Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien doesn’t usually comment on legislation when it is merely in early draft form. But he is pushing back against news he argues is “misleading” about how he wants to change RV parking laws.
“Today, Chris Daniels from KING 5 TV chose to run a story that, unfortunately, sensationalized and played on the worst fears that people have about who are the homeless population in our community,” O’Brien said in a video response to the KING 5 story. “…I felt this story required a clarification from me so the public understands what the city council is, and is not, trying to do.”
O’Brien’s legislation targets people living in RVs and vehicles throughout Seattle; a unique facet of the homeless crisis. The council member explains that his legislation, if passed, would allow people living in vehicles to opt into an alternate path of enforcement in Seattle. As long as they participate, they would be exempt from regular parking laws that pile up tickets. In exchange they would be given direct access to services and a quicker path to permanent housing.
“What we know is that people that are living in vehicles do not have the resources to pay tickets,” O’Brien said. “For the city to have a program that continually tickets, tickets, tows, impounds, confiscates their vehicles, makes the situation worse for everybody; for the people living in their vehicles and the people in the neighborhoods where they are living.”
O’Brien points out that the news story stated his legislation would even exempt RVs used for sexual exploitation, but he stresses that there is no such exemption and he has no intention of making that a part of his proposal.
To be accurate, the KING 5 story states that there was initially a clause in the draft legislation that would have allowed vehicles used for sexual exploitation to take part in the program, but an O’Brien staffer told the reporter that the clause was removed.
“We have thousands of people currently living in vehicles and we are not going to change that situation overnight,” O’Brien said. “But what we can do is stop making that situation worse by ticketing, ticketing, towing and start getting them the services they need so they get stabilized and get back into permanent housing.”
O’Brien’s RV legislation was discussed at the council’s Human Services and Public Health Committee meeting Wednesday afternoon. If it passes committee, it will go to the full council for a vote, likely in September.