Every Friday, mayor Ed Murray's office sends out a sanguine "This Week in the Mayor's Office" email.
We've decided to annotate it.
•Murray's lead item this week hails his gender-identity conscious legislation, unanimously passed by the council, requiring all single-stall bathrooms in the city to be gender neutral. We'd give the mayor an A-plus on this one—it's a twenty-first century update like Target getting rid of pink and blue designations in the toy aisles—but Murray's simultaneous crackdown on hookah lounges (see Josh Kelety's excellent coverage) seriously degrades any civil rights props for the mayor this week.
And the juxtaposition—LGBT rights from the gay mayor versus cracking down on immigrant businesses—is hard to ignore.
•Next up, Murray's office hypes his legislation, also approved by council this week, to sell city owned land to a developer, Stream Real Estate. Stream is going to make all 140 units on the International District parcel affordable (at 80 percent of the median income.) Bonus (or a "win-win" as the city's office of housing director Steve Walker put it): The $1.4 million in city proceeds are going into the city's affordable housing fund.
We were snarky about the deal in Fizz earlier this week noting the "win-win" for liberal Seattle, getting its affordable housing in downtown and not in its single family neighborhoods, which Murray is evidently scared to touch. But 140 units is certainly 140 units.
Not in the mayor's write up about affordable housing, though, is some other news from Murray's shop this week: Chris Gregorich, Murray's longtime chief of staff right up through last month's HALA gaffe, was suddenly moved over to special projects.
•OK. No snark on this one: Murray unveiled a Pedestrian Chronicles dream policy: Pike Street on Capitol Hill (there among the rainbow crosswalks...okay, sorry, a little snark) will be car free on Saturday nights during August. Long overdue and totally awesome—and it should be this way year round.
•Finally, the mayor flags $250,000 from the city's Duwamish River Opportunity Fund that he's divvying up to 13 community projects—everything from community farming funds in Georgetown to business improvement dollars for the South Park Retail Merchants Association to bike safety dollars to job training money.
Solid citizen stuff. But James Rasmussen, the director of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, a nonprofit created in conjunction with the superfund cleanup to act as a community-based third party, expressed disappointment in the final outcome. Rasmussen, whose group was an adviser on the opportunity fund, says the initial plan was to "build ground up community consensus" on the most important projects and needs. Rasmussen says his group, whose bylaws prevent them from taking money from the city, was busy doing that grassroots work when the city short circuited the strategy by going with a generic Department of Neighborhoods RFP (Request for Proposal) process.
"Instead of a community process," Rasmussen says, "it was an open call" that ended up bringing in too many projects. The resulting peanut butter effect of spreading out money to everybody, Rasmussen says, dramatically cut funding for community priority projects. Specifically, Rasmussen, who points out that 40 percent of South Park is Latino, says the South Park Latino Merchants Association saw its funding go from $50,000 to about $10,000. The Duwamish Tribes food program was hit too.