Monday, June 22, 2009

Meeting Highlights - May 26, 2009 (These highlights are based on the editor's notes --- they are not official minutes, statements are approximations.
"I" and "we" refer to the speaker whose name last precedes the pronoun.)

City Attorney candidates: Tom Carr vs. Peter Holmes vs. Community representatives on the office and functioning of the City Attorney's office.

Incumbent Tom Carr ("Carr") summarized his background:
I was born in the Bronx, N.Y., reared in an apartment next to the N.Y. elevated railway, earned a scholarship and worked my way through St. John's University in Brooklyn, and later N.Y. University School of Law. I was an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, prosecuting mafia and mob hoodlums. and came to Seattle in 1991. I became a partner in a local law firm and then counsel for monorail advocates. I became a member of the Monorail Board and was so serving when I was elected City Attorney in November 2001. I then resigned -- I am sorry that the monorail failed. I was reelected without opposition in 2005. I am particularly proud of the Community Court, established in 2005. It got started with a $45,000 grant I secured from the Downtown Seattle Association. When the accused's misconduct seems to reflect an illness, a temporary loss of control, or a treatable condition, the prosecution is diverted from regular municipal court to the Community Court. The judges there try to work out a program for the offender, usually involving getting the accused into the social service network and to atone for the offense, performing eight hours of community service. It avoids jailing the offender and has a lower recidivism rate than jailing. It has a completion rate of 50% -- more than what it once was. The program won an award from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Peter Holmes ("Holmes”): I am running a campaign based on progressive values: prevention and rehabilitation over incarceration; open government and transparency; objective, impartial administration of the law. I was reared on a small family farm in Virginia; got a scholarship and worked my way through Yale, graduating in 1978; I took a job with the Natural Resources Defense Counsel assigned to protecting shorelands from off shore drilling --- one case fought off coastal drilling in Washington. That led me to read law and I graduated from the University of Virginia law school. In 1985 I came to Seattle and settled in Rainier Valley. My first assignments counseled debtors facing or in bankruptcy, and I dedicated myself to public service. I was appointed chair of the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board, which acts like a police review board. I served 3 terms for over 6 years. As a City prosecutor, I would favor pre-arrest solutions --- using the office to guide programs that would head off delinquent behavior and intervene before filing charges. Community Court is a good idea, but poorly implemented. The $ 200 million dollar cost of a jail is better spent on alternatives, like treatment facilities. Transparency should apply to all departments of City government, and, if elected, the attorney-client privilege would be invoked only when necessary. I would work toward consensus-based solutions when neighborhoods and City departments are at odds. Please visit my website,

