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Passage of Mid-Year 2020 Budget

Last week, following the first summer budget session in recent memory, the City Council has done something no Seattle City Council has ever done—passed a mid-year budget revision, while working remotely, during overlapping health, homelessness and housing crises. It would have been easy to rubber stamp the Mayor’s proposed budget package, but instead, we rolled up our sleeves and did the hard work.

This summer, Council worked on several budget measures that centered equity, anti-austerity, transparency, and collaboration, including: We identified early on that we would not succumb to an austerity budget that pitted vital programs and services against one another, and we came together collectively to put workers and communities first in our mid-year budget. We knew there would be tough choices, but ultimately we crafted a budget that addresses the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, made new investments in our social safety nets including homelessness prevention and COVID relief for families, made a meaningful down payment following community’s calls to defund SPD, and raised new progressive revenue through the JumpStart Seattle plan

Read my full release on the passage of a mid-year budget here.

JumpStart Veto Override

 In the interest of acting quickly and collaboratively, I brought an amended COVID relief bill for consideration by Council following our override of the Mayor’s veto of the COVID relief bill. This amended bill recognizes the recent revenue forecast and creates stability for the emergency funds by replenishing those funds in full with the payroll tax.

Last Monday, when Council passed a rebalanced 2020 budget, we also found out that there was a new $26 million shortfall in the City’s 2020 budget. In consultation with Mayor’s office, we worked to find ways to address this additional shortfall of $26 million. To ensure that we’re moving in tandem to get immediate COVID emergency needs out the door as quickly as possible as we also account for the COVID impacts to the City budget, we included an amendment to open up revenue options to fill this $26 million shortfall. We do this by redirecting that amount from our proposed COVID relief spending to address the newly identified budget shortfall, while retaining large investments in critical programs to support small business relief, housing stability, food assistance, and immigrant and refugee supports.

Combined with the redirection of the $3 million for community-led research and participatory budgeting, this amendment would still leave nearly $60 million for vital COVID relief programs in 2020. That includes $12 million for small business support; $24 million for immediate housing stability investments; $9 million for food assistance; and $12 million to provide relief for our immigrant and refugee neighbors. 

I will continue to work with the Mayor’s office, my colleagues, and community to make sure funds are spent this year for this critical relief for our community members who are being hit hard by COVID—because those who are struggling to stay in their homes, put food on the table for their families, or hold on to their small businesses can’t wait.

Seattle, Like Many Cities, Responding to the Call to Reimagine Public Safety

In the aftermath of protests around police brutality spurred by George Floyd’s killing, the City Council listened to our constituents and came to the conclusion that we must do more than commit once again to simply reforming our police department and instead truly reimagine what public safety should mean in Seattle. The conversation about reimagining public safety has always been about an institution, never any individual. Our efforts have been focused on starting a longer-term process to reimagine public safety and community investments to create a safer and healthier Seattle, and redirect calls that about non-criminal activity away from sworn personnel.

Seattle is not alone in exploring conversations about re-envisioning policing - many large cities across the country have already begun not only exploring, but also implementing fundamental changes. Examples include cities like New York which voted to reduce funding by $1 billion, Austin Texas voted last week to reduce their police force by $150 million, and San Francisco is voting to reduce police funding by $120 million - just to name a few of the multiple cities considering similar actions.

As stated repeatedly over the past few months, we believe that reallocating some funding away from the police department and toward programs that serve the community is just the first step in a much longer, more involved process of re-imagining policing and public safety in our city. In reality, the Council actually voted to take a less than 1% reduction of the budget during this summer budget session (see summary below for details). This small amount is a result of having the Seattle Police Department directly participate in our conversations at the budget committee table on June 10 and July 8, reviewing the letters and reports we received, and having them provide a robust walk-through of the current budget status, including explanations about budget line-items that had already been overspent by mid-year.

Out of a $409 million budget, the Council voted to reduce the SPD budget by just $3 million this year, and the Mayor reduced it by $20 million. The cuts the City Council took are short-term budget actions - meaning just for the remainder of 2020. We took initial steps towards establishing a long-term budget planning by funding a community participatory budgeting process for this fall in response to calls for transforming our public safety model. Our lengthy budget conversations this summer were focused on developing a process to identify which services we have asked our officers to handle that should instead be shouldered by non-sworn personnel: things like mental health counseling, case management, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance and more given that 56% of all 911 calls in Seattle are for non-criminal matters.

Like many Seattle residents, I think it is unfortunate to hear of Chief Best’s departure, and I thanked her for her many years of service. As I discussed with KUOW, it’s important to clarify that the discussion the City Council had and the questions we looked into over the last few months were never about the Chief or any specific individual. It has always been about an institution. Transformational change and righting historic wrongs cannot be put one person’s shoulders, not on any Chief or individual officer. Further, the Council never issued a directive to fire the newest, diverse recruits as has been erroneously stated. Over one third of the one hundred positions would be reduced by attrition only. The rest would have to be negotiated, and we took care to include a directive to pursue “out-of-order reductions” and consider healthcare and retirement offers for those who may be interested based on conversations I had directly with sworn officers (see details in Sec 4). The work to transform public safety will require leaders from across our city to work together collaboratively and transparently over the coming months.  We look forward to working with community leaders, Mayor Durkan, Chief Best and Interim Chief Diaz on building a new community-based public safety model together that keeps everyone in Seattle safe.

Below is a comprehensive summary of what was passed by City Council in relation to the police department budget in 2020, with more robust community engagement to come for 2021 and beyond.  As outlined in the bills adopted last week, we remain committed to creating a new civilian-led Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention, civilianizing the 911 system, and diverting some police funding to community organizations to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations and create new systems of community safety outside the police department - among other initiatives. The conversations we are having are not easy, but I will continue to strive to make sure that they are focused on institutional change and informed by data, which shows less officers does not yield more crime. 

The goal is transformational change that (1) ensures every single Seattle resident has a system of law enforcement that truly puts their public safety first, (2) that we reduce the work we’ve asked officers to take on that should be done by mental health providers, social workers, and case managers, and (3) that we invest upstream in housing, education and job opportunities that create greater stability and safety for communities. These conversations cannot happen in one short budget session, as they will take many conversations with diverse voices in the community. As we work to establish additional changes in the coming months, we will ensure that this process is transparent — allowing greater community input and with full consideration of the racial and class failings that have caused harm. We are committed to doing this right and to doing this together.

Council Recess

After months of hard work to address unprecedented issues facing the city, the City Council is going into our regular mid-year recess beginning August 24th. We’ll have limited office hours between August 24th through September 7th and may take a bit longer than usual to respond. We’ll be back in action on September 8th, with a City Council meeting in the afternoon.
In solidarity,
Teresa Mosqueda
#BlackLivesMatter

Seattle City Council Councilmember, Position 8
teresa.mosqueda@seattle.gov
206-684-8806
Copyright © 2020 Seattle City Council, All rights reserved.


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