Seattle's first Asian American mayor faces backlash after slashing hate crime funding

Last month, first-term Mayor Bruce Harrell announced his budget proposal which would reduce the city’s hate crime funding from $400,000 in the 2022 adopted budget to $167,000 in the 2023 budget.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Seattle’s first Asian American mayor is being called out by Asian American organizations for proposing to reduce the city’s fund to combat anti-Asian hate by nearly half his proposed 2023 budget.

Last month, first-term Democratic Mayor Bruce Harrell announced his budget proposal which would reduce the city’s hate crime funding from $400,000 in the 2022 adopted budget to $167,000 in the 2023 budget.

Harrell defended the proposed 2023 budget claiming it also reduced funding in other departments in response to the city’s $140 million revenue gap.

According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Anti-Asian hate crimes spiked exponentially since the start of the pandemic, increasing 339 percent in 2021.

Seattle’s 2022 budget included $400,000 to address hate crimes that disproportionately affected the community.

Kyle Kinoshita, co-president of the Seattle chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the country’s oldest Asian American civil and human rights organization, told NBC, “It is connected to a long history in the past century and a half of open anti-Asian violence, from anti-Chinese riots in the late 1800s, incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and anti-Asian hate crimes during the 1980s connected to American economic competition with Japan.”

“We support the continuation of anti-hate crime resources and feel that, if anything, they should be increased to root out the causes of violence against all who are targets of hate.”

Kinoshita added, “Anti-Asian hate crimes, which surged in the past two years due to the COVID pandemic, still continue and appear in national news. The rapid rise in these crimes triggered by the events of the past two years demonstrates that anti-Asian bias still runs deep in American society.”

Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, told the outlet, “[Our communities] have, since the beginning of the pandemic, been experiencing anti-Asian hate, which comes in many different forms. It’s not simply crimes. It’s also verbal harassment, its civil rights violations, it’s bullying in schools. We are concerned when we hear that elected officials are pulling back on funding because we know that investing in our communities works.”

Jamie Housen, director of communications for the mayor’s office told NBC, “As Seattle’s first mayor of Asian descent, Mayor Harrell has made it a priority to support the city’s AAPI communities — elevating a ‘One Seattle’ vision to unite Seattle around shared values of inclusion and opportunity for all,” adding that the mayor’s office is recommending addressing the immediate public safety issues “through a holistic approach.”

Housen said the proposal includes $7 million for recruitment, hiring and retention for the severely short-staffed Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Fire Department. So far incentives have not been effective at combating the continuing exodus of police officers since the city council began defunding the department in 2020.

Harrell has also refused to hire back cops and firefighters who were terminated for failing to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate, despite the state Covid emergency orders expiring on Monday.

The news of the cuts also comes after a contentious month between the Asian community and the city. Earlier this month, plans for a “homeless megaplex” were put on hold after residents and business owners in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District protested the facility being placed next to their neighborhood and claimed they weren’t consulted about the decision.

Community pushback to the plan was so intense that the county shelved the plans, yet anger remained in the Asian community as many members felt betrayed by elected officials including Harrell for lack of transparency about the project.

According to Housen, the proposed budget will also add $5.8 million to community safety solutions, resources and gun violence services; and approximately $1 million in victim support services.

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