On Mon., Nov. 19, the Seattle City Council approved 2008’s $926 million city budget — if that sounds like a lot, that’s probably because it is.
“We’re in pretty good shape financially,” says Paul Elliott, chief of staff to Councilman Richard McIver, who chairs the budget committee. “We were able to put a lot into a lot of things.”
The council’s revision to Mayor Nickels’ budget proposal includes an additional $3 million for a pedestrian safety program and an additional $2 million for library materials. The Cascade People’s Center, which did not receive money under the mayor’s budget, received $100,000 under the council’s revision. And though the council rejected the mayor’s request for a $9 million city phone line, 311, it gave him half a million dollars to flesh out the idea and bring it back next year.
Will Seattle’s homeless get a piece of the pie?
The council’s budget devotes another $4.2 million for human services, most of which will go toward the city’s gang prevention program, food delivery to local food banks, and rental assistance for those facing eviction.
Mark Okazaki, chair of Seattle Human Services Coalition’s (SHSC) budget task force, is encouraged: “We want to commend the city…. The council gave our recommendations real, serious consideration.”
Still, low-income housing received a paltry $1.5 million, well short of the $12.5 million recommended by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. Also absent from the new budget was the $975,000 SKCCH had requested for area shelters, day and hygiene services, and outreach workers for those living on the streets.
“There just wasn’t enough money,” says city councilmember Richard McIver. The mayor’s original budget, says McIver, had not included money for low-income dental care; in the council’s revisions to the budget, dental care received “higher priority” over SKCCH’s recommendations.
For those hoping for substantive progress toward the city’s ten-year goal of ending homelessness, the council’s new budget is a mixed bag.
SKCCH director Alison Eisinger said she was “pleased to see the City Council put money into low-income social services” but called it “gravely disappointing that the council didn’t have the vision to invest our good fortune in needed emergency services, nor make [the recommended] $12.5 million investment in needed, permanent, low-income housing.”