budget amendments

Seattle Budget Inches Towards the Finish Line

Seattle Balancing Package Budget Amendments

Amy Sundberg
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 Publicolathe 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.

Housekeeping

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!

Recent Headlines

Seattle Budget Inches Towards the Finish Line Read More »

Seattle Council Votes to Give SPD Special Treatment in the Budget

Are you ready to talk more about the budget?

 

Amy Sundberg
Okay, we’re starting part 2 of this budget meeting. Should get into some interesting stuff later this afternoon.
During a multi-hour meeting yesterday that was at turns deeply dull and gut-churningly suspenseful, Seattle council members discussed amendments to the balancing package for Seattle’s 2022 budget.
The Council voted to fund the expansion of the CSOs within SPD, although with slightly less money due to expectations that it will take time to hire more CSOs. There were also three amendments on the table to restore different levels of SPD funding that were in the Mayor’s proposed budget but reduced by the balancing package. Both of CM Pedersen’s amendments in this vein were handily defeated. CM Lewis wished to add back $2.7m in order to use SPD’s estimates of hiring and attrition rather than Central Staff’s. While it is rather neat that Central Staff’s estimates for attrition and hiring equal out, it seems everyone is agreement these estimates tend to be off-base in any case. It also seems likely SPD’s estimate for hiring is on the high side and that their attrition estimate is on the low side (it doesn’t seem to take into account the probable increased attrition due to officers who choose not to get vaccinated for COVID-19, for example). Lewis’s amendment as it stood was narrowly defeated, but it’s possible he’ll walk on a new amendment on Monday that includes a proviso on these funds, which may gain him the extra needed vote.
A source of surprising controversy was CP González’s amendment that would have abrogated unfilled 101 positions from SPD. In what Kevin Schofield characterized as “an inflammatory press release,” Chief Diaz accused the Council of voting to eliminate 101 officers, which is simply not accurate. The amendment would have removed 101 of the 134 open and unfillable officer positions currently in SPD. This doesn’t affect in any way the 125 positions for which SPD is planning to aggressively hire in 2022. In fact, given their hiring pipeline, SPD will be unable to fill any of those funded yet unfilled positions until 2024 at the very earliest. And if they were suddenly able to hire more than anticipated, there would have been 33 funded and unfilled positions maintained, just in case.
Instead, CMs Herbold, Juarez, Lewis, Pedersen and Strauss chose to vote against this amendment. CM Herbold specifically called out her concern that this amendment would send the message that the right number of officers in SPD is 1256. She said this in spite of the fact that the SPD can’t possibly hire enough for that number to be higher within the next few years. Further, there is no general consensus as to what the right number of officers actually is or will be in the future, especially if dragging alternate response programs finally get resourced, stood up, or scaled up. It seems reasonable to expect the number of police officers in any given department will need to be revisited on a regular basis regardless. It’s also worth noting that no other city department is allowed to maintain such a large number of funded but unfillable positions from year to year in the budget.
For a council eager to prove—contrary to Diaz’s claims—that it is not at war with the police department, the optics of González’s amendment seemed too daunting. Instead, the council opted to rubber-stamp SPD’s budgetary sleight-of-hand, ostensibly as a peace offering to the department. SPD will enter 2022 with a larger budget and more positions than it can likely fill. The vote represents a dramatic reversal for a council that, one year ago, expressed its interest in redistributing a portion of police department’s budget to build a more diversified public safety network. The decision also underscored that SPD now has the upper hand in the messaging battle.
You have one more chance to make your voice heard about Seattle budget matters. The Council will have their last budget committee meeting on Monday morning after the usual Council Briefing, and they plan to vote on the final budget balancing package at Monday afternoon’s meeting at 2pm. There will be public comment at the afternoon meeting, and as always, you can also call and/or email your CMs to give them budget feedback.

Crosscut Opinion is no more

Katie Wilson
Well, the cat is out of the bag. @Crosscut Opinion shuts down at the end of this month. Among other things, that means no more writing from yours truly. Needless to say, I have some opinions about this! Hope to share soon. https://t.co/7WojwGTyrZ
The local media landscape has been rocked by the announcement that Crosscut will no longer be running its opinion section, one of the few alternatives to the Seattle Times in the region. Doug Trumm wrote an in-depth analysis of the current state of local media coverage that is worth your time.
This is doubtless not the last time you will see concern over local media, which has been struggling across the country for decades. We know that media plays a crucial role in democracy, both in helping the electorate remain informed on current affairs and in acting as a check to hold government officials and bodies accountable. In a marketplace in which only one large print publication has survived and in which there are no progressive local TV outlets, it is perhaps even easier to see the impact of local media on the framing and content of the civic conversation.

