Notes from today’s Council meetings

Today’s full City Council meeting was brief and perfunctory, but three things happened at this morning’s Council Briefing that are worthy of note.

First, Council member Sally Bagshaw, the Council’s budget chair, gave a preview of the week’s activities related to building the 2020 city budget:

  • This week the Council will review and discuss the “Form B” budget proposal submitted by Council members before last Wednesday’s deadline.
  • However, due to a glitch in the city’s Questica budgeting system, the Council’s staff is running behind in pulling together materials for the first meeting, scheduled for tomorrow morning. Bagshaw has therefore shifted the meeting schedule back one day: it will now run Wednesday through Friday instead of Tuesday through Thursday.
  • Bagshaw also noted that the Council memebrs collectively submitted $589,754,005 of budget change requests — about a their of the size of the entire General Fund budget. Obviously they are not going to be able to accommodate anywhere near that amount. Bagshaw called out four priority areas where she clearly heard consensus among her peers: LEAD, more housing options, programs to prevent homelessness, and hygiene centers. Beyond that, she will be holding 1:1 meetings with the other Council to understand their individual priorities and find opportunities to modify and/or combine proposed changes in order to accommodate more of them.

Second, Council member Gonzalez announced that this week she will be unveiling a revised version of her bill to curb large corporate PAC contributions, and she plans to attend the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss it with them. Gonzalez has asked the SEEC to weigh in on her proposed bill; in a prior conversation, the Commission members expressed skepticism on the legality of her original bill, given the Citizens United precedent.

Third, after Gonzalez brought up the topic of corporate PAC money, Council member Bagshaw launched into a tirade that likely violated campaign laws by proactively endorsing a candidate during a City Council meeting. She complained about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been spent by PACs opposing Dan Strauss, calling it “so frigging unfair” and claiming that Strauss, who works in her office “has been playing by every rule” and “truly is the Boy Scout, who just plays everything straight.”  Council President Harrell did his best to try to stop her from further violations, but she continued, renewing her complaint about PAC spending and decrying how it was “happening across the board to all of our colleagues.” You can watch it yourself here; jump to 13:15.  To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with complaining about outsized PAC spending and its effect on our elections, but using a City Council meeting to make comments that clearly favor certain candidates is a big no-no. At least one complaint has already been filed with the SEEC over Bagshaw’s comments this morning.