Week in Review: September 9, 2022 - with Erica C. Barnett
Release Date: 09/09/2022
Hacks & Wonks
On this week’s Hacks & Wonks, Crystal is joined by Executive Director of The Urbanist, Doug Trumm. Crystal and Doug quickly run through news items about progress on Washington state’s capital gains tax, a discussion on the worsening traffic safety crisis, and labor stories about Amazon’s questionable fulfillment of a court order and the federal government’s blocking a railway workers strike ahead of the holidays. Public safety news out of Pierce County includes the start of embattled Sheriff Ed Troyer’s criminal trial and troubling news about an officer charged in Manuel...info_outline Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales Breaks Down the Comprehensive Plan
Hacks & Wonks
On this midweek show, Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales stops by to discuss Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan with Crystal and how this roadmap, which determines the manner in which the City accommodates growth, plays a critical role in issues that affect our day-to-day lives. Councilmember Morales fills us in on how the Comp Plan and its impending update is an opportunity for us to create a vision for what our communities look like, whether it be addressing historic inequities, tackling climate change, or realizing sustainable, healthy, connected neighborhoods across the City. The show...info_outline Hacks & Wonks 2022 Post-Election Roundtable Part 2
Hacks & Wonks
On this Friday show, we present Part 2 of the Hacks & Wonks 2022 Post-Election Roundtable which was live-streamed on November 15, 2022 with special guests political consultants Dujie Tahat and Kelsey Hamlin. In Part 2, the panel breaks down election results for State Legislature seats in the battleground districts of the 26th, 30th, 44th, and 47th LDs, where Democrats prevailed despite fears of backlash from passage of police accountability bills in 2021. They then dive into how the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s race embodied many of the election cycle’s themes - how fearmongering...info_outline Hacks & Wonks 2022 Post-Election Roundtable Part 1
Hacks & Wonks
On this midweek show, we present Part 1 of the Hacks & Wonks 2022 Post-Election Roundtable which was live-streamed on November 15, 2022 with special guests political consultants Dujie Tahat and Kelsey Hamlin. In Part 1, the panel breaks down general election results with discussion of why the feared Republican red wave did not materialize and what lessons Democrats should learn and act upon to maintain and increase the structural advantages they now hold across Washington state. The example of Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez’s surprise win in the 3rd Congressional District can be a roadmap for...info_outline Week in Review: November 18, 2022 - with Nicole Thomas-Kennedy
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On this week’s Hacks & Wonks, Crystal is joined by friend of the show, defense attorney, abolitionist and activist, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy! They start catching up with the Seattle City Budget. The City Council revealed their proposed budget earlier this week, and in general it proposes putting back funding for programs that were originally given fewer resources under Mayor Harrell’s proposal - most notably restoring the raises for frontline homeless service workers, which were cut in Harrell’s budget. The Council’s proposal also uses JumpStart funds as originally intended, cuts...info_outline RE-AIR: Washington Supreme Court Justice Helen Whitener
Hacks & Wonks
Washington Supreme Court Justice Helen Whitener returns to catch up with Crystal about the last two years on the state’s highest court and her bid for re-election this November. The two talk about Justice Whitener’s path to the Supreme Court, how coming from a marginalized background with an intersecting lens impacts her time there, and the impacts COVID has had on making the courts accessible and navigable by everyone. The Supreme Court’s “June 4th Letter” from 2020 sparks conversation about addressing systemic injustice and Justice Whitener shares two recent decisions she wrote...info_outline Week in Review: November 11, 2022 - with Robert Cruickshank
Hacks & Wonks
To break down all of the news from the 2022 election, Crystal Fincher welcomes political strategist Robert Cruickshank back to the show! They review key results from the election, starting with the race for Congress in Washington's 3rd Congressional District where Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez currently leads MAGA Republican Joe Kent in a race that's still up in the air, and the blueprint this race provides for Democrats for winning in rural areas while maintaining their values. Our co-hosts discuss the King County voters repeated rejection of punitive-punishment based measures, and the...info_outline RE-AIR: Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu
Hacks & Wonks
On this midweek show, Crystal has a delightful conversation with Washington Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu about her path to becoming the first Asian American, first Latina, first woman of color, and first LGBTQ+ justice on the court. They discuss the importance of state supreme courts in light of recent decisions that threaten people’s rights on the national level, how that translates to why we should scrutinize judicial elections, and common misconceptions people have about the state Supreme Court. Justice Yu then shares about efforts to make courts more accessible and equitable to...info_outline Ballot in Review: November 4, 2022 - with Mike McGinn, Shannon Cheng, and Bryce Cannatelli
Hacks & Wonks
