Tag: Tim Ceis

Ceis Gets Another $30,000 from City, Poll Tests Anti-Andrew Lewis Messages, Burien Site May be Too Loud for Shelter

1. Tim Ceis, the consultant who received a no-bid, $280,000 city contract to work on issues related to Sound Transit’s Ballard-to-West Seattle light rail alignment earlier this year, received a $30,000 contract extension this month, bringing his total city contract to $310,000.

Ceis’ contract involves meeting with neighborhood advocacy groups and other stakeholders to build “community consensus” around the mayor’s priorities for the light rail extension, strategizing, and advancing Harrell’s views to the Sound Transit board.

PubliCola broke the story about Ceis’ initial contract in March.

At the time, Harrell was pushing a proposal to eliminate a station in the Chinatown International District (CID) neighborhood and replace it with a second Pioneer Square Station across from City Hall, roughly where the King County Administration Building currently stands. King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed creating a towering new residential neighborhood and new civic center in the area. Sound Transit board adopted this proposal as its preferred alternative in March, but left one potential CID option on the table in response to protests from residents and businesses.

The plan to skip over the CID would add a new light rail station near Lumen Field and an existing Salvation Army shelter, amid a broad swath of land owned by developer Greg Smith. As far back as 2022, Smith’s company Urban Visions had mocked up a proposal to move the planned CID station south into SoDo, suggesting the area could turn into a new destination like Chelsea Market in New York or the food and event center in the revamped Seattle Center Armory.

Documents obtained through records requests show that Ceis, along with the city’s designated liaison to Sound Transit, has met with Smith “to discuss potential partnerships related to the proposed CID south station” on Smith’s property. He has also met with attorney Jack McCullough, who represents the developer that owns the development rights around the proposed second Pioneer Street station.

The newly amended contract says that “due to delayed Sound Transit board action,” Ceis’ work will continue through November. The board spent several weeks this summer debating whether to eliminate a promised station on Denny Way or build it on Westlake as planned; Harrell, who initially seemed to support eliminating the long-planned station on Denny, ultimately got behind a station north of the original proposed site on Westlake that will cause less disruption to Amazon and the South Lake Union developer Vulcan.

Public records show that Ceis communicates regularly with Vulcan, and facilitated a meeting between Harrell and Vulcan VP Ada Healey, who told Ceis that the original plan for a station on Westlake would “put [the city’s] economic engines at risk and “sacrific[e] our downtown neighborhoods.” A spokesman for the mayor’s office said the scope for Ceis’ $250-an-hour contract remains unchanged.

2. There’s a new poll in the field testing positive and negative messages about District 7 City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, along with positive messages about his opponent Bob Kettle—a former Navy officer who received 31.5 percent of the vote to Lewis’ 43.5 percent.

The poll, which only tests positive messages about Kettle, appears to be from the Kettle campaign. For one thing, it mischaracterizes several of Lewis’ key positions in odd ways—saying, for example, that Lewis is “working…to bring rent control to Seattle” (in fact, he voted against a rent control “trigger” law earlier this month). For another, it describes Lewis’ views in a way that no human working on his campaign would be likely to phrase them—like a question that says Lewis “believes we can make progress… if we center the work and meet the moment with the urgency it requires,” or another that talks about “electrify[ing] houses.”

The real meat of the poll—the messages voters should prepare to hear from Kettle as he runs against Lewis from the right—is more or less what you’d expect from a guy with campaign signs all over the top of Magnolia and Queen Anne: Kettle will represent District 7 neighborhoods outside downtown Seattle, crack down on “open drug use and dealing from Downtown to our neighborhoods,” and “clean up our public spaces” by removing encampments now that “we’ve finally built-up enough shelter space to offer housing to everyone.”

Quick fact check on that last point: There are currently around 6,000 shelter and transitional housing beds in all of King County—a fraction of what’s needed to serve a homeless population that could be as high as 48,000. Even under the most conservative estimates, we have not “built up enough shelter space,” much less housing, “for everyone.”

3. A potential site for a Pallet shelter in Burien could be disqualified because of extreme noise levels from nearby SeaTac Airport. The property—an empty lot next to the Boulevard Park branch of the King County Library—sits inside a “35 decibel reduction zone,” in which all “living and working areas” must be soundproofed to reduce inside noise by 35 decibels.

Pallet shelters, which are thin-walled temporary structures ventilated to the outdoors, can’t be soundproofed—a fact the Port of Seattle brought up in rejecting a proposal from the city to site the shelter inside the Port’s Northeast Redevelopment Area (NERA). In both locations, the average noise level is between 60 and 70 decibels, a level SeaTac Airport’s director of environment and sustainability said was “not conducive to residential purposes, especially when it is highly unlikely that any temporary housing structures (let alone permanent structures) could be modified to attain the City of Burien’s stringent noise mitigation code.”

