In direct opposition to the city-appointed Seattle Human Right's Commission, the city council's Public Safety and Education Committee just approved a bill that would create an additional penalty for aggressive solicitation. Council president Richard Conlin said he would attempt to have the full council vote on the bill by next Monday—in only three business days—despite several amendments that were formally announced only this morning.
The report from the commission, the result of a nine-to-one vote to oppose the measure, warned the that it would have dire ramifications. The bill would create due-process problems and city data "do not support the factual findings in the bill," the commission found. The human-rights commission is tasked by the Seattle Municipal Code to advise the city council and mayor on policy matters.
But the council committee members made no mention of the report in its deliberations (council member Nick Licata, who is not a committee member but sat in on the meeting, mentioned it but none of the committee members acknowledged the it). And, as I reported earlier, Burgess did not present the report to the public or reporters at the meeting.
Asked why the council would ignore a report from a body that makes policy recommendations, city council spokeswoman Laura Lockard said the15-page policy analysis of the commission only "gets as much weight as public comment."
Many people wanted to make public comment but couldn't because Burgess only allocated 15 minutes. "More people ... want to speak than we will have time to hear," he told the crowd.
City Council Members Richard Conlin, Sally Bagshaw, and Tim Burgess all voted in to pass the bill on to the full council. If approved, it would add a $50 fine for aggressive solicitation, in addition to the existing criminal law on the books. Licata, who sat in on the meeting, voted against it.
Moreover, council president Conlin said he would try to have the full council vote on the measure on Monday, presumably to pass it, despite concern that he's pushing it too fast. Although the measure has been discussed for nearly seven months, today the council unveiled a new version of the bill (after the comment period) and tacked on amendments to the bill. In other words, Conlin wants to push through a bill that is different that the one the public has been hearing about—or has commented on—for more than half a year with only three working days of public notice.
"It seems a little rash to vote on the on Monday," says Enrique Gonzalez, who works for Centro del la Raza and spoke against the bill. "They just passed amendments. There is a lot of discussion to be had."