Notes from today’s meetings

Here’s an assortment of notes from this morning’s Council Briefing and this afternoon’s Full Council meeting.

Council member Sawant made a last-minute addition to the Introduction and Referral Calendar today: a bill to require the city to decline to renew Wells Fargo’s banking services contract when it expires in 2018, ban them from further business from the city for a year, and expand the city’s requirements for ethical business practices for banks.  I’ll post a lengthier piece on this later this week.

Council member Johnson noted that Sound Transit (Johnson sits on the ST board) recently took action on its bond authority so it can accelerate its issuance of bonds. Right now the bond market is very favorable to issuers, and it’s expected that by issuing the bonds now Sound Transit can save hundreds of millions of dollars over the lifetime of the debt. It’s nice to hear about large government bureaucracies doing things to save taxpayers money.

Council member Bagshaw gave a preview of her Human Services and Public Health Committee meeting Wednesday afternoon. Director of Homelessness George Scarola will give an update on the “Bridging the Gap” plan for short-term response to the homelessness crisis.  She expects to hear about the three new sanctioned encampments, the RFP for shelter opportunities, and the contract for the Navigation Center which is expected to be in place by the end of the year. She also expects to have a discussion of the plan for dealing with unsanctioned encampments.

Bagshaw also mentioned that she, Burgess, Herbold and Juarez travelled to Hamburg, Germany last week, at the invitation of the Port of Seattle. Of particular note was their “dual system” vocational education program where people work and study at the same time, and receive a stipend for doing so.

Council member Juarez noted that her Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Waterfront Committee will be meeting this Thursday and hear a presentation on the Parks Department’s plan for off-leash areas.

Council members Herbold and Gonzalez introduced a resolution condemning hate speech and recent attacks in the wake of the recent election.

The big item this afternoon was the vote on Council member Sawant’s ordinance capping move-in fees and requiring landlords to offer an installment plan for paying move-in fees. The Council amended the legislation to exempt landlords renting out space in their primary residence by a 5-3 vote (Council member Gonzalez was absent), and then passed the amended legislation 8-0. I’m writing up this separately, it was contentious and complicated.

The other big news of the day: Council member Tim Burgess announced that he will not be running for re-election next November. Currently housing activist Jon Grant, who lost to Burgess last year, has announced that he will run for the position again. With Burgess bowing out, others will likely throw their hats in the ring. Also, with Burgess no longer concerned about a future election, it will be interesting to see whether he becomes more outspoken or changes his voting pattern.

One last note: it was a mixed day for Council member Sawant. Her move-in fee legislation passed, but only after it was amended, over her strong objections, to exempt some landlords. She had asked her followers to lobby her colleagues on the Council to not “water down” the bill or add “loopholes.” They certainly showed up to do that, but so did a large number of landlords who objected to the bill. Sawant personally accused some of her fellow Council members of being in the pocket of landlords — what she called the “ultraconservative Multifamily Housing and Rental Housing Association.” In response Council members Sawant, Juarez and Burgess all made a point of rejecting not only her accusations but also her rhetoric and behavior, calling it “unhelpful,” “behavior that I despise,” and “labelling and deriding people.”   In addition, this morning Sawant tried to get her new Wells Fargo legislation referred to her own Energy and Environment committee, but her fellow Council members voted to send it to Council member Burgess’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee instead. This is in contrast to the move-in fee ordinance; that bill was referred to her committee but she subsequently made a procedural mess by trying to rush it through. The referral ensures that the bill will get a thorough vetting before it comes before the full Council; that’s good, as some Council members already noted this morning that they have concerns about parts of the bill.