Notes from today’s Council meetings

Here’s what the Council got up to today — and what never got off the ground.

This afternoon the Council gave final approval to an ordinance updating the city’s fire code. Here’s a slide deck on what’s included in the update. Perhaps the most controversial addition is the requirement for sprinklers in all new townhomes.

The Council also passed a resolution on a topic that is weighing heavily on several Councilmembers’ minds: ensuring that COVID vaccines are distributed equitably in the community. The resolution establishes a set of principles for equitable distribution.

On the agenda this afternoon was also a resolution introduced by Councilmember Sawant that would state the Council’s support for the state legislature to pass several progressive taxation measures while opposing any preemption of the city’s ability to pass its own. However, Sawant failed to gain the support of any of her colleagues on the Council for the resolution; several commented that they believed it was redundant with the resolution the Council passed in December establishing the city’s state legislative agenda. The Councilmembers debated that question for quite a while at this morning’s Council Briefing, and Sawant organized members of her “red army” to sign up fro public comment to urge Council members to support the resolution, but at the end Sawant couldn’t even muster a “courtesy second” for her motion to bring up the resolution for consideration so that she could deliver another speech about it. This echoes an incident last week, when Sawant signed up to comment on a “wealth tax” bill in committee in the state House: when Sawant repeatedly refused to limit her comments to the bill being considered, Rep. Noel Frame — a stalwart advocate for progressive causes — cut off her microphone. Sawant and Frame duked it out on Twitter later in the day, and the “Kshama Solidarity Campaign” sent out a fundraising missive later highlighting the incident and accusing Democrats of being in the pocket of big business and the wealthy. But it appears that at least for the moment there are more elected officials willing to stand up to Sawant.


 

This morning the Council received another weekly update from the Office of Intergovernmental Relations on the ongoing state legislative session; you can read their written report here. Yesterday was the deadline for bills to be voted out of a policy committee in their house of origin; next Monday is the deadline for budget-related bills to be voted out of the fiscal committees. But much of today’s report from the OIR was reviewing which bills have survived and which are now dead for the remainder of this legislative session.  Of particular note: SB 5134, which contained a large, comprehensive set of changes to police accountability across the state, appears to be dead, though with the large number of other police-related bills in play, legislators may cannibalize parts of the bill to graft into other ones. SB 5134 would have abolished arbitration as an appeal path for police disciplinary procedures, a provision that was controversial and actively opposed by several labor advocates.


 

Here are some announcements on upcoming Council committee meetings:

Councilmember Mosqueda’s Finance and Housing Committee meets on Friday. On the agenda:

  • the possible confirmation of Steve Marchese as Director of the Officer of Labor Standards;
  • the Council’s “capital projects watch list“;
  • City Budget Director Ben Noble, presenting on federal funding sources the City can potentially tap for COVID relief programs.

Councilmember Lewis’s Homeless Strategies and Investments committee meets on February 24. Lewis said this morning that there will be an update on the city’s effort to “surge” the number of shelter beds available, including building out more tiny home villages. Lewis said that he is concerned that there has not been enough progress on the effort so far this year.

Councilmember Morales’s Community Economic Development Committee meets on February 26; she announced that the committee will hear the final report of the Black Brilliance Research Project. Morales made no mention of the recent split between King County Equity Now and the researcher it has contracted with to conduct the research for the report; not did she say who would be delivering the report.

Councilmember Sawant’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee will meet next on March 4. Sawant said that she hopes to discuss the “package” of renters’ rights bills her office is working on, including potentially voting on a bill that would grant tenants the right to counsel, at no cost, for eviction proceedings. Previously Sawant has said that she is working on an extension to the existing eviction moratorium, and a bill that would ban landlords from using credits checks to screen tenants. This morning she unveiled one more bill she is working on, to address the large number of “default evictions” when tenants fail to show up to court for their eviction hearing. Sawant did not specify what her bill would do about default evictions, however.


 

Some other notes and announcements from this morning’s meeting:

  • Councilmember Herbold highlighted SDOT’s virtual tour of planned changes to West Marginal way SW, and its planned “open house” on Thursday.
  • Councilmember Juarez announced that Sound Transit will be closing the downtown tunnel for five consecutive weekends starting in April as part of preparations for the East Link line integration and to remove the temporary platform at the Pioneer Square station.
  • Councilmember Juarez was also one of a handful of Councilmembers who attended the Downtown Seattle Association’s “State of Downtown” virtual event last week, looking at the path to recovery for downtown businesses. You can watch the event here. The DSA also made available to press its draft 2021 economic report, which is stuffed with facts and figures on downtown Seattle’s economic situation.
  • Councilmember Morales announced that applications are now open for the Northwest Folklife Festival.
  • Councilmember Mosqueda announced that the city is finishing up its plans for a mass COVID vaccination site at Lumen Field (aka the old CenturyLink Field). Assuming sufficient vaccine supply, the site would open in early March.

 

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