SPD budget

Questions About SPD’s Risk Managed Demand Report Overshadowed by the Start of Budget Season

If you want to read about SPD’s Risk Managed Demand presentation, you can skip straight down to the “Seattle’s Public Safety Committee Meeting” section. But first, budget news!

Seattle’s Proposed Budget

Amy Sundberg
The first Seattle Select Budget committee meeting of the season has begun. I’m not going to live tweet the whole meeting, but I’ll try to tweet the things I find interesting.
You can see the Mayor’s proposed 2023-2024 budget here and the Budget Office’s presentation on it here. You can read local coverage of the budget here and here, and coverage of the Solidarity Budget here.
Let’s dive in and see what’s in this proposed budget relating to public safety.
First of all, SPD. The SPD budget in 2022 was $353m, and its proposed budget for 2023 is $373.5m, which is close to a 6% increase.
The bulk of this increase–almost $20m–is due to the Mayor’s proposal to move the parking enforcement officers (PEOs) back into SPD from SDOT. The stated reasons for doing so are that it will save more than $5m in overhead costs that SDOT needs to house the PEOs but SPD wouldn’t need, as they didn’t lose any overhead dollars when the PEOs left their department, and the PEOs would regain access to certain SPD databases, which would remove the basis for unfair labor practices. In addition, it sounds like the culture of the PEOs hasn’t yet shifted away from a more police-oriented feel. Mayor Harrell mentioned this might not be the final home of the PEOs. Reasons for keeping the PEOs in SDOT include maintaining promises made to community in 2020 to work to move civilian functions outside SPD; allowing closer collaboration between PEOs and SDOT to make our streets safer using more strategies than just ticketing; and leaving the PEOs where they are until a final home for them has been decided (I’m assuming the Mayor was referencing the possibility of housing them in the third public safety department he envisions).
In addition, the Mayor plans to reinvest about $17m of salary savings in SPD back into the department. This salary savings is realized through ghost positions within SPD that remain funded even though they will not be able to be filled during 2023. This money is to be used for the following investments:
  • $1.3m for addt’l police equipment, which is mostly weapons;
  • $4.25m for recruitment and retention bonuses;
  • $2.6m in addt’l overtime;
  • almost $3m for more technology projects;
  • $1m for a gunfire detection system, ShotSpotter;
  • $250k for Harbor Patrol;
  • $490.5k for a mental health practitioner;
  • $168k for a new OPA employee
  • $446k for relational policing, about which we have no details
  • $424.9k to transfer 1 IT employee and 2 LAW employees into SPD
Also in the budget for HSD are $4.3m for the Seattle Community Safety Initiative and $1.5m for the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective, as well as $502k for victim advocates. The $1.2m allocated for alternative emergency response in the mid-year supplemental is retained, along with an additional $700k, all of which is currently sitting in Finance General until the Council decides which department to move it into. That $700k appears to be the only new investment allocated for community-based public safety alternatives, as the SCSI and the Peacekeepers were already funded in last year’s budget.
Controversially, the proposed budget includes legislation that would cap future liability for inflation-based increases for human service contracts at 4%. For reference, over the 12 month period ending in June 2022, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 9.1 percent. It’s important to understand that these human service providers are public safety workers performing essential public services and already tend to be underpaid and are currently also understaffed. In a budget in which both police officers and fire fighters are being offered recruitment and retention packages, this legislation is a slap in the face to these essential workers, for whom it basically results in a pay cut.
Key Dates in the Seattle Budget Process:
October 11, 5pm: First evening public hearing
November 7: Chair’s Balancing Package introduced
November 8, 9:30am: Morning public hearing
November 15, 5pm: Second evening public hearing
November 16: Budget committee votes on balancing package
November 21: Budget committee vote on budget in the AM; final Full Council vote on the budget at 2pm
Public comment will also be heard at the October 11 and October 25 budget meetings at 9:30am, and probably one or two budget meetings in November as well.

