Councilmember Godden left office on January 1, 2016.
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“Dear Mayor,” Here are our priorities

Each year, before the budget process begins, the Seattle City Council customarily sends the mayor a letter or resolution outlining council priorities.  In good times, the “dear mayor” letter included lists of budget wants.  In these more dismal economic times, letters have focused on a different sort of list: critical services and programs that the council wants to maintain.

This year’s “dear mayor,” sent on Friday the Thirteenth, acknowledged a host of challenges the city is facing. The local economy remains weak and recovery appears to be slower and weaker than anticipated.  Furthermore, it is clear the city cannot count on receiving help from the state in this dark hour.

On the contrary: The state is facing severe budgetary shortfalls of its own.  More than $3 billion in cuts will be required of the state. Those cuts will come on top of the $5 billion the state already has pared. The governor is directing state agencies to prepare reductions of 4-7 percent starting Oct. 1 if forecasts are lower than expected.

Given this context, the council took the opportunity to articulate and advance priorities for the 2011/2012 biennium. First and foremost, the council believes the city must continue to protect the health and safety of all Seattle residents. Highest priority will be police and fire services and direct services to those in need.

The council reaffirmed its support for the Neighborhood Policing Plan, asking that the mayor’s budget proposal provide details for full implementation of the plan.

The council also asked that the mayor reduce costs, believing that this is an opportunity to reevaluate the size and scope of city government.  The council promised to support proposals to reduce operational costs while limiting impacts on the delivery of direct services.

Finally, the council promised to carefully consider proposals for increases in user fees, fines and other revenues, while being mindful of any negative impacts such fees would have on access to services for economically disadvantaged residents. The councilmembers who signed the letter said that they were willing to support an increase in the Commercial Parking Tax to 12.5 percent from 10 percent. The new revenues will be targeted to provide resources needed to address work on the replacement of the Seawall and the Alaskan Way viaduct.

However, the councilmanic majority warned that further increases that burdened downtown and neighborhood businesses at this time “would not be prudent.” In conclusion, the letter cautioned that it would not be wise to submit a budget proposal that assumed that the city would receive new revenue from the 0.2 percent sales tax increase that will be decided on the November ballot.

The times have made it plain that we must craft a budget that maintains core services, but recognizes that government will be smaller and more efficient.  In these economic hard times, we still must put together a budget that reflects our values.