City Attorney Tom Carr, who insists he's "no fan" of the reviled poster ban, decided on Tuesday—despite the stated concerns of at least two City Council members—to ask for a review of a state Appeals Court decision upending the ban, which prohibited posters on city utility poles. Carr says he decided to seek state Supreme Court review because the ruling, by defining utility poles as a highly protected "traditional public forum," gives the city no leeway to restrict where, when, and how posters can be affixed to public objects. "I would think that everyone in the city would at least like to ban posters on trees in parks," Carr says. Whatever the Supreme Court has to say about the decision, council member Nick Licata says he expects to see a new ordinance soon that would clarify where, when, and how posters could be affixed to public poles. "The bottom line is that this law is going to be overturned anyhow," Licata says. . . .
Public housing could soon be getting a lot more crowded.
The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), which runs a locally funded housing program for low-income seniors, quietly made plans in July to send the poorest of those seniors packing. Now only seniors making more than about $12,000 a year, or around 22 percent of the Seattle median income, will be eligible for the Seattle Senior Housing Program (SSHP). The new guidelines require that tenants pay no more than 40 percent of their income as rent, so applicants who can't afford the new monthly rent of $390 a month will be sloughed off into other programs, such as public housing.
Hinda Kipnis, an exiled New Yorker, pays the rent on her SSHP apartment with a meager monthly Social Security check. But if she wanted to move in today, Kipnis says, she couldn't afford SHA's new minimum. "I'd have to go into [public] housing, and I don't want to go there," Kipnis says. "I like my apartment."
It wasn't supposed to work this way. The program, begun in 1981 and funded through local bonds, was meant to provide housing for seniors making less than 80 percent of Seattle's median — which, in those days, wasn't a heck of a lot. The idea, SHA's Virginia Felton says, was that higher- income seniors would subsidize the rents of those who made less, and the whole thing would pay for itself. As it turned out, "there's been little difference [in incomes] between senior housing and public housing," Felton says. "If we kept this program affordable all the way down the scale, as it has been, we couldn't keep it viable," Felton says. "This is not the best program to serve the poorest of the poor." Instead, SHA is offering Section 8 vouchers and spots in public housing to its lowest-income seniors.
The problem is, many of them don't want to go. Kipnis says she turned down a Section 8 voucher herself not long ago. "Section 8's belong to people who are very needy," Kipnis says. "They do not belong in the Senior Housing Program."
And tenant advocates like John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition note that SHA's mandate is to serve the neediest people regardless of whether they turn a profit. "There are tons of low-income seniors out there in the private sector who are paying more than 40 percent of their income on rent [already], and they're being denied access to those units, " Fox says.
Erica C. Barnett