The City Council is back from its summer recess. Here’s what they got up to today.
This afternoon the Council approved its mid-year supplemental budget ordinance, after voting it out of committee nearly a month ago. In committee, Councilmembers Herbold and Mosqueda crafted an amendment to address some of the requests from SPD to spend approximately $15 million in salary savings due to higher-than-expected attrition, while also redirecting some of the funds to various civilian and community-based public safety programs as investments in scaling up alternatives to heavily depending on policing to address the full spectrum of crime safety concerns.
There were several last-minute amendments offered by Councilmembers to the bill, three of which were particularly notable. Councilmember Pedersen offered two proposals for partially addressing SPD’s current staffing crisis by increasing investment in the department’s recruiting and retention programs: the first would claw back $3 million of salary savings that had been redirected in committee to the Human Services Department’s RFP for community-based safety alternatives; and the second, more modest, proposal would appropriate the remaining $1.1 million of unallocated salary savings. Neither version passed; the first failed by a 2-7 vote with Pedersen and Juarez the only “yes” votes, and the second by a closer 4-5 margin in which Pedersen and Juarez were joined by Lewis and Strauss.
Councilmember Sawant offered an amendment in the opposite direction: hers would move an additional $2.41 million out of SPD’s budget into HSD’s budget for community safety alternatives; however, in classic Sawant form it left out much of the details as to which SPD line-items would get cut. It also failed by a 2-7 vote, with Sawant and Morales the only two voting in favor.
The final, amended bill passed 8-1, with Sawant casting a protest “no” vote — while also celebrating the additional funding for the Garfield Superblock project that she spearheaded in committee. The bill now goes to the Mayor for her signature.
The Council also held indefinitely a bill that would rescind the current $4-per-hour “hazard pay” mandate for grocery workers. Councilmember Mosqueda noted that while she is still committed to the hazard pay mandate being temporary, the data on the surging COVID Delta variant indicates that in her view this is not the time to lift it. Pedersen and Morales also spoke to their support for the indefinite hold, with Pedersen observing that it didn’t make sense for the Council to keep revisiting it every two weeks (they can resurrect it at any point when it seems appropriate), and Morales suggesting that “We’re going to be here for a while.” Sawant, however, said that she believed the effects of the pandemic will be felt by workers for some time, and indicated that any gains by workers should be maintained — so she will never vote to rescind the hazard pay mandate.
The Council also approved a lease with the Port of Seattle for the “Tsubota property,” which will be used to site another tiny home village.
This morning Councilmember Pedersen announced the agenda for Wednesday’s Transportation and Utilities Committee meeting. The agenda is fairly long and varied, including a briefing on Seattle City Light’s proposed “Renewable Plus” program; bills related to water regulations and stormwater management, and surveillance technologies in use by SDOT and SFD.
Councilmember Mosqueda also pre-announced the agenda for Friday’s Finance and Housing Committee meeting. It will include the Office of Labor Standards’ annual report on the Race and Social Justice Initiative work, a bill lifting the proviso on Strategic Investment Fund dollars, and an update from the City Budget Office on city revenues.
Councilmember Sawant previewed two back-to-back meetings of her Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee planned for September 22 and 24. She is planning on votes for renters right bills that have been in the works in her office for some time, including a bill requiring landlords to provide relocation assistance in cases of “economic eviction” (i.e. a rent increase of more than 10% in one year that causes a tenant to move out), and a bill imposing residential rent control in Seattle if at some point in the future the state legislature lifts its ban.
Councilmember Strauss likewise has two back-to-back Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee meetings scheduled for September 22 and 24. The first meeting will be for briefings and public hearings on several bills, including annual comprehensive plan amendments and a zoning bill that would allow a sports practice facility in the Interbay industrial zone. The second meeting will be used to vote the bills out of committee.
Councilmember Pedersen has agreed, upon request by Councilmember Herbold, to hold a hearing in December on recently-emerging issues related to the EPA’s oversight of the Duwamish River superfund site cleanup. According to the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, the EPA is proposing changes to the cleanup plan that “increase toxic exposures and health risks.”
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