Seattle's Participatory Budgeting Process Moving Forward

See the PBP timeline and learn more details about the process; election news; the CPC votes on recs for SPOG contract negotiation; state leg news; WA's drug felony possession law struck down; and more

Lots of news to discuss at the end of a busy week!

First off, the Black Brilliance Project presented their final report at the City Council committee meeting this morning. You can view the slide deck here.

CM Morales made a point to emphasize the City of Seattle has been doing participatory budgeting since 2015, albeit on a smaller scale, and that as a result, they have systems already in place to deal with both online and off-line systems for voting etc. The two highest priority focuses to guide the participatory budgeting process were housing & physical space and mental health, and the need for a big push for digital equity was also discussed.

A steering committee will create the rules for the participatory budgeting process. This body will consist of 7 people who meet various criteria that strongly emphasizes lived experience (you can see details of these criteria in the slide deck). The process of choosing the committee will be as follows: first job descriptions will be created and shared, then from the pool of most qualified applicants several will be randomly selected to serve on a jury. This jury will then choose the actual members of the steering committee from the remaining pool of most qualified applicants. There will also be several workgroups working on the PB process.

A potential timeline for the participatory budgeting process has been released. As you can see below, they are hoping the community can vote on proposals this summer, with implementation of the proposals later this year. This is contrary to some commentators’ predictions that participatory budgeting wouldn’t be able to be completed this year.

As you may remember, the City Council has been deeply interested in crisis response systems such as CAHOOTS in Eugene and STAR in Denver. When asked about the potential for a similar system to be funded through the PBP, Shaun Glaze said that community had expressed more interest in many small investments in crisis response and wellness management as opposed to a larger program run by city workers. They mentioned people might still not trust a CAHOOTS-style program that is run by the City.

The next step for the City Council is to lift the proviso on the funds allocated for the PBP, which CM Morales said she’d like to try to do at her next committee meeting on March 16. Right now in the PBP, we are currently in the design phase, and the next step will be brainstorming ideas, which they are hoping to start in March.


In election news, Brianna Thomas is running for CP González’s vacated seat on the City Council. Mike McQuaid is running against CM Mosqueda for City Council, and it has recently been reported that he was charged with assault and harassment over a landscape dispute in 2015. This doesn’t seem to demonstrate the kind of cool head and anger management skills we might hope for in a city council member.


The CPC voted this week to approve a list of recommendations for Seattle’s upcoming contract negotiations with SPOG, in spite of community urging them to collect more community feedback during a community conversation earlier in February:

“The commission generally agreed on the transparency proposals, which included a recommendation to require the city to make public the membership of its negotiating team, its bargaining priorities, and any concessions it makes during negotiations. Commissioners also broadly supported a recommendation that negotiators try to remove the parts of the SPOG contract that allow the agreement to supersede city law; Officer Mark Mullens, the only SPD officer on the commission, was the only member to oppose that proposal.”

The CPC decided against recommending to completely civilianize the OPA’s staff, worried that the police department would then be more likely to hide things from that department. They also chose not to advocate for a section in the bargaining allowing SPD to lay off officers “in a safe and effective manner,” allowing for out-of-order layoffs, citing a concern that this could cause mismanagement.

The new Police Monitor for the City of Seattle’s consent decree, Antonio Oftelie, had an op-ed in the Seattle Times this week. In it he echoes Judge Robart’s warning from earlier this month, basically coming out against defunding the police department, although he is not against finding additional funding for community-driven alternative approaches:

Through the consent decree, the city made a set of binding promises about how SPD will promote public safety. Compliance with the decree requires that the city provide resources necessary to carry out those promises. Stripping away funding from SPD without meaningfully standing up the alternative community resources and social programs necessary to provide for community well-being risks undermining the progress that Seattle has made over the past eight years.


In state legislature news, the Pathways to Recovery Act, also known as the Treatment and Recovery Act, is officially dead. The bill could be picked back up in 2022, although given its status as a “bigger bill” it would be more difficult to pass it during the short session of 2022. Advocates are also considering turning it into a ballot measure in 2022. A similar ballot measure passed in Oregon in 2020.

In related news, yesterday the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state’s drug felony possession law because unlike similar laws in other states, the law didn’t require prosecutors to prove someone knowingly possessed drugs. This ruling could have wide-sweeping implications. The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys have instructed their members to immediately drop any pending cases for simple drug possession and to obtain orders vacating the convictions of anyone serving time for simple drug possession. State legislators are likely to take up this matter before the end of the legislative session this spring, introducing new legislation, so we’ll see what happens there.

Finally, SB 5051, a bill about decertification of police officers, has passed the Senate and moved onto the House. You can read more details about it at the Seattle Times and at People Power Washington.

Thanks for sticking with me, and have a wonderful weekend!