Four years ago this week, Mike McGinn was elected as Seattle's next mayor. That same week, the Seattle City Council moved to cut $524,891 in staff funding for the new mayor. Another $500,000 in staff funding was frozen by the city council and could not "be spent until... the Mayor submits a plan for how policy functions will be organized in the Mayor's office," according to pg. 621 of this summary of the 2010 budget (.pdf).
This week, state senator Ed Murray was elected as Seattle's next mayor. Today at 2 pm, the Seattle City Council's budget committee discusses adding $750,000—carte blanche—back into the policy staffing budget for our next mayor. You'll notice that green sheet lists the sponsoring council members for this add-on as "budget committee."
That basically means that this item already has the votes to pass. (If you're one of the city's two hobbyist budget enthusiasts, you'll have noticed by now that green sheets that cut funds are never sponsored by a specific council member, rather, they're sponsored by the "budget committee" to avoid anyone having to be accountable for an unpopular decision. Same with green sheets that already have enough votes to pass.)
I've made a few calls to the second floor of city hall to see if someone would be willing to pipe up and explain the huge cut four years ago—and why it's being miraculously reinstated today (this green sheet only popped up today—it wasn't on the docket before then). No one I've contacted has been willing to speak on the record. (Surprise!)
I suppose one explanation could be that, four years ago, the city was in the midst of a financial crisis. Hard cuts needed to be made. Those cuts came from, among other places, the mayor's office. Four years later, in a healthier economy, those cuts are being reinstated. Coincidentally, during election week. Bizarre!
However, this explanation doesn't take into account the intervening three years, as the economy slowly bounced back. And, frankly, it stretches credulity to dismiss petty politicking as at least one motivation for the cuts. Four years ago, the city council was facing a new mayor they did not endorse. Consequently, they cut his staff budget by more than half a million dollars a year, and then complained about how ineffectual he was. And how difficult to work with.
This year, the city council welcomes a mayor they heartily, publicly endorsed. Consequently, they reinstate his staff budget by $750,000 (annually), no strings attached.
This move isn't particularly surprising. But it does fortify the argument that McGinn's early mayoral problems were due, at least in part, to obstructionism at the hands of the city council.
I suppose Murray should be thankful the council likes him.