The Seattle City Council voted Tuesday evening to override Mayor Jenny Durkan’s vetoes of three council budget bills that would have stopped sharp budget cuts of the Seattle Police Department.
The veto-override vote capped hours of online public debate about the three bills and many speakers urged council members to “hold the line” against the mayor and listen to the Black Lives Matter movement, The Seattle Times reported.
“We need you to stand with black lives, not Jenny Durkan,” public commenter Evelyn Chow said.
Mayor Durkan and council members have been working for months to rework the 2020 city budget and respond to the protests that have swept the country following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for roughly nine minutes during an arrest.
The budget bills were passed by the council and vetoed by Durkan last month before the council voted to override the Democratic mayor’s veto Tuesday.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant said Tuesday’s vote was the result of “ferocious” pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement.
The new spending plan will cut the police department staff by roughly 100 officers, eliminate the Navigation Team that serves as an outreach to the homeless and trim the SPD’s command staff salaries, KOMO-TV reported.
It will also borrow $14 million to fund community-based public safety programs and use $3 million of emergency reserves to fund a community-led public safety research project.
The amended budget will strip the department of roughly $3 million, a less than 1 percent defunding of the department’s budget.
Prior to the vote, Durkan said she was concerned about insufficient plans for responding to emergency calls with a smaller police force, addressing the homeless encampments without a dedicated team and funding to pay off the loan.
Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now said they were “encouraged” by the veto-override vote, but said the budget cuts were modest.
“As we head into the 2021 budget cycle, we expect council members to maintain their conviction, elevate Black lives, and uphold their public commitments to divest from policing and reinvest in Black communities,” the community coalitions said in a statement.
The council members described the cuts as a “down payment” on future changes to the department.
The Downtown Seattle Association was disappointed by Tuesday’s vote and said it “won’t result in real police reform,” according to The Seattle Times.
“The council needs to listen to constituents from across the city, not just those who gather outside their front doors,” the association said.
Mayor Durkan is expected to unveil her plan for Seattle’s 2021 budget next week and several council members said they were open to working with Durkan on a deal to better meet the city’s public safety needs.
“One of our shared responsibilities is to find common ground,” Durkan said.
“Even when we disagree, I have always believed we could work together on actual solutions that can be done and make the change we want to see.”
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