1) Crime is down in the city, but we’ve seen some horrible incidents with the police in recent years. How do we ensure public safety and not have those sorts of things happen in the future?
In many categories rates of crime are down in Seattle. However, that didn’t make my neighbors around Graham Hill School feel any better last spring when there were more than a dozen home break-ins in the area. It also didn’t matter to the families when the young pregnant woman was shot and killed in south Rainier Beach in the spring. It hasn’t mattered to any of the Pioneer Square or Belltown people I’ve spoken with who are angry and frustrated by on-going street dealing and violence.
We make progress by staying focused on the places we know experience trouble, policing them consistently, engaging the surrounding community to build stronger families and institutions, and connecting people with options that change lives, like Community Court, Drug Court and Mental Health Court.
We’ve all seen too many cell phone-captured incidents on television of incidents we don’t associate with the vast, vast majority of officers who do a great job. Fundamentally, there’s no place for abuse by any public servant. We avoid incidents like the few we’ve seen by investing in great recruitment (for problem solvers from all parts of our community), training and supervision, and, when necessary, in clear discipline. In the wake of the John T. Williams tragedy I joined with the other members of the Council’s Public Safety Committee to put forward a set of 11 recommendations to the Chief of Police and the Mayor. The recommendations touch on investigation procedures, department transparency, supervisory expectations, hiring and training. While a handful of the recommendations will require contract negotiations, many can be executed immediately by the Chief of Police and Mayor. Some require further vetting with communities of color and officers. Diversity and sensitivity training are a constant process. I don’t believe that work is ever done.
2) Now that the Viaduct is coming down, what should the waterfront look like?
Whether rain or shine, Seattle’s Central Waterfront will be a place we want to visit to see the water, perhaps touch the water, take visitors, go jogging, walk the dog, sit on the grass, catch a concert, watch a street performer. As we walk, wheel or ride from north to south we’ll move through zones with different character or activities depending upon how the seawall is rebuilt in that section and on how much right-of- way is recaptured when the Viaduct comes down. The reclaimed area will be well- maintained and programmed through a successful partnership between public and private (both for-profit and foundation) funders. Surface transportation will effectively move people and goods, but also be minimal in its physical spread. The Waterfront will be an awesome place to experience the every-day beauty of our city’s surroundings, all watched over by the Olympics and Seattle’s own skyline.
3) As the great recession drags on, the city budget is still hurt. What do we need to cut, what do we need to keep, and do we need to raise more money via taxation?
The challenge during this very, very, very slow economic recovery is to protect the core services required of local government (police, fire, clean water and mobility infrastructure to name a few) without hampering our future success in areas not considered core services but which enable us to be a great place to make a life (affordable housing, human services, community-building and urban planning to name a few).
My top General Fund budget priorities are public safety (patrol officers and firefighters), survival services for low-income and at-risk people in our city, and protecting areas where our spending leverages other dollars and shows measurable outcomes. The Neighborhood Matching Fund is an example of the latter. NMF is the catalyst and boost that produces not just hardscape projects all over our city, but yields a stronger, more resilient community as a result of neighborhood partnerships.
As the economy recovers to the point where we see additional revenue, I am committed to returning to the SPD hiring plan abandoned with the economic downturn. I believe we need to be hiring to both replace retiring officers and to increase the overall number of officers on patrol. I would also like to invest new dollars into more effective shelter programs, ones that provide 24-hour shelter, better meet the needs of people currently sleeping outdoors, and ones that show positive results moving people into housing.
We need to cut or restructure efforts that don’t yield measurable results. This is easier said than done. We have a great deal of recently compiled information on both general crime prevention efforts and youth violence prevention efforts. The efforts under way, involving millions of dollars, serve community needs. They involve great community volunteers and city staff, and they serve constituencies. However, not all the efforts underway can demonstrate through outcomes that they move the needle in a positive direction when it comes to crime.
Note: In this answer I’m addressing the city’s core budget. I favor other infrastructure investments (street care connections and extensions, better street infrastructure, a great waterfront) but these are topics being discussed in relation to supplemental revenue sources.
