Better economy reflected in Seattle mayor’s 2014 budget
Mayor Mike McGinn prioritizes education and transportation in delivering a $1 billion general-fund budget to the City Council.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Monday introduced a $1 billion general-fund budget that he said puts money behind his vision of a city that addresses income inequality, the threat of climate change and protection of vulnerable citizens.
“A budget is about people. It’s a moral document. It puts resources behind our vision of the city we want to see,” McGinn told the City Council and a standing-room-only crowd made up predominantly of city employees.
McGinn thanked the City Council several times for its work in helping to set priorities and balance the budget in the previous four years of deep cuts.
At one point he even said, “I love all of you,” though five of the nine council members have endorsed his opponent in the Seattle mayor’s race, state Sen. Ed Murray.
The improving economy and rebounding city revenues allow the mayor to recommend funding many popular programs in an election year.
Over the past two weeks, McGinn has held an almost daily news conference to announce his plans to increase spending for senior centers, preschoolers and the victims of domestic violence, as well as add more police and more money for the neighborhood-matching fund.
McGinn said his top priorities in creating the 2014 budget were education and transportation.
The mayor said the budget includes nearly $500,000 for early learning programs, including planning to implement and phase in a universal preschool program in the city.
He said the city also will fund an Early Learning Academy to increase training and outreach to child-care providers and immigrant and refugee caregivers to improve their effectiveness.
McGinn said the city needs to change the way it invests in transportation to reflect the rising demand for walking, biking and transit.
As he has done on the campaign trail, McGinn criticized Olympia, and by association, Murray, for not giving cities a local option to raise taxes to fund transit.
“Olympia is holding local transit and maintenance dollars hostage to their new highways,” he said in his 47-minute address.
McGinn’s transportation recommendations include $4 million for an Intelligent Transportation System that will adjust traffic signals to real-time traffic flow downtown. He also is calling for an additional $3.2 million to improve existing bus routes and for planning future light-rail lines, which could run from downtown to Ballard, Ballard to the University District and downtown to West Seattle.
The budget also includes $500,000 to study improved pedestrian, bicycle and transit connections across the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
“We can make the environmental choice the easy choice, and continue to lead the fight against global warming,” McGinn said.
The mayor’s budget calls for adding 15 new police officers.
Three of those would support rangers in downtown parks as well as Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill.
The mayor also asked for increased funding for his Center City Initiative to address downtown crime and disorder, and for LEAD — the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program — which diverts nonviolent drug offenders to treatment and other social services.
The proposed budget also adds $1.2 million in additional homeless services and $450,000 to support victims of domestic violence.
After the mayor’s budget address, Councilmember Tim Burgess said that while it was clear the mayor wanted to “open the checkbook and open it wide,” some of the programs McGinn was proposing, including downtown crime prevention, hadn’t been evaluated to determine their effectiveness.
“We will be asking tough questions,” Burgess said.
Lynn Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes
Information in this article, originally published Sept. 23, 2013, was corrected Sept. 24, 2013. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the mayor proposed $500,000 to develop a citywide preschool plan.