JumpStart

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

The JumpStart Tax Stands Read More »

Digging into Seattle’s SPD and Public Safety Budgets

Seattle Budget Meetings

Today was the last of the Seattle Select Budget committee meetings on issue identification related to the 2022 budget.
This first thread is on alternatives to police response and the criminal legal system:
Amy Sundberg
Good morning! I’m here live tweeting at today’s Seattle select budget committee meeting where they’re about to discuss issue identification for alternatives to police response and the criminal legal system.

The second thread finishes up the alternatives conversation and then covers the SPD presentation:

Amy Sundberg
Okay, we’re back with Seattle’s select budget committee, finishing alternatives to police response and the CLS. We’re talking about subsidies for electronic home monitoring.
The City Council has a bunch of decisions related to public safety to make regarding next year’s budget. Here are some things to watch for:
CM Mosqueda sounds dedicated to clawing back as much as possible of the JumpStart funding the Mayor used in the proposed 2022 budget; she wants to implement the JumpStart spending plan passed by the Council last year and avoid future spending cliffs. Unfortunately, this seems to entail taking $27.2m of PB, leaving $30m to spend in 2022 rather than the much larger $57.2m in the proposed budget; some large amount from the Equitable Communities Initiative so they’d have exactly $30m to spend in 2022; and possibly some money from the HSD community safety capacity building program so they’d have exactly $10m to spend in 2022. This means we’re seeing the above priorities be pitted against JumpStart spending plan priorities. For anyone who is generally in favor of both sets of spending, the effect is a bit dampening, to say the least. Of course, for the former priorities, any additional money beyond the ongoing annual amount would need to be spent on one-time projects and investments.
There is a lot of question as to which alternatives to police response should be funded in the new budget, as well as disappointment expressed by CMs that more investment isn’t already in the budget in this area. The new Triage One program, which is being proposed to be housed in SFD, will not be able to be implemented until December 2022, which is still fourteen months away; if it were instead to be housed in CSCC, it would take even longer. Other alternatives being considered by CMs include contracting with an outside community organization for these services or beginning a new different pilot project within CSCC. CM Lewis in particular is in favor of experimenting with a few different approaches in 2022 and then deciding in future budgets which efforts to scale up or down. Several CMs agreed on the urgency of this work.
There was also a bit of discussion about administrative responders, which would be civilians who answer certain calls to take reports, for example for minor traffic accidents or damages/burglaries when the insurance company requires a police report be filed. This could potentially be a body of work taken on by the CSOs or another group. And of course, there’s the perennial question of where the CSOs should be located: within SPD or within the new CSCC.
CM Herbold suggested they might be able to take a different approach to moving certain bodies of work outside SPD. Because there is such a staffing shortage at SPD at present, this may be creating extenuating circumstances that create a different legal framework for having civilians do certain tasks because the City is otherwise unable to get the work done at all. This could have potential implications for parking enforcement officers, community service officers, and even for things like how much work the fire department does in Harbor Patrol compared to SPD.
Response times to 911 priority one calls have been going up, but it turns out the number of sworn officers responding to calls hasn’t changed between this year and last year. (This is because Chief Diaz has moved a number of officers onto patrol duty to make up the difference.) That indicates the greater response times might not be because of SPD’s staffing woes, but rather because of management problems, the way responders are being deployed, increased traffic, increased number of calls, etc.
The SPD appears to be saying they want to spend around $1m on technology to do even more analysis on the NICJR report about which 911 calls could be responded to by people other than police officers. They anticipate having a risk analysis done on the 29 call types that are being considered “low hanging fruit” by the end of quarter one of 2022…so a bit more than five months from now.
There continues to be a somewhat antagonistic relationship between SPD and the Council in that Greg Doss from Central Staff, when discussing technology investments for which SPD wants to spend salary savings, said that SPD appears to be telling the Council what they’re going to do rather than asking. They’ve already entered into some commitments regarding these technology investments even though they haven’t yet received budgetary authority for them. In better (?) news, it does appear SPD might not overspend their overtime budget in 2021, although given that we’re still in a pandemic, that isn’t perhaps as big an achievement as it would have been in other times, especially when we also consider the fact that other city departments aren’t generally in the habit of overspending their budgets and then asking for more money after the fact.
Then there is the issue of SPD’s salary savings spending plan. In the proposed budget SPD will have 1357 sworn officer positions funded, but will only be able to actually fill 1223 of those positions (and that’s if they can meet a very ambitious hiring plan, hiring more officers in 2022 than they have in any of the last ten years, and have the lower attrition rate in 2022 they’ve estimated). This will result in an estimated salary savings of $19m. The Council has to decide, first, whether to continue funding those additional 134 sworn officers positions that will remain empty in 2022. If they do, then they have to decide whether to approve of SPD’s plan of how to spend this salary savings, including on another squad of CSOs; $1.1m on hiring bonuses in an ongoing program; and $5m on various technology projects. Additionally there is the issue that funding for the proposed Triage One team and the Peacekeeper’s Collective is currently coming from this salary savings; this means that if SPD staffs those unfilled positions in the future, there will no longer be a funding source for those two programs.
Meanwhile, some details pertaining to sustaining and/or expanding the pre-filing diversion program seem to depend on the upcoming election for City Attorney. The City Attorney, for example, gets to decide when to charge somebody and how much diversion to practice. CM Lewis once again pushed for the Council to pass legislation to require the City Attorney to maintain a diversion program. The City Council could also theoretically pass legislation to decriminalize certain crimes (although not those on a state level), which may save money that could then be spent on the diversion program.
The next budget committee meetings are on October 26-28, starting at 9:30am, when the CMs will be discussing their proposed amendments to the 2022 budget. There will be time for public comment at the beginning of each of these three meetings.

More Resources on these Budget Discussions

Digging into Seattle’s SPD and Public Safety Budgets Read More »

Seattle’s Proposed Budget: More Cops, JumpStart power play

Seattle’s Proposed 2022 Budget

The Solidarity Budget held their kickoff of their budget recommendations over the weekend. From their website:
The 2022 Seattle Solidarity Budget is a collective call toward a city budget that centers the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable Seattle residents, responds with funding that is commensurate with the crises we are facing, and prioritizes collective care and liberation.
They go onto say, “Divesting from police systems and investing in Black communities goes hand in hand with climate justice work and housing justice work and Indigenous sovereignty.” Here is a good summary of many of their proposals. Full disclosure, I’m on the steering committee of one of the organizations that has endorsed the Solidarity Budget.
The Solidarity Budget launch was strategically timed, as the Mayor transmitted her 2022 proposed budget to the City Council yesterday.
First, some good news. The Mayor is honoring her commitment to continue investment in BIPOC communities, calling for an additional $30m for participatory budgeting (increasing the overall pot to $57m since the bulk of the 2021 investment remains unspent), $30m to the Equitable Communities Initiative (aka the Mayor’s task force), and $30m to the Strategic Investment Fund for acquisition of property located in high risk of displacement neighborhoods. She is also continuing the $10m investment in HSD for community safety capacity building. However, the Solidarity Budget asks for a $60m investment in participatory budgeting.
In terms of SPD, the Mayor proposes increasing their budget by around $2.5m. The total proposed SPD budget for 2022 is about 23% of the estimated available General Fund. She makes several other proposals:
  • the addition of 35 net sworn officers, which means hiring a total of 125 officers in 2022, for a total force of 1230 (in contrast, the Solidarity Budget suggests a total force of 750 officers)
  • $1.1m for bonuses for hiring new recruits and lateral transfers (another attempt after CM Pedersen’s similar amendments failed last week)
  • the addition of another team of CSOs (five officers and one supervisor); the CSOs (community service officers) want to remain within SPD instead of moving the CSCC, meaning expanding this program continues to grow SPD
  • SDOT and the Parks & Rec Department will both get more money to continue removing encampments
The Mayor has provided $2m funding for Triage One, to be housed in the fire department to perform wellness check calls. At this amount of funding, Triage One could only respond to a small fraction of the calls that even SPD agrees don’t need a sworn officer response (14%). And don’t forget the recent NICJR report that found 49% of 911 calls in Seattle don’t require a sworn officer response. However, there is no mention of funding any kind of alternate community emergency response program like CAHOOTS or STAR in the budget, in spite of the proven track record of such programs.
The budget committee presentation on Community Safety & Community Led Investments and SPD will be on Thursday, September 30 at 2pm. You can give public comment Thursday morning at 9:30am; sign-ups begin at 7:30am.