With Election Day looming and ballots due in a few days, this week’s show is a Ballot-In-Review! Crystal is joined by perennial favorite Mike McGinn along with the rest of the Hacks & Wonks team - Bryce Cannatelli and Shannon Cheng - to discuss the recent political climate, break down the context of down-ballot races and why your vote matters. Listen in as the crew opens their ballots and thinks their way through the important choices in front of them. As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at . Follow us on Twitter at . Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on...info_outline City of Seattle Municipal Court Judge Candidate Forum, Moderated by Crystal Fincher and Hosted by Hacks & Wonks
Hacks & Wonks
Today’s episode is a recording of a live forum between Seattle Municipal Court Judge candidates - Judge Adam Eisenberg and Pooja Vaddadi for Position 3, Nyjat Rose-Akins and Judge Damon Shadid for Position 7. The forum was live streamed by Hacks & Wonks on October 12, 2022 and moderated by Crystal Fincher. Resources Find links to the YouTube video and transcript Campaign Website - Campaign Website - Campaign Website - Campaign Website - Register to vote, update your registration, see what’s on your ballot and more Past felony...info_outline
On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal Fincher is joined by Seattle political reporter, editor of Publicla, co-host of the Seattle Nice podcast, and author of Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery, Erica C. Barnett! They start the show discussing the teachers strikes happening across the state. Schools all over Washington are facing unreasonable class sizes and under-resourced necessary programs like special education and mental health assistance. Despite claims from districts that teachers are just fighting for better pay, educator’s priorities for these strikes are securing the resources to lower class sizes and improve special ed resources. In a victory for teachers, Kent Educators successfully negotiated with the Kent School District after district negotiators were forced to come to the table when two Kent School Board members prevented an injunction from the district against the striking teachers - Lelsie Hamada and Joseph Bento voted against the injunction, while Awale Farah and Tim Clark voted for it.
In other school news, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Ryekdal, is submitting a proposal for the state to provide free lunch to all students. The proposal would cst the legislature $86 million a year, and would feed the over 300,000 students that don't currently qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. Since we know that kids' education suffers if they don't get sufficient nutrition, this is an impactful proposal that we will be keeping an eye on.
For elections, Erica breaks down the election reform and status quo campaigns in this year's general election. This November, voters will have the option to choose if they would like to change the way we vote, and whether we should adopt Ranked Choice Voting or Approval Voting for local primary elections. Recently, a campaign to maintain the status-quo is starting to take shape, funded primarily by local business leaders. Meanwhile, Ranked Choice Voting's formal campaign is just starting to raise money, while the Approval campaign has raised over $400,000.
While there will be a lot of different talking points shared around this vote, it's essential that the media frame this issue around what will help most people get involved and make their voices heard, and which system will help communities be accurately represented. We also need to ensure that there is a proper voter education rollout if our elections change. We saw in Pierce County the danger of what happens when you ask people to use a voting system hasn’t been properly explained to them.
Catching up with Mayor Harrell's data dashboard, it's clear the data is incomplete, and the mayor's promise of an effective approach to homelessness is not being met. Sweeps have increased since the pandemic, we do not have the 1,000 pieces of "emergency shelter" that Harrell promised to build, and a surprisingly low number of people are being referred to shelter. And despite early vows to not play the blame game, he continues to point to past administrations, the King County Regional Homeless Authority, and the City Council as reasons he hasn't achieved his goals.
We've seen examples of cities and districts applying legitimate housing- and services-first models and finding measurable success, yet Harrell's administration continues to focus on sweeps as the answer to our homelessness crisis. Harrell's current approach runs against his promises during the election to prioritize housing and treatment, and aren’t proving effective at actually reducing homelessness.
We wrap up the show looking at a recent press conference from Seattle-area law enforcement leaders, which, while advertised as an announcement of a crisis in the city's police force, was really an endorsement announcement for King County Prosecutor Candidate Jim Ferrell. While he's running as a Democrat, Ferrell's embracing an endorsement from SPOG and Mike Sloan, which represents a real divide between Ferrell's approach to police and public safety versus most Democrats' views. It's the latest in a line of moves and positions from Ferrell that run counter to his self-given Democrat label.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Follow us on Twitter at @HacksWonks. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s co-host, Erica C. Barnett, at @ericacbarnett. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.
[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 were 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 back to the program, friend of the show and today's co-host, Seattle political reporter, editor of Publicola, co-host of the Seattle Nice podcast, and author of Quitter, A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery, Erica Barnett.
[00:00:58] Erica C. Barnett: It's great to be here, Crystal.
[00:00:59] Crystal Fincher: Great to have you back, lots to talk about this week. And I think we will start off talking about teachers striking, really across the state, and one strike that just ended in Kent. What is going on in the world of teacher strikes?
