JumpStart

The Political Wheel is Turning

Seattle News:

Remember the Stop the Sweeps case at Seattle Municipal Court last week? The judge declared a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach consensus. On Monday morning, an Assistant City Attorney announced they would not retry the case, “citing a need to save city resources.”

Soon thereafter, the news broke that the head of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office’s criminal division, Natalie Walton-Anderson, announced her resignation after only two years in the position. Interesting timing, no? She will leave at the end of February, and this position will not be subject to the city’s hiring freeze. 

In the Jaahnavi Kandula misconduct case against Officer Auderer, SPD’s command staff has recommended he either be suspended without pay for one month or fired. About Auderer, they wrote:

“The disgrace you have brought to the department on a global scale will undoubtedly stain SPD’s reputation for years, and your insensitivity tarnished some observers’ perceptions of all SPD officers.”

However, they disagreed about the OPA’s finding that Auderer showed bias (ageism) and say they are worried that keeping that charge will make any discipline easier to overturn. They instead want the focus to remain on the professionalism charge. 

Auderer will have a disciplinary hearing with Chief Diaz on Monday, March 4. In addition, the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission is considering decertification of Auderer because of his comments. Were he to be decertified, he would no longer be allowed to work as a police officer in Washington State. 

CM Hollingsworth of D3 held a well-attended public safety community meeting on Tuesday evening. She said she expects a new SPOG contract to be ready potentially in March or April of this year. Capitol Hill Seattle’s article also mentions “talks of major hiring bonuses” for SPOG members, in spite of the fact hiring bonuses still haven’t been shown to actually work. 

The meeting focused especially on gun violence. CM Hollingsworth has worked with Black Coffee Northwest to hopefully  activate the area around 23rd and Jackson when it opens in a few months. It sounds like she mostly spoke about hiring more police and trying to increase their morale. But some attendees had other ideas, like this student:

“A senior at Garfield High shared how they saw a person die from gun violence on Sunday, and that police presence seems to be ineffective. They asked how or if the city works with mental health services in schools, because teachers are taking on the mental health load of students and adding more police officers doesn’t accomplish much on the mental health aspect.”

Apparently SPD had both enough staffing and enough morale to conduct inspections at four LGBTQ+ bars and clubs last weekend. Officers told managers they observed lewd conduct violations because a few people were wearing jockstraps and they saw a bartender’s nipple. After public outcry, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board said they would suspend enforcement of its lewd conduct rule.

House Our Neighbors will be holding a press conference on the morning of Tuesday, February 6 to announce a ballot initiative to raise new progressive revenue to fund the Seattle Social Housing Developer.

Finally, in a nice catch of rhetoric shift, David Kroman noted that City Hall is now calling the JumpStart tax the PET, or payroll expense tax. The name JumpStart is very aligned with the much discussed JumpStart spending plan memorialized legislatively, which allocates funding as follows: 62% affordable housing, 15% small business, 9% Green New Deal, and 9% Equitable Development Initiative. There has been speculation the Mayor might push for an end to the JumpStart spending plan in the 2025 budget. 

King County News:

Renton is currently voting in a special election to determine whether the minimum wage will be raised. Ballots have been sent out, and voting ends on February 13.

Executive Dow Constantine announced his plan going forward to ultimately shut down King County’s youth jail. He originally promised to close the youth jail by 2025, but his new plan both definitively nixes this timeline and doesn’t present a new proposed closure date. More on this soon.

WA State Legislature:

HB 1062, which would prohibit the use of deception in interrogation, had a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee yesterday. You can read more about this bill here.

You can read here about the status of various bills now that we’ve passed the first cut-off date. One noteworthy survivor is Rep. Dariya Farivar’s HB 1994, which would allow some misdemeanor cases to be dismissed if a defendant meets conditions set by the judge. HB 2331, which would stave off school book bans based on discrimination, also survived, as did HB 1513, a bill reducing low level traffic stops.

Recent Headlines:

 

A Mixed Seattle Budget, While a $221 Million Deficit Still Looms

Seattle News:

This week the Seattle City Council voted on all the amendments for the 2024 budget. Votes of particular note are as follows:

