The Seattle City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday evening to override a veto by Mayor Jenny Durkan of three budget bills that would have halted sharp cuts to the budget of the Seattle Police Department.
The council’s vote capped several hours worth of public debate about the controversial measure, all of it carried out online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two council members who voted against overriding the veto were
Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez.
“When I look back in this moment in time, I want to be able to tell my daughter, who I’m currently holding in my arms, that I did the right thing, and that I voted on the right side of history,” said council President Lorena Gonzalez.
“In my mind, the choice is clear,” said Councilmember Tammy Morales, who began her comments by reading the names of all of the men and women killed by Seattle police officers over the last decade. “We owe our black and indigenous community members about 400 years of investments.”
As part of the amended budget proposed by the council, which has now been officially adopted, the spending plan calls for:
- Cutting the police department staff by roughly 100 officers;
- Eliminating the department’s Navigation Team, which serves as an outreach effort to the homeless. The council voted 7-2 to override this budget bill, while voting 9-0 to override the other budget bills.
- Trimming the salaries of SPD’s command staff.
The Council’s 2020 amended budget will strip the department of roughly $3 million, which equates to less than a 1 percent defunding of the department’s 2020 budget.
These suggested cuts will now fall on the Durkan Administration for implementation.
“Council, as a legislative branch of city government, can pass legislation and budgets,” Gonzalez said. “But we cannot force the mayor to spend or not spend as we have directed.”
Kelsey Nyland, a mayoral spokesperson, said they’re now looking into legal concerns of elements of the budget approved by the council, including implementing layoffs and potential salary cuts to the police department’s top brass.
“Votes do have consequences,” Nyland said in the statement. “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.”
Nyland said it’s unclear if this override vote will impact Durkan’s 2021 budget, which she is expected to submit to the council for consideration next week.
For those on the Council, today’s vote reflects an important step in reforming policing in Seattle.
“Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe in their community,” Gonzalez said. “But the countless videos and names of black and brown lives lost here in Seattle and across the country has shown us that not everyone feels safe in their communities, and that in fact, not everyone in their community is safe.”
The council on Aug. 10 voted 7-1 to approve the spending plan that will reduce funding to the police department by 14 percent for the remainder of this year. The budget approved by the council, however, was far below the 50 percent reduction that some members had lobbied for and community groups had demanded. But the vote led to a formal and informal efforts to recall some council members.
The council took up the vote one week after it returned from its summer recess.
There was talk yesterday of a budget compromise that would have rolled back the suggested cuts to the department. But the council was able to rebuff that plan when it had the votes needed to override the Durkan veto.