Morning Fizz

Chief O'Toole and Council Member Juarez Push Back on Sawant Over North Precinct

Sawant flags $15 million budget item for controversial North Precinct, Democrats flag misleading Republican campaign ad.

By Josh Feit October 11, 2016

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1. There was a heated preview of the pending city council budget discussion about the North Precinct police station during yesterday’s city council budget committee meeting.

With SPD chief Kathleen O’Toole at the table, council member Kshama Sawant flagged a $15-million-line item that was earmarked for the North precinct plan despite the fact that in response to the recent “Block the Bunker” protests against building the station, mayor Ed Murray said he was tabling the $150 million project for now. (The smaller $15 million expenditure was not tabled when the mayor announced he was rethinking the project, though; he explicitly kept that amount in the budget as part of future planning.)

“The description is clearly that this money is being left in the [capital improvement budget] for the North precinct," Sawant said, "which obviously, the mayor and the council members who were pushing for, had to back down on because the majority of the people in Seattle made it very very clear that they were completely opposed to it."

Budget committee chair Tim Burgess tried curtail Sawant’s line of questioning at that point, saying the item would be discussed next week. However, noting the opportunity to hear directly from Chief O’Toole, Sawant continued. “If these dollars are going to appear in the budget, then I think we need to talk about it. There’s no explanation of why this expenditure needs to be imminently incurred.”

O’Toole acknowledge that despite years of previous council support for the new station, including a vote by the current the council, “obviously the project took a different turn recently, and that’s fine with me, and if people have changed their minds then so be it.”

But O’Toole then proceeded to make the case for the new station (which was also slated to serve as a citywide training facility for the SPD.) She cited the “five-fold increase” in training, in part, to meet DOJ consent decree accountability goals. Additionally, O’Toole noted that one third of the police activity and 40 percent of the city live in the North End. She also outlined the operational plan to consolidate two chains of command—a North and a Northeast police force—into one building. Finally, O’Toole pointed out that 70 of the 200 officers being added to the force over the next three years will be stationed in the North End.

Having made her case, she continued, a bit slyly: “As far as I’m concerned, we should continue to engage in discussions to determine what our long term, sensible strategy should look like. I’m all for engaging in sensible discussion about where we should be, five, ten, twenty years from now.”

North End District Five Council Member Debora Juarez joined in next, (also slyly) thanking “council member Sawant” for bringing the issue up.

She began: “I like to deal with facts.” And then after pointing out that the council was on record supporting the station, she too made the case for the precinct: “You have well over 300,000 people that live in the North End. You have light rail coming in to Northgate and anticipated ridership being 30,000 to 40,000, with a second station coming in hopefully at 130th.  We have well over two million people that work or shop at Northgate. This is the practicality of capital improvements," she said. "This is what you call an essential governmental function, [like] when you build a hospital, when you build a school, when you do roads. If we were to politicize every brick and mortar thing we built in this city we would never get anything done.”  

However, the Block the Bunker movement believes the station merits a political discussion. 

Stating, "we believe there are better alternatives to building strong and healthy communities, and that expanding our racist police force will add to the undue and violent burdens that already rest heavily on the shoulders of black and brown communities," their Facebook page urged supporters yesterday to call council and ask the city do a racial equity analysis before committing to building the new station.

The mayor and council have already said they would do that analysis.

2. Republican state senator Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) may have disavowed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump—and he did so long before Trump’s rape culture audio clip, calling Trump a “fascist” in early May.

However, Litzow, who’s in a tight reelection race in the Eastside Seattle suburbs against Democratic candidate Lisa Wellman that could very well determine the balance of the state senate in Olympia, does appears to be in sync with Trump in one way. According to the Democrats: He’s lying.

Litzow used photographs of state representatives Judy Clibborn (D-41, Mercer Island) and Tana Senn (D-41, Mercer Island), the two popular Democratic state representatives in his district, in his campaign ads. The false implication, the Democrats grouse, is that the reps have endorsed Litzow. And more explicitly, Senn complains, one of Litzow’s ads implies that Litzow worked with her on equal pay legislation.  

“The equal pay ad is pretty daring given the climate,” says Wellman’s campaign consultant John Wyble. “It's such a flat out lie.”

Representative Senn said in a statement: "Steve never worked with me on equal pay legislation. In addition, it's well known that I have endorsed his opponent, Lisa Wellman. I did not, at any time, agree to be in his campaign materials."

"I am not in any way supporting Senator Litzow,” Clibborn added. “He needs to respect his colleagues who fully support his opponent and cease and desist."

Election law says a candidate needs to get permission to use someone's photograph in their campaign materials because running a photo of someone implies the person supports your campaign.

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