Transportation Levy to Move Seattle: The City wants to hear from you!

Transportation is critical to the health and well-being of our community. The City of Seattle would like to hear the public’s feedback on the Transportation Levy to Move Seattle proposal and is encouraging community members to learn more and get involved in a number of ways.

Some background: In March 2015, Mayor Ed Murray introduced a proposal for a nine-year, $900 million levy to replace the existing Bridging the Gap levy that expires at the end of 2015. The Transportation Levy to Move Seattle proposal focuses on taking care of the basics, maintaining our streets, bridges and sidewalks, while also investing in the future with improvements that give us more transportation choices to move more people and goods in and around our growing city.

Prior to finalizing the proposal, the City is encouraging the public to provide input and be a part of shaping Seattle’s transportation future. There are a few ways to get involved:

1) Saturday, March 28, 10am – 12pm (presentation at 10:30am)
New Holly Gathering Hall (7054 32nd Ave S)

2) Monday, March 30, 6 – 8pm (presentation at 6:30pm)
Roosevelt High School (1410 NE 66th St)

3) Tuesday, March 31, 6 – 8pm (presentation at 6:30pm)
West Seattle High School (3000 California Ave SW)

Transportation Levy to Move Seattle - Community Conversations flyer

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40th Anniversary Timeline: 1975 recycling our roots

1975 Armen at Fremont Recycling Station

1975

If it’s difficult to define a career in a few paragraphs, it is impossible to capture the essence of Armen Napoleon Stepanian, a man who has always been larger than life, a myth in his own time, the 5th Honorary Mayor of Fremont, Christopher Columbus of Curb Collection, and one of the founders and early luminaries of the Fremont Public Association (FPA).

In 1975, Armen led the FPA in the creation of Fremont Recycling Station #1, the first source-separated, curb-collection recycling program in the nation. The Recycling Center showcased the political savvy that always informed the agency. While the FPA (renamed Solid Ground in 2007) primarily served the north end, recycling routes included the Mayor of Seattle and nine out of eleven Seattle City Council members, regardless of where they lived, to demonstrate the importance of the program and generate political support.

Of course, recycling is just one chapter of Armen’s amazing story.

A carpenter and display designer from Hells Kitchen, New York City, by way of San Francisco, Armen won the title Honorary Mayor of Fremont against 37 opponents (including a Black Labrador) in an election held on February 27, 1973 and began his reign as Seattle’s only unofficial public official.

While some took the mayoral race as a lark, Armen took the position seriously.

Armen plays a "pool duel" against then Woodland Park Zoo Director Jan van Oosten to benefit the Fremont Food Bank

Armen plays a “pool duel” against then Woodland Park Zoo Director Jan van Oosten to benefit the Fremont Food Bank

In the process of accepting the role of Mayor, he became a raucous force for positive change, a creative and tireless promoter, and one of the guiding lights that led downtown Fremont’s transition from a poverty- and drug-saturated neighborhood into the tie dye-tinged, environmentally-conscious “District that Recycles Itself” and, eventually, into the arty “Center of the Universe.”

He focused local media on Fremont by campaigning to keep the Fremont Bridge painted orange. At the first Fremont Fair (which he helped found), he started the Fremont Food Bank and engaged local leaders in public pool challenges to benefit the Food Bank. Through these and other efforts, Armen earned his national reputation for his role as an environmental evangelist preaching the benefits of source-separation, curb-collection recycling.

Fremont Recycling Station #1 ran for 14 years before leading to the development of the City of Seattle’s and many other municipal curb collection programs.

Armen views recycling as much more than a reduction in waste, or lessening of material extraction from the earth:

Recycling is … theology through technology,” he says. “People don’t understand the spiritual side of it … what people are putting in front of their homes is how they feel about themselves. It is how they feel about their neighbors … about the earth … about The Creator….

“Of the many benefits of recycling, energy is the most critical of all – the energy saved from producing virgin products, the foreign policy implications of consuming less energy, and our own personal relationship to the material – the positive energy we get from recycling.”

When the City of Seattle designed a citywide program, the Fremont Recycling Station #1 did not have the capacity to bid competitively for a collection contract. And the City imagined no role for Armen as an ambassador for curb collection. After signing a five-year agreement not to compete with the City, Armen left the area to continue his recycling career in Indianapolis, IN. Armen is a founding member of the Washington State Recycling Association and  an inaugural member of  its Hall of Fame. While retired and living in Ocean Shores, WA, Armen continues to advocate for a just and caring community.

In this age when Fremont has become one of the most upscale neighborhoods in Seattle – and Solid Ground one of the largest, most stable human service providers in King County – it is hard to imagine that one man, once called by a reporter “a combination of Archbishop Makarios and Phineas T. Barnum,” could do so much to change the face of our community and help set in motion the work that helps so many people today.

 

Leveraging 40 years of innovation, partnership & action to end poverty & income inequality

Mayor Mike Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee, David Rolf of SEIU 775NW, and Howard Wright of Seattle Hospitality Group

Mayor Mike Murray holds a press conference with co-chairs of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee (photo from the Seattle.gov website)

2014 is Solid Ground’s 40th year of Innovation, Partnership and Action! It appears that this will also be the year our society recognizes that income inequality is a fundamental and worsening issue for the United States and the world. Income inequality is not a new issue to us. Solid Ground and other Community Action Agencies recognized long ago that poverty is a result of societal barriers and structures which favor people with privilege and oppress those without. Since the origins of community action, the poverty rate has not increased, but income inequality – including lack of income mobility – has grown greatly, especially in the last 25 years.

The severity of income inequality and its impact on all of us is why I readily accepted Seattle Mayor Murray’s request that I join his Income Inequality Advisory Committee. The 25 members of the Committee are charged with delivering an actionable set of recommendations for increasing the minimum wage within the City of Seattle. Income is, of course, important – and as we know well, just one of many factors that affect a person’s ability to thrive. I view these minimum wage negotiations as an opportunity to raise awareness and, hopefully, action on the larger issue of addressing opportunity gaps that prevent income and social mobility for all residents of King County and our state.

I appreciate that our new mayor has wisely identified that multiple strategies are needed to make Seattle an affordable and equitable city, including:

  • Increasing minimum compensation levels for low-income Seattle workers.
  • Ensuring universal health insurance regardless of employment.
  • Making affordable housing more available and closer to where people work.
  • Preserving and strengthening our public transit systems to connect people to jobs.
  • Creating a fertile environment for the creation and growth of new jobs and industries.
  • Offering education and training options structured to help working adults succeed and linked to better paying jobs in demand by industry.

Appropriately, these strategies specifically address the root causes of poverty and would positively impact many of the people who access our services. Innovation, partnership and action are what have enabled Solid Ground to be an agency with impact for 40 years. I’m confident that by working together with our public and private partners, advocating with the people living on low incomes across Washington State and in collaboration with our nonprofit peers, Solid Ground’s fourth decade will bring success in making an impact as an agency working to end poverty and income inequality.

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