Notes on today's Council Briefing

Transit sales tax, SPD's indiscriminate use of force and targeting of journalists and legal observers, the widening rift between the Mayor and Council, budget meeting schedule

The Council Briefing this morning:

Here is my Twitter thread:

The bulk of the briefing this morning was spent discussing the sales tax increase to benefit public transit that needs to be voted on soon in order to make it onto the November ballot. The mayor had proposed a .1% sales tax, and two CMs had proposed amendments increasing that amount to .15% (Gonzalez) and .2% (Morales). The CMs were also divided as to whether this sales tax should go into effect for four or six years, mostly because they really want to shift to a more regionally-focused transit system in partnership with King County, something that was in process earlier this year and then got derailed due to the pandemic.

BIPOC-led groups overwhelming called in to support the .2% tax. Even though sales taxes are regressive, this small an increase would still be better for most low-income people who rely on transit and who would otherwise have to buy a car, and even the .2% tax would require transit cuts. However, the .2% tax was voted down 4-5, with Herbold, Pedersen, Juarez, Lewis, and Gonzales opposed. It’s also worth noting Herbold voted against this increase even though she wants more money for West Seattle transit given the bridge closure. The .15% tax was passed as a compromise, and they decided to pass it for the six-year period so if something goes wrong on King County’s end in 2024, there won’t be a gap in service.

Also discussed at the meeting was the indiscriminate force used by the SPD at this weekend’s protests, as well as their targeting of journalists and legal observers.

This targeting is disturbing and undemocratic, interfering as it does with the operation of the free press. Also interfering with the free press is the subpoena served by the SPD to several local news outlets to release their unpublished videos and photos from the May 30th protests, which a judge ruled enforceable on Thursday. Meanwhile, a judge passed a temporary restraining order on Friday evening on Council-passed legislation banning the SPD from buying and using less-than-lethal crowd control weapons, as this was in opposition to the consent decree. The judge will decide what to do about the conflicting policies after various briefs and responses are filed later in August. Unfortunately, word on the streets was that with this restraining order in place, the SPD used even more flash-bangs than at previous protests, and there were numerous recorded incidents where the SPD was obviously using more force than warranted or using these weapons in ways they were not intended to be used. Big shocker there, I know.

Finally, several CMs spoke out against the harassment and threats made to various public officials, including CM Juarez and CM Pedersen and their staffs, and particularly spoke against the use of misogynistic and racist language and the use of such threats at the councilmember’s homes.

Continuing Budget Talks:

The discussion about the revised 2020 budget will continue all day Wednesday, including proposed amendments having to do with the SPD. Public comment will happen Wednesday morning at 10am, with signups at 8am. An additional budget meeting was scheduled for Friday morning at 10am to continue these talks. CM Mosqueda also signaled there might be another budget meeting next Wednesday the 5th, which would mean the final vote scheduled to take place on August 3rd would have to be postponed.

Something I’ve hinted at before that could have bearing on this revised budget is the increasing rift between the Mayor and the City Council, which you can read more about here: “As council members have noted, with visible frustration, several times over the past few weeks, “We can’t force the mayor to spend the money we appropriate.”” If I’m understanding this correctly, in terms of defunding the police department, the Council can take away money to be spent by the department, but if, say, they allocate some of that money to community-led organizations that are scaling up to serve public safety, the Mayor could refuse to spend that money. We’ve already seen it implied during Council meetings that she hasn’t spent money allocated for 2020 for tiny home villages even in the midst of a pandemic that spreads more quickly in congregate settings, making the need for tiny home villages even more urgent, so that doesn’t bode particularly well. However, if we’re lucky the increased public interest in police brutality and lack of accountability might act as a counterbalance.

In any case, the budget talks are going forward, and I’ll be attending the Wednesday and Friday meetings this week and letting you know what happens next.