Harrell to be President, new committee assignments

The Stranger is reporting that Bruce Harrell is set to become the new Council President, and his office has issued committee assignments for 2016-2017. 

Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess

UPDATE: The City Council officially announced the committee assignments. No word on Harrell’s bid to become Council President, other than a note that the President will be elected at the January 4th Council meeting.

Harrell would succeed Tim Burgess, the current Council President.

He would not officially assume the role until the first full Council meeting of next year, on January 4th — when the four new Council members (Lorena Gonzalez, Lisa Herbold, Rob Johnson and Debrora Juarez) are sworn in.

The proposed committee assignments are interesting.

2016-2017 committee assignments

For background:  there are nine Council members, and each chairs a committee. The committee topics are not pre-defined; they are distributed according to Council members’ stated interests, which often leads to bizarre collections under a single umbrella (such as Harrell’s “Education, Equity and Governance” committee).

It’s also important to understand that the Council uses an “open committee” format, which means that any Council member can show up to any committee meeting and participate and vote. The committee chairs have some specific powers that allow them a larger measure of control over legislation’s introduction and progress, but committee assignments don’t exclude any of the Council members from discussions. So while Kshama Sawant is not assigned to the committee that handles affordable housing, one of her signature issues — and Tim Burgess, who bares hides his dislike of Sawant, chairs it — the committee structure does not limit her ability to press her agenda.

With the possible exception of Sawant, it looks like everyone got good stuff, including the newcomers. Mike O’Brien got transportation. Burgess got Finance, which means he will drive the budget process. Bagshaw has health and human services, her signature issues. Lisa Herbold scored civil rights and economic development, which will land her in the middle of policy decisions about how the city should deal with social justice issues. Rob Johnson got planning, land use and zoning and will be very busy dealing with HALA zoning recommendations as well as ongoing development of South Lake Union, the SODO arena, and other land-use issues. Debora Juarez has parks and the waterfront, both hot and active topics in the city. Lorena Gonzalez has gender equity, safe communities and “New Americans” and one can expect she will be deeply involved in social justice issues. And Harrell has education and governance.

There are a few visible overlaps in the list, including “environment” with “sustainability”  and various takes on “equity” and “civil rights.” Also, it’s not clear who will be on point for labor issues such as following through on the Uber unionization legislation that just passed.