Topic: City of Seattle
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February 19, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Key to the arena lawsuit filed by the longshore workers union is the argument that the Memorandum of Understanding reached in October with investor Chris Hansen, Seattle and King County commits the government to a Sodo location in violation of state environmental laws. The agreement names the Sodo site, where Hansen owns land, and creates “irreversible momentum” to develop a $500 million arena there before required evaluations of alternate sites and environmental impacts are known, according to lawyers for Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
The union’s legal brief for the lawsuit, opens with a powerful quote by County Executive Dow Constantine from an Oct. 16 news conference that implies that the agreement essentially seals the deal by detailing how Hansen will develop the arena and seek an NBA team to play there.
“… [a] major and critical milestone has been achieved. As a result of this legislation we have a clear path forward … Mr. Hansen and his ownership group can now start in earnest on the purchase and development of the new state-of-the-art multi-purpose arena. Maybe most importantly, the passage of this legislation allows Chris Hansen to undertake the really important work of acquiring an NBA team and bringing our Sonics home.”
But the reply brief filed by Hansen’s attorneys Friday contains the full Constantine quote. What the union omitted (and in one case even the ellipses were left out) seems to undercut the longshore workers’ arguments that the agreement ensures development of the Sodo site. The full quote — with omissions in bold — is:
“Let me be clear, the process is still not finished. But a major and critical milestone has been achieved. As a result of this legislation, we have a clear path forward. As the approved memorandum of understanding spells out the conditions that Chris Hansen and his investors must satisfy before the City and County provide the necessary public financing. Mr. Hansen and his ownership group can now start in earnest on the planning and development of the new state-of-the-art multipurpose NBA and NHL arena. The County and City are committed to carrying out our regulatory responsibilities and the required review of the project under the State Environmental Policy Act. And, maybe most importantly, the passage of this legislation allows Chris Hansen to undertake the really important work of acquiring an NBA team and bringing our Sonics home.”
See the live Constantine remarks here.
Contacted by phone, Peter Goldman, who is representing the longshore workers along with David Mann, called the condensed quote a “non-issue.” He said the point was to show that the Memorandum of Understanding created more than a process that includes environmental review. “It was a major important decision to moving this project forward. They’re trying to minimize the agreement. SEPA is not just a box that gets checked,” Goldman argued.
King County Superior Court Judge Douglas North will hear arguments in the case Friday. A decision could be issued from the bench.
January 23, 2013 at 2:58 PM
How easy is it to find online information about the City of Seattle’s spending? WashPIRG, the public interest research group, released a report card on the 30 largest U.S. cities today and gave Seattle a C+ grade.
The city did well in having detailed, checkbook-level financial information available online, said Micaela Preskill, a WashPIRG advocate. But she said the city didn’t make that information downloadable for data analyses and didn’t provide information about tax subsidies to business, or information about contracting.
The report examined how effectively cities allow the public to track financial information including budgets, contracting, subsidies, grants and requests for services such as garbage collection or burned-out streetlights. Preskill said that the more transparent government spending is, the more the public can evaluate priorities and hold elected officials accountable.
New York City, Chicago and San Francisco received A grades. New York City, for example, has a mobile app that allows residents to request and track city services, she said.
A spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn said that the city budget office was not briefed on the WashPIRG findings. But he noted that the city received a national award last year on budget transparency given by the Government Finance Officers Association.
Seattle’s financial data is available at www.data.seattle.gov.
November 1, 2012 at 10:26 AM
If all this rain hasn’t been a warning, winter’s a-comin’ and Seattle Mayor McGinn wants to make sure you’re ready to deal with it. (Even if you don’t live in Seattle, there’s some good information to be had here.)
Hizzoner’s staff has put together a list of things to think about and gather if and when rain, sleet and snow come to the Emerald City.
Here’s the city’s list of things to do to prepare for winter:
So button up and batten down.
October 24, 2012 at 3:30 PM
The City of Seattle and the Department of Justice, as expected, filed a joint request Wednesday asking a federal judge to appoint Los Angeles police consultant Merrick Bobb as the independent monitor to oversee police reforms.
The request, in a four-page motion, was submitted to U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over a settlement agreement reached in July between the city and federal attorneys. The agreement calls for changes in the Police Department to curb excessive force by officers and address biased policing.
Mayor Mike McGinn and police officials had expressed their opposition to selecting Bobb, questioning whether he would be impartial because a board member for his nonprofit in Los Angeles had helped write the Justice Department report, released in December, that led to the proposed reforms.
But the City Council, in an 8-to-1 vote on Monday, directed City Attorney Pete Holmes to file the motion jointly with the Justice Department, which had made Bobb its top choice. Councilmembers had been advised by the city’s ethics chief that Bobb’s hiring could be done without violating conflict-of-interest rules.
McGinn’s office then announced he would respect the council vote as the city’s position, although it labeled the action a mistake that might make it more difficult to carry out reforms.
In Wednesday’s filing, the city and Justice Department noted they had conducted an “extensive process” to select a monitor from many candidates. They also provided the resumes of Bobb and his team to Robart, who, according to city officials, has said he wants to interview the candidate and decide by Nov. 12 whether to accept the recommendation.
Bobb has long been widely considered to be one of the nation’s foremost pioneers and leaders in the field of police accountability and reforms.
August 29, 2012 at 7:24 PM
A flat rate for Seattle taxicab rides from the downtown hotel district to Sea-Tac Airport has increased from $32 to $40. The new fare took effect today.
The fare is based on the average taximeter fare from the middle of downtown to the airport, according to a city of Seattle news release. The law defines the downtown hotel district as the area between Broad Street, Mercer Street and Interstate 5 on the north, Elliott Bay on the west, South Dearborn Street on the south, and Boren Avenue to I-5 on the east.
