Councilmember Burgess’ Statement on Committee Approval of a City Income Tax on High-Income Residents

Councilmember Tim Burgess (Position 8, Citywide), chair of the Council’s Finance Committee, issued the following statement following Committee approval of a city income tax on high-income residents:

“This is a step toward a fairer tax system. We will use the tax proceeds to lower property taxes and to fund essential city services. In a state with the most regressive tax structure in the entire country, Seattle is again leading with progressive reforms.

“In Washington, our lowest-income households pay approximately 16.8% of their income on state and local taxes. Our wealthiest neighbors pay just 2.4%. This system is unfair and upside down. State tax reform is urgently needed so our lowest-income residents pay less, our middle-class neighbors pay about the same, and our highest-income residents pay more.

“This type of tax reform is especially important now and Seattle is going to start the conversation. The state legislature just adopted a school funding measure that will impose the largest property tax increase in Seattle’s history, adding about $460 a year to the property tax on a median Seattle home. It’s another blow to the middle class. We have a better plan, a tax system that is fair, progressive, and adequate to meet the demand for public services. The state legislature should follow our lead.”

Full Council is scheduled to consider the legislation on Monday, July 10.

Councilmember Harrell’s, Burgess’ Statement on SPS Bell Time Funding

Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2, Southeast Seattle) and Councilmember Tim Burgess (Position 8, Citywide) issued the following statement after the Full Council moved to hold legislation which would have repurposed $2.3 million in Families & Education Levy dollars to pay for school bus transportation services:

“When Seattleites approved the Families and Education Levy, they did so expecting that their property tax dollars would be dedicated to reducing disparities in education and improving academic achievement in Seattle Public Schools. Today, a measure was proposed to use Levy dollars to fund Seattle Public Schools’ effort to switch to a two-tier bell system — a laudable goal, but it was clearly the wrong funding source.

“That proposed legislation not only violates the clear intent of the voters of Seattle, it diverts funds away from our most academically at-risk children, a policy choice that is morally wrong and inconsistent with the Levy’s purpose. After our review, it’s clear that the Levy does not allow dollars to be spent on bus transportation services, and the citizen oversight committee we appointed agreed with our assessment.

“For that reason, we propose a funding alternative, using SDOT dollars to pay for the shift to two-tier bell times.  Honestly, these dollars should have come from the state, but after seeing perpetual inaction there, we realize that depending on that money would be a pipe dream.

“We hope that now that this proposal is D.O.A., future attempts to divert Levy dollars for tangential purposes will suffer a similar fate.  We look forward to voting on our alternative proposal at this Wednesday’s 4 p.m. Special Full Council meeting.”

Council Passes Historic Police Accountability and Reform Legislation

Seattle, WA — By a vote of 8-0, Council unanimously approved Council Bill 118969, a measure related to Police Accountability.  The legislation, primarily sponsored by Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), is the first of its kind in the country and creates new, powerful, civilian- and community-led oversight systems that will effectively ensure constitutional policing in Seattle.

“Today’s vote crystallizes my vision for Seattle’s police accountability framework and our ongoing efforts to reform the Seattle Police Department,” said González, who chairs the Gender Equity, Safe Communities and New Americans committee. “Based on my experience in courtrooms, community and City Hall chambers I know that this legislation goes beyond systems-reform to get at the heart of police accountability: restoring trust between the police and communities most impacted by policing.” González also worked as a civil rights lawyer for a decade before seeking elected office.  Her prior law practice included representing people in excessive force and bias policing civil rights cases in federal court.

In December 2010, 35 organizations requested a formal investigation of the Seattle Police Department by the Department of Justice.  A settlement agreement with the City was reached in July 2012, and in August of that same year the court approved the settlement agreement, also known as the “Consent Decree” and appointed a Monitor to oversee the reform process.  In January of this year, Federal Judge James Robart’s initial approval of draft reform legislation provided the legal guidance the City needed to advance critical legislation to continue reforming the SPD.  Recognizing that the City’s Consent Decree was now five years old, González embarked on a public process to maximize input from Seattleites.

“This ordinance represents an important step in our ongoing work to strengthen Seattle’s system of police accountability. The City Council and the Community Police Commission, with support from the Mayor’s Office and City Attorney’s Office, have worked over many months to craft legislation so that the public and officers will have a system that is built on best practices, is consistent with community values, and will result in comprehensive and sustained independent oversight of the Seattle Police Department,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess (Position 8, Citywide). “We still have several critical steps to accomplish this year before this work is complete. We have asked the Mayor to move forward swiftly with seeking the review and approval of the Federal Court, and with collective bargaining with the unions, which provides officers a direct voice in shaping their working conditions and benefits. We will also be working with the Mayor to ensure that this oversight system is fully funded and that strong leaders are hired for these crucial oversight roles.  We will build on the foundation laid by this ordinance to fulfill our commitment for effective, constitutional policing in which all the people of Seattle have trust and confidence.”

