Week in Review: September 29, 2023 - with EJ Juárez
Release Date: 09/29/2023
Hacks & Wonks
On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by metro news columnist and opinion editor for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Matt Driscoll! With two weeks left in the State legislative session, Crystal and Matt dig into several bills with potential for huge impact and needing public support to get across the finish line - HB 2114 (rent stabilization), HB 1932 (even-year elections), and SB 6105 (Stripper Bill of Rights). See the resources section for links to contact your legislators about each of these bills! Next, they discuss the promise of the City of Tacoma’s detailed Anti-Displacement strategy,...info_outline Why Seattle’s Proposed Surveillance Mash-Up is a Lose-Lose with Amy Sundberg and BJ Last of Solidarity Budget
Hacks & Wonks
On this topical show, special guest host Shannon Cheng welcomes back Amy Sundberg and BJ Last from Solidarity Budget to discuss how the City of Seattle is rushing to bring three surveillance technologies to the streets of Seattle with minimal public input - a final public meeting happens next week on Tuesday, February 27th, 6pm! Amy and BJ fill Shannon in on Seattle’s Surveillance Impact Report process and their concerns that three technologies - Acoustic Gunshot Location System (AGLS, aka ShotSpotter), Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV), and Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC) - are being rushed...info_outline Week in Review: February 16, 2024 - with Robert Cruickshank
Hacks & Wonks
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Hacks & Wonks
On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle Times City Hall reporter, David Kroman! Crystal and David dig into why Seattle is putting less money into new affordable housing project this year and how this week’s launch of a second social housing initiative by House Our Neighbors may be appealing to voters wanting to see progress on the issue. Next, they discuss the pressure on Mayor Bruce Harrell to deliver results now that a City Council friendly to his agenda has taken office and how the new Council’s relative inexperience was on display at initial committee meetings. Finally,...info_outline Harm Reduction in Rural Washington with Everett Maroon of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart
Hacks & Wonks
On this topical show, Crystal welcomes Everett Maroon, Executive Director of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, for a conversation about their work in Southeast Washington using a harm reduction philosophy to support people, stabilize lives, & promote health and wellness in the community. Crystal and Everett chat about how the opioid epidemic has impacted rural communities, the role that stigma plays in keeping people from the help they need, what harm reduction is and why it is important. They then review the recent roller coaster ride of Washington state’s substance use disorder policy,...info_outline Week in Review: February 2, 2024 - with Erica Barnett
Hacks & Wonks
On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle political reporter and editor of PubliCola, Erica Barnett! Crystal and Erica discuss public outcry over targeted inspections of LGBTQ+ establishments and Seattle Council President Sara Nelson’s remarks opposing even-year elections for local races. They then turn to news from King County that the target closure date of 2025 for the Youth Jail will be missed and how the annual “Point In Time” homelessness count will be different this year. The show wraps up with new polling that Seattle voters are supportive of a big Transportation Levy...info_outline Pairing Advocacy and Research for Progress with Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute
Hacks & Wonks
On this topical show, Crystal welcomes Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute! Crystal learns about the Northwest Progressive Institute’s (NPI) work to advance progressive policies through their focuses on research and advocacy, what’s covered in NPI’s long form blog The Cascadia Advocate, and the importance of reframing in progressive politics. Andrew then describes how six initiatives bankrolled by a disgruntled wealthy Republican are designed to cause a lot of damage to Washington, how NPI’s careful approach to polling has led to successful results, and...info_outline Week in Review: January 26, 2024 - with Daniel Beekman
Hacks & Wonks
On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Seattle Times politics and communities reporter, Daniel Beekman! Crystal and Daniel discuss the unsurprising Seattle City Council vacancy appointment and what we might see from a business-backed, Harrell-picked legislative body as they navigate a hiring freeze, a large budget deficit, and upcoming important policy decisions. Next, they turn to the Office of Police Accountability’s conclusion that SPOG Vice President Auderer’s comments about Jaahnavi Kandula’s death were “derogatory, contemptuous, and inhumane” and speculate how Chief...info_outline The Raise the Wage Renton Campaign with Maria Abando and Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera
Hacks & Wonks
On this topical show, Crystal welcomes Renton City Councilmember Carmen Rivera and Raise the Wage Renton Steering Committee member Maria Abando to learn more about the upcoming citizen initiative on the February 13th special election ballot. Modeled after the successful Raise the Wage Tukwila initiative that passed with over 80% of the vote in 2022, community organizers in Renton are campaigning to raise their city’s minimum wage to keep up with surrounding cities like SeaTac, Tukwila, and Seattle. Maria and Carmen discuss how the ability to earn a living wage uplifts everyone, the signature...info_outline Week in Review: January 19, 2024 - with Robert Cruickshank
Hacks & Wonks
On this week-in-review, Crystal is joined by Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, long time communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank! Crystal and Robert dive into the open machinations of the big corporate donors to appoint their preferred candidate to a Seattle City Council vacancy and how the messy process has leached its way into Seattle School Board politics. They then discuss the qualification of a right-wing initiative to dismantle the state’s plan to take on the climate crisis. Robert gives a rare kudos to The Seattle Times for their presentation of a debate over homeless...info_outline
On this 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 Juárez!
