The participatory budgeting bill, which releases about $1m to the Office of Civil Rights to create three new positions to support the PB process and conduct the search for the third-party organization that will administer PB, passed unanimously. We can expect that third party to be chosen and hired by the end of the year and for the participatory budgeting process to begin in earnest in 2022, beginning with the brainstorming of ideas , the development of projects, and hopefully voting to happen around summertime 2022.
The SPD budget bill had spent several torturous months in committee before being finally brought to the full council for a vote with a recommendation of “Do Not Pass,” which means more CMs voted against it than for it in committee. The bill was originally intended to cut $5.4m from SPD’s 2021 budget after the department overspent by that amount in 2020. After SPD declared they were in a “staffing crisis” and both Judge Robart and Police Monitor Oftelie spoke against any cuts to the SPD budget, CM Herbold began changing the bill, seeking to find compromise. While emphasizing that SPD’s 2021 staffing plan was already and had always been fully funded, she reduced the cut to the department to $2m, which was to go to participatory budgeting, with the remainder to go to various priorities identified by SPD and the auditor, while also releasing another proviso.
CM Lewis complicated the bill further by introducing an amendment that would take the $2m from participatory budgeting and instead allocate it to the JustCARE program that addresses homelessness. He sees JustCARE as a great example of a community-based alternative for public safety that should be funded by money taken from the police department. Worried that the Council may be losing momentum, his hope was to get additional money to JustCARE more quickly than the PB timeline would allow, and also perhaps to tee up the idea of a dual stream of investments to both participatory budgeting and community alternatives for fall budget talks. His amendment passed 5-4, with Strauss, Lewis, Mosqueda, Herbold, and Juarez voting yes.
However, the SPD budget bill was ultimately voted down, with CMs having extremely different reasons for not supporting it. The final vote was 6-3 against, with Strauss, Mosqueda, Pedersen, Sawant, González, and Morales voting against the bill. This means the status quo is maintained, the provisos aren’t lifted, and SPD still can’t spend the $7.5m that had been in question, nor has that money been reallocated to other purposes.