Week in Review: December 10, 2021
Release Date: 12/11/2021
Hacks & Wonks
On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by the former Director of Progressive Majority who has now transitioned into public service but remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington, EJ Juarez. EJ and Crystal start off by discussing the Washington Supreme Court’s decision that driving while high can get you a DUI and the role that bias plays in situations of suspicion. Then, they discuss King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s lone vote against abortion rights that contradicts his previous position. News that Seattle parents are mobilizing against...info_outline Nicole Gomez, Candidate for 36th LD State Representative
Hacks & Wonks
On this midweek show, Crystal chats with Nicole Gomez about her campaign for State Representative in the 36th Legislative District - why she decided to run, how the last legislative session went and her thoughts on addressing issues such as housing affordability and zoning, homelessness, COVID response, public safety, tax reform, and climate change. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at . Find the host, Crystal, on Twitter at and find Nicole at . Resources Campaign Website - Nicole Gomez: Transcript [00:00:00] Crystal Fincher:...info_outline Week In Review: May 6, 2022
Hacks & Wonks
On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Metro News Columnist and Opinion Editor for The News Tribune, Matt Driscoll, co-hosts with Crystal. They begin by diving into the impact of the leaked draft of the Supreme Court opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, frustration with the response from many elected leaders, more rights that are on the chopping block, and–now more than ever–the importance of local government. The impact of Roe v. Wade being overturned on the LGBTQ+ community sparks a discussion on Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier’s actions to block pride flags from flying across...info_outline Katie Wilson and the Raise the Wage Tukwila Initiative
Hacks & Wonks
On this Hacks & Wonks midweek episode, Katie Wilson, General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union, answers all of Crystal’s questions about the Raise the Wage Tukwila initiative. They cover how minimum wage in one of the most diverse cities in the state lags behind neighboring jurisdictions, why the proposed policy is so impactful and timely, the broad coalition of support and input behind the initiative, and the many ways to get involved with the campaign. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at . Find the host, Crystal, on Twitter at and Katie Wilson...info_outline Week In Review: April 29, 2022
Hacks & Wonks
On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by former Seattle mayor and current Executive Director of America Walks, Mike McGinn. The show starts off with news that covid cases are on the rise in Washington and an estimated 75% of children have been infected, and Mike shares his personal experience traveling post-mask mandate. Then, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison's plan to eliminate community court as an option for repeat offenders sparks a conversation on fear of crime and how that intersects with crime statistics and politicians’ response. They also discuss another...info_outline Julia Reed, Candidate for 36th LD State Representative
Hacks & Wonks
On this midweek show, Crystal chats with Julia Reed about her campaign for State Representative in the 36th Legislative District - why she decided to run, how the last legislative session went and her thoughts on addressing issues such as housing affordability and zoning, homelessness, public safety, drug decriminalization, climate change, and COVID response and recovery. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at . Find the host, Crystal, on Twitter at and find Julia at . Resources Campaign Website - Julia Reed: Transcript [00:00:00]...info_outline Week In Review: April 22, 2022
Hacks & Wonks
On today's Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Associate Editor of The Stranger, Rich Smith. They kick off the episode with news of a driver involved in a pedestrian collision and road rage incident at Pike Place Market and an increase in police patrols in south King County with the stated purpose of keeping pedestrians safe, which sparks a broader discussion on pedestrian safety and why increased policing isn’t the answer. They then discuss Patty Murray’s advocacy to allow pot shops to use banks, City Attorney Ann Davison’s decision to dismiss 40% of cases, and the...info_outline Evaluating the Role of Incarceration in Public Safety with Criminologist Damon Petrich
Hacks & Wonks
On this Hacks & Wonks midweek show, Crystal has a robust conversation with Damon Petrich about his research at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. As lead author of the seminal work “Custodial Sanctions and Reoffending: A Meta-Analytic Review,” Damon performed an extensive analysis of 116 research studies looking at the effect of incarceration on reoffending. The review’s finding that the oft-used policy of imprisonment does not reduce the likelihood of recidivism sparks a discussion about how the United States ended up as the world leader in mass...info_outline Week In Review: April 15, 2022
Hacks & Wonks
On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by journalist from The Seattle Times, Heidi Groover. They begin the show by discussing a zoning change in Shoreline that would allow for more duplexes and triplexes, and the broader issue of housing affordability in Washington and across the country. Crystal and Heidi then dive into pushback from corporations and one city councilor on protections for app-based workers, a standstill getting concrete workers back on the job, and two Seattle Starbucks locations on strike this weekend. They conclude by reviewing predictable results from...info_outline Catching Up with Newly-Elected Burien City Councilmember Hugo Garcia
Hacks & Wonks
On this midweek episode, Burien City Councilmember Hugo Garcia and Crystal catch up on how his first term as a brand new elected is going. They discuss an action-packed onboarding period, including building relationships with fellow councilmembers and an important vote extending Burien’s eviction moratorium. Hugo shares his hope of building out “the office of Councilmember Garcia” to bring community along in having a voice in local government and outlines his first-term priorities around park infrastructure, public safety, and housing. The show wraps up with words of advice for those...info_outline
Today on the show, Seattle Times politics and communities reporter, Daniel Beekman joins Crystal to talk through the Sawant recall election results, the importance and success of listening and ongoing engagement between election cycles in SeaTac, a bevy of State Legislature candidates including Melissa Taylor in the 46th Legislative District, and an update on what’s not happening in the saga of Jenny Durkan’s missing texts as she prepares to leave office.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“She’s Winning: Sawant Surpasses the Recall Effort by 232 Votes” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2021/12/09/63491197/shes-winning-sawant-surpasses-the-recall-effort-by-232-votes
“3 progressive candidates just changed politics in SeaTac — here’s how” by Daniel Beekman from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/3-progressive-candidates-just-changed-politics-in-seatac-heres-how/
“Washington state Sen. David Frockt to step down at the end of his term in 2022; 2 other senators plan to leave office” by Joseph O. Sullivan from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/washington-state-sen-david-frockt-to-step-down-at-the-end-of-his-term-in-2022-two-other-senators-plan-to-leave-office/
Elect Melissa Taylor: http://www.electmelissataylor.com/
“Health Care Advocate Bevin McLeod Runs for Open State Senate Seat in Northeast Seattle” by Rich Smith from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2021/12/07/63431657/health-care-advocate-bevin-mcleod-runs-for-open-state-senate-seat-in-northeast-seattle
“Report on Seattle mayor’s missing texts still hasn’t shown up as she prepares to exit City Hall” by Daniel Beekman and Lewis Kamb from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/report-on-seattle-mayors-missing-texts-still-hasnt-shown-up-as-she-prepares-to-exit-city-hall/
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome to the program for the first time today's co-host, Seattle Times politics and communities reporter, Daniel Beekman.
[00:00:51] Daniel Beekman: Hey there, Crystal. Thanks for having me on.
[00:00:54] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So many of us have been reading your work for years - appreciate all of your reporting that you've been doing in and around the city and the state. And so excited just to dive into this week's news with you. And I think the thing that is certainly on the top of a lot of people's minds, that we've been waiting to see the results of for months now, is the Councilmember Kshama Sawant recall election. And it looks like we're certainly at, or very close to, some definitive results. What has been happening there?
[00:01:29] Daniel Beekman: Well, a lot of get out the vote, it seemed like, in the last week or two before Election Day. I actually was not the main reporter for The Seattle Times covering the Sawant recall election. Our new City Hall reporter, Sarah Grace Taylor, was on that and she's been doing a great job. But just sort of watching from afar, it seemed like there are a lot of folks, especially on the Kshama Solidarity side, out on the street knocking on doors and trying to get out the vote.
And then now we're in the refresh mode, where we're looking at the results coming in. But last night, the No side came from behind in some of the later votes and is now in the lead. So we'll see if it sticks - there aren't that many votes left to count, I think, but it looks like there's a good chance that she's safe.
