Notes from this morning’s Council Briefing

A number of interesting comments were made this morning at the Council Briefing session.

Council member Kshama Sawant passed around a letter for Council members to sign to the US Attorney General requesting that charges be dropped against  Francisco Aguirre, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who is a leader in the immigrant rights community in Portland, OR.

Sawant also noted that she will be hosting a Progressive Small Business Summit Wednesday evening.

Council member Johnson highlighted the ribbon cutting for the 520 Bridge this coming Saturday.

Council member Herbold has been informed by the Mayor’s office that the city is rolling out a pilot program to pick up needles at unsanctioned homeless encampments, starting with four “hot spots.”

Herbold also noted that, as was covered in the news over the weekend, 153 trees were illegally cut down in the Duwamish Head Greenbelt. Herbold visited the site and has spoken with the city attorney who told her that both civil and criminal sanctions are on the table. Law enforcement has not identified who cut the trees yet, but is apparently speaking with someone who does know.

Council member Suarez read a statement reiterating the importance to District 5 of an infill light rail station at 130th: “Having light rail flying through with no stop in an area designated for upzone is unacceptable.”

Council member Gonzalez is circulating a draft schedule for developing legislation around paid family leave for city workers. Sawant, clearly sensing that Gonzalez and Herbold have seized the leadership role on the issue (one close to the hearts of her base of supporters), reminded everyone that last year she unsuccessfully pushed forward a bill that would have set aside some funds in the 2016 budget to help pay for up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave if the Council developed such legislation this year. Sawant also asked Gonzalez and Herbold to involve her office in the development of the legislation, claiming that they have researched it thoroughly.

Herbold also requested of Council President Harrell that he work with the Mayor’s office and department heads to establish a “no surprises” policy so that Councilmembers have a chance to learn about major announcements in advance rather than reading about them in the local news. Gonzalez extended the point by asking for a clarification of the protocol, such as whether there is a “Council liaison” in each department who should be their primary point of contact. Harrell mentioned that he has been hearing the flip side of this discussion from city departments: that because of the district model there has been a flood of recent requests for information from Council members related to projects in their districts and the department staff are having trouble keeping up as well as serving citizen requests.