With plans for ‘a truly community-led public safety model,’ Seattle City Council approves police department cuts

The City Council set what many of its members said is the foundation for broader cuts to the Seattle Police Department Monday by passing a package of budget cuts that will include cutting 100 officers and making new investments in community-based organizations.

The package passed 7-1 with District 3’s Councilmember Kshama Sawant opposed, calling it an “austerity budget,” and Councilmember Debora Juarez, a member who has been critical of vast police budget cuts, excused for the day.

“What’s important today is that we haven’t just said ‘No,’” said citywide Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who chairs the budget committee. “What’s important is that we have said we will walk with you, we will walk with you in community to recreate a truly community-led public safety model. What’s important is that we have not just stood in the way or blocked the road.”

“Today I voted against what is euphemistically called the City Council’s ‘Balancing Package’ to the 2020 budget, because the only balancing that is happening is on the backs of working people, especially in Black and Brown communities,” Sawant said in a statement after the vote.

“With my ‘no’ vote today, 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.

Monday’s vote follows a summer of protest in Seattle as Black Lives Matter demonstrators and community groups have for weeks demanded a reduction of at least 50% from SPD’s budget, a call that received support from a majority of the council.

The council documented the cuts and shifted spending plans in a press release following the vote:

Total initial cuts to SPD’s budget during the summer session are a down-payment for future potential reductions to the SPD budget.  These reductions equate to nearly $4 million in cuts, which actualized over a year will equate to an estimated $11 million.

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Seattle’s weird weekend of protest: Anti-gentrification rally and Uncle Ike’s boycott, pro-police protest at City Hall, ‘Let Us Worship’ concert in Cal Anderson

Friday’s cannabis protest

With reporting by Lena Friedman — CHS Intern

After a summer of protest, this weekend in Seattle might have been the strangest bout of activism yet with a demonstration targeting the city’s marijuana industry and most notorious potrepreneur getting things started and a huge — and hugely reckless — Christian concert in Cal Anderson finishing things off Sunday night.

In between, hundreds of people showed up outside City Hall to protest planned Seattle Police budget cuts, hundreds protested for those cuts and changes — and, by the time it was all over, there was broken glass again on Capitol Hill.

Things started Friday night with activists from Engage Seattle leading an “anti-gentrification rally and Uncle Ike’s boycott” encircling two of the Ian Eisenberg-owned cannabis shops.

“We are gathered here today to boycott Ike’s not because it’s successful, but because we are fed up with the racist lies, the hypocrisy, and the blatant and obvious and visible gentrification,” an organizer said in front of Uncle Ike’s flagship store on 23rd and Union, a prominent intersection where Black people were frequently arrested for selling marijuana and other drugs.

The Uncle Ike’s chain of pot shops continues to attract hundreds of protestors amid a growing campaign centered around racism within the cannabis industry. Continue reading

‘It was a realization that we had an opportunity’ — After months of protest, Seattle’s moment to defund its police force is here — UPDATE: 43%

A massive march continued the call to defund Seattle Police Wednesday

UPDATE 8/6/2020 8:30 AM: The City Council’s budget committee Wednesday set the groundwork for a near halving of what Seattle spends on policing with a plan for layoffs, cuts, and new approaches to be implemented in the coming weeks and months.

“We’ve outlined and identified possible transfers, cuts and reductions in the fall budget to get to a 43% cut to SPD,” public safety and human services chair Tammy Morales said following Wednesday’s budget committee votes. “We look forward to working with community in the upcoming weeks to get us to the guiding principle of defunding SPD by 50% and reinvesting in community.”

As the council committee deliberated Wednesday, thousands marched from the King County youth jail and justice facility on 12th Ave to City Hall in a show of support for the defunding effort. Organizers of the Every Day March vowed Wednesday to continue their efforts to protest and rally in the streets.

