Morning Crank: Why They Didn’t Apply the Racial Equity Toolkit

1. King County Council member Joe McDermott and Jeanne Kohl-Welles have proposed legislation, sponsored by five of the council’s Democrats (Dave Upthegrove’s name is not on the legislation), that would remove Initiative 27—the ballot measure that ban supervised drug consumption sites throughout King County—from the ballot. In its place would be a two-part question that would give voters the ability to say “yes” to safe consumption sites, along with the other seven recommendations that were unanimously adopted by the county’s Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force a little over a year ago. The task force included public health experts, elected officials, cops, and representatives from the King County Sheriff’s Department and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The legislation essentially asks voters to decide whether either  measure—I-27 or the task force recommendations—should be adopted; then, if a voter says “yes” to the first question, which option they prefer.

“If the people are going to have a chance to vote on safe injection sites, I want them to have all the alternatives,” McDermott says. “This is an effort to have a positive alternative on the ballot to address the public health crisis on our streets.”

A group of advocates is suing to prevent I-27 from going on the February 2018 ballot, arguing that state law does not allow voters to veto adopted public health policies. The case will be heard in King County Superior Court on Friday.

2. The committee charged with reviewing the city’s policies around encampment sweeps met last night for the first time in a month to hear from the city’s Office for Civil Rights (which monitors the sweeps to see if rules like a 72-hour notice requirement are being followed), the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, and the Navigation Team itself about how things are going.

Questions that came up during the meandering meeting: Whether SOCR should be in the position of monitoring encampment removals at all, given that they are themselves a city department (the committee is far from the first to raise this issue); whether the committee should have its own encampment removal monitor that answers only to the committee; and why the city did not initially apply its racial equity toolkit to its sweeps policies (Finance and Administrative Services Department director Chris Potter said it was because the city declared homelessness an “emergency.”)

One question I hoped the city might answer (they didn’t) is why FAS, SOCR, the city’s Human Services Department, and the navigation teams don’t share data in a way that enables them to know exactly what happened to each individual person who received “outreach” during an encampment sweep. HSD and the mayor’s office often tout high numbers of “contacts” and “referrals” to services and safer alternative sleeping arrangements as proof that the Navigation Teams are working, but it’s virtually impossible to find out what happened to the people who received these referrals over the long- or even medium term. No single agency or organization tracks people’s progress after the initial contact by the navigation teams, and people count as success stories for the city’s purposes even if they stay in a shelter for one night and move on.

Navigation Team coordinator Jackie St. Louis did provide some information about where the teams were providing referrals to (not everyone who received a referral followed through by showing up at the shelter or other location to which they were referred). The most common locations for referrals were: The new low-barrier shelter run by Compass Housing on First Hill (capacity: 100); the sanctioned encampment in Georgetown (capacity: 70), which does not allow drugs or alcohol; the sanctioned low-barrier encampment at Licton Springs (capacity: 70), which does not require sobriety; and the Navigation Center (capacity: 75), a city-run low-barrier shelter.

That means that most people the Navigation Teams encounter are being referred to either other encampments or low-barrier shelters, not traditional shelters, transitional housing, or behavioral health or addiction treatment centers. The large influx of referrals from encampments could be one reason the Navigation Center is taking longer than that to move people along to the next thing; last month, HSD reported that the city-run center was “finding that mapping out a strategy to get [clients] housed could take more than 60 days.”

3. At an AARP-KOMO TV-sponsored debate last night, mayoral candidates Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan offered their responses to a question about whether the two-thirds of Seattle’s land zoned exclusively for detached single-family houses should be opened up to allow other types of housing. (Former mayor Ed Murray initially proposed allowing duplexes, row houses, and other types of low-density housing in single-family areas as part of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda but backed off after homeowners complained that other types of housing would drive down their property values, make it impossible to park their cars, and destroy their neighborhood character). Moon said she wanted to restart the process so that neighborhoods could be involved in determining how to accommodate density while preserving neighborhood “character”; Durkan seemed to suggest that if the city simply made it easier to add mother-in-law and backyard apartments to existing single-family houses, there would be enough density to provide all the “missing middle” housing Seattle needs.

