Councilmember Sawant: City Council Democrats Have Approved a Budget that Carries out Austerity, Fails to Defund Police – Our Movement Needs to Build Even Stronger

Home » Councilmember Sawant: City Council Democrats Have Approved a Budget that Carries out Austerity, Fails to Defund Police – Our Movement Needs to Build Even Stronger

“Our movement cut executive police pay and defunded the Navigation Team, but we need a democratically and independently organized movement to defund police and eliminate budget cuts”

Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, released the following statement following today’s City Council vote adopting a revised 2020 budget. Sawant was the sole vote against the legislation:

“Today I voted against what is euphemistically called the City Council’s ‘Balancing Package’ to the 2020 budget, because the only balancing that is happening is on the backs of working people, especially in Black and Brown communities. 

This budget fails working people. 

This budget fails because it cuts tens of millions of dollars from the essential work of the city across departments like parks, roads, and libraries, rather than increase the Amazon tax on the wealthiest in our city in order to eliminate the need for austerity. 

This budget fails to address the systemic racism of policing, trimming only $3 million from the bloated department’s remaining 2020 budget of $170 million just weeks after 6 of the 8 other Councilmembers publicly declared they would support defunding SPD by 50 percent, as our Peoples Budget and the Justice for George Floyd movement have demanded.

This budget fails to shift the misplaced priorities of the Democratic political establishment. It continues to hand more money over to the bloated police department than to eldercare, homeless services, and other human services, affordable housing, neighborhoods, and arts and culture combined. 

“A budget that does not meet basic social needs and that continues to throw money at a racist, violent institution is a failed budget.

“Our movement has won some important victories because of the People’s Budget movement, the Black Lives Matter activists, Socialist Alternative, and hundreds of our community members:

  • We won a small reduction in the police department, showing both the strength of our movement and also the imperative to continue organizing and fighting. 
  • Our movement won millions in funding for community programs, funding research into alternatives to repressive policing, youth programming, and restorative justice.
  • Our movement succeeded in reducing the bloated salaries of the 13 top SPD executives, winning an amendment in Budget Committee meetings last week and then fending off a last-minute sneak attack today by the Democratic establishment.
  • We won an end of funding for inhumane and ineffective sweeps of homeless encampments. This has been a demand of our socialist council office, homeless activists and affordable housing advocates for years. We recognize there are other ways that the mayor could do sweeps, and we will need to continue organizing to completely end them.
  • Thanks to the organizing of Nickelsville activists and our movement, residents of Northlake Tiny House Village won protection from eviction threats by their landlord, Mayor Durkan.
  • We won funding for new city staff to enforce workers rights and to build the City’s Green New Deal.

“As always, what we win is a function of the strength of our movement and the balance of social and political forces. Throughout history, progressive change has come from organizing and mass movements, not from friendly politicians in the political establishment. Activists should take heart from our wins in this budget fight, and recall the main lesson of the Tax Amazon fight – that we may fall short initially because of the betrayal of the Democratic political establishment, but we can win if we build a stronger movement, and never give up.“My organization, Socialist Alternative, I, and our entire People’s Budget movement celebrate the victories we have won, but stand against this austerity budget and its utter failure to address the ongoing epidemic of racist and violent policing. With my ‘no’ vote today, I affirm our movement’s unchanging demands: Defund SPD by at least 50% and tax big business and the rich, not working people, because we can’t pay and we won’t pay for this crisis – this crisis of the racist and bankrupt system of capitalism.”

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