Fund the Office of Social Justice!
Fund the Office of Social Justice!
2021 SNOCO BUDGET AMENDMENT PETITION
The proposed budget amendments by the County Council divert funding from the Office of Social Justice (OSJ), a BIPOC lead department in the Executive’s Department, whose purpose is to “dismantle the individual, institutional and structural racism that exists in the County.”
In the 2021 Pro Forma Budget Proposal, the County Executive included funding for OSJ. OSJ was the response by County Executive Dave Somer's to address the systemic inequities in the county's criminal justice system, a move supported by Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color (BIPOC) communities. OSJ would oversee and administer training for County Employees, gather internal data involving racial disparities, start the implementation of a Community Oversight Commission, as well as other social justice oriented initiatives within the County’s government.
The council’s budget amendments seek to divert these funds from the OSJ to the Sheriff’s Department and the Snohomish County Prosecutor, in large part to fund Sheriff Adam Fortney and Adam Cornell’s “social justice” initiatives. This will be a huge loss on a county-wide level to coalition led work that sparked the OSJ.
Additionally, this is not the first time that the Snohomish County Council has defunded coalition led efforts to address institutional inequities within the county. Several years ago there was a proposal for a Diversity and Equity Manager that was also defunded by the County Council.
We oppose these budget amendments for the following reasons:
Fortney’s proposed “Youth Academy” is a propaganda campaign aimed specifically at children of color. In his proposal, he states “our youth are heavily influenced by social media and this is framing their opinion towards law enforcement in every community in Snohomish County. It is easy to watch a 10 second video of a law enforcement encounter and for our youth to think it looks horrendous. There is no back story and no context and often these short clips are shared in order to inflame our community towards law enforcement.”
He is asking for $15,000 in support of this initiative whose only goal is to convince our youth that cops do bad things for the “right reasons.”
The proposed “Cops and Barbers” event, aside from the inappropriate title, is problematic on several levels. Firstly, having a large event of this nature during an active pandemic is incredibly irresponsible. Second, one of Fortney’s goals is to film the event to use as propaganda on social media. He’s asking for $10,000 in funding, which could be put to much better use in facilitating meaningful change in our County.
Fortney’s proposed “Community Forum” asks for $5,000 per event to have discussions with community members regarding race relations within law enforcement and racial equity. While these discussions need to be had, the Sheriff has publicly stated that he has no intention of implementing policy change, which means these events are just a PR campaign. Officers would be getting paid overtime to speak to the community they live in.
Fortney is asking for a shocking $70,000 for a virtual reality system. He aims to have the public “see decision making through the eyes of a police officer.” The county shouldn’t be funding video games to justify the use of excessive force. We need policy change to prevent these incidents in the first place.
We ask residents of Snohomish County to contact your local council member and ask that they vote against these funding amendments. You can also add your public comment during the next several council meetings. With the most important council meetings happening on Monday the 9th at 10:30 AM and Tuesday the 10th at 10:30 AM
ZOOM WEBINAR REMOTE PARTICIPATION INFORMATION
Attendees can participate remotely by clicking on the link or calling into the meeting with the phone numbers listed below.
Zoom Webinar Link: https://zoom.us/j/94846850772
Dial in: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 301 715 8592
Meeting ID: 948 4685 0772
Please reference the following Herald Editorial: