I’m back from vacation, the council has almost passed a 2020 budget with aggressive edits to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposal, and the election is officially all-but-over (results will be certified on Friday). Here are a few items that are worth your attention.
1. Semi-final election results: Although the local and (to a much lesser extent) national press has fixated on the fact that incumbent Kshama Sawant came back from behind to defeat Amazon-backed challenger Egan Orion by more than 1,750 votes, an equally fascinating late-voting story has played out in Northeast Seattle’s District 4, where neighborhood activist and former Tim Burgess aide Alex Pedersen, who was backed by both the business lobby and Burgess’ People for Seattle PAC, is poised to defeat Democratic Socialists of America candidate Shaun Scott by fewer than 1,400 votes.
Sawant’s swing was more dramatic, but for Scott to come so close in a district that is less than 3 percent African American—Scott is black—and with so much less money and institutional funding was a sign, perhaps, that District 4, which includes the University of Washington along with a number of higher-turnout precincts with views of Lake Washington and incomes to match, wasn’t entirely convinced by Pedersen and Burgess’ appeals to “Seattle Is Dying”-style populism. Or that students were compelled to actually turn out for a charismatic, hard-campaigning, issue-oriented socialist; we’ll know more once precinct-level data becomes available.
2. Council pushes back on Durkan’s budget: Before I left, the council had already indicated it planned to alter Mayor Jenny Durkan’s budget proposal pretty dramatically.
I reported on many of the changes back when they were still in the proposal stage, including:
• Amendments redirecting millions in proceeds from the sale of the Mercer Megablock to fund housing and bike lanes in South Seattle (which has no uninterrupted safe bike connections to downtown);
• A proviso requiring the Human Services Department to provide quarterly reports on what the encampment-clearing Navigation Team is up to;
• The elimination of funds to relocate a tiny house village in Georgetown that both neighbors and the city agree is working well;
• Cutting the size and scope of a proposed program that would help homeowners build second units and rent them out as moderate-income housing and requiring that the city do a race and social justice analysis of the proposal;
• Reducing or freezing funds for Durkan’s plans for dealing with “prolific offenders,” including a proposed expansion of probation;
Out of an unknown number of individuals contacted by the Navigation Team as the result of 124 officer calls, nine people “accepted” a referral to shelter, and an unknown number of those nine actually showed up at shelter.
• Repurposing some of the $3 million in soda tax revenues Durkan had proposed setting aside to fund capital improvements to P-Patches, including gardens in Ballard and Capitol Hill, for other initiatives to promote healthy food in low-income communities most impacted by the tax, and stipulating that any soda tax revenues that go to the P-Patch program must be spent in designated Healthy Food Priority Areas; and
ª $3.5 million in funding for the LEAD program, whose planned expansion Durkan did not propose funding. The new money, along with a $1.5 million grant from the Ballmer foundation, will allow the pre-arrest diversion program to manage its ever-expanding caseloads in the coming year.
In addition, the council adopted a number of smaller-ticket items and placed conditions on some of the mayor’s spending proposals, including:
• A request that the Human Services Department survey service providers that provide case management to homeless clients who wear Bluetooth-enabled “beacons” provided by a company called Samaritan, which created an app enabling donors to read up on the personal stories of beacon wearers in the area and give money to businesses and agencies on their behalf. Homeless participants can access the donations in the form of goods or debit cards, and are required to participate in case management and report on their progress through the app. The proviso asks HSD to find out what kind of burden the app is placing on agencies that provide case management, since the company requires its clients to participate in case management but does not fund any actual case managers. Continue reading “Council Reshuffles Durkan’s Budget, Cop Encampment Training Led to Just Nine Shelter Referrals, and Shaun Scott’s Near-Win”