Morning Fizz: Podlodowski "On Leave"
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring shakeup at the mayor's office?, campaign finance reform on the ballot, and a school downtown.
1. Mayor Ed Murray policy office staffer Tina Podlodowski, the lead on the current police chief search and SPD reform, is on sudden leave (her office email is on automatic reply mode) and Fizz hears both that she may just be on a short week-plus leave or may be on the way out.
Podlodowski, a former Microsoft manager and then Seattle City Council member in the 1990s, chaired the public safety committee where she passed legislation creating the first office of police accountability. Most recently, Podlodowski served on the Community Police Commission that was created in the SPD consent decree negotiations with the Department of Justice.
Yesterday, Mayor Murray was part of a status conference with the DOJ about the consent decree and said: "Police reform has moved too slow over the course of the past year. We can do better. We must do better."
He did, however, praise the CPC, a community advisory group with little real authority in the process, saying: “The Community Police Commission has provided tremendous assistance in developing ... policies approved in 2013, including a new use of force policy and a policy for crisis intervention. The coming year will be about implementing these policies into practice."
The police chief search process hasn't gotten rave reviews and included one outreach meeting in West Seattle where just one member of the public showed up.
We have calls in to the mayor's office.
UPDATE AT 9:15 AM: The mayor's office says Podlodowski is on leave for health reasons.
2. Now that district elections are about to become a reality, Seattle advocates for a system of public-campaign financing, including Seattle city council member Mike O'Brien, are gearing up to introduce an initiative that would create a public-financing system for local candidates.
Last year, a public-financing measure failed in a close vote with 50.37 of Seattle residents voting 'No'. One issue that helped thwart the effort was the fact that the public-financing measure would have applied only to at-large city elections—in other words, it would have excluded the seven city council seats (out of nine total) that are, as of next year, going to be elected by district.
"This current Supreme Court is taking any number of steps to erode any regulations establishing campaign finance restrictions," O'Brien says. "One of the concerns is that the Supreme Court would ban restrictions on contributions, period ...
A new proposal would apply to both the two at-large and the seven districted council seats.
O'Brien says that although this week's Supreme Court ruling outlawing aggregate limits to political campaigns doesn't apply in Seattle (Washington state already has no aggregate contribution limits), it does highlight the need for less-wealthy candidates to have a way to fund a run for office.
"This current Supreme Court is taking any number of steps to erode any regulations establishing campaign finance restrictions," O'Brien says. "One of the concerns is that the Supreme Court would ban restrictions on contributions, period, so one way [around that] would be to establish a robust, voluntary system of public finance that the voters of Seattle could come to expect that our candidates will go through."
The measure, O'Brien says, could be on the ballot as soon as this coming October.
3. The Downtown Seattle Association is pushing for the old Federal Building on Second Ave. between Spring and Madison Sts. as the site of a possible new downtown elementary school, DSA spokesman Jon Scholes says. The space, currently occupied by the federal General Services Agency, is about 90,000 square feet—the size of a large elementary school.
"We think it's a good opportunity that shouldn't be passed up," Scholes says. "There's no doubt that we need more education capacity, particularly in downtown, Queen Anne, and the north Central Area." However, Scholes says, the federal building is already earmarked for use by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, which, as an organization serving homeless people, has precedence over educational uses when it comes to repurposing federal buildings.
4. One potential unintended consequence of a set of proposed land-use changes aimed at driving down the number of tall, skinny houses that can be developed on small lots in Seattle: According to small-lot development advocate Roger Valdez, current homeowners could find themselves unable to add on to their existing houses by building a backyard extension or adding an extra story. That's because the new rules prohibit many additions that are currently allowed on lots under 5,000 square feet, potentially making it illegal for homeowners to add to their current houses.
"It's just another example of how the city council is focused on squashing innovation," Valdez says.
Council land-use committee chair Mike O'Brien, who's going on a tour of small-lot houses with Valdez today, says he would "love [the land use code] to be much more straightforward" than it is, and is still trying to understand the proposed rules, which we referred to as "Byzantine and slightly baffling" in Fizz.