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2014 City Budget: Emergency Shelter for Families, Enforcing Labor Standards, Early Learning, and Public Safety

2014 budget actionsThe City Council passed the 2014 City of Seattle budget in late November,  focusing on public safety, shelter for families, and early learning.

Two of my key priorities are included: emergency shelter for homeless families, and funding for enforcing labor standards.

 Shelter for homeless families and youth

With the Council’s support of $200,000 in the budget to increase emergency shelter capacity for unsheltered families, I believe next year we may accomplish a goal we set for 2012: that homeless families should not be unsheltered while waiting for housing assistance. We have made big investments in housing and homelessness programs, but there are only 220 family shelter beds in King County and no significant family shelter capacity has been added in several years. This action is critical to the nearly 250 families in King County sleeping with their children outside, in cars, or in abandoned buildings. It marks the first instance in years that the city has specifically dedicated funding for providing new emergency shelter capacity for families. I wrote about this in July, and November.

The Council also approved $450k for long-term housing for homeless families; $130k to keep open shelter beds for young adults, and $100k to help re-house people living in vehicles.

Labor Standards

Secondly, the Council approved $250,000 to begin work to enforce labor standards. When fast food workers went on strike and appeared before a forum I co-hosted in July, it became clear that more enforcement of Seattle’s wage theft was law.

The Council also passed a number of other priorities, in particular, public safety and education/early learning:

Public Safety

The Council approved $3.1 million to enhance public safety in all neighborhoods, including downtown.

  • $1.1 million to fund expansion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program throughout downtown neighborhoods, while requiring it to remain focused on low-level drug and prostitution-related offenders, and to create a new Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) made up of police, mental health and social service providers to tackle street crime and disorder. New leadership and coordination of these efforts, in addition to meaningful data collection and reporting, will provide a clear understanding of the success of these programs in improving public safety in downtown neighborhoods.
  • $55,000 to maintain a victim advocate for sexually exploited youth in the Police Department after federal funding expires in May 2014.
  • $230,000 to add two positions in the City Attorney’s Criminal Division to prosecute new and more complex DUI cases.
  • $200,000 to fund Mayor-elect Murray’s nationwide search for a permanent Police Chief.
  • $500,000 to fund an independent management assessment of the Police Department, including a review of how police resources are deployed.
  • $1,000,000 to create a Force Investigation Team in the Police Department to review officer use of force incidents, an important step required by the City’s agreement with the Department of Justice.

Education and Early Learning

The Council added over $650,000 to increase learning opportunities for Seattle’s children.

  • $488,000 to fund the design and implementation standards for a voluntary, high-quality universal preschool program for all of Seattle’s three- and four-year-old children.
  • $168,000 to expand the Early Learning Academy to train more child care providers in evidence-based teaching strategies to better prepare their students to thrive in kindergarten.
  • The Council adopted an intent statement calling for creation of a new Department of Education & Early Learning where the city government’s various initiatives in this arena can be consolidated and integrated with the work of the Seattle School District.
  • To help the School District address overcrowding of school buildings in many neighborhoods, the Council directed City departments to speed up permitting for school construction.
  • The Council also required that new literacy programs, such as Read and Rise, demonstrate positive results when compared with evidence-based programs.

Tenant Assistance and Housing Rights

  • $100,000 for services, based on needs assessment that could include counseling by phone, in person, web-based resources
  • $50,000 for  an audit of housing discrimination practices and enforcement; the office of Civil Rights received a federal grant to carry out a study in 2011 that showed evidence of discrimination against African-American and disabled people

 Other areas

  • $150k to restore funding for the Arts Means Business program that directs investments to support job growth in the arts community and training for greater economic resiliency. More details are available in my recent blog posts in October and November.
  • Increased the Arts Office half-time Cultural Space Liaison position to full time, and increased funding for cultural facility awards by $100k; and funded planning for establishing a long-term mechanism for financial support and stability for the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center.
  • $340k for Animal shelter staffing to restore 4 of the 6 positions cut since 2007.
  • $240k for nine Senior centers; in addition, $406k for federal and state cuts to senior services

A full list of the Council’s actions can be viewed here.

Pedestrian and Road Safety

  • I’d also like to thank Mayor McGinn for dedicating funding from speed camera enforcement for traffic safety improvements around schools; I have advocated for using this revenue for road and pedestrian safety for years, and am grateful he proposed $8.6 million for safety investments in 2014 from this source.

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