Budget Deliberations Begin for 2023/24 / Park District Cycle 2 Budget Vote / West Seattle Bridge Monitoring / Public Safety and Human Services Committee Update / SMC to Resume Late Fee Collection / Council Edition / Support a Diaper Drive


Budget Deliberations Begin for 2023/24

On Tuesday, Mayor Harrell delivered his proposed city budget for 2023 and 2024 to Seattle City Council.  At 744 pages, it will take my staff and me some time to deeply understand what’s included!  If you’re interested in seeing what the Mayor has proposed for a specific department, or what assumptions were used for revenue forecasts, this website has all the links you’ll need: 2023-2024 Proposed Budget – City Budget Office | seattle.gov.

Here’s an overview of Council’s budget process:

Two issues jump out at me immediately – these will be my priorities during budget season:

  1. Funding to keep the life-saving services of Ladder Truck 37 and Medic Unit 26 in District 1.
  2. Fully funding inflationary increases for human services providers as required by law.

Ladder Truck 37 and Medic Unit 26:  I’ve written before about the importance of keeping these resources in District 1 permanently.  The historically underserved areas that receive life-saving assistance from our first responders at Fire Station 37 and Fire Station 26 need these resources in 2023.  Without the ladder truck at Station 37, there is only one ladder truck to serve all of West Seattle.

This issue was recently featured in MyNorthwest:

I will sponsor an amendment to restore these services. Your voices – as District 1 residents who rely on these life-saving services – will be essential to persuade my Council colleagues to add funding for this purpose.  I’ll keep you informed about opportunities to advocate over the next couple of months of the budget process.  In fact – mark your calendars for the first Public Hearing at 5:00pm on Tuesday 10/11.  Learn how to participate here.

Wage Increases for Human Services Providers:  By law, the City budget must include an annual increase for human services providers, pegged to the rate of inflation, so that they don’t fall behind financially.  This year, that figure is 7.6% – but the Mayor’s proposed budget only includes 4%.

This is a $20 million blow to the nonprofit organizations and their staff, who provide absolutely mission-critical services to Seattle residents and are often unable to offer living wages to the frontline staff who do this essential work.

I can point to numerous instances in the last two years when Council has provided funding to accomplish an essential and desperately-needed goal, but the funds went unspent because of nonprofits’ difficulty finding staff willing to work for such low wages.

  • The King County Regional Homelessness Authority has reported that, “Providers face significant vacancy rates. The five largest service providers alone have more than 300 vacant positions.”
  • Yesterday, the Seattle Times reported on affordable housing and shelter buildings remaining empty, because of severe staffing shortages.
  • During public comment, we heard from nonprofit leaders who have already passed budgets that provide modest but essential wage increases for staff, on the strength of their trust in the City to follow the law and fully fund the required increase.

Council’s intent is to advance nonprofit workers wages, not force them further behind.  In fact, the mayor was serving on the Council when the law was approved – and he voted in its favor.

This failure to provide an increase that acknowledges the crushing reality of inflation on nonprofit providers – will come back to haunt us, if it stands.  I will be looking for every opportunity to address this gap and ensure our nonprofit partners receive the funding they are entitled to by law.

What’s Next?  For the next week, my staff and I, my colleagues, and our Council analysts will be poring over budget documents, asking key questions, and beginning to draft our budget amendments.  We’ll begin budget deliberations in earnest on Tuesday, October 11th.  The first public hearing is 5pm on Tuesday 10/11.  Sign up to provide testimony starting at 3pm that day at Public Comment – Council | seattle.gov.

Park District Cycle 2 Budget Vote

On Monday, I joined my colleagues on the Park District Board to vote for final approval of the plan for the next six years of Park District funding, known as “Cycle 2.”  The Park District will provide about 30% of the funding for Seattle Parks & Recreation; the rest will be provided through the City budget, now under consideration.

I’m pleased that many District 1 priorities were funded in the Cycle 2 package:

  • West Seattle is getting a new Off-Leash Area: We are lucky to have strong advocates in the West Seattle Dog Park Coalition, who consistently showed up to provide public testimony in favor of Seattle’s furry friends. Because of their advocacy, the City is getting 2 new dog parks – one in West Seattle – and a third will be planned.
  • Marra-Desimone Park is getting a new play area: I sponsored an amendment that provides funding for this long-planned play area in 2023, as well as funding for the Garfield Super Block project.
  • The new parks at Morgan Junction, West Seattle Junction, and 48th & Charlestown, whose construction was delayed by the pandemic, will be built during Cycle 2.
  • Hours will be extended at the Southwest Teen Life Center.

Cycle 2 also includes language stating the Park District Board’s intent that by 2029, Seattle Parks & Recreation will decarbonize half its community centers. This is a stretch goal, which will require resources beyond Cycle 2 to accomplish.

Other priorities that were included: an Equity Fund that community members can apply to for small local projects; the ability to add hearing loops to parks buildings; and $1 million annually to replace trees in Seattle’s developed parks, which will be matched with private donations to reach the goal of no net tree loss.

The Park District package also includes proposed performance and accountability measures, which will be reported quarterly to the Park District board.

West Seattle Bridge Monitoring

The West Seattle Bridge repair is performing as expected. A 24/7 monitoring system operates inside the bridge, with hundreds of sensors.

SDOT will be conducting visual inspections of the bridge, inside and outside. SDOT reports that this week crews finished installation of the lighting inside the bridge adjacent to the permanent inspection platforms.

Photo: SDOT

Public Safety and Human Services Committee Update

The Public Safety and Human Services Committee met on September 27. Updates on items heard in the committee are below.

  • The Mayor’s Office and Seatle Police Department presented on their Risk Managed Demand (RMD) Analysis.

As a reminder, this is a follow-up study to the 911 call analysis developed in 2021 by the National Institute for Criminal Justice (commonly referred to as the “Nicjr” report). That report analyzed 911 calls from 2017 to 2019 and SPD reported, in July of 2021, that “in the near term up to 12% of calls for service can be responded to without SPD involvement,” and “with further analysis, it is likely that additional calls can be diverted without compromising safety for both responders and subjects.”  Yet, a year later, no alternate response has been developed, despite the Council taking several actions in support of that effort both before and after the July 2021 NICJR report and a 2020 Durkan Executive Order.

The reason? Because SPD decided that the RMD analysis should be done because the Nicjr report only analyzed how the call was originally classified, the RMD analysis also includes how a call was resolved, which can differ from the original classification.  The Council agreed that this would be good information to have.

Here’s the RMD Phase One Report; Presentation; and RMD data analysis.  While I have questions about the model and the analysis, the good news appears to be support for SPD’s earlier assessment coming out of the NICJR report last year on the percentage of call types.  The RMD analysis says that “in addition to low-risk crisis contacts, Tier 3 responses include 49 call types (13.8% of responses), including low-level calls for assistance, mediation of disputes, and initial investigation of noise complaints.”  The problem is, in my mind, Tier 3, as defined, now assumes a police assist, despite that this year last year, SPD said that these calls wouldn’t need a police assist and despite the fact, the Denver STAR program has operated for over a year to answer these calls without a single call for police backup.  The Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) is a non-police emergency response team dispatched to calls directly by 911 dispatch, without a police presence. The teams engage individuals experiencing crises related to mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse. In its first 18 months, it has successfully responded to 5,500 911 calls, and has never required a backup from law enforcement.

I am grateful that the RMD analysis memo states: “This technical brief is provided in the spirit of collaborative development. The SPD recognizes emergency response and more general requests for service from our community as a City responsibility” and I am hopeful that the separate, but related effort previewed in a recent newsletter, will bear fruit sooner.  That collaboration with the Mayor’s Office is to develop a pilot to implement an alternative 911 response for calls not needing a uniformed police response.

We’ve agreed to a timetable for a comprehensive emergency response policy proposal and a pilot program proposal by the end of the year.

That legislation – a first-of-its-kind – will guarantee app-based delivery drivers a minimum compensation to help tens of thousands of delivery workers make ends meet, increase transparency, and protect flexibility.

In this panel we heard from people doing app-based work, one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy, address an issue not covered in the Council legislation, but that many of these workers face. This is the issue of being prohibited from working these types of jobs either because of deactivation or based on an automated background check. Large gig companies rely on automation. We heard stories about workers being prevented from doing work because of a background check that was found to be based on a different person altogether.  We heard about workers being deactivated without even knowing why.

I want to thank Drive Forward and Working Washington – and specifically – the workers James and Carman – for coming to the committee this week, taking the time out of your wage-earning day, to share their personal experiences.

We anticipate taking this issue back up with stakeholders following the conclusion of the Council’s budget process in December.


SMC to Resume Late Fee Collection

The Seattle Municipal Court (SMC) recently announced that they will resume the late fee for Seattle infraction tickets that are past their due date beginning January 30, 2023.

Ticket late fees and collections have been suspended since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began. The SMC estimates that there are over 288,000 tickets that could be impacted if they remain unpaid.

The late fee is an additional $25 for parking and camera tickets and an additional $52 for traffic tickets.

The SMC is still determining an exact date, but the soonest unpaid tickets will be sent to collections is April 1, 2023.

Members of the public should respond to their tickets by January 30, 2023, to avoid the late fee and other consequences. There are several options for responding to tickets:

If you have unpaid tickets you can look them up by searching for your license plate number on the court’s case information portal under “Vehicle Information.” They can also look up traffic tickets by searching their first and last name under “Defendant Search.”

Council Edition

This week I joined District 1’s Brian Callahan and my colleague CM Mosqueda on Council Edition to talk about non-police alternatives responses to 911 calls, budget priorities, and an emerging vision for Third Avenue.  You can watch here.

Support a Diaper Drive

This is Diaper Need Awareness Week, a time when advocates remind us that 23% of King County’s families struggle to afford enough diapers to keep their kids clean, comfortable, and healthy.  Luckily, District 1’s WestSide Baby is on the job; last year they distributed 2.5 million diapers to families across western King County, working with 100+ partner agencies to reach families in need.

Some facts about diaper need:

  • Black, Indigenous, and families of color in King County experience diaper need at rates of two to three times the average.
  • The average cost of diapers has increased 22% since 2018 due to inflation; more than half of Black and Latino households report the price increases have caused them “serious financial problems.”
  • 60% of parents experiencing diaper insecurity in 2021 missed school or work because they didn’t have enough diapers to leave at daycare or to get through the day.
  • Out of desperation, caregivers may re-use dirty diapers or resort to paper towels, t-shirts, and plastic bags. These actions can have long-term effects on health and well-being. Studies show the stress from diaper need increases the likelihood of a mother suffering from maternal depression and mental health problems.

I was glad to present WestSide Baby’s leader, Sarah Cody Roth, with a proclamation celebrating the week; thanking the dedicated diaper banks, staff, volunteers, and donors; and encouraging Seattle residents to donate generously to diaper drives.  You can help by donating diapers and other needed supplies: Donate Items – WestSide Baby.