This was an exciting budget season with passionate testimony and messages directed to the Council daily. This was my final opportunity as a Councilmember to work for the goals that are most important to me. I am pleased that all of my recommendations were approved by the Council.
We were fortunate that during our budget deliberations in late October we learned that projected revenues had increased by just over $10 million. This allowed us to be even more effective with our investments and the Council added nearly $2.3 million to the approximately $40 million dollars in the Mayor’s proposed budget to provide services to the homeless
Below is a list of the issues by topic area, and their outcomes, that I successfully sponsored in the 2016 Budget. I’ve linked to a more detailed description of the budget action items online and any other pertinent information. Please let me know if you want more information.
Human Services, Civil Rights, and Accessibility
Support Social Work Services at Senior Centers
The Council added $250,000 dollars to increase social work hours at our senior centers. This is a huge victory to help isolated older adults throughout Seattle! Social workers provide essential information and assistance, convene support groups, provide counseling, and perform home visits. As many noted in their testimony and messages, social workers save lives. This win would not have been possible without the strong advocacy of so many older adults, social workers, and senior center staff.
LGBTQ Older Adult Competency Training
The Council will add $75,000 to the Human Services Department to support cultural competency and equity training for professionals working with LGBTQ older adults, families, and caregivers, and a peer support program for this population. This program will increase the knowledge and skills of practitioners working with LGBTQ older adults and provide LGBTQ older adults with access to needed support services – a strong first step in addressing barriers and inequalities that can stand in the way of healthy aging.
Homeless Youth Casework
The Council increased funding to provide services to the homeless by approximately $7.3 million. These allocations are directly connected to the State of Emergency on homeless which now exists in Seattle. I’m happy to report that, as result of strong community advocacy, the Executive has agreed to allocate $80,000 to help fund social work for youth on Capitol Hill through Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS). This program helps homeless youth get the education, support to transition from homelessness into self-sufficient lives off the streets. These funds will help expand the amount of support PSKS can offer by providing a full time caseworker. To hear for yourself how necessary these services are, listen to the moving testimony from PSKS participants during this year’s Budget Committee sessions.
Hearing Loop Expansion
The Council will appropriate $117,181 for an updated assistive listening system in Bertha Knight Landes (BKL) Room – City Hall’s large conference meeting space. We also have support to pass a resolution stating the City’s commitment of increasing accessibility, while specifically instructing the Department of Finance and Administrative Services to report regularly on its progress in managing that ongoing expansion of accessibility.
Planning for Seattle AIDS Legacy / Memorial Project
The Council will add $75,000 to the Office of Arts and Culture in 2016 to help fund the initial planning process for an AIDS Legacy/Memorial. Also, there will be a $75,000 match in community support, for a total planning budget of $150,000. Most importantly, this is a community investment in planning for an AIDS Legacy Memorial Project in Seattle – and diverse stakeholder groups will be closely involved. Stay tuned, you’ll hear more from us about next steps.
Corridor Congestion Reduction
The Council dedicated $600,000 to additional improvements on the West Seattle Bridge. This will begin to carry out or plan some of the many improvements that were identified in the West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor Action Report. Specifically, $500,000 will allow SDOT install ITS equipment including Bluetooth readers and dynamic message signs along the Corridor between Airport Way South and Port of Seattle Terminals 5 and 18 in order to collect and display real-time travel time information to trucks drivers and other motorists. The $100,000 will fund a feasibility review of some of the most promising physical and operational improvements that were identified in the Report.
As part of the Budget, Council has also included a statement of legislative intent requiring SDOT to provide Council early in 2016 with a status update and action plan for implementing improvements in the West Seattle Bridge Corridor.
Employer Mandated Transit Benefits
Ask: Statement of Legislative Intent
It’s well documented that one of the best ways to encourage commuters to take transit is to provide them with transit passes. Through the budget process I gained the support of my colleagues to request the Executive to evaluate the feasibility and merits of a new program requiring employers to provide transit benefits to employees.
To me it’s a win-win-win: When employers provide passes or payroll deductions to purchase passes they can actually reduce the payroll taxes employers and employees pay. That’s good for employees, employers and our environment.
Public Spaces and Community Development
Open Space Planning Process
Another key victory of this year’s budget process was the appropriation of $200,000 to develop innovative strategies to increase the acquisition and development of public spaces. Our public spaces include parks, greenbelts, community and recreation centers, as well as P-Patches and other urban farms. Seattle is growing faster than it has in decades. Public spaces help to create community. As we develop strategies to keep Seattle affordable, and to provide effective transportation solutions, it is paramount that we also pursue strategies to develop public spaces that contribute to a high quality of life.
This effort would not have been possible without community advocacy. Organizations such as the Seattle Parks Foundation, Forterra, The Trust for Public Lands, Seattle Tilth, Grow, the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition, and countless public advocates including Cisco Morris all came together to make this effort possible. Don’t forget to eat your Brussel sprouts!
Community Visions for Local Open Space
Added: New Legislation
For years, communities across the city have been advocating for the retention of public property as public space. Many of these public properties belong to Seattle City Light (SCL), which is required to move forward with the sale of many of its former substation properties. However, as part of the budget process, the Council developed an innovative approach in which SCL will continue to use some of those properties for utility purposes for 1 – 2 more years, allowing time for community organizations to raise the funds necessary to keep the property in public hands.
The sites include the former Delridge, Fauntleroy, and Dakota substations. Visions for these sites include open space, urban farming, and environmental learning activities. This would not have been possible without countless hours of advocacy by communities throughout West Seattle, and by the Seattle Green Spaces Coalition.
A Closer Look at Highland Park
Added: Statement of Legislative Intent
Thanks to the advocacy of the Highland Park Action Committee, this year’s budget included a Statement of Legislative Intent in which the Council directed the City’s planning department to take a closer look at the needs of that community. This could include more space for neighborhood retail, and possibly for more affordable housing. This is the first step toward developing better community assets in a wonderful neighborhood.