Last Week Heidi Groover described the 2016 committee assignments under incoming Council President Bruce Harrell. These committees are the figures that do the most to shape legislation in their subject areas. Of most interest to STB readers are Sustainability and Transportation, which manages Seattle’s bus service purchases, Move Seattle implementation, and Seattle’s rights of way; Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability, which handles zoning; and the new “Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance,” whose exact relationship to PLUS is not yet clear . Each committee has a chair, vice-chair, member, and alternate, listed respectively below.

Sustainability and Transportation (formerly “Transportation”):

Old: Tom Rasmussen, Mike O’Brien, Jean Godden, Nick Licata.

New: Mike O’Brien, Rob Johnson, Kshama Sawant, Lisa Herbold.

My Take: A big improvement. Jean Godden acted like the former Times columnist she was, skeptical of transportation taxes and anything that reduced the primacy of car access. Licata and Rasmussen are both big bus fans, skeptical of rail, and cranky about different things; Rasmussen turned out to be more obstructionist, but both were on-side when the big decisions came down. All three were, of course, Deep Bore Tunnel supporters.

We expect Rob Johnson , former head of TCC and longtime friend of the blog, to be an absolute rock star. Sawant and (likely) Herbold share Licata’s agitation over regressive taxes, but recognize that it’s better than no revenue at all. We expect them both to not be huge improvements, but mildly less representative of old Seattle and therefore of easy and cheap driving, everywhere, any time.

So the whole committee gets considerably younger (which likely changes their outlook in a positive way) and adds one bona fide rock star.

Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability

Old: Mike O’Brien, Tim Burgess, Nick Licata, Sally Clark/John Okamoto

New PLUS: Rob Johnson, Mike O’Brien, Lisa Herbold, Lorena Gonzalez

New “Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, and Finance” Committee: Burgess, Herbold, Johnson, O’Brien.

My Take: This is hard to read because there are two committees that cover the biggest fault line in Seattle’s progressive politics: between upzoning and affordable housing incentives.* So perhaps it’s best to view this as Licata being (in more ways than one) replaced by Herbold, Tim Burgess with Rob Johnson (one great urbanist to another), and then the Clark/Okamoto seat filled by a Burgess/Gonzalez platoon. People perceive Gonzalez as a Murray ally and she endorsed HALA without reservation, which is good. And of course the two committee chairs are the two I’d pick for land use stuff. So at the margins there ought to be a bit of an improvement.

This isn’t a set of committee members that will intentionally blow up HALA, but it could try to chip away at some of the pro-growth developer provisions at bit. In particular I can see the PLUS committee finding excuses to softpedal upzones.

* Setting aside the other fault line between pro-growth people and NIMBYs, where every returning member and Herbold have seen fit to side against upzones on occasion.

10 Replies to “2016 City Council Committee Assignments”

  1. This should be less of a problem now, but just a general question: is it possible for anybody in politics to advocate both trains and buses?

    And also, to be constantly challenged, from the get-go, on their views about the specifics of public transit, including not only wheel-coverings?

    Mark Dublin

    1. This should be less of a problem now, but just a general question: is it possible for anybody in politics to advocate both trains and buses?

      Of course! Dow Constantine and Ed Murray are clearly doing both.

      1. True, Martin, and thanks. Though how much influence do either official have on their respective councils?


  2. You guys have way too much faith in Mike o’brien. He definitely wants to run for mayor in 2 years, so watch for him to chart a path different from the current mayor especially on land use issues.

    1. I uttered barely a word about Mike O’Brien, as his continued presence neither adds nor subtracts from the council status quo.

    2. Always a good idea to stay current about what everybody in office is doing. You’re one of their bosses, who outnumber him- or her.

      Whatever the office, the more indispensable anybody is, the more people you need ready to place them. But like all management, you’re most effective the more of you agree on your orders.


  3. Wow, another TCC (Alt-Trans) activist makes good since it started in mid- -90’s. Way to go Rob and now Chair and Vice Chair of the two Cmmte’s that can join hands in linking transportation and land use. Just stunning. And well positioned to take a lead role in Sound Transit and PSRC.

  4. I think the PLUS committee is most important for our needs (upzones, land use). And although Johnson will be great, O’Brien has been obstructive to growth, Herbold represents the freeze-Seattle-in-amber perspective, and Gonzalez sounds like another O’Brien (she talks a lot about linkages and mandatory inclusionary zoning, not a lot about the intrinsic benefit that comes with density). I’m afraid it’s a step backward from an already density-unfriendly council. But there are so many fresh members and I’ll be watching closely to see how this plays out. Who knows where they’ll land on actual policy decisions.

    1. Trouble is, Matt, that density, in terms of the more people can live in areas of the size that most efficiently long term is unfortunately taking care of itself my being moved to several interstate highways.

      Precisely because so many wealthy young people now really like cozy urban living so much that displaced former residents in search of homes and work are now indeed densifying the places where density is least beneficial.

      Which to me is the worst threat to everything STB readers and contributors value- and the subject least publicly discussed by anybody.
      Except the Public Radio economy experts who always yawn and shrug every time they mention the subject.

      This is the main clear and present danger all our leadership needs to address. Work that we the people need most to put in their inboxes and daily demand proof of output.

      Mark Dublin

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