In The Hall
Community Court Expands, Pay-As-You-Drive, and More
Is the council's annual retreat "not appropriate" for television or "too boring" even for government-affairs network Seattle Channel? Depends on whom you ask: Council staffers say planned coverage was scotched by the Seattle Channel because no one, save the extremely masochistic (or exceedingly stoned), would want to watch two days of meetings that will include diversity training, emergency-preparedness workshops, and "team-building" exercises such as, reportedly, painting umbrellas.
The city's community court is the destination of first resort for petty "nuisance" criminals, many of them homeless, who make life unpleasant for pedestrians and business owners by drinking, peeing, and loitering in public. The court, which opened in 2005, offers chronic, low-level offenders a chance to avoid prosecution by assigning them to community service and directing them to resources such as housing and treatment. While its success rate is relatively low (just 34 percent complete the program) and its recidivism rate relatively high, City Attorney Tom Carr declared it "incredibly successful" at a court work session Monday, noting that court participants are some of the hardest-to-treat criminals; the majority are unemployed and addicted to drugs or alcohol. Thanks to a $599,000 cash infusion, the court will expand to encompass new crimes, first-time nuisance offenders, and the entire city; previously, it only addressed repeat nuisance offenders in downtown.
While the looming viaduct election continued to dominate the political arena (campaign total: $168,000; days until election: 41) the biggest deluge of mail to council this week came in opposition to the mayor's nightlife ordinance, which would institute a new noise ordinance and require clubs to police their own and nearby properties. One council office reported receiving 278 e-mails in the past week opposing the law. The total number of letters supporting the mayor's ordinance: nine.
A bill supported by Council Member Tom Rasmussen that would place restrictions on landlords who convert apartments into condos is moving smoothly through the state senate. The latest proposed changes would strengthen the bill by increasing relocation assistance for tenants (currently $500 throughout the state) to the equivalent of three or four months' rent and by prohibiting landlords from starting interior construction until the last tenant is out.
Meanwhile, as "Asphalt Greg" Nickels continues to greenwash his plans to build a massive new freeway on Seattle's waterfront, King County, County Executive Ron Sims, is pushing for a multimillion-dollar pilot program to fund "pay-as-you-drive insurance"—a system that charges drivers for insurance by the mile. Environmental groups support pay-as-you-drive programs because they make drivers more conscious of driving choices, reducing congestion and pollution in the process. Pay-as-you-drive insurance is one of the recommendations made by Nickels's "Green Ribbon Commission" last May (along with not building more freeways); only Sims, however, is actually working to make it happen. Oh, and he supports the surface/transit option for replacing the viaduct, too.