They discuss Mayor Bruce Harrell's business-as-usual budget proposal - how it lacks bold vision, doesn't address the pressing problems we face, and double downs on police as our only public safety solution by ignoring calls for civilian-led alternative response and reviving conversation about failed ShotSpotter technology.
Crystal and EJ's conversation then moves to Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison signing onto a pro-encampment sweeps brief, Target trying to blame store closures on crime, Green Jacket Lady schooling a Fox News reporter, and a study showing drug decriminalization didn't lead to increased overdose deaths.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“Joy Hollingsworth, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 3” from Hacks & Wonks
“Alex Hudson, Candidate for Seattle City Council District 3” from Hacks & Wonks
“Harrell's Proposed Budget Brings Back Shotspotter, Funds Human Services Workers, Includes No New Diversion for Drug Users” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola
“Business Bestie Mayor Harrell Ignores Gaping Hole in the Budget” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger
“Four Problems with the ShotSpotter Gunshot Detection System” by Jay Stanley from the Amercan Civil Liberties Union
“City Attorney Davison Signs Brief Demanding Right to Sweep Encampments Without Offering Shelter” by Erica C. Barnett from PubliCola
“As Seattle Targets close, shoppers question if crime really is to blame” by Renata Geraldo from The Seattle Times
@DivestSPD on Twitter: “Seattle Times headline: Target closing stores due to crime. 21st paragraph: Shoplifting is down 60% overall, 40% in UDistrict, and 35% downtown. Next graph: Retailers don't always report, so you can just treat those numbers like they don't matter.”
“Seattleites challenge Fox News' spin on the city's crime” by Melissa Santos from Axios
@abughazalehkat on Twitter: “Fox News tried to do a bunch of scary man-on-the-street interviews about crime. It didn't go well.”
“New study suggests looser WA drug laws do not mean more overdose deaths” by Claire Withycombe from The Seattle Times
[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. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Tuesday topical show and Friday week-in-review delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
If you missed this week's topical shows, we continued our series of Seattle City Council candidate interviews. All 14 candidates for 7 positions were invited and we had in-depth conversations with many of them. This week, we presented District 3 candidates, Joy Hollingsworth and Alex Hudson. Have a listen to those and stay tuned over the coming weeks. We hope these interviews will help voters better understand who these candidates are and inform their choices for the November 7th general election.
Today, we're continuing our Friday week-in-review 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: the former director of Progressive Majority who's now transitioned into public service and remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington, EJ Juárez. Hey!
[00:01:42] EJ Juárez: Sorry, everybody - I'm back.
[00:01:46] Crystal Fincher: We love having you and there are always comments from listeners about how insightful you are when you're on - more than usual - so it's always great to have you on. I want to start talking about Seattle's mayor's budget proposal this week. Mayor Bruce Harrell released his budget that he will be presenting, or did present, to the council and city. The council will also take up the budget - they ultimately have the responsibility for passing a budget. But this is the mayor's recommendation - his take on where we should be moving the city. What were your big takeaways about what were in the budget and where do you see this going?