[00:02:44] Crystal Fincher: Well, and you raise a great point - turnout is such a huge issue. And in this election, one of the continuing issues as we went on was - when was this going to appear on the ballot? And they were signature gathering earlier in the year, there was talk about even the Sawant campaign continuing to send signature gatherers - knowing that this was almost inevitably going to end up on the ballot and trying to get on a ballot during the general election, where other people are voting, there's going to be higher turnout, more people participating. Usually that's when there's the highest participation - you anticipate that being more representative of the City as a whole. Sometimes when there are very low turnout elections, it is easier to steer the result in a particular way. And certainly for more moderate or conservative efforts, they feel that they have a better chance on a ballot with much lower turnout - typically, older wealthier people participate in higher numbers and at higher rates in those elections.
So this landing on a December ballot was certainly viewed as not ideal by a lot of people and they had a tall task in turning people out. But one thing that some DSA folks are going to do is turn people out. And there was a discussion online - I think Brett Hamil was talking about - you can rely on some Democratic Socialists to get out everyone. And I saw that tweet and 10 minutes later, I was on the phone with a friend who lives in District 3 and he said, "Hold on, someone's at my door." And it was people canvassing for the Sawant campaign, making sure they got to him. He was like, "That's actually the third time they have been to my house." And they get out, they knock on doors.
I think it also illustrates how different the dynamics can be in a district election versus a citywide election. Certainly a lot of money poured in on behalf of both sides in this campaign - over $1 million on each side came in - a lot there. But the element of being able to talk to the voters in your district and not only having to rely on money because you can't doorbell, or can't talk to everyone in the district - I think gives more people an opportunity to get engaged, to get involved. And we certainly saw that in what appear to be the turnout rates and numbers - and a higher turnout rate in this December election among young people than there was even in the November election. How do you see that playing out?
[00:05:36] Daniel Beekman: Yeah. It look like - I haven't sort of compared closely here in the last 24 hours - but it looks like the turnout in the recall election will be similar to sort of the citywide turnout in the November election. And I wonder - I haven't looked to see what the turnout in District 3, Sawant's district, was in November, but maybe it'll end up being a little bit higher than this December election. But it seems like they'll end up fairly similar, so really not that big of a difference in the end in terms of turnout. And then is it because voters in District 3 are engaged, and they're interested in this, and they know about it? Is it partly because of that turnout machine on the Sawant side, a combination? Somewhat hard to say. But yeah, it seems like if there was some assumption or thought or strategy or alleged strategy of putting the recall on this sort of weird special ballot in order to depress turnout, it seems that that's not exactly what happened.
And I guess something that I've been thinking about with this election is just how - you spoke about the impact of money and it being dampened by a district race as opposed to a citywide race. And I've also been thinking about - maybe the impact of money is dampened when you have a candidate on a ballot that people know and are familiar with. This is the third time - fourth time - this is the fourth time that Sawant has been on the ballot since 2013. So that's four times in eight years. She's been on the ballot a lot, she's very well-known, there isn't even another candidate on this ballot to learn about. She last ran in the district - she's won in the district twice before, including two years ago. And so there isn't that element of voters coming into this not really knowing the candidates and being out there as targets for having their mind shifted one way or the other a lot, or introduced to somebody in a particular way. People are coming into this in that district - they know who she is, they generally know whether they support her or not. And it looks like - the last couple elections she's fairly narrowly won. And so in some ways, even though this is special and weird and a recall, it could end up looking somewhat similar to the last couple elections.
[00:08:40] Crystal Fincher: Well, yeah. And I think you raise a good point that makes sense - the influence of money is really the ability to communicate in various ways directly with voters. That's really what that buy is - it's a bullhorn in a variety of different types and forums and different types of media. And in an election like we just saw, in November, where we had candidates who had not run before, who people were not familiar with, several didn't have much of a political history, certainly not in the City of Seattle - there was defining to be done. You could educate a voter and tell them something that they may not have known, they may not have heard before, and frame the race in a way that they may not have thought of. And money is very helpful in accomplishing that.
