by Kelsey Hamlin
As Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess announced his changes to the budget created by former mayor and accused sexual abuser Ed Murray, the new mayor gave an explicit nod to Black Lives Matter, focused on sexual assault survivors, and expressed gratitude for the Seattle Fire Department.
Burgess, an ex-cop himself, noted his position on the Seattle City Council — from which he would have retired this year — was one that changed him.
“My city changed around me and I changed too,” Burgess said. “My political views, religious views, views on social issues – these all changed. It wasn’t always an easy path.”
The mayor then firmly stated Black Lives Matter and reiterated that Black lives matter in education, in the economy, and in policing. To prove his sentiments, he announced increasing staff for oversight offices in his budget. This includes the Community Police Commission, the Office of Police Accountability, and establishing the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety while doubling its previously planned number of employees.
Burgess did not mention, however, that his budget includes funding for the Seattle Police Department as well (up approximately $10 million from the adopted budget) — though he did note the Seattle Fire Department’s funding (up approximately $11 million).
In another turn of events, after having a record of opposing homeless advocacy ordinances, Burgess also announced more funding for homelessness services. He previously told Seattle Weekly’s Casey Jaywork that he does not support a “right to camp” in Seattle.
Under Burgess budget, homeless services will increase to $63 million dollars, broken down via four categories below.
“[Homelessness] is another emblem of our unsustainable inequality,” Burgess said. “I know it won’t be reversed in the next 64 days [while I’m in office], but that doesn’t mean we will shrug.”
The mayor then reiterated earlier sentiments that the Council and mayoral positions are honorable public service, and should be conducted that way.
“All of us have been affected by the painful crisis of the last months, especially survivors of sexual assault,” he said, alluding to the reasons behind Murray’s resignation. In a more affirmative nod to the hardships, Burgess proposed giving more money to the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence in his budget.
“I want you to know that your city government stands with you,” Burgess said of sexual assault survivors. “We will support you and we will walk with you on that path toward healing.”
Burgess then announced a first for the nation: A Seattle Retirement Savings Plan (SRSP). The mayor’s budget includes $200,000 to conduct a market feasibility study and legal analysis of the SRSP.
The plan would behave like a 401(k) or 403(b) allowing employees to contribute to their own separate account and giving them full responsibility for selecting investments. The money can grow through additional contributions and investment performance. Accounts will be portable and remain with the worker at all times. Employers would process payments to the third-party private administrator through their existing payroll system.
Seattle has a 41 percent access rate to retirement savings; and people of color are disproportionately impacted by this lack access — largely Latinx workers.
The branches to receive the most funding increases under Burgess’ proposal are Seattle City Light (up approximately $50 million), Personnel Compensation and Trust Funds (up approximately $20 million), and the Human Services Department (up approximately $10 million).
But, as Crosscut’s David Kroman pointed out, the Council has to cover approximately $13.4 million after underestimating how much the city would spend on lawsuits this past year.
The Council has yet to fill the vacancy left by Burgess. They are accepting applicants as of today and invite community members to participate in the community forum on Tuesday, Oct. 3, or in the City Council Public Hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 5:00 p.m. at City Hall. The Council expects applicants to attend at least one of these evening meetings.