An interesting bit of backstory to the battle over Tim Burgess' attempt to expand the definition of aggressive panhandling, which passed the city council 5-4 yesterday but faces a certain mayoral veto.
City Council members Tim Burgess and Richard Conlin had attempted (unsuccessfully) last week to fast-track the controversial legislation to expand the definition of aggressive panhandling, seeking to move the vote up by a week over objections from legislation opponent Nick Licata. "I ... believe it would be an unusual departure for you to waive the rules for a bill with this level of public interest," Licata said in an email to Conlin.
Council rules require that the council skip one Monday council meeting before voting on legislation approved by a committee if the committee issues a divided report (one in which one or more council members votes against the legislation). However, if the council president (Conlin) and the chair of a council committee in which a piece of legislation is heard (in this case, Burgess) agree to suspend the rules, they can force a council vote on the Monday immediately following the committee meeting.
Burgess and Conlin ultimately agreed to stick to the council's regular schedule under pressure from Bruce Harrell, Nick Licata, and Mike O'Brien.
Proponents' last-minute effort to fast-track the legislation points to a larger strategic slip-up by Burgess. Burgess first proposed expanding the city's aggressive-panhandling rules way back in September 2009, and formally announced his proposal in February of this year. That long lead time gave opponents of the law plenty of time to organize against the proposal.
My armchair analysis: Had Burgess announced the legislation later, and moved it forward faster, he would have had between six and seven votes, plenty to override a mayoral veto. The lag time gave opponents the opportunity to paint the issue as a referendum on the homeless, which ultimately helped sway O'Brien and defeat it. In a brief phone conversation, agreed that it was a political mistake to release details of the proposal so early. "I wasn't ready and I talked about it to a journalist"—the Seattle Times' Joni Balter—"and I shouldn't have," Burgess said.
Mike O'Brien, who switched his position yesterday and voted against the proposal, said this afternoon that he thinks the outcome might well had been different if Burgess hadn't left so much time for opponents to mobilize against the proposal.
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