After many weeks of intense work, Council has adopted the 2017 City budget, and I am very pleased with the priorities we supported next year. We are moving forward in many ways that matter greatly to me.
In this budget, I remained focused on three main priorities: to address homelessness, to create safe communities in every neighborhood, and devise system-wide reforms through our Human Services Department. Here are a few of the highlights I championed:
• My Human Services and Public Health Committee will hold monthly meetings to assure that our city departments and service providers are moving people into safe housing and shelter, cleaning up garbage and unhealthy conditions across our city, and assuring that we move forward swiftly to provide four more sanctioned encampments. The Mayor has made a commitment to do this; I support him and will assure the details are made public every month.
• We will help stabilize unsheltered people by increasing the number of 24/7 shelters and building lockers and storage sites on site. This past year after many, many conversations with service providers and people who are homeless, I confirmed that next to a roof over their heads and daily food, nothing is as important to unsheltered individuals as having a secure place to store their belongings. We now have $200,000 dedicated to this locker cause, and in the next month we will determine how shelter providers can leverage this money to maximize the number of available lockers.
• As recommended by our Seattle/King County Opiate Addiction Task Force we will support King County Public Health and fund a social worker at the Public Health Clinic in Belltown. The social worker will provide essential case management, outreach and engagement into harm reduction services tailored to the needs of the client. The focus will be on alternatives such as that successfully modeled by San Francisco to offer buprenorphine, (“bupe”) an often-successful alternative to methadone that can block an addicts’ need for heroine, reduce health costs and even reduce property crimes in our neighborhoods.
• We budgeted $110,000 to create and implement uniform protocols across the city and county to mandate the forfeiture and ultimate return of firearms for domestic violence perpetrators who have been served protection orders. Further, these protocols will be essential in implementing recently passed I-1491, which provides a new option to law enforcement and family members to petition courts to remove firearms from a home BEFORE a bad situation becomes worse. Working with the City Attorney and our King County Prosecuting Attorney, we will be able to protect families and make our community safer. Once the protocols are in place, we will add two dedicated people to work with our courts to share information and reduce domestic violence.
• The Council also provided modest financial support for our Belltown neighborhood and businesses with funds to support a plan for Belltown Business Improvement Area (BIA) —an effort we are now calling Project Belltown. Belltown is one of our fastest growing neighborhoods, not only in Seattle, but also nationally. With the creation of a BIA, Belltown will continue to grow in a way that is true to the unique character of the neighborhood.
This next year we will move visibly and decisively to address homelessness, and to use every tool available to house as many people as we can. That is why I supported the work of many of my council colleagues. For example, Councilmember Lisa Herbold added an amendment to preserve the option to bond $29 million to build low income housing, which provides us flexibility to create more options like tiny homes, modulars, or single-room-occupancy spaces to get people who are homeless off the streets. I also appreciate Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez’s leadership – in coordination with Speaker Frank Chopp — for additional affordable housing on public land throughout the city, and Councilmember Juarez’s ask to plan for additional affordable housing in Northgate. I support Council President Harrell’s work on restorative justice; I thank Mike O’Brien for his dedication to public health by adding public toilets like Portland Loos; and Rob Johnson and Tim Burgess both provided support for pre-school children. Homelessness and the affordable housing crisis is an issue we must address citywide and I appreciate my colleagues’ commitment to support me in this work.
I am also excited to join with some of our local advocates to include new neighborhood voices in determining how more people in our city can be part of the homelessness solution. We know that governments and non-profits cannot do it all. I am committed to build community in new ways. As one amazing friend suggested to me, “Ask not what Seattle can do for you, but ask what you can do for Seattle.” Our success in working together will build a national model of compassion and warmth for us all. I thank you for your input and commitment to our city.