City Council Maintains Planned Funding for Seattle Startup Initiative

The Seattle City Council is on its way to approving funds allocated for the Startup Seattle initiative, despite an effort to cut or delay the funding by three council members skeptical of the effort’s merit.

The $151,000 line item for a staff position to run the initiative—unveiled in May by Mayor Mike McGinn—was the only one of 96 to be debated separately at today’s Seattle City Council budget committee hearing. The funding was ultimately maintained as originally proposed in the mayor’s 2014 budget by a vote of 6-3.

“It’s because of the work that the Seattle startup community did in making sure [council members] knew this was a priority,” says Sol Villarreal, community engagement coordinator in McGinn’s office.

Council Members Jean Godden, Nick Licata, and Tom Rasmussen were the dissenting voices, voting for a budget amendment (PDF) that would have held up the money for Startup Seattle until the city’s Office of Economic Development provided a report on the number of startups in Seattle, their employees, and venture investment they’ve received.

The budget still requires a vote of the full council, scheduled for a week from today, but that’s considered a formality since all nine council members sit on the budget committee.

Here’s our story from earlier today:

Back in May, it seemed like a done deal. The city of Seattle was committing a modest $145,000 to Startup Seattle, an initiative to coordinate and promote technology entrepreneurship.

But as Crosscut reports today, the city council may vote to delay that funding, and members of the tech community who worked with outgoing Mayor Mike McGinn on the initiative are incensed.

Council Member Nick Licata tells Crosscut he’s planning to introduce a proposal—supported by Council Members Jean Godden and Tom Rasmussen—to delay funding indefinitely. This is after another effort to cut the funding failed to receive enough support.

The council members are skeptical that the industry needs government help. Their proposal would reportedly seek more information about Seattle startups from the city’s Office of Economic Development, where a program officer for the Startup Seattle initiative would be assigned to work. (The original plan was to have hired someone by the end of the summer.)

The council Budget Committee is meeting today at 2:15 p.m.

As explained in the Crosscut story, and as we reported when the Startup Seattle initiative was unveiled in May, major cities across the country are taking steps to foster startup companies. Seattle’s nascent effort—modeled in part on its City of Music initiative—is relatively small compared to what’s happening in places like Philadelphia.

Update, 11:20 a.m.: We asked Mayor-elect Ed Murray for comment on the Startup Seattle initiative. A spokesman says in an email that Murray is keeping “a low profile” during the transition. He takes office Jan. 1. “The Mayor-elect feels very strongly that there be one Mayor at a time,” the spokesman says.

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