3:07 PM: Just under way – Seattle City Councilmembers‘ special meeting on whether to override Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s veto of three bills they passed, including the “rebalancing” bill with cuts in departments including SPD. If they don’t get seven votes for an override, Council President Lorena González said on Monday, they have a “compromise” bill to consider. That and the previously passed/vetoed bills are all linked from the agenda. Watch via Seattle Channel above; we’ll be live-chronicling after the meeting-opening public-comment period.
3:10 PM: Councilmember González says the comment period will last 90 minutes.
3:47 PM: So far 32 people have spoken – 27 for overriding, 5 against.
4:47 PM: Comments are over. By our count, 78 speakers were pro-override, 9 against. They have three bills to consider. Before any of the votes, Councilmember Alex Pedersen speaks, saying he wants to explain all his upcoming votes. He says he wants to honor the commitment the council made to fund BIPOC organizations, and so he will vote to override the mayor’s veto of the third bill on the agenda, 119863. He says his problems with 119825, the first bill, include its move to gut the Navigation Team, so he will vote to sustain the veto, as well as the second bill, 119862. He concludes by saying that the police-union contract needs to be fixed as a key part of public-safety reform.
5:03 PM: Councilmember Tammy Morales speaks next, starting by reading “the names of the people killed by SPD in the last 10 years.” She says “creating a new system of community safety” is what the council’s action is about. “We’re trying to carry forward what was built by years of work” by BIPOC community members. She will vote to override.
Councilmember Andrew Lewis speaks next. “Government needs to work together,” he says. “Working together requires compromise.” Investing in the community is vital, though, so he says he’s going to vote to override all three bills. “I want to make a statement today about a pattern that’s potentially emerging – of negotiating by veto.” That’s “wearing” among other things, he says.
5:11 PM: Councilmember Lisa Herbold speaks now. “I don’t take this vote lightly. I took part in conversations about an alternative bill,” she says, but goes on to say that the proposed alternative “falls short. .. I’m concerned that the deal the council was offered backtracks on the objective of …. making reductions to the Seattle Police Department.” She says that what the council passed opens the door to bargaining. The mayor did not offer any reduction in the “specialty units” the council wanted to shrink, she says. “Of the 38 proposed reductions, there were 11 vacancies,” she says, which would mean 27 layoffs resulting from the 38 cuts the council wanted to see. They also wanted to see 32 patrol reductions and Harbold says there are 24 on a list with problematic backgrounds that could potentially be let go first. “The vast majority of these officers are in patrol positions.” She goes on to defend the salary cuts the original bill calls for in leadership salaries, saying it’s appropriate given the supervisors’ failings including lack of overtime-spending control. She goes on to say the compromise bill doesn’t allot enough money for the groups that are to work on community-safety planning – $1 million instead of $3 million – and that the mayor wanted to water down the upcoming “participatory budgeting” process. Finally, she says the mayor did not want to sufficiently change the way the Navigation Team works but they’re hopeful her budget for next year will.
5:25 PM: Councilmember Dan Strauss says he’ll vote to override ‘because this work is too important to stop.” That would appear to put the pro-override votes at the level needed. Strauss says the package isn’t perfect but its strong points outweigh its “imperfections.” Regarding SPD, he says they can both “stand .. behind their past decisions” and “look … forward to working together in the future.”
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda is next. “Seattle is at the heart of a national conversation … to reimagine public safety,” she begins, saying that conversation is about the “right size and right scope” of police departments. She lists other cities that have reduced their police spending. “There is an ongoing call for action across this nation … we legislated knowing we’re building a path for a longer-term systemic change.” She said there’s also an “urgent need” to invest in Black and brown communities – “invest, listen, and respond.” She also acknowledges it’s clear the process needs to be “more inclusive,” as they head into the process of crafting the next budget (a process that’s about to start). “We are setting the stage for a more-inclusive conversation.” Also, “We want to make sure everyone is safe, no matter where they are, no matter the color of their skin.”
5:47 PM: Now Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks, noting that she wasn’t sure at the start of the meeting which way the vote would go, and attributes “ferocious fight-back” from activists in leading to what looks to be an override vote. She says she’s still not happy with the cuts resulting in an “austerity budget,” nor is she happy with what she suggests were “back-room conversations” leading to the alternative bill (that’s apparently now dead).
5:59 PM: González says she will vote to override the vetoes. Police reform “is the needed course of action,” she says, “… not the ongoing status quo.” She echoes what several others have said – “the modest actions the council took over the summer” represent just a start. “Not everyone in our community is safe. We cannot look away from this … if we truly believe that Black lives matter … I want to be able to tell my daughter, who I’m holding in my arms, that I did the right thing.” She says the compromise bill was the result of a month of talks, so the process “illuminate(d) and quqntif(ied) how far apart we are from the mayor.” But talking with the mayor is not about “capitulation,” she insisted. “It’s time for us to move past this back-and-forth and get to work … that is what we were elected to do.” Her message is clearly for observers and critics too, and she warns that the next process ahead will “be hard … we will be asked to make difficult decisions.” She hopes it will not find them, in three months, again dealing with a veto.
6:13 PM: Voting time. 119825 (the main “rebalancing” bill): 7-2, veto overridden (Pedersen and Councilmember Debora Juarez were, as expected. the “no” votes). … On 119862, 9-0, veto overridden … On 119863, an “interfund” loan to allocate $14 million to organizations working on alternative public-safety, Herbold first speaks to the importance of the investment and says she hopes the mayor will take action to allocate the money. The vote – 9-0, overridden. The meeting adjourns at 6:24. So what does all this mean? Stand by for reaction. As always, we’ll substitute the archived video above when it’s available.
8:42 PM: We’ve received a post-vote statement from Councilmember Herbold. Most of it is basically what she said during the meeting, but the last paragraph is of note:
“I maintain my optimism that Council and the Mayor can turn the page on this and forge a path forward together in 2021 budget discussions. I, and the City of Seattle, are indebted to the tens of thousands of people who have participated in this discussion by writing, calling, providing comment, and marching day after day. This is the beginning of the conversation and the investment of $3 million by this Council to begin a participatory budget process, which was upheld today, will ensure a true community process that redefines public safety. I will work to ensure that process centers Black and Brown communities who have been, and continue to be, most affected by our current system. To the business community who is asking to also be at the table, Participatory Budgeting is designed for everyone to participate, including you.”
Meantime, we’ve substituted the archived video of the hearing atop this story.
ADDED WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: SPD’s official statement, just in via email:
Early yesterday evening, Seattle City Council Members voted to override the Mayor’s veto of their 2020 Budget Rebalancing legislation.
The Seattle Police Department is still determining the implications of this action and the appropriate response. However, it is the SPD’s intent to keep the Department as whole as possible. In 2020, and as we move into 2021 budget discussions, our primary commitment is to build trust and maintain public safety.
Chief Diaz is working closely with the Mayor’s office to assess next steps.
The SPD is aware these decisions can create long-lasting impacts, and remains committed to equitably serving all of Seattle.