While most of Monday’s meetings were taken up with deliberations on the renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, there were a few other notable happenings.
Monday afternoon the City Council passed a resolution stating its commitment to “Internet for All” and requesting the city’s IT organization to investigate options for ensuring that the communities in Seattle that are underserved with broadband Internet can br brought up to par with everyone else. Several Council members, including the resolution’s sponsor, Council member Pedersen, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, with its mass movement to online work and school, has exacerbated existing inequities and widened the “digital divide.” The Seattle IT department will deliver its first report in mid-September — just before the 2021 budget process begins.
Council member Mosqueda, the budget chair, has added a couple of just-in-case meetings to the 2020 budget rebalancing schedule, in case the budget committee doesn’t get through all of the proposed amendments on Wednesday. She is adding sessions this Friday at 10am, and next Wednesday at 10am. Mosqueda is still holding out hope for the best-case scenario: that the Council finishes up this week and officially adopts the revised budget next Monday afternoon.
Don’t hold your breath: this Wednesday they begin work on the list of proposed amendments related to cutting SPD’s budget and redirecting funds to community-led alternatives.
It was a morning of speeches, on four topics: SPD’s crowd-control tactics last Saturday evening, protesters committing acts of violence and property destruction Saturday evening, protesters harassing Council members at their homes, and SPD’s subpoena of protest-related footage from local media companies.
There was widespread condemnation for SPD’s “indiscriminate” use of blast balls, pepper spray, and other crowd control weapons on peaceful protesters last Saturday, as was documented in great detail on social media live as it was happening. Council member Sawant called it “predictably horrific and indiscriminate.” Council member Strauss rebuked SPD for choosing “the most aggressive response,” and said, “indiscriminate use of force has no place in our society. We cannot rationalize this away.” Council member Herbold said that her Twitter feed was “filled with images of injuries,” and that she saw video of an officer “defiantly ripping off her name tag.” Council member Morales called it “really disturbing,” and noted that officers were targeting reporters and observers in addition to protesters.
But many Council members also had harsh words for protesters, both for violent and destructive actions on Saturday night and also for protests at the homes of Council members Juarez, Pedersen — and as of last night, Morales. Council President Gonzalez had harsh words for protesters leaving hateful, misogynistic and profane messages scrawled on the homes of Council members that she believed were clearly intended to intimidate them into voting a certain way. Gonzalez also pointed out that anyone who was on the side of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she was called a “fucking bitch” last week by another member of Congress needs to re-evaluate their use of those words in engaging with local officials too. “I want to encourage us collectively, as people who believe in movement building and the power of protest, to not build the tactics of intimidation into our movements.”
Council member Sawant had milder comments, and was clearly on the defensive. She denied being involved in organizing the protests at the houses of her colleagues or the Mayor (though she spoke at the protest at the Mayor’s house. Sawant said that She and Socialist Alternative “disagree with the tactics by a minority of protesters” — stepping well short of naming those tactics or calling for an end to them.
Council member Mosqueda observed that while all the Council members get hateful emails and voicemails, it rises to a different level when it happens at officials’ homes and impacts the personal safety of both the officials and their families (including small children).
Finally, Council members Mosqueda, Herbold, and Lewis voiced their opposition to SPD’s issuance of a subpoena to the Seattle Times and several local broadcast news outlets for footage related to criminal activity at the protest and ensuing riot downtown on May 30. (I’ll have more on this tomorrow in a separate article). Mosqueda called it “abhorrent” and said that she would be asking the City Attorney to withdraw the subpoena. Herbold said, “The media is not an extension of government. Period.” Lewis said, “The independence of news organizations is sacrosanct. The press must be held as a trusted institution, not an arm of government.”
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