An ad released Wednesday by the independent expenditure campaign for mayoral challenger and state Sen. Ed Murray strongly implied that Mayor Mike McGinn made a decision—eliminating the city's Office for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assult Prevention—that led to the 60 percent increase in the city's rate of reported domestic violence since 2009. McGinn laid off DV office director Terri Kimball back in 2010.
In response, McGinn's campaign held a press conference and sent out an email calling the ad "offensive and dangerous," and saying McGinn had preserved funding for domestic violence services.
In a statement released by the McGinn campaign, Seattle Human Services Coalition co-chair Patricia Hayden said that "linking the exit of one city employee to a rise in the incidence of domestic violence is dangerous. It masks the real causes of domestic violence in families in Seattle and can make women feel the City doesn’t care."
McGinn's campaign says the mayor increased funding for domestic violence prevention despite eliminating the domestivc violence division, pointing to a DV prevention budget increase of around $30,000 between 2010 and 2012 (they've also proposed a more substantial increase, about $500,000, for 2013.)
McGinn also says a change in the way domestic-violence offenses are prosecuted at the state level has resulted in higher rates of domestic violence reports (hence the 60-percent increase.)
The claim that the city maintained funding for domestic violence services is debatable: In addition to laying Kimball off, as we reported back in 2011, the city also subsumed the work of the former domestic violence and sexual assault prevention division the Community Support & Self-Sufficiency Division and Youth & Family Empowerment Division of the city's human services department—eliminating the one office in the city dedicating to combating domestic violence.
Responding to the McGinn campaign in turn, Murray spokesman Sandeep Kaushik said, "there is no question that the Mayor made a terrible decision to eliminate the Office of [domestic violence] and [sexual assault] Prevention and eliminate the director position. It was widely criticized at the time, and rightfully so."
Back in 2010, the city council managed to stave off cuts to the Seattle Police Department's domestic violence advocacy program, which McGinn proposed as a money-saving measure.
And city council member Nick Licata, criticizing McGinn, said in 2011, "Domestic violence has been one of the council's priorities for years. We're not about to see [the anti-DV office] dismantled."
Back in September, former DV office director Kimball, who was laid off by McGinn's (now departed) Human Services Department director Dannette Smith, commented about the matter on PubliCola, saying, "When I spoke with her about my office's work and our achievements in preventing domestic violence and sexual assault, or ameliorating their impacts, I was ignored. She appeared to neither care nor retain enough information to have even a rudimentary understanding of the Department's role in combating DV and sexual assault. ... Mayor McGinn's sudden interest and investment in domestic violence prevention is transparent and opportunistic."