[00:01:15] Erica C. Barnett: I'm gonna defer to you a little bit on the Kent strike, but this is, you mentioned, this is a statewide situation - it's really a national situation. Schools are having trouble keeping up enrollment across the country. People are moving away. People have enrolled, wealthier people have enrolled, their kids in private schools. And so that's creating, a financial crunch for a lot of school districts. And frankly teachers and parent educators and other school staff across the country are saying, "look, we're being asked to do more. We're not being compensated commensurate with inflation." Or the or cops, frankly, and we can talk more about that. But yeah, it's happening across the country and across the state. In Kent, you mentioned before we came on mic, Eatonville, seattle, lots and lots of places, we're seeing these school strikes. If you live in Seattle and you're reading the newspaper and you think that Seattle's the only district where this is happening, that is very much not the case.
[00:02:29] Crystal Fincher: Very much not the case. And we are in a pretty precarious situation, to your point, nationwide. And education, a lot of districts are dealing with staffing issues, problems, and challenges, and sometimes the issue, like there is in Kent, where some schools have seen declines in enrollment where other schools, like here in Kent, Kent-Meridian is actually seeing a pretty dramatic increase. And what do you do with that? Having to shift staff? That's an issue that Seattle has had to deal with before. And just shortages across the board, especially in programs like special education, which seems to be an issue across the board. This is an issue that's under discussion in every strike that is happening, or that has been authorized in the state, where it seems like there has just been staffing losses, or increased need, a combination of the two in special education classes. And these classes are far beyond the staffing ratios originally intended for these. And that's on the list of things that teachers are striking for: to bring these classes back within the recommended ranges that they're supposed to be. In Seattle, one parent was talking about, they were looking at a class size of 30 to 40 kids for their special education student, which is far beyond what it should be. Another thing that was a big issue in Kent and also across the state and the country are mental health resources, school counselors. In Kent, it was an issue where the staffing ratio recommended pre pandemic was one counselor for every 250 students. As was frequently discussed throughout the pandemic, the needs that students have in terms of support have only grown since then. Yet, the current staffing ratios that were presented were one for every 500 students. I don't even know how that's manageable. Certainly doesn't meet the need, if anything, we needed to be moving towards even lower ratios than what was recommended before. So these are resources for students. These are the conditions for learning. These do dictate the types of outcomes that kids are going to be receiving through school, which dictates the rest of their life, really. You know, how someone performs in school does have a predictive measure on how things look for the rest of their life. Not absolutely determinative, but certainly influences it. So these are really serious discussions. This has to do with, the future. These are future residents and neighbors and employees and everything that we need to make our society work. We are planting these seeds right now in these classrooms. And if we make sure that they have what they need to succeed, we're all better off.
[00:05:31] Erica C. Barnett: Yeah, I think, to, to your point about counselors, that is also an issue in Seattle. I think that there are, I'm not a parent, I don't have public school kids or anything like that, but but I believe I read that some schools don't have full-time counselors. And to your point about special education, that, is one of the major sticking points in the strike in Seattle. The teachers and the employees that are striking, want to have set staffing ratios for special education. And the district is essentially saying, "we'll deal with that later and trust us." And I think that there, there is not a lot of trust there between the district and educators. On that point, just because class sizes have grown so substantially, so you know, those are all really important issues. A lot of times people look at a strike and think, "they just want more money." And look at the the amount that teachers are making, which is still quite low compared to what a lot of other public servants make such as police. And in Seattle, it's low compared to some surrounding districts. And teachers can't afford to live in the city. And so those are all really important considerations, but there are also, real considerations that affect the education that kids are getting. If you're in a class with 30 or 40 students, you are not getting the kind of individualized attention that a lot of parents I think would hope their kids would have. So there's a lot of different issues at play in all of these strikes. And we're recording this on Friday morning. I don't know how long the strike is gonna go on, but but there's still quite a lot to be hammered out beyond just the issue of wages and benefits.
[00:07:23] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And the issue of the negotiation, the bargaining is a big one, and whether or not the districts and the representatives are bargaining in good faith. There has been a lot of consternation in Seattle because the district's negotiators there have just not shown up on some days. And even in their announcement that was sent out to parents yesterday, heard a number of parents saying, "they're saying that if an agreement is not reached tomorrow, we'll get an update by Monday," which seems to indicate that they don't plan on meeting over the weekend, which the union negotiators are willing to do, were willing to do last weekend. And it just seems like the district negotiators are dragging their feet are hoping that some public pressure coalesces and maybe externally gets the teachers back. But I think negotiating in good faith is the best way to do that. But I think we just saw that in Kent, who just settled their strike - kids are back in classes now - where they actually considered suing the teacher's union to seek an injunction, to force them
back to work, and it failed on a split vote in the council with, surprisingly, the former chair of the 33rd Democrats, who is now a school board member. Tim Clark voted in favor of suing the teacher's union as did Awale Farah, who had a lot of progressive endorsements. So certainly surprising to see those anti-union votes from those two people. But it did appear that, that the negotiators were dragging their feet saying, "maybe we won't have to do anything. We'll wait for the lawsuit to take place." But as soon as that was shot down, an agreement was reached pretty quickly thereafter. What the teachers are asking for wasn't out of bounds, it wasn't too much, it wasn't unreasonable. And once they started negotiating seriously, they reached an agreement pretty soon. I hope the Seattle district follows suit and really does start negotiating in good faith to end this because this is a hardship on parents and families. It is not easy to take care of kids when you weren't counting on that, when you have a job, when you have different things you need to do. So I hope they get this over with, get this done, settle with the teachers as quickly as possible.
