November 2021

SPD Budget Shrinks for 2nd Year in a Row

City Council Passes the 2022 Budget

Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle Council Briefing, to be immediately followed by a budget meeting. The final vote on Seattle’s 2022 budget will be taken this afternoon.
Amy Sundberg
And the Seattle Full Council meeting has started! For my own sanity I’m not going to live tweet (I expect some longish speeches) but I’ll tweet if anything of particular interest happens.
Yesterday afternoon, after a flurry of speeches, the Seattle City Council passed the 2022 city budget. You can read the Solidarity Budget’s final press release on the budget here.
While in some aspects disappointing–the SPD abrogation amendment and failure to fund a CAHOOTS-style alternative emergency response program come to mind, as well as a failure to fund two big asks from the new Regional Homelessness Authority–there is much to celebrate in this budget. Probably first among these is the large investment in affordable housing ($194m), which between the already extant homeless crisis and the current rapid rise of rents, is a desperately needed investment.
Also of note, the SPD budget shrank for the second year in a row, from about $362,988,810 down to $355,487,007. While this is only a 2% cut, it’s remarkable during a year in which most American municipal police budgets are expanding once again (and to be clear, most didn’t receive any cuts last year either). Part of the reason this cut was possible is undoubtedly because of the SPD’s high rate of attrition for the last two years, which means the Council can fully fund all the officer positions SPD can possibly hire in 2022 and still have extra money to invest elsewhere.
The Council also passed CM Herbold’s resolution addressing the Mayor’s emergency order giving hiring incentives to police officers and 911 dispatchers. This order limits the total amount expended to $500k and ends the order at the end of 2021. CM Herbold said more than once that the new Mayor might wish to pass his own emergency order pertaining to hiring bonuses, for which we’ll have to wait until January. It does sound like the hiring incentives are helping 911 dispatch staff up, at the very least, even if SPOG isn’t much of a fan of them.
Now that the budget has been passed, it gets sent to the Mayor, who has three options: she can sign it, she can allow it to pass into law without her signature, or she can veto it. We should know in the next few weeks what her choice will be. Should she veto it, the Council will need to decide whether to override her veto or make further changes to the budget.

King County and Pierce County News

 

f you live in unincorporated urban King County, the county is asking for input in reimagining public safety through an online survey.
King County Executive Constantine named Patti Cole-Tindall as the County’s interim Sheriff, to begin on January 1. The Executive will appoint a new permanent Sheriff sometime later next year. He also announced a new hiring and retention bonus package for sworn officers at the Sheriff’s department.
Also yesterday, the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance called on the DoJ to investigate Pierce County’s Sheriff Department for disproportionate use of excess force against Black people and people of color. A recent use of force report for the department showed Black residents experience about 5.62 times as much police use of force as white residents. This could put Pierce County on track to be under a consent decree much like the one that’s been in Seattle for over nine years, with no end in sight.

Kari Plog
INBOX: @WaBLMAlliance is urging the Department of Justice to launch a civil rights investigation into the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. A report recently found that deputies use force against Black people at more than five times the rate they do against white people. https://t.co/TEZsdc9Wej

Housekeeping Note

I’m going to be taking a short break to recover from the budget marathon, so in the meantime, stay safe and have a happy Thanksgiving!

SPD Budget Shrinks for 2nd Year in a Row Read More »

Seattle Council Votes to Give SPD Special Treatment in the Budget

Are you ready to talk more about the budget?

 

