Seattle City Council passes 2021 budget after months of deliberation to defund police

After months of heated deliberation, the Seattle City Council reached a decision on the 2021 budget. During a virtual meeting on Monday, the council approved the budget in an 8-1 vote. Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted no, saying the proposal “deeply fails” marginalized communities.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide) is chair of the budget committee. She said the next fiscal year’s budget passed with affordable housing, health, safety, environment, and economic recovery being a priority.

“My colleagues and I have this year (not once, but twice) reviewed, evaluated, and adjusted the City’s Budget to reflect this city’s needs and values.  Working with Seattle residents and workers, listening to over 15 hours of public comment, and reviewing more than 169 amendments, we’ve crafted a 2021 Budget that invests in what we need most,” said Mosqueda.

Most of the public comments during Monday’s virtual meeting focused on the move to defund police and urged those on the council to make deeper cuts. The local police union said defunding is the last thing that should happen at the Seattle Police Department.

During the deliberation, the council took a closer look at the proposal to cut SPD’s funding by 17%. It was a much smaller amount than the 50% of council members considering it over the summer. Sawant reminded the council that seven out of nine members were previously “committed” to defunding police by 50%.

“There are reasons to defund SPD and build a new public safety system,” said one community member during the meeting.

“Let me be clear—20% is not enough. The community members have made themselves clear,” said another community member. “We want a minimum of 50% budget reduction.”

“This amendment is not enough to fix the harm SPD causes and further cuts to SPD in the future are necessary. Cutting the SPD budget is the least the city council can do to support the community and help us get back on our feet in the crisis we’re are currently facing,” said another community member.

The council also weighed the options of hiring more officers. The proposed amount for the next fiscal year was 114 officers. Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild, said recruiting new officers is a small bright light for the future of the department. However, he also said it’s not nearly enough to keep up with the city’s crime rate as officers continue leaving the force.

“We’re at a crisis point as far as having enough officers available to answer the 911 calls, let alone follow up investigations. We don’t have enough people,” said Solan.

Though the vote for the next fiscal year’s budget is final, conversations are expected to continue about how defunding police and hiring new officers could impact response times and public safety.

“Hopefully the council is hearing from their constituents as they fear for their public safety because I’m hearing from constituents. People are scared and you can’t insert politics into public safety because if you do so we all lose,” said Solan.