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Sawant budget proposals: $1M to power Central District community development, free public transit study, and salary cuts for council counterparts and mayor

The Seattle City Council is getting its plan together for adding to, cutting from, and introducing a twist or two to City Hall’s 2020 budget. Tuesday night will bring a second and final public hearing on the process before the final jockeying begins:

Budget Public Hearing – 5:30 PM
Seattle City Hall | 600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

Last week, CHS reported on a couple interesting issues for Capitol Hill as the council shakes out its proposals. There’s likely to be an addition of $150,000 for a Capitol Hill “Public Life” study that could someday lead to the creation of a pedestrian and bike only Pike/Pine superblock. And there’s a potentially multimillion decision to be made over the future of the city’s Navigation Team charged with cleaning up homeless encampments. Other debates over the LEAD program and more are coming.

In addition to some of the big decisions, District 3’s representative Kshama Sawant has a few items she is asking her fellow council members to consider. While she takes some heat for not introducing a lot of legislation — she’s sponsored 129 pieces in her time in council chambers — Sawant’s office has come up with a few notable budget proposals over the years. 

This year is no exception. Last week, Sawant came to the table with an idea that just might catch on with her cohorts — a study of what it would take to provide free transit in Seattle *or* require employers to:

Adopt a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) requesting that SDOT develop a plan to make all public transit in Seattle free to ride (Councilmember Sawant) – This action would request that SDOT develop an administrative plan and budget to make all public transit in Seattle (including bus, light rail, and streetcar) free for all. Models to investigate could include providing ORCA passes with public funding, requiring employers to provide ORCA passes to employees, and establishing a Seattle Ride Free Zone. The SLI would request that the analysis be presented to Council by June 1, 2020.

The budget committee discussed the idea briefly last week but nobody revealed their hand. Sawant says she sees the study as a kind of due diligence for Seattle’s Green New Deal, which she says, should include a massive expansion of public transit and making it free. Rider fares, she points out, are a minority of revenue, and not a stretch that transit should be free like roads and sidewalks.

Tuesday in committee earlier in the day before the night’s public hearing, a Sawant proposal will also be on the board to provide just over $1 million to fund an organization in the Central District to power an organization to help “black churches and cultural institutions” develop plans for “transforming vacant and under-utilized properties into mixed-use buildings, affordable housing, small business retail, social service, and cultural community spaces.”

Less likely to find wide support among her colleagues might be another proposal on the budget committee agenda — a pay cut for City Council members and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.


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10 thoughts on “Sawant budget proposals: $1M to power Central District community development, free public transit study, and salary cuts for council counterparts and mayor

  1. Why not reduce their benefit packages to a median for private employees in the area? Say goodbye to pensions, excellent health benefits, etc., councilmembers and mayor Durkan. I do not support that, but it is just as non-sensical as Sawant’s call to lower their salaries. Nothing but grandstanding.

  2. Is there anywhere in the world which provides free public transit? I think not, and there is a good budgetary reason for that reality.

    Just another grandstanding idea from Sawant, who sees the writing on the wall and is getting desperate.

    • In places like Mexico City it is extremely affordable to everyone and much more widely used.

      $2.50 a ride is sadly not that – indeed in many cases for two people or a family it’s almost cheaper to uber.

    • Is there anywhere in the world which provides free public transit? I think not, and there is a good budgetary reason for that reality.

      We provide free road access in Washington, pretty much everywhere except for a few tolled, major infrastructure projects. Free transit is not that far fetched, there just needs to be a willingness to fund it. Sawant is not the first and will not be the last politician to propose it.

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