1. Mayor Jenny Durkan issued a press release on Wednesday touting her own success, along with that of her Human Services Department in handing out more than $10 million in grants, over 18 months, to 33 community-based groups and nonprofit organizations that work on upstream violence prevention and intervention strategies.
“Together, these investments strengthen community organization’s ability to address institutionalized inequities that result in BIPOC communities being underserved and unsafe,” Durkan’s press release said.
What Durkan’s statement failed to mention is that her office spent much of the last year fighting not to spend this money. The city council first directed the mayor’s office to spend the $10 million last September, when they adopted a midyear budget amendment allocating $10 million “solely for community-led efforts to scale up organizations to increase public safety through technical support, capacity building, and expansion of capacity.”
At the time, the council hoped to get funds out the door quickly to respond to public demands for investments in alternatives to police that emerged during citywide protests throughout the summer.
Durkan vetoed the council’s adopted budget, specifically citing the $10 million expenditure, which the council’s budget paid for using an interfund loan, as a reason for rejecting the budget. The council narrowly overturned her veto, earmarking the funds for community organizations. The money was supposed to be spent this year.
When Durkan still failed to spend the money the council allocated—telling the council she planned to do her own request for proposals—the council acted again, amending Durkan’s 2021 budget to take the $10 million out of Durkan’s Equitable Communities fund (which the mayor established as an executive-branch parallel to the council-led participatory budgeting process) and allocating it to the same purpose as before.
This week’s announcement, which comes in the waning months of Durkan’s term, is a step toward finally getting the long-delayed funding out the door.
2. In a Thursday afternoon blog post, Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz outlined his department’s plans to comply with a pair of new state laws that place limits on police tactics and equipment, restrict when officers can use force, and require officers who witness out-of-policy uses of force to their supervisors.
Overall, Diaz wrote, he believes SPD is already complying with most of the new restrictions and requirements are already included SPD policy or local law, so the new statewide standards for pursuits, for example, won’t spur any changes in Seattle. Diaz added that the department would continue using 40mm “less lethal” projectile launchers, which police used on protesters last year, calling the launchers “an established tool that has allowed marked success in bringing about positive outcomes in dangerous situations.”
The new policies will prohibit police statewide from using force unless they have probable cause to make an arrest or they are responding to an “imminent threat” to themselves or another person; require police departments to empty their arsenals of “military equipment,” including some high-caliber weapons; and prohibit vehicle pursuits unless police believe they are chasing a suspect in a violent crime.
Diaz said the new rules will spur changes to how officers handle so-called “Terry stops,” or stops made without probable cause for an arrest. “If officers cannot articulate … a basis for a use of physical force with an uncooperative or resistant subject,” he wrote, “officers will be expected to disengage.” PubliCola has reached out to SPD’s legal department for details about the current bar for using force during Terry stops.
In addition, Diaz wrote, SPD will do away with its high-caliber rifles and shotguns. While some departments around the state have also claimed that the law requires them to turn over their high-caliber rubber bullet launchers, Diaz contended that he has “increasing confidence that it was not the intent of the legislature” to force departments to abandon weapons that can be used as less-lethal alternatives to guns during some crisis responses.
According to a department source, SPD expects that Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson may issue guidelines on whether departments can keep their high-caliber rubber bullet launchers before Sunday.
3. Erstwhile Human Services Department Interim Director Helen Powell has taken a job as deputy director of the new King County Regional Homelessness Authority, a story PubliCola broke on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. Current HSD deputy director Tanya Kim will take over for the rest of the year, Howell said in an email to staff.Howell, the former executive director of the Seattle-based nonprofit Building Changes, was in the position for about seven months. Durkan appointed Howell last December to replace the previous interim HSD director, Jason Johnson, whose name the mayor withdrew from nomination when it became clear the city council would not confirm Johnson for a permanent appointment.
Howell’s departure comes at a shaky time for the department, which has not had a permanent director since early 2018, when Ed Murray appointee Catherine Lester left shortly after Durkan took office.
4. Earlier this week, PubliCola pushed our primary-election endorsements of Lorena González for mayor and Brianna Thomas for City Council Position 9. (If you’re wondering how to vote in Position 8, we encourage you to vote for past PubliCola Pick Teresa Mosqueda.)
Keep an eye out later this year for our general election endorsements, which will also cover the races for Seattle City Attorney, King County Executive, and potentially the Compassion Seattle and Sawant recall elections, depending on whether those proposals make it onto the November ballot!