Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

Archive for April, 2011

Apr 30 2011

Big Changes at the Seattle Center: New Chihuly Exhibition and Play Areas

After sixteen months of negotiations, in April the City Council unanimously voted to approve a lease agreement allowing Center Art LLC to develop an exhibition hall and art garden in Seattle Center’s former South Fun Forest site. This is otherwise known as the Chihuly Exhibition. The Center Art LLC will also donate $1 million for the development of a creative children’s play area north of the Monorail station. The playground will be open and free to everyone.

Under the five year agreement, the City will receive a base rent of $350,000 per year and if the lease is extended, rent will increase to $500,000 per year. These amounts are comparable to the terms we have with the Experience Music Project.

City funding will not be used for this project and Center Art will bear all of the costs of construction and operation. It is scheduled to open in April of 2012.

As a member of the Parks and Seattle Center Committee at a time where we are trying to maximize and preserve public benefits in our city by smartly partnering with private enterprise, I believe we developed a solution that makes sense. I enjoyed working with the community leaders and Center Art to preserve the needs of our community and build a future together. Of course, this is coming from a person who grew up here enjoying the rides and games in the Fun Forest site, so it was indeed bitter/sweet. Kudos to my colleague Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and Seattle Center head Robert Nellams for their leadership on this project. This attraction should enhance our efforts to have a place that draws both Seattle residents and tourists alike.

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Apr 26 2011

The Great Student Initiative

I am pleased to introduce the Great Student Initiative, a new partnership program with information, communication and technology companies, and financial institutions to provide low-cost, high-speed Internet access, hardware and software for low-income students in the Seattle Public Schools, and creating a steering committee to advance the goals of the initiative. In the last 18 months, I have worked closely with Comcast and Microsoft’s Shape the Future Education program to build this public/private partnership to deliver technology access to our students. Now that the Families and Education Levy is moving forward, this technology initiative ties beautifully into our strategy of uplifting our children and eliminating the digital divide. In short, this initiative will allow the students in Seattle Public Schools who are eligible for the free lunch program according to federal standards (approximately 14,000 of 46,000), to obtain high-speed internet access at less than $10.00 per month and be furnished with a computer that allows them connectivity. This will be furnished at no or minimal cost to the city of Seattle.

Based on the City of Seattle Information Technology Residential Survey from 2009, 84% of households with incomes above $50,000 receive high-speed Internet, but only 46% of households with incomes under $30,000 receive high-speed Internet. Additionally, only 41% of respondents with no high school degree had high-speed Internet compared to 93% for respondents with a college degree. When correlating the relationship between technology access and race/ethnicity, 80% of Caucasians had high-speed Internet, 73% for Asian Pacific Islanders, 59% for African Americans, and 38% for Hispanic/Latinos. Furthermore, English speaking households had a high-speed Internet adoption rate of 77% compared to 19% for Spanish speaking households.

Seattle is ranked as the third most wired American city in terms of broadband adoption, high-speed Internet access options, and wireless Internet hot spots. Nationally ranked as the city with the eighth highest number of technology jobs, and backyard institutions like Microsoft, Amazon, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the University of Washington, we have a strategic advantage to compete to be the number one city in America that prepares its students for the new global economy.

According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, King County is projected to employ over 100,000 workers in computer and mathematical jobs by 2017, with an average annual growth rate of 2.7% between now and 2017. The United States Department of Labor projects more than 1,600,000 new IT jobs will be created in the United States by the year 2014. Eight of the nine fastest growing occupations by the year 2014 will be in the area of Information Technology. A Washington State Employment Security Department study confirms the 27% growth rate for our state as well, with some computer jobs posting growth rates of 6 % per year and higher. Between now and 2018, information technology jobs are projected to grow by 22 percent and account for 60 percent of the job growth, the fastest of all professional occupations. In King County, there are 233,000 technology jobs. On average, information technology jobs have a job multiplier of five to one.

