Today Mayor Mike McGinn presented his proposed budget for 2012 to City Council (find highlights of his budget here). Now the ball is in Council’s court as we accept or make changes to his endorsed budget.
We all know that this is the most difficult economic time in over 80 years, and how we respond in these moments could help set the stage for the next 80 years. The Mayor announced an $18 million revenue shortfall, and any cuts that we must make at the city level are coming on top of state and federal level cuts and will have real impacts on many households that are already struggling. So I am heartened to hear that Mayor McGinn’s budget does not make additional cuts to human services programs.
Given the hardship many are experiencing, it is an important part of my job as an elected official to make sure that we commit our increasingly scarce city resources on policies and programs that advance our shared values and priorities.
For me that means two things. To start, it means prioritizing money in the budget for policies and programs that promote opportunities to improve prosperity—especially for low-income communities, communities of color and immigrant and refugee communities. Second, it means prioritizing policies and programs that promote environmental stewardship and sustainable communities.
As we go through this budget process over the next two months, I am going to be asking the following questions:
- Who is impacted by this cut from or addition to our city budget?
- Are we spreading the burdens of budget cuts fairly among households and businesses in Seattle? Are we sharing the benefits of budget increases fairly?
- How will this cut from/addition to the budget help create family wage jobs in Seattle?
- Are there ways we can operate more efficiently to be better stewards of our residents’ and businesses’ tax dollars?
- Is the funding source for this policy or program sustainable and does it make sense for the city to be funding it?
In addition to asking these questions, I have some areas of the budget that I will be focusing on specifically.
In the utilities budget, I will continue to look for workplace efficiencies that we can make and I am committed to fully fund the utility discount program that provides a 50% discount on utility bills for income qualified families.
In our neighborhoods budget we have done some great things in the past year that I will look to build on, such as maximizing dollars granted and increasing the accessibility of these grants, as well as promoting the department’s outreach and engagement functions.
I am also passionate about transportation issues. In our transportation budget, I will be looking for a budget that balances investment in ongoing operations and maintenance and safety improvements to pedestrian, transit and bike infrastructure.
The budget process and your involvement in it
Finally, your engagement and participation in this process is crucial. City Council will hold two public hearings on the budget, both at City Hall on Tuesday October 4 and Wednesday October 26 (5:30 p.m. start time for each). However, I understand that not everyone can make a budget hearing and I invite you to call (206-684-8800) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) my office anytime to share your comments or concerns about the budget.
You can also track issues that are important to you and your community. Next week each of the City’s departments will be making presentations to City Council. You can follow these presentations online at Council Live or on the Seattle Channel (cable channel 21). You can also track important budge news by regularly checking the Council’s budget page.
After next week’s department presentations, it is incredibly important to hear from you as our constituents as we spend the last three weeks of October digging deeper into each departmental budget and identifying issues and concerns. Beginning in November we will spend three weeks proposing and debating various changes and amendments to department budgets before adopting a final budget plan on November 21, 2011.
Your engagement helps us throughout this process by holding us accountable to our shared values and priorities and informing us of the most pressing needs in your community. I encourage you to contact me and my colleagues and to engage in this budgeting process that is more important now than ever.