  • The funding for ShotSpotter remains in the budget, with CMs Strauss, Lewis, Juarez, Pedersen, and Nelson voting in favor. (This is in spite of a press release from City Council PR talking about how bad ShotSpotter is.) This also means services for tiny house villages will be cut in 2024. The next step to implement ShotSpotter in Seattle will be a surveillance impact report (SIR), which includes a racial equity toolkit.
  • The Council increased the JumpStart tax a small amount to generate $20m in order to fund mental health supports for Seattle’s students. Voting in favor were Mosqueda, Sawant, Herbold, Morales, and Juarez. The Stranger covered this vote as well.
  • A proviso telling SPD to re-initiate a contract with Truleo was passed, in spite of objections from ACLU Washington.
  • Both amendments offering additional resources for domestic violence victims were passed.
  • The $4.5 million for SPD special events bonuses to support the MOU with SPOG was included in the budget, taken from planning reserves. The vote on the actual MOU will take place at Full Council sometime in December. 
  • All human service workers, including those working under Continuum of Care contracts, received their 2% raise.
  • Funds were added to increase food security and violence prevention programs, and a SLI was requested to evaluate current gun violence prevention programs.
  • Money was removed from SPD for the Affected Persons Program, and money was added to HSD ($100k) for the same, to be contracted out to a community-based organization.

You can also read a budget wrap-up at Publicola.

Some light was also shed on the new progressive revenue sources conversation. As previously mentioned, the JumpStart tax will be increased to generate an additional $20m. CM Pedersen would like to repeal a water fee and use a 2% city-wide capital gains tax (with a $250k standard deduction) to make up the lost revenue. Projections show such a capital gains tax might generate $38 million, although it comes from a small pool of taxpayers and has an unusually high degree of uncertainty, due to market volatility and the ability for taxpayers to potentially avoid the tax by declaring a permanent home outside Seattle. CM Pedersen’s hope is that the repeal of the water fee and passage of the capital gains tax would be revenue neutral. The Council could, however, choose to pass only the capital gains tax in order to try to begin to address the 2025 budget deficit.

As for the CEO high pay ratio tax that we’ve been hearing about, we learned bad news. The original plan was to build this tax as another level of the JumpStart tax, which would make it easier to implement. However, doing it in this fashion would only generate about $7.5 million annually, which is much lower than expected. There are potentially other ways to implement a tax like this that don’t use JumpStart as a vehicle and might collect significantly more revenue, but the work has not been done by the City to enable this at present.

If the Council’s budget passes next week without substantial changes, the revenue deficit the city will be facing in 2025 stands at $221 million. The Budget Committee will vote on the final budget package on Monday, November 20, with a Full Council final budget vote on Tuesday, November 21. There will be one additional budget meeting on Thursday, November 30 for CMs to vote on the capital gains tax and water fee as well as various budget processes and transparency legislation. These further budget-related matters will receive a Full Council vote in December.

We also learned a bit more about the MOU with SPOG. First, the special event bonuses will expire at the beginning of 2026 and will not be automatically included as a line item in the full SPOG contract currently being negotiated. Second, the MOU will allow SPD officers to clear the scene for the new CARE responders without being physically present if they so choose. And third, the $225 bonuses were calculated to basically provide SPD officers performing a special events shift with double time pay (normal overtime is time and a half) at their current pay rate. However, when their pay rate goes up in the next SPOG contract, the bonus will remain at the same amount. You can read more about this at The Stranger.

The plan is for this MOU to be voted on at Full Council on Tuesday, December 5 at 2pm. There will be an opportunity to give public comment at this meeting.

In other labor news, the office of Mayor Harrell sent a condescending email to city workers with tips about spending less money. The reason these workers are struggling financially? Because they are not being given raises commensurate with inflation. Classy move.

In election news, it looks like the Seattle City Council will move further towards the center, a movement that has been ongoing as is exemplified by votes this year for the drug criminalization bill and ShotSpotter, among others.

Housekeeping:

As I don’t expect much to change with Seattle’s budget at this point, and due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll be taking the rest of November off. There’ll be another edition of the newsletter published the first week of December.

Recent Headlines:

SPD’s Unfavorable Rating Soars to 64% in Local Poll

Seattle News

CARE Department Issue Identification

Last Friday, City Council discussed budget issues concerning the new CARE department. The new community response teams will start responding on Thursday, October 19, working 7 days a week from 11am to 11pm. The six responders will be costing $840k annually. 

While discussing the possibility of violence prevention programs currently housed within HSD moving over to CARE, CM Herbold mentioned there has been a group already at work on an assessment of the city’s gaps in violence prevention programming and where county offerings complement or duplicate the city’s offerings, which is wonderful to hear, as I’ve been asking pointed questions about this for some time and haven’t yet gotten any satisfactory answers. However, Central Staff was unsure of the degree of alignment between this assessment project and the potential scope of projects and programs that could move into the CARE department. 

The Director/Chief (this title is currently under debate) of CARE, Amy Smith, said that since they’re starting with only 6 responders, they will only be able to answer person down and wellness check calls for the foreseeable future. She expects her first recommendation to be to expand the service to provide response 24/7, which would require 12 responders. 

