A Day in the Life of Seattle City Council

A Day in the Life of Seattle City Council:

The day: Thursday, April 25, 2024

In the morning, Councilmember Martiza Rivera led the Librairies, Education, and Neighborhoods committee meeting, where she blamed the recently announced rotating library closings and reduced hours on the benefits librarians won in their most recent contract. The expense of ebooks were also mentioned as a culprit. Downplayed was the impact of this year’s hiring freeze.

In the afternoon, Council President Sara Nelson led the Governance, Accountability, and Economic Development committee meeting. During public comment, a commenter brought attention to a possible conflict of interest Nelson has with the new gig worker minimum wage rollback legislation, and she interrupted him, attempting to derail his request for her to recuse herself by asking which item on the agenda he was referencing. (It was obvious which item he was referencing.)

During the discussion on the police officer recruitment bill, Nelson brought up the overwhelming nature of climate change, saying because there is no magical solution to climate change, we do nothing. But apparently hiring new police officers is not tough like climate change, hence this new bill, which seems unlikely to have a strong impact on hiring numbers, although it will give the Council someone to yell at if numbers don’t get better of their own accord. 

In the evening, two councilmembers held town halls in their district: Robert Kettle in District 7 and Cathy Moore in District 5. Kettle had friends Council President Sara Nelson and Councilmember Tanya Woo in tow. 

At Kettle’s event, he once again stated his belief that the SPD is the best police force in the nation. A few hours later, the news broke that four more women officers at SPD have filed a tort claim alleging sexual harassment and sexual discrimination by Chief Adrian Diaz, Lt. John O’Neil, and human resource manager Rebecca McKechnie. This is the third suit brought against the SPD for gender discrimination in the last six months. Meanwhile, SPD has been under a federal consent decree for twelve years and the new proposed SPOG contract does not make the accountability changes the presiding judge has indicated he wanted to see before fully ending the decree. And this is the best police force in the nation?

Worse yet, when asked whether the city has ever discussed bringing in the National Guard for “the most dire parts of this community,” Nelson said, “The short answer is yes.” She referenced Gavin Newsom calling in the National Guard in San Francisco. 

Meanwhile, at Moore’s event, she announced she’ll be introducing legislation reinstating the old law against “prostitution loitering” that was unanimously repealed by the Council back in 2020. Yes, even Alex Pedersen voted to repeal this law. 

As PubliCola reports, “The council repealed the laws against prostitution loitering and drug loitering after the Seattle Reentry Workgroup, established to come up with recommendations to help formerly incarcerated people reenter their communities, recommended repealing both laws on the grounds that they disproportionately harm people of color and amount to “criminalization of poverty.””

Moore says she hopes the law will allow officers to approach prostitutes, look for diversion opportunities, and see if they’re being trafficked or not. It is not clear whether this law is actually needed in order for officers to do these things.

Moore also said she’d be voting to approve the new SPOG contract that gives 23% raises to police officers while making few improvements to accountability.

Other News:

The first SPD killing of the year happened last week

The King County Law and Justice committee met this Tuesday to discuss the Superior Court’s Jury Participation and Diversity Report and to hear from the Auditor’s Office on the audit they recently performed on the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center (CCFJC), otherwise known as the youth jail. They also got an update on implementation of recommendations for all criminal legal system audits since 2020. 

The main findings from the audit on the youth jail were that while the facility was designed for short stays of 30 days or less in mind, most of the youth now held in the jail are staying for longer. 84% of youth have stays of more than 30 days, more than half are there for at least 3 months, and about a third are there for six months. The youth are housed in the CCFJC while waiting for the resolution of their cases.

This is a problem because the facility is not designed with ample green spaces, a big enough gymnasium, and flexible programming space, all of which are needed if youth are staying there longer. Youth staying longer tend to have greater needs as well, and CCFJC doesn’t offer all the appropriate programming. Longer stays in the youth jail have also been shown to increase recidivism. 

The other issue uncovered by the audit was the impact of staff shortages on the care of the youth staying at the facility, as well as on staff morale. Staff shortages lead to modified staffing schedules, which means more time the youth are spending in their cells. During a normal schedule, a youth will spend 11-13 hours in their cell, whereas they will spend at least 14.5 hours in their cell during a modified schedule. 

There have been times when educational class time has been so shortened teachers have worried about meeting state educational requirements. Short staffing can also cause recreation programs to be canceled and make it difficult for youth to meet with mental health counselors. Both teachers and juvenile detention officers end up being stretched thin. 

Right now 79 out of 91 total positions for juvenile detention officer are filled. The low staffing point thus far was in March of 2023, when there were only 68 juvenile detention officers. 

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