Notes from today’s Council meetings

Here’s what happened at today’s Council Briefing and Full Council meetings today.

This afternoon, the Council  approved without fanfare an ordinance extending the statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment claim.

It also unanimously approved the Washington State Convention Center’s petition for vacation of parts of several alleys and streets in order to expand the convention center, making the end of a very long process that involved several months of negotiating with a group of community representatives on an appropriate package of public benefits and then having to negotiate the City Council’s demands on top of that.  Council member O’Brien offered an amendment this afternoon that would have required the Convention Center to pay $50,000 for a transportation study, and potentially $1 million to mitigate transportation issues, if it asked to have buses removed from the downtown tunnel in March 2019. This comes on the heels of an amendment Council member Johnson pushed through last week removing a restriction that would have kept buses in the tunnel until at least September 2019. The Council members are all concerned with the “period of maximum constraint” when downtown traffic is expected to be at its worst, and at play is whether to try to accelerate other mitigation efforts in order to start moving sooner on the Convention Center expansion (and the jobs that come with it). O’Brien’s amendment failed by a 3-6 vote, with only O’Brien, Sawant and Herbold supporting it.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Human Services, Equitable Development and Renters’ Rights Committee meets. On its agenda:

  • lifting the proviso on funds to implement the HMIS scan card system for homeless services;
  • HSD and King County Public Health will give a briefing on hygiene services in the city.

The next hearing on the potential Waterfront Local Improvement District will be on May 16th.

Council member Gonzalez introduced a resolution this afternoon that requires SDOT to provide quarterly written reports on the implementation of the One Center City plan.  That resolution will be heard in O’Brien’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee.

And that brings us to the head tax. Council member Bagshaw, who is shepherding it through her committee, has schedule both morning and afternoon sessions on Wednesday for debate on the issues surrounding the tax itself as well as the spending plan (their last meeting, when they were scheduled to do it, accomplished very little). The morning session will start at 9:30 with public comment. Bagshaw has scheduled an additional meeting for Friday morning to discuss and vote on amendments, and possibly vote the bill out of committee if they finish in time. That would potentially allow the Council to take a final vote approving the tax and spending plan on Monday afternoon — though it would involve suspending the Council’s general rules, since ordinarily all bills must be passed by noon on Thursday in order to be considered for final vote the following Monday. That rule ensures that all Council members have a chance to read the final bill before being asked to vote on it.  Another sign that the Council is hell-bent on finishing this on Monday: Council member Gonzalez re-introduced the head tax bill this afternoon with a new title that steers clear of topics that might be the subject of amendments later this week (otherwise if an amendment makes the title wrong, the bill would need to be re-introduced next week, delaying final approval for a week).



  1. The EHT doesn’t look to have legality issues, but pushing things through ASAP when it comes to policy details is a regular thing for the council. It is interesting at the 5/2 meeting no council members bothered to understand the definition of payroll (reminds me of the First-In-Time committee meetings). And, they are dead set against getting any input from the business community. A recipe for success. Please SCCI tell me why I am wrong, I want to be wrong on this.

    1. Yes, pushing through things quickly is a thing for the Council.

      They have been getting plenty of feedback from the business community. In fact, that’s one of the reasons they prefer a payroll tax to an employee-hours tax: it’s less punishing on low-margin businesses that tend to hire minimum-wage employees. And they held a business-roundtable session a couple of weeks ago where they got plenty of input from businesses on what kinds of businesses should be exempted, the type of tax, and general skepticism on the spending plan. That said, a majority of the Council is plowing forward with the tax anyway.

      Also, remember this is far from unanimous on the Council. Five are currently for it (and will likely remain so): O’Brien, Gonzalez, Mosqueda, Herbold, and Sawant. The other four (Bagshaw, Harrell, Juarez and Johnson) have expressed concerns but have not yet come out either for or against it. Of the five “for” votes, I have a hard time seeing any of them flip. Of the four uncommitted, I honestly can’t tell you how they will vote. So the question isn’t whether it the tax will pass; the question is whether it will have a veto-proof supermajority.

  2. I forgot about the potential veto. I am in agreement if there is to be a tax, it should be based as % of payroll instead of hours. The hours model works for Dept of Labor and Industries because it is insurance. The hours worked represents time exposed to risk of injury. Plus a tax based on % of payroll will increase the tax base of businesses who pay.

  3. Has there been any discussion on the Moving Seattle levy and the conclusions of the report? I have not seen anything from O’Brien or Johnson on the cost of bike lanes?

    1. O’Brien mentioned it at his committee hearing a couple of weeks ago. I think he’s trying to get more information from SDOT.

    1. If the plan is that they will be voting on amendments, and possibly voting the legislation out of committee, then there will definitely be public comment.

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