Senior Deputy Mayor Burgess said that at some point in the future (he mentioned 6-18 months), the 911 center will have 3 options for dispatch: the police, a joint response of police and the community response team, and just the community response team. However, Chief/Director Smith made it clear that to begin, the community response teams will indeed be answering all calls with police present, and she seemed to imply it will be up to the police to recommend whether they should stop being present for every call, as opposed to being the decision of the community response team members.

Revenue Forecast Update and Budget News

The City Council received an updated revenue forecast on Tuesday, and this time it was mostly good news, with the General Fund receiving $9.8 million more than expected and JumpStart collecting $14.2 million more than expected. There are slight decreases in REET (real estate excise tax) and combined transportation revenues. Mayor Harrell suggests spending these additional funds on “restoring investments in school safety through automated traffic enforcement cameras, resolving open labor contracts for our City employees, and paying down the looming deficit in 2025.

Budget chair Mosqueda stated she was interested in investing in “our city contracts, support for our frontline workers, access to basic needs like food and housing, and investments to help make our community healthier and infrastructure safer.”

Councilmembers’ budget amendments are due early next week. The next chance to give public comment about Seattle’s budget is Friday, October 27 at 10am. 

Meanwhile, Real Change ran an op-ed last week by Solidarity Budget entitled Seattle’s Budget Should Meet the Basic Needs of our Residents.

Other Seattle News

Hannah Krieg wrote a helpful primer on the Mayor’s continued shenanigans related to the budget and JumpStart tax dollars.

Erica C. Barnett reported on SPD signing a $2.6 million contract with a marketing firm to “create an ‘SPD recruitment brand’ and produce video, online, radio, and social media ads for the department.” 

KOMO conducted a poll with Strategies 360 that found that approval of SPD has plummeted since last year. Everyone continues to love hating the City Council. And Bruce Harrell is less popular than pickleball. 

The light rail came out on top in terms of popularity. 

The expansion of light rail, fav 84% unfav 14%The Seattle Kraken, fav 68%, unfav 6%
A potential new NBA basketball team in Seattle, fav 61%, unfav 15%
Pickleball, fav 44%, unfav 11%
Bruce Harrell, fav 41%, unfav 35%
The Seattle Police Department, fav 33%, unfav 64%
The Seattle City Council, fav 20%, unfav 70%
Source: KOMO News (https://komonews.com/news/local/poll-finds-strong-support-mass-transit-professional-sports-seattle-voters-strategies-360-nba-franchise-opinion-civic-pride-crime-homelessness-drug-use-housing-affordability-upcoming-election-coverage#)

The New Drug Bill

Tobias Coughlin-Bogue, the associate editor at Real Change, had an op-ed this week in the South Seattle Emerald about the recently passed drug bill and what a performative waste of time the whole process was. I am going to share a few quotes from it, and I highly recommend you click over and read the entire piece for yourself.

“Long story short, under the new bill, the experience of people suffering from substance use disorder in our city will be, as it has always been, almost entirely dependent on what kind of mood cops are in.”

and

“Why, when we are facing unprecedented crises in housing affordability, homelessness, climate change, public transit, mental health care, infrastructure, and many, many other areas, are we playing political theater? Why is our City Council so obsessed with the optics of things rather than the actuality of them? Why, when we need policy that rapidly and tangibly improves the material reality of everyday Seattleites, do we get nonbinding resolutions and 26-member task forces and symbolic commissions and studies that no one ever reads?”

Marcus Harrison Green had an op-ed in the Seattle Times, also about the new drug bill, advocating for funding for treatment and safe consumption sites:

We already have people dying on our streets and in their homes who will continue to die in the absence of a well-thought-out, well-funded plan. We have people who need drug treatment who can’t find it in an overstretched system. What we don’t have is a serious plan to address this crisis. We have words, failed solutions and unkept promises that will change nothing.”

King County News

King County has announced a new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be headed by Eleuthera Lisch, formerly the Director of Public Health Seattle & King County (PHSKC)’s Gun Violence program. And indeed, it sounds like this new office is going to be doing exactly what the PHSKC was already in the process of doing. It will have a budget of $6.75 million; in 2022 PHSKC’s Gun Violence program had a budget of around $6 million. This appears to be mostly a re-organizational move as the overall investment level isn’t increasing significantly, which is unfortunate, since this is an area in which both Seattle and King County are deeply underinvesting in spite of the current need, as I wrote about last June.

Elections are Coming Up

People Power Washington has released their 2023 Policing and Public Safety Voter Guide, which covers the City Council races in Seattle and Burien, as well as the King County Council races.

Recent Headlines

Will ShotSpotter CCTV Cameras Roam Seattle’s Streets Next Year?

