Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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    May 04 2015

    RELEASE: Council Calls for Action to Support Somali Community in Remittance Crisis

    SEATTLE – Council unanimously approved legislation today, which calls on several City departments to investigate options that would allow Seattle residents to continue servicing remittances to Somalia. Due to federal government action in February, the Merchants Bank of California closed the accounts of all Somali-American Money Transfer Operators due to issues surrounding federal money laundering and terrorism financing regulations. Thousands of Somalis in Seattle are now unable to send money back to their families to help with basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and education.

    “We want to do everything we can to help our Somali community and make all resources available in our advocacy strategy to implement changes at the federal level,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “This is a complex problem, but we must find a way for families both here and there to safely and securely exchange money.”

    “This is a humanitarian issue affecting hard working Somali families in Seattle,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We will explore all options to assist the Somali community as they try to help their loved ones in Somalia. I’m hopeful we can work with federal officials and local financial institutions to find the right solution.”

    “Finding ways to safely and securely send money back to family in Somalia is incredibly important to our Somali residents here in Seattle, and the City must explore every angle to help facilitate those transactions,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “We have got to find a solution or countless people in Somalia will continue to suffer as this critical aid to their economy is shut off.”

    Resolution 31578 reaffirms the City of Seattle’s support of Somali communities to continue sending remittances to Somalia and the Horn of Africa. It also specifically calls on the City of Seattle to help facilitate a stronger relationship between our Somali residents and local lending institutions and credit unions in order achieve access to capital and credit.

    Seattle has one of the biggest Somali communities in the United States, many of whom were refugees. Each year, Somalia receives approximately $1.3 billion in remittances from the United States and more than 730,000 people in Somalia are dependent on this financial assistance lifeline.

    # # #

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    Apr 28 2015

    ADVISORY: Councilmember Harrell to host meeting on Juvenile Domestic Violence, Solutions to Somali Remittance Crisis

    SEATTLE – Councilmember Bruce Harrell will host a special Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee meeting Wednesday regarding both juvenile domestic violence in Seattle and solutions to the Somali remittance crisis.

    Representatives of the United States Department of Justice and the Seattle City Auditor’s office will present their findings relating to juvenile domestic violence in Seattle. Few interventions and prevention services currently exist in Seattle to address this issue. Juvenile domestic violence accounted for 32% of new offenses booked to King County juvenile detention in 2013. 87% of the cases involved youth violence toward a family member, often the mother. The committee will explore the depth of the problem and potential solutions.

    The Committee also intends to vote on a resolution that seeks to address the Somali remittance crisis. Seattle has one of the largest Somali populations in the country. In February, the Merchants Bank of California closed down all accounts of Somali-American money transfer operators due to the increasing difficulty of complying with federal money laundering and terrorism financing regulations. More than 73,000 people in Somalia are dependent on financial assistance overseas, and the effect of the account closures has been exacerbated due to Somalia’s lack of a functioning commercial banking system.

    WHAT: Juvenile Domestic Violence Briefing and discussion of potential Somali remittance solutions at the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee

    WHEN: Wednesday, April 29, 2:00 p.m.

    WHERE: Council Chambers, 2nd floor
    Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle 98104

    WHO: Councilmembers
    Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
    Mayor’s Office
    Office of the City Auditor
    U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Diagnostic Center
    King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
    Law Department
    Seattle Police Department

    # # #

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    Apr 27 2015

    Stop the Remittance Crisis in Somalia

    Stop the Remittance Crisis in Somalia
    Public Hearing
    Hosted by Councilmember Bruce Harrell
    Wednesday, April 29, 2:00 pm
    Seattle City Council Council Chambers
    600 4th Avenue.
    Link to PDF Flyer

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    Apr 24 2015

    Youth & Law Forum Saturday to Further Relationships between Youth and Seattle Police Department

    SEATTLE – Councilmember Bruce Harrell encourages Seattle youth to participate in the 25th Annual Youth and Law Forum this Saturday at the MLK F.A.M.E. Community Center in Seattle. Councilmember Harrell has participated in the Forum since it began in 1990. Seminars & workshops are all designed to help young people better understand the law and to develop better relationships with law enforcement officials.

    “This city-wide forum provides youth an excellent opportunity to build their confidence and to make well-informed decisions about their career path and life choices,” said Harrell. “It can be a first step in positioning Seattle’s youth for today’s challenging and diverse job market.”

    The forum is designed to educate youth and families about their legal rights, protection and responsibilities, law careers, court procedures, and resources. The event is open to all ages, including adults, and is free of charge. Pre-registration is encouraged at www.youthandlaw.com. A free barbeque lunch is included.

    WHAT: Youth & Law Forum

    WHEN: Saturday, April 25, 8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

    WHERE: MLK F.A.M.E. Community Center
    3201 E Republican St, Seattle, WA 98112

    WHO: Councilmember Bruce Harrell

    # # #

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    Apr 20 2015

    Council Confirms Harold Scoggins as Fire Chief

    SEATTLE – City Council voted unanimously to confirm Harold Scoggins as the next Chief of the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) today. Scoggins comes to Seattle after working 25 years in the Glendale, CA fire department, most recently serving as Fire Chief since 2008. He began his career as a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force. Chief Scoggins’ first day at the department was April 1.

    “Chief Scoggins has an outstanding track record and will be the type of leader that ensures our fire and medical safety is optimal,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee.

    The Seattle Fire Department’s mission is to save lives and protect property through emergency medical service, fire and rescue response and fire prevention.

