Notes from this morning’s Council Briefing

A few notes from this morning’s Council Briefing session, where the Council members go around the table and talk about the Monday afternoon agenda, committee meetings coming up later in the week, and whatever else they are up to.

Council member Sawant will be amending this week’s Introduction and Referral Calendar to add a resolution related to the changing nature of broadcast TV news. According to Sawant, the KING5 workers are having contract issues because the parent company is moving to use more nationally-syndicated content and reduce their locally-produced pieces. Sawant worries what this means for our ability to get local news and information¬†during an emergency.

Speaking of local emergencies, council member Gonzalez noted that the Office of Emergency Management will be conducting a drill this week called “Cascadia Rising” which simulates response to a 9.0 earthquake in the region.

Gonzalez, pinch-hitting for the absent Council President Harrell, noted the ordinance updating the ethics code is on the agenda for a final vote this afternoon. Council member Burgess expressed his opposition to the bill because he believes it lowers the ethics standard by removing the “bright line prohibition” for participation in matters in which the Council member has a material interest. Burgess circulated a memo to the Council members expressing his view and proposing an alternative. Several others, most forcefully Council member Juarez, argued for the change in the ordinance, making the case that the current ethics system undermines the district election system. Council member O’Brien noted that even under the current system the rules can be frustratingly vague about when a material interest is “broadly held” by citizens of the city (and thus not requiring recusal) or “narrowly held” (and requiring recusal).¬† Council member asked a clarifying questions about whether under the new law there were any cases where a Council member was required to recuse herself (no), though she didn’t show her cards as to how she might vote. It will be an interesting discussion this afternoon, though my guess is that it has enough votes to pass even without Harrell present. (I wrote about the issue last week)

Gonzalez also mentioned that the plan for the North Precinct police station would be discussed at her GESCNA committee hearing on Wednesday. The plan has come under fire from some quarters for being too large and lavish. Council member Juarez attempt to provide context for the discussion, noting that the North Precinct, which covers around 300,000 Seattle residents, has a police station that was built in 1984 and is literally sinking into the ground. It was planned to originally house about 180 SPD staff and now has 280, so it is critically overcrowded. She also pointed out that the city’s consent decree with the federal government over SPD practices emphasized the importance of “community policing” and tham nay of the things called out by some as extravagances in the plan are necessary elements of a community policing approach.