Seattle Budget News

Budget-Associated Events

If you’re interested in learning more about Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI), you can view the presentation and panel of local experts from this week here. If you’d like to contact your councilmembers in support of a publicly funded GBI program in Seattle, you can find talking points here.

If you’d like to read talking points from the Seattle Solidarity Budget, you can read them here. These should be updated to reflect new information learned during issue identification by the end of the day Monday.

Seattle Solidarity Budget is also hosting a virtual public comment workshop on Monday, October 16 from 6-7:30pm. An overview of Solidarity Budget’s call to action will be provided, as well as help writing up and giving public comment. You can register here.

There are two chances to give public comment related to the budget next week. A public hearing for public comment will be held on Wednesday, October 18 at 5pm. CM Nelson also pushed strongly for a public comment period to be added to the budget meeting on Monday, October 16 at 10am. As always, you can also email or call your councilmembers and share your budget priorities and concerns with them.

Investments associated with the New War on Drugs Bill

I finally have a breakdown on the plan for the $7 million for capital costs and $1.4 million for services that Mayor Harrell promised during the discussion of the New War on Drugs bill. 

The $7 million will be spent on two facilities; we’ve already spoken about the post-overdose site at some length, but the other facility will be an outpatient treatment center for individuals with opioid use disorder and/or other drug dependencies that will offer low-barrier access.

As for the $1.4 million, it will be spent for the following:

  • $470k for existing programs for drug user health and harm reduction
  • $325k for 2 new positions at Health One as well as relevant supplies
  • $582k one-time investment to support service delivery at the post-overdose stabilization center
  • $516k for ongoing costs at the post-overdose stabilization center
  • $164k administrative costs
  • $164k for a planning & development specialist to oversee the work supported by these monies

It is unclear where the money needed to operate the low-barrier access outpatient treatment center will come from.

CM Nelson objected to the use of the funds for harm reduction programs.

Meanwhile, SPD has estimated the requirements from this new legislation will result in it making 700-800 new diversion referrals every year. Right now LEAD is funded with $9.9 million, which allows it to serve 750 program participants. HSD believes this funding level will be sufficient, but how this can be the case when LEAD might not even have enough funding to serve all the new SPD drug referrals, let alone their normal caseload, is something of a mystery at present. Pre-filing diversion programs are also not receiving any increase in funding. 

SPD Budget Issues

The budget issue identification pertaining to SPD was discussed by City Council on Friday afternoon. You can see the presentation and the associated memo

Between January and September of 2023, SPD missed its hiring goals by 36, only hiring 46 officers and only 6 of those being lateral hires (meaning those officers are experienced and can be deployed quickly). They had 77 officer separations during that same time period (the projection was 72). Therefore, they experienced a net decrease of officers of 27.

At best, SPD’s staffing will remain flat for 2024, but this depends on an ambitious plan to hire 120 officers next year, with a full 30 being lateral hires. Unless something changes vastly in the next few months, this projection appears to be removed from reality. Iin 2024, SPD is proposing to fund 1,131 sworn FTEs.

SPD expects to exceed their overtime budget by $9.3 million for 2023, reaching a total of $40.6 million for overtime. The total number of events worked by SPD in 2023 was greater than that in 2019 before the pandemic began. Interestingly, Chief Diaz reported the department uses a combination of sworn officers and parking enforcement officers (PEOs) to staff events. 

SPD has been having trouble staying ahead of attrition while hiring new parking enforcement officers (PEOs) this year, so there might be as much as $1.5 million in PEO salary savings to help plug this overtime spending gap. Yes, now that the PEOs have moved back to SPD, it gets to use PEO salary savings as well as sworn officer salary savings. There are 22 open PEO positions right now, and these are planned to be filled by April 2024. 

Finally there was much discussion of the crime prevention pilot, for which the Mayor is asking for a $1.8 million investment that is being paid for by salary savings (the rest of the $8.1 million in projected salary savings for 2024 is being proposed to be spent on additional SPD overtime). $280k would be spent on additional automatic license plate reader technology. The remainder, $1.5 million, would be spent on deploying CCTV cameras with acoustic gunshot locator capabilities (aka ShotSpotter with cameras). 

The Mayor’s Office has chosen the 3rd Avenue corridor, Belltown, and/or Aurora Ave N as potential locations to deploy this new technology, although they are not yet sure how many locations they will be able to cover with the money available. These locations were chosen from SPD data, looking for places where gun violence, human trafficking, and high felony crime concentration are present. There is also no information available on what a scaled up version of this pilot might look like or how much it would cost. 

The Mayor has suggested this new technology would be deployable by March of 2024, even though it would first need to undergo a surveillance technology review and a racial equity analysis. 

