On Monday, November 20, we City Councilmembers held our final vote on the 2018 budget. This was my 8th budget as a Councilmember and it proved to be a challenging one. With many admirable programs deserving funding within the balanced budget, we had hard decisions to make.
I approached the budget with four key priorities and had success in each category:
First, Increase Affordable Housing options: I set a goal of having 1000 more stable indoor housing units up and operational in 2018. We are investing $30 million immediately—based on best practices and results based accountability principles — and more housing is on the way. We know what works to improve conditions for people who are homeless: simply put, more housing. Following on Pathways Home recommendations, I am supporting a pipeline of fast-tracked options, from more 24/7 shelter, additional managed encampments, a targeted landlord liaison program as well as new possibilities such as modular-built projects on public land, detached dwelling units (DADU’s) on private property and tiny homes tailored to meet individual needs. With community support, we will identify or create units and we will move another 1000 people off the streets of Seattle and indoors.
Second: Increase Youth opportunity and Public Health Programming: We secured funding to support the building of a homeless youth opportunity and housing center on Broadway and Pine. Working with Speaker Frank Chopp, Seattle Central College and local non-profits, we identified key real estate near the College where youth and young adults can gain the education and skills training to get good paying jobs as well as providing them with the housing and services necessary to take their next steps.
As part of my work with the Seattle/King County Board of Public Health, I worked diligently with my colleagues to expand public health services within our Downtown neighborhood by funding a full-time medical prescriber for our medically assisted treatment programs available at the 4th Avenue Public Health Clinic. Expanding our medically assisted treatment services such as buprenorphine-on-demand is critical in our fight against the opioid addiction crisis. We are finally treating addiction like the disease it is, and I am proud to work alongside my King County colleagues to provide regional services and treatment they people need.
We also funded a public outreach nurse who will support the work of the Navigation team, and will help connect people on the street with the services and help they need. By providing medical help to homeless neighbors where they are, we can serve them better and avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency ward.
Third, Support our Fire Arm Surrender Program. With Seattle’s leadership, our region is developing a program that will serve as a model statewide. I want to thank Chris Anderson in the City Attorney’s office, Dan Satterberg in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and retired-Judge Anne Levinson for laying the ground work for this critical program. Removing firearms from domestic abuse perpetrators means protecting victims and making a community safer. A March 2017 study by Everytown For Gun Violence, found that over the last seven years, 54 percent of mass shooting cases involved domestic or family violence. This gun surrender program is a coordinated approach between the Superior Court, District Court, and Municipal Court. It WILL protect domestic abuse survivors and save lives from gun violence.
Fourth, Expand Mobility Options and Reduce Congestion in District 7. My office worked with the Mayor, SDOT and Council Central Staff to ensure pedestrian improvements and walkability along the Market to MOHAI corridor between Pike Place Market and the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) along Western Ave, Bell St, and Westlake Ave N. I want to thank the entire Market to MOHAI Steering Committee, which includes the Downtown Seattle Association, the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce (SLUCC), Belltown Community Council, Pike Place Market, MOHAI, Seattle Parks Foundation, Friends of the Waterfront, the South Lake Union Community Council, Google, Amazon, Vulcan, Facebook, Argosy, Visit Seattle, Clise, and many others for your commitment to the livability of these growing neighborhoods. And especially, I want to thank John Pehrson, my personal hero for mobilizing the community and turning his vision of multi-modal and green connections such as Bell Street Parkway and now Market to MOHAI into action.
I am also happy in this budget to support the work we have started with SDOT and the University of Washington around Freight Mobility and Alley Congestion. I look forward to the freight and mobility report planned for July, 2018 to identify tools and best practices to reduce alley congestion and traffic clogs in the Downtown core.
Regarding the Employee Hours Tax: I am pleased we agreed to identify needed additional revenue sources for homelessness projects through a collaborative community process. I believe good policy is crafted through a thoughtful process that starts first with defining and agreeing on the needs and problems to be solved, identifying the funding gap, and then raising revenues to meet the needs. I do not support an approach that raises revenues first and then decides on how the money will be spent.
I believe a good policy approach requires the appropriate people – those with experience and those who would be taxed – to be at the table over the course of several months, NOT just nine Councilmembers making a hasty decision over the span of two weeks. It requires analysis and vigorous vetting to limit the number of unintended consequences. For example, ensuring organizations like Horizon House, a retirement and senior community that employs 310 people to care for their seniors, shouldn’t be burdened with an increased estimated cost of $38,750 per year without assurance of some benefits in return.
I wholeheartedly agree we need additional progressive revenue sources and I plan on working with my colleagues and the community to achieve our goals over the next several months.
Lastly, I want to recognize and thank my legislative aides Alberta Bleck, Brian Chu and Alyson McLean. They work hard for District 7, and are the upbeat voices you hear when you call my office. As always, please contact me with your suggestions and recommendations for positive change. If you want to learn more about the City’s 2018 proposed budget and process, here is a link to the City’s budget office website. I will update this blog when the final executive summary is completed.
All the best,