Jumpstart Funds and the Proposed Budget

As Erica Barnett reports in Publicola, another interesting facet of the Mayor’s proposed budget is the fact that she takes $148m from the new JumpStart tax fund to spend on her own priorities. This is in spite of the fact that:
The council adopted the payroll tax specifically to fund programs addressing housing, homelessness, and equity, and created a separate fund for JumpStart revenues with the intention that they couldn’t be used for other purposes—which is precisely what Durkan is proposing to do.
In 2022 Mayor Durkan is planning to use one-time federal relief funds to pay for the stated JumpStart tax purposes, but this plan will leave the new Mayor and Council in a pretty pickle with the 2023 budget, when they will either have to cut the programs funded by the reallocated money in 2022 or abandon their original JumpStart spending plan.
In addition, one in a volley of parting shots, she is proposing legislation that will allow future Mayors to use the JumpStart funds for almost any purpose.

More OPA Problems

Carolyn Bick is back with more excellent reporting on the OPA at the South Seattle Emerald, this time about more discrepancies in a OPA report about the 2020 Labor Day protest outside SPOG HQ. It gets pretty convoluted, so here are some main takeaways:
  • Director Myerberg told the Emerald back in June that he was planning to finalize the Director’s Certification Memo (DCM) for the case in early July, but the DCM had actually been finalized back in April.
  • The DCM appears to craft a narrative of the protest not supported by the evidence that involves conflating three different individuals in easily distinguishable dress and has many discrepancies with various video sources.
  • The narrative tells a story of the protest being broken up in order to arrest a specific person with Molotov cocktails rather than the protest being stopped for no legal reason.
  • You may remember that a different OPA report about this same protest received a partial certification from the OIG because “OIG finds that the deficiencies of the investigation with respect to thoroughness and objectivity cannot be remedied.”
  • You might also remember the resignation of an OIG employee who made an ethics complaint against top staff within the OIG; Bick reports: “The apparent inaccuracies identified in the aforementioned OIG memo included in the ethics complaint start almost at the very beginning of the 35-page DCM.”
Perhaps most damning is this quote from Carolyn Bick’s article:
This throws into question the claim that SPD’s aim was not to disperse the crowd but only to target one person allegedly carrying a dangerous weapon for arrest.
However, the OPA appears to ignore this and, further, appears to convey a specific reason for doing so: The OPA writes in the DCM that it “declines” to reach a conclusion that, under the Federal Consent Decree, would legally bar SPD from policing demonstrations, because the OPA claims that these protest situations could become dangerous without police. For that reason, the OPA writes, it will not sustain this allegation.
It is unclear how this conclusion aligns with the Consent Decree, as OPA’s purpose is to hold SPD and its officers to account.
The above quotation clearly suggests the OPA is failing in its duty to hold SPD and its officers accountable. Further, it suggests that had the OPA followed the actual evidence of the case, SPD would be prevented from policing demonstrations in future because of their failure to comply with proper policing standards. Therefore, the OPA is protecting SPD and its officers not only from discipline for misconduct but also from consequences from the consent decree. It is difficult to see how the OPA can maintain community trust in the face of such actions.

