Early last week, Council member Kshama Sawant turned her committee hearing into a political rally to demand that the Council overturn the Human Services Department’s RFP results and restore funding for organizations that lost funding, most notably SHARE, WHEEL, The Women’s Referral Service, and an Urban Rest Stop. After some behind-the-scenes shuttle diplomacy by Council member Teresa Mosqueda, the Council did that very thing this afternoon.
Last Wednesday, Council member Bagshaw’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee considered a budget-modification bill from Mayor Durkan that would direct the $13 million of expected revenues from the sale of the “Communications Shop” property in South Lake Union. The Mayor’s plan called for spending $1 million on a site evaluation for a new SLU fire station, $2 million for a homeless prevention program aimed at a subset of the people on the waiting list for SHA housing vouchers, and $5.35 million to a new affordable housing program to be developed by an Innovative Housing Strategies subcabinet. Under pressure by Council members Sawant, Herbold and O’Brien to re-fund the homeless services that didn’t make the RFP cut, the Council considered diverting some of the property sale revenues to that cause, but in the end chose simply not to commit the $5.35 million and leave everything else intact.
The new plan that Mosqueda brought to the table today shows that she worked hard to make everyone happy:
- The city has calculated that Real Estate Excise Tax (REET)revenues in 2017 exceeded the forecast by at least $1 million. REET revenues have restrictions on what they can be used for, but fire stations is one allowed purpose. Mosqueda’s plan uses $1 million of REET to find the fire station site evaluation in Durkan’s plan, and thus recovers $1 million that can be used for other purposes.
- It then allocates $1 million to the Human Services Division, with the restriction that it “may only be used to provide additional one-time bridge funding for emergency shelter and hygiene services for unsheltered individuals through 2018.” It goes on to specify that the funds should be spent on those private shelter and hygiene programs receiving funding in the previous year, in effect restricting it to SHARE, WHEEL, the Women’s Referral Service and the Urban Rest Stop without mentioning them by name.
|Item||Fund||Department||Budget Summary Level||Amount|
|1.1||General Fund (00100)||Department of Finance and Administrative Service||Facilities Services (BO-FA-FACILITY)||$2,000,000|
|1.2||General Fund (00100)||Department of Finance and Administrative Services||Facilities Services (BO-FA-FACILITY)||$430,000|
|1.3||General Fund (00100)||Finance General||Reserves (2QD00)||$5,320,000|
|1.4||General Fund (00100)||Office of Housing||Leadership and Administration (BO-HU-1000)||$250,000|
|1.5||General fund (00100)||Human Services Department||Addressing Homelessness (BO-HS-H3000)||$2,000,000|
|1.6||General Fund (00100)||Human Services Department||Addressing Homelessness (BO-HS-H3000)||$1,000,000|
|1.7||Low-Incoming Housing Fund (16400)||Office of Housing||Multifamily Housing (BO-HU-3000)||$2,000,000|
|1.8||REET I Capital Projects Fund (30010)||Department of Finance and Administrative Services||Public Safety Facilities – Fire (BC-FA-PSFACFIRE)||$1,000,000|
In the end, everyone wins — for the moment. Durkan’s plan still is fully funded, another $1 million of bridge funding was allocated, and no difficult tradeoffs needed to be made. Also of note, the results of the RFP still stand; the Council didn’t undermine the RFP process but rather extended the bridge funding. Council member Juarez said it was the first time she had sat down with Mosqueda and Bagshaw and really caucused, working out what each of them could and couldn’t live with, without political recriminations, divisiveness, and finger pointing (a dig at Sawant without naming her explicitly).
Sawant, for her part, went along with the new plan, praising her movement for demanding the funding for the cut programs. But she also used it as an opportunity to voice her long-held criticism of the Pathways Home plan, and to put everyone on notice that she would be using her committee do conduct a review and critique of Pathways Home over the coming months.
What barely got airtime today was the lack of an actual transition plan for the people being served by the providers that lost their funding and now have bridge funding through the end of the year. HSD has promised a plan, but has not yet delivered it. Herbold did specifically note that she believes that not only should there be a transition plan, but it needs to be proven successful before bridge funding is cut.