Urban Politics #75: Introduction To The 2000 Budget


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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CONTENTS:

  • Introduction To The 2000 Budget
  • Budget Items Votes – For & Against
  • Public Toilets 9-0
  • Arts Action Plan 9-0
  • South Seattle Soccer Field 9-0
  • Expanding Community Center Hours & Saving Neighborhood Matching Funds 4-5
  • Reducing Galer Street Subsidy 2-7

Introduction To The 2000 Budget

On Tuesday, (11/16/99) the City Council meeting as the Budget Committee passed the 2000 Year City Budget. The Council will take the final vote on Monday (11/22/99).

In Urban Politics # 72 I commented on the Mayor’s budget proposal sent to the Council. (see http://www.seattle.gov/leg/licata/up72.htm) I mentioned that I would lobby for keeping our community centers open on the weekends and for finally getting some public toilets downtown and in other neighborhoods seeking them. I was unsuccessful in the first endeavor but did secure some funding for public toilets.

What follows are some quick comments on a select few budget items that came before the Council.

Public Toilets 9-0

After much debate on whether another study (see Urban Politics # 72) was needed the Council decided to allocate $250,000 towards this effort. Seattle Public Utilities will come back to the Council by March 31, 2000 with a funding proposal for the installation and capital and operation costs for public toilets. In addition, by the end of summer SPU will also submit a plan for increasing public access to existing downtown restrooms. This complimentary strategy would increase signage, as well as providing more maintenance and security in restrooms in public buildings and those located in participating private businesses.

Arts Action Plan 9-0

Initially there was an effort to put off any immediate expenditure of funds for this item. It was followed with a proposal to cut $50,000 from the $240,000 budget, but after some negotiations the whole package was saved. In particular, the following items were approved for immediate funding: 1) increasing one part time employee to full time in the Seattle Arts Commission (SAC) to better assist artist inquiries for information; 2) holding arts-related community forums, including the second annual Seattle Neighborhood Arts Celebration event; 3) investigating the potential for creating arts studio spaces at Sand Point by doing schematic design work on building 30 and a feasibility study for converting building 18.

This last item is part of the approved Sand Point Physical Development Management Plan. Converting these buildings to active use for artists is part of the long-range objective of having the new Magnuson Park serve as a regional arts facility that can support activity throughout the day and evening.

South Seattle Soccer Field 9-0

I was asked by County Council Member Greg Nickels and the President of the South Seattle Community College for the City to help build a soccer facility on SSCC’s campus in West Seattle. Both the public and students would use it. King County had pledged $100,000 and Nickels asked that the City to match that amount. The balance needed, $500,0000, would be provided by the Community College and a grant from the state Paul Allen fund.

The City Council agreed to make the contribution provided that the Parks Department provides a joint use agreement with the College to ensure community use and benefit of the fields. The final agreement will be submitted to my Culture, Arts and Parks Committee for final approval.

Expanding Community Center Hours & Saving Neighborhood Matching Funds 4-5

C.M. Richard Conlin and I lobbied the Council to fund these two items. When the Council approved the Proposition One ballot issue, it removed funding for opening up community recreational centers on the weekends. The Council preferred to have the bond issue fund capital improvements rather than operational hours. I believe that there was a consensus reached at that time to alternatively fund the expanded hours out of the general budget this fall.

Also, the Mayor’s budget proposed funding the Neighborhood Matching Fund to the tune of $750,000 in 2000. The majority of Council Members supported eliminating this increase and applying it instead to the loss of revenue due to I-695. Conlin and I, joined by CM Peter Steinbrueck and new Council Member Jim Compton, argued for the Council funding half of this amount out of the newly established “rainy day account”. We also proposed funding the community center’s extended hours out of this account as well.

The Mayor had proposed the creation of this new savings account and budgeted an initial $1.3 million for it. The Council majority increased the amount to $2 million. Our motion to fund the Neighborhood Matching Fund and the Community Center’s extended hours would have reduced this account back to the Mayor’s original funding level.

The Council rejected our proposal on a 4 to 5 vote, but did pass legislation allowing the Council to fund a portion of the Neighborhood Matching Fund and extending the Community Center hours this summer if the City’s revenues exceed current projections.

Reducing Galer Street Flyover Subsidy 2-7

In 1994 Immunex and the Port approached the City and convinced it that taxes generated from Immunex’s relocation to Pier 88 would outweigh the costs of the City paying for a new bridge across Galer Street (referred to as the Galer Street Flyover) to allow for the development of Piers 88, 89, 90 and 91. The City’s commitment to build the flyover would also avoid the possible relocation of Immunex, an expanding drug development company seeking new office space, to the suburbs.

In October 1997 the City, the County and the Port signed an agreement to build the flyover with the expectation that Immunex would move to Pier 88. The City agreed to pick up any cost overruns. The Port and the County were not obligated to contribute any more dollars. However, the City did not have to proceed with construction until Immunex prepared the site for it’s $450 million office complex.

The initial design was opposed by many citizens accessing the Magnolia community and it was subsequently altered. The new design and the required new purchase of right-of-ways bumped the original cost of the project from $12.5 million to $18.9 million. And the City’s original contribution of $4.8 million is now projected to be $10.1 million if the City commits to another $1.8 million as proposed in the 2000 budget.

C.M. Steinbrueck and I opposed this additional amount. I argued that the County or the Port should be contributing more. The City has met with the County and although the County Executive is not opposed to additional funds, members of the County Council have refused to contribute any more to the project. Although the City will be receiving more tax revenue from the project than the County, our rate of return is about half of theirs. Most importantly we should be requiring Immunex to contribute to building the Galer Street Flyover. Although Immunex is not a party to the agreement, they will be the primary beneficiaries. The stock value of their company has also dramatically increased since the agreement was signed. In just the last three years Immunex stock has gone from $3 to $64. Now that they are in a much stronger financial position a contribution of $1.8 million is a reasonable request. And it would represent just a fraction of the total cost of their project, which is now approaching $500 million in projected construction costs.

My motion to eliminate the City’s $1.8 million contribution was defeated 2 to 7.

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