meeting in Lexington, Kentucky.  Seattle becomes the first city in the four-state FEMA region to achieve accreditation. This achievement highlights commitment of the City and the Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) to improving emergency preparedness, responsiveness, and recovery.

“While there is no way to predict when a natural hazard, accident or incident occurs, we will continue to prepare and plan for how to best respond to crisis in order to save lives and coordinate recovery,” said Mayor Murray. “I applaud the hard-work of our emergency planners and staff for achieving this accreditation—demonstrating that public preparedness and safety remains the top priority for first responders, emergency staff, and City leaders.”

EMAP is a set of professional standards developed for emergency management programs designed to demonstrate that programs have thoughtfully studied the impacts their communities face, developed emergency plans, trained, educated, and exercised appropriately for those hazards.  Seattle’s OEM developed documents and protocols over the course of several years to address:

·         Emergency authorities

·         Hazard identification and mitigation

·         Prevention

·         Operational readiness

·         Incident management

·         Resource management and logistics

·         Mutual aid

·         Communications and warning

·         Operations and procedures

·         Facility readiness

·         Training, exercises, and corrective actions

·         Public education and information

“Accreditation is the stamp of approval by subject matter experts from around the nation – providing Seattle a formal recognition by third party professionals as to the quality of the City’s emergency preparedness efforts,” said Barb Graff, Director of the Office of Emergency Management. “It shows the City’s commitment to excellence in emergency management.”

A team of emergency management subject matter experts from across the country spent a week in Seattle last September reviewing OEM documents to certify that Seattle’s program met each of the 64 standard elements.  The EMAP Commission, based upon that assessment, granted 5-year accreditation to the City of Seattle.

Preparing for emergencies collaborative effort between City departments, the Mayor’s office, City Council, community stakeholders.  Major emergency preparedness and public safety milestones in the last several years have included the production of a hazards interactive map, updating of all of the City’s emergency plans, and adaptation of public education materials all available atwww.seattle.gov/emergency .

Murray proposes funding plan for additional police officers

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today proposed a funding plan to finance the hiring of 200 new police officers and investments in the City’s 911 call center as proposed in his 2016 State of the City address.

Murray will finance the expansion of the Seattle Police Department through reprioritizing existing resources, identifying efficiencies and by increasing selected fees and taxes on Seattle businesses.

“Public safety is the paramount duty of local government,” said Murray. “As one of the fastest growing cities in America, we face serious strains on our public safety resources that must be addressed. Today, I am proposing a specific funding plan for public safety investments that strikes a balance between new revenues and reprioritizing existing resources.”

The addition of 200 officers by the end of 2019 would grow Seattle Police Department to 1,464 officers, the highest in the history of the department. This level of expansion is in line with the recently completed police staffing study conducted by Berkshire Advisors.

“We must also ensure that we are using existing police resources most effectively, especially with regard to crime prevention,” said Murray. “We will enhance our community engagement and outreach, police visibility, and proactive relationship-building across the city.”

The cost of the new officers, improving the 911 call center and other information technology investments will cost $37 million per year. Murray is proposing to raise $14 million in new revenues and fund the other $23 million (nearly two-thirds of the necessary funding) from existing resources. Roughly half of the General Fund resources has already been approved by council for hiring additional police officers.

The proposed increases in taxes and fees on Seattle businesses are:

  • 2 percent increase over two years in the existing Business and Occupation (B&O) tax rates, which have not risen since 1991, generating $8.4 million per year. A retail business with $1 million in revenues would pay an additional $70 a year.
  • Restructuring and increasing the City’s Business License fee, with fees increasing in five steps depending on the size of the business, generating $5.8 million per year. The smallest businesses would see a license fee increase of $25 a year.

Seattle is already on track to hire 120 additional officers by 2017, a commitment made the mayor made in 2014.

Incoming calls to SPD’s 911 call center call have placed a growing strain on the current system. Call center volumes have increased by 13 percent since 2010. The call center will be adding staff and making technology investments to handle the growing number of calls for service.

Other technology investments at the department include technology infrastructure to support body worn cameras for officers and a new time tracking tool to help manage officer overtime.

