This morning's city council budget meeting included an unusually direct slap at Mayor Mike McGinn from the head of the city council's central staff (the council's usually apolitical policy shop), Ben Noble, who all but accused the mayor of lacking the kind of leadership required to implement a major overhaul of the way the Seattle Police Department approaches minor crimes downtown.
During a long discussion of the somewhat contentious Center City Initiative (CCI) and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program this morning, city council members questioned, in the words of council president Sally Clark, "whether we're actually making an impact" with the program. CCI is aimed at both reducing low-level crime downtown and at linking people committing those crimes to supportive services like drug treatment and housing assistance.
And the head of the council's central staff (the policy shop for council) indirectly questioned Mayor Mike McGinn's ability and willingness to take the lead on actually implementing CCI.
The two main components of the program are LEAD, which directs low-level offenders to services instead of jail, and a multidisciplinary team (MDT), which serves people who either have violent criminal histories or who weren't committing crimes. McGinn is asking the council for an additional $1.5 million to expand LEAD and a $208,000 expansion of the MDT."I cannot emphasize enough the leadership that it's going to require out of the executive, and in our view, particularly the mayor's office. ... You cannot make the mayor take the leadership that needs to happen here ... and that's a challenge."
Critics have said the CCI has consisted more of "conversations" than action, and point out that there's no solid evidence yet that LEAD, which directs low-level offenders to services instead of jail, is working to reduce crime downtown).
In perhaps the most unusual moment of the meeting, after another staffer suggested that the council could proviso some of the money McGinn has requested—that is, hold it back until certain conditions are met—central staff director Ben Noble, unprompted, told the council: "I cannot emphasize enough the leadership that it's going to require out of the executive, and in our view, particularly the mayor's office. ... We've had the opportunity to meet with the city attorney and his staff, and they're clearly on board and ready to be part of that conversation."
Council member Jean Godden said there was "not enough focus" in the current proposal. She wouldn't want to have "this nebulous thing where we have wonderful ideas ... and wonderful aspirations, but we don't know where the buck stops. ... This fuzziness makes [CCI] very difficult to talk about when you talk to constituents."
Council member Tim Burgess added, "I'm actually less focused on whether LEAD should expand or not ... and more focused on what it is we're trying to accomplish here, and is the city unified, and do we understand what our end result and our purpose is, and I do not think that we can today."
"But what has not been present to date and needs to be—and I don't feel good about saying this, but I will—we can write [statements of legislative intent], and you can proviso things, but you cannot make the mayor take the leadership that needs to happen here ... and that's a challenge for you."