King County Proposed Budget:

Executive Dow Constantine proposed his King County 2023-2024 budget on Tuesday. You can read about new investments being made in the law & justice category of the budget here and the complete rundown on the law, safety, & justice can be found here.
Some highlights:
  • $9m to the Regional Peacekeepers Collective
  • $2.3m to the Sheriff’s Office for a new gun violence unit and for detectives for the major crimes unit
  • $21m for 140 Metro “transit security officers” whose duties are not yet clear
  • $2.1m for behavioral health co-response unit expansion, which still involves sending armed officers to behavioral health crises
  • $5m for body cameras (this will take some years to implement)
  • $6.3m for jail-based opioid treatment programs and services for people being released from jail with substance abuse disorder
You can make public comment on the budget in person or virtually on the evening of Wednesday, October 5 at 6pm, and there are two in person only public comment opportunities on October 12 and October 19 at 6pm. There is one additional opportunity for public comment on November 8 at 9:30am. You can also email the King County council members directly about the budget. Suggested scripts are forthcoming from People Power Washington.

Seattle’s Public Safety Committee Meeting

The last Public Safety and Human Resources committee meeting until the end of budget season was held this Tuesday. Among other issues, the CMs discussed the City Attorney’s Office Q2 report and the SPD’s long-awaited Risk Managed Demand report.

Amy Sundberg
Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s special Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting. We’re starting with a bunch of appointments.
The City Attorney’s Office Q2 report showed how much faster the office has been making its filing decisions. The number of filed cases has more than doubled, in spite of misdemeanor referrals from SPD being down. They have also been declining fewer cases. Just as filed cases have risen dramatically, so have referrals to Community Court and Mental Health Court.
You can see the Risk Managed Demand (RMD) presentation here and the technical brief here. SPD requested to do this research before an alternative emergency response program was designed here in Seattle.
The analysis looks at injuries associated with the final 911 call type using a matrix of likelihood and severity. SPD had to manually upgrade or downgrade slightly more than 50% of the 356 call types, meaning the matrix worked less than half of the time, which caused some concern to CMs. Also causing concern was the belief this report was supposed to be analyzing the risk to call responders, while instead it uses the risk to the subject as a proxy for that, leaving out data from calls that involved use of force. If this sounds convoluted to you, you are not alone.
CM Mosqueda questioned whether, given the issues with this new report, the NICJR findings weren’t just as sound while also giving concrete policy changes that this new report doesn’t give. CM Herbold was concerned, given that 50% of the time call types were either upgraded or downgraded, that we need to understand what policies, principles, or rules lead to those judgment calls of how to change call type classification.
CM Lewis brought up Denver’s successful STAR program that answers calls that this new RMD report would suggest should go to some kind of co-response instead. In response, Dan Eder of the Mayor’s Office said the RMD report can’t answer CM Lewis’s questions, explaining that this risk analysis isn’t determinative of the most appropriate kind of program to design or call types to assign to a new program. Which begs the question: if this research doesn’t answer these questions, why are we a.) spending tons of taxpayer money on it, and b.) allowing it to drastically delay implementation of any alternative emergency response program?
CM Herbold said this RMD report shouldn’t hold up implementation of a new alternative response as discussed in the term sheet between the Mayor’s Office and Central Staff, and announced the next Public Safety committee meeting will take place on Tuesday, December 11 at 9:30am.

Other News of Note

Seattle’s Redistricting Commission voted to approve an amendment that unites Magnolia into District 6 and divides the Fremont neighborhood into three districts: D4, D6, and D7. As Doug Trumm writes: “[Commissioner] Juárez also pointed out that this was a significant departure from the Redistricting Justice for Washington Seattle maps that had the most positive comments throughout the process, which is why the commission’s initial proposal had largely been based on that map.”
It is worth noting that Magnolia is predominantly zoned for single family housing, while a large part of Fremont is within an urban village and is more renter-friendly. You can give public comment on this new plan on Saturday, October 8 from 10am-12pm via Zoom or in the Bertha Knight Landes Room on the City Hall 1st Floor.
King County leaders held a press conference to announce a $1.25B plan to address the behavioral health crisis, which will involve a new property tax levy that will be on the ballot in April 2023.
Last Friday Seattle’s Neighborhoods, Education, Civil Rights & Culture committee discussed the participatory budgeting process, and they’ll be back to discuss it further on December 9. The timeline for PB is as follows: planning and design will happen in fall of 2022; idea collection and proposal development will happen in winter of 2022-2023; proposal development and voting will happen in spring of 2023; and funding will be provided to the winning projects in summer of 2023.
A forum was held for Seattle Municipal Court judge candidates Pooja Vaddadi and Adam Eisenberg. You can watch it here.

Recent Headlines

Questions About SPD’s Risk Managed Demand Report Overshadowed by the Start of Budget Season 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 »

Important Public Safety Amendment on the Table Tomorrow for Discussion and Possible Vote

SPD Budget Amendment Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow at Seattle’s Housing and Finance committee meeting, the SPD’s proposed spending plan for the ~$15m in salary savings for 2021 will be discussed and voted on through an amendment to the supplemental budget. New amendments to this public safety amendment have just been added today, so it is still an evolving situation. You can view the revised amendment here, as well as two amendments to the amendment. (Now there’s a mouthful!)
These amendments will fund most of what SPD asked for in their proposed spending plan, including civilian positions within SPD, the Work Scheduling Timekeeping Project, the NICJR Contract, the SPD Mental Health Provider Program, contract background services, separation pay, deferred compensation, and paid parental leave. It also authorizes $5.4m for new investments: $340k acquisition of a protocol system for the CSCC 911 dispatchers; $3m to HSD for the Community Safety Capacity Building RFP; $500k to HSD for the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective; $700k to the CSCC to implement a new specialized triage response that will provide an alternative model for some non-criminal 9-1-1 calls and reduce the need for a sworn officer response for some calls; $500k to FAS to address SPD evidence storage capacity issues by leasing additional space; $50K to Seattle IT for a PDR position to perform e-mail searches for SPD; and $50k to SPD for a PDR position in OPA.
The original amendment gave the SPD leeway to spend an additional $3.3m however they saw fit; however, amendment 1 to amendment 8 takes $2.25m of that money to allocate specifically to “Technology Updates” within SPD.
Is this a win for those who are proponents of the divest and reinvest strategy when it comes to policing in Seattle? Not really, but it could be worse. Some of the new investments are promising, but less than $5m of the total $15m of savings is being allocated for projects that could be considered alternates to public safety. It is worth noting the proposed hiring bonuses for new police officers are not approved by this legislation and will require separate action, so that’s something we’ll be looking for in upcoming months.
There will be time for public comment on this amendment tomorrow morning at 9:30am, or you can email your CMs. The final vote on the supplemental budget (including this amendment) won’t be until mid-September because of the summer recess.

Today’s Seattle Council Briefing

Good morning, and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! This is the last one before the summer recess.
At this afternoon’s Seattle Council meeting, the Council had votes scheduled on the bill moving parking enforcement officers from SPD to SDOT and the bill putting limitation on use of less lethal weapons (this second had been put on hold waiting for the consent decree hearing last week, at which the Judge chose not to weigh in on the matter). Last week the Council voted to lift the proviso to allow the $30m spending plan for the Mayor’s Equitable Communities Initiative Task Force (a name I have to look up every time to get correct) to move forward.
This was the last City Council meeting before the summer recess. Because the City Council meeting on September 7 was cancelled due to Rosh Hashanah, the next Council Briefing and Council Meeting will be on Monday, September 13.
CM Mosqueda has announced the dates of this budget season’s three public hearings: October 12 and November 10 in the evening and November 18 in the morning. The Mayor will be bringing her proposed 2022 budget to present to Council on September 27, which is when budget season officially begins. At that point, all other committee meetings are suspended for the duration.

Compassion Seattle Challenged in Court

Last week the ACLU and two advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the Compassionate Seattle ballot initiative. There will have to be a quick ruling as this initiative is set to be on the ballot in November. Opinions are mixed about the merits of the suit and whether it is likely to succeed.

Seattle Election News

Lastly, in some embarrassing local election news, the top local Trump donor, George Petrie, is also a top donor to an independent expenditure campaign supporting Bruce Harrell for Seattle mayor, as well as a max contributor to Harrell’s campaign. As of July, George Petrie was also one of the top two donors to the Compassion Seattle charter amendment, having donated $50k. This isn’t a great look for either Bruce Harrell or the Compassion Seattle campaign, but it’s a good reminder that following the money continues to be a worthwhile practice.

Recent Headlines

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Suicide is Washington state’s biggest gun violence problem | Crosscut

Important Public Safety Amendment on the Table Tomorrow for Discussion and Possible Vote Read More »

SPD Budget Talks Are Back on the Menu

Yes, yes, we all want to talk about the primary results, but first let’s look at some local news that’s getting less coverage, shall we?

What’s up with the SPD’s latest budget request?

We found out more at Tuesday’s Finance and Housing committee meeting. As you may remember, last week an SPD memo outlining how the department would like to use an anticipated $15m in salary savings in 2021 was released. So far, the Mayor has transmitted one piece of legislation that would authorize the spending of some of this salary savings for SPD hiring bonuses ($15k for lateral transfers and $7500 for recruits) and asks the council to remove their provisos so SPD could also spend salary savings on separation fees and other expenses. In order to enact the rest of the spending plan laid out in the memo, other pieces of legislation (that don’t yet exist) would need to be passed as well.
The Council has a choice here. They can choose to do some of this legislative work through the mid-year supplemental budget that they are working on right now in the Finance and Housing committee. They could do it with separate legislation through the Public Safety and Human Services department; there is a plan to transit a bill from the Executive’s Office in late August that would address allowing SPD to accept this year’s grants, which could also act as a vehicle for enacting some of this spending, for example. Or they could do a combination of both.
CM Herbold signaled her desire to pass some elements through the supplemental budget, which is likely to be faster. In particular, she said she’d like to place a down payment on the $2m for the Regional Peacemakers Collaborative, provide funding for the purchase of the protocol system needed by CSCC dispatch system (to be used by Triage One), provide funding to fill existing positions for CSOs and crime prevention coordinators, and make some technology investments. She also is interested in amendments that would provide money for more evidence locker storage, money for public disclosure request handling, and possibly funding for a community-based crisis response program pilot focused on Lake City. Most of these funding requests are the same as those in CM Herbold’s failed bill from earlier this spring. She is also interested in removing two provisos, one related to SPD Harbor Patrol spending and one related to SPD out-of-order layoffs, which the Council now knows aren’t possible to enact.
To reiterate, the SPD is proposing spending only about 10% of the year’s salary savings on community safety reinvestments. Central Staff cautioned the Council more than once that they may need to take a proactive step in telling SPD they cannot use funds for certain things if they disagree with any proposed spending areas. CM Mosqueda brought up the City’s severe shortage of human services personnel and asked whether there had been any comparable proposals brought forth to also provide incentive pay for those positions. The answer, of course, was no.
There will be more policy details discussed at the next Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting, which will be next Tuesday, August 10. Then the CMs will dive back into the supplemental budget and proposed amendments at the next Finance and Housing committee meeting on Tuesday, August 17, where they will have a possible committee vote. Because of the summer recess, the supplemental budget will not be voted on by Full Council until Tuesday, September 7. All of these meetings will give opportunity for public comment.

