The following article was sent out in my City View Newsletter, which you can sign up to receive here.
Yesterday afternoon the Council unanimously approved the City’s 2014 budget.
Many changes lay ahead for your City government (a new mayor, a new councilmember, the pending change to district-based Council elections in 2015), but our funding priorities for next year remain the same: making neighborhoods safer, increasing opportunity for our children, and supporting our most vulnerable residents.
The Mayor’s budget, delivered to us in September, included many new spending proposals but also increased the City’s financial reserves. The Council acted on amendments to his proposal after listening to hundreds of people from across Seattle in public hearings and through emails, letters and phone calls.
This was my second year as the Council’s Budget Committee chair and we continued to sharpen our focus on programs that are evidence-based and proven to work. Dedicated City staff spent countless hours analyzing and crunching both numbers and program outcomes.
With city revenues inching upward following the Great Recession, the Council strategically invested in the following areas:
Public Safety. The Council approved $3.1 million to enhance public safety in all neighborhoods, including downtown. This funding comes in addition to the Mayor’s proposal to add 25 more officers to the ranks of the police department.
Education and Early Learning. We took another major step toward providing voluntary, universal preschool for the city's three- and four-year-old children by funding the design of the program and its high-quality standards. Advancing universal preschool will help us reduce inequality, close the academic achievement gap, reduce crime and teen pregnancies, and create a stronger future workforce for our city.
The Council also added funding to train more child care providers in evidence-based teaching strategies and directed that a new Department of Education and Early Learning be created next year.
Homeless Families and Young Adults. The Council added $880,000 to move families and young adults living on the streets into housing. The City will step in to fill a federal cut to a young adult homeless shelter and we increased our support for homeless families and those living in their vehicles to move toward permanent housing.
The list of other investments made by the Council touches on the full spectrum of issue areas and illustrates the challenges we face when deciding whether to fund one initiative or another. It includes line items like tenant stability assistance, staffing for the City’s Gender Equity Initiative, a new prosecutor to respond to complex DUI cases, and an analysis of the potential economic impact of raising the minimum wage, among many others.
I hope you can enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. Thank you for allowing me to continue to serve as your councilmember. It’s a great job.