A particularly disturbing detail of the plan is the desire to develop an omnibus surveillance policy. This policy would allow any CCTV cameras in the pilot to be moved around the city at will, without having to undergo any oversight from the City Council. The Mayor has said he will engage with each community to which the cameras are moved, but given some of the community engagement efforts we’ve seen in the past from this administration, this loose commitment doesn’t exactly ease fears of potential issues with this policy.

Several councilmembers, including CMs Nelson, Pedersen, Lewis, and Strauss signaled their potential support for this Shotspotter CCTV pilot. 

I will try to cover the new CARE department budgetary issues next week, but in the meantime, you can see their presentation and memo.

Overall Budget Issue

The critical conversation about potential new progressive revenue sources for 2025 and beyond has yet to truly begin, but Pubicola reports the Mayor’s proposed 2024 budget increases the projected 2025 deficit from $212 million to $247 million. 

And what about the JumpStart tax revenues?Harrell’s budget transfers $27 million from the Jumpstart tax fund to the general fund, an ongoing practice that the council has approved every year for the past several years to keep COVID-era programs going. Much of that includes new spending beyond what the council approved last year in the “endorsed” 2024 budget.”

Other News

The City of Seattle settled with the estate of Derek Hayden, a man killed by SPD in January of 2022. To resolve this wrongful death claim, they paid $1.5 million

The trial of the police who killed Manuel Ellis continues in Tacoma. Before she testified on Monday, Ellis’s mother says she found an AirTag tracking device on her car, as well as having her tires slashed earlier on the weekend. As a result, Ellis’s sister alleged witness intimidation.

Recent Headlines

 

Mayor Harrell Has No Plan to Prevent Budget Austerity Next Year

Guaranteed Basic Income panel:

If this week’s newsletter seems a bit lean, it is because I am spending large amounts of time preparing for Solidarity Budget’s upcoming Guaranteed Basic Income panel. And I hope you’ll consider attending!

When: Tuesday, October 10th, 6-8PM

Where: Rainier Arts Center, 3515 South Alaska St, Columbia City

Food will be served, and I’ll be giving a short presentation on Solidarity Budget and GBI. Then we’ll learn more from a truly amazing line-up of panelists, local experts with lots of knowledge and experience with GBI.

You can RSVP here. If you can’t make it in person, the recording will be available here.

Seattle Budget News:

We’re all discussing Mayor Harrell’s proposed 2024 budget. Released last week, the proposed budget stays largely true to that approved by the City Council last year, but it wouldn’t be budget season if there weren’t some interesting nuggets buried in there. 

Probably most noteworthy is the failure of this proposal to address the large revenue shortfall we’re expecting beginning in 2025. The city could easily be short $250 million in the 2025 budget, and that’s only the beginning of several years of projected shortfalls. 

In order to address this, the city has two main choices: to cut, aka adopt an austerity budget, or to pass new progressive revenue. The Mayor hasn’t proposed any new progressive revenue and says he wishes to leave that problem to next year’s Council. The problem with this approach is that any new progressive revenue passed will take some time to implement and begin to collect, which means if we wait until next fall to discuss this, it will already be too late for any measures to meaningfully impact 2025’s budget. 

And making $250 million of cuts in 2025’s budget will be a painful process that will likely result in fewer services, less money for housing in particular (as the Mayor seems likely to raid JumpStart tax revenues to staunch the bleeding), and potential layoffs for city workers. 

Worse yet, the city will have to turn around and deal with a similarly sized shortfall in the 2026 budget.

Also in this budget proposal are funds for SPD to use Shotspotter, now rebranded as SoundThink, an ineffective gunshot location technology that does nothing to prevent gun violence and disproportionately impacts poor communities of color. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we defeated a similar proposal last year, but apparently the Mayor’s Office felt ready for some Groundhog Day-type antics.

The proposed budget also includes funding for what appears to be 213 ghost cops, or positions for sworn officers within SPD that the department has no plans or ability to fill. This continued position authority, not generally given to any other department, allows them access to their own private slush fund for unfortunate ideas like Shotspotter and officer hiring bonuses that don’t appear to actually work. 

Glaringly absent from the budget is any additional funding for diversion services as was obliquely promised during the discussion about the new War on Drugs legislation passed last month.

The budget also includes increased funding for the city’s dual dispatch alternative response pilot, which I wrote about at greater length this week over at The Urbanist

City Council will be meeting for three issue identification sessions around the budget next week, and there will be a chance to give public comment before the first one, at 10am on Wednesday, October 11. As always, you can also email your councilmembers and let them know your budget priorities. 

Other News:

The SPD officer and SPOG VP Daniel Auderer, who was caught joking about Jaahnavi Kandula’s death, has been moved off the streets and assigned to review red-light camera footage. The CPC has called for Auderer to be put on administrative leave without pay while the OPA investigates his case.