Other Seattle News

Good morning and welcome to Seattle’s Council Briefing! Also… it’s August already? 😮
At Monday’s Council Briefing, CM Strauss complained about the Executive’s Office holding up funding that has been allocated to stand up more homelessness resources. CM Herbold is introducing a bill that will transfer the parking enforcement officers out of SPD into the Community Safety and Communications Center.
The next consent decree status conference is coming up on Tuesday, August 10 in the afternoon. The CPC has won the right to speak at the meeting. Also coming up tomorrow is the hearing with Chief Diaz for the two SPD officers against whom OPA sustained findings for their participation in the DC insurrection on January 6.
People Power WA - Police Accountability
There has been a dangerous and false narrative circulating that the defund the police movement is responsible for an uptick in community violence. This ignores several key facts.
UPDATED THREAD. You’re going to hear a lot about how cops need more resources because “crime is surging” in the next few months. It’s propaganda, and here’s how you can respond:

Primary Results

Turnout was low for this election, not surprising given it’s an odd year primary. Not all the votes have been counted yet, but we have a fairly clear picture of several of the races at this point.
Competing for Seattle mayor will most likely be Bruce Harrell and M. Lorena González. Be on the lookout for sexism that will likely come to play during that campaign. For Seattle City Council Seat 8, CM Mosqueda has a healthy lead over all competitors. For Seattle City Council Seat 9, it looks like a race between Sara Nelson and Nikkita Oliver. And the City Attorney’s race is still in a dead heat between the three candidates; we’ll have to wait until more votes are counted to learn the final results of that one.
In King County, Dow Constantine has a solid lead over challenger Joe Nguyen. For King County Council, it’s possible incumbent Republican Kathy Lambert could be unseated in the General by challenger Sarah Perry, while incumbent Republicans Pete Von Reichbauer and Reagan Dunn held healthy majorities in their races.
Finally, if you need a mood booster, check out these optimistic election predictions over at Crosscut and get some rest before we dig into more campaigning work this fall.

Recent Headlines

SPD Budget Talks Are Back on the Menu Read More »

Another Wednesday, Another Budget Meeting

Another long Wednesday of budget meetings!

Mayor Recall:

Mayor Durkan has filed a motion to reconsider the judge’s certification of the recall petition. This is a precursor to a probable appeal, and we’re now waiting for the petitioner to respond. If you’re interested in how this recall effort works, this is a great analysis. The key point revolves around whether Mayor Durkan is ultimately the individual responsible for the use of tear gas and other chemical crowd control agents by SPD during the pandemic, or if that responsibility resides with Chief Best. As the article states, delaying the possible recall is in the Mayor’s best interests even if she loses her appeal, both because it allows more time to pass for Seattleites to forget what happened during the protests in June, and because if Biden were to win the presidential election, she might get a new cushy appointment in DC in January.


After today, we have two more weeks of budget meetings, including a potential extra meeting next Thursday, and the Council hopes to vote on the revised budget on Monday, August 3. The City Council will take a vacation the last two weeks of August. The Mayor is expected to bring her proposed 2021 budget sometime in mid-September, beginning a new set of budget meetings that will probably extend until sometime in November. I believe the new SPOG contract negotiations are supposed to begin in December and can last around six months.

Today’s Budget Meetings:

The first part of today’s budget meetings were concerned with amendments on two bills, the COVID relief proposal and the Jump Start Seattle Detailed Spending Plan. If you’re interested in the details, you can see my Twitter thread.

Aside from observing the dynamic at work within the Council, another interesting thing that came up during this part of the meeting was during a spirited discussion about tiny home villages, when it came up that money put aside in the original 2020 budget to build these villages hasn’t yet been used. Several CMs expressed concerns that the Mayor wouldn’t actually use the money allocated to building tiny home villages in the Jump Start Seattle package either. The possibility was also brought up that this concern (that the Mayor wouldn’t spend the money as allocated) might apply to the entire package.

Twitter avatar for @amysundberg

Amy Sundberg @amysundberg
She expects the Mayor might refuse to spend the money on tiny home villages because they are being too prescriptive.


