Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Issues Veto Of City Council Budget Plan That Cut Police Funding

SEATTLE, WA — Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Friday that she will veto a rebalanced budget approved recently by the Seattle City Council that included a controversial plan to slash funding to the police department, which would sharply reduce pay for some of the agency’s top brass and eliminate an outreach team for the homeless.

But the budget plan was approved by a super majority of council members, which if it stays intact, will have enough votes to override the mayoral veto.

Speaking during an afternoon news conference, Durkan said the council’s spending plan was not feasible.

“I continue to have concerns about council decisions to make cuts before they have a plan,” she said.

The mayor doesn’t have the ability to do a line-item veto, so if she doesn’t like one part of the budget, she must reject the entire 2020 rebalancing plan and send it back the council for potential changes. Most of the reasons she cited for the veto stem from additional cuts the council added to the mayor’s proposed cuts to SPD for the remainder of 2020.

“There’s no plans, for example, on how the city will address encampments and RVs that pose public health and safety risk without the Human Services staff who coordinate and lead these outreach efforts that were cut by this budget,” Durkan said.

She also objected to the council’s 40 percent salary reduction of SPD command staff and the lack of plan to remove the 100 officers, which the council budget suggested.

In a written statement, council President Lorena González said: “I am disappointed to learn of the Mayor’s decision to veto these bills, which were overwhelmingly supported by the City Council.”

She also expressed a quest to find common ground with the mayor.

“I have to believe that we agree on more than we disagree, and I will strive to bridge the gap on our few but critical differences of opinion,” Gonzalez’s statement said.

The council is currently on a three-week recess and not scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 8. The mayor’s veto immediately halts the budget plan approved by the council vote unless or until the panel overrides her decision with eight members voting to do so.

The council on Aug. 10 voted 7-1 to approve a controversial spending plan that will reduce funding to the Seattle Police Department by 14 percent for the remainder of 2020. 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 did approve a six percent cut to the salary of police Chief Carmen Best, a move that culminated with the chief announcing her decision to retire a few days after the vote.

The council had originally planned to slash Best’s salary for the rest of the year to $185,000, but the panel reinstated the chief’s salary to $294,000, which represented just a small pay reduction. But the council did move forward with a decision to slash the pay for the 12 other non-union, sworn officers that are part of Best’s command staff saw down to the lowest pay grade for the rank they represent.

Durkan had proposed cuts worth $20 million to the police budget, and the council went along with that plan while adding in an additional $2.9 million in spending reductions.

As of Friday, the mayor and council’s cuts total $23 million, which would be a 13 percent reduction to the department’s remaining $127 million budget, according to the mayor’s office.

The budget reduction could affect as many as 100 officers through layoffs and attrition.

The council’s budget cut also eliminated the city Navigation Team, which removes homeless camps and provides outreach services to the homeless, along with dismantling the police Harbor Patrol, SWAT, Public Affairs and Horse Unit.

The mayor also announced that she and several council members have agreed to a COVID-19 relief package.

Durkan, González and council members Teresa Mosqueda, and Tammy Morales announced an amended proposal that will create and extend $45 million in COVID-19 programs into next year that will also ensure the city has emergency reserves for 2020 and 2021 budget shortfalls and emergencies.

From KOMO News