Here’s what happened today in Council Chambers.
This afternoon, the Council voted to confirm the appointment of Debra Smith as CEO of Seattle City Light. See my separate post here on her confirmation.
The Council also voted to approve several other pieces of legislation including:
- an updated policy for disposition of surplus public property, which prioritizes affordable housing projects.
- an ordinance (about a year in the making) requiring Seattle employers with 20 or more employees to provide an opportunity for their employees to purchase transit passes with pre-tax dollars in their paychecks. This is a win-win-win: employees pay less taxes, employers pay less employment taxes, and more people are encouraged to take mass transit. To give employers time to implement this, the ordinance doesn’t go into effect until January 2020, and enforcement doesn’t begin until January 2021.
- a pair of ordinances increasing Seattle Public Utilities’ drainage and wastewater rates. The good news is that the new rates are actually less than what anticipated in SPU’s strategic business plan.
Council member Sally Bagshaw, chair of the Budget Committee, announced that this Wednesday’s budget hearing will be devoted to the homelessness response system. Three presentations are scheduled: one on the system performance and investments, one on the Navigation Team, and one on cleanup activities.
Council member Debora Juarez is celebrating that last week Sound Transit approved accelerating the planning on an infill light rail station at 130th Street — a project that Juarez has been stumping for. She said that if it moves forward, the station could open as early as 2024, seven years earlier than expected. However, Council member Rob Johnson, who along with the Mayor represents Seattle on the Sound Transit board, sounded a more cautious note: he said that his board colleagues from Pierce and Snohomish County have reservations about the potential cost of the 130th Street station, and that currently they were willing to go as far as approving the planning work, but no further. He said that the city leaders have work ahead to convince them otherwise.
Finally: there is a growing movement to get the city to rethink how it disposes of the “Mercer Megablock,” a 2.86-acre lot in South Lake Union that the city is trying to sell to a private developer. After the passage of House Bill 2382 earlier this year, which allows for local governments to sell public property for less than fair market value if it is to be used for affordable housing, some believe there is an opportunity for the city to donate or lease the property to an affordable housing developer instead. However, at a briefing last week on her proposed budget, Mayor Durkan threw cold water on the idea, noting that the City Council had already attached debt to the property, and the proceeds of any disposition would need to resolve that debt. Nonetheless, this afternoon, several people delivered public comments requesting that the city change course.