Questions and comments from community representatives ("R'):
R-1: Our community council asked about securing the services of an offender assigned to community service; and we were told that to be eligible a community organization needs an attending supervisor at all times for a duration of eight hours in a row --- no four hour shifts. This keeps volunteer, neighborhood organizations from participating.
Carr: Community service substitutes for punishment, shows disapproval of the misconduct, gives the public something back, and gives the offender a sense that his debt to society was paid; requiring a supervisor makes sure that community service work is actually done; the eight hour term was set by the work time needed to earn bail. The City is moving to using Americorp volunteers to work with the offenders and do the supervision.
Holmes: I favor Community Court and diversion programs for first offenders. It's a case-by-case decision. The duration of community service should depend on the severity of the offense. Offenders commonly fall into the pattern of behavior that results in arrests during their youth, and intervention at that stage is more effective. Police also have an opportunity for intervention when an offender is apprehended before making a formal arrest and that opportunity should not be lost.
Carr: The City has no jurisdiction over juvenile delinquents.
Holmes: The City runs youth programs through its Parks Department and with the schools and can identifying and work with disturbed youth. The City should expand its activities for troubled youth to make up for county cutbacks. I would seek resources to help community organizations in doing supervision.
Carr: My office is trying to create a joint budget with the courts probation services. Our office has a total of a half million dollars after payrolls, and that needs to cover all other offices expenses: library, supplies, electronic services, expert witnesses, travel and fees. legal expenses --- there's not much left.
R-2: unlike private lawyers, the public elects the City Attorney, he holds public office, and he is paid by the public --- and, as such owes it to the public to be fair and objective to the citizenry. In hearing examiner proceedings, citizens have seen assistant City Attorneys present testimony from City departments that's wrong,
R-3 interjected: DPD has testified to matters about neighborhood plans, about design review, and other meetings that are false, We were there and we know the truth and we've told the attorney that.
R-2: The City Attorney's office has made motions just to wear down the communities, who are short of money, and assistant City Attorneys have made objections at hearings designed to rattle a citizen presenter. The City Attorney's office should forego that and help get a decision on the merits, rather than use procedure to obstruct and oppress to win:
Carr: We give City officials and departments representation equal to that a private lawyer would give to private clients. We don't judge departmental testimony or actions ---- that would undermine their confidence in our representation. That's the role of a lawyer. We need to represent them fully regardless of what we may think privately. Your complaint is with the departments, not with our office.
R-2: When departments are violating -- or twisting -- the law, your philosophy results in City policy of advocating and endorsing distortions and sometimes in a practice of supporting unlawful conduct.
Carr: The clients are making the decisions. We have no choice...
R-2: Yes you do. Your office shapes the course of City activity in advising and drafting ordinances and contracts. In proceedings before the Hearing Examiner, you can give citizens full disclosure and make all documents available. You can caution witnesses to tell the whole truth, sticking closely to the facts rather than slanting their testimony. You can make public cautionary statements like you did when the mayor was holding secret budget briefings with four member panels of the City Council on budget revisions violating the Open Meetings Act.
Carr: Crosscuts’ blog criticized me for speaking out on the mayor's briefings. The Seattle Times said it was wise. When the City Attorney speaks out, it infringes on a policy decision by other elected officials. "Unlawful" in civil matters is not usually black-and-white.
Holmes: A lawyer is an officer of the court and can't misrepresent the law or facts. When it rises to that level, the lawyer must say so to the client and tell the court. I would not withhold documents in land use cases. The City should make full disclosure of public records just as a prosecutor does in criminal cases. When I presented cases, I winnowed the evidence to our higher office standards; and it made stronger cases overall. I would keep in mind that I'm a public official and not a private attorney for office holders. I would have spoken out too on the budget briefings. Speaking out should be a last resort after counseling in private fails. It's done when the law is clear and City officials were counseled privately.
R-4: The clean-up of pollution in the Duwamish basin has come a long way, but there's an awful lot more to be done. The largest polluters now are the City's storm drains and overflows from sanitary sewers. There's a big potential liability there. Tell me what you'd do about it?
Carr: I've asked for more environmental lawyers to work on it.
Holmes: My experience as an environmental lawyer early in my carrier will be very helpful. It taught me the importance of providing information to the public and the offenders, persuading them to take action, and then working with them toward a solution.
R-5 [To Tom Carr]: The Governor appointed you to be Chairman of a State Committee ("Sunshine Committee') to examine the exemptions to the Public Disclosure Law and report whether any could be ended. When adopted in 1972, it had 10 exemptions; now there are 300. The Committee didn't recommend ending any of them. Carr: I'm for open government. Washington's statute makes disclosure the rule, and exemption an exception. The exemptions are narrowly drawn for particular situations. At the Committee hearings, the public spoke out for the principle of transparency. But, when it came down to considering particular exemptions, the special interests testified to protect their exemption and there was no rebuttal. So the exemptions stood.
Holmes: I was disappointed with the results of the Sunshine Committee.
R-6: The City resists disclosure of pubic records wherever it can make a plausible argument for doing so even if there's no harm to the City, itself, in disclosure. In a companion City case to the Hangartner decision (involving the monorail authority), the Washington Supreme Court extended the attorney client privilege. When the Sunshine Committee recommended legislation to supersede that decision, you [Carr] voted against it.
Carr: think that decision is a restatement of the law and not an extension of it. The Sunshine Committee overruled me.
Holmes: I agree with the four dissenting judges and the Sunshine Committee on that one.
R-7: The City lost several cases brought by ratepayers (Okeson and Lane et al.) for spending utility moneys for general government purposes, such as street lighting, an economic development fund, unrelated art works, grants to private companies to reduce greenhouse gases, furnishing water to fire hydrants) and it retained outside counsel to defend them. The arguments and briefs of private counsel were no better than those office staff would have done. What did the City pay private counsel per hour and in gross?
Carr: About $300 per hour. The gross total would require research to determine. I use outside counsel sparingly.
Holmes: I would hire private firms only on matters requiring specialized expertise not available on staff.
R-8: The City should publish its general and interpretive opinions on the internet. It made them public until the 1990's. The current secrecy impairs holding public officials accountable. We don't know whether the utility rip-offs resulted from bad legal advice, obstinacy by elected officials to obeying the law, or both. Publishing opinions lets the public identify the legal and policy issues, and correct errors in legal analysis if needed. When you [speaking to Carr] ran for office, you said that you would resume publishing opinions. You haven't done so.
Carr: City officials and departments want our opinions to be kept confidential. Most of our opinion advice explains what the risks are rather than saying what the law is. Our office treats all elected officials as separate "clients." Attorneys don't share secrets from official to official. From 1913 through 1991, City officials adhered to the custom of open opinions. Now they don't.
Holmes: I would reinstate making public those opinions that give general advice and interpretations on the law and ordinances pertinent to City affairs. Citizens shouldn't have to go to court for such guidance.
Carr: The City Attorney needs client consent to release a written opinion. It's important for us to have the trust of City officials. If legal opinions were made public, City officials wouldn't ask for help if they risk getting an answer they don't want. Secrecy keeps their trust.
R-8: Secrecy reduces the trust of the citizenry. It lets elected officials cite "advice of counsel" to stymie a discussion (even in considering new legislation) and the citizen can't find out if it's a valid assertion..
Carr: With ordinances, we now say "submitted with concerns."
R-8: Those concerns should be identified and explained so that citizens can weigh them in giving their input. The City benefits from informed public participation.
Holmes: Ordinance drafting presents an opportunity for building consensus.
R-9: While pretending openness, the City seems to be practicing secrecy. Is there a mismatch?
Holmes: Look at the record. During my six years, the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board ("OPA") prepared three reports on police. Individual names and identifying details were blocked out. The OPA could not get the report released. The City Attorney said he wouldn't defend the OPA if the report were released although City ordinance requires the City to indemnify City officials for actions in the scope and course of City duties. In 2002, the ACLU said that it would defend the OPA and the report was released; no lawsuit occurred. The next report was inadvertently leaked out by the City Attorney's office. The 2007 Report is still secret and can't be discussed. The public is entitled to know whether and when public misconduct it occurs.
Carr: I won't discuss that matter since it is still pending. My office gives "guidance statements" on City ordinance on the City Attorney's website answering citizen questions.
R-10: In 2007, a community council sent a question for guidance of the City attorney on Casa Latina. It got no answer. The City promised Casa Latina funds contingent on a signed contract, but the City released the money without the contract. That's unlawful.
Carr: I'm not familiar with the facts and won't comment.
Holmes: A lawyer must determine the validity of a payment or action when the issue arises. The City Attorney proposed and defended an ordinance for mandatory impounding of vehicles when the operator lacked a driver's license or the license had expired. The Superior Court ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional. The City hired outside counsel and appealed, prolonging the agony for citizens whose cars had been impounded. The judgment was affirmed and the City ultimately had to pay $1,300,000 for wrongful impounds.
Carr: The City has no responsibility to defend citizen rights.

