Policy issues on the Seattle horizon

Earlier this week the Seattle City Council approved its 2017 work program (via Seattle City Council Insight). Although details are scant, the program provides some idea of the issues councilmembers want to work on this year. Much of the program is carried over from last year, but there are several new items of interest.

Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee:

  • “Review fee structure for regulatory licenses.”

Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee:

  • Monitor the study the city’s Office of Economic Development is writing on legacy businesses. (Per OED, the study will “determine the scope and definition of a project to help preserve businesses that contribute to Seattle’s unique culture and character.”) 
  • “Develop options to fund the Office of Labor Standards.” (For more on this issue, see here and here.)

Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans Committee:

  • “Develop legislation to implement a paid [family] leave benefit for municipal employees and private sector employees.”

Energy and Environment Committee:

  • “Continue expanding a Seattle Tenants’ Bill of Rights, including but not limited to legislation intended to protect tenants facing gentrification, relocation, and excessive background checks.”
  • “With legislation and public briefings, support local activists and organizations that are using grassroots movement building strategies to resist regressive policies of the Trump Administration.”
  • “Explore local options for progressive taxation by councilmanic ordinance or referendum including but not limited to a millionaire’s tax, capital gains tax, and restructured business taxes.”

Along the lines of the new taxes suggested in the last bullet above, the Seattle Times reports on an effort to impose an income tax on wealthy Seattle residents. The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog adds

Advocates say they could move forward by collecting signatures to put the initiative on the ballot this fall or by structuring the tax so it could be carried forward by the Seattle City Council and adopted directly into city law.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is a fan of moving on the new tax directly.

“We could do this as an initiative but it’s important to challenge elected officials to take a stance on this,” Sawant said at informational session on the coalition’s effort Wednesday in City Council chambers. “A lot of politicians in the Seattle area have been talking about how they’re against Trump, that this is a sanctuary city, but it’s hollow unless they actually do something to make this city affordable and livable.”

Opportunity Washington has also written about this proposal. 

Meanwhile, last month Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposed a five-year property tax levy worth $275 million to increase spending on addressing homelessness. (And he is “challenging the city’s business community to come up with an additional $25 million over five years.”) He also proposed a two cents per ounce tax on pop and other sugary drinks that would “support various programs aimed at reducing disparities in education outcomes between the city’s white students and students of color.” 

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