First off, the City of Seattle settled in an excessive force lawsuit involving 50 protesters who were injured during the summer of 2020, paying them $10 million. In addition, the City spent around $30 million on legal costs defending the case. And in a year when the City is facing a huge budget deficit to boot! I covered this story here at the Urbanist. A particularly shocking quote:
“Dr. Clifford Stott, an expert hired by the City to analyze the early days of the protests, said he had not seen that level of aggressive violent police response against protesters in any democratic state.”
The law firm who represented the plaintiffs says they’d like to release the hundreds of hours of depositions they took from figures such as former Mayor Durkan, former Chief Best, current Chief Diaz, and a bunch of other police. If they’re able to make good on this promise, we might see some further interesting information emerge.
Today the closing arguments were delivered in the case against the Stop the Sweeps protester currently being tried at Seattle Municipal Court. The protester is being charged with misdemeanor obstruction in the sort of case that usually doesn’t make it to trial. The protestor allegedly tried to prevent an RV from being towed by standing on its roof while a spare tire was being obtained. The delay was only 12 minutes.
This follows what might be becoming a disturbing national trend of an attempt to criminalize people for helping other people, either by making sure their home doesn’t get towed or by trying to give them food. You can see Ashley Nerbovig’s live tweets at the trial today here. We are now awaiting a verdict.
Also this week, the OPA found that the remarks of Officer Daniel Auderer about the death of student Jaahnavi Kandula, which took place about a year ago, were “inhumane,” “biased,” and “callous.” A disciplinary hearing was supposed to be held this Tuesday, and we are now waiting for Chief Diaz to announce his decision as to what discipline Officer Auderer will receive.
The officer who struck and killed Jaanavi Kandula with his vehicle, Kevin Dave, was fired from the Tucson Police Department in 2013. Meanwhile, as reported in Publicola:
“SPD has not released information about what discipline, if any, Dave has received, and the King County Prosecutor’s Office has not revealed whether it will prosecute him.”
And Mayor Harrell announced the City is facing even more significant fiscal challenges now than was forecast a mere few months ago and is therefore instituting a hiring freeze. The hiring freeze will impact almost all city departments, except for–you guessed it!–the Seattle Police Department. The Seattle Fire Department and the CARE department will also be exempt from the hiring freeze. The city would have likely hired 800-900 regular employees and over 1,000 temporary employees in 2024.
This move illustrates the human impact of austerity in the city. More jobs are likely to be lost to address the $229 million deficit for 2025, and basic city services are likely to be impacted.
King County News:
King County held its first Law and Justice committee meeting of the year this week, now chaired by new CM Jorge Barón. The committee heard a presentation about the County’s gun violence prevention efforts, which are partially funded by American Rescue Plan dollars that run out at the end of the year. Given the program only has a $13 million budget over the biennium (which means $6.5 million per year), this isn’t perhaps an insurmountable gap. My understanding has been that part of this $6.5 million is already being covered by the City of Seattle. In fact, this highlights how gun violence prevention programs are already underfunded in our region and how much they urgently need further investment.
You can look at the list of current legislation in process that is likely to be heard by this committee in 2024.
King County also held its first Budget & Fiscal Management committee meeting of the year this week. The committee is now chaired by CM Girmay Zahilay. You can read my live tweets here. It provided a good overview of the King County budget process.
The most important point to highlight is that if you want to share your budget input and priorities, you should reach out to departments and councilmembers very soon. The committee will pass a budget priorities motion in March or April.
WA State News:
It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the end of Week 3 of this legislative session. The first cut-off date is Wednesday, January 31, so we’re going to see a lot of dead bills next week.
A companion GBI bill has now been introduced in the Senate and will receive a hearing on Tuesday, January 30 at 10:30am. You can sign in PRO for the bill now.
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