And the wheel continues to turn slowly

Just a quick update to keep you apprised of current happenings in Seattle, starting with yesterday’s Council Briefing.

During the briefing, there was a second presentation on Seattle’s state legislative lobbying agenda. This agenda will be voted on at the full Council meeting on either December 7 (their goal) or December 14. You can read the current draft of the agenda.

Apparently there is still a chance of a short special state legislative session before the main one beginning in January. However, there’s not much time left to make this happen. There was also another state revenue forecast last week, with positive news that the projected state deficit has shrunk from $10b to $3.3b. The downside to this news is that it may reduce the urgency of lawmakers to pass more progressive taxation legislation this session. Also of note is a new section in Seattle’s lobbying agenda calling for the decriminalization of transportation activity:

We support the decriminalization of transportation activity to improve safety for travelers and the public. We support ending the use of weaponized enforcement for traffic violations and allowing non-uniformed officers, including those working for a local city department that is not a police department, to perform garage and event management activities. We support decriminalizing pedestrian activities such as loitering and jaywalking, which disproportionately impact BIPOC communities. We support setting traffic citation amounts based on income to avoid perpetuating cycles of poverty while ensuring enforcement remains an effective deterrent regardless of an individual’s income and providing additional mitigation for marginalized communities.

In other news, the next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting will be next Tuesday, December 8 at 9:30am. On the agenda are a discussion about granting the OPA and OIG subpoena powers, a presentation from Co-LEAD, and a discussion about the principles behind CM Herbold’s previous proposal to create defenses for people committing certain misdemeanors when poverty, mental illness, or substance abuse is involved. I plan to live-tweet this one.

Other issues discussed at Council Briefing this week included a COVID relief package for restaurants and restaurant workers; a new project on permanent supportive housing and ways to adjust land use controls to make building it cheaper and faster, presented by CM Lewis (expect more discussion of this in future weeks); and the skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 cases in our area.

Also yesterday was a legislative preview of police reforms from the Washington State House Public Safety Committee. Among the speakers were several family members of victims of police violence, a few proponents of police reform such as Tim Burgess and Anne Levinson, and representatives of various police groups and unions. The committee chair, Rep. Roger Goodman, said he expected there to be around a dozen proposals to discuss in January, and that they will dedicate entire two-hour hearings to individual bills as necessary. Among the issues under discussion are a state-wide use of force policy; a bill on police tactics that would include a ban on all chokeholds and neck restraints, more limitations on police dog duties, and cessation of no knock warrants; an independent state agency to investigate and prosecute police misconduct relating to deadly force; a statewide requirement for deescalation; a robust decertification system and reporting on officer misconduct by other officers; a publicly searchable database of officer misconduct and also potentially various effectiveness measures; arbitration reform; reforming collective bargaining so that accountability laws aren’t part of bargaining; etc. It’s going to be a busy session, although it’s also good to keep in mind that the legislative process is designed to cause the majority of bills to fail.

The representatives from police groups and unions spoke about the need for more education and training, including implicit bias training, as well as the importance of health, wellness, and resiliency programs for officers. While there are a few areas of overlap for support of reforms depending on the group, overall these groups are not in favor of many of the reforms discussed above.

A moment worth highlighting was when Rep. Lovick asked Tim Burgess why reforms up to this point have not worked. Mr. Burgess had a lengthy reply to this question, and among other things, he said, “The ability of police unions to build in obstacles to reform is extremely detrimental.”

Finally, San Francisco has launched a pilot program for a Street Crisis Response Team now responding to 911 calls related to mental health and addiction. We’ve talked about developing a similar response team in Seattle based on the CAHOOTS model, and it’s great to see other cities jumping on board with this idea.