The King County Regional Policy Committee unanimously approved an amended plan for creating a regional homelessness agency on Thursday. The Seattle City Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability ripped into it a few hours later.

Representatives from multiple advocacy groups, who spent the past two years working on a strategy for creating a King County Regional Homeless Authority with the National Innovation Service, appealed to the Regional Policy Committee Thursday morning to stick with a proposal laid out by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and County Executive Dow Constantine, and not a new roadmap recently introduced by King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles that grants more oversight to elected officials on a governing committee than those with lived experience.

The RPC adopted several amendments to the new proposal on Dec. 5, but none that substantively changed the way the authority would function. The King County Council is set to approve the plan on Dec. 11, but Seattle’s Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability made it clear Thursday it doesn’t currently have the city’s support.

Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold was bothered that the King County Regional Homelessness Authority would not actually be a public development authority as had originally been introduced, and instead is now proposed to act as a separate governmental administrative agency through an interlocal agreement. That means the authority would not be able to create a tax stream or issue bonds to generate additional funding for a regional response to King County’s homelessness crisis, which is what made the authority so attractive in the first place, Herbold said.

“Honestly, it was one of those issues that had been negotiated for months, and SCA made it very clear that they were unwilling to be taxed,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, co-chair for the Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability.

The Sound Cities Association is comprised of 38 member cities in King County, and has been involved in negotiating with King County and the City of Seattle on the creation of a regional homelessness authority.

Kohl-Welles acknowledge King County’s suburban cities were unwilling to accept a PDA with taxing authority during the Regional Policy Committee meeting.

“What was transmitted to us was not going to go through, as much as many of us would have liked to have that happen,” she said.

Herbold took issue with the fact that the City of Seattle would contribute $73 million a year — plus $2 million in 2020 for startup costs — to the authority while SCA would not make a contribution toward addressing what all parties agree is a regional issue. King County would pay $55 million annually, plus $1.3 million to start the authority.

A public development authority would require approval by the Washington Legislature to levy taxes.

Seattle City Councilmember Lorena González also questioned whether it was wise to structure an authority that foregoes potential regional financing tools.

“I just, I’m a little frustrated with figuring out what the solution is for that when all we’re hearing from suburban cities is no,” she said.

She noted the agreement was negotiated by a small minority of city councilmembers. Councilmember Debora Juarez was at the earlier Regional Policy Committee meeting, and Council president Bruce Harrell filled in for Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, who chairs the RPC, made a jab about Sawant’s attendance record at the committee during the Dec. 5 meeting while also thanking Juarez for her presence.

“Because that seat has been empty, unfortunately, for too long,” von Reichbauer said.

Kohl-Welles’ proposal would ensure more SCA representation than the plan Durkan and Constantine introduced earlier this year, both on the governing committee and implementation board, formerly known as the steering committee and governing board, respectively. The new proposal would put three SCA members on the governing committee, up from one seat with the opportunity for another if 20 cities subscribed to the interlocal agreement. No SCA members were originally recommended to tap members for the implementation board, and Kohl-Welles’ proposal gives the association two appointments.

Bagshaw said what she wants to see from the SCA is an offering of land and other space for people experiencing homelessness, as well as the creation of their own shelters.

“Right now, we don’t have that commitment from them,” she said.

González said Seattle has a history of subsidizing the needs of non-Seattle residents.

“And yet that reciprocity is pretty much nonexistent in terms of how this deal is structured between Sound Cities and us,” she said.

Bellevue City Councilmember John Stokes called the passing of the authority plan out of the RPC on Dec. 5 a “watershed event,” and the first time the SCA and individual cities were coming together to declare the homelessness crisis was not just a problem for Seattle.

Juarez cautioned RPC members that the Seattle City Council would raise concerns about the proposal and produce more amendments to be considered, almost all of which did come up hours later.

Council staffer Jeff Simms said the new proposal does make clear that one of the two King County councilmembers that would serve on the governing committee would represent Seattle, which Herbold called good news. She said she’d drafted an amendment stating representation should be based on contributions to the authority, which could still be introduced at a later date.

The proposed 12-member governing committee would have three representatives each from King County, Seattle, SCA and those representing individuals with lived experience as determined by an advisory committee. The governing committee would be in charge of hiring a chief executive officer — the original plan was for an executive director position — and approving and amending major plans and budgets.

Simms asked Herbold if her potential amendment would mean giving Seattle eight members on the governing committee.

“No, it would look like a little more than half to a little less than half compared to where we are now,” she said, adding she considers King County as representing SCA, which has no “skin in the game.”

The implementation board, which is supposed to be comprised of experts in many subjects related to homelessness, would provide recommendations about a CEO, develop a funding allocation report and make budget and major plan recommendations to the governing committee. It previously would have had hiring and firing authority.

Outgoing District 2 King County Councilmember Larry Gossett put forward an amendment to require the governing committee reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of the county, which Kohl-Welles said couldn’t be met due to a lack of diversity in government agencies. Forty percent of people experiencing homelessness in King County are African-American, Gossett said, but represent just 6.5 percent of the county’s total population. Girmay Zahilay will take over his District 2 seat next year, and will be the only person of color on the King County Council. The RPC settled on language in an interlocal agreement stating the authority would “strive” for representation on the governing committee, and would provide that representation on the implementation board with respect to communities that disproportionately experience homelessness.

“So, we need to elect more people of color, is what I hear you say,” González said during the Dec. 5 briefing on the RPC meeting.

“Essentially,” Simms said.

González said the Seattle City Council is majority women and people of color, “so we’re doing fine.”

Harrell was unsuccessful in pushing forward an amendment meant to ensure none of the four caucuses represented on the governing committee — particularly those with lived experience — could have their concerns superseded by a two-thirds vote.

As it is now, it would take eight (two-thirds) of the 12 governing committee members to approve hiring a CEO and a quorum of nine. It would take nine votes to remove a CEO, and a majority vote to make changes to bylaws, the implementation board, or approve a staffing plan with a quorum of nine. Simms said that means it would take eight votes to make budget or planning changes if all were 12 members were present, or six votes if only nine members were present.

“I think that’s a problem to have just six votes out of 12 be able to show up,” Bagshaw said, adding the governing committee would likely only meet once a quarter and members should commit to be there.

González said there shouldn’t be two different voting standards, with the highest being for hiring a CEO, and budget and implementation going to a majority “of those people who actually bothered to show up to the meeting.”

Simms said the council can submit an amendment to return the standard to the “night-before-Thanksgiving proposal,” where all major decisions would require an absolute vote of nine.

While von Reichbauer and Kohl-Welles argued having the governing committee being mostly elected officials would make them more accountable, González said it was more political reasoning than a rational policy, as the goal with the regional homelessness authority had been to give more power to experts in the field and those with lived experience.

Another change that Kohl-Welles considers a plus, but Seattle’s homelessness committee considers a negative, is that subregional planning by suburban cities would influence a subsequent five-year authority plan. Cities that don’t follow a housing-first and evidence-based approach to homelessness, or set high barriers to acquiring services, could tap into funding from the regional authority, and González said she would not condone Seattle’s funding contributions going toward punitive programs or strategies, “like jail, for example.”

“It’s troubling that this seems to be the step that we’re starting out on, and I hope I’m wrong on this,” Herbold said.

The King County Council is supposed to approve the plan on Wednesday, Dec. 11, but any new amendments would require bringing the plan back to the RPC. If Seattle rejects the plan and submits amendments, it would also go to the RPC, and nothing would be set until an identical agreement is approved by all governing bodies.

Elected leaders are pushing to have an agreement adopted by the end of the year, but Kohl-Welles acknowledged the debate could continue into January, which is concerning because of the number of homeless people facing the coming winter months.

“And I don’t want to lose anymore lives along the way, so there’s a real sense of urgency,” she said.

Failure to reach agreement by the end of the year, however, wouldn’t affect services currently being provided by the city and county.