    Scoggins intends to address the most critical issues facing the Seattle Fire Department, which include:
    • Maintaining adequate resources to meet the increasing demand for emergency medical services (EMS)
    • Hiring to fill a high number of entry level firefighter vacancies
    • Developing targeted recruitment to achieve a more diverse workforce
    • Developing leadership and planning for future leaders

    “Over the next 20 years, Seattle is expected to grow by 120,000 people and 115,000 jobs. We need to strengthen our recruitment efforts to achieve a workforce that reflects our community and our values,” added Harrell. “With rising emergency medical service calls, SFD must implement innovative solutions and utilize data analytics to help guide deployment decisions.”

    The Fire Chief will manage an annual operating budget of approximately $178 million and will be responsible for leading and managing 1,100 employees at SFD. Seattle has 33 Fire Stations, serving 640,000 residents and responding to more than 88,000 alarms each year.

    Chief Scoggins has a B.S. in Fire Administration from the California State University Los Angeles and a Masters of Public Administration from California State University Long Beach.

    For more information regarding Harold Scoggins, visit the following links:

    Harold Scoggins Appointment Packet
    Harold Scoggins written confirmation questions and answers

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    Apr 16 2015

    Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposes joint resolution with City Council to find solutions to Somali remittance issue

    SEATTLE (April 16, 2015) – Today, Mayor Ed Murray transmitted a proposed joint resolution to Seattle’s City Council affirming the City’s support of Somali communities who seek to care for their families still living in Somalia and the Horn of Africa by way of remittances.

    In February, the Merchants Bank of California closed down all accounts of Somali-American Money Transfer Operators due to the increasing difficulty of complying with federal money laundering and terrorism financing regulations.

    “Shutting down these accounts has had a devastating effect on thousands of Somali-American families in this country and their loved ones back home,” Murray said. “I am committed to supporting Seattle’s Somali residents, the vast majority of whom are refugees providing critical financial assistance to family members in their home countries. It is my hope that the federal government will do the right thing and find a solution to this very serious problem.”

    More than 730,000 people in Somalia are dependent on financial assistance overseas. Funding from these accounts had provided basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and education. The effects of these account closures have been exacerbated due to Somali’s lack of a functioning commercial banking system.

    The joint resolution calls for staff from the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA), the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, the City Attorney’s Office, and the Finance and Administrative Services Department to review options for state, city, or other local banks to continue transferring remittances.

    “This is, first and foremost, a humanitarian issue we must resolve with urgency. I know many friends and families who send money back home and this is a lifeline. Our local political and regional leaders are collectively united on this issue and we stand with our strong community of East Africans and immigrants,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee. “We need to think creatively and work with our credit unions on local options, and jointly pressure the federal government to act and make things normal again for these families.”

    Mayor Murray, Councilmember Harrell and Councilmember Mike O’Brien sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in February urging the U.S. Department of State to devise a strategy that would help local banks meet regulatory standards and allow financial aid to keep making its way to Somalia. So far, the federal government has taken no action to address the issue.

    “Hard-working members of the local Somali community are supporting their families here in Seattle as well as loved ones back in Somalia by sending money back home,” Councilmember O’Brien said. “We must find solutions to ensure there are safe, secure ways for these remittances to continue to flow from Seattle.”

    Nearly 4,000 Somalis live in the city of Seattle and thousands more are estimated to live throughout King County. Seattle is home to one of the largest Somali communities in the United States.

    The full text of the resolution is below:

    A RESOLUTION reaffirming the City of Seattle’s support of Somali communities to continue remittances to Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

    WHEREAS, Merchants Bank of California closed down the accounts of all Somali-American Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) on February 6, 2015 and this has devastating consequences for the tens of thousands of Somalis in our country; and,

    WHEREAS, Somalia’s dependence on remittances is exacerbated because it does not have a functioning commercial banking system and the Central Bank of Somalia has limited relationships with foreign banks and little commercial banking services; and,

    WHEREAS, over the past few years, MTOs have found it increasingly difficult to comply with Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations; and,

    WHEREAS, every year Somalia receives approximately $1.3 billion in remittances and more than 730,000 people in Somalia are dependent on financial assistance for survival. Funding from remittances accounts for basic needs including food, water, shelter and education. One in every five children in Somalia dies before their fifth birthday, and only 30 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water; and,

    WHEREAS, remittances are crucial in the empowerment of women entrepreneurship in Somalia, as many banks will not provide loans to women entrepreneurs who have no savings of their own because they are considered riskier loan recipients than men; and,

    WHEREAS, Seattle has one of the biggest Somali communities in the United States – nearly 4,000 Somalis are residents to this City and thousands more are estimated to be in King County; and,

    WHEREAS, the vast majority of our Somali residents are refugees and our new residents need effective systems that will support them in staying connected to their loved ones back home; and,

    WHEREAS, Somalis are critical to Seattle’s economic vitality because they purchase goods and services and run small businesses, which in turn create jobs and generate revenue for the region.

    WHEREAS, the City of Seattle recognizes that over the past few years the U.S. government has taken small and crucial steps to help Somalia gain financial stability, including collaboration with the Central Bank of Somalia to help it improve its public financial management system and the passage of the Money Remittances Improvement Act.

    NOW, THEREFORE,

    BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE, THE MAYOR CONCURRING, THAT:

    Section 1. The City of Seattle reaffirms its support of our Somali community in their desire to support their loved ones in the Horn of Africa. Furthermore, the City of Seattle strongly urges concerned parties to find an amicable solution that facilitates the normal flow of remittances without compromising the safety and security of the United States.

    Section 2. The City Council and Mayor request that staff from the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Office of Intergovernmental Relations, City Attorney’s Office, and Finance Department review options for the State, City or local banks to continue servicing remittances.

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