In brief: Governor and possible 2020 presidential candidate Jay Inslee released an ambitious proposed state budget, Crosscut uncovered the identities of Mayor Durkan's three finalists to run the Seattle Department of Transportation, the permanent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is less than a month away, and Seattle experienced its darkest day since 2015. 
Sunday, December 9th - Saturday, December 15th, 2018
Image from The Seattle Times / Ted S. Warren (Associated Press)
Editor's note: I'm on vacation through the end of the year starting today, so this will be the last Civic Minute of 2018. Happy holidays!
Last Week in Seattle
Inslee's budget:
  • Governor Inslee, who recently formed an exploratory committee for a possible 2020 presidential bid, released his proposed 2019-21 state budget, which calls for $3.7 billion in new revenue that would be raised by adding a state tax on capital gains and making changes to existing business taxes and real estate excise taxes. 
  • The increases would go to pay for significant investments in our state's chronically underfunded mental-health system, a  package of climate legislation that includes high-speed rail lines and stricter auto emission standards (but not a carbon tax), funding to help save Puget Sound's endangered orca population, and raises for state workers. 
  • The state legislature will take up the budget once the legislative session starts in early January. It's unlikely that everything in Inslee's budget will eventually become law, but this will be the first full budget year in which the Democrats have a majority in both the state House and the state Senate (last year's session was a mid-stream update to the 2017-19 biennial budget), so what eventually gets passed will depend largely on what Democrats across the state are willing to support--and several Democrats in the Senate have already said that they're unlikely to support a state capital gains tax.
Period of Maximum Constraint:
  • The viaduct will close permanently on January 11th (see the latest Seattle Times FAQ here), kicking off the most intense portion of what the City has coined the "period of maximum constraint," during which multiple major downtown construction projects will overlap in various forms through 2021, including light rail permanently taking over the transit tunnel on March 23rd and moving all buses that currently use it onto the streets instead.
  • King County Metro plans to add additional water taxi service between West Seattle and downtown for a portion of that period, and Uber and Lyft recently announced a reduced-fare option valid between January 11th when the viaduct closes and early February when the tunnel opens that will provide shared rides to and from regional transit hubs for the same price as a Metro bus fare. 
  • A coalition of various local organizations that support better mobility for transportation modes other than driving, called Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS), renewed their call for the City to take several specific, targeted actions to make it easier for people to get to and from downtown during the period of maximum constraint. 
Durkan appointees:
  • After the Mayor's Office refused to release the names of their finalists to lead the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) in response to a public records request, Crosscut's David Kroman dug up the names on his own and wrote a story about them.
  • And continuing his mayoral appointee watchdog role, Kroman also broke the news that Durkan's pick for a new HR department director, who's been serving in the role in an interim capacity since March and was formally nominated for the permanent position in August, has withdrawn herself from consideration and "will instead leave City employment by January 23," following complaints about her leadership from employees.  
  • This one isn't a news story, but because I often write about #MeToo stories in this newsletter, and given my personal advocacy on these issues in the past, I think it's important to include it here. 
  • Two and a half weeks ago I learned that a romantic encounter I had with a woman at the end of a second date two and a half years ago has caused her a great deal of trauma since then. We've been in communication about it for the last couple of weeks, and one of her requests was for me to hold myself accountable through a public post on the subject, which I did on Thursday; you can read that post here on Medium, or here in its original Facebook version. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions/comments after you read the post, or if you'd like to discuss it further. 
Real Estate Corner
The Local Improvement District that's supposed to raise $200 million to pay for the City's upcoming waterfront park by taxing downtown property owners is stuck in limbo as the City continues to negotiate with property owners who are unhappy about having to pay the new tax. 

As expected, the City Council approved the UW's new master plan, which calls for significant new real estate developments on its campus that will add an additional 6 million square feet of residential and commercial space and allow the university to accommodate an additional 7,000 students and employees. 

Gene Balk at The Seattle Times divided the city's census tracts into a high-density group and a low-density group, and discovered that because of the prevalence of single-family zoning, "the high-density tracts cover less than one-quarter of Seattle’s land area, but they’ve absorbed more than 70 percent of the city’s household growth since 2010."

The state Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by the City of a Superior Court ruling earlier this year that overturned the City's "first in time" rental ordinance, which required landlords to rent to the first qualified tenant who submitted a qualified rental application.

The City's new online registration system for short-term rentals on sites like AirBnB and VRBO is set to go live on January 2nd. 

KING 5 looked at how earthquake insurance works in Washington state, and what the pros and cons are of getting it for your house if you're a homeowner. 

And Curbed Seattle's Sarah Anne Lloyd looked at what $1,800/month will rent you in Seattle today. 
Thank you to everyone who's sent me a real estate referral or used me as an agent yourself! The city of Seattle is my geographic area of expertise, and while I'm also very good at helping sellers get top dollar for their homes, my true passion is helping first-time homebuyers get homes that they love quickly and easily.

f you need a residential real estate agent to help you buy or sell a home of any kind--or you know someone who does--I'd love to be of service. My website is here, or see here for client reviews. 
Quick Takes
As expected, the City Council approved the creation of a new Office of Employee Ombud to support employees dealing with workplace misconduct. [Seattle Times]

Monday marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a federal law that prevented Chinese workers from immigrating to America. [Seattle Times]

A white supremacist who threatened to carry out a mass killing in Washington state was arrested in Lake Forest Park. [The Stranger]

A small group of King County employees is beginning to analyze data about local gun violence from a public health perspective. [Seattle Times]

A fast ferry from Tacoma to Seattle could become a reality by 2022. [KIRO 7]

Lynda Mapes looked at the history of capturing orca whales from Puget Sound and transporting them around the country to perform for paying audiences. [Seattle Times]

A King County Superior Court judge overruled an earlier ruling by a Seattle hearing examiner allowing construction to proceed on the Burke-Gilman Trail's "missing link" through Ballard. [Seattle Times]

Neighborhood activist Pat Murakami and pot entrepreneur Logan Bowers joined the City Council race in District 3 to take on incumbent Kshama Sawant. [Capitol Hill Seattle]

Recently appointed SeaTac City Councilmember and longtime local activist Amina Ahmed was killed in a head-on collision just south of the airport. [Seattle Globalist]

According to Cliff Mass, Tuesday was the darkest day Seattle has seen since December of 2015. [Cliff Mass Weather and Climate Blog]

Melissa Hellmann looked at the rising incidence of reports of elder abuse in Seattle, which correspond to a rising senior population. [Seattle Weekly]

The Trump administration sued Washington state to try to block a law passed earlier this year that would help sick workers at the Hanford nuclear site get worker's compensation. [KUOW]

Seattle Public Schools' new policy starting in fall of 2017 to adjust school start times for high schoolers to allow them to get more sleep appears to be working. [Seattle Times]

Veteran local AP reporter Phuong Le became the latest in a string of longtime local journalists to leave the profession for the private sector. [Seattle P-I]

The King County Sheriff's Office agreed to a $65,000 settlement and an update of its use of force policies in response to an incident in which a detective drew a gun on a motorcyclist last year. [The Stranger]

And UW researchers are in the beginning phases of testing a form of male birth control that could be more than 90% effective at preventing pregnancy. [Seattle Times]
Upcoming events through the end of the year
12/25, 12:00 pm: Fiddler on the Roof Sing Along [SIFF]

12/28, 7:30 pm: Sacred Music by Duke Ellington [St. Mark's Cathedral]

12/31: New Year's Eve restaurant specials [Open Table]

12/31, 9 pm - 1 am: 2018 T-Mobile New Year's at the Needle

12/31, 6:30 pm: Moulin Rouge! New Year's Eve Sing Along [SIFF] 

1/1, 11 am - 12:15 pm: Polar Bear Plunge

Sol Villarreal
Broker, Windermere Real Estate
Sol's Civic Minute: What's happening in Seattle, in 60 seconds per week.
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Mailing address:
Windermere Real Estate Co.
1177 Fairview Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
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