Otherwise, the other way to do that is by talking to voters yourself and knocking on doors. And that you just can't do in a city the size of Seattle, in a citywide election. To your point, Kshama Sawant is a known quantity. And I think what was misguided about the recall from the start, besides it being based on somewhat flimsy or dubious or certainly inconsistently applied standards for following rules by people in City Hall, there seems to be a continuing narrative or sense that somehow "real voters" don't really support Kshama. And the election was a fluke and the reelection and the reelection was just some fluke and it was somehow faked or not representative over and over again.
That's not the case - Kshama represents her district. And even in her last election, where it was just like crowded primary and where there were certainly people who disagreed on style, the substance of what she is fighting for repeatedly polls consistently with where she's at in the district. Even when people voted for other candidates in the primary, the majority still voted for candidates who agreed with her on issues like the JumpStart Tax, the Head Tax, rent controls and mitigation. And so it's not a fluke that the voters are voting for Sawant, voting for a Democratic Socialist, voting for substantive transformational change, and able to see that through again in this recall election.
The wildcard is when there is no other choice on the ballot and it's just an up or down vote - sometimes those can turn out to drop some from where someone finished electorally. But here we are again and Sawant's going to squeak through, I anticipate - she just pulled ahead in the recall race with just over 50% of the vote in yesterday's drop. I'm anticipating, I think a lot of people are anticipating, that that is going to extend somewhat, but there may not be that many ballots left to count. So we'll see how that transpires there. But not a surprise and certainly a shame to spend that much on running an election and having to spend all of that, both in terms of just the County expenditure in tax dollars and all of the private money and millions of dollars that went into that, to get the same result that we have been getting that was not a surprise.
[00:12:31] Daniel Beekman: Yeah. Part of it - the issue of it being different with only one candidate on the ballot is also, I think, mitigates a little bit with Sawant as opposed to a different kind of candidate. Because in past elections, it's almost been like a referendum on her even more than it might be normally with an incumbent, where past challengers have really based their campaigns to some extent around anti-Kshama Sawant as opposed to, or in addition to, pro-themselves. So in that way, again, I think the past races are more similar to this race than sometimes it might be in a strange recall special election.
And in terms of the continuing - that sense you were talking about, or the continual momentum there to try to unseat her - some of that has to do with her policies and her politics, I think, and the people who don't like those and disagree with those and have some influence and some money. But also, even though she's won a number of elections, it hasn't been by enormous margins - there's obviously a structural divide politically in that district. And there's a significant chunk of voters who really don't necessarily agree with what she's about. And so I think probably some of it is dependent on who you're talking to in your neighborhood, and who's in your social circle, and all of that stuff - it might feel like everybody agrees with me that Councilmember Sawant is great, or everybody agrees with me that - don't we all agree that she's the worst? And so I'm sure there's some of that going on too.
[00:14:46] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, there is. And we will continue to keep an eye on this district, the district races heading into the next municipal cycle. Certainly there's a lot going on in 2022 that we'll be paying attention to. But I do also want to say - looking at the turnout numbers as they're shaping up now - and the turnout numbers among those under 35, those under 25 being noticeably substantially higher than they usually are in Seattle municipal races and higher than they were in this past November election that just happened. We all have a lot of attention - we have a lot of studying to do, paying attention to how the DSA is operating, turning out people, how they are relentless on the doors. It is a turnout machine and it is going to be to people's detriment, certainly in the political spaces, to ignore that or to excuse that or to attribute that to anything other than a very intentional strategy - that if certainly leftist, progressive Democratic candidates are looking to be more in touch with and more relevant to younger voters, they need to be paying attention to what's happening there.
And so we will move on and talk about your new beat that you're on, the politics and communities beat, and your recent coverage of races that we have talked a lot about here on Hacks & Wonks - the SeaTac City Council elections. What have you been doing there?
[00:16:42] Daniel Beekman: Yeah, so I spent the last seven plus years covering Seattle City Hall and for various reasons, it was time for a change for me to try to do something new. And I'm trying out a new beat that we're calling politics and communities. And it's sort of a work in progress in terms of exactly what that's going to look like - but to some extent, the goal is to report on and write about politics, but as it's showing up in the lives of people around our region, in neighborhoods, in faith communities, on the block, and just in people's lives. But also I think it's going to include some additional reporting on electoral politics and politics in general outside of the City of Seattle. But local in terms of the cities outside of Seattle - their municipal elections and that sort of thing.
And so, as I was moving away from the Seattle elections last month in November, I decided to take a bit of a dive into SeaTac and what had happened in the SeaTac City Council elections. And those seemed interesting, and was able to spend a good amount of time down in SeaTac talking to folks. And wrote a story about how three incumbents were unseated by three challengers in one election - something that just doesn't happen all the time. And that those three winning challengers were all sort of on the progressive side of things, although didn't have the same exact politics as each other, but worked together - coordinated their campaigns. And by winning those three races have changed the political landscape in that city. And trying to dig into, well, why is that and how did it happen - was really interesting.
[00:19:06] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And full disclosure - I've been part of independent expenditure campaigns in support of those SeaTac elections, and we've talked about that before on this program. But yes, real kind of transformational change there. And there's a lot of conversation about - and valid conversation about - voting being a useful tool, but certainly not being the only tool that is necessary for meeting community needs on the ground and transformational change on the ground. But also talking about local elections, especially in suburban and smaller cities, non-major metropolitan cities - that is grassroots organizing. That is how that happens and what is happening there.
And so these races were a very big deal. To your point, three candidates who were certainly more progressive candidates, certainly with challengers that were very different than they were, conversations over a long period of time. This is the second cycle in a row where organizing has been going on. I think it's really important to recognize that in SeaTac, this is a part of a continuing movement and a result of continuing engagement that goes beyond just the cycle - but this is the payoff that happens when you invest time and resources over multiple cycles into a community that has a government that looks very different than the population that it's serving and not meeting those needs. And so, to me, this is just such a great example of what organizing within community can do, and what being very intentional about supporting and developing great candidates and really supporting their campaigns, and being intentional about needing to change the fundamental type of representation that a city is having. What did you discover that was surprising to you in that race?
[00:21:17] Daniel Beekman: Yeah, I'm not sure anything I would say was extremely surprising, but I did think it was interesting coming in and - you might come in and think, Well, what was the secret - almost? Especially with sort of more progressive candidates not doing as well in Seattle and in some other places around the region, in the country - what was the special strategy that the candidates in SeaTac had? And just understanding that really there's no trick - just looking at this election cycle, the challengers who won did have more money, they had more endorsements. And that definitely matters, as we know. But also talking with them and the folks organizing in SeaTac, it's that multi-year grassroots organizing - connecting with voters and not-every election voters on issues that matter to them outside of elections - that folks said made a big difference.
And also, as we were talking about in the Sawant recall election, in the SeaTac elections, the candidates and folks who were working with them told me and voters told me that it was knocking on doors and reaching people who maybe haven't been asked for their vote in the past, or very often. And also when engaging with voters, not just saying, "Here's my pitch. Vote for me," but saying, "What's going on in your life? What do you want to know? What matters to you?" And then listening. And maybe it sounds kind of hokey, but in talking to folks in SeaTac, it sounded like they felt like that made a big difference. So I think a combination of those things.
