‘Concerned With,’ But Not ‘Opposed’: Council Tweaks and Passes Keystone Resolution

The resolution had drawn concern last week, but a small change in the language mollified those fears.

This afternoon, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution directing the city’s finance department to develop criteria to prevent it from contracting banks that are lenders to the Keystone XL Pipeline project to do the City’s banking.

The resolution—which was put onto the council’s legislative agenda early last week by socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant after being drafted by environmental activists—faced initial opposition from councilmembers concerned that the resolution would limit the city’s ability to find a new bank. But by Monday, most councilmembers were publicly googly-eyed about the legislation and professed their environmentalist values before a council chambers packed with pro-resolution activists.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, one of the councilmembers who had originally voiced concerns about the resolution, was not present for the vote.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who was absent last week when Sawant introduced the resolution, added an amendment that made technical adjustments to some on the resolution language—specifically that Mayor Ed Murray concurs with the resolution and the council’s action. Herbold stated during the full council meeting that adding the Mayor’s stamp to the resolution was technically necessary to ensure that the city finance department actually responded to their request.

Herbold, however, made note of the limitations on who the city can contract for banking services under state law. “We need to really work collaboratively with the executive in identifying which banking institutions reflect our values and I think the amendment allows us to do so,” she said.

Additionally, Herbold’s amendment tweaked some minor language changing a statement regarding the council’s concern with the city potentially going into business relationships with banks that lend to the Keystone XL Pipeline project from “opposed” to “concerned with.” Both Sawant and Harrell took issue with this language adjustment, and voted no on the amendment, prompting raucous cheers from the audience.

Following the city council vote, a gaggle of activists headed upstairs to the seventh floor and demanded to see the Mayor to discuss divesting the City’s pension fund from the fossil fuel industry and financial institutions connected to it—a Murray staffer eventually came out to talk with the activists, stating that his office would respond to their concerns in a few days.

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