October 2020

The Council shows where they might be leaning, SPD budget-wise

Time for another report on the Seattle 2021 budget front! This week the Council have been discussing their Form Bs, each of which requires three CMs to co-sponsor. However, CMs do not yet need to identify how the City will pay for these proposals. So a word of caution: all of what we are about to discuss is preliminary and likely to change at least somewhat during the next few weeks.

With that caveat, first we have a thread covering the Council Briefing on Monday, October 26.


There’s been a fair amount of news coverage of CM Herbold’s proposal of legislation that would create new defenses for misdemeanor crimes in Seattle. The purpose of this legislation is to decriminalize poverty, mental illness, and addiction, and give judges and juries more room to consider these circumstances. CP Gonzalez had several reasons for thinking this legislation wasn’t best considered during the budget process, so it is unlikely to be included in any budget package. However, look for a similar proposal to come to the Council, probably through the Public Safety Committee, sometime after Thanksgiving.

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
I’m listening to the Council’s discussion on CM Herbold’s legislative proposal for changing the legal definition of “duress.” This legislation is meant to decriminalize crimes of poverty.

Before we dive into SPD proposals, here are a few other relevant highlights from this week’s budget meetings. Please note that CM Mosqueda is co-sponsoring very little at this juncture due to her position as Budget Chair.

CM Herbold proposed a cut of $10 million from the FG for the Equitable Communities Initiative and an addition of $10 million to HSD for community-led public safety investments. This would ensure the remaining $10m allocated by the Council this summer for the ramp-up of community-led public safety organizations would be funded by taking the money from the $100m the Mayor promised to BIPOC communities. Co-sponsors are CP Gonzalez and CMs Sawant, Lewis, and Morales.

CM Sawant proposed adding $30m to ensure the Strategic Investment Fund to Address Displacement (established by the sale of the Mercer Mega Block) remains funded. Co-sponsoring were CP Gonzalez and CMs Lewis, Morales, and Herbold.

CM Mosqueda proposed an additional expansion to Health One, which was co-sponsored by everyone but CM Herbold. She also proposed adding $2.13m to restore several positions proposed for budgetary layoffs, which was co-sponsored by everyone but CM Juarez.


Onto the SPD and related proposals! You can see the agenda here, and warning, the Twitter thread breaks a few times because Twitter was being buggy this afternoon.

To begin with, it’s worth noting there aren’t any huge across-the-board cuts to the SPD being proposed. The Council and the Mayor are on the same page about wanting to move a lot of units out from under SPD’s umbrella, although they have different ideas about where specifically these units should be moved. CM Herbold is proposing a new Community Safety and Communications Center, which would be a more comprehensive center than the Mayor’s suggestion of the Seattle Emergency Communications Center.

In addition to many proposals requesting reports from SPD, some of which have already been asked for, the main proposals boil down to recapturing some funds from the SPD budget in the following ways:

  1. Cut $6.1m in vacancy savings. These are currently funded police officer positions that the SPD projects they will be unable to fill in 2021.
  2. Cut $3.7m in overtime savings. This is assuming special events etc. will remain at the same level as in 2020 due to COVID.
  3. Impose a proviso of $5m in potential attrition savings. Apparently the police department has historically been very bad at predicting their levels of attrition and tend to under-predict. This proviso will capture any funds saved from additional attrition.
  4. Enact 35 out-of-order layoffs of sworn officers. These layoffs, when combined with attrition, will complete eliminating the 100 sworn officer positions the Council said they would in the revised 2020 budget.
  5. Cut $475k from the travel/training and supplies portions of the SPD budget, while maintaining all training necessary under the consent decree.
  6. Abrogate 70 officer positions in the SPD. These are mostly unfunded and vacant positions, so this doesn’t realize any savings but does mean the SPD would have to go to Council to get any new positions added should they ever want to expand.
  7. Ensure all savings realized from SPD cuts is used for the participatory budgeting process (up to $1m) and for allocation by the PBP into community investments into public safety. (This amendment was walked on by CM Morales at the beginning of the meetings today.)
  8. Move the mental health professionals who are part of the SPD’s Crisis Response Unit to HSD and add an additional 11 mental health professionals to do the same work.

As you see analyses begin to spread across the internet, it is important to keep in mind that the transferral of many units (such as the 911 call center, the parking enforcement workers, etc.) will account for much of the drop in the 2021 SPD budget and the lower number of positions. We also aren’t sure yet which proposals will definitely be incorporated into the Council’s budget package. That being said, Kevin Scholfield did some preliminary math and says we’re looking at around a 17.3% decrease in the SPD budget from the original (pre-COVID) 2020 budget.

