An Interview with the Mayor

Also a KCEN survey, this week's Council Briefing, and next week's veto discussions

Not quite as much happening this week, but there are still a few things to note.

King County Equity Now is currently asking anyone who is a resident of King County to take a survey about their research program regarding public safety. It’s a quick five minutes to fill it out.

The City Council Briefing didn’t involve discussion about public safety this week.

The Council should be discussing the vetoed 2020 revised budget next Monday the 21st. The next Public Safety & Human Resources committee meeting will be on Tuesday the 22nd. The Mayor’s proposed 2021 budget is expected on Tuesday, September 29.

What can we expect next week in regards to that veto? The Council has two options at this point: to reach a deal with the Mayor that still results in a balanced budget or to overturn the veto. Here’s an interview with Council President Gonzalez in which she speaks of her hope of reaching a compromise. It’s hard to say exactly what the details of any deal between the Council and the Mayor might be, although I don’t see the Mayor budging on the Navigation Team or indeed, on any officer layoffs whatsoever beyond what they might achieve by attrition. If you would like the Council to overturn the veto or if you have ideas about what concessions would make a deal more acceptable (prioritizing community investment, for example), now is the time to write to your CMs to share your views. What happens next week will set the tone for the ensuing conversation about the 2021 budget.

Today Crosscut held an interview with Mayor Durkan, led by journalist David Kroman.

I much preferred this format to the usual press conferences and was pleased by the caliber of questions asked. In terms of “re-imagining policing,” a buzz phrase from the summer, Mayor Durkan appears to have two main goals: a change to crowd control policies (which are also being called into question by the OPA/OIG/CPC trifecta and the demands of the consent decree) and a revamp of the 911 response system to include the possibility of response by people other than armed police officers. It seems like she doesn’t necessarily expect to fully achieve either within the next year but hopes to make progress in these two directions.

Aside from that, as per usual she prefers to focus on her commitment of $100m to Black and Brown communities in 2021, and she said we should expect to see that commitment fulfilled in her proposed 2021 budget. While I’m pleased about the allocation of these resources, it is worrisome that while she repeatedly states systemic racism is a problem in policing and criminal justice, and that this needs to be dismantled, she is unwilling to speak of how to achieve greater police accountability within the SPD.

It is worth noting that new research shows no evidence implicit bias training, mental health training, the use of body cameras, or community representation in policing are effective in reducing police violence. (H/t to Campaign Zero for compiling the research.) It would be encouraging to see more discussion of other options by our elected officials, including a strong commitment to negotiating a police union contract that enables greater accountability, an acknowledgement of the flaws and loopholes currently exigent in the current community oversight system (OIG/OPA/CPC); more discussion of ways to effectively demilitarize the SPD; and more acknowledgment of the racism inherent in broken-windows and community policing. Meanwhile Mayor Durkan also isn’t speaking about any ways to ameliorate mass incarceration, even while acknowledging its harmful impacts on Black and Brown communities.

Obviously there is a lot of work to do, and it can’t all be addressed overnight, but these points do have direct bearing on the current conversation in Seattle about public safety and do need to be kept in mind even when they are skillfully talked around.

In related news, it sounds like Mayor Durkan’s main hope for filling the city budget shortfall from the pandemic in the next few years is for Biden to win the presidency and increase federal aid. Otherwise our city services might take a real beating. She is also more on board with regional solutions to increasing revenues and dealing with problems such as homelessness and transit, as opposed to Seattle-specific ones.

Next week should be an interesting one! In the meantime, stay safe and let’s hope some of this smoke clears by the weekend.