The final major action of the current version of the Seattle City Council will apparently be the addition of a progressive encasement to the city’s $6.5 billion 2020 budget including increased spending for restorative justice programs and more money for shelter and homelessness services in the city.
Monday, the council is set to approve a final version of the city’s 2020 budget after weeks of proposals and debates to transform Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $6.5 billion package and its core of public safety-focused spending and smaller sale social line item tied to “one-time” revenue infusions from events like the Mercer Megablock sale and public benefits cash received in exchange for public right of way used in the expansion of the downtown convention center.
Led by budget chair Sally Bagshaw, the council’s changes to the budget package left Durkan’s core fully intact but redirected many elements on the surface of the massive spending package in more progressive directions like funding to open three additional tiny home villages, $1.5 million for a new youth homeless shelter, $1.8 million for a health clinic to be embedded in a shelter, and $1.28 million for mobile bathroom facilities to serve the homeless population.
An addition of $150,000 proposed by Lorena González for a Capitol Hill “Public Life” study that could someday lead to the creation of a pedestrian and bike only Pike/Pine superblock also made the cut.
But the biggest winner in the 2020 budget, Crosscut reports, is the city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, with the effort focused on pushing low level offenders into services, not jail, coming through the council’s budget process with $3.5 million in 2020 funding, a 50% expansion Durkan’s administration did not include in its budget proposal.
For advocates of restorative justice, the addition of $300,000 in one-time funding for youth diversion and education programs championed by the council’s members including District 3 representative Kshama Sawant will also be a small victory.
Sawant, Monday, will call for more, asking her supporters to speak out in council chambers to call for an $222,600 for “youth of color restorative justice programming.” Sawant’s proposal would call for the money to be redirected from cut from SPD’s recruitment and retention budget, cuts the council has so far avoided. The spending would join nearly $2 million already allocated for similar programs in the Durkan budget.
Other Sawant wins heading into Monday’s final votes on the 2020 budget include requirements that won’t add or cut funding. The council, SCCI reports, is set to include direction from Sawant calling on the Office of Economic Development “to form a search committee representative of labor organizations, to provide recommendations on the hiring of the department’s new Creative Industry Director.” Labor representatives from the film and music industry “have expressed concerns with OED’s plan to retool its existing film and music office into a new ‘creative industry’ office,” SCCI reports.
Sawant’s push for a study of what it would take to provide free transit in Seattle is also going to be part of the budget package. Under the requirement, SDOT will be charged with providing a plan and budget proposal for making public transportation free in the city in a plan that could include possible funding from the private sector. Sawant’s proposal for a pay cut for City Council members and Mayor Durkan, however, did not move forward.
Cutting the $8.6 million Navigation Team responsible for the city’s encampment sweeps, a much larger Sawant swipe at the Durkan administration, also found no support from her colleagues.
The next council’s makeup is set for major changes with incumbents Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien, and Bagshaw opting not to run for reelection. Sawant will return along with the council’s two citywide representatives — Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González — and West Seattle rep Lisa Herbold and Northeast Seattle rep Debora Juarez. Newcomers Tammy Morales in D2, Alex Pedersen in D4, Dan Strauss in D6, and Andrew Lewis in D7 will inherit the budget set Monday.
LOVE OUR STORIES? CHS needs your help! If you are a subject matter expert interested in writing a monthly CHS column, drop us a note. Or you can help us find great writers by becoming a CHS subscriber! Please get involved!