Meeting Minutes from inSPIRe Social on September 8, 2007

We had our sixth social event of 2007 at Jeanne’s home on Beacon Hill.  We had a nice turnout with over 40 guests to hear our guest speaker Nick Licata.  Thanks so much to Jeanne for opening up her home!

Our next meeting Our next social will be in October.  Details will be upcoming stay tuned!

We’re always in search for volunteers to host!  If you are interested, please contact Dave at


Jim Robinson For Mayor of Redmond inSPIRe member Jim Robinson advanced through the Primary in his race for Mayor of Redmond.  Jim will bring practical, smart, and progressive leadership for Redmond.  Jim’s vision for Redmond is a sustainable community, a solid economic base, careful planning, a strong environmental ethic and quality city services.  Running for public office is what inSPIRe is all about please support Jim!  

Jim is hosting a “Coming Home to Redmond Fundraising Social” on Sunday, September 16th, 2007 at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center (16600 N.E. 80th Street) from 2:00 to 5:00 PM.  If you can’t make the fund raiser feel free to send a contribution to Jim Robinson For Mayor of Redmond, 16625 Redmond Way, Suite M, PMB 333, Redmond, WA. 98052-4444, or just go to Mobile: 425-941-8829

Seattle Statue of Liberty Committee Paul and Libby Carr provided us with an update of their efforts regarding the restoration of the Statue of Liberty on Alki:  Phase II is happy to report we finally have our sponsoring 501(c)(3) organization, Urban Sparks:  Urban Sparks began here in Seattle when they saw the need for community groups to have a Fiscal Sponsor.  They have sponsored several other local groups doing local parks projects.  We can now begin, in earnest, to complete the Alki Statue of Liberty Project by accepting donations.  Our thanks particularly to Pam Kliment of the Seattle Parks Department, who suggested this organization to us recently. 

We hope everyone is going to be at the “welcome home” party at The Bathhouse at Alki Beach Sept. 11 at 6 PM, hosted by Mayor Nickels and City Councilman Tom Rasmussen.  We also would like anyone who bought a brick in the past, plans to buy one in the future, or otherwise has an interest in this project to be at the community meeting hosted by the Seattle Parks Dept. on Sept 13 at 7 PM.  The committee has been holding names and contact information for hundreds of people who have expressed their support for this effort, and we will be sending information to all of you shortly.  We will have information on how you can order a brick or otherwise donate to this effort up on our website in the next five days:  In the meantime, if you want to write a check right now, please send it to:  SSLC/Urban Sparks, 4701 SW Admiral Way, Box 234, Seattle, WA 98116-2340

Clean Elections Marcee Stone announce that Washington Public Campaigns has two new very cool bumper stickers, which she also distributed at our social.  Please see for more information.

inSPIRe Book Club! We will be reading for our October 24, 2007 gathering Fiasco by Tom Ricks.  To join the book club and get on the list, just send an email to

Keynote Speaker, Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata -

Nick has been a member of the Seattle City Council since 1998.  Nick is currently the chair of the Public Safety, Governmental Relations and Arts Committee, Pedestrian Safety and Fire Facilities Levy.  Nick is Vice Chair of the Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities Committee and a member of the Energy and Technology Committee. 

The “Public Safety, Governmental Relations and Arts Committee” deliberates and makes recommendations on legislative matters relating to law enforcement, fire prevention and suppression, emergency medical services and criminal justice, including coordination with County, state and federal law and justice agencies; to regional, state, federal and other intergovernmental relations; to civil rights issues; and to arts activities."  In his role as Chair of this committee as well as in his other Council activity, Nick has been very involved with issues regarding Seattle Police oversight.

The Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) Review Board was established by Seattle City Council “to review and report on the implementation of the Office of Professional Accountability.”  The OPA recently released a report addressing Seattle  police Chief Gil Kerlikowske decisions to let Seattle police officers off the hook or reduced charges against them -- without explanation regarding allegations of misconduct, even after the Seattle Police Department's internal affairs director recommended officers be found guilty.  The report blasts Kerlikowske for failing to explain in writing when he rejects the disciplinary recommendations of the head of his internal affairs department. City officials had promised such transparency years ago, the board noted.  Nick agreed to come talk with inSPIRe about this OPA report and to share his other insights on public safety issues in Seattle.

