Durkan recall

This week’s events and meetings

Lots of events this week!

First, this morning’s Council Briefing.

Upcoming Events:

Tonight, 10/12 7:30pm: Seattle Town Hall presents “The History of Housing Segregation,” on which CM Mosqueda will be sitting on a panel for part of the program.

Tuesday, 10/13 5pm: CM Strauss is holding a town hall.

Wednesday, 10/14 4pm: CM Juarez is holding a town hall.

Thursday, 10/15 7pm: ACLU People Power and the League of Women Voters of Seattle/King County are having a town hall about police accountability in King County, specifically going over relevant charter amendments on the upcoming ballot.

Tuesday, 10/20 6-8pm: CM Sawant is holding a town hall.


Other News:

The 2020 ACLU People Power Washington Voter Guide has been released. This guide views both the King County charter amendments on the ballot and WA State legislature candidates through a lens of police reform. Check out your candidates, and email them asking to fill out the survey if they haven’t already!

The recall petition filed against Mayor Durkan has been rejected by the court. Meanwhile, the Seattle Human Rights Commission is “seeking the immediate resignation of Mayor Jenny Durkan” and if she fails to resign, calls on the Council to begin removal proceedings. The recall petition against CM Sawant is still slowly wending its way through the legal system.

The budget meetings this Thursday and Friday will be for issue identification with CMs to explore ideas and express priorities. Collectively the CMs have filed 158 Form As this year (expressing issues they would like to discuss during this time), which is a fairly large number. They will start from issue identification and begin narrowing their focus as the budget process continues. There will also be issue identification meetings next week on Tuesday and Wednesday. All of these budget meetings will have time for public comment starting at 9:30am.

This week’s events and meetings Read More »

Tying Up Some Loose Ends Now that the Budget Process is Over

Let’s catch up on recent news, shall we?

First off, the OPA, OIG, and CPC released their recommendations on the use of less lethal weapons on Friday, in response to the Council’s legislation passed earlier this summer banning all of these weapons outright. It is important to understand that each body released its own recommendations, and that these recommendations don’t always agree with one another. Kevin Scholfield does an excellent rundown of these three different recommendations. All three groups agree that at least some less lethal weapons should be authorized for non-crowd control uses, for example, for hostage situations, and all three call for revisions to the crowd control and use-of-force policies of the SPD.

It’s possible the City Council will try to pass a different bill about less lethal weapons in September taking these recommendations more into account. It also seems likely Judge Robart won’t allow the consent decree to end until the SPD shows it has succeeded in instituting new crowd control and use-of-force policies. In the meantime, the DOJ must decide by August 27 whether to ask for a preliminary injunction against the original ordinance on less lethal weapons passed this summer.

In addition, CM Lisa Herbold announced this morning that the City Council has retained independent counsel apart from the City Attorney’s office to represent its interests related to this ordinance. This resolves a conflict of interest since the City Attorney was previously arguing both against this ordinance on behalf of the SPD and for this ordinance on behalf of the Council.

Today at the City Council meeting, the MiChance Dunlap-Gittens ordinance requiring that minors receive counsel before being questioned by police officers passed unanimously. The Council also passed a resolution expressing their support for The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (H.R. 7120), a national bill that was passed in the House but has become stalled in the Senate that addresses qualified immunity for police officers, among other things.

Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now held a virtual press conference on Friday. You can watch or read my tweets about it.

Meanwhile, Mayor Durkan has appealed the decision to allow the recall effort to move forward.

The City Council breaks for summer recess for two weeks beginning next week on August 24. They reconvene for a full Council meeting on Tuesday, September 8, the day after Labor Day. The 2021 budget process will begin a few weeks later and will extend into November; the new budget must be adopted by December 2 at the very latest.

In the meantime, I have a few pieces I hope to work on, including one taking a closer look at the CAHOOTS model of 911 response system, a possibility about which I think the community will be taking a great interest this fall.

Tying Up Some Loose Ends Now that the Budget Process is Over Read More »

Updates on relevant court cases and budget schedule

There wasn’t much of any discussion of the SPD budget at today’s budget meetings, in part because there were THREE HOURS of public comment this morning, with 336 people given a chance to speak. Sounds like people really care about what’s going on right now!

The revised schedule for the rest of the 2020 revised budget process is as follows:

Fri July 31: initial review of SPD amendments, after a public comment period beginning at 10am and a Council vote on non-SPD-related amendments

Mon August 3: continued review of SPD-related amendments immediately following the Council Briefing (so I’d guess starting around 10:30am)

Wed August 5: Committee vote on SPD-related amendments

Mon August 10: The final vote on amended legislation

My guess is they will do everything possible to have that final vote on the 10th as the City goes on a two week vacation starting on the 17th.

In other news, the ACLU and Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County filed with the federal court to hold the Seattle police department in contempt for violating the court order barring the indiscriminate use of less-than-lethal weapons on protesters this past weekend. The City of Seattle responded today, denying any wrongdoing by the police department (although individual actions of officers are still open for investigation). Also at the link above, you can also read the statement of SPD Lieutenant John Brooks, the Deputy Operations Sections chief for the demonstration event, for his perspective on what happened. There will be a hearing on Friday morning.

Finally, relating to the Mayor Durkan recall effort, this afternoon a judge denied Mayor Durkan’s request to reconsider the certification of the recall petition against her. The Mayor may now appeal this certification, buying herself some more time, as this process inches forward. Knowing the Council cannot force the Mayor to spend the money they appropriate, meaning she could act as a major roadblock if she so chooses in spite of a veto-proof majority in the Council, I’m even more interested in how this progresses.

More about the ongoing budget meetings on Friday!

Updates on relevant court cases and budget schedule Read More »

Another Wednesday, Another Budget Meeting

Another long Wednesday of budget meetings!

Mayor Recall:

Mayor Durkan has filed a motion to reconsider the judge’s certification of the recall petition. This is a precursor to a probable appeal, and we’re now waiting for the petitioner to respond. If you’re interested in how this recall effort works, this is a great analysis. The key point revolves around whether Mayor Durkan is ultimately the individual responsible for the use of tear gas and other chemical crowd control agents by SPD during the pandemic, or if that responsibility resides with Chief Best. As the article states, delaying the possible recall is in the Mayor’s best interests even if she loses her appeal, both because it allows more time to pass for Seattleites to forget what happened during the protests in June, and because if Biden were to win the presidential election, she might get a new cushy appointment in DC in January.

Timeline:

After today, we have two more weeks of budget meetings, including a potential extra meeting next Thursday, and the Council hopes to vote on the revised budget on Monday, August 3. The City Council will take a vacation the last two weeks of August. The Mayor is expected to bring her proposed 2021 budget sometime in mid-September, beginning a new set of budget meetings that will probably extend until sometime in November. I believe the new SPOG contract negotiations are supposed to begin in December and can last around six months.

Today’s Budget Meetings:

The first part of today’s budget meetings were concerned with amendments on two bills, the COVID relief proposal and the Jump Start Seattle Detailed Spending Plan. If you’re interested in the details, you can see my Twitter thread.

Aside from observing the dynamic at work within the Council, another interesting thing that came up during this part of the meeting was during a spirited discussion about tiny home villages, when it came up that money put aside in the original 2020 budget to build these villages hasn’t yet been used. Several CMs expressed concerns that the Mayor wouldn’t actually use the money allocated to building tiny home villages in the Jump Start Seattle package either. The possibility was also brought up that this concern (that the Mayor wouldn’t spend the money as allocated) might apply to the entire package.

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
She expects the Mayor might refuse to spend the money on tiny home villages because they are being too prescriptive.

 

The second part of the budget meeting was issue identification on the 2020 Proposed Rebalancing Package, which came with a huge memo from Central Staff. The section detailing the SPD policy issues and budget amendments that CMs have proposed thus far related to the police department begins on page 104, or you can look at the slides beginning on page 23. This part of the meeting involved presentations by Central Staff on a variety of subjects, as well as a panel from Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now talking about their four proposed stages for divesting from the SPD and investing in community organizations. Here is my Twitter thread on this part of the meeting.

Important Points:

  • Review: the Mayor has proposed $20.3m in cuts to the SPD. Those funds have been included in the overall rebalancing of the 2020 budget and are not available to invest in community-based solutions to public safety. None of these cuts should require bargaining. Aside from $500k put aside for re-imaging the police and public safety, other aspects of the Mayor’s plan wouldn’t get funding till 2021.
  • To date the SPD has already run through their entire overtime budget for the year. This is after the Mayor made some cuts on that line of the budget to reach the $20m figure.
  • CM Herbold asked if they’d be able to get out of paying the remainder of hiring bonuses promised to recently hired officers, which was kind of shocking from a labor standpoint.
  • Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now are asking for immediate cuts from the police budget beyond the Mayor’s proposed cuts, along with funds to begin their proposed 4-Step Process, which is as follows:
  • 1. The community research phase should start right away and run through the summer and fall, and they need immediate money to start the process. CM Morales suggested the Council shift over the $500k mentioned in the first point above to do this.
  • 2. Investing in scaling up community-led organizations with technical support and capacity building. This needs to start in 2020 (ideally Sept-Dec) so the organizations can be ready to take over functions from the SPD sometime in 2021.
  • 3. Transition 911 call and dispatch under civilian control. They believe we can move to do this immediately. The Mayor doesn’t want to do it until next year. There was some discussion about potential interim first responder options while training up a CAHOOTS-style response system, and Central Staff is going to look into how quickly this transition could be implemented. There was also a brief discussion about decriminalizing misdemeanors.
  • 4. Support immediate survival needs by investing in housing. This includes dissolving the navigation team, stopping sweeps, and not requiring police referrals for homeless folks to get assistance. That last could be implemented quite quickly, but:
  • Anything having an impact on labor when it comes to these cuts gets complicated because it will have to be bargained with SPOG. Even if the Council passes amendments to lay off officers, to cap officers’ pay, etc. those provisos can’t go into effect until after bargaining, meaning the money freed up from those costs can’t be recovered to reinvest until an agreement with SPOG is reached. This doesn’t prevent the CMs from passing these amendments, but it does mean it’s going to be a tricky business for them to find the funds to invest in this four step process this year, especially given the already existing budget crisis due to the pandemic.
  • There seemed to be a general consensus that having clearly defined policy objectives in regards to defunding the SPD is important since otherwise the SPD could remove services the CMs want to maintain (for example, the Southwestern Precinct).
  • The proposed amendments to the 2020 revised budget, including those related to the SPD, are at the one sentence level of formation right now and need a lot of further development.

