(SCROLL DOWN for afternoon & evening updates)
(Video of today’s committee meeting)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The City Council’s final budget decisions are getting closer.
In a two-session review today, at 9:30 am and 2 pm, councilmembers will start voting on changes to the budget presented by the mayor last month. As Budget Committee chair, West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold has come up with the almost-final list of changes, formally known as the “revised balancing package.” The proposals are all linked from the agenda.
One potential showdown is over the “head tax,” a per-employee tax for businesses with a certain level of revenue. In her newest online update, Herbold calls the proposal “exciting” and says it “would provide sustained, ongoing funding for addressing the homelessness emergency and related items” and that “because it is an ongoing revenue source, the City could bond against this new revenue in the future.”
Opponents include a coalition of 90+ businesses, including a half-dozen-plus from West Seattle, that sent a letter (see it here) to the council on Monday, saying, “We need a compassionate and effective approach to solving homelessness. This proposed tax on jobs is not that, and comes on top of significant increases in business taxes, fees and utility rates that the Council has adopted in the last three years.” (Added 10:22 am: In opening remarks at today’s meeting, Herbold explained changes in the proposal, including a doubling of the threshold for the revenue level at which businesses would be affected, now $10 million.)
The items listed for discussion/votes today include an alternative proposal from Councilmember Bruce Harrell proposing that “the Executive work cooperatively with the Council to develop and participate in a community-led stakeholder engagement process around the establishment of an Employee Hours Tax and/or other revenue source.”
Also likely to be a hot topic, the topic of encampment removals. The “proviso” that has made it onto the list for discussion is Herbold’s alternative, which spells out accountability for determine where the city is removing them and why, not others’ proposals to all but shut them down.
And there’s a proposal from Councilmember Mike O’Brien to set aside $750,000 for at least 13 “safe parking” sites for people living in RVs and other vehicles.
The dozens of other potential budget changes that made this list also include two we’ve mentioned recently that specifically relate to West Seattle, including one related to noise/cruising violations on Alki:
By March 16, 2018, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is requested to submit a report to the Councilmember representing Council District 1, the Chair of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New Americans Committee, and Council Central Staff Director on SPD’s enforcement policies and practices with respect to vehicle noise and cruising in the Alki neighborhood during the warm-weather months.
And then there’s the item related to the forthcoming Delridge RapidRide conversion. Herbold staffer Newell Aldrich clarified for us that this is intended to add a greater level of transparency earlier in the process.
Again, the full list of what will be discussed in 9:30 am and 2 pm sessions today is here – each item in blue links to the document summarizing the proposal. You can watch live via Seattle Channel, online or channel 21. A final budget vote is planned next Monday; any last-minute thoughts, e-mail councilmembers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADDED 2:32 PM: The first budget meeting of the day ran four hours, to within half an hour of the scheduled start of the second one, so the council decided to reconvene tomorrow morning instead. Among the decisions made: The “head tax” was voted down, with Councilmembers Bruce Harrell, Debora Juarez, Lorena González, Rob Johnson, and Sally Bagshaw voting “no.” There was a general commitment to bring back another version soon.
ADDED 6:14 PM: We’ve replaced the no-longer-needed live video window above with the archived video of today’s meeting. As you’ll hear in the final minutes, the rest of the reason they adjourned this afternoon to regroup for tomorrow is because the rejection of the “head tax” meant some subsequent proposals no longer had funding. Tomorrow’s agenda calls for a public-comment session at 9:30 am, then adjournment until 11 am.