UPDATE: Monday’s City Council budget negotiations didn’t get off to a good start for the future representative of District 3. After a prolonged debate, three proposals from City Council member Kshama Sawant failed to make the agenda, effectively killing or delaying key parts of the progressive action plan she laid out ahead of this year’s budget process.
The City Council rejected Sawant’s amendments for increased spending on homeless services, a study to create a LGBTQ community center on Capitol Hill, and funding for a municipal broadband pilot project.
Debate over Sawant’s “statement of legislative intent” to have the parks department study the creation of a new Capitol Hill LGBTQ center zeroed in on the scope of Seattle’s existing community centers and if the parks department was the best agency to oversee the project. City Council member Tom Rasmussen, the council’s only gay member, lead the objection to Sawant’s proposal, saying community centers were meant to serve all residents.
“The LGBTQ community is well dispersed throughout Seattle,” he said. “To confine these services… to Capitol Hill is very limited.”
City council members approved Rasmussen’s alternative amendment (PDF), which directs the parks department to study how it can better serve residents at all of its community centers with special focus on Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center. Rasmussen said he supported the idea of a LGBTQ “impact hub” on Capitol Hill, but urged caution given past LGBTQ centers that shuttered because of dwindling public support. “It has to grow organically from the community and really have a solid business plan,” he said.
Supporters of municipal broadband were also dealt a blow after council members rejected Sawant’s $4.8 million budget amendment for a municipal broadband pilot project. Saying hatred against Comcast was the “great uniter” in Seattle, Sawant proposed funding the amendment though a tax on businesses based on the number of employees they have.
Council members were expected to take a final vote on the budget amendments Monday afternoon.
UPDATE: The Department of Neighborhood’s would reorganize itself around the new City Council districts under a budget resolution put forward by Council member Sally Bagshaw. There are currently nine district coordinators assigned to 13 neighborhood districts which now overlay seven council districts. The statement of legislative intent (PDF) doesn’t necessarily require neighborhood districts match council districts, but instructs DON to study its options in a preliminary report due May 1st.
The plan should include proposals for changes or modifications to the Neighborhood District Coordinators program, including proposals for updated job descriptions, protocols for working with district Councilmembers, and improvements to the City’s relationship to the existing District Councils and City Neighborhood Council.
UPDATE (5:15 PM): The afternoon budget session included more challenges for Sawant. Council members rejected a Sawant-supported $47,000 amendment for a housing study that would have, among other things, studied how Seattle could use its bonding capacity to build affordable housing. Council members could still decide to use a research budget to study the issue next year.
Sawant was also rebuffed in her effort to set aside $1.2 million in extra property taxes revenue to extend paid maternity leave for city workers from four weeks to 12 weeks. Since there was no plan in place, the funds would have been set aside until the policy was drafted and agreed to by the affected public employee unions. “It’s not a big amount of money, but the returns are huge,” Sawant said.
Council President Tim Burgess harshly criticized the amendment, saying it did nothing to actually meet the City’s goal of getting to 12 weeks of paid leave, that it was not sustainable, and that it operated outside the ordinary contract negotiation process with public employee unions.
“You can tell the election is over,” Sawant said in response to Burgess before the item was voted down.
One of Sawant’s budget victories came in her proposal to bolster funding for Career Bridge — the jobs program that was also championed by Sawant’s District 3 challenger, Pamela Banks. Council members voted unanimously for $200,000 to go towards Career Bridge or similar programs in addition to the $200,000 already set aside for the program. Council members also approved a handful of other funding items backed by Sawant:
- Doubled funding for youth apprentice programs ($300,000)
- Doubled funding for the Tenant’s Union ($98,000)
- YWCA homeless shelter ($256,000)
- Funding for University District Urban Rest Stop ($155,000)
Teeing up what will likely be a major political battle in 2016, Sawant’s “statement of legislative intent” to convene a task force to study commercial rent control also passed.
On Monday, the City Council will vote on the amended package as a whole, though there could still be votes on individual items.
In a statement following the day’s votes, Sawant struck a defiant tone but took an optimistic view of the day’s proceedings:
Councilmember Kshama Sawant celebrated a series of budget amendment victories in the 2015 budget today, but noted the repeated broken campaign promises by corporate-funded councilmembers. “You can tell the election is over,” she said.
City Council Chambers were packed with supporters who advocated for funding for homeless services, 12-week paid parental leave, funding for tenant services, and for youth job and apprenticeship programs. Six of the budget amendments initiated by Councilmember Sawant were adopted.
Budget Amendments Won:
· Doubled funding for Career Bridge ($400,000)
· Doubled funding for youth apprentice programs ($300,000)
· Doubled funding for the Tenant’s Union ($98,000)
· Commercial rent control study (Statement of Legislative Intent)
· Passed funding for YWCA homeless shelter ($256,000)
· Passed funding for University District Urban Rest Stop ($155,000)
Budget Amendments Lost:
· Municipal broadband pilot project
· 12 Weeks paid parental leave
· $10 million additional funding for homelessness services
Additionally, Councilmember Sawant’s advocacy for an LGBTQ Community Center forced the passage of an alternative proposal, furthering the discussion.
