1. The Seattle City Council introduced a 2022 their budget proposal on Tuesday afternoon under difficult circumstances: the surge in COVID-19 infections in the early fall knocked the wind out of the city’s revenue forecasts, forcing the council to consider reductions to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed 2022 budget despite surging demand for city spending on economic recovery, housing, transit, and new public safety programs.
In total, the latest revenue forecasts predict a $15 million decrease in general fund revenue, driven largely by lower-than-expected payroll tax and parking ticket revenue—both consequences of the slow return to in-person work. A shortage of parking enforcement officers, forcing the city to suspend the collections of parking fines, also explains the parking ticket revenue decline. Parking revenue shortfalls totaled more than $7 million.
While presenting the new budget package on Tuesday, council budget chair Teresa Mosqueda criticized Durkan for basing her proposed budget on the more-optimistic revenue projections from August rather than the grim forecasts the council has relied upon for most of the past two years. “It’s good to be optimistic,” she said, “but do it while planning for the worst-case scenario.”
Many of the council’s reductions are directed at the mayor’s proposed public safety budget. In total, the council’s budget package outlines $10 million in reductions to Durkan’s proposed police budget. The council largely targeting salaries for sworn positions that the council believes will go unfilled in 2022; the council expects SPD to end next year with no more than 1,223 officers, compared to the 1,357 funded in the mayor’s proposed budget. The package also outlines reductions to SPD’s overtime budget and scraps a pair of data analysis projects, the proposed expansion of the department’s Community Service Officer program, and hiring incentives for new officers in 2022. Another $1 million reduction would cut the Seattle Fire Department’s new Triage One teams by half in 2022; the new emergency response units likely won’t launch until July, so the council plans to trim their budget accordingly.
Durkan responded sharply to the council’s proposed public safety budget plans on Tuesday night, saying “after last week’s election results delivered a clear rejection of the City Council’s plans to defund SPD, I was hopeful the Council would listen to voters and address our public safety needs with a real plan. Instead, it’s déjà vu all over again with Council proposing one of the largest cuts to public safety to date.” The council’s plan did not, however, cut any police officer positions that SPD expected to fill.
Despite the reductions to Durkan’s proposed SPD budget, Mosqueda maintains that the new budget package isn’t austere, in large part because of the more than $230 million available through the JumpStart tax—a payroll tax she spearheaded and the council adopted last year as a means to fund affordable housing and small business recovery. It’s also a source of revenue that Durkan has often tried to repurpose despite the council’s protests. Durkan has taken the same tactic this year; in her proposal for the 2022 budget, the mayor suggested redirecting $148 million in JumpStart revenue to fill gaps in the general fund.
The council’s proposal outlines $192 million—half of which will come from JumpStart revenues—in spending on affordable housing and homelessness programs, including roughly a dozen projects not included in Durkan’s original budget plan.
The council’s budget package reins in Durkan’s plans to spend JumpStart revenue, capping the amount that Durkan can use to fill in gaps in the general fund at $85 million. Among Durkan’s proposals the council didn’t give the go-ahead: using $30 million in JumpStart revenue to expand the budget for the upcoming participatory budgeting program. Instead, the council plans to use the nearly $30 million left in this year’s budget to get the still-stalled program off the ground in 2022.
The council’s proposal outlines $192 million—half of which will come from JumpStart revenues—in spending on affordable housing and homelessness programs, including roughly a dozen projects not included in Durkan’s original budget plan. Those projects include a $1.5 million investment in safe parking lots for people living in their cars and trailers, including ongoing dollars to pay for garbage pickup and handwashing stations, and a $10 million expansion of the city’s budget for Tiny Home Villages. For some one-time housing related costs, the council’s plan would repurpose federal grant dollars that Durkan previously planned to use to pay for long-term projects.
The budget package also sets aside $7 million for new public safety-related programs, focused largely on mental health crisis centers and emergency responders—namely the Mobile Crisis Teams managed by the Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC).
In spite of the revenue shortfall, Mosqueda said that the council hopes the budget will be able to “make up for spending we should have done 20 or 30 years ago”—particularly spending on affordable housing development and mental health services.
In a press release on Tuesday night, mayor-elect Bruce Harrell echoed Durkan’s criticisms of the council’s budget package, suggesting that the council’s proposals constitute an outright cut to SPD’s ability to hire new officers and launch new training programs. “Proposing further cuts deprives the City of resources needed to achieve national best practice staffing levels, decrease response times, and hire and train desperately needed officers,” he wrote, “and is in direct conflict with what Seattle voters demanded just last week.”
2. The Long Beach, Washington police department recently hired Duane Goodman, an 11-year SPD veteran with a history of misconduct in Seattle, including a pair of incendiary social media posts that prompted former Police Chief Carmen Best to fire him in January of last year.
In 2018, an anonymous complainant reached out to SPD to raise concerns about two posts on Goodman’s Instagram account. First, under a picture of a package bomb, Goodman had written, “I don’t condone sending package bombs but god it would be nice for Killary and Anti-cop Obama to finally STFU!” A second post—a picture of Goodman raising his middle finger towards the camera—HAD A caption disparaging undocumented immigrants. SPD turned over the first post to the US Secret Service, which launched a criminal investigation; the US Attorney’s Office later declined to file charges.
In a letter firing Goodman, Best wrote that his “embrace [of] violence as a ‘solution’ for a public figure” was a “betrayal of the values of our profession.” Best also wrote that Goodman’s hostility towards undocumented immigrants indicated that he couldn’t treat members of the public fairly regardless of their immigration status. In the letter, Best also referred to a 2018 incident in which Goodman threatened to throw a person in crisis off a balcony if he didn’t comply with officers’ demands. An officer who witnessed Goodman’s threat later reported the incident to his supervisors; a year later, SPD suspended Goodman for two days without pay for failing to de-escalate.
After his termination, Goodman’s misconduct record only continued to grow. In February 2020, an investigation by Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) revealed that Goodman—while awaiting discipline for his Instagram posts—had tracked down the contact information of the anonymous whistleblower and harassed her via text message; in one message, Goodman called the woman a “cunt.” At the urging of his union, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), Goodman refused to appear for an interview with OPA investigators about the messages. Though the department could no longer discipline Goodman, the OPA concluded that he had breached SPD’s anti-retaliation policies.
Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright has not responded to PubliCola’s request for a comment. In an interview with the Chinook Observer, Wright claimed that his department spoke with Goodman’s former supervisors and co-workers at SPD before bringing him on board; he added that the found no cause for concern during the vetting process.
In an ironic twist given Best’s post-retirement criticisms of the city council’s alleged political posturing during protests in 2020, Wright also implied that Best’s decision to fire Goodman may have been politically motivated. “[Best’s] decision is her decision,” he told the Chinook Observer. “She lives in a different world politically and in a different environment.” The Long Beach Police Department, he added, is willing to give Goodman another chance.