The $4 billion City of Seattle budget, passed Nov. 19, reflects ongoing discord between Seattle City Council and Mayor Mike McGinn, mostly over how to improve public safety and accountability.
In Dec. 2011, a Department of Justice report found that the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has a pattern and practice of excessive force.
The mayor and council put forth radically different fixes.
McGinn sought new technology, while the council opted for more cops. The City Council eliminated $950,000 over the next two years that the mayor wanted for the purchase of a gunshot locator system. The funding would have paid for 52 audio and video devices to be placed around Seattle to triangulate the exact location of gunfire and help SPD officers respond quickly to gun violence.
Instead, the City Council provided
$1 million for more patrols and $1.6 million in the 2014 budget to hire more police officers.
On the question of youth violence, McGinn sought to bolster a program that City Council President Sally Clark questioned.
McGinn sought funding to support 400 new students for the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, a program former Mayor Greg Nickels created to provide mentorship, employment opportunities and counseling to 1,000 at-risk youth in Central and South Seattle.
Instead, the City Council directed $300,000 to the City Auditor to evaluate the program’s effectiveness.
The budget process was not without some common ground. The City Council made a last-minute decision to retain Communities Uniting Rainier Beach, a crime prevention program. The city had planned to eliminate the $500,000 for the program for the next biennium, but after hearing public outcry Nov. 9, four members encouraged the City Council to reverse the decision.
The City Council added almost
$4 million to the Human Services Department (HSD) to boost food banks and programs serving victims of domestic violence and homeless people.
The City Council added $400,000 over the next two years to purchase bulk food for food banks. They added $1.2 million to the HSD for homeless services.
The funding will allow HSD to provide emergency shelter when needs develop during nonwinter months, provide year-round shelter to women and expand drop-in centers.