For the second straight year, there were no major political fireworks during the council’s deliberations. A new tax on Uber and Lyft rides, proposed by Durkan in September as part of her plan, coasted to approval, and council members made no attempt to revive the big-business head tax that roiled talks in 2017.
Instead, they mostly OK’d the mayor’s proposal, ensuring that rapidly growing Seattle will for the first time next year spend more than $6 billion in total and more than $100 million on services related to homelessness.
The council members did make scores of small additions to Durkan’s budget to address their individual and collective priorities, such as shovel-ready housing projects and a heralded jail-diversion and case-management program, as well as tiny house villages and public bathrooms for homeless people.
Seattle’s annual budgets are broadly based on previous versions, with the bulk of the money reserved for basic services provided by the city’s utilities, police, fire and transportation departments. Budget committee chair Sally Bagshaw said the council’s goal was to build on the mayor’s plan and “put our own mark on it.”
“I believe that we’ve done that,” she said, describing tiny houses as “an answer” for people struggling on the streets and case management as “way better than putting people in jail” in many cases.
To help pay for its additions, the council carried out some small cuts and redirected more than $18 million in proceeds from a South Lake Union property sale that under Durkan’s plan were slated to support homeownership and basement apartment programs.
In a last-minute move, council members reached an agreement to add more than $500,000 (rather than closer to $300,000) for programs that use mentorship, arts and other means to serve young people involved in the criminal-justice system.
Some council members had opposed redirecting money to those programs that the mayor had set aside for police-officer recruitment and retention initiatives. They agreed Monday to instead trim other police allocations.
“Thank you,” said Dominique Davis, who runs the Community Passageways mentorship program. “You just opened the door for about 50 kids” to crucial services and opportunities.
The dollars from the Mercer Mega Block transaction, which will cover most of the council’s 2020 additions, won’t be available in subsequent years. Nikkita Oliver, with the Creative Justice arts program, said more resources must be invested over time to achieve the city’s stated aim of zero youth detention.
Monday’s tally was 8-1, with only Councilmember Kshama Sawant opposing what she described as inadequately addressing inequality and racism. Elected earlier this month to a third term, Sawant has voted against every budget during her time on the council. She did support the council’s tweaks to Durkan’s plan, calling those “changes on the margins.”
The council also used the budget process to make some policy moves. For example, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda championed a requirement that Seattle’s planning department study allowing more apartments in areas now zoned for single-family houses.
In a statement Monday, Durkan said she expects the 2020 budget to help young people, address homelessness, advance public safety and provide more transit. The council authorized her proposals to expand Seattle’s subsidized child-care program and improve how the city responds to nonemergency 911 calls related to people with behavioral crisis and substance-abuse issues, she noted.
“Our budget says what kind of city we want to be,” the mayor said in a statement.
An era is coming to a close at City Hall because three council members are scheduled to depart next month. Bagshaw, Bruce Harrell and Mike O’Brien all declined to run again this year, as did Rob Johnson, who resigned in April.
The new era will start Tuesday, when the results of the Nov. 5 election are certified and District 4 winner Alex Pedersen is sworn in. Pedersen will replace Abel Pacheco, an appointed council member who has been serving on a temporary basis since Johnson stepped down.
Foreshadowing a debate about taxes that may be revived in the coming months, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness Executive Director Alison Eisinger urged those council members returning next year to seek more revenue.