It was billed as transformative. Its more of the same.
It was billed as transformative. It's more of the same. Phil Augustavo/Getty Images

The Seattle City Council just voted to create a Regional Homelessness Authority interlocal agreement (ILA).

The vote passed 5-1, with Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez the sole no vote.

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Gonzalez has been opposed to this version of the Authority since the plan did some significant shapeshifting over the past month.

"I still believe that there are significant flaws in this version of the ILA that have not been addressed," Gonzalez said. She's also not confident they will be addressed.

So what have we got from this effort to create a new and bigger "authority" that'll supposedly address this area's ever-bigger homelessness crisis?

Well, what the council voted on Monday was significantly different from the originally-proposed transformative plan. That original plan gave more authority to experts on homelessness and people with lived homelessness experience, and it limited the role of elected officials. The plan approved today does the opposite.

Under the old plan, the Regional Homelessness Authority had the ability to find its own revenue stream through eventual taxation. Now it doesn't.

Lastly, the entire region has not, as part of this new agreement, committed to making policies with an "evidence-based" approach.

A public commenter today, comparing the original plan to the amended plan, described what went down as a "bait-and-switch."

Gonzalez is concerned about these changes; about whether Seattle's getting enough control over the Authority for its $73 million investment (an amount that makes up 60 percent of the Authority's funds); and about whether King County and the Sound Cities Association (a fancy way to say "the suburbs") will be making decisions that reflect Seattle's interests going forward.

Currently the suburbs, which refused to agree to anything that would tax them, are contributing zero dollars to the Authority.

The new plan trudged its way through the requisite committees over the past two weeks. The Regional Policy Committee—comprised of representatives from the King County Council, the Seattle City Council, and representatives from suburban cities—came up with the new plan and passed it. Then, the full King County Council passed it. The Seattle City Council's Select Committee on Homelessness and Affordability passed it last Thursday. That's what brought us to today's vote of the full Seattle City Council.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who has been critical of the Authority since changes were made over the Thanksgiving holiday, was absent from today's vote. So was Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

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For Mike O'Brien, Sally Bagshaw, and Bruce Harrell, this was their last vote as Seattle City Council Members. They all voted yes. So did Debora Juarez and Alex Pedersen.

"This is not a perfect plan," Bagshaw said, "Nobody thinks we have gotten this 100 percent right and we have opportunities going forward to make the necessary modifications."

The fate of those changes will be in the hands of the incoming council members. They will be sworn in on January 6.

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