[00:09:48] Erica C. Barnett: Absolutely.
[00:09:49] Crystal Fincher: With that, we will move on to another item that came out yesterday: the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state, Chris Ryekdal, is calling for free school meals for everyone. What did he propose?
[00:10:04] Erica C. Barnett: I think you said it. He's saying that the legislature needs to pass legislation to fund free school meals for the remaining, I believe it was 330,000, students who don't qualify. And I think my number may be off, I'm going for memory, but I think it was about $86 million a year to to pay for all these meals for kids. And I imagine, this was just announced. I imagine there will probably be some reaction from the right to this proposal, from the Republican saying that it is unnecessary or that we shouldn't be doing these giveaways to children or parents or whatever. But man, it just, it seems a no brainer in a lot of ways to make food available to all kids, particularly with rising food costs right now. If you've been to the grocery store lately, it is shocking. So yeah, this seems like a very timely announcement and a timely proposal to me.
[00:11:16] Crystal Fincher: It does. And we would join a few other states like California, Vermont, and Massachusetts who are doing this. To your point right now, about half the school- half the kids in the school, are covered by free lunch. But like those requirements sometimes are- not everybody who qualifies actually seeks it and gets it. There is absolutely the issue of child hunger. It's getting worse. This is a plan that is interesting. Again, we know that kids not being hungry in school makes their ability to learn better that when they're not facing issues like hunger that they, their educational outcomes do improve. So we want to do everything to make that a possibility, and this seems like a good idea and interesting to see where it goes. He's asking for an appropriation from the legislature, so this would be something that would have to be taken up during the legislative session, and we'll see what the response to it is.
[00:12:16] Erica C. Barnett: One thing that doesn't get talked about when all the time in these discussions about school, about school lunches and it's free food at schools is there is there's a real stigma, still, to being a kid who has a free lunch as opposed to kids who are able to purchase their lunches. And I think this will also even the playing field for parents and kids, too, if it's just universally, you go to school, you get a lunch. That's again, to me, that seems like a no brainer. I realize there is a cost associated with it, ultimately it's not millions of kids. It's hundreds of thousands of kids. And I do think that, anything that can reduce stigma for for lower income kids in school is also good for their education.
[00:13:02] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. Great point. Completely agree. I also wanna talk about a story you wrote this week about the election reform campaigns that are starting to develop. What's taken place?
[00:13:15] Erica C. Barnett: So there is gonna be a measure on the ballot in November. It's a three part measure. It's one of those kind of confusing proposals where you can choose Yes or No on, "do you want to change the way that we elect local officials?" And whether you say Yes or No, you can then choose between two different options. One is Ranked Choice Voting where you, list you essentially rank, each person that you like in order of preference. And you don't have to rank everybody. If there's 20 people on the ballot, you can rank however many you want. And the second is Approval Voting, where you fill in the bubble for everybody that you approve of, and they're essentially ranked equally. And so these are both election reforms that their advocates say will, result in more representative people being on the city council. And they're just for primary elections - the general election would go on as it currently does. So yeah, so campaigns are shaping up. There's a Ranked Choice Voting campaign that does not have a lot of money yet that just formed. There is an Approval Voting campaign that has hundreds of thousands of dollars coming in from advocates for for that voting system, which is little tested and well funded. And then there is also, now, and this is what I reported this week, an emerging campaign against all of the above, "let's stick with the status quo." And that is funded by a bunch of local and quasi-local business interests. And I say quasi-local, because a lot of the folks who are funding it are from out of town, around Seattle, Issaquah, Bellevue, et cetera. So it's gonna be, I think, this is gonna be an incredibly heated campaign for something that is, essentially, a very nerdy debate over what kind of elections are most representative and are we getting the best candidates we can? Are we getting the best elected officials we can? And would changing the system change the results?
[00:15:30] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's really interesting to see, especially this 'vote no on everything campaign.' From the political perspective, it's interesting. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, because when there's a choice between no change and some change, and you have choices on what kind of change, oftentimes just saying, "okay, just all those options are confusing. You have to learn about them. Just say no, and don't change anything," sometimes is the easiest. Not saying that it's right, but sometimes it's the easiest, argument to make and to have carry. And so it's interesting to see this take shape. To your point, you were talking about a number of local business leaders: the CEO of HomeStreet Bank, the Costco co-founder and former CEO, Mariners co-owner John Stanton, developers who are involved with that, starbucks president, a former Starbucks president. So it's a lot of entrenched interests who are lining up in funding this no campaign, which looks like it will have, based on the people involved with it, kind of bottomless resources and able to go up against the pretty formidable resources of the Approval Voting Campaign, which is new to our area. I have no idea how this is gonna play out, what's gonna happen, and how it's going to interface with the Rank Choice Voting campaign, which has a much longer grassroots history in our state, and has had a lot of advocates on the ground. It's actually on the ballot in Clark county and in San Juan County, I wanna say, this November. And so there've been lots of conversations about it. Lots of advocates who have been in favor of it over the past several years and more momentum growing, and we've seen examples of it across the country being implemented. But that the formal campaign for the city of Seattle ballot question is just forming and we'll see what shape that takes and what kind of resources they wind up with.
[00:17:43] Erica C. Barnett: Yeah. I think Ranked Choice Voting has happened all across the country, and we saw, in Alaska, helped defeat Sara Palin. I will say one difference here is that we already have an election reform, or what other places consider an election reform, in place, which is the top-two primary. And this would be Ranked Choice Voting or Approval Voting plus a top-two primary, which is a little confusing. Usually Ranked Choice Voting, it's essentially, like instant- it's also called instant runoff voting. And it's supposed to result in one winner. And here, we would be doing it in a weird, and I don't know if it's unprecedented, but highly unusual way of using it for the primary, and then the top two go through and we vote on them three months later in the normal way. So anyway, it'll it'll be interesting, if we do adopt it, to see how it works and in what ways it is compatible and incompatible with the way that we already do our elections, which have, been reformed pretty recently with the top-two primary.
[00:18:48] Crystal Fincher: I hope, as we continue these discussions, that we really do focus on voter turnout and what gets more people involved and not necessarily what is going to achieve the desired result, but what gets more people engaged and able to vote, engaged in voting, and having a voice in shaping their own community and in choosing their own leaders. That to me should be the goal, and so I hope that we focus on that, as well as making sure that no matter what is implemented - regardless of this vote, I think it is pretty apparent that we're gonna see voting reforms implemented with more frequency across this state and country - that we do invest the appropriate resources in educating the public about what's gonna happen. We saw in Pierce County the failure to do that had bad consequences and lead to a backlash. If people aren't prepared for this change, then it's going to disenfranchise people. It's gonna confuse people. When people are confused, they frequently don't vote. They get really cranky. And sometimes I see dismissive statements, especially online, with this may be hard for people to understand and being like, "no, it's really easy to understand. You just rank the people." And that is, is such an oversight and really dismissive. Lots of people do have challenge. Look at the amount of people who have, who don't realize that they need to sign their ballot right now with our current system. So just even changes that seems simple and obvious to some just are not to everyone. And we need to do reaching out in person. We need to do reaching out in all of the languages that people vote in, in all areas of community, different income levels, whether people are online or offline, really make a concerted effort to do that. So that's, if you know me and we have talked about this, you have heard this from me before. I'm most interested in making sure people have the information they need to vote and that we do what makes it easiest for them to do that and don't risk disenfranchising people. So we'll see how this plays out. We'll link, but you can see the filings and how these continue to shape up on the Seattle Ethics and Elections website. I think some people may not realize, who are used to now, got used to looking up on the PDC for a lot of other races across the country: in Seattle races, there is- Seattle has its own regulations, its own authority, and so you can look up all of the Seattle election information on Seattle's Ethics and Election website. You can see all of the disclosures filings, all of that, there. So very useful. We'll link that and continue to follow along with those races. Also this week, you did some great reporting on the state of mayor Harrell's homelessness data dashboard. What's up with it?
[00:21:56] Erica C. Barnett: Yeah, the mayor has, three months ago, he announced with a lot of fanfare, that he was gonna be tracking data on homelessness, and specifically on homeless encampments in a more or less live fashion on this data dashboard. And the dashboard has not been updated for three months. I think they're gonna be, I think realistically, they have said it's gonna be every three months. If you look at the the dashboard itself, it's not really a dashboard. It's really more of a static website that has a couple of elements that change a little bit, including a map that's intended to show, essentially progress on closing encampments. And, Harrell has said, and for some reason he's adopted this as a motto, he said, "we don't do sweeps. We treat and we house." And that is, that statement, is false in a lot of different respects. The city has really ramped up sweeps even from, previous mayor, Jenny Durkan. And and they're happening nonstop across the city. Both planned sweeps and and unplanned sweeps. Both sweeps where people are engaged and connected to shelter, and those that are done at the last minute because the city decides there's an obstruction or a danger. And so, that's false. We're also not providing treatment to anybody. The city doesn't do that. And the city also doesn't house people directly from encampments except in exceptional circumstances. So this dashboard is also very incomplete, doesn't really provide a lot of information, but if you look at it without, if you squint your eyes and don't look at the data, you can see a lot of dots on the map that make it look like the city's really doing a lot to address unsheltered homelessness, which, frankly, it is not. We don't have more money for that, the city has relinquished a lot of control to the King County Regional Homelessness Authority which also doesn't have a lot of money for that. And so we're at the same point that we were at any point during the homelessness crisis except that sweeps have ramped up since the pandemic emergency ended and since Harrell came into office.
