Lots of budget and police accountability news

Seattle's police contract negotiation team, the Black Brilliance Project, the BLM-ACLU lawsuit, the new revenue forecast, and more budget season news

Lots of news to cover this fine November Monday!

Seattle’s Police Contract Negotiations Team

Seattle announced last week that a member of Central Staff will be at the police contract bargaining table, and that the head of the OPA, the head of the OIG, and a member of the CPC will all serve as bargaining advisors. This step is a big deal and should serve to increase accountability during the bargaining process. The CPC has been pushing to be more involved with contract negotiations for some time now, and by making this move the City is presenting a united front when coming to the bargaining table. Having a member of Central Staff present should mean CMs are better kept in the loop as well. You can find more analysis here.

State law states these police union contract negotiations must be confidential. However, look to the next state legislative session for a bill that might make these negotiations public, which would improve accountability even more.

New City Revenue Forecast

The new Seattle revenue forecast came in as expected last week, and the news is positive! The City expects some additional $40m in funds than previously anticipated for 2020 and 2021, and the CMs have plenty of ways to spend it. Mayor Durkan wrote her own letter expressing her interests in how these funds should be spent; she talks about funding priorities that encapsulate a lot more than the new funds available, but it is noteworthy that many of her priorities seem to line up with priorities expressed in the budget talks the Council has been having.

I wondered if this presaged a new, more conciliatory attitude between the Executive’s Office and the City Council, but the preview we’ve had today of the Council’s proposed budget suggests this probably won’t be the case.

Black Brilliance Research Project and BLM-ACLU vs Seattle Lawsuit

The Black Brilliance Research Project, led by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, released their preliminary report on budget priorities based on their research findings thus far. If interested, you can read a summary of the qualitative research they’ve been doing.

Kevin Schofield also wrote an analysis of the City of Seattle’s response to the BLM-ACLU lawsuit regarding crowd control weapons. He collected the officer declarations, incident reports, and video footage (mostly from body cameras) that the City submitted as part of their defense, which you can review at your leisure at the link above.

Today’s Seattle City Council Briefing

The bulk of today’s Council Briefing was a presentation from SDOT and a member of Central Staff about the West Seattle Bridge and the choice between repair and replace. The main new piece of information discussed was the report of an independent contractor the Council hired for an outside opinion on the bridge, who said since the Cost Benefit Analysis is trying to compare all options at the same high view level, it neglects the fact that we can learn a lot more information about the repair option than is presented in the CBA. This seems to suggest these contractors see the repair option more favorably than presented, while I got the impression SDOT Director Zimbabwe was leaning more towards replacement. CM Herbold, the CM of West Seattle, supports the repair option.

In their individual reports, CMs discussed the spike in COVID cases, the results of the national election, and several CMs expressed dismay at the continuing issue of the SPD’s harsh treatment of protesters, as well as journalists, legal observers, and medics.

Budget Season Continues!

Tomorrow we have an all-day budget meeting, where CM Mosqueda will present the Council Draft Budget. You can sign up for public comment starting at 7:30am, and they will be hearing at least an hour of public comment beginning at 9:30am. You can expect me to begin live tweeting around 10:30am, and I’ll be there all day tweeting and then compiling the day’s discussions into a summary for you all.

Skimming the released budget documents, I don’t see any huge surprises, but it does look like the Council is proposing a huge cut to the $100m for BIPOC communities to spend elsewhere and wants whatever is left over to be allocated by participatory budget process instead of via the Mayor’s task force. So expect more discussion of that tomorrow, among other points.

CMs’ Form Cs proposing amendments to the budget that are self-balancing are due this Thursday at 10am, and they will be discussed publicly next Wednesday and Thursday. The budget is scheduled for a final vote on Monday, November 23, a few days before Thanksgiving.

Finally, I’d like to mention the great news that the King County Charter Amendments related to police accountability all look like they’re going to pass, several by large margins. That is something definitely worth celebrating! Thank you for voting and spreading the information about these amendments.

I’ll see you tomorrow, and in the meantime, have a wonderful evening!