Recent Headlines and News of Note

Amy Sundberg
Good morning! It’s Monday and time for this week’s Seattle Council Briefing. CM Juarez isn’t feeling well enough to be here this morning.
Seattle Budget Headlines
Seattle mayor proposes increasing police staffing in 2022 budget | Crosscut

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s 2022 budget plan would add police, allocate federal aid to housing | The Seattle Times

Seattle’s Proposed Budget: More Cops, JumpStart power play Read More »

Lots of Seattle news for your Friday evening

In Seattle

Lots of interesting Seattle news to end your week!
First of all, this afternoon the Court ruled that the Jumpstart payroll tax is constitutionally permissible. You can read more about the case here. This is important because whether you care about green transit projects, more affordable housing and shelter for the homeless, making Seattle a more equitable city, etc., it all costs money. Seattle can make more of these investments when it’s able to pursue more progressive revenue options. This particular ruling is likely to be appealed, but it’s an important step forward.
Meanwhile, it looked like City Hall might not be held accountable for the Mayor’s missing texts (not to mention the missing texts of former Chief Best, Chief Scoggins, and several members of SPD command staff). Happily The Seattle Times has decided to sue the city of Seattle,“alleging that the city of Seattle mishandled requests from reporters for officials’ text messages during a tumultuous period last summer when police abandoned the East Precinct and used tear gas on protesters.” Even more damning, “some of The Seattle Times’ requests for the mayor’s texts were submitted before her phone settings were changed to retain messages, meaning they were deleted while the requests were pending.” This should be an interesting case to follow.
In good news, the Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force released their recommendations for how to spend $30m in funding for BIPOC communities. They divided the money into four equal pots: one for small business support, one for education, one for a lease to purchase home owner program and a generational wealth and apprenticeship pipeline program, and one for health issues including money for food access and environmental justice, culturally responsive health care, and workforce development of healthcare providers of color. An implementation plan is currently in the works, and we should see associated legislation transmitted to the Council in late June or early July.
More good news: an RFP has been released in Seattle for the acquisition of land and property to respond to the displacement of BIPOC communities and build community wealth. This is the $30m from the Strategic Investment Fund (funded by the sale of the Mercer Megablock) that activists fought to reinstate in the 2021 city budget. You can find out more information about the RFP process and how to apply at the city website. Mayor Durkan also announced she plans to allocate another $100m to BIPOC communities in her 2022 proposed budget.
Paul Kiefer of Publicola looks at an interesting option regarding Seattle’s consent decree: the city is allowed to propose a revision to the consent decree.
In order to propose a revision to the consent decree, the mayor and the council would need to agree about the goals and details of the change. Some simpler changes, like replacing out-of-date and ineffective technology used to flag officers who are more likely to use excessive force, would only require the city to identify better software; others, like adjusting the consent decree to require a large-scale civilian crisis response program, would require lengthier debates and pilot programs to produce a workable proposal for the court and DOJ.
In the article, CM Herbold goes on the record saying she would support changing the consent decree but would like the CPC and community groups who had originally advocated for the consent decree to be the ones deciding how it should be changed. However, there are limits to how much the consent decree could be changed in this fashion, and meanwhile, we have a Monitor who “believes that he can’t dictate the terms the city agrees to in its next contract with SPOG,” leaving some obstacles to compliance with the decree firmly in place

Election News

This year we have several interesting races on the county level here in King County. County Executive Dow Constantine has his first credible challenger for a long time in state Senator Joe Nguyen, who is running to his left. Several of the county council members are also being challenged this year. These council members will have some influence on how the King County Sheriff job changes next year, as well as the ability to provide more support to OLEO, King County’s oversight body. You can check out the most promising bids and the money that has been raised so far in these races.
Hope you have a great weekend!