With the time needed to meet requirements around most of the planned layoffs, actual savings to the city this year will be minimal. But other pushes forward to reducing the city’s dependence on police will move more quickly. The plan calls for moving around $14 million in early funding to begin building the network of city and nonprofit resources required to move forward on social and community programs hoped to provide non-police solutions. Continue reading

Demonstrators take their message to Chief Best’s home as Seattle City Council looks at smaller 2020 cuts to start process of #defundSPD

A demonstrator from a march this summer that targeted Mayor Durkan’s home

As the Seattle City Council sifts through dozens of piecemeal #defundSPD proposals this week, District 3’s Kshama Sawant has been dealt several early blows in the debate while an activist strategy of targeting the homes of public officials caused a stir Saturday as demonstrators tried to bring their message to SPD Chief Carmen Best’s neighborhood in a “quaint residential community in unincorporated Snohomish County.”

Here’s how the Lynnwood Times described the Saturday night scene:

A crowd of about 200 persons, mostly white men and women in their twenties, were dressed in black with masks and black hoods and carried signs that read “Black Lives Matter.” Black Lives Matter protestors shouted profanity and insults at neighbors, took license plate information on vehicles, took pictures of homes, and asked little kids who lived in the neighborhood what schools they attended.

The arrival of Black Lives Matter on Best’s rural Snohomish County home turf comes as the summer’s debate over how much and how quickly to defund the Seattle Police Department is coming to a head. Continue reading

#defundSPD: Going it alone, Sawant to unveil her proposal for immediate 50% cut to Seattle Police budget — UPDATE

Sawant at a Juneteenth Black Lives Matter march

Seven of Seattle’s nine City Council members have pledged their support for the demands to #defundSPD part of the city’s weeks of Black Lives Matter protests community rallies.

But none have presented a specific plan for cutting SPD’s current 2020 budget while moving the funding to other departments and to fund social and community programs — until now.

Kshama Sawant, the District 3 council member representing Capitol Hill and the Central District at CIty Hall, will go it alone and unveil her unilateral proposal Thursday morning for a 50% cut to SPD.

Sawant’s office says the representative, chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, will formally introduce new amendments at Friday’s council budget committee meeting that would cut tens of millions from SPD’s remaining 2020 budget.

“The amendments incorporate the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands that the remaining 2020 Seattle Police budget be cut by 50%, with those funds invested in Black and Brown working-class communities,” the announcement reads. Continue reading

King County Equity Now calls for ‘Defund the Police’ support — UPDATE: August 10th

(Image: Andrew Jacob Media / @meadedawg with permission to CHS)

Now is the time for Seattle residents to take action who say they support the Black Lives Matter movement but couldn’t get behind CHOP, the protests, or property destruction.

King County Equity Now, the coalition of Black-led organizations including the Central District’s Africatown that has been calling on Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the city to meet a roster of goals including creating a $1 billion “anti-gentrification, land acquisition fund” and halving the Seattle Police budget to pay for social and services and community programs, is asking for support and advocacy as the Seattle City Council prepares its final rebalancing of the city’s 2020 budget and prepares for a major vote on the plan Monday. UPDATE: The final vote is being delayed a week and will now be held Monday, August 10th.

Don’t wait to speak up.

Wednesday, the council will renew its debate on addressing #defundSPD goals as its budget committee holds its final meeting before Monday August 10th’s big vote on rebalancing the city’s spending plan for 2020.

Although a Seattle City Council majority has committed to the long-term goals of defunding SPD by 50%, the path to getting there will be set this week and in Monday’s vote. You should add your voice.


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Durkan, Best counter with 2021 #defundSPD proposal — UPDATE

Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best say they have a plan to “transfer current law enforcement functions out of the Seattle Police Department” and make “preliminary reductions to the 2021 budget” as most members of the Seattle City Council have now said they will support #defundSPD initiatives as they set cuts to the city’s spending plan in the face of the COVDI-19 economic crisis.

Durkan and Best said they would unveil the plan at a Monday morning news conference.

UPDATE 10:25 AM: In the session with media, Durkan said she is focusing on a plan for $76 million in cuts to SPD in 2021 — about a third of the #defundSPD 50% goal. Durkan said the plan will call for $56 million of that cut coming from moving the 911 call center out of SPD as well as moving parking enforcement to the Seattle Department of Transportation. The city’s Office of Emergency Management and the Office of Police Accountability, the department’s oversight body, would also be moved to civilian control as part of the $56 million transfer.

Calling the demand for a 50% cut “arbitrary,” Durkan said she does not intend to meet the calls for a massive cut to SPD starting immediately.

