With reporting from SCC Insight
As promised — and if the snow doesn’t cancel the afternoon session — Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant will be formally introducing a resolution on Monday to send back Mayor Jenny Durkan’s nomination of Jason Johnson as Director of the Human Services Department.
The resolution says two things:
- It declares that the Council will not take action on an HSD Director nomination — Johnson or otherwise — until the Mayor’s Office completes “a formal search process that comports with the goals and priorities of the City’s Race and social Justice Initiative.” Johnson has served as interim Director of HSD since last May, and the Mayor has said that she nominated him to serve as permanent Director based upon his performance in that role, rather than conduct a formal search.
- It lays down requirements for the search committee that the Mayor should convene, including representatives from non-profit human services providers, individuals experiencing homelessness, other clients of HSD, and HSD employees. While it certainly makes sense to gather input from all of these stakeholders as part of the appointment process (and Durkan has been cagey about the extent to which she has done so), it’s questionable whether human-services providers under contract to HSD should have a formal role in choosing the new head of that agency as it would raise issues as to whether the new Director would feel beholden to those providers.
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Last week Durkan sent a letter to Sawant accusing her of unreasonably refusing to move Johnson’s appointment forward in her committee. Sawant certainly seems in no hurry: her resolution will be referred to her committee, which doesn’t meet again until February 12 — and then the resolution would need to go to the full Council the following Monday, February 18, for final approval.
The action will follow Sawant’s committee session held at Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center last month in which city staffers from the Human Services Department, community members, and activists spoke out against the appointment. Opponents claim the mayor’s office “made the decision independently and without input from community members, particularly those who would be most affected by the work of the Human Services Department,” the South Seattle Emerald reports.
The department has a budget of over $200 million including $80 million dedicated to homelessness services.