In some of the biggest local political news of the week, Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell is stepping down from her position in the Mayor’s Office. As the Seattle Times reports: “Sources close to the situation, who requested anonymity because of their relationships to the city, said the decision was reached after Monisha Harrell and others in senior leadership had several differing viewpoints on public safety issues in the city.”
Monisha Harrell was generally considered to be a more progressive voice in the Mayor’s office, and some hoped she would exercise a moderating influence to counter others in the Office, such as Director of Strategic Initiatives Tim Burgess. Erica C. Barnett reported that “we’ve also been told there’s a general “boy’s club” element within the mayor’s office that has shaped its internal dynamics.”
Harrell’s portfolio included public safety, and there is concern her departure could result in a shift further into “law and order” rhetoric, more emphasis on being “tough on crime” and less attention to public safety alternatives. Harrell reported to the City Council more than once about the progress of an alternative emergency response, including the term sheet that specified a timeline for the project. The first deliverable for the project was supposed to be a white paper due by the end of 2022 that is now six months late and counting.
I wrote a piece in the Urbanist last week on how gun violence is affecting Seattle-area high school students that also covers King County’s regional approach to gun violence prevention, which is highly innovative but also deeply underfunded. Seattle actually had a youth gun violence prevention program begun in 2009, but after several years that program was stalled and eventually disappeared, in part due to lack of support from then-CMs Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess. This is particularly unfortunate given that otherwise we might have a more mature and scaled-up program today.
In the wake of the shooting and murder of Eina Kwon in Belltown, SPD has announced a new task force, including federal resources, focused on quelling gun violence in four areas of Seattle: downtown, Aurora Ave, south Seattle, and the Central District. Chief Diaz has said the task force will consist of around 50 officers. Unfortunately, the police are more likely to respond after gun violence takes place as opposed to preventing it, which is why investing in gun violence prevention programs, mental health treatment, safe consumption sites, housing, and even physical improvements such as adding green spaces and lighting is so important.
Erica C. Barnett reported that SPD Officer Kevin Dave was driving 75mph in a 25mph zone when he struck pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula. He hit the brakes less than a second before impact and was only chirping his siren at intersections. As Barnett wrote: “Seattle law allows an officer responding to an emergency to “exceed the maximum speed limits so long as he or she does not endanger life or property, but says that exemption doesn’t “relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway nor from the duty to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.””
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