Holmes: I'm offering a different approach: the incumbent's philosophy is too restrictive. If I'm elected, the public won't see sweeps of homeless encampments, arrest of peaceful demonstrators supporting them, and then wholesale dismissals. I'll build coalitions and dialog with organizations. The City Attorney should not be a "hired gun" like private lawyers. The public interest will be an element in decision-making, in influencing policy, in drafting ordinances and contracts, and I'll take a leadership role in working with troubled youth to keep them outside the court system. I'll work to solve problems so that the City won't need to build a new jail.
Carr: I stand on my record. I worked out the contract with Tent City III for a homeless encampment and that contract has been in effect for the last eight years. I'm working on the jail crisis and I would negotiate an extension with King County. I have worked on alternatives to jailing, e.g. house arrest with electronic monitoring. The average number of City residents in jail was cut from 409 to 254 and we now lock up only the hard core. I have a long list of endorsements on my handout I passed out earlier.
VP's closing: Maybe we can resume this at our August potluck; our agenda requires we move on now.

(Lloyd Hara, recently of the Seattle Port Commission, introduced himself and told us he is hoping to replace Scott Noble)
Lloyd Hara: Scott Noble will resign his office as King County assessor on June 19th. There will be open filings for the office and a single election in November -- whoever gets the most votes wins --- no primary. Housing prices are plummeting; revaluations should occur for next year rather than await a two year cycle of reassessment. If elected, Lloyd said he would be fair and accurate, explain and substantiate values, and offer complete transparency, as well as practice straight talk with the public and continue to do so.
R-1: People who send their children to private school should get a tax break.
Hara: The assessor has to follow the statutes and current laws don't allow any credit or deduction for it.

