Council Fizz: Talking, and Taxes
Council takes a swing at taxes and talking out of turn.
1. A city council committee is poised to adopt new rules making it easier for council members to toss out commenters who "disrupt" meetings by yelling or speaking off-topic, a response to several recent outbursts by members of Stand For America, the Occupy-related group that consists primarily of failed Sally Bagshaw opponent Sam Bellomio and activist Alex Zimmerman.
Council president Sally Clark asked Bellomio to stop speaking after he compared the council to Nazi Germany and Communist Russia; he also yelled, at an earlier meeting, that council member Tim Burgess was "a dick." And held up this sign (the letters stand for "freedom you can't kill"):
The new rules give the council president (or whoever is presiding over a meeting) the right to kick out a commenter for up to 14 days for "outbursts," failure to comply with public-comment time limits, or "Holding or placement of a banner or sign in the Council Chamber in a way that endangers others and obstructs the free flow of pedestrians or the view of others attending a Council meeting," among other infractions.
"Any individual excluded from participation in future public comment periods or from attendance at future Council or Committee meetings for a period of more than two calendar days may appeal his or her exclusion by submitting a written appeal to the Full Council within five business days after receiving notice of the exclusion," the proposed rule reads.
Clark explains: "The goal is to use our learning experience with [Bellomio] and Alex to tighten up the rules and procedures in ways that we haven’t had to think of before—what do we have to fall back on if someone is truly disruptive in chambers?" She adds: "You get some folks who say it’s terrible you’re restricting what happens in chambers, and I’m thinking it’s terrible that we’re having to deal with disruption."
In an email to the city clerk, ACLU deputy director Jennifer Shaw said, "It would be better if the rule required the council to warn the person before ordering exclusion. This gives the person an opportunity to correct his or her behavior and continue to participate in council meetings but also places the person on notice that future disruptive behavior will result in exclusion.
"We are also concerned that people may be excluded from future public comment periods or council meetings if they fail to comply with the new disruption rules 'over the course of multiple council or committee meetings.' It is not clear how many violations will trigger the future-exclusion sanction."
2. The same council committee will take up a less sexy but probably more far-reaching bill (unless you're Sam Bellomio) that will streamline the B&O tax for "affiliated entities" owned by the same corporation—a response to a case filed by the city against Seattle-based Getty Images, in which the city charged Getty with failing to report its full income from services it had provided to its affiliates in other states.
"The legislation that we’ll look at tomorrow will make it clear, hopefully, how you calculate whether a particular activity is a transaction that will be taxed by Seattle or whether it’s being paid for somewhere else," Clark says.