Notes from today’s Council meetings

While you were out enjoying the sun, the Councilmembers spent much of their day zoom’ed into meetings. Here’s what went down.

This afternoon, the Council passed a pair of ordinances extending the Emergency Assistance Program for Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, in order to give more Seattle residents relief from utility bills that they currently can’t pay.

The Council also confirmed the appointments of Zachary Pelekis Jones and Kristin Hawes to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, as well as Katherine Seibel and Le’Jayah Washington to the Community Police Commission.

This morning Councilmember Sawant announced that her next Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee meeting will be on April 27. Her last meeting was hastily canceled, and the discussion with community advocates about Green New Deal activities that was originally scheduled for that meeting will now be held at the next one. Sawant said that next week’s meeting will also include an initial discussion on a bill to prohibit evictions of families with schoolchildren during the school year (more on that in a bit).

Councilmember Juarez noted this morning that the Parks and Recreation Department has published a tentative plan for re-opening summer activities.

Councilmembers Lewis and Gonzalez discussed last week’s meeting of the Governing Committee for the Regional Housing Authority, on which they both sit. The meeting was the first for the RHA’s new CEO, Marc Dones. At the meeting, Dones presented a proposal for an initial round of hiring key staff positions. The Governing Committee asked Dones to work on fleshing out the proposal with staff, and scheduled a special meeting for May 20th to consider and possibly approve it.

Councilmember Lewis said this morning that he has been looking into the status of the “street sinks” program after recent news coverage of delays in implementing it. Lewis is requesting the relevant city departments to present an update at his next committee meeting on May 8th.

Both Councilmember Morales and Councilmember Sawant are currently working on tenants’ rights bills. Morales announced last Friday that she is working on a bill that would close the “end of lease loophole” for evicting tenants. She also said that in a few weeks she plans to unveil the second bill in her “Tenant Bill of Rights,” which would provide an eviction defense for tenants facing hardship during the pandemic. Morales said that tenant advocates approached her in December and asked her to work on this; she emphasized that she has been working alongside “community” and with the Council’s central staff, and that the work has been done “thoroughly, not in a vacuum.”  What’s strange about all this is that it is well-staked-out turf for Sawant, who chairs the Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee and in past years has said that she too was working on a “tenant bill of rights.” Morales, who is almost certainly Sawant’s closest ally on the Council, announced all this today without a single shout-out to Sawant, and her emphasis on working with Council central staff, doing thorough work, and not working in a vacuum could all be interpreted as an attempt to distance herself from Sawant.

Sawant, for her part, continues to legislate in this space. This morning she held a press conference to announce a new bill that would prohibit the eviction of families with children, as well as teachers, during the school year. Sawant said that she hopes to have the Council vote on it in May.

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