1. New at-large city council member Lorena González held her first committee meeting yesterday; González, who campaigned as a crusader for police accountability (as a civil rights attorney, she famously sued the SPD in the 2010 “Mexican piss” police brutality incident, and won) has picked up a plum committee assignment, the committee that oversees the Seattle Police Department.
González has also renamed the committee—going with the "Safe Communities" committee as opposed to the "Public Safety" committee, which she says reflects a more holistic approach.
At yesterday’s meeting, the SPD presented a report on 911 response times (a metric that measures the time from when the officer gets the call to when the officer arrives on the scene).
In the last five years response times have increased from about eight minutes to about nine and a half minutes, SPD chief operating officer Brian Maxey reported. He also noted that there has been a 51 percent increase in 911 calls citywide (with a 61 percent increase, the highest, in the North Precinct).
Maxey said the recent addition of 50 new officers has started nudging the times back down in the latest data (he guessed that the loss of 34 officers in 2012—the time when the rates started to tick up—drove the increased response time).
González, who has also added “Gender Equity” to the committee name as well, specifically asked SPD to compare 911 domestic violence response times to all other 911 assault calls and the data showed DV calls have two to two-and-a-half-minute slower response time.
“It is very concerning to see a consistent two-minute gap here,” Maxey acknowledged. He said the gap was so consistent that there must be a systemic issues, and he theorized that because DV calls require an arrest and backup and staging, officers may be adding in more time to report that they’re on the scene.
Despite the increase in 911 calls, SPD chief O’Toole wanted the committee to know that crime is down overall by 14 percent in 2015.
2. Earlier this week, I reported that city lobbying staff told the council that senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle) is not working on a rent control bill; at a council briefing a week earlier, council member Kshama Sawant had gotten the news that rent control wasn’t in play in Olympia, and she had suggested they talk to senator Jayapal, a Sawant ally who had shown interest in the idea.
Fighting for rent control was Sawant’s election season campaign promise last year, and she put the issue on the council’s Olympia priority list.
Jayapal, who announced last week that she’s running for retiring U.S. representative Jim McDermott’s (D-WA, 7) seat, was surprised at the city’s account saying she does have “a full rent control ban bill” but that she hasn’t introduced it because “people here know that it won’t get a hearing” and because the session is so short “there is no time.”
Jayapal also said she hasn’t introduced the bill because “I do not see any big push on other senators coming from the city.”
This week, at its weekly presentation to council (though Sawant wasn’t there) Seattle Olympia lobbying staffer Lyset Cadena told council: “We have had conversations with Senator Jayapal’s office. She is focusing her efforts on 90-day notice on any rent increases and currently is not working on rent control legislation, but we’ll continue having those conversations with her office.”
3. Speaking of the race to replace U.S. representative Jim McDermott: State representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill)—one of three candidates for McDermott’s spot in DC along with Jayapal and King County Council member Joe McDermott (no relation)—still hasn’t said if he’s supporting Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
Earlier this week, I did a speed-dating round with the three candidates asking which of the two Democratic presidential contenders they supported. Jayapal said she was for Sanders, and McDermott said he was for Clinton.
I’ve reached out to Walkishaw and his campaign several times, and Walkinshaw has not given an answer yet.
The Iowa caucus is next week, of course, with a daily assortment of polls seesawing between Clinton and Sanders.