Seattle Courant

Seattle Politics this Week Mar. 23, 2009

By Keith Vance
March 22, 2009 10:03PM

The problem, according to Burgess, is that back in 1994, the City of Seattle enacted an ordinance requiring first-time prostitution offenders go through a counseling program to teach them about the dangers associated with sexually transmitted diseases and the human immunodeficiency virus, but while the original law states offenders must pay for the test, no fee was set, nor have the fees been collected.

To fix that, the bill sponsored by Burgess, a former Seattle police officer and chair of the Public Safety, Human Services and Eduction Committee, would institute a $150 fee, as well as remove the provision that only first-time offenders must attend a counseling program.

Burgess' bill would also make the Human Services Dept. responsible for overseeing the counseling program rather than the 'local health department.'

Alright, enough about sex workers, what's going on with the Mercer Corridor project spending proviso?

Here's a brief recap of recent events.

Mayor Greg Nickels and Councilmember Jan Drago have pushed hard for the Mercer project to get going, but the City Council has held up the project's money because while there's enough cash to get the project started, there isn't enough to finish it.

Now if you remember, back on Feb. 23, the City Council voted to lift that spending restriction - even though they were still short of money - because members believed that if they did so, it would entice legislators in Olympia to shovel some federal stimulus money into the Mercer Mess project.

Well cash from the feds didn't come from Olympia and several council members felt hoodwinked by Nickels and Drago who acted as though Mercer money was a slam dunk. At the time, State Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer and chair of the House Transportation committee said that Nickels and Drago both knew before the City Council voted to lift the spending restriction that the Mercer Project didn't make the cut.

And so now the City Council will hold a special transportation committee meeting on Friday at 2 p.m. to discuss reinstating the spending restriction.

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Read full text of prostitution bill here.

Read the council bill regarding the Mercer Corridor project here.
You can read about the alleged hookwinking back in February over the Mercer money here.


Update Mar. 24, 2009: The original story said that both johns and prostitutes will be charged the $150 fee, only johns will be assessed the new fee.

Update Mar. 23, 2009: Originally this story reported that the agency overseeing the prostitution counseling program would be switched from 'local health department' to the Human Services Dept. The bill would actually move oversight to the Human Services Dept. from 'local health department.'