Participatory Budgeting Could be a Seed that Brings Lasting Change

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Notes from the Emerald City
Participatory Budgeting Could be a Seed that Brings Lasting Change
By Amy Sundberg • Issue #10 • View online
The latest on participatory budgeting; further reporting on OLEO including problems at the bargaining table; CP González wins an important mayoral endorsement; and SPD has to pay for an early intervention system that doesn’t work because of the consent decree.

The Latest on Participatory Budgeting
Amy Sundberg
The Seattle Community Economic Development committee meeting has begun, and they are currently hearing comments.
The Community Economic Development committee finally heard an agenda item about participatory budgeting this week. Because the draft legislation hasn’t yet finished going through legal, CM Morales is hoping to vote on it at a special committee meeting on June 3, to be followed by a vote of the full Council. The legislation would release about $1m to the Department of Civil Rights to hire three staff members and start the process, including by issuing an RFP to hire a third-party administrator for the program, as well as releasing further funds (although not all of them) for the process.
Sean Goode from Choose 180 was present at the meeting and spoke eloquently in support of participatory budgeting. He sees the program as an opportunity to construct something new for the community that seeds lasting change and also spoke in favor of equity over expediency. His entire speech (about ten minutes) is worth listening to and can be found here starting at the 1:40:00.
The timeline on participatory budgeting has been moved back, with CM Morales expecting the Office of Civil Rights to hire a third-party organization by the end of the year and hopefully voting to begin around next summer.
Police Contract Bargaining and Accountability
Carolyn Bick has released the second part of her investigative series on OLEO and the experiences of its former Director Jacobs, the middle section of which will be of particular interest to those of you following the obstructions inherent with including accountability provisions as working conditions at the police contract bargaining table. Similar to what has happened in Seattle with the OPA, OLEO was granted oversight authority that it then had to bargain for, essentially maintaining the appearance of accountability without the power to provide actual accountability. I am going to quote extensively from the relevant section:
Much of the Guild’s alleged initial treatment of Jacobs appears to have stemmed, at least in part, from Jacobs attempting to bargain with the KCPOG for the oversight rights voters had already afforded OLEO in 2015 via ballot measure. Jacobs said that she had to work with Bob Railton, KCOLR’s deputy director and labor negotiator, who Jacobs said constantly made her feel as though she was a troublemaker and a nuisance and who routinely talked down to her in a sexist and demeaning manner. 
This collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was not finalized and signed until April 2020. Its language has made it retroactive from Jan. 1, 2017, but it will expire in December of this year. It was necessary for OLEO to bargain for the rights voters had already afforded the oversight entity, because state law requires bargaining for anything considered “mandatory,” including wages, hours, and working conditions. OLEO’s oversight duties fall into this category.
“The Office of Labor Relations bargainer’s main concern was getting a bargain and not going to arbitration. That did not align with OLEO’s interest of having the voters’ will brought to fruition with the implementation of independent investigations conducted by OLEO,” Jacobs wrote in her email. “There was constant pressure on me to compromise, and some of it was manipulative and, to my mind, unethical.”
Topaz said that Jacobs’ recollection of the dynamic at the bargaining table tracks with what he remembers. Topaz worked as a labor negotiator with the KCOLR from 2014–2020 and was briefly assigned to help negotiate the CBA. Topaz said that from his point of view, for the period of time he worked to help bargain the contract, OLEO was little more than “a political thing that the [King] County Council did that they never really gave the support and authority needed to be successful.
“They created something, gave it limited resources and limited authority, and then expected it to produce something that I am assuming would have given them cover for people to complain about,” Topaz said.
“I don’t think [the Council] really backed [Jacobs] up very well to get done what she needed to,” Topaz continued. “Honestly, I think they have more or less set up anybody who would be in that role [of OLEO director] for failure.”
Other News of Note
The MLK Labor Council held a Seattle mayoral forum last night, ushering us into election debate season, and it seems like there were at least a few illuminating (and entertaining) moments, including a rapid-fire Yes/No round in which Bruce Harrell felt the need to quibble with the definition of “sweeps”.
Joe Mizrahi
Live tweeting here @MLKLabor mayoral forum starting now. It’s also on Facebook live. But that won’t have my color commentary so I recommend you stay here
Meanwhile, Crosscut reported on the SPD’s court-mandated (because of the consent decree) early intervention system, designed to predict bad behavior among police officers. “Despite near-universal acknowledgment of its failings, the system remains, largely because a federal judge has not given the green light to ditch it.”
A new system is currently under development, one that focuses on recognizing and addressing past trauma in an attempt to prevent future misconduct rooted in that trauma, which sounds interesting. However, because of the consent decree mandate for the prior ineffective system, both systems will have to run concurrently, meaning both will need to be funded and money will be wasted.
Thank you for your continued support, and I hope you enjoy the end of the week!
Recent Headlines
Washington governor signs sweeping police reform measures | The Seattle Times
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Amy Sundberg

This newsletter covers Seattle politics and policy with a particular focus on police accountability and criminal legal reform, while also referencing relevant news in Washington State and beyond.

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