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Sawant Redux

Our third district councilmember, Kshama Sawant, attended our September meeting using her outside voice! One might have thought we had gone to a Westlake rally instead of our monthly meeting in the small solarium at the Senior Center. She did not answer our submitted questions, but did make it clear that she felt that property owners were taxed to the max, especially our seniors who will find it hard to stay in their homes and keep up with property taxes. She sees affordable housing as our number one problem; 30% of income should be the maximum one pays for shelter. She talked about Washington’s regressive tax system, which unfairly burdens property owners. She did mention that Bernie Sanders is sponsoring a bill that would require that employers pay for the public services that their employees qualify for due to low wages.

As for questions, she and her assistant, Ted Virdone (policy analyst), did take down all our questions, most of which were local.

There was a question about getting corporate heads together to discuss possible solutions to this housing problem; apparently, County Executive Dow Constantine did this and there was acknowledgment of the problem and how much might be needed to solve it, but no money was attached to the group’s report! She mentioned that we could contact our County Council representative and ask that they vote to give money to housing needs rather than stadium repair.

Sawant gave an example of housing that could help: social housing as exists in Vienna is publicly owned and rent controlled. LCC President Janice Brown mentioned a similar development in southern California where the condominiums cannot be sold at more than a small percent over original price, rather than market price, thus perpetuating the lower purchase price originally offered.

Ted Virdone (Sawant’s policy analyst) has gotten back to us with some answers on our local questions. Our questions are in bold print and their answers are in regular print.


Met Park District: I think this was passed so they would have enough money to take care of business, but we see LESS maintenance in our parks! There is no citizen oversight; city council is supposed to provide oversight but is it? Perhaps our concerns could be passed onto Debra Juarez and the Mayor from Sawant’s office. Maybe other districts are hearing the same issues. Sawant’s office could at least bring up these concerns when they ever do come to the council. I suspect the extra funds have padded some upper admin salaries but it’s all so secret, how can one know? The entire City budget is far more opaque than it should be. When Council votes on the City and MPD budget, there is very little detail of exactly how that money will be spent. For example, the 2018 budget has the following detail about park maintenance that is accessible to Council and the public. I am providing it in full to demonstrate how only limited information is often included:

The Department of Parks and Recreation, under the direction of the Mayor then decides how to spend that nearly $40 million. Seattle has a substantial amount of parkland, and we are sure that much of that money is well spent. However, the funding is not adequate, and there are equity issues in terms of distribution of parkland.

And as you point out, executive salaries are unnecessarily high, and regular people should have more access to how priorities are set for what park maintenance is most needed. Through the People’s Budget movement, my office has pointed out repeatedly that City executive salaries should be capped at a reasonable level. In fact, virtually every year, my office has tried to bring such a proposal forward from the People’s Budget, but no other Councilmember has supported the proposal to date.

Next Monday, the Mayor will unveil her proposed budget for 2019. On October 6, my office, along with other activists and organizations, will hold the People’s Budget 2019 Conference. We will organize the grassroots movement to try to win funding from the political establishment for programs for which regular people care. I would urge that community members who are concerned about how parks funding is distributed join us in the People’s Budget movement.

Tree problem: Parks and SDOT do not maintain their trees on undeveloped land owned by them but the cost falls on the homeowner where the tree falls. Seeing we are not allowed to maintain trees on steep slopes, it seems unfair to be responsible for the ultimate bill when the tree fails. We posed this question to the Parks Department. They sent the following reply:

“Generally, an adjoining property owner is responsible for maintaining access on a sidewalk or other pedestrian path. However, there are certainly many situations where we’ll remove a tree that’s blocking a critical pedestrian pathway and sort out responsibility later.

Really, the best thing a constituent can do is not worry about which department is responsible but instead go right to the City’s Customer Service Bureau. A City resident can submit a request by phone 206.684.CITY (2489), or through an on-line form, or the Find-it Fix-it App. What’s great about these tools is that every request gets a case number and, therefore, can easily be tracked through to its resolution. And, again, the constituent doesn’t have to worry about which department is responsible.”

Marina problems: do we have any say here now that it is supposed to be managed by a private owner (Marina Management). They say they won’t start repairs until the city installs the new breakwater at the South Marina but what is the status for this? Can you find this out? I do not yet know the status of the new breakwater, but will let you know when my office has more information. You are right to be concerned about the lack of democratic oversight into the marina management, now that the city has signed away those powers to a private company.

Resident bike rider complained about the separated bike lanes. We overwhelmingly hear from bike riders who want more separated or dedicated bike lanes, because they have seen fatal bike accidents in the roads. As you say, Leschi resident did not agree with separated bike lanes, and said he personally prefers to bike in the roads.

Public Bank: when will it come off the “study table”? It seems like that is where ideas go to die! We have Bob Hasagawa coming to our October meeting to speak about this. I’ll let you know when I hear news about this. You are right to continue demanding action on it.

1st Ave. Streetcar: is it stopped was the question. I guess that is in the Mayor’s in-basket. The Mayor decides this.

~Diane Snell

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