President Obama recently delivered an eloquent address to both houses of Congress. He spoke frankly about the economic crisis, the worst in many decades. But, rather than dwell on our losses, he adopted an upbeat approach to difficult times. He reminded us that “we can turn this ordeal into opportunity.”
Like the president, I believe that we in the city of Seattle can — we must — use this downturn to show our strength, our resilience, and our creativity. We must put everything on the table, explore ways to streamline government, and make government more efficient. To accomplish these tasks will require your help.
Here’s the situation: Revenue experts now say there may be a gap of $20-25 million between the City’s anticipated income and actual receipts. In other words, we know that Seattle is going to have to revisit the 2009-10 budget passed last year and adjust spending. A balanced budget isn’t just a worthy goal; in Seattle it’s a charter requirement.
Among the steps the City Council is taking is calling on Seattle citizens for advice. We’re in this together and city services and programs important to us all are at stake. What are YOUR priorities? Which programs do YOU value? Are there places where YOU believe the city can save? We want to hear from you during this second look at the budget. There will be ample opportunities for public comment during special budget meetings and by mail, email, and phone. Check the council Website for councilmembers’ mailing and email addresses. It’s important for the council to hear from YOU.
One of the first opportunities for input will come at a special public meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. March 26 in the Council Chambers. After the public hearing, there will be a series of Special Budget Committee Meetings, timed to follow Council Briefings on Mondays in April. Starting time will be around 10:30 a.m. on April 6, 13, and 20. For home viewers, the meetings will be broadcast on the Seattle Channel, with streaming on demand.
And once again, it’s worth repeating: Everything is on the table. We will have to look at such tough choices as furloughs and staff reductions. The opportunity part of the ordeal may be achieved when we look at ways to streamline government and make it work better for citizens. The council will view budget revisions in light of priorities adopted last year: public safety, human services, transportation, the environment, pedestrian safety, and neighborhoods. However, with a deepening recession, it may become necessary to consider some reductions even in core areas.
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