It is imperative to equip all Seattle Public School students across all socioeconomic backgrounds with high-speed Internet, a quality computer, and software at home to compete and be successful in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Bottom line: equipping our students with these technology tools will allow them to successfully compete for jobs. The future is a global economy driven by technology and information technology plays a vital role in driving the economy of our city, county, state and nation.

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Apr 20 2011

Transparent Discussion of Housing Discrimination Policy

A lot of controversy has stirred regarding the Seattle Human Rights Commission proposal to amend the City’s current anti-discrimination laws. They have proposed changing how an employer or landlord can use arrest or conviction records when making employment or housing decisions on applicants. They have proposed that the convictions be directly related to the job or, in the case of a rental unit, be a crime that involves safety issues or risk of substantial harm to others. Employers and landlords, many of whom already employ or house applicants with criminal records, have expressed concerns about the city eroding their ability to make rational decisions. After all, they would argue, isn’t that their fundamental right? To understand the problem that is being addressed, we should recognize that there are 409,945 people in King County with convictions on their record. Over 47 million Americans have a criminal record. Our country’s incarceration rate is nearly 8 times its historic average. Moreover, statistics clearly suggest there is huge disparity in arrest and conviction rates based on race and poverty. Data would also suggest that establishing good housing and employment conditions are the key factors to reduce recidivism. With this background, I hope to achieve legislation or establish policies that help people with arrest or criminal records find work and housing. Because employers and landlords are the very stakeholders who can help establish solutions to the issues, I believe their input, buy-in and support is critical to this process. As I have said publicly, this is “our” problem as a society and it will be up to us to help remedy the very same problems that historical policies of mass incarceration have produced. I am hopeful that any final legislation will not erode the safety concerns of the public or prohibit employers from making rational decisions about their workforce. To learn more about the proposal, follow this link: http://www.seattle.gov/humanrights/protections.htm

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Apr 10 2011

A New Program for Use of Vacant Lots

Published by under Neighborhoods

Pilot will liven up lots and vacant construction pits by allowing art and food uses

Over the past couple of years there have been a number of construction projects in our city that have lost their financing. This has resulted in vacant lots and construction pits in some neighborhoods. The Council unanimously approved legislation that will help enliven these spaces.

Specifically, the legislation creates a pilot program that allows property owners to temporarily place active uses like mobile food vending carts, art installations and retail sales kiosks on these stalled construction project sites. Additionally, some lots will be allowed to be used as short term parking lots as long as the sidewalk facing side of the lot is activated with uses that contribute to increased pedestrian activity.

The Seattle Design Commission solicited ideas for lot activation; those results can be found by following this link: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/Design_Commission/Overview/DPDS017625.asp

Successful applicants will be allowed to operate their site for three years with eligibility to renew for a second three year team. Twenty permits will be allowed city-wide.

Let me know your thoughts as we monitor the progress. Our goal is to eliminate vacant, trash-attracting lots while our economy recovers.

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Apr 09 2011

We Lost the Voice: Honoring Dave Niehaus

Published by under Mariners

On November 10, 2010 we were all saddened to hear the news that we had lost our voice of summer, long-time Seattle Mariner broadcaster Dave Niehaus at the age of 75. Over the 32 years that Dave called Mariners’ games he became part of our fabric. His passing in November touched baseball fans all across the region and he will be truly missed. He was part of a special baseball era in our city.

The Council and I honored Dave in a pregame ceremony before the Mariners home opener on April 8th. I presented a proclamation to the Niehaus family which proclaimed this year’s opening day as “My Oh My,” Dave Niehaus Day. We unveiled and placed honorary street signs claiming a stretch of 1st Avenue South as “Dave Niehaus Way South.” It was my absolute honor to recognize Dave by presenting this proclamation to his family. You can view the signed proclamation by going here: .pdf of signed proclamation.

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Apr 07 2011

City/Inside Out: Council Edition April 2011

CouncilMembers Bruce Harrell, Tim Burgess and Sally Clark join host C.R. Douglas for this month’s episode of City Inside/Out: Council Edition. Watch the discussion on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Project, tent city and more.

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