“The Judge reinforced that it is the responsibility of the council and mayor to set budget priorities, not a voter approved amendment, making it more critical to elect strong leadership to address the homelessness crisis,” said Harrell.
SEATTLE – Candidate for Mayor Bruce Harrell today called upon the current city council and mayor to adopt elements of the now defunct ‘Compassion Seattle’ charter amendment into city ordinance, reflecting King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Schaffer’s position that elected officials – not voters – are responsible for setting budget priorities. Harrell, who supported the framework and intent of the ballot proposal, believes the stakes are now higher in the November mayoral election, as voters will not have the opportunity to directly call upon the City to set targets for spending and housing construction to address the homelessness crisis.
“I respect the ruling on this case because it underscores what I have said throughout this campaign: that our next Mayor must be responsible for addressing the humanitarian crisis on our sidewalks and in our parks,” said Harrell. “Setting budget levels and housing mandates may be outside the scope of a citizen initiative, but it is exactly what the City should be doing. Now that voters cannot exercise their voice directly, the current council and mayor should step up and adopt key provisions in the 2022 budget process so we can enter next year with the resources and tools for immediate action to help people out of tents and into supportive housing.”
The City’s annual budget development process will begin in earnest this fall, with adoption typically in November. This means that the next mayor will inherit a 2022 budget developed over the next several weeks. Specifically, Harrell is requesting that the council adopt a minimum 12% investment in homelessness response, reflecting the core mandate of the proposed amendment. Harrell also believes the amendment-specified 2000 units of housing is critical to set in motion now. Finally, Harrell would like to see language requiring that services and support be provided in conjunction with housing.
“These three action-forcing elements – setting a budget threshold, service requirements, and a minimum number of units – are at the core of any responsible homelessness response plan,” said Harrell. “A fourth policy I have championed from the beginning of my campaign is the establishment of a mechanism to leverage private contributions – large and small – to supplement city resources and provide increased community engagement and ‘buy-in’ for those who can and should do more. The charter amendment was one way to establish this, but I look forward to working now, and as Mayor, to generate more needed revenue in this way, before we ask voters for additional taxes.”
In addition to setting budget and housing levels, Harrell urges adoption of the equity and racial justice priorities outlined in the measure, as well as important provisions outlining the restoration of parks and playfields, especially as rising COVID rates push more people out of indoor spaces and youth sports activities ramp up with the beginning of school.
“We are not going to help house the unsheltered or restore our parks and playfields without a change in leadership in City Hall,” said Harrell. “While work by the council now will be a step forward toward needed action, Seattle must elect a mayor committed to addressing our homelessness crisis and escalating investments in housing and services. The status quo is not only unacceptable, it’s inhumane. This is my commitment to the people of Seattle.”