Notes from today’s Council meetings

It was a long day in the Council’s virtual chambers. Here’s what happened.

This afternoon the Council approved a bill requiring food and grocery delivery companies to pay their drivers premium pay. As I wrote yesterday, there were two proposed amendments that significantly rewrote the parameters of the bill. Both amendments passed, so in the final bill the premium pay was reduced to $2.50 per trip, and it did not apply to TNC companies such as Uber and Lyft. Council member Sawant objected to those changes, though Council member Herbold, one of the sponsors of the bill let it be known that TNC companies were removed at the request of the Teamsters union (which is busy negotiating a minimum wage for TNC drivers) and the premium pay reduction to $2.50 with negotiated with labor advocacy group Working Washington. The second amendment, proposed by council member Morales, prohibits grocery-delivery companies from adding new customer charges for the delivery of groceries — invoking a strange form of economics where companies must pay their workers more but aren’t allowed to charge customers more. Morales’ bill passed unanimously without a single comment from any of her eight Council colleagues. The final, amended bill also passed unanimously.

The Council also passed a trio of bills placing restrictions on the Seattle Police Department. The first banned choke-holds; the second prohibited officers from covering their badge number with a “mourning band.”

The third was the complicated one: Sponsored by Council member Sawant, it banned SPD from using several types of crowd-control weapons. This morning Herbold was pushing for the bill to be delayed by a week, a request made by the OPA and OIG so they could finish their policy analysis of crowd-control weapons and issue recommendations. Sawant however pushed back hard on that suggestion, arguing “there is nothing we are going to learn in another week that we don’t already know.” Sawant and Herbold also had overlapping amendments, which for the most part didn’t make much difference but Sawant objected to one particular change in Herbold’s amendment (Section 3.D) that she saw as an enormous loophole for SPD to circumvent the ban. In the end Herbold withdrew that provision in her amendment and rolled it back to the original language, her amendment passed, and Sawant withdrew her own amendments. Unfortunately, that left out a key change in Sawant’s amendment to that same Section 3.D that never got incorporated:

The final, adopted bill still has the original language, which prohibits pepper spray for use on individuals (not for crowd control) if any lands on anyone other than the targeted individual. I don’t see how SPD would be able to approve its use, knowing that it it splashes on anyone nearby it could cost the city $10,000 per person. So the bill as passed effectively prohibits pepper spray use entirely.

This morning, Council President Gonzalez announced that the City Council will be holding its meetings online through the end of the year., in order to center the health and safety of the legislative department’s workforce.  The City Clerk will be setting up a location for those who do not have online access to view and listen to the meetings.

This morning the Council heard a presentation on a bill accepting a transfer from the University of Washington of 3.8 acres of land next to the Mount Baker light rail station. Emily Alvarado, Director of the Office of Housing, said that the property would be used for transit-oriented development, including 450 units of affordable housing. The housing units will include a mix of sizes and configurations, include some family-size units.  Under the terms of the agreement, if the site is not developed in ten years it reverts back to UW; however, Alvarado said that the Office of Housing intends to issue an RFQ for development of the site next summer. Council member Morales, in whose district the property lies, emphasized the importance of involving the community in planning for the site, and for ensuring that if the project took several years to get underway that there wasn’t a big hole at the “gateway into the Rainier Valley.”  Council member Mosqueda, who is shepherding the bill through, hopes to have the full Council vote on it next Monday.

Council member Strauss announced this morning that his next Land Use and Neighborhoods committee meeting will be held on July 22. He also said that he will be moving his “child care near you” proposed legislation forward in late July, after the summer budget session finishes.

Council members Herbold and Gonzalez raised a couple of outstanding issues with SPD, beyond the ones we already know about. Herbold reported that the recently re-imagined “Co-LEAD” program is struggling because it is unable to get SPD to approve referrals. One option to solve that problem under discussion is to move the responsibility for approving referrals to the City Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, Council member Gonzalez has heard reports that SPD is 1-2 weeks behind in serving domestic violence protection orders, apparently because SPD officers in the DV unit were pulled to assist with crowd control.

Council member Mosqueda, chair of the Budget Committee, discussed next steps on the Council’s “inquest” of the SPD budget this morning. She said that at Wednesday afternoon’s scheduled meeting the Council will her from other cities, including Austin, Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, and New York City, on how they are responding to calls to change their police departments.

Council member Herbold mentioned that the City Auditor has joined the effort, and is doing research on jurisdictions that have built a “public safety” department instead of a siloed police department, which allows them to think differently about delivering responses to public safety issues that do not require police officers.

Council member Morales gave an impassioned speech about what it means to “defund” SPD, emphasizing that it is about shrinking the department’s responsibilities along with their funding. Morales argued that the guiding principle was that defunding the police department is 20% about dismantling the existing system and 80% about building and scaling up community programs.


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One comment

  1. I’m sorry. Help me understand. What methods remain for crowd control? Sticks, tasers and guns?

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