What does this all mean? Well, a lot needs to happen in the next two and a half weeks, unless the Council decides to delay that September 3rd vote. Because of labor issues and the time it will take to scale up organizations, I don’t know how feasible a 50% cut to the remaining SPD budget for 2020 is in practice. It partially depends on how quickly certain functions/departments can be moved from under the SPD umbrella (these sorts of changes are less likely to trigger labor issues), but while reorganization could help the Council get closer to reaching a 50% cut goal, it won’t free up any funds to reinvest in community organizations. And without the funds, those organizations can’t scale up, which endangers the entire proposal.

The Council’s challenge in the coming weeks will be to find the necessary funds to implement at least part of this four-step plan (I’m not sure how much they’d need to at least get a good start) and to figure out how to effectively signal they’re serious about divesting in the police force while navigating the thorny labor issues.

Exciting times indeed!

Another Wednesday, Another Budget Meeting Read More »

Victory for the Defund Movement and the Mayor has a hard weekend

It has been an eventful few days, and with such a storm of activity comes the understandable confusion and inevitable misinformation as people scramble to keep up. I’m going to do my best to bring you up-to-date now. Take a deep breath and let’s dive in.

Let’s start with last Thursday, July 9, when journalist Andrew Buncombe published his story of being arrested by the SPD while trying to report on the ongoing protests, giving us insight into what happens once protestors are arrested and brought to a precinct for booking while also showing a shocking disregard for the freedom of the press.

Twitter avatar for @Lisa_Herbold

Lisa Herbold @Lisa_Herbold
herbold.seattle.gov/wp-content/upl…. The Constitution and Municipal Code protections for the press, and observers, do not exist for the convenience of government, to be cast aside whenever they happen to be inconvenient to government.” @Omarisal @AndrewBuncombe

The next day, Friday July 10, seven out of nine Seattle council members came out in support of defunding the SPD by 50% and reinvesting the money in community needs. This is noteworthy because this is a veto-proof majority of CMs, meaning they can pass an amended budget without the Mayor’s approval. The two hold-outs? CM Juarez and CM Pedersen, no surprises there; neither of them were likely to support this plan. The CMs who waited to announce their support until Friday were CM Herbold, CM Lewis, and CM Strauss; these are the CMs that need the most ongoing support/pressure to stick with their position. CM Strauss in particular has publicly asked for continued public pressure to hold the Council accountable, including protests, public testimony, calls, and emails. These will all need to be kept up till the beginning of August at minimum, and then probably again later in September.

Deputy Mayor Fong and Police Chief Best were upset about the council members’ commitment, to say the least. Meanwhile, the SPD took to Twitter to share that lay-offs in the department would mean a large decrease in BIPOC officers.

That being said, CM Herbold suggests there’s a way to avoid this problem:

Twitter avatar for @Lisa_Herbold

Lisa Herbold @Lisa_Herbold
@Masters131 @NikkitaOliver Layoff out of order. PSCSC ED “may grant permission for layoff out of the regular order, upon showing by the appointing authority (Chief Best) of the department of a necessity therefore in the interest of efficient operation of his or her department…”

Also on Friday, a King County Superior Court Judge approved a petition for an election to recall Mayor Durkan. Okay, what does this mean? Well, there were originally two petitions to recall the Mayor filed; I’m not sure what happened to the other one. With this one, the Judge allowed one charge to stand, which was that Mayor Durkan allowed tear gas and other crowd control weapons to be used during the pandemic. The Mayor is allowed to appeal this ruling; otherwise, the next step is to collect around 55-56k signatures of registered Seattle voters. If the requisite number of signatures are collected within six months, then the Mayor would be recalled. While that might sound like a high number of signatures, proponents of the Tax Amazon campaign collected around 30k signatures in six to eight weeks during Phase 1 of the pandemic (see the responses to this tweet for the full information).

