When the Spokane City Council voted in early December to defer a vote on a controversial package of rental reforms, its members insisted the yearslong debate would finally come to a close on Jan. 23.
So it came as a disappointment to some council members Monday when the package was again deferred, this time to Feb. 27.
The delay was attributed to a technical glitch with conferencing software that would prevent members of the public from testifying remotely prior to the vote. That glitch affected myriad city functions in recent days, causing delays to interviews for committee appointees, Council President Breean Beggs noted during Monday’s briefing session.
Rather than hold a vote on a controversial piece of legislation when some stakeholders would not be able to say their piece, the Council voted unanimously for another five-week delay.
However, much of the conversation before Monday’s vote to defer for more than a month was focused not on a software glitch, but on a need for the city’s legal department to further review changes to the draft ordinance.
Those changes had been spurred by weeks of public outreach that took place after December’s deferral, a last-ditch effort to bring landlords and tenants to the same table in an attempt to forge compromise. Tenant advocates raised concerns Monday about another delayed vote on protections they argue are needed.
“Every time it’s delayed … that means the protections that we could get in place are not going to happen yet,” said Terri Anderson, Spokane office and statewide policy director for the Tenants Union of Washington State.
Advocates were not notified of the delay until a few days ago, said Justice Forall, who has been vocal in his support for the tenant protections. Anderson noted it could be difficult for tenants to be able to attend a City Council meeting on a Monday night, and that the sudden delay added to the difficulty of participating in local government.
Of the many changes being considered, Anderson said she thought few benefitted tenants.
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