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Last Week of Seattle Budget Season and More OIG Woes

Last Week of Seattle Budget Talks

Amy Sundberg
Good morning, and welcome to today’s Seattle Council Briefing!
The last week of Seattle’s budget talks is going to be a busy one! First, the Solidarity Budget is holding a rally outside City Hall tomorrow (Tuesday) from 6-8pm, which is an excellent time to make your support known. Happily, it even looks like the rain is going to hold off.
On Wednesday, the Council will publish a list of the proposed amendments to the 2022 budget. On Thursday morning, the last public hearing on the budget will be from 9:30-11am (signups beginning at 8am), followed by a budget meeting discussing the proposed amendments. If the Council can’t get through all the proposals on Thursday, they will also meet on Friday.
Then on Monday, the budget committee will convene in the morning directly after the Council Briefing to vote on budget-related legislation. Finally, they will make a final vote on the 2022 budget and all related legislation Monday afternoon at 2pm. There will be one last chance for public comment at that meeting (11/22 at 2pm). And of course, you can always email and call your CMs as well!
We have heard about two potential amendments that may be discussed on Thursday. CM Sawant announced an amendment to raise the JumpStart tax to fund more investments in affordable housing and the Green New Deal. Thus far, her colleagues have been reluctant to increase this tax so it is uncertain whether she’ll have enough co-sponsors to bring the amendment to a vote.
Meanwhile, CP González has signaled she’s working on an amendment that will abrogate the extra SPD officer positions that the department is unable to fill this year. This is actually more important than it may sound on the surface. SPD has a huge number of funded but vacant positions, which results in a much larger amount of salary savings for them every year than is realized by the average city department. Having these unfilled but funded positions as the base for each year’s budget means the SPD starts out with much more money for staffing than they can possibly spend. In practice, what this means is if the Council retrieves this money (that isn’t actually going to be used for officer salaries) to use for other priorities (like community alternates to public safety or affordable housing), then this is characterized as a “cut” to the SPD budget and becomes immediately controversial. Having the SPD budget start closer to the actual salary spending needed will alter the conversation and make it more transparent when SPD is adding funds for expenses other than officer salaries.
Unsurprisingly, much of the conversation about the budget this year is about SPD. The Solidarity Budget is calling for further cuts to the SPD budget, while Mayor Durkan and Mayor-elect Harrell are calling for the SPD budget to be what Mayor Durkan originally proposed. There is even vigorous debate over what exactly constitutes a cut. For an excellent summary for the issues around SPD’s budget so far, check out this article from the South Seattle Emerald:

Continued OIG Woes

Meanwhile, Seattle’s accountability system continues to show cracks, as Carolyn Bick’s recent reporting in the South Seattle Emeraldshows:
Based on a preliminary internal quality control investigation conducted in July 2021, it appears that Office of Inspector General (OIG) auditor Anthony Finnell failed to thoroughly review more than 30 protest case findings issued by the Office of Police Accountability (OPA), before issuing either full certifications or approving cases as “Expedited” — cases in which the OPA determines that findings can be issued mainly on intake investigations.
The article continues by laying out many examples that show Finnell’s pattern of not thoroughly reviewing OPA case findings and simply rubber stamping them as approved.
In light of the OIG whistleblower and the problems revealed in the OPA’s report on the Labor Day SPOG HQ protest, this is further evidence that the current accountability system is not working as designed. The lack of an established process for investigations of serious allegations related to the accountability system is alarming, as is the apparent lack of recourse for residents of Seattle who are concerned about the continued accountability issues we’ve been seeing. While it is frustrating that public officials don’t appear interested in addressing these concerns, it makes it all the more important to continue to both monitor and raise awareness about what is happening.

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Last Week of Seattle Budget Season and More OIG Woes Read More »

This Week’s Seattle Budget Amendments

Don’t forget to vote! Election Day is coming up fast!

Seattle Budget Amendments

This week the Seattle City Council met for three full days of meetings to discuss their proposed amendments to the 2022 budget.
The next chance to give public testimony is at the public hearing at 5:30pm on Wednesday, November 10, which is also the day when the Council will release their draft budget. The next budget meeting will be on Friday, November 12, when the balancing package/draft budget will be presented.

