Mayor McGinn: big distance to go on public safety
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn made a wise selection of Interim Chief John Diaz. But he should not have halted the five-year hiring plan of 20 officers a year to improve public safety.
SEATTLE Mayor Mike McGinn's selection of Interim Police Chief John Diaz as permanent chief is a solid move for the mayor and the city. Diaz brings continuity, a thoughtful approach to policing and support from many quarters.
But the mayor's sensible naming of Diaz does not absolve McGinn of the need to hire 20 new officers a year for five years, something the mayor halted in this the third year of hiring because of budget woes.
The budget troubles are real but must be put into perspective. Every government in the land is facing a harsh new reality. Revenues that have long been cyclic — edging up one year and slipping downward the next — are likely to remain low a long time. Budget cuts can no longer be minor nips and tucks.
Washington state and King County have made enormous cuts and are forced to reinvent themselves.
City budgets have been more flush with relatively fewer cuts required in recent years. But it should be a new day for Seattle as well. The mayor does not make public safety a high enough priority. This is not his wheelhouse. If it were, he would realize the council was right to call for continued hiring of 20 additional officers, though the council lacks power to override the mayor on midyear cuts.
For the 2010 budget adjustments, the mayor took the easy route, cutting $2.1 million dedicated to 20 new officers from $12.4 million in cuts — 17 percent of midyear cuts. Cutting other programs is harder. Isn't that the mayor's job? Police overall took a smaller cut than some other departments but the hiring should have been given higher priority.
Halting police hiring makes the midyear budget cuts a bit easier but it is a shortsighted step.
The City Council and mayor will have certain harmony on public safety in the months ahead because the council supports the hiring of Diaz.
Yet now is the time to ask the city to review its own spending, much like the county and state are doing, and make sufficient cuts that accommodate public-safety hires.
McGinn's misguided veto of sensible anti-aggressive-panhandling legislation tells those on the street that the mayor has no plan to combat street disorder.
His decision to halt the hiring program reinforces the same message. What is the mayor doing to make streets safer? If he refuses to give the police tools they need — Diaz supported the panhandling rules — what is the mayor willing to do to improve street safety and civility?
Seattle's population has been growing. The mayor encourages more people to abandon their cars and walk, bike or take the bus. What a glaring disconnect. People will do that, Mr. Mayor, if and when they feel safe.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.