Advocates Propose “Solidarity Budget,” LEAD Seeks Funding, Posters Protest Candidate’s Anti-RV Action

1. On Saturday,  a coalition of Seattle-area police abolitionist groups and community nonprofits debuted the city’s second “solidarity budget,” a set of spending proposals for Seattle’s 2022 budget that would shift dollars away from police, prosecutors and the municipal court to pay for mental health services, education and housing programs. The coalition released their plan two days before Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed her own 2022 budget—the fourth and final budget of her term.

The coalition, which includes Decriminalize Seattle, the Transit Riders Union, and Columbia Legal Services, among other advocates, released the first solidarity budget last year, lobbying the council to decrease the Seattle Police Department’s budget by half and to launch a city-wide participatory budgeting program to re-distribute public safety dollars. Ultimately, the council chose to reduce SPD’s 2021 budget by 11 percent and set aside a participatory budgeting program; that project was subsequently delayed  until at least next year.

This year’s solidarity budget also calls for a 50 percent cut to the criminal legal system, largely by cutting the total number of SPD officers to 750—roughly 300 fewer officers than the department currently employs. The proposal calls for eliminating SPD’s narcotics unit, cutting the special victims unit budget by half, eliminating the department’s public affairs unit, and moving the civilian Community Safety Officer program out of the department and into the new Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC).

The coalition also recommended cutting the budgets of the Municipal Court and the criminal division of the City Attorney’s Office by 50 percent. “While the Municipal Court and City Attorneys have begun to embrace non-incarceration and conviction approaches to misdemeanors,” the coalition wrote in their budget outline, “court and prosecutors are not social service agencies, and should not be the gateway to housing and treatment.”

The solidarity budget would shift the money saved through all these cuts to nonprofits that can run civilian crisis response teams, mental health and harm reduction programs, and domestic violence victim support. It also calls for setting aside $60 million for participatory budgeting (the mayor’s budget sets aside $30 million for this purpose), as well as roughly $3 million to support members of the Duwamish tribe in the absence of federal recognition—including free transit passes, funding for inpatient drug rehabilitation, and rental assistance.

2. Earlier this month, PubliCola reported that Fremont Brewing, owned by Seattle City Council candidate Sara Nelson, had apparently placed “ecology blocks” in the public street around its Ballard production facility to prevent people living in RVs from parking there.

The story appears to have sparked outrage: Over the weekend, someone put posters saying “Sara Nelson Hates Poor People” on the blocks. As of Sunday, both the eco blocks and the posters remained in place, although at least some of the posters now say simply, and enigmatically, “Sara Nelson,” after someone (presumably a supporter) came by and removed the bottom half of the message.

Eco blocks, which are enormous, heavy, and hard to move, have popped up in industrial areas around the city as business owners have sought new ways to keep people living in vehicles from parking on public streets near their properties. Obstructing public rights-of-way in this manner is illegal, but the Seattle Department of Transportation has, so far, thrown up its hands, pointing to the difficulty and expense of removing hundreds or thousands of multi-ton blocks from streets around the city.

3. Throughout the Durkan administration, the Public Defender Association’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (LEAD) has frequently struggled to convince the mayor’s office to release funding for the program, a diversion program for people whose criminal legal system involvement stems from behavioral health issues or extreme poverty. This year has been no different: In June, the council appropriated $3 million to expand LEAD’s budget by third, but the Human Services Department hasn’t gotten the dollars out the door.

During a presentation at the Seattle City Council’s public safety committee outlining the costs and logistics of expanding LEAD program into a citywide service, council member Andrew Lewis asked HSD staff for a “status update” on the funding. Instead, HSD deputy director Tess Colby said that her department is “actively working” to get the dollars out the door. If HSD doesn’t get the $3 million into LEAD’s hands before the end of the year, the money will go back into the city’s general fund.

LEAD is squarely in the middle of Seattle’s efforts to scale up civilian alternatives to police, prosecution and incarceration, but program leaders say the decade-old program’s budget is still too small to meet the rising demand for their services.  “Very early on this year, we realized that we were going to quickly overload our case managers, so he had to start aggressively saying no, even to people who are eligible [to receive LEAD services],” LEAD’s Seattle-King County project director Tars Moss told the committee.

At the same time, prospective clients are arriving at LEAD’s doorstep from new sources. While the program often received clients through post-arrest referrals from the Seattle Police Department, these referrals have all but disappeared. Instead, LEAD has increasingly received referrals from neighborhood business organizations, nonprofits, and public agencies like the Seattle Fire Department and the King County Department of Public Defense.

Seattle’s newly independent 911 dispatch center is open to the idea of referring crisis calls to LEAD, but Moss told the council that 911 dispatchers will need to stop drawing a bright line between crisis calls and criminal calls. “The line is being drawn in the wrong place. And it’s being drawn in a way that is very likely to, if not inevitably going to generate pretty profound racial inequities,” she said.

9 thoughts on “Advocates Propose “Solidarity Budget,” LEAD Seeks Funding, Posters Protest Candidate’s Anti-RV Action”

  1. I don’t think Sara Nelson “hates poor people”, she like a lot of us are sick of the kinds of people that trash our neighborhoods, break into our cars, steal from our stores, threaten anyone trespassing on “their” turf, and deny us the use of our parks while they wait for us to build them their permanent homes.

    And the irony is that the more we build, the more money we spend, the larger the “homeless” population grows. How’s that old adage go, no good deed goes unpunished?

  2. Where is the data on the LEAD program showing their goal of reduced recidivism is being met? And why isn’t the City Council demanding that the data be looked at and published? I want a City Council that uses data to determine how well a program works and who it is or isn’t working for. If the program works well for some, but doesn’t for others, then we need to find different programs that will work for the others and change funding accordingly. This might include less funding for LEAD and more for other programs. As I recall, the Mayor at one point, wanted to add funding a jail based program including drug rehab and mental health supports which did have some graduates and worked well. Its only a small program now. That was shot down by the Council. They want all their eggs in one basket – just based on good feelings – with no backup data to support it.

      1. That’s the last data they published and only had upwards of 100 participants. No follow up has been published on participants for the last 5 years

  3. It’s sad that businesses have to resort to Eco Blocks. They wouldn’t have to if the City would enforce the 72 hour parking rule or provide good response times for things like misdemeanor crimes. The fact is, more crimes and things like fires happen around RV encampments and this makes it unsafe for the businesses employees and customers so the only thing they can do is resort to the Eco Blocks to prevent this. Also, if its a businesses that requires large delivery trucks needing access at different days and times, that access can be blocked if RV’s are parking there. I don’t fault businesses for putting up Eco Blocks to prevent this. Its also interesting you point out the Eco Blocks are illegal but don’t point out that RV parking is also illegal on city streets. I wouldn’t be able to park an RV on a city street. Let the city go to court against the businesses who are putting up the Eco Blocks and take it to the judge who made the decision that RV’s are homesteads. See what she says.

    1. “Two wrongs make a right.” A winning campaign slogan!!!!!

      Seriously, don’t we want our council members to follow the law (even if they don’t like the law)?

    2. “Two wrongs make a right.” What a winning campaign slogan!!!! Seriously, if a candidate for public office doesn’t follow the law (even if she doesn’t like it) why should we trust that person to make a law?

      1. Because the candidate does follow the law and the candidate believes we should have enforcement of laws with a police department.

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