News Clips— Renters' fights

SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL member Richard McIver tried to Scrooge on his colleague Judy Nicastro's early Christmas list at this week's council meeting, but he got shot down by all but two of his council colleagues.

McIver wanted to remove four of Nicastro's pet items from the city's legislative agenda, a sort of wish list the city sends with its lobbyists to Olympia every session. Nicastro wanted to affirm the city's support for guaranteeing tenants the option to lease; for enacting a statewide just-cause eviction law like the one on the books in Seattle; for modifying a ban on local control of rent laws, a state law that prohibits cities from introducing rent controls; and for ensuring that repairs are made in a timely manner.

McIver protested that such changes would place an unfair burden on landlords and emphasized that this sort of legislative request has caused Seattle to be considered a bastion of wacko liberalism.

That argument didn't get far. The city's agenda also, as council president Margaret Pageler tartly pointed out, contains items supporting gay marriage and gun control, as well as plenty of other issues that are "divisive in the Legislature." Since we're already the wacko liberals, Pageler seemed to argue, why worry about a silly little clause supporting rent control? The proposals, Pageler noted, were the result of an almost yearlong discussion of tenant issues, led largely by Nicastro, between tenant advocates and landlord interests like the Apartment Association of Seattle/King County (AASK).

McIver's arguments, perhaps not coincidentally, were taken almost word- for-word from a form letter sent to council members by members of AASK two weeks ago. AASK executive director Jim Nell echoed those arguments before the vote on Monday, claiming tenants already have sufficient protections under state law and that the proposals would "make it very difficult for landlords to get rid of undesirable tenants." During his recent re-election campaign, McIver received a $600 contribution from AASK, plus thousands more from developers and real-estate interests.

But what really irked Nicastro was that McIver sprang the revision on his colleagues just hours before Monday's council meeting. Nicastro said she was "incredibly disturbed" by McIver's "hostile move to remove [the section] without having the proper discussions" with the council first. Apparently, so were her colleagues, who voted down McIver's motions to remove the first three items 8-1 and jettisoned his final proposal—to remove the item that would have allowed local rent controls—by a slightly less lopsided vote of 6-3.

McIver's colleagues seemed as astonished by his decision to try to scuttle Nicastro's plans as he was by their overwhelming opposition. The quiet, almost deferential council member has made some surprising votes in recent days, but his eleventh-hour move turned out to be a major misstep.

Erica C. Barnett

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