The second part of the budget meeting was issue identification on the 2020 Proposed Rebalancing Package, which came with a huge memo from Central Staff. The section detailing the SPD policy issues and budget amendments that CMs have proposed thus far related to the police department begins on page 104, or you can look at the slides beginning on page 23. This part of the meeting involved presentations by Central Staff on a variety of subjects, as well as a panel from Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now talking about their four proposed stages for divesting from the SPD and investing in community organizations. Here is my Twitter thread on this part of the meeting.

Important Points:

  • Review: the Mayor has proposed $20.3m in cuts to the SPD. Those funds have been included in the overall rebalancing of the 2020 budget and are not available to invest in community-based solutions to public safety. None of these cuts should require bargaining. Aside from $500k put aside for re-imaging the police and public safety, other aspects of the Mayor’s plan wouldn’t get funding till 2021.
  • To date the SPD has already run through their entire overtime budget for the year. This is after the Mayor made some cuts on that line of the budget to reach the $20m figure.
  • CM Herbold asked if they’d be able to get out of paying the remainder of hiring bonuses promised to recently hired officers, which was kind of shocking from a labor standpoint.
  • Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now are asking for immediate cuts from the police budget beyond the Mayor’s proposed cuts, along with funds to begin their proposed 4-Step Process, which is as follows:
  • 1. The community research phase should start right away and run through the summer and fall, and they need immediate money to start the process. CM Morales suggested the Council shift over the $500k mentioned in the first point above to do this.
  • 2. Investing in scaling up community-led organizations with technical support and capacity building. This needs to start in 2020 (ideally Sept-Dec) so the organizations can be ready to take over functions from the SPD sometime in 2021.
  • 3. Transition 911 call and dispatch under civilian control. They believe we can move to do this immediately. The Mayor doesn’t want to do it until next year. There was some discussion about potential interim first responder options while training up a CAHOOTS-style response system, and Central Staff is going to look into how quickly this transition could be implemented. There was also a brief discussion about decriminalizing misdemeanors.
  • 4. Support immediate survival needs by investing in housing. This includes dissolving the navigation team, stopping sweeps, and not requiring police referrals for homeless folks to get assistance. That last could be implemented quite quickly, but:
  • Anything having an impact on labor when it comes to these cuts gets complicated because it will have to be bargained with SPOG. Even if the Council passes amendments to lay off officers, to cap officers’ pay, etc. those provisos can’t go into effect until after bargaining, meaning the money freed up from those costs can’t be recovered to reinvest until an agreement with SPOG is reached. This doesn’t prevent the CMs from passing these amendments, but it does mean it’s going to be a tricky business for them to find the funds to invest in this four step process this year, especially given the already existing budget crisis due to the pandemic.
  • There seemed to be a general consensus that having clearly defined policy objectives in regards to defunding the SPD is important since otherwise the SPD could remove services the CMs want to maintain (for example, the Southwestern Precinct).
  • The proposed amendments to the 2020 revised budget, including those related to the SPD, are at the one sentence level of formation right now and need a lot of further development.

What does this all mean? Well, a lot needs to happen in the next two and a half weeks, unless the Council decides to delay that September 3rd vote. Because of labor issues and the time it will take to scale up organizations, I don’t know how feasible a 50% cut to the remaining SPD budget for 2020 is in practice. It partially depends on how quickly certain functions/departments can be moved from under the SPD umbrella (these sorts of changes are less likely to trigger labor issues), but while reorganization could help the Council get closer to reaching a 50% cut goal, it won’t free up any funds to reinvest in community organizations. And without the funds, those organizations can’t scale up, which endangers the entire proposal.

The Council’s challenge in the coming weeks will be to find the necessary funds to implement at least part of this four-step plan (I’m not sure how much they’d need to at least get a good start) and to figure out how to effectively signal they’re serious about divesting in the police force while navigating the thorny labor issues.

Exciting times indeed!

Another Wednesday, Another Budget Meeting Read More »