With Shots Fired in Our Parks--Who is Leading?

SEATTLE - On Tuesday, mayoral candidate Mike McGinn delivered remarks at City Hall, expressing concern about a dramatic increase in shots fired in Seattle, including two recent daytime murders at Rainier Playfield, a popular place for local children.

This morning SPD reported on a gun fight in Golden Gardens Park Tuesday night, a popular gathering place on summer nights. One person was injured. Officers found 21 rifle rounds and six .380 rounds in the area.

Shots fired year-to-date in Seattle are 65% higher than in 2013. So far this year, 213 shots have been fired, mostly in South Seattle. McGinn said “When I was in Columbia City Friday, I was asked, ‘why isn’t the city doing anything about it?’”

The press conference followed up on the Monday night’s televised debates, during which candidates debated the merits of the Department of Justice consent decree and whether or not Seattle was becoming safer. McGinn, at the time, mentioned the extended absence of SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole — to the surprise of many other candidates.

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Right now, there are conflicting reports about whether Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, has taken a full-time job in Ireland and whether she is planning to depart. O’Toole, who took on a leadership position with the Irish police in May, told the Seattle Times that the position “in no way lessens my commitment to the Seattle Police Department and the people of Seattle.” However, statements from Irish officials and press have claimed that Chief O’Toole “is finishing up her position in Seattle” to take up the Irish job “on a full-time basis.”

There has also been speculation in the Irish media regarding the fact that “it is not known if the government is footing the full bill for O’Toole’s relocation costs.”

McGinn also expressed concern about the lack of accountability within the Seattle Police Department and a perceived lack of leadership. 

“I’ve learned the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative is being systematically defunded, a program that I worked hard to expand. We also know that public trust in police reform has been shaken by recent events.”

O’Toole earns $250,000 per year and was granted up to $40,000 for relocation fees to come to Seattle in 2014.

McGinn pressed Council and Mayor Ed Murray to assess the needs of the City in considering the future of policing.

“I have two simple and straightforward questions. First, has the chief of police taken a job in Ireland? And if she has, are we ok with the Seattle Chief of Police being a part-time job?”

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KeyArena, Fiscal Responsibility, and the Public Good

I am a supporter of the SODO Arena, and have watched the Key Arena process with great interest. If a good deal at Key can be worked out, I would be for it. But the process so far has raised more questions than answers.

I want to bring the Sonics back to Seattle as much as anyone, but I want to make sure that we do it right.  At a time when homelessness is dramatically on the rise and Seattle increasingly feels like a city built only for the wealthy, we should not enter into any agreements with arena investors at KeyArena that would take money away from taxpayers and expose the City to financial risk.

Today, the City Council received its first briefing on Mayor Ed Murray’s recommendation to pursue negotiations with Oak View Group (OVG) regarding its proposal to renovate KeyArena. I commend the Council for retaining independent experts to analyze OVG’s “financial terms and conditions, municipal financial protections, and [their] expertise and wherewithal to successfully complete the project.” Nevertheless, OVG’s proposal raises serious concerns about the financial risk to Seattle, and that is even before we look at the neighborhood and traffic impacts.

From my review so far, here are the financial issues in the the OVG proposals that deserve scrutiny:

  • The City of Seattle could potentially responsible for cost overruns—we’ve been there before and we know how this uncertainty goes.

  • Unclear and significant debt financing from Goldman Sachs, including unknown contingencies to secure project financing. We must invest in projects we can trust.

  • Additional costs down the line. With this proposal, the City of Seattle would be on the hook for maintenance and other expenses in the future.

  • An uncertain revenue stream. This plan may not pencil out for taxpayers, who are only ensured $1 million fixed annual rent payment minus “development incentive credits.”

  • Numerous tax credits. Tax reform should be one of the paramount concerns of local lawmakers, and the tax credits on admissions taxes, leasehold excise taxes, and parking and parking fees certainly don’t fit with our vision of a more progressive tax structure.

  • Lost parking garage revenue to General Fund. Revenue from two Seattle Center parking garages will be directed to Oak View Group to finance this proposal—according to city documents, these two garages generate about $4 million per year for the General Fund. That’s money that the City needs and could be spent much more wisely.

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What We Can Do Right Now For Tax Fairness

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Washington has the most regressive tax system in the country.  In Seattle, that means a relatively secure family pays 5% of their income in state and local taxes, and a poor family pays 15%. 

Those number are from 2015.  Just last week the state balanced its budget by increasing property taxes in Seattle - the median household will pay $400 more per year. And the county has proposed a sales tax increase.

When I announced, I made it clear that I wanted more equity in our tax and spending policies.  

Today I want to detail for you exactly how we could hold the line on regressive taxes, and get serious about paying for local initiatives by reprioritizing our budget and using more progressive tax options.

My first commitment is to hold the line on regressive taxes.  That means:

  1. No increases in sales taxes by the city of Seattle.

  2. Seattle property taxes would only increase with inflation. Our metric would be the total bill on a median value home, including excess levies. 

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You, Me, Us, Now: Campaign Edition

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Subscribe to You, Me, Us, Now (iTunes link)

Starting a few weeks ago, I relaunched my podcast as a special "Campaign Edition". Hanna Brooks Olsen and I get together to talk about the campaign, how campaigning works and the campaign issues.

So many people ask me "how do you run for office" or "what is it like to run" that I thought a podcast was a great way to explore those questions. And Hanna is a great interviewer and fun to hang out with.

Note, if you were a prior subscriber to You, Me, Us, Now, delete and reload to update the episodes. We thought the switch to a new feed would be seamless, but apparently not! For full episode descriptions and more info, go to mikemcginn.co. 

Give it a listen and I hope you enjoy. 

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Statement on the shooting death of Charleena Lyles

The shooting death of Charleena Lyles is devastating to her children, her family and our community. It is shocking that a call to report a burglary could escalate to her death.

As a city we have been here before. An interaction with a person of color, or someone with mental health issues, leading to death at the hands of the police. Residents of our city rightly demand to know how the encounter could escalate, why the police resorted to deadly force, and what could and should have been done differently to prevent needless death.

And while we can point to the consent decree with the Department of Justice as having made important changes, this shooting brings home that the problem goes far deeper than what a consent decree can accomplish. 

There will be an investigation that we can hope will shed greater light on what exactly happened in Charleena Lyles' apartment. But we also know that process will be ultimately unsatisfactory, and unacceptable for the changes we want to see.

I am going to detail why - not out of cynicism, but because we have to confront the depth of the problem.

The process will be long. The city will investigate use of force, the county will conduct a legal inquest, the prosecutor will decide whether to bring charges, and during all this time the officers will remain on the police force. The contract with the union does not permit officer discipline until those processes are complete. Justice will not move close to the speed with which Charleena Lyles' life ended, if justice ever occurs.

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Municipal broadband--it's time

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For over a decade Seattle has talked about building a municipal broadband network. The time is now.

Owning our own broadband network has multiple benefits. It would support our local economy, connect our residents to opportunity, preserve net neutrality, and save us money. Other cities, and other nations, have seen the benefits of connecting everyone to the internet with reliable high-speed connections and we need to do the same.

The biggest objection so far has been cost - according to a 2015 study constructing a municipal fiber optic broadband network to serve every house in Seattle is projected to cost between $440-660 million dollars.  That would run fiber optic cable down every street, accessible to every household.

But if you only look at the construction cost you miss the bigger picture - which is how much money you save by not having to pay Comcast or CenturyLink for your service.  When you compare the two, you get gigabit speed uploads and downloads and you put money back in your pocket.

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Time to hit pause on KeyArena process--to protect taxpayers and sports fans

Yesterday AEG withdrew its proposal to renovate Key Arena for concerts and for potential NBA and NHL partners. I believe this was a direct consequence of a process being rushed for political purposes. Taxpayers, and NBA and NHL fans deserve better.

Whether you support the SODO Arena, a Key Arena renovation, or none of the above, this news should be concerning. For the record, I support approving the street vacation in SODO, the last step to make that arena shovel-ready.  I have also supported the process for looking at options at Key Arena to determine if new proposals can meet our objectives.

