City Council budget chair Tim Burgess says that after hearing emotional public testimony urging council members to preserve funding for Communities Uniting Rainier Beach—a program the council had targeted for elimination, noting that, in the words of council member Nick Licata, it has "drifted away from" its original goal of preventing youth arrests—at least four of the nine council members want to give the program a chance to prove it works before cutting its funding.
"The testimony we heard this morning from the clients who are in the program was very powerful and poignant," Burgess says, "and I realized that we had not exactly followed our process. ... That was an error." Second, Burgess says, "the evaluations that have been done in the past have been inconclusive—they didn't say it was a great program, but they didn't say it failed."
Council members initially argued that the program, which was focused on crime prevention, had effectively become a "reentry program" to help people, mostly adults, who had already been arrested, not a diversion program to keep kids from becoming involved in violence in the first place.
Burgess says that while some council critics may portray the backtrack on CURB as council weakness in the face of public pressure, "I think it's the council being strong" and listening to their constituents.
The council will adopt the final 2013-2014 budget on Monday, November 19.