Unveiling his proposed 2017 budget Monday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray reaffirmed his plan to grow the city’s police force and vowed to increase spending on homelessness by millions.
Unveiling a proposed 2017-18 budget Monday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray reaffirmed his plan to grow the city’s police force and vowed to increase spending on homelessness by millions of dollars more than the record nearly $50 million this year.
Delivering his annual budget speech to the City Council in a room packed with Seattle employees and hand-picked guests, Murray acknowledged “anger and pain” here and across the nation as police killings of black men continue to make headlines.
The mayor said white Americans “must recognize our privilege and work with others to construct a more just society,” and he declared, “Black Lives Matter.”
But Murray said concerns about excessive force and racial bias in Seattle’s police department are being addressed through a court-mandated reform process and shouldn’t derail the hiring of additional officers.
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“We must of course address the issue of race and policing. But we must also have a police department prepared to respond to and thoroughly investigate domestic violence and rape,” and gun violence, Murray said. “These goals are not in opposition.”
When he came into office in 2014, the mayor promised to increase the force by 100 officers. In February, he doubled that pledge.
His remarks Monday were surely directed at people active in the city’s grass roots “Block the Bunker” movement, who after helping pressure Murray and the council to shelve a $149 million North Precinct police-station project earlier this month, are now opposing the mayor’s officer-hiring plan.
Some of those activists, kept out of the council’s chambers by security guards who said there was no space, chanted during Murray’s speech. Their shouts could be faintly heard as the mayor began.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant sought to have the back doors of the chambers opened for the crowd but the council voted down her suggestion.
Sawant is calling for the city use the resources it planned to spend on the new police station to instead build affordable housing.
The council will review and adjust Murray’s budget starting this week.
In a statement, Sawant called the mayor’s proposal “a mostly business-as-usual, status quo budget.”
She said, “We need a radically different budget, a budget that focuses on overcoming the chasm of income and racial inequality.”
In his hourlong speech, the mayor mentioned investments in community centers, education, streetcar infrastructure and jobs for youths.
Murray saved remarks on homelessness for last, touting the Pathways Home plan he released a few weeks ago.
The plan outlines changes in how Seattle spends money to help people on the street, with more emphasis on permanent housing. Murray’s budget includes more than $59 million for homeless services.
After the speech, the council voted 6 to 3 to approve the mayor’s plan to move ahead with state officials on clearing out and cleaning up The Jungle.
That’s the state property under the Sodo stretch of Interstate 5 and in the adjacent greenbelt where homeless encampments have existed for decades.
Murray and the council have been debating what to do about The Jungle and outreach workers have been trying to help campers since two people were killed in a shooting there in January.
City Hall has been the scene of several protests in recent months, with activists upset with the police department shutting down council meetings.
Before the speech, police officers and security guards monitored the lobby where onlookers waited to climb a stairway to the council chambers.
City Hall employees and guests of the mayor congregated off the lobby for a private reception, then moved into the chambers through a back door.
Earlier Monday, council members met behind closed doors in an executive session. Council President Bruce Harrell had last week told his colleagues the session would be used to discuss recent “disruptive conduct.”
Monday morning, Harrell said the session was needed to discuss potential or pending litigation against the city.