HERBOLD: Her view on the 2020 Rebalanced budget
District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold shared her views on the recent veto override vote on the 2020 rebalancing budget for the City of Seattle.
At a Special Council meeting on Tuesday September 22nd, I joined most of my colleagues in overriding the Mayor’s veto of Council's approved 2020 rebalancing budget. My vote was not taken lightly. I had participated in conversations about an alternate bill, in the hopes of coming to agreement with the Executive. However, the Executive’s offer did not make either the important investments nor targeted, strategic changes to the 2020 budget that Council made through CB 119825.
The alternative bill short-changed community members and organizations who have the expertise we need to build community safety, by proposing a mere $3.5 million investment instead of the $17 million Council had appropriated. The $2 million the Mayor proposed for investment in violence prevention and crisis intervention is wholly inadequate to the need, given the increase in gun violence that Seattle is experiencing. With the veto, Council appropriates the full $17 million:
- $4 million to scale up gun-violence intervention and prevention that is necessary for true community safety efforts like the work of BIPOC led organizations like Community Passageways, Urban Family, SE Safety Network Hub Boys & Girls Club, and the Alive & Free Program – YMCA.
- $10 million to grow the capacity of organizations that respond to 911 crisis calls; provide support beyond crisis intervention to criminalized populations; and interrupt and prevent violence.
- $3 million for a community-led research process that will help build true community safety and launch a true participatory budget process, that offers a place at the table for everyone who has a stake in the outcome: community members who have been driving the work on community safety, kids, the undocumented, folks experiencing homelessness, the business community and others.
Council can’t force the Mayor to spend these dollars. But I plea with her to do so.
Further, the alternative bill took off the table any and all of the targeted reductions of 100 FTEs in the Seattle Police Department. Specifically, the 2020 rebalancing package called for 38 FTE reductions, suggested from specific specialty units, that will take several months to bargain and implement. Of the 38 FTE reductions, there are already 15 vacancies in these units, meaning the reductions will only result in – again, only after being successfully bargained – the net loss of 23 officers across these six specialty units.
The vetoed bill also included a 32 FTE general patrol reductions; I was surprised to learn that this also was off the table for compromise considering the list of 24 officers kept on the “Brady List” by the King County Prosecutor and City Attorney’s Office. I hope, moving forward, the Executive will support efforts to seek out of order layoffs for these officers who, because of their record of dishonesty, racial bias, criminal charges, and convictions cannot fulfill their obligations as police officers. Prosecutors are unwilling to file charges on arrests they make because defense attorneys can impeach their testimony.
While the Executive indicates they are open to changes in the Navigation Team operations that will result in more community safety, fewer encampment removals, and better services for people living unsheltered, they were unwilling to commit to putting their new approach in writing. The Council’s approved budget increases the City’s investment in contracted providers who will do outreach and engagement with people living in encampments and focus on encampment locations that the City identifies as high hazard locations or obstructions of the public right of way. I hope the Executive will act quickly to expand existing contracts with these providers.
I maintain my optimism that Council and the Mayor can turn the page on this and forge a path forward together in 2021 budget discussions. I, and the City of Seattle, are indebted to the tens of thousands of people who have participated in this discussion by writing, calling, providing comment, and marching day after day. This is the beginning of the conversation and the investment of $3 million by this Council to begin a participatory budget process, which was upheld this week, will ensure a true community process that redefines community safety. I will work to ensure that process centers Black and Brown communities who have been, and continue to be, most affected by our current system. To the business community who is asking to also be at the table, Participatory Budgeting is designed for everyone to participate, including you.