MORE ACTION, less process.
That was the message from five of eight Seattle City Council members on Mon., Jan. 28, when a vote over the use of $800,000 unearthed by council president Peter Steinbrueck degenerated into a debate over process, public input, and the appropriate use of windfall revenues. The council approved the measure despite the opposition of Mayor Greg Nickels.
Only Judy Nicastro, Richard Conlin, and Richard McIver voted against Steinbrueck's proposal, which put the funds from a debt recently settled by the Pike Place Market toward the development of a downtown hygiene center for the homeless. "I think the ability to have clean clothes, to wash yourself, to brush your teeth is absolutely basic," Steinbrueck says.
The debate, which centered on whether the council should spend the money on planning the hygiene center or send it back to McIver's housing committee for more debate, sparked a minor war of words between Steinbrueck and Nicastro, who are often allies. "I was surprised, particularly with her," Steinbrueck says. "She apparently hasn't reviewed our own study that shows that 10 of the 12 day centers downtown are well over capacity."
Nicastro, who calls her colleague's comments "disappointing," says she has been "very outspoken" in her support for a hygiene center. But, she says, "I feel that during this difficult budget time we should not be going around the budget process, and I felt this is what the legislation did." Nicastro says she was also concerned about how much the center would cost and how the city would pay for it. "Why lock up $800,000 if we don't have the money to pay for the rest of it?" Council estimates put the cost of a new center at between $1.5 million and $5 million.
Mayor Nickels still hasn't said whether he'll veto the ordinance. For his part, Steinbrueck believes it would be "foolish" to attempt a veto in light of the strong support on the council. "I think it would be a very bad gesture, and it would make it difficult for us, in the months ahead, to work on other issues."
Erica C. Barnett