Today, the Seattle City Council voted on the 2018 city budget. This year’s budget discussions included a number of items related to our local business climate—including a proposal for a new tax on jobs to fund programs that did not align with the roadmap we have to reducing homelessness in our region. The Chamber, our partners, and our members were critical voices in this conversation. Thanks to your quick action, over 150 emails were sent to Council and more than 90 business and civic leaders signed on to a joint letter. As GeekWire reported, the initial proposal failed, but several Councilmembers expressed interest in continuing to pursue this revenue source.
Before looking at new revenue, it is critical that the investments the City is already making to reduce homelessness–a record $63 million–go toward a system that works and is aligned with the expert recommendations that the City and King County have received.
To that point, Chamber President and CEO Maud Daudon issued the following statement this morning, urging greater regional collaboration on this pressing issue:
Our region is in a crisis: more people are sleeping outside than ever before. To turn the tide of this crisis, it is more important than ever that our elected officials collaborate, and that available resources are going toward policies and programs that work. We must move beyond tactics like the Council’s recent attempt to pass a jobs tax to fund the strategies of the past.
This is why the Chamber has urged the City of Seattle and King County to work together on changes that align with the below principles, approved by our Executive Committee last year.
- Develop and invest in a person-centered crisis response system, giving highest priority to the health and safety of families with small children first, and then those who have the longest histories of homelessness and the greatest barriers to housing stability.
- Focus on data, carefully measuring which services are actually moving people from the street and into housing.
- Contract for performance, requiring organizations who receive taxpayer dollars to achieve measurable outcomes.
- Embrace the “housing first” philosophy, which moves people into housing quickly and without barriers to entry, while protecting the most vulnerable.
- Guarantee that any additional system funding be based on transitional need or on the provision of direct treatment services, and would only be supported after careful review of how existing funding would be budgeted.
These principles are based on recommendations from reports the City and County have commissioned and reflect best practices from across the country. At this crucial point in time, it is deeply disappointing to see members of the Seattle City Council ignore these recommendations and continue to pursue strategies that have failed to solve our homelessness crisis.
The business community can bring creativity, innovation and resources to solve this crisis, as we have through partnerships with Mary’s Place and Mercy Housing—but our region’s leaders must demonstrate the political will to move beyond old strategies. The Chamber will not participate in any process that has a predetermined outcome, but will gladly engage in a process that accomplishes the principles outlined above.
We stand ready to work with the King County Executive, Seattle’s new Mayor, and leaders at both the City and County Councils to structure a thoughtful process to address this crisis.