Today the King County Executive announced some of the budget priorities for next year, focusing on defunding the Sheriff, vacating marijuana convictions, a new felony diversion program, and direct community investment.
Black activists have been working on these priorities with King County for years. We know that protecting and liberating Black Lives from systematic racism is a marathon, not a sprint.
That said, the priorities presented today will begin to address some of the injustices the Black community and other communities of color have experienced for decades in King County. This is a step in the right direction. There is a lot more work to do.
Here are the details:
- Defund Sheriff by $4.6 million: shifts $4.6 million of marijuana excise tax revenue from law enforcement to community-based programs, including $450,000 to create and support a community-centered advisory body that would determine how to spend marijuana taxes in future years.
- Divest $1.9 million from jails: by limiting the number of people who can be incarcerated at one time, including youth.
- Invest $6.2 million: in youth diversion and alternatives to incarceration or a filing of charges against them.
- Invest $750,000: to co-create and implement alternatives to Sheriff policing in unincorporated King County—places like Skyway and White Center.
- Invest $2.7 million: diversion for first time felony charges.
- End Metro Bus Fare Enforcement: Fare enforcement is suspended at least through the end of the year. Next year the county and the community will work to reinvest money spent on private security into programs that provide free and reduced bus fare, which not enough people qualify for or have access to.
Beginning to take steps toward righting historic wrongs is a moral decision. Putting measures in place that will change Black Lives is a moral decision. We thank Executive Constantine for listening to and working with our community, and for making sure Public Health is at the table helping to lead this work. We are eager to help push these budget priorities forward with the County Council.