#TeresaTuesdays – Employee Hours Tax, Safe Consumption Sites, Ed Levy, Seattle City Light and Domestic Workers



We Will Work Together to Find New Revenue

My office has heard a lot of concern regarding the Employee Hours Tax (EHT). I have concerns as well, but I cannot back a repeal without a replacement strategy to house and shelter our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

While a vote went forward to repeal the tax, our homelessness and housing affordability crisis continues to worsen. We have people who are dying on the doorsteps of prosperity, and our neighbors and friends worry about being able to afford to live in the City while we have a booming economy.

The debate around the EHT has been a flashpoint in Seattle’s housing crisis. I understand people’s frustrations. This City Council is in the midst of correcting the course set by the previous administration. Our City has taken steps to reform our contracting process and audit our efforts, providing greater transparency to the public on how dollars are spent – I’m also committed to making ourselves more accountable to you. I look forward to considering an array of options to move people from the streets to shelter, be it emergency tents, more tiny houses or temporary enhanced shelters, because right now we don’t have shelter space for the 4,500 people sleeping on the streets in Seattle on any given night. But all of these efforts are a band aid. We cannot warehouse people in shelters forever. We know if we want to permanently move people off the streets, we must provide housing and services. EHT represents a down payment to a better solution.

There’s a lot of conversation about looking at other solutions.  The reality is, we’ve looked at a lot of them. I participated in the countywide ‘regional approach’ through One Table – a group that’s been indefinitely paused. We worked on a payroll tax option and moved away from it at the request of a few large businesses. We also paused revenue efforts last year to create a task force comprised of members of the business community and housing advocates – an effort that was boycotted by several larger corporations. I cannot support repeal of the EHT without a similarly sized progressive revenue option. I am always ready and willing to work collaboratively on solutions that will make a meaningful impact on our homelessness and housing affordability crisis.  Until such a solution presents itself, I will continue to support the need for significant revenue to shelter and house our homeless, and to ensure all our community members have safe places to live, and feel safe in their communities. It’s easy to say no, it’s harder to say yes to a solution.

I do want to acknowledge the many business owners, including small and large businesses, that as civic leaders attempted to balance their business interests with those of the city’s. A critical next step for me will be to hear from those business leaders about how we can address our upside-down tax code while they continue to thrive in our city—we must ensure a future with both of those interests and I want to hear from business leaders who share that vision. While I didn’t join my colleagues and the Mayor in support of repeal without a replacement, I will work with them, along with business and labor, to find a funding replacement. We cannot wait months or until next year for another proposal or process while people are sleeping in our parks and on our streets.

Healing our Public Health Crisis of Addiction

Last week’s Housing, Health, Energy and Workers’ Rights committee brought a great deal of necessary attention to the topic of safe consumption sites, or a Community Health Engagement Location (CHEL).

Special thanks to members of the community who also testified about the need to provide safe health services to those with addiction. Click here to see their testimony. They, too, recognize what the experts had to say about this important public health crisis: safe consumption sites reduce unsafe drug use behaviors, overdose rates and are known to save lives.

In a perfect world, no one would use dangerous or deadly drugs. But the grim reality is that many people do.  With that in mind, a safe consumption site is needed precisely because overdose rates continue to rise and drug use in public spaces is up.

Last year (this time period is unconfirmed, we have an email out to Jeff Sakuma), 2,300 overdoes were reversed in King County. We are looking at various options where medical professionals are present when people are using. With this approach, we can save more lives, and help get people into recovery.

The City has been exploring the idea of a safe consumption site since early last year, based off recommendations by the King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force.

What my committee has been exploring is a timeline, asking how it would work, and the format (meaning brick-and-mortar or a fixed mobile unit).

Council has not reached a decision about safe injection sites that are mobile.  The next steps, as outlined by Jeff Sakuma, Health Integration Strategist for the City, include community engagement, purchase of a vehicle, and siting and development of a fixed site:

  • The City and County are partners in the development of a CHEL inside the city.  Going forward we will consider the shared financial commitment for ongoing operations.
  • City Council appropriated $1.3 million in the 2018 budget for siting the CHEL.  Therefore, the money is available to be used in line with their appropriation.
  • The ongoing operating costs would have to be part of upcoming budget recommendations from the Executive and the approval of City Council.

Again, the City has no plans to buy a van or chose a location without community engagement; and, a timeline is still necessary. It’s my sincere hope that together we can raise greater awareness about drug use and bring it out of the shadows so people we all know and love will live, not die.

Renewing our Commitment to Kiddos

Last week, the co-chairs of the Select Committee released the Council’s draft legislation renewing both the Seattle Education Levy and the Seattle Preschool Levy. In addition, the Mayor’s requested Seattle Promise – providing funding for the first two years of higher education for the first students accepted, regardless of income – is included. This combined levy is now called Families, Education, Preschool & Promise, or FEPP.

Your input will help determine which programs are funded, which are cut, and how much the total ask will be. Submit your comment to council@seattle.gov, or attend Full Council on Monday, when we will consider and take a final vote on sending this package to the ballot in November.

Working to Keep the Lights On!

The Mayor submitted the six-year DRAFT Seattle City Light Strategic Plan for my Select Committee’s review last week. Included is the Mayor’s proposed rate path, including her suggestion for a 5.8% rate increase next year. As Chair of the Select Committee reviewing this plan, I am committed to engaging with the public on what the final Strategic Plan will look like, and the final rate path, to relieve any increase for working families.

The items I am committed to adding to the Strategic Plan include (but are not limited to) workplace harassment and prevention, adequate rate design, and clarity as to how City Light intends to address capital costs. This Thursday, we’ll hear more about the rate path, and continue our work as Council to ensure the final plan meets the utility and customer needs not only for today, but throughout the six years of the Plan.

Attend and give feedback this Thursday, June 14, at 9:30 a.m. in Council Chambers. Our next scheduled meeting is Thursday, June 28, at 2:00 p.m., where we will be discussing the plan and rates further, again with public input.

Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

Next week my office intends to introduce the legislation we’ve been working on with community since day one – the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. We are crafting a set of tools to protect domestic workers and provide clarity to hiring entities on regulations protecting workers. I am excited to continue the work of protecting working people from harassment and abuse, while lifting up wages, expanding benefits, preventing discrimination, and ensuring an ability to retire with dignity is extended to those who care for our kiddos and our homes.

Our next HHEWR Committee meeting – June 21 at 9:30 a.m. – will be the first committee review, and we’ll identify areas for amendment and ways to enhance the work that has been put into this bill. This is on our way to passing the bill out of committee in July, and continuing to ensure that Seattle shows respect for all workers!

 

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