Some Seattle business owners feel ‘betrayed’ as City Council votes to cut SPD budget

SEATTLE — Some of Seattle's business community said they feel betrayed by the City Council.

Many council members campaigned on a promise of hiring more police officers.  And some business owners feel the council members are now going much too far.

The signs are everywhere that the Pioneer Square business community has been hit hard by COVID-19.

But Manuel Benevich said he does not regret moving his Gary Manuel Hair Salon here three years ago.

"Oh, no, no, no," he said. "Pioneer Square is like Brooklyn, New York. It's very beautiful, very vibrant, pre-pandemic."

But he is looking warily at the council's push to defund the police.

"They should be finding ways to retrain and change the culture of the police department," said Benevich, "not defunding them or firing them or weakening Seattle."

Their actions are straining even his liberal beliefs.

 "I think Seattle has a one -party rule, a one-party rule," he said. "And that's always dangerous."

"We made a commitment in 2014 to grow our police department by 200 officers. We're falling behind," said Council member Lisa Herbold last fall.

 She appeared in a YouTube video produced by the Seattle Police Officers Guild that shows at least three council members as candidates pledging to hire more police officers. 

"We need to hire more officers in our city," said Council member Andrew Lewis during a candidates forum. "I see on a daily basis that there's parts of our city where we don't have the staffing numbers to have a community policing strategies."

"This just all seems so surreal," said Bill Reig. "I don't get it."

Reig owns Seattle Flowers in Pioneer Square. He says the council members are going back on their word.

"It's this 180-degree reversal from what they were all saying just 11 months ago," said Reig. "So I call that a knee reaction to the protesters being the squeakiest wheel."

After the council vote, Mayor Jenny Durkan's office released a statement saying, in part, "It's unfortunate Council has refused to engage in a collaborative process to work with the Mayor, Chief Best, and community members to develop a budget" that accounts for "the significant labor and legal implications involved in transforming the Seattle Police Department."

In other words, the final chapter in this story has not yet been written.