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Seattle City Council overrides mayor's veto on police budget cuts

caption: Seattle City Hall
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Seattle City Hall
Flickr Photo/Daniel X. O'Neil (CC-BY-NC-ND)/

The Seattle City Council voted Tuesday to approve cuts to the Seattle Police Department budget that Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoed last month.

The vote was 9-2 to overrule the mayor's veto. In doing so, the Council will pursue laying off 100 people from the police department, cutting commander salaries, and diverting those funds to Black and brown community organizations, among other changes.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote Council President Lorena Gonzalez proposed a substitute bill with fewer cuts that Durkan had said she’d agree to.

That substitute bill was rejected by anti-police brutality activists who said Durkan was “reshaping legislation that the Council has already passed.”

Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now wrote in a joint statement that the bill was unacceptable and “anti-Black.”

That was the opinion of the majority of Seattleites who called in for the hour and a half of public comment ahead of Tuesday’s vote. The overwhelming consensus among callers was for the Council to reject the mayor’s veto and move forward with proposed cuts.

The Council did just that, approving the legislation that the mayor had vetoed.

Councilmembers Debora Juarez and Alex Pedersen voted to sustain the veto.

Councilmembers Lisa Herbold, Andrew Lewis, Tammy Morales, Teresa Mosqueda, Kshama Sawant, Dan Strauss, and Council President Lorena González voted to override the mayor’s veto.

During the council’s vote on Tuesday, Durkan released a statement urging council members to sustain her veto and work together before she releases her proposed 2021 budget next week.

“I hope Council takes this moment to chart a path forward together,” Durkan’s statement read.

The council’s proposed cuts to SPD are still a far cry from the 50% budget cut activists have called for since early June. Council members said the legislation was the first step in reshaping policing in Seattle and called it a “down payment” for future action.

The Council’s legislation would cut about $3 million for the rest of the year. Some of the cuts include: dismantling the city’s Navigation Team, reducing specialized police units like mounted patrol and school resource officers, and cutting recruitment and retention.

Pros and cons of disbanding the Navigation Team

The Council would also invest $17 million in community organizations and youth programs.

In response to the veto override, Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now said in a statement that the groups, “expect council members to maintain their conviction, elevate Black lives, and uphold their public commitments to divest from policing and reinvest in Black communities,” as the Council heads into 2021 budget negotiations with the mayor.

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