2021 Budget Victories and Betrayals

Posted on November 24

Thanks to many hundreds of ordinary people who spoke up as part of the People’s Budget movement and the Solidarity Budget, and the tens of thousands who marched on the our city’s streets as part of the historic Black Lives Matter protests, Seattle City Council Democrats have just been forced to cut the bloated police budget by over $31 million, or 8.2%! And this year, like with every budget since its creation by activists alongside socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant in 2014, the People’s Budget movement has won crucial funding for affordable housing and homeless services, tenant organizing and renter eviction defense, the Green New Deal oversight board, and community programs.

Reducing the police budget to instead fund community needs by any amount is unprecedented and is only happening because of the Black Lives Matter movement. It also reflects the pressure that City Council Democrats have felt from Councilmember Kshama Sawant. Seven out of nine councilmembers promised to defund Seattle Police by 50% during the summer at the height of the #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd protests, but only Kshama has stood with the movement and fought to fulfill the promise. (Democratic councilmembers have claimed a 20% reduction, but that number includes moving the costs of functions like parking enforcement into other departments, which do not represent actual reductions to police.)

Kshama was also the only elected representative to push for an elected community police oversight board with full powers over the police.

Moreover, the concessions to the movement that Democratic councilmembers were forced to make are overshadowed by the nearly $200 million in cuts they’ve just made to vital resources such as affordable housing, bus hours and transit infrastructure, and community centers. What this amounts to is an austerity budget that will put the burden of the pandemic and the recession on working people, and especially marginalized communities. 

Kshama was the sole vote against austerity. She advocated for a small increase in the Amazon Tax that would have prevented all the budget cuts. Corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks have reported staggering profits during the pandemic. Not a single Democrat chose to support making big business pay for the crisis. 

It’s not just that Kshama is a consistent fighter for working people. Through building movements such as the People’s Budget, Kshama’s office allows working people to actually have a voice in City Hall. At the end of the day, that’s how we win by organizing a movement independent of the political establishment, a movement based in a class struggle approach and in empowering ordinary people.

The right wing and big business are angry about everything working people have won and everything we stand to win. They desperately want a do-over of last year’s election, and they’re attempting to recall Kshama so that working people no longer have a voice in City Hall. We can’t let that happen.

The Recall Campaign against Kshama has already amassed $180,000 in donations from right-wing and corporate donors. To fight back against the coming onslaught of corporate spending, we have an urgent goal of raising another $20,000 by the end of this month. We have about $16,000 left to go. Could you make a donation to help us get there?

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and even further austerity looms, we must keep fighting. We need COVID-19 relief, paid for by raising the Amazon Tax. We need a guaranteed jobs program. We need a democratically-elected police community oversight board with full powers to hold the police accountable. We need a socialist Green New Deal.

Time and again, the rest of the City Council has shamefully betrayed the needs of working people, putting those of big business first. Let’s make sure that we keep our voice in City Hall so that we can keep building our movements and fighting for the things that working people so desperately need.

Check out the press release from Kshama’s office here!