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Participatory budgeting? Not yet but Seattle City Council to hold public hearing on 2021 spending plan and police cuts

It’s nowhere near participatory budgeting but Tuesday night will bring an opportunity for Seattle citizens to speak out on the city’s 2021 spending plan. The Seattle City Council is holding a public hearing — the first of two this month — as it works to shape Mayor Jenny Durkan’s $6.5 billion proposal:

Select Budget Committee Public Hearing
Tuesday, October 6th 5:30 PM

The Select Budget Committee will conduct a public hearing to solicit public comment on: (1) the City’s 2021 General Revenue Sources, including a possible property tax levy increase; and (2) the Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget and 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Program.

Register online to speak during the Public Hearing at the 5:30
p.m. Select Budget Committee meeting at
http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment.

Online registration to speak at the Select Budget Committee
meeting will begin two hours before the 5:30 p.m. meeting start
time, and registration will end at the conclusion of the Public
Hearing during the meeting. Speakers must be registered in order
to be recognized by the Chair.

Submit written comments to Councilmembers at
council@seattle.gov
Sign-up to provide Public Comment at the meeting at
http://www.seattle.gov/council/committees/public-comment

Watch live streaming video of the meeting at
http://www.seattle.gov/council/watch-council-live

Listen to the meeting by calling the Council Chamber Listen Line
at 253-215-8782 Meeting ID: 586 416 9164
One Tap Mobile No. US: +12532158782,,5864169164#

Durkan’s proposal cuts police funding by 12%, adds record homelessness spending, and makes brutal decisions for the next year under COVID-19 like keeping the city’s libraries shuttered through next summer.

The proposal would also bring forward the plan surfaced by Durkan and then-SPD Chief Carmen Best over the summer to remove the 140 employee-strong 911 call center from SPD and create a new Seattle Emergency Communications Center to save over $18 million; transfer the department’s parking enforcement squad, which has 120 employees, into the Seattle Department of Transportation, which would save over $14 million; and make the Office of Emergency Management with its 14 employees an independent office to save almost $2.5 million.

SPD was budgeted for 2,187.35 full-time employees in 2020. The proposal from the mayor budgets the department for 1,853.05, a decrease of over 334 employees.

The City Council is pushing for larger cuts after Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle called for at least a 50% reduction in the police budget.

Its members have also pushed forward on efforts to shape a community-driven budgeting system in the city, approving $3 million in funding to begin development of a participatory budgeting process. King County Equity Now, meanwhile, has launched a “Black Brilliance Project,” a team of over 100 community members, to lay the groundwork for participatory budgeting over the next couple months with public safety and racial equity research.

Participatory budgeting is “a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget,” according to the Participatory Budgeting Project, a nonprofit that champions the initiatives:

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget. It gives people real power over real money. PB started in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989, as an anti-poverty measure that helped reduce child mortality by nearly 20%. Since then PB has spread to over 7,000 cities around the world, and has been used to decide budgets from states, counties, cities, housing authorities, schools, and other institutions. The New York Times calls PB “revolutionary civics in action”— it deepens democracy, builds stronger communities, and creates a more equitable distribution of public resources.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, who called Durkan’s proposal an “austerity budget,” will again host her annual People’s Budget process later this month on October 20th. Last year, a budget priority from the process to cut funding for the city’s Navigation Team did not find support on the council.

A second City Council public hearing on the 2021 budget process is scheduled for October 27th.


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One thought on “Participatory budgeting? Not yet but Seattle City Council to hold public hearing on 2021 spending plan and police cuts

  1. Interesting tidbit. The parking enforcement workers sent a letter to at least one of the council members that they would prefer to go to a new department organized around safety.

    THAT gets pretty good. 911, parking enforcement, emergency management, diversion services, youth safety programs, what else?

    (it was mentioned in last week’s grueling budget overviews that I listened to with one ear)

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