Our 2017 city hall wish list


Reprinted from our Outside City Hall December 2016 column included in City Living and other Pacific Publishing News – by Carolee Colter and John V. Fox

It’s the season for gift giving, resolutions, and new year’s wishes. Here’s our political wish list for 2017–presents we’d like to see under the tree for every Seattle resident.

Police accountability

In wrapping up the Justice Department’s current review of city policing practices, the federal monitor will require the city to create a citizen police accountability review board with subpoena power and full authority to review complaints of misconduct and impose penalties against officers as warranted. The year will pass without a single police shooting of an innocent civilian or injury of police officers in the line of duty. The Mayor and City Council will pass a resolution crediting Black Lives Matter for creating awareness that even here in liberal Seattle, the criminal justice system is infused with institutional and individual forms of racism that are combated not by holding one more sensitivity training, or largely symbolic evaluations of city actions “through a racial justice lens”, but via real legislation that holds police accountable and fundamentally reforms that system.

Real help for drug addicts

Towards the end of criminal justice reform, the city will break new ground in the fight against drug addiction by opening the nation’s first drop-in medical facility where seriously addicted users can inject legally without fear of jail and where there is immediate access to treatment, counselling, and a real possibility of housing. The use of highly addictive drugs like meth and heroin will be decriminalized, greatly reducing what taxpayers now spend on incarceration–and freeing up funds to expand treatment and housing for the seriously addicted.

Moratorium in the UDistrict

Council will put an indefinite hold on the plan for highrises in the UDistrict. Councilmembers will acknowledge the area now is ‘overzoned’ and has twice the residential zoned capacity and three times the job capacity needed to accommodate expected growth through 2035. Instead Council will task city government with developing a plan to properly manage the runaway growth already occurring in the UDistrict under current zoning. And in recognition of the 1500 low-cost housing units in the District now at risk of demolition and redevelopment, Council will pass a moratorium on all new development that  requires removal of these units.Preservation

Council will approve a sweeping tree preservation ordinance that will for the first time truly protect ‘heritage’ and older growth trees on private, not just public, land. Moreover, the city will take seriously its obligation to preserve what’s left of historic privately owned buildings now being torn down for new development. Council will approve a new moratorium on removal of these buildings and then inventory and “landmark” them under local state and federal law, thus saving much of this city’s rich historic character.

Developer impact fees

Then there’s the gift we’d take back to the “exchange” department—the HALA “Grand Bargain.” The Mayor and Council will acknowledge the mistake of trading away the livability and affordability of our neighborhoods for a handful of so-called “affordable” units (most priced well above what low-income working people can afford). Instead they’ll approve citywide impact fees requiring developers to cover the cost of adding transportation infrastructure, schools, and parks demanded by their new projects. Further, Council will endorse a “no net loss” housing policy and approve legislation requiring developers to replace one-for-one any low-cost units they remove.

Modest renovation of North End cop shop

Another of last year’s gifts we’d exchange: Council will come to its senses and cancel plans for a new $160 million police station in the North End. Instead a modest sum will be spent to improve the current facility, freeing up millions for additional homeless shelter and social services.

Buses, not streetcars

Yet another exchange: Council will rethink its wasteful plan to expand a streetcar system in downtown and redirect $45 million already committed to this $150 million dollar albatross for improved bus service in low-income neighborhoods–a truly effective mass transit solution, not a bauble serving downtown real estate interests.

Funding for housing the homeless

Council will approve an ordinance creating a “growth increment account’ dedicating 50 percent of any future excess tax revenues due to growth, to housing the homeless, especially families with kids. These funds and $20 million from the housing levy will be set aside to assist nonprofits seeking to acquire privately owned apartments put up for sale under the city’s new right-of-first-notice law so they can be turned into limited equity cooperatives, giving renters real control for the first time over the housing they live in.

A viable progressive candidate for Mayor will surface, one with name familiarity and capacity to raise campaign funds to mount an effective challenge to our well-heeled Mayor (who’s already accumulated a re-election war-chest of over $300,000 from developers.) This candidate will forcefully oppose the Mayor’s gung-ho HALA plan to upzone every inch of Seattle. And a true progressive will run for the “at-large” City Council seat now held by Tim Burgess. Failing to recognize how their pro-developer anti-neighborhood biases have eroded their electoral base, both incumbents will be soundly defeated.

Are we asking too much of Santa? We can always dream.


About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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