Budget Update – Week Eight
We are closing in on the end of budget season. Last Wednesday, Budget Committee Chair Sally Bagshaw unveiled her balancing package, and we were excited to see many of our priorities included – funding and support for our public health communicable disease response, funding for the Home Zone pilot project to make our street safer, a review of our jail contracts with King and Snohomish Counties, funding for staff to assist in ensuring Seattle fully participates in the 2020 Census, just to name a few.
This is a good starting point, and we are preparing for tomorrow’s budget committee, where we will consider various amendments to the Chair’s package. For our office, there are three major areas that we are working on:
Human Service Provider Wages
As we noted in the last Teresa Tuesday, one of my top priorities is to make sure that workers provide services to the most vulnerable in our community – our homeless neighbors – should not be earning poverty wages themselves. That is why I have been working with Labor and colleagues to advance a budget amendment that would ensure all human service providers contracted by the city get an inflationary adjustment. The Mayor’s budget included a 2% increase for certain human service providers, which was a start, and I look forward to continuing the efforts to lift wages for all working the front lines providing human services.
A Racial Equity Toolkit on Seattle’s Growth Strategy
We know that it’s critical that the city work with community to evaluate how all of our city policies impact communities of color and those most at risk, especially when it comes to policies that may be contributing to displacement. We can lay the groundwork for a truly equitable growth strategy through an amendment that creates a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) to ask for a racial equity toolkit (RET) to be performed prior to commencement of the next major Comprehensive Plan, which determines our zoning and urban village strategy. It is critical that we embed this analysis in our planning prior to advancing a Comprehensive Plan so that more working families can afford to live in the city where they work or retire.
Reform the Criminal Justice System – In addition to evaluating our contract with King County Jail and removing our Snohomish County Jail Contract, we are advancing language in the budget to do an analysis of our criminal justice system overall. Working with community members most impacted by the criminal justice system, labor unions, and members of the Seattle Municipal Court, I am hopeful that we can reform our system and invest upstream in restorative justice models and prevent more individuals from getting wrapped up in the criminal justice system in the first place.
More to come this week! Thank you to those who have emailed colleagues in support of theses priorities. With your continued support, I believe we will be successful moving these amendments, and continuing to move our city in a more equitable direction!
Human Service Wages Matter!
In their Own Words:
Human service providers are (1) dominated by women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks, (2) and are severely underpaid, and (3) they are severely underpaid. Many workers earn of those just over minimum wage, are struggling to make ends meet due to devaluation of their work, and has gone without inflationary adjustments for almost a decade. We must do better, and while the wage increase proposed in this budget of 2% is relatively small, it’s the first step in what must be a concerted effort by policy makers to ensure our investments in human infrastructure are equitable with other city contracted work.
Let’s hear from those who are living this experience.
- Cassandra P.: “I worked at DESC for three years as both at the DESC Main Shelter and at the Canaday House. In that time, I have seen a lot of coworkers leave due to the low wages. It is hard for me and my clients when my coworkers leave. When clients have to change case managers every six months, it stalls their progress and makes it difficult for them to build trust. I understand why my coworkers leave: It’s hard to live on such low wages. In order to pay my rent and student loans, I have to work overtime every pay period. Because of my low wages, I qualify for the same low-income housing as DESC clients, meaning that I and some of my coworkers are competing for the same limited housing as our clients. Even with the overtime and low-income housing, I maybe have $200 a paycheck left over after my bills are paid. I want to stay at my job, because I believe in the mission and care about my clients, but it’s hard for me to remain in my position at this pay rate.”
- Robert B.: “I worked at DESC since 2009. I worked the nightshift at the Queen Anne Shelter, where I offered safety, dignity and hope for 100 of this city’s most vulnerable men. In order to make ends meet and support my family, I work a second job at Low Income Housing Institute totaling a 67-hour work week. I am unable to afford the cost of rent in Seattle and commutes an hour from Kent in order to serve our neighbors experiencing homelessness in Seattle.”
- Meghan G: “I am a Residential Counselor working at the DESC Interbay Project. I love my work and the residents, but regularly I have to work overtime to make ends meet, and to ensure continuity of care. I spend more than 50% of my income on Seattle rent. Because of the extra hours, I find it hard to schedule personal time. I want to go to school and to become a lawyer and serve marginalized communities, but because of the need to work overtime I am unable to take more than one class at a time.”
We hear so often that one job should be enough, and that is so true for the women and men working directly with our most vulnerable neighbors. After this budget season I will continue the fight to lift wages for service providers – it’s the right thing to do, and a smart investment to improve outcomes for our neighbors living outdoors.
Safe Streets for All Users
Time and again my office fields concerns from folks about the lack of safe streets. While often we see news reports about the need for safe infrastructure for cyclists, this extends to safe routes for pedestrians. Throughout the city – especially in areas with histories of dis-investment – we see cracked and unfinished sidewalks, sidewalks that end in random spots, and, of course, areas with no sidewalks at all.
Too often these areas with naturally unsafe infrastructure serve as throughputs for cars avoiding arterials, making them even less safe for seniors out on a stroll, kiddos visiting their friends, or families enjoying a ride. And with uneven sidewalks in need of repair, we see people falling too often, something that can be devastating for some of our neighbors.
Part of the budget this year includes two adds from my office to advance safe street investments. The first – the Home Zone pilot project – will fund improvements for neighborhood streets that are near arterials, but lack sidewalks. Through modifications to the streets that discourage use by drivers trying to bypass arterials at too-high speeds, this concept (which is widely used in other cities) calms traffic and discourages people from driving through our streets at high speeds.
The second requests the Seattle Department of Transportation to identify funding gaps for completion of the Thomas Street Greenway in Uptown. Once the tunnel is complete, the plan to connect Uptown with South Lake Union includes connecting multiple roads, and the conversion of Thomas Street into a greenway, prioritizing pedestrian and cyclist use. Once completed, this will be the only fully connected east-west corridor that prioritizes safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and will be a vital add in advance of the re-opening of Key Arena for our Seattle Storm and a new NHL team (by the way – do you like the name, Seattle Freeze?).
But there is much more to do. The Mayor’s office will be presenting her priorities for a Move Seattle “reset” later this year. As part of the levy package and campaign, many promises were made for safe streets and transit prioritization. I’ll be working closely with community advocates and colleagues to ensure that the re-set prioritizes investments that keep our kiddos and seniors safe, and ensure that transit is a reliable, fast option to single-occupancy vehicle use.
Tomorrow we vote on budget amendments, and this coming Monday the Budget Committee will meet following Council Briefing at 10:30 a.m. to vote on a final budget package. Full Council will hold a final vote Monday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Thank you for your continued engagement to ensure our budget meets as many needs as possible for residents across Seattle.
There are various issues we anticipate taking up before the end of the year, and we are gearing up for a busy 2019 in my committee (Housing, Health, Energy, and Workers’ Rights). In addition, the Select Committee on Homelessness and Housing Affordability is expected to re-convene in December, learning more about what other jurisdictions across the country have done to scale up investments in human infrastructure that make a meaningful impact. There is a lot to do, and I look forward to continued collaboration for a more just and equitable city!