These aren’t the sweeping changes that many activists might have hoped to see, but in a note of optimism (what? in 2020?) it does set a trend for further changes going forward. As many of you may remember, in the summer I was hammering home how important it was to allocate funds this year to begin ramping up community organizations in public safety. Although these funds were passed by Council, unfortunately most of them will not be seen by community organizations this year, meaning they haven’t yet been able to expand. This delay is slowing the whole process down. In addition, participatory budgeting takes a significant amount of time. But it is encouraging to see that so far at least the Council doesn’t seem to be backtracking on their position at the end of summer.


What’s next? We get next week off from budget meetings, although we will be getting a presentation on the state legislative lobbying agenda during Council Briefing. We’re also waiting for the revised revenue projection from the City Budget Office. Then CM Mosqueda will introduce her balancing package on November 10, and the CMs will put together their Form Cs, which they will discuss the following week.

Meanwhile, some people are already asking if the Mayor will veto whatever budget the Council passes. Exciting times!

Happy Halloween! Have a wonderful and safe weekend!

 

 

The Council shows where they might be leaning, SPD budget-wise Read More »

SPD and Community Safety Issue Identification

We have a lot to cover this time! This week the City Council’s budget meetings consisted of presentations from Central Staff including issue identification, along with statements from CMs about their Form As. Form As are a preliminary way for CMs to mark their interest in and support of various topics during the budget process. Form Bs, due tomorrow, are the next step in this process, each requiring sponsorship by at least 3 CMs.


SPD Issue Identification and Form As

You can also reference the meeting’s slide deck and related memo.

First, a reminder of where we are. 81% of SPD’s budget goes to personnel and overtime. The Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget changes the following: 1. 1,497 sworn positions reduced/ abrogated to 1,450 sworn positions, only 1400 of which are actually funded, along with associated salary reductions; 2. parking enforcement, 911 call center, and office of emergency management transferred out of SPD, along with some back office support monies; 3. a new OPA inspector supervisor position is funded; and 4. funding for more automated traffic enforcement.

SPD Identified Issues:

Staffing: The Mayor’s plan tries to maintain the status quo on staffing issues, with staffing returning to 2019 levels by the end of 2022. If instead the hiring freeze were to be maintained through the end of 2021, that would result in 1213 fully trained sworn officers in 2022, compared to 1329 in the Mayor’s proposal, which is a significant difference. The Council’s options include: 1. maintaining the hiring freeze and shrinking the force in this manner; 2. reduce SPD budget to capture the savings from unfilled positions/attrition; 3. reduce SPD budget to reflect a target of shrinking the force that involves retirement incentives and buyouts; 4. proviso the SPD budget to reflect layoffs in 2021, potentially specifying out-of-order layoffs.

There was also discussion about Chief Diaz’s redeployment of more officers into patrol, how to decide the proper size of the police force, and how all response times to 911 calls aren’t equal (in that calls vary, most are not criminal, and not all require a fast response). They also discussed Chief Diaz’s intention to continue to prioritize patrol over specialty units should the number of officers continue to decrease, which would potentially mean no change to 911 call response times but less detective and investigative work.

Overtime reductions: The Mayor’s proposal has a small overtime reduction of $2.7m because of fewer special events due to COVID and the elimination of emphasis patrols. The Council needs to decide whether to decrease the overtime budget further and whether to reinstate emphasis patrols.

Consistency with the 2020 revised budget: The Council needs to decide whether to annualize changes in staffing, command staff pay cuts, and travel and professional services budget cuts to carry forward into 2021.

The last two issues are trying to consolidate different dispatch services for economy of scale and fixing some small issues related to moving the Office of Emergency Management outside SPD.

SPD Form As:

The CMs submitted 19 Form As related to the SPD, although one is actually about the fire department. CM Pedersen submitted four asking for various reports. CM Morales submitted one to reduce staffing and use participatory budgeting to invest the savings in BIPOC communities. CM Sawant submitted one to straight out defund the SPD by 50%, as well as one to transfer the CSO program to the Department of Neighborhoods and one that will place more rules around moving encampments in order to reduce harm.

CP Gonzalez is interested in making sure the OIG doesn’t need more resources given all the units moving out of SPD, ensuring officers receive training on how to appropriately engage with sex workers, capturing the spending of any unfilled SPD staffing, and transferring SPD’s Performance, Analytics, and Research unit, at least partially, to the OIG. CM Herbold submitted several Form As: to rename the Seattle Emergency Communications Center and add parking enforcement officers to it; to get monthly reports on SPD overtime spending (she also expressed interest in reducing the budget for OT spending); a similar funds capturing from unfilled positions as CP Gonzalez; potentially transferring some functions of Harbor Patrol to the SFD, although it sounded like there were complications here; and annualizing the changes made in the 2020 revised budget.


Community Safety & Violence Prevention Issue Identification and Form As:

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
Good morning, everyone! It’s almost time for the Seattle City Council budget meeting on community safety and violence prevention issue identification!

You can also reference the meeting’s slide deck and related memo.

This presentation looked at public safety programs that take place before or in place of law enforcement involvement, as well as harm reduction strategies within law enforcement, primarily crisis intervention teams comprised of a mental health professional and an officer. We also briefly went over the complicated structure the Mayor is proposing to reimagine public safety, which involves a work group, a task force, and three IDTs. There’s also a small amount of money that has an unclear purpose and might be available for other expenditures.

Identified Issues:

The City’s Community Safety and Violence Prevention Response: Basically the Council needs to decide how much to invest in each different type of response. Their options include community services that decrease opportunities for law enforcement (CSOs, call-in nurses, crime prevention programs) ; non-law enforcement government response instead of law enforcement response (Health One and similar); and law enforcement response that is paired with crisis response (crisis response units).

Health One expansion: The Mayor’s proposed budget expands this program to add a second team. The Council needs to decide whether to proviso this money until dispatch is adjusted, set it aside and wait for community input, or go ahead with this.

Lack of RSJI Lens and Duplicating Community Efforts: This is the biggest issue before Council in this area. Basically it is not clear that the Mayor’s plan has gone through a racial equity analysis. The worry is that since this analysis has not been done (or at least not been made public), it might (possibly unknowingly) further perpetuate racism in the city. This also covers the concerns about the lack of consistency around money allocated for purposes that disproportionately benefit BIPOC groups now being taken away to be given back in a different form to BIPOC groups.

Suggestions to deal with this issue include putting a proviso on some of these funds (probably on the $100m at the very least) until a racial equity analysis is done and made public; do not allocate these funds at all and instead spend them elsewhere; restore $1.08m to the Office of Civil Rights for criminal legal system alternatives (the issue here is the money in 2020 isn’t being sent out until December, so theoretically that money won’t be spent until 2021, meaning they can resume this funding in 2022 without an actual funding gap); and restore the $30m of the Strategic Investment Fund that we talked about last week that was supposed to go to equitable development and affordable housing from the sale of the Mercer Mega Block.

Another issue discussed is the conflict of interest of having the Office of Civil Rights not being independent. Their purpose is to speak truth to power, and yet their jobs are under the purview of the Executive, so that’s a problem.

Community Safety Form As:

Both CM Mosqueda and CM Lewis are potentially interested in expanding Health One beyond the Mayor’s planned expansion. CM Lewis is also interested in adding funding for a reentry program for the Native community, for a case manager for Native women facing domestic violence and sexual assault, and to SFD 911 dispatch for a consulting nurse. CM Juarez is interested in adding funding for Aurora Commons, which provides commercial sexual exploitation services. CM Herbold is interested in a report about needed funding for LEAD and in legislation that would help decriminalize poverty. CM Sawant is interested in getting draft legislation from legal about forming an elected Community Oversight Board that would have full powers over police accountability.


What does this all mean?

We’ll know more when we see the Form Bs, but we’re seeing a lot of friction play out between the Mayor’s vision and the Council’s vision. In terms of public safety, the Mayor is advocating for a mostly status quo budget while all her planning groups do stuff over the next year or two (some of which seems duplicative), and at the same time she’s moving money around in interesting ways. The Council has been taking a more hands-on approach since the summer and have their own ideas of how to proceed.

Certain CMs are not going to want to fund the Mayor’s promised $100m investment into BIPOC communities with its appointed task force, disregard for participatory budgeting, and her $30m Strategic Investment fund cut that allocated funds for similar purposes (not to mention the concern of where these funds will come from in future years, when JumpStart tax revenues have already been allocated to investments in things like affordable housing). There is a real concern about the lack of a racial equity analysis and an inconsistency of approach here. The Mayor hasn’t presented a plan that inspires a lot of confidence, and we’re seeing a lot of political maneuvering as a result.

CMs might try to capture some savings from the SPD budget to give to BIPOC communities instead, probably through a participatory budgeting process, and possibly less than $100m in order to retain the $30m in the strategic investment fund (and maybe also to fund the $13m gap in the balanced budget because of investments to community organizations for public safety that were supposed to be made this year).

Of course, enacting their own plan could cause more animosity between the Mayor’s office and the Council. Will it spill over and up-end their recent new deal regarding how to replace the Navigation Team, negotiated by CM Lewis? It’s hard to say how strong a commitment the Mayor has to this new plan.

One interesting point to reiterate is that with Chief Diaz’s priority of patrol staffing, a gradual shrinkage of the SPD wouldn’t necessarily impact 911 call response times all that much. Instead it would impact specialty units. This is noteworthy because so much of the public discourse on the subject of downsizing the police department has been focused on call response times.


Next week there is another evening public hearing on the budget on Tuesday, October 27 starting at 5:30pm, with signups beginning at 3:30pm. If you’d like to tell the Council your thoughts about the 2021 budget, this is a great time to share them! The rest of the week will entail budget meetings presenting CM budget actions and statements of legislative intent.

SPD and Community Safety Issue Identification Read More »

Budget balancing conundrums and SPD attrition

Ready for some budget talk? Twitter went down during the budget meeting yesterday, so instead of a Twitter thread you can read my notes. You can also look at the slide deck for the General Fund Balancing Analysis presentation and read the memo.

Key points from the meeting:

  • The Mayor didn’t execute the interfund loan authorized by Council to pay for community investments in public safety. When preparing the 2021 proposed budget, it also appears she guessed the Council would sustain her veto regarding not making these investments. As a result, the budget she submitted is already out of balance by $13.1m, an issue that must be addressed.
  • The Mayor cut the $30m Strategic Investment fund in the 2020 Q3 Supplemental. This money, raised by the sale of the Mercer Mega Block, was supposed to be allocated for equitable development and affordable housing. Instead the Mayor used it to balance the 2020 budget. There is concern about erasing this $30m equitable investment fund, with a plan and team in place to allocate it, only to replace it with the Mayor’s $100m investment into BIPOC communities with a different plan, team, and process in place to allocate it. There were references to the Mayor “playing a shell game” and worries that once more this money wouldn’t actually be invested in the community.
  • The Mayor’s 2021 proposed budget involves draining the emergency and rainy day funds from $78.9m down to $6.1m. Ironically, CM Pedersen and CM Morales flipped from the arguments they were making about these same funds a few short months ago; now CM Pedersen thinks this is the time to spend those funds and CM Morales is worried it is reckless. It is hard not to see both these stances as more political maneuvering than anything else, but regardless, the fact remains that Seattle would have very little emergency money left over if this budget is adopted as presented.
  • For those wondering where the $100m to BIPOC communities promised by the Mayor is coming from, this presentation showed that, while it’s hard to pin down since the General Fund is all one big pot of money, it basically comes from the new JumpStart tax and the emergency funds.

In other news, at CM Juarez’s town hall, she said she couldn’t commit to having an outside observer at SPOG negotiations:

Twitter avatar for @TheUrbanAce

Ace the Architect is Voting for Sherae For State @TheUrbanAce
Ok now questions! First – is the CM Juarez committed to having an Outside Observer during the SPOG negotiations? CM is now explaining the current process, which requires that the negotiations are closed as they are collective bargaining. She can’t commit to it b/c of state law.

This is one of MANY reasons why the state legislative representatives you elect is critically important. Remember, you can use the the 2020 ACLU People Power Washington Voter Guide to help you.


Meanwhile the SPD is reporting record levels of attrition, with 39 officers and officers-in-training leaving in September alone, and 110 officers leaving during 2020. This reduces active SPD officers to 1203, much fewer than the 1400 Chief Diaz said the department needed to fulfill their core functions. It also raises the question of compliance with the consent decree, which requires a certain level of staffing in various units and to fulfill audits and use of force reviews. On the other hand, this increased level of attrition means the department is shrinking without active layoffs and bargaining with SPOG. The City Council will have to decide through the budget it passes whether to allow SPD to lift the current hiring freeze in 2021, although even if they do, it takes time to find and train new recruits. As Paul Kiefer says in the article:

If the mayor’s hiring freeze continues through the end of 2020, SPD and the Budget Office project that the department will fall short of the 1,400 officer threshold well into 2022, by between 20 and 50 officers. If the freeze is extended through the end of next year, their estimates project that the department could shrink to 1,260 sworn officers by January 2022.


The ACLU Washington has begun a blog series exploring the divestment/reinvestment approach to policing through a specific Seattle lens. You can read the introduction to the series now.


Next week, the budget issue identification meetings continue. The SPD will be covered on Tuesday afternoon at 2pm, and Community Safety will be covered on Wednesday morning at 9:30am. (Tuesday morning will be Parks and SDOT, while Wednesday afternoon will be HSD/homelessness/COVID response.) There will be chances for public comment at the beginning of the Council meeting on Monday at 2pm, and both Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:30am.

Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you next week!

Budget balancing conundrums and SPD attrition Read More »

This week’s events and meetings

Lots of events this week!

First, this morning’s Council Briefing.

Upcoming Events:

Tonight, 10/12 7:30pm: Seattle Town Hall presents “The History of Housing Segregation,” on which CM Mosqueda will be sitting on a panel for part of the program.

Tuesday, 10/13 5pm: CM Strauss is holding a town hall.

Wednesday, 10/14 4pm: CM Juarez is holding a town hall.

Thursday, 10/15 7pm: ACLU People Power and the League of Women Voters of Seattle/King County are having a town hall about police accountability in King County, specifically going over relevant charter amendments on the upcoming ballot.

Tuesday, 10/20 6-8pm: CM Sawant is holding a town hall.


Other News:

The 2020 ACLU People Power Washington Voter Guide has been released. This guide views both the King County charter amendments on the ballot and WA State legislature candidates through a lens of police reform. Check out your candidates, and email them asking to fill out the survey if they haven’t already!

The recall petition filed against Mayor Durkan has been rejected by the court. Meanwhile, the Seattle Human Rights Commission is “seeking the immediate resignation of Mayor Jenny Durkan” and if she fails to resign, calls on the Council to begin removal proceedings. The recall petition against CM Sawant is still slowly wending its way through the legal system.

The budget meetings this Thursday and Friday will be for issue identification with CMs to explore ideas and express priorities. Collectively the CMs have filed 158 Form As this year (expressing issues they would like to discuss during this time), which is a fairly large number. They will start from issue identification and begin narrowing their focus as the budget process continues. There will also be issue identification meetings next week on Tuesday and Wednesday. All of these budget meetings will have time for public comment starting at 9:30am.

This week’s events and meetings Read More »

Public hearing on the budget tomorrow

Very short Council Briefing today! We were through everything in half an hour.

Public Hearing

There is a public hearing on budget-related matters tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6, starting at 5:30pm. Signups begin at 3:30pm. This is one of two hearings in the evening hours if you’d like to comment and can’t make the normal public comment windows during business hours.


King County Equity Now’s Response to the Mayor’s Proposed Budget

KCEN continues to call for defunding the police department by at least 50%. In addition they are asking that the JumpStart spending plan remain the same, and that the Mayor doesn’t touch that money to make good on her promise of the $100m investment into BIPOC communities. They are still calling for a true participatory budgeting process as opposed to a task force, stating on Twitter that “@mayorjenny‘s hand-picked task-force is a tried & true tactic to halt Black progress. But our communities will not accept these anti-Black practices any longer.”

Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda weighs in on the budget process and about the JumpStart revenue package and 2021 spending package with an op-ed at the South Seattle Emerald.


Other News of Note

Washington state ballots are mailed on October 16.

If you’re into podcasts, the latest episode of Crystal Fincher’s Hacks & Wonks podcast is worth a listen. She and guest host Heather Weiner provide an excellent overview of recent Seattle news, the importance of the SPOG contract, and an analysis of Mayor Durkan’s recent actions as well as news around R-90 (the state-level referendum about sex health education), which has some very interesting bankrollers as the Republican party in Washington state attempts to do some list-building and galvanize their supporters to vote. You can read more about it in The Stranger as well.

You can read more about how important the SPOG contract is, as well as how damaging the 2017 contract has been, in Crosscut.

In legal news, the City of Seattle petitioned the court to convert its temporary restraining order regarding the SPD’s use of crowd control weapons into a preliminary injunction. They plan to invoke the the provisions of the Consent Decree in order to change policies, and have stated they want to review and potentially change crowd-control, use-of-force, and crisis intervention policies.

Finally, I know you all know this, but yes, you should be taking precautions against catching COVID-19, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing, doing any socializing out-of-doors, and staying at home. If you catch this disease, you will not in fact feel better than you did twenty years ago, especially given the long-term adverse health effects that are still in the process of being studied.

Stay safe out there!

Public hearing on the budget tomorrow Read More »

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!

On the Budget Meeting Overviews Read More »