mayoral race 2021

The tortured SPD budget bill fails to pass

We had a particularly eventful Seattle City Council meeting yesterday afternoon, with votes on both the participatory budgeting legislation and the SPD budget bill.

Amy Sundberg
Happy June! Let’s see what’s happening at the Seattle Council Briefing, shall we?
Amy Sundberg
Popping my head into this afternoon’s Seattle City Council meeting, the public comment period has been extended to 60 minutes. Pleased so many people are taking the time to speak up today!

 

The participatory budgeting bill, which releases about $1m to the Office of Civil Rights to create three new positions to support the PB process and conduct the search for the third-party organization that will administer PB, passed unanimously. We can expect that third party to be chosen and hired by the end of the year and for the participatory budgeting process to begin in earnest in 2022, beginning with the brainstorming of ideas , the development of projects, and hopefully voting to happen around summertime 2022.
The SPD budget bill had spent several torturous months in committee before being finally brought to the full council for a vote with a recommendation of “Do Not Pass,” which means more CMs voted against it than for it in committee. The bill was originally intended to cut $5.4m from SPD’s 2021 budget after the department overspent by that amount in 2020. After SPD declared they were in a “staffing crisis” and both Judge Robart and Police Monitor Oftelie spoke against any cuts to the SPD budget, CM Herbold began changing the bill, seeking to find compromise. While emphasizing that SPD’s 2021 staffing plan was already and had always been fully funded, she reduced the cut to the department to $2m, which was to go to participatory budgeting, with the remainder to go to various priorities identified by SPD and the auditor, while also releasing another proviso.
CM Lewis complicated the bill further by introducing an amendment that would take the $2m from participatory budgeting and instead allocate it to the JustCARE program that addresses homelessness. He sees JustCARE as a great example of a community-based alternative for public safety that should be funded by money taken from the police department. Worried that the Council may be losing momentum, his hope was to get additional money to JustCARE more quickly than the PB timeline would allow, and also perhaps to tee up the idea of a dual stream of investments to both participatory budgeting and community alternatives for fall budget talks. His amendment passed 5-4, with Strauss, Lewis, Mosqueda, Herbold, and Juarez voting yes.
However, the SPD budget bill was ultimately voted down, with CMs having extremely different reasons for not supporting it. The final vote was 6-3 against, with Strauss, Mosqueda, Pedersen, Sawant, González, and Morales voting against the bill. This means the status quo is maintained, the provisos aren’t lifted, and SPD still can’t spend the $7.5m that had been in question, nor has that money been reallocated to other purposes.

Seattle Election News

We’ve gotten some more information about those mayoral election polls from the González and Farrell campaigns and a prediction about how the Seattle races this year might go. One point of agreement is the likelihood that Bruce Harrell will make it through the primary as one of the two candidates for Seattle mayor in the general election.
There’s been a lot of talk about this being “the year of the outsider” in elections, but for all that, the only true political outsider in the Seattle mayor elections in the top six candidates is probably Andrew Grant Houston. In the race for City Council seat 9, the only candidate who hasn’t worked as a staff member for a previous council member is Nikkita Oliver. It is uncertain how important this perception of being an outsider will actually be to election results. This election could also potentially be a test of the power of labor unions in the city, who are thus far strongly backing CP González in her run for mayor.

Recent Headlines

A year after George Floyd’s murder, we can’t stop before we have the ‘presence of justice’ | The Seattle Times

KUOW - One year after the murder of George Floyd, are promises to defund Seattle Police being kept?

The tortured SPD budget bill fails to pass Read More »

Big Seattle City Council meeting on Tuesday June 1!

