August 2021

Summer Recess is Almost Upon Us

Tuesday’s Seattle Housing & Finance Meeting

Amy Sundberg
I’m listening to this morning’s Seattle Finance and Housing committee meeting. I’m not going to livetweet it but I will mention a few things as they’re said.
The latest Seattle budget forecast had some good news: the City has an extra $50m in unanticipated revenues for 2021. The revenue is predicted to dip slightly in 2022. The less good news is that the demand for office space in Seattle is still low, and inflation is increasing.
The CMs passed the supplemental budget out of committee, and it will be voted on in Full Council on Monday, September 13, which is the next Seattle Council meeting. Included in the bill is the public safety amendment proposed by CM Herbold and CM Mosqueda, along with its two amendments, a rundown of which you can find in my last newsletter. A separate amendment from CM Pedersen funding a new crime prevention coordinator at SPD also passed, as did funding for the Garfield Super Block, although the latter will come from a REET, not from SPD. As things currently stand, the supplemental budget with these amendments likely has the votes to pass.

Election News

The primary results have now been certified, meaning the races we’ve already been talking about are now definitely happening. You can look at votes for different races by precinct here, as well as some analysis from The Urbanist about what those results mean.

Summer Recess

Seattle City Council is taking their summer recess for the next few weeks, and several campaigns and non-profits are also taking a little breather to recover from a busy spring and summer. We will likely have a few slow news weeks (knock on wood!), so now is a great time to relax, rejuvenate, and take some down time before election season and budget season kick into high gear in September.
Until next time!

Summer Recess is Almost Upon Us Read More »

Important Public Safety Amendment on the Table Tomorrow for Discussion and Possible Vote

SPD Budget Amendment Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow at Seattle’s Housing and Finance committee meeting, the SPD’s proposed spending plan for the ~$15m in salary savings for 2021 will be discussed and voted on through an amendment to the supplemental budget. New amendments to this public safety amendment have just been added today, so it is still an evolving situation. You can view the revised amendment here, as well as two amendments to the amendment. (Now there’s a mouthful!)
These amendments will fund most of what SPD asked for in their proposed spending plan, including civilian positions within SPD, the Work Scheduling Timekeeping Project, the NICJR Contract, the SPD Mental Health Provider Program, contract background services, separation pay, deferred compensation, and paid parental leave. It also authorizes $5.4m for new investments: $340k acquisition of a protocol system for the CSCC 911 dispatchers; $3m to HSD for the Community Safety Capacity Building RFP; $500k to HSD for the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective; $700k to the CSCC to implement a new specialized triage response that will provide an alternative model for some non-criminal 9-1-1 calls and reduce the need for a sworn officer response for some calls; $500k to FAS to address SPD evidence storage capacity issues by leasing additional space; $50K to Seattle IT for a PDR position to perform e-mail searches for SPD; and $50k to SPD for a PDR position in OPA.
The original amendment gave the SPD leeway to spend an additional $3.3m however they saw fit; however, amendment 1 to amendment 8 takes $2.25m of that money to allocate specifically to “Technology Updates” within SPD.
Is this a win for those who are proponents of the divest and reinvest strategy when it comes to policing in Seattle? Not really, but it could be worse. Some of the new investments are promising, but less than $5m of the total $15m of savings is being allocated for projects that could be considered alternates to public safety. It is worth noting the proposed hiring bonuses for new police officers are not approved by this legislation and will require separate action, so that’s something we’ll be looking for in upcoming months.
There will be time for public comment on this amendment tomorrow morning at 9:30am, or you can email your CMs. The final vote on the supplemental budget (including this amendment) won’t be until mid-September because of the summer recess.

Today’s Seattle Council Briefing

Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! This is the last one before the summer recess.
At this afternoon’s Seattle Council meeting, the Council had votes scheduled on the bill moving parking enforcement officers from SPD to SDOT and the bill putting limitation on use of less lethal weapons (this second had been put on hold waiting for the consent decree hearing last week, at which the Judge chose not to weigh in on the matter). Last week the Council voted to lift the proviso to allow the $30m spending plan for the Mayor’s Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force (a name I have to look up every time to get correct) to move forward.
This was the last City Council meeting before the summer recess. Because the City Council meeting on September 7 was cancelled due to Rosh Hashanah, the next Council Briefing and Council Meeting will be on Monday, September 13.
CM Mosqueda has announced the dates of this budget season’s three public hearings: October 12 and November 10 in the evening and November 18 in the morning. The Mayor will be bringing her proposed 2022 budget to present to Council on September 27, which is when budget season officially begins. At that point, all other committee meetings are suspended for the duration.

Compassion Seattle Challenged in Court

Last week the ACLU and two advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the Compassionate Seattle ballot initiative. There will have to be a quick ruling as this initiative is set to be on the ballot in November. Opinions are mixed about the merits of the suit and whether it is likely to succeed.

Seattle Election News

Lastly, in some embarrassing local election news, the top local Trump donor, George Petrie, is also a top donor to an independent expenditure campaign supporting Bruce Harrell for Seattle mayor, as well as a max contributor to Harrell’s campaign. As of July, George Petrie was also one of the top two donors to the Compassion Seattle charter amendment, having donated $50k. This isn’t a great look for either Bruce Harrell or the Compassion Seattle campaign, but it’s a good reminder that following the money continues to be a worthwhile practice.

Recent Headlines

King County’s response to an especially violent year isn’t enough | Crosscut

Suicide is Washington state’s biggest gun violence problem | Crosscut

Important Public Safety Amendment on the Table Tomorrow for Discussion and Possible Vote Read More »

A Time of Big Change for Seattle

As always, there’s a lot going on! Let’s dive right in.

Primary Results

Aligning with the conventional wisdom that more progressive votes tend to be in the later vote counts, the progressives on the ballot have benefited from a boost in numbers as we get closer to a complete ballot count. And in big news, Seattle City Attorney incumbent Pete Holmes conceded.
The numbers as of yesterday morning:
Seattle CC Position 8: CM Mosqueda has 59.39% of the vote.
Seattle CC Position 9: Nikkita Oliver has 40.16% and Sara Nelson has 39.5% of the vote.
Seattle City Attorney: Nicole Thomas-Kennedy has 36.35% and Ann Davison has 32.72% of the vote.
Seattle Mayor: Bruce Harrell has 34.05% and M. Lorena González has 32.1% of the vote.
King County Executive: Dow Constantine has 51.92% and Joe Nguyen has 32.53% of the vote.
Ballot Drop Update: Abolitionist Nikkita Oliver Now Leads Citywide City Council Race - Slog - The Stranger

Seattle Meetings

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! They are getting a bit of a late start today.
At this week’s Seattle Council Briefing, CM Morales said the Office of Civil Rights has created a new Community Investments division from which to run participatory budgeting. They now have a PB page on their website and they’ve posted to hire three new staff members for this division. CM Morales hopes the City begins doing participatory budgeting as a matter of course as a normal part of their budgeting season.
Also remember that next Tuesday, August 17 at 9:30am, the Finance and Housing committee will meet to vote on the supplemental budget, which will include some amendments related to SPD’s budget. There will be time at the beginning of the meeting to give public comment. I’ll write more about these amendments once they become available.
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. CM Sawant won’t be attending; CP González, CM Lewis, CM Morales, CM Herbold are present. CM Mosqueda is also present.
This week’s Public Safety committee meeting was a long one! The CMs voted legislation out of committee that will move the parking enforcement officers out of SPD and into SDOT. You may remember there was an open question as to whether they would be moved to SDOT or the new CSCC. The rank and file PEOs wanted to be moved to the CSCC, while the supervisors and the Mayor wanted them to be moved to SDOT. Apparently the supervisors and Mayor won this argument. This will receive a final vote by the Full Council next week.
HSD then gave a presentation on the recent RFP process for allocating the $12m in community safety capacity building. You can see the presentation here. CM Morales pointed out this is only one time funding and said she’s interested in working on developing more sustainable programming in this vein.
Finally the Q2 SPD Budgeting and Staffing report was given by Central Staff and two members of SPD. CM Herbold pressed SPD more than once on why they are spending money in areas the Council hasn’t yet authorized. SPD presented their budget proposal for spending the $15.3m in estimated salary savings for the year. Some of this proposal will probably show up in the previously mentioned supplemental budget amendments being discussed next week. One area of disagreement was about the CSOs; CMs seem interested in the idea of moving the CSOs from SPD into the CSCC, while SPD wants to retain the CSOs and credits the success of the unit to their relationship with the sworn officers.
SPD anticipates another 60 separations by the end of the year, meaning there would be 160 separations total in 2021. There are also 108 officers who aren’t currently deployable. They spent some time discussing the morale issue at SPD, with several CMs thanking the police officers who have stayed for their service. CP González asked some pointed questions about specific retention strategies currently being discussed, and expressed that the lack of SPD’s ability to retain their officers is a management problem and something the Executive’s office hasn’t spent enough time addressing. You can read more about her exchange with SPD’s Dr. Fisher here.
It also came out that the new automated time keeping system, originally meant to be rolled out in Q2, was placed “on hold” after Seattle IT determined it hadn’t been sufficiently tested. They are scheduled to have a kick-off “soon” to determine where they left off and establish a new timeline, which begs the question why they put it on hold in the first place instead of continuing to move forward. This new technology is not scoped for tracking off-duty work, although it could theoretically do so, something CM Herbold indicated interest in.

Other Seattle News

In yet another blow to the integrity of Seattle’s police accountability system, an OIG auditor resigned as investigations supervisor, making a formal ethics complaint to the City alleging that the OIG is failing to provide independent oversight of the OPA, as well as having a pattern of concealing the truth and avoiding public disclosure request requirements. The letter also references a personal relationship between Deputy IG Amy Tsai at the OIG and OPA Director Myerberg as the source for the OIG’s reluctance to push back against the OPA . This story was broken by Carolyn Bick in the South Seattle Emerald and is well worth the read. At this week’s Council Briefing, CM Herbold said she was going to consult with the Ethics and Elections Commission and Seattle HR as to how to review these concerns.
As Kevin Schofield writes, at yesterday’s consent decree hearing, Judge Robart “wasted little time in eviscerating” the CPC’s attorney Edgar Sargent, turning down the CPC’s request to have the Police Monitor become more involved in the SPOG contract negotiations and OPA investigations. Robart also “noted the big changes underway: elections for Mayor, City Attorney (“candidates from left and right”), City Council; collective bargaining underway; a police department budget “threatened with abolition and different levels of cuts”; and a Mayor who doesn’t want to tie the hands of the next mayor and thus is postponing significant decisions — including hiring a new permanent police chief.” It is a big time of change for Seattle, and November’s election will play a prominent role in deciding how things proceed.
Pete Holmes reported that SPMA negotiations are quite far along, with the parties in mediation over some issues, and that for SPOG negotiations, the Labor Relations Policy Committee is close to finalizing the bargaining parameters. It’s worth noting that even if the parameters are finalized soon, most of the SPOG negotiation will be presided over by a different Mayor and City Attorney.
ACLU Washington recently released a blog post analyzing Seattle’s consent decree and concluding that it doesn’t block Seattle from engaging in a divest and reinvest strategy. “An analysis of the original consent decree documents demonstrates there is no explicit prohibition on making significant changes to the SPD budget. The consent decree does not make any part of the budget untouchable nor does it mandate particular staffing or the existence of certain units and there is nothing in the Consent Decree to indicate that the units must be SPD units.” It doesn’t seem Judge Robart is in complete agreement with this; although he supports scaling up Health One and alternate 911 response, he also wants the City to continue to improve SPD, assumedly by investing its dollars into it.
Chief Diaz terminated the two SPD officers who were present at the DC insurrection on January 6. They are allowed to appeal this termination. The other four SPD officers who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally aren’t receiving any discipline.
SPOG is objecting to the new COVID vaccine mandate for city employees, saying the adoption date won’t allow sufficient time to bargain the impacts of it (for example, bargaining for payment for receiving the vaccine, getting paid time off for any vaccine side effects, etc.) SPOG further says this mandate might drive more officers to leave the department.

Meanwhile, in Washington State….

Melissa Santos recently published an investigation in Crosscut finding that at least 22 police officers in Washington state who have landed on the Brady list have still been able to secure employment in law enforcement at other departments. There is some disagreement whether new laws passed this year in the state legislature apply retroactively. The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, which licenses police officers, told Crosscut “it does not plan to go back in time to try to suspend or revoke officers’ certifications for past offenses. Commission spokesperson Megan Saunders wrote in an email that the state attorney general’s office has advised that the new law should not apply retroactively.”

Recent Headlines

More police presence won't save communities. Defunding police will.

A Time of Big Change for Seattle Read More »

SPD Budget Talks Are Back on the Menu

Yes, yes, we all want to talk about the primary results, but first let’s look at some local news that’s getting less coverage, shall we?

What’s up with the SPD’s latest budget request?

We found out more at Tuesday’s Finance and Housing committee meeting. As you may remember, last week an SPD memo outlining how the department would like to use an anticipated $15m in salary savings in 2021 was released. So far, the Mayor has transmitted one piece of legislation that would authorize the spending of some of this salary savings for SPD hiring bonuses ($15k for lateral transfers and $7500 for recruits) and asks the council to remove their provisos so SPD could also spend salary savings on separation fees and other expenses. In order to enact the rest of the spending plan laid out in the memo, other pieces of legislation (that don’t yet exist) would need to be passed as well.
The Council has a choice here. They can choose to do some of this legislative work through the mid-year supplemental budget that they are working on right now in the Finance and Housing committee. They could do it with separate legislation through the Public Safety and Human Services department; there is a plan to transit a bill from the Executive’s Office in late August that would address allowing SPD to accept this year’s grants, which could also act as a vehicle for enacting some of this spending, for example. Or they could do a combination of both.
CM Herbold signaled her desire to pass some elements through the supplemental budget, which is likely to be faster. In particular, she said she’d like to place a down payment on the $2m for the Regional Peacemakers Collaborative, provide funding for the purchase of the protocol system needed by CSCC dispatch system (to be used by Triage One), provide funding to fill existing positions for CSOs and crime prevention coordinators, and make some technology investments. She also is interested in amendments that would provide money for more evidence locker storage, money for public disclosure request handling, and possibly funding for a community-based crisis response program pilot focused on Lake City. Most of these funding requests are the same as those in CM Herbold’s failed bill from earlier this spring. She is also interested in removing two provisos, one related to SPD Harbor Patrol spending and one related to SPD out-of-order layoffs, which the Council now knows aren’t possible to enact.
To reiterate, the SPD is proposing spending only about 10% of the year’s salary savings on community safety reinvestments. Central Staff cautioned the Council more than once that they may need to take a proactive step in telling SPD they cannot use funds for certain things if they disagree with any proposed spending areas. CM Mosqueda brought up the City’s severe shortage of human services personnel and asked whether there had been any comparable proposals brought forth to also provide incentive pay for those positions. The answer, of course, was no.
There will be more policy details discussed at the next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, which will be next Tuesday, August 10. Then the CMs will dive back into the supplemental budget and proposed amendments at the next Finance and Housing committee meeting on Tuesday, August 17, where they will have a possible committee vote. Because of the summer recess, the supplemental budget will not be voted on by Full Council until Tuesday, September 7. All of these meetings will give opportunity for public comment.

Other Seattle News

Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! Also… it’s August already? 😮
At Monday’s Council Briefing, CM Strauss complained about the Executive’s Office holding up funding that has been allocated to stand up more homelessness resources. CM Herbold is introducing a bill that will transfer the parking enforcement officers out of SPD into the Community Safety and Communications Center.
The next consent decree status conference is coming up on Tuesday, August 10 in the afternoon. The CPC has won the right to speak at the meeting. Also coming up tomorrow is the hearing with Chief Diaz for the two SPD officers against whom OPA sustained findings for their participation in the DC insurrection on January 6.
People Power WA - Police Accountability
There has been a dangerous and false narrative circulating that the defund the police movement is responsible for an uptick in community violence. This ignores several key facts.
UPDATED THREAD. You’re going to hear a lot about how cops need more resources because “crime is surging” in the next few months. It’s propaganda, and here’s how you can respond:

Primary Results

Turnout was low for this election, not surprising given it’s an odd year primary. Not all the votes have been counted yet, but we have a fairly clear picture of several of the races at this point.
Competing for Seattle mayor will most likely be Bruce Harrell and M. Lorena González. Be on the lookout for sexism that will likely come to play during that campaign. For Seattle City Council Seat 8, CM Mosqueda has a healthy lead over all competitors. For Seattle City Council Seat 9, it looks like a race between Sara Nelson and Nikkita Oliver. And the City Attorney’s race is still in a dead heat between the three candidates; we’ll have to wait until more votes are counted to learn the final results of that one.
In King County, Dow Constantine has a solid lead over challenger Joe Nguyen. For King County Council, it’s possible incumbent Republican Kathy Lambert could be unseated in the General by challenger Sarah Perry, while incumbent Republicans Pete Von Reichbauer and Reagan Dunn held healthy majorities in their races.
Finally, if you need a mood booster, check out these optimistic election predictions over at Crosscut and get some rest before we dig into more campaigning work this fall.

Recent Headlines

SPD Budget Talks Are Back on the Menu Read More »