Durkan announced Monday she has allocated $500,000 in the 2020 rebalanced budget for community engagement on the SPD budget and citywide work “to reimagine community safety.”

“The programs take time,” Durkan said.

If the council votes to approve a major, immediate slash of SPD’s budget, Durkan said she will fight it.

“I will veto it,” the mayor said. “We want to work with council for a responsible process to do this.” Continue reading

Seven of nine Seattle City Council members pledge #defundSPD support

(Image: CHS)

Seven of the nine Seattle City Council members say they will support the effort to reduce the Seattle Police budget by 50%, the key component of demands from activists and community groups after weeks of Black Lives Matter protests, marches, and rallies in the Pacific Northwest.

The important threshold would represent a veto-proof majority on any council action as the representatives shape major changes to the city’s budget in the face of predictions of a significant downturn in revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis — a rebalancing process planned to be finalized and voted on in the next two weeks.

CHS reported on Wednesday’s council budget committee session’s deep dive into SPD spending and the strong support for #defundSPD voiced during public testimony. Massively reducing spending on policing has been at the center of demands during weeks of protests and demonstrations around Seattle in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

“We’ve seen a lot of unrest over the last six weeks, much of it built upon generations of struggle for Black liberation,” activist and lawyer Nikkita Oliver said in a media conference hosted Thursday by the two coalitions driving the #defundSPD effort and a spending plan for the diverted funds “We are, though, at a very significant moment as this movement continues to grow and seeing the discussion of defund the police be more than a chant in the street.” Continue reading

City Council hears proposals for Seattle Police changes, strong public support for #defundSPD during budget deliberations

With reporting by Lena Friedman — CHS Intern

The Seattle City Council continued its inquest into the Seattle Police Department budget Wednesday with organizers outlining suggested cuts and changes that could include overhauling the way the department handles 911 emergency calls and how money should be reinvested into the Black community.

Nearly 45,000 people have signed a petition in line with demands from protesters of systemic racism and police brutality, which include defunding the SPD by 50%, redirecting money into community solutions, and freeing protesters arrested during demonstrations, according to a presentation from Decriminalize Seattle. Four council members, including Kshama Sawant, have indicated support for cutting the SPD budget in half and others have said they support some reductions.

“We’re talking about dramatically changing what it means to create a public safety network,” Teresa Mosqueda, who chairs the council’s budget committee and has said she supports a 50% redirection of the SPD budget, said Wednesday. “We know that this world we are currently working within is not actually creating the health and safety that’s been promised.”

Wednesday, Mosqueda and her council counterparts heard strong support for the defunding efforts during public comment on the deliberations. Massively reducing spending on policing has been at the center of demands during weeks of protests and demonstrations around Seattle in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

The debate over how exactly to #defundSPD will come to a head as the council reshapes the mayor office proposal for changes to the city’s budget in the face of the expected COVID-19 economic crisis. The council is scheduled to hold a final vote on the rebalance on July 20th.

Angélica Cházaro, a law professor at the University of Washington and organizer with Decriminalize Seattle, said cuts to the SPD could come from various aspects of the department, including cutting its training budget, freezing hiring, and reducing patrol staff, among ten specific cuts that could be made. Continue reading

Seattle City Council debates tax on big business to bridge COVID-19 budget gap as #defundSPD waits in wings

The push for Black Lives Matters and #defundSPD goals beyond 12th and Pine moved back into the Seattle City Council’s chambers Wednesday with the political battles to reshape the city’s budget in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis moved to the next stage overshadowed by SPD’s morning clearance of the protest zone around the East Precinct,

The #defundSPD budget fight is set to shape up as the council’s budget committee digs in on Mayor Jenny Durkan proposal to make $20 million in midyear cuts to the Seattle Police Department budget — about 5% of the department’s $409 million budget.

This week’s debate will be centered on filling the expected massive hit to tax revenues brought about by the COVID-19 crisis as the council works to shape Teresa Mosqueda’s plan for a tax on big businesses to help Seattle overcome its forecasted budget shortfalls due to COVID-19 and to fund affordable housing, equitable development, and economic support for small businesses. The session will include discussion of more than 20 proposed amendments to the proposal. Continue reading