Recent Headlines

Lots of Seattle news for your Friday evening Read More »

Public hearing on the budget tomorrow

Very short Council Briefing today! We were through everything in half an hour.

Public Hearing

There is a public hearing on budget-related matters tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6, starting at 5:30pm. Signups begin at 3:30pm. This is one of two hearings in the evening hours if you’d like to comment and can’t make the normal public comment windows during business hours.


King County Equity Now’s Response to the Mayor’s Proposed Budget

KCEN continues to call for defunding the police department by at least 50%. In addition they are asking that the JumpStart spending plan remain the same, and that the Mayor doesn’t touch that money to make good on her promise of the $100m investment into BIPOC communities. They are still calling for a true participatory budgeting process as opposed to a task force, stating on Twitter that “@mayorjenny‘s hand-picked task-force is a tried & true tactic to halt Black progress. But our communities will not accept these anti-Black practices any longer.”

Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda weighs in on the budget process and about the JumpStart revenue package and 2021 spending package with an op-ed at the South Seattle Emerald.


Other News of Note

Washington state ballots are mailed on October 16.

If you’re into podcasts, the latest episode of Crystal Fincher’s Hacks & Wonks podcast is worth a listen. She and guest host Heather Weiner provide an excellent overview of recent Seattle news, the importance of the SPOG contract, and an analysis of Mayor Durkan’s recent actions as well as news around R-90 (the state-level referendum about sex health education), which has some very interesting bankrollers as the Republican party in Washington state attempts to do some list-building and galvanize their supporters to vote. You can read more about it in The Stranger as well.

You can read more about how important the SPOG contract is, as well as how damaging the 2017 contract has been, in Crosscut.

In legal news, the City of Seattle petitioned the court to convert its temporary restraining order regarding the SPD’s use of crowd control weapons into a preliminary injunction. They plan to invoke the the provisions of the Consent Decree in order to change policies, and have stated they want to review and potentially change crowd-control, use-of-force, and crisis intervention policies.

Finally, I know you all know this, but yes, you should be taking precautions against catching COVID-19, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing, doing any socializing out-of-doors, and staying at home. If you catch this disease, you will not in fact feel better than you did twenty years ago, especially given the long-term adverse health effects that are still in the process of being studied.

Stay safe out there!

Public hearing on the budget tomorrow Read More »

On the Budget Meeting Overviews

Are you ready to talk about budget meetings?

First, the relevant Twitter threads.

This Twitter thread covers the budget overview presented on Wednesday morning.

This Twitter thread covers the SPD budget presentation this morning.

And this Twitter thread covers the Reimagining Public Safety presentation and Seattle Municipal Court presentation.


SPD Staffing Levels

My report on SPD sworn officers from the last newsletter was not completely accurate, so I want to go over the numbers now. The original 2020 budget included 1497 sworn officer positions but only funded 1422 of these positions, leaving the remainder unfunded and vacant. The proposed 2021 budget includes 1450 sworn officer positions but only funds 1400 of these positions, leaving the remaining 50 positions unfunded and vacant. Hence the confusion about whether the Mayor’s proposed budget includes the layoff of 100 officers called for in the Council’s revised 2020 budget. It doesn’t in practice, but the numbers aren’t straightforward.

SPD says that in order to maintain its current level of service and response times, it needs a minimum of 1400 sworn officers. It is important to note this number represents staffing needed if there is no decrease in the police scope of work. There is disagreement between the Council and SPD as to which staffing models should be used and potentially the timing of the shift of functions. SPD also wants to halt the current hiring freeze and start recruitment and hiring again in 2021 in order to maintain this staffing level. Otherwise with expected attrition they will fall below 1400 officers, and in addition, it takes some time to begin recruitment and training so needs to be planned ahead.

