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West Seattle Bridge Repair Update; This Week in the Budget; Hiring Bonuses; Apply by Today for Individual Cash Assistance from the Seattle Relief Fund; Support Is Available for Family Caregivers

West Seattle Bridge Repair Update

SDOT presented updates at the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force on Wednesday, November 10th. The repair remains on track for completion by mid-2022.

The negotiations for the Maximum Allowable Construction Contract (MACC) for the West Seattle Bridge repair are complete, and SDOT expects to issue the formal Notice to Proceed for the project next week.

While most of the repair work will take place inside the bridge, upcoming visible work on the outside will include creating lifting points for the external work platforms with “hydroblasting”; work crews and trailers, and other equipment will be on the bridge deck soon as Kramer crews return to the bridge. When the work platforms (similar to those used last year for the bridge emergency stabilization) are being installed, there will need to be short term night/weekend closures of the lower bridge.

Post tensioning work and epoxy injections in cracks will begin in December; additional details on schedule information should be available soon.

SDOT notes the schedule is “risk-loaded.” This means it accounts for consideration of risks, such as weather (e.g. snow), supply chain disruption, worker shortages and other issues. After completion of the repair, SDOT will test the bridge for strength of the bridge before reopening to traffic. They estimate it will take no more than two weeks but said during the meeting that they expect it to be shorter.

A month before opening to traffic, SDOT will share the reopening date and activities they plan to commemorate the opening. They noted the activities will not delay opening the bridge to traffic.

This Week in the Budget

Last week the Budget Committee met to hear the Initial Balancing Package proposed by Chair Mosqueda and held a second public hearing. 282 speakers signed up to comment on the Chair’s proposed balancing package.

Friday, November 12 was the deadline for Councilmembers to propose amendments to the Chair’s balancing package. The balancing package and amendments to the balancing package, will be voted on at the Budget Committee meetings scheduled for November 18 and 19.

Another public hearing is scheduled for the November 18 meeting at 9:30 a.m. You can register to give comment on this page. The sign-up form is available two hours before each session begins.

The Chair’s balancing package is available here.

I want to raise a critical point about this budget that I believe must be raised, regarding the Jump Start payroll tax. As Chair Mosqueda and other Councilmembers have noted, this budget is predicated on the payroll tax.  It is only the Council’s payroll tax, which the Mayor vetoed, that has made it possible for the City to avoid deep budget cuts for this year and last year.

The City Attorney, thus far, has successfully defended the City from a legal challenge in King County Superior Court. The Chamber has now appealed that ruling to the Washington State Court of Appeals. A recent poll, funded by the Northwest Progressive Institute, found 67% support among the public for this tax, 50% strongly support it. The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce had a different poll that found 61% of voters supported progressive tax like a capital gains tax or a high earners income tax. When I asked the Chamber why they funded this poll, they told me  that it was to help them identify policy areas to work on, and in some cases to collaborate with Council on, where there are areas of agreement.   When I was briefed on this poll by the Greater Seattle of Chamber of Commerce, I asked President Rachel Smith, whether, given the strong public support for the Council’s payroll tax, they were going to end their members’ appeal to strike it down.  I was told they were not going to end their appeal.

If the City’s defense is not successful, the incoming Mayor will be faced with proposing budget cuts that could be $200 million or more for 2022; it would also create a similar deficit for the 2021 budget which relied on an interfund loan to be paid back with payroll tax revenue.  This would make it nearly impossible to avoid across the board cuts.

I’d hate to see incoming Mayor-elect Harrell be in that position early during his term.  It would be good for no one. Just last year, when responding to revenue shortfalls after the start of the COVID pandemic, Mayor Durkan ordered $20 million in cuts to the Seattle Police Department budget, and a hiring freeze for all new city staff, both civilians and SPD officers.

The written briefs in the appeal case are due on December 15.  In other words, those briefs will be developed under the current City Attorney. Oral arguments, on the other hand, will be made under the next City Attorney, likely in the first half of the year.

While I’ll have more information soon, I want to note that the Chair’s balancing package proposes to increase the Police Department’s budget by $7 million over their 2021 budget. It’s unfortunate that Mayor Durkan has claimed this is a “cut.” This is not accurate. It would be a smaller increase than the Mayor has proposed, while proposing funding for hiring more officers—125—than have ever been hired before in a year.

