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Issue 22: Influencing the 2023-2024 City Budget
Mayor Harrell released his proposed budget for the 2023 and 2024 biennium on September 27. In this issue, we will highlight some of the biggest problems folks have already identified and ways you can take action for a more equitable city budget!
Problems with the proposed budget
The mayor’s budget is inequitable
The mayor’s budget proposes a 6% funding increase for the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Police department employees would get bonuses and extra overtime while human service providers would see their pay capped at 4%, well below inflation. Parking Enforcement Officers (PEOs) would move from the Department of Transportation back into the SPD. More details about the proposed budget can be found in the Sept 28 issue of Notes from the Emerald City.
In the context of a budget shortfall and the desperate need for affordable housing, non-police mental health crisis response, violence interruption programs, and more, this increase to the police budget takes dollars away from nonviolent initiatives that can address the root causes of harm.
The mayor’s budget drastically defunds housing investments. He proposes transferring $85.9M from JumpStart (earmarked for housing) into the General Fund to cover the overall budget shortfall. Housing is a crucial resource that affects the safety of everyone in Seattle.
Instead of defunding housing, the mayor should defund SPD. Reducing the size of the police force today is a commitment to long-term transformational change.
SPD gets funding for positions they don’t plan to fill
For years, the Seattle Police Department has been funded for more officers than they have staffed. Millions of dollars have gone into the department either as “salary savings” (wages from attrition throughout the year) or as “ghost positions” (FTEs the department never planned to fill in the first place). The SPD has gotten into the habit of re-directing those dollars into weapons, surveillance equipment (such as ShotSpotter), and other regressive spending that disproportionately harms Black and poor community members.
SPD’s out-of-touch staffing plans and unaccountable budgeting adds to a racist and violent department while other departments are experiencing cuts.
The Mayor has requested $1M for a surveillance technology that has been proven ineffective, has been considered impermissible as evidence in court, and has contributed to biased policing and false accusations. The technology that this for-profit company sells does nothing to address the causes of gun violence.
In 2021, Johns Hopkins University researchers published a 17-year study of ShotSpotter. They found that “implementing ShotSpotter technology has no significant impact on firearm-related homicides or arrest outcomes.”
The Office of Inspector General in Chicago found that the use of ShotSpotter increased officer stop-and-frisks and seldom provided any investigative value.
The October 5 issue of Notes from the Emerald City goes on to say,
“It is perhaps no surprise that the cities of Charlotte and San Antonio have dropped use of this technology in past years, or that the city of Buffalo recently blocked its implementation.”
In 2021, Seattle moved Parking Enforcement out of SPD, with the intention of moving other civilian functions out, too. The Mayor wants to undo this progress by moving PEOs back into the SPD.
Civilian workers belong in a civilian-run department. PEOs should stay within the Seattle Department of Transportation to allow the PEOs greater collaboration with SDOT to make our streets safer using strategies other than just ticketing.
What you can do
We have a whole city to fight for, and City Council needs to hear from you.
Show up today
There are two public comment opportunities on October 11. The budget committee meets at 9:30 am, and there is a budget hearing at 5 pm. Everything you need to know to provide a comment is in this action alert:
Show up later in October and November
Here are more important dates this budget season. You can show up virtually or in-person to the public hearings and budget committee meetings. You can register for remote participation two hours before each meeting, or register in person 30 minutes before each meeting. You can email all council members at any time.
October 11, 9:30-11am: Public comment prior to budget committee meeting
October 11, 5-9pm: First evening public hearing
October 25, 9:30-11am: Public comment prior to budget committee meeting
November 7: Chair’s Balancing Package introduced
November 8, 9:30am: Morning public hearing
November 15, 5-9pm: Second evening public hearing
November 16: Budget committee votes on balancing package
November 21: Budget committee (9:30 am) and Full Council (2 pm) vote on the budget
Support the 2023 Solidarity Budget
Seattle Abolition Support has endorsed the Solidarity Budget’s 2023 demands: 2023 Solidarity Budget: Budget to Live, Budget to Thrive.
“Because our vision for a city where all can thrive has not been funded, conditions this year have worsened. We remain committed to organizing as a cross-movement coalition, for a budget that ends jail deaths, deaths of our unhoused neighbors and deaths of cyclists and pedestrians, and that creates the conditions for all of us to thrive.”
Are you part of a group that wants to endorse the Solidarity Budget or would you like to become a volunteer? Check out the Solidarity Budget website to get involved.
Support CID Safety Not Sweeps
In light of worsening conditions for people in Little Saigon and the Chinatown-International District (CID) in Seattle, Massage Parlor Outreach Project, ChuMinh Tofu Eggrolls Mutual Aid, Asian Counseling and Referral Services and other community groups are requesting that Seattle officials stop targeting the CID neighborhood via the criminalization of poverty and encampment sweeps under the guise of public safety.
Seattle Abolition Support has endorsed this campaign. You can send an email to the relevant city officials (takes 60 seconds) using this change.org link. You can learn more and get involved on the CID Safety Not Sweeps website.
Save the date for No More Police
Join Andrea Ritchie and fellow abolitionists at a No More Police book event on the evening of Oct 20 at Pratt Park (exact time TBD).
Looking for a way to leverage resources towards abolition?
Participatory Budgeting Project is hiring
The Participatory Budgeting Project is hiring staff and seeking Steering Committee and Working Group members to shape, launch, and run the effort.
Communities Transforming Policing Fund
Borealis Philanthropy’s Communities Transforming Policing Fund is offering grants of up to $30k for grassroots organizing groups that “shift power and resources away from punitive, reactive, and carceral responses to preventative, transformative community-based safety strategies.” Grant proposal instructions are here, and the deadline is October 28.
What about the Consent Decree?
Despite pouring over $300 million into the myth of new-and-improved policing every single year, the Consent Decree has not made Seattle policing safer for those it comes in contact with.
SPD intitiated an 8 hour crisis response training in 2014 (two years after entering the Consent Decree). Despite these crisis trainings, those who interact with the police with mental illness still come into harm’s way, such as when two officers who had completed these crisis trainings (one the 8 hour training, and the other the advanced 40 hour training CIT series) shot a pregnant Black woman with a mental illness 7 times in her apartment in 2017. Her name was Charleena Lyles. She had called the police asking for help and they killed her in front of her children. These officers were crisis trained. These trainings do not work.
Join Seattle Abolition Support
Like this newsletter and want to help create it? Join our google group! You can find ways to connect with people and get support for your own abolitionist ideas. Look over our organizing principles here and click through to the “request to join” link.
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