Week in Review: May 7, 2021
Release Date: 05/07/2021
Hacks & Wonks
Crystal is joined by Amy Sundberg, author of Notes from the Emerald City, and Dr. Shannon Cheng, Chair of People Power Washington to talk about public safety in Seattle and King County. They also discuss the People Power Washington Voter Guide that details where Seattle and King County candidates stand on public safety issues.info_outline Week in Review: July 23, 2021
Hacks & Wonks
Today on the show, Marco Lowe, Professor at Seattle University’s Institute for Public Service, joins Crystal to discuss recent polls that have come out about Seattle’s mayoral, city council, and city attorney races, the importance of understanding poll methodology and margin of error, and our government's responsibility to fight climate change.info_outline Supporting Art and Cultural Space: Conversation with Vivian Hua of NWFF
Hacks & Wonks
Today Crystal is joined by Vivian Hua, Executive Director of the Northwest Film Forum. They discuss Vivian’s path to leadership in the film forum, Vivian’s film Searching Skies, supporting emerging artists in the pandemic, and the need for long-term cultural spaces.info_outline Week in Review: July 16, 2021
Hacks & Wonks
Primary ballots are in mailboxes now! Today former mayor of Seattle and Executive Director of America Walks Mike McGinn joins Crystal to discuss the front runners in the mayor’s race, how candidates need to be making the case to the public in these remaining weeks before the primary, and the psychology and emotion that drives Seattle’s voting decisions.info_outline Seattle, Pay Attention to Pierce County! A Conversation with Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young
Hacks & Wonks
Pierce County Council Chair Derek Young joins Crystal to the differences in funding for transit in King and Pierce counties, how Pierce County is absorbing those who can’t find homes in King County, how the Pierce County Council is investigating police misconduct, and how one governs as a Democrat when there is a real Republican presence.info_outline Week in Review: July 9, 2021
Hacks & Wonks
This week Erica C. Barnett of PubliCola joins Crystal to discuss what’s going on in Seattle’s mayoral race. Additionally, they cover the potential firing of two Seattle Police Department officers who participated in the January 6th insurrection, and the punitive nature of our state's work release program.info_outline Toshiko Hasegawa on the Power of the Port of Seattle
Hacks & Wonks
Today Crystal is joined by Toshiko Hasegawa, candidate for Port of Seattle Commissioner, to discuss how the Port of Seattle can modernize and prepare our region for a greener future. They cover economics and equity, improving air quality and health of South King County residents, and how the Port can encourage fair treatment for workers.info_outline The Brady List: Officers with Credibility Issues
Hacks & Wonks
The Friday Week in Review show will be back next week, as we enjoy the long weekend. We are airing a show with Melissa Santos talking about her excellent reporting on Washington's Brady List.info_outline Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, Candidate for City Attorney
Hacks & Wonks
Candidate for City Attorney Nicole Thomas-Kennedy joins Crystal to discuss why she has chosen to throw her hat in to the ring, what it means to be an abolitionist, how solving poverty will do more to alleviate crime than harsher punishments, and how Nicole’s experience as a public defender would inform her views as City Attorney.info_outline Week in Review: June 25, 2021
Hacks & Wonks
Today Crystal and Heather Weiner discuss the coming heatwave and how we can support our unhoused neighbors in the heat, Uber paying a wage theft settlement, AND the organizers of Cap Hill Pride submitting a fragility-infused complaint against Taking B(l)ack Pride.info_outline
This week Marcus Harrison Green, publisher of the South Seattle Emerald and columnist for the Seattle Times, joins Crystal to discuss the whistleblower revelation that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office intentionally mishandled public records requests, Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller’s announcement that he’s running for mayor and trying to position himself as an outsider, and the one thing everyone seems to agree on: the King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht should resign.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“Public records requests mishandled after Seattle mayor’s texts went missing, whistleblower investigation finds” by Daniel Beekman: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/public-records-requests-were-mishandled-after-seattle-mayors-texts-went-missing-whistleblower-investigation-finds/
“Deputy Mayor Sixkiller Joins Crowded Mayoral Race; Police Union Joins Calls for Sheriff’s Resignation” from Publicola: https://publicola.com/2021/05/04/deputy-mayor-sixkiller-joins-crowded-mayoral-race-police-union-calls-for-sheriffs-resignation/
“King County Police Officers Guild calls for Sheriff Johanknecht to resign” by Chris Daniels: https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/king-county-police-officers-guild-calls-for-sheriff-johanknecht-to-resign/281-d4361f0a-0df9-4bf4-8d92-d49f7b123289
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hacks and Wonks. I'm your host, Crystal Fincher. On this show, we talk with political hacks and policy wonks to gather insight into state and local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work and provide behind-the-scenes perspectives on politics in our state. For full transcripts and resources referenced in the show you can go to officialhacksandwonks.com and view our episode notes. Today we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a guest cohost. Welcome to the program today's co-host publisher of the South Seattle Emerald and columnist with the Seattle Times, Marcus Harrison Green.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:00:49] Hi, thank you for having me here.
