Is Participatory Budgeting in Seattle Finally Moving Forward?

Missing Texts of Mayor, Police Chief, and Fire Chief

The big scandal of the weekend was the Seattle Times breaking story about key texts from Seattle city officials in a period that includes June 2020 being unavailable for public disclosure. This news follows Thursday’s news of a whistleblower investigation of improper handling of public records in the mayor’s office. As Daniel Beekman and Lewis Kamb write:

Perez similarly didn’t know about the whistleblower investigation until Thursday, he said. He said he now expects to raise the issue in the lawsuit over police violence.

“Evidence must be preserved,” he said. “Obviously, the city didn’t preserve this evidence and that’s a big deal. And then, the city has covered up the fact that it didn’t preserve the evidence, and that’s an even bigger deal.

Perez is representing the Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County organization in their lawsuit against SPD.

In response to this scandal, at this morning’s Council Briefing Council President González said she’d been contacted by City Attorney Holmes and they’d agreed to launch a new effort to increase public trust by potentially launching a new public disclosure entity for the Mayor’s office.

Participatory Budgeting in Seattle

Also at this morning’s meeting, CM Morales announced she is going to introduce legislation to release the proviso on the $30m for participatory budgeting at her next Community Economic Development committee meeting on May 18 at 2pm. This legislation will instruct the Office of Civil Rights to write an RFP to look for an organization (either local or national) to manage the participatory budgeting process. Her hope is this legislation will be voted on by full Council at their May 24 meeting.
This is good news for those frustrated by the stall in this process moving forward, and CM Morales’s rejection of the process being run by the Department of Neighborhoods means more adherence to the Black Brilliance Project’s recommendations. David Kroman wrote an excellent piece highlighting the tensions that have arisen between the Mayor’s office and the City Council around implementing this ambitious project.

Other Seattle News

Tomorrow morning at the Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting, CM Herbold and her colleagues will once more discuss the SPD budget legislation pertaining to that pesky $5.4m overspend of last year. CM Herbold says the Police Monitor is concerned about even the $2m cut (to go to PBP) introduced in a compromise amendment last time the committee discussed this. She sounded frustrated with the Police Monitor’s response, saying she doesn’t understand why he thinks more money will solve the SPD’s staffing problems when their 2021 staffing plan is already fully funded. Even so, she is suggesting compromising still further by releasing another SPD proviso related to out-of-order layoffs.
Out-of-order layoffs were a frequent talking point last year, with the Council investigating whether they could lay off officers on the Brady list first, but CM Herbold says the legal department has determined this is unlikely and maybe even impossible, due to both state law and the fact SPD is currently hiring so anybody laid off would be first in line to get rehired.
The committee will also be discussing the transfer of the 911 call response department and parking enforcement officers from SPD to the new Community Safety and Communications Center.
Meanwhile, in election news, Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller has joined the Seattle mayoral race. The filing deadline to run for office this year is next Friday, May 21.

Other News of Note

King County Police Officers Guild calls for Sheriff Johanknect to resign
A year later, more questions than answers over Seattle council's stance on defunding SPD
Police, Protests & Public Safety