Seattle City Council passes 2022 budget that emphasizes funding for homeless people and affordable housing

Seattle City Council has definitively approved a 2022 budget that prioritizes affordable housing, homelessness and responding to economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, while reducing Mayor Jenny Durkan’s vision for the Seattle Police Department.

Council members voted 8-1 on Tuesday to pass an amended $ 7.1 billion budget that invests more than $ 200 million in affordable housing and homelessness solutions and cuts by about 10 billion million dollars funding unspent salaries from the SPD budget.

While the budget reflected in many ways the stated priorities of board members – including housing, homelessness and mental health response – a $ 15 million shortfall caused by the pandemic and a wedge between City leaders on police funding led to a half-hearted consensus on the council.

“For all of us here on the board, I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself, voting for this budget doesn’t necessarily mean agreement with every item, but means respecting the process,” board member Andrew Lewis said. Monday the budget, which includes:

• $ 355 million for the Seattle Police Department, including funds to hire 125 officers in 2022, a decrease of over $ 7 million from last year and a reduction of $ 9.9 million compared to the budget proposed by Durkan.

  • A $ 194 million investment in affordable housing, with $ 97 million funded by the council’s JumpStart payroll tax revenue.
  • Authorization of up to $ 100 million in bonds to repair bridges around town.
  • $ 16.4 million for the Green New Deal and investments in climate resilience.
  • $ 15.4 million in new funding for homeless services under the new regional authority for the homeless.
  • Over $ 10 million for short-term housing solutions in small house villages.
  • $ 5 million to help create a high acuity shelter with community and county partners to help stabilize homeless people facing health crises.
  • $ 2.5 million to expand mobile mental and behavioral health crisis services.
  • $ 3.9 million increase for the city’s LEAD post-arrest / pre-booking diversion program.
  • $ 1.5 million in proximity vehicles and safe bundles for people living in vehicles.

Although several board members shared Lewis’ sentiment on Monday, committee chair Teresa Mosqueda celebrated the votes on the budget in a statement, touting the board’s response to COVID and associated revenue shortfalls.

“The council’s 2022 budget responds to the most urgent crises facing our city as a result of COVID and rising income inequalities by creating affordable housing, sheltering more homeless people, ensuring economic recovery equitable and investing in public safety, ”Mosqueda said.

Council member Kshama Sawant, who faces a recall vote in her district next month, cast the only vote against the budget, citing a lack of progressive reforms.

“This year’s budget deliberations and last year couldn’t be more different. These differences are reflected in cities across the country, ”Sawant said, noting that the 2021 budget process took place in the immediate wake of racial justice protests during the murder of George Floyd.

A supporter of the Solidarity Budget – a budget written by activists that proposes to cut the police department’s budget by 50% and invest the money in the community, the environment and other non-police causes – Sawant a stated that she supported several amendments, but could not support the budget as a whole.

“This year council members have gone to great lengths to say that the police budget is increasing slightly, which is true in real terms. But what’s striking about this is that council members are going too far to make sure everyone knows that the police budget is actually increasing, ”Sawant said. “This is a real contrast to last year, the same police budget was described by the same council members as being on track to fund the police by 50% which was not true. “

While Sawant was the only member to vote against the budget, she wasn’t the only one who believed further SPD cuts might have benefited the community.

“It has been a difficult fiscal year, in my opinion, made more difficult by a reluctance to reject some very troubling budget practices of our police service,” Board member Tammy Morales said at the meeting, listing supportive housing, past rent payments and other investments she would have preferred to fund with further cuts to the $ 19 million in salary savings from the SPD out of the 134 vacant posts in Durkan’s budget.

While the budget fully funds current SPD staff and plans to hire 125 new officers in 2022, it cuts Durkan’s proposed police budget by $ 9.9 million in salary savings on positions that are expected to remain vacant in. 2022.

Durkan and Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell have both said in recent weeks that the council’s proposed budget goes too far in cutting public safety funding.

“The mayor will review the latest changes proposed by council. The mayor assesses the continuing impacts of the council’s continued cuts on public safety in an era of gun violence, increasing response times to 911 and the record number of officer departures, ”an office spokesperson said Monday evening. of the mayor, while also acknowledging the council for maintaining investments in housing, small businesses and other common priority areas.

A representative for mayor-elect Bruce Harrell said on Monday that the budget did not align with some of Harrell’s public safety priorities.

“The budget approved by the Council does not contain all the investments in public safety that the elected mayor would have liked to see. However, it does support funding reinstated last week for additional community service workers, ”spokesperson Jamie Housen wrote in an email Monday.

“For future budgets, including the second distribution of American Rescue Plan Act funds early next year, the mayor-elect looks forward to being involved in the process early on and working with council to better align goals and produce budgets that best reflect the priorities demanded by the people of Seattle, ”Housen wrote.

The council also began to set the tone for ongoing priorities by approving resolutions calling on King County and Washington State to “increase services to address behavioral health issues,” and another council expressing ” intention to establish a right to portable paid leave (power take-off) for domestic workers ”and requesting the Bureau of Labor Standards to“ work with community stakeholders to draft legislation creating a policy for domestic workers portable force for domestic workers ”.

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