Public comment against EHT repeal

I was at city hall to give comment against repealing the EHT. One minute isn’t very long so I left out a bit. This is my full comment, roughly written this morning since we only had 24 hours notice.

My name is Rachael Ludwick. I’m a tech worker, mother, and have lived in North Beacon Hill since 2010. I’m also an organizer with Seattle Tech 4 Housing. Tech workers are typically well paid and we are part of why housing is so expensive and why so many have been driven into homelessness. We should be part of finding homes for everyone.  The EHT is a modest downpayment on solving our housing affordability crisis and until the city identifies another progressive funding source to build deeply affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness, we support this very modest big business tax.

The EHT was never the full solution, but it is more than nothing.  Repealing it with so little notice and without a replacement in place means some people will be homeless longer and some will die. I ask the city council and those who pushed for this repeal to put MORE energy and money — and your reputations — into sustainable long-term solutions. I ask the leaders in the tech industry and wider business community to push progressive revenue and housing policy reform at the state and local level so that we can build the tens of thousands of affordable homes our region desperately needs. It is not enough to come out to say “no” to the EHT if you won’t fight with equal energy for real sustainable solutions.

We need to make Seattle a welcoming place for everyone. Last week, I dropped my four year old off at preschool one morning, then on the way to work I saw a little girl about that age and her father in SODO. They were almost certainly homeless. What does it say about us that we have children living on the streets?  Until there are better revenue sources in place, it is immoral for us to repeal the EHT and delay housing. It won’t be enough but it is a start. Thank you council members for your hard work in passing the EHT. Please keep it until you have better options.

EHT on fast track to repeal: is this really democracy?

The EHT is on fast track for repeal. How the EHT was passed:

  • Six months of a broad task force including council members and stakeholders working to create a plan to find bring more revenue in for the purposes of funding affordable housing, as well as a detailed plan on how to use the money.
  • Significant public comment at multiple meetings, as well as a long time frame for both the public and stakeholders to understand it
  • Invitations from the business community to participate in both the original task force and during main committee and council votes.
  • Late re-negotiation of the plan with the mayor and various interest groups that decreased the amount of funding available, but at least got it passed.
  • Unanimous vote of the city council.

How the EHT is being repealed:

  • A smear and lies campaign funded by wealthy interest groups.
  • Only seven of all nine city councilors in favor of repeal.
  • No plan for replacement of that funding or the housing investments we desperately need.
  • A city council agenda with only 24 hours notice and no chance for public comment.

The full public repeal vote wouldn’t be for five months, but we’re rushing to repeal it now without any plan to replace those affordable housing investments. This is despite the reality that until 2017 we hadn’t increased funding for homelessness or housing, even though the cost of living has skyrocketed, driving many people into homelessness.

I’m loath to say things like “this is not democracy”, but this is not democracy. It is a a propaganda campaign to push public sentiment so far in one direction that the city council has no choice if they want to be effective at any other problems facing the city. Meanwhile, I’ve seen no signs that the interests pushing repeal are interesting in anything more useful like fixing Washington’s tax system, our land use policies or funding for affordable housing.

Why are we having a vote with no public comment with only 24 hours notice with no plan to fund housing?

Reset the Lander Street Bridge Project

The city of Seattle has delayed or put on hold a number of transit and safe streets projects in recent months, including many funded from the Move Seattle Levy. Notable projects include:

The typical justification for these project delays is largely around costs. In the case of the Center City Streetcar, this include capital constructions costs coming in higher than previously estimated 13% higher than expected ($200 million as opposed to $173 million) and a dispute between SDOT and Metro over the exact operational costs.

Many of the bike lane and sidewalk projects are not at risk due to their particular budgets being higher than expected, but because the overall costs of construction means the levy money assigned to these projects won’t go as far. Rhetorically, of course, the supposed $12 million cost of the 2nd Ave bike lane is being used to say bike projects are too expensive in general, though in that case the cost includes a full street rebuild including utilities, signals and repaving for all users, including people in single occupancy vehicles.

By these risk standards, the Lander Street Bridge project should be put on hold and reconsidered. The current project estimates put it 23% over ($123 million against $100 million). Even if built, it will cost a whopping $683 million per mile (it’s a short bridge over railroad tracks). The street is entirely closed to car, truck and transit traffic for two years into 2020, though people on foot or bikes have a route through (perhaps this project is not as critical as it seems if the road can be entirely closed for two years?)

Continue reading “Reset the Lander Street Bridge Project”

Answering another Seattle budget question: how much have we spent on housing?

I previously looked at how much the city of Seattle has planned to spend in total every year since 2005 – divided by Seattle populated and adjusted for inflation to 2017 dollars. Another question is to ask how different departments spending has changed in that time frame. The big topic right now is homelessness and housing. I pulled the adopted expenditures for three departments:

  • Health & Human Services. Note that this includes the education levy so it’s not all stuff you would think of as apply to the “topic” but it was easier to quickly copy and paste the numbers.
  • Office of Housing. This is what Seattle is spending on operations for subsidized housing and building and maintaining it.
  • Department of Planning & Development. This includes the department responsible for approving construction permits and doing inspections.

You can review my quickly assembled spreadsheet if you like. This graph seems to tell a pretty big story.

Graph of expenditures from spreadsheet linked previously

I look at this graph and note:

  • Expenditures are pretty flat overall.
  • We didn’t start spending on housing to address Seattle’s wildly increasing rents until 2016.
  • Knowing that the federal government cut way back on housing in 2010 onward, and rents and home prices started increasing wildly about then too, that basically flat OH line (solid red) is horrifying to me. I should try to find data on affordable housing units built or total housing units available to various income levels, year over year.
  • No wonder it takes forever to build anything. These are per capita spends, so flat is not necessarily bad, but there’s a fairly big dip in there plus if you want construction to go faster, maybe we should spend more money to speed up the process? (Or remove and simplify rules.)

As with the previous post, I will happily take comments, corrections or suggestions. This is just me doing what seems obvious and straightforward to start to understand the “shape” of the problem.