It’s also worth noting, in regards to the revised 2020 budget, the Mayor has asked the Council to reconsider the command staff pay cuts and has noted that the $200k cut to legally obligated hiring bonuses needs to be revisited, as it violates the City charter. You can read more here about the Mayor’s take on implementing the revised 2020 budget, including copies of the three recent letters on this subject from the Mayor’s office.


The Mayor’s Plan to Reimagine Public Safety

In an excellent example of the Seattle process, the Mayor is forming the Community Safety Work Group and the Functional IDT. The work group will formulate policy around reimagining public safety based on data and analysis, and the IDT serves the research and analysis function, as well as hopefully presenting an idea of what community wants from SPD. The Mayor presented a timeline for this work; going through the end of 2021, it is vague and repetitive and doesn’t present a very clear picture of what will be happening when.


Potential Issues

  • Although the General Fund is one big pot and can therefore be confusing to assess, it seems clear the $100m for BIPOC communities is coming from the new JumpStart tax revenue that had already been allocated to other purposes, mostly COVID relief in 2021. There is a lot of confusion around this, and lots of numbers being thrown around. There is concern this is taking money away from BIPOC groups that advocated for various JumpStart spending, therefore pitting BIPOC community members against one another. In response to this, community released a statement entitled “Towards a Solidarity Budget.”
  • Of the $14m the Council allocated for community organization ramp-up and gun violence prevention, $4m will be dispersed this year to organizations with already existing city contracts. Because she believes the rest cannot be spent by the end of the year, the Mayor has decided not to execute the interfund loan that was the major source of most of these funds, which the Council intended to repay next year, either with further SPD cuts or with JumpStart tax revenue. However, the Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget has already allocated all JumpStart tax revenue while ignoring this obligation and has also already allocated any savings from SPD, so the Council will be forced to figure out how to pay for the remaining $10m.
  • A task force is being put together of BIPOC community members to recommend priorities for the $100m worth of investment into BIPOC communities. There is concern that this task force won’t truly be representative of the BIPOC community and doesn’t answer the demands for a true participatory budget process. The counter argument is that a participatory budget process takes about a year, and the Mayor wishes to get these funds out the door sooner, potentially by mid-2021.
  • There is concern about having several parallel processes within the BIPOC community, one through this Equitable Communities task force of the Mayor’s, one through the research/PBP led by King County Equity Now funded by the Council, and potentially one led by the IDT for reimagining public safety. It is not known whether these processes will be complimentary, and how they could work together has not been determined. It is possible that a lot of work might be duplicated, or that work could be done at cross purposes.
  • There is concern that the Mayor’s various efforts divorce divestment (aka defunding the police) from the process of investment. Investment without divestment won’t lead to the same systemic changes overall and therefore will have a greatly reduced impact. In addition, this separation could cause various additional sources of confusion.
  • The Mayor says disbanding the Navigation Team could potentially violate the law as interpreted in the Hooper case and moves the SPD in the wrong direction by expanding its sworn officer duties for what should be services provided by civilians. The Council stated its intentions this summer that the money provided by disbanding the Navigation Team should go to community partners providing homelessness services, but it is unclear whether this investment is reflected in the Mayor’s proposed budget. At her town hall last night, CM Herbold said she was concerned because there was no plan to get this money out the door. This might become more clear at the overview on homelessness response presentation tomorrow morning (although I won’t be covering that myself.)

The Seattle Municipal Court Reforms

The Seattle Municipal Court is enacting various reforms that they think will help address current racial inequity:

  • Ending in-person day reporting
  • Moving to a collaborative Community Court model
  • Eliminating various discretionary court fees
  • Decreasing their Probation Services budget by 25%
  • Adding a contract social worker to help with the new Community Court and service referrals
  • Participating in a 3-year bail project

It will be interesting to see how these conversations develop! In the meantime, there will be a public hearing next Tuesday, October 6 at 5:30pm where you can sign up to give public comment on any issues related to the budget, including reimagining public safety. After the final budget overviews tomorrow, the next scheduled budget meeting currently on the calendar isn’t until October 15, when the Council begins their Issue Identification process. Of course, as always, that is subject to change.

Until next time!

On the Budget Meeting Overviews Read More »

Seattle City Council Briefing 7/6/20

This morning the Seattle City Council had their regular Council Meeting briefing, and you can find that Twitter thread here.

As you can imagine, many of the council members wanted to discuss the ongoing protests and police brutality, as well as expressing their condolences to the family and friends of Summer Taylor and best wishes to Diaz Love for her recovery. These are the two protesters hit by a car while protesting on I-5 this weekend.

There is still much confusion about the nature of the threats made against the East Precinct and whether they were specific or more general in nature. The Mayor has said they were specific, but in private briefings more than one CM has been told the threat was more general, made by the FBI regarding three different cities. CM Herbold says the SPD has been continuing to use less-than-lethal weapons such as blast balls, pepper spray, and sponge rounds. It is worth noting the legislation the Council passed a few weeks ago banning chokeholds and less-than-lethal weapon use by the SPD goes into effect on July 26.

Relating to the Council’s ongoing conversation about defunding the SPD, CM Lewis brought up the idea of basing a first-responder system on the CAHOOTS program used by the city of Eugene in Oregon. I’m sure this program will come up again, so it’s worth going into a few of the details.

CAHOOTS teams respond to about 20% of Eugene’s 911 calls. They are independent from the police, unarmed, and don’t have the power to arrest. They can elect to involve the police if necessary, but rarely do (the numbers given were 150 referrals to police out of 24,000 calls responded to). 60% of their caseload is working with homeless people. This program is cheaper than having police respond to these calls and has been in place since 1989. Here in Seattle, we have a Mobile Crisis team, but they aren’t hardwired into the 911 dispatch system. It’s possible we can reorganize and scale up already existing programs to do something similar.

There will be more information about this and similar programs discussed at Wednesday’s budget meetings. CM Gonzalez emphasized that she wanted to have a conversation about the full spectrum of emergency response options and then thoughtfully select what would work best for Seattle.

CM Morales gave a statement about the current police response to protests that you can read here:

Twitter avatar for @CMTammyMorales

Tammy J. Morales @CMTammyMorales
People have always put their lives on the line for justice. They take that risk because our government is not serving them. But this kind of police-induced crisis leads to police violence and is literally killing people. (1 of 8)

Something worth noting for your ongoing planning: CM Gonzalez emphasized the importance of public pressure in the Council’s work on defunding the police. This is work that will be ongoing through the fall. So it’s important to continue protesting, calling, emailing, and otherwise showing your desire for this work to be prioritized.

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
We need the pressure and the movement to keep building towards execution of these demands, and we need to continue to see and feel that they want us to prioritize this work. A good way to do that is to take to the streets.

It is also worth remembering the barrier the police union contract raises in the effort to defund the SPD. You can read more about it, but in a nutshell the current contract with SPOG means that if cuts are made to the SPD before a new contract is negotiated, they will happen based on seniority instead of, for example, based on records of violence. The SPD could also potentially cut more of their civilian positions instead of sworn positions. All in all, this is a tricky situation.

Meanwhile, the new Jumpstart tax was passed in the Council meeting this afternoon. This payroll tax on big businesses will help raise money for the city’s COVID response as well as housing and community development. On Wednesday, I’ll be reporting on the budget meetings continuing the process of looking into the SPD and the proposed revision of the 2020 budget. There will be a period of public comment about the 2020 revised budget (including defunding the police as a priority) on Wednesday at 4pmYou can sign up for a spot beginning at 2pm. Alternately you can call or email. And I hope to have a longer piece on the history of the police in the US up by the end of the week.

Finally CM Gonzalez reminded us that we’re experiencing a spike in cases of COVID-19 in Seattle, in King County, and in the entire state. Please stay safe!

Seattle City Council Briefing 7/6/20 Read More »