[00:24:32] Crystal Fincher: Yeah it's really interesting, and it looks like they really tried to make it look like they were doing stuff but as you broke down the numbers the city said they counted 814 tents and 426 RVs citywide, made a total of 191 offers of shelter in June out of 616 in the second quarter in 2022. And so based on how it looks like the numbers are calculated, estimating that 30% of shelter offers during the same period resulted in a person enrolling in a shelter for at least one night - we could have a long conversation about how one night of shelter after removing the place where they were leaving is insufficient - but really what that means is that about only 72 people from those 814 tents and 426 RVs spent any time at all in a shelter bed. And what just such an insufficient number and completely opposite to what he said. It just- we just don't appear to be making progress, and even making progress according to the goals that Mayor Harrell set for himself and what he said he was gonna do. And so measuring by his own stick, he's failing and he's not taking the action that he said he would be doing. Which is really interesting because he seems to be saying, "none of this is my fault and I have no nothing to do with any of this. And, I'd rather change the council than, acknowledge that there's anything that I have control of to do in this situation."
[00:26:21] Erica C. Barnett: Yeah. There are caveats to to all of these numbers and I do think that the the baseline number of tents and RVs is probably very much underestimated. The number of people who went to shelter may also be slightly underestimated just because of how they calculate and how they gather information. But I think that Harrell, and maybe this is a successful tactic because people don't dig into the numbers and they pay attention to the top lines, to use poll speak, but, I mean, his insistence, his mantra, that we treat and we house, it just, it drives me a little bonkers. I don't think that Bruce Harrell is an uncompassionate person, but I also think that, when you say that we are giving people treatment and we are giving people housing and it is not true, it's incumbent on people like, like me and you, Crystal, to, to point out this is not true. This is not what's happening. What's happening is they're offering people shelter when tiny house villages become available. They're offering people those. Mostly they're saying here, you can go across town, and relinquish all your stuff, give up your spot, give up the people that you know, and stay in a mass shelter. It may not be a quote unquote mat on the floor, but these are still mass shelters and that is your choice. And people don't stay in those shelters for very long because they don't offer hope for housing and they're crowded and you don't have a lot of privacy or rights. I just think we need to hammer home that this shelter, this we house and we treat stuff, is that's not what's happening.
[00:28:10] Crystal Fincher: It's not what's happening, and it flies in the face of what evidence does show works, which is giving people support and housing. Sweeping people moves people from one location to another. It doesn't solve the issue of homelessness. And really it doesn't even solve the issue of visible homelessness, which some people view as being the problem. Not that people are outside, but "I have to look at people who are outside and that makes me uncomfortable without engaging with how uncomfortable it is to be living without shelter." And there's been a lot of local reporting even on, "hey, people swept from one location, wind up at another location. And hey, we've tracked people from this sweep location, then they move over here, and then they move over there." And so we're just playing this really twisted and dark game of musical chairs and expecting some kind of result. And he seems to just be doubling down on what's happening, especially when considering his leaked comments in the SPD roll call meeting. It seems like there's no consideration of anything different. And we see in Houston that, hey, people are making more progress when they take a housing-first issue. Yesterday, Mike Bonin, who is from the city of LA, just announced in his district they made the most progress in the city,
and he is someone who has taken big heat for really going all-in on a housing-first model, focusing on services and housing. The one thing that everyone who is homeless has an in common is that they don't have shelter. Housing is a necessary component to solving homelessness. You can't only focus on, hey, treatment. Lots of people wanna think about "people did something to deserve being outside. They made bad decisions and they are dealing with addiction. And so we don't need to help them or they need to figure out how to get it together before they're worthy of help." And that's just not how it works and it's expensive and inhumane to expect that to work and to continue to force that on people. When we allow people to stabilize in secure housing, the rest of the stuff becomes much more easy to do, and not easy, but easier, to deal with. And to help people get into a place where they can find permanent housing and really get off the streets for good. You have to do that work. And it seems like there's just a lot of cosmetic and really shallow sweeping going on and we're waiting for a real plan to address homelessness. We're still waiting for this plan. And man, do we need it.
[00:31:06] Erica C. Barnett: Absolutely.
[00:31:07] Crystal Fincher: This is an issue that is a source of frustration for me if you can't tell. Like my-
[00:31:13] Erica C. Barnett: Oh, me too. Me too. It's, you know...
[00:31:15] Crystal Fincher: We are spending so much money doing these sweeps. And if we put this money in a different direction, we could be making more progress than we are making. And all of us wanna see it.