For the past sixteen weeks, González has led Council’s public deliberations of the issues in a series of meetings in committee and after-hours public hearings. Additionally, Councilmembers González and Burgess, CPC leadership, Mayoral and Legislative staff, traveled across the Country to visit with officials and community advocates in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans to gain invaluable insights into best practices.

The crux of the legislation rests in the creation of three co-equal organizations that will collaborate but remain independent from undue influence from each other and external forces: the Community Police Commission (CPC), the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA). The goal is to establish an accountability system that inspires confidence and legitimacy amongst complainants and law enforcement.

“Today, Seattle set a national model for civilian lead community oversight of the police.  As I said when I sent this legislation to Council, we in Seattle had a higher goal than simply meeting the requirements of the Department of Justice Consent decree. Our goal was to set the highest possible standard for police conduct, public oversight, and civic collaboration. Thanks to years of work by my team in the Mayor’s office, City Attorney Pete Holmes, the Seattle Police Department, Councilmember M. Lorena González and the Community Police Commission, this historic accountability legislation does just that. After this unanimous passage by Council, I will send this historic legislation to Judge Robart for his review and we will continue to engage in negotiations with the city’s police unions as we progress toward implementation of these monumental reforms,” said Mayor Ed Murray.

Upon passage, González thanked the Mayor’s Office, City Attorney Pete Holmes and recognized Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, the CPC, the Department of Justice, current and former civilian SPD oversight entities, and many others who contributed to the process of writing the legislation. Her biggest thank you was delivered to Seattle’s community members, for their perseverance and commitment leading up to today’s landmark legislation.

Assuming approval by Judge Robart, the City will satisfy its legal obligations with regard to any aspect of the legislation that requires collective bargaining with the unions. As with the majority of Council-generated legislation, the remainder of the bill will take effect 30 days after Mayoral signature.

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Editors please NOTE:  Additional details, including an infographic, is available ONLINE.

Council Approves Funds for Firearm Surrender from Perpetrators of Domestic Violence

Council unanimously approved legislation today dedicating funds to enforce the 2014 state law that enabled courts to require domestic violence abusers to surrender their firearms. The funding was sought because, in spite of the state law, enforcement of surrender orders has been weak. In 2016, 56% of orders in Seattle were completely ignored, while, for the 36% of respondents who filed paperwork claiming that they did not possess a firearm, there is no verification that those declarations are accurate.

In November 2016, Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Tim Burgess identified this gap in the system and championed a budget proposal that created the firearm surrender program, established protocols to be successful, and identified gaps in the system between arrest, conviction, and gun surrender. These additional funds will create the robust firearm surrender program that Seattle needs to protect domestic violence survivors and the public.

“These newly created positions will help finally bring victims some peace of mind,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess (Position 8, Citywide), Chair of the Council’s Finance Committee. “Our laws only have power to the extent that we actually enforce them. If an abuser can ignore gun surrender orders or file a form falsely claiming that he or she does not have a gun without consequence, then we haven’t done much to improve safety.”

Approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetime, according to a CDC study. Further, when a firearm is present, violence in the home is five times more likely to end in a homicide.

We know that over the last 7 years 54% of mass shootings cases involved domestic or family violence. A fully funded firearm surrender program is critical to ensure the safety of both domestic violence survivors and the public at large; it is the most important thing we can do today to save lives,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia).

The funds will be used for a dedicated Court Coordinator who will review domestic violence protection orders and crosscheck firearm and criminal history databases. The Coordinator and co-workers will also interview victims and families to determine if perpetrators retained firearms. That information will be shared with the courts and the police. Further, a new prosecutor position will be hired and dedicated to high-risk cases. The prosecutor will work with the Court Coordinator to facilitate the surrender of firearms and file criminal charges against non-compliant parties.

Councilmember Bagshaw added, “On the first day utilizing the newly established surrender protocols in March, the Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff’s Office recovered eleven guns from the homes of people who were not legally allowed to own a firearm and had denied ownership. I expect we’ll only get more effective in our pursuit of domestic violence perpetrators moving forward.”

Additionally, these positions will also help implement statewide Initiative 1491, which allows families to petition to remove firearms from individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others.

The legislation will take effect 30 days after Mayor Murray signs it. These positions were created because the statewide legislation neglected to include funding to implement the program’s requirements. The funds were approved as part of the City’s first quarter supplemental budget.

Councilmember Burgess’ Statement on $30M from Allen Foundation

Councilmember Tim Burgess (Position 8, Citywide), chair of the Council’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee, issued the following statement in response to the Allen Foundation’s $30M investment in housing for homeless families:

“This strategic investment is a great example of what Seattle’s philanthropic and business community can accomplish when they creatively partner with city government and nonprofit housing providers.

“Today is yet another example of Paul Allen’s many contributions which have helped make Seattle such a great place to call home.  His investments in arts and culture, science, and sports will make a difference for generations to come.”