Solidarity Budget

Grim Economic News Leads to Extended Seattle Budget Season

Seattle Budget News

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle budget meeting. I won’t be live tweeting all details (and have to leave for a bit mid-meeting to drop Nala at the vet) but I’ll throw some info up here.
Above you can view my tweet thread on last week’s budget meetings covering proposed amendments for the CSCC, HSD, SDOT, and SPD. However, given yesterday’s bleak revenue forecast, many of the over 100 amendments discussed in last week’s meetings are likely toast. The new forecast foresees a net $64 million decrease in real estate excise tax revenues, a net $9.4 million decrease in general fund revenues, and a net $4.5 million decrease in revenues from the sweetened beverage tax over the next two years (2023-2024). There is also worry that the Jumpstart tax, which as a new tax is hard to predict, might begin to bring in less revenue. The REET revenues are dedicated to capital projects listed in the comprehensive plan, and the sweetened beverage tax revenues go towards “programs that increase access to healthy food and supports children’s health and learning.”
Due to this bad news, the budget season schedule has been changed. The last two public forums for public comment remain at the same times: Tuesday, November 8 at 9:30am and Tuesday, November 15 at 5pm. But everything else has been shifted back by about a week to give Budget Chair Mosqueda time to adjust her balancing package to account for the revenue shortfalls.
Thus, the balancing package will be announced on Monday, November 14. The votes on the balancing package and proposed amendments will take place on Monday, November 21. And then we have to wait until after Thanksgiving for the final budget committee vote on Monday, November 28 and the final Full Council vote on Tuesday, November 29.
The Solidarity Budget has arranged a week of action that began this past Monday. Today the website “Should SPD Do It?” was launched, which I encourage you to go give a spin. Tomorrow will be a call-in day to protect JumpStart. Next week, there will be a webinar on ShotSpotter on Monday at noon, a rally at 8:30am on Tuesday to support human services workers, and a Women in Black vigil on Wednesday at noon. So if you want to get involved, now is a great time!

Other News

The King County Council ratified the new police union contract with KCPOG on Tuesday. In addition to the new powers this contract grants the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) including the ability to subpoena, the contract also gives King County Sheriff deputies a raise of 20% over the next three years: 6% for 2022 (to be paid retroactively), 10% for 2023, and 4% for 2024. This raise will require a substantial increase to the King County Sheriff Office’s overall budget.
This contract was approved right as news dropped of a case from 2021 where a Black female detective from SPD was undercover monitoring a protest and was menaced by two men in a truck who she believed might be Proud Boys…but ended up being KCSO deputies. Both deputies have since left the department, one for a position in the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office.
As Will Casey reports in The Stranger, SPD officers have apparently been breathing in toxic gas while on the job, both in the garage and in the sergeant’s workroom adjacent to the garage. It took one SPD officer bringing forward and winning a lawsuit, after being harassed at work for wanting to protect his health, to daylight this issue. As Will Casey says, “If this is making you wonder whether, perhaps, mean statements from City Council members in 2020 doesn’t amount to the sole reason for attrition within the department, then you’re not alone.”
Finally, Seattle has released its Q3 accountability report required by the consent decree, which you can read here.

Recent Headlines

Proposed Surveillance Tech Can Lead to Biased Policing

Seattle News

There have been no budget meetings during this second week of Seattle’s budget season, as both CMs and the public analyze the proposed budget and consider its ramifications and any changes they’d like to see. The next opportunity for public comment is on Tuesday, October 11. There will be public comment at the beginning of the budget meeting beginning at 9:30am (sign-ups starting at 7:30am), AND the first public hearing, also for public comment related to the budget, will be that evening at 5pm (sign-ups starting at 3pm). You can give your public comment at both meetings either in person at City Hall or remotely.
Speaking of budget season, the Solidarity Budget will be having its virtual volunteer orientation tomorrow night, Thursday 10/6 at 6pm. You can sign up to participate here.
One of the more controversial line items of the proposed budget is the $1m allocated in SPD’s budget for ShotSpotter. Mayor Harrell has been a long-standing proponent for the technology, which places microphones throughout specific neighborhoods in order to pick up the sounds of gunfire. Not only would this increase SPD’s surveillance capacity in a more diverse and lower income neighborhood in Seattle, but its efficacy is also in question. The OIG in Chicago found that ShotSpotter rarely results in evidence that leads to evidence of a gun-related crime, and the presence of the technology changes police behavior; areas with a perceived higher frequency of ShotSpotter activity leads to the justification of more stops and more pat-downs during stops, aka biased policing. In addition, prosecutors in Chicago are having to withdraw evidence generated by the technology. It is perhaps no surprise that the cities of Charlotte and San Antonio have dropped use of this technology in past years, or that the city of Buffalo recently blocked its implementation.
If you ever wonder how effective public comment is, wonder no more! Apparently one public comment made by programmer Scott Shawcroft at a redistricting commission hearing, in which he suggested putting Magnolia in District 6 and Fremont in District 7, prompted the amendment discussed in this newsletter last week that puts all of Magnolia in one district and divides Fremont into THREE districts. The last public hearing for the redistricting commission in Seattle is this Saturday, October 8 from 10am-12pm. You can register to give public comment online here, where you can also get the relevant Zoom link, or alternately you can show up in person. If you’d like to support the Redistricting Justice for Seattle proposed map, you can find talking points here.
In the story that keeps giving, remember those pesky deleted text messages of our former Mayor Durkan? New forensic evidence found that 191 of her texts were MANUALLY DELETED. This is very different from previous statements that the missing text messages were simply due to a setting mysteriously set to delete texts after 30 days. In addition, six other city officials had “factory resets” performed on their phones during the relevant period in 2020. This new evidence could strongly impact current lawsuits against the city.
The SPD announced they fired Officer Andrei Constantin, who took to Twitter to make fun of protesters and victims of police violence, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and local activist Summer Taylor, who was killed while protesting on I-5. Constantin had racked up at least nine other OPA complaints during his tenure at SPD, which began in April of 2016.
At the Council Briefing on September 26, CM Herbold announced that SFD has been doing an analysis of calls they respond to that can lead to violence. The analysis suggested an automatic joint response of SPD officers escorting SFD personnel to both overdose and seizure calls, as patients can be unaware of their surroundings and have an initial violent reaction after receiving NARCAN or coming out of a seizure. Along with this near-term change, the Joint Safety Committee is considering other recommendations along these lines.

King County News

Budget season has also begun in King County, and now is the time for you to email your King County council members about your budget priorities. People Power Washington has a script for you to use if you are so inclined. You can find the King County budget schedule, including opportunities to make public comment, here.
We conclude today’s newsletter on a somber note. Erica C. Barnett recently did an investigative piece on the King County youth jail, which is well worth a read. While the occupancy rate of the jail is rising and the number of staff is falling, the jail frequently uses solitary confinement for its juvenile occupants:
King County officials are aware that keeping kids in their cells is a problem, but the use of the practice has been escalating. In July, there were 13 days when kids were locked in their cells between 18 and 20 hours a day because of short staffing at the jail. Additionally, an independent monitor’s report released in May found a “significant increase” in the number of times youth were put IN “restrictive housing” (solitary confinement) because of a risk of “imminent and significant physical harm to the youth or others,” along with a spike in the length of this form of confinement; in the first quarter of this year, 41 kids were put in restrictive housing for an average of 6 hours per session.
We have kids in King County who have already experienced the trauma that resulted in them being in jail in the first place who are now having their trauma compounded by being locked into their cells for 18 to 20 hours per day. While the County has convened an advisory committee to make recommendations for how to phase out youth incarceration, little progress has been made thus far, which is concerning giving the urgency and gravity of their mandate.

Recent Headlines

WA offers $4K bonuses to combat homeless-service worker crisis | Crosscut

Riotsville, U.S.A. Is a Surreal History Lesson on the Militarization of the US Police

Last Week of Seattle Budget Season and More OIG Woes

Last Week of Seattle Budget Talks

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle Council Briefing!
The last week of Seattle’s budget talks is going to be a busy one! First, the Solidarity Budget is holding a rally outside City Hall tomorrow (Tuesday) from 6-8pm, which is an excellent time to make your support known. Happily, it even looks like the rain is going to hold off.
On Wednesday, the Council will publish a list of the proposed amendments to the 2022 budget. On Thursday morning, the last public hearing on the budget will be from 9:30-11am (signups beginning at 8am), followed by a budget meeting discussing the proposed amendments. If the Council can’t get through all the proposals on Thursday, they will also meet on Friday.
Then on Monday, the budget committee will convene in the morning directly after the Council Briefing to vote on budget-related legislation. Finally, they will make a final vote on the 2022 budget and all related legislation Monday afternoon at 2pm. There will be one last chance for public comment at that meeting (11/22 at 2pm). And of course, you can always email and call your CMs as well!
We have heard about two potential amendments that may be discussed on Thursday. CM Sawant announced an amendment to raise the JumpStart tax to fund more investments in affordable housing and the Green New Deal. Thus far, her colleagues have been reluctant to increase this tax so it is uncertain whether she’ll have enough co-sponsors to bring the amendment to a vote.
Meanwhile, CP González has signaled she’s working on an amendment that will abrogate the extra SPD officer positions that the department is unable to fill this year. This is actually more important than it may sound on the surface. SPD has a huge number of funded but vacant positions, which results in a much larger amount of salary savings for them every year than is realized by the average city department. Having these unfilled but funded positions as the base for each year’s budget means the SPD starts out with much more money for staffing than they can possibly spend. In practice, what this means is if the Council retrieves this money (that isn’t actually going to be used for officer salaries) to use for other priorities (like community alternates to public safety or affordable housing), then this is characterized as a “cut” to the SPD budget and becomes immediately controversial. Having the SPD budget start closer to the actual salary spending needed will alter the conversation and make it more transparent when SPD is adding funds for expenses other than officer salaries.
Unsurprisingly, much of the conversation about the budget this year is about SPD. The Solidarity Budget is calling for further cuts to the SPD budget, while Mayor Durkan and Mayor-elect Harrell are calling for the SPD budget to be what Mayor Durkan originally proposed. There is even vigorous debate over what exactly constitutes a cut. For an excellent summary for the issues around SPD’s budget so far, check out this article from the South Seattle Emerald:

Continued OIG Woes

Meanwhile, Seattle’s accountability system continues to show cracks, as Carolyn Bick’s recent reporting in the South Seattle Emeraldshows:
Based on a preliminary internal quality control investigation conducted in July 2021, it appears that Office of Inspector General (OIG) auditor Anthony Finnell failed to thoroughly review more than 30 protest case findings issued by the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), before issuing either full certifications or approving cases as “Expedited” — cases in which the OPA determines that findings can be issued mainly on intake investigations.
The article continues by laying out many examples that show Finnell’s pattern of not thoroughly reviewing OPA case findings and simply rubber stamping them as approved.
In light of the OIG whistleblower and the problems revealed in the OPA’s report on the Labor Day SPOG HQ protest, this is further evidence that the current accountability system is not working as designed. The lack of an established process for investigations of serious allegations related to the accountability system is alarming, as is the apparent lack of recourse for residents of Seattle who are concerned about the continued accountability issues we’ve been seeing. While it is frustrating that public officials don’t appear interested in addressing these concerns, it makes it all the more important to continue to both monitor and raise awareness about what is happening.

Recent Headlines

Mosqueda Brings Durkan's Budget Back to Reality With Cuts to SPD - Slog - The Stranger

Understanding the NICJR report

Seattle’s Proposed Budget: More Cops, JumpStart power play

Seattle’s Proposed 2022 Budget

The Solidarity Budget held their kickoff of their budget recommendations over the weekend. From their website:
The 2022 Seattle Solidarity Budget is a collective call toward a city budget that centers the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable Seattle residents, responds with funding that is commensurate with the crises we are facing, and prioritizes collective care and liberation.
They go onto say, “Divesting from police systems and investing in Black communities goes hand in hand with climate justice work and housing justice work and Indigenous sovereignty.” Here is a good summary of many of their proposals. Full disclosure, I’m on the steering committee of one of the organizations that has endorsed the Solidarity Budget.
The Solidarity Budget launch was strategically timed, as the Mayor transmitted her 2022 proposed budget to the City Council yesterday.
First, some good news. The Mayor is honoring her commitment to continue investment in BIPOC communities, calling for an additional $30m for participatory budgeting (increasing the overall pot to $57m since the bulk of the 2021 investment remains unspent), $30m to the Equitable Communities Initiative (aka the Mayor’s task force), and $30m to the Strategic Investment Fund for acquisition of property located in high risk of displacement neighborhoods. She is also continuing the $10m investment in HSD for community safety capacity building. However, the Solidarity Budget asks for a $60m investment in participatory budgeting.
In terms of SPD, the Mayor proposes increasing their budget by around $2.5m. The total proposed SPD budget for 2022 is about 23% of the estimated available General Fund. She makes several other proposals:
  • the addition of 35 net sworn officers, which means hiring a total of 125 officers in 2022, for a total force of 1230 (in contrast, the Solidarity Budget suggests a total force of 750 officers)
  • $1.1m for bonuses for hiring new recruits and lateral transfers (another attempt after CM Pedersen’s similar amendments failed last week)
  • the addition of another team of CSOs (five officers and one supervisor); the CSOs (community service officers) want to remain within SPD instead of moving the CSCC, meaning expanding this program continues to grow SPD
  • SDOT and the Parks & Rec Department will both get more money to continue removing encampments
The Mayor has provided $2m funding for Triage One, to be housed in the fire department to perform wellness check calls. At this amount of funding, Triage One could only respond to a small fraction of the calls that even SPD agrees don’t need a sworn officer response (14%). And don’t forget the recent NICJR report that found 49% of 911 calls in Seattle don’t require a sworn officer response. However, there is no mention of funding any kind of alternate community emergency response program like CAHOOTS or STAR in the budget, in spite of the proven track record of such programs.
The budget committee presentation on Community Safety & Community Led Investments and SPD will be on Thursday, September 30 at 2pm. You can give public comment Thursday morning at 9:30am; sign-ups begin at 7:30am.

Jumpstart Funds and the Proposed Budget

As Erica Barnett reports in Publicola, another interesting facet of the Mayor’s proposed budget is the fact that she takes $148m from the new JumpStart tax fund to spend on her own priorities. This is in spite of the fact that:
The council adopted the payroll tax specifically to fund programs addressing housing, homelessness, and equity, and created a separate fund for JumpStart revenues with the intention that they couldn’t be used for other purposes—which is precisely what Durkan is proposing to do.
In 2022 Mayor Durkan is planning to use one-time federal relief funds to pay for the stated JumpStart tax purposes, but this plan will leave the new Mayor and Council in a pretty pickle with the 2023 budget, when they will either have to cut the programs funded by the reallocated money in 2022 or abandon their original JumpStart spending plan.
In addition, one in a volley of parting shots, she is proposing legislation that will allow future Mayors to use the JumpStart funds for almost any purpose.

More OPA Problems

Carolyn Bick is back with more excellent reporting on the OPA at the South Seattle Emerald, this time about more discrepancies in a OPA report about the 2020 Labor Day protest outside SPOG HQ. It gets pretty convoluted, so here are some main takeaways:
  • Director Myerberg told the Emerald back in June that he was planning to finalize the Director’s Certification Memo (DCM) for the case in early July, but the DCM had actually been finalized back in April.
  • The DCM appears to craft a narrative of the protest not supported by the evidence that involves conflating three different individuals in easily distinguishable dress and has many discrepancies with various video sources.
  • The narrative tells a story of the protest being broken up in order to arrest a specific person with Molotov cocktails rather than the protest being stopped for no legal reason.
  • You may remember that a different OPA report about this same protest received a partial certification from the OIG because “OIG finds that the deficiencies of the investigation with respect to thoroughness and objectivity cannot be remedied.”
  • You might also remember the resignation of an OIG employee who made an ethics complaint against top staff within the OIG; Bick reports: “The apparent inaccuracies identified in the aforementioned OIG memo included in the ethics complaint start almost at the very beginning of the 35-page DCM.”
Perhaps most damning is this quote from Carolyn Bick’s article:
This throws into question the claim that SPD’s aim was not to disperse the crowd but only to target one person allegedly carrying a dangerous weapon for arrest.
However, the OPA appears to ignore this and, further, appears to convey a specific reason for doing so: The OPA writes in the DCM that it “declines” to reach a conclusion that, under the Federal Consent Decree, would legally bar SPD from policing demonstrations, because the OPA claims that these protest situations could become dangerous without police. For that reason, the OPA writes, it will not sustain this allegation.
It is unclear how this conclusion aligns with the Consent Decree, as OPA’s purpose is to hold SPD and its officers to account.
The above quotation clearly suggests the OPA is failing in its duty to hold SPD and its officers accountable. Further, it suggests that had the OPA followed the actual evidence of the case, SPD would be prevented from policing demonstrations in future because of their failure to comply with proper policing standards. Therefore, the OPA is protecting SPD and its officers not only from discipline for misconduct but also from consequences from the consent decree. It is difficult to see how the OPA can maintain community trust in the face of such actions.

Recent Headlines and News of Note

Amy Sundberg
Good morning! It’s Monday and time for this week’s Seattle Council Briefing. CM Juarez isn’t feeling well enough to be here this morning.
Seattle Budget Headlines
Seattle mayor proposes increasing police staffing in 2022 budget | Crosscut

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2022 budget plan would add police, allocate federal aid to housing | The Seattle Times

Seattle City Council’s 2021 Draft Budget

Today CM Mosqueda presented the City Council’s 2021 draft budget. No big surprises here, but let’s dig right in. You can take a look at the presentation slide deck yourself, and you can read the live tweet threads here and here.

Proponents of the Solidarity Budget and large-scale change and divestment in SPD might be disappointed by this proposal, which falls far short of requests to defund from SPD by 50%, maintain the SPD hiring freeze, and make large-scale investments into community. In her opening remarks on public safety in Seattle, CM Mosqueda suggested she thinks the City is on the right path but has not yet reached a turning point. She emphasized this was the first year the Council had not increased SPD’s budget, and referenced the roadblocks they have faced. Her goal appears to be to introduce measured steps towards divestment in police and reinvestment in community resources and organizations, giving those organizations time to scale up and build capacity.

The main danger with this approach is perhaps the possibility that the political will to make this large-scale change in how the City approaches public safety will diminish as time passes. Indeed, we already saw CM Pedersen today distancing himself from the quite modest cuts to SPD represented in this proposed budget in spite of lots of assurances in past weeks that he stands against systemic racism. CM Juarez, on the other hand, was much more supportive of this plan than she was of the summer plan. At its best, this plan could cause further divestment from SPD to be more successful, with community organizations being better prepared to step in and serve their communities after 2021’s round of investments.

Interestingly, in a press release yesterday the Mayor signaled tentative approval of this new budget proposal. In spite of her $100m BIPOC communities investment being significantly shrunk (more on that in a moment), she has to be pleased that the Council is not attempting to downsize the police force any further than they committed to this past summer. It seems possible the Mayor might not feel the need to veto this budget. Opponents will say this means the budget didn’t go far enough, but on the bright side, this increases the likelihood that investments this budget makes will actually be spent.

Public Safety/Community Investments

  • The Mayor’s $100m investment into BIPOC communities, otherwise known as the Equitable Communities Initiative, will be shrunk to $30m, with a proviso: “The Council intends that these funds should be allocated towards investments that reflect alignment between the Task Force’s recommendations and recommendations from the Participatory Budgeting process.”
  • $30m will be restored to the Strategic Investment Fund
  • $18m will be allocated to the participatory budget process, in addition to $12m for this process obtained through SPD cuts, for a total of $30m
  • the $10m promised in the summer’s rebalancing will be allocated to community-led public safety investments
  • $1.08m will be restored for the Office of Civil Rights to provide funding for community organizations providing alternatives to or alleviating harm caused by the criminal justice system

SPD Changes/Alternatives to Policing

  • oh so many reports! The Council is asking for all the reports they asked for in the summer, as well as reports on SPD overtime use, monthly reports on police staffing, a traffic stops report, a report on using PEOs for special events, and a report on 911 response times.
  • Creation of the new Community Safety and Communications Center
  • a Statement of Legislative Intent about the new 911 Call Center
  • annualizing various SPD budget cuts from travel, training, and discretionary purchases from the summer
  • abrogating 93 vacant police officer positions
  • moving mental health providers to HSD and hiring eleven additional
  • cut $6.1m from SPD for vacancy savings and $3.7m from SPD for overtime savings; also proviso $5m for potential salary savings
  • Proviso for out-of-order layoffs for 35 officers (this is a carry-over from summer)
  • Health One expansion
  • a consulting nurse and crisis counselor for SFD’s dispatch
  • $550k for a DEEL restorative justice pilot program and a few other small expenditures

Other Budget Points of Note

The Council’s proposal refills the City emergency funds to almost $40m, which is in contrast to the Mayor’s proposal, which drained them, leaving them practically empty. It also continues work towards figuring out a replacement for the Navigation Team. I believe the cuts to the SPD still amount to around 17%, most of which is achieved through moving units outside the force.

Next Steps

After the CMs turn in their Form Cs by Thursday evening, the Council will discuss amendments on November 18 and 19, and vote on the final budget on Monday, November 23. There will be public comment at the beginning of each of these meetings.

On the Budget Meeting Overviews

Are you ready to talk about budget meetings?

First, the relevant Twitter threads.

This Twitter thread covers the budget overview presented on Wednesday morning.

This Twitter thread covers the SPD budget presentation this morning.

And this Twitter thread covers the Reimagining Public Safety presentation and Seattle Municipal Court presentation.


SPD Staffing Levels

My report on SPD sworn officers from the last newsletter was not completely accurate, so I want to go over the numbers now. The original 2020 budget included 1497 sworn officer positions but only funded 1422 of these positions, leaving the remainder unfunded and vacant. The proposed 2021 budget includes 1450 sworn officer positions but only funds 1400 of these positions, leaving the remaining 50 positions unfunded and vacant. Hence the confusion about whether the Mayor’s proposed budget includes the layoff of 100 officers called for in the Council’s revised 2020 budget. It doesn’t in practice, but the numbers aren’t straightforward.

SPD says that in order to maintain its current level of service and response times, it needs a minimum of 1400 sworn officers. It is important to note this number represents staffing needed if there is no decrease in the police scope of work. There is disagreement between the Council and SPD as to which staffing models should be used and potentially the timing of the shift of functions. SPD also wants to halt the current hiring freeze and start recruitment and hiring again in 2021 in order to maintain this staffing level. Otherwise with expected attrition they will fall below 1400 officers, and in addition, it takes some time to begin recruitment and training so needs to be planned ahead.

It’s also worth noting, in regards to the revised 2020 budget, the Mayor has asked the Council to reconsider the command staff pay cuts and has noted that the $200k cut to legally obligated hiring bonuses needs to be revisited, as it violates the City charter. You can read more here about the Mayor’s take on implementing the revised 2020 budget, including copies of the three recent letters on this subject from the Mayor’s office.


The Mayor’s Plan to Reimagine Public Safety

In an excellent example of the Seattle process, the Mayor is forming the Community Safety Work Group and the Functional IDT. The work group will formulate policy around reimagining public safety based on data and analysis, and the IDT serves the research and analysis function, as well as hopefully presenting an idea of what community wants from SPD. The Mayor presented a timeline for this work; going through the end of 2021, it is vague and repetitive and doesn’t present a very clear picture of what will be happening when.


Potential Issues

  • Although the General Fund is one big pot and can therefore be confusing to assess, it seems clear the $100m for BIPOC communities is coming from the new JumpStart tax revenue that had already been allocated to other purposes, mostly COVID relief in 2021. There is a lot of confusion around this, and lots of numbers being thrown around. There is concern this is taking money away from BIPOC groups that advocated for various JumpStart spending, therefore pitting BIPOC community members against one another. In response to this, community released a statement entitled “Towards a Solidarity Budget.”
  • Of the $14m the Council allocated for community organization ramp-up and gun violence prevention, $4m will be dispersed this year to organizations with already existing city contracts. Because she believes the rest cannot be spent by the end of the year, the Mayor has decided not to execute the interfund loan that was the major source of most of these funds, which the Council intended to repay next year, either with further SPD cuts or with JumpStart tax revenue. However, the Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget has already allocated all JumpStart tax revenue while ignoring this obligation and has also already allocated any savings from SPD, so the Council will be forced to figure out how to pay for the remaining $10m.
  • A task force is being put together of BIPOC community members to recommend priorities for the $100m worth of investment into BIPOC communities. There is concern that this task force won’t truly be representative of the BIPOC community and doesn’t answer the demands for a true participatory budget process. The counter argument is that a participatory budget process takes about a year, and the Mayor wishes to get these funds out the door sooner, potentially by mid-2021.
  • There is concern about having several parallel processes within the BIPOC community, one through this Equitable Communities task force of the Mayor’s, one through the research/PBP led by King County Equity Now funded by the Council, and potentially one led by the IDT for reimagining public safety. It is not known whether these processes will be complimentary, and how they could work together has not been determined. It is possible that a lot of work might be duplicated, or that work could be done at cross purposes.
  • There is concern that the Mayor’s various efforts divorce divestment (aka defunding the police) from the process of investment. Investment without divestment won’t lead to the same systemic changes overall and therefore will have a greatly reduced impact. In addition, this separation could cause various additional sources of confusion.
  • The Mayor says disbanding the Navigation Team could potentially violate the law as interpreted in the Hooper case and moves the SPD in the wrong direction by expanding its sworn officer duties for what should be services provided by civilians. The Council stated its intentions this summer that the money provided by disbanding the Navigation Team should go to community partners providing homelessness services, but it is unclear whether this investment is reflected in the Mayor’s proposed budget. At her town hall last night, CM Herbold said she was concerned because there was no plan to get this money out the door. This might become more clear at the overview on homelessness response presentation tomorrow morning (although I won’t be covering that myself.)

The Seattle Municipal Court Reforms

The Seattle Municipal Court is enacting various reforms that they think will help address current racial inequity:

  • Ending in-person day reporting
  • Moving to a collaborative Community Court model
  • Eliminating various discretionary court fees
  • Decreasing their Probation Services budget by 25%
  • Adding a contract social worker to help with the new Community Court and service referrals
  • Participating in a 3-year bail project

It will be interesting to see how these conversations develop! In the meantime, there will be a public hearing next Tuesday, October 6 at 5:30pm where you can sign up to give public comment on any issues related to the budget, including reimagining public safety. After the final budget overviews tomorrow, the next scheduled budget meeting currently on the calendar isn’t until October 15, when the Council begins their Issue Identification process. Of course, as always, that is subject to change.

Until next time!