TOWN HALL: What West Seattle legislators and councilmembers talked about, from homelessness to holiday plans

November 22, 2020 7:08 pm
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 |   West Seattle news | West Seattle politics

One of last week’s many community meetings featured five West Seattle-residing elected representatives joining forces for an online Town Hall.

Wednesday night’s livestreamed event was hosted by State Sen. Joe Nguyen, with guests State Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, and County Councilmember Joe McDermott.

They presented updates and answered questions. We’ll start with where they ended: Discussing Thanksgiving plans.

Everyone, of course, said they’re heeding the warnings about gathering with people from outside your household. Sen. Nguyen and his family plan to get takeout Chinese food. Rep. Cody and her husband are “looking for a small turkey.” Councilmembers Herbold and McDermott and Rep. Fitzgibbon all had a variation of a plan to share dishes among family and/or friends by leaving them on porches – Fitzgibbon, for example, says he’s been doing a lot of “quarantine baking,” so he’s in charge of bread.

Now, to the politics.

In the opening updates, the legislators looked ahead to next year’s session, expected to be almost entirely online. We covered their priorities in our recent report on their appearance at the 34th District Democrats’ town hall – Rep. Fitzgibbon is working on climate issues; Rep. Cody remains focused on health care.

The two local-government representatives talked about their concluded-or-concluding budget processes. Councilmember McDermott said he and his colleagues had just finalized a two-year budget that includes a one-tenth of one percent sales-tax increase for affordable housing. McDermott said that will fund immediate shelter as well as construction of “supportive housing.” He also said the West Seattle and Vashon senior centers are getting $100,000 to make up for being left out of the seniors/veterans’ levy.

Councilmember Herbold said she and her colleagues were close to the end of their work on next year’s budget (which is to be finalized tomorrow), with key points including COVID relief, investments in BIPOC communities, and reinventing policing/safety – for example, they’re moving forward with moving Parking Enforcement Officers out of SPD (here’s our report on how the PEOs hope their jobs will change). They’re also devoting more resources to the SFD alternative crisis-response Health One.

COVID assistance is a big state issue, too, even before the Legislature meets. Rep. Cody noted Gov. Inslee’s commitment to business assistance (which has increased since the Town Hall). Rep. Fitzgibbon says they’re hoping a rental-assistance package will be worked out too, and there will be discussion of whether to extend the eviction moratorium beyond year’s end. There are other points, too, he said, such as ensuring that mandatory closures don’t lead to increased unemployment-insurance premiums for businesses.

How can the state help the city/county? Sen. Nguyen asked. Both replied by mentioning the West Seattle Bridge (which will be repaired rather than replaced, the mayor announced the next day). Nguyen is on the Transportation Committee, so he said consideration of that would be a priority.

What’s the online session going to look like? The House will be entirely remote, the Senate mostly remote. They’re working on a new electronic voting system as a result – one practice session so far didn’t go well, it was noted. Because of the online operations, there’l be fewer bills – they’ll have to be “really focused, really organized.”

A viewer question: How can they more proactively address the homelessness crisis? The prevailing answer: Housing. On the city’s part, Councilmember Herbold elaborated, “the council, mayor, and provider community are working on a new approach that works to mobilize professional outreach providers … working on a neighborhood-based response.”

Another question: Is the state ready to handle the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines? Rep. Cody noted that the state has already had to submit its plan to the federal government, so the plan’s in place. She said pharmacies will be included on the list of providers who can administer vaccines, and it’ll be distributed via a hierarchy that will start with, among others, health-care workers.

The Town Hall lasted an hour. What’s next: The Legislature’s session starts January 11th. The city/county councils continue their work. Councilmember Herbold is scheduled to talk with the Admiral Neighborhood Association tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 23), as previewed here.

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