The Seattle City Council may have passed a budget slashing the police department’s funding last week, but the budget still has yet to receive official approval from Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Mayor Durkan is still undecided whether she will approve the budget cut, pointing to many problems she sees with the decisions made by the Council, including the elimination of the Navigation Team – a partnership between police officers and outreach workers to connect the homeless with housing and other resources to help curb the city’s homelessness problem.
The Navigation Team “has advanced certification in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques that lend themselves to the daunting tasks of reaching those most in need,” according to the Seattle city government website.
Ed Murray, the mayor of Seattle at the time of the Navigation Team’s creation, said the goal of the team would be to move the homeless “into stable, permanent housing and (help) them get back on their feet.”
Durkan said that the budget’s elimination of the team “was the wrong way to go”.
“The city council has made its will very clear,” she said. “It does not want us to move any encampments, regardless of what the public safety issues are or the health safety issues (and) that puts us in a very difficult position.”
The city has halted encampment clearings since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council approved a 14% budget cut to the Seattle Police Department last week for the remaining 2020 year. Protesters and local organizations like King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle have been demanding a 50% budget cut, a demand advocated by Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best resigned soon after the new budget was announced, and Mayor Durkan has voiced her sorrow to see Chief Best go, and her concerns about such drastic cuts being demanded.
Kelsey Nyland, Durkan’s press secretary, told Fox News that the mayor has not reached a final decision on whether or not she will veto the budget, but she hopes to reach a consensus with the City Council “and identify a path forward.”
King 5 reporter Chris Daniels tweeted this afternoon that Durkan will likely veto the budget, citing recent violence and arsons as a contributing factor in her decision.
I'm hearing Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is expected to announce she will VETO the Council's 2020 budget package which involved cuts to SPD, and Nav Team.
Recent violence/arsons part of the decision.
More to come later today on @KING5Seattle
— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) August 21, 2020
Mayor Durkan has until Monday to decide whether she will veto or approve the budget changes.