SeaTac City Council eliminates study sessions; meeting times moved to 6 p.m.

By Jack Mayne

Unless there is a special reason to do so, there will be no future study sessions each Tuesday night the SeaTac City Council meets, just a “regular” City Council meeting, with the first effective date of March 27.

Council committee sessions, mostly taking place during the daytime, will continue, and they are open to the public.

Legalizing food truck operations in the city were also discussed.

Study sessions no more
For the past several years, the SeaTac City Council has had two meetings on the night of regularly scheduled alternate Tuesday night sessions.

Study sessions were the offspring of the previous Council and most of that Council has either retired or been defeated at elections. But until the Tuesday (March 13) meeting the process continued with a study session at 5 p.m. and a regular official meeting at 7 p.m.

Ending the double meetings has been discussed in the Council’s Administration and Finance Committee because “they believed that this will reduce the amount of time it takes for an item to move through the process to final Council action.”

Another reason was because study sessions seem “duplicative.”

The committee also said if study sessions were eliminated, it proposes changing the start time of the regular meeting from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m.

City Clerk Kristina Gregg said “Council would still have the option to postpone action on an agenda item to a future Council meeting.

Further the a committee “also felt that there was no need to hold a second briefing during the study session, and then wait two more weeks to take final action. Rather, briefings can occur at the Regular Meeting and be voted on that same night.”

‘Heard it before’
Mayor Michael Siefkes said by the time an issue comes up for final vote, “it feels like we’ve aleady voted on it” because we ‘heard them so many times.’”

Councilmember Rick Forschler said it makes sense to have one meeting and not two as is the current practice. SeaTac is the only city council in the area to have a study session along with a regular meeting on each Council meeting date, two meeing at two seperate times. Des Moines and Burien usually have a study sessions on one night a month.

Forschler said an issue with potential conflicts should be put over for a meeting so the public has time and place to comment.

“If we have something that is controversial, it should be voted on at the next meeting so we have a couple of weeks to get comments from people,” Forschler said.

Councilmember Joel Wachtel and Deputy Mayor Erin Sitterley said the idea of audio taping Council committee meeting has come up during committee sessions but the committee decided against it because of the public study sessions.

Both said audio recordings of committees would be a good idea.

Don’t lock out citizens
Councilmember Clyde Hill said he “being able to delay things from one meeting to the next helps better assure me that we are not locking out the community – they still have an opportunity to participate” and could bring more of the discussion at the committee level into Council regular sessions.

Councilmember Peter Kwon, attending the meeting via telephone, said the current process can mean up to two months to get as issue through.

“It created a problem.”

Siefkes noted that all Council committee sessions are open to the public and sometimes the subject entices the entire Council membership to the committee session. The mayor said that any citizen at a committee session is given an opportuity to comment if they desire.

“Your committees are now much more free flowing and open and if you want to go to recording, it is going to have a bit more structure because (people) will have to identify themselves and go to a microphone,” said Scorcio, so committee meeting will change becaesu of those dynamics.

Food trucks?
SeaTac City Council gave tentative approval to permitting food trucks to operate in the city with Mayor Michael Siefkes expressing concern over food truck association sending “threatening emails” about suing the city if it did not allow the truck to operate in the city.

City Attorney Mary Mirante Bartolo said concerns that sales taxes might not be paid to the city where the sales take place was a very long process but she believes the problems have been solved and measures in place to ensure the city gets the taxes it is entitled to.

Planning Manager Steve Pilcher asked the Council to approve two ordinances to amend the city’s code to permit food trucks to operate in non residential areas of the city and to set standards for their operation in SeaTac.

The standards forbid the sale of alcohol and would limit the food trucks to no more than 18 hours at a site. The time limit is different that some other cities which specify certain hours because feeling that in SeaTac with the flow of passengers going and from the airport that it made sense to simply specify a time length.

The new ordinance also makes it clear the food truck vendor has the permission of the property owner before setting up shop and that it is up to the property owner to maintain the site to prevent trash or garbage accumulation.

Finance Director Gwen Pilo said there is a system being developed to ensure that sales taxes collected in SeaTac go to SeaTac. There have been concerns that a food truck that operates in two or three cities would not properly report the actual sales in a taxing jurisdiction. Some have expressed concern that all of the tax collected might be paid to the city where the food truck is based and not in individual locations of the sales.

American Dream
Earlier, Beth Clement (pictured above), the owner of Peasant Food Manifesto food trucks, told the Council she was representing the Washington Foot Truck Association, sought to get immediate approval of a measure that sets standards for food truck operators in SeaTac.

“Food truck ownership is the American dream,” she said. “It was the financially realistic path for me to run my own business,” she said, adding she started her career as a reporter for newspapers in Pennsylvania, then worked for a printer and transferred to Seattle five years ago “and told a lay-off about five years ago” and got a degree from South Seattle Community College culinary school. She cashed in a 401k and opened a food truck.

Clement said she is just one of many backgrounds and conditions of “many food trucks out there”

The city staff examined mobile food vending regulations in other cities, and said the new measure sets standards for operational issues including “site maintenance/trash collection; the need to comply with Health Department regulations; proper disposal of wastewater and grease; prohibition on sales of alcoholic beverages; and time limitations at a site (no more than 18 hours during any 24 hour period).”

In addition food trucks “will be required to obtain a separate business license” and to operate in each location in SeaTac “an applicant will need to provide proof that the property owner has agreed to allow them to locate on a site.”

The Council’s Administration and Finance Committee recommended the full Council approval of the new regulations.

Aviation outlook
A Council approved a resolution requesting that the King County Council, the Puget Sound Regional Council, the State Legislature, the Governor’s Office, and the Federal Aviation Administration take action to address long-term aviation capacity needs in Western Washington.

Responding to concerns of timing by Councilmember Peter Kwon, City Manager Joe Scorcio said, “this is going a step further in supporting comunities in our area this plethora of involved agencies to step it up and begin this look at the regional impact now.”

The Council heard and approved a proposal to amend the city’s subdivision code by eliminating redundant language; correcting references to approving authorities and generally updated the city subdivision ordinance, even “eliminating some provisions regarding substantial open space and landscaping requirements.”

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