Seattle’s $5.9B budget is set: more SPD and firefighters, Navigation Team expansion amid tighter belts at City Hall

Seattle City Hall (Image: Seattle.gov)

The City Council Monday finalized its efforts to fill in a few blanks in Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2019-2020 Seattle budget, her administration’s first budget and, most likely, one of the few municipal $5.9 billion budgets in the world to get slapped with the “austerity” label.

“The goals of inclusion and economic opportunity have guided us for these past 12 months, and this approved budget invests in these promises and commitments and shows we can live within our means,” Durkan said in a statement following Monday’s 8-1 votes approving the 2019 and 2020 budgets. “From giving Seattle’s young people free ORCA and a passport to their city, to urgent action on homelessness, to protecting our immigrant and refugee neighbors, we’re continuing to build a more inclusive Seattle with true economic opportunity.”

“Using this budget as our guide, we must continue to be stewards of taxpayer dollars and invest in a more affordable, inclusive and vibrant future for all who call Seattle home,” Durkan said Monday.

District 3’s Kshama Sawant, representing Capitol Hill, the Central District, and nearby neighborhoods, was the sole vote in opposition to the spending package and called the process at City Hall business as usual for the “establishment” council and mayor.” Continue reading

Final pieces of Seattle’s 2019-2020 $5.9B budget puzzle: Navigation Team funding, food banks, and red-light camera revenue

The Navigation Team during a cleanup along I-5 (Image: City of Seattle)

With reporting from Seattle City Council Insight

The march to complete Seattle’s 2019-2020 budget is proving a real slog at the top as the process now has about 95% of the plan in place after an epic nine-hour Seattle City Council meeting earlier this week that included votes on a mind-numbing 188 agenda items.

The final pushes around polishing the Durkan administration’s first budget proposal and setting Seattle’s next nearly $6 billion city budget pivot –unsurprisingly — around how to spend the small portion available out of those millions on improving the city’s approach to homelessness and affordable housing. Continue reading

Support for wages, concerns over reforms as Seattle City Council set for police contract vote — UPDATE: Approved

UPDATE 4:45 PM: In an 8-1 vote, the Seattle City Council approved ratification Tuesday afternoon.

Committee chair Lorena González said that there is still much to be done to continue reforms at SPD but that she was “proud” to approve the collective bargaining agreement.

She also dismissed criticism that the contract would “roll back” reforms, listing a dozen elements from the new deal that she say represent progress in social justice issues at the department.

Paramount in the deal will be a strong Office of Inspector General and wiping out of the controversial Disciplinary Review Board. González said the inspector’s office will be able to be present at Office of Professional Accountability proceedings and will have access to all OPA files.

“Today, is one of those days where I find myself in the unfortunate position of agreeing with some of the observations made by my friends at the (Community Police Commission) while disagreeing as to others and, fundamentally, disagreeing as to (1) the impact of this contract on our ongoing police reform efforts and (2) the appropriate next step to take to continue making progress on police reform,” González said in a statement issued following the vote. You can read the full statement and the list of 12 accountability reforms from the contract here.

U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is overseeing the Department of Justice consent decree process, will also review the contract to ensure compliance.

The vote followed a more than two hour session of public comment and statements from several council members. Community members including Nikkita Oliver and the Rev. Harriet Waldman spoke to say they supported higher wages for police but could not support the contract. “Voting for this contract will dismantle the work we have been doing for years,” Oliver said. The city has “failed in these negotiations,” Walden said.

A large contingent of community members representing the International District was also on hand to show support for SPD and the new contract.

Original report:  The Seattle City Council will vote Tuesday afternoon on a long-awaited, hugely debated six-year deal with the Seattle Police union that would bring much needed wage increases but would also roll back progress on much needed reforms, critics say.

District 3’s Kshama Sawant representing Capitol Hill, the Central District, and surrounding neighborhoods said Tuesday she will continue to oppose the deal. Seven of the nine council members must approve the contract for ratification.

“As a rank-and-file union member myself, I support the wage improvements that are contained in the tentative collective bargaining agreement between the City and [the Seattle Police Officers Guild],” Sawant said in a statement on the pending vote. “I think it is unfortunate that other public service workers, such as educators and EMTs, have not gotten such significant wage increases in this increasingly unaffordable city.”

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Capitol Hill things to watch in Seattle budget ‘balancing package’ include homelessness outreach, ‘Community Health Engagement Location’ — UPDATE

Some big decisions were made Tuesday across the United States. Wednesday in City Council chambers will bring some big decisions for Seattle as representatives shake out the final roster of additions, tweaks, and cuts to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2019-2020 budget proposal.

Included in the “green sheet” decision day is a proposal for the money sought by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and business community to support a homeless outreach worker in the neighborhood and some spends championed by District 3 rep Kshama Sawant including a bid to add $440,000 in 2019 to help finalize a decision on a location for a “Community Health Engagement Location” — a long-sought “safe consumption” site proponents say would help address problems with addiction and health in the city.

UPDATE: The proposed balancing package has been released including good news for the Capitol Hill homelessness outreach request and progress on a Seattle “CHEL”:

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What it would take to create a Seattle muni bank

Demands are read at a locked Broadway Wells Fargo during a 2017 ‘Divest the Globe’ protest

With reporting from Seattle City Council Insight

Continuing its push to fully divest from Wells Fargo and break free of large financial corporations, City Council members Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien have released a report detailing what it would take for Seattle to open and operate a city-owned bank. The report documents the opportunity — and the significant legal, logistical, regulatory and financial challenges the plan would face.

“From their financial backing of environmentally devastating projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline to their brazen discriminatory and gouging practices against communities of color and low-income people, for-profit mega-banks like Wells Fargo are clearly not the bank for the City of Seattle,” Sawant said in a statement released with the new report. “My office and community activists are committed to taking the next steps outlined in this thorough feasibility study to create a public bank for our city.”

The full report from the study is below.

The study is born of the failure of the attempt to remove the city’s accounts from Wells Fargo beginning in 2017 over the company’s business practices and financial involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline. Sawant and the council voted for divestiture but a City Hall bidding process found there weren’t other banks capable of replacing the financial giant. Continue reading

Sawant finds no support on ‘legal and viable’ affordable housing proposals

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant found no support from her fellow City Council members Tuesday in her fight for increased spending for affordable housing as Seattle City Hall plods to a conclusion of the 2019-2020 budget process.

“What is not acceptable to me or the movement that is fighting for this is to do nothing or do very little,” the frustrated councilor said.

During Tuesday’s session, none of Sawant’s fellow council members were willing to join the Socialist Alternative firebrand in pushing a series of budget amendment proposals born of the “People’s Budget” process. Continue reading

Ready for ‘period of maximum constraint,’ Seattle rolls out Rapid Response Team to keep streets clear — UPDATE

(Image: Seattle.gov)

Seattle may need some guidance on making faster, smarter street investments but Mayor Jenny Durkan’s new team is set to clean up some of the messes along the way.

Set to be unveiled by the mayor Wednesday in South Lake Union, the city’s new Rapid Response Team is planned to “help quickly clear debris and vehicles” from the city’s streets “so people and goods can keep moving, and help ensure that Seattle can make the most of its existing streets as we grow.”

The new squad is powered by five “Response Team trucks” dedicated to the cause and armed with “tools needed to clear debris and vehicles, help stranded drivers, and to guide traffic around incidents, using sirens, red lights, variable message and bright pink ‘Emergency Scene Ahead’ signs.”

While it’s a bit like buying Liquid Plumr when you need new pipes, the team is coming together as Seattle enters its “period of maximum constraint” with major projects like the Washington State Convention Center expansion, the closure of the Viaduct, waterfront construction, and the end of bus service in the Transit Tunnel conspire to further clog Seattle streets.

A full announcement from the mayor’s office on the new team is below. Continue reading

MASS transit: Move All Seattle Sustainably coalition forms to push for faster, smarter street investments

A bike rider resorts to the sidewalk to navigate busy Boren (Images: CHS)

The community has taken the lead in shaping protected bike lanes on Pike and Pine — and a coalition of community groups is taking the lead in calling on Mayor Jenny Durkan to “transform” Seattle’s transportation system. Meet MASS — Move All Seattle Sustainably:

Seattle needs to dramatically transform its transportation system for multiple reasons— many of which are already reflected in Seattle’s adopted goals. Our Climate Action Plan calls for carbon neutrality by 2050, and transportation is 60% of our current emissions; the recent IPCC report reminds us of the catastrophe awaiting us if we do not act immediately to reduce carbon emissions. Vision Zero calls for zero traffic deaths or serious injuries by 2030. In addition, our streets in the urban core are already failing to move people and goods adequately, equity and access to jobs require lower-cost options for people to get around, and our city’s overall economic health depends on a safe, green, and equitable transportation system.

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Wanted: $55K to return homelessness outreach workers to Capitol Hill

At night, Seattle City Hall becomes an emergency shelter (Image: CHS)

The effort to fund homelessness outreach workers on Capitol Hill has shifted — the good news is the price is more clear but the challenge now will be getting City Hall and the Seattle City Council to find a way to help pay for it in time.

“Of all the central downtown neighborhoods, only Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Chinatown/ID don’t currently have homeless outreach services,” Egan Orion, director of the Broadway Business Improvement Area said. “We saw in the two-year pilot on Capitol Hill how single point of contact for businesses and residents alike and a full-time advocate for our unsheltered neighbors on the streets was a very compassionate and effective approach to issues of homelessness on the Hill.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Community Post | Public comment period opening for technologies subject to city’s surveillance ordinance

From the Seattle Information Technology Department

The City of Seattle will hold a series of five public meetings and ask for public comment regarding an initial six of the 29 technologies that meet the City’s definition of a surveillance, as defined in the City’s Surveillance Ordinance (ORD # 125376), which went into effect on September 1, 2017. The meetings will feature a short presentation on the technologies and then attendees will break down into small group discussions. As required under the legislation, the public comment period for these technologies opened on Monday, October 8 and will run through Monday, November 5. The schedule and location of these public meetings is listed below. The West Seattle location, which is highlighted, has been moved to the American Legion Post 160 of West Seattle (West Seattle Legion Hall) on Alaska Street.

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