The Observer Bill of Rights, a bill that I authored and sponsored for introduction last year, passed 4-0 out of committee earlier this week, and is scheduled for a Full Council vote on Monday, May 22.
Observation of police activity has always been an important element of accountability. For instance, Mother for Police Accountability here in Seattle, has for decades trained community observers to watch the actions of police in detaining suspects. The majority of police interactions with the public are fair and professional, but the observation of police actions is one way to reduce the chances that people are treated unfairly in their interactions with police. And when people are not treated fairly, or force is used inappropriately, observation ensures that there is a witness. Today, actual recording of observed police activity is an element of accountability that is growing in its importance.
The bill would establish that by law the public has the right to observe police activity, consistent with existing Seattle Police Department Policy. It states that officers may not use physical force to punish or retaliate against observers, and must seek to minimize harm to bystanders when using less lethal tools like pepper spray or tear gas. In addition, if a person brings a claim that the law was violated, the Office of Professional Accountability must be notified.
Across the country, recordings of police activity by the public have increased the public’s ability to hold police accountable. However, sometimes this has led to arrests, which in turn has generated First Amendment legal challenges to those arrests. Here in Seattle, the OPA Auditor in 2008, reviewed police incidents where people were arrested and charged with “obstruction only,” without any other charge resulting. One third of the cases involved arrests of bystanders and over half of those were African-American.
At a time when we have an increasing reliance on cameras that police officers wear or have in their cars, we need to remind the public that the police activity that they observe is still important. A Washington Post article from March noted that in a shooting in Albuquerque of 7 body cameras, the camera of the police officer who fired the shot wasn’t recording, three missed the crucial moment, and three were either blurred or contained no record.
Last week, the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee held the second discussion on the proposed upzone for the Chinatown and International District (CID) Urban Village, necessary to implement the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program in that neighborhood. To catch up on the conversation, review PLUZ meetings on 4/18/17 and 5/2/17.
Under MHA, developers would be required to contribute to affordable housing as part of most commercial or residential development. At the same time, areas subject to MHA would receive additional development capacity in the form of an increase in the amount of height or floor area. In SLU/Downtown and the University District, many of the zoning increases were very dramatic, giving developers a very large increase in development capacity. In the Chinatown and International District the proposed zoning changes are very modest, ranging from 10-30 feet in additional height.
The affordable housing requirements will vary from a requirement of 5-7% of all units earmarked as affordable. For your review, here is the Chinatown International District Rezone Map.
The PLUZ committee is considering the amendments to the CID proposed legislation that seek to preserve the affordability of the small business district. There will be a public hearing on June 1.
The Seattle Women’s Commission (SWC) advises the Mayor, City Council and city departments on issues that impact women in Seattle. The Commission identifies areas of concern and recommends policy and legislation, provides feedback and opinion on issues of city and state budget. To learn more, please visit https://www.seattle.gov/womenscommission and you can also attend their next meeting Monday, May 15, 2017, 5:30p, at City Hall in the Boards and Commissioners Room.
Seattle Human Rights Commission (SHRC) was established in 1963 to advocate for justice and equal opportunity, to advise the City of Seattle on human rights issues and to collaborate with public and private sectors in order to educate them on methods to prevent and eliminate discrimination city-wide. To learn more, please visit https://www.seattle.gov/humanrights and you can also attend their next meeting on Thursday, June 1, 2017, 6p, at City Hall in the Boards and Commissioners Room.
Commissioner seats are volunteer position that meets monthly and requires regular meeting attendance and has a two-year term of office. If you are interested in applying for the commission, please send your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org and cc: Commissioner Liaisons Erika.email@example.com and Marta.Idowu@seattle.gov
If you live near the Longfellow Creek, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) wants to hear from you. When it rains, it has a big impact on our water quality; our yards include pollutants such as pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides, and our streets have oil and heavy metals from vehicles. When it rains, these pollutants run off into the local waterways. You can see SPU’s long-term plan to protect the waterways here.
With this project, SPU is hoping to improve water quality in Longfellow Creek, as well as manage stormwater drainage, slow traffic, and beautify streets. SPU is asking for the community to take a survey before May 26th for your input to be considered. Click here to take the survey.
Check out this map of some of the potentially feasible areas: