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Seattle City Council overrides Mayor Durkan's vetoes on police defunding

The council overrode the mayor's veto of bills that would boost community programs and cut money and jobs in the police department.

Seattle will reduce the police department’s budget and reallocate some money to community programs after the City Council voted Tuesday evening to override Mayor Jenny Durkan’s veto of adjustments to this year’s budget. 

The council’s proposals approved last month were supported by demonstrators who have marched in the city for months following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis but strongly opposed by the mayor and former police Chief Carmen Best. 

Council President M. Lorena González said before the vote that divestment from a broken policing model is not only the right thing to do, it is the needed course of action if they believe that Black Lives Matter.

During a special meeting Tuesday, the council unanimously overrode Durkan's veto on two measures, Council Bills 119862 and 119863

On the third bill, Council Bill 119825, which cuts police department funding, the council overrode Durkan's veto with a 7-2 vote. Councilmembers Debora Juarez and Alex Pedersen voted to sustain the mayor's veto.

The vote keeps intact cuts to the city’s Navigation Team, senior staff and up to 100 layoffs by attrition.

To override the mayor's veto and allow the legislation to go into effect, the council needed seven votes in favor.

The office of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued the following statement following Tuesday's council vote: 

"At the end of the day, after previous promises of a 50 percent cut to SPD, the reductions to the SPD budget are almost exactly those proposed by the Mayor and former Chief Best, but none of the other issues Council admitted are problems have been addressed. For weeks, the Mayor has worked with Council and offered solutions in an attempt to find common ground. The Mayor thought they had built that consensus on many issues in the compromise legislation introduced yesterday. While councilmembers have publicly stated they wanted to work with Mayor Durkan to address issues in the 2020 budget, they chose a different path. 

"Votes do have consequences. Because of Council’s actions today, the Navigation team will be eliminated, severely restricting the City’s ability to move people out of homelessness and deal with encampments for the rest of this year. The City will move forward with layoffs for the City staff who are coordinating and helping individuals experiencing homelessness at encampments across the City.

"The Mayor remains committed to making changes in policing and investing in community. Even with the City’s significant budget shortfall in 2021, Mayor Durkan will continue to engage Seattle in reimagining policing, will continue to work with Chief Diaz to restructure SPD and its budget and will propose a budget that makes a $100 million investment in BIPOC communities."

RELATED: Mayor Durkan vetoes council vote to cut up to 100 Seattle police officers

Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González released a statement after voting to override Durkan's veto. The statement said, in part, "Despite differences in spending priorities, the Council’s relationship with the Mayor’s office is functional and focused on making sure City Hall is working for our constituents. I have had productive conversations over the past several weeks, and I feel hopeful about continued collaboration going into the fall budget deliberations, and our ability to meet the community’s needs. I remain committed to my relationship with my colleagues, with the Mayor, and with the public to work together to address our city’s most pressing challenges.” Read González' full statement below. 

A statement from Councilmember Lisa Herbold said in part, "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." Read Herbold's full statement below. 

RELATED: Seattle Police say city council's proposed budget cuts would hurt diversity efforts

The groups Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now released a joint statement after Tuesday's vote, saying in part, "Today, we are encouraged to see the City Council—emboldened by the support of tens of thousands of BIPOC community members—resist Mayor Durkan’s bullying tactics and anti-Black obstructionism. Specifically, City Council upheld their decision to divest from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) by 3 million dollars—less than 1% of SPD’s annual budget—and invest modestly in Black communities." Read the full shared statement below.

The Downtown Seattle Association released a statement after Tuesday's vote, which said, in part, "We are disappointed that the City Council has decided to override Mayor Durkan’s veto. The Council remains undeterred and has acted without a plan. Their actions won’t result in real police reform and risk undermining community safety. A thoughtful, responsible and collaborative approach to reimagining policing in Seattle is the best way to ensure safe communities for all and more just policing for Black lives. The Council lacks a clear plan and their action today will not accomplish these important goals." Read DSA's full statement below.   

Full statement from Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González after she voted to override Durkan's veto on police funding: 

“Earlier today, I voted to override Mayor Durkan’s veto of three bills that were passed by this City Council during our summer budgeting process. 

“In the wake of a racial reckoning, a $300 million budget shortfall, a pandemic, a climate crisis, a homelessness crisis, an affordable housing crisis, widening wealth inequities, and a lack of federal leadership, our fundamental duty remains: to balance the City’s budget and meet the needs of Seattle’s most vulnerable residents. On this task, the Charter of our City is unequivocally clear.  In a year unlike any other in living memory, I am proud of the work Council did under the leadership of Budget Chair Mosqueda.

“City Council’s budget actions over the summer were a starting place to achieve public safety that truly includes and serves everyone, and I stand by the votes and positions I took then. The modest actions that the Council took over the summer were necessary.  Transforming public safety requires us to begin the process of divesting from carceral systems and investing in real community safety centered on harm reduction for the well-being of all Seattlelites, especially BIPOC community members. 

“It is imperative that our budget makes meaningful community investments to build wealth and security in BIPOC communities; fund a robust community-led participatory budget process; and reduce the size of the police force through out-of-order layoffs and shifts to community-supported public safety programs centered on harm reduction, and a more civilianized E911 response system. 

“I’ve spent the past several weeks in intense conversation and negotiations with the Mayor and her office, spending countless hours invested in finding common ground and policy alignment. Ultimately, the collaboration between the Mayor and my office yielded a proposed compromise bill, but also illuminated and quantified just how far apart we are on our vision and approach from that of the Mayor.  

“Despite differences in spending priorities, the Council’s relationship with the Mayor’s office is functional and focused on making sure City Hall is working for our constituents. I have had productive conversations over the past several weeks, and I feel hopeful about continued collaboration going into the fall budget deliberations, and our ability to meet the community’s needs. I remain committed to my relationship with my colleagues, with the Mayor, and with the public to work together to address our city’s most pressing challenges.”

Full statement from Councilmember Lisa Herbold: 

“My vote today to override the Mayor’s veto of the 2020 rebalancing budget was not taken lightly. I had conversations about an alternate bill, in the hopes of coming to agreement with the Executive. However, the Executive’s offer did not make the important investments nor targeted, strategic changes to the 2020 budget that Council made through CB 119825.

“The alternative short-changed community members and organizations who have the expertise we need to build community safety, by proposing a mere $3.5M investment instead of the $17M Council had appropriated. The $2 million the Mayor proposed for investment in violence prevention and crisis intervention is wholly inadequate to the need, given the increase in gun violence that Seattle is experiencing. Funding the Seattle Community Safety (SCS) Initiative to scale up gun-violence intervention and prevention is necessary now for true community safety efforts like the work of BIPOC led organizations like Community Passageways, Urban Family, SE Safety Network Hub Boys & Girls Club, and the Alive & Free Program – YMCA. Other intended investments include growing the capacity of organizations that respond to 911 crisis calls; support beyond crisis intervention to criminalized populations; and interrupting and preventing violence. With today’s vote the Council can’t force the Mayor to spend these dollars. But I plea with her to do so.

“Further, the alternative took off the table any and all of the targeted reductions of 100 FTEs in SPD. Specifically, the 2020 rebalancing package called for 38 FTE reductions, suggested from specific specialty units, that will take several months to bargain and implement. Of the 38 FTE reductions, there are already 15 vacancies in these units, meaning the reductions will only result in – again, only after being successfully bargained – the net loss of 23 officers across these six specialty units. Similarly, as it related to the specific goal set in the vetoed bill for 32 general patrol reductions, I was surprised to learn that this also was off the table for compromise considering the list of 24 officers kept on the “Brady List” by the King County Prosecutor and City Attorney’s Office. I hope, moving forward, the Executive will support efforts to seek out of order layoffs for these officers who, because of their record of dishonesty, racial bias, criminal charges, and convictions cannot fulfill their obligations as police officers; prosecutors are unwilling to file charges on arrests they make because defense attorneys can impeach their testimony.

“While the Executive indicates they are open to changes in the Navigation Team operations that will result in more community safety, fewer encampment removals, and better services for people living unsheltered, they were unwilling to commit to putting their new approach in writing. The Council’s approved budget increases the City’s investment in contracted providers who will do outreach and engagement with people living in encampments and focus on encampment locations that the City identifies as high hazard locations or obstructions of the public right of way. I hope the Executive will act quickly to expand existing contracts with these providers.

“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.” 

Full shared statement from Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now:  

Today, we are encouraged to see the City Council—emboldened by the support of tens of thousands of BIPOC community members—resist Mayor Durkan’s bullying tactics and anti-Black obstructionism. Specifically, City Council upheld their decision to divest from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) by 3 million dollars—less than 1% of SPD’s annual budget—and invest modestly in Black communities. 

As we head into the 2021 budget cycle, we expect Councilmembers to maintain their conviction, elevate Black lives, and uphold their public commitments to divest from policing and reinvest in Black communities. 

It should not take such prolonged, sustained community efforts for this minimal change but we recognize that Council’s move to override the Mayor’s anti-Black veto marks an urgent break from the decades of votes to expand racist policing. Going forward, we expect Councilmembers to continue to resist the Mayor’s attempts to rewrite legislation that has already passed. 

The work of reshaping this City into one that values all Black lives, and moves away from funding racist policing and towards resourcing true public safety for all, is long overdue. Already experiencing COVID-19’s economic fallout, conditions for Seattle’s Black community are on a trajectory to worsen. Against that backdrop, community members mobilized to demand true investments in public safety solutions that work for us (and at minimum, don’t kill us with our own money). 

Despite today’s vote overruling Mayor Durkan’s veto, her past behavior strongly suggests that she may attempt to delay and block funds Council earmarked towards immediate, critical investments into the Black community. We call on Mayor Durkan to release the funds as quickly as possible so that the urgent work of responding to gun violence and scaling up other public safety solutions that do not rely on policing can continue and grow. 

Many people worked tirelessly for this modest but crucial first step in shaping a city budget that reflects community values. Today, we celebrate the work that we’ve all put in to make this opportunity a reality. The historic fight to build a new normal rooted in equity that provides true public health and safety for all Seattle’s residents has barely begun."

Full statement from Downtown Seattle Association after Tuesday's council vote: 

“We are disappointed that the City Council has decided to override Mayor Durkan’s veto. The Council remains undeterred and has acted without a plan. Their actions won’t result in real police reform and risk undermining community safety. A thoughtful, responsible and collaborative approach to reimagining policing in Seattle is the best way to ensure safe communities for all and more just policing for Black lives. The Council lacks a clear plan and their action today will not accomplish these important goals. 

Council’s decision also disbands the Navigation Team in limbo, severely hampering the city’s ability to help move people out of homelessness. And again, this decision comes without a plan.

Seattle needs our elected leaders to work together given the historic challenges we face. This override pushes Council and executive leadership further apart. The Council needs to listen to constituents from across the city, not just those who choose to gather outside their front doors. The scale of change required to properly evolve policing demands deliberation and coordination, not political expediency and governing by gesture.”