Seattle starts ball rolling on process to sort out spending plan for expected $239M in American Rescue Plan Act funds

A resolution passed by the Seattle City Council Monday spells out our local legislators’ priorities for how to spend an expected $239 million in federal aid for COVID-19 recovery under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The council passed the resolution Monday including nine priorities:

• Vaccines and testing
• Food assistance
• Homelessness and housing services (including rental assistance)
• Immigrant and refugee support
• Child care
• Small businesses, worker assistance, and workforce recovery
• Community wellbeing
• Transportation
• Revenue replacement and financial resilience

“With additional federal funding, we can address the deep needs our community has, including addressing food security, childcare affordability and closures, small business support, and housing and rent relief,” said council Finance and Housing Committee chair Teresa Mosqueda said in a press release on the vote. “The funding decision must address immediate needs as well as long-term equitable economic recovery.” Continue reading

Washington Build Back Black Alliance forms to ‘speak with one voice’ in Olympia at Seattle City Hall

When Paula Sardinas moved to Washington, she noticed that despite lawmakers’ rhetoric, “Black Lives Matter” was not reflected in policy.

Sardinas, president of a government relations firm, said she’s been advocating for equity in Olympia, but has always come up against better-funded special interests, noting specific fights in the cannabis industry that activists have argued has kept out Black business owners. So she asked herself: “How can we create a concentric circle which centers around social and equitable racial justice in policy and bring all the members to the table?”

Sardinas and colleagues hope they have answered this question by forming the Washington Build Back Black Alliance this fall, which includes members from Tacoma to the Tri-Cities, to both develop policies and give feedback on existing legislation that could affect the wellbeing of Black people.

“Every piece of policy we draft we need to ask ourselves one simple question: Does this hurt or advance the cause of Black lives and if it does, how is it helping us to create generational wealth and equity,” Sardinas told CHS this week. “If a bill or piece of legislation doesn’t answer those two questions, then why are we hearing the bill?”

Some elements of the group’s 2021 agenda are already taking shape. Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled his equity plan for the state’s next budget including “$365M for equity-related decision packages and budget items.”

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Override: Seattle City Council overcomes mayor’s veto of 2020 cuts to police budget — UPDATE

Note: Councilmember Juarez did not appear via video and spoke only during votes in Tuesday’s session

The Seattle City Council voted Tuesday to override Mayor Jenny Durkan’s veto of a 2020 budget rebalancing package that marked the immediate start of funding reductions for the police department with cuts of the salaries of 100 officers and the elimination of the Navigation Team that clears homeless encampments.

Going into the meeting, the council appeared likely to instead pass what it considered a compromise with the mayor’s office that scaled back the already modest reductions in the initial measure that council members had called a “down payment” on the way to deeper cuts to police funding. The move came as large-scale demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality dominated conversation in the city. Protest leaders have called for an at least 50% cut to the Seattle Police Department budget, which totaled $409 million in 2020. Seven of the nine council members indicated support for such a reduction.

While council members Kshama Sawant, Teresa Mosqueda, Andrew Lewis, Dan Strauss, Lisa Herbold, and Tammy Morales as well as Council President Lorena González voted to override the mayor’s veto, council members Debora Juarez and Alex Pedersen voted to sustain it.

Sawant was the only member to vote against the original bill in August, calling it an “austerity budget” and Juarez was absent.

Seven votes were needed to overcome the mayor’s vetoes.

“When I look back in this moment in time, I want to be able to tell my daughter, who I am currently holding in my arms, that I did the right thing and that I voted on the right side of history,” González said. “My vote today to override the mayor’s veto is one action to move our city toward a more just society.”

UPDATE: “At the end of the day, after previous promises of a 50 percent cut to SPD, the reductions to the SPD budget are almost exactly those proposed by the Mayor and former Chief Best, but none of the other issues Council admitted are problems have been addressed,” Kelsey Nyland, spokesperson for Durkan’s office, said in a statement after the vote. “For weeks, the Mayor has worked with Council and offered solutions in an attempt to find common ground. The Mayor thought they had built that consensus on many issues in the compromise legislation introduced yesterday. While councilmembers have publicly stated they wanted to work with Mayor Durkan to address issues in the 2020 budget, they chose a different path.”

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