That’s the budget speech Mayor Bruce Harrell gave earlier this afternoon, with our area’s big shoutout coming when he talked about transportation spending and noted the reopening of the West Seattle Bridge. From the audience assembled at SDOT’s Charles Street yard, District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold yelled out, “You can’t have One Seattle without West Seattle!” echoing what the mayor said a week and a half ago when politicians gathered for pre-reopening speeches.
But transportation was not at the top of the list in the mayor’s speech, marking his release of a budget proposal for 2023-2024. What was: Public safety, followed by homelessness. Those two topics took up a big chunk of the speech. He promised major investments in police and fire, as well as money toward “diversifying 911 response” and a third public-safety department aimed at that goal. He also announced he’d be undoing a controversial move made before he was elected – taking Parking Enforcement Officers out of SPD and moving them to SDOT. You might recall that the move was so bungled, millions of dollars in tickets had to be voided. As for SPD staffing, the budget summary expresses a hope that the trend of losing officers can be stopped and reversed, to post a net gain over the next two years.
One thing that’s not in the public-safety section of the proposal, according to a summary we received: Continued funding for SFD Ladder 13 and Medic 26, added in West Seattle/South Park for the bridge closure. We reported earlier this month on the fact they only had guaranteed funding through year’s end. So the only way to keep them now would be a council amendment to the budget; Herbold said in her most-recent weekly update that she’ll propose one if necessary.
Regarding tackling homelessness, the mayor declared: “Lack of housing is the source of homelessness.” He promised to get more housing built – saying he’s proposing an added quarter-billion dollars toward affordable housing – and to remove red tape that slows the construction-permitting process. He also said the city would increase its funding for the Regional Homelessness Authority by 13 percent, including more than $2 million for new tiny-house villages and $5 million for residential-vehicle “safe lots.” The Unified Care Team, a multidepartmental group that has worked on outreach, cleanup, and sweeps, will be turned into geographically based teams, Harrell said.
When he got to transportation, Harrell spoke about electrifying the city fleet and supporting the Vision Zero program (which new SDOT director Greg Spotts has said he’s thoroughly reviewing). Besides a mention of the bridge and the importance of infrastructure, he also said the city will step up its work related to the West Seattle-Ballard Link Extensions light-rail program, hiring “a team” including engineers. One note of interest for those who live in West Seattle’s two Residential Parking Zones:
The proposed budget is also making changes to the Restricted Parking Zone fees. The fees will increase from $65 per two years to $95 per two years, along with other fee changes for guest passes and temporary passes. Low-income passes will remain the same.
Other key budget points are in the news release from the mayor’s office, including links to “fact sheets” in areas of emphasis. A more detailed budget summary is here; the full “budget book” is here. Various city departments are all publishing their own takes on what’s in it for them; you can find those aggregated here.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Starting tomorrow, the City Council reviews and amends the mayor’s plan over the next two months. Councilmember Herbold’s most-recent weekly update summarizes how that’ll work and how you can get involved, including key dates – scroll to the last section here.
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