Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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  • April 2015
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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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Apr 15 2015

Councilmember Harrell to host Chief O’Toole for SPD Report, Vote to Confirm Fire Chief

SEATTLE – Councilmember Bruce Harrell will host Chief Kathleen O’Toole at Wednesday afternoon’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee to receive her third quarterly report to Council.

Chief O’Toole provides quarterly updates regarding the Seattle Police Department’s efforts to reduce crime, improve community relations, and more effectively deploy officers into Seattle’s neighborhoods.

Chief O’Toole Third Quarter Report
Chief O’Toole Second Quarter Report
Chief O’Toole First Quarter Report

The Committee also intends to vote on the appointment of Harold Scoggins as Chief of the Seattle Fire Department. Scoggins was nominated for Fire Chief by Mayor Ed Murray on February 25, and his appointment is subject to Council confirmation.

Scoggins provided remarks and answered initial questions on his background and experience at the Public Safety Committee meeting held April 1. Scoggins will officially respond to confirmation questions from Councilmembers on Wednesday.

Full Council is expected to vote on Scoggins’ nomination on April 20.

WHAT: Chief O’Toole Quarterly SPD Progress Report, and Committee vote on Seattle Fire Chief Nominee, Harold Scoggins, at the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee

WHEN: Wednesday, April 15, 2:00 p.m.

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

WHO: Councilmembers
Chief Kathleen O’Toole, Seattle Police Department
Harold Scoggins, Seattle Fire Chief Nominee

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Apr 01 2015

Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee (4/01, 2:00 pm)

Public Safety, Civil Rights, And Technology Committee Agenda for Wednesday, 4/01/2015, 2:00 PM

Click here to view the complete agenda:

1) Appointment and Oath of Office of Harold Scoggins as Seattle Fire Department Chief.

Appointment Packet
Confirmation Questions

2) Body Camera Update: First 90 Days of Pilot

Body Worn Cameras Presentation

3) Seattle Police Department (SPD) Sworn Staffing Update

SPD Precinct Staffing
SPD Year-End Staffing Update
SPD Year-End Hiring Update

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Mar 31 2015

ADVISORY: Body Camera Pilot Update, Fire Chief Confirmation Process Begins in Council Public Safety Committee Tomorrow

SEATTLE – Councilmember Bruce Harrell’s Public Safety Committee will host an update this Wednesday on the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD’s) Body Camera Pilot project, in which a group of officers in the East Precinct have been equipped with body worn video cameras since December 2014. SPD will share initial successes and feedback from the officers during the first 90 days of the pilot and discuss remaining timeline to complete full assessment report.

The committee will also begin discussion of the appointment of Harold Scoggins as Chief of the Seattle Fire Department. Scoggins was nominated for Fire Chief by Mayor Ed Murray on February 25, and his appointment is subject to Council confirmation.

Scoggins will provide introductory remarks and speak on his background and experience, followed by the initial round of questions from Councilmembers.

WHAT: Body Camera Pilot report and Council’s initial questions for Seattle Fire Chief Nominee, Harold Scoggins at the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee

WHEN: Wednesday, April 1, 2:00 p.m.

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

WHO: Councilmembers
Seattle Police Department Representatives
Mayor’s Office

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Mar 23 2015

Council Amends Cable TV Code to Improve Competition, Customer Service

SEATTLE – City Council unanimously approved legislation today to modernize the deployment of cable television franchises, provide Seattle residents with more choices by removing barriers to competition, and implement stronger customer service and consumer protections.

The City’s Cable Code was originally adopted in 1976, with the most recent substantive amendments added in 2002. The Code contains consumer protection standards and prescribes the general rules for all cable franchises granted in the City of Seattle, including procedures for renewing, transferring and terminating franchises. The new legislation streamlines approval processes and re-structures the Code sections by removing provisions that have become outdated and unnecessary.

The new Code changes are intended to improve competition and customer service by eliminating cable franchise districts in favor of a more flexible provision that opens the entire City to competition. The Code also contains new requirements to ensure equity and build-out service to low-income households, enhanced call answering standards and reporting, and more flexibility and protections for residents and owners living in condos and apartments.

“Coach Pete Carroll’s philosophy is a relentless pursuit of competition. We represented that philosophy in updating the cable code law with a focus on enhancing competition to stimulate more options and improved customer service to benefit our residents,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee.

The Citizens’ Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board (CTTAB) supported the legislation in a written statement provided on March 10.

The Department of Information Technology worked collaboratively with the community, CTTAB, and cable providers on the proposed Code amendments. Their input was considered in finalizing the legislation.

# # #

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Mar 18 2015

Audit on SPD Public Disclosure Process Highlights Need for Improvement, Additional Resources

SEATTLE – The City Auditor unveiled a comprehensive audit of the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) process for handling Public Disclosure Requests today. The audit, requested by the City Council, details the current public disclosure request process, and highlights the need for additional staff, new software to handle requests, improved communication with requesters, among other recommendations.

In 2014, 2/3rds (or nearly 4,700) of all Public Disclosure Requests to City departments were directed at the Seattle Police Department, and the Auditor found requests have been becoming increasingly complex and involve advances in new technology. SPD public record requests have also increased by over 35 percent in the last six years. The significant gaps in resources and systems that SPD uses to process public records requests has hindered SPD’s ability to ensure accurate and timely responses.

“Our actions must demonstrate our commitment to accountability and transparency in order to foster public trust,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “Moving forward, I am encouraged by the actions and mindset of SPD. SPD has already implemented a number of recommendations and worked collaboratively with the Auditor to come up with solutions. SPD has shown its commitment to transparency, as the Washington Coalition for Open Government recently honored the work of Chief Operating Officer Mike Wagers for working with the public on a reasonable solution for body camera videos.”

The Auditor made a total of 13 recommendations for how to improve public disclosure processes, detailed in the audit report.

“I support the Auditor’s recommendations and providing the necessary resources for continuing improvements in SPD’s Public Disclosure processes,” added Councilmember Harrell. “The Committee will closely monitor the follow through of the Auditor’s recommendations.”

The full “Audit of the Seattle Police Department Public Disclosure Process” can be viewed here. The City Auditor’s office will present their findings at the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee today at 2 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

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