Ty Swenson
A group speaks out against budget cuts that would end Scan TV, Seattle's public access channel at the Seattle City Council Budget Committee public hearing on Oct. 13 in West Seattle.

West Seattle Speaks Out Against Budget Cuts

Seattle City Council Budget Committee holds a public hearing at South Seattle Community College

Dec. 1 is the deadline for Mayor Mike McGinn’s 2011 to 2012 proposed budget to be finalized and West Seattle hosted one of three public hearings before the deadline on Oct. 13 in the Jerry Brockey Student Center at SSCC.

Roughly 200 people showed up for the hearing, many sporting signs, t-shirts or orange scarves signifying a multitude of causes they intended to support in the face of budget cuts due to a $67 million shortfall in the city’s General Fund.

The Mayor’s proposed budget totals $3.9 billion, including the City’s $888 million General Fund that falls $67 million short of last year.

Jean Godden, chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, opened the hearing at 5:30 p.m. and one by one, citizens walked up to the microphone to speak out for protection of many different services. Over 70 people spoke at the meeting.

Orange scarves were the most common accessory of the evening, worn by those representing and supporting the Seattle Human Services Coalition.

Nicole Macri of the Seattle-King Coalition on Homelessness spoke on behalf of SHSC.

“There are over $1.2 million in cuts to human services proposed by the mayor that would impact Seattle residents directly through reduced community services,” she said. “We urge you to restore $306,000 of that.”

“We urge you to restore those cuts that have the most severe disproportionate impacts on people of color, people with low incomes and vulnerable populations. Making these cuts on top of the other budget cuts would set back our work together on reaching social justice in a very real way,” Macri added.

Several others spoke under the umbrella of Macri’s call for restoring $306,000 to human services, including Fran Yates, executive director of the West Seattle Food Bank.

“For us as providers, we are really struggling to keep up with demand (during the recession) so we are seriously concerned with our decreasing resources,” Yates said.

She asked the budget committee to specifically restore $40,000 to food services in the upcoming budget.

Dorothy Streiff, a volunteer for the West Seattle Senior Center also spoke out against cuts to human services.

Deadria Boyland, manager of the Community Advocacy Program at New Beginnings (which provides shelter, advocacy and support for battered women and their children according to their website) also talked about the impact of drastic cuts to human services.

“Human services is what I am passionate about, what we are passionate about. I ask that you please do not take my passion away, do not take our passion away,” Boyland said.

Katy Walum, president of the Admiral Neighborhood Association, asked the committee to reconsider cutting the Southwest Neighborhood Coordinator position held by Stan Lock and the Neighborhood Matching Fund Program.

“Without the services of the Southwest District Coordinator and Neighborhood Matching Fund our neighborhood and others will surely suffer and the city’s promise to engage and empower its citizens will be severely compromised,” Walum said.

The district coordinator “serves to engage West Seattle community members and is crucial in helping them navigate through the city’s vast bureaucracy to effect change close to home. Our district coordinator Stan Lock is an ally from the city who is present to hear us and to work with us on real solutions,” she said.

A speaker representing Seattle city librarian Susan Hildreth said “it would be a hardship for the library to work with any additional dollar losses. If there is a miracle that you do in fact find additional money, and we recognize that it may not happen, we would like you to focus your energies on restoring Friday hours to the branches that we’ve cut back.”

The largest group at the hearing spoke out against cuts to Scan TV, Seattle’s community media outlet.

“Youtube cannot replace traditional community-based media for reaching their audience in a timely manner,” one speaker said.

“Next year $400,000 will be taken out of the Cable TV Franchise Subfund to pay for email upgrades. This $400,000 alone represents the majority of Scan’s budget allotment and comes from the fund originally intended for Scan TV. The money is there to maintain the public discourse and the only downside is you will have to wait a little bit longer to get the latest version of outlook,” he added.

There were several other topics discussed at the hearing, from the termination of Seattle Parks and Recreation apprenticeship program to the elimination of community centers.

“The recession that is being felt regionwide and nationwide has hit city revenues and we actually are seeing a decline in some of our key revenue sources for the first time in a very long time. At the same time, the cost of city services in some areas continues to increase. The bottom line is, without significant new taxes, the city cannot reproduce the same services that we did last year,” Ben Noble of the Seattle City Council Central Staff told those in attendance.

A taping of tonight’s meeting will be available shortly on the Seattle Channel. For more information on the proposed budget for 2011, visit www.seattle.gov/council/budget.

There will be one more public hearing on Oct. 26 at the Seattle City Hall council chambers, 2nd floor.

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