A spokesperson for the city of Burien did not immediately respond to questions about noise levels at the potential shelter location and how the site, which has been vacant for many years, first came to the attention of the city.

City Paid Consultant Tim Ceis $280,000 to “Encourage Agreement” and Build “Community Consensus” for Harrell’s Light Rail Route

Four potential light rail routes through the CID; the Sound Transit board adopted the third route from left, which Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell sponsored, as its preferred alternative last week.

By Erica C. Barnett

The city of Seattle spent $280,000 over the past year paying longtime local consultant Tim Ceis—a former deputy mayor widely known as “the Shark” for his combative, “Machiavellian” style—to lobby Sound Transit on a West Seattle-to-Ballard light rail extension, PubliCola has learned. The no-bid, sole-source contract falls just under the maximum amount, $285,000, that city agencies can legally pay consultants before they have to solicit public bids.

According to Ceis’ contract, his work included building “community consensus” on behalf of the city’s preferred light rail alternative—a controversial last-minute option that eliminates long-planned stations serving the Chinatown-International District and First Hill in favor of a second station in Pioneer Square and a new station a few blocks from the existing Stadium Station. Mayoral spokesman Jamie Housen said the contract amounts to around 20 hours of work a week, although it’s unclear how many hours Ceis has actually worked on the mayor’s behalf.

Harrell sponsored the new alternative with the support of King County Executive Dow Constantine, at a meeting where the Sound Transit board adopted Harrell’s proposal as its preferred alternative last week.

According to a redacted copy of Ceis’ amended contract, his work for the city involved “developing and representing the Mayor’s position” on the light-rail route, “developing positive board-level relationships that support Seattle’s goals for [the West Seattle-Ballard Light Rail Extension] and enable effective decision-making at the ST Board” and “encourag[ing] agreement around recommendations and modifications considered by the ST Board.” Formally, the contract is between the Seattle Department of Transportation, which answers to the mayor, and Ceis’ firm, Ceis Bayne East.

Update March 29: At PubliCola’s request, the city’s website has been updated to include Ceis’ original contract, which was not publicly available until today. The contract includes heavy redactions, including a blacked-out page titled “Consultant costs and estimated hours,” as seen above. State public disclosure law requires disclosure of public documents except in specifically, clearly defined cases; I’ve asked which exemption they believe Ceis’ contract terms fall under.

Update April 3: After PubliCola asked for a legal justification for redacting Ceis’ costs and estimated hours, the Seattle Department of Transportation provided unredacted copies of the original contract and the amended version. Both show that Ceis claimed 20 hours of work per week at $250 an hour—a rate that’s significantly lower than what consultants at Ceis’ level (both as a partner in his own firm and with his decades of experience) generally charge. Ceis’ contract does not require a specific accounting of hours.

Harrell and King County Executive Dow Constantine have repeatedly suggested that “the CID community” was united in support of a light rail alternative that bypasses their neighborhood, but the illusion of that consensus was decisively broken when thousands of people signed a petition supporting a station in Chinatown, and dozens showed up to hold signs and testify against a route that skips their neighborhood, last week.

Under the contract, Ceis was responsible for getting “key constituencies” to support the mayor’s preferred route and station locations and helping them craft their “comments and positions” in favor of this route.

Supporters of the “north-south” alternative have argued that “the CID community” was united in support of a light rail alternative that bypasses their neighborhood, but the illusion of that consensus was decisively broken when thousands of people signed a petition supporting a station in Chinatown, and dozens showed up to hold signs and testify against a route that skips their neighborhood, last week.

Ceis and his firm are being paid significantly more per year than Anne Fennessy, a consultant hired by then-mayor Jenny Durkan to serve as the city’s dedicated representative to Sound Transit in 2018. Fennessy’s $180,000-a-year contract raised eyebrows both for its size and the fact that Fennessy was a personal friend of Durkan’s. Fennessy’s work consisted largely of representing the city in meetings with Sound Transit staff and coordinating technical input, according to her contract.

Ceis’ firm, which helped draft the Compassion Seattle initiative, received $25,000 for its work on Compassion Seattle, the failed initiative on homelessness that Harrell adopted as a pillar of his homelessness policy. Ceis maxed out to Harrell’s mayoral campaign in 2021 and worked behind the scenes on an independent expenditure committee supporting Harrell.

Ceis directed our questions about his contract to Harrell’s office. Housen said Ceis “filled a gap” when the city was transitioning between dedicated representatives to Sound Transit, “providing expertise, analysis, and historical context over the last year.”