Notes from yesterday’s Council meetings

Yesterday afternoon the Council held a marathon meeting, with thirty items on its agenda. Everything was passed by the Council, but here’s a short list of the things worth paying attention to.

  • A bill approving SDOT’s use of traffic cameras and license-plate readers under the city’s surveillance technology ordinance. This was the first practical test of the ordinance, and it turned out to be a bureaucratic nightmare that dragged out over several months. City departments are required to write a Surveillance Impact Report (SIR) for each technology, which for each of these two technologies ended up being 100+ pages. The Council requested that the departments write “condensed SIRs” to summarize the most salient parts of the SIRs, but then that created issues about which of the two documents was the authoritative one — and which of them the Council would amend if it wanted to put further restrictions on the department’s use of the technologies. Council member O’Brien brought six additional amendments to the full Council meeting, all of which were rejected by his colleagues, some because they were really amendments to the underlying surveillance ordinance, and others because they were last-minute changes to language and terms that had been painstakingly negotiated over months.
    It may be that because this was the first use of the surveillance ordinance, it was particularly painful as the kinks were being worked out. On the other hand, if this is a sign of what all the SIR approvals will be like, then the surveillance ordinance may prove to be unworkable.
  • An ordinance imposing a tax on heating oil.
  • The confirmation of Emily Alvarado as Director of the Office of Housing.
  • The repeal of Initiative 124, now that the Council has passed into law its own rewrite.
  • An extension to the Multifamily Housing Tax Exemption program.
  • An ordinance authorizing the Monorail to join the ORCA Card system.
  • An update to the rules for sidewalk cafes.
  • An ordinance granting the Seattle Fire Department authority to issue civil infractions for violations of the Seattle Fire Code.