Ballard groups join Seattle business alliance to slow down police defunding plan

A group of businesses and district councils around the city are asking Seattle councilmembers to reconsider their police defunding plan.

A majority of Seattle city councilmembers last week proposed a 50 percent cut in SPD’s budget, a figure that Mayor Jenny Durkan said is too high. She’s instead proposing a $76 million cut, which amounts to 18 percent of the current budget. Civilian departments, including the 911 call center, emergency operations, police accountability, and parking enforcement would receive an additional $56 million with the budget changes.

The Ballard Alliance and Ballard District Council have joined the Seattle Business Improvement Areas alliance in drafting a letter that requests a more community-led approach to defunding the Seattle Police, rather than a budget-focused plan.

“A responsible public safety plan includes an honest community engagement process and a detailed proposal to create or enhance supplemental services that can take the place of critical duties currently performed by the Seattle Police Department,” the letter (in full below) reads.

The group says they will be holding a series of conversations in neighborhoods around the city to hear from community members about their priorities and concerns around public safety.

Here is the letter sent to city councilmembers:

Dear Councilmembers, 

We write to you today as a group of organizations that represent …. to express our concern over the haste and speed with which you are moving to dismantle core functions of city government. We recognize and share the sense of urgency to respond to impassioned calls for change at the local and national level, however we worry that you are moving forward without meaningful outreach or community discussions about what public safety outcomes you hope to achieve, or what plans you would put in place to ensure community safety.

We represent stakeholders from neighborhoods across the city who have spent years trying to articulate and find solutions for the chronic public safety and social issues that for too long have been escalating. Regular assaults, retail theft, property damage and open drug markets cause serious harm in our communities–and it’s also no secret that much of this activity disproportionately impacts those with the least power and voice in society. Our lived experiences aside, this harm has been evidenced by rising reports of crimes against people, in addition to the many well-publicized high-profile shootings and horrible acts of violence in broad daylight across the city. 

With the calls to defund the Seattle Police Department, we have heard important messages from a greater diversity of communities in our city that have also not felt safe for years. This is unacceptable and can no longer be tolerated. Systemic racism coupled with a broken criminal justice system and an inadequate social safety net has done decades of immeasurable harm and has created a city in which too many people don’t feel safe. We agree – it’s time to move forward to plan and implement meaningful and effective change with these historical and present inequities firmly in mind. 

We must fight together now for a truly safe community, in which all people (regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or income level) can safely live, work, visit and pursue their lives. However, any serious process to achieve these goals has to be more than a budgeting exercise. The calls to reduce the Seattle Police budget by 50% are powerful political statements, but we expect our local leaders, whose primary duty is to ensure the safety of citizens, to enter into any planning for the elimination or reduction of public safety programs with deliberation and inclusion. Failure to do so could easily result in unintended consequences that could have grave outcomes, and work to undermine the important goals we all say we share. 

It was only last month when we saw the danger and tragedy that resulted from the oversimplification of the public safety policy options on Capitol Hill. Because there was no room for thoughtful discussion, our city vacillated between responses that ranged from police using tear gas to the condoning of private militias. Rash decisions were made, people were put in harm’s way and lives were lost. Even though this was a spontaneous series of events, the challenges that arose were largely predictable. A city as great as Seattle can’t afford to govern this way. 

A responsible public safety plan includes an honest community engagement process and a detailed proposal to create or enhance supplemental services that can take the place of critical duties currently performed by the Seattle Police Department. To date, the majority of you have only spoken in abstract budget declarations, breeding confusion and leaving room for a wide range of interpretations. This is a moment in time where we need our leaders to be clear in their intentions and processes to provide our most basic city services. We want to hear details on how the Council would design alternatives to the existing system, or how these new systems would be implemented in our communities. 

In the weeks ahead, we will be holding a series of conversations throughout Seattle’s neighborhoods to hear from community members about their priorities and concerns regarding public safety. We invite you to participate in these conversations to hear from our communities and to share more information on your plans to reform how the city ensures community safety for all.