[00:23:40] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And I think you hit the nail on the head - with campaigns, there's a distorting effect in bigger city elections with a lot of money. And then we talk about - or in these national elections, congressional elections - where you're talking to a lot of people and you can't engage with everyone in your district, or a large percentage of people in your district in-person. And so then the dynamics somewhat change. But in a lot of suburban areas, particularly in smaller cities and towns and rural areas around, it really is about connecting. And I think, to your point, a lot of times when people are thinking about doorbelling and canvassing, they think about it in terms of, Oh, you're going to talk to the person and tell them all about you. But I was just in a conversation with a candidate yesterday and another one last week - it is as important to listen. And the biggest - there's such a huge benefit for candidates getting out and talking to regular people, and not just talking to activists and insiders and politicos. One, just the language is different, the type of engagement is different, how we talk about issues is different than people who don't have the time or inclination, for so many different reasons, to pay attention to every detail about everything. And they're just trying to live their lives and running into roadblocks in their own lives that they've identified and how they're engaging with them - hearing that directly from them and understanding where they're seeing challenges are coming from - only helps people develop better policies and better responses to helping the people in their district.
And really all of this, the point of all of it, is helping the people that you're serving, helping solve the challenges that they have. The point is not developing the most slick messaging. You certainly need to win, but the point of winning is delivering policy that helps the people in their district. And getting to people on the doors certainly helps that. And when you're interested, and representing those interests, and hearing the people and turning that into policy that helps people, and they see a track record of doing that - that is what makes a winning coalition over time. And when you fail to listen and when you fail to heed the people saying, "These are the big challenges in my life," and you're like, "Yes, yes, but look at my slick message. And as long as I win again, that's fine." And you fail to deliver material help for people who are struggling, that's a recipe for disaster. So we will see how that continues to play out, but appreciate your reporting on that and looking forward to more of your coverage on that beat.
I wanted to close out - we're coming close to time here, but wanted to talk about two extra things. One, we are seeing a number of candidates announce in the 46th Legislative District in northern Seattle. It's like election after election after election - it always feels like that from the political consultant end, but now it's just a little bit more overt on the end of people who may not engage with elections, but we're beginning another cycle here. And it kind of kicked off when Senator David Frockt announced that he was not running for reelection and creating an open seat, an open Senate seat, in the 46th Legislative District - which Representative Javier Valdez announced that he was going to be seeking. And he has since drawn a challenger, Bevin McLeod, who is - there's a profile of her in The Stranger. And so that is going to be an interesting race - that appears to be a challenger running to Representative Valdez, who's a Democrat - she is running to his left. So more progressive challenger or certainly positioning herself that way. So that's going to be interesting to see. Representative Gerry Pollet is running for reelection in his seat and hasn't drawn any challenger yet.
And then for the seat that's being left open, the other Rep seat that's being vacated by Representative Valdez - Melissa Taylor just announced that she was running for that. And full disclosure, I'm working with Melissa Taylor. But was gratified and happy to see a lot of support. And I don't work with candidates very often - I used to do that. Now I do a lot of independent expenditure, or different organizing work, and working on ballot initiatives. But when a candidate comes along that is - that I deeply believe in - and I've worked with Melissa in a number of capacities before, including with Persist PAC. I am happy to get involved with people who I deeply believe in. And Melissa Taylor certainly is one of those who's worked in organizing spaces in community, and just kind of that listening and meeting needs and solving problems. Looking at her doing that over and over and over again, and building coalitions to get things done, and convincing me to get involved in different things. And she's just very engaging and very determined and tenacious and really driven by a desire to help people - and she's a force. So those 46th Legislative District races are certainly shaping up, and encourage lots of people to continue to stay engaged and involved with that. Have you thought about any of these legislative races so far at all?
[00:29:51] Daniel Beekman: Not too much, but I guess the thought I was having as you were talking there was sort of wondering about, for folks who aren't in politics, how you would explain what the stakes are in those races. Obviously for the Legislature, those are safe Democratic or lefty - that's a lefty district or Democratic district. It's not Capitol Hill, but still. And so, for the folks in the non-political world, I'd be interested in how you would characterize - why should we care about this? And what's at stake for us?