Moon: “I would restart that conversation with communities to say, ‘This is how many folks are moving here. Here are all the tools we could be using, including backyard cottages, mother-in-law apartments, clustered housing, row housing, stacked flats,’ and show folks all the different models for how do we add infill development in neighborhoods, and invite them to be a part of picking what works for their neighborhood. Because if you impose it from on high in Seattle, that doesn’t work. We all feel this right to shape our city, the right to be at the table and help determine what’s the right way to grow with grace. … We’ve got to involve neighborhoods in doing it together in a way that works for their character that they’re trying to protect, for how they live their high quality of life in their neighborhood.”

Durkan: “I’ve got some friends who, for 18 months, have been trying to get a permit for a mother-in-law apartment. If we made it easier for folks to get mother-in-law apartments and real backyard cottages—not these monstrosity[ies] that everyone’s afraid of—we could make almost every single-family lot into a triplex overnight. But we are having impediments, so we need to make it a priority, and the mayor needs to say to the housing and zoning people, ‘We’re going to speed up affordable housing. We’re going to give people the ability to have density,’ and then we’ll move forward.”

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2 thoughts on “Morning Crank: Why They Didn’t Apply the Racial Equity Toolkit

  1. >> Moon: “I would restart that conversation with communities to say, ‘This is how many folks are moving here. Here are all the tools we could be using, including backyard cottages, mother-in-law apartments, clustered housing, row housing, stacked flats,’ and show folks all the different models for how do we add infill development in neighborhoods, and invite them to be a part of picking what works for their neighborhood. Because if you impose it from on high in Seattle, that doesn’t work. We all feel this right to shape our city, the right to be at the table and help determine what’s the right way to grow with grace. … We’ve got to involve neighborhoods in doing it together in a way that works for their character that they’re trying to protect, for how they live their high quality of life in their neighborhood.”

    Restart the conversation? Seriously? We already had a very long, very drawn out conversation. It was what lead to HALA. It was a compromise, established the way that every great compromise has been established. An honest, in depth back and forth discussion occurred between people with different interests until a consensus was established. Does Moon really think that will occur in each and every neighborhood? Has she even been to a neighborhood meeting, to discuss issues like this? It is ridiculous. You go around, wait your turn, say something (hopefully brief) and that’s it. You simply don’t have the time to work out the details as you would with a real focus group.

    Besides, how is this supposed to work, anyway? Moon wants people in the neighborhood to “pick what works best for us”. OK, fine. But who gets to do the picking? Do we elect a board, and if so, how do we elect them? Or is this a case where everyone is supposed to take time out of their day (or their job) and show up at a meeting to say “we want this”. As everyone knows, such a meeting is way more slanted towards folks who have money, and don’t want to see changes to the neighborhood.

    “Imposing things from on high” is simply leadership. We elect a mayor and and a city council. The changes should simply go through them. If you don’t like the changes, then try and persuade the city council (or the mayor). Saying you will “restart the process” and allow random, unelected people to “be a part of picking what works for their neighborhood” sounds like another way of saying “we might make things better for those without wealth, but only if there isn’t too much push back”, which is exactly how we got into this mess.

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  2. Right on! Right on! Right on! Growth is inevitable! The shelters are working at full capacity. It seems that the lack of follow through is a bad outcome because if accountability of the operators. Numerous people that are homeless are in shock and cannot move forward with their lives. They are stuck because of the lies that they have been told and the horrible treatment the receive from police and unkind misunderstanding public. They have deep emotional scars.

    Thanks for helping them. Hepatitis is running rampant because of those who still prescribe to archaic methodologies. Survival is not a reality show any more! It is here and now in our back yards! Allowing ACD and tinyhomes will stop the dibilitating effects of homelessness and drug addiction. They are worthy of your attention. The statistics prove that I am right. We need to work together on this now! Not next YEAR! How many young men women and children are you sacrificing for an outdated archaic unequal mode of living. This is their only hope. For God’s sake! Get it done! Cordially concerned, Accessory Unit Dweller! VMC PS, I was considered homeless due to a cancer diagnosis and forced into foreclosure! I know that feeling of mistrust and I still suffer pain and depression because of the foreclosure. Additionally, the victims of the fires, floods will come here. Please be vigilant and be prepared for them! Thanks for your advocacy! Please keep up the good fight.

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