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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.
Today the City Council’s Full Council took action on three pieces of legislation that I have been closely tracking. Below is a brief description of the legislation and how I voted on each.
RECORDING EXECUTIVE SESSIONS
I co-sponsored Resolution 31041, along with Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Richard McIver, urging the State Legislature to adopt legislation to require local municipalities to record their executive sessions. Currently there is no requirement in law requiring governing bodies to keep a verbatim record of discussions conducted in executive, which are closed to the public.
Recording executive sessions will allow current and future governing members to review the history of issues that have come before the governing body, to memorialize legal or other advice provided in executive session. Requiring governing bodies to record executive sessions would encourage strict compliance with rules governing executive sessions. This was a problem that occurred last year when it was revealed that the Executive Director of the Port of Seattle, a public governing body, received a substantial severance payout but there was no record of who agreed to it.
Under the proposed legislation executive sessions recordings will not be subject to public inspection except by court order or with the authority of the governing body. However, complaining parties may seek judicial review of the executive session recordings to determine if the governing body violated Chapter 42.30 RCW and they must provide credible evidence of a violation of that section of the law.
I joined all the other Councilmembers in voting for this legislation in finding that recording of public body executive sessions advances the public’s interest in transparent and open government.
The Council unanimously approved Council Bill 116132 approving a work program for study and analysis of the Seattle Streetcar Network Concept which will highlight potential routes and determine the feasibility of developing all portions of a streetcar network.
I was going to oppose this legislation since there has been no evidence to date that a streetcar network can be cost effective in improving transit in Seattle. However, I worked with the sponsors of the legislation to have it amended so that in order for the City Council to authorize additional steps and/or funding for developing a streetcar network, the City’s Transportation Department will need to show how the next investment in a streetcar network, including each of the streetcar lines proposed in the network, will provide measurable progress toward achieving the Seattle Transit Plan’s strategy to improve service on the Urban Village Transit Network, which consists of all the major bus routes in the City.
In addition, the study must show how a street car network will help the City meet the goal of providing bus service on these important routes so that there is 15 minute or better service frequency, 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, in both directions between urban villages.
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen also had language included that requires Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) provide the Council with a comparative assessment of proposed funding for the Streetcar Network Concept with a similar level of funding for METRO and/or Sound Transit capital improvements and services, which addresses the advantages and disadvantages of each. And SDOT should also provide the Council with an assessment of how funding for operating a streetcar network would change or reduce METRO bus service hours. The streetcar network analysis report is due to be presented to Council no later than May 1, 2008.
Monday’s meeting was very harmonious, with the Council also unanimously agreed to ask the Mayor to direct that the Seattle Center work collaboratively with the new local owners of Seattle’s Professional women’s Basketball Team, The Storm, to negotiate a long-term lease that enables the newly independent Storm to be viable playing at KeyArena while requiring that the team provide certain public benefits to the City, the taxpayers and residents of Seattle.
Four local women with a history of civic and community involvement have secured an exclusive option to purchase the Storm and keep the team in Seattle. The WNBA League owners will be voting on approval of the sale of the Storm at the end of February. This legislation will send a message that the City is willing to try to make the Storm viable in KeyArena while proving public benefits to the City.
Unlike the Sonic players, the Storm players are not paid in millions; their pay scale is reasonable and their tickets are affordable for families. Women’s professional basketball teams have a long history in Seattle and I recognize that they attract an ardent group of fans. Consequently I agreed with the other Councilmembers that a women’s professional basketball team would be a valued tenant in a City-owned facility, such as KeyArena, and we should try to retain them.