Urban Politics #140: City Council Legislation


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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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Racial Discrimination In Housing Audit

At today’s Full Council Meeting I introduced Resolution 30511 calling for an audit for racial discrimination in housing in 2003. It passed unanimously.

It has been 4 years since the last audit for testing racial discrimination has been conducted by our Office of Civil Rights in Seattle. Unless such audits are carried out periodically, affected tenants are the only source for reporting discriminatory practices. Many of these tenants have limited resources and time to pursue filing complaints, consequently significant incidents housing discrimination could develop over time violating federal and state laws.

Some Councilmembers were initially concerned that this legislation would ignore education and substitute only enforcement through filing charges against any landlord who might be in violation of the law.

I amended the legislation to clarify that educating the public and the affected parties will continue to be practiced by the Office of Civil Rights and that the trigger for pursuing filing charges must meet two criteria. First there must be substantial violations and secondly the Director of the Office of Civil Rights must deem that it is necessary.

The Federal standard of enforcement as administered by HUD goes beyond simply educating the public. Our Director will only pursue filing charges where there is a significant violation since a weak case might result in a loss in the courts which would set back efforts to stop discriminatory practices.

The Office of Civil Rights receives grants from HUD for conducting these audits and a resolution from the City Council will strengthen the likelihood of the City receiving such funding.

City’S State Lobbying Agenda

The City Council adopted its State Legislative Agenda (SLA) at the Full Council today. The document outlines the major issues that City will lobby in Olympia next year.

I moved that the SLA be amended so that the City would not oppose efforts to allow directly elected representatives to the Sound Transit board should that effort arise. Previously many Councilmembers, including myself, had supported having some of the monorail’s Elevated Transit Company board directly elected. It seemed to me that carrying this principle over to Sound Transit is a good one and the City should not close the door on that discussion. My motion failed 2 to 7, with only CM Judy Nicastro supporting it.

CM Nicastro moved to amend the SLA by saying that the City supports additional tools to provide more flexibility and options to local jurisdictions to set landlord/tenant laws. Most of the CM’s opposed this language because it could be interpreted to mean that the city would support rent control, a right that was stripped from the City by the State. They felt that it would needlessly antagonize State Legislators. It was amended by CM Steinbrueck to clearly state that regulation of rent would be excluded. The amended motion passed unanimously.

CM Conlin moved to support legislation to reform condominium liability laws to address problems with condominium cladding. His motion stated that uncertainty with insurance coverage for condominium development has adversely affected the region’s ability to finance and construct condominiums. CM Conlin accepted my amendment to assure that any liability legislation that we might support would not diminish the investments of condominium owners. I did not want to see any easing of liability on developers to the detriment of condominium owners who might be stuck with large assessments to fix their buildings.

With assistance from CM Richard McIver, I was able to add a Civil Rights section to our SLA. It stated that the City supports efforts to defend constitutional civil rights such as right to read, right to privacy, right to travel, freedom from surveillance, freedom to dissent, and freedom from discrimination. I am concerned that in the next Legislative Session the Governor will be proposing Anti-Terrorist legislation and that most likely will raise significant civil rights issues. Senator Adam Kline, from the 37th District has been a vigilant watchdog in protecting citizens’ rights and I encouraged our city lobbyists to work with him.

The full and updated State Legislative Agenda can be found by visiting the City Clerk’s website at http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/RESN1.htm and typing in the Resolution Number 30540. It may not be available until Tuesday afternoon (10/29).

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