Council sets 2018 committee assignments

This afternoon the Council adopted a resolution setting in place its committee structure and responsibilities for next year. With Tim Burgess retiring and Teresa Mosqueda stepping in, changes were inevitable, and the committee areas of responsibility give us a clearer idea of the agendas for each of the Council members in the coming year.

The big change is that Councilmember Sally Bagshaw will take over responsibility for finance issues, and with it the chair of the Budget Committee — arguably the second most powerful position after Council President. This was Lisa Herbold’s to lose, in many ways, since she picked up budget responsibility this fall from Burgess when he was appointed Mayor; unfortunately, she bet big on using the Budget Chair mantle to push through the “head tax;” her failure to execute well on that ambitious plan cost her both the head tax in the short term and the trust of her colleagues to manage the budget development process.

Having picked up major finance and budget responsibility (a large workload), Bagshaw in turn passes responsibility for human services on to Councilmember Kshama Sawant. She has a penchant for parachuting in on specific issues related to the $160+ million annual Human Services Department operation, such as “sweeps” and the recent homeless services RFP. She will no doubt be relentless in using her committee to try to stop the city from sweeping unsanctioned homeless encampments, despite the fact that a majority of her colleagues still support their limited use.  Sawant’s committee will also tackle Renter’s Rights, a topic near to her heart, and one that previously was under the rubric of “affordable housing,” in Burgess’ committee. She also intends to focus energies on the LEAD intervention program.

New Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda picks up public health from Bagshaw, and oversight of Seattle City Light from Sawant. That means she will be front and center in working with King County on public health issues, and she will lead the Council’s vetting of the Mayor Durkan’s eventual nomination to replace Larry Weis as the head of Seattle City Light. Mosqueda’s committee will also take on affordable housing and worker’s rights, topics which she has deep passion.

Councilmember Debora Juarez carries forward her committee responsibilities from this year: parks, libraries, community centers, Seattle Center, the waterfront, and other public assets. She adds to it an additional focus on Native American issues. With the departure of Parks and Recreation Department Director Jesus Aguirre, she will be on point for the confirmation process of his replacement.

Bruce Harrell, who was re-elected Council President by his colleagues, carries forward his committee responsibilities for governance, equity and technology. He sheds responsibility for education. He intends to spend more time on “issues relating to youth justice, alternatives to youth detention, and alternative options to youth incarceration.”

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez also keeps her 2017 areas of responsibility: public safety, gender equity, and immigrant issues. She picks up responsibility for education from Harrell. She will continue to lead the police accountability effort, and will be responsible for the confirmation process for the new Chief of Police once appointed by Mayor Durkan.

The three remaining Councilmembers, Lisa Herbold, Rob Johnson, and Mike O’Brien, continue on in their committee responsibilities largely unchanged from this year. Herbold covers Civil Rights, Utilities (i.e. SPU), Economic Development and Arts; Johnson does Planning, Land Use and Zoning; and O’Brien has Sustainability and Transportation.

The new assignments are a big step up for Bagshaw and Sawant, and puts Mosqueda in the crosshairs for some important and contentious issues.