Notes from today’s Council meetings

A couple of notable bills (and a lot of very un-notable ones) passed this afternoon, the last scheduled meeting of the full Council before its two-week recess. Plus the Council has its own counsel.

This afternoon, the City Council unanimously passed the “childcare for all” ordinance, Council member Strauss’s first piece of legislation. The bill changes zoning rules to allow for childcare services to be sited in residential neighborhoods.

The council also passed the MiChance Dunlap-Gittens ordinance, which prohibits law enforcement officers from questioning minors unless legal counsel is made available, except in limited circumstances, or from requesting permission from a minor to conduct a search.

In addition, the Council voted to delay the effective date of the heating-oil tax passed last year, based on a recommendation by the Office of Sustainability and Environment. The tax was already expected to negatively impact low-income households, since it would cost about $13,000 to replace a heating-oil furnace, and the COVID-19 economic downturn just adds to the challenges. The city will use the time to ensure that it is prepared to help households access financial assistance in converting.  UPDATE: Christine Bunch from the Office of Sustainability and Environment writes: “To clarify, the heating oil tax is a tax on heating oil dealers, who we expect to pass on to their customers. The City would mitigate the impact of the tax for low-income households by providing a $120 credit on their SCL bill. The ordinance does not require households to switch their heating equipment, nor does it prescribe a switch to a heat pump. Funds generated from the tax will help low-income households switch to a heat pump by helping to pay 100% of those costs.

This morning, Council member Strauss announced that his next Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee meeting will be on September 8th. The committee will have a briefing and public hearing on potential amendments to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the annual update process. It will also have a briefing from SDCI on legislation to extend the emergency changes that the Council made earlier this year to the Design Review process to allow for virtual meetings.

Council member Herbold, the public safety committee chair, announced that the City Council will now have its own outside attorneys representing it in the ongoing proceedings in Judge Robart’s court regarding the ordinance passed in June that prohibits SPD from owning, renting, storing or using so-called “less lethal” weapons.  In the last hearing in front of Robart, he ridiculed the City Attorney’s Office for attempting to represent both SPD’s opposition to the ordinance and the City Council’s defense of it. Assigning independent external counsel to the City Council resolves that conflict.  Late this afternoon, the city submitted a request to the court to extend the deadlines for further discussion of an injunction preventing the ordinance from going into effect so that the Council’s new attorneys can get up to speed and so all the parties can fully respond to the 100+ pages of reports filed last Friday by the OPA, OIG and CPC.

Council member Lewis announced this morning that he will be holding a “town hall” on Wednesday afternoon, to discuss how to fill the gap left behind by the Council’s move to defund the Navigation Team.

Council President Gonzalez noted that she expects to schedule the Council on September 8th to take up the reappointment of Dwane Chappelle as Director of the Department of Education and Early Learning.


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