Rights against eviction
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant held a press conference featuring housing advocates March 15 to drum up support for two renters-rights efforts: adding a right to counsel in cases against landlords and extending the city’s pandemic eviction moratorium through the end of this year.
The press conference preempted the Council’s weekly meeting and coincided with Mayor Jenny Durkan extending the eviction moratorium until June 30. The moratorium protects residential, nonprofit and small business renters.
Earlier this month, Sawant put up a proposal to give tenants in the city a right to counsel under a new ordinance that would offer tenants facing eviction free legal representation in court. The proposed legislation lists an intent to prevent people from being evicted and then homeless.
The Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee passed the proposal March 4 to bring it to a Council vote. Committee members Andrew Lewis, Tammy Morales and Sawant voted yes, and Alex Pedersen voted no.
At the March 15 meeting, the Council decided to delay voting on the proposal until their March 29 meeting due to concerns about the draft legislation. Sawant said the dissenters were trying to weaken the bill.
The Council did vote, 8-1, to expand zoning laws temporarily so Seattleites have latitude to run businesses out of their homes in residential neighborhoods.
Unanimous to defund
Also on March 15, the City Council unanimously passed the Community Safety Capacity Building plan to allot $10.4 million for alternatives to traditional policing. The new Seattle police chief, Adrian Diaz, is one person who is adamantly against measures like this to “defund police,” saying the department has nearly 200 fewer officers now.
The Community Safety plan would shift resources toward non-police community leaders and programs.
Addiction and mental health rescue
Washington will receive $54.6 million for mental health and addiction services from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that the U.S. Congress passed March 10 and President Joe Biden signed into law.
Biden’s statement announcing the Plan the first day he took office included a call for Congress to appropriate $4 billion to expand access to these services.
The Plan that Congress and Biden ended up with included $2.5 billion to send states for mental health and addiction aid; $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments in general; $10 billion for critical state infrastructure projects; $14 billion for vaccine distribution; $130 billion for primary and secondary schools; $30 billion for transit agencies; $45 billion for rental, utility and mortgage assistance and billions for small businesses and live performance venues. It also includes $1,400 payments for most taxpayers.
Read more in the Mar. 17-23, 2021 issue.