Last week Mayor Harrell released his executive order pertaining to the new War on Drugs legislation passed last month. Notably, he defines harm as pertaining to the impact on the ability of others to use shared public space as opposed to actual physical harm of another individual, which seems to confirm this new legislation is mostly another mechanism of control and criminalization over those who are unhoused.

As Publicola reports:

Harrell’s order is mostly suggestive rather than prescriptive. Officers who believe a person’s drug use inherently threatens those around them can decide, based on their training and “the totality of the circumstances,” to arrest a person or attempt to divert them to LEAD, the city’s primary diversion program. The number of arrests that officers will actually make is constrained by the booking capacity of the downtown jail, which is severely limited due to a shortage of guards.”

The executive order also requires outreach providers to create a “by-name list” of people significantly affected by the opioid crisis in a certain area of the city, which some advocates say is an inappropriate use of such a list.

In addition, the order minimizes the changes to the legislation made by Councilmember Nelson that would have given officers additional discretion over arrests.

Finally, the Stranger reported on the tragic story of Thomas J. Sturges. Ruled incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness, Sturges waited in the King County Jail for almost a year for the state to pick him up for competency restoration, his mother unable to afford to pay his $15,000 bail. Once a hospital “restored” him, he was returned to King County Jail in June of this year. 

The health department was prevented from meeting with him for a few months because of extreme understaffing, even though he needed to see them in order to resume taking medication for his mental illness. By August 27, he was transferred back to the hospital because he couldn’t stop vomiting and had lost almost half his body weight. At his most recent hearing “the judge noted he couldn’t appear because ‘he was severely malnourished in jail.’”

Recent Headlines:

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

OLEO Finally to Get Its Subpoena Power

King County News

We’ll start off with some big news: King County has finished negotiating their police union contract with the King County Police Officers Guild (KCPOG). While I have not yet read through the contract (oh, what fun weekend reading I have ahead of me!), the big headline here is that the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) has finally been given the powers King County voters decided to grant them that have been blocked by the old contract. OLEO will be able to issue subpoenas and conduct independent investigations of alleged misconduct and use of force cases involving the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). Until now OLEO has had their hands tied without access to the information they would have needed to perform solid investigations, but this contract would change that.
The new contract will have to be voted upon by the King County Council before going into effect. It will cover the 3-year period of 2022-2024.
Meanwhile, the King County Jail is still having water problems, and inmates are still drinking bottled water. These problems first began more than three weeks ago, and there are questions as to whether inmates are getting sufficient bottled water for their needs.

Election in Two Weeks

The election is coming up, ballots have been mailed out, and voting guides are being published. Here are a few worth checking out:

Seattle News

As expected, it looks like CM Mosqueda is not supportive of permanently changing how the Jumpstart tax funds are allowed to be used in Seattle’s budget.
Budget amendments relating to SPD, the CSCC, and HSD will be discussed this Thursday so expect more on that in the next newsletter. The next opportunity for public comment will not be until the morning of Tuesday, November 8 at 9:30am. Budget Chair Mosqueda’s balancing package will drop the previous day, Monday, November 7. And there’s a tight turnaround for any amendments CMs might want to add to that package.
There will be a Rainier Beach Public Safety town hall this Thursday, October 27 from 6-8pm at the New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave South. The proposed gunfire detection system (likely ShotSpotter) will be discussed. Masks are required, and dinner, child care, and translation will be provided.
We are not quite done with the Seattle redistricting process. The final map vote will take place on Monday, October 31, and the final map and resolution from the committee will be confirmed on Tuesday, November 8. Apparently a new map not favored by the Seattle Redistricting Coalition was introduced at a meeting earlier today, and you’ll have a last chance to give public comment about the map options on Monday 10/31 at 12pm at this Zoom link. You can find a script (that will probably be updated before that meeting) here.

Other Resources

City Leaders Fight over Policing Pirates - The Stranger

Policing Seattle

The 2022 Seattle Budget Underspend Hit Public Safety Alternatives Hard

Seattle Budget

Amy Sundberg
This morning in Seattle we’re getting a presentation on balancing and other fund policies pertaining to the budget. I’m hoping to gain a greater understanding of the JumpStart funds reallocation and how that is being framed.
Amy Sundberg
Seattle City Council is now discussing the JumpStart find spending plan.

