1. In a marathon 68-item (!) meeting (69 if you count yesterday's end-of-meeting marriage proposal), the city council adopted a couple of bills that will have big ramifications next year.
They included: Legislation to make it easier for council members to eject audience members who disrupt council meetings, a response to a few members of "Stand Up America" who routinely swear at council members, talk out of turn, and call council members "Nazis," "Gestapo," and "Communists"; legislation creating an interdepartmental team at the city to propose ways that underwater homeowners can reduce their mortgage principal and avoid foreclosure; and marijuana legislation that would, among other changes, make public pot smoking a civil infraction subject to the same $27 fine as drinking in public.
How rigorous should SPD be when enforcing the new law banning outdoor marijuana consumption?
As we've reported, the new city pot rules allow the city to reap the benefits (instead of just bearing the costs) of public-pot enforcement. But they also raise a question: How rigorous should SPD be when enforcing the new law banning outdoor marijuana consumption? Currently, under 2003's Initiative 75, simple pot possession is SPD's "lowest law-enforcement priority," but 502 requires cops to issue a citation if they catch someone smoking in public after a single verbal warning.
Licata said the new law includes provisions to make sure no particular population is unfairly targeted. "The legislation says that our police will give you a warning first, when practical, and that we will receive reports from SPD on the nature of the enforcement as far as the demographics of who is receiving these fines," Licata said. "This way, we are tracking whether there is any unintended enforcement that would impact any particular sectors of the population."
Another question: Will the city come up with rules that allow people who don't own homes or have pot-friendly landlords to light up? Currently, only people who own property or have explicit permission to smoke in their apartments are allowed to smoke at home, and smoking is banned in bars and other public places. City attorney Pete Holmes was supposed to appear at a press conference alongside interim police chief Jim Pugel and Licata to address that issue yesterday, but was laid up with a fever.
The council is about to go into recess for its annual holiday break, but committee assignments continue to shape up in the final days of 2013. Although the exact subject areas each committee will address will change based on the interests of the council members who head them, here's what we're hearing so far about who's in charge of what (all, of course, subject to change):
Tim Burgess will be council president and head of the regional relations and government affairs committee, as well as education and ethics and elections.
Tom Rasmussen will stay on as head of transportation.
Sally Clark will head up housing and human services.
As we noted on Twitter yesterday, Kshama Sawant will reportedly be in charge of the City Light (currently energy and environment) committee.
Mike O'Brien will be in charge of the planning and land use committee.
Nick Licata will head up budget.
Bruce Harrell will keep the public safety committee.If Fizz can say so, this is a pretty impressive lineup.
And Sally Bagshaw and Jean Godden will divvy up the remaining assignments; currently, Bagshaw heads up the parks and neighborhoods committee and Godden is in charge of libraries, utilities, and Seattle Center.
2. Yesterday afternoon, the King County Council signed off on the 43rd District Democrats' choices to fill a pair of vacancies in the state legislature created when their (now-former) 43rd District state Sen. Ed Murray won the mayor's race in November. Earlier this month, precinct committee officers from the 43rd (Capitol Hill, U. District, Wallingford, Downtown) chose state Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43) to take Murray's senate seat and Gates Foundation Renaissance man Brady Walkinshaw to take Pedersen's seat.
It's basically pro-forma business for the county council, whose role in the process is to approve district choices on appointments when vacancies come up, to sign off—and they did so unanimously.
In the 43rd anyway.
When it came to the vacancy created by 33rd District (Kent, SeaTac, Des Moines) state Rep. Dave Upthegrove's open seat (Upthegrove is taking retiring King County Council member Julia Patterson's open seat), the county council declined to appoint the 33rd's pick, Kent City Council Member Elizabeth Albertson, and went with the Democrats' runner-up pick, SeaTac Council Member and Deputy Mayor Mia Gregerson.
An oblivious and perhaps intentionally obtuse press release.
33rd District chair, and the third-place finisher in the PCO process, Debra Omaha Sternberg, criticized the county council for trumping the district's first place pick: "I have to say that I am very disappointed in the King County Council for not following the will of the PCOs in this matter," she told the Kent Reporter.
King County Council Member Rod Dembowski (North Seattle, Bothell, Shoreline, Kenmore, Woodinville) however, said (in an otherwise oblivious and perhaps intentionally obtuse press release on the vote): “After consulting with Speaker Chopp, Executive Constantine, and Councilmember Julia Patterson, and listening carefully to the answers to questions posed to council members Albertson and Gregerson, I was pleased to vote with the majority of my fellow Democrats on the council to appoint Deputy Mayor Gregerson to the State House. "If the will of the PCOs is not to be seriously considered then it seems to me that there is no purpose in actually holding a PCO caucus..."
Gregerson, who's on the executive board of the Puget Sound Regional Council (and is a favorite of greens and enviros...Fizz got a text from one transit advocate after yesterday's appointment that said simply "Mia!!") will have to face a bonafide election in 2014.
3. In other legislative vacancy news: At the PubliCalender-worthy 36th Legislative District (Queen Anne, Ballard) legislative session preview on Sunday, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl Welles addressed chatter that she might not run for reelection in November 2014. Last week we reported that local civil rights attorney David Perez filed to run if she didn't; Kohl-Welles told us "at this point" she was planning to run.
According to some attendees at the event, which moved from Kohl-Welles's Belltown apartment to 36th Distirct state Rep. Reuven Carlyle's spacious Queen Anne digs, Kohl-Welles, looking right at Perez—he was there!—reiterated to earnest applause in more emphatic terms that she's running.
Perez reportedly made a point of greeting her after her remarks.
Asked if he's still he in, he tells PubliCola he has filed to run.
4. Gov. Jay Inslee will release his 2014 budget today and K–12 funding is already an issue. The teachers' union, the Washington Education Association, released a statement yesterday complaining that the state has not given teachers cost of living increases (COLAs) in six years. The COLA increases were mandated by I-732, which voters passed in 2000 with a 63 percent vote.
The legislature has routinely suspended the initiative since the 2008 crash.
Washington teachers will have lost approximately 16 percent in buying power during that time. They currently are the lowest-paid teachers in the five Pacific states.
"When the great recession hit, we understood the need to hold the line on the COLA. We did our part. With the economy improving, there is no reason teachers and other educators should face a sixth year without a state-funded COLA. It isn’t fair.” said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association.
The statement added: "In 2012, the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision ordered the state to fully fund K–12 education as mandated by the state constitution. Part of the decision reads, '…the state allocation for salaries and benefits fell far short of the actual cost of recruiting and retaining competent teachers, administrators, and staff.' "