Seattle News

We have a big Seattle City Council meeting coming up on Tuesday, June 1. Both the bill moving forward participatory budgeting and the bill that will lift some provisos on SPD’s budget this year, giving over $10m of additional spending power to SPD and an additional $2m to participatory budgeting, are on the agenda. Now is a good time to contact your council members about these bills and consider making public comment at the June 1 meeting; comment starts at 2pm, with sign-ups at noon. #DefendtheDefund is arranging a campaign to read first person accounts of SPD violence that are currently part of the ACLU lawsuit against SPD into the record during public comment at this meeting on Tuesday; you can sign up to be a part of that effort here.
SPD Chief Diaz followed through on the pink umbrella case by demoting Assistant Chief Hirjak to Captain. He also clarified that there was no additional evidence in the case, but, in his words, that “my assessment included more broadly concerns raised by OPA in management action recommendations stemming from related cases, on-going analyses generated through the Office of Inspector General’s Sentinel Event Review, and my consideration of the totality of the events beginning on May 29th, 2020, when the Chinatown/International District was the target of destructive protests, and continuing over the days thereafter.” 
DivestSPD, a Twitter watchdog account, made a public disclosure request for the Incident Action Plan for June 8, the day the SPD abandoned the East Precinct. This plan seems to contradict former Chief Best’s recent interviews about how events unfolded on the day in question. You can see the plan yourself here.
Students at UW and Seattle University have been organizing to change how policing works on their campuses. So far, UW has cut its police department staff by 20%, launched a new online reporting system, and begun a new campus safety responder team. Students are now pressing for more significant changes.
Crosscut has an excellent article reviewing where we are with Seattle’s consent decree and the police reform process, saying:
At a time of tremendous grassroots organizing for change, the consent decree is heavy from the top down. The decree, a preferred tool of former President Barack Obama and possibly President Joe Biden, has a singular goal: to ensure that local policing is constitutional. But it doesn’t go deep enough to meet the demands of people advocating systemic change.

Election News

If you’re curious what an abolitionist City Attorney would look like, you might want to take a look at The Stranger‘s recent interview with candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy.
The Seattle mayor’s race is heating up, with the Daily Kos speculating whether Andrew Grant Houston, as the furthest left candidate, might be well positioned to get The Stranger’s endorsement and make it to the final two candidates. Meanwhile, Jessyn Farrell’s campaign has released news of a poll showing Bruce Harrell as the frontrunner of the race, while Lorena González’s campaign says their polling shows a frontrunner tie between Harrell and González. Each of these polls has a margin of error of more than 4 percent.
And Compassion Seattle, the homelessness initiative that many opponents are saying would codify sweeps, has been claiming endorsements from organizations that have not in fact endorsed it. The campaign listed FIVE organizations on its website as endorsers who have since confirmed they haven’t endorsed it. Oops!

Elsewhere in Washington State

 

National News

In discouraging news, nearly seven out of 10 Black Americans say police treatment has gotten worse in the past year. Just four out of 10 Black Americans say they have favorable views of police and law enforcement, while 75% of white respondents say they have favorable views.
Meanwhile, The Root reported that according to a review of pledges of corporations to donate money to social justice organizations, less than ONE PERCENT of that money was actually donated. Support of Black Lives Matter has also plunged since last summer, with Republicans and white people actually being LESS supportive now than they were before George Floyd was murdered. A lot of the talk about fighting against racial inequity last year was unfortunately just that–a lot of talk with little substance. All the more reason for us to step up!
And Simon Balto writes in the Guardian:
It strikes me that we are now living in an era defined not so much by “racial reckoning” but more so by the desperate, gasping grasps at reclaiming white innocence from the perils of such a reckoning. Do not teach us or our children honestly about our past or our present, the opponents of racial justice demand. Do not question our allegiance to an openly white supremacist political leader. Do not impugn the institutions that uphold white supremacy and do violence to those not like us. But most of all, they ask that we absolve them of their sins for having made all those demands. Affirm our innocence, they ask. We are not racist, men like Arnold Schlei demand we understand in spite of the evidence.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for staying engaged and committed to making a difference. Thanks so much for reading, and have a great weekend.

Big Seattle City Council meeting on Tuesday June 1! Read More »

Participatory Budgeting Could be a Seed that Brings Lasting Change

The Latest on Participatory Budgeting

Amy Sundberg
The Seattle Community Economic Development committee meeting has begun, and they are currently hearing comments.
The Community Economic Development committee finally heard an agenda item about participatory budgeting this week. Because the draft legislation hasn’t yet finished going through legal, CM Morales is hoping to vote on it at a special committee meeting on June 3, to be followed by a vote of the full Council. The legislation would release about $1m to the Department of Civil Rights to hire three staff members and start the process, including by issuing an RFP to hire a third-party administrator for the program, as well as releasing further funds (although not all of them) for the process.
Sean Goode from Choose 180 was present at the meeting and spoke eloquently in support of participatory budgeting. He sees the program as an opportunity to construct something new for the community that seeds lasting change and also spoke in favor of equity over expediency. His entire speech (about ten minutes) is worth listening to and can be found here starting at the 1:40:00.
The timeline on participatory budgeting has been moved back, with CM Morales expecting the Office of Civil Rights to hire a third-party organization by the end of the year and hopefully voting to begin around next summer.

Police Contract Bargaining and Accountability

 

Carolyn Bick has released the second part of her investigative series on OLEO and the experiences of its former Director Jacobs, the middle section of which will be of particular interest to those of you following the obstructions inherent with including accountability provisions as working conditions at the police contract bargaining table. Similar to what has happened in Seattle with the OPA, OLEO was granted oversight authority that it then had to bargain for, essentially maintaining the appearance of accountability without the power to provide actual accountability. I am going to quote extensively from the relevant section:

Much of the Guild’s alleged initial treatment of Jacobs appears to have stemmed, at least in part, from Jacobs attempting to bargain with the KCPOG for the oversight rights voters had already afforded OLEO in 2015 via ballot measure. Jacobs said that she had to work with Bob Railton, KCOLR’s deputy director and labor negotiator, who Jacobs said constantly made her feel as though she was a troublemaker and a nuisance and who routinely talked down to her in a sexist and demeaning manner.
This collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was not finalized and signed until April 2020. Its language has made it retroactive from Jan. 1, 2017, but it will expire in December of this year. It was necessary for OLEO to bargain for the rights voters had already afforded the oversight entity, because state law requires bargaining for anything considered “mandatory,” including wages, hours, and working conditions. OLEO’s oversight duties fall into this category.
“The Office of Labor Relations bargainer’s main concern was getting a bargain and not going to arbitration. That did not align with OLEO’s interest of having the voters’ will brought to fruition with the implementation of independent investigations conducted by OLEO,” Jacobs wrote in her email. “There was constant pressure on me to compromise, and some of it was manipulative and, to my mind, unethical.”
Topaz said that Jacobs’ recollection of the dynamic at the bargaining table tracks with what he remembers. Topaz worked as a labor negotiator with the KCOLR from 2014–2020 and was briefly assigned to help negotiate the CBA. Topaz said that from his point of view, for the period of time he worked to help bargain the contract, OLEO was little more than “a political thing that the [King] County Council did that they never really gave the support and authority needed to be successful.
“They created something, gave it limited resources and limited authority, and then expected it to produce something that I am assuming would have given them cover for people to complain about,” Topaz said.
“I don’t think [the Council] really backed [Jacobs] up very well to get done what she needed to,” Topaz continued. “Honestly, I think they have more or less set up anybody who would be in that role [of OLEO director] for failure.”

Other News of Note

 

The MLK Labor Council held a Seattle mayoral forum last night, ushering us into election debate season, and it seems like there were at least a few illuminating (and entertaining) moments, including a rapid-fire Yes/No round in which Bruce Harrell felt the need to quibble with the definition of “sweeps”.

Joe Mizrahi
Live tweeting here @MLKLabor mayoral forum starting now. It’s also on Facebook live. But that won’t have my color commentary so I recommend you stay here
Meanwhile, Crosscut reported on the SPD’s court-mandated (because of the consent decree) early intervention system, designed to predict bad behavior among police officers. “Despite near-universal acknowledgment of its failings, the system remains, largely because a federal judge has not given the green light to ditch it.”
A new system is currently under development, one that focuses on recognizing and addressing past trauma in an attempt to prevent future misconduct rooted in that trauma, which sounds interesting. However, because of the consent decree mandate for the prior ineffective system, both systems will have to run concurrently, meaning both will need to be funded and money will be wasted.
Thank you for your continued support, and I hope you enjoy the end of the week!

Participatory Budgeting Could be a Seed that Brings Lasting Change Read More »

Two Calls to Action and Two Possible Timelines for Upcoming SPOG Negotiations

Happy rainy Thursday! First up, a few opportunities for action.

In WA state: ESSB5226, which would end debt-based license suspension, has a hearing in the House on Monday. Because it needs an amendment to truly end debt-based license suspension, submitting written testimony or testifying live are highly recommended, but you can also sign in to note your support. Sample scripts for comments are available for your use here, but you’ll need to scroll down until you reach the ESSB5226 section on that page.

In Seattle: The Seattle Public Safety and Human Resources committee meets on Tuesday 3/23 at 9:30am to discuss whether they will cut $5.4m from the SPD’s 2021 budget. The Seattle City Council agreed unanimously to cut this money last December (via Resolution 31962) to effectively pay for the SPD’s overspending in 2020 using SPD’s 2021 budget. But now the CMs are wavering on this commitment.

Where would this $5.4m go? The CMs decided last year it would go to participatory budgeting. The reality is, participatory budgeting is expensive, and Seattle’s process could use the extra funds to pay the people serving on its steering committee and various workgroups. These are people who are often not paid a commiserate amount for their time and labor, instead being expected to work for free or a pittance. The goal is to pay them a reasonable fee for their work,while maintaining as much money as possible to allocate to different public safety projects.

You can contact your CMs to encourage them to stand firm on their commitment from last year to hold the SPD accountable for its spending. All the information you’ll need to email, call, or give public comment is available here.


In election news, we have two new mayoral candidates in Seattle.

Bruce Harrell served for many years on the Seattle City Council as well as serving as interim Mayor for less than a week back in 2017. He failed to call for then-Mayor Ed Murray to step down on serial child rape allegations and in fact defended him for months, unlike the majority of his colleagues in public service, which doesn’t exactly build confidence in his ability to lead an entire city.

Jessyn Farrell served in the WA state legislature for four years and previously ran for Mayor in 2017, coming in fourth place in the primary. She seems to have a similar stance on public safety to current Mayor Jenny Durkan and is positioning herself as a kind of outsider.


There have been conflicting reports of when the City of Seattle’s contract negotiations with SPOG are likely to begin. At the CPC meeting yesterday morning, the Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said the next round of bargaining will probably start sometime next year after this year’s elections. He went on to say that sometime in early January we’re going to inaugurate a brand new mayor, and the city will be negotiating a new contract and just starting to set parameters for that new contract.

However, the Mayor’s office does not agree with this assessment. They say that once the LPRC has set the parameters of negotiations, the City will begin bargaining with SPOG, and that they expect this to occur “well before November.”

In practice, this means we have two different possible timelines the SPOG negotiations might take. Holmes’s assessment is based on historical precedent, but there is additional urgency this year that might add pressure to speed up the timeline of the negotiations.


Finally, Washington State is making national news for the progressive decisions coming out of its Supreme Court. This article explains the recent decisions wiping the state’s existing drug possession law off the books entirely and forbidding mandatory sentencing of life without parole to offenders under age 21, both of which have sweeping ramifications to the criminal justice system here in Washington State. It’s worth a read to greater understand how much influence the courts, and specifically judge appointments, wield in which laws are allowed and how they are enforced.

Thank you for reading, and I’m wishing you all a Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day and a Happy Nowruz!

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