revenue forecast

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

The New War on Drugs Could Increase SPD’s Biased Policing Problem

Seattle News

This week at a special Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, the Council once more took up drug criminalization, hearing from a panel about gaps in services for people using fentanyl and a presentation from Andrew Myerberg from the Mayor’s Office about the new proposed ordinance and planned executive order. It became clear listening to the presenters on the panel that Seattle has many gaps in the services it provides those suffering from substance abuse disorder, that it will take time to address this issue, and that this ordinance would, as Derrick Wheeler-Smith, the Director of the Office of Human Rights, said, “disproportionately impact BIPOC communities, overpoliced communities, and especially Black folks.”

Andrew Myerberg discussed the threat of harm standard described in the proposed ordinance, which differentiates between threat of harm to others and threat of harm to self, and gives officers discretion to decide whether or not to arrest someone. This allowance of discretion is troubling given SPD’s pattern of biased policing in stops, frisks, and use of force. SPD is currently working on a new policy regarding this ordinance that should be complete in mid-September and is supposed to be informed by an executive order from the Mayor’s Office that is not yet complete. Myerberg said that in an ideal world, very few of the arrests due to this ordinance would result in jail bookings, with the intent being they would instead be directed to various diversion services, most of which have not currently been scaled up to be able to address the level of need present in Seattle.

As for the widely touted $27 million in investments, the $7 million in capital investments are intended to be used for a new post-overdose stabilization center and expanded facilities for case-working. The $20 million, which it bears repeating will be paid out over the course of 18 years, will be put towards operational costs for the new stabilization center, Health One’s overdose response, and theoretically other existing programs (LEAD, co-LEAD, REACH, etc). However, it is hard to believe $1.4m per year will be able to cover all the gaps in service discussed during the panel or provide enough increased funding to all the relevant organizations. Even with sufficient investment, it will take time to open a new post-overdose stabilization center and scale up existing programs.

CM Lewis indicated his eagerness to circumvent the normal Council procedures, skip a regular committee meeting and vote, and take the proposed ordinance straight to Full Council for a vote on September 5, even after Central Staff said such a rushed timeline would force them to work over summer recess. At Tuesday’s Full Council meeting, however, this break in normal protocol was defeated by a 4-4 vote; CMs Lewis, Strauss, Pedersen, and Nelson voted in favor, and CM Sawant was not present. This means we can expect a committee hearing and possible vote on the ordinance on Tuesday, September 12, with a potential full Council vote on Tuesday, September 19, which would run right up to the beginning of budget season.

The new revenue forecast predicts a 4% upgrade in the JumpStart tax for 2023. 2023 revenues are predicted to be $31.7 million higher than the April prediction, and 2024 revenues are predicted to be $21.3 million higher than predicted in April. Thus, near-term revenues have increased a bit, but longer-term growth is still expected to slow down as the technology sector cools and work-from-home impacts to sectors such as construction are anticipated. 

Seattle City Council’s summer recess will be from August 21 – September 4, with many CMs asking to be excused from September 5th’s full council meeting as well. I anticipate budget season to begin the week of September 25, and Solidarity Budget will be having their launch event on Saturday September 9th from 1-4pm. I will also be taking summer recess off to recharge for the budget season, so you can expect to hear from me again after Labor Day!

Recent Headlines:

Disproportionate Incarceration is Alive and Well in King County

Seattle News

Judge Robart has set the next consent decree hearing for Tuesday, May 30 at 1pm. Buckle your seatbelts because this one should be interesting!

Seattle’s Public Safety and Human Services committee heard a presentation from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on Tuesday regarding the work that office will be doing should the new consent decree agreement be approved. The Monitor’s oversight work will be transitioning over to OIG, which will also review other parts of SPD beyond those mandated by the consent decree. OIG will be producing a use of force assessment to be delivered to the court by the end of July, which will include force used in crisis incidents, use of less lethal devices, and force used during crowd management, using data from 2021 and 2022. Note this data is provided directly by SPD. They are also hoping to analyze data on traffic stops that aren’t Terry stops, the data of which has been fairly inaccessible up until now. 

OIG’s fourth and final Sentinel Event Review (SER) covering the 2020 protests should be released in the next few weeks. In total, OIG has made more than 400 recommendations to SPD based on these SER reports, the implementation of which they’ll be monitoring. They are also considering utilizing the SER model in the future for officer-involved shootings in crisis incidents. In addition, they will be investigating whether SPD has the appropriate systems to comply with the new state decertification law. 