Amy Sundberg
Okay, we’re starting part 2 of this budget meeting. Should get into some interesting stuff later this afternoon.
During a multi-hour meeting yesterday that was at turns deeply dull and gut-churningly suspenseful, Seattle council members discussed amendments to the balancing package for Seattle’s 2022 budget.
The Council voted to fund the expansion of the CSOs within SPD, although with slightly less money due to expectations that it will take time to hire more CSOs. There were also three amendments on the table to restore different levels of SPD funding that were in the Mayor’s proposed budget but reduced by the balancing package. Both of CM Pedersen’s amendments in this vein were handily defeated. CM Lewis wished to add back $2.7m in order to use SPD’s estimates of hiring and attrition rather than Central Staff’s. While it is rather neat that Central Staff’s estimates for attrition and hiring equal out, it seems everyone is agreement these estimates tend to be off-base in any case. It also seems likely SPD’s estimate for hiring is on the high side and that their attrition estimate is on the low side (it doesn’t seem to take into account the probable increased attrition due to officers who choose not to get vaccinated for COVID-19, for example). Lewis’s amendment as it stood was narrowly defeated, but it’s possible he’ll walk on a new amendment on Monday that includes a proviso on these funds, which may gain him the extra needed vote.
A source of surprising controversy was CP González’s amendment that would have abrogated unfilled 101 positions from SPD. In what Kevin Schofield characterized as “an inflammatory press release,” Chief Diaz accused the Council of voting to eliminate 101 officers, which is simply not accurate. The amendment would have removed 101 of the 134 open and unfillable officer positions currently in SPD. This doesn’t affect in any way the 125 positions for which SPD is planning to aggressively hire in 2022. In fact, given their hiring pipeline, SPD will be unable to fill any of those funded yet unfilled positions until 2024 at the very earliest. And if they were suddenly able to hire more than anticipated, there would have been 33 funded and unfilled positions maintained, just in case.
Instead, CMs Herbold, Juarez, Lewis, Pedersen and Strauss chose to vote against this amendment. CM Herbold specifically called out her concern that this amendment would send the message that the right number of officers in SPD is 1256. She said this in spite of the fact that the SPD can’t possibly hire enough for that number to be higher within the next few years. Further, there is no general consensus as to what the right number of officers actually is or will be in the future, especially if dragging alternate response programs finally get resourced, stood up, or scaled up. It seems reasonable to expect the number of police officers in any given department will need to be revisited on a regular basis regardless. It’s also worth noting that no other city department is allowed to maintain such a large number of funded but unfillable positions from year to year in the budget.
For a council eager to prove—contrary to Diaz’s claims—that it is not at war with the police department, the optics of González’s amendment seemed too daunting. Instead, the council opted to rubber-stamp SPD’s budgetary sleight-of-hand, ostensibly as a peace offering to the department. SPD will enter 2022 with a larger budget and more positions than it can likely fill. The vote represents a dramatic reversal for a council that, one year ago, expressed its interest in redistributing a portion of police department’s budget to build a more diversified public safety network. The decision also underscored that SPD now has the upper hand in the messaging battle.
You have one more chance to make your voice heard about Seattle budget matters. The Council will have their last budget committee meeting on Monday morning after the usual Council Briefing, and they plan to vote on the final budget balancing package at Monday afternoon’s meeting at 2pm. There will be public comment at the afternoon meeting, and as always, you can also call and/or email your CMs to give them budget feedback.

Crosscut Opinion is no more

Katie Wilson
Well, the cat is out of the bag. @Crosscut Opinion shuts down at the end of this month. Among other things, that means no more writing from yours truly. Needless to say, I have some opinions about this! Hope to share soon. https://t.co/7WojwGTyrZ
The local media landscape has been rocked by the announcement that Crosscut will no longer be running its opinion section, one of the few alternatives to the Seattle Times in the region. Doug Trumm wrote an in-depth analysis of the current state of local media coverage that is worth your time.
This is doubtless not the last time you will see concern over local media, which has been struggling across the country for decades. We know that media plays a crucial role in democracy, both in helping the electorate remain informed on current affairs and in acting as a check to hold government officials and bodies accountable. In a marketplace in which only one large print publication has survived and in which there are no progressive local TV outlets, it is perhaps even easier to see the impact of local media on the framing and content of the civic conversation.

Recent Headlines

As budget process draws to conclusion, fight over SPD budget becomes open (memo) warfare

In a first, court will decide new WA redistricting plan as commission falters | Crosscut

L.A. County supervisors seek to decriminalize bike violations after Times investigation

Seattle Council Votes to Give SPD Special Treatment in the Budget Read More »

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

Last Week of Seattle Budget Season and More OIG Woes Read More »

The Quick and Dirty on the Seattle Budget Balancing Package

Seattle Budget Balancing Package

Budget Chair Mosqueda released Seattle’s 2022 budget balancing package yesterday. This package is a revision that is balanced to the latest revenue forecast and adjusts the Mayor’s proposed budget to reflect the Council’s spending priorities. This morning the Council met for almost four hours to review what is included in this new budget proposal.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s special Select Budget Committee meeting. Today there is a presentation on the Budget Chair’s Balancing Package for the 2022 budget.
This evening the Council is holding the second public hearing on the budget, which begins at 5:30pm. Sign-ups begin at 3:30pm. For those planning to comment today, or who wish to contact their CMs via phone or email with their thoughts, here is a summary of changes in public safety spending in this new budget.
First, the budget cuts $10.8m from SPD’s budget. This would lead to SPD’s overall budget being reduced, albeit by a relatively small amount, for the second year in a row. The cuts are coming from the following:
  • Hiring incentive program for new officers and lateral hires
  • Cutting funding for two technology projects (although funding for one part of one of these projects is being provided elsewhere, $216k to analyze the NICJR report on 911 calls)
  • a new squad of CSOs proposed by Mayor Durkan (the main issues at play here are that the currently funded CSO positions are still being filled and there is disagreement as to where the CSOs should be housed, SPD or the CSCC)
  • assuming greater salary savings because of attrition in 2022, including that due to 80 officers who have asked for accommodation from the vaccine mandate, which will probably lead to some number of those officers being let go (the estimate in this case is 12 officers let go)
  • other salary and efficiency savings as outlined by CM Herbold in her amendment two weeks ago
Before we get too hysterical about further cuts to SPD, it’s important to remember that the number of officers responding to 911 calls has thus far remained consistent. This means the increased 911 call response times cannot be attributed to lower staffing at SPD, but is because of some combination of other causes. This balancing package fully funds SPD’s proposed hiring plan in 2022. What it doesn’t do is fully fund SPD’s proposed staffing plan, as the Council is assuming more attrition than SPD is. Expect to hear a lot of vitriol around this distinction. Ultimately the attrition number for 2022 is just a guess, and not a very historically accurate one at that. If the guess is too low, the Council can proviso the money and try to reclaim it later. If the guess is too high, SPD can come to the Council and ask for additional funds.
The funds for participatory budgeting and the Equitable Communities Initiative have been reduced to $30m per program for next year, using some funds that weren’t spent this year. HSD’s community safety capacity building program was also partly funded by funds not yet used for the program this year. The Seattle Community Safety Initiative (the community safety hubs) appears to now be fully funded as well.
Much of the funds to stand up Triage One were cut because SFD is now saying the new program can’t be stood up until December 2022 or January 2023 at the earliest. Apparently bargaining with SPOG about having some 911 calls answered by this new unit won’t even begin till spring 2022. This is all in spite of this new program being announced with large fanfare this past summer. There is still some confusion about the ultimate purpose of this program and how it will complement or fit into other alternate emergency response in the city.
CM Lewis’s amendment asking for $3.1m for a pilot program for a contracted provider-based low-acuity 911 emergency response was not included in the package. This would have started up a program in Seattle similar to CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR or STAR in Denver. Instead $400k is being added to the CSCC to develop an implementation plan and response protocols for such a program, so if it ever gets funded, at least this early work will have been done.
Still, this feels like a setback, especially since Mayor Elect Harrell has said he supports a CAHOOTS-like program in Seattle. The lack of funding for a coherent and cohesive plan for alternate emergency response in Seattle is one of the major disappointments of this balancing package and of the City’s work in general around public safety in the last year and a half.
Other programs not funded in this balancing package include Just Care, which houses people without homes in hotels and would have to cease operations by June 2022; LEAD, which is getting a bit of money but enough to scale up as much as was hoped; and much less funding than requested for the mobile crisis teams managed by DESC to address behavioral health crises, as well as no capital funds for a new voluntary crisis stabilization center. It looks like there will be no additional van for Health One either, although that might be due to constraints in SFD right now.
Programs that are being funded include adding more dispatcher positions to the CSCC, adding more firefighters, and funding CM Morales’s proposal for restorative justice programs. Funds totaling around $4.5m were added for various diversion programs.
The balancing package also provides an impressive $192m for affordable housing and related services.
After tonight’s hearing, the next budget meeting will be at 9:30am on Friday. There will be a chance for public comment at the beginning of this meeting. CMs will continue to discuss the balancing package, asking clarifying questions to Central Staff. Any self-balancing amendments they care to propose must be turned in by noon on Friday.

Other Resources on the Balancing Package

2022 budget "balancing package" released

The Quick and Dirty on the Seattle Budget Balancing Package Read More »

The Obligatory Election Results Discussion

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:
Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing. Presiding this morning is Council President Pro Tem Dan Strauss. He wishes CM Juarez either a happy early or belated birthday. And now we have the Grand Street Alley Vacation briefing, which I’m not going to tweet.

Election News

Let’s start with this thread of good election news, shall we?

Kamau
a 🧵of good results in WA races:

let’s start in seattle since so many people are down on the results. first, the fact that Oliver, NTK, & Gonzalez got tens of thousands to vote for a bold progressive vision can’t be understated.

notably, we won the school board decicively https://t.co/yQdP6hTlzv

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.

Other News

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:
Kari Plog
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:
Paul Faruq Kiefer
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

Recent Headlines

Minneapolis voters reject replacing police with new agency

WA’s new federal judges signify reversal of Trump-era influence | Crosscut

The Obligatory Election Results Discussion Read More »