[00:02:28] EJ Juárez: Yeah, thanks. I think, first of all, this is a budget that really lacked a bold vision. And I think that my biggest takeaway was this is very much, in many ways, business as usual. This is the values document from an administration that's, I think, still pretending it's a decade ago and not catching up with the problems of today. There's no huge solutions here to some of the most pressing problems for the region and the city, but ultimately, the big swings that you would expect from a mayor who has a significant amount of political capital in the moment are missing. We don't have big swings for human service workers with large increases in pay and benefits to get them to where they need to be able to stay in this city and serve the people, as well as address the problems that are affecting every other element of City services. I think the other thing that was pretty shocking is the fact that we are still spending as much money as we are on the police alone in this city. This is not an integrated approach to safety or even really improving the conditions of different places around the city. So, again, I was a little dumbfounded.
[00:03:41] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think, overall, this is not a budget that anyone is finding surprising from Mayor Bruce Harrell. I think your point is well taken that it seems to lack the kind of investment and scale to meaningfully address the biggest challenges that the city is facing - in two different directions - one, in the revenue and services direction, certainly more voters are demanding a more comprehensive public safety response. This looks to largely be a traditional public safety response - there is money in there for a co-response program, there doesn't seem to be new revenue for diversion, which was supposed to be part of the safety legislation that gives the city attorney power to prosecute drug possession in the city and public drug use. It doesn't seem to meaningfully invest in the issues that are most pressing for the city.
Two glaring omissions in the budget are - there doesn't seem to be any preparation or contention - or at least at this point, it's hard to see - for the major upcoming budget deficit that the City is going to be facing. In the next budget - not this year, but next year - there's predicted to be a $225 million budget deficit. And that's quite a bit of money that's gonna require either significant cuts or a significant increase in revenue. So you would think that some of that preparation would be happening now. City council candidates are talking about it, departments are talking about it. And so it's weird that the chief executive of the City - the mayor - is not contending with that in the budget. I don't know if we're gonna be hearing more about that, but I hope we do because certainly the City needs a plan to get through that while addressing the City workers who are crucial to delivering on the mayor's agenda, on what the City just needs to do to operate and serve its residents. What's gonna be happening with that? They deserve a cost of living increase. I hope they get it. They're gonna be negotiating for that. But where is that going to come from in the budget? And it's going to have to be a bigger number than they're accounting for now. There are just some things that don't seem like they're meaningfully dealt with in the way that residents are demanding, and in a way that will solve the challenges that residents are demanding being solved and that Mayor Harrell says is on his agenda.
[00:05:57] EJ Juárez: I think you hit it right on the head in that - when you're faced with what will likely be a $500 million deficit in just two and a half years here, we are going to have to make really difficult and painful choices. That's not a number you can just raise your parking rates to get out of, which is what he's proposing. Maybe there's gonna be a huge influx for FIFA coming up and all of the sporting events and concerts, but there's not enough Taylor Swifts in the world to get us to $500 million with just raising parking rates to get us out of the forthcoming deficit. I really worry that the political courage to actually solve this problem just isn't there. This is a really, I think, high-profile instance of kicking that can down the road - either to the council or to the next mayor - to say, Hey, I'm gonna drive us towards the cliff, but you're gonna be at the steering wheel when it goes over. And it's really unfortunate because I think at that point, the options will have dwindled to fairly unpopular choices. And if those choices don't go forward, we will live with cuts that will both harm the residents of this city, but potentially cripple agencies and public services for up to a decade. I think we all remember what happened in the last recession when deep cuts to manage the forthcoming cuts at the time were ramping up - it took 10 years for agencies to get back to pre-2008 levels - with the inability of leaders to raise revenue quickly and plan accordingly.
