What's next for the North Seattle precinct?

KING 5's Chris Daniels reports.

SEATTLE -- It's easy to pick winners and losers in a debate about whether to "Block the Bunker."

Council member Kshama Sawant led a rally on the lobby of City Hall on Friday, shouting, "We have stopped Seattle's political establishment!"

Mayor Ed Murray admitted, "I made a mistake."

Yet, the issue does not appear to be going away.

On Friday, it seemed both sides realized the argument over whether to build a new North Seattle police precinct is not going away, but rather it's on hold for now.

The night before, Murray, and three Council members, Tim Burgess, Lorena Gonzalez, and Debora Juarez, issued a joint statement saying they would table the issue until after this budget cycle. The City will pursue a racial equity tool kit, and likely, revisit the financing next year.

All four elected officials indicated the budget for the building will have to come well under the current estimate of $149 million.

But, at this point, the city has already invested years and money into the building.

It has already acquired land between 130th and Aurora. Last year, the council also unanimously decided to move millions for the north precinct to keep the project moving forward. 

There was no public outcry. In fact, council members Mike O'Brien and Sawant both supported the 2015 measure with hardly a peep.

So what changed?

"I have done my due diligence as an elected official. As I've said, I have visited the precinct and I'm not in anyway convinced they need a new building," said Sawant when asked Friday about her previous vote.

Murray all but acknowledged a grass roots effort took off and changed the conversation in Council Chambers.

"The support was not there," admitted Murray, "The council supported it (at first), but going forward was very divided".

That's likely because the final discussions and budget talk came amidst a swirl of race and social issues, which transcended talk about a building. The building cost, first projected at $160 million, revised to $149, also came at a time the city is asking for and passing new levies, and ways to build affordable housing. The design also prompted opponents to label it as a bunker.

But Murray said there is still need for a new precinct, or precincts, on the North End and simple math shows it.

"Sixty percent of the city - there are four precincts, four police stations - that means every 15 percent of the city gets a police station," explained Murray. "North End of the city - 40 percent of the population - that's almost three precincts - we were talking about a single building."

Murray also indicated on Friday, he believes there could be renewed discussion about more than one precinct, if the price is right.

The only thing that was clear on Friday, was that a grass roots effort did make a difference. Or, as Sheley Secrest of the local chapter of the NAACP said at a morning rally, "The power of the people is stronger, is the people in power, and for that we Blocked this Bunker."

 

Copyright 2016 KING


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