The defund the police movement forges on in Seattle, assisted by the city council. Tuesday evening Seattle City Council voted 7-2 to override Mayor Jenny Durkan’s veto of a bill that would cut police funding by around $3 million.
Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez justifies the council’s latest move by saying, “We cannot look away from this and we can no longer accept the status quo if we truly believe that Black lives matter.” Before the vote, she said divestment from a “broken” policing model is necessary.
The bill also removes as many as 100 officers from various police units and limits staff pay to $150,000. The city council looks upon this as a down payment to the ultimate goal of defunding the police department by 50%. If successful, this will happen next year. Cutting the police budget by half and eliminating 100 police officers sure doesn’t sound like a winning strategy for a city that frequently sees violence in the streets. When the city council approved the cuts in August, the police chief tendered her resignation after almost 30 years of service because of the lack of support from the council. At that time, the vote to defund the police was 7-1. Somewhere along the line, another city council member came to his or her senses. That is likely due to the outrage from residents of Seattle concerned about their safety, for themselves, their families, and their businesses.
Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Summer of Love hasn’t gone so well for the city. Votes on three bills were taken during a special meeting Tuesday. The council unanimously overrode Durkan’s veto on two measures. The third bill, the one that cut the police department’s funding, is the one that resulted in a 7-2 vote. In order to override the mayor’s veto, the council needed seven votes in favor. This vote will allow the legislation to go into effect. The votes keep intact cuts to the city’s Navigation Team, senior staff, and up to 100 layoffs by attrition.
Mayor Jenny released a statement after the votes were taken.
“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.”
City Council President Gonzalez released a statement, too.
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.”
The groups Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now released a joint statement. In part, it says:
“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.”
Mayor Jenny has her hands full. There’s little sympathy for her, though, as a lot of her problems are of her own making. She refused to speak out against the chaos and violence in the city’s streets for months, instead she sided with BLM protesters against the city’s police department. She uttered the idiotic phrase “Summer of Love” which rightly earned her scorn from reasonable people.
One action Mayor Jenny has taken is to hire a former pimp to be Seattle’s “Street Czar”. Andrè Taylor now runs a non-profit called Not This Time. He’s been awarded a one-year contract by the mayor to the tune of $150,000. Taylor signed a $12,500 a month deal with the city on July 27 to work as its community liaison. He says he can talk to ‘gang members, pimps and prostitutes who won’t sit down with anybody else’. His non-profit will provide recommendations to the city on de-escalation, community engagement and alternatives to policing. “Somebody can’t put a price tag on going into community meetings and having sitdowns with gang members, where they won’t sit down with anybody else,” he said.
As you can imagine, this decision has brought criticism. Taylor, however, says he didn’t receive this kind of criticism when his group was paid $100,000 in 2019 for a series of speeches.
Seattle previously worked with Taylor in 2019, paying his group $100,000 for a series of speeches called “Conversations with the Streets.”
“No one raised any questions about the $100,000 that the city gave us for ‘Conversations with the Streets,’” he said. “And we are kind of bewildered that people are now raising an issue about $150,000 for our de-escalation efforts that we’ve been doing since my brother, Che Taylor, was killed. It’s amazing to me. It’s a nonstarter and a nonissue.”
“Black people are not normally paid for positions, nor their organizations, but white people with the same positions are paid, and this is an ongoing problem not only here but all over this country,” Taylor said. “White people have been paid for some of the same stuff, and nobody has ever said anything about it. But the moment a black man demands respect and you value the work and you want to use my credibility, that should have some value to it.”
Taylor has previously talked about being in CHOP after the fatal shooting of Horace Anderson this summer to de-escalate the violence. Hiring him to go in and mediate between the city and the street thugs almost sounds like a pay-off for his brother’s death, but maybe it’s just thinking outside the box on the mayor’s part. Either way, Mayor Jenny has a lot of work to do and she should remember she isn’t only the mayor of BLM protesters, she’s the mayor of the whole city. Regular peaceful residents deserve to be safe in their city.