Councilmember Sawant also co-sponsored several other progressive budget amendments which passed unanimously, including:
· $2.3 million additional funding for homeless services (Councilmember Licata)
· $600,000 for Zero Youth Detention funding (Councilmember O’Brien)
· $1 million for Orca passes for low-income middle and high school students (Councilmember O’Brien)
The mayor also released a statement highlighting his take on the budget votes:
Many thanks to the Council for their very hard work on the City budget. I appreciate their thoughtful debate on our City’s priorities. Given that 25 percent of our sales tax revenue is currently generated by our construction boom, they have wisely preserved our reserve funds. Throughout the budget process, the Council has demonstrated a careful and deliberative approach.
Thanks to Council, we will launch our new Office of Planning and Community Development to help manage our city’s growth. We will have the resources available to fund body worn cameras for every patrol officer. And we will expand our Youth Employment Initiative for hundreds more Seattle young people.
Most of all, I appreciate the Council’s approach to our work to address our current state of emergency on homelessness. We are a generous City, as the Council has shown yet again. But Seattle cannot do it alone. The state and federal governments must step up and do more as well. This issue must once again be a national priority.
Original report: City Council members Monday were taking stands and making deals on the final changes to Mayor Ed Murray’s $5.3 billion 2016 budget proposal including a fight over funding for homelessness and planning for an LGBTQ community center on Capitol Hill.
Following up on promises from her LGBTQ violence town hall in March, Council member Kshama Sawant has called for funding a new LGBTQ community center on Capitol Hill to be included in the city’s new budget.
Sawant’s proposal would direct the Seattle Parks department to “to draft a plan, in cooperation with community organizations, that explores how we can build a LGBTQ community center in the Capital Hill (sic) neighborhood.”
Earlier this year, I stood with LGBTQ activists as they rallied against hate, and in favor of a number of LGBTQ-friendly demands, including the creation of an LGBTQ Community Center. Together, we are calling on the Council to support my Statement of Legislative Intent calling on the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to draft a plan, in cooperation with community organizations, that explores how we can build a LGBTQ community center in the Capital Hill neighborhood.
Publicola reports that outgoing City Council member Tom Rasmussen, the council’s only gay member, has proposed allowing Capitol Hill community members — and communities in neighborhood across the city — to have more control over how community center funding should be spent.
In public comments Monday morning, advocates for the center asked that Council members should approve the plan — but with caveats.
“Our community has been working for years through collaboration,” said George Piper of Seattle LGBTQ Development. “We have a plan.” Piper added that he believed that Seattle Parks has a vision “very different” from LGBTQ communities about what a community center should be.
“You know, we’ve done that before,” another speaker said, noting the city’s funding of past LGBTQ community centers that ultimately failed due to inadequate funding and support. “This time maybe we’ll make it stick.”
UPDATE: Homeless advocates who filled Council chambers Monday morning had something to cheer about early on, but were quickly frustrated. Council members unanimously added to the agenda Licata’s $2.3 million funding plan for increased homeless services, but Sawant’s proposal to move $10 million from the city’s emergency fund was shot down.
“It is absolutely unfair for people to be homeless in a wealthy city like Seattle,” Sawant said prior to the vote. “If you have declared an emergency, let’s use it.”
After Licata worked with council members to gain support for a plan that would avoid using so-called rainy day funds, council members were clearly frustrated at Sawant’s attempt to move forward with tapping the emergency fund.
“To have this at the last minute is a problem for me,” said City Council member Sally Bagshaw.
“The rainy day fund is what gets us through the four dreadful years of recession,” added City Council member Jean Godden.
When Bagshaw asked about the strategy for spending the additional $10 million, Sawant said the most urgent issue was to pass the funding and to build housing, as well as use the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness as a guide.
Council members appeared ready to pass roughly $47 million in spending for homeless shelters and services, including Licata’s proposal and a $5 million proposal from Bagshaw.
Original report: With Seattle already lined up to spend $45 million on addressing the city’s homelessness emergency, Monday’s budget negotiations will also include a tussle over a push for an $2.3 million to fund new and expanded shelter beds and outreach services.
City Council member Nick Licata said he would propose a $2.3 million one-time expenditure to fund new and expanded shelter beds and outreach services. That’s in addition to the $5 million in one-time funds approved earlier this month. Licata’s proposal would avoid tapping into the city’s so-called rainy day fund, something Licata and others had advocated for in recent weeks. Murray opposed the idea, arguing the city should be adding to the rainy day fund while it prospers. Indeed, Murray was dealt a winning hand when it came to drafting his 2016 budget. Powered by a nearly unprecedented construction boom, Murray said his budget addresses inequity while strengthening reserves for the inevitable slowdown.
Also being discussed Monday:
- Commercial rent control: A cause that brought unlikely collaborators Sawant and Dave Meinert together is featured in a proposal calling on the city to “convene a taskforce of small businesses” to explore commercial rent control in Seattle in early 2016:
- Shared parking: “$20,000 from the General Fund to the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT)’s 2016 Proposed Budget for advancing district shared parking within the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict” — CHS wrote here about the shared parking proposal.
- Career Bridge: A D3 campaign talking point both candidates agreed on is up for a $200,000 boost:
- Park rangers: The city’s park rangers program — positioned as a way to help make Cal Anderson safer a few years back — may take a blow with a proposal to cut two rangers as the city turns more resources to its diversion programs.
- Strings: Monday’s proposals also include provisos to lock 2016 budget allocations until the City Council approves plans for several initiatives including the Broadway Streetcar Extension.