Council responds to Mayor’s emergency order

The City Council met this afternoon to consider a resolution ratifying Mayor Murray’s emergency order this week related to opening up two new homeless encampments for people living out of their vehicles. In the end, they ratified a modified version of the emergency order, adding some additional requirements.

As per the city charter, the City Council is expected to “endeavor to respond within 48 hours” to an emergency order from the Mayor, and has four options:

  1. Do nothing, in which case it goes into effect until rescinded in the future by either the mayor or the Council;
  2. Ratify it as submitted;
  3. Reject it as submitted;
  4. Amend it and send it back to the Mayor, which is in force as of when the Council votes to approve it (so anything the Mayor did before the amendment was and continues to be legal).

The Council’s starting resolution begins by asking for more information in the Mayor’s bi-weekly reports back to the Council.

Council member Herbold offered a couple of additional amendments:  one added even more requirements for reporting back to the Council data on how it was operationalized: the numbers of people served, how they were served, and outcomes.  The second added additional details that the Mayor verbally committed to in public remarks but that were omitted from the order itself, such as sanitation and other services present at the sites and a plan for what happens after the site closes at some future point in time. Council members Bagshaw, Juarez and Gonzalez contributed to the amendments.

Council member Lisa Herbold
Council member Lisa Herbold

(as of this writing, the amendments have not been posted by the City; I’ll add links when they are, and to the final resolution) UPDATE: The final resolution, and modified emergency order, can be found here.

Council member Johnson asked what effect this might have on churches that might want to host encampments; the city staff replied that encampments are allowed on church properties with a minimum of permitting and properties, and the emergency order and resolution only affect city properties and services.

Herbold’s amendments were adopted, and was unanimously adopted by those present (Council members Bagshaw participated by phone but couldn’t vote without being physically present, and Council member Sawant was absent).

As an aside, the public comments at the beginning of the session were mostly focused on the ongoing criticism of the City’s sweeps of unauthorized homeless encampments on city property. Among the concerns are that the majority of people caught up in the sweeps are simply moving on to other unauthorized locations, so the net effect of the sweeps is to further disrupt their lives without actually solving any problems.  That surely weighed strongly in the Council members’ amendments to gather more data on the outcomes of people living in cars or RV’s whom the City attempts to relocate to the new encampments.

UPDATE: Council member Herbold issued a statement on today’s Council action.