Councilmember Godden left office on January 1, 2016.
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They cared, they came, they spoke.

The multitudes arrived by the hundreds at Tuesday night’s budget hearing at North Seattle Community College. The campus cafeteria quickly filled to overflowing.  So packed was the room that a nearby satellite room was quickly acquired. And still the aisles were crowded by an estimated 600 citizens waiting to tell the mayor and councilmembers of their concern for favorite programs and for essential public services.

The weather outside was dreary – rainy and cool. But inside it was a colorful evening, an amazing mosaic of humanity. Affinity groups showed up wearing matching colors and carrying hand-lettered signs and kayak paddles. Orange was the fashion color of the evening. Many of the human service advocates showed up wearing pumpkin-colored scarves.  Eventually, the five councilmembers in attendance, along with Mayor Mike McGinn donned borrowed scarves.

The testimony delivered by the 165 citizens who signed up to speak was at times poignant, at times amusing, but always engaging and compelling. “City funding is essential. People have to have food,” said an advocate for Food Lifeline. “People have to meet their physical needs before they can enjoy recreation,” said another food service advocate.  Reports were grim:  food banks are now dealing with drastically increased demand,homeless shelters turn  many families away each night, teen shelters stretch to serve  vastly increased numbers.

If the human service requests were heart-tugging, there was almost an equivalent passion for parks programs, community centers and aquatic facilities. “Don’t close our pools,” was a frequent refrain. “My dad left when I was six and the program saved my life,” said one now-confident young woman.  “It costs the city only $75,000 a year, but it brings in an amazing amount of money,” was the statement from supporters of the Green Lake Rowing program.

Speaker after speaker asked the city officials to “hold the line” on budget cuts, despite word delivered by Budget Director Beth Goldberg showing need for a $12 million midterm reduction and the prospect of $50 or $60 million shortfall in receipts for 2011.

Parks, pools and community centers comprised the largest constituency, human services had their share of speakers. But there also were concerns for special programs for developmentally delayed, for public safety, libraries, pedestrian safety and the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

If there was a mantra for the evening, it came from Parks advocate Bruce Bentley who said, “Parks are the Lungs of the City.” He wants Seattle to keep breathing.