Last week, Murray announced that he had identified existing funds to construct a new $160 million North Precinct and would not send a public safety levy to the voters in 2016 or 2017.

SPD, Seattle Public Schools parter to expand Safe Place program

Mayor Ed Murray, along with Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland, announced today that Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) “Safe Place” will expand to all 98 Seattle Public Schools. SPD Safe Place is a public education and visibility program aimed at preventing and responding to anti-LGBTQ bias crimes.

“While we see a rolling back of civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in some corners of the country, Seattle remains inclusive and welcoming to all people,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “SPD Safe Place brings together businesses, community organizations, and the public to stand up against hate and intolerance. I applaud Seattle Public Schools for bringing this important program to our schools, empowering students to speak out against anti-LGBTQ harassment.”

Launched in May of 2015, SPD Safe Place is a voluntary program that provides businesses and organizations with decals and information on how to report malicious harassment, more commonly known as hate crimes. Training for these organizations includes when and how to call 911, sheltering victims of crime until police arrived, and proactive outreach about working with the SPD’s LGBT liaison officer.

“We are thrilled that SPD Safe Place is growing through a partnership with Seattle Public Schools,” said Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “We want to create a safe, inclusive community for everyone and are encouraged by the ongoing support we have received for this program.”

“Our district is proud to partner with the City and the Seattle Police Department to make all of our schools Safe Places,” said Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland. “This is a continuation of our commitment to ensuring all our students feel safe and equal in our schools”

SPD Safe Place program has reached 1,600 locations. Businesses, organizations and educational institutions can request SPD Safe Place placards or posters and learn about how to work with police to prevent and address anti-LGBT crime concerns at http://www.seattle.gov/spd-safe-place/.

Mayor announces Executive Order protecting transgender rights

Mayor Ed Murray will sign an Executive Order next week instructing the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to provide guidance and training to City departments on the City’s groundbreaking all-gender public accommodation ordinance.

“Seattle must remain a safe place for the transgender and gender-diverse community. I’m committed to taking every step we can to make our public facilities safe and welcoming for all,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “City staff will receive additional resources and trainings to ensure that members of our transgender and gender-diverse communities are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

The Executive Order mandates culturally responsive training for all relevant front-line staff at City departments, such as Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Seattle Center, and the Seattle Public Library, in partnership with the Pride Foundation. Additionally, the order directs OCR to develop procedures for staff that create safe and inclusive single-gender facilities.

“Transgender people are part of our workplaces, classrooms, neighborhoods, families, communities, and places of worship—and need to be able to use public facilities without fear of harassment or discrimination simply because of who they are,” said Kris Hermanns, Executive Director of the Pride Foundation. “We are grateful for the leadership of Mayor Murray to affirm that our laws do not exclude transgender people.”

“All of us, including transgender people, care about privacy and safety in public facilities. Transgender people have safely been using public facilities consistent with the gender they live as every day for the last ten years,” said Seth Kirby, Vice Chair of the Pride Foundation and Executive Director of the Oasis Youth Center. “I look forward to educating our community about ways to ensure safety and privacy in public facilities for all, especially transgender individuals, because transgender people are 53% more likely to experience discrimination, harassment, and violence in places of public accommodation.”

“The City of Seattle has a longstanding commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of all people,” said Patricia Lally, Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights. “The Mayor’s Executive Order serves as a reminder that the City is steadfast in this commitment.  The Seattle Office for Civil Rights looks forward to working with the Mayor and our community partners to deliver training on the rights of transgender and gender-diverse people, and on creating an environment that is inclusive for everyone.”

In August of 2015, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Mayor Murray’s proposal requiring all City-controlled and privately operated places of public accommodation to designate existing and future single-stall restrooms as all-gender facilities. The legislation also clarifies existing law allowing individuals to use the restroom of their chosen gender identity or expression. The legislation was a recommendation from the Mayor’s LGBTQ Task Force and the City of Seattle’s LGBTQ Commission.

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.”

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.

­

“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.”

 

 

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.

Seattle to open safe lots for homeless families and individuals living in vehicles

In response to the continued crisis of homelessness on the streets of Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray issued an emergency order to expedite the siting of two safe lots in Ballard and Delridge for homeless individuals and families living in recreational vehicles and cars.

