Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson Works to Create a Family-Friendly City
Councilmember Rob Johnson surrounded by his family at his swearing-in ceremony.
In his first year as a Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson has advocated on behalf of families and kids and his own experience as a working father has greatly influenced his approach to governing, including instituting childcare to be provided at all Council-related evening meetings. Below Johnson outlines what he’s worked on so far and asks Seattle's Child readers to share what you believe needs to happen in order to make the city a better place for families to live.
Since taking office Seattle is booming with families right now; with numbers steadily on the rise since 2011, nearly 60,000 families call Seattle home. Recognizing this growth, and as a dad of three girls under the age of seven, I’ve been working hard during my first year as a Seattle City Councilmember to make our city more family friendly.
As the chair of the Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee, much of my work focuses on making room for more families to live and stay in Seattle. Recently, we created zoning changes to incentivize family sized units in new developments and passed legislation to encourage larger units to be built in higher-density areas. And to help build more child care centers and keep up with increased demand, I supported the use of incentive zoning to require commercial buildings to contribute to child care.
During the budget process last fall, one of my core values was to fund programs that made an impact on the next generation and their families. To that end, I supported the creation of a childcare mitigation fund for the school district and childcare providers to use if they need to make improvements to a space so they can move quickly or get a space certified. The demand for quality on-site childcare is high and our city must play a more active role in ensuring we have enough space for all kids in before and after school care.
I also supported increasing funding to expand the Backpack Programs for kids to ensure that our students who are food insecure are getting the fresh food over the weekend so they can come to school prepared to learn and succeed in the classroom on Monday.
Because I believe that access to open space is essential for childhood development and a great option for family activities, I’ve worked on many projects to promote open space options across the city. To help neighbors create more space for play during the summer or after school, I’ve been working with colleagues at Seattle’s Department of Transportation to expand the city’s Play Streets program (to learn more about this program, or if you'd like to host a play street over the summer, click here).
Recognizing the need for more lit athletic fields due to the change in bell times last year, I sponsored more funding in our city budget so that when combined with funding from the school district, we will have lights on eight new fields across the city before school starts in the Fall.
And I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve also found money in the budget to open five more wading pools across the city. After hearing from families in my district (D4, Northeast Seattle), I am thrilled that we are a few rays of sunshine away from seeing more wading pools open to promote water conservation, activate our parks, encourage community, and contribute to a neighborhood’s livability.
I want to champion the issues that impact you, the families of Seattle – everything from wading pools to increasing funding for safe routes to schools. Please reach out to my office (by emailing Rob.Johnson@seattle.gov or calling 206.684.8808) with your ideas for how we can make Seattle a more family-friendly city; I’d love to start a conversation.
A 5th generation Seattle resident, father, urban planner, and long-time transportation advocate, Rob represents Northeast Seattle's District 4 .