Officials and Guests in Attendance
Councilmembers present: Gonzalez, Lewis, Morales, Sawant, Herbold. All were prepared and courteous.
Accessing the Meeting and Materials
The meeting started on time. I observed the entire meeting. An agenda was available and the meeting was easily accessible at this link.
Summary of Discussion
The agenda was followed.
The meeting began with a lengthy public comment period. Most callers asked the Committee to pass the original version of CB 11981, which reallocated a $5.4 million from the SPD to participatory budgeting. This figure represents the amount spent on overtime in excess of SPD’s 2020 budget. Some callers opposed decreasing the SPD’s budget, noting that things (especially downtown) were already unsafe, and a budget decrease would just make it worse. One caller complained that the Community Police Commission is not sufficiently transparent (doesn’t keep many meetings online and doesn’t allow public access to work group meetings, as is the case in some other cities).
Office of Emergency Management Annual Report
OEM presented its annual report to the Committee. They noted some of the emergencies they had to deal with in 2020, including COVID, the West Seattle Bridge, protests, smoke from wildfires, and the elections. A link to the report can be found in the Agenda above.
CM Herbold introduced an amendment that will have the effect of cutting the SPD budget, but by less than the original $5.4 million. She noted that the team monitoring SPD compliance with the consent decree has submitted questions to SPD regarding staffing needs and suggested that a vote on the ordinance should be tabled pending receipt of answers by the monitoring team and review by the court.
The amendment notes that SPD is expected to save up to $7.7 million in 2021 due to an unprecedented number of officers leaving the department in recent months. Instead of redirecting all of the savings to participatory budgeting, the amendment proposes that nearly $5 million of this amount should stay in SPD, with the remainder being moved to other departments, including $2 million for participatory budgeting.
The amendment requires SPD to submit monthly reports to the Council before funds will be released, in increments of $625,000 each month for 8 months). This will enable the Council to better monitor how funds are being spent.
CM Lewis noted that programs such as STAR in Denver and CAHOOTS in Eugene provide cost-effective alternatives for responding to calls involving mental health issues.
CM Sawant noted that the amendment does not hold SPD accountable for overspending its budget, and thus breaks a promise made by the Council to do just that. This is particularly egregious in light of the fact that SPD incurred much of these overtime costs in overpolicing the protests.
CM Herbold called for a vote on whether the amendment should replace the original proposed ordinance. She stated that this was NOT a vote on whether to recommend the amendment to the full Council but merely on whether the amendment should be the vehicle for further discussions. With this understanding, the motion passed by a vote of 3 (Herbold, Lewis, Gonzalez) to 2 (Sawant, Mosqueda). The next step will be to hear back from the monitor/court on this issue.