City Council makes O’Toole SPD chief, sends universal pre-K to ballot

(Image: City of Seattle)

(Image: City of Seattle)

Monday was chock-full of Seattle civics excitement as the City Council voted in the first female chief of the Seattle Police Department and approved a universal pre-K plan to appear on the November ballot.

Following the council vote, Chief Kathleen O’Toole walked down the hall to take the oath of office, administered by the fellow Irish-blooded Mayor Ed Murray. Murray nominated O’Toole for the post in May.

O’Toole comes into the position with a wealth of experience following decades of police work in Boston, where she rose to commissioner, and more recent work in Ireland. More notably, she comes into the post with no experience at SPD, where the public and elected officials have called for major shake-ups among the department’s highest ranks.

Council member Kshama Sawant cast the lone “no” votes to O’Toole’s confirmation and her $250,000 salary. Sawant said she wasn’t convinced O’Toole would bring the deep reform needed at SPD and that no public official should make over $100,000.

For the first time, the SPD chief will be allowed to bring in top brass from outside the department. O’Toole should find a City Hall and populace sympathetic to her cause in reforming a department that’s faced heavy criticism and remains entangled with a powerful union. One of the first political battles O’Toole will need to rise above will be the renewal of the city’s contract with the powerful Seattle Police Officer Guild.

O’Toole will also be tasked with continuing to carry out the 2012 consent decree with the Department of Justice to curb biased policing. SPD’s continued overhaul also includes a DOJ-approved use of force policy that lists guidelines for all department weaponry and requires all officers to carry at least one non-lethal weapon at all times.

Prior to O’Toole’s confirmation, the City Council unanimously approved Mayor Ed Murray’s universal pre-K plan, paving the way for a $58 million property tax levy to appear before voters on November’s ballot. Murray has frequently said that implementing universal pre-K would be the most important thing he’ll ever do as mayor.

Council members considered a handful of amendments to the plan on Monday. Among the most important passed was one that expanded free preschool to families at or blow 300 percent of the federal poverty line. The cutoff had been at or below 200 percent.

Despite the unanimous approval of the plan, there was some frustration in the room as the council also voted to send Initiative 107 to the ballot — a union-backed measure that would, among other things, raise the minimum wage of pre-K teachers and workers at a schedule faster than the citywide $15 an hour minimum wage law implemented last month.

Supporters of the signature-backed I-107 hoped their measure could complement the mayor’s universal pre-K plan, but the council decided voters would only be able to vote for one or the other come November. Over the past six months I-107 supporters gained enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. The council rejected passing the measure as on ordinance on June 16th.

Council president Tim Burgess, who has championed the universal pre-K plan and rejected I-107, hailed the vote as a historic day for the council.

“What we decide today and the voters decide in November can change our city forever,” he said.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

15 thoughts on “City Council makes O’Toole SPD chief, sends universal pre-K to ballot

  1. Leave it to Sawant to cast the one “no” vote against Chief O’Toole, who is clearly highly qualified to lead the SPD. What does Sawant want….a socialist Chief of Police? When she opposes like this, just for the sake of opposition, she loses any credibility she had left.

  2. Sawant’s vote is representative of my opinion based on the components of O’Toole’s reputation that I’m aware of. Her actions in Boston, as previously reported by CHS, don’t lead me to believe she’ll hold SPD responsible for their abuses.

  3. An important piece of information about Initiative 107 that this article leaves out is that it would help give early-learning educators, school directors, and caretakers a say in the implementation of the Universal Pre-K plan. For some reason the City Council is opposed to letting the people in the field who have the experience be involved with this broad-reshaping of our industry. This effects many educator’s careers and we want a voice in the process!

    Please find more information here:
    -Sarah Kerr
    Early Childhood Educator

  4. I find it hard to believe that sawant is an economist, though when you understand that she has never actually worked as an economist, it makes more sense. Here is the process of employment: a team of people appointed to search for a police chief seeks and vets a candidate. This wasn’t a fast process and was quite thorough. We are not privy to the conversations that took place. SO I find all the armchair quarterbacking really taxing. This women is already being criticized before she has a chance to do anything. Why? Because seattlelites like to second guess everything. It’s the reason, in my opinion, why nothing ever gets done around here; everyone wants to argue about it, have an opinion about it and file lawsuits about it. The simple FACT is that if you don’t have a competitive compensation package to entice good talent, you won’t get good talent. Just because people sometimes go into police service to “serve the public” doesn’t mean that they should not want to be compensated for their talents, the stress of their office and the risks. If she doesn’t produce, she will be easier to discharge than any of the officers that serve under her.