Taxi trips from Sea-Tac are still charged by taximeter, though, because King County does not have a flat-rate taxi ride law, according to the release.
The Seattle City Council and Mayor Mike McGinn approved the increase in July. The city first instituted a flat rate tax in 2000 to reassure travelers that they would not be overcharged through an indirect route to the airport, according to a city release.
Taxi fares will likely increase throughout King County on Sept. 10 if the King County Council approves a taximeter rate increase on Sept. 4. If approved, the distance charge would increase fro m$2.50 to $2.70 per mile.
Seattle’s 688 licensed taxicabs are required to charge fares based upon the taximeter rate set by the city.
July 30, 2012 at 10:20 AM
Seattle has a new tribal relations liaison for the Office of Intergovernmental Relations.
Nicole Willis will represent the city and work with local tribes on a variety of issues including natural resources, land use, sacred sites. She will also work with Urban Indian community representative organizations and to help improve collaboration with the city.
According to a city news release, “Nicole Willis is a longtime advocate for Native peoples, focusing her career on helping tribes and related organizations to work with other governments towards sustainable solutions to the many problems facing our communities today.”
Willis has served most recently as special assistant to the secretary for Indian Affairs at the US Department of Labor with Secretary Hilda L. Solis.
June 25, 2012 at 5:44 PM
City officials have released for the first time their official proposal to address a Department of Justice finding that Seattle police officers routinely use excessive force.
The proposal, which was submitted to the Department of Justice on May 16, had been kept secret under a confidentiality agreement between the two sides but was released late this afternoon under a public-records request.
It contains the city’s formal response to the Justice Department’s settlement proposal, which was given to city officials in late March.
The Justice Department separately released its proposal. It had also been kept confidential, although the contents were leaked May 15 to The Associated Press, which disclosed many of the details.
Also released were two sternly worded letters sent to City Attorney Pete Holmes by a top Justice Department attorney in the Civil Rights Division shortly after the May 16 response, questioning the city’s willingness to negotiate in good faith.
Both sides are currently engaged in negotiations to reach a settlement and avoid a federal lawsuit that could force the city to make changes. A mediator has been brought in to assist in the talks, Mayor Mike McGinn said last week.
As part of the negotiations, the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle have insisted on a court-enforced consent decree.
McGinn has said he is willing to accept a consent decree but has questioned the scope and cost of the Justice Department’s proposals, saying the city might be forced to spend up to $41 million a year and put vital city services at risk amid a $30 million budget shortfall for 2013.
Federal attorneys have said the city’s financial analysis of the costs is wrong.
Among the changes sought by the Justice Department are a significant boost in sergeants to oversee supervision, enhanced training and an expansion of the internal-investigation process, according to a confidential city memorandum previously disclosed to The Seattle Times.
McGinn has pushed the city’s own “20/20″ plan, which was unveiled in March and calls for 20 changes to the Police Department in 20 months, saying it would be less costly and address the Justice Department’s concerns.
U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has described the plan as a “framework” that lacks substance, a sentiment echoed last week week by community groups who originally pressed the Justice Department to investigate the Police Department.
The Justice Department found in December that police had engaged in pattern of excessive force, along with troubling evidence of biased policing affecting minorities.
In their May 16 response, city officials addressed the excessive force issue, but omitted a response regarding biased policing because the Justice Department had not reached a formal finding on that issue, sources have said.
McGinn has said the city is dealing with biased policing in the “20/20″ plan.
May 23, 2012 at 7:52 PM
A consultant hired by the Seattle Parks and Recreation to explore the future of the Volunteer Park Conservatory has recommended the department partner with a non-profit organization to operate the greenhouse in the future.
It was one of several recommendations by EMD Consulting Group, which was asked to determine if there are realistic ways to reduce the cost of the Conservatory and raise revenue.
The Victorian-style greenhouse, with about 6,800 square feet of display space in Volunteer Park, costs about $450,000 a year to operate but brings in only about $25,000 in revenue. It also needs about $3.5 million in repairs.
EMD, which studied conservatories in other cities, found that most similar in size to Volunteer Park are supported by city revenues. It also found that staffing at the Seattle facility is in line with national standards and that Volunteer Park Conservatory’s capacity to become financially self-sustaining is limited by its size and the lack of rental space.
In making its recommendations, EMD focused on two of eight options — one that includes a $3 admission fee and no new structure for rental events and a second that includes a $4 admission fee, and construction of a tent for rental.
The consultant found that the majority of people who attended a public meeting in March supported a modest admission fee and rentals for weddings and other private events.
February 28, 2012 at 4:03 PM
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn Tuesday announced $1.1 million in grants to 19 neighborhood business districts throughout the city.
At a news conference in the University District, McGinn and Steve Johnson, director of the city Office of Economic Development, announced awards from $55,000 (to Rainier Beach) to $185,000 (to Chinatown/International District) to improve their business districts. Those neighborhoods receiving the grants have developed multi-year strategies to support small businesses, attract new visitors and improve the shopping experience, according to a city news release.
Rainier Beach, for example, plans to repeat an Art Walk that it started last year as well as strengthen its merchants association. Chinatown/International District is adding security cameras to some buildings and public spaces as well as expanding cleaning services to Little Saigon. The University District, which received a $70,000 grant, is launching a multi-year revitalization plan, said Karin Zaugg Black, spokeswoman for the Office of Economic Development.
The city said it will expand its “Only in Seattle” marketing campaign that publicizes local shopping and dining opportunities in Seattle neighborhoods. It also is investing an additional $100,000 in facade improvements in Columbia City, the Central Area and Chinatown/International District.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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