Urban Politics #104: Pioneer Square Tour


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

With assistance from my Legislative Assistant Newell Aldrich on this issue.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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CONTENTS:

  • Pioneer Square Tour
  • Resolution On Pesticide Phase Out
  • Renter Legislation
  • Choosing Seattle’s Poet Populist

Pioneer Square Tour

Recent events in the Pioneer Square Historic District have turned Seattle’s oldest neighborhood inside out. Between Mardi Gras and the Nisqually Quake, this community of artists, small retail establishments and restaurants, residents, and music venues is struggling to maintain its vitality in the face of destruction.

I want to do my part to help Pioneer Square in its efforts to retain its identity of a fun, safe, enriching place to spend time. I have been working with the Pioneer Square Business Improvement Association to assist their efforts to get the word out that Pioneer Square is still standing and ready to welcome art and music lovers, shoppers, and folks looking for a good meal alike.

On April 5, Pioneer Square will be kicking off a “New First Thursday Art Walk.” We’ll be meeting at the Grand Central Bakery. Join us there at 6:00 PM for a reception featuring hors d’ourves and new works by emerging artists. I’ll be giving some opening remarks and will then encourage people to come join me in visiting a variety of businesses that could use a little more attention from devotees of Seattle’s oldest neighborhood. You are welcome and encouraged to join me.

Resolution On Pesticide Phase Out

December 5, 2000 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its revised risk assessment and announced an agreement with registrants to phase out certain uses of diazinon. Diazinon poses risk to children and is highly toxic to birds, mammals, honey bees and other beneficial insects; as well as freshwater fish and invertebrates.

This agreement is with pesticide manufacturers to phase-out lawn, garden, and turf uses of diazinon over a period of several years permitting sales into 2004.

Diazinon is the most widely used pesticide by homeowners on lawns, and is the most widely used pesticide ingredients for application around the home and in gardens. Diazinon has been detected in all the local streams sampled by King County in their 1998 study, at levels exceeding chronic aquatic life criteria. The National Marine Fisheries Service have asserted that diazinon presents risks to salmon survival.

I am sponsoring a resolution for a vote at Monday’s Full Council meeting to request that the Environmental Protection Agency shorten the timeline for its phase-out of diazinon.

Renter Legislation

The City Council voted on Monday makes certain unlawful act by landlords subject to civil penalties, rather than criminal penalties. The Council passed this ordinance by a vote of 6-3. Councilmembers Judy Nicastro, Margaret Pageler, Peter Steinbrueck, Richard Conlin, Heidi Wills, and I all voted in support of the legislation.

In the past the City has found it difficult to prosecute landlords who threaten to or attempt to punish a renter for complaining about housing conditions or exercising other legal rights. Prosecution of this kind of behavior has often been unsuccessful because the City has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases, as opposed to a preponderance of evidence in civil cases. As a result of the passage of this legislation, landlords are now subject to civil prosecution by the City. for the following acts:

1) punitively increasing the rent
2) punitively reducing services to the renter (for instance, removing laundry facilities that were previously provided to the renter)
3) punitively increasing the obligations of a tenant or
4) otherwise imposing, threatening or attempting any punitive measure against a tenant

Additionally, the City may also civilly prosecute a landlord for entering a renter’s home without proper notice, or for prohibiting tenants from organizing activities on matters of building affairs. Acts such as locking tenants out from their property, shutting off utilities, and confiscating a renter’s personal property remain illegal act still subject to criminal prosecution.

A final provision that I supported in this legislation reaffirms a renters’ right to meet in common areas in their buildings to discuss issues important to their living conditions, whether it’s a building-wide rent increase or requesting necessary building repairs. Tenant meetings can help residents address common improvements that are needed or mediate disputes.

Choosing Seattle’s Poet Populist

You may not know that Seattle has had a Poet Populist, Bernard Harris, Jr., for the past two years. He was selected at the Seattle Neighborhood Arts Celebration in 1999 and again in 2000. As this event is on hold indefinitely, I asked Eleventh Hour Productions to continue the process of selecting a Poet Populist at their annual Poetry Festival.

In creating the position of Poet Populist I had seen this position as a democratic version of a Poet Laureate. It allows the people of a city, rather than a selected jury of academics or other poets, an opportunity to select someone to publicly represent and celebrate their poetic spirit.

The guidelines in selecting a Poet Populist describe the nominee as a writer who moves the general public with their poetry, and who, upon confirmation, will help give voice to that public feeling using the gift of poetry. They will help bring the creative arts and imagination into civic life by delivering public readings and inspiring others to share their own creativity. The Poet Populist must live within the city limits of Seattle, and will reign for one year.

Since March 1 Eleventh Hour Productions has been taking nominations. They will continue to take them until April 6. Send your nomination via the web site http://www.poetryfestival.org/, through snail, or e-mail. Only one nomination per individual, please, and include your name, address, phone, and e-mail in case you need to be contacted regarding your nominee.

After the initial phase, the 10 individuals who received the most nominations will be identified. During the week of the festival, everyone will have the opportunity to vote for one of these ten poets. A ballot will be available in the Seattle Weekly, at the Richard Hugo House during the festival, and on the above website.

I believe the public is very fortunate that Eleventh Hour Productions is able and pleased to continue the new tradition of recognizing and supporting a Poet of the People.

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