Budget meetings continue in Seattle
Yes, yes, we’re going to talk about the election, but first, believe it or not, we still have two weeks left in Seattle’s budget season. This week, Budget Chair Mosqueda’s proposed balancing package will be presented to the public on Wednesday morning at 9am. There will be no public comment at this meeting, but there will be an entire public hearing later on Wednesday at 5:30pm. Sign ups for public comment start at 3:30pm. I will be live tweeting the morning presentation in case you want to take a peek at what’s in the new proposed budget so you can tailor your comments accordingly.
There will be another budget meeting on Friday starting at 9:30am to discuss the new proposed budget in more detail.
Also of note, the Council received an updated revenue forecast for Seattle, and it wasn’t a great one: the expected revenue dropped $20m from the last forecast. The Council will need to make up this difference in their balanced budget.
You can read more about CM Strauss’s proposal to increase funding for the Mobile Crisis Team to respond to mental health calls here. You can read a summary of some of the previous budget meetings here. And here is today’s Twitter thread of the Seattle Council Briefing:
Let’s start with this thread of good election news, shall we?
In Seattle, progressive Teresa Mosqueda was able to hold onto her Council seat, while Bruce Harrell won for Mayor, Sara Nelson won for Council Seat 9, and Ann Davison won for City Attorney. All three represent business interests and beat out their more progressive opponents.
So how is this going to affect police accountability in Seattle and what should we be looking for in upcoming months?
Next year the Mayor will need to appoint a new Chief of Police for SPD. One key decision will be whether to appoint Interim Chief Diaz or look for a candidate outside the department. Whoever is chosen as Chief will have a lot of influence on any potential changes within SPD. The Mayor will also play a large role in bargaining with SPOG, a process that is currently ongoing and that has huge impacts on police accountability. The Mayor is also the chief administrative officer of Seattle, and in the case of Mayor Durkan, we’ve seen how she used this role to act as a road block to certain policy changes and expenditures approved by the Council, while also failing to set a culture of accountability for her office and the offices beneath her.
As pertains to Bruce Harrell, he has spoken in favor of continued sweeps of the homeless, including punishment for those who refuse offers of shelter, and in favor of maintaining or possibly growing the police department. He seems to be a proponent of dashboards and studies. You might remember that he suggested having every SPD officer watch the murder of George Floyd and then sign a pledge. In good news, he supports continued investment in alternate response to crisis calls.
In very simple terms, with Sara Nelson taking a seat, the City Council will now be divided between 3 moderates and 6 progressives. (Obviously there is a lot more nuance involved here, with each council member having their own individual views and representing different district interests.) Most legislation needs to pass by a simple majority, meaning in some ways there won’t be much of a change. If CM Sawant loses her recall election next month, the Council would appoint someone to fill her seat.
However, budget legislation requires a ¾ majority, which the more progressive members no longer have. (Remember, this won’t apply to the current budget process, but it will come into play next year.) This new balance will affect what budget proposals are feasible. In addition, overturning a Mayor’s veto generally requires a 2/3 vote, meaning only a single more progressive CM would need to waiver to prevent an overturn. Another aspect to watch is the new assignments for committee chairs and Council President.
Ann Davison, who will be our new City Attorney, may cause the biggest change in the status quo. There is concern she will begin prosecuting more low-level misdemeanors and more aggressively criminalize poverty. She must defend the City against lawsuits, which includes lawsuits against the JumpStart tax and other legislation passed by Council, and we don’t know what her skill or interest level will be in defending these cases. The City Attorney also plays a role in the consent decree. It is unclear at this time what legislation and provisos the City Council may adopt before the end of the year to try to mandate a continuation of existing diversion programs within the City Attorney’s office, but we should know more on this front soon.
Former SPD Chief Carmen Best is reportedly up for consideration to be the Chief of Police for NYPD. And she has a new book out! A big month for her.
Meanwhile, Pierce County is not only struggling with their Sheriff Ed Troyer, who is now facing criminal charges, but the highest ranking Black women in the Sheriff Department’s history are now suing the county:
The highest-ranking Black women in Pierce County Sheriff’s Department history are suing the county, alleging decades of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Suit says the “top echelons” of the department “participated in and ignored” the behavior. https://t.co/3GkrIKGKJq
Right before the election, Mayor Durkan issued an emergency order authorizing hiring bonuses for police officers and 911 call dispatchers, with bonuses of up to $25k for experienced lateral hires and $10k for new recruits. These bonuses are both higher and cover more personnel than Mayor Durkan’s similar proposal in her 2022 budget, meaning the Council would need to find additional funding in next year’s budget to cover the difference. CM Sawant has proposed legislation to modify this order to cover hiring bonuses for only 911 call dispatchers and not police officers, and said CP González indicated to her this legislation would come to a vote on Monday, November 22, which is the same meeting at which the CMs will vote on the overall budget.
Meanwhile, Chief Diaz has reservations about the Council’s latest crowd control weapons ordinance as well as to certain of OIG’s recommendations based on their review of the 2020 protests. It looks like the Federal Monitor Dr. Oftelie is now getting drawn into the fray:
This saga continues today with a letter from Chief Diaz to consent decree monitor Dr. Antonio Oftelie doubling down on the chief’s criticisms of the crowd control weapons ordinance. https://t.co/67m5vw7GdE