Twitter avatar for @daeshikjr

Dae the Lawless @daeshikjr
FYI @eyesonthestorm reminded me that the tax amazon campaign collected 30k signatures in like a month. 56k signatures in 6 months is nothing with the way Durkan has endangering the lives of her constituents. We can have a new Mayor by the start of 2021.

Given the widespread anger about Mayor Durkan’s handling of the protests, this recall does seem possible, although it’s hard to predict its potential success rate with any certitude. Meanwhile, several protesters have filed suit against the city, county, and state, claiming excessive police force.

Which brings us to this morning, when Mayor Durkan and Chief Best held a press conference. You can find my live tweet stream here.

First let’s recap. The City Council has a veto-proof majority of members committed to defunding the police by 50% and a Judge has ruled that the recall petition for the Mayor may continue. The Mayor is not in the good position right now. In addition, the role she played in the consent decree that Seattle entered into back in 2012 means its perceived failure casts doubt on her as a leader. As Kevin Schofield wrote: “Her legacy, not to mention much of her political credibility, is tied to her work on negotiating the consent decree. For her to abandon it, this close to the perceived finish line, would probably sink her future political ambitions.”

Given all this, it’s not a big surprise that at the press conference this morning, Mayor Durkan came out swinging. Her very political survival is at stake. She is very adamant about her commitment to reimagine the police (you could play a drinking game with her use of the word “reimagine”), but her timeline for accomplishing this is less certain. The sense I got from her comments is that she wishes to reorganize the police department, and she’s basically on board with the idea of removing the 911 emergency response unit from under the auspices of the SPD. In addition to continuing a hiring freeze and cutting back on overtime (probably that related to events), she’s estimating cutting $60m from the SPD budget in 2021; that money will still be spent on the same purposes, just not under the SPD umbrella.

What she doesn’t seem to support are any lay-offs to the actual police force or the subsequent re-investment of those funds into community organizations. This is where her plan and the demands of community organizations, which the City Council is responding to, vastly differ. She attacked the City Council repeatedly, saying things they’ve done almost no analysis on the SPD budget, that they haven’t met with Police Chief Best, that they don’t have a plan, that you can’t govern by Twitter or bumper sticker, and that she hopes after consideration the Council will change their minds. She said if the Council doesn’t change their plan, she will veto (an empty threat as long as they can hold onto their veto-proof majority).

There is also an open question as to how many community organizations the Mayor has actually been meeting with, in spite of her public claims:

Twitter avatar for @NikkitaOliver

Nikkita Oliver @NikkitaOliver
.@MayorJenny your community engagement is inauthentic and disingenuous. And in some instances, you are straight up lying. https://t.co/jUPTrOjlgZ
Twitter avatar for @Omarisal

Omari Salisbury @Omarisal

#UPDATE – I asked @MayorJenny who she has been meeting with in the Black Community in her efforts to Reimagine Seattle. Her office responded with this list of people and organizations. According to her office all meetings were official and available through freedom of info. https://t.co/DRPAOjKUlq

I want to respond directly to the Mayor’s attack on the City Council that they don’t have a plan and are behaving irresponsibly, because from what I’ve seen, this isn’t a fair characterization of what’s been happening. I saw the CMs commitment to a 50% divest and re-invest goal as a public statement that they are taking the demands of the community seriously and that they aren’t going to be simply paying lip service to the idea of transforming public safety, but rather have a serious intent toward change. While it is true they don’t yet have a plan for achieving this, Central Staff is already hard at work at developing a plan, and this is exactly what the next few weeks have been allocated to do. It seems clear the Mayor wants to erode support for the Council’s general commitment to defunding and scare the public before the Council has had a chance to finish developing their plan. Now, if it’s a bad plan, then yes, we have a problem, but we need to wait to see the plan before passing judgment.

CM Herbold responded to the Mayor’s accusations at the press conference here:

Twitter avatar for @Lisa_Herbold

Lisa Herbold @Lisa_Herbold
I want to thank my Council colleagues for their words supporting our efforts to defund SPD so that we can reinvest in evidence-based public safety community interventions by reducing the kinds of 911 calls officers respond to. THREAD:

In addition, the Seattle Times reports the following response: “González described Durkan’s remarks as spin, while Strauss said council members understand a transition period will be needed as Seattle builds a setup that can send people other than police officers to more 911 calls.” I’ve heard various community groups also emphasize that they’ll need time to scale up, so I think everyone involved is aware of this constraint.

And with that, I think we’ve covered all the major developments of the past five days. I’ll be covering the City Council’s budget meetings on Wednesday. There will be more budget meetings the next few weeks, and if all goes as planned, the Council will vote on the revised 2020 budget on August 3.

 

 

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