[00:31:25] Erica C. Barnett: And yeah, not just doing the sweeps, but also staffing the sweeps with police officers, who have become a really dominant presence at sweeps again for a while. Before before this mayor, they were part of a navigation team, which meant that they act actively, did sweeps along with workers from the city. And now, they faded into the background for a while, and now they are a very active presence at the larger removals. Actually at every removal. But I was reading in a records request last night that I filed on a different subject, that there were, there was something like, or they were, the SPD requested something like 50 police officers to be at the the Woodland Park removal earlier this year. And that was not all of Woodland Park, it was a small part of Woodland park, and there were, maybe 30 people left by the time they they actually showed up to remove the last people. So it's just just a tremendous amount of resources go into moving people around and around the city and occasionally doing it a better way and actually getting people into shelter that they want to be in like tiny houses.
[00:32:42] Crystal Fincher: And again, just to point out, Bruce set this bar. Sometimes I get frustrated because there seems to be, just, collective amnesia about what Bruce Harrell said as he was running for election and what he said early in office. And these aren't external expectations being placed on him. Voters voted for him based on what he said and how he was gonna handle it. And he previously said that he didn't want police on the outreach teams that go into encampments, but he would staff it with more social workers and behavioral health clinicians. When he was running for office and when he first took office talked about this. He did talk about housing and services and leaning in hard to that. And he is doing the opposite of what he said he would do. People are not getting what they bargained for here and he seems to be doubling down on it. And I would just like, at least- And it's not like people never, ever change their mind either, but then explain it. Then explain how you decided, "you know what? We are not gonna take an approach where we involve clinicians and support staff and people who can help with services. We are going to staff it with police." Be publicly accountable for the choices that you make and how you're leading the city, and say, "I decided not to do that for this reason." He should have to explain that. Especially with a lack of progress being made. It seems like if he were to stick with his original plan, we would be making more progress. So why did he change it and why is he sticking with that direction? I would love to hear him answer those questions. I would love to hear people ask him why he is deviating from the plan that voters voted for. That to me is an important question.
[00:34:33] Erica C. Barnett: Yeah. I think Harrell would, I think a lot of people who voted for Harrell, frankly, voted for him on the assumption that he would be sweeping encampments and that he is doing exactly what he said he would do. But I agree with you that he certainly paid lip service to a more compassionate approach. And I do think, in fairness, there are things that are happening, like JustCARE is actively working - it's a program from the Public Defender Association - is actively working to put people in, in hotels and and get them into housing. Good things are happening. It's not all sweeps, but the problem is that sweeps have ramped up to such an extent that it is making hard for the good things to happen, because it's hard to find people because people are traumatized because they don't trust the city to act in their best interest. And it's all it's very counterproductive to do a little bit of the social work, healthcare-oriented, housing-oriented stuff and then do a whole lot of, the sort of compassionless, cruel sweep. Because there, it's not just mixed messages, it's mixed practices that make- the bad stuff makes the good stuff harder to do.
[00:35:50] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And I do think you're absolutely right. There have been excellent programs, especially through JustCARE, about helping people through that. And even in the realm of public safety. The challenge is some of those programs have been defunded by Mayor Harrell and he's indicated, and his deputy mayor for public safety has indicated, that more of that should be expected. And as they, perhaps, stand up their internal department, public safety department, and internal supports, but it is just- it just seems like we're moving in this opposite direction. I would love to see more programs like that funded, them accelerate and ex and expand that. There's lots of evidence that we have from that program to show that it is effective, and I would love to see an expansion of that rather than an expansion of these sweeps. We will continue to keep our eyes on how this turns out. You've, for years and years, have done an excellent job reporting on this and have had some of the best information available in the city, which lots of other reporters rely on for their work also, so appreciate your continued coverage of this. And as we wrap up, I just wanted to also talk about public safety and law enforcement lining up and expressing their support in another race for the county prosecutor. What happened this week?
[00:37:16] Erica C. Barnett: It will not surprise you to hear that I was not invited to this press conference. But the TV news and The Seattle Times reported on a press conference by the Seattle Police Officers Guild, which is headed up by an incredibly controversial figure, Mike Solan. And the press conference was apparently billed as, "we're gonna have a major announcement of some sort. We're gonna inform you of this dire situation that's going on." And, in fact, what it appears to have been was a fullthroated endorsement of Jim Ferrell for King County Prosecuting Attorney. I suspect that it's not so much that there was a nefarious bait and switch or anything like that, I just think that SPOG is not great at media relations, and why blame- when incompetence will do, why look for other motivations? But in any case, Ferrell accepted their endorsement, and I think this is really interesting because Jim Ferrell has been torn in two directions. Earlier this year, the state Democrat's leader, Tina Paul Ladowski, said that he was not a Democrat. He has been very insistent that he is. If you go to endorsement meetings by Democrats and progressive groups, the first thing he says is, "I'm know a lifelong Democrat." But, in aligning himself with SPOG,
he is sending a very different message. SPOG has been associated with defending cops who participated in the January 6th riots. Mike Solan has made some incredibly controversial statements, let's say, in the past.
