1. With all the attention the city budget got last month, no one seemed to notice the city council unanimously approved a corporate tax break worth a couple of million dollars last week.
Since 2007, the city has made companies that claim an exemption on the city’s gross receipts tax, pay a square footage tax—basically a tax on the size of their building, to make up the difference. At the mayor’s urging, the city scrapped the square footage tax last month.
Here’s the background: In 2007, the state legislature tweaked the way companies paid taxes, allowing them to pay less locally if part of their final transaction or business was done elsewhere. A complicated “apportionment” structure determined how much of a local break they got. Since that change, Seattle had been making companies that used the new rules to avoid a portion of gross receipt taxes, pay the separate square footage tax to make up the difference. While the city rules made sure companies weren’t paying more than they would have paid under the gross receipts tax, they ensured the city wasn’t losing any money from the apportionment exemption.
Calling the money—about $2 million out of the $200 million B&O tax base—“incidental,” both the mayor’s office, which pushed to repeal the square footage tax, and the council, which signed off on it with an 8-0 vote this month, the city scrapped the tax, allowing companies to take the exemption without making up the difference.
I have a request in to track which companies have been taking the exemption.
2. Police accountability activists are now awaiting a formal response from the Community Police Commission to this week’s call from minority, social justice, and civil rights activists to speed up implementation of the CPC’s long list of police oversight reforms. The activists themselves were responding to the federal monitor’s conservative position that the CPC’s proposal be put on hold; the CPC, in concert with the mayor, had called for things like a stronger, independent role for the SPD’s internal watchdog and changes to limiting the number of appeals officers can pursue to challenge disciplinary findings.
After, the federal monitor, Merrick Bobb cautioned against moving too fast last week, the mayor issued a conciliatory statement on Monday: “Passing and implementation police accountability reforms must follow the process set forth by the Court and the Monitor. I am encouraged that the Monitor has now set a timetable to respond to our joint recommendations. The City will continue working collaboratively with the Department of Justice, the Federal Court and the Monitor to fulfill the requirements under the federal consent decree.”
CPC co-chair and longtime police accountability all-star, public defender Lisa Daugaard, would only tell me the CPC will be responding to the police accountability community with a letter next Wednesday after the CPC’s regular meeting. “We will certainly keep the many community leaders who have joined in this effort closely apprised of how things develop in the coming weeks,” she said.
Activists might take some encouragement that Daugaard’s on their side. She was at the Black Lives Matter protests on Black Friday last week sporting a handwritten sticker that read: “black lives matter and buying shit doesn’t.”
The CPC’s recommendations include whistleblower protections such as allowing the OPA director to pursue problems they discover are outside of the original complaint without being seen as “going rogue,” as well as giving the OPA subpoena power over germane records that are not within the police department, such as bank or store video, and giving the OPA the power to change police manual guidelines that exonerate officers by unwittingly codifying bad behavior.
They also include things that will have to be bargained with the police union, such as: eliminating multiple routes for officers to appeal discipline, restoring discipline for “conduct unbecoming to an officer” to off-duty situations, and including civilians in intake and investigations of citizen complaints.
3. Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen took to Twitter last night to raise questions about SDOT director Scott Kubly.
Having recently lost the fight against the city’s $930 million transportation levy—kind of spectacularly, actually (59 to 41), Blethen’s tweet seemed kind of sad. (You’ll remember, during the levy campaign, the Times questioned whether SDOT was trustworthy and accountable. . You’ll also remember that, grinning big on election night while standing next to Kubly, Murray told the crowd, “no department has led on accountability like SDOT.”)
This time, Blethen’s issue was the potential Sonics SoDo arena. With the news yesterday that SDOT had signed off on a street vacation to stadium investor Chris Hansen for a portion of Occidental Avenue South (a key and final piece in the $200 million memorandum of understanding between the city, the county, and Hansen), Blethen tweeted: “Do we really trust Seattle's transportation director to be objective. Council needs to kill this!”