Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #76: 1% For Art On Projects Outside Seattle

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

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.


1% For Art On Projects Outside Seattle

Council Member Margaret Pageler is proposing an amendment to stop City Utility Departments from funding arts out of their capital projects located outside the city.

This legislation counters the Mayor’s Arts Taskforce recommendation that the City’s 1% for Arts Program apply to city capital projects outside of Seattle. Since City Light and the Water Department have some very large projects planned for the future, Pageler is concerned that the additional cost of this program will negatively impact rates.

The Council already passed her proposed budget guidance statement, which would have directed the Executive to not plan on extending the 1% for Arts Program to these capital projects. The vote was 5 to 4 in favor, with Steinbrueck, Compton, Conlin and Licata voting against.

I got another budget guidance statement passed which said that the Executive should present by February 1, 2000 information to my Council Committee (Culture, Arts and Parks) to review any changes to the Percent for Arts program anticipated in the 2001-2002 budget. I believe this might have kept the door still open on her proposal and would have allowed more data to be brought before the Council to determine what the financial impact would be for extending the Percent for Arts program to the utility’s capital projects.

However, both budget guidance statements would seem to be irrelevant if her proposed amendments pass on Monday, because they go much farther than making recommendation, they would actually amend the Municipal Code, thus becoming law and trumping the above budget guidance statements.

Her amendment for City Light reads:

“The Department shall continue to incorporate arts funding into its capital projects constructed within the municipal boundaries of the City at the one percent level, however the Department shall not be permitted to fund any such program from the Light Fund on any capital project outside of the City limits.”

I believe that the same language will be introduced for the Water Department on Monday.

I am as concerned as any other Council Member about keeping our utility rates low. In fact in constant dollars City Light’s rates will be lower at the end of the next 3 year rate increases than at any time since 1982.

More importantly, I do not see how extending the Percent for Arts Program to the utilities is really relevant to keeping their rates low. According to information provided by the Executive Department the estimated impact of this program on City Light rates would be .00005%. I would expect it to be about the same for the Water Department rates.

There are certainly government programs that should be trimmed, but I doubt how effective denying the 1% for Arts Program from the utilities’ capital projects outside Seattle accomplishes that, particularly when it has such a negligible impact. If we were choosing where to cut projects, I’d eliminate the money-losing City Light contract providing electricity to Nordstroms in California.

Public-Private Partnership Resolution

In November, 1998, Mayor Schell and Council President Sue Donaldson assembled the Public-Private Partnership Task Force (PPPTF) and asked it to establish a set of standards for future public-private partnerships between the City of Seattle and private entities. The taskforce’s recommendations were sent to the City Council in September and Resolution 30072 was drawn up and was to be voted on last Monday.

The legislation was delayed a week upon my request. I wanted to submit some additional amendments to help further clarify the purpose of the proposed protocols for reviewing public-private partnerships and for tightening up the actual review process. In addition I also wanted to run the proposed legislation past some former members of the taskforce and some citizens who had been following the process.

Both taskforce members Daniel Norton and Mead Emory reviewed and subsequently supported my proposed changes.

Norton who had resigned from the taskforce in protest over the original limited size of the Public-Private Partnership Review Panel, was pleased to see that in the Resolution emerging from City Council Member Sue Donaldson’s Committee had the panel now with15 members rather than 3. And, that the panel was now selected by both the City Council and other panel members and not just the Mayor and the City Council President.

Emory felt that my suggestion for expanding the scope of review to Public Development Authorities (PDAs) was an additional positive step. Jeannie Hale, President of the Laurelhurst Community Club and Carolyn M. Van Noy, Executive Director of the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission shared that opinion. In addition, they thought the amendments were excellent additions to the legislation because they improved the process.

Some of the features in the current legislation which strengthen the original taskforce recommendations for public oversight include:

1. Expanding the review panel to 15 members with 5 selected by the Mayor, 5 from the City Council and the last 5 chosen from the other 10 members 2. Having panel members be limited to 2 terms

I have also made the following further proposed changes:

1. Lowering the threshold for submitting public-private partnerships to review from $5 million to $3 million. According to the City’s Chief Financial Officer, this change would not result in any significant increase in work for the City.

2. Expanding the definition of public investment to include leases and credit

3. Amend the Ethics and Elections Commission enabling ordinance to identify the Commission as the enforcer of contract provisions in public-private partnership agreements where there is a violation of the ethics code.

4. Under Partnership Protocol, the following additional questions would be asked:

How much will the project cost if a partnership is pursued?

How much would the project cost if undertaken using only public money?

Was there an independent appraisal of the property (involved in the agreement)? If not, why?

5. The title of the Resolution would explicitly state that it was creating “general guidelines for improving public knowledge of certain partnerships of the City, including public agencies and public development authorities.”

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