[00:39:02] Crystal Fincher: And straight up false.
[00:39:03] Erica C. Barnett: What's that?
[00:39:04] Crystal Fincher: I said, "and straight up false."
[00:39:06] Erica C. Barnett: Yeah. And false, sure.
[00:39:07] Crystal Fincher: He's bit of source of misinformation also.
[00:39:09] Erica C. Barnett: Of course, of course. He's not universally popular among cops because he is so far to the right. This is a real statement, I think, by Jim Ferrell, that these are his people and he's he's gonna try to take down Dan Satterberg, the current prosecutor's Chief of Staff, Lisl Mann, who is running for this position as well, by coming at her from the right and painting her as some kind of radical wildlife leftist, which she is not.
[00:39:41] Crystal Fincher: She definitely is not. This is a really interesting race and you're absolutely right. This does send a message accepting this endorsement from the Seattle Police Officers Guild. There are other candidates who will accept endorsements from guilds sometimes excepting the Seattle Police Officers Guild, because they have been, and their leader has been so extreme, and, to your point, even controversial within police circles and with the rank and file because they've attracted negative attention and maybe you're not completely aligned with what they feel is the core of what they're trying to do. But Jim Ferrell has insisted he's a Democrat, but the reason why Tina pad Ladowski was like, "yeah, but you're not," is because local Republicans are also touting him and appearing at events for them and, being someone who was aligned with their values which they posted about, they publicly did so. And frankly, you can say you are whatever you want in our state, but there have been- lots of people have not necessarily viewed Jim Ferrell as a Democrat for several years. He self-identifies as whatever he wants. But I think in looking at the substance of who is supporting him, who his donors are, who his endorsements are, a lot of them align with Republican candidates. And, he even tried to use his consultant before, as, "I even have a democratic consultant," and the most recent thing that democratic consultant did was elect Republican City Attorney, Ann Davison. So it's an interesting thing to see, and, when party resources are at stake. And you have to prove yourself to be a Democrat, it does take more than just saying it yourself. You do have to show receipts and his are lacking.
[00:41:45] Erica C. Barnett: Yeah. And he's, I, that's interesting about- I didn't actually know that about his consultant, but I was gonna say he's running a very Ann Davison-style campaign. He's claiming that Satterberg and, by association, Manion, left this huge backlog of felony cases on the table, which is exactly what Ann Davison accused her predecessor, Pete Holmes, of doing. And I think that in the case of Davison and Holmes, she had more of a case to make that Holmes had let a lot of stuff fall by the wayside. With Satterberg, I don't think that it's gonna work quite as effectively because Satterberg has receipts and is not, could not, be accused of being lazy. He is, he used to be, a Republican himself, and there's a time when you could say you're Republican and that's just a difference of opinion, but since Trump, you are aligning yourself with with Republicans or Republican consultants is a very different thing than it was when Berg was first elected, and of course he changed parties to the Democrats, in part because of what the Republican party means now.
[00:42:50] Crystal Fincher: You know, you certainly cannot, in any kind of good faith or with any kind of credibility, paint Lisa Manion, as this super leftist, super abolitionist. She is continuing in, basically, the style of Dan Satterberg, endorsed by Dan Satterberg, is not taking the hardcore, purely punitive, fill up the jails approach as Jim Ferrell is. But there's also- that approach has failed. That approach is not working, and all of the available data from criminologists and people who study this and who have all of the evidence say that is actually harmful and not the way to go and that does not decrease crime and more likely increases it. So we will see how this race shapes out. We'll see how much of a voice these endorsements carry and how he continues to proceed. But, one thing that I do notice is that Republicans, overall in the primary, Republican candidates for the legislature tried to hit Democrats hard on some of these same issues and saying, "public safety is a real problem and it's Democrat's fault, and these policies are not working." And voters seem to pretty soundly reject that. Those did not land and produced worse results than Republicans were bargaining for. And so it'll be interesting to see if this continues in that vein or not, but this'll be an interesting one to continue to pay attention to.
And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks and Wonks on this Friday, September 9th, 2022. The Producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler. Our Assistant Producer is Shannon Cheng and our Post-Production assistant is Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful co-host today with Seattle political reporter, editor of Publicola, co-host of the Seattle Nice podcast, and author of Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery, Erica Barnett. You can find Erica on Twitter at @ericacbarnett, that's Erica with a C also, and on publicola.com. And you can buy her book, Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery. You can find me on Twitter at @finchfrii, and you can follow Hacks and Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or anywhere where you get your podcasts. Just type Hacks & Wonks into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe, to get our full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave us a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full text transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.