Seattle Balancing Package Budget Amendments
Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s budget meeting! Today CMs will vote on amendments to the balancing package.
After a marathon budget meeting yesterday lasting almost twelve hours, we have a much better idea of the final shape the 2023 Seattle budget will take. The Council will vote on the final budget in budget committee on Monday, November 28 and take the final vote in Full Council on Tuesday, November 29. However, barring a dramatic event and/or last minute shenanigans, most changes to the budget during the next week will be technical in nature.
So where are we with the budget in terms of public safety?
- the PEOs will be moved back into SPD (more about this later, as it is the subject of much opining); CMs Herbold, Juarez, Lewis, Nelson, Pedersen, and Strauss voted yes, CMs Sawant and Morales abstained, and CM Mosqueda voted no.
- in the same budget move that achieved the PEO move, a few SPD balancing package cuts were restored: $750k for a recruitment media campaign and $191k for an assistant city attorney position within SPD
- the following SPD cuts remain: $450k from police equipment (guns, tasers, etc); $450k from additional retention initiatives; $1m for a gun detection system like ShotSpotter
- 80 “ghost cop” positions were abrogated; CMs Herbold, Juarez, Morales, Sawant, Strauss, and Mosqueda voted in favor; CMs Lewis, Nelson, and Pedersen opposed. While CM Mosqueda argued for the measure as expected (since she included it in her balancing package), CM Herbold and CP Juarez both also argued strongly in favor of this proposal. Central Staff found there were even more ghost cop positions than previously known; the total number was 240. With the abrogations, the new number of ghost cop positions will be 160.
- SPD salary savings will continue to be under a proviso to allow Council to be part of the conversation about how these dollars will be spent; all CMs but Nelson and Pedersen voted in favor.
- Seattle will be spending some unexpected SPD salary savings to fund a seaplane awareness campaign, among other priorities.
- Sweeps will continue to be funded.
- Human Service workers will be paid commiserate with inflation.
- $50k was added to develop an Impacted Person’s Program for victims of SPD violence and their families; this work will be done by forming an OPA workgroup.
Other items of interest:
- CM Morales’s amendment to create a Municipal Housing Administration Program (one that could interface well with I-135 should it pass in February) failed to pass. CMs Lewis, Morales, and Sawant voted in favor, CMs Herbold, Juarez, Mosqueda, Nelson, Strauss opposed, and CM Pedersen abstained.
- CM Sawant’s amendment to increase the JumpStart tax also failed, which was not a surprise, but it did garner support from two additional CMs: CM Morales and CM Mosqueda.
- The law will not be changed this year making the JumpStart tax a permanent fill-in for General Fund woes at the expense of its intended spend plan.
- Seattle Public Schools look like they’ll be getting around $1.5m for mental health services, which is better than nothing but far below students’ $9m ask. Let’s hope this fight for much-needed funding is taken to the state during the next legislative session in January.
What about the PEOs?
As Erica Barnett reported in Publicola, the PEOs’ ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) against the City was rejected. This suit was one reason given for wanting to move the PEOs back into SPD; however, CMs couldn’t resist the lure of several million more dollars to invest in pet projects if they went ahead with the move. The failure of this suit is still relevant, however, since the PEOs argued they needed access to the Criminal Justice Investigation System (CJIS), a database they can only currently access if part of SPD. However, the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) said access to this database is not necessary for the PEOs to do their jobs, clearing the way for them to be located in CSCC or another department in the future, an idea favored by several CMs.
If you want a rundown of the history of the PEO controversy, look no further than Will Casey’s article on this in The Stranger. If it seems like a strange issue to be fighting over, you are not alone in this assessment. And it is true that in their year over at SDOT, the PEOs weren’t supported in making any kind of meaningful culture shift away from a policing, punitive mindset. They were even still housed in an SPD building, and their uniforms and vehicles retained SPD labels.
However, this doesn’t mean the location of the PEOs doesn’t matter. They certainly won’t succeed in shifting their culture from within SPD, and they are part of a bigger policy question: do civilian workers belong within a non-civilian department like SPD or are they better housed in civilian departments? In 2020 the Council came down clearly on the side of the latter, when they also moved the 911 dispatchers and victim advocates out of SPD.
Another policy question looms large over Seattle: will our elected leaders ever choose to make meaningful investments in addressing root causes of crime and suffering, or will they continue to primarily invest in a strategy with a thus far poor track record: police and sweeps? Only time will tell, but looking at allocated dollars remains a powerful way to understand a city’s priorities.
As most of you already know, Twitter is not the most stable service right now. This newsletter is currently running through a Twitter-attached service. I am weighing options on the best solution to meet Notes from the Emerald City‘s needs in the future, but rest assured, I will be continuing to report, and I will keep you informed about any changes that might be coming.
I am also on vacation next week, so there will be no newsletter. Yes, this was planned before budget season was extended for an extra week. I’ll do a wrap-up of budget season upon my return, from which we will all benefit from the wisdom of everyone else’s wrap-ups!