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April 22, 2010 at 3:56 PM

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Council strikes back at McGinn: What's your plan to fix street crime?

Posted by Emily Heffter

(This post has been updated with comments from Councilmember Sally Clark and Mayor Mike McGinn.)

The Seattle City Council couldn't get veto-proof support this week for new rules on aggressive panhandling.

Members voted 5-4 Monday to pass the controversial legislation that Mayor Mike McGinn intends to veto Friday afternoon.

But all nine council members have signed a letter Thursday criticizing the mayor for holding up the hiring of 20 police officers.

The mayor said on KUOW this week that the police department was holding off hiring 20 budgeted officers because of a budget shortfall. In the interview on the "Weekday" program, the mayor said the city may not be able to afford a planned 20 officers next year, either.

The council's strongly worded letter says:

"We are troubled by the halt in hiring net new officers and that this decision was made without consulting the Council," the letter says. "We request that you direct the Chief of Police to proceed with the hiring necessary to keep the city on track to achieve a net increase of 20 patrol officers this year."

The council asks McGinn to report back about what he will do to decrease crime and "street disorder" in business districts, including downtown.

Councilmember Sally Clark said the council should have been told about any decision to put off the neighborhood policing plan promise to hire 20 police officers each year.

"It's a big public commitment on the part of the city, and it's something where council members would expect to be told about that," she said.

McGinn blamed the council's budget for his decision about the police officers. He said the city may not be able to afford the officers this year or next. The council is asking him to spend money the city doesn't have, he said.

"The council can't have it both ways," the mayor said. "They can't pass an unsustainable budget, spend down the rainy day fund, hand out business tax breaks ... and then say, you know, come up with dollars ... We are cleaning up the mess that they created."

Clark said the mayor's recent comments about the budget have been "short-sighted" and that she hopes the council and the mayor can get on the same page about budget cuts before joint public budget meetings April 28 and May 4.

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