[00:07:20] Crystal Fincher: There are lots of people who have said before that budgets are moral documents. They reflect your priorities. You put your money where your mouth is. And once again, we see residents of the city absolutely saying - I think by and large, it's fair to characterize where people are at the city saying - they don't mind funding extra police, but they also want to fund better alternative response programs, more comprehensive solutions to public safety and meeting people's basic needs - that helps keep people out of paths that lead to crime, or poverty, or homelessness, or all of those things. We know that investing in education, basic needs, making sure people do have their basic needs met does positively impact all of those other areas. Investment in police again this year - after lots of prior investments - $392 million. Alternatives to police - $5 million. And when you look at what that really means in the budget after years and years of this being asked for, demanded, actually funded by the council - this just seems like paying weak lip service to something the city's desperately in need of. So we'll continue to see.
Another item in there - that I was surprised to see back this year - was a proposal for ShotSpotter, which is infamous at this point in time. About a decade ago, it was viewed as this revolutionary new tech that could help automatically detect where gunshots are coming from, and help better deploy police, anticipate where people are coming from. It was supposed to be a positive new tool. What actually resulted was that it was very bad at detecting gunshots - it detected a lot of things that were not gunshots as gunshots, provoking police responses where they were not needed, where they were harmful or dangerous, and really just ended up not being an effective way to address gun violence at all. And cities regretting the money that they spent on that. That had all happened. This is not new news. This is 5 and 10 years ago news. But for some reason, not only was it proposed in the mayor's budget last year and was widely panned, but it's back this year for some reason. Bruce really likes ShotSpotter, despite the fact that there's so much evidence against it. And it just seems like there is so much on the plate to do, to knock out, to try - when it comes to the suite of public safety and community safety initiatives that we could be launching, why are we still talking about this?
[00:09:47] EJ Juárez: It is - the question I think that's on a lot of people's mind right now is when you have such a loud chorus from folks across the city who typically are not aligned on issues, who typically are not singing the same song, you have everybody largely lined up saying - This is a bad program. This is proven to not work. And here's a decade's worth of evidence. This is really Bruce against the world on this one. And Bruce is the loudest cheerleader for this program, which has huge consequences for communities of color, low-income communities, and just the general public. It is mind-blowing that again - the singular focus on implementing this program from the mayor's office is just devoid of any input or any, I think, actual critical thinking about what is this doing for the city. Yeah, I'm still stunned.
[00:10:36] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, so we will continue to follow that process. This is going to be important. It's gonna be important for you to talk to your councilmembers, council candidates, let the mayor and the mayor's office know how you feel about this. It's a document for how the City is going to be run, managed, and should reflect your priorities - and not just those of moneyed interests in the city. So I hope people do engage. We will certainly stay tuned on that.
I also wanna talk about this week news that City Attorney Ann Davison signed onto a brief demanding the right to sweep encampments without shelter as a prior Supreme Court decision - Martin v. Boise - what was that decision called - where it was ruled by the Ninth Circuit Court that it is unconstitutional to sweep people from encampments without offering shelter. Basically, if you have nowhere else for them to go - if they have nowhere to go - you can't sweep them. That's cruel, it's unusual, it's inhumane, it's unconstitutional - currently. And so that's why sometimes we've seen legitimate, good faith offers to try and get people into shelter. Unfortunately, we are operating in a time where we know we have inadequate shelter space - number one. And even that shelter sometimes is so inadequate - maybe just one night's worth of shelter - and there are lots of times restrictions and conditions placed on it. There are curfews. If it's a congregate shelter situation, that is - one, no longer viewed as a best practice, but an area that understandably has lots of concerns and fear attached to it. And if you think about - hey, you're going somewhere and you're just gonna be shoved into a room with people who you may not know, people who may be experiencing some of the hardest times in their life, may not be as stable as ideal. And that's a challenge for anyone to be in, and it's hard to stabilize in that kind of situation. And so it's understandable to say - hey, if we're forcing you to go somewhere, there should be somewhere else to go. Otherwise, you're literally just moving the problem around and doing nothing to solve it - probably, definitely destabilizing people further. But this lawsuit is basically saying - Hey, cities should have more autonomy, this is infringing upon cities' ability to make their own decisions. How do you view this lawsuit?
