Yesterday afternoon the City Council got an update from the City Budget Office on projected revenues and expenses. They weren’t sounding an alarm — yet — but the numbers suggest there is cause for concern about 2019 and beyond.
As promised, here’s an update on what more I’ve learned about the finances of the Center City Connector streetcar project.
If you think the Center City Connector streetcar project got put on hold because it’s overbudget, then you misunderstood what just happened. It’s on hold because the city doesn’t know how much it will cost, either to build it or to run it. It also doesn’t seem to be sure how much funding there is for it.
The problem here isn’t that the streetcar is a bad idea (though some people certainly believe that). The problem is that SDOT is a mess and incapable of managing the project.
The city has published a feasibility study on establishing a “safe consumption” site in Seattle, and for the first time we have a sense for how much it might cost.
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.
On Tuesday this week, the Council voted down an employee-hours tax (aka a “head tax”). In doing so, several Council members who voted “no” voiced their support in theory for a head tax and committed to working on a process with a broad group of stakeholders to evaluate a head tax — and other progressive revenue-raising options — and come back with a specific proposal. On Wednesday, Council member Gonzalez began circulating a draft resolution to that extent, which she hopes to have the Council approve on Monday.
In order to dig themselves out of their budget hole (after failing to enact an employee-hours tax), the City Council raided the Mayor’s budget today. Their additional cuts today, on top of a couple that were already in their budget, lopped over $1 million from a budget originally proposed to by $6.4 million — about a 17% cut.
It took some pretty chaotic sausage-making to pull it together, but the Council cobbled together a balanced budget today.