Mayor McGinn Talks Budget Cuts, Parks

By Erica C. Barnett April 28, 2010

At a press availability this afternoon, Mayor Mike McGinn says he does not regret supporting the 2008 parks levy despite the fact that it did not include funding for operations and maintenance of the new parks it funded. McGinn was one of the most vocal backers of the parks levy, which then-mayor Greg Nickels opposed because it didn't pay for operations and maintenance. In his resignation letter, parks director Tim Gallagher said that the lack of operations and maintenance funding had left the city's parks system "unsustainable and in jeopardy of collapse."

"I supported getting the levy on the ballot. I didn't craft the levy," McGinn said. "I think what the council was counting on was that, economically, the city would be able to fund" operations and maintenance. In hindsight, he says, "it would have been wise to include operations and maintenance in the levy."

However, McGinn said he would not privilege the parks department in an upcoming, $15 million round of midyear budget cuts, saying, "I don’t think we can pull one department out of city government and say that it gets some type of unique treatment," McGinn said.. "I love parks and I care about parks, but we have to take care of people in need in this city. We have to keep the streets paved."

Asked whether he would consider hiring the additional 20 police officers the city council says are necessary to implement the city's adopted Neighborhood Policing Plan, McGinn held up a copy of the plan and pointed to a passage that said the city could postpone hiring in bad economic times. "As with many plans, you adopt a plan at the outset and you lay out how you’re going to achieve it, but over time, as you get experience with how you’re doing, you can take look at modifications," McGinn said.

He added: "I would love to hire 20 new police officers. I’d love to hire 40 new police officers. But we don’t have the money right now to do that and we’re not going to make that hiring commitment."

McGinn also would not commit—as King County Executive Dow Constantine did today—to prohibiting city-funded out-of-state travel by mayoral and departmental employees. (Gallagher came under fire for taking frequent, expensive "educational" trips out of town, including a recent jaunt to Australia at a public cost of more than $6,000).

McGinn will hold a joint public hearing on the budget with the city council tonight. He said he doesn't regret the harsh statements he's made about the council, which he's accused of failing to pass a balanced budget and blamed for the ongoing budget crunch at the city. "I think my statements were factual—that the budget that they passed last year is out of balance. ... I don't regret stating what the facts are. ... I encourage them to work with us to solve this" budget crisis.
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