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:51] Love having you back - always love having you on the show. I, you know - there's a few things that we could talk about this week. I guess, starting out - I wanted to talk about news that broke yesterday about Jenny Durkan and the mayor's office - and public records requests that were handled in an inappropriate way. And the whistle was actually blown by public records employees in the City. Have you had the chance to catch up on this at all?
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:01:25] I have not, unfortunately - it has been quite a hectic week, but, I'm definitely waiting with bated breath to see what else comes across out of this so -
Crystal Fincher: [00:01:37] Yeah, this was a story by David Beekman of the Seattle Times - we'll put the link in the show notes along with others, but her office mishandled several public records requests. And after discovering about 10 months of Durkan's text messages were missing.
And just as a kind of recap for people in public office, what people are doing with taxpayer money on the public dime as our elected representatives and public servants is subject to view by the public. And this is how we hold our people in power accountable, our elected officials accountable. This is how we understand what work they're doing and to see if we're getting our money's worth, if they're following laws. It really is a tool of information and accountability - and it's routine for anyone in the public, but quite often members of the media will submit public disclosure requests saying, Hey, we would like to see correspondence about a certain subject involving the mayor or from peoples in the mayor's office. And so if you specify what the subject is, who you're looking to hear from it from, the City or any public entity is responsible for turning over the information requested. Sometimes that can take a long time, sometimes there is a fee attached to that, but basically it is the law that those are public records and whether it is something on the computer - I sound so old, something on the computer - whether it's written communication or a text message - if it is discussing City business, regardless of the medium, it is a public document and can be requested. Everyone in government knows this. Everyone adjacent to government knows this. So this isn't a surprise or a secret. And there are people employed and this is their job - it's to process these requests, to find and track down all of the documents and communications that apply, and to give those to the requested parties.
Now, sometimes there's information that is sensitive or can be redacted. So sometimes we get documentation that has stuff blotted out, or they say they can't turn it over for privacy or one of the acceptable exemption reasons. But these communications did not fall under that. And it looks like they were playing really fast and loose with terminology to hide, or to avoid turning over communications. And so it just is one more thing on the very long list of behavior from the mayor's office that doesn't just look inappropriate, shortsighted, and unethical, but in this situation also illegal - and is troubling. Have you dealt with public records requests in your time reporting and writing?
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:04:33] I certainly have. I mean, it's - this has been a huge issue, I just say in general, in terms of getting full transparency from local government. I mean, obviously there's issues at the federal government level, but that's a whole 'nother story. But certainly I, with local government, whether it's been the mayor's office, governor's office, or the school board. And I just think - at end of the day, right? These folks work for us, they're paid by us, and everything else. And should obviously be accountable to us, and a part of the way that they are accountable to the public that they at least ostensibly serve, right, is to be fully transparent and transparent in a very timely manner when it comes to public records requests. And unfortunately it appears that this has not been the case and that it is - it seems like it could potentially have deliberately not been the case.
