Thank you so much for helping make 2014 such a powerful year. It is no secret how much I love this city and my job, and I am proud of the work and accomplishments we are achieving together. It is an enormous privilege to represent you on City Council.
I would like to share with you some highlights that put Seattle in the national vanguard in 2014. Here are some of my office’s efforts for which I am most grateful this year. They are a great start and we will build on them in 2015:
The Seattle Park District
This August, Seattle voters approved the creation of the Seattle Park District which will provide a stable, dedicated funding source for our beloved Parks, athletic fields, and community centers. Our 6000+ acres of parks and open spaces face a $267 million major maintenance backlog; and due to serious funding limitations through the recession we had to significantly reduce the hours that our beloved 26 community centers are open. Our new Parks funding will help us fill that backlog and move our Parks toward sustainable funding and operation.
It was an honor to work with so many dedicated advocates who spent the past two years working to protect and promote our parks city wide. Now our parks, playgrounds, and community centers will be cleaner, safer, and more accessible. The Seattle Park District is just beginning its important work; the Community Oversight Committee selection process is underway, and we will welcome a new Parks Superintendent this year. Thank you for letting me know of your interests and how you would like to be further involved in your neighborhood going forward.
Civil and Safe Downtown
Throughout this past year, I worked hard to make sure we have adequate services and support for those who are experiencing homelessness in our city. My goal is to take care of people first by creating safe spaces and housing for those on our streets, thereby assuring Downtown is a place that everyone enjoys.
During this year’s Budget, I focused on some important projects to make our Downtown a cleaner, safer place for everyone. For example, we added funding for hygiene services at locations like the Urban Rest Stop, and I requested that the City’s Human Services Department promote a program I initiated last year to install lockers in public spaces. Lockers will provide clean and dry spaces for people who are homeless to leave their belongings while looking for places to live or work. I have also worked closely with business leaders, human service providers and our police to coordinate our efforts and resources.
I am proud of these steps but recognize there is much more to be done. I have been in conversation with faith leaders from across our region to discuss how the city might assist them in hosting homeless men and women at their churches. Working with the Mayor’s Office, I have also proposed contracting with experienced service providers to coordinate temporary shelter and case management in some of the City’s buildings, including community centers.
Homelessness affects all of us, and there is a clear need for coordination within King County and statewide to create more housing for those in need. If we are to become the city we wish to be, a city that prioritizes the safety and well-being of all of its residents, we must invest intelligently and compassionately and focus our shelter and housing investments to help people move up and on with their lives.
Reducing Congestion and Increasing Transit, Improving our Transportation Infrastructure
Seattle voters did it again – we said YES to paying for additional transit in our City even though our King County neighbors rejected a tax increase. This is a great step to reduce congestion in Seattle; and working with Metro and with SDOT, the goal as to increase trips on nearly 50 routes within our city.
My focus in 2015 is to reduce congestion on our streets so people and goods can move throughout the city more efficiently and with less frustration. This will require all of us to use our streets differently: take a bus, streetcar or light rail when we can, carpool when possible, walk or ride a bike on a safe street, or drive at a time when roads are less crowded.
I’ve been told if each of us changes our single-occupant habit a mere 10% of the time, the through-put on our existing streets and highways will improve significantly. That’s a change we can make as individuals. Taking a macro-view, improving our transportation network requires the State legislature to pass legislation this year to improve our roads, bridges, and signals. I look forward to working again with Rep. Judy Clibborn and Sen. Curtis King to finally pass an effective state-wide package to fund our transportation infrastructure.
Seattle expects thousands of new residents to move into our city every year over the next two decades. Like many big cities including San Francisco, Boston, and New York, we do not have sufficient affordable housing stock to accommodate those who want to move here. Our goal is to increase the supply of housing starting in 2015, while promoting thriving and revitalized neighborhoods for the long term.
Based on data from the City’s Office of Housing, the City needs to build, convert, or otherwise add at least 50,000 net new units of affordable housing over the next two decades. We need to increase our supply of housing by over 2000 units annually to meet the needs of people who want to live and work in our community.
The Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) and the Housing and Family Levies are tools the city has effectively used to build affordable and low income housing. Although they have been useful, MFTE and the Housing Levy together have provided an average of only 650 units annually, a far cry from the 2000 units we need. We need to expand these programs that are working and add tools and incentives if we are to make significant progress toward our goals. Stay tuned; additional solutions will be identified in 2015 and we will get to work, fairly.
Universal Preschool, Families, and Public Safety
We will establish a program of Universal Pre-K in our city, thanks again to Seattle taxpayers and to Council President Tim Burgess. Giving a child a good start in school is one of the most important things we can do for the child, the family, and our community at large. Providing a high quality education to the children in our city helps address social equity issues at the roots.
A child who has an opportunity to enjoy a high quality pre-k experience is more likely to start kindergarten with confidence. The child will learn to read along with her peers; that in turn help the child “read to learn.” We know that a child whose self-esteem is growing during middle school will do better in school, stay in school, and ultimately graduate from high school with relevant job skills or college readiness tools. As former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr says, the most important things we can do to create safe communities is to help parents have and keep a good-paying job, assure the family has health care, and support their children be ready for and stay in school. It all makes sense, and it’s all interconnected.
Greenways and Accessible Streets for All
An exciting development for me this year? I transitioned to an electric-assist bicycle! You may have spotted me riding up and down Second Avenue, or zipping up and down our steep hills (passing young lads on the way thanks to a little extra battery power). I feel safer riding my bicycle around town because of smart investments in bicycling infrastructure and in our Neighborhood Greenways.
This fall we celebrated SDOT’s installation of the 2nd Avenue Cycle-track and the kick-off of a brand new transit agency – Pronto Cycle Share! I am also pleased that Sunday Parkways have been funded in the 2015 budget and that city agencies will have the resources to create safe and fun routes between neighborhoods and parks. I’m pedaling forward into 2015 to continue to make our streets accessible for all!
My best to you and your family. I greatly appreciate your staying in touch with me, and hope 2015 is your best year yet.