One Question

One Question for the Mayor: Did He Send Godden to Shut Down Sawant Amendment?

Murray's awkward alliance with Jean Godden

By Josh Feit March 4, 2015

Here's a followup to this morning's Fizz report on city council member Jean Godden's surprise appearance at the land use committee meeting where her decisive vote shut down Kshama Sawant's amendment to the tent city legislation.

Quick recap: Mayor Ed Murray sent legislation to the council to authorize three tent cities in concert with social services. Sawant's amendment was a response to protests from homeless people who are disappointed that the legislation only authorized encampments in commercial and industrial areas. Residential zones, both multifamily and single family, are verboten in the legislation. Sawant offered a compromise calling for a study that considers including residential zones in the future.

A homeless man testifying during last month's public hearing on the encampment legislation told the council:

This ordinance, by redlining, is like telling me because of who or what I am, I am not a full citizen and do not belong here. 'We will help you, but you do not belong here.' Well, I am a full citizen, and I do belong here.

The amendment died after a three-to-three deadlock with Nick Licata and Mike O'Brien supporting Sawant and Tim Burgess and Sally Clark joining Godden (or, more accurately, Godden joining Burgess and Clark) against.

Mayor Murray's office does not support the amendment.

Murray spokesman Viet Shelton tells me residential neighborhoods aren't reliably close to transit and social services (which are both important, he says, to helping the homeless). More important, he said, is the issue of "dispersion." Shelton says there's an exemption for church-based homeless encampments and some of those are already in residential zones. (Two of the current four church encampments—one in Haller Lake and one in the University District—are in residential zones. Shelton also notes that a recent church encampment was in a Capitol Hill residential zone).

One Question

This brings me to today's One Question. Did the mayor's office contact Godden, who is not a member of the committee, to show up and vote?

Answer: Yes. "We did contact a few members expressing our concerns. [Including] Godden, but not just her."

This spins me out into some council race politics. Transportation Choices Coalition director Rob Johnson, a Murray ally, is running against Godden in the fourth district—which covers the regular-Joe U. District, but also finicky single family neighborhoods like Laurelhurst and Wedgwood. Johnson, whose campaign is about building transit oriented develompment around the three light rail stops that are cued up in the fourth district—one at Husky stadium, one in the U. Distirct proper, and one in Roosevelt—is not beholden to the suburban-style portions of the district like Godden; he's relying on young urbanists that likely aren't touchy about encampments in their multifamily zones. But here's Johnson's supposed ally Murray helping Godden shore up her single-family zone base. 

Murray also recently partnered with Godden on headline-grabbing parental leave legislation.

"This city loves studies, why wouldn't we be okay with a study."—Rob JohnsonI asked Johsnon what he thought of Godden's vote. Johnson says he disagreed with Godden's vote with a footnote about "the importance of allowing encampments while making sure that any future sites have good access to transit."

He also joked: "This city loves studies, why wouldn't we be okay with a study."

Another Godden Challenger, Democratic activist Michael Maddux, who was a fierce advocate for Murray's parks district proposal, tells me: "This follows [Godden's] 2013 vote against encampments, where she said 'people deserve better.' Yet, during the budget votes in 2014, she was against a $120,000 add for women's shelter beds.

"While Tent Cities are not a solution to the overall need, they do provide a safe place and community, and by red lining homeless residents of the city, and taking away the ability of neighborhoods to open their doors, council member  Godden is doing a disservice to our city. I do not agree with council member Godden's vote, and am troubled by her inconsistencies on addressing homelessness in Seattle."

I have a message in to Godden.

After Sawant's amendment failed on the three-to-three split, all six council members voted to approve the underlying legislation. Sawant may bring the amendment back on March 23 when the full council votes on the legislation. It may "take a different shape," though, council sources say. 

Licata tried to pass encampment legislation back in 2013, but his version lost 5-4 with only O'Brien, Sally Bagshaw, and Bruce Harrell backing him. Godden voted no at that time. Licata's legislation also prevented encampments from locating in residential zones (with the church exception.) And as is the case with the current legislation, there are still temporary use permits that do not have zone restrictions.


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