Public Safety Amendments

Amy Sundberg
Good afternoon, and welcome to Seattle’s Select Budget Committee meeting! They are behind on the agenda and are starting Parks and Recreation. If they don’t finish everything today, they’ll do so tomorrow morning.
Yesterday council members introduced amendments to carve off small pieces of SPD’s budget. CP Gonzáles introduced two amendments, one very similar to one from last year that sets a proviso on $5m on potential salary savings and another that sets a proviso on $2.5m of technology projects until more information about those projects is provided. Meanwhile, CM Herbold proposed amendments to proviso $200k from the CSO program, given that it will take some months to hire the new unit, and to cut $1.09m from SPD for hiring incentives, instead holding that money until a report can be done on potentially implementing a city-wide hiring incentive program. She also proposed an amendment to make several small cuts to various areas of the SPD budget, for a total cut of $4.53m.
CP González and CM Herbold also addressed the City Attorney’s Office budget, with CP González introducing an amendment to proviso $1.8m within the City Attorney’s Office for diversion programs (a nod to the possibility that Ann Davison might win the upcoming election and need encouragement to continue the department’s diversion activities). CM Herbold had an amendment adding $267k to fully staff and expand the pre-filing diversion program. (She also had an amendment in the HSD section to add $750k for at least 5 community-based organizations for that side of the diversion program.) Herbold also wants to add money to the CSCC to hire additional 911 dispatchers.
CP González submitted a SLI for a report from the City Budget Office on the CSO program. CM Strauss spoke strongly in support of the CSO program, but added that he believes the CSOs should be housed in the CSCC rather than SPD, and that he has reservations about expanding that program until it has been moved. There was also money allocated to expand the fire department’s Health One program to include a fourth van.
Finally, CM Pedersen had a SLI requesting a report on models, costs, and timelines for a citywide 24/7 mental/behavioral health response. CM Herbold spoke about how much of this work is already been done, and then the following day several proposals were made for services in just this vein.

Human Services Department Amendments

Amy Sundberg
Welcome to Seattle’s Select Budget Committee meeting! We’re in the middle of the HSD section and have made it to the public safety and criminal legal system section of amendments.
Interesting amendments discussed this afternoon during the HSD portion of budget talks included several investments in emergency response. CM Lewis proposed $3.1m for a pilot program for a contracted provider-based low-acuity 911 emergency response. He mentioned wariness towards the idea of having only uniformed government first response in Seattle. CM Herbold proposed $14.6m to expand LEAD so they could serve everyone eligible for their services. And together, CM Strauss and CM Herbold proposed $32m for capital expenses in creating a new voluntary crisis stabilization center in partnership with the County and $13.9m to expand the behavioral health crisis system, including with operational support for the new center. CM Strauss says his amendment would provide the City with 24/7 city-wide mental health response. He hopes this service (and CM Lewis’s new pilot too) will be hardwired into 911. He also stated strongly that this amendment is his highest priority in this budget cycle.
Smaller investments discussed included $4m for the Seattle Community Safety Initiative (the community hubs), $2m for restorative justice programs, and $1.5m to expand behavioral health services for the Duwamish Tribe.

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This Week’s Seattle Budget Amendments Read More »

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.
Twitter avatar for @SCC_Insight

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 »

We finally get to discuss the SPD-related amendments

What’s going on with the ACLU/BLM court case:

The court has determined this requires an evidentiary hearing, and a trial has been set to take place August 26-September 1. Audio access will be available to the public. You can read more about it here.

Differences in coverage:

An article in the Seattle Times entitled “Seattle police say explosives were found in van at protests over weekend” ran earlier this week. Among other things it says: “Police later impounded the van and, after obtaining a search warrant, discovered firework pyrotechnics, smoke bombs, stun guns, bear and pepper spray, makeshift spike strips and gas masks, Best said.” The article quotes Mayor Durkan, Chief Best, Chief Scoggins, and Police Sgt. James Lee, giving a narrative point of view entirely from the establishment’s side.

Meanwhile, over on Twitter, we have a breakdown of what was actually in that van, where such items can be obtained, and what they are used for:

Twitter avatar for @spekulation

Spek the Lawless @spekulation
Mayor Durkan and Chief Best held a press conference to talk about the objects found in a van at the protest this past weekend. As usual, it’s a whole lot of commonplace items, none of which comes close to what SPD used indiscriminately on crowds for hours. Let’s have a look…
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It’s worth reading through the Twitter thread because I think this is an excellent example of a problem facing all of us these days: the mainstream media often reports on police statements and reports as unalloyed truth, which, given the corruption we know exists within police departments, along with their understandable self interest to present themselves in the best possible light, doesn’t seem like the smartest policy.

Friday’s budget meeting, the SPD-related portion:

My twitter thread starts here, but I’m afraid there are several breaks in the thread this time. Sorry about that!

