CITY BUDGET PROPOSAL: West Seattle Bridge funding, Parks changes, and other toplines of interest

Just a week after the conclusion of a battle over “rebalancing” the current city budget, the 2-month process of working on a new budget has just begun. Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s proposal is now public, released in connection with the prerecorded speech you can watch above. Here’s the 751-page document:

Reporters got a preview this morning, with the mayor as well as city budget director Ben Noble and staff; we participated. It’s a $6.5 billion budget – about $2 billion of that for the city-run utilities. While the mayor says the COVID-19-caused shortfall will be largely covered by the new “JumpStart” tax, she also said more than once that it’s time to get busy on a city income tax.

From both the briefing and our scan of the document, here are some specific points of interest:

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE: The budget proposes $100 million – the $70 million recently advanced by a City Council vote, and $30 million more. We asked at the briefing, what happens if it costs more to get the bridge back in service, whether by repairs or replacement? Noble said they’re well aware they’ll likely need to spend more, and SDOT is working on that. The mayor added that they’re hoping for state/federal assistance – the former in recognition of the bridge serving the port, “the heartbeat for much of the commerce in the Pacific Northwest,” the latter because they already have “broad support” from our state’s congressional delegation. “In any other year, this would be” the budget headline, Durkan observed, but this year, the pandemic and the fight for equity are atop the list. She also noted that the city is working on “ways to help businesses” as well as mobility issues for people ‘including front-line health-care workers.” Another bridge-related expenditure mentioned at the briefing: $4 million to continue stationing an extra Seattle Fire ladder truck and medic unit on this side of the Duwamish River while the bridge is out.

PARKS: With so much park property in West Seattle, this spending is always of interest. The mayor’s budget anticipates only opening four of the city’s 10 swimming pools next year. Southwest Pool is one of them, but this means Colman Pool will be closed for a second year. Hiawatha Community Center will be closed all year, though that’s planned in connection with the stabilization work. The budget also proposes converting Alki Community Center from a full-service community center “to a childcare and preschool hub,” which would save $100,000 in operating costs. Many capital projects will remain deferred – West Seattle has several in waiting, including three landbanked parks (Junction, Morgan expansion, and 48th/Charlestown). The prospect of a new Park District levy – deferred for a year though the current one is expiring now – might be needed to raise money for capital projects.

POLICE/LAW: The City Attorney’s Office plans to go back to combining the Precinct Liaison positions for the South and Southwest Precincts. As for the public-safety-reform big picture, from the “budget book” overview:

• The Seattle Police Department was budgeted for 1,422 sworn officers in the 2020 Adopted budget, but will only be funded for 1,400 in 2021. The IDT referenced above will work in the fall of 2020 and into early 2021 to assess the appropriate force size for the long run.

• SPD’s Parking Enforcement unit and its 120 employees will be transferred to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

• The Office of Emergency Management, which coordinates the City’s efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and emergencies, will be moved out of SPD and become an independent office.

• The existing 9-1-1 Communications Center, currently housed in SPD, will also be transferred out into its own independent, stand-alone unit. As non-sworn, community-based alternative responses to calls are developed, the 9-1-1 Communications Center, now to be called the Seattle Emergency Communications Center, will be crucial in dispatching those responses.

• The 2021 budget will make permanent the transfer of the Seattle Police Department’s Victim Advocacy Team to the Human Services Department (HSD). This transfer was initially made by the City Council in the 2020 2nd Quarter Supplemental Budget Ordinance. This team is comprised of 11 FTEs and a budget of $1.25 million. These resources will be added to the proposed new Safe and Thriving Communities Division in HSD.

(Here’s how Chief Adrian Diaz summarizes it.) The mayor said she’ll unveil her vision for the future of the homelessness-addressing Navigation Team separately, soon. Meantime, no, there is NOT any proposal to close the Southwest Precinct, as once suggested by the former chief. Its operational budget is in for $17 million, down from $18 million this year.

SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY: One thing noted in passing during the briefing, and also underscored in the “budget book” (page 147) – some library-levy dollars that were supposed to go toward expanded hours will instead be shifted to cover basic services/operations. So that could mean reduced hours once libraries are fully open again.

OTHER DEPARTMENTS: We’re still reading! More coverage to come.

WHAT’S NEXT: The budget proposal goes to the City Council, and they start almost two months of meetings, hearings, proposals, and counterproposals. First meeting is tomorrow, 9:30 am – here’s the agenda. Meantime, there’s of course a lot more in the budget, and we’ll

15 Replies to "CITY BUDGET PROPOSAL: West Seattle Bridge funding, Parks changes, and other toplines of interest"

  • KayK September 29, 2020 (4:17 pm)

    Does this seem like a cut to the funding that Councilperson Herbold got added to help add service to some of our underserved bus routes like the 131? (Pg. 34 of Transportation .pdf)  

    Transit Operations

    The Purpose of the Transit Operations Program is to purchase Metro Transit service hours on routes with at least 65% of the stops within the city of Seattle and to support regional transit service in conjunction with other cities, transit agencies, and transportation benefit districts who contribute to the cost of providing regional transit service. The program also funds ORCA Opportunity which provides youth ORCA cards for Seattle Public Schools Students, Seattle Promise scholarship students or similar programs. The program also funds and administers a $20 low-income VLF rebate to qualified individuals and supports access to transit service for low-income riders. The Transit Operations program revenues support the implementation of City-wide improvements to maximize transit operations.