[00:30:36] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think that's a great question. And I think as we're looking forward here, especially as you pointed out, this is a safe Democratic district. This is not a district where there's a risk of a Republican winning and moving in a completely different direction on policy. But what we do face are a lot of choices on policy moving forward - do we look at incremental change? Do we look at kind of the status quo that we've seen with consistent leadership? Or do we make some substantive progress and change on issues that have been frankly languishing for a while?
Whether it's issues about public safety. And I mean, we're talking about - we're sitting at a time where there's been a rash of gun violence, lots of concern about whether people are safe in their neighborhood - and what kind of an approach should we take with that? Should we be investing deeply in moving forward in approaches that have been proven to improve safety and to reduce shootings and that way? Or are we paying lip service to that, right?
We are facing tremendous environmental challenges. Are we moving forward at a time when - Senator Marko Liias was just made Transportation Chair in the Senate, taking over for Steve Hobbs, who's now the Secretary of State - but with a lot of new revenue coming into the state from the federal package, are we going to be pushing those investments in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution, reduce the impacts on communities that have been hit the hardest? Or kind of just go along how we've been getting along and not press necessarily with the type of urgency that we've seen?
We have made some progress when it comes to addressing how burdensome our tax system is, but we've got a long way to go. We have been the most regressive state in terms of our taxes, meaning that the people who can least afford it are paying the highest percentage of their incomes in taxes, even before we talk about fees, right? And people are feeling that.
We're having conversations about how high the rent is getting, how hard it is to own a home, and how difficult it is to afford to live in Seattle. There are substantive actions that Olympia - that legislators - can take to make a difference in the affordability of houses, and setting up what kind of zoning and land use possibilities there are to help our cities be more affordable and more livable.
Just in terms of - back in conversations about being safe - do we feel safe walking down the street? Are our overall statewide transportation planning policies addressing the needs of people who don't want to drive all the time - who are walking, and riding their bikes, and who may have mobility challenges? Can everyone get around the city safely and live the life that they want to live, or are people being artificially held back by a lot of barriers?
So it isn't necessarily a conversation that we see in Democratic versus Republican conversations where it's like - do we need to address climate change? Yes or no? There's so much more on the Yes side than just, Yes, we need to address it - how we address it, the urgency with which we address it - in terms of housing, transportation, land use, taxation, and housing affordability, just public safety. It really - are conversations around there. And I'm looking forward to having those in these races and an unusually prepared crop of people who are making their way into the electoral sphere right now. So it's an exciting time.
[00:34:53] Daniel Beekman: Yeah. I guess something that I was thinking about with the 46th, and it's a little bit tricky because as we were talking about before recording, the boundaries are shifting a little bit as we speak. But it does seem like for North Seattle, and I know the 46th now includes - I think - some of Lake Forest Park and that kind of thing, and it may not anymore. But for sort of North Seattle, it does seem like sort of a big existential question that the Legislature can and has been involved in, at least to some extent, is how much more urban are those neighborhoods going to become? How much more of the city are they going to become? And what does that look like in terms of street safety, in terms of land use, in terms of zoning, and in terms of how people can afford to live there - as those changes happen or if they don't happen? So, yeah, that definitely seems like something to keep an eye on.
[00:35:55] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it definitely does. And even those conversations about growth and even just like the term urban and what people think and envision when they say that. Growth looks different in different places. And I think question one is - is growth an option? And kind of no, right? It is happening. You can't opt out of growth in different ways. And if you don't adequately plan for it, then you wind up in a situation where lots of people are having a hard time affording to live there and you're setting the stage for displacing small businesses and residents who have lived there. And the block that you've been used to is going to change in ways that people have very little control over when you don't plan adequately to absorb the people who are coming in there.
And Derek Young, who's Pierce County Council President now, is talking about - Gig Harbor has absorbed more growth than most areas in King County, right? And I don't think many people would think of Gig Harbor as an urban area how a lot of times people think when they do that. But it's just, Hey, instead of six people on your block, now there are eight or nine. And maybe it's a backyard cottage, maybe there's a duplex, maybe there's different things. And if you design appropriately, if you allow for common sense updates to zoning practices, that a lot of times have not changed since the '80s, then we have a much better job of having attractive, inviting, affordable neighborhoods for everyone. But this is going to be a conversation that happens a long time. And to your point, this is always on the top of a lot of people's minds, particularly in areas with a lot of home ownership and where there are changes in the population and growth is happening.
