The Seattle City Council will take a swing Tuesday in the ongoing fight to redirect spending on policing to community programs and social services in the city by either overriding Mayor Jenny Durkan’s veto of its defunding legislation passed in August — or forging a compromise bill that will preserve only a few key #defundSPD planks. Either way, the step will make any road to changing the Seattle Police Department a longer journey.
The council has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday afternoon starting at 3 PM to vote on the possible override of the mayoral veto of the council’s rebalanced 2020 budget package. To get there under the rules of budgetary legislation, that will mean seven of the nine council members will need to vote to override.
Council president Lorena González will lead the charge saying Monday she intends to vote to override the mayor’s vetoes but also acknowledging the compromise package waiting in the wings.
“We may not always agree or win every battle, but I believe many of us share the same vision of collective liberation that is (and will be) on the right side of history,” González said. “The work to divest from a broken model of policing will be a long road, and it will be full of challenges.”
Monday, community groups called for the council to side together to override Durkan and support the original cuts.
“We reject this surrender to Mayor Jenny Durkan and question the motives behind it,” the King County Equity Now Group said in a statement. “We urge Seattle Council members to override the Mayor’s veto outright. To for the first time stand on the right side of history and for Black people and reject the Mayor’s expected anti-Black obstructionism.”
An entirely non-Black @SeattleCouncil is introducing a bill that guts efforts to divest from policing & invest in Black community. Ignoring calls from 1000s & 1000s of Black community members & capitulating to a wealthy white mayor is unacceptable. It is anti-Black.
— King County Equity Now (Official) (@KCEquityNow) September 21, 2020
The 43rd District Democrats also joined the call. “In June our members voted overwhelmingly in favor of defunding the Seattle Police Department by 50% and reallocating those funds towards community safety,” the group said in a statement. “We call on Andrew Lewis, Dan Strauss, Kshama Sawant, Teresa Mosqueda, and M. Lorena González to vote to override Mayor Durkan’s veto.”
District 3 leader Kshama Sawant representing Capitol Hill and the Central District is on the side of the override. “As a socialist, I’ll be voting to override corporate Mayor Durkan’s shameful veto of the August budget vote,” Sawant said Monday. “If Councilmembers do not override Durkan’s veto, it’ll be nothing but a capitulation on even the tiny reductions in police spending & other modest gains our movement won.”
In August, Sawant was the lone councilmember to vote against the package calling it an “austerity budget” with the only balancing happening “on the backs of working people, especially in Black and Brown communities.” “With my ‘no’ vote today,” she said in August, “I affirm our movement’s unchanging demands: Defund SPD by at least 50% and tax big business and the rich, not working people, because we can’t pay and we won’t pay for this crisis – this crisis of the racist and bankrupt system of capitalism,” the Sawant statement concluded. CHS reported here on Sawant’s 50% proposal. No other council members joined her in support of the immediate 50% cut.
In the August approval following weeks of Black Lives Matter protests and activism at CHOP, across the city, and across the nation, the Seattle council voted seven to one for a package of cuts and changes that falls well short of the 50% goal but advocates say would put the city on the path toward a more significant change in the way it polices its people. The series of mid-year budget rebalancing measures passed amount to less than $4 million and would cut of about 100 sworn personnel, either through layoffs or expected attrition, with some reductions targeted in certain units, such as harbor patrol, SWAT, and the Navigation Team that sweeps homeless encampments.
Durkan immediately vetoed the legislation in favor of her more modest spending reductions centered around moving the 911 call center out of SPD as well as shifts including moving parking enforcement to the Seattle Department of Transportation — as well as avoiding layoffs and maintaining elements like the Nav Team.
Along the way, SPD Chief Carmen Best resigned her post in the wake of the City Council’s vote,
The new proposal (above) waiting in the wings should the override fail has been been forged in the weeks following the mayor’s veto and shaped by compromises with the Durkan administration and the reality that time has nearly run out on making changes in 2020. It would build on the mayor’s spending reductions and add small pieces of the community spending added in the August bill. Instead of $14 million for community organizations, the bill would provide around $2.5 million. Instead of $3 million to support a participatory budget process for police and public safety in 2021, it earmarks $1 million. And so on. Seattle City Council Insight has more on the compromise bill here.
González also said Monday it is nearly time to look ahead. Next week, the deliberations over the city’s 2021-2022 budget will begin.
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