[00:12:56] EJ Juárez: I'll start by saying - when you start punishing humans for doing human things, it's a really awful situation you're in. People cannot go without rest. People cannot go without sleep. People must sleep to survive. And people that are already in crisis, who are doing the bare minimum needed to survive as a person, right - getting themselves rest and sleep - I think criminalizing that and making it more difficult for people to do what they need to do, is a really sad state of what we are spending our time legislating and monitoring. I do think that we have obligations to keep sidewalks clear, encampments both safe for the people that are there and I think for the people that are around them. It's obviously a super contentious issue with people on all sides. What I find interesting about this is that the city attorney is essentially joining the - I don't know - progressive, compassionate bastions of North Dakota cities and Colorado Springs to make this argument for a city that clearly has very different values than those places, but that is saying - We wanna do this, but we don't want the responsibility of caring for our residents after we take action on their bodies. We are going to physically move a person and force them out of a place of their choosing and throw our hands up and say - We don't wanna deal with it after that.
That's a new thing - and that is a very bold step towards, I think, the opposite of a compassionate response around how we would wanna treat our neighbors, right? And how many times do we hear from the city, the county, or the state about our neighbors? Be kind to your neighbor, love thy neighbor, whatever the phrase that comes out and whatever fluffy PR piece that we get from a government agency - but ultimately it's hollow because we're saying - We will love them until they inconvenience us. And that inconvenience and that discomfort I'm feeling by either seeing or experiencing - tangentially - homelessness is larger and more important than actually caring for the person experiencing a crisis. I find it odd that this is the stake that the city attorney is joining in on with an amicus brief that doesn't involve us, but that is her prerogative.
[00:15:06] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and it is her prerogative as an independently elected City official. Different cities have different systems. Some cities appoint their chief prosecutorial official in the city, Seattle elects it, and it's elected separately than the mayor, than councilmembers, and so there is latitude for the city attorney to act in this way - this is within their jurisdiction. I'm curious to know what councilmembers, what council candidates think about this - but also what the mayor's office thinks about this, which is really interesting. We haven't heard condemnation of it, I don't think. So it seems like this isn't too troublesome to him - and that's not surprising to the office, given what seems to be their current predisposition towards sweeps. But it is - one, interesting that this could happen in this situation because of the way Seattle's government is set up.
[00:15:55] EJ Juárez: People will continue to sleep - and that, at the end of the day, this is a lot of effort that our city attorney is spending on a problem where people will continue to sleep and exist. And it is beyond my absolute wildest imagination that a person can spend so much of our City resources and tax money on this problem without it being a signal to political donors, to folks who are furthest from crisis about the disdain that they have for people that are in crisis.
[00:16:28] Crystal Fincher: And it is disdain, and really - part of this lawsuit or brief trying to get these rulings really overturned, there were two, Martin v. Boise and then Johnson v. Grant Pass - where the City is essentially, and this group of people bringing this, is essentially arguing that homelessness is a choice. PubliCola did a really informative article on this, and reading from here - they're arguing that calling unsheltered people involuntarily homeless grants a special status on people who, in their view, in reality, engaging in a voluntary behavior by sleeping outdoors, much as an alcoholic who is caught being drunk in public has chosen to drink of his own volition. That's from a Supreme Court case from 1968, whose conclusions are contradicted by modern addiction experts - addiction is not a choice. Once someone is at the point where they're addicted, choice and logic no longer is in that conversation - that's just a biological reality. But it's really insidious, saying, as we do with so many things - Oh, they find themselves in this situation. And how many articles have come out in the past month just talking about the amount of elderly and seniors who are increasingly homeless, that we've seen inflation skyrocket - housing price skyrocket, transportation costs increase, eldercare, childcare, food, everything is increasing. There are lots of people on fixed incomes. If we have a health crisis, that can throw someone into bankruptcy and homelessness. But right now, as we hear in rhetoric and debates and conversations, we're seeing this reflected in this brief - basically saying it's their fault. They're there because it's their fault. It's a moral failing on their behalf. And that gives us license to not have to deal with it. That absolves us of responsibility from having to be responsible for our making sure people have a place to sleep, to live, to not die and languish on the streets. This is really a moral argument at the center of this, which is really insidious.
