News Roundup

Top 10 Stories: Marijuana Misdemeanors, Rent Control, and the Statute of Limitations for Rape

Your weekly dose of top political stories.

By Araz Hachadourian February 9, 2018

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 1. Seattle will dismiss all misdemeanor marijuana convictions. Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the decision in an op-ed for The Stranger and said it was “a necessary step to make our system more just.” The city will vacate convictions and dismiss charges (meaning it won't show up on background checks) for 500-600 individuals who were prosecuted before city attorney Pete Holmes took office in 2010. The decision doesn’t affect county, state, or felony marijuana convictions.

2. A rent control proposal won’t be coming to Seattle, at least not this year. The bill to repeal the state ban and leave rent control decisions to municipalities died in committee last Friday. Proponents hoped a Democratic House and Senate could finally repeal the ban, enacted in 1981, but opponents argue rent control would only slow development and limit housing stock. Seattle officials haven't decided whether they would enact rent control if they were given the option. 

3. Seattle settled a lawsuit with a second group of West Seattle homeowners over allegedly cutting trees on public land to improve their views. The two groups of property owners will pay the city a total of $800,000 for the removal of 153 along a public greenbelt in a critical area. City officials say the fines—$5,229 per tree—will discourage potential tree-cutters from harming green spaces in the future.

4. The city will remove the Belltown bike racks installed to deter homeless encampments, but continues to put up spiked fences. The Seattle Times reported SDOT has increasingly used 10-feet high spiked fences, a cost of $100,000, they say are used to prevent public safety hazards like fires under bridges. The use of bike racks as “hostile architecture” to deal with the city's homeless population has been condemned by city council members like Teresa Mosqueda, who called the method “misguided.” 

5. Hackers stole data from Washington’s new marijuana tracing system. The Seattle Times reported Leaf Data Systems disclosed a security breach that allowed hackers to get a hold of transport manifests, routes, and delivery information last weekend. While the company that operates the system says the hack has been addressed, growers fear that if someone could steal data, they might also be able to manipulate it. 

6. Amazon is hosting a meeting with Seattle city officials, with no press or public allowed. The Seattle Times reported Amazon released a 36-attendee guest list last week that included a majority (five of nine) city council members. The proposed lineup would make the meeting subject to Washington state’s Open Public Meetings Act and require public access, whistleblowers say. Council member Bruce Harrell has since dropped off the guest list, keeping the meeting private. Harrell says he will only attend portions of the event. 

7. Striking Seattle school bus drivers went back to the negotiating table Thursday, this time with the help of a federal mediator. Teamsters Local 174, the union representing the drivers and bus company, First Student, announced they had reached a tentative agreement after the negotiations. The new terms will be put to a vote Saturday and if ratified, bus service will resume on Monday. 

8. A trade group representing major airlines is suing Washington over new sick leave policies. The Stranger reported the Air Transport Association of America has asked interstate flight crews be exempt from the law—which requires employees receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked—because it might cause “mass confusion.” Alaska Airlines filed a similar, unsuccessful lawsuit following SeaTac’s adoption of the $15 minimum wage.

9. The city of Seattle settled a 2014 harassment lawsuit with three City Light employees for $375,000. Crosscut reported the plaintiffs, originally four women, alleged departmental discrimination due to age, gender, and sexual orientation. When they complained to the HR director, they claim she was dismissive and retaliatory. More than 50 employees have had similar complaints in recent years, prompting mayor Jenny Durkan and the city council to promise change.

10. The state House approved a bill to remove the statute of limitations for serious felony sex crimes like rape. Sexual assaults are the most underreported type of crime, and most rape survivors in Washington have just three years to pursue charges—one of the shortest statutes in the country. House Bill 1155 passed the House with a 90-8 on Thursday and moved to the Senate.

Updated 3:40pm on February 9, 2018, after the union reached an agreement over the bus drivers' strike.

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