First Methodist Church: The Landmarks Preservation Board will hold its hearings on designating the former First Methodist Church at Fifth Avenue and Columbia St. downtown as a historic structure on June 30th. The City, King Co., and the developer of the proposed office building complex on the remainder of the site negotiated an agreement to save and reuse the church.
Motion passed authorizing Marietta Foubert to speak at the hearing for the Federation in favor of the designation and submit an appropriate letter.

Dearborn "Goodwill site" Redevelopment Project: The economic downtown forced the developer to withdraw its applications for a Master Use Permit and for street vacations. Professors and students at the University of Washington, College of Architecture and Urban Planning are now conducting a planning process that brings together Little Saigon businesses, Goodwill, and the Community Alliance to design a new plan (landscaping, rezoning, etc.) If the City had approved the earlier plan, there would probably be nothing but a big hole on the site now.
See for the now cancelled redevelopment proposal.
Also see

Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee: The City is ramming through its ideas on updating Neighborhoods plans. It's not neighborhood planning, but DPD planning neighborhood-by-neighborhood. One advisory committee member resigned, unwilling to participate further. Activists have to get informed and button-hole candidates for City office, learn their views, and vote accordingly.

Magnuson Park Historic District: In seeking the transfer of the former Naval Air Station Sand Point, the City and the UW promised to create a historic district of about twenty buildings along Sand Point Way N.E. as envisioned by the U.S. Navy's Environmental Impact Statement. Neither followed through. DPD is proposing to revise its zoning overlay to permit more intensive development that would be inconsistent with the historic appearance of the site. Citizens responded by recommending to the Landmarks Preservation Board that the district be designated. It is already on the federal and state historic registers.
Motion passed to support designating the site and authorize letters to appropriate government officials.

Pedestrian Master Plan: The Seattle Department of Transportation published an executive summary of the long awaited draft Pedestrian Master Plan on the internet with many graphics in full color, maps, and text with goals and generalities. Its main thrust is setting priorities for spending Bridging the Gap moneys for sidewalks. The action items are in an appendix. The only reference to encroachments on sidewalks comes in Section 2.1(c) of the appendix calling for inspection and recording encroachments --- nothing about action to remove them. The Federation had written to City officials many times over the years against allowing private owners to build more fences and walls to enclose the "inside walk" or "green strip" that allows abutting property owners in effect to privatize sidewalk area.
Motion passed to authorize a letter to appropriate government officials commenting on the plan (a) to ask that the Plan be amended to forbid new encroachments into sidewalk area adjacent to paved sidewalks with fences and walls unless needed for safety; (b) to urge that the Plan contain more substance and less fluff; and (c) to move key action items from an appendix to the main text.

Cascade Farmers Market: The Cascade Farmers Market will open from June 25th to September 24th every Thursday from 3-7 P.M. on Pontius Avenue (between Thomas and Harrison St.) across from the Cascade Playground. It will be managed by the Pike Place Market and have fresh, organic produce only.

Children's Hospital: After a remand from the Hearing Examiner, Children's Hospital and DPD should have invited public comment and held another hearing on the two elements that the Hearing Examiner had found to be inadequate in its draft environmental impact statement. Instead, the two edited some passages and added some material, but made no significant changes nor did the City reconvene the Citizens Advisory Committee.
Motion passed to authorize a letter objecting to the process and calling for new public input.

Nickelsville: When the Mayor closed this homeless encampment, some residents declined to leave and sympathetic citizens held peaceful demonstrations with signs and sang protest songs to support them. The police arrested everyone on or near the site. This week all charges against the 25 arrested were dropped.

Duwamish Clean-up: The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) telecast a program about cleaning up pollution in Chesapeake Bay and on the Duwamish River and was complimentary about the activities taken so far and accurate about the work remaining. Motion passed to authorize a letter of appreciation to PBS.
See for status, updates, links and always new information on the progress of the cleanup posted there.
See for a nearly two hour movie that starts and ends detailing the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, and sandwiches the Duwamish effort in the middle.
See a very good three-part Q&A piece on the Hudson River dredging.

Residential Parking Zones: The City is considering legislation to change the name, to relieve major institutions from contributing to zone administration, to limit payments by Sound Transit for setting them up around RTA stations to two years, and to limit the number of permits per dwelling to no more than four.
Note: The name has been changed on the City websites to Restricted Parking Zone

District Elections: is circulating petitions for a City Charter revision to have a mixed system with some seats elected at large and some seats by district. It welcomes volunteers to assist. E-mail its website,
Districts Now is a City of Seattle Charter Amendment which proposes to change the way we elect City Councilmembers from the current all at-large positions to a hybrid of 5 districted positions and 4 at-large positions.

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