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Updated 2023 Seattle budget cuts sidewalk repairs, leaves out some safety proposals

The Seattle City Council has released its “balancing package,” an updated draft of the 2023-24 budget that factors in some Council changes as well as the city’s latest revenue forecast, which wasn’t great.

As Ryan Packer reported for the Urbanist, the reduced revenue forecast was not good news for some of the Council’s proposed additions. The Home Zone program expansion, Thomas Street redesign, and Councilmember Tammy Morales’ south end safety improvement budget adds did not make it. Additionally, the balancing package would cut $4 million over two years from the sidewalk safety repair program and $1.5 million from the Seattle Parks ADA compliance program.

However, one bright spot is that the ill-conceived bike and scooter share tax did not make the cut. We argued against this tax in a post a couple weeks ago.

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Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has put together a sample letter you can send to Council to support some key changes to the proposed budget, including restoration of the sidewalk and ADA budgets and inclusion of south end vision zero investments. Here’s the text of their letter:

Dear Seattle City Council,

The City of Seattle is failing to reach its safety, equity, and climate goals. A budget is a moral document, and I support the Solidarity Budget Coalition in asking you to amend the Mayor’s proposed budget to better reflect our shared values.

This year, the 2023 Solidarity Budget: Budget to Live, Budget to Thrive includes critical transportation priorities to make the budget better reflect our city’s values and priorities:

  1. Keep the traffic enforcement division in SDOT, don’t move it back to SPD. Civilian workers belong in a civilian-led department, and Parking Enforcement Officers should be partners in curb space management – to get people parking in places that allow everyone access to sidewalks, bike lanes, curb ramps, and more. I support keeping the division within SDOT to allow greater collaboration to make our streets safer using more strategies than just ticketing.
  2. Fund protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements in District 2. Since the Mayor released his proposed budget at the end of September, 7 people have been hit and killed while walking, rolling, or biking in Seattle, and over ½ of these deaths came in D2. These deaths are a policy choice the city has made over the years by refusing to invest in safe street infrastructure in the South End. Please support Councilmember Morales’s amendment to invest in street safety in District 2.
  3. Automated speed camera enforcement expansion needs to be equitable. Automated speed cameras are effective at getting drivers to slow down in school zones, and better than armed officer enforcement. In fact, 95% of drivers that receive a ticket never get a 2nd ticket at that location. However, there are surveillance concerns and high ticket costs are disproportionately harsh for lower income residents. In the long term, please investigate tiered ticketing based on income. In the short term, this program must issue warnings instead of tickets for first violations and create alternatives for people who can’t pay.
  4. Reverse cuts that make our City less accessible for disabled people. Uneven and crumbling sidewalks pose extreme mobility challenges to people with disabilities and create tripping hazards – especially for elders – and many of our parks are extremely inaccessible. Even at the current rate of funding, it will take centuries for Seattle to repair the 150,000+ repair issues that the city knows about. Council should not cut funding to these vital and already extremely under-funded programs. Please reverse the $4M cut to sidewalk maintenance and $1.5M to ADA compliance in parks.

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