Seattle mayor breaks silence on KTTH exclusive, calls homelessness authority ‘one tool of many’

Aug 31, 2022, 12:28 PM | Updated: 5:04 pm

(KIRO 7)...

(KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is potentially looking to reduce funds to the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, the independent agency that began in 2021 to centralize the county’s homelessness response.

Mayor Harrell signaled in recent weeks his interest in moving funds away from the KCRHA, even as it asks the county and the city of Seattle for an additional $90 million on top of its base budget of $208.4 million.

“I didn’t set this stuff up,” Mayor Harrell said of the KCRHA in a speech in front of Seattle Police officers, according to KTTH’s Jason Rantz.

Rantz: Seattle mayor privately blasts homelessness groups, ‘inexperienced’ council

“I get one vote out of nine, and they criticize my removal efforts,” Harrell said. “So I’m funding an organization that seems to be working against what I’m trying to do.”

“So now we’re looking to revisiting that because my public safety strategy that I’m funding … they criticize that,” Harrell continued. “So why would I then, as mayor, invest $118 million into a group that’s really working against me? That’s the hand that I’ve dealt.”

Harrell delivered those comments behind closed doors. Wednesday, the mayor had the opportunity to contextualize that statement in front of the public in a news conference he delivered to announce additional funding for the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department.

“Yes,” Harrell said when asked whether he would propose a budget cut to the KCRHA in the coming weeks.

“We’ll present our budget in a few weeks … you will see our clear recognition of a lot of the great work they’re doing … But let me say this. That is one tool of many,” he continued.

The head of the KCRHA is Marc Dones, with whom the mayor has clashed in recent months as Harrell pushed for encampment removals in the middle of July’s heat wave.

“(The Regional Homelessness Authority) does not support displacement,” the authority’s communications director Anne Martens wrote to the Seattle Times in response to the removal of a SoDo encampment.

“It’s a startup organization,” Harrell said Wednesday, replying back to the KCRHA.

“They are owed the opportunity to succeed, to have measurable outcomes. But the conversations I had privately, when I met with Marc Dones and King County Executive Dow Constantine, to talk about our expectations … I feel very optimistic. I’m very optimistic. But I’m not going to look at any of the work we’re doing in the city through rose-colored glasses. I will not do that.”

The City of Seattle is likely to face a budget shortfall of up to $140 million annually over the next four years, according to the Seattle City Council’s budget committee. Against that backdrop, the council and the mayor will deliberate how and where to make budget cuts, likely announced in the coming months with Harrell’s 2023 budget.

Editor’s note: A spokesperson for the mayor’s office wrote to MyNorthwest, saying “the mayor was simply acknowledging the question with his ‘yes’, not indicating that he’s seeking to reduce funding.” 

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Seattle mayor breaks silence on KTTH exclusive, calls homelessness authority ‘one tool of many’