Durkan proposes $ 5.6 million plan to tackle litter in Seattle parks and public spaces
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has proposed a $ 5.6 million plan to meet garbage and maintenance needs in parks and public spaces by next summer.
The city has struggled to meet these needs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor’s office said on Wednesday, citing an increase in waste and illegal dumping, a decline in staff due to COVID-19 protocols. and a reduction in voluntary cleanings. Seattle utilities collected 195% more garbage from public spaces July through September (921,000 pounds) than between April and June (313,000 pounds), Durkan’s office said.
Durkan’s plan requires council approval. This would add about $ 1.2 million to Seattle’s remaining 2020 budget and about $ 4.4 million next year to boost garbage collection and maintenance in parks, business districts, and natural areas. . Council members discussed similar ideas.
The mayor’s plan would run through July 2021: a twice-weekly waste and illegal dumping reduction program from eight neighborhood roads to 18; a program that distributes and collects garbage bags in homeless camps with 17 to 34 sites; and an eight-box to 18-box needle disposal program.
According to Durkan’s office, it would also increase spending on graffiti removal and cleaning up business districts while assigning teams of employees from multiple departments to reduce the city’s clean-up maintenance backlog.
The council discussed amendments to the 2021 budget plan that the mayor submitted in September. Durkan’s office on Monday released an economic forecast update that increased the Seattle general government’s expected revenue by $ 57 million in 2020 and 2021. The mayor suggests that the council use some of that money to pay for its garbage collection and maintenance plan.
Durkan’s plan incorporates the council’s ideas, she noted. Board member Tammy Morales proposed expanding the bag program and board member Dan Strauss proposed more spending on cleaning up business districts.
Durkan heard from “community members all over town” that more should be done “to clean up rights of way and public parks,” she said. “It is essential that we keep our parks and playgrounds safe and accessible to all. “
Greg Ramirez, who chairs the Georgetown Community Council, called Durkan’s plan a good sign. Parks in his neighborhood have been neglected, he said.
“We’ll see if they’re able to stay on top of that,” Ramirez said.
Several aspects of the mayor’s plan would meet the needs of the tent camps that have sprung up in a number of parks. Some neighborhood and business groups, including Georgetown Council, complained about the camps in a letter about various park issues last week, raising concerns among some tent dwellers and advocates that City Hall may evict the camps without offering adequate assistance. Public health officials have warned that the breaking up of the camps could spread the coronavirus.
Durkan’s plan says, “This initiative is not a proposal to increase camp removals. Council homelessness committee chairman Andrew Lewis said the services in question should gain broad support.
“I’ve been to a lot of camps… and people want places to throw stuff. They don’t want to pile up the garbage, ”Lewis said.
People in tents at a Denny Park encampment where the city has already located a dumpster have kept the area garbage-free, they said last week. The city could add dumpsters to more parks and the park service is launching a “rapid response team”, with existing resources, to prevent “stacking” of illegal dumpsters in abandoned settlements.
Tiffani McCoy, lead organizer of Real Change, called the services offered welcome, but said she remained worried that the camps would eventually be swept away.
Durkan calls his plan a “Clean Cities Initiative,” McCoy noted, fearing that the rhetoric might encourage people to blame “dirty” spaces on homeless people, rather than on maintenance issues and root causes. roaming.
“Some of this information is positive,” McCoy said of Durkan’s plan. “But I have to cry out for responsiveness. We continue not to invest enough upstream.
Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle / King County Coalition on Homelessness, says most people here “understand that people live on the outside because they have nowhere else to be safe and stable.”
Council members must weigh their priorities, she said. The toilets in a park near Eisinger’s house where people live are “insufficiently open,” she said, adding: “We don’t have enough sanitation. We don’t have enough shelters. We don’t have enough housing.
Ramirez hopes the potential increase in maintenance will be complemented by an increase in aid to homeless people, he said. Durkan said his 2021 budget would add hundreds of accommodation beds in the short term. She and city council reached a deal last week to boost homeless awareness for the rest of 2020. They are still discussing exactly how to handle this work next year.
“This advice has been very assertive in its willingness to adopt a new course of action” which narrows the camps by guiding people to shelters, rather than removing the tents, said Lewis.
“We at Georgetown really want to see people connected” to help, Ramirez said.
Don Blakeney, vice president of the Downtown Seattle Association, called Durkan’s waste mitigation plan a good first step.
“The goal is not to have people living in parks – and to get there with proximity services, services and safe places for people,” he said.
Cindi DeWitt, director of environmental services for the Park Place assisted living building in New Holly, said garbage pickup is appreciated near John C. Little Park. But DeWitt would also like City Hall to invest in portable toilets and handwashing stations, as the park’s toilets usually close at this time of year.
“I really hope this will be fixed before winter sets in,” she said.