Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoed legislation from the Seattle City Council that aimed to reduce the size of the police department and shift money to community groups, saying that the council had not thought through the impact of their revisions.
In the same press conference, Durkan also mentioned that she and Council President Lorena Gonzalez had arrived at a compromise on a previous spending bill that the mayor vetoed at the end of July that would have directed more than $80 million in COVID relief to low-income households in Seattle.
That has been cut to about $21.25 million in 2020 and $23.75 million in 2021, leaving rainy-day funds for an even rainier day. According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, “[T]his joint plan leaves more than $50 million available to address the 2020 and 2021 budget shortfalls or any unplanned emergencies.”
“I think the deal we reached on emergency spending is a really important step to show that when we do collaborate, we care for the benefit of all Seattle,” Durkan said, in one of many times in the press conference in which she emphasized the need for the Mayor’s Office and City Council to work together.
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who championed the original plan, lamented the fact that more wasn’t being done, but said in a press release that “we cannot wait another day” to get money out into the community.
“We know direct investments into our community, via small business, housing, food, and childcare, is a proven way to reduce the length of a recession and jumpstart our economy,” Mosqueda said.
The statements carefully expressed disappointment, hope and ultimately civility as councilmembers and the mayor recognized their differences and promised to work together in the future.
Ultimately, the council’s actions — now vetoed, days before a two-week recess — mostly preserved Durkan’s rebalancing package for the 2020 budget, which took an estimated $326 million hit when the coronavirus lockdown and subsequent economic slowdown deprived businesses of revenue and the city of tax dollars.
Councilmembers also attempted to take a scalpel to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) budget in a series of spending reductions guided with provisos which require some kind of work product before money is released.
That would have meant between 70 and 100 police officers leaving the force through potential layoffs, retirements or seeking new positions outside the city. Councilmembers also took aim at pay for SPD’s command staff and tried to end funding in SPD and the Human Services Department for the Navigation Team, a controversial mix of police and outreach workers meant to clear problematic encampments and — ideally — connect people with resources.
However, homeless advocates say that the Navigation Team has not lived up to its promise and should be disbanded.
Finally, Durkan also vetoed $17 million in spending meant to be directed toward community-led organizations building up alternatives to policing and a research initiative that was meant to take place during the summer.
Also at the Aug. 21 press conference, Durkan reiterated her position that there will still be a place for police in the city, even as electeds turn toward expanded solutions like Health One, which responds to behavioral health issues downtown and in Pioneer Square, among other programs.
“We need to reimagine policing for communities, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where we need traditional, armed police,” Durkan said.
The City Council could still overturn the mayoral veto, as they did in mid-August when they moved to save the legislation to get money out the door to community members.
They have 30 days after the veto to take action.
And then, they get to come back to the table with the mayor’s proposed 2021 budget, which is expected in September with a final vote by November, and start the process all over again.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more in the Aug. 26 - Sept. 1, 2020 issue.