Seattle, WA – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoed the city council’s proposed 2020 budget plan on Friday and said that it didn’t properly consider public safety.
The budget plan included major cuts to the Seattle Police Department budget and was considered a first step in a promise to defund the police by 50 percent in 2021, KIRO reported.
The proposed budget approved by the Seattle City Council would have cut 100 police officers, including 32 patrol officers, in November.
It also did away with the department’s 14-member Navigation Team that handles homeless encampments in the city, KIRO reported.
The proposed budget capped command staff pay at $150,000, except for the police chief, whose salary was reduced to $275,000.
The veto by the mayor will send the budget back to the city council to be reconsidered, KIRO reported.
If enough councilmembers side with Durkan, they would have to go back to the drawing board and try again.
“It did not look at the concerns of public safety,” the mayor said. “We need to know what those cuts do to public safety.”
“There’s no plan for example for how the city will address encampments… that were cut by this budget,” Durkan pointed out, according to KIRO.
The proposed defunding of the Seattle police prompted the department’s chief to submit her resignation in early August, effective Sept. 2.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said her resignation had nothing to do with her pay cut and pointed to other decisions the city council was making that she said made it impossible for her to send officers out to do their jobs safely.
The mayor’s move to block the city council’s budget was not her first controversial move recently.
Durkan is also fighting an effort to recall her election started by five residents angered by her handling of Seattle protesters, the Seattle Times reported.
King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts has allowed the recall petition to go forward on only one of the seven charges against the mayor filed by the petitioners.
That charge alleged that Durkan had failed to implement police reform policies after the city council banned the use of tear gas and other chemical agents on protesters, the Seattle Times reported.
The petitions claimed tear gas was used on protesters in May and June and accused the mayor of “misfeasance, malfeasance and violation of the oath of office.”
The petitioners have asked the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider two of the other charges, the Seattle Times reported.
Durkan has argued that it’s the police chief’s job to implement new policies and that changing policies without court approval would violated the city’s consent decree anyway.
“Mayor Durkan has no legal or constitutional duty to prescribe policies and procedures for SPD,” Rebecca Roe, an attorney for the mayor, argued for her client. “Instead, the City Charter places that duty upon the Chief of Police, who exercised her authority in a reasonable manner.”
Roe told the judge that Durkan’s decision “not to overrule or usurp all or part of the Chief’s authority cannot be a basis for recall, particularly in the midst of a dynamic week of protests, public safety issues, and unrest,” the Seattle Times reported.
But the judge agreed with the petitioners and said the police chief’s role in running the department didn’t mitigate the mayor’s obligations to “protect the health and well-being of the community.”
The petitioners will still have to collect 50,000 signatures before a special recall election can be held even if the Washington Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s decision, the Seattle Times reported.