 

The Seattle City Council has begun issue identification for various portions of Mayor Harrell’s proposed budget. First up on Tuesday was a general discussion on how the proposed budget is being balanced, including the changes in how the Mayor is suggesting JumpStart funds be used. You can find a detailed overview of this first day of discussions over at Publicola, which I recommend reading in full to understand all the nuances.
As we’ve previously discussed, the City is facing a deficit of about $141m for 2023. And the trend of the City having greater expenses than revenues looks like it will continue for the next several years at least. So the question becomes, how do our elected officials address this gap?
Mayor Harrell’s answer appears to be by using JumpStart tax revenues, for which there is a specific spending plan, to make up the difference. In order to do this, the laws governing the use of this tax would have to be changed, and Mayor Harrell is proposing to do so not just temporarily while the City identifies other progressive revenue streams (for which they’re putting together a work group that is supposed to have recommendations to put before the Council by May 2023), but in perpetuity. As Central Staff said in a memo:
“the proposed policy change … could result in permanently backfilling revenue losses that are due to noninflationary factors in other funds. Put another way, the JumpStart Fund transfer would be permanently solving stability issues inherent with the existing [general fund] financing structure.”
This shift in usage potentially means this tax could be permanently pulled away from the funding priorities for which it was intended.
CM Mosqueda has said that she (and a coalition that sent a letter earlier this year re the JumpStart funds) would like to see any JumpStart funds that are taken from their intended allocations used to prevent austerity and cuts, not to fund new programs. However, the Mayor’s proposed budget contains what amounts to a pay cut for human service providers while, per Erica C. Barnett, it also adds $32m in net ongoing new expenditures for 2023 (and $52m for 2024). And some of the money allocated towards the JumpStart priorities doesn’t seem to fit into the designated categories for which the tax is supposed to be used. However, it’s going to be a struggle to fix all of this: if the Council doesn’t wish to go along with Harrell’s plan to reallocate JumpStart funds, they’ll potentially have to find alternate funding for certain programs and/or make cuts, and they’ll have to decide whether to hold fast to their commitment to the community about how these dollars were to be spent.
Also as part of his proposed budget, the Mayor plans to underspend the budget by $10m in unspecified ways in 2023. He already performed an underspend of $19.77m in 2022, and looking at which projects were paused is instructive: 32% of the funds not spent were in the Human Services Department for uses such as restorative justice programs, expanding pre-filing diversion contracts, a survey on national best practices on interrupting gun violence, expanding behavioral health services, expanding the mobile crisis team, preparing a survey for designing a new behavioral health facility, and investments to address AAPI hate crimes. Other public safety investments in the 2022 budget that fell victim to this underspend included Mayor Durkan’s ill-fated Triage One, adding 26 dispatchers to the 911 call center, and a victim compensation fund. You can look at the complete list here in Attachment B, starting on page 44.
In summary, it turns out that when the Mayor’s office was choosing where to underspend, public safety alternatives were some of the first programs up on the chopping block. And because of the nebulous nature of the underspend going forward, we can’t really say what programs will end up getting nixed in 2023 and 2024, although we do know whatever programs get frozen will have had the consensus to be funded in whatever budget is passed in November.
Continuing budget season, the Council will hear issue identification for the CSCC and SPD, including the proposed transfer of parking enforcement officers from SDOT to SPD, tomorrow, October 12, and you can expect some analysis of those discussions early next week.
Finally, in more ShotSpotter news, the South Seattle Emerald ran a piece by Carolyn Bick reporting that the CEO of ShotSpotter donated $535 to Harrell in 2013, and ShotSpotter’s Director of Customer Success donated $100 in Harrell’s 2021 mayoral campaign. It’s possible this is something of a pattern, as the CEO of ShotSpotter also donated $1000 to Detroit Mayor Duggan’s 2013 campaign, and Detroit is another city where ShotSpotter had been lobbying its product and where it is now operating. As Bick writes:
Personal campaign contributions from company employees are not illegal, and these are relatively small amounts of money. However, the Emerald felt it important to report on these personal donations because they were made against the backdrop of Harrell launching several attempts to bring the ShotSpotter system to Seattle over the same period of time.

Recent Headlines

Council Member Opposes Mayor’s Plan to Spend $1 Million on Unproven Surveillance Tech

Alternatives to Police and Prisons: Activists Share How to Better Address Violence | Teen Vogue

A Road Map for the Fall

Seattle News

Hannah Krieg
Today the council will vote on hiring bonuses for cops. An organizer, TK, from Every Day March called into public comment to accuse the council of lying to Black organizers about their commitment to police accountability and reform during the summer of 2020.

Yesterday the Seattle City Council voted to pass the SPD hiring incentive legislation 6 to 3, with CMs Morales, Mosqueda, and Sawant voting against it. You can see CM Morales’s remarks about why she didn’t support this bill here:

Councilmember Tammy J. Morales
We have a LOT of challenges in this city that cannot be solved with a badge and a gun: inadequate housing options, homelessness, limited behavioral health services.

