Council Wrap-Up

No Comments on Murray, Homeless Sweeps, and Environmental Policy Reform

Here's a rundown of the Seattle City Council meeting on Monday.

By Hayat Norimine April 11, 2017

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Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell speaks with mayor Ed Murray about pedestrian safety in March 2017. 

1. Responses to Allegations Against Mayor Ed Murray

A Seattle resident Monday afternoon delivered a letter to the mayor's office calling for mayor Ed Murray's resignation shortly after the man spoke at the Seattle City Council meeting.

"Remove him from office," 39-year-old Josh Moyer said at the meeting. He said he was sexually abused in the past and "was a strong supporter" of Murray before a 46-year-old Kent man sued Murray last week. The lawsuit alleged that starting when the man was 15—in 1986—the Seattle mayor paid him for intercourse and sexual acts. 

"I'm not a perfect person myself," Moyer said in an interview with Seattle Met but said he believed everyone should pay for their mistakes. His letter to Murray began with, "You are no longer my mayor." 

Murray faced the press about the allegations for the first time on Friday, vehemently denying the accusations and saying he had no plans to back down from his campaign for reelection.  

Seattle City Council president Bruce Harrell on Monday morning issued a statement that said the council members will not be commenting on pending litigation against mayor Ed Murray accusing him of child rape and molestation.

Harrell the "city cannot afford to be distracted" and that the council needs to focus on its other "critical" work and responsibilities. 

"All accusations of abuse require a thorough investigation," Harrell said in the statement. "It is in our human nature to immediately want answers, but I ask we not cast aspersions to the parties involved before we have all the facts through the legal process. I am confident that through this process, truth and justice will prevail." 

Two days later council member Kshama Sawant issued her own statement. She called for a "real discussion" about sexual abuse and said she stands ready to work with advocates and survivors.

She said she can't speak to the truth of the claims, but "allegations of rape and abuse should always be taken seriously and investigated with care and diligence. I also believe it is vital to not remain silent on a matter such as this."

Mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver said she will not be commenting on the allegations. 

"In short, we have no interest in politicizing tragedy," she said in a statement posted Friday on the Peoples Party Facebook page. "Hopefully we as a city will stop to consider the serious issues this story uncovers: There are real life vulnerable youth who are hurting right at this moment—I see some of these vulnerable young people in juvenile court and in the classrooms where I teach."

Seattle City Council candidate Jon Grant—who's raised $97,700 in his run for Tim Burgess's open seat—by far had the boldest statement on his Facebook page Friday: 

"I can’t imagine the bravery it takes for a survivor to confront an abuser. Especially when that alleged abuser is the most powerful politician in our city. We live in a society that stacks the deck against survivors of abuse to come out publicly, which perpetuates cycles of abuse and violence. I choose to believe survivors."

2. Homeless Encampment Sweeps

Many activists who spoke at the council meeting in favor of more affordable housing—addressing the rezones that made affordable housing mandatory for developers in South Lake Union and downtown—also called to an end to the city's homeless sweeps. The city plans to sweep an encampment under the West Seattle Bridge on Tuesday morning, citing safety concerns and the existing hazardous materials after two RVs at the encampment caught fire under the Spokane Street viaduct last week. The sweep could take several days, according to the city. 

Council member Bruce Harrell finished the public hearing before everyone who signed up got a chance to speak but allowed two members of the public to speak on just the sweeps. 

"We’re being asked to leave and we’re not being offered another place to go," said Rebecca Massey, who says she's been living under the bridge for eight months. 

"We have continued to sweep people without giving them a safe place to go and we are continuing to waste taxpayers’ money. ... I'm sorry that I'm angry, but this has got to stop," Simon Stephens, a member of Stop the Sweeps Seattle, said as his voice grew louder to the council Monday. "Where are they supposed to go?"

The city listed several fire hazards, including a propane tank explosion under I-5 near Airport Way on Wednesday and 26 propane tanks stacked under the Magnolia Bridge that were removed last week. 

"The concentration of occupied vehicles, tents, pallets, furniture, and debris under the low bridge structure has created a specific fire hazard that needs to be addressed for the safety of the vulnerable people living there and the bridge itself,” said Seattle Fire chief Harold Scoggins in a released statement Tuesday. 

3. SEPA Reform for Development

Council members also approved legislation that created higher State Environmental Policy Act review thresholds for certain parts of the city. By doing that, the city's six urban centers would be exempt from the SEPA review process, which council member Rob Johnson said he felt was redundant with the developers' inspection process.

One of the goals in mayor Ed Murray's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda was to reduce the number of housing projects that were subject to the SEPA process as an attempt to speed up development. The ordinance passed unanimously "after months of rigorous debate," Johnson said. 

Updated April 12, 2017, at 8:45pm. This post contains a new statement released by council member Kshama Sawant. 

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