The Seattle City Council has moved to reduce a proposed expansion of the city's team responsible for overseeing the removal of homeless encampments, redirecting the money to wage increases for homeless service workers.
The Seattle Times reports the 6-3 vote was a preliminary action, with the final budget set for adoption Monday. But the proposal, sponsored by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, sparked debate among council members and protests from business and neighborhood groups who want a more vigorous response to the city's estimated 400 unsanctioned tent camps.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan had proposed expanding the Navigation Team, which includes outreach workers and police, by nine positions in her budgets for 2019 and 2020.
City Council staff said at least some of the positions already had been hired, using $500,000 allocated by King County over the summer to allow the team to expand to 30.
Mosqueda said her proposal would reduce that expansion to six next year, and seven in 2020, and would use the $724,000 in savings to give wage increases of two percent to more city-contracted human-services workers at nonprofit agencies than Durkan's budget proposed.
After the vote, Mike Fong, deputy mayor, in an email to the council, said she "strongly opposes this cut." ''I hope Council will reverse its efforts to cut these critical jobs and capacity for the Navigation Team to do outreach to vulnerable people in so many of our communities."
Mosqueda called the Navigation Team "critical" to the city's homeless response, but she emphasized that the workers at nonprofits needed to be paid "a fair wage."