This morning, Mayor Mike McGinn and interim police chief John Diaz announced a new $250,000, two-year federal grant the city has received to fund a mental-health specialist (1.25 specialists, to be precise) to partner with the police department. The idea is that the specialist would be on call to link mentally-ill people in crisis up to services such as drug counseling and mental-health care instead of sending them to the hospital or jail.

However, at a time when King County is engaged in a heated debate over a sales-tax ballot measure that would help fund those types of services , McGinn, somewhat surprisingly, would not come out in favor of the measure, saying only, "I have not taken any position on the sales tax increase." If it passed, the proposal would raise $47 million a year for county health and public safety programs and an additional $32 million a year for cities, including $12.1 million for Seattle in 2011.

A spokesman for King County Executive Dow Constantine, who proposed putting the 0.2 percent sales tax on a countywide ballot, said Constantine did not have any statement on McGinn's lack of a position on the proposal, and a McGinn spokesman has not returned a call.


"We’ll assume that there still will be services available, but perhaps not at the level we want," McGinn said.

"We’ll continue having officers respond to these [mental-health] calls," Diaz said. "We need to have that. But once again, having a specialist on hand will give better likelihood of getting them into whatever services there may be" available.