In the runup to the August 4 primary election, Fizz's weekly Friday morning LIKES & DISLIKES will feature the predilections and prejudices of this year's city council candidates.
For today's first installment of city council candidate LIKES & DISLIKES, we asked the two at-large Position Nine frontrunners, neighborhood activist Bill Bradburd and civil rights attorney Lorena González, to pick some (local) news from the past week and tell us exactly how they feel about it.
Bill Bradburd is well known as the leader of the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition where he pushed the council to regulate pod apartments and fought to create the new district elections system. Take it away Mr. Bradburd:
1. I DISLIKE that after district elections won two to one (clearly signaling that citizens want greater accountability and control at city hall), mayor Ed Murray has taken two actions that will weaken our new district council system and the neighborhoods it is meant to support.
First, the $930 million Move Seattle levy would commit over $100 million per year to projects defined with little bottom-up public engagement, and basically would preclude the new council members from prioritizing major transportation investments in their district. Because Move Seattle is only about two-thirds maintenance projects, this leaves the vast majority of our $2 billion backlog of transportation infrastructure projects still on the table and will limit council members’ ability to adequately address major transportation needs in their districts for the next nine years. Move Seattle further places the burdens of growth on the citizens and continues a 25 year-run of Seattle avoiding development impact fees to pay for transportation system impacts.
Second, the mayor’s announcement of the new Office of Planning and Community Development is a major step away from his campaign promise to “renew the Neighborhood Planning Process.” In fact, it appears that neighborhoods (and their new district council member) are largely left out of the loop in planning for growth in their districts. The grassroots neighborhood planning and empowerment that began under the leadership of Jim Diers and the Department of Neighborhoods in the 1990s has seen steady decline starting with the Nickels administration, and Murray’s proposal looks to continue the trend of top-down planning at city hall.
It is unclear whether the five current council members running for district seats (Bruce Harrell, Kshama Sawant, Jean Godden, Mike O’Brien, and Sally Bagshaw) understand how these actions will hamstring their ability to work with and serve their constituents, should they be reelected. But these measure clearly give the upper hand to the mayor and weaken council (and the constituents they are meant to support) in defining how their communities will grow and what capital investments are required to support that growth.
2. I LIKE that Honest Elections, Seattle’s I-122, is headed to the ballot. I-122 establishes a public campaign financing system to reduce the power of money on our Seattle municipal elections, such as we see in all the current city council races this year. I-122 sets up a new system of democracy vouchers that empower people without money to help support candidates of their choice and is more effective than “super match” systems used elsewhere.
Democracy vouchers will incentivize candidates to increase contact with voters rather than merely chase wealthy contributors. King County Elections and the city clerk this week have verified there are sufficient signatures to require city council to put it on their calendar for consideration, and either adopt it outright or put it on the ballot. The council has until August 3 to place it on the November ballot.
Lorena González is well known as the civil rights lawyer who sued the Seattle Police Department in the infamous "Mexican Piss" case; she also served as Mayor Murray's legal counsel before deciding to run for city council. Take it away, Ms. González:
1. I LIKE that the Community Police Commission (CPC) had the hutzpah to firmly assert its status as an independent powerhouse by pushing mayor Ed Murray and the city council for police reform legislation now. [The CPC forwarded its reform legislation to the council this week.]
The CPC was created in the wake of the Department of Justice’s imposition of a consent decree on the Seattle Police Department after multiple high profile, recorded incidents of excessive force and racially biased policing. This includes Monetti v. City of Seattle, which I affectionately refer to as the “fucking Mexican piss case”—a case that I was the lead attorney for.
The intent for the CPC’s role was simple: to be a vehicle for community to provide meaningful input to SPD, the mayor and city council on how policing practices and policies may erode public confidence in SPD or disproportionally impact underrepresented communities.
Since its inception in 2012 (codified later in 2013), the CPC has worked doggedly to gain not only the trust of SPD leadership and rank-and-file officers, but also that of the broader community—a community that desperately needs and demands a police reform champion that answers to the need for public safety tempered by constitutional policing.
This time last year, the CPC had received significant pushback from a federal court judge about “overstepping” its boundaries as it relates to the City’s police reform efforts. This year, the CPC seems to be in a very different position both politically and substantively.
But the CPC is scheduled to sunset after the court determines the city has complied with the terms of the consent decree. Losing the CPC would be detrimental to the advancements made on building community trust amongst police leadership, rank-and-file officers and the community at-large.
As we move through the world in a post-Ferguson world and demand that #BlackLivesMatter, it is more critical than ever that the city coalesce around the need to legislate and implement police reform policies that can be accomplished outside of the City’s bargaining process. That legislation needs to empower the CPC to be a powerful, independent voice for community and it also needs to ensure that our police reform system is independent, transparent and sustainable for years to come.
Why? Well, because reforming SPD isn’t just some sexy issue that’s interesting to talk about. These are lived experiences that impact real people every day, especially people of color and immigrants. It’s life or death, dignity or humiliation, freedom or prison. Police reform is about justice not politics.
The CPC is the voice for those affected most profoundly by excessive force and biased policing in our community. I’m glad to see them stay true to their values while also being reasonable about negotiating a consensus with Mayor Murray and others around such an important issue. But the city should be careful about any further unnecessary delays because police reform can’t wait for bureaucracy.
[Editor's note: Here's our recent coverage of the CPC.]
2. I DISLIKE that the developer of a West Seattle apartment project has sued the city of Seattle to avoid paying low-income tenants currently living in a building slated for demolition a displacement fee under the tenant relocation assistance ordinance.
Earlier this week, the Seattle P-I reported that developer Blueprint 4528 LLC has plans to demolish a six-unit apartment building in the Genesee neighborhood of West Seattle, which is a block off of California Avenue Southwest in the West Seattle Junction neighborhood and, coincidentally, just a block away from me.
This property will go from housing six people to 58 people. More housing in this area designated as an urban village is great—except they are refusing to provide the current low-income tenants relocation assistance. The developer has argued, on a strained technicality, that none of these tenants are entitled to apply for relocation assistance under the city’s ordinance because it’s the expiration of a yearly lease that is causing their displacement rather than their plans to demolish the building shortly after the end of those leases.
“The tenant relocation assistance ordinance only applies to tenants who must vacate their apartment because the owner is demolishing or rehabilitating the building,” attorney Brandon Gribben said by email Wednesday. “The tenants in this lawsuit must vacate their apartment because their lease will expire, which will occur before the building is demolished.
I don’t know about you but I’m not buying the argument that these tenants are being evicted because their yearly lease ends on December 31, 2015, as opposed to the fact that the building will no longer exist.
This developer has conveniently “forgotten” that under normal circumstances these leases would convert to month-to-month leases permitting these tenants to continue living in their units—if they existed! Of course, this option will not be possible precisely because the developer will demolish the building shortly after taking control of it on January 1, 2016.
I definitely LIKE that the Department of Planning and Development has taken a hard line on the developer’s obligation to pay these tenants what may be owed to them under the tenant relocation assistance ordinance. DPD should not allow a developer to create a gaping loophole in this ordinance by allowing developers to successfully argue that the law doesn’t apply to them because "technically, it’s that guy that’s doing the eviction and not me (the new owner)."
Perhaps the developer should consider coughing up the de minimis $11,393 to the tenants rather than to its attorney.
Meanwhile, there's obviously some national news that deserves a PubliCola LIKE this morning.
Or rather a LOVE: