911 call center

The SPD-related budget amendments that passed today

All right, let’s get right to discussing today’s budget meeting. Here’s the link to the revised agenda, which includes links to documentation, and the relevant thread:

First, a list of new legislation discussed today that will be added to the introduction and referral calendar on Monday and receive a final vote at a later date.

  1. Legislation related to Amendment 26, disaggregating SPD precincts from Patrol Operations BSL. This re-establishes budget levels for each of the five precincts, giving the Council more granular financial data. This should have no trouble passing.
  2. Legislation related to Amendment 53 to transfer 911 Services from SPD to FAS. The main issue with this is that if the service is moved, it will need to be re-certified as a first responder. More research is needed on how long that would take, so it will be discussed again on Monday. Meanwhile CM Strauss is planning to introduce a different amendment, discussed further below, on Monday to provide another option.
  3. Legislation related to Amendment 32, adding $3m to the legislative department for community research, coming from the COVID relief bill. There are two pieces of legislation required to do this for technical reasons. This should also have no trouble.
  4. A draft interfund loan bill from the construction and inspections fund, to be repaid in 2021 with interest, for the, along with $13.1m portion. Nobody had objections about this either.

Next, a list of the amendments that passed today, with details on each.

  1. Amendment 33: adds $4m to HSD for SCS for scaling up gun-violence intervention and prevention, passed 9-0
  2. Amendment 34: invests $10m to scale up community organizations doing public safety work, passed 9-0
  3. Amendment 35: cuts $36k from SPD from implicit bias training (in the time of Covid some of these dollars aren’t necessary because of travel etc.), passed 9-0
  4. Amendment 37: cuts $800k from SPD’s recruitment and retention, passed 9-0
  5. The consent package: a package of 12 amendments (once 16 was removed for further discussion further down this list): 17-25 entailing provisos for reductions of different police department units; 46 requiring the Mayor’s office or SPD to submit a report on which police departments could be civilianized; 47 requiring fiscal reporting to the Council from the SPD every two weeks etc; and 49 cutting $50k from jail contracting services and moving it to be used to develop a new 911 response system in relationship with community, passed 9-0
  6. Amendment 45: add $80k to the New Deal Oversight Board by cutting $80k from the SPD’s patrol functions, passed 8-0 with CM Strauss abstaining
  7. Amendment 48a: reducing the 2020 pay (from Sept-Dec) of the 13 SPD command staff who aren’t unionized by a small amount, resulting in a potential $500k savings, passed 6-3 (Pedersen, Juarez, and Lewis voted no)
  8. Amendment 55: a proviso requiring the SPD to provide a monthly report with payment information of all employees paid more than $150k, increasing transparency, particularly about overtime, passed 9-0.
  9. Amendment 31: a proviso laying off all the sworn officers in the Navigation Team, passed 9-0
  10. Amendment 40: all the additional funding ($2.9m) for the Navigation Team cut (except for that in the Parks department used to pick up garbage) and used to pay for existing non-profits to do homelessness outreach and engagement. Vigorous debate on this one because businesses in the North Seattle districts are scared to not have a Navigation Team anymore. CM Herbold agreed the Navigation Team was a failed experiment. Passed 5/4 (Pedersen, Juarez, Lewis, and Strauss voted no)
  11. Amendment 16: proviso stating the Council’s intent to reduce the police force by 32 FTEs. CM Pedersen mentioned he’s received 35,000 emails about police accountability from Seattle residents and wanted to explain to his constituents why he’s supporting this. Passed 9/0.
  12. Amendment 27 (part of a different bill but still part of this conversation): transfers victim advocates and the victim support team from SPD to HSD, passed 9-0.

Now a list of amendments that are still to be discussed, either on Monday or another time.

  1. CM Strauss’s proviso removing sworn officers from overseeing the 911 dispatch so it can stay in SPD until they have a final decision about where to move it, along with information on receiving first responder certification relevant to today’s legislation to move the dispatch.
  2. Amendment 52: proviso prohibiting SPD from spending funds to prosecute individuals for participating in Justice for George Floyd protests. There was a long conversation on this one, along with confusion about how to read it. They’ll work on it some more, then revisit it on Monday.
  3. Some technical amendments to make sure everything works together correctly
  4. ??? There could be a few additional amendments based on ongoing conversations.
  5. Also still needing to be discussed is CM Lewis’s resolution stating the Council’s intent to create a public safety department and providing a time frame for their future work on reimagining public safety.

As you can tell from above, the City Council was widely in agreement on most of the amendments before them. The only two amendments that received real pushback and still passed were the ones regarding lowering SPD command staff pay for the rest of the year and defunding the civilian HSD side of the Navigation Team. Sawant’s amendments implementing a greater immediate defund of the SPD failed to pass, with no other council member voting in favor.

The goal is to finish discussing, voting on amendments, and cleaning everything up on the morning of Monday August 10th, followed by moving this budget bill out of committee. Then the Council will vote on the complete budget bill (excepting the new legislation in the first list above) in Full Council in the afternoon. I believe this full bill needs to be passed by a 3/4 vote since it increases appropriations, which would then be automatically veto-proof assuming nobody changed their mind. I do think it has a good chance of passing; overall the Council seems committed to working together on this effort.

The budget meeting on Monday will immediately follow the Council briefing, so should start around 10am, and there will be an opportunity for public comment both at 10am (signups at 8am) and 2pm (signups at noon) at the full Council meeting. There will be a special meeting on Wednesday August 12 (I think at 2pm) to discuss the vetoed COVID relief act and possibly vote on the new legislation from the first list above.

There’s a lot of hard work in front of us, but today was another step forward.

The SPD-related budget amendments that passed today Read More »

The decisions being made in Seattle over the next week are potentially groundbreaking.

All right, let’s dive right into today’s City Council briefing and budget meetings.

We started out with a presentation about an upcoming bill prohibiting the questioning of juveniles by police unless legal counsel is present. This bill sounds solid and important; a similar bill was passed in San Francisco last year, and it sounds like it’s gone very well there. The San Francisco DA speaks highly of it. Hopefully this bill can be voted upon in the next few weeks.

CM Morales was the only council member who commented on the incidents of the weekend, in which the Every Day March went to try to visit Police Chief Best at one of her homes in Snohomish. (Apparently she also has an apartment in Ballard?) Chief Best’s neighbors were armed and chased away the protesters, preventing them from practicing their first amendment rights, and Chief Best wrote to the Council asking them to call for an end to such protester tactics. (Apparently she hasn’t been keeping up with the news since the Council did distance themselves from these tactics last week.) CM Morales says that while they’ve condemned certain tactics, we also have an obligation to understand where the protesters are coming from, and she took exception to the police chief’s response celebrating the protesters meeting with a response from armed neighbors.

Onto the remainder of the amendments!

The Council discussed the last 15 amendments today. Amongst them was CM Sawant’s package of amendments, ten in all (although she withdrew one), that defund the police department by 50% for the rest of this year. Because of labor issues and especially SPOG’s particular level of power, her amendments calling for quick police layoffs are unlikely to be supported by the other CMs. That leaves three of CM Sawant’s amendments that have a chance of passing. Amendment 48 caps SPD combined pay and overtime to $150,000, and CMs seemed amenable to this if certain exceptions were put into place (for example, for the Police Chief), as it has the potential to forcibly reduce overtime. Amendment 52 is a proviso not allowing SPD budget money to be spent to support the prosecution of individuals participating in George Floyd protests except as required by court order, which CM Sawant said was possibly the most important amendment in her package and which other CMs seemed favorable towards given the language is first changed slightly. Amendment 53 immediately moves the 911 call center from the SPD to the FAS, thereby removing SPD’s financial control over 911 response.

Other amendments discussed:

Two amendments were presented that overlap with previously discussed amendments from Friday providing funding to research a new 911 response system and a participatory budgeting process that they’ll probably incorporate together in some fashion.

CM Strauss introduced two amendments (46 and 47) that would require the mayor to submit a report and plan on which SPD departments can be civilianized and would require greater fiscal transparency of the SPD, including fiscal reports every two weeks, reporting of expenses related to defending claims against the SPD (including tracking if there’s any pattern of legal claims against officers), and disclosing all weapon and equipment expenditures. This would also allow them to flag excessive overtime spending. These amendments were both very popular with the CMs.