OIG has made a number of comments designated as “matters of consideration,” which don’t go as far as recommendations. CM Herbold asked about the matter of consideration pertaining to the fact that historically SPD police chiefs have chosen to apply the lower end of recommended discipline when there has been misconduct; Director Judge replied this was a good time to refresh that data and see what Chief Diaz’s trend has been in this regard. OIG is looking at several other issues, including limiting deception during interrogation and reviewing SPD’s “ruse” policy; work around traffic stops with the Vera Institute; case closure rates in the investigative bureau; and a report to be released in Q2 analyzing SPD’s compliance with the city’s youth rights ordinance that requires youth be allowed to consult with counsel before waiving their rights. 

OIG has a new Deputy Director, Bessie Marie Scott, who worked previously for the Public Defender Association and as the Interim Director of the CPC. OIG is currently hiring for three additional full-time positions, including a team lead and two policy analysts. 

This week the Seattle City Council also received an economic forecast report, including a revenue forecast, which shows the core general fund revenue sources are not expected to keep up with inflation. Actual revenues from the Jumpstart tax fell from $293m in 2021 to $253m in 2022, and are expected to be $263m this year, revised significantly downwards from the previous estimate of $294m. The REET revenue forecast for 2023 has also significantly dropped; in November, these estimates were revised from $95m to $68m, and that number has dropped even further to $55m. The REET revenues aren’t expected to recover fully until 2027.

All of this is to say that the Council will be looking at an even smaller pot of money than expected during this fall’s budget season, and the results of the progressive revenue task force have become even more critical.

King County News

This week seems like a good opportunity to dig into the recent booking data from the King County Jail. In the last two weeks, there have been 148 total bookings; 38.4% of bookings have been misdemeanors, of which 50.2% were booked by SPD. If you remember, the King County Council mentioned Executive Constantine can enact booking restrictions for misdemeanors. That being said, 88.6% of the total jail population were booked for a felony. And 21% of the population have been imprisoned in the King County Jail for more than a year.

If you look at how race correlates with charge type, 34.2% of those misdemeanor bookings were Black people, whereas for felony bookings, 27.7% were Black people. Looking at the total jail population, Black people constitute 38.6%. For comparison, Black people make up around 7% of both Seattle and King County’s populations. As we learned in the last few King County Council meetings, many of those in the King County Jail are there because they cannot afford to pay bail or are waiting for competency restoration. 

Thus we can see how disproportionate incarceration is alive and well in King County, and how systemic racism, the racial wealth gap, and underinvestment in marginalized communities continue to cause harm today.

charts showing percentages discussed in text
KCJ bookings showing misdemeanors 4/12/2023
Chart showing percentages discussed in text
KCJ bookings showing felonies 4/12/2023
Chart showing percentages discussed in text
KCJ Population by Charge Type, Race, and Length of Stay

WA State News

While this year’s legislative session has been very productive in some ways, it’s been a disappointing year for police accountability. None of the major bills designed to improve police accountability made it through the legislative process, and SB 5352, the bill that rolls back reforms to lethal police pursuits made in 2021, was passed by the House this week in a vote of 57-40, in what Representative Julia Reed called “the most bizarre debate experience I’ve had to date.”

On Tuesday night the House voted on the Blake bill, SB 5336, which passed 54 to 41. The Senate version set drug possession as a gross misdemeanor, and the new House version changes that to a simple misdemeanor. The potential jail time for a gross misdemeanor in Washington State maxes out at 364 days, whereas for a simple misdemeanor it maxes out at 90 days. You can read more about this bill here, which will now move on to negotiations between the House and the Senate.

Two gun control bills have also now passed both houses. The one getting the most press is the assault weapon ban, which now goes to the governor for a signature and is expected to be the subject of a future lawsuit. The other bill would require potential gun owners to get trained, screened, and wait for 10 days before being able to purchase a weapon. 

Meanwhile, Austin Fields criticized the recent capital gains tax ruling by the Washington Supreme Court for falling short of making a case for a more equitable economy:

The Court’s cautious path was predictable—and widely predicted—but that doesn’t excuse the justices’ failure to endorse a more democratic, equitable tax system. Of course, the state desperately needs the estimated $500 million from the tax to fund early childhood programs. But the Court could have gone further and acknowledged the State Legislature’s existing authority to directly tax the incomes of Washington’s mega-rich to pay for thousands of affordable homes, a health care system capable of treating everyone, and everything else a truly progressive state would guarantee its residents.”