Crystal Fincher: [00:05:40] Yeah, it is. And it looks very deliberate. And just to be clear, the article says that the allegation is that the mayor's legal counsel, Michelle Chen, engaged in improper governmental action when she excluded Durkan's missing texts from certain requests. And again, these are - this is according to a whistleblower complaint, meaning that there are people in this process - there are people who were working for the City and who are basically filing a report and a complaint of misconduct against their employer. And so there are certain protections provided to whistleblowers. This is another way that we hold people in power accountable. We have to give people who call out illegal activity protection from retaliation, intimidation, and harassment. Otherwise, people in power could always intimidate people into being silent. That's still an overarching dynamic, but in specific situations, definitely those that involve illegal activity - there are now and have been laws and protections in place for people in the process who are specifically calling out illegal behavior of their superiors and their workplace.
And so this is a whistleblower action. And so saying that they hid the existence of those texts, that they diverge from best practices when they wouldn't inform requesters of those texts. And again, this is a city issued phone, so it's not - this is not a gray area of they did not know that this should have been subject to disclosure. This is a public asset, talking about public business - you know, no ambiguity there. They just decided to hide it and also play fast and loose with terminology saying that, You know, well, communications in the mayor's office don't necessarily apply to the mayor. And providing - recreate a text - only to requesters who asked for Durkan's communication specifically, and not those who asked for mayor's office communications - obviously, mayor's office communications do include the mayor. They decided to act like they didn't, and only to requesters who asked for communications as opposed to correspondence. Correspondence - you know, according to most common terminology, is included in communications, but just - it seems like this office has bent over backwards to try and skirt rules and to get around issues.
And it's like, if you would just apply that same effort to just doing the thing that you should be doing, or that you actually promised you would do, you could get that done. But they seem to be working so hard not to - it is just another confounding thing. So I'm certainly interested in following this reporting by Daniel Beekman at the Times to see how this unfolds and to see if there is accountability tied to this. One thing that is not particularly encouraging is that there doesn't really seem to be a method for accountability in this process. That they will just have to figure out how to do better, which is just another thing that I think the public is consistently frustrated about. We watch blatant, unethical behavior, or illegal behavior, and there just doesn't seem to be any accountability attached to it. So frustrating. But we will see.
I also think it's notable how many people from inside this administration are speaking out against it. People who are currently inside, or who were inside and subsequently left, it seems like there are more people than average who seem to be very dissatisfied with operations, practices, and just the general direction that this mayor's office has taken. Even from management, to communication, to you name it, people seem to have an issue with it.
Not fun, but I guess that leads into the other piece of news this week. The deputy mayor announced for mayor this week, Casey Sixkiller. What is your view on his announcement and how do you think that's going to change the dimensions of the race?
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:10:28] I don't know if it will change - this announcement will change too much, too many of the dimensions of the race to be quite honest with you. It just seems that it's - obviously, he's been deputy mayor so he has, for the most part, tracks with obviously, with what Durkan had - you know, the Durkan administration, and her actions, and agenda, and so forth. And I think he'll obviously continue to do so. I mean, I know he is sort of trying to present himself as somewhat of an outsider, but it's hard to do when you've been inside for so long. I think you see it as - you'll be seen, rightfully so, as a very status quo establishment candidate. I don't think that they're - though although I know that he did say that he was going to, as a person of color, he was going to try to govern as such. So, or excuse me - allow it to influence his decisions, I believe is what he actually said. That being said, right, I mean, it's - he's been deputy mayor for this long, I think you would - if him as a person of color, if that was his guide in governing, I'm not sure that bodes too well necessarily for the rest of the City here and folks of color. So anyway.
Crystal Fincher: [00:11:53] I mean, there seems to be one issue after another that has come out of the mayor's office. As senior leadership in the mayor's office, it certainly is interesting to hear his take on how he would run in this situation. I think it's also interesting, as you said, trying to paint himself as an outsider - that seems to be the buzzword. And in the same way - you know, I always crack up when you see these, you know, 30, 20-30 year Republican incumbents be like, I'm an outsider. I'm like, You're the insider-iest insider that there could possibly be. You are the status quo. And it reminds me of this situation, in that you are the deputy chief of operations, deputy mayor of operations here - have you know, homelessness is in his portfolio and handling that.
