Things got a little heated this afternoon.
This afternoon, the Council voted down a resolution by Council member Sawant supportive of taxing big business and opposing any preemption clause in HB 2907, a bill currently pending in the state legislature that would authorize King County to impose a new payroll tax. Council member Lewis seemed to speak for the majority in saying that the letter that the Council members signed last week, authored by Council member Mosqueda, better expresses their views. Sawant’s resolution reads like an advertisement for her “Tax Amazon” movement and in fact calls it out by name. The vote on the resolution was 2-5, with Sawant and Morales the only two “yes” votes (Mosqueda was absent today).
This morning, Council member Juarez announced that her next committee meeting will be on March 3. At that meeting local tribal leaders will present, in an opportunity for Council members to be introduced to them and to lean about how tribal government functions.
Council member Morales announced that her next committee meeting will need to be rescheduled to next week because of delays in work from a city department expected to present. Expect it to be on the calendar for next Thursday or Friday.
Council member Strauss noted that his next committee meeting will be held next Wednesday, February 26. The agenda will include:
- a vote on the reappointment of SDCI Director Nathan Torgelson;
- two appointments to the landmarks preservation board;
- two landmark designations.
The battle between the City Council and the Mayor’s Office over the budget for the LEAD program continues. The Council added $3.6 million to LEAD’s budget in the 2020 budget, but the Mayor’s office has held up the money while it evaluates the program. But after a push from the Council the Mayor and HSD consented to releasing enough funds to allow LEAD to add staff to meet its current caseload (its existing caseworkers are woefully overloaded) while the city completes its evaluation. However, this has not satisfied Herbold, who asserts that unless LEAD can take new referrals the program can’t function as intended. in partnering with local law enforcement. Herbold has penned a new letter to the Mayor and HSD Director Jason Johnson, making that point, and several of her Council colleagues signed on to the letter this afternoon.
Council member Sawant was in attack mode this afternoon. First, during the debate on her resolution on HB 2907 and preemption (see above), she lashed out at Seattle Rep. Nicole Macri, the lead sponsor of the bill, questioning whether she should be called a “progressive.” Council member Lewis defended Macri, calling her a “progressive hero” and saying that her progressive credentials are “beyond reproach.”
Then, during the debate on Sawant’s bill to expand permitting of sanctioned encampments and “tiny home” villages, Sawant attacked Council member Pedersen for one of his proposed amendments to her bill, saying that it was a “no” vote disguised as an amendment and that he should just be honest and vote no — which in the end he did. This time Council member Herbold came to his defense, asserting her belief that he brought forth his amendment in good faith. Sawant stood her ground, saying that she didn’t believe that this was put forward with good intentions, and Council member Juarez, serving as President Pro Tem today, also jumped in to defend Pedersen.
The past week has been a marked change from the first month of the new Council’s term, in which Sawant faced little pushback from her colleagues. Last week the Council refused to let her rush her resolution through the Council’s process, and gave her winter-evictions ban a serious haircut; today it voted down the same resolution she tried to rush through last week, and stood up to her when her attacks turned personal.
There has been one constant, however: Sawant and Council member Morales continue to vote as a bloc on every single bill and every single amendment.
No one should interpret this as a sudden shift by a Council majority to Pedersen’s end of the political spectrum, or as a sign that there is organized opposition to Sawant’s agenda, but it does show that there are limits to how far Sawant’s colleagues will let her push them.
Pedersen doesn’t seem to have a lot of support except for not being personally impugned. His amendment to make transitional encampments require walls and floors for their structures didn’t get even a courtesy second.
that amendment got a lot of discussion in committee. It just doesn’t make sense in the generally recognized evolution of a tiny home village; they almost always start out as an encampment with a permit that builds support and community, hits critical mass, then can pull together the resources to build out tiny homes. So while a lot of the Council members are probably synpathetic with the idea of “let’s skip the whole tent encampment stage and go straight to tiny homes,” in practice that’s just not how it works.
His amendment adding back in a 3-year sunset also didn’t make such sense. It was based on the notion that sometime in the next 3 years the new regional homeless authority will give the city guidance and take over oversight of the sanctioned encampments and tiny home villages. But Sawant’s bill was a zoning/land use bill, not a funding mechanism, and the RHA won’t relieve the city of the need to set zoning and permit requirements. I don’t think any of the Council members believes that the need for encampments and tiny home villages will disappear over the next three years.
So while I generally agree with you that Pedersen doesn’t have a lot of allies on the Council, his amendments on this bill just weren’t very good and alone don’t signal much.
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