Mike McGinn has thoughts to share on the upcoming police contract, mayoral election, and reform roadblocks

Also two roads forward for participatory budgeting suggested by the Mayor's office, the progress of the Mayor's Equitable Taskforce, a state bill passed that bans private prisons, etc.

Today really feels like spring!

First up, I want to recommend an excellent interview on Crystal Fincher’s podcast Hacks and Wonks with former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. It is worth listening to the whole thing or reading the transcription, but interesting topics covered include:

  • When the police union contract is being negotiated, if the parties cannot reach agreement then the process is brought to arbitration. In arbitration, the arbitrator is supposed to look at peer cities to determine the appropriate result. But if Seattle wants to be at the cutting edge of accountability reform, for example, then being held to other cities’ standards is a severe constraint upon what is possible. The main way out of this bind seems to be legislation at the state level that takes discipline and accountability provisions out of the providence of bargaining (like dead bill SB5134 was trying to do).

  • What the police contract DOES allow the City to do is reduce the total number of police officers because that is a budget question. However, Judge Robart saying the City cannot reduce the number of officers and remain in compliance with the consent decree largely ties the City’s hands in this way as well.

  • City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is up for election again this November, is in a unique position as an independently elected city attorney. McGinn: “Pete is now in a position to unilaterally decide what is or is not the City's position on litigation - that's what his position was. So it's weird, you know? 'Cause he represents himself as - his client is the public. Well, how does he know what the public wants? And so therefore he finds himself without a client, essentially, 'cause he can just divine it from within his own head.” Examples of some questionable decisions made in the last year by our city attorney are discussed.

  • The power about how to reform and whether reform is working now largely rests with the Judge, the City Attorney, the Mayor, the US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, the SPOG President, etc.: all older, white people. Meanwhile, BIPOC people have largely been silenced in this matter. Because “important people” told us police reform was on track, most people believed them when in fact the last year has shown us the system is still definitively broken: McGinn: “And I guess, you know, if we're looking at the next mayor, it's going to be who's going to have the guts to just say, Look, this process - the process we were in, was broken and we've got to try to figure out how to fix it. And the contract's an important piece of it, but it's a lot deeper than that.”

  • McGinn discusses the mayoral election landscape in Seattle: Everyone’s a Democrat, and two candidates usually come out of the primary (in August), one endorsed by the Seattle Times and the Chamber of Commerce, one endorsed by the Stranger. Labor/unions are in the middle, with some falling on each side. A candidate needs to choose which of the two lanes they are going for while trying to fall somewhere in the middle. His assessment right now? Bruce Harrell and Jessyn Farrell are going for the right lane, and Lorena González, Andrew Grant Houston, and Colleen Echohawk are going for the left lane. He goes into a lot more detail in the interview. He also mentions Jessyn Farrell, while she might be aiming for the right lane, would still be a more progressive mayor than Mayor Durkan.


The Mayor’s office has released two recommendations for the participatory budgeting process here in Seattle. One hews fairly closely to the Black Brilliance Project’s recommendations by hiring an outside administrator who would hire the 25-person steering committee. This option would take 11-18 months and would use $7.475m in overhead to administer the process. The other option would be mostly run by the Department of Neighbors, involving the hiring of a 15-person steering committee, and would take 9-14 months and use $2.630m in overhead to administer the process. The letter also raises various logistical and legal issues that need to be settled in order for the Council to release the proviso on the $30m and get the process started. You can read the recommendation letter here. Kevin Schofield has written a detailed breakdown of the letter and points that need to be addressed.

Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Equitable Taskforce looks to be aiming to make its draft recommendations on investments for its $30m by mid-April. The minutes of its latest meeting are available to view online.


In state legislative news, EHB 1090 was voted out of the Senate this week and is being sent to the Governor for his signature. This bill bans private, for-profit prison companies that contract with local, state, and federal agencies such as ICE. One effect, should the bill be signed and survive legal challenges, would be that the ICE detention center in Tacoma would shut down in 2025 once its current contract expires.

State legislators are still grappling with how to address the Washington State Supreme Court ruling decriminalizing drug possession. There are several rival bills currently being considered, including HB 1558 and SB 5475, both introduced by Republicans, and SB 5476, introduced by a Democrat. HB 1558 and SB 5476 are both discussed further here, but there is clearly still work to be done to get the votes necessary to pass anything at all.

And that’s what I have for you today! As always, thanks for reading.