2008 Nickels’s Budget Moves Forward With Park Rangers But No “311”
posted by November 13 at 15:37 PMon
The City Council will vote in a week or so to finalize the 2008 city budget. Yeah, I know, what budget, right? This year’s budget process was especially placid, thanks in part to the fact that we’re in the middle of the budget cycle (the council has already “endorsed” it) and in part to the swimming economy. But, as always, the council did make some tweaks (including the elimination of the mayor’s most-touted program.) Here’s a partial rundown:
• The council basically eviscerated Mayor Greg Nickels’s heavily hyped “311” system, which would have created a new phone number citizens could call to access city services. The council cut that down from $8.9 million to $500,000, apparently unconvinced by Nickels’s claim that the aftermath of Wind!Storm!2006! could have been prevented with more layers of bureaucracy.
• But they also kept $600,000 Nickels requested to fund half a dozen “park rangers,” unarmed city employees who will patrol downtown parks and shoo the homeless away. (For more serious problems, the park rangers will have to call real cops.) The park ranger idea was rejected as silly a year ago—hey, maybe 2008 will be 311’s lucky year!
• The council threw in an additional $350,000 to provide relocation assistance to renters whose landlords convert their buildings to condos. Currently, renters who are converted out of their homes get just $500—a number council member Tom Rasmussen hopes to increase.
• The new budget restores the position of city demographer, which, as I wrote when they cut that position a few years back, is a “boring but invaluable” job that involves compiling important demographic information about the city and providing it on the city’s web site. The last demographer, Diane Cornelius, was laid off in 2004.
• The budget adds $1.5 million for sidewalks, which sounds like a lot but actually will only build a few new blocks of sidewalks, which are grotesquely expensive. Still, it’s a start.
• There’s also new money for the Seattle Center skatepark, domestic violence education and outreach, new library books and other library materials, low-income housing production, AIDS pervention, and low-income dental clinics. If you’re interested in more detail (and who wouldn’t be?) check out the council’s budget page here.