Seattle Human Rights Commission demands resignation from the mayor for authorizing “the use of police violence

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SEATTLE, WA- A letter from the Seattle Human Rights commission is calling on feckless Mayor Jenny Durkan to resign, or short of that the city council must start the process to remove her from office for willful violation of duty under the city charter, according to MyNorthwest.

The letter claims that Durkan has “failed to uphold her duty to serve and protect the rights of Seattle citizens.”

The letter cites actions related to alleged police brutality, homelessness, income inequality and city governance.

“It is our duty to speak up and speak out for our least privileged community members, and not to be complicit in the harm done to them by City leadership,” the letter said while citing in part recent Durkan vetoes.

“Given this, it is our belief that we cannot wait until November of 2021 to remove Mayor Durkan from office and replace her with a servant-leader who will uphold their duty to protect the right of all citizens,” the letter continued while referring to next year’s election, The Seattle Times reported.

The Times reported that eight out of the 15 commissioners were present at the meeting last week to vote on the letter, which was worked on for about a month, according to co-chair Liz Pachaud. The eight voted unanimously to send the letter, she said.

“Mayor Durkan has been leading the city at an unprecedented moment through a pandemic, civil rights reckoning, climate crisis, and the worst economic crisis that Seattle has faced in generations,” responded Durkan spokesperson Kelsey Nyland in a statement.

“We have been showing progress on every front but the urgency remains and more needs to be done.”

The Washington Times reported that the letter further accuses Durkan of committing “violations of constitutional and human rights” in part by authorizing “the use of police violence and tools of military force against peaceful demonstrators, civilian bystanders, legal observers and members of the media.”

In addition, the letter says that tear gas and similar weapons “are so toxic that they are currently banned for use in warfare.”

Durkan’s office noted that the city charter delegates management of the police department to the Chief of Police, not the mayor. Durkan did order the department to review their crowd-management policies in June.

The commission, established in 1963, is comprised of 21 representatives, who serve “in an advisory capacity” to city leaders in the mayor’s office, city council, the Office for Civil Rights, and others.

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Eight of the members are appointed by the mayor, while eight more are appointed by the city council. The final four members are selected by the commission itself. The 21st member changes each year and is chosen from among a leadership development program for 18 to 29-year-olds.

Aside from the above, the commission also objected to Durkan’s hesitation to “proposed reductions to SPD’s budget” (Seattle Police Department).

In addressing the last point, the mayor’s office statement read:

“The Mayor and former Chief Best disagreed with City Council’s pledge to defund SPD by 50 percent and the cuts to the Chief of Police and their team’s salaries. While the Seattle Human Rights Commission may disagree with the Mayor’s veto and her position that we cannot defund SPD by 50 percent, Mayor Durkan believes we must get beyond slogans to work towards solutions to these immense challenges.

“Understanding the complexity of these issues facing our City, the Mayor has offered her vision, plan and path forward on each of these challenges including reimagining policing and investing in BIPOC communities with an unprecedented $100 million. The Mayor has worked to find a common path forward on each of these challenges and will continue to do so.

The Mayor continues to be focused on how to provide support for small businesses and workers who have lost their jobs, transmitting the City’s 2021 budget, slowing the spread of COVID-19, making real investments for BIPOC communities, and changing Seattle’s approach to policing and community safety. She welcomes a conversation with the Human Rights Commission to find common ground and policy solutions, even when we disagree.”

The removal request is being requested pursuant to Section 10 of Seattle’s City Charter, whereby a mayor can be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of the city council “for any willful violation of duty, or for the commission of an offense involving moral turpitude.”

The charter continues that the mayor is permitted to retain legal representation, “to offer evidence and be heard” by the council, which basically acts as a court of impeachment.

In June while the Black Lives Matter riots were overwhelming the city, three members of the city council called on Durkan to resign, with councilmember Kshama Sawant calling on Durkan to resign or be removed while promising to introduce articles of impeachment.

Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Tammy Morales suggested Durkan step down.

At that time, a petition circulated which collected more than 11,000 signatures calling on Durkan to resign, while a union which represents supermarket workers in Seattle, UFCW 21 also called on Durkan to resign.

In addition, several local Democratic Party groups also passed resolutions asking for her resignation. Durkan refused to step down, Sawant didn’t introduce impeachment articles, and the other two councilmembers stopped pushing the issue.

In July, Durkan reversed the issue, asking the city council to investigate alleged misdeeds by Sawant, which the council declined to pursue.

According to MyNorthwest, much of what the HRC is complaining about is easy to dispute.

For example, while the commission said that Durkan “has failed to adequately Seattle’s growing homelessness crisis,” and failed to “find and fund progressive revenue streams promised in her campaign for mayor, her proposed budget indicates otherwise.

Durkan has proposed in her 2021 budget a record $152 million for homeless response, including adding hundreds of new beds and 600 new permanent supportive housing units, while a continuation of funding 2,300 existing shelter beds.

MyNorthwest says that when Durkan was sworn in, spending on the homeless was about $71 million, which doubled to $147.5 million last year.

She also has implemented enhanced shelter models, while also seeking to take a more regional approach to the homeless situation.

The commission also complained that Durkan has struggled to adopt budgets, however she has implemented at least two, 2018-19 and 2019-20, although they haven’t always agreed on the specific priorities of the budgets.

The second, separate attempt to recall Durkan is for similar grievances. That particular effort is tied up in the Washington Supreme Court awaiting a ruling on whether the gathering of signatures can continue in the next few weeks.

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