I think that there is universal agreement that we have not made the progress - one, that was promised in this administration. So just according to their metric and what they campaigned on and laid out - that wasn't achieved. And to be fair, Jenny Durkan is the mayor. He is not the mayor. So, it will be interesting to hear where he disagrees with the mayor. If there is a point where he would have differed in the implementation, or in the handling, or even in relationships with people within departments, departmental leadership, and the Council - that will be really illuminating to hear. Because what we have heard from him so far has been obviously, complete consistency with Mayor Durkan. And continued challenges - one of the biggest recent ones about whether or not to take FEMA money to help reimburse the costs of sheltering people without homes. So this'll be really interesting, but I think the outsider label - I don't know that I would have attempted to even try that. It actually seems like one of those where it's like -
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:14:05] You call it false advertising, right? I mean, God.
Crystal Fincher: [00:14:06] Oh yeah, like that - it doesn't quite ring true and it's not quite credible. And maybe speaking about a specific issue might be a little bit more on the nose. In terms of the race, I think this is an interesting dynamic. I actually - this is me as an outsider, I'm not working with any of the mayoral candidates. I'm not doing any of that. So I can just look at this as a spectator.
It's been interesting, with the mayoral race, the dynamics of Lorena González being on the Council and being another insider, who - it's hard to say that Lorena is an outsider coming from, as the president of the council. But a lot of people reading every frustration that they have with anything that's happened in government with someone on the inside - Well, they're an incumbent, therefore we want a change. And they're on the inside, so we want a change. Certainly Lorena González is an insider on the Council perspective, being the Council President - and a lot of people are running against what the status quo is. But because she was the only insider in the race in that kind of position - very visible and policymaking - it made the status quo seem like what - anything that happened.
But what was happening from the council perspective is very different than what was happening from the mayor's office. And you have two very different perspectives. So if someone is unhappy with the direction that things are going in city government - they can be unhappy with the general direction of things, but be pretty happy with members of the council. Or conversely, be pretty happy with the direction of the mayor, because the council and the mayor have not seen eye to eye on several issues. There have been - Council passed policy, the mayor's vetoed it, Council has overwritten that veto - more than one occasion. And so you can't say that city government is unified and if you're unhappy about an issue, then automatically voting against Lorena González would make you happy. Maybe that would make you more unhappy. Maybe it would actually make you happy. But it's just not as clean of a conversation. It goes beyond insider and outsider, and gets more to policy. And then there is someone in the race who is going to be defending the Durkan position, because a lot of people have been, frankly, running counter to what the mayor's office has done in some situations. So it's going to be - go ahead.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:16:41] I was going to say, yeah, I mean, I think you have it. Sixkiller acts as a proxy, essentially, for Durkan and so now, I think you have a "villain" for central casting that some other folks can now point to and say, Oh, well this is Durkan - you know, essentially Durkan Lite, or Durkan with, in sheep's clothing, so to speak. And if you didn't like anything that Durkan did, Well, hey. Then why in the world would you go for him? Why don't you go for me? And so at the very least, even if you're not high up on another candidate, at the very least you can say, Well, you want to vote for more of the same, or you want to at least try something different. I'm not promising you more of the same. And so, I think like you said, it does maybe potentially boosts the prospects of someone like a Lorena González, or someone else who is certainly trying to put themselves in opposition to the Durkan administration.
Crystal Fincher: [00:17:34] Yeah. Yeah, I think so. And I think there are going to be some people who are happy to hear Durkan administration policies being vigorously defended. There are certainly people who agree with the direction that things have gone, or who feel like the Council has been on the wrong track, and who agree more with the mayor. But it's really - to me, this is just going to be really interesting. And I'm going to be - interesting to see how fundraising shapes up, how this impacts where people affiliated with the business community - and the Chamber donations that are not going to be coming from the Chamber, but certainly going to be there and with other names plastered on them. That's going to be interesting to see how that turns out.
