Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant opened her annual People’s Budget town hall Tuesday evening with a central question animating much of the city’s politics this year: “Who is paying and who’s going to pay in the future for this pandemic and the economic collapse that has happened around us?”
In the two-hour virtual town hall, Sawant and many panelists laid out a road map for how they plan to push back against what they term an “austerity budget” for 2021 from Mayor Jenny Durkan over the next month as negotiations continue between the mayor’s office and the city council.
CHS reported earlier on the timeline and issues for the 2021 city budget process here and the push for community-driven participatory budget in Seattle.
Here are 10 things CHS heard Tuesday night:
- Specific issues speakers from the council member’s office and supporters with the mayor’s proposed budget unveiled last month included a failure to defund the Seattle Police Department, to stop sweeps of homeless encampments, and budget cuts to transportation, libraries, and community centers. “Mayor Durkan’s proposed budget attacks working people,” Sawant said.
- Rev. Angela Ying of Bethany United Church of Christ said that Durkan’s budget proposal “imposes the burden on the poor and the most vulnerable, rather than have the wealthy carry their fair share.”
- Instead, Sawant’s office called for a 50% cut to the police budget, $20 million to convert homes to electric heating and retrofitting, and continue grocery voucher programs because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
- They also had several demands for funding Indigenous communities, such as money for next year’s Indigenous People’s Day, a crosswalk across West Marginal Way to the Duwamish Longhouse, and cultural signage in the Licton Springs neighborhood.
- On the homelessness crisis, Sawant called for funding to build eight new tiny house villages, purchasing a Holiday Inn for emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing, and funding hygiene centers. She also wants the city to fund tenant organizing efforts to the tune of $500,000, cancel utility payments for some working people, and hire eviction defense attorneys.
- Castill Hightower, whose brother was killed by Seattle police in 2004, called for greater accountability of law enforcement and better mental health responses during emergency calls, saying “the lack of mental health services made available within the city of Seattle to low-income residents, such as my brother, contributes not only to his life being stolen before the age of 30, but the subsequent and continued refusal to address multiple systematic and institutional failures that have been allowed to continue to this day and are in dire need of change.”
- Sawant’s staffers specifically called out Starbucks, F5, Salesforce, and Amazon as companies that hire heavily in Seattle and are profiting during the pandemic.
- Union ironworker and Socialist Alternative activist Logan Swan called on rank-and-file union members to push their leadership to fight for progressive change: “We have a campaign to lead in the labor movement to develop our organizations into the institutions of class struggle that they’re meant to be.”
- Thursday is the deadline for Sawant’s budget amendments to receive two additional sponsors on the council and supporters will be writing emails and sending letters to council members urging them to support Sawant’s positions. Nick Jones, a staffer in the council member’s office, set a goal of 300-500 emails to the council from residents.
- The council’s budget committee will be voting on amendments to the 2021 budget in mid-November, with the council slated to adopt the budget a few days before Thanksgiving.
You can watch the town hall in full here.
THANKS! WE DID IT! 1,000 CHS SUBSCRIBERS -- We asked, you answered. Thanks for stepping up!
Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.