6:09 PM: Want to talk with a city councilmember about how your money is spent – and will be spent? Now until 8 pm, you have a prime chance at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in North Delridge. Three councilmembers are here so far for the Public Safety/Civil Rights-focused workshop looking ahead to the 2015-2016 budget cycle – Nick Licata, who chairs the budget committee; Tim Burgess, who’s the president of the council; and Bruce Harrell, who chairs the public safety/civil rights/technology committee. Tom Rasmussen, the lone West Seattle-residing councilmember, is said to be en route. (Added: He arrived around 6:30.) The presentation hasn’t started yet, but we’re told it’s fairly short, and then it’s your turn to talk. More to come.
6:19 PM: City budget director Ben Noble is leading the presentation. He explains that right now the process of making the next budget plan is “in the executive phase” – departments send in their proposals this month and next, then the mayor reviews them over the summer, and a proposed budget goes to the council this fall. The current city budget is $4.4 billion; utilities and transportation spending comprise more than half that. But, Noble explains, most of the decisionmaking focuses on just $1 billion of that $4.4 billion – the “general fund.” More than half of that, in turn, goes to public safety – $576 million in the current cycle, says Noble. (Some of the information he’s presenting is on this two-page doc from the city website; we’re promised a copy of the slide deck, to come; ADDED – here it is.) Of that, a bit more than half – $289 million – goes to SPD. $175 million goes to SFD.
How much in the SPD budget goes to items related to the Department of Justice settlement? asked local community activist Pete Spalding. Hard to break that out, city staff said; Councilmember Harrell picked it up by saying, “You’ll hear different numbers,” noting that it’s led to the creation of new units, for example, such as Force Investigation (which was launched by now-Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske before his assignment to the local precinct, by the way).
6:43 PM: Questions so far include how budget items relate to, for example, SPD officers’ union and contract. Councilmember Harrell offered the example that the council might budget money for, say, body cameras, but if they weren’t written into the contract as a change of terms of employment, the money might sit there unspent, though “we’d find a way to use it,” Harrell added. West Seattle Be Prepared‘s Cindi Barker asked how much of the city budget goes toward preparedness; city staffers said they’d look it up. We have to move on to another meeting – but again, if you have questions/ideas, drop in at Youngstown, 4408 Delridge Way SW, until 8, and tell city reps about your public-safety-budget priorities (or send them via e-mail – lots of contact info on the right side of this page).