And finally, CM Morales submitted amendment 40 to defund the Navigation Team and use the money to expand and maintain homelessness outreach and engagement. This one is now co-sponsored by four CMs, and I’m not sure if it will pass, although it definitely has a chance.

What does this all mean?

There are two competing plans being presented here. The one that we went over on Friday from four CMs (Morales, Herbold, Gonzalez, and Mosqueda) potentially defunds the SPD by around 41% in 2021 (although this would have to be hammered out in the 2021 budget process this fall) while not defunding by much this year, supplementing some small SPD cuts with the remainder of the rainy day fund and some of the COVID relief package money to fund community investment in 2020. You can view the blueprint of potential 2021 cuts for this plan, which I think of as the compromise plan. CM Sawant’s plan defunds the SPD by 50% for the rest of this year and reinvests that money into community but potentially runs into labor difficulties that she insists are surmountable. Whether they are or not, she hasn’t garnered support from the other CMs for her plan, making it unlikely to pass in spite of widespread community support for the idea of immediate 50% cuts.

The next budget meeting is on Wednesday, August 5 at 10am (this is a change in schedule), where the CMs will discuss these amendments further and then potentially vote on them. This meeting on Wednesday is probably the most important one in terms of what will be discussed and decided, so now is the time to get in touch with your CMs. The final vote on the amended 2020 budget is scheduled for Monday, August 10. You can sign up for public comment at both of these meetings; signups begin at 8am on Wednesday and at noon on Monday.

My best guess (although I could be wrong) is that some version of the compromise plan will pass on Wednesday, and then the revised 2020 budget and the resolution about the new department of public safety will both pass on Monday. A lot of the details of the amendments are still up in the air, to be hammered out between now and Wednesday, and there is also the question of whether the budget will pass by a veto-proof majority, which would require at least six CMs in support. (Given the Mayor just vetoed the COVID relief bill on Friday night and her general resistance to the Council’s plans regarding the SPD, it’s a real possibility she will also veto this revised 2020 budget.)

The main sticking point on supporting this version of the budget with the compromise SPD amendment plan seems to be the reluctance to spend down the rainy day fund to $0 this year, given the likely revenue shortfalls the city will be facing in 2021 and possibly beyond. (It’s worth noting there is only $12m left in the fund right now, which is a fairly small amount in the grand scheme of a city’s overall budget.) Unfortunately, this money is needed to invest in the community organizations now to give them time to ramp up before shrinking the SPD further in 2021. There is a solid block of support for spending the rainy day fund from CMs Gonzalez, Morales, Herbold, and Mosqueda, who have some confidence they’ll be able to replace the money next year with further SPD cuts, and CM Sawant will likely support their plan as being better than nothing. CM Lewis has reservations, and I still don’t know how CM Strauss feels about it. CM Juarez and Pedersen are less likely to support this expenditure.

Finally, a reminder about a technical aspect of all this, namely, that the Council authorizes spending but can’t force the Mayor to spend. However, there is a way to perhaps get around this by placing provisos on money the Mayor does want to spend and tying it to money she might not otherwise want to spend. How’s that for some fancy bureaucratic juggling?

Twitter avatar for @michaeljmaddux

Michael Maddux (↙️↙️↙️) @michaeljmaddux
This is an important part of the conversation. Many @SeattleCouncil Central Staff ACTIVELY oppose provisos. However, a proviso on something the mayor wants is the only way to ensure families and small biz are helped. Keep that in mind when you call, write, and testify.
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SCC Insight @SCC_Insight

However, all the Council can do is authorize the spending; they can’t directly force the Mayor to actually spend it. Though they sort-of can indirectly; they can put a proviso on money that Durkan wants to spend that locks it up until she spends the money she doesn’t want to.

I know this is all complicated, so thanks for bearing with me. The Wednesday meetings will be very interesting indeed!

The decisions being made in Seattle over the next week are potentially groundbreaking. Read More »