Seattle mayor vetoes city council’s COVID relief spending bill

Seattle mayor vetoes city council’s COVID relief spending bill
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday, June 1, 2020.

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has vetoed the city council’s spending plan that she calls irresponsible, saying it will deplete the city’s emergency and rainy-day funds.

“We are in the middle of an unprecedented public health and economic emergency,” Durkan said. “It is irresponsible to spend the entirety of our rainy day and emergency funds in the first few months of what is likely a multiyear crisis. If 2020 is any indication, no one can responsibly project that Seattle will not have additional emergencies this year and next.

“Already this year, in addition to the health and economic crisis, we have seen a significant unplanned infrastructure emergency with the closure of the West Seattle Bridge,” Durkan added.

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The city entered the pandemic with a total of $127.5 million in its general fund reserves, and because of the current economic crisis, $29 million was used to help close a hole in the 2020 budget, according to the mayor.

She said the council proposes to spend $86 million on new spending and $13 million more in other new spending in the coming weeks.

In response to the mayor’s veto, council member Teresa Mosqueda released a statement:

“Rent is due today. Federal cash assistance ends today. And today the mayor vetoes COVID relief for small businesses and families. In the midst of an economic contraction that is four times worse than the Great Depression, we can’t afford to take a wait-and-see approach when Seattle families’ health, jobs and housing is on the line. If we wait, what we’ll see is more folks unable to pay rent, more families without food, more businesses closing, and people losing their jobs—and along with it their health care during a global pandemic,” the statement continued. “This creates a cliff and a more costly and longer road to economic recovery. It will be harder and more costly for people to keep their businesses, housing and child care without this COVID relief.”

The bill, which was passed unanimously, would have provided “critical relief” to communities of color, immigrants and refugees, low-income communities and small business owners, she added.

Mosqueda’s office said she plans to bring the COVID Relief Bill to the council for another vote in the coming weeks.

All this comes as city council looks at ways to defund the city’s police department.

On Saturday, supporters of the Seattle Police Department rallied to back the blue.

They gathered, along with some counterprotesters, in front of city hall in the morning,

Defend Law and Order Rally supporters said defunding the department by 50% would be disastrous.

On Friday, city council members introduced a resolution supporting a new, civilian-led department that would house services moved outside SPD, such as the 911 call center.

Council staff members said the resolution would not abolish SPD, which would remain its own, smaller department.

Mosqueda outlined up to $169 million in potential cuts to SPD’s $409 million budget, which would include cutting at least 136 sworn officers.

“What we have put in front of us is a pathway towards getting to a significant reduction, including ramping up to 50%,” Mosqueda said.