But the Key Arena RFP process appears to be closing off options, not opening up new ones.  AEG claims the process has been rushed, unfair and not transparent. So they are withdrawing their proposal.

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Trump’s withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord does not speak for Seattle

Today, Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords - the long fought for international framework for reducing climate emissions. It is another of his reckless actions dividing us from the international community and threatening our future.

There are ways to fight back.

Seattle should join New York City and other local governments and commit itself to following the Paris Accords. The world needs to hear that Trump does not speak for all Americans. A chorus of forceful statements from cities and states can bolster the resolve of other countries, with the hope that the U.S. will one day rejoin the international community.

But forceful statements are not enough. Seattle can lead by example.

 

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Getting Light Rail Done Faster

Sound Transit can build light rail faster than the current schedule if Seattle commits to finding innovative solutions in partnership with the regional transit agency to expedite permitting and financing of planned projects.

Passing Sound Transit 3 was exciting for Seattle because it promised light rail to Ballard and West Seattle, as well as an infill station at Graham Street. The excitement was tempered however, because ST won’t build the West Seattle line until 2031, the Graham infill station until 2032, or the Ballard line until 2036.  

Light rail lines take a long time under the best of circumstances - planning, permitting and construction generally takes at least ten years, and frequently  longer.

There is potential for delay at every step. With its expansive work plan, ST could prioritize its planning resources for other projects.  Lengthy fights over alignment or permits could also extend planning or permitting well past ST’s goal of 4.3 years.  

But even when permitting is complete, Sound Transit has another issue - it must stage its projects to reflect its cash flow.  ST construction is paid for with borrowing, and ST can only borrow so much at a time. That is how it has paid for past and ongoing construction. As revenues come in to pay down those bonds, ST borrows more to advance the later projects. That sequencing is understandable, but it means that light rail to West Seattle and Ballard will take longer than required by the technical logistics of building a light rail line.

Seattle can potentially help shave years off the timeline if it works to accelerate planning and permitting, and partners with Sound Transit to ease the cash flow crunch.  That means coming to the table with resources that are meaningful enough to make a difference.  

So here is my commitment if elected:

1.  Work with Sound Transit to front load planning for Seattle projects as much as possible. To prevent delaying other regional projects, that probably means Seattle needs to come forward with monetary contributions or other resources. In 2011 we did that to advance joint planning to Ballard, which actually led to Sound Transit advancing its planning regionwide.

2.  Work with Sound Transit to identify how to shorten the permitting process consistent with sound analysis and public input. We need to ensure we don’t end up the way Bellevue did, locked in a long dispute over alignment.  If we do step 1 and 2 right, we can move more quickly with construction if moneys become available from any source.  Recall, this is a multiyear process, and we should not yet give up hope that we might get a transit-friendly President and Congress in the years to come.

3. Work with Sound Transit to understand how much money they would need, and when, in order to significantly advance the timelines to complete Seattle projects. We could then assess Seattle’s ability to either use its borrowing ability to to make bridge loans to Sound Transit, or our ability to help finance some parts of the project.

Let’s be clear, this would be complex and potentially expensive. But given Seattle’s extraordinary transportation issues, we need to examine all possibilities to get light rail to more neighborhoods faster.

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Statement on Community Police Commission legislation

This week, the City Council will consider legislation to define the authority of the Community Police Commission (CPC) and make it permanent. In the words of reform advocates on the Commission, it’s a defining moment.

I know from my experience as Mayor the degree to which institutions can resist change and bog down reforms in bureaucratic inertia. I also know the role that politics can play, and the desire of elected officials to hide problems so that the people in charge can look better.

That is why I support the strongest possible community oversight and urge the council to pass the amendments recommended by the Community Police Commission. I also urge other candidates for Mayor to support the CPC recommendations before the Council votes May 22.

Community oversight is so important - it can hold all of us to our ideals for a police force.  One that is effective, free of bias and excessive use of force, and trusted by the community.  

I worked to create the Community Police Commission when I was mayor, as part of the settlement agreement and consent decree with the Department of Justice.

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