We look forward to working with you and others across the city to ensure that this vision becomes a reality and that the associated city investments are linked to tangible health and safety outcomes for all, with a robust commitment to tracking and metrics. We must ensure that our values are represented and reflected in the systems we create, not just the systems we dismantle. 

Lisa Howard, Executive Director, Alliance for Pioneer Square

Mike Stewart, Executive Director, Ballard Alliance

Brent Lackey, President, Ballard District Council

Monisha Singh, Executive Director, Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area

Mei-Jui Lin, President, Chong Wa Benevolent Association & Education Society

Howard Anderson, Chair, Denny Triangle Neighborhood Association

Jon Scholes, President & CEO, Downtown Seattle Association

Quynh Pham, Executive Director, Friends of Little Saigon

Deb Barker, President, Morgan Community Association

Dave Gering, Executive Director, Manufacturing Industrial Council

Eugene Wasserman, President, North Seattle Industrial Association

Peter Schrappen, Vice President, Northwest Marine Trade Association

Pete Spalding, President, Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council

Erin Goodman, Executive Director, SODO Business Improvement Area

Mark Crawford, Interim Executive Director, U District Partnership

Tom Norwalk, President & CEO, Visit Seattle

Lora Radford, Executive Director, West Seattle Junction Association

26 thoughts to “Ballard groups join Seattle business alliance to slow down police defunding plan”

  1. I’m very left-wing and a big Bernie supporter. Bernie knows when to balance idealism and pragmatism.

    Seattle politicians, on the other hand, seem to be all idealism with 0 pragmatism. It should go without saying….sometimes it’s OK to inject some pragmatism into plans put forth by activists.

  2. As a lifelong Democrat, I’ve proudly supported equal rights, social and economic justice programs for the needy, environmental causes and a host of others. I’ll continue to do so.

    But today, here in Seattle, I no longer know what it means to be a Democrat…not while my city council is composed of people who are seemingly in thrall to a belicose, intransigent and nonpragmatic minority of hard left activists — including at least one actual Trotskyite (or, what we used to call “Communist”).

    The conversation around police reform is long overdue, and I’m glad it’s happening. But look how it’s happening here in Seattle: Loud, fast and out of control. Like so many of our council’s attempts to address systemic issues, we’ve got a “fire, ready, aim” response. Complete BS. I’m encouraged by the spirit of young people who want what they want, now and pure. But I was one of those 20-year-olds, too, and in my 50s I realize: I didn’t know shit about how change really works. It takes coalition-building. It takes study of consequences. It takes assurance in the cause but pragmatism around building the path to get there.

    Seattle seems more interested in showing “woke” than it is in building solutions. All cops are not bastards. All old Democrats like me are not corporate shills. All radical ideas are not good. Sometimes common sense is valid.

    I hope the city of Seattle can slow the roll to crazytown just a bit and let the adults in the room who love our country and our city take the reins.

    1. Finally, some are seeing the light. These kids are getting played like a fiddle, it takes experience to know it when you see it.

    2. Wanted to jump in and thank Pork Pie for his thoughtful and moderate response- key word being “moderate”.
      Although Pork Pie and I probably agree on very little politically, we can come together on how relationships and bridges are built and sustained.
      We all share the same Earth, air and city and should work together on what we can agree to and not what divides us.
      I work in Seattle on a daily basis with buildings I’m responsible for that were in the CHOP.
      I’ve seen firsthand what the City Council wants and it’s ugly.
      The direction that this great city is headed will bring about more burning of our communal bonds and literal bridges and buildings.
      Let’s hope that moderates will begin to return to a table that’s been so polarized it’s breaking the country and freedoms we hold so dear.

