It was a very news-worthy council briefing: a preview of this afternoon’s debate and vote on the source-of-income discrimination ban, what’s up with secure scheduling legislation, lots of stuff in the GESCNA committee, an update on the homeless crisis response and a throw-down between Council members Juarez and O’Brien over the North Precinct police station.
(I’ll write separately on this morning’s presentation on the city’s “P Patch” program)
Council member Herbold teed up this afternoon’s consideration of the ordinance banning discrimination against renters based on their source of income (the bill also bans most “preferred employer” programs and institutes a “first in line” policy). She reviewed the amendments adopted in committee, including some exemptions to the ban on preferred employer programs that engendered some further discussion among the Council members. She’ll also be offering an amended (i.e. “substitute”) version this afternoon that pares back requirements for additional time so that the additional requirements placed upon landlords don’t unnecessarily extend the length of time that a property is vacant and how long it takes to sign up a tenant, while making provision for people with limited English proficiency or disabilities who need reasonable accommodations.
Council member Burgess will also be offering some amendments this afternoon:
Regarding the first-in-time requirement, he and Council member Johnson want the city auditor to do an evaluation of the program after 18 months to ensure that it’s not having the opposite effect from the one intended by rewarding wealthier tenants who have the flexibility in their schedule and the ability to be on the Internet all day so they can respond to new vacancy posting faster. Since Seattle will be the first jurisdiction to put a first-in-time provision into place, Burgess and Johnson feel it’s important to evaluate its impact.
Likewise, Burgess wants the city auditor to look at the effect of another requirement in the ordinance that requires landlords to accept short-term vouchers from housing agencies even when the tenant does not have the means to pay rent past that time.
Council member Bagshaw is offering an amendment that clarifies that the ordinance does not apply to single-family dwellings that are the landlord’s primary residence, i.e. renting out a basement. That is already true in the Fair Housing Act, and Herbold verified that the ordinance does not change that. The Council is still waiting for guidance from its legal department on how the Fair Housing Act applies to backyard cottages.
Herbold also noted that tomorrow she will be unveiling a draft bill to address secure scheduling issues, which has been the subject of ten committee meetings and months of hard work by her staff, Council member Gonzalez’s staff, Council central staff, the Office of Labor Standards, and stakeholder groups. There will be a public hearing on August 16th; amendments will be considered at a CRUEDA committee meeting on September 7th, and she is aiming for a committee vote on September 13th.
Council member Gonzalez has a lot of oars in the water right now. In Wednesday’s GESCNA committee, there will be a presentation from Chinatown/International District advocates in response to the Mayor’s recently-presented action plan on public safety in the area. They will discuss the results of their public safety survey of residents and workers, and give some policy recommendations.
The GESCNA committee meeting will also continue the discussion of bias-free policing that began recently in Council President Harrell’s committee. SPD will discuss its data-collection processes, as well as its policies around pretextual and Terry stops.
Gonzalez said that she is close to a final draft resolution related to the North Precinct police station, and she is hoping to discuss the final draft on Wednesday.
Gonzalez has asked for SPD to present at next Monday’s council briefing on its crowd management policies. She noted that all the Council members continue to hear from concerned constituents around over-policing, and she wants to understand their current policies, including the use of blast balls. Any issues raised will be taken up for further discussion in her GESCNA committee.
On Thursday morning, Gonzalez, Bagshaw, Herbold and O’Brien will attend a Paid Family Leave Symposium at University of Washington.
Council member Bagshaw was sad to report that the much-anticipated Barb Poppe report on the city’s homeless response has been postponed until early September. But at this week’s Human Services and Public Health Committee meeting, they will hear from Jason Johnson at Focus Strategies on the data analysis that the Council hired them to do regarding the various ways the city is investing in homeless response and what’s working (and not). Bagshaw has also asked Catherine Lester, Director of the Human Services Department, to present at a Monday morning council briefing with her recommendations as well, in preparation for the upcoming budget discussions. Lester’s focuses are expected to be on housing first and harm reduction, getting people into permanent housing and 24/7 shelters, and ultimately spending money on diversion and rapid rehousing.
Finally: Council member Juarez revisited the earlier conversation on the proposed North Precinct police station. Juearez, who represents District 5 (a big part of the SPD North Precinct and the site of the proposed new station), thanks Council member Juarez and Police Chief O’Toole for their work on the resolution, but she is clearly growing impatient with what she views as attempts to turn the discussion of the precinct into larger conversations that she views as inappropriate. She noted that this is about replacing a 35-year-old building, and the conversation about it began in 2008; she also pointed out that in 2015 the Council voted unanimously three times to move this forward. She sees it as a conversation about a building and about public safety. “I am not afraid of a building,” Juarez explained. “I am not afraid of the people in the building.” Also noting “This is all of Seattle’s police station,” which will contain training facilities for all of Seattle’s police officers, she said that it’s fair to talk about what the price tag means, but it’s important to remember that this is a public safety issue.
Council member Mike O’Brien, who represents District 6 (also in the North Precinct) respectfully disagreed, saying that he had heard from many community members who are, in fact, afraid of the building and what it represents. He also stated his own disappointment that given how long the project has been underway they haven’t used the city’s racial equity toolkit to do an analysis, or reached out to the communities who do live in fear of the police department — though he does believe that there is still an opportunity to have some conversations and reconcile those differences.
Juarez didn’t back down one inch. Stating that she’s getting tired of people saying “some people are afraid of the police station,” she explained that she doesn’t “want that narrative to change into something for people who have never experienced that.”
“I have walked that road in my life,” Juarez said. “I came from a community where police only showed up to apprehend people.” She also noted that she learned about it as a public defender, a King County Superior Court judge, and working for two governors. “I’m not just spouting political rhetoric to gain political points. I’m talking about brick and mortar in the community that’s behind this. That’s my point. Because if we go down that road, then we’re going to have a problem. And this is my other concern. I’ll quote our President on this: ‘we do not fear change. We embrace it and we shape it. And we do it together as one.’ So if you make it a divisive issue about that, then we will have a problem.”
O’Brien, in turn, stood his ground. While noting that as a white male his experience is different than hers, and that he has not experienced the police as she has, he claimed to have heard from over 1000 community members who have had a different experience from his and are saying “Mike, we want you to represent us.” He explained that he wants to make sure that all these voices are heard.
Juarez clearly had more to say, but decided to leave it for another day.