Recent Headlines

Lots of budget and police accountability news

Lots of news to cover this fine November Monday!

Seattle’s Police Contract Negotiations Team

Seattle announced last week that a member of Central Staff will be at the police contract bargaining table, and that the head of the OPA, the head of the OIG, and a member of the CPC will all serve as bargaining advisors. This step is a big deal and should serve to increase accountability during the bargaining process. The CPC has been pushing to be more involved with contract negotiations for some time now, and by making this move the City is presenting a united front when coming to the bargaining table. Having a member of Central Staff present should mean CMs are better kept in the loop as well. You can find more analysis here.

State law states these police union contract negotiations must be confidential. However, look to the next state legislative session for a bill that might make these negotiations public, which would improve accountability even more.

New City Revenue Forecast

The new Seattle revenue forecast came in as expected last week, and the news is positive! The City expects some additional $40m in funds than previously anticipated for 2020 and 2021, and the CMs have plenty of ways to spend it. Mayor Durkan wrote her own letter expressing her interests in how these funds should be spent; she talks about funding priorities that encapsulate a lot more than the new funds available, but it is noteworthy that many of her priorities seem to line up with priorities expressed in the budget talks the Council has been having.

I wondered if this presaged a new, more conciliatory attitude between the Executive’s Office and the City Council, but the preview we’ve had today of the Council’s proposed budget suggests this probably won’t be the case.

Black Brilliance Research Project and BLM-ACLU vs Seattle Lawsuit

The Black Brilliance Research Project, led by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, released their preliminary report on budget priorities based on their research findings thus far. If interested, you can read a summary of the qualitative research they’ve been doing.

Kevin Schofield also wrote an analysis of the City of Seattle’s response to the BLM-ACLU lawsuit regarding crowd control weapons. He collected the officer declarations, incident reports, and video footage (mostly from body cameras) that the City submitted as part of their defense, which you can review at your leisure at the link above.

Today’s Seattle City Council Briefing

The bulk of today’s Council Briefing was a presentation from SDOT and a member of Central Staff about the West Seattle Bridge and the choice between repair and replace. The main new piece of information discussed was the report of an independent contractor the Council hired for an outside opinion on the bridge, who said since the Cost Benefit Analysis is trying to compare all options at the same high view level, it neglects the fact that we can learn a lot more information about the repair option than is presented in the CBA. This seems to suggest these contractors see the repair option more favorably than presented, while I got the impression SDOT Director Zimbabwe was leaning more towards replacement. CM Herbold, the CM of West Seattle, supports the repair option.

In their individual reports, CMs discussed the spike in COVID cases, the results of the national election, and several CMs expressed dismay at the continuing issue of the SPD’s harsh treatment of protesters, as well as journalists, legal observers, and medics.

Budget Season Continues!

Tomorrow we have an all-day budget meeting, where CM Mosqueda will present the Council Draft Budget. You can sign up for public comment starting at 7:30am, and they will be hearing at least an hour of public comment beginning at 9:30am. You can expect me to begin live tweeting around 10:30am, and I’ll be there all day tweeting and then compiling the day’s discussions into a summary for you all.

Skimming the released budget documents, I don’t see any huge surprises, but it does look like the Council is proposing a huge cut to the $100m for BIPOC communities to spend elsewhere and wants whatever is left over to be allocated by participatory budget process instead of via the Mayor’s task force. So expect more discussion of that tomorrow, among other points.

Twitter avatar for @SCC_Insight

SCC Insight @SCC_Insight
Taking a first pass through @CMTMosqueda ‘s “balancing package” for the 2021 city budget. It cuts Mayor Durkan’s proposed $100 million Equitable Communities Initiative to $30 million, and restricts it to be spent only in alignment with its own participatory budgeting process.

CMs’ Form Cs proposing amendments to the budget that are self-balancing are due this Thursday at 10am, and they will be discussed publicly next Wednesday and Thursday. The budget is scheduled for a final vote on Monday, November 23, a few days before Thanksgiving.

Finally, I’d like to mention the great news that the King County Charter Amendments related to police accountability all look like they’re going to pass, several by large margins. That is something definitely worth celebrating! Thank you for voting and spreading the information about these amendments.

I’ll see you tomorrow, and in the meantime, have a wonderful evening!