So, this is weird. At some point before a city council committee meeting yesterday, Jean Godden apparently started giving a shit about this homeless encampment legislation her colleagues have been working on for the last month.
As Seattlish has already pointed out, Godden "rolled up" mid-way through the meeting where her fellow council members were discussing amendments to the encampment bill, including one big one. That amendment, introduced by Council Member Kshama Sawant, would have directed the city to do an environmental review, at some point in the future, of allowing encampments in residential areas.
Council President Tim Burgess and Council Member Sally Clark were sure to be in the “no” camp, and Sawant, Nick Licata, and Mike O’Brien were “yes” votes. To make it out of committee and on to the full council, the idea needed a majority and Godden's "no" killed that possibility.
Again: This amendment was not even about allowing something new. It was a study about the possibility of some day allowing something. Ugh.
Before the vote, O’Brien asked Godden—who voted against encampments last time this came before the council—if she had anything to say. She replied, “Nothing in particular, just wanted to be part of the decision making.”
This was all so strange because, as O’Brien pointed out to her, Godden hasn’t been at the previous meetings about this homeless encampments legislation. And Burgess (intentionally?) stalled the discussion until she showed up, asking O’Brien to postpone a vote on this particular amendment and take up another one first. Plus, Mayor Ed Murray, who introduced this legislation, doesn’t support allowing encampments in residential areas. He argues that’s where most of the already existing church-hosted camps are and that residential areas are farther from transit and social service providers.
Murray spokesperson Viet Shelton says the mayor was worried about the amendment for those policy reasons and because it could make the eventual full council vote on the tent encampment legislation too controversial.
“We had concerns both on policy and the fact that it could turn what we believed and hoped to be a very, very widely supported measure and potentially unanimous bill into a very unpredictable, contentious, controversial bill,” he says. “That’s something we wanted to avoid.”
So, did Murray corral his allies on the council and ask them to show up to the meeting and help kill the amendment? It appears so. Shelton says the mayor wasn’t lobbying them to vote any certain way, but that he did "inform" Godden and Council Members Sally Bagshaw and Tom Rasmussen that it was coming up at this meeting “and if they wanted to take actions they could.”
Godden told me this morning that she opposes allowing these three new encampments in residential areas because they're already allowed in residential areas if they're hosted by churches. She says she wasn’t in her office when the mayor called, but “It was relayed to me it was an important issue and one should go and check it out.”
This may not be the last we hear of this amendment. Sawant could bring it back for the full council vote, which is expected March 23. And it could become a campaign issue.
Both Michael Maddux and Taso Lagos, two of Godden's opponents for the District 4 council seat, support allowing homeless encampments in residential areas—though Lagos couches his support by saying camps should have approval from neighbors and businesses near where they would be located. (Godden's third opponent, Rob Johnson, hasn't yet responded to my request for comment.)
Maddux says he hopes it becomes a campaign battle. "How many more people do we need to have living on streets before Council Member Godden gets serious about supporting the needs of the most vulnerable among us?" Maddux asked. "It’s time for us to have a more progressive city council and that's going to be a city council that does not include Jean Godden."