A Bad Motion and a Bad Vote For Bad Contract with the Port of Seattle!

Type: Council meeting minutes.
Date of Document: Dec. 22, 2015.
Subject: Councilmember Campbell’s Bad Votes.
Origin: Obtained from the City of SeaTac.

A Special Council meeting was called on December 22, 2015, 9 days before the 4 new council members elect were installed into office. The entire council, all 7 members were in attendance. The meeting was called to rush through a never before seen or discussed 2 year extension to the contract (called an interlocal agreement or “ILA”) between the city of SeaTac and the Port of Seattle (POS). If you ask any of the newly elected council members, they will tell you they were told by the City Manager at the time, that the negotiations were not moving forward and there was no action expected before they took office. The city, allegedly had been in negotiations for approximately a year and no agreement had been reached.

The contract with the the POS is one of the most important contracts the city negotiates. One matter addressed in the prior contract was the city had given the POS the right to “self permit” their own construction and because of that the city received little if any fees from construction done at the airport. More importantly, the city lost the ability to control what the POS built on Port property. For example, we couldn’t levy requirements for additional environmental analysis, or anything else that a city could normally impose on any other permittee. The city lost tremendous power by giving up permitting to the POS. The ILA was due to expire on February 16, 2016 and if it was not renewed then permitting would return to the city.

It is important to understand the timing of this action. The POS  did not formally announce the plans  to expand until March 16, 2016. (See the news release at this link.) The council-members elect had requested both the current council and the commissioners at the POS to postpone the signing of the agreement until the new members were in office, but that is not what happened.

Outside observers have wondered if the outgoing council had known that the expansion was in the works and had once again accommodated the Port over the needs of the city. But no facts have surfaced to substantiate or refute that question. What is known is because that agreement was signed, the city lost access to literally millions of dollars in revenue, but also the control obtained through permitting. And the Port got a two year extension of the prior agreement, which the new council considered weak for the city!

The questions arising from this course of events are:

  1. Why would the lame duck council refuse to let the newly elected council get involved with something that so drastically impacts the city’s finances? Remember that two weeks earlier, on December 8, 2015, those same lame ducks voted to repeal the utility tax and create a $2.5 million deficit. (Link to that article.) Is this a coincidence?
  2. As shown by the minutes below, the public spoke out against this rush to sign an agreement that 45 days left to run and set in motion a financial situation that could undermine the efforts of the new council. Was this done with an ulterior motive than managing the city with “best practices?

We note that it was Kathryn Campbell herself who moved this motion to make the extension a reality. This is the same council member who declined an appointment to the SeaTac Airport Advisory Committee in June 2016, with no reason. (Link to that article.) And the same council member who sought for and obtained an endorsement from the POS commissioners. It seems that there is a strong indication by both of these actions where Councilmember Campbell’s political loyalties may lie! In this case, it may be easier to apply the principle of “Occam’s Razor” which basically says, the simplest answer is usually the truth!  We think this was a bad vote for the city!

What do you think?

The minutes are below.

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