In brief: SPD officers shot and killed a man in north Seattle on New Year's Eve, Tim Eyman gathered enough signatures to put an anti-Sound-Transit initiative on this year's ballot, Governor Inslee has all but declared that he's running for president, Seattle's cost of living increased more since the end of the Great Recession than any other major city in America, and the viaduct will close forever Friday night at 10 pm.
Sunday, December 30th, 2018 - Saturday, January 5th, 2019
Image from The Seattle Times / Rebekah Welch
Happy New Year! Thanks for reading the Civic Minute; I hope your 2019 is off to a great start so far. -Sol
Last Week in Seattle
2018, recapped: Officer-involved shooting:
  • A Seattle police officer shot and killed a man named Iosia Faletogo following a traffic stop at Aurora & 96th on New Year's Eve.
  • SPD publicly released a combination of dashcam and body cam footage of the incident, placed the officer on paid administrative leave, and opened an internal investigation into the shooting (all of which are standard procedure following an officer-involved shooting).
  • The shooting will serve as the first test of new rules created as part of Seattle's federally mandated police reform process, as well as recently passed statewide changes to the requirements for prosecuting officers who kill in the line of duty. 
A farewell to the viaduct:
  • With the Alaskan Way Viaduct set to officially kick off Seattle's multi-year "period of maximum constraint" when it closes permanently at 10 pm this Friday the 11th before the waterfront tunnel opens to the public the weekend of February 2nd, the Seattle Times published a 48-minute video of its transportation reporters Michelle Baruchman and Mike Lindblom answering reader questions about the viaduct and the tunnel, and the traffic woes that we can all expect starting Saturday morning.
  • Curbed Seattle looked at historical photos of the waterfront before the viaduct was built, as well as immediately after it opened in 1953. 
  • And KING 5 took a quick look back at some highlights of the soon-to-be-slowly-dismantled-and-demolished piece of transportation infrastructure's life.
Election watch:
  • The Atlantic published a lengthy interview with Governor Jay Inslee--who formed an exploratory committee to evaluate a possible presidential run last year--in which he all but confirmed that he's going to throw his hat in the ring.
  • Tim Eyman announced that his anti-Sound-Transit car tabs statewide initiative gathered enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, which means that the state legislature will have the opportunity to put a competing measure on the ballot alongside it. An anti-Eyman opposition campaign made its own announcement shortly after Eyman's press conference.
  • And Facebook rang in the new year by banning all political ads on its platforms for local elections in Washington state, in order to avoid having to comply with stricter regulations that were recently imposed by the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Real Estate Corner
With thousands of new apartment units having been built last year and thousands more in the pipeline for the coming year, more buildings are offering move-in incentives to new tenants, and rents have more or less leveled off, albeit at a level that's still unaffordable for an increasing number of Seattleites. 

Mayor Durkan negotiated a compromise with downtown property owners to reduce the size of a Local Improvement District (LID) tax to pay for part of the forthcoming new waterfront park by 20%, from $200 million total to $160 million. 

Governor Inslee reintroduced a tax reform measure that died in the legislature last year, which would increase the real estate excise tax (the "sales tax" that a seller pays to the state and local governments when they sell a piece of real estate) for properties over $1 million and reduce it for properties under $250,000. The current rate of 1.78% total (1.28% to the state, 0.5% to Seattle and King County) would remain in place for properties between $250,000 and $1 million; the new rate for King County would be 1.25% for properties under $250k, 2.5% for properties between $1 million and $5 million, and 3% for properties over $5 million.

Monica Nickelsburg at GeekWire looked at the rise of Opportunity Zone Funds in the Seattle region, which provide tax incentives to folks who sell stock and other assets and invest the proceeds into federally designated "economically distressed neighborhoods." Most of the investors in the Seattle region are tech workers, who see the funds as a way to avoid paying capital gains taxes on their stock grants; and according to a report by Smart Growth America, the Seattle-based opportunity zones have among the highest risk of gentrification of any in the country. 

Sarah Anne Lloyd at Curbed Seattle looked at what $2,019/month will rent you around Seattle right now.
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
Several state laws went into effect as of January 1st, including I-1639's new gun control measures, a statewide paid family leave program, and annual minimum wage increases in Seattle and across the state. [MyNorthwest]

The Seattle Times put out a short quiz that you can use to test your knowledge of what happened in local politics in 2018. [Seattle Times]

The state legislature may make it legal to compost the dead this legislative session. [Capitol Hill Seattle]

Seattle's cost of living has increased more than any other major city in America since the end of the Great Recession. [Seattle Times]

Mayor Durkan hired the runner-up from her search for a new SDOT director, a retired Air Force Major General, to help coordinate between the various City departments during the multi-year "period of maximum constraint" that begins with the closure of the viaduct Friday night. [Crosscut]

The state Supreme Court ruled that King County can continue to collect tax revenue for the new juvenile justice center (known as the youth jail to its opponents). [Seattle Weekly]

Governor Inslee announced plans to pardon "anyone who has an otherwise clean criminal record but with a sole conviction as an adult for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in Washington state," as long as their conviction occurred between January 1st, 1998 and December 5th, 2012. [Seattle Times]

Activists are suing the City of SeaTac after they received a $37,000 bill for security at a rally in June to protest the Trump administration's separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. [Crosscut]

As of January 1st, Safeco Field is now officially T-Mobile Park. [MyNorthwest]

And the Senate voted to confirm Seattle lawyer and political veteran Brian Moran as the new U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. [Seattle Times]
Upcoming events this week
Tomorrow, 6:30 pm: Open Script Read [Northwest Film Forum]

1/10, 7:00 pm: Art in Seattle's Public Spaces: From Sodo to South Lake Union [Elliott Bay Book Company]

1/11, 7:30 - 9:00 am: 2019 Legislative Preview [Seattle City Club]

Sol Villarreal
Broker, Windermere Real Estate
Sol's Civic Minute: What's happening in Seattle, in 60 seconds per week.
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