In the same tradition as the abolitionists of previous eras who banded together to dismantle chattel enslavement and Jim Crow, we as the Seattle Solidarity Budget are a coalition of groups and individuals who have come together under the banner of the moral imperative of our era — the abolition of criminalization and all of the institutions that are interwoven through it.
We formed in 2020 during the uprisings sparked in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, after Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) and at the onset of the Defund movement. We were able to build upon many years of organizing around the city’s spending priorities, including work by Decriminalize Seattle.
We emerged as a direct response to Mayor Jenny Durkan attempting to pit various groups against each other to fight over crumbs in the city’s budget.
A little about our principles: We work along the tested principle from the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which is 75% build and 25% deconstruct. Time and again, movements have experienced the vacuum that opens when a resistance victory occurs, but what fills this void? Following in the footsteps of previous organizers, it’s our aim to make sure that what takes the place of the harmful practices and institutions that are dismantled are instead the practices and institutions our people want and need.
Many of the problems people face in our society are entrenched in the system of criminalization, whether that be substance abuse disorder, behavioral health disorder, being unhoused or experiencing poverty. Many of the “solutions” involve working directly or indirectly with cops, courts and cages to bar access to basic needs being met, control people and their choices, keep them under surveillance or further punish them. The result? The creation of a subordinated class of people.
Additionally, the current form of the system within the capitalist structure seeks to pit our groups against one another for scraps and pittances, while the wealthy few benefit from the suffering and sweat of everyone else. We work to interrupt all of those processes by flipping the script on how things are done, with whom they are done and why they are done. We reject the notion that cops, courts and cages must have any part in people accessing and benefiting from their basic needs being met.
It’s our belief the city’s budget is a moral document, a statement of priorities of what Seattle sees as important and worthy of investment and what it doesn’t. Currently, the city chooses to spend about a quarter of our General Fund on the Seattle Police Department (SPD) — a department with a clear history of abusive, discriminatory practices. Beyond that, it chooses to spend at least a third of our General Fund on carceral punishment systems, including the Seattle Municipal Court, jail costs and the criminal section of the City Attorney’s Office. That’s a large amount of money every year on cruel and destabilizing sweeps of those who are unhoused and on a system that actively works towards criminalizing poverty, substance use disorder and mental health disorders instead of fully funding public health approaches to these issues.
We believe true safety and well-being come from guaranteeing people’s basic needs are met. These needs should be met without using the criminal legal system as an entry point for receiving resources and services. People shouldn’t be sorted into categories of deserving and undeserving — everyone deserves food, shelter, medical care and everything else they need to thrive in community with one another. Everyone deserves to have their fundamental humanity respected. We want to prioritize community, care and solidarity instead of punishment.
That’s why this year we’re organizing around guarantees based on nine different needs concerning standards of living and quality of life: income, housing, health, transportation, communication, climate action and resilience, care, food and a living wage.
In order to pay for these guarantees in the budget, we have a two-pronged approach. First, we wish to divest from the carceral punishment system that currently takes up more than a third of the General Fund. This includes removing the corruption of at least 213 “ghost cop” positions from SPD (these are positions SPD has no plan or intention to fill). These phantom positions give SPD a slush fund every year to spend on bad ideas like ShotSpotter, now branded as SoundThinking, which is an invasive and ineffective surveillance technology already voted down by the Seattle City Council several times in the past.
Second, we want to adopt new progressive revenue sources that can help fund our guarantees and address the looming budget shortfall we’ll be facing next year. The Revenue Stabilization Work Group delivered a report earlier this summer that provides an excellent starting point for looking at options, but we need to develop a plan and implement it now so new funds will be available in time to address the gap in funding. In order to do this, council members will need to be encouraged not to embrace an austerity budget in years to come.
That’s why we’re calling on our Seattle community to join our fight. Ready to answer the call? The next opportunity to tell the City Council what you’d like to see in the budget is Wednesday, Oct. 18, starting at 5 p.m.
You can call in remotely to give public comments. Tell our City Council members which guarantees mean the most to you; ask them to remove money from SPD’s corrupt budget and support new progressive revenue so all of us can thrive into the future. And if you can, join us for our public comment writing workshop the evening of Oct. 16!
If you are interested in learning more about Seattle Solidarity Budget, getting more information about our upcoming public comment workshop, seeing public comment scripts or volunteering with us, please visit our website at seattlesolidaritybudget.com.
Read more of the Oct. 11-17, 2023 issue.