Today the meeting covered an initial draft of a resolution establishing the Council’s intent to create a civilian led department of community safety and violence prevention. CM Lewis says it creates a road map for the Council’s future commitment to create a new system of public safety. It goes over various types of legislation the Council wants to introduce in the coming months, as well as suggesting modifications to current practices to Chief Best. It also suggests a timeline for future Council actions in an effort to create accountability. The intent is to discuss this resolution, revise it, and vote on it on August 10th.

CM Juarez had many concerns about the resolution, saying that it includes divisive language and isn’t bringing us together as a city. She was worried about some issues of legality pertaining to out-of-order layoffs, seeming to have a different understanding of what those entail than that of CM Herbold. She seemed frustrated about the Council considering such monumental change without enough time for robust discussion, wanted to know the CPC’s thoughts, and thinks her fellow CMs have been making false promises regarding the 50% number. (If you’ve read my previous reports, you know I’ve been skeptical about that number as well.) CM Pedersen, on the other hand, supports this resolution, and in particular said he was glad that it mentions no specific percentage goal in terms of defunding.

Next the meeting began reviewing proposed amendments. The amendments reviewed today, #16-39, were almost all co-sponsored by CMs Mosqueda, Morales, Gonzalez, and Herbold. Many of the amendments, 16-25 and 29-31, were provisos suggesting lay-offs in various units. It’s important to understand that these are suggestions, but that ultimately Chief Best gets to decide where the layoffs come from. These layoffs would have to be bargained, and the optimistic estimate for when that bargaining could be finished is the end of October, meaning a possibility of recovering two months worth of funds for 2020 from the eliminated positions. However, since the timing is uncertain, none of those funds have currently been allocated for spending.

Other amendments dealt with accounting practices and moving the data-driven policing positions and Victim Advocates and Victim Support Team Coordinator out of the SPD and into other city departments.

Finally, we went over the Mosqueda-Morales-Gonzalez-Herbold spending package, covered by Amendments 32-39. These amendments provide immediate funding as follows: $3m for community-led research; $4m for HSD’s Seattle Community Safety Initiative, which will work to scale up gun-violence intervention and prevention; and $10m to invest in community-led organizations. This adds up to a total of $17m in community investment. You may remember that I was expecting $20m-30m of investment, and this is in that ballpark, if a bit low.

Where is the money coming from, you may ask? Well, amendments 35-39 tell us: $886k from cuts to the SPD; $12.8m from the Revenue Stabilization Fund (aka Seattle’s rainy day fund, aka the fund that’s already super low on money because of COVID relief efforts); and $3.3m from a reduction to COVID Relief Bill administration costs. The good news is that all of this money is potentially available immediately.

The other CMs have many concerns, chief among them a reluctance to use the rest of the money in the rainy day fund. The amendment sponsors have said that while this was a hard decision, they believe the rainy day fund can be replenished by cuts to the SPD during the fall budget process. CM Mosqueda added that the violence against Black and Brown communities is a public health crisis and therefore they are justified in spending the emergency funds. CM Lewis is very uneasy about using the rest of the already-depleted rainy day funds. CM Juarez had similar concerns, saying “This is what happens when you write a check you can’t cash.” CM Sawant says these amendments barely defund the SPD at all, and she was also upset that the funding for community investment was coming mostly from the rainy day fund instead of directly from defunding the SPD.

On Monday morning we’ll hear the rest of the amendments, including Sawant’s entire package that is much more aggressive about defunding the police (and also much less likely to pass). My impressions at the end of today’s meeting were that a revised resolution and many of the proviso amendments about layoffs are likely to pass. They are easier for the CMs to support because they don’t really require much commitment since all the layoffs need to be bargained anyway. The investment amendment package is going to be a tougher sell, which is unfortunate because I think it’s probably the most important part of the plan. Without any advance community investment, the overall plan to divest from the police is more likely to fail, and an unwillingness to invest dollars shows less of an overall commitment to the process.

That being said, CM Sawant will probably vote in favor of the package, albeit with objections, if she can’t garner support for her own package, meaning there will be 5 CMs in favor. That’s enough to pass, if barely, but it is not veto-proof. If the Council can’t sway either CM Strauss (who didn’t indicate his opinion either way) or CM Lewis (who has reservations), they may not be able to obtain the funds for significant community investment.

Be that as it may, we’ll know more next week. The CMs will have time to study the proposed amendments and the resolution over the weekend, and then the remainder of the amendments will be discussed on Monday morning after the Council Briefing, aiming for a vote on Wednesday. Then the final vote can proceed on Monday, August 10th. CM Mosqueda said there will be opportunities for public comment next week on Monday morning at 10am, Monday afternoon at 2pm, and Wednesday morning at 11am.

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