1. City council member Sally Clark says the council plans to send a letter to the Seattle Housing Authority echoing many of the same concerns Mayor Ed Murray expressed last month about SHA's proposed "Stepping Forward" program, which would mirror the Clinton-era "Welfare Reform" efforts to nudge people with the ability to work off government assistance.
Stepping Forward would end SHA's longstanding policy of limiting rents to no more than 30 percent of a tenant's monthly income; for example, if a tenant makes $999 a month, she would pay no more than $333 a month. Under the new policy, all residents SHA deems "work-able"—including the single mothers and people with limited or nonexistent English skills—will see their rent go up every year, whether they manage to get a job (and pay for childcare and transportation) or not. In exchange, they'll get job training and access to social services.
Clark says council members' concerns are "basically around, how do you identify people who are 'work-able'? What happens if somebody is doing everything they’re supposed to be doing, but ... they lose their job?
"Where people get edgy is [when they realize], 'My rent is going to go up whether or not I advanced'" or got a job, Clark says. "How does that work?"
"What happens if somebody is doing everything they’re supposed to be doing, but ... they lose their job?"—Sally Clark on SHA's "Stepping Forward" program.
In early August, Murray sent SHA director Andrew Lofton a letter saying he "cannot support the changes contemplated in the Stepping Forward proposal," noting its disparate impact on women and immigrants, and questioning whether there are enough workforce training programs in the city to prepare SHA's "work-able" residents for living-wage jobs.
Four members of the SHA board are up for reappointment this year; SHA, meanwhile, is not expected to make a final decision on whether to move ahead with the controversial Stepping Forward plan until next year.
2. Underdog U.S. congressional candidate Republican Pedro Celis, the former Microsoft executive who's challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. (and former Microsoft executive) Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1), took to Twitter yesterday to raise money. Celis, who squeaked through August's top-two primary, barely besting a Tea Party unknown, blasted out a barrage of robot-like tweets at individual Twitter accounts yesterday. Celis tweeted out two pitches—"Keeping the American Dream alive requires leaders who have lived it. Vote Pedro Celis" (a reference to his status as a Mexican immigrant) and "Donate today to salute our military properly" (a reference to Democratic President Obama's escalating bombing against ISIS?).
The bot blitz may not be the most efficient way to raise money: A spot check of Celis' seemingly random tweet parade, which links back to his fundraising page, shows that he was messaging a "Radical progressive on politics, climate, environment, gender, feminism, race, oligarchy, econ" from Vashon Island (U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott's district, not Rep. DelBene's) and a "Writer, Reader, English Lit Major, Feminist, Fashionista, Foodie" who retweets progressive U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and lefty mag Mother Jones with '70s feminist icons Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis as her profile pic. (And this Elizabeth Warren fan is from Bellingham, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen's district, not DelBene's.)
We have a message in to Celis' campaign. UPDATE: Celis spokesman Gray Delany tells us simply: "This is part of our fundraising strategy."
Rep. DelBene has raised $1.7 million with $1.2 million cash on hand and Celis has raised $430,000 with $240,000 cash on hand, according to the most recent fundraising reports filed in mid -July.
3. The competing preschool measures, Prop. 1A (an unfuded union measure to mandate teacher training and pay) and Prop. 1B (a funded city measure to pay for preschool slots), faced off in a Town Hall debate last night starring Prop. 1A advocate Heather Weiner and Prop. 1B advocate and City Council member Tim Burgess.
Polled by Seattle Channel before the hour-plus debate, 18 percent of online viewers said they supported Prop 1A while nine percent said they supported Prop 1B, with, no surprise, a big chunk of undecideds on the confusing measures; voters can only choose one measure over the other in November, meaning only one will win. (Follow our coverage of the competing measures here.) After the debate, Seattle Channel found a shift toward the city measure: 53 percent supported the Prop 1B, the city's plan, and 27 percent supported Prop 1A, the union proposal.
4. Smart Growth Seattle, the developer-backed group that filed an appeal with the city to slow down or halt a proposal that would roll back height and density in the city's low-rise multifamily zones, got its day in court—or at least the city hearing examiner's office—yesterday.
The hearing examiner heard testimony on both sides of Smart Growth Seattle's appeal, which alleges that the city's "determination of non-significance" under the State Environmental Policy Act, which states that changing city zoning rules to make it harder to build developments as tall as five stories in certain low-rise zones will not have any impact on the environment. Testimony will continue on Friday.
Smart Growth Seattle argued that the new rules will preclude the development of a potential 6,000 units of new housing, leading those would-be residents to move into the suburbs and leading to both traffic and adverse environmental impacts. Its opponents, including neighborhood activists, argue that buildings in Low-Rise 3 zones should be limited to three stories to preserve neighborhood "character" and prevent overcrowding and parking problems in their neighborhoods.
If the group wins, it could push back the potential legislation (which has been drafted by the Department of Planning and Development but not yet sent down to the council) for months, potentially prompting the council and mayor to consider a compromise. If the city wins, it would pave the way for new regulations that could prevent five-story buildings and limit the residential density of new developments in low-rise areas.