[00:18:33] EJ Juárez: It is, and I can feel my blood boiling as we talk about this now more and more, because we are never allowed to talk about homelessness without having to talk about addiction. We know - study after study and time after time - addiction is not the number one driver of homelessness in this country, nor is it the number one driver of homelessness in any city in this country. The conflation between addiction of any kind and the inability to be stably housed is so often presented to us in every argument about solving this problem, that it is the largest shiny object of distraction - because then it gets into the moral policing, it gets into the individual choices, right? The circumstances that a person may find themselves by choice, which in and of itself, as you just said, is not a true choice - because addiction doesn't work like that. But even in all the articles that we've seen coming out around this and the city attorney's language and our elected leaders, I would love for somebody to do a true study on how many times we can talk about homelessness without talking about addiction - and how often that conflation has ruined otherwise very good solutions to affordability, to making sure that people are able to earn wages that can pay for houses within a reasonable distance from the place of their employment. 'Cause even as we're talking about this - in these sweeps, the articles from the Supreme Court, the things that we're reading in terms of legal precedent - are all focused on this idea that folks are just drunk, folks are high, and therefore they don't wanna be housed. I think both the media needs to do better and our elected officials need to do better 'cause it's played out and it's tiring.
[00:20:11] Crystal Fincher: I completely agree. And I feel very similarly about conversations where homelessness is conflated with crime. Homeless people are much more likely to be a victim of crime than almost anyone else - they're victimized to the greatest degree. When it comes to the public safety discussion, everyone deserves to be safe. And that seems to make sense to start with people who are the most in danger, who need the most help - to help them become safe. And unfortunately, the toxicity of this conversation is putting homeless people in more danger - we've seen attacks. And just disgustingly, what's being normalized - was having this conversation with someone yesterday - is how often we see, particularly from right-wing elements, but we also see it from so-called moderates and progressives on campaign mailers in attack ads - is this viewing homelessness as the spectacle. And the very dehumanizing way in which people are shown who are having some of the toughest times in their lives - they're in various stages of crisis and just the exploitation of their likeness, of their images, sharing their locations, their details - that's just dehumanizing. And you're not showing that person with any intent to help, with any engagement with why they're there, with any engagement with who they are as a person. You're simply using that as a tool to degrade and dehumanize them and to really make it seem like this is a choice.
But a lot of the language we hear from that is just really dehumanizing. And we hear it in places like Burien who passed a camping ban this week, while still not engaging with any of the free resources offered to them to help solve their problem. It's just really disappointing. And we're engaged in these tropes and this rhetoric that is not tied to the reality of the problem. And it is a problem. There absolutely needs to be effective interventions to help this. I don't think anyone wants anyone sleeping on a sidewalk, I don't think anyone wants encampments there - but those are signals of a greater failure and of policies that we keep doubling down on that don't work. And it's time to stop doing that so we can finally do something that does work to help improve this problem.
Also wanna talk about news this week that a couple Targets are closing. And what was notable about this is, as we've seen with some prior press releases and announcements, Target blamed this on crime. But after so many other instances of seeing companies blame some of their store closures on crime and then follow up months after - okay, actually it wasn't the crime, it was some mismanagement, it was just us trying to save money, offload some assets - and that being really disingenuous, or in some other cases, just ways to do some union busting, like in Starbucks's case. But here, these are not in downtown Seattle - these are in two other locations. These are mid-format stores. And a lot of people in the neighborhood say - These stores were not meeting anyone's needs. It's not surprising that they're closing. And it just seems like crime may not be the real reason here, but one that corporations seem to be able to get away with. And then have people in the media basically dictate what they say as a story without any critical examination of their central statement there - that it is because of crime. How do you view this?