    • She is an idiot who likes to hear herself talk. I’m glad she will only get a two year term. Fortunately she is so isolated she can’t really do much damage to anything except her own image. She’s honestly and so obviously in this for the fame and not to have any meaningful impact. Her rhetoric is nonsense. And I consider myself a socialist! But I’m a socialist who can at least do basic math.

    • “Armchair quarterback,” funny, because it’s not hard or surprising for an informed public to read about someone (on the internet) as public as the former Boston police commissioner and subsequently develop an opinion or reinforce an opinion based on a particular philosophy. Funny because one should have no opinion whatsoever about a person’s track record and how that might influence their decision making in some of the same situations that we as a city face?

      And people like Sawant are the reason why nothing gets done? Championing a successful movement to increase the minimum wage means nothing? Fuck that says the socialist below who can do math! Sawant is in it for the fame!

      • Steve, tell me how googling and reading articles about her makes you better informed than the selection committee?! And it is that arrogance that causes gridlock, not Sawant herself, though she is an issue as well. And I suppose you will LOVE how it is that all of the not-for-profit social service organizations will leave the city because of the idiotic $15.00 per hour wage. They will simply not be able to afford being in Seattle. It has already slowed small businesses from expanding. Wake up and learn a little about basic economics. You are just a little too wet behind the ears.

      • You’re awful judgmental for someone touting “arrogance” being the root of gridlock. I never said I was better informed, but definitely entitled to an opinion based on evidence available to the public. Chillax homie. It’s knee-jerk reactions like yours that prevent calm and thoughtful discourse about civil issues and any diversity in opinion from representing a population. So, bam, sorry. And yes, dude, I am in favor of the $15 minimum wage increase plan. And it will undoubtedly impact nonprofits, but there’s no reason why nonprofits should pay their employees anything below a living wage. Some social service providers in the city over-extend as-is with the services they offer. Hopefully this causes them to focus efforts and to locate new sources of funding. And how are you so qualified to decry the mayor’s minimum wage plan? How is yooooouuuur opinion better and more informed than the opinions of the mayor’s council or the researchers who produced reports for the council?

      • Steve, your arrogance is not a judgement, it’s just factual.
        What you are is the definition of an armchair quarterback. Sure, you have a right to your opinion, but when you think that the news articles you read on the internet even approach the level of knowledge and insights of the selection committee, you are deluded by your own arrogance. It would make sense to hear why the selection committee selected her and what their rationales are. But you don’t know that, your are just spouting off. And why don’t you tell me how it is that you foster “calm and thoughtful discourse with your childish commentary?
        One area where you don’t know anything is about non-profits. You are just spouting off the top of your head without any understanding. you see, I actually operate one and guess what? They don’t have the ability to pay direct service workers $15.00 per hour. It cannot happen in the current climate. Where do you think the money comes from? They don’t just make it up. In the case of non-profits that have contracts for state services, guess what? the reimbursement rate set by the state legislature will not allow $15.00 per hour, period. So those providers will need to move out. Yeah, sure it will make the city more livable. Right.

  5. My childish commentary is a retort to your anger because I know no other way to respond to name calling. I also never said that my knowledge comes close to whatever committee made whatever decision. I said, as one of my representatives, Sawant represents what I believe based on the information I’m aware of. A vote of confidence for my elected officials. This is democracy, or something, right? So yes, you can make your assumptions because you’re an EXPERT in what it takes to run a non-profit, you’re an expert economist, you’re an expert on what it takes to live successfully on less than $15 an hour. Buddy, you’re the arrogant one here. Check yourself.

    • You assign an emotion to me that I am not feeling. I have no anger, I just think that you are arrogant. That’s all. And you are right, we have a REPRESENTATIVE democracy, which is why a selection committee existed in the first place and it was confirmed by the council. Only one person voted down the selection and the comp package. That one person is an out of touch ideologue. I am an expert on running a non-profit, having done it for 20 years. and I started out working a job at minimum wage. I have experience in both. Check that.

  6. We’ll be able to tell her true connection and commitment to the city if she actually moves into the city limits and not to the burbs like the last chief all the way in Issaquah. If she does, she’s over in my book.

  7. Pingback: Sorting out the opposing pre-K measures on the November ballot | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle