This morning, staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries of Seattle's CURB Program (Communities Uniting Rainier Beach) packed Seattle City Council Chambers in a last-ditch effort to sway council member from completely eliminating funding for their south Seattle jail pre-diversion program. The Seattle City Council is voting this morning on a slew of 81 changes to Mayor McGinn's 2013-2014 budget proposal.
"CURB helped me secure housing, they helped with transportation, food, and moral support," testified one 18-year-old mother while holding her infant son. "Without them, my son and I would be living on the streets." Each year, CURB helps 75 youth and adults—most of whom have no criminal record—by offering job training, mental health, and social services to keep them off them "off the streets and out of trouble," as one volunteer explained it.
"We’re not talking about a decrease, we’re talking about total elimination," testified Nature, the program's director, who singled out council members whom she says have failed the program (not the other way around). "Nick Licata, this was your vision. We’ve continued with keeping your vision alive. If you had any problems, any concerns with how our programming was operating, I wish you would’ve approached us."
"Tim Burgess, have you ever been an ally of ours and if so, what have you done to strengthen our program?" she asked.
Generally, at this stage in the budget process, minds are made up and deals are hammered out. If the cut proposed to CURB is passed by the council, the program's funding would be entirely eliminated—to the tune of $252,144 in 2013 and $257,943 in 2014. So far this morning, 31 budget changes have been adopted unanimously (and without comment), but CURB's funding is much farther down on the list. It's unclear whether the pleas from CURB's community will have an effect on their preliminary decision to cut funding. I'll update later once the votes are concluded.
"The votes we're about to take will reflect the progressive values of our city," commented Tim Burgess, chair of the council's budget committee, as the voting got underway.
UPDATE: The council has voted 8-0 to cut CURB's funding, with council member Mike O'Brien abstaining. "I’m struggling with our decision to eliminate this program without more thorough vetting," O'Brien said, while Licata assured the audience that the city will "continue with whatever services are necessary for the current clients."
CURB's funding cuts were proposed pretty late in the budget process (only a few days ago, according to a source) which is what took CURB's community, and apparently O'Brien, by surprise. Frankly, it's kind of sad to see a group rally its members, testify, lobby their council members, and still fail to save a program that clearly means something to this neighborhood. As one woman put it, "A lot of people in south Seattle have no faith in the government. This doesn't help any."