[00:23:29] EJ Juárez: It's such a troubling trend to watch - particularly retail over the last few years here - throw up their hands in the face of engaging in capitalism. It is - Oh, we want to expand. We're gonna open these stores. We're gonna try new models. But oh, we're actually - it got hard. We're not gonna adapt. We're not gonna try and survive. We're gonna close these stores and blame it on our customers. We're gonna blame it on the neighborhood. We're gonna blame it on the city. We're gonna blame it on X, Y, and Z. And there's this dissidence that's happening amongst these large retailers, I think. But also, I don't know - having gone into the U District Target myself, maybe they shouldn't have had two full racks of unicorn onesies available in a store that was tiny to begin with. So it's okay for business and enterprise to experiment with store formats and changing up what they do, but to then blame - and be, I think, fairly disingenuous about - store closings on crime and creating this really amped up sense of crisis that might not match reality. And I think we saw that come to fruition with The Seattle Times reporting on this, because for the first time, I think, in the face of these closures, we actually have a media outlet that said - Let's check. Let's actually show the truth here. And it showed that the reports don't match what Target is saying around where the incidents of crime and calls to police actually happened, where particularly the Ballard location was the lowest rate of incidents amongst all the Targets in the region. So it is odd to me. I just have to laugh, 'cause I can't get those onesies out of my head. I'm like - Your business didn't work. Adapt.
[00:25:04] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. These are not the traditional, full-service, big box Target stores. These are smaller versions that, according to lots of people - myself included - had tons of stuff like those onesies that were not needs. But the stuff that a lot of times you run to the store for - regular household items, food items - were not regularly available, but there were plenty of really nearby stores that had them more available, that were more convenient to get in and out of, at a lower cost - so it's not like there was no competition in this area. It does seem like this was an issue where maybe just the format of the store, like you said, the experimentation didn't work. I do think it is a positive sign that The Seattle Times - after receiving some criticism from prior coverage where - Hey, they reported what the company said. Later on, after actual scrutiny, those claims about closing because of crime didn't hold up. That's not to say that that's not at all a concern. I'm sure everyone has the concern. We need to do a better job of doing the things that we know have a chance at reducing retail theft, those kinds of things - doesn't seem like we're meaningfully investing in the things that have shown to successfully help that. But it looks like, especially amidst so many reports of record profits from some of these same corporations, that maybe this is just a really convenient way to avoid saying our idea didn't work.
[00:26:28] EJ Juárez: I think a lot about what has Target, the corporation, done to advocate to make those areas around their stores more livable, more walkable, safe, right? It's a little bit like - I'm gonna grab my toys and go because I don't like the situation I'm in - but I'm not gonna do anything to voice that concern and I'm not actually gonna advocate for policies that improve the conditions around my enterprise's footprint. And had we had a robust response from Target getting involved in those neighborhoods - saying we are here to advocate for our neighborhoods - then I think the lament around closing these stores could be more genuine, but we just didn't see that, and that's a shame.
[00:27:07] Crystal Fincher: I do wanna give a shout out real quick to Seattle's Green Jacket Queen, who - we'll link the story in our show notes - but a few people did an excellent job, but one woman in particular went viral after Fox News was doing some Seattle man-on-the-street interviews, trying to basically engage in the "Seattle is Dying" discourse, saying that there are addicts all over the place and rampant crime and carjacking and people shooting up and blah, blah, blah. And she had time that day and she took full advantage of it and basically just was ready - mocked the interviewer - it was just absolutely hilarious. And did not play into the incorrect framing, the incorrect facts, and just plainly stated - No, most people are not walking around scared or worried for their safety. Someone else talked about - The way to address crime is by addressing basic needs, and that helps people get their way out of that is a much more effective way of dealing with that as a community and as a society. And also Green Jacket Lady called out just the fearmongering - the reporter tried to say, I saw people shooting up. Were they bothering you? Oh no, I was in my car. Oh no, in your car. It gave me so much life. I was just so happy to see that - it seems like the city was - because we are starved for pushbacks on these narratives that don't match the reality of what people are living on the ground in the city.
[00:28:33] EJ Juárez: I think we're also starved for people that aren't giving us the political speak, that aren't talking in big meta-level stuff. We saw a star born in real time on Fox News and this woman was basically just the embodiment of that meme from a couple of years ago with - Oh, you don't like me? Oh, whatever, you don't care. This is Fox News and it was treated with the exact seriousness that Fox News deserved in the heart of Seattle, which was - You are playing in my face, get out of here. You are not representing our values, get out of here. And I think the fact that she called him out so beautifully - and kindly - with humor, You were in your car. You felt harm in your car driving by? That is the most, I think, Seattle thing ever. And also, how we get painted in the national media by some of these more conservative outlets. So I want this woman to run for mayor. I want her to run for governor. I think I'm ready to go knock on some doors.
