Council Budget Chair Decries Colleagues’ “Misinformation”; Co-LEAD Program May Shift to State Highway Encampments

1. After voting against the 2023-2024 city budget yesterday, City Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen issued lengthy statements explaining their rationale. In general, both argued that the council should have approved Mayor Bruce Harrell’s budget without significant changes, and should not have eliminated 80 of the 240 vacant police positions for which SPD would otherwise receive funding year after year.

The council funded Harrell’s entire police hiring plan, including large financial incentives for new and transferring officers, and moved parking enforcement officers back to SPD, another top priority for Harrell and the police department.

Still, Nelson and Pedersen described the budget (which Harrell praised) as an affront that will endanger resident and drive qualified police applicants away “With SPD down about 30% of its deployable force and fatal shootings up 35% since 2020, these are far from normal times, and we need to change the narrative that contributed to their staffing shortage,” Nelson said.

Those numbers require some context: There were 36 fatal shootings in Seattle in the first ten months of 2022, compared to 24 for the same period in 2020—at 33 percent increase. But those disturbing numbers of part of a national trend that is actually worse in rural (and Republican) areas, making it a stretch to suggest that shootings are up because of police staffing problems. Similarly, it’s far-fetched to suggest that a largely symbolic (and fairly obscure) council vote to stop funding some long-vacant positions is driving potential job applicants away.

“At best, Nelson and Pedersen are exhibiting sheer incompetence, but unfortunately it appears it’s a wilfull attempt to spread misinformation to prop up their individual political goals. They are being dishonest and actively harmful.”—Council budget chair Teresa Mosqueda

On Wednesday, council budget committee chair Teresa Mosqueda responded to the overheated rhetoric from Nelson and Pedersen, telling PubliCola: “At best, Nelson and Pedersen are exhibiting sheer incompetence, but unfortunately it appears it’s a wilfull attempt to spread misinformation to prop up their individual political goals. They are being dishonest and actively harmful.”

Although Nelson was just elected to her citywide position last year, Pedersen (who represents Northeast Seattle’s District 4) is up for reelection in 2023. One candidate has already announced, and PubliCola has heard about at least one more potential opponent—an urbanist who will challenge Pedersen from the pro-housing left.

2. One program that did not receive full funding from the council this year—the Public Defender Association’s Co-LEAD program, which provides case management and hotel-based shelter to people experiencing homelessness—may end up having to shift their focus away from Seattle neighborhoods to encampments near state highways, PDA co-director Lisa Daugaard said.

That’s because without $5.3 million in annual city funding to keep the program going, the PDA may end up moving Co-LEAD to the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, which has access to state funds to address encampments in state-owned rights-of-way, such as embankments and overpasses.

“[Focusing on state highways] will take us further away from the focus on public safety in Seattle neighborhoods and the public safety concepts that both the Harrell Administration and the City Council have strongly espoused.—Public Defender Association co-director Lisa Daugaard

The PDA made a similar change to its JustCARE program, which previously focused on large encampments inside the city of Seattle, earlier this year. The program moves encampment residents to hotels and enrolls them in intensive case management, enabling the Washington State Department of Transportation to remove encampments in state rights-of-way—a top goal of Gov. Jay Inslee during the last legislative session—without simply displacing them.

“I think the most likely solution is that more of Co-LEAD may shift over to RHA, if indeed RHA is successful in advocating for the state to double down on the approach that we and other partners have brought to the state transportation right-of-way work,” Daugaard said. “But that will take us further away from the focus on public safety in Seattle neighborhoods… [and] the public safety concepts that both the Harrell Administration and the City Council have strongly espoused.”

JustCARE and Co-LEAD both emerged during the pandemic, with support from emergency federal funding, to address the proliferation of large, sometimes dangerous encampments in places like City Hall Park in Pioneer Square. The council’s budget does provide funding for LEAD, the PDA’s original diversion program, which provides case management to people involved in the criminal legal system, such as homeless people facing charges for misdemeanor crimes.

9 thoughts on “Council Budget Chair Decries Colleagues’ “Misinformation”; Co-LEAD Program May Shift to State Highway Encampments”

  1. “Still, Nelson and Pedersen described the budget (which Harrell praised) as an affront that will endanger resident and drive qualified police applicants away.”

    Just like George W. Bush said so many years ago, “you got to catapult the propaganda!” And clearly he was as incompetent at it as these two clowns. “What budget shortfall? What ever are you talking about?”

    One would even think this is some sort of grift with the money being holed up in that way on empty positions. But if all they can come up with is some imaginary cop with an imaginary idea about why he may or may not take some job, well clearly they lack the ability to pull something like that off.

  2. Harrell is a moderate. But Mosqueda is decidedly not. And speaking of incompetence and just cowardess – Mosqueda voted to defend police along with other then council members – just two months after all voted unanimously to fund around 200 more police. This in response to public outcry after a downtown rush hour shooting which killed one, injured 7 and sent hundreds of people running for shelter in buildings and rail tunnels. Defund has been a huge mistake and was a knee jerk reaction on councils part when they should have done the right thing and shown calm and moderation instead of about face panic. The only council member who didn’t vote to defund at the time was Alex pedersen. Remember.

  3. We shouldn’t worry about the dramatic increase in homicides within the Seattle area because some rural county in Arkansas has a high murder rate? That’s some heavy whataboutism.

    1. Yeah, I believe Sara and Alex are woking with Mayor Harrell to push public opinion rightward, (towards the center really… not anything near Republican right). So far I think it’s working with the Mayor’s office and his Council allies keeping the media’s focus mostly on cleaning up homeless issues and law and order.

      I feel bad for Mosqueda because she’s badly outgunned and out flanked by Nelson & Co. Plus she’s stabbed in the back by the self proclaimed Socialist Queen of the Emerald City.. Sawant. Queen Kshama seems to have her own organization, her own agenda and her own rules and doesn’t seem to work and play well with other Left leaning Council members. If you’re a Lefty, gosh, you got to hate Sawant’s self serving nature.

      So now it comes down a February special election for I-135…. the social housing concept (without funding, I think you have to call it a concept really). Can the Seattle Left rally and pass I-135? If they do, they have an issue in the 2023 Council elections to focus on. If I-135 loses, I don’t see the Left being organized enough to stop a centrist agenda led by Mayor Harrell.

      1. Harrell, a Centrist? Ha! He’d be like a +5 conservative on The Political Compass Test.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.