Nick spoke of the constant change on the City Council in regards to membership, committees, committee names, etc.  He admitted that sometimes it’s hard for the public to keep everything straight!  Nick has always worked with the arts and recently sponsored a poetry contest.  Nick believes it is beneficial to integrate the arts and politics. 

Nick shared with us a new children’s book he as just written, “Princess Bianca and the Vandals”.  Nick has been giving copies of this book away to help raise funds for important issues.  Financial backers have also allowed Nick to provide the book to many classrooms.  Copies were provided to interested inSPIRe members.

Nick began his discussion on police oversight with describing the differences between police departments/operations on the east coast vs the west coast.  Some of the differences have to do with multiple tasks being worked by civilians vs officers.  On the east coast many positions have been unionized that are not actually police positions.  This begins to address a key factor with the Seattle Police Department labor issues.

The Seattle Police Department has five precincts and fourteen captains.  It contains approximately 1200 members, with 600 being patrol officers.  Adding a new station/precinct does not necessarily add more police on the beat.  Rather, it adds many more administrative officers.  Nick faces this issue often with citizens wanting more precincts thinking this will mean safer neighborhoods.

Nick is also focused on pedestrian safety issues.  Although Seattle has a relatively low rate of pedestrians killed each year, we have a high rate of pedestrian/auto accidents, many of which leave the pedestrians seriously injured.  Some 200,000 people are in downtown Seattle everyday, resulting in opportunities for accidents.  Bicycle safety is also important, but not as prevalent of a security issue as with pedestrians.  The question is how do we make our streets safer for pedestrians and bicycles?  Nick and others are working on this issue. 

Calls to the Seattle Police Department are given a priority ranking from 1 to 5 depending on the seriousness of the call, with an officer in danger being ranked #1.  Nick has been studying the question of do we have enough police to meet our needs?  He asked for log sheets to verify how many police are out on the street at any given time.  This request took a long time to be fulfilled, but in the end they discovered that there are on average only 40 to 50 officers on the street at any one time.  Nick also discovered that more police are on the streets on Monday and Tuesday evenings than Friday and Saturday evenings when more crime is happening.  They are working to change this, but only so much can be changed.  Again, labor issues are involved with the police union/Guild.

Recently there have been many issues reported of police abuse.  Nick sighted an example where a teacher at a school in the Rainier Valley asked officers what was happening as they were questioning one of his students in front of the school.  The police became frustrated when the teacher kept asking questions and arrested him and took him to jail.  Eventually the charges were dropped but only after extensive efforts.

The Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) has three main administrators, including a civilian.  However, this “civilian” actually works in the police department and reports directly to the Police Chief, thus ability to provide unbiased civilian input is clearly threatened.  Nick discussed the OPA’s make-up and history.  When the OPA files its reports, they are frequently challenged by the Police Guild.  The Guild in Seattle is very strong, including having strong legal representation.  Most police oversight issues addressed by the OPA are considered to be work condition issues by the Guild and are treated as such.  Sergeants and below are represented by the Guild.  As with any bureaucratic organization the police department has normal management vs employee issues.  For example, the Guild tends to believe that the OPA is a tool by the police management for attacking certain officers, which is far from the case.  Nick believes that the head of the OPA, Peter Holmes, is doing a great job. 

Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske is a very knowledgeable and likeable guy.  He presents very well and has a polished way to assure oversight folks like Nick that he will follow advice given by the OPA, etc.  However, Gil frequently reverses decisions made by the OPA, or uses a strategic ploy of letting 180 days pass before addressing issues, which is the time allotment for implementing corrective action against officers.  Thus corrections are not taking place per the OPA’s guidance and direction.  This is frustrating many in the city.  The NAACP has even made a call for Gil Kerlikowske’s resignation. 