    3. A lifelong Democrat you say. Great. Then step up and own this mess. That, or stop feeling and begin thinking. JFK was a decent “D”. Today, he and others are simply rolling in their graves. Common sense is NOT common. Re-think your vote. If not a liberal at 20 ;you have no conscience. Not a conservative at 40 or so; you have no brains. Are you going to watch rich millionaire athletes on TV protest? Charles Barkley called em out!

    4. I agree with you, as a Conservative, at 71 I remember a much different set of politicians.
      I disagree here though…”I hope the city of Seattle can slow the roll to crazytown just a bit and let the adults in the room who love our country and our city take the reins.”

      There are NO ADULTS IN THE ROOM.

      Change takes a lot of things, starting with change.
      Seattle has been led by Democrats for over a 1/2 a century. Maybe it’s time to try and have one’s Political Ideology take a back seat to the betterment of the people. Neive? Yes.

  3. I see many people sleeping on the sidewalks of Ballard. I don’t know if they are ill, or even dead. I fear calling the police in case the person has mental illness and might end up in jail and not get the help they need. We really need a community based police system, one that especially in Ballard must include social workers and mental health workers.

    1. I suspect the truth is that the mentally ill you see sleeping on the streets of Ballard will be there whether the police, a mental health counselor or Leif Erikson himself responded to a call about them. There is an incredibly high bar for involuntary commitment and Ballard has had a dedicated social worker (plus Navigation Team social workers) calling on these folks over and over and over these past few years. Until folks are compelled to treatment, they will choose the devil they know.

    1. Keep trying to contact him and do not give up. It took about 2 weeks before his assistant got back to me and I was equally persistent in contacting him. This was a few months ago before the riots and before he was wanting to cut back the police by 50%.

  4. The system in place is obviously not working for Ballard. It’s strange that those who complain most about it also hate the idea of change and never come up with any positive possibilities to improve things other than complaining.

    1. Indeed. How many Ballard residents and business owners were complaining in the CHAZ? Lots of complaining there….
      Three deaths. So unnecessary.

  5. Cops can’t solve homelessness. Cops can’t fix addiction. Cops can’t solve society’s ills. The whole point here is to stop wasting money on cops and spend that money on real solutions that will help people—instead of locking them up. We are in the middle of a pandemic, millions have lost their jobs, millions are at risk of being homeless, millions are losing their health care. Let’s fix those problems.

    1. Please. These junkies don’t want help. It’s offered every time they close down the Commons tents (at one of the Jungle’s famous sweeps less than 10% accepted services) and they just wander off to raise hell somewhere else. This city is all carrots, no sticks. That’s the problem.

      1. The junkies have no fear of being incarcerated since Dan Satterburg will not prosecute the homeless, even if the have 10 grams of meth on them. Drug addiction is enabled systemically in a policy environment self described as “compassionately progressive”.
        All this defund and root cause funding bullsh-t. Virtue signalling means never having to deal with reality. Legislation based on it means nothing will change.
        Hear someone fund Dan Strauss! Where? Ballard Commons? Hahaha.

      1. Warehousing people in jail/prison doesn’t solve any problems and it’s waaaaay more expensive than providing social services and helping people. If you could get over your self-righteous paternalistic instinct for one moment and let your selfish anti-spending instinct take over you might actually support more effective policies instead of more cops and more jail.

  6. Defunding the police needs to be a much longer thought out process. not just something done rapidly to appease activists. Regardless of whether defunding the police seems, after thorough research, to be a good idea or not, Durkan has got to go! I’m a liberal (did not vote for Durkan though) and she is by far the worst mayor has had in over forty years. The city has greatly deteriorated under her “leadership”.

    1. One can only imagine the City’s condition today if the one you did vote for won. Like it or not, Durkan was the adult running.

  7. We are all people in this world, and this picture reminds us of the equality of nationalities and equality of rights. The police is a tool that helps to solve urgent problems of order in society. I recently read an educational text about this system. The policeman is the guarantor of human rights and bad deeds must be cleaned up and corrected.

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