Late last summer, Mayor Murray announced Bridging the Gap, his administration’s short-term plan too address homelessness while the longer-term plan Pathways Home, took its time to spin up. Both efforts have sputtered along since then, mired in city government bureaucracy and hidden behind a maddening lack of transparency and accountability. But there are now signs that the shorter-term effort is starting to find its groove thanks to a creative idea for how to reorganize the effort.
The City Council members today spent a fair amount of their public meeting time discussing one issue: what to do about the unsanctioned encampment called “The Field” that is scheduled for clearing tomorrow.
This afternoon the Council approved an ordinance lifting restrictions on money budgeted for rolling out body-worn cameras to all Seattle Police Department officers.
Council member Kshama Sawant, her staff, her Socialist Alternative party, and their partner organizations have done some incredible work over the past several weeks in organizing rallies and protests to give voice to opposition to President Trump’s most abhorrent executive orders and policies. But last week she turned the rhetoric knob to 11, and in so doing argued for some actions that are not just ill-conceived but illegal, dangerous to public safety, and a threat to one of the most important foundations of our democracy. And that places her in clear and direct violation of her duties and responsibilities as a City Council member.
What happens when a police force exhausts the resources it can deploy to handle a crisis situation such as a riot, a larger-than-expected mass action event, or a natural disaster? Most police departments use “mutual aid” agreements to call on neighboring police departments as needed to supplement their own resources. These agreements benefit small towns and large cities alike, not to mention special public-safety organizations such as the Port of Seattle Police. But they can also create issues when the two departments work under different policies. This has come up twice for the Seattle Police Department, and by extension the City Council, in the last three days.
Earlier this month, Judge Robart approved (with some conditions) draft legislation to address police accountability in Seattle. Now it’s the City Council’s turn to take up that bill and move it through its legislative process to make it law. And last week, Council member Lorena Gonzalez issued a press release outlining the timeline for that work.
Two months ago, a warehouse in Oakland known as the “Ghost Ship” caught fire and burned, killing 36 people. It was being used as a live-and-work facility for people in the Bay Area arts community, and there were numerous building code violations in the building, on top of illegal occupancy, that contributed to the tragedy.
Could an incident like the Ghost Ship fire happen in Seattle? Easy question: it absolutely could. The hard question, however, is what the city should do about it. And that was the subject of a two-part discussion in the Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee this morning.
It’s looking increasingly like Seattle will greet the new year with a major cold snap, with highs around freezing and dropping to the low 20’s overnight. But the long-term outlook suggests we might see more of the same before spring arrives.
Before the Council began its holiday recess, it received a briefing from several city departments on their preparations for winter weather as well as the outreach and messages to the city’s residents.
At the end of this post is a list of the best ways to get information and report problems during a severe weather event, as well as information on how you can prepare in advance.
It was a very news-worthy council briefing: a preview of this afternoon’s debate and vote on the source-of-income discrimination ban, what’s up with secure scheduling legislation, lots of stuff in the GESCNA committee, an update on the homeless crisis response and a throw-down between Council members Juarez and O’Brien over the North Precinct police station.