By a 5-1 vote this afternoon, the City Council gave its final approval to an interlocal agreement (ILA) with King County to establish a new regional agency to lead on homelessness. Council member Gonzalez voted against the agreement, and Council members Sawant, Herbold and Mosqueda were absent (Mosqueda is on maternity leave).
Today’s vote was expected, given the vote in committee last Thursday to advance the agreement. However, it isn’t without concerns: the agreement doesn’t meet the Council’s expectations on several issues. In the end, though, the Council decided to prioritize expediency over perfection, and opted to try to address its issues at a later point.
Council member Gonzalez abstained last week when the committee vote was taken in the hope that she could get written commitments from Mayor Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and King County Council members to address the remaining issues to her satisfaction. That could be accomplished the new agency writes its bylaws and when the city negotiates its “master agreement” with the new agency for the funding it will provide. And today Durkan and Constantine provided such assurances — but no King County Council members signed on to their letter. Gonzalez voiced her disappointment this afternoon that “politics has already taken hold,” given that one of her issues was that major policy decisions of the new agency were not sufficently shielded from meddling by elected officials. Gonzalez said today that she saw it as “a signal of what’s to come.”
Council member O’Brien said today that he agreed with Gonzalez’s concern, but that he would vote yes because he believed that the Council had multiple means to influence how the agency moves forward. He did stress that the Council ultimately will have the power of the purse and can threaten to withhold some or all of its $73 million of annual funding if it doesn’t get its way. “We will make it a meaningless effort if these conditions are not met,” he said. O’Brien leaves the Council at the end of the month; it will fall on the next Council to make good on his threat.
With the Seattle City Council and the King County Council having both passed the same version of the ILA, the deal is done and implementation can move forward in 2020.
For someone who wants to be Attorney General – Councilmember González – this is a safe vote. She won’t get blamed if things go south and looks like she’s protecting Seattle from outsiders.
That said, sincerely hope there is now some genuine oversight and results. I’ve seen homelessness in more and more full display along I-5 and now boldly downtown Seattle with big tents and homeless souls requesting alms.
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