Notes from this morning’s Council Briefing

Here are my notes from the weekly Council Briefing session, in which the Council members tell each other what’s going on.

Council member Sawant is very busy. Her Energy and Environment Committee meets tomorrow afternoon to finish up work on several matters, including:

  • Her proposed ordinance to cap move-in fees; she hopes to vote it out of committee tomorrow.
  • Seattle City Light’s proposed retail rate hike. Sawant plans to vote “no.”
  • Seattle City Light’s proposal to participate in California’s Energy Imbalance Market, which would give SCL more flexibility in trading its green energy production. Sawant said this morning that she is generally in favor of this, but wants the Council to have close oversight — noting that the last time SCL participated in a California energy market, Enron happened.
  • A resolution from Council member O’Brien that might tighten rules on build energy efficiency in the future if the city is not on track to meet its 2035 goals.

Sawant also noted, following up from a previous discussion, that they now has nominees for all four of the open positions on the Seattle City Light Review Panel. She plans to vote “no” on the industrial representative, though, because of his prior stands on environmental issues.

And Sawant put in a plug for her proposal to create 1000 units of affordable housing. Last week she asked the Mayor to include it in his budget proposal being unveiled this afternoon; if he doesn’t, she is calling on her colleagues on the Council to support it.

As to this afternoon’s speech by the Mayor unveiling his budget proposal, Sawant raised the concern this morning that he is planning to “pack” the Council chambers with up to 90 of his invited guests, which will turn away others. She argued that all seats should be first-come, first served.

Council member Baghsaw gave two updates on issues related to homeless encampments. The first relates to the resolution on this afternoon’s agenda approving the Mayor’s plan to finish clearing the EDGE (aka the “Jungle”) encampment under I-5. As of yesterday, there are still 42 people living in the encampment, 38 of those in the area targeted for cleanup. 16 of them will be moving to a different encampment, despite the fact the Union Gospel Mission, lead on outreach to the EDGE, has 100 beds available. Council member Herbold voiced concerns that a low number accept services instead of staying unsheltered, and worries that voting for the resolution sends a message that the services being offered are acceptable. Bagshaw countered that in her mind the shelters are not acceptable since they don’t provide security and still have high barriers for people with possessions, partners, and pets. At the same time, she noted that this is a resolution, not an ordinance, and while it’s clearly not perfect it’s better than the current situation, allows the city to come in and do a comprehensive cleanup, and lets WSDOT do necessary and overdue repairs and inspections on that section of I-5. None of the other Council members hinted at how they are likely to vote on the resolution this afternoon.

Baghsaw also updated her colleagues on the work on the ordinance to update the city’s protocols for clearing unsanctioned encampments. She said that the business community now has a coalition that is working with the ACLU/CLS coalition on the definition of “unsuitable encampment,” and they are trying to avoid defining what is a “suitable” encampment to answer the concerns that the ordinance might provide a license to camp anywhere in the city. Her committee meets later this week to continue deliberations on the ordinance.