4) With its budget shrunk at least until the end of the recession what should Seattle parks look like?
The City of Seattle enjoys a Department of Parks & Recreation that runs the spread from natural open spaces (East Duwamish Greenbelt, for instance) to heavily-scheduled recreation fields (Woodland Park, Delridge and Dahl, for instance), tiny skate dots up to recreation and teen life complexes (Garfield, for instance). We serve thousands of people, some of whom have deep pockets some of whom don’t know where they’ll find their next meal. Parks and parks facilities and beloved and the classic government service – a community “good” not expected to make a profit. The problem is we can’t continue running the system at the subsidy levels we have now. DPR has been hit hard in the past couple of budget cycles. We’ve cut budgets, raised fees and demanded more revenue be generated out of community centers and boating facilities. While DPR receives a charter-mandated level of minimum funding that level is nowhere near the cost of running the system we have now. Additionally, you can find plenty of people who believe we short-change ourselves via less-than-regular maintenance of our active park spaces. We can raise fees only so far before we lose the ability to attract the kids and adults our ballfields, courts and community centers should serve.
City parks should be beautiful and well maintained. Community center activities should be diverse in content, co-determined with the community, and accessible to anyone regardless of income. Facilities should be spread through the city with regard to great transit, proximity to density and with regard to social equity. The city should continue to partner with the Associated Recreation Council to run programming and should be more aggressive about finding other programming partners; groups that can fill our community centers, pools, fields and courts during the days and evenings to generate some additional earned income. We should also work closely with ARC, the Parks Foundation and others on additional ways to under-write the costs incurred when low-income kids sign up for swimming, the computer lab, tennis, rowing, etc. Perhaps an endowment to under-write partial costs for kids who fall under a defined family income threshold.
5) What is Seattle’s role in education and public transportation given how important they are to the city, but that other agencies are tasked with them?
High quality public schools and safe, efficient, comfortable transit are key if we are to be successful in our urban development goals. While City government directly controls neither of these areas we can and do play a significant role in shaping the success of both systems in Seattle. With both education and transportation Seattle’s opportunities can be found in setting clear expectations, demanding accountability, and furthering our goals through partnership.
In terms of expectations, I have been a part of ongoing work with the Seattle Scholl Board about our mutual interest in high performing neighborhood schools. We have a long way to go in the south half of the city, but I have lead conversations in Rainier Beach and other neighborhoods about what we want from our neighborhood schools. With regard to Metro, we have a transit plan (currently be revised) that sets a course for “frequent” transit headways of 10 minutes. The Transit Master Plan serves as a clear statement of expectations for a transit plan in the city (involving both Metro and Sound Transit) that supports our city and regional growth goals.
With regard to demanding accountability, I am using the commitment to neighborhood schools, the school “report cards,” and school visits as a way to track progress on improvement. We’re also using the outcome requirements attached to funding from the Families & Education Levy as a way to produce accountability. In the transit realm, the city has flexed accountability muscles after snowstorm shutdowns and, in less crisis fueled times, in determining where Rapid Ride routes should run. I’ll put in a plug for a colleague – Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. Tom has done a terrific job building relationships and trust with electeds from other cities and King County on the Regional Transit Committee and the Transit Task Force. Through this work we have built a new agreement regarding Metro service allocations with better outcomes (at least theoretically) for Seattle.
Partnership plays out on an every-day level and through special efforts like the Families & Education Levy renewal proposal before voters this fall, Transit Now (passed by voters in 2006) and the maintenance and mobility car tabs proposal slated for this fall. These are supplemental dollars earmarked for specific objectives via the schools or Metro. The funding helps Seattle Public Schools and Metro with system objectives and ensures Seattle gets specific services and outcomes important to our goals. On a regular basis I work in partnership with Seattle Public Schools on facilities and neighborhood development issues that come up related to the Council’s Committee on the Built Environment, the committee I chair. I look for opportunities to make facilities changes logical and predictable for the school system and the community, and I look for opportunities to weave school system planning into our work planning for new development in urban villages.