So much going on: plenty of bills passed this afternoon, plus lots of details of upcoming committee meetings.
This afternoon the Council approved the transfer of several properties in the Rainier Valley from Sound Transit to the Office of Housing for redevelopment into affordable housing. The properties are being transferred at no cost to the city.
The Council also approved changes to the regulatory controls on the city’s Red Barn Ranch property in anticipation of a land-swap with a similar property closer in to the city.
The Council also unanimously adopted the spending plan for the new $20 vehicle license fee, with an amendment last week that asks SDOT to provide a list of projects, with price-tag and schedule for each, that could be funded by $100 million of bond issuance.
It also approved two bills that will move forward the Madison RapidRide G Line buildout, which is expected to start this fall and complete in 2024.
Finally, the Council approved Seattle Public Utilities’ updated 6-year strategic plan and its new rate schedule., which includes smaller rate increases than the last rate schedule that was adopted two years ago.
This morning Councilmember Strauss announced the agenda for this Wednesday’s meeting of his Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee. It includes:
- an ordinance accepting a grant to support post-census community outreach;
- proposed updates to several city constructions, including grading, and steam engineer and boiler operator licenses;
- an ordinance extending free cafe street permits for another year;
- a proposed mobile home park overlay district.
Councilmember Sawant also announced that she will be holding a special meeting of her Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee on Wednesday afternoon, which will cover three tenant rights bills: two separate bills (here and here) that would restrict a landlord’s right not to renew a lease at the end of the lease agreement, and a bill that would restrict evictions of families with school-age children and the employees of schools and child-care facilities during the school year. Sawant said that there will be no votes on the bills this week; instead they will consider amendments and vote at the following committee meeting later this month. In an interesting move, Sawant has signed on as a co-sponsor for the bill closing the so-called “end of lease” loophole sponsored by Councilmembers Morales and Lewis that competes with her own bill.
Councilmember Mosqueda announced this morning the agenda for her Finance and Housing Committee meeting next Tuesday, May 18. It will take up domestic worker labor standards, the bill enforcing transparency for contract workers, the 2020 budget exceptions bill, and the start of deliberations on a spending plan for ARPA federal funding.
Councilmember Morales’ next committee meeting will also be May 18th. Her committee will finally hear a presentation from the Mayor’s Office on the $30 million participatory budgeting (PB) effort that was delayed when Morales canceled her last committee meeting. Morales said this morning that she is unhappy with both options on the table for how to move PB forward: the original proposal by the Black Brilliance Research Project that would have hired 35 people and cost over $8 million to implement, and the alternative from the Mayor’s Office that would have cost far less in overhead but would have the Department of Neighborhoods implement and manage the program. On the latter proposal, she said that the Black Brilliance team demanded that the participatory budgeting program be run by the community and not by city staff. Morales, in turn, will be proposing her own plan: put the $30 million in the budget of the Office for Civil Rights and request them to issue an RFP to an outside organization to run the PB program. She expects to introduce a bill next week to do that, and to take up the bill in her committee on the 18th.
Councilmember Pedersen announced that his next committee meeting will be on May 19th, and will continue deliberations on the three “group three” Surveillance Impact Reports that were introduced at his last committee meeting.
Finally, Councilmember Lewis said that the next meeting of the Select Committee on Homelessness Strategies and Investments will be on May 26th, and will be a follow-up to last week’s heated meeting where Councilmembers challenged city officials on delays in rolling out “street sinks” and a third hotel site for sheltering homeless individuals, as well as the apparent ramp-up of homeless encampment removals.
Tomorrow morning at Councilmember Herbold’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee meeting, the committee will take up once again the bill to cut $5.4 million from SPD’s budget. Herbold had held up the bill for several weeks so that the court-appointed police monitor had a chance to review it and get some questions answered by SPD. Last Friday the monitor finally sent a reply to Herbold, in which expresses concerns about cutting SPD’s budget at any level.
The Court and the Monitor are increasingly concerned about the reduction of funding to the Seattle Police Department. In particular, SPD is currently at risk of not being able to deliver key management and operational requirements, as personnel have been allocated to fulfill critical patrol duties due to separations of officers. In addition, key policies and practices such as improved training (for example ABLE , crowd management, and use-of-force), professional standards, and analysis and auditing are understaffed, which has a corrosive effect on organizational performance and culture.
The City is in a legal agreement with the Court to ensure the its police department is functioning at an exceptional level and that it has positive relationships with all its communities (Settlement Agreement para 17). In order to sustain compliance the City is responsible for providing necessary support and resources to SPD in order to fulfill its obligations under the Settlement Agreement (para 221). Now is the time to allocate resources to SPD at levels that will enable the City to close-out the consent decree efficiently, effectively, and sustainably.
Herbold said this morning that she doesn’t understand the police monitor’s concerns given that the staffing plan is fully funded (SPD has a long pipeline for staffing that allows it little flexibility to increase its annual hiring beyond its original plan), and she plans to push ahead with the bill as last discussed in her committee: $2 million cut and redirected to participatory budgeting, other funds made available to SPD to use to mitigate the continued high officer attrition over the fall and winter, and a new amendment to release another $2.5 million from the SPD budget that the Council had restricted under a proviso. The lifting of provisos is a clever sleight-of-hand for the Council: they get to pretend that they are giving SPD more money, while at the same time telling advocates for reduced police funding that they are not, in fact, increasing the budget.
If the Council does indeed go forward with the budget cut, one can assume that the police monitor will inform Judge Robart that it has done so, and there will likely be consequences; Robart has also expressed in no uncertain terms his unhappiness with the Council and especially with its moves to cut SPD’s budget.
This morning Council President Gonzalez and City Attorney Holmes put out a press release announcing that they are working on a new initiative to “strengthen public trust and confidence in Seattle’s government,” in the wake of revelations last week that months of text messages from Mayor Durkan and other city officials were not archived and that public document requests for those messages were mishandled. According to the press release, the two will work over the next weeks “to develop a new independent public disclosure entity” for handling public disclosure requests to the Mayor’s Office.
This morning Councilmember Pedersen noted that King County is considering banning the use of facial recognition technology by the county government in unincorporated areas of the county, and that we would consider enacting a similar ban in Seattle.
As the push continues to get people vaccinated, Councilmember Herbold highlighted that vaccinations may now be obtained without an appointment at Safeway, Albertsons and CVS pharmacies. she also noted that there are free rides available to vaccination sites: call 425-943-6706, or go online to https://www.findaride.org/covid
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