[00:29:31] Crystal Fincher: Shoot, if she's ready, I will volunteer my services. Let's go. But I will say - she went viral nationally, basically - that's a situation that can have a few pros, but also several cons. And you don't always volunteer to be thrust into the spotlight. I will say I'm impressed - like I saw a few people who chimed in and were like, Oh, that's my friend, I know her. But that I still don't know her name is just a credit to the quality of her friends - not putting all her business out there, maintaining her privacy - which she deserves. If she ever wants to co-host a Friday show, invitation is open. But I also love that her friends are protective of her in that way and not putting her business out there. I saw Melissa Santos with Axios wrote an article, wound up getting in contact with her - and she said she wanted to stay anonymous. We absolutely respect that. And I respect that her friends have made that possible for her.
[00:30:25] EJ Juárez: Love it. I'll still buy the merch. Make it happen, Green Jacket Lady - I'm ready.
[00:30:30] Crystal Fincher: But I am down. I am ready to ride, Green Jacket Lady. If you ever want to, hit me up.
And I just want to close the day talking about a study that says what many of us know, but that if you follow a lot of the legislation being passed - the state level and in many cities - you would wonder why they're doing it. A study finding that decriminalization did not increase overdose deaths at all in Washington or Oregon, which is what many people have been saying - taking a public health approach to drug use is the most effective way to deal with both addiction and just all of the issues surrounding that. And we heard a lot of misinformation, whether it's from the Legislature passing the Blake legislation and increasing criminalization of drug use to conversations in the city of Seattle and elsewhere - talking about the importance of cracking down on drug use, because that's the only way that they'll see. And once again, basically the opposite is the case. And the premise for cracking down being that going soft doesn't work, and people are using drugs more than ever, and ODing more than ever, and we need to crack down to get people safe - just doesn't track with reality.
[00:31:45] EJ Juárez: Yeah, I think this was a fairly limited study of only about a year since these things have been passed recently. I think that the critical piece of this is that study needs to continue so that we can see year after year that this first set of data holds. And the fact that it did not show a demonstrable increase in these types of crimes or deaths - this is what anecdotally advocates have been saying, this is what they know from first-hand experience working with those communities. And it's nice to see science looking at policy and it getting the attention it deserves to cut through the noise. And I wanna commend the fact that this study was done. I wanna commend the fact that like they found the grant funding to do this because - especially in the polarizing time that we're in and the really punitive time that we're in, I think researchers and academics who are engaging in this type of work for the public good are often under attack and this is what we need more of. Also, I appreciate the fact that they're looking at two very concrete areas - Washington and Oregon - which are pointed out by national media and others as these places where it's all out of control. But yet it doesn't really match the data, so we know this is getting spun up by people who have different goals than actually helping people.
[00:32:58] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And it is good to see this data that's directly applicable to our state in Washington and in Oregon. This does align with several other studies and trials that have been done elsewhere - across the world, really. The War on Drugs is a failure, it's ineffective. And we see alternative paths that get better results and we just refuse to do that. Again, it's not that drugs aren't a problem, it's not that nothing needs to be done - but doing what we know won't work time after time is getting really tiring, it's getting really expensive, and we're losing the opportunity to do so much other good because we're determined to keep following this path which has not been fruitful at all.
So with that, I think we will conclude the news of the day. Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, September 29th, 2023. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Shannon Cheng. Our insightful co-host today is the former director of Progressive Majority, who's transitioned into public service and remains involved in numerous political efforts across Washington, EJ Juárez. You can find EJ on Twitter @EliseoJJuarez. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter. You can find me on Twitter, on Blue Sky, on wherever you wanna find me - I'm pretty much @finchfrii everywhere. You can also get Hacks & Wonks on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical shows delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. 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 - we'll talk to you next time.