Notes from today’s Council meetings

You know you’re in trouble when it takes the Council 45 minutes just to approve the agenda.

Just before this afternoon’s City Council meeting, Mayor Durkan announced that she has extended her moratorium on evictions, which was set to expire at the end of the month, until June 30. Councilmember Sawant had teed up for this afternoon’s agenda a resolution asking Durkan and Governor Inslee to extend their respective moratoria until the end of the year. Nevertheless, Durkan’s announcement prompted Sawant to move to have her resolution postponed until the Council’s June 7 meeting — and then gave a ten-minute speech as to why her “movement” should declare it a minor victory.  Then Councilmember Pedersen moved to have Sawant’s other bill on the agenda, which grants a right to counsel for all tenants facing eviction, postponed for two weeks so that some issues can continue to be worked on. Sawant vociferously opposed that action, firing off personal attacks at both Pedersen and Councilmember Juarez. But with the removal of the imminent threat of an end to the eviction moratorium, only Councilmembers Morales and Mosqueda sided with her, and by a 6-3 vote the bill was pushed out until the 29th. That process took nearly half an hour, though, as the Councilmembers debated the merits of the bill in its current form and hinted at some of the issues that the City Attorney’s Office has raised with the bill in an attorney-client privileged memo that had not been seen by all nine of them. Apparently a key issue is the fact that the bill, as currently written, grants the right to an attorney to all tenants regardless of their income level; this potentially runs afoul of the Washington State Constitution’s ban on gifts of public funds, except to “the poor and infirm.” But Sawant, for not entirely unsound reasons, fiercely opposes any means testing since it can create barriers to access for poor people who might have difficulty presenting the correct documentation to prove that they qualify. We shall see what amendments, if any, are offered up when the bill comes back up for consideration in two weeks.

This afternoon the Council confirmed Brandy Grant as the Executive Director of the Community Police Commission.

The Council also approved a spending plan for a $10.4 million program of grants to community-based organizations to build capacity for civilian, community-led alternatives to creating public safety.

Finally, the Council passed Councilmember Strauss’s “Bringing Business Home” ordinance that loosens zoning restrictions on home-based businesses for one year.

Councilmember Lewis “walked on” to the Introduction and Referral Calendar a new ordinance that appropriates $12 million for additional non-congregate housing this year. The bill is the culmination of two weeks of arguing back and forth between the Council and the Mayor’s Office on exactly which expenses related to homeless shelters are eligible for reimbursement by FEMA as responses to the COVID pandemic. Last Thursday, at Council President Gonzalez’s request, the Office of Intergovernmental Relations hosted a meeting with FEMA officials and representatives of both the Council and the Mayor to try to get some clarity on the official rules, and Lewis’s bill is a result of that discussion. The city will apply to FEMA to get reimbursed for as much of the $12 million as it can, but FEMA only reimburses — it doesn’t advance funds. In order to get reimbursed, the city needs to spend the money first out of its own pocket; thus the importance of appropriating additional funds to kick off the process.

Lewis’s bill will be added to the agenda for Councilmember Mosqueda’s Finance and Housing Committee meeting tomorrow morning.

This morning Councilmember Pedersen announced that the agenda for his Wednesday Transportation and Utilities Committee meeting will include:

  • a bill adjusting Seattle City Light’s rate schedule;
  • a bill accepting $14 million in funding from the Puget Sound Regional Council toward repair of the West Seattle Bridge;
  • an update from SDOT on the repair of the West Seattle Bridge;
  • review and approvals for three batches of surveillance technologies.

As a follow-up to the resolution being discussed in Councilmember Mosqueda’s committee tomorrow that establishes the Council’s priorities for spending federal funding it receives through the $1.9 trillion American Recovery Act, she said this morning that she will be publishing a calendar of the related spending ordinances that will be forthcoming over the coming weeks.

Also, Councilmembers Herbold and Pedersen have signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation supporting SDOT’s application for $20 million of grant funding from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, to be added to the pot for the West Seattle Bridge repair.

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  1. Was CM Herbold on vacation or something? Seems weird that my Councilmember didn’t do anything worthy of note during this meeting.

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