1. Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz held a brief press conference on Wednesday afternoon to address both his announcement last Friday night that two SPD officers were present in Washington, D.C. on the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol and a spike in homicides in Seattle in 2020. As PubliCola reported on Friday, the department learned that two of its officers were in D.C. through a photo posted on social media; Diaz placed both officers on administrative leave while the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) investigates whether they were involved in the attack on the Capitol.
According to Diaz’s statement Monday, another officer reported the pair to their superiors, and the photos reached Assistant Chief of Patrol Operations Tom Mahaffey and Diaz by last Thursday. Diaz said he didn’t immediately terminate the two officers because “participating in a political event on their own time, out of uniform, violates no policy or law.”
In response to questions Monday, Diaz said that he will immediately fire the officers if the OPA investigation finds that they “participat[ed] in altercations with Capitol Police” or violated federal law.
The OPA also opened an investigation into Solan’s tweets last Friday. SPD has disciplined officers for social media posts in the recent past; last January, then-police chief Carmen Best fired Officer Duane Goodman for Instagram posts attacking Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and “illegal immigrants.”
Diaz said he didn’t immediately terminate the two officers because “participating in a political event on their own time, out of uniform, violates no policy or law.”
Halfway through his prepared remarks, Diaz pivoted to the subject of the surge in homicides in Seattle in 2020. According to year-end statistics, homicides rose by 61 percent from from 2019—from 31 to 50, the highest number in 26 years. Of those, 60 percent involved a gun, compared to 66 percent in the previous year. Half of all victims were Black, and most were men between the ages of 18 and 49. According to Diaz, last year saw an increase in domestic violence homicides in the city and a decrease in homicides in which the victims were unsheltered.
2. During Monday’s city council briefing, several council members added their voices to calls for Seattle Police Officers’ Guild president Mike Solan to resign after he took to Twitter last week to assert that members of the “far left” and Black Lives Matter activists were involved in the attack on the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday. Mayor Jenny Durkan, former Seattle police chief Carmen Best and frequent department ally Scott Lindsay publicly called for Solan to apologize or resign on Friday evening.
In her comments at the start of the council briefing, Councilmember Lisa Herbold pointed to Solan’s lengthy record of inflammatory public statements and suggested that SPOG members should consider recalling or censuring Solan. “This is not the person I believe should be leading the guild during challenging times,” Herbold said, “and I hope members of SPOG agree.”
Council President Lorena González and Councilmember Andrew Lewis made more direct calls for SPOG to remove Solan from its leadership, with Lewis arguing that Solan “has done nothing to advance the cause or the issues of that union or the quality of support of workers in that union.” And Councilmember Alex Pedersen connected Solan’s comments to the upcoming contract negotiations with SPOG, which will begin sometime in 2021.
“We will all agree that Officer Solan’s remarks and their implications are reprehensible and untrue, but also that there is a need to revamp an inflexible, expensive and unjust police union contract,” Pedersen said. “The current president of the police union has, in my view, disqualified himself to a fair partner to negotiate that contract.”
3. Also at today’s council meeting, council members Teresa Mosqueda and Kshama Sawant introduced a resolution calling for collaboration between US and Cuban scientists and urging Congress and the incoming Administration to end the United States’ economic blockade against its southern neighbor. Citing reports from Cuban authorities, the resolution reads, “Cuba’s free community-based healthcare system, unified government approach, and robust biopharmaceutical industry have enabled the country to effectively deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Compared to Cuba, the per capita rate of total cases in the U.S. is 56 times the rate in Cuba and the per capita rate of total deaths is 85 times the rate in Cuba,” the resolution says. A news report included among the documents attached to the resolution says that these numbers are largely the result of stricter containment efforts and the use of experimental treatments that reduce inflammation in patients with severe COVID symptoms.
On Monday, Mosqueda said the US blockade “has severely restricted collaboration on scientific and medical research. That interferes with the potential for saving lives in the face of this pandemic, which not only harms the people of Cuba, but it also harms us, the international community, who could benefit from the medical expertise and generosity of people in Cuba.” Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative party, added, “The statistics [tell] a powerful story for what can be accomplished through public and socialized medicine.”
The US trade embargo against Cuba, which prohibits most trade between the two nations, has been in place for almost 60 years. On Monday, the Trump Administration put Cuba back on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, reversing a signature Obama-era policy on its way out the door.
4. Andrew Grant Houston, an architect and interim policy assistant in Councilmember Mosqueda’s office, told PubliCola this weekend that he plans to announce his candidacy for mayor on Tuesday. Houston, who is 31 and lives on Capitol Hill, is an early entry to what will likely be a crowded race to fill the position Mayor Jenny Durkan is leaving after a single term.
Houston said he was galvanized to run after seeing the way the COVID pandemic impacted people living unsheltered and observing the power Durkan had to override policies and spending priorities adopted by the council. “It became clear through the budget process how much power the mayor had to simply say no and stop things from happening,” he said. One of his top priorities, Houston said, would be to build 2,500 new tiny houses that could serve as bridge shelter while the city makes a massive new investment in both low-income and market-rate housing.
“In order to fill the gap in housing, we need to be building somewhere around 33,000 homes a year,” Houston said.
Houston also wants to fund Green New Deal apprenticeships by passing a corporate income tax and put a bus funding measure on the ballot before Sound Transit opens new lines to Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Redmond in 2024.
So far, only two other candidates—South East Effective Development interim director Lance Randall and self-identified car salesman William Kopatich—have filed for the mayor’s race, but it’s early yet; in 2017, most of the major mayoral candidates declared their candidacies in April or May. This year’s filing deadline is May 14.