The modified proposal for a regional response to homelessness bridges many of the nagging disagreements that have plagued the proposal since it was transmitted this fall.
After much discussion, members of the Regional Policy Committee made several thoughtful improvements to the original framework for a regional homelessness partnership. Last week, the group unanimously passed the modified proposal, which is now before Seattle and King County council members.
The amended proposal addresses critical questions of accountability, autonomy and representation. Rather than establishing a Public Development Authority, the committee proposes creating the new joint governmental agency under an Interlocal Agreement between Seattle and King County. Suburban cities, as a group, would have equal representation on the governing board.
Joining forces through an ILA eliminates any possibility that the new entity could pursue taxing authority, which was a non-starter for some in the region. The RPC proposal also readjusts the balance of power, expanding the governing board to 12 members — comprising three representatives each from Seattle, King County, suburban cities and individuals with lived experience of homelessness.
It expands the governing board’s powers by granting the ability to amend the authority’s budgets and to remove the CEO with approval of a supermajority — the exact requirements settled on after much thoughtful debate about accountability and representation.
The new proposal explicitly requires subregional planning, which will reflect differences throughout the region. It also will ensure the group includes members with expertise in youth services and child welfare to be represented with other subject-matter experts on a 13-member implementation board.
These are substantive changes. As John Stokes, Regional Policy Committee vice chairman and Bellevue City Council member, noted at last week’s meeting, the new structure engages service providers and people with lived experience as partners but places responsibility where it should be — with elected officials who can and must be held accountable for the new organization’s performance.
This week, both Seattle and King County councils are expected to formally discuss the new framework. Both bodies must approve identical versions for the ILA to take effect.
Although the proposal is much improved, there may be more work to do to reach consensus. In a briefing Monday, some Seattle City Council members expressed concerns about whether the bar for certain governing board actions had been set high enough to ensure the proper balance of power between elected officials and subject-matter experts.
It is worth taking the time to fully deliberate the details before launching this landmark initiative.
Even then, the ultimate success of the new organization will depend on regional cooperation and continued dialogue among regional leaders about best approaches to the entrenched problem of homelessness in the region. The partnership, once finalized, will mark a beginning, not the end.