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Updated Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 11:31 PM

City budget hearings end on testy note with delay on youth services

By Lynn Thompson
Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle City Council Finance Committee on Friday is expected to finalize a 2013 budget that adds police officers and daytime shelter for the downtown homeless and lets people pay for parking meters via cellphone.

But the $932 million general-fund budget won't fund a gunshot locator system proposed by Mayor Mike McGinn and it won't expand a youth-violence-prevention program until an evaluation is in place for the existing program. It also delays for a year a study of a streetcar line on Eastlake Avenue, another pet project of the mayor's, instead funding improvements to major bus corridors and street repairs.

The budget increases some city fees. Animal-shelter adoption rates would go from $5 to $15 for most animals, daily parking at Seattle Center would rise from $10 to $12 and higher for special events, and adults would have to pay $4 for admission to Volunteer Park Conservatory and an additional 50 cents to swim in city pools.

The City Council is expected to vote on the budget Nov. 19.

McGinn went public this week with his unhappiness over some of the council's proposed changes, telling a radio audience Monday that the council was going to stop funding the youth-violence program altogether in order to do an evaluation.

Some Southeast Seattle community groups called a news conference Thursday to protest the council's delay in expanding the program.

"With a spike in shootings and homicides, now is the wrong time to propose delaying these additional funds," said Edith Elion, Director of the Atlantic Street Center. The community groups also objected to what they said were cuts in hours at community centers where at-risk youth are served.

But the council's changes don't cut any 2012 hours and allocate $176,000 for structured programs for teens, which council members say is more effective than just adding drop-in hours at the community centers.

"It's unsettling how active the disinformation campaign has been," said Council President Sally Clark.

Clark said that while previous mayors and their deputies have lobbied council members in support of their budget priorities, neither McGinn nor his staff have talked directly to council members.

"There have been no one-on-one conversations," Clark said.

The council irked the mayor by excluding budget director Beth Goldberg from its final negotiating sessions. In previous years, Goldberg sat with the council throughout budget deliberations.

This year, she engaged in several testy exchanges with new Finance Committee Chairman Tim Burgess, a potential opponent of McGinn's in the 2013 mayoral race.

Burgess said Goldberg wasn't needed once the council began its internal debate.

One of their sharp exchanges was over the effectiveness of the gunshot locator system. McGinn's proposed budget included $950,000 to buy and install more than 50 mobile gunshot locaters equipped with video and audio.

Burgess said there was no evidence that the systems reduced gun violence or increased arrests.

But the council did fund McGinn's request of $1 million for 10 new police officers in 2013 and added $1.6 million for new hires in 2014.

The mayor proposed expanding the youth-violence-prevention program that now serves about 1,050 at-risk youth by adding 450 to the program, which currently has a long waiting list.

"You don't leave these kids at risk without services when they need help," McGinn said on KUOW radio Monday. He suggested that the program could be expanded at the same time it was evaluated.

Councilmember Bruce Harrell said the program's initial goals included reducing by 50 percent expulsions for violence from six schools.

That goal was reduced to 10 percent last year and still isn't being met, Harrell said.

"By those measures we're failing miserably," he said.

Harrell said the council wants an evaluation to determine whether the right youth are being targeted and whether the city is measuring the right outcomes before spending $1 million in 2013 and $1.6 million in 2014 to expand the program, as the mayor proposed.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.






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