That’s why I voted no on hiring incentives for SPD yesterday. It passed @SeattleCouncil 6-3. Remarks below:

1/10 https://t.co/AtkCR6oq5f

I-135, Seattle’s social housing initiative, has turned in more signatures and is now aiming to be on the ballot in February 2023, pending signature verification.
The Seattle Times reported that in Q2, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office filed 1,708 cases, an increase of 124% from the same quarter last year.
At Wednesday’s Finance and Housing committee meeting, CMs received the city’s revenue update, and it’s not looking great for 2023 and 2024. The August forecast for 2022 comes in at $1,745,610,000. whereas the August forecast for 2023 is $1,519,120,000 and the August forecast for 2024 is $1,557,310,000. It’s worth noting those forecasts for 2023 and 2024 are the baseline forecasts, not the pessimistic ones.
Erica C. Barnett
Seattle Councilmember @CMTMosqueda has proposed using some JumpStart payroll tax revenues to once again pay for general-fund services in light of the city’s ongoing budget shortfall; funding would come from excess/higher-than-anticipated JS revenues. /1

CM Mosqueda has proposed using some of the JumpStart tax revenues to continue paying for general fund services in 2023 and 2024 to help fill the revenue vs. expenditure gap. The Mayor is also pulling together a progressive revenue task force to look for potential new sources of revenue for the city (think more in the 2025 range for when this could kick in). This news sets the stage for the upcoming budget season.

Looking forward….

The City of Seattle goes on its two week summer break starting on Monday, August 22. Unless something mind-blowing happens during that time, I’m not planning another edition of the newsletter until after Labor Day. But fear not, Budget Season will be upon us before we know it.
Upcoming Dates of Note:
9/13 9:30am: Seattle Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, where there will be a Q&A with OPA Director nominee Gino Betts
9/20 2pm: potential final Council confirmation vote of Gino Betts as OPA Director
9/25 11am: People Power Washington’s General Meeting; come if you want to hear me talk about budgets (and honestly, who doesn’t want to hear that?)
9/27: Mayor Harrell transmits Seattle’s proposed 2023 budget; Executive Constantine transmits King County’s proposed 2023-2024 budget
10/21: Ballots for the General Election are mailed out to WA voters
11/8: Election Day!
11/22: potential final Council vote for Seattle’s 2023 budget

Recent Headlines

WA state delays watchdog reports on prisons, concerning advocates | Crosscut

TV News Is Ignoring the Eviction Crisis - by Adam Johnson

Local Leaders Announce New Coalition to Address Behavioral Health Crisis - The Stranger

A New Agency Seeks to Hold Washington’s Killer Cops Accountable - The Stranger

The JumpStart Tax Stands

Seattle News

The City of Seattle won its most recent legal battle over the JumpStart tax this week, which means they can continue to levy it. This is particularly crucial given the City’s $117m projected revenue shortfall for 2023, as Seattle Times‘s Sarah Grace Taylor recently reported:
But another large part of making 2023 work will likely be asking the council to free up money earmarked for specific causes — like the Jumpstart tax — to cover general expenditures.
You may recall that JumpStart tax revenue expenditures were a major source of conflict in last year’s budget, with then-Mayor Durkan allocating them away from the Council’s spending plan, and the Council yanking the money back to be spent as originally intended. With such a large revenue shortfall, however, we could see a different outcome in this budget season.
The public inquest into the wrongful death of Charleena Lyles has begun and will run through July 6. In spite of attempted opposition, this inquest is available for the public to watch via streaming.
Carolyn Bick continues their excellent reporting into problems at Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) and Office of the Inspector General (OIG):
The Emerald has obtained multiple documents that show that former Office of Police Accountability (OPA) Dir. Andrew Myerberg appears to have withheld key information from the Office of Inspector General — the OPA’s accountability partner agency tasked with certifying OPA investigations — by submitting a case for certification and later adding information to the case report. In doing so, and in drawing conclusions from said information, Myerberg appears to have subverted not only the OPA’s own rules and procedures but also the City’s 2017 Accountability Ordinance.

Washington State News

It sounds like the $1.5m settlement paid out to the Nazi-sympathizing police officer in Kent might be drawing attention to the realities of some of the problems with police accountability in Washington State. Depending on how elections go this fall, we could see a renewed effort during the next session of the state legislature to address some of the problems with officer discipline. One potential vehicle for this, SB 5677, which you may remember me discussing at the beginning of the year, “would require municipalities to establish procedures that meet a set of minimum standards for receiving complaints and conducting investigations regarding “serious misconduct” by police officers.”

Recent Headlines

The Washington post - by Alec Karakatsanis

Seattle protester critically hurt by driver during BLM demonstration sues state, city, suspected driver | The Seattle Times

WA attorney general seeks to require Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer to post $10,000 bail | The Seattle Times