And where endorsements go. Like the Times. Lots of people, you know - we were having a conversation about this. I've had several conversations with people about where's The Times going to go, where is people in the business community going to go? And that's an open question. I mean, we've heard people thinking that Jessyn Farrell was angling for that, certainly Casey Sixkiller, Bruce Harrell - are all names thrown about - can they make it? And I think people are trying to see who's going to take a lead, or who feels like they're taking a lead, and see if they can hop on a winning horse.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:19:11] Right. And you got to factor in too, right? Especially as it comes to the primary with endorsements - which is, you know, typically primary is the low turnout race, because it happens in August. It's also the fact that this will be the first summer that's post-pandemic and more folks will be - it's predicted that more folks will be going out and traveling and so forth in August. And just getting out of the confinement of the geographic location of Seattle for a little while. And so I think endorsements like the Seattle Times, and to a certain extent, The Stranger, obviously, may have even more outsize weight than they've had in previous years.
And I'll say this - I think the three previous mayoral elections have had - it has pretty much ponied up the Seattle Times endorsee versus The Stranger endorsee. And I don't have any reason to think that that won't be the case again this go around. And so, it should be interesting to see, in terms of jockeying for endorsements and so forth, and also jockeying for the narrative, right? What is the narrative that is going to stick to a particular candidate - insider outsider, policy person versus I-feel-your-pain person. And we'll see, I mean, it's somewhat intriguing, especially with this field - how can you distinguish and differentiate yourself? And I quite frankly, I don't know if anybody has truly done that at this point. I mean, I -
Crystal Fincher: [00:20:49] I don't think so yet.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:20:50] Yeah. I don't know what your gauge is on like the enthusiasm factor, but I just don't see it out here. It just doesn't seem that there's a ton of people who are super enthused about things.
Crystal Fincher: [00:21:00] No, I'm with you. I don't think there has been a big distinction or delineation yet. I think that is certainly what a lot of candidates are trying to figure out how to do - for several different positions. But it's also this weird time in that campaigns kind of start playing an insider game and then they finish with the outsider game. So right now people are chasing endorsements and chasing fundraising - certainly chasing donations, chasing democracy vouchers. And there are people who are looking strong in that arena, in fundraising, and who may not look as strong in some of the coveted donations, but we will see - coveted endorsements, I meant. But it's going to be hard.
I think that as we progress in the next couple of months - give it a month or two, and people are going to be speaking to the public more consistently. There'll be some forums where people get a chance to see candidates speaking plainly on the issues and compare them side-by-side. I think it's really challenging to not be able to kind of stack them up one against the other and say, Okay, now I hear them all talking about the same thing at the same time. And this is who - I'm feeling it, this is who I'm definitely not. So, you know, we have yet to get there. But I think it's hard for people to look at this crop, much of this crop, and to really point out obvious differences between many of them, except in cases where someone coming from the Durkan administration is going to be different than someone coming from the Council and certainly a number of those pushing from the outside. So we'll see how it continues to unfold.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:22:48] Yeah, I - unfortunately, I don't see - it's my opinion that we need somewhat of a transformative candidate in this upcoming race. And I don't know if the field contains anyone like that. So -
Crystal Fincher: [00:23:05] I think it might. And you know, jury's out - we will see. I think that what - that there is a space for someone to say, You know what? We've been talking about all this consensus, and working together, and being all happy, and waiting until everyone agrees. And you know what - everyone is just not going to agree. And as we sit here just trying - to be paralyzed, waiting for a consensus that is never going to happen - the problems keep getting worse. So, you know what I'm going to do. This is my plan. And when I get elected, regardless of whether or not everyone agrees, or if I'm catching criticism from people who lost and didn't get as many votes, I'm going to move in this direction. This is my plan. I'm going to implement it. It's okay if the Chamber doesn't agree. Or it's okay if this constituency doesn't agree. We're going to move forward and push forward and do this and not wait for everyone to be on board. You can count on me to make a difference - this is going to look different at the end of my term than it did at the beginning. You can count on me - if it doesn't, then I won't run again. Like hold me accountable, I'm holding myself accountable.