“These are not long term solutions to end homelessness, but temporary locations that can be managed to provide a safer environment for those living on our streets and have less impact on our neighborhoods,” said Murray. “The City’s active case management services will reach out to those experiencing homelessness and living in their vehicles, with the goal to help move them to permanent housing as quickly as possible. These safe lots will also help reduce the public health issues currently impacting several of our neighborhoods.”

The new safe lots are part of the City’s overall actions under Mayor Murray’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency on homelessness that has spurred the opening and expansion of new shelters and authorized tent encampments, and increased investments in services and outreach. Opening the new safe lots will occur along with additional trash pickups in neighborhoods, as well as renewed enforcement of the City’s existing parking rules and addressing public safety issues that have arisen in recent months.

“When Mayor Murray declared the state of emergency, the direction given to us was to take significant steps to immediately help those in need living on our streets and address underlying causes of homelessness. Since then, Seattle has expanded outreach services, opened up space for nearly 300 individuals in new shelters or authorized tent encampments and we have invested more in prevention services. Today’s announcement of new safe lots is another part of this larger effort under the state of emergency to provide immediate, short term assistance,” said Catherine Lester, Director of Seattle’s Human Services Department. “In addition to the authority under the Mayor’s emergency orders, we will be able to stand up these safe lots quickly thanks to the fast work of our partners including local service providers, other City departments and WSDOT.”

To expedite the siting and permitting of the safe lots, Mayor Murray is exercising powers invoked under his Proclamation of Civil Emergency on homelessness issued on Nov. 2, 2015. The mayor will send the emergency order to the City Council today, where it can be approved, rejected or amended.

Expected to begin operations in 30 days, the two safe lots can hold up to an estimated 50 vehicles. Each site will have sanitation and garbage service, as well as case management assistance for those experiencing homelessness in order to build pathways to permanent housing. All residents must abide by a code of conduct policy that will prohibit drugs and violence, and require residents to be good neighbors.

The Ballard site, the Yankee Diner parking lot at Shilshole Ave. NW and 24th Ave. NW, is owned by Seattle Public Utilities. The Seattle Department of Transportation has been in negotiations with the Washington State Department of Transportation to acquire a parking lot next to the Glass Yard lot at West Marginal Way and Highland Park Way SW for the Delridge site. The City and WSDOT are discussing the terms of the sale of the property and will likely require future legislation to finalize the purchase and sale agreement. But to accommodate the Mayor’s emergency order, WSDOT has agreed to allow the City to use the site as a safe lot in the intervening period during these negotiations.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia) thanked Mayor Murray and his administration for identifying spaces for people who are living in their vehicles to have a safe and hygienic place to park. “Homelessness extends far beyond our City’s limits and I look forward to working with human service providers, faith institutions, and King County leaders to create more safe spaces. This is a strong beginning, but not the end of delivering better care for neighbors who need our support,” said Bagshaw.

“Pacific Fishermen understands and shares the social responsibility and importance to the City of helping those experiencing homelessness. We support the Mayor’s approach and the use of the Yankee Diner site. If these lots are managed properly, good folks will get the services they need and there will be a reduced impact on businesses,” said Doug Dixon, General Manager of Pacific Fishermen Shipyard, which is located next door to the Yankee Diner site.

While the safe lots are being set up, temporary permitted street parking zones on City right of way will be established for those living in vehicles under the mayor’s emergency order. The temporary zones will have sanitation services and will be in place for 30 days until the safe lots are operational. The three temporary parking zones are:

Compass Housing Alliance, an existing non-profit service provider on contract with the City, will provide outreach and case management to those living in vehicles to connect them with services and a pathway to housing.

Last November, as part of the mayor’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency, the City Council unanimously approved his request for $5 million in new, one-time funds and added an additionally $2.3 million during the budget process for a total of $7.3 million. Some of those emergency dollars and a repurposing of an existing $350,000 in the City’s Human Services Department’s budget will go towards the operations and services required to stand up the safe lots and provide sanitation services to the temporary parking zones.

In addition to Seattle’s safe lots announced today, King County is studying funding options that would provide mental health, hygiene and case management services at faith-based safe parking locations across the county.

Under existing City ordinances, recreational vehicles may not be parked overnight on streets in non-industrial areas. In industrial zones, vehicles are prohibited from parking in the same location for more than 72 hours. Each of the locations announced today, both longer-term and temporary, are in industrial areas. Outside of these announced safe lots and temporary parking zones, the City will continue to enforce all existing and applicable laws related to parking throughout Seattle.

The mayor’s emergency order also invokes the authority for expedited siting of the third permitted tent encampment that is allowed under the ordinance approved unanimously by the City Council last year. The new encampment will be located in a neighborhood without an existing encampment or a new permanent safe lot.

Since the declaration of emergency, the City and its partners have opened up nearly 300 new spaces in shelters and authorized encampments, including the Queen Anne Shelter, authorized encampments in Ballard & Interbay, King County Admin building & the so-called Zombie building at 4th and Jefferson. Before the state of emergency, Seattle funded (and continues to fund) 1,600 other shelter beds.

In early January, a new shelter with capacity for 60 women opened in Greenwood. This week, Mary’s Place, which is using a City-owned building in North Seattle, expanded that facility to serve up to 100 women and children. This month, for the first time, a mobile medical van is serving those experiencing homelessness in Seattle.

Since the Mayor declared a homeless state of emergency, the City of Seattle will now invest nearly $50 million in services and shelter to help those experiencing homelessness for 2016. This is the largest annual investment in Seattle’s history.

An analysis of the City’s annual investment in homelessness services can be read HERE.

A summary of the Mayor’s spending proposal when he declared a state of emergency can be found HERE.

Maps of the two safe lots and the three temporary parking zones can be viewed HERE.

Move Seattle begins with Beacon Hill paved trail for students

Thanks to voter-approved funds provided by the Move Seattle levy, today the City of Seattle began construction on its first 2016 Safe Routes to School project at Mercer Middle School.

“Thanks to Seattle voters’ approval of Move Seattle, we will make major investments to maintain our roads and bridges, make our streets safer, and give people new options to move around and through Seattle,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Our Move Seattle investments begin right here, with the groundbreaking of our first Safe Routes to School project of 2016.”

Following through on the levy commitment to complete a Safe Routes project at every public school in the city, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is building a paved, off-street trail to give Beacon Hill schoolchildren a safer place to walk and bike.

Approved by voters in November 2015, the nine-year, $930 million Levy to Move Seattle provides funding for Safe Routes ($207 million), Maintenance and Repair ($420 million) and Congestion Relief ($303 million).

Parallel to the busy 15th Avenue S, the new trail at Mercer Middle School will replace a gravel path and connect the northeast entrance of the school to a pedestrian crossing at South Spokane Street and Lafayette Avenue South. Approximately 2,000 feet long, the 12-foot wide path will be adjacent to Jefferson Park on Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) property and connect two neighborhood greenways. The project is a partnership of the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, SPU and SDOT.

SDOT will construct 12 Safe Routes to School projects this year, encouraging active commuting by schoolchildren and families. The Safe Routes program is part of Vision Zero, the city’s plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Safe Routes projects improve safety for communities by building healthy places where kids can safely walk and bike to school and through their neighborhood.

Thanks to Move Seattle levy funds, SDOT has budgeted $6.7 million for Safe Routes to School projects at the following schools in 2016:

  • Aki Kurose Middle School
  • Arbor Heights Elementary
  • Bailey Gatzert Elementary
  • DF Day Elementary
  • Bryant Elementary
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary
  • Mercer Middle School
  • Montlake Elementary
  • Rainier Beach High School
  • Salmon Bay Elementary
  • Sanislo Elementary
  • South Shore K-8

“Safety, especially for children, is the number one priority for SDOT,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly. “Connecting neighborhood greenways and next to a park, this Move Seattle Levy funded trail will keep our most vulnerable residents safe as they travel daily to and from school.”

A Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) grant is funding education and encouragement aspects of the project. Construction is funded through Seattle’s local funds and the grant, with the total cost of project construction estimated at $955,000.

To learn more about the Safe Routes to School Five Year Action Plan, please visit:  http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/srts/SRTSActionPlan.pdf.

For more information about the Mercer Middle School project, please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/SafeRoutesMercerMiddle.htm