1. Mayor Ed Murray’s neighborhood department director Kathy Nyland will be on the short list the next time we do a list of top change agents at city hall. The former head of Georgetown’s district community council who became city council member Sally Bagshaw’s lead policy staffer and then a Murray policy staffer before taking on her current director gig at DON just a year ago, is the driving force behind a major policy shift that Murray is set to announce today.
In a Nixon-in-China move, the former Georgetown community council director (2006-2012), has orchestrated Murray’s new policy to replace the longtime district council system (in place since 1987) with something Murray is calling the Community Involvement Commission.
Testifying in front of the city council last month where, presenting data that showed a discrepancy between who’s on the city’s 13 community councils (older, white, homeowners) versus who lives in the city (median age 36, majority renters, and a 34 percent nonwhite population), Nyland said the community councils represented a “narrow niche,” and concluded, “they don’t work for everyone [and] it’s unclear that the existing district council system is sufficiently flexible to meaningfully serve as a voice for all Seattle residents.”
Murray’s proposal is likely to retool the Department of Neighborhoods's approach to community outreach so that community input into city policy is driven by a more inclusive formula than the current model where district councils are the default voice on neighborhood policy.
For example, the city currently spends $1.2 million on 11 DON staffers—neighborhood district coordinators—who mainly “serve as a community liaison and resource to the district councils,” DON’s critical memo noted in June.
In an email yesterday sent to a couple of DON colleagues, Nyland cheered Murray’s pending announcement as she continued to press the point: “As you know, we have been working on more equitable approaches to outreach and engagement. Currently we have systems in place that are actual obstacles and prevent many from participating. We are looking at new ways that are more inclusive in nature. New day. New DON!”
There may be a backlash against the proposal. Longtime neighborhood leader Chris Leman sent out an email to his list yesterday titled: "Mayor to propose tomorrow (Wednesday) to eliminate the district councils and their City Neighborhood Council (official advisory bodies). Will the City Council agree?"
He included all the council members' email addresses.
2. While Seattle’s ban on plastic bags, which the city council passed in 2011, appears to be working—there’s been a 50 percent reduction in plastic bags found in residential garbage between 2010 and 2014 (even as the city’s population grew 10 percent during that time) and an immediate 78 percent reduction of plastic bags in waste streams after just one year of the ban—there’s some discouraging news.
According to a July memo from Seattle Public Utilities Director Ray Hoffman, 40 percent of convenience stores are “non-compliant” (meaning they still use plastic bags) and 50 percent of grocery stores are non-compliant.
However, the SPU memo does note that there “is almost full compliance” by large grocery stores and large drug stores—and those stores were responsible for 70 percent of plastic bags before the ban took effect.
3. The Sound Transit 3 campaign, this fall’s $50 billion ballot measure to expand light rail within Seattle from Ballard to Downtown and from West Seattle to Downtown, as well as north to Everett, east to Redmond, Kirkland, and Issaquah, and south to Tacoma, is getting big support from business.
In addition to a $50,000 contribution from Microsoft in late May and a $50,000 contribution from Costco in early June, both companies have made recent pledges of another $250,000 from Microsoft and another $50,000 from Costco. Other big new pledges: $50,000 from Alaska Airlines, $100,000 from Expedia (their new Seattle location will be on the Ballard to Downtown corridor), and $100,000 from Vulcan.
Plenty of big bucks are coming in from engineering firms who are working with ST on light rail and stand to profit from the $50 billion project. Engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff is already in for $12,000 with another $50,000 pledged and engineering firm CMH2 Hill is already in for $20,000 with another $40,000 pledged.
Of course, as state senator Reuven Carlyle has pointed out, while the business community seems a-okay with the taxes—a .5 percent sales tax and a brand new .25 cents property tax (a sales tax is already in place for ST1 and ST2)—they were not supportive of using a specific business tax to help pay for light rail.
4. Seattle city council member Tim Burgess’s longtime lead staffer Nate Van Duzer—he’s been with Burgess since 2009— is leaving city hall to take a job at the Seattle school district as the director of policy and board relations.
5. The city council is appointing former city council candidate Tammy Morales to the city’s Human Rights Commission.
Morales, mostly known as an advocate for equitable urban food systems (she founded Urban Food Link), lost to veteran council member Bruce Harrell in Southeast Seattle’s District Two race by just 344 votes, 50.79 to 48.96, last year.
As the council’s appointment recommendation notes, Morales has also worked in Southeast Seattle on access to affordable housing, police accountability, and is the board vice chair of the Rainier Valley Community Clinic, a perinatal care group in Rainier Valley.