I do want to ask just real quick on the issue of Jenny Durkan's texts. You have written about that recently. Really kind of part of the news is that there hasn't been any news, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with a firm whose job it is to help trace, figure out, get these texts. What is going on? What was committed to and what is happening?
[00:38:35] Daniel Beekman: Yeah, we wrote a story recently - I wrote a story with Lewis Kamb, a co-worker, about the fact that - this is kind of a convoluted tale, so I'm trying to think about it in the simplest way possible. But basically, there is a forensic analysis report on the - how Mayor Durkan's text messages, for 10 months, were deleted and lost or went away, whether they can be retrieved or some of them can be retrieved and sort of - we don't know all the details of that work, but looking into that - that is being done under contract by an outside private company in contract with the Seattle City Attorney's Office.
And the reason why this work is being done is that more than a year ago in November 2020, with the city facing a number of lawsuits over the City's actions in the summer of 2020 when there were protests going on and the CHOP and tear gas out on the streets and other things happening - the plaintiffs in those lawsuits were asking for records. And it became apparent that there were text messages missing, not only from the mayor, but also from a number of other top city officials. And so the City Attorney's Office said we're going to hire this company to look into this for us. And when we found out about this last spring and started writing about it, we were told that a report from this contractor would be - the aim was to have it out, I think, by the end of June, was sort of the initial word that we got. And now here we are in December and there's no report.
And the City's continued paying more money to this company. In the summer, they had paid about $200,000. Now it's over $400,000. So we wrote a story saying the City Attorney and the mayor are both out of office at the end of this month. The public was promised this report - the public wasn't told about the report and the work in the first place when the contract was signed, but when we found out about it, the public was told that the report was coming soon. And many months later, there's no report, so that's what our story detailed.
[00:41:18] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. No report, no comment or update from the City Attorney's Office or the mayor's office on when it can be expected. And certainly after reading that, the big concern is that both the mayor and the City Attorney are going to be leaving their offices, and does this issue get dropped? Is there no explanation, no accountability? Durkan said something to the effect of - they operated, I forget what it was - outside of the law or like not within the law - breaking the law. And kind of ironic that her career was built on putting people in jail who operated in the capacity that she described. But it is a big concern that there seem to be no answers.
And on top of no answers, we've now spent $400,000 to continue to get no answers, which is a difficult pill to swallow - when continuing to hear for a number of other initiatives and projects and priorities in the City, that there's no money. And for something that seemed like it was a setting intentionally to delete these texts - that now getting them back is not only very expensive, but maybe just not going to happen with no answers, is certainly concerning and disappointing. And I appreciate that you continue to follow this and write about it, and that The Times is pursuing this also in court. And it's just a mess, it's just a mess.
[00:42:58] Daniel Beekman: Yeah. And there's sort of different threads of it because there's the issue of why the texts were deleted or lost, et cetera. And that's sort of an issue in and of itself and that's what this report is about. But then there's also the issue of, well, once they were gone, how were public records requests handled? And that's another issue. So related. Yeah. So multiple threads there and it'll be interesting to see how some of these lawsuits play out - the lawsuits involve discovery, so records that need to be disclosed through the court process. And so more information may come out that way, but we'll see.
[00:43:56] Crystal Fincher: Certainly hope so, but appreciate the time and appreciate you being with us today. And I thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, December 10th, 2021. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance from Shannon Cheng. And our wonderful co-host today was Seattle Times politics and communities reporter, Daniel Beekman. You can find Daniel on Twitter @dbeekman, that's B-E-E-K-M-A-N. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. And now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type Hacks & Wonks into the search bar, be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in and we'll talk to you next time.