Lots of goings on today…
This morning, Council member Juarez, the chair of the Select Committee on Civic Arenas, gave a quick run-down on what to expect at this Thursday’s committee meeting — the seventh meeting in eight months. There will be a report from the Council’s independent consultant David Stone on the proposed MOU with Oak View Group, as well as discussion (but no vote) on possible amendments. Assuming the Council finds it acceptable, she expects the MOU to come before the full Council for approval on December 4th; however, if the Council wants more deliberations, she has reserved November 27th for an additional committee meeting.
Council member Gonzalez, the chair of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New Americans Committee, noted that Thursday evening her committee meets to consider and vote on the appointment of Andrew Myerberg as OPA Director, as well as three reappointments to the Community Police Commission.
This afternoon, the Council approved part of the AirBnB regulation scheme and sent another part to the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee for further work. Specifically, they approved the tax on short-term rentals ($14/night for an entire dwelling unit; $8/night for a private or shared room), and sent the regulatory part back to PLUZ. The third part of the legislation, the land-use code changes, is expected to be taken up in the spring. The process of getting to that conclusion took 30 minutes of wrangling on the meeting’s agenda alone, and splitting the two parts up for consideration today was done over the objection of the bill’s sponsor, Council member Johnson. It’s rare that the Council doesn’t respect a committee chair/bill sponsor who wishes to take their bill back for more work, but the Council members who voted to keep it on today’s agenda (Sawant, O’Brien, Harris-Talley, Herbold and Juarez) wanted clarity on revenue issues going into tomorrow’s near-final budget discussion. That’s a bit of a red-herring, however, since the tax won’t go into effect until January 2019 (though they intend to “loan” money from one part of the city budget to another so as to be able to spend part of the 2019 expected revenues in 2018). Johnson promised to bring it before his committee on November 27 and back to the full council on December 11, but his colleagues insisted on voting it into law today instead of waiting one month. He pushed to keep both bills together because there are revenue implications in both: the tax itself is in the tax bill, but the exemptions to the cap on the number of rental units a single landlord can manage are in the regulatory bill, and there are pending amendments to the geographic boundaries of the exempted area that would obviously affect potential revenues. So despite pushing through half the legislation today, the Council still won’t fully understand how much revenues to expect until December 11 when the other bill is presumably passed.
The Council also approved the collective bargaining agreement with SPMA, the union representing SPD lieutenants and captains. Sawant opposed it, as she tends to do with nearly every SPD-related legislation, on the grounds that it allowed for arbitration for appeals of disciplinary measures, and because in her eyes it added more money to an already “bloated” budget for SPD. Harris-Talley also raised concerns, wanting more time to review it in committee along with additional public comment and consultation with the CPC (three CPC members used today’s public comment session to express their concerns with the agreement). Herbold and Gonzalez noted that the arbitration scheme in this contract is vastly improved from the prior one, since it randomly selects arbitrators so that neither side can cherry-pick arbitrators favorable to their side. Gonzalez also pointed out that the arbitration proceedings will be open to the public just as public safety civil service proceedings are. In the end, the contract passed by a 8-1 vote, with Sawant the only “no” — though Harris-Talley took a long moment to reflect before voting “yes.”
Finally, this afternoon the Council approved an updated strategic plan for Seattle Public Utilities, as well as new multi-year retail water, wholesale water, and drainage and wastewater rates. Council member Herbold had worked with SPU for over a year to reduce and smooth rate increases.