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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nickels’s Budget Moves Forward With Park Rangers But No “311”

posted by on November 13 at 15:37 PM

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.

RSS icon Comments


Got to have them "park rangers" to keep all the fancy parks in South Lake Union safe from non-millionaires ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 13, 2007 3:45 PM

a clarification...The Mayor's proposed budget had a sidewalk development program of $1 million and a sidewalk repair program of $1.8 million. The Council budget is providing an overall increase to sidewalks of $1.5 million above the mayor's 2008 budget.

Posted by LH | November 13, 2007 3:53 PM

Hmmm ....

neighborhoods with sidewalks (the "Haves") get $1.8 million for upkeep...

while neighborhoods without sidewalks ("Have Nots") get $1 million for new sidewalks?

Glad to see the mayor and council comport with fundamental rules of power and wealth. Certainly Madison Park should have theirs repaired before Greenwood gets any!

Posted by unPC | November 13, 2007 4:09 PM

Is there perhaps room in the budget to ban the group "311" from the city limits?

Posted by laterite | November 13, 2007 4:14 PM

Aids 'pervention'...does that stop pervs with Aids from infecting others?

just askin'

Posted by michael strangeways | November 13, 2007 4:38 PM

Oh UnPC, don't be such a drip. I live on Beacon Hill, and have sidewalks, but your house is probably worth more than mine.

What is it with people and sidewalks anyway? It's the only thing the south end (mostly) has that the north end (sometimes) doesn't. Why try to make it a class issue?

Posted by catalina vel-duray | November 13, 2007 4:53 PM

We have something like this here in SF that I think was designed to keep loonies from tying up 911. I'm not sure if it works, and I've never heard anyone suggest using it.

Google SMS on the other hand, rules, and pretty much serves all my phone information needs.

Posted by Dougsf | November 13, 2007 5:16 PM

Glad to hear they are planning to start the Park Rangers. I have lived downtown for a dozen years and they have always been an in-your-face problem the whole time. Hopefully, this experiment will be successful.

Posted by Zander | November 13, 2007 5:53 PM

Over half a mil for Park Rangers - unarmed, untrained (and probably otherwise unemployable) employees with City benefits.

Meanwhile, Seattle Police officers get ready to start their second year without a labor contract.

Gotta love Seattle. Every pol in the City shows up for every photo op they can get with a union organizer - but then look at how they treat the largest union in the City government.

Posted by snort | November 13, 2007 5:58 PM

Re the "311" controversy. Rather than go to all the trouble with the phone companies of setting up 311, why not just introduce 684-0311 as the City's main phone number for incoming requests? Calls should be answered first by the Citizens' Service Bureau, as many now are already.

684 is the City's main prefix, so 684-0311 should be a much cheaper way of channeling calls than would be the 311 proposal.

Posted by Perfect Voter | November 13, 2007 6:00 PM

What happened to that trail around Lake Union? I haven't heard anything about it since the Mayor's announcement!

Posted by HEY WAIT | November 13, 2007 6:23 PM

Why the hatred over the 311 service? It works great for NYC by providing a central point of contact for the various issues that plague the city and also allows issues to be centrally tracked, etc.

With that said, Perfect Voter's idea is a great one.

Posted by Dono | November 13, 2007 8:40 PM





Posted by S. M. | November 13, 2007 11:08 PM

One of the great "champions" of the 311 phone system that you just trashed? Jean Godden, the useless council member that you endorsed, for reasons passing understanding. I guess you didn't think that was worth mentioning, though.

Posted by John | November 14, 2007 10:45 AM

The demographer position may be boring to some, but it is my dream job. Yeah, I know I am lame.

Posted by datageek | November 14, 2007 12:11 PM

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