Our constituents are demanding faster progress on reducing crime and homelessness and the decisions we make on the city’s budget during the next week will determine Seattle’s ability to deliver on both.

Seattle faces a fork in the road. The best path would increase public safety by efficiently investing the ample tax dollars City Hall already collects for our $7.4 billion annual budget. The unproductive path would defund safety priorities while exacerbating the financial unsustainability of city government.  

As council members opposed to defunding the police, we believe Mayor Bruce Harrell’s balanced budget proposal appropriately focused on the priority of increasing public safety. But the City Council’s budget chair put forward this week a revised package that overshadows its positive investments by negatively echoing missteps from 2020. 

Back in 2020, some city council members supported defunding Seattle police by 50%. Since then, 400-plus officers and detectives departed Seattle. In exit interviews, several cited the City Council as a reason.  

Emergency 911 response times and crime rates worsened. 

In September 2021, Councilmember Pedersen proposed to fund police recruitment and retention, but a majority of the council rejected it. In November 2021, Seattle elected a new council member, Sara Nelson, and Mayor Harrell. In February 2022, President Joe Biden, in response to calls for defunding police, said, “We should all agree, the answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police.” In the same vein, U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, before her reelection last week, said, “it’s a crazy idea to defund the police. I have never supported it. I never would. It’s a fringe idea that the other party is looking to paint all others with.”

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This past summer, the mayor and Councilmember Nelson pushed through a police recruitment proposal and plan, but even that modest public safety effort met resistance from some council members.  

Many people experiencing homelessness and suffering from addiction continue to be victimized by drug dealers and pulled into organized retail theft, while several homelessness encampments have experienced assaults, fires and even murders. Nearly 20% of all citywide shootings this year have a nexus to homelessness. It’s not compassionate when government policies look the other way or to let people remain in those dangerous conditions. 

A Seattle poll conducted by EMC Research in late September showed 69% of Seattleites think the city is on the wrong track. The poll showed crime and homelessness as the top concerns, with the highest percentage of concerns from people of color and from South Seattle. More than 70% say that the quality of life in the city has gone down when compared to the previous four years. In addition, only 27% trust City Hall to spend their dollars responsibly. 

Despite polling results, data on rising crime and what we hear from our constituents every day — as well as the clear message for change at City Hall sent by voters in November 2021 — the ill-advised policies still linger in a revised budget that a majority of City Council might enact this month.  

We urge the public to contact the city council (council@seattle.gov) and ask that members revise the budget package to maximize public safety, including: 

· Fund an addiction treatment pilot program, as proposed by Councilmember Nelson’s original amendment

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· Keep any temporary salary savings within the Seattle Police Department to fund overtime needs and to fully support officer recruitment, retention and training. 

· Reject déjà vu attempts to eliminate police officer positions during this severe staffing shortage because that doesn’t save any money and it sends a negative message to our officers and potential recruits. 

· Fund gunshot detection technology and graffiti removal requested by Mayor Harrell. 

· Return parking enforcement officers to the Seattle Police Department, as requested by Mayor Harrell and by our parking officers– saving at least $5 million. 

· Support Mayor Harrell’s innovative approach to getting more people into housing by fully funding the Unified Care Team

In the face of an economic downturn, City Hall’s knee-jerk response should not be to seek more revenue and foist costs onto the backs of Seattle residents and employers — because we cannot take for granted the stability of our tax base. A better way to achieve a sustainable budget is to stabilize the city government’s own administrative expenses, make public safety a priority and optimize the use of existing funds: A new payroll tax on employers already is generating nearly $300 million more each year, $27 million for “participatory budgeting” has not been allocated yet and $60 million is in additional reserves.  

We must act now to regain the public’s confidence by passing a sustainable budget that makes the necessary investments to meet Seattle’s urgent public safety needs.