I feel there's a space for that - Hey, I'm ready to actually get something done. Not talk about it, not put a task force on it, not wait for people to agree, and have more meetings about it. We know what the issues are, there's been lots of data, lots of hand-wringing, and it's time for action. And I'm actually equipped to take action. I understand what needs to happen from a policy perspective. And I understand what needs to happen from an implementation perspective. Because I do think that we've seen some implementation challenges in this administration and the prior administration.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:24:51] Well, I just yeah, well I'll say this. I mean, I just wish somebody would actually articulate that - stick to that being the message the whole time. This is what I'm sticking to whenever I'm out doing my stump speech. And we talked about people trying to draw clear distinctions earlier. I mean, I think that would be - if somebody were to say that and stick to it the entire time, I think that would definitely draw a clear distinction in this particular field.
Crystal Fincher: [00:25:18] I think it would and I think there are some people who can credibly say that in this race, but we will see. It's gonna be really interesting. I think there's also the space for - this dynamic is different than the Council. The Council is a legislative body - you actually do need a majority of the members on the Council to move in a direction. You can't have one person say, I'm going to do it. I'm going to get this done. Because you can't get something done with one person on the Council. It's irresponsible to suggest that's possible. You can certainly have people lead and work with colleagues. And working with people in that capacity is also important, but the mayor, the buck stops there. That's an executive position. You do have the ability to command what is going to happen in many different areas. And to say, We are moving forward with this. I'm going to make this decision - we're going to move forward and that's just going to be how it's going to be.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:26:22] Oh, sorry. I was just gonna say, I mean, to your point, right? I mean, I think, you don't need everyone, you just need enough people, right? And I think we, unfortunately, we don't want to - a lot of our politicians have not made peace with just moving forward with enough. And we need to.
Crystal Fincher: [00:26:41] Yeah. I have conversations with clients and people all the time, but the election is the mandate. If you were straight about who you are and what your plans are when you get elected - which is why it's honest to be transparent about who you are, it's prudent to be transparent about who you are when you're running - then you getting elected is the mandate to do exactly what you want to do. And you don't have to be afraid of, Well, maybe if I do this, people are not going to be happy. Like they elected you knowing full well that's who you were and were going to do. And so you get that done and then they're happy that they got what they voted for. It's when you get scared about doing what you were elected to do, that that creates the problems. So we will see what happens with that. But I am hoping to see someone really take the mantle and say, I'm ready to get something done. And it's okay if people don't agree. I'm ready to implement some strong leadership here.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:27:44] I wholeheartedly agree. And hopefully, that will happen. But as you said, we shall see.
Crystal Fincher: [00:27:52] We shall see. Well, we certainly - as is always the case on these shows, we have a long list of things that we can talk about. And then we get into talking about something and then we run out of time. We were going to talk about everyone in the world wanting the King County Sheriff to resign.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:28:07] Yes. I mean, it grows by leaps and bounds every day. So.
Crystal Fincher: [00:28:14] Yeah. I mean, yeah. Everyone from King County Councilmembers, both the King County Executive and his challenger Joe Nguyen, in addition to the King County Officers Guild. I mean, every - the call's coming from inside and outside of the house. Everyone is calling. Everyone is like, please leave. Please just go. Get out - we have no confidence.
Marcus Harrison Green: [00:28:39] Yeah, one point of agreement on - it seems, you know, that we're able find these days. And so, there you go.
Crystal Fincher: [00:28:45] Yes. Bi-partisan, united agreement on the fact that Sheriff must go. We thought we weren't going to unite around this, but here we are. Well, with that, we are at time today. We thank you for listening to Hacks and Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, May 7th, 2021. Our chief audio engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones Jr. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler. And our wonderful co-host today was South Seattle Emerald publisher and Seattle Times columnist Marcus Harrison Green. You can find Marcus on Twitter @mhgreen3000. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii (that’s f-i-n-c-h-f-r-i-i) and now you can follow Hacks and Wonks for the full versions of the show on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts, just type “Hacks and Wonks” into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live show and our mid-week show sent directly to your podcast stream. We appreciate you continuing to tune in. We'll talk to you next time.