Hiring Bonuses

Hiring and retention are important issues.  That’s why, just three short months ago, in the August midyear 2021 adjustment, the Council added $320,000 for police officer wellness and supervision to support retention, and $110,000 to accelerate the hiring process for both sworn and civilian positions and support recruitment. The Chair’s proposed 2022 budget package that the Budget Committee heard this week retains these investments for 2022.

In the midyear 2021 adjustment, the Council also added funding I proposed for Chief Diaz’s pre-BLEA 45-day program that “pulls recruits out of traditional classroom training and immerses them in community-based, peer-based, and introspective experiences that will provide them both a lens through which to receive their BLEA training and a foundation upon which to build their careers as Seattle Police Officers.” Because Mayor Durkan did not include it in her proposed 2022 budget, the Chair’s proposed 2022 package adds this investment, in recognition that hiring and retention investments are important.

Mayor Durkan has proposed hiring incentive program that has dramatically changed over a very short time. Those changes have significant 2022 budget implications that the Council has the responsibility to analyze. Just two short months ago, Mayor Durkan proposed a program that benefited only SPD recruits, with $15,000 for lateral hires and $7,500 for new hires. Then, two weeks ago, she proposed a different program altogether, with a different cost, and without sufficient funding provided in her proposed 2022 budget to support it.

When the Mayor proposed her first version of a bonus program, the Council majority decided we needed  to spend additional time on this issue during the annual budget process, because Central Staff had determined that the Executive has documented staffing shortages and accompanying service delivery issues in several departments. The impacts of COVID on employment have been unprecedented, both for the private sector as well as the public sector with people leaving their jobs and with sustained vacancies across most employment sectors.

This Council  values the delivery of city services of staff from all the city’s departments. Consequently, we need to consider vacancies across all city departments and whether we need to develop a hiring bonus program to fulfill hiring goals and service delivery obligations in other departments

Further, if we are considering hiring bonuses for hires to other departments, we need to consider the possible citywide cost.  Mayor Durkan recently issued an Executive Order for an entirely different hiring bonuses program from the one she proposed in August, this one for police officers and 911 dispatchers.

But Mayor Durkan’s proposed 2022 budget did not include sufficient resources to support the hiring bonus program that she proposed.

It’s important to consider that an April 2019 SPD analysis of the previous incentive program found only 18% of SPD applicants (20% among applicants of color and 19% among female-identifying applicants) cited the incentive as an “important factor” in their decision to apply.

One new proposal the Council will be considering during upcoming budget deliberations is a Councilmember amendment to reject Mayor Durkan’s hiring incentive program for recruits to the Seattle Police Department. I will be making a proposal to allow the current hiring incentive program under Mayor Durkan’s Executive Order to continue through December 31, 2021 .  A separate budget action requires a report on the need for a Citywide hiring incentive program and requests recommendations for staffing and vacancy issues that are occurring among frontline workers; causing a service issue with the public; or inhibiting a department from fulfilling a core function. The Council may amend the current hiring incentive program to cover necessary hiring bonuses for recruits in other departments.

My original budget action would have reserved $1.09 million to support a 2022 bonus hiring incentive. Though this funding wasn’t included in the balancing package, I am still seeking a path to fund a 2022 bonus hiring incentive program.

Apply by Today for Individual Cash Assistance from the Seattle Relief Fund

The Seattle Relief Fund application closes at midnight on Monday! The City of Seattle is offering $16 million in one-time financial assistance to residents impacted by the pandemic. To learn more about eligibility or apply: http://seattlerelief.com or 206-775-7490.

Support Is Available for Family Caregivers

“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

-First Lady Rosalynn Carter

November is Family Caregiver Support Month, and I was proud to bring a proclamation to Seattle City Council that…

  • recognizes family caregivers as the backbone of our long-term care system and contributors to the strength of families and communities;
  • encourages individuals who are able to provide respite for a family caregiver for a couple hours, a day, or overnight; and
  • encourages all Seattle residents to take time to learn about services that can support caregivers’ physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

More family caregivers need to know that help is available. Community Living Connections (1-844-348-5464) is Seattle-King County’s one-stop-shop for questions related to aging, disability, and caregiving – including caregiver support services. All calls are confidential, and calls, consultations, referrals, and most services are free of charge.

I also want to thank the Human Services Department’s Aging and Disability Services for coordinating the annual African American Caregivers Forum on Saturday, Nov. 13 from Noon-2 p.m., and to the Human Services Department, Age Friendly Seattle, and Mayor’s Council on African American Elders for co-sponsoring.

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