Q Does the Police Guild actually have a standing equal to the Seattle City Council?

A Actually, their standing can be even stronger at times.

Q A friend recently was involved in a hit and run accident, when the responsible party fled the scene.  When a police officer showed up, he reported that the car was stolen and that this is common in Seattle.  He then went on for an hour about how difficult it is to put criminals behind bars in Seattle, that the “system is rigged” to be easy on criminals, especially in regards to property crimes.  Can you respond to this?

A Officers are frequently frustrated, but also frequently not knowledgeable on the details of our legal system.  We have laws on our books.  Nick has worked to change certain laws to make them easier to enforce.  However, prosecutors must also feel that they have a good case.  This includes a good, complete police report which frequently is not available. 

Another problems involves the criminals themselves.  Many of the people committing crimes are juveniles who are difficult to convict.  Even more it’s drug addicts committing the crimes.  Nick started an initiative with fellow councilmember Tom Rasmussen to help get addicts into treatment.  These people need help.  They need stability.  They need housing.  They need employment.  Without help, they will just continue to commit crimes to feed their addition, and plug up our legal system. 

Another example are the prostitutes that work Aurora Avenue.  Most are addicts and are younger than 21.  Many are new to Seattle.  Typically they get arrested then quickly let out.  Nick has never met a sadder class of people.  Their only support is their pimp.  Also, there is a big market for minors, such as 14 or 15 year old prostitutes.  Nick has been on multiple police patrols and witnessed some very sad examples of this.  Nick has been involved with introduction a new law which makes the “John” the criminal if arrested with a minor.

Q Do you have stats on how many offenders are let go due to a technical issue or a poorly completed police report?

A We don’t get those stats.

Q Are Seattle’s theft crimes high?

A Yes, they are above the national average

Q What is the racial profile of the criminals?

A Nick doesn’t know.  And actually, to bring up the issue of racial profiles is like a lightning rod with the Police Department.  This makes police very defensive.  Nick has heard comments regarding profiling from officers such as “what, do you want us just to be nice to the criminals?”  Police officers that take a more liberal view of things tend to not speak up.

Q I was attacked by a Pit Bull.  What can be done?

A Legislation was passed a while ago on dog attacks, but nothing lately.  Individual dog breeds were not pointed out. 

Q Is there a relationship between high theft rates and police attitudes, I.E., are police getting a bad attitude?

A There are some instances of officers with “bad attitudes”, which is effectively “de-policing”, but most are still trying hard to do their job well. 

Note:  70% of Seattle police officers do not live in Seattle.

Q The situation in Seattle is common throughout the state.  Shouldn’t there be equal standards throughout?

A Yes, we need a statewide solution.

Q What is the possibility of decriminalizing drugs?

A This is really hard on a local level.  Bush has Federalized drugs.  If the Seattle police focus on a specific problem neighborhood, the dealers just move.  We need a better program. 

Q What is Seattle’s drug of choice?

A With ID theft, a white-collar crime, frequently it is Meth.  Addicts are actually hired in this crime.  On Capital Hill it tends to be heroin.  Cocaine is usually used behind closed doors, while crack is an “open air drug”.  Seattle now has 15,000 downtown dwellings, which will soon double to 30,000.  Drugs are a real problem in the city.

Q We have drug dealers in our neighborhood but the police have given no response.  What can we do?

A Call Nick at his office and he will help you!  206-684-8803.

Q Both houses in Olympia plus the governorship are run by liberal Democrats who are always seeking the vote of labor.  Thus how can we get the labor laws changed to lesson the power of Seattle’s Police Guild?

A Actually, many elected officials are not at all sympathetic to the Guild.

Q How can we support you Nick?

A Contact Nick and he will tell you!!  206-684-8803.  Also, you can receive Nick’s Urban Politics newsletter.  To get on the mailing list, contact Nick or Jeanne Legault at

As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded.  Sorry!

Many thanks to Nick for their informative and important talks!

See you at the next inSPIRe meeting!

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Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events

Guest speaker Nick Licata

Dave Gamrath introducing Licata

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