Urban Politics #37: Cap Meeting Agenda


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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CONTENTS:

  • Cap Meeting Agenda
  • Burma Vote This Monday
  • Making Sausage 

Cap Meeting Agenda

Wednesday, May 27th, at 2:00 PM
Meeting in the Council Chambers, 11th Floor, 600 4th Ave.

Poem – Blowin Tattoo by Bart Baxter, winner of the Hart Crane, Charles Proctor and Carlin Alden awards, and the 1993 MTV s Poetry Grand Slam and the 1997 Seattle Grand Slam.

Briefing – By the Seattle Center, the Seattle Arts Commission and the Seattle Library on their Budget Goals

Briefing – By 911 Media Arts on their work with digital artists, social service groups and community, including a five minute video presentation

Briefing – By Women In Film on efforts to improve the status of women in film, video, television and multimedia, including a three minute video presentation.

Briefing – By the Seattle Independent Film and Video Consortium on increasing public media education and public awareness of independent media-makers in this region.

Public Comment Period

Burma Vote This Monday

This Monday the Council will vote on both a resolution and an ordinance regarding Burma.

The resolution will be voted on first. It is being offered by Sue Donaldson as an alternative to the ordinance. It restates the City s previously passed resolution which condemned Burma. However it is less forceful than the former resolution and thus is seen by Burmese who support the elected Democratic Government as a step backward.

The Burma Ordinance which I’m sponsoring, would set up selective purchasing criteria for denying the City contracting with companies that do business in Burma when the City could purchase those services or items from another company not doing business in Burma. Only contracts valued over $100,000 would be affected. Currently no contracts would be affected. City staff have testified that the cost of monitoring would be negligible.

Every city has passed this ordinance where it has been introduced. Seattle may be the first city to see it defeated. The Council appears to be evenly divided, with Tina Podlodowski being the swing vote.

Copy of my Letter to the Editor – Published in the P.I. this past Saturday in response to their editorial against the ordinance.

Your editorial of May 18th says that my proposed selective purchasing ordinance unfairly targets the Burmese dictatorship while ignoring China’s. You say that Burma is being picked on since it is just a much weaker country. But there are three critical differences.

First, no one is calling for economic sanctions against China. Even the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet which suffers under Chinese domination, has not endorsed such a strategy.

Secondly, Burma is the only nation in the world where the legally elected government is asking for an economic boycott of its own country to restore democracy.

Lastly, the most effective political tool to advance the cause of democracy should be determined by the circumstances of each opportunity. One does not use a shotgun to shoot a fly, nor a fly swatter to down an elephant.

Close to 20 other cities have passed similar ordinances, including New York where Republican Mayor Guliani gladly signed it. Clearly Seattle would not be alone in condemning the brutality of Burma’s military junta.

The Burmese people have asked us for this ordinance. It is of little cost to us, and that has been clearly established by our own staff. If this ordinance can lead to one less person being murdered, or woman raped, or child tortured, then I believe we have an obligation to answer their call for help.

Making Sausage

Someone said that passing legislation is like making sausage; it s not a pretty sight. I m not sure that s always true, but grinding through compromises is often an unpredictable process, although a critical one in passing legislation. The vote taken last week in the City Council s Committee of the Whole for including the Holly Park library in the upcoming library bond issue is an example.

The Library Board came to the City Council recommending an additional $750,000 be included in their Library Bond issue to help build a branch at Holly Park. Up until then a new building for that branch library was planned as part of the Holly Park redevelopment plan. The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) had requested City funds and planned to roll in some they raised elsewhere to build their Campus of Learners Facility .

Their request set off an opposition memo from the Seattle Displacement Coalition (SDC) to the City Council. They argued that there was a clear paper trail of documents between City and SHA showing that both parties agreed that the City funds to Phase I of the Holly Park redevelopment effort were premised on SHA completing the library without coming back to the city for additional funds.

SDC did not oppose funding a Holly Park library, but they did not want SHA using previously committed funds for a library to go to other purposes.

It appeared to me that most of the Council Members had been impressed by the SDC presentation and were seriously considering not providing the additional funds. But I’m beginning to understand how remarks made in one s Council office (including my own) fail to make it down the hallway to the Council Chambers.

When the issue came up I moved to deny funding. Peter Steinbrueck seconded it. I began the discussion by reiterating the main points that SDC had brought up. Richard McIver said that we shouldn’t be second guessing SHA’s administration of its funds and that this was a community that needed a library. Tina Podlodowski, in so many words seconded that position when she spoke to funding the Holly Park library with the City being reimbursed from either a rebate from SHA or a credit against future City contributions to the Holly Park project.

There’s a little mathematician that lives inside the head of all legislators. I could count how the other Council Members were going to be voting. What originally seemed like a slam dunk, now appeared to be a three point shot (I love how we all use sport analogies – even for those of us who don’t know much beyond them).

Richard Conlin then asked a couple of questions which lead to a conclusion that funding the Holly Park library at a later date from the Library Bond’s Opportunity Fund would not be possible – something that I pointed out could be done with a 2/3 vote, but that didn’t impress anyone.

When Sue Donaldson spoke to our common interest in seeing a Holly Park library and how the City could provide the money with the expectation of getting it back, I knew the ball had passed out of my hands and I wouldn’t even be getting a shot at the hoop. I then offered to withdraw my motion, as long as we limited repayment to a rebate and not as a credit from any future city contributions to SHA. At least, I felt, this would make SHA more accountable. Sue, Tina and the others readily accepted the offer.

And thus, to switch metaphors from the basketball court back to the butcher shop, we got our sausage.

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