McGinn proposes fund boost for domestic-violence program
The mayor announces funding for domestic-violence protection programs, three years after eliminating the city’s domestic-violence director and folding the office into another division within Human Services.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn Wednesday announced that he would recommend new funding for domestic-violence victims — three years after getting rid of the city’s domestic-violence prevention director and folding the independent office into another division within the Human Services Department.
McGinn said he cut the director position in 2011 because of city budget shortfalls but did not reduce city funding for domestic-violence prevention programs. He said the improving revenue forecast allows him to recommend adding a program manager and other new services in his 2014 budget.
“Victims of domestic violence are among the most vulnerable members of our community,” McGinn said. “Services like housing are essential to help break the cycle of violence and help victims get free of abusers.”
Domestic-violence assaults have risen 60 percent in the city since 2009, according to Seattle police statistics, from 460 in 2009 to 734 in 2012. McGinn said he didn’t think there was a correlation between the jump in aggravated assaults and the reorganization of the city office that coordinated domestic-violence and sexual-assault prevention programs.
“I don’t think elimination of a division director is the issue here,” he said.
But the question has come up in the mayoral campaign, where the challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray, has used the domestic-violence assault statistic to counter the mayor’s frequent claim that violent crime in the city is down.
“Once again, he’s acting in an election year after years of not acting,” Murray said.
At a City Hall news conference, McGinn proposed adding $438,000 to the 2014 budget to fund housing for victims, a domestic-violence response center and the new program manager. The funding would support long-term housing assistance for domestic-violence survivors and their children and dedicate $125,000 to create a coordinated, one-stop location to link victims to services.
McGinn noted that the city’s homeless shelters are over capacity and that an estimated 17 to 25 people are turned away from domestic-violence shelters for every one who can be housed.
A survey this year of domestic-violence survivors and service providers identified lack of emergency and long-term housing options as the greatest service gap, said Merril Cousin, executive director of the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Cousin, who spoke at the news conference, was one of the advocates who protested the elimination of the city’s domestic-violence prevention office in 2011. She said that she and others active in preventing domestic violence were concerned then about the impacts of the city’s changes.
“We continue to be concerned that the city make domestic violence a priority,” Cousin said.
She said the spike in domestic-violence assaults in Seattle could be attributed to many factors, including the recession, deep cuts to social services and improved training and response by police and prosecutors. She said Seattle was one of the few jurisdictions to not slash domestic-violence prevention programs.
“The county, state and federal government have made cuts. The city hasn’t,” she said.
Other observers say domestic-violence prevention services haven’t been a priority under McGinn. His 2011 budget also eliminated two domestic-violence advocates in the Police Department. The City Council restored the positions.
Patricia McInturff, a former Human Services Department director under Mayor Greg Nickels, said the domestic-violence prevention office was moved by McGinn’s former director, Dannette Smith, under the division of “Community Support and Self-Sufficiency,” which has since been renamed “Community Support and Assistance.”
“You couldn’t find it on the organization chart if you looked,” said McInturff, who has donated the maximum $700 to Murray’s campaign. She also questioned whether the funding for the proposed response center was adequate.
She said she and other advocates, working with the police and the City Attorney’s Office, developed a plan for a center in 2008 that estimated the annual cost at $900,000. The idea was shelved when the recession hit and Nickels lost his re-election bid.
Asked to characterize McGinn’s support for domestic-violence prevention programs, McInturff said, “He allowed it to be dismantled.”
Lynn Thompson: email@example.com or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes