The new Seattle City Council is here.
On Monday, Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez became the unanimously-elected president of a council revamped by the contentious and money-soaked November elections.
Four new members—Tammy Morales (District 2), Alex Pedersen (District 4), Dan Strauss (District 6), and Andrew Lewis (District 7)—were sworn in. Re-elected members Lisa Herbold (District 1) and Debora Juarez (District 5) were sworn in, too. And as usual, Kshama Sawant (District 3) did things a little differently; she'll take her oath of office next Monday at an event at Washington Hall that will kick-start her "Tax Amazon 2020" campaign.
There were speeches, of course, and afterward the council voted on committee assignments for the term.
As they addressed the council chambers, Herbold, Morales, and Gonzalez all focused on their goals for the first quarter of the year and, specifically, the progressive taxes they've set their sights on.
For Herbold, one of her goals will be to establish a "municipal income tax on the affluent." Morales, a community organizer from Rainier Beach, hinted at a business tax in her speech, which was about "democratizing wealth."
"Our public policies and our public investment must be crafted to meet neighborhood needs, not the needs of our region’s many billionaires," Morales said. "We are a booming city with tremendous wealth in our midst. We must reject a scarcity mentality that asks little of the wealthy while asking our communities to fight over crumbs."
Sawant laid it all on the table when pitching her swearing-in ceremony next Monday that will double as a "Tax Amazon 2020" launch event. She described her latest initiative as the "upcoming battle to tax Amazon and other large corporations in this city."
Pedersen used his time to highlight the month he's already had on the council, during which he voted on establishing the new Regional Homelessness Authority and held a summit about protecting trees, as Erica C. Barnett reported. (Because his predecessor, Rob Johnson, ended his term early, Pedersen took a seat on the dais right after the election was certified in November.)
Pedersen promised a future on the council in which he "brings a calculator, not a megaphone" and where there's less "rhetoric, more results." He also waved the shoes he used to doorbell "every block in District 4" during the campaign season. He's going to leave the shoes on his desk throughout his time on council.
"You're really into the slogans," Gonzalez joked dryly after Pedersen had wrapped up.
Strauss used his time to give a geography lesson about District 6 and drove home the point that he was born and raised in Ballard. Thankfully, there weren't any of the extensive "Ballard's paperboy" references that Strauss loved so much on the campaign trail. (Don't worry, it's on his City Council website).
Gonzalez had another zinger in response to Strauss.
"I have to say, for being childless your dad jokes are on point," Gonzalez said. "I enjoy looking forward to more of that during your term."
Lewis used his time to talk about homelessness. He's the only council member who will not chair a standing committee. Instead, he'll lead the select committee on homelessness and be one of two Seattle City Council members on the governing board of the Regional Homelessness Authority. Lewis told The Stranger that Gonzalez will be the other governing board member.
Speaking of committees...
The council voted on and approved standing committees yesterday. From Seattle City Council Insight:
Herbold will chair the Public Safety and Human Services Committee which "will oversee the Seattle Police Department, the Seattle Fire Department, the Office of Emergency Management, and the Human Service Department."
Morales will chair the Community Economic Development Committee which "will oversee the Office of Economic Development and the Office for Civil Rights, and focus on small business development and support, workforce development, arts, and cultural activities, film and music, and the Equitable Development Initiative."
Sawant will chair the Sustainability and Renters’ Rights Committee which will "oversee the Office of Sustainability and Environment, and take the lead on the city’s Green New Deal and tenant protections."
Pedersen will be chairing the Transportation and Utilities Committee which will oversee the Department of Transportation, Seattle City Light, and Seattle Public Utilities. This responsibility, as Daniel Beekman at the Seattle Times pointed out, accounts for over half of the city's budget.
Juarez will keep her old committee, the Public Assets and Native Communities Committee, that oversees the Parks Department, the Office of the Waterfront, Seattle Public Libraries, Seattle Center, and focuses on issues related to Native Americans.
Strauss will chair the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee that "will handle land use and zoning issues, the upcoming update to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and oversee the Department of Construction and Inspections, the Office of Planning and Community Development, and the Office of Neighborhoods."
Council Member Teresa Mosqueda will be chairing the Finance and Housing Committee. She will oversee the budget.
Gonzalez will chair the Governance and Education Committee which will "oversee the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, The City Auditor, the Hearing Examiner, the Office of the Employee Ombud, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Committee, the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and the Department of Education and Early Learning."
This leaves Mosqueda and Gonzalez with the most power on the council.
Mosqueda is currently on maternity leave and will be back sometime in February. Gonzalez will be leaving for maternity leave starting Jan. 13 and returning on March 23.
"I just wanted to point out how cool it is that I am the second council member in three months and the history of the City of Seattle to request maternity leave," Gonzalez said.
In her absence, the council had to agree on a schedule of interim (or pro-tem, if we're using the lingo) council presidents. Herbold will cover the position in the latter part of January, followed by Juarez in February and Mosqueda in March.