LOCAL NEWS

Seattle Mayor-Elect Harrell on SPD budget, Sawant recall: ‘I will deal with the hand I have’

Nov 24, 2021, 12:44 PM
Bruce Harrell...
Seattle Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The framework for Seattle Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell’s administration was established on Monday with Seattle City Council’s passage of its 2022 budget.

Many of the marquee items in that budget directly affect Harrell’s flexibility to enact the campaign promises that likely won him the election: “ending homelessness” and “ensuring public safety,” per his campaign’s website.

His relationship with the council, as currently dictated by his perspective on a budget which signals the council’s political agenda moving into next year, will be a primary determinate for his administration’s relative success. That relationship is one of cautious skepticism, albeit with a few potential caveats.

“Coming out of an election, you have to understand what people ran on and what the voters want,” Harrell told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross on Seattle’s Morning News.

“It’s very clear they want seven minute response time. They want effective policing. I’m not fully convinced that that was taken into consideration to the level that I would have liked to have been,” Harrell said. “But I’m not going to make excuses coming in. I have to deal with the hand that I have.”

Seattle’s next mayor did not fully elaborate on those aspects of the budget of which he is not in full approval.

The Seattle Police Department’s budget was in fact “cut:” Their funds for 2022 amount to $355.5 million over the prior year’s $363 million. However, that leaves out some important context. Namely, that the fund differential can be attributed to the 135 open officer positions from a department that has seen significant attrition in years past.

The council ultimately approved SPD for 125 new officer hires in 2022, a number which exceeds their 2021 hiring figures (87 new hires were reported in 2021).

On the subject of the council’s allocation of federal dollars to address housing and homelessness, Harrell was more optimistic.

Leaders unveil ‘Seattle Rescue Plan’ to aid city’s post-pandemic recovery

“I did see some good investments there,” Harrell continued. “I am concerned on how it appears they might have already decided the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the $116 million or so we will get from the federal government.”

“I would like to have been in a position to have those discussions once my cabinet and I are in place. It’s my understanding that there were some decisions made now, and we have not looked at that on a granular basis, but I would have liked more flexibility on how we handle those funds,” he added.

On the subject of taxation and the city council’s progressive payroll tax on large corporations, Harrell implied that he is favorable toward the tax revenue, saying, “I look forward to the revenue if in fact we do receive it and the litigation allows us to receive it.”

That “JumpStart” tax has been attributed as the reason the council was not forced to apply more strident cuts to their 2022 budget, according to Councilmember and Chair of the Budget Committee Teresa Mosqueda.

“The JumpStart Seattle payroll tax was the reason, that unlike cities across the country, we have not had budgetary cuts to city services and layoffs,” Mosqueda wrote in a news release.

“After weeks of restoring the JumpStart Seattle spending plan to protect against future fiscal cliffs, we received a negative economic revenue forecast, putting the budget out of balance by $15 million, in addition to numerous budget corrections,” Mosqueda continued. “Despite this economic volatility, working with Council Central Staff, I was able to maintain and add to the fiscal reserves proposed by the Mayor, protecting against future economic volatility, and I was able to invest tens of millions of dollars in Council priorities.”

On the subject of the council’s progressive policy, Harrell was asked if he supports the Kshama Sawant recall campaign.

“Let the voters decide,” he said. “The way I look at it is I have criticized the city council absolutely. … Their policies are misaligned.”

“I believe with what the city wants. I’ve actively said, I’m looking for city council members to run instead of other people to run,” Harrell said. “Everyone has an opinion, but these people on the council, they worked hard to put themselves in this position. If one is critical as they are, then get off the bench and see what you can do if you can do it better.”

MyNorthwest’s Nick Bowman contributed to this report.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Seattle Mayor-Elect Harrell on SPD budget, Sawant recall: ‘I will deal with the hand I have’