Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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Archive for December, 2008

Dec 30 2008

City Light Budget and City Light Rates

During 2008, the City announced City Light rates will not increase in 2009. This announcement demonstrates my commitment to pursue policies that ensure low and consistent rates for you, the owners and customers of City Light. My most recent action was an analysis of City Light’s proposed 2009-2010 budget. Seattle City Light should be the best public utility in the nation. It has that potential and employees with that talent and my decisions are based on that presumption. In July 2008, J. D. Power and Associates showed that City Light is ranked number five among midsize west coast public power utilities. Under the leadership of Superintendent Jorge Carrasco and the hard work of the employees, the utility should be commended for making City Light an industry leader. That said, City Light’s budget presented the Council with some tough decisions. Continue Reading »

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Dec 22 2008

Tree Ordinance

Since 1972, the amount of tree cover in Seattle has decreased from 40 percent coverage, to about 18 percent today. This is a loss of approximately 1.7 million trees in a 36 year period is significant and I think all of our citizens should be concerned about it. Our tree cover is essential to our way of life and part of the fabric that makes Seattle great. Trees are not only aesthetically beautiful, but essential to cleaning pollutants from the air and providing root systems that help with drainage and storm water runoff. Our region’s declining tree cover is an issue that deserves our attention.

As the Council considers legislation to address this concern, I will certainly support proposals that first encourage property owners to plant trees or gives property owners and builders an incentive to build around pre-existing trees. I am always concerned if our governing body immediately jumps to solutions that could ignore the fine balance that courts of law use when examining the needs of the state against the protections of individual liberty. Continue Reading »

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Dec 16 2008

Incentive Zoning

Incentive Zoning is a strategy to achieve public benefits, such as affordable housing, by creating incentives for developers in the form of additional height on new projects. For example, if the baseline height limit or Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limit is 40 feet in a given area, the City would then offer developers additional height or FAR in exchange for a commitment to provide affordable housing in or adjacent to the project. The City Council passed Council Bill 116358 as a means to ensure that new development in Seattle’s neighborhoods leads to a wider spectrum of affordable housing options and address the anticipated density. Some form of incentive zoning has been used in Seattle since the 1960s and it has produced hundreds of new housing units and generated millions of dollars to support the development of others. The City developed a program for commercial buildings in the 1980s and our recent rezoning in the downtown area is an example of how a targeted, strategic approach can work.

I remain concerned about whether a broad brush zoning approach defined in CB 116358 is the most effective means to achieve affordable housing or economic development, particularly in our current economy. The easiest and simplest approach would be to stamp this legislation as a “modest” tool to achieve the desirable end of affordable housing and hope for the best. But I believe such an approach defers the more complex work that has to be done and ignores certain housing realities that exist in our city. Continue Reading »

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Dec 08 2008

Youth Mentoring Initiative

By all estimates, an astounding 17.6 million young people in America – nearly half the population of young people between 10 and 18 years of age – live in situations that put them at risk for choosing the wrong path in life, and not living up to their potential, or much, much worse. When a young man was shot near a central district high school in November, he was a victim, as could be the innocent kids attending the school who have an absolute right to be safe at all times and in particular, when they are walking to and from their school. My daughter attends Madrona middle school in the central district. I am immensely concerned. At the core of the problem, are the actions of young people who may have a self-image of violence and destruction; who see no alternatives for their life; and who were never taught or embraced the values of respect, kindness and conflict resolution. I believe that one’s self-image – that which one believes to be true about their self – governs their beliefs, actions and attitude. However, self-imaging can be changed. Blame erodes self-accountability and human effectiveness. Our city must prioritize a commitment to mentorship strategies. As City leaders, we must align and provide the framework for a city-wide, coordinated strategy and call upon every decent person and every capable agency to help these young adults increase their human effectiveness. Our goal will transcend reducing violence and enhancing safety – but increasing the effectiveness of all of our young people. These young Seattleites can be and will be our next generation of productive citizens.

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Dec 07 2008

The Economy: What we must do

Published by under Economy

[Updated 1/28/2009]

Our national economy and Seattle’s slower growth in projected revenue required the Seattle City Council to make tough adjustments to the 2009-2010 budget. While Seattle remains stronger than the rest of the country, we must prioritize a heightened attentiveness to the local economy – with an unemployment rate of 6.2% in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, smart policy decisions are critical. We must be proactive, willing to take risks, and think creatively.

This past November’s job losses are troubling and, close to home, JP Morgan will cut 9,200 jobs at Washington Mutual. Boeing announced plans to cut its workforce by about 10,000 people this year alone. In January, Microsoft announced it will lay off approximately 5,000 employees and Starbucks plans to layoff 7,000 more jobs. Even with this distressing news, the state of our economy could be an opportunity to undergo a transformation into a 21st century economy. Seattle and regional leaders must work together to consider new ways to solve the biggest issues facing our city and our region. Because our economy is built on and powered primarily by oil, natural gas, and coal – which are all finite resources that will only escalate in cost – our new local mental checklist must require us to rethink our dependence on resources that are neither energy efficient, nor cost efficient.

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Dec 01 2008

Strategic Partnership or
Building an in-house team.

sclAt the September 17th meeting of the Energy and Technology Committee, the Committee took BOLD action to vote down the passage of Seattle City Light’s “Strategic Partnership policy.” Legislation was proposed to the Committee which would have authorized City Light to execute a contract with an Indiana-based company to perform significant elements of its surplus or wholesale energy trading functions. This trading activity can result in over $125 million of City Light’s revenue. City Light currently performs these functions in-house. However, Committee members Richard Conlin, Jean Godden, and Richard McIver and I expressed significant reservations with the proposal and this became very evident as the meeting progressed. As Committee Chair, I advocated that the Utility and its customers would be better served by building this function in-house with its own employees and thus owning the institutional knowledge and systems that will result from this investment. This “think-long” approach, I believe, is critical to sustaining a high-performance organization.

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