Councilmember O'Brien left office on December 31, 2019. This website is for archival purposes only and is no longer updated.

2011 Year in Review


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I am proud of the work we accomplished in 2011, my second full year in office. Below are some highlights from a great year.

Zero Waste Agenda – As Chair of the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee, I worked with the environmental community in Seattle to promote a strong Zero Waste Agenda.

Stopping unwanted yellow pages – We started 2011 by implementing the ordinance passed in 2010 that would create an opt-out registry for residents and business to stop unwanted yellow pages deliveries. In May, the registry went live and has been a huge success. From May through December, more than 71,000 households and business opted out of 394,400 unwanted yellow pages books, helping Seattle prevent more than 360 tons of paper from entering our waste and recycling stream.

Plastic bag ban – We ended the year as strongly as we started, passing an ordinance to protect Puget Sound and marine wildlife by banning plastic carry-out bags. In addition to our partnership with environmental organizations like Environment Washington, Surfrider Foundation, People for Puget Sound, Sierra Club, and Zero Waste Washington, we also worked with grocery stores, retail businesses, and labor unions to develop a solution that works for consumers and businesses to the problem these plastics pose for our environment.

Promoting workers’ rights and protecting public health – In the summer of 2011, Seattle became only the third city in the country (along with San Francisco and Washington, DC) to adopt a Paid Sick Leave ordinance that ensures that people working in Seattle have access to paid time off when they are sick or caring for sick family members. These new worker protections will go into effect September 1, 2012.

Immigrant and refugee issues – In collaboration with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights and Councilmember Bruce Harrell, we passed a resolution to improve translation and interpretation services for Seattle’s immigrant and refugee communities, now 17% of Seattle’s population and growing. This fall City Council also approved funding for the creation of a new Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Together, we are working to make a more accessible and responsive City Government for everyone in Seattle.

Transportation issues – I’m working to bring more transportation choices and improved mobility to everyone in Seattle. To do so, in 2011, I voted to put Proposition 1 on the November ballot to expand funding for road maintenance as well as pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure. While I was personally disappointed in the outcome of the election, we face many transportation challenges ahead and I will continue work with my colleagues to improve mobility and transportation choices for everyone in Seattle.

2012 Budget – In the fall of 2011, City Council went through a six-week process to adopt the 2012 Budget for the City of Seattle. I am proud that while we had to make millions in cuts to balance the books, we protected our investments in health and human services. In fact, in areas like homelessness and health care for the poorest among us, we actually provided some new funding to meet the increased need from the lingering impacts of the Great Recession.

I am particularly proud that in the 2012 Budget we also provided funding for a new pilot program I spearheaded with the Ballard Safe Homes for All Coalition. The Ballard Safe Parking Pilot Program is a partnership with three to five faith-based organizations in the greater Ballard area to provide a safe place to park and access to hygiene facilities for people living in their vehicles. In addition, a housing caseworker will work with the residents to help them transition out of their vehicles and back into permanent housing. This pilot program kicks off at the end of January with our first church, Our Redeemers Lutheran Church.

Income inequality and corporate power – The Occupy Movement in Seattle and around the country has captivated many of us with its messages about economic inequality and corporate abuse of power. I worked with Councilmember Nick Licata to pass a resolution recognizing the important First Amendment rights of the Occupy movement as well as asking city departments to begin exploring the ways in which Seattle can address corporate influence and economic inequality at the local level. My family and I also participated in Bank Transfer Day, joining more than 650,000 other Americans in moving our money away from Big Four Banks to a local credit union.

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