Wednesday morning, the City Council had its first committee hearing on the proposed police accountability legislation. It gave a good preview of some important debates we’ll get to see in the weeks to come.
Since 2011, the city has been working on a plan to rezone the University District as part of the long-term strategic effort to grow it into another “urban center.” That plan is now in its final stages, tentatively set to come up for a vote by the Council some time in January.
The proposed rezone plan is large, complex, and controversial. Let’s look at what it entails, and what the issues are.
I’ve been scratching my head all afternoon and evening trying to figure out how to write something coherent about what was fundamentally an incoherent, chaotic meeting of the Human Services and Public Health Committee this morning to discuss the pending homeless encampment legislation.
I’m going to give a quick rundown on what happened (ok, maybe not so quick) then share some thoughts and observations.
Yesterday’s hearing on Council member Sawant’s proposed legislation, capping move-in fees and requiring landlords to let tenants pay those fees by installment, was a parody of the legislative process. It undermined her credibility, and that of the other Council members who participated.
Yesterday morning the Council had its first substantive discussion on the merits of the bill introduced earlier this month to rewrite the city’s protocol for clearing unsanctioned homeless encampments. While yesterday’s meeting was intended to be just a forum for discussion with no decisions, it nevertheless highlighted just how much work needs to be done on the details of the bill before it’s ready for adoption – and how unlikely that work will be finished before the Council’s self-imposed deadline of the end of the month.
It’s another long week of meetings (8 this week) as the Council tries to wrap up several items before plunging into the 2017-2018 budget development work.
Last Wednesday the Council returned to the question of unionizing Uber and Lyft drivers. It’s still a mess, and the Mayor is making it worse.
Yesterday in the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee, the proposed tax increase for solid waste services and the accompanying rate increases for Seattle Public Utilities were approved and sent on to the full Council for final approval next week.
Last December, the City Council passed landmark legislation giving drivers for Uber and Lyft the right to engage in collective representation and bargaining. The ordinance delegated to the Director of the Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) department the rulemaking associated with defining the requirements for a Qualified Driver Representative (QDR) and the process for a QDR to officially be recognized as such and assume responsibilities for its members. The Council instructed FAS to have the rulemaking done no later than 240 days from the date the bill became law, which is September 19th.
You may recall that the Mayor declined to sign the ordinance, allowing it to become law with neither his assent nor his veto. In a letter to the Council, he explained:
I remain concerned that this ordinance, as passed by the Council, includes several flaws, especially related to the relatively unknown costs of administering the collective bargaining process and the burden of significant rulemaking the Council has placed on City staff…. As this ordinance takes effect, my administration will begin its work to determine what it will take to implement the law. I believe it will be necessary to seek additional clarifying legislation from the Council.
The Mayor’s letter was prescient.