Seattle Mayor Durkan vetoes city council’s 2020 budget which prompted Chief Best’s retirement

Aug 21, 2020, 2:35 PM | Updated: 3:08 pm
Mayor Jenny Durkan on Friday, Aug. 21. (TVW)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Friday she has vetoed the city council’s 2020 budget plan, which includes major cuts to the police department budget.

On August 10, the Seattle City Council voted to approve budget legislation enacting sizable cuts to the police department’s budget. Durkan’s veto means the legislation goes back to the council. If enough council members side with Durkan’s veto, the legislation is void. The veto was announced in a Friday afternoon press conference.

“It did not look at the concerns of public safety,” Durkan said on Friday. “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,” the mayor said in response to the Council plan to end the SPD’s Navigation Team.

The council’s approval was considered a down payment on its pledge to defund SPD by 50% now expected in 2021. Council President Lorena Gonzalez explained the reasoning in a series of Tweets. All but one council member approved the budget cuts on the 10th. Councilmember Kshama Sawant was the lone “no” vote, while Debora Juarez — who was not present at the meeting — abstained.

“Today I voted against what is euphemistically called the City Council’s ‘Balancing Package’ to the 2020 budget, because the only balancing that is happening is on the backs of working people, especially in Black and Brown communities,” Sawant said in a news release. “This budget fails working people.”

The 2020 budget package approved by council members include:

  • Eliminating up to 100 sworn officer positions across various teams via layoffs and attrition (including 32 patrol officers), beginning in November 2020
  • Capping command staff pay at $150,000 (not including Chief Best’s salary, which was reduced to $275,000).
  • Ending the Navigation Team (14 of the 100 officers mentioned above)

“There’s no plan for example for how the city will address encampments … that were cut by this budget,” the mayor said.

The council’s legislation prompted Police Chief Carmen Best to announce her retirement, effective Sept. 2. In what will likely be her last news conference, she said she hopes that the city will support interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz.

Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County calls Chief Best’s retirement a loss

Seattle and beyond react to Chief Best’s retirement announcement

“I know there will be disagreements — that’s OK, but we need to find a way to continue discussions,” the mayor said to close out the news conference.

This isn’t the first veto this summer for Mayor Durkan. She vetoed the city council’s COVID-19 relief package in July as she was concerned it basically spent too much too soon on an issue that has no end date in sight, let alone the economic aftermath. However, on Friday, Durkan announced a compromise with the council.

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Seattle Mayor Durkan vetoes city council’s 2020 budget which prompted Chief Best’s retirement