Seattle council tackles food issues
The Seattle City Council approved a local food initiative Monday that even its proponents said wouldn't do much to change the way residents...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seattle City Council approved a local food initiative Monday that even its proponents said wouldn't do much to change the way residents grow, buy and eat food — at least not yet.
The question the council debated is what impact the initiative might later have on the city budget and consumer choices.
Passed by a 7-2 vote, the initiative is outlined in a resolution — a policy framework — not a law. The sweeping resolution calls for vague goals such as "reducing food in our waste stream" and addressing neighborhood disparities in access to healthful food.
At its most specific, the initiative asks several city departments to develop plans to encourage local food production and sales.
City staff would study ways to turn public land into community gardens; it would look at concentrations of fast-food restaurants in poorer neighborhoods; it would try to find permanent locations for farmers' markets in Seattle, and it would consider new land-use rules that would encourage food gardens in apartment developments.
Councilmember Richard McIver said the resolution was a step toward a "nanny state that dictates what people do privately." Councilmember Jean Godden, who wanted to postpone the vote for further study, said the initiative might amount to "unfunded mandates" the city couldn't afford. Both voted no.
Advocates such as Councilmember Sally Clark countered that a resolution couldn't mandate anything. Tim Burgess said the initiative, sponsored by Council President Richard Conlin, calls for the kind of research "that those who want to delay are asking for." And Nick Licata agreed that Conlin's proposal "carries no budget obligation at this point."
Conlin said he has no intention of limiting food choices, but rather offering opportunities for more locally grown food in the future.
A spokesman for Mayor Greg Nickels said he didn't know if the mayor would sign the resolution. "It hasn't really gotten a thorough vetting yet," spokesman Marty McOmber said. "There are a lot of questions whether some of the provisions will provide much bang for the buck."
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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