Notes from today’s Council meetings

It was, as predicted, a marathon City Council meeting this afternoon, with an hour of public comment and an hour and 15 minutes on a single bill.

This afternoon, by a 3-6 vote the City Council rejected a bill that would have cut SPD’s budget by $2 million. As several Councilmembers have noted over the past few months, it has been controversial from its origins as a $5.4 million cut to SPD’s 2021 budget to offset a $5.4 million overrun by the department last year. Judge Robart, who oversees the 2012 Consent Decree, and Antonio Oftelie, the court-appointed police monitor, both voiced their opposition. SPD argued that it needs to retain the money in order to pay for programs to mitigate the critical staffing shortage resulting from high officer attrition. Councilmember Herbold, the sponsor of the bill, made multiple attempts to build a compromise, reducing the cut to $2 million and covering SPD’s requests for mitigation programs. But rather than ending up with a bill that a majority could get behind, she landed on a bill that nearly everyone hated — though for different reasons.

Councilmember Sawant continued to push for defunding SPD by a full 50% and refused to back smaller cuts. Councilmembers Morales and Mosqueda believed that the bill had strayed from its original purpose: to hold SPD accountable for its budget overrun. Council President Gonzalez thought that the Council needed to consult further with the police monitor, worrying that they could land in further hot water with Judge Robart. And Councilmember Pedersen objected to any cuts to SPD’s budget until community-based alternatives are in place.  Councilmember Strauss was the sixth “no” vote, though he did not explain his reasons.

Before the final vote Councilmember Lewis pushed through an amendment that redirected the $2 million of cut finding to expand the budget of the JustCARE program instead of adding it to the participatory budgeting pot, given that no participatory budgeting funds are expected to be expended until next year — and the Council can find other funds to add to the pot this fall when they write the 2022 city budget. Lewis argued that the JustCARE program is a model program for community-based alternatives to policing that appears to be delivering results (he held a hearing to review the program last week). His amendment squeaked through by a 5-4 vote, but in the end it didn’t shift the outcome on the bill.

With the bill having failed to pass, things revert back to the status quo: SPD’s budget remains the same, but there are still provisos in place restricting the department’s ability to spend $7.5 million of its budgeted funds. That is unlikely to be an issue until late fall, however, barring unforeseen circumstances.

This afternoon the Council also passed:

  • another six-month moratorium on redevelopment of mobile-home parks in Seattle;
  • an ordinance temporarily removing interest charges on delinquent utility bills;
  • an ordinance directing $1 million to the Office for Civil Rights to begin work on the participatory budgeting process by hiring three staff and issuing an RFP for an outside organization to administer the program;
  • the transfer of the Greenwood Senior Center to the Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Association.

The Council also issued a proclamation declaring June 4th Gun Violence Awareness Day.

This morning Council President Gonzalez announced that her next Governance and Education Committee meeting will be next Tuesday, June 8. On the agenda:

  • The candidates for appointment to the redistricting commission;
  • A discussion with the Immigrant and Refugee Commission;
  • A briefing on the city’s K-12 and Seattle Promise investments.

This morning Councilmember Juarez announced that SDOT is moving forward with installing the spans of the new pedestrian/bicycle bridge over I-5 at Northgate. To install the spans, the northbound lanes of I-5 will be closed over the weekend of June 12th, and the southbound lanes will be close the weekend of June 19th. Juarez also said that they are working on choosing a name for the new bridge — though i won’t be “Bridgy McBridgeface” or “Little Debby.” She hopes that it can be named after a leader from Seattle’s Native American community.

Councilmember Strauss said that the Industrial and Maritime Lands Advisory Committee held its final meeting last week and to the surprise of many managed to reach consensus agreement on a set of recommendations with the support of over 80% of the committee’s members. He expects to take up the package of recommendations in his committee soon, and for the Mayor’s Office to transmit legislation and Comprehensive Plan amendments this summer, to be taken up in September.

Councilmember Sawant said this morning that her resolution urging the Mayor and Governor to extend their eviction moratoriums to the end of 2021 will be back on the agenda next Monday, having been postponed back in March when both Durkan and Inslee extended their respective moratoriums until June 30th. In response to a reporter’s question at a press conference this afternoon as to whether she planned to extend her moratorium, Durkan said that she was discussing the matter with the Governor, but that “I don’t think it’s a good time” to allow the moratorium to expire.

Nevertheless, this morning Councilmember Herbold said that she wanted to look at narrowing the language in the resolution as it relates to small landlords. She said that she is increasingly hearing of small landlords who are finding themselves unable to close agreements to sell rental properties because they can’t evict the current tenant. Sawant said that she was open to discussing that, so long as it didn’t create protections for large landlords or corporations.

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