    2019 Actuals
    2020 Adopted
    2021 Proposed

         Transit Operations 59,166,887 66,851,338 7,343,447

    • WSB September 29, 2020 (4:22 pm)

      One thing Ben Noble said during the briefing.- I am going to write a whole separate “transportation besides the WS Bridge” story – is that this budget does NOT include potential funding from the STBD measure that’s on the November ballot. If that passes, money goes to transit, including what she had written into the STBD legislation.

      • KayK September 29, 2020 (8:10 pm)

        Thanks!! Always appreciate your deep dive into these matters. We’ll see how the modifications from Council play into it too.

  • Jennymustgo September 29, 2020 (8:12 pm)

    So it seems like the mayor is taking funds designed for other purposes (such as libraries) and repurposing them because she’s unwilling to make cuts to the police that the majority of the city and 7 councilmembers have indicated they want. And she’s decided to use a $100 million that she vetoed this summer – guess it’s a good thing the council overrode her, huh?

    • Canton September 30, 2020 (6:47 am)

      If the “majority” wants these cuts, put it to a public vote.

    • Bronson September 30, 2020 (7:17 am)

      How have the majority of the city indicated that they want cuts made to the police? Was there a vote on that? Of course not, but I would be thrilled if that was the case because I’m fairly confident that the actual majority would defeat such a preposterous proposal sans any real plan for what’s next. Do the police need reforming? Absolutely? Do we want to just make mindless cuts with no real plan? Absolutely not. 

    • Anne September 30, 2020 (7:39 am)

      Yes the majority of the CC want that-but I’m not sure that the majority of the city feels the same. 

  • wsguy123 September 29, 2020 (9:04 pm)

    • SPD’s Parking Enforcement unit and its 120 employees will be transferred to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

    They apparently haven’t been doing anything, as far as tickets, for months. I know about the 72 hour rule being suspended but what I am seeing and what I have proven on a small scale is they aren’t ticketing cars with expired license plates. I reported a few vehicles on California Ave, one with October 2019 tabs and one with July 2020. Both reported months ago. No ticket and they are so full of leaves and decay, you can tell they haven’t moved. Also a ticket would probably motivate them to get new tabs since the ticket is so high. PEOs will drive right by a vehilce on California with expired tabs. For those who have been paying them like me, why should we if there are no consequences? I tried asking several times with the city report a problem section on their website, no one every replies. Everyone should be equally accountable under the same laws.

    • bolo September 29, 2020 (10:54 pm)

      “They apparently haven’t been doing anything, as far as tickets, for months.”

      NOT true. We got a parking ticket last month.

    • 1994 September 30, 2020 (8:40 pm)

      Try reporting them as abandoned vehicles. That may get some action if they haven’t moved in months. I also notice many, many expired license tabs from 2019! 

  • Kathy September 29, 2020 (10:54 pm)

    It’s sad to see what’s become of Alki Community Center compared to what it was in years past (80’s and 90’s). I attended many classes there, dance, exercise, dog obedience training, with social gatherings and rollerskating. They’ve chipped away at the programs for years until they finally plan to put the final nail in the coffin. And Hiawatha will be shuttered for another year or two.  Then you have way more upscale neighborhoods like Montlake with a fully functioning and renovated community center. I guess it’s a moot issue for the time being since all the community centers are closed for the pandemic.  OK, end of nostalgia rant…younger residents of Alki don’t even know what they missed.

    • WSAlum September 30, 2020 (1:59 pm)

      Kathy, great post. Growing up in WS, Alki CC and Hiawatha CC used to be a “go to” place for kids and the community. Probably still would be if it was open.When you include the change at Southwest, and closing Hiawatha for a year, West Seattle has basically lost all their community centers while others get remodeled and get to stay open. I guess the kids and families in WS just don’t matter or compare to Montlake, Green Lake or Ballard. With people working from home and the bridge down you’d think the City would want the kids and families of WS to have a Community Center to go too. Maybe the conversation of making West Seattle its own city should start up again. At least we could fund a community center and maintain our bridge.

      • WSB September 30, 2020 (2:19 pm)

        Just to clarify, two West Seattle community centers will be open – High Point and Delridge. Don’t know yet how operating hours etc. will be affected, though. Doing my best to monitor the entire process this time – the council in fact right this moment is getting Parks toplines including these. – TR

  • Heartless? September 30, 2020 (11:53 am)

    So “equity” trumps infrastructure?  I understand the pandemic being first priority, but equity over infrastructure?  EMERGENCY infrastructure? These are the decisions we get when our city leaders kow-tow to the mobs. 

  • Mj September 30, 2020 (4:12 pm)

    Heartless – infrastructure has unfortunately taken a back seat for years, the City continues to rob Peter to pay Paul.  WS residents are paying a huge price for this